Sunday, May 31, 2015

Cooking up a storm with Sue

We have friends taking off to Italy soon and so we invited them for dinner to tell us about their plans. Alistair and Tracy joined Sue's brother John and sister in-law Jan, with our son Andrew who takes off to the Nederlands late this year.

Had wonderful night after asking some friends over for dinner. Its been much too long in catching up here as renovations seem to sap my will to entertain for some reason!
We started with gougeres which Leon didn't photograph, but which are among my favourite things.
Then this fresh pea and lettuce soup with a little cream before serving. The froth is from the small amount of sparkling poured in at the end which gives a nice yeasty taste.
Then a couple of chickens cooked in a mix of honey, mustard and garlic on a bed of onion wedges and rosemary. You end up with melting meat and a crispy tasty skin. Noice!
A potato and celeriac gratin. Also a stirfry of carrot sticks, snow peas, green beans, sweet corn and endame.

It was a pot of warm chocolate sauce, mini madeleines, tiny meringues, strawberries, cherries, pretzels and the little pile is an almond praline, which I blitzed to make fairy dust!
The happy campers. And a good time was had by all!

Friday, May 29, 2015

What do I do with my Friday's off?

We've moved along on the house spruce up over the last few weeks and big things are happening over the next four weeks.

The interior paint is pretty much completed now and the Baltic pine floor boards are ready to be sanded and sealed in a satin finish. The furniture can then be moved back into the Lounge and dining rooms.
The couches we purchased a couple of weeks back arrive next week - earlier than we expected so they will need to be stored until the floors are done.

I'm almost at the end of the painting now.
I know it looks a bit grotty now but once the floors are sanded and polished, it will come up a treat.
The front fence is now taking shape with all the fence posts in, the rails attached and the base boards in place. My job is to now to bring the pickets back to life with a splash of paint which I will start on this weekend.
The old gate works better than ever before due to my handy man's handy work.

A coat of paint and then we can start getting the front garden looking good.
The other job this weekend is to continue painting the side fences in "Black Caviar"- a colour named after a great Australian race horse. Oh yes, almost forgot, I also have to seal the now finished decking. I needed to add the finishing touches but had my front fence man do that for me.

My front fence man finished off the deck facias and added the step.
We are really pleased with the finishing of the ourdoor deck. Next is to give it a protective coat of deck oil before the onset of winter proper.
What a difference a coat of paint makes to an old timber fence.
Time is creeping on and our September deadline for putting the house on the market is looming. There are still several jobs ahead of us - There's the revamp on the en suite which will be a major update with new tiles, shower fittings, vanity and then repaint.

Lastly, we will do the gardens and that should put the finishing touch on the house before the auction.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Walhalla - 2 hours from Melbourne

I remember in my early 20s of going to Walhalla - it was not a tourist town back then and you could buy a land and house by just paying up the back rates on a deserted property. There was a cricket ground formed by the locals by flattening out the top of a hill with picks and shovels. I remember a folklore story of a funeral where the coffin was dragged to the hilltop cemetary but the coffin didn't make it so rather than going back down the hill to retrieve the coffin, the locals decided to open the keg and celebrate until the next morning.
Today Walhalla is a delightful gold mining town, restored for weekend travellers to bask in its past history.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

How Important is a Weekend?

That's an interesting question. My father Jack who is 94 rides an exercise bike Monday to Friday - Why?
That way he knows that after Friday, the weekend starts.
I guess that for retirees, weekends really don't exist - its just one whole weekend for the whole week - BLISS.
Jack knows when his weekend starts - rides only Monday to Friday
I heard people say, why retire? - what would you do with your time?????? You have to be joking!
I can't stack everything I want to do into our weekends. Sue and I occasionally use my Friday off (transition to retirement) to take a day trip, have lunch together, discover new places and plan the house renovation. That's after my Friday morning ride. This Friday I had the Citroen C4 brakes replaced, had my handyman talk about rebuilding the front fence. I sanded all the skirting boards in the dining room for undercoating on the Saturday. The first coats of gloss were on the woodwork on Saturday arvo.

Saturday night we were invited to a Creedance Clearwater revival band concert - they were really good and we enjoyed a great night with friends. BUT, it was a late night and Sunday morning was an early start for an organised ride in the hills with 400 other riders that had entered the 110 kms Whittlesea Challenge.
Look at me - yes, that's me in black 400 odd people, very odd.
We are off under the banner and we returned 
Murchinson gap is a climb with an average of 10%. I was more intrigued by the bush letterboxes at the top. I'm sure that my cycling friends couldn't give a toss. There's beauty in our surroundings and that's why I ride a bike!
In my early years, the area was where we raced however that was over 40 years ago and the hills have become higher and steeper, I'm sure!!! It was brutally cold for us Aussies at 5 degrees with the fog reducing visibility to about 100 metres at the start.

After a Pizza and a Guinness I was ready to come home and spend some time with family, dinner and a few reds. I will sleep well after my 3 day weekend.

I hear Sue calling me to watch "Master Chef Australia" her fave program so we'll all catch up during the week. Bye! Just if you are interested, last week was Marco White and this week is Maggie Beers as guests.
Tell me - how was your weekend.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Wednesdays in France

Last week on Wednesdays in France I mentioned a special village to us, Saint Aignan. We been back there three or four times, I've lost count but we never get tired of returning. Its the people we know and the fact that we are very comfortable in the area now. We know our way around but still discover little areas that capture our imagination.
During last year when in Saint Aignan I discovered a book had been published on the history of the village.
I believe its origins date back to the 1030s but I could be wrong as the book is in French.

This illustration is from 1879 and many of the features here still remain. I've ridden my bike over the bridge that enters the village and up the main street by the church and the Chateau. To the right is a bridge that enters the Chateau. It remains to this day and in in the photo below.

You may be able to pick the streets in this modern day tourist map and compare it to the 1879 engraving above. Not a lot in the streets has changed.

The bridge that enters Saint Aignan across the river Cher may have seen changes however it does look hauntingly similar to the 1879 depiction although the toll houses are no longer there.
Here's two post cards of Saint Aignan that I picked up at a local Brocante last year. They have a lovely script handwriting on the back sent to a Mr George Devoux. They fell out of the book, I'd forgotten I had them.
All this makes us longing for Saint Aignan sur Cher.
I would think that we will return again next year - we hope so.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


What a weekend - with my 4 day week, I thought I'd get stuck into the house thing but Sue decided that she wanted to shop. I don't understand this thing called shopping. Sue wanted to buy new couches that she had seen in a catalogue. Most of our best purchases are on a whim. So a visit to Freedom Furniture ended in the purchase of two 2-seater couches. They should look great in the Lounge room when finished.
Two of these will go in our Lounge room after we have the floors sanded, stained and polished.
So come Saturday and I needed to start pulling down the front fence. We had a quote to rebuild the skeleton, that is the posts and rails with me attaching the existing pickets. The pickets were in reasonably good condition only now needing a quick sanding and a lick of paint. My son Andrew helped with pulling out the nails in the pickets which was an enormous help. I knew his Doctorate in Philosophy would come in handy.
The pickets needed to be removed before being sanded and repainted.
That's a job for number 2 son maybe!!!
Finally after much hard work and blisters, the pickets are removed.
Safely stored for their new life.
While Andrew and I were working outside on a very pleasant Autumn Sunday, Sue was working on her project - the sideboard that previously was a dull black. It will now add a lightness to the dining room when we finish it.
This is Sue's project - don't look at the mess in the Lounge room at this stage. We'll show the finished product in a few weeks. Hasn't she done a fantastic job?
We expect that in the next three weeks we will have the floor sanders in and we can then start living in our Lounge and Dining rooms once again. I can feel an open fire coming on soon as we drop to the depths of winter in the coming weeks. Won't it be nice sitting on the new couches, sipping a glass of port with our coffee in our completed lounge room.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Wednesdays in France

A small Chateau we stayed at Tarere last year on the way to the Loire.
The owner's grandfather established the house. The family's modest fortune was generated by the grandfather's pharmacy business. I think he may have been a bit of a snakeskin pharmacist due to the business posters that adorned the breakfast room. Cures for all sorts of ailments.
A very interesting overnight stay.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Saturday and Sunday.

September is rolling on quickly - that's the date of our impending sale of the house. We've had a few auctions recently in the area and we are feeling buoyant. Auction results are acceding our expectations.

Progress of the painting is ongoing but I expect next month we will have the floors sanded and polished. This weekend I started demolishing the front fence. I built this 25 years ago and it had since started rotting. First impressions are important so we thought the front fence needed rebuilding to invite prospective buyers to look inside.

Last weekend
This weekend
Once the floor Baltic boards reveal their honey colour, the front fence is rebuilt, my nect project is to renovate the en-suite. Having renovated the bathroom, the en-suite does not daunt me.
Once these floorboards are sanded and then sealed, they will add a rich honey colour to the room to match our 100 year old dining table made from early Australian timber.
The first section of the fence has been demolished. I'm sanding and repainting the pickets this time before attaching them to the rails. The front yard will be replanted with turf and new plants in the garden beds.
I was thinking of a lower fence height but on reflection, our high picket fence adds that little bit more privacy.
Next comes the tedious job of taking the nails out of the pickets, sanding each one and repainting but won't it add to the street appeal, come auction day? Hope so!
It's interesting to share a small conversation I had with a cycling colleague on Friday. You may remember that I have transitioned to a four day week (would you believe on a 5 day pay) and on Fridays I ride with my friends who have done the same. We had a new comer this Friday, Neil. I asked Neil who is 69, how long he has been retired and he said he wasn't. He had just been retrenched and without thinking too much I said, congratulations. He would rather keep working.
This probably said something about my state of mind lately. I have so much I want to do in retirement and currently work gets in the way. I've reached my use by date.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Friday Coffee

Melbourne is Coffee Culture - This morning I met my friends at 6.00 am for a ride on the bayside returning to our favorite bike shop cafe for a morning coffee and banana/walnut bread before meeting my other friends  for a 7.30 am ride down the bay to the peninsula. We returned to the same bike shop cafe fore my second cappuccino. Back home and into the shower and meeting my Chippy (carpenter) cycling friend to discuss rebuilding our front fence over an espresso. Sue and I went shopping after mid-day to the Prahran market for tonight's dinner. After dinner I made espressos for the family - so that's four coffees for the day!!!!
I still sleep soundly, but that might be the wine that counteracts the coffee.

Quail for dinner tonight - cute little fellas
Washed down with a 2009 White Box Yarra Valley Pinot Noir.
The weekend is only starting.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Our 3 Day Weekends

My long weekends (starting from Fridays) start with a bike ride at "our home on the bay" and it will make it difficult to leave this great area however life has many roads to follow.
It's happening - I'm starting to relax on my Fridays and Sue is noticing that I'm not logging in to my work emails or even answering the phone other than to friends.
Kyneton has a rich history of early Victoria. Bluestone was a major building material during the early gold mining days of the 1850s. Kyneton lives on tourism these days with the museums, food and wine of the local district.
Doors open and close - it depends on which you open to where life leads.

This Sunday, suggested to Sue that we should have brunch at Duck, Duck, Goose in Kyneton. Its just about 90 mins up the road. We've posted on Kyneton recently on our trips to the area in search of our future life.
Duck, Duck, Goose is in historic Piper Street, Kyneton and we were early before the tourists - most relaxing. 

Sue and our eldest son Andrew ponder on the local stores of Kyneton.

We have it mind to look at another area of Victoria soon - Beechworth. It's located at the foothills of the Victorian Alps. It is rich in wine and food produce. It's also an early gold mining region. The infamous Australian Bushranger Ned Kelly came from the area. We'll tell you more in a few weeks time.

Meanwhile it's on to the house renovations.