Thursday, December 27, 2012


Sorry to have missed my usual posts - I lost my Mojo!!!!!

Yes, that's it, I knocked off work and just stopped everything. Blogging was one of those things that took a back seat. 2012 has been one of the most busiest working years I can remember in my 16 years with the company. I guess I shouldn't complain - many companies are finding that the economy is slower than previous. It will be interesting to see how our retail sector performs after all the post Christmas sales.

Again I digress - it happens often at my age..........

So what have we been up to since December 21st - our last post. Shopping, cooking, eating, drinking, riding and relaxing.
Oh, yes and enjoying family. Our son Andrew is home from England for Christmas. Our other son has a friend he met in Montreal staying with us until the first week of January.

I thought I would just post some pictures of the last week.
My first day of rest involved - naturally a ride on my favorite piece of road with what I believe meets the expectations of any place in the world - sometimes because I ride this piece of road several times a week, I take it for granted.
It's summer in Bayside Mentone and there's no better place for me than to be riding my bike  om Beach Road.
But my mate Nico had other ideas for the Beach Road  Bayside Xmas ride. A very brave man indeed is my mate Nico.
A very Corporate Chap is Nico, but on this day, he came out of the closet with help from his Missus who added the final  touch of the halo. I shall never see Nico with the same eyes again.
Even an Angel needs his after ride caffeine.
In fact the whole crew enjoy their after ride coffee - it's a Melbourne tradition.
One of Santa's helpers, Rosemary poses for the camera.
So on the ride were pixies, Santa, elves, and they all looked like they were having fun. I have to say that I'm a little inhibited when it comes to dressing up and riding in public so I was a quiet observer.

Our big festive meal is Christmas day. However with our Canadian friend staying and unable to have Christmas lunch with us due to an invitation from other Aussie friends, we decided to treat him to a Christmas Eve meal.

Mussels done in Sue's special way.
And then, tiger prawns.
Enjoyed with a salad of lettuce, beetroot, walnuts and feta cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.
To cleanse the palette, nectarine, grapes, cherries, and cantaloupe or rock melon.
It is now December 27 and the New Year draws close. New Year resolutions are being formulated by many. What are ours, I hear you ask?
There is only one resolution and that is to enjoy family, friends and life. Oh yes, and to get back to regular blogging.
Hope your festive season has been as enjoyable as ours. Tomorrow is Funky Friday..........

Monday, December 17, 2012

Bah! Humbug

OK, I have to admit to being a bit of a scrooge bah, humbug sort of Christmas guy.
BUT over the years, Sue has started to wear me down. My resistance to turning my back on all this Christmas cheer is slowly fading where I am starting to enjoy the festivities. I think this all resulted from an early childhood experience when I chopped down a very large branch from a council grounds conifer. I dragged it home across a busy highway and was promptly scolded for such an act of vandalism. I just thought it would be nice to have a real Christmas tree at home - that was 56 years ago.

Sue couldn't understand my minimalistic attitude towards the festive season, but there it is, a hidden childhood drama released in adulthood.
I'm mellowing and now after releasing this inner most dark experience here in our blog, I feel I can enjoy Christmas without that bah, humbug attitude that I've harboured for so many years.

I'm mellowing - a little Christmas cheer welcomes guests to our house during the festive season. OK - its still minimalistic but we do have a real tree this year.
Oh Sue - it sheds needles and then I have to get rid of it after Christmas.
Bah - Humbug!!!!!
What are you doing at Christmas?

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Purple Haze in our Garden

After a few days of 30 plus degrees, the rains came last night and the Jacaranda tree lost some of its purple blossom on the green lawn of our back yard.

As I ventured out the front door on my way to work, the front yard was also wearing its purple ensemble.

Just a few snaps taken on the iPhone while rushing off to work.
We've heard the Jimi Hendrix PURPLE HAZE so many times over the years - try this for someting different.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Paris for Two Weeks and my 60th.

It was time to move on after only three nights in the Loire visiting friends. Travelling is a wonderful experience seeing the sights of another country. Meeting and greeting friends along the way only enhances the experience - maybe this is why we keep returning to France.
We took a ride in the Citroen called Celestine with her owners, Susan and Simon, enjoyed lunch with Walt, Carole and Mikee, and also saw fellow Blogger Jean's village although we missed seeing her.

This chap sits on the outside of Carole and Mikees house - I wonder if he has a name.
Walt took this photo of Carole and Mikee - Ken couldn't make it as he was in the US visiting his mother.
This is Walt hamming it up with the T-shirt we presented him with at lunch
Our apartment was in a street off Rue Montorgueil.
For my 60th birthday, Sue had organised two weeks living in an apartment in Paris. It was off Rue Montorgueil and was one of those pedestrian only streets. I would be sent down in the mornings by Sue to buy baguettes as she was brewing coffee for breakfast. Un baguette sil vous plait Madam was the extent of my French, oh yes, and Merci. What the hell, the response was a smile and "you are welcome" in english.

The area was perfect for Sue - it allowed her to wander down into the street to buy produce for our evening meals. The kitchen in the apartment was more than adequate for Sue's culinary skills.

A glass of red while watching life roll by.
Our next lot of posts will be about two weeks of living in Paris - cooking, eating, drinking, sight seeing and yes of course, riding my bike with friends in Paris.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

A Saturday Night Alone

Just the two of us - the boys went to a music festival in the country. Not a country music festival but something more to their liking as 20 somethings.

So Sue and I are home alone - just the two of us. "Why don't we do that cooking thing that we do sometimes", I said - she said, "you mean you want ME to do that cooking thing that I do sometimes?"
Well, really, I take the photos, write the blog and wash up afterwards........

We drove my father Jack to the airport in the arvo to catch his plane to where he lives with my sister in sunny Gold Coast, Queensland. A slight detour on the way home took us to the Prahran Market to buy duck and a few other ingredients for that thing that Sue does sometimes. A lovely bottle of wine, a Pinot Noir from the Yarra Valley suited the duck perfectly. We bought this from our favorite wine shop, Dan Murphy which has a great selection of worldwide wines. We selected the Pinot from the Yering Station label.
The Yering Vineyard was the first to be established in Victoria. It's maybe 50 to 60 kms from home.
Here's a link to their website;

A Pinot Noir from
 the Yarra Valley.
Perfect with Duck
Yering Station History
Victoria’s first vineyard was planted at Yering Station in 1838. The Scottish-born Ryrie brothers ventured into the Yarra Valley as they moved their cattle south from Sydney. Taking up a grazing license of 43 000 acres, they named the property ‘Yering’, its Aboriginal name. The Ryrie’s planted two varieties, the Black Cluster of Hamburg and a white grape variety called Sweetwater. During the early 1850’s they returned to Sydney and Paul de Castella took ownership of Yering Station, developing the property from what remained primarily a cattle station into a landmark of winemaking in Victoria. 

Paul de Castella arrived in the Yarra Valley after traveling from his home town- the Neuchatel district in Switzerland. Many Swiss settled in the Yarra Valley around this time due to the sympathetic presence of the Victorian Governor’s wife, Sophie La Trobe, who also came from the region. Without them, the story of wine in the Yarra Valley would have been very different.

During the 1850’s Yering Station began to take shape. Paul de Castella extended the vineyards and cultivated the varieties with new cuttings imported from France. The winery was built to accommodate brand new equipment imported from the 1859 Bordeaux Exhibition in Paris. A new house and garden were constructed and an avenue of 330 elms was planted along the driveway to welcome De Castella’s bride.

Just a heads up on the different colours - I may have mentioned that Sue talks in green..........
Whenever we go to the Prahran Market, Sue always finds something else to whack in the pantry.
This time it was a bottle of Merlot Verjuice. She uses it as an ingredient in sauces and to deglaze pans that meat has cooked in.
I think she might already have some Maggie Beer Verjuice - Maggie is from the Barossa Valley in South Australia also markets Pates, Quince Paste and Gourmet Ice Creams.
My favorite shop ever is at Prahan Market. It is called Essential Ingredient and carries everything you could think of for cooking as well as many things you could never think of!
We arrived back home to unpack and the first thing was to pour a glass of wine and relax - no one home but us two oldies. YES!!!!!

Sue's menu for the night is always my favorite and we've posted on it before but it was a winter meal last time.
This time duck breast and crispy potatoes cooked in duck fat had a summer edge to it.
A salad joined the duck this time - the salad consisted of watermelon chunks, mint leaves and feta cheese with a dash of balsamic to tart it up a little. It's a bit of a twist on a Nigella Lawson thing but she uses black olives where Sue chucked in the feta. On a balmy night in Melbourne's summer, it was very refreshing.

OK, here we have watermelon, gorgeous and sweet at this time of the year, with feta cheese and mint for the salad. I have plenty of mint in the garden, but it was 36 degrees with a hot gusty wind, and I thought we might get home to find it looked very sad. Also some kipfler potatoes, my favorites to cook in duck fat as they're very waxy and crisp up well.
Waxy, well dried,  with a high heat, (Diane).
The duck breasts still have the first wing bone attached. Probably because it weighs heavier for the butcher. Go on,  call me cynical. I have scored it so the fat will render. Please note I used the wonderful Sabatier knife I bought in Marseille on our last trip. Wish I'd bought two!
My current favorite, watermelon, feta and mint with balsamic.  Made some canapes for a friend's party recently, and made this and served it as a mouthful on Chinese spoons. Nice.
The finished product with the duck breast, crispy skin and golden crispy potato slices but the watermelon, feta and mint salad just added that freshness on a 30 plus degree evening. I had made an aioli the previous night, and that went very well indeed with the duck. Then again, garlic goes with everything, I think. Well, almost.
A dessert of mango, rasberries and blue berries. Served it over vanilla ice cream. Oh yum. I LOVE summer fruit.
I ate the leftovers for breakfast this morning!
There was much more to our Melbourne Weekend but being home, just the two of us on a Saturday night while watching for the fourth time, the West Wing DVD series might sound boring to some, but to us, it was so relaxing.

Anyway its time to get ready to go out and meet friends for a BBQ and to help celebrate another 60th birthday - Oh, we are social butterflies... Back to reality and work tomorrow.

And to conclude:

With apologies to Diane in France who has crappy broadband.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Funky Friday

It's summer in Melbourne - Well this weekend

Melbourne is usually 4 seasons in one day.

Really love this song - it's Melbourne.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Visiting in the Loire

We left Susan and Simon's home, yes and Celestine most probably in the mid afternoon to catch up with Carole and Michael. We may have mentioned before that we met them by renting their cottage in Thenay for a week on a previous trip. I particularly remember Michael bringing around a huge cane woven basket of greens during the week and an offer to join them for dinner on our second last night at the cottage. They had another couple staying at their home, strangely enough, that they also met through renting Thenay.
We were invited for two night - well I'm sure that they would have welcomed us for longer however Sue and I have a policy of not wanting to outwear our welcome. There's and old saying that guests are like fish, they start to smell after two days. Mind you, I thought that I may have made a disgrace of myself after what may have been a bad oyster - which we won't go into at this time.

Carole and Micheal's property has some space to roam.
Carole and Michael - friend's well met.
On this trip, our hosts were contemplating a new kitchen - only this year Carole and Sue organised a dinner party for eight with Ken and Walt across the river and their neighbours Annick and Bernard - a great night to remember.
I wish I could as a few of us had heavy heads the next morning.
Several cats live at the house - this one gave us the once over!!!
These signs mean something to the locals - Thenay where we stayed the previous year, I rode my bike through  Oisly on many morning rides and Contres where we shopped.
The Thenay cottage with Michael checking the letterbox.
The local "Baker" had reopened on this visit - previously it was a derelict building. I think Thenay is on the improve from its sleepy little hamlet image.
The local church

I really can't tell you much about this property - I will next time we visit Thenay in 2014.
Vineyards surround the local area.

Having met fellow bloggers Ken and Walt on our previous trip, we organised to have lunch with Walt (Ken was back in the States), Carole and Michael at a restaurant selected by Walt. Very nice it was too.
The Cher river flows under the arched river leading into Saint Aignan.
Sue and Carole look across to the Chateau.
The Saint Aignan Chateau.
Another view looking across the bridge.
I may have mentioned earlier that this trip was a birthday present from Sue to celebrate my 60th birthday. She said would I like to have a party at home or dinner in Paris for my 60th - well you must have guessed by now what my choice was. Paris was not far away.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

What a Lot of Wallies.....

Friends - they enrich your life, don't they. And when they have birthdays, you get to celebrate with them. Sue and I are very fortunate to be surrounded by many very good friends in our various spheres of life. Cycling, travelling, car clubs, family and just generally in life, we have a great circle of people that we enjoy spending time with.

This weekend was one of those weekends that many of those friends came together to celebrate a special birthday. Our cycling, sailing, MG owner friend, Dazza was celebrating his 50th birthday.

And on the following Sunday, our friend Bob was celebrating his 59th birthday so with Champagne in arm, we trundled to see him and good wife Jenny. I have to tell you that my mate Bob is a regular bower bird. You know, a person that collects things. His garage, side way and attic is an Aladdin's cave of collectables. The myth goes that Bob has never sold or thrown away any of his possessions in his 59 years. During our champagne sipping, Bob emerged from the garage to display the bike he was given many decades previous that was a birthday present. Since then his passion ignited so many years ago still burns bright. Bikes are his world.

Next Wednesday's in France we visit still more friends in the Loire - hope your weekend was fun.

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Finnigan Friday

On High Street Northcote in the northern suburbs of Melbourne is one of those old time bike shops that have a historical background.
There's lots of upmarket new bike shops that are glitzy and have the most modern state of the art carbon fibre frames.
Back in the very early days the riders rode heavy steel bikes with single gears - the riders were gladiators of the road. I love this history, the riders, the bikes and the races of that time.

The Austral Wheel Race is a track race that like the Warrnambool Road Race has a history of over 100 years. In 1898, Tom Finnigan won the Austral - Alf Middleton was second and so was I in the early 80s - That's commonly known as the 1st loser.

Alf was actually the winner in 1894 so he was far from being a 1st loser.

Back to the Friday story - Thursday I was driving past the old Finnigan Bike Shop. All over Northcote, there is lots of graffiti but this graffiti is wall art in my mind. It visualises a moment in history when Tom Finnigan won the Austral Wheel Race.

I know graffiti doesn't last in time but I hope this one does. I remember Sue and I walked across the Pont de Gard near Nime in the south of France where graffiti still exists from the 1700s.

The Austral Wheel Race is the oldest continual track race in the world.