Sunday, November 29, 2009

Food, food, glorious food (add glorious wine to that).

I walked through the door Friday night and there it was - the aroma of my all time fave meal.

Roman Spring Lamb!

The Silver Spoon - (sub-titled, Eating is a serious matter).

Garlic and rosemary

Rosemary, garlic, sage and white wine vinegar caressed my olfactory senses and whisked me towards the kitchen. The bottle of Pinot seemed to be the perfect choice.

In goes the garlic

Rosemay adding that special flavour.

The reason I buy cook books for Sue is that she likes to experiment with food, and I benefit from this. Occasionally there is one recipe that I can't get enough of. Roman Spring Lamb is one of them.

The book was originally published in Italian in 1950 and printed in English in 2005. The book has 1263 pages. For me, its an investment of my meals for life.

And finely sliced potatoes

A liitle longer and its ready for the table.
But I'll let Sue explain a little about the preparation while I just indulge in the meal and the Pinot.

"Leon would eat this very night given the choice (which he's not!) It is lovely. For such strong herbs it has a delicate and light flavour.

Brown the lamb pieces which have been lightly dusted with flour. I used pieces of shoulder, but I also use leg chops or whatever else seems good and well priced at the time. Add 2-3 chopped cloves of garlic along with chopped sage and a few bits of rosemary. Turn it around a few times and then add about 175ml of white wine and 4 table spoons of white wine vinegar. Let it simmer until almost all liquid is evaporated and then add 150 ml of boiling water and some potatoes finely sliced. Cook in a 200 degree oven for about 30 minutes, checking on liquid level occasionally.

I don't think I've left anything out. It can take a while for the potatoes to brown, give them a stir every now and again.
Very yummy."
No argument here.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Color of Purple - Whoopi

Great movie, great color, great actor.
Our property is pouting purple everywhere at the moment.

This photo doesn't do justice to our Jacaranda tree. I'll take another pic in a week or two when it leaves a carpet of purple blossom on the grass. You can lay on the ground and look up through the gnarly limbs and let the filtered light touch your face. Preferably with a beer in your hand...

Our Jacaranda tree in the back yard is just starting to blossom, a little late compared to neighbouring Jacarandas. Nothing unusual about that, she's just a late bloomer. Over next few weeks it will be full of blossom and as the blossom falls to the ground our green lawn becomes a carpet of purple.

In the front garden, the Agapanthus are opening and showing off their purple bits as well. Although considered a bit of a weed in the bay area, I love them when they flower. Unfortunately the snails love them in winter when they do look like weeds.

I just love these guys - Agapanthus reinvent themselves from a green weed to a splash purple every summer.

In support of the Agapanthus, our lavender which seems to self seed at random has tips of purple to complement the overhanging wisteria.

The Wisteria is about to attack the Lavender - Its a jungle out there...
The wisteria gets cut back many times during spring and summer. Being outside our bedroom window, I fear it might whisk us away in our sleep one night if I didn't keep it under control.

Our Wisteria is like a python wrapping itself around the columns of the veranda and any other plants that get in its way - beware the Wisteria....

It seems to enjoy hugging itself around the front veranda columns and taking over more than its allocated space.
And just quietly minding its own business at ground level, the Elysium moves through the spaces between the brick driveway. Mostly white, some purple, well lilac is appearing this year.

Shhhhh! The Elysium is sneaking down the driveway....

I noticed this all this morning when all the purples were enjoying the sunshine. That is until mid-afternoon when a storm came and went within no more that thirty minutes.

You know what they say about Melbourne weather. If you don't like it, wait for an hour - it will change.

Today reminded me of some days last June in the Loire when after a humid day the storm clouds would roll in, accompanied with claps of thunder.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Good Music - Good Times in the 60s.

Melbourne in the 60s had a great music scene. Being a teenager at the time I saw a change in the music scene from jazz and rock ‘n’ Roll to the British beat music.

My favourite Disco in the 60s was the Biting Eye - their posters were works of art.

As a 15 year old my mother allowed me to go to my first jazz dances. They were local and I had to be home by midnight. Mum loved dancing herself - she met my father at a dance in the 40s so I guess she didn’t see any threat during her time and therefore nothing had changed over the next 2 decades. She was fairly right in her assumption. Jazz dances were very friendly places in the mid-sixties. However things did change a little in the second half of the decade
. Two more Biting Eye posters.

When the music of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Kinks, Small Faces and the Who started to filter through to Australia, the dance venues also took on a change. Most Jazz and Rock n Roll venues were suburban Town Halls. Later as the British wave of music took over, venues for this music were in the dark alley ways of Melbourne in old warehouses. A little like the Cavern in Liverpool. With weed and LSD and the whole love-in period these warehouses for music venues sprung up throughout the CBD of Melbourne with unusual names that my mother didn’t quite get. I must admit that I didn’t quite get it either but you didn’t admit that to your parents. All that mattered was that it was different to your parents era.

I remember my very first concert - I was 17 and six of us all piled into my mates Morrie to see The Who, Small Faces and Manfred Mann on the one show. Probably cost all of $10 at the time.

Many of these Discos also had Sunday afternoon sessions - the Melbourne music scene was where many of the interstate bands would come to be noticed. The Twilights were from Adelaide, Python Lee Jackson from Brisbane and Split Enz (later Crowded House), Max Merritt and Dinah Lee from New Zealand.

BELOW: The Thumping Tum also had creative posters, probably due to their creative owners that were from the window dressing and interior display staff of the Myer Store.

This is a shot of the interior of Berties Disco - It had three levels including the basement for the bands, and a lounge area and a games room.

Anyway, back to the venues and the weird names. The Biting Eye was my first real “Disco”. They were called Discos then because between live bands, they would have a DJ spin a few Discs. None of the venues had a liquor licence and just as well as most of the patrons were probably 14 to early 20s. Occasionally you would get a wiff of a funny cigarette but due to no alcohol, the venues were pretty friendly. Venues opened at 8.00 pm and closed in time to get the last train home.

Another popular venue was the Thumping Tum. I was working at Myer doing visual displays and windows at the big department store in the city and one of the employees actually ran the Tum. Another fellow employee started a venue called the “Love In” down the road a little in Carlton. It later burnt down. Somebody probably dropped a reefer down the back of a couch.
Our Saturday night choices also included Catcher, Sebastian’s and Berties. From memory I can still count about 12 venues in the city alone. The local bands would do the circuit of the venues during the night.

It was great time, a little naive maybe but to my mind, a lot more comfortable before Pub Rock started. As we rolled into the 70s, the Pubs started to employ bands to bring in the crowds, usually 18 plus due to this being the minimum drinking age. It left a lot of the younger kids with no place to go.

I’ll always look on those years as the start of my music (and life) education. It was great to be in that era when music drastically changed from Jazz to Rock n Roll and to the British Beat scene and then psychedelic music. Oh yes, and I survived, got married, had a family and currently enjoy being both a grumpy old man and old fart by my adult boys who now play gigs around Melbourne with their band “In Tongues”

Gosh they have strange names for bands these days!!!!!!!


Thursday, November 19, 2009

PARIS for my 60th

You may remember that "Melbourne - our Home" started from the blog of our travels through France earlier this year.

Well, I can feel another blog coming on next year with the decision to return to Paris for my 60th birthday in April.

We were discussing how best to celebrate this milestone and Sue suggested she knew a great way to spend my annual bonus. Why not book for a birthday dinner for 2 at a Paris restaurant. Why not, indeed?

So that's settled, and I'm allowed to take my bike again.

Can't wait.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

St Vincent Place - Albert Park

I had an early finish to the working week and on the way home I decided to drive through one of my favourite Melbourne suburbs of Albert Park. The area lays between the bay and Albert Park Lake. The road around the lake transforms into a Formula 1 race track in the early part of the year. I’m not sure that the residents of Albert Park look forward this noisy intrusion to their otherwise serene environment. With some free time up my sleeve, I decided I would walk the circuit of St Vincent Place and the gardens.

On a very sunny afternoon with the temperature still hovering in the low 30s, the leafy trees surrounding the St Vincent Gardens offered some relief from the hot sun. I'd never experienced the gardens or the surrounding buildings on foot before. Sure, I'd driven around in the car but its not the same. You don't hear the birds or voices within the homes coming from the occasional open doors. There wouldn't be one house that doesn't share pride in this wonderful street. Except for the cars parked in front of the houses, you could be strolling along in the late 1800s.

From Wikipedia
St Vincent Gardens in the Melbourne
suburb of Albert Park, is an Australian park of national significance.
It is an example of nineteenth century residential development around a large landscaped square. Development occurred as a result of a boom following the
Victorian gold rush. It was influenced by similar, urban design in London, but such design on such a scale is unparalleled in Australia.
In the shape of a large rectangular area with semi-circular crescents at either end, the heritage area includes the
St Vincent Place precinct bounded by Park Street, Cecil Street, Bridport Street, Cardigan Place and Nelson Road. The park is bisected, allowing the passage of trams. Several of the streets are lined with the original cobbled blue stone and gutters. It is registered with the National Trust of Australia and on the Victorian Heritage register for its aesthetic, historical, architectural and social significance to the State of Victoria.

Below: An early etching of the bowling green within the St Vincent GardensI wonder when the wind vane was first installed - Take note of the clear blue sky.
The gardens contain the Albert Park Lawn Bowls Club and as I walked through the gardens the members were in the middle of a game so I stopped to watch for awhile. I was surprised to see young people playing what I always imagined was a game for the retired. No white uniforms and white bowls hats here. Jeans and T-Shirts were the uniform for these young players.

A touch of Victoriana

In contrast to the homes of the 1800s, there is the occasional art nouveau or art deco style home - I usually wonder what was demolished on the site to make room for something a little more modern????

I'd love to walk through either one of these gates after my day of work and slip back in time.

The Architecture changes from home to home, ranging from Victorian to Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles.

The gardens are well cared for within the park but as I continued my walk looking at the homes on the perimeter of the park, I noticed that the residents had put their own gardens on show for people like me to appreciate.

A Victorian English garden.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Veggie Garden that took over the world and a Sunday drive.

Melbourne's spring has come on with a rush with lovely cloudless sunny days mingled with some good heavy rains - that reminds me, I need to replace some guttering on our 80 year old house. The rain has encouraged Sue's plantings to come on with a rush. They don't realise that they are doomed for the kitchen table.
Leon talks of my veggie garden with disdain, but that's not the case when he's enjoying the proceeds! We're already harvesting the rocket and I've been making a Caprese type salad most nights using the fragrant basil.

We have tiny green capsicums growing larger as we look at them, the tomatoes are getting much bigger and the beans are climbing the wall. The herbs all look good, and the zucchini are set to take over the whole plot before too long. All good... the only problem is keeping the water up to them...legally that is. Our water restrictions are strict.

As spring draws into summer, I can't think of a better place to live than where we are in Melbourne. At 6.30 am Saturday morning the bay was a mill pond with fishermen in their dingies floating on the calm waters. We were cycling on Beach Road in bare legs and arms and enjoying the morning fresh air, and at mid morning the temperature rose to the low 20s. Later in the afternoon it reached 30 and it was time to enjoy a cold, crisp glass of white wine.
So Saturday evening was spent on the decking enjoying a BBQ meal with the addition of the proceeds from the veggie garden in the company of our two sons, Andrew and Mitchell.

Andrew informed us that he was visiting his friends Camille and Jason in the country town of Riddell's Creek so I suggested we would drive him there (our 24 year old student still doesn't have a driving licence) and Sue and I would take in a leisurely lunch somewhere nearby. He would catch the train back in the late afternoon from the old bluestone station.

Riddell's Creek bluestone railway station.

The Woodend clock tower.

The local Woodend church.

That somewhere nearby was Woodend, halfway between Melbourne and the old gold mining city of Bendigo. Woodend was a stop off point for many on their way to the 1850s gold rush areas of Victoria. Today it is a tourist destination with a population of a little over 3000. Nearby is Mount Macedon and Hanging Rock. Joan Lindsay's book, Picnic at Hanging Rock is based on the area and was later made into a film directed by Peter Weir. Its probably one of Australia's classic movies.

Mount Macedon is renown for its large country estates and beautiful gardens which on special occasions are open to the public.

The pub at the Victoria Hotel in Woodend.

Lunch was had at the historic Victoria Hotel in the main street of Woodend. Sue had a traditional Pub lunch of beer batter fish and chips, where I can never resist a pasta dish. Mine was a smoked trout and spinach pasta in a sauvignon blanc cream sauce washed down with a local crisp dry white. Not bad at all.
Woodend has a main street full of cafe's, and shops to keep the tourist amused for some time.

After coffee we decided to meander home via Mount Macedon where we discovered a leafy rain forest and waterfall. I've been to Mount Macedon many times but had never before come across this tranquil little haven.

We must do this more often.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Tourist in our home town

Writing a blog can sometimes be a little challenging and at other times inspiring. Being a tourist in your home town opens your eyes to the many scenes, talents and experiences that sometimes you might just take for granted. Only recently we took a little walk at Docklands at the edge of Melbourne's city centre. I guess you could call it a new inner suburb in a way. Previously it was a wasteland of swamp and cargo storage areas.
Today it is a vibrant commercial and entertainment area with apartments reaching towards the sky.

For more on Dockland's history.
We strolled through a recently developed area that opened into a large square overlooking the Marina. In a half circle facing out towards the Marina were statues of several leading Australian entertainers sculptured Peter Corlett. I hadn't realised that I had seen his work previously and it has also appeared in our blog.
A statue of strange old man sitting above the verandas in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy was sculptured by Corlett. His website is worth a look.

Amongst the sculptured Australian entertainers by Peter at Docklands are Kylie Monogue, Edna Everage, Dame Nellie Melba, Pop singer John Farnham and television host from the 60's, Graham Kennedy.

Kylie honed her earlier skills in the soapy TV series Neighbours with Jason Donovan. Hasn't she moved on from then?

Ex-plumber, John Farnham began his singing career as a teenager around the dance halls of Melbourne in the late 60/70s and matured into one of the most well respected Australian singers through to the late 90s. He also fronted the Little River Band for a short time and toured the US. Even today he is sometimes lured out of retirement for a concert or two.

Dame Edna, what can one say about Edna - A diva of world renown. It was said that Barry Humphries was not too please with the facial expression that Peter Corlett encapsulated with his sculpture of the gladdie throwing Dame of Moonee Ponds. What do you think?

The sculpture of Graham Kennedy is delightful. Originally a radio personality, he transferred his talents to television during the late 50s when the medium was new to Australians. He was the King of Melbourne TV for many decades. He had a wicked sense of humour and that eventually was his downfall. Trouble came his way when mimicking a crow call (faaaark) on live TV that sounded very much like a profanity. He was taken off air.

The ironic thing is that by his statue, Corlett has a sculptured crow to keep Graham company.

The fourth statue is of Dame Nellie Melba. I've passed where she lived, a grand rambling property, many times on my way through the vineyard covered rolling hills of the Yarra Valley. Along with Joan Sutherland, they were world famous in the operatic world.

By writing this blog, I've learnt that Melburnian's have a very talented sculpture with a wonderful way of interpreting the personalities of our entertainers while also producing some very serious work.

Maybe we all should take the opportunity to become a tourist in our own home town.