Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Weekend in Melbourne

We figure that the weekend starts on Friday nights and this Friday was no exception - I rang home on the way and Sue said she was feeling a cooking thing coming on.
Most of our readers probably know how much we enjoy duck, well it was on the menu but I'll ask Sue to tell you it was prepared - just have to say it was the very best.

I have to say I feel embarrassed to speak about cooking duck when I know we have people from France reading this blog. Never mind..we like it and I'm learning.
The guy at the shop got two ducks and cut the breasts off for me. They had the top part of the wing with bone still attached. Not what I really wanted, but I'm sure he was happy because they weighed a lot heavier.  Go me a cynic!
Pan to get a crispy skin then in the oven for  8 minutes. We don't like them rare, just pink, medium I guess you'd say. While they rested I did a caramel with just sugar in the pan they cooked in, then stopped it cooking with red wine vinegar, then added orange juice and chicken stock. Cooked it down for a while then mounted it by whisking in a little butter (French butter, I really am a tragic)
I love muffin tins. I never make muffins! Sliced potatoes very finely and stacked them in a muffin tin, a little milk, butter and Parmesan cheese and in the oven, then turn them out and they look and taste great. I don't know what to call them. I have done them this way with cream and they are wonderful, but not this day.  I cooked some halved eschallots in EVOO with a little fresh thyme until golden, then added balsamic , covered lightly and cooked still soft.  Popped in muffin tin (did I say I love muffin tins?) topped with puff pastry and baked for 10 minutes. Instant eshallot tarte tartins. Look great, taste great, easy...winner I reckon.

The wine was from France, a Guigal Cotes du Rhone. Its a wine that brings back memories of two days in Vienne on the Rhone river just south of Lyon.

Dinner for three, our son Mitchell has developed a palate for good wine and food at 23.
From across the Rhone from Vienne - a favourite of ours, especially with duck.
Available from Uncle Dan's (Dan Murphy) at less than $20

Saturday started out as one of those perfect sunny mornings as we drift towards autumn. I'm sitting here on Sunday writing this blog and listening to Beatles songs while the rain drizzles down our study window.
That's Melbourne - they say that if you are bored by the weather, wait for an hour and it will change.
Back to Saturday morning - the bay was still, no wind and Beach Road was full of people enjoying this part of heaven on earth. Joggers, walkers, cyclists all enjoying the early morning. I like to do an early morning ride to coffee at 6.30 am before our "real ride". We stop at a little cafe in Brighton on North Road. My friend Darren told me that the Cafe started as the local sailing club's boat shed and that the beach actually came much closer. Reclaimed land is now a car park.
The view from the Cafe extends across the bay to Melbourne central and the Westgate bridge that links the west of Melbourne is an imposing site on the horizon.

My mate Darren wanted to do another ride after our "real ride" in the late morning that took us back to Brighton Beach. As we rode along in the balmy morning sunshine, we noticed many keel boats on the bay - there was a race about to start.

From the point where we stood, we could see the start of the race, but then I looked back over my shoulder and there were two Brighton Beach historic icons. Brighton Beach railway station and the Royal Terminus Hotel (1840s).

The hotel was supposedly the second hotel established south of the Yarra river. Back then it was a fair distance from Marvelous Melbourne and was in fact bailed up by Bushrangers back then.

Brighton Beach station based on Wikipedia information was opened December 21, 1861. The area was a popular bayside destination from its inception and many grand homes still stand in the area - many have also tumbled under the wrecking ball to make way for some very bland modern homes.

The tram also was another way to get to Brighton Beach - the line running from St Kilda. It no longer exists, nor does the the pier seen in the background. Just opposite the tram can be seen some brickwork just visible to the side of the road. This was a tunnel leading from the station and from my research it was a way of getting baggage from the station, directly to the  beach. Although not functional, the tunnel still can be seen from the beach.

Taken in 1982, Brighton Beach Station. To the right shows where the line came to an end until the government extended the line to Hampton and  then to Sandringham, seen to the left.

The entrance to the Brighton Beach Railway Station.
 On the foreshore of Brighton Beach and further up the bay to Beaumaris a bluestone retaining wall was built during the Great Depression to relieve unemployment. The bluesto ne blocks came from Melbourne's Old Gaol. Some of these blocks have initials and dates on them. They signify the initials and dates of inmates of the Old Melbourne gaol who were hanged and buried there. Many of the bones were exhumed and reburied at Pentridge Gaol in Coburg. Infamous Bushranger Ned Kelly was one. On being hanged, its said his last words were "Such is Life".

Next month in Melbourne is the MELBOURNE FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL and runs from March 4 to 14. Do I have a chance of not being there with Sue - NO!!!!!! CLICK HERE for more

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday song - Well, not Really!!! Instrumental.

I mentioned in a post earlier in the week of a fellow cyclist I met at out State Masters Track Titles. I didn't mention him or his wife by name but now I know that he is FAMOUS, I get the chance to introduce Anton Wurzer to you. His wife is Loris and they make a lovely couple.
Anton sent me a rather obscure email to say he had something in the mail for me. I had no idea what this would be, but I thought it may be connected to our mutual passion for our sport.
But no!!!!!
He mentioned that besides cycling he had an interest in such things as racing motorcycles and playing the accordian. Yes, I agree with you, they do seem to have a connection, don't they?
Both of these passions were passed down by his father.

This morning (Friday) I worked from home in the morning and Sue brought in the mail. Lo and behold, there was the package that Anton had promised. It had a very nice hand written letter with it - unusual in this age.

He's quite handsome, isn't he???????????
 It was a CD recorded by him and Nicole Canham called "Live for Life". I wacked it in the CD stacker in my car and listened to it all the way to the office. I arrived there in a very happy mood.
Thanks Anton - The favor will be returned very soon - There will be a return present on the way to you next week. (You're not no only famous person who rides a bike)

 I found Anton on You Tube.

Friday, February 25, 2011


I had no idea what to post this Friday - that is until I decided to polish my shoes.
This is the Australian icon shoe polish - KIWI.
We don't have Kiwis in Australia - It was a native bird to New Zealand. Strange!!!!
The current Kiwi shoe polish tin I used this morning.

A couple of early newspaper advertisements


You'll love this little clip - nothing to do with shoe polish.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pont du Gard

We haven't posted a Wednesdays in France for a few weeks - Why did I hear you say?
Well, yes there is an excuse - I've lost a heap of photos. Don't know how it all happened, so I'll use some from the internet. Later in this particular trip, the photos will return.

We missed both Nimes and the Pont du Gard on our 2006 visit to the the South of France. Firstly I was wary of driving the car in the big cities and secondly, we were on a schedule to arrive in Saint Chinian.

Painting by Hubert Robert 1787
Not this time. I was a lot braver in the car and we had this whole week to float to wherever we wanted.
Pont du Gard was most definitely on the list as was Uzes and Orange. We had no idea at the time that the Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct covered a distance of 50 kms from Uzes to Nimes. When you consider in what time frame it was built, you find as you walk towards this amazing structure, you ask yourself - how can this be?
Initially you arrive at the entry gates and park your car a little distance from the Pont du Gard passing firstly through the souvenir stores, cafes and the museum. The museum is well worth the time to discover its history.

The Pont du Gard is a notable ancient Roman aqueduct bridge that crosses the Gard River in southern France. It is part of a 50 km (31 mi) long aqueduct that runs between Uzès and Nîmes in the South of France. It is located in Vers-Pont-du-Gard near Remoulins, in the Gard département. The aqueduct was constructed by the Romans in the 1st century AD and was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1985. It is the highest of all Roman aqueduct bridges and is the best preserved after the Aqueduct of Segovia.

I remember as we walked towards the Pont du Gard, we passed an olive tree with some age on it. We heard a couple say, "I've eaten olives from the tree before, I don't like them." Hmmmmm!!!!
We love them - yes but not from the tree.

The Pont du Gard has graffitti - this graffitti is chisled into the rock during the 1700s by students of architecture. I took photos of this but alas, I can't find them any longer.

We left the Pont du Gard, totally enthralled before driving to Uzes for lunch. The old city is a feeling of calm. One could imagine market day here. It was slightly balmy while a cloud of drizzle fell. We had lunch, one that looked great but Sue being the culinary snob that she is (hope she doesn't read this) thought it was average.
I don't remember what I ate but I do remember the ambiance of the area. Not a great amount of people about and sometimes I wonder whether we have some influence on that.

Eventually we found ouselves travelling to Orange to see the Roman Amphitheatre. How many of these structures litter Europe. We've seen similar structures in Autun, Lyon, and Arles. What did the Romans ever do for us, I remember that line from "the Life of Brian", do you?  Monty Python at it's best.

Our week was coming to an end in Saint Remy de Provence before we travelled back to the Languedoc.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Old Blokes having Fun

It's been a very busy and very self indulgent weekend with a whole lot of OLD FARTS racing bikes in Lycra, not a pretty sight in some cases. What was a highlight though, was catching up with old friends and making new ones.

Old friends - I caught up with an old mate who decided to sell up in the suburbs of Melbourne and decentralize in rural Victoria, a thought that has crossed my mind occasionally. Seeing fellow bloggers who've done just that to us seems incredibly brave. Anyway this friend of mine now lives in Ballarat, a city with a rich history, the place of the Eureka Stockade - do a google, it was a very important part of our state's history.

New friends - Today I met a man and his wife from our political capital, the Australian Capital Territory of Australia, the ACT. He told me of his father coming to Australia from Bavaria in 1951 to create a new life for his family here. His father initially came on his own and when he established himself, he sent for his wife who came a year later. It was fascinating to hear his story but that's how things were done then for our new Australians.
He said his father read that there were jobs to be had and that they would be accommodated in hotels, in actual fact he misread it. It was Hostels...
His son whom I raced against today (he won by the way and I might not forgive him for this) has a life in Canberra and loves bike racing. Before he came into this sport, he race motor cycles. From leather to Lycra...what can I say, but his wife says he looks more attractive in leather.

This is what I love about my sport, at my age, we love the challenge, but we also encompass the friendships that come from it.

OK. next post we should talk more food, wine, history - I promise.
Well, maybe....

Friday, February 18, 2011

Saturday Song

Yes, I know I've featured John Farnham previously but I've been looking at You Tubes and I can't get over how many people he's sung with. John ventured out of Australia a few times but would get homesick. He travelled with Little River Band in the USA for awhile.
John has dueted with many international singers on their travels to Australia and they hold him in high regard.
He's an average likable bloke with an incredible voice - untrained would you believe.
I'll let him entertain you and go back to have my dinner -Sue is calling. Don't get excited, she's ordered in..
FISH and CHIPS tonight.

John with Vanetta Fields and Lindsay Fields
With Tom Jones
John, just having fun. Hope you are too.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cars - Not always a boy thing.

During last year I did a post on the cars we have owned - Cars, It's a Boy Thing. Not sure how I link the article to this one but it doesn't matter I suppose.
Late last year we decided to hand down the Citroen Xantia to number 2 son - number 1 son hasn't got a driver's licence yet.

Previously I had a Peugeot 307 for my work car - it was great. So when it came time to replace Sue's car, a 307 was on the short list. The one that stood out was seriously optioned with leather, sunroof and the BIG 2 litre engine. We love it and on the weekends I leave my MGZT190 in the driveway and take the 307.

It's a really nice Pug 307 despite being silver.

But it feels really nice in the cockpit - leather, mock woodgrain and a spacious cabin.

We love having a sunroof since my 1949 Citroen Traction Avant. The Pug has one too.

My brutish MG and Sue's demure Pug.
Really this post is just an excuse to post an real Aussie Peugeot 307 advertisement.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


I was out Saturday morning at our training session at the indoor velodrome and our son was taking his lady out to dinner. Sue I decided we would do the same, at home.
How come weekends become so busy. The boy's car was overheating and needed to be picked up and brought home and then Sue and I needed to do the weekly household shopping. It had been a long day.

Sue had the kitchen creatives and was thinking lamb. I was thinking wine. Since visiting France over the years, we still look for French wines to have with dinner, sometimes Italian and sometimes Spanish. We've never been to Spain but that's no reason to not try their wines, is it?

The wine I selected was a M. Chapoutier red -Chapoutier's wine labels are distinctive because of their inclusion of Braille writing on all labels since 1996.

Notice the Braille on the label.
From Wikipedia - naturally.....
The Chapoutier family can trace their history in the Rhône region back to 1808, but it was in 1879 that Polydor Chapoutier bought his first vineyards and started the actual business. In the mid-20th century Max Chapoutier led the business, until his retirement in 1977, after which his sons Michel Chapoutier and Marc Chapoutier took over. Some years later, during the 1980s, quality improved, under Michel Chapoutier's leadership over the vineyards and winemaking facilities. By the late 1980s, Chapoutier had started to receive considerable international attention for the wines' quality.
Chapoutier produces wines from a range of appellations in northern and southern Rhône, as well as from some Roussillon appellations, and from collaborative projects in Portugal and Australia.

I digress once again - we started with smoked trout.

Smoked trout from the supermarket is a local product.
SUE: This trout comes from the Goulburn River in Northern Victoria. A couple of hundred km from where we live, but for Australia, not that far. There is also a good selection  closer to home, but it just depends on what you see on the day. And on this day I bought from the supermarket and these looked great.:And then it was on to the preparation of our main course - It was my role as the apprentice to do the chop, chop stuff. 
Rack of lamb was our choice with rosemary and a red current glaze. Individual potato slices cooked in duck fat.
Add to the plate, spinach, garlic, pine nuts and why go out for dinner.

Sue sealed the racks first before putting in the oven.
I like to seal lemon halves in the pan with the meat and then chuck them in the oven and then serve them on the plate. They caramelise, you get a lot of juice and a heap of flavour. And they look great.
The finished result - Gee, it was scrumptious. What a lucky bloke I am.
Lamb always seems to me to be a very Australian dish. Individual racks of lamb are quite expensive in Australian terms for meat. I would never cook it for a family meal, but our older son moved out last week and our youngest was out for dinner, so....why not?  Two racks of 4 chops each cost slightly less than $AU20. That would be double what I would usually spend on meat for a family meat meal for 3 adult carnivores and me. Well worth it though.
To finish off, we enjoyed blue cheese and plum on crackers. Don't forget the biscotti.
We are in the middle of the stone fruit season here, and I really can't decide which sort I like the most.  The nectarines are always wonderful, I love poaching apricots, but at the moment it is the time for blood plums and they are fantastic. This is not counting the mangoes which are always wonderful. I have a tendency to over buy, and they don't last long in the heat...I have to do better with the shopping! There is only so much fruit you can eat!
That's a northern Victorian desert wine - a Buller's Tokay with an Nespresso.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Saturday Song

Hans Poulsen - Aussie troubadour
As a young fella, I'd run home from school and later from work to watch our pop shows of the day. The 60s were great. They say that if you can remember the 60's you were not really there. Well I WAS there and I do remember them vividly - I was drug free, (mostly).

I guess you could say that most countries had their own Donovan or Dylan or even Joan Baez but we had Hans Poulsen. He was a local boy just up the road along the bay from where we live. Hans seemed like a very peaceful sort of guy and sang songs that gave you a good feeling. Maybe he had his own good feeling at the time - who knows. He only had a few songs that hit the charts and I wonder where he is today.
I looked him up on Wikipedia and what do you know, there he was.

He was born as Bruce Gordon Poulsen to parents Vic and Nellie who played two instruments, lap-steel & ukulele with their styles of Hawaiian music, bush ballads and Country & Western music
His grandfather migrated to Victoria from Denmark and being proud of his heritage Bruce took on the name of Hans Sven when he was still a teenager. It is possible he took the name as a stage-name when he started his school in 1961 called the Rimfires; at this time he played around the Frankston area, an outer suburb of Melbourne and around the Mornington Peninsula region on the coast. It was here he learnt his craft and became known for his interpretation of Buddy Holly music and songs
In 1965 Hans formed the first version of Melbourne group 18th Century Quartet, which played original material (mostly by Hans) and performed in a style that later came to be known as world music; the group also differed from most of its contemporaries with its use of diverse acoustic instruments including mandolin, autoharp and bouzouki.
After embarking on a solo career in 1967, Hans scored two Australian pop hits with the songs "Boom Sha La La Lo", "Light Across the Valley" and he enjoyed great success as a songwriter with hits written for other artists, including "Rose Coloured Glasses" for John Farnham and "Monty and Me" for Zoot. One of his best-known and most successful compositions, "It's Only A Matter Of Time", was the much-played B-side of the famous single "The Real Thing" by Russell Morris, which was an Australian #1 hit in May 1969.

A song for all immigrants that came to an island/continent across the ocean called Oz
A lovely clip with inspiring words.

Friday Feline Foto

Our other cat is "Gem", she's a bit of a Princess and only just tolerates us. That is until she wants something. Sue initially adopted Rosita, the moggy but after awhile she decided she couldn't live without an Oriental.
So this Burmese was installed into the family home. She thinks it's her home.

Is it time to get up already? I'm still sleepy.

Whatever it is, I'm sure we can discuss it later.

It's been quite a hectic couple of weeks lately with work and play and I seem to be behind in my regular posts but the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter. I'm looking forward to posting our Wednesdays in France again next week.
Enjoy your weekend

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Just a bit self indulgent - don't you think??

Not a great deal to blog about this weekend - other than the heavy rain that flooded our street Friday night after I arrived home. But you saw that didn't you.
My Saturday was taken up by a commitment to my Cycling Club. I had been invited to ride in the Victorian Club Teams Championships. This has riders from under 17's to us "Old Farts".
To see young and old supporting each other from all the other teams around the state gives you a really warm feeling. Win or lose, it's all positive with the occasional friendly jibing.

Yep, that's the Senior at the front but he only did the first lap anyway.

I don't understand jewellery but I do like GOLD.
Our team of Old Farts rode two events which started in qualifying initially. We actually qualified in our two events with the fastest times, but only marginally and the finals could have gone either way.
The Team Sprint event is a team of three riders over three laps of a 250 metre track. It's a pure speed event. The combined age needs to be 135 years plus. So my two team mates who are in their early 40s, needed to find someone with a Seniors card - that's me. I'm 61 in April so I qualify.
Without too much bravado - I'll just say we won!!!!

The Old Farts podium. We do like winning.
 The other event is the Team Pursuit - four riders with a total age of 180 years plus - enter the bloke with the Seniors card again. ME. I'm not much good at this 3000 metres endurence team event but we had a plan.
The plan was - let the old bloke put in a few quick efforts and then get rid of him so the young blokes can get down to business. It worked, we scored our second gold medal for the day.

I must say I was quite proud to be invited to be part of the team and thoroughly enjoyed the day. It was especially gratifying to see so many of our young girls and boys enjoying the team spirit - maybe down the track we may see them competing in some future Commonwealth or Olympic Games - I hope so.

I'll try to be a bit more humble next post.

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Sky is Crying

The Sky is Crying, look at the tears rolling down the street
a blues song by Elmore James.

I discovered Elmore James through John Mayall an English Blues enthusiast, and Eric Clapton. Why have I started this post with a blues song - Well, its true, the sky has been crying all down the east coast of Australia.

We were warned here in Victoria of a very wet weekend - it came early. As I was reading blogs, the rain came at 5.30 pm on this Friday night.
Let me say this is miniscule compared to what our northern neighbours have had to experience.
Over the 30 years that we have lived here, we have experienced our street becoming a small river once, maybe twice before and it was fun for our boys when they were in their pre-teen years. A swimming pool outside your front door can be exciting.
As I write this another bucket load is being emptied on our street.

This is at the end of our street - it's not the first time.

This is directly outside our home. Our house is a grand old lady built in 1929. She's sturdy and sits on good foundations. She lifted her skirts and so all is well.

Last night while watching the news, I was astounded by the level of destruction that Queensland is once again being hit by. Our Prime Minister has announced a flood levy on our taxes to help the needy. Our opposition oppose it. I guess that's what oppositions do, but when devistation hits your country, why do they try to take politcal points. This is not a basketball game. It's people in need!!!!

You can see the eye of Cyclone Yasi on the coasy of northern Queensland.

Up north, the cyclone tossed yachts around like cork tops.

From this news picture, it shows that our state of Victoria is in for a very wet weekend which started from the time I arrived in the door from work tonight.
 Anyway, on a lighter note, if we can have one that is, we love the rain. It fills the dams, it sounds good on the roof. Reminds me of the Lovin Spoonful song, "Rain on the Roof" but while we down south have a minor rainstorm, a thought needs to go to those who've lost homes and belongings with cyclone Yasi.