Saturday 31 August 2013

Dutch Supermarket

I love visiting new supermarkets when I travel, they can be new and wonderful even when just travelling within Australia or New Zealand. But excitement peaks when you leave the antipodes, particularly if you're travelling to somewhere non-English speaking. I've shown my supermarket fascination before after my 2010 trip to France- when I  was popping down to the shops.

So I was vastly interested in the one and only Dutch Supermarket I managed to visit in June. So much fascinating stuff.

Of course preprepared foods are taking over the world. And it's no different in Holland.

But naturally there are some local idioms. 

Of course there were walls of cheese.

And other local specialities filling the shelves. The vlokken (pronounced something like flocker) section.

Chocolate sprinkles, the kids eat on bread for breakfast
they're crazy for them
The coffee milk section. I don't drink coffee, so I didn't sample this, but it's a special milk for putting in coffee.

The liquorice section.

Bitter pudding, remained sadly untried.

The egg section made me gasp out loud! They had so many different sized cartons. 3. 4. 6. 7 I think (when do you need 7 eggs?). 9. And more. Such a simple idea! But so fantastic. Why do we only have 6 or 12? What if I want 9 eggs? Or 7?

We tried an intriguing local product, filet americain.

An unusual raw meat spread
But it's delicious!
Clearly, they must love their pomegranates in Holland.

Saturday Snapshot is a wonderful weekly meme now hosted by WestMetroMommy

Friday 30 August 2013

The Coat

The Coat won the Picture Book of the Year 2013 Award at the recent CBCA Awards. One year I'm going to manage to actually read the nominees for the CBCA Awards before the Awards are announced, but sadly this year won't be the year. Although I did manage to read 5 of the 6 books nominated for Picture Book of the year, and have even blogged about a couple already. Sophie Scott Goes South. A Day to Remember.

The Coat is a product of two Tasmanian talents. Author Julie Hunt and illustrator Ron Brooks. I have admired Ron Brooks for quite some time, he is an amazing talent who has been nominated for the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award. The Coat is the fourth time that he has won the CBCA Picture Book of the Year. One of his early books The Bunyip of Berkeley's Creek is a true Australian classic, and one I've read many times- Master Wicker absolutely loved it in his younger days. I read his last book, The Dream of the Thylacine last year. I really must get to reading his memoir, Drawn from the Heart. 

Julie Hunt is new to me, but I will be interested to read more of her work, after the intriguing The Coat. The Coat has is rather resplendent but has had a fall from grace, and now adorns a scarecrow in a strawberry field. 

It was buttoned up tight
and stuffed full of straw
and it was angry.

I love how angry he looks

'What a waste of me!' it yelled to the sun
and the sky and the crows and the paddock.
'What an unbelievable waste!'

The Coat is definitely angry, an unnamed disappointed-looking man takes the coat and they fly off to the Big Smoke. Both coat and man are transformed by an all night musical encounter in a cafe. The sepia tonings of the early pages of the book give way to colour.

I was very interested to see in the Teacher's Notes that Ron Brooks drew on Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Marc Chagall for his illustrations. And I got the Chagall reference! YAY.

Referencing Chagall's The Birthday, and
Double Portrait with a Glass of Wine

Mostly thanks to  Paris- I saw quite a bit of Chagall on the most recent trip- the ceiling at the Opera Garnier and also an exhibition at Musee de Luxembourg. I get very excited when I get the artistic references in picture books- like in Shaun Tan's The Lost Thing. But I don't really know anything about Pieter Bruegel the Elder, so had to have some help.

Picture Source
apparently draws on Breugel's Peasant Dance

Paris of course is never far from my thoughts- even when reading an Australian picture book.

Picture Source
I got a Paris feeling from this picture, although it could be anywhere European really I suppose. 

Thursday 29 August 2013

The Secret of Hanging Rock

Having recently read the wonderful Australian classic Picnic at Hanging Rock it was of course immediately necessary for me to search out the final chapter, Chapter 18, published here as The Secret of Hanging Rock. 

There is a rather fascinating introduction by John Taylor, who at one time was Promotions Manager at Lady Lindsay's publishers, and was later to become her literary agent. Joan Lindsay gave the manuscript for Chapter 18 to him in December 1972 because she said he was the only one who ever worked out the secret. He'd noticed that there were some phrases in Chapter 3 that didn't seem to fit in with the story. He felt that references to "drifts of rosy smoke" and "the beating of far off drums" seemed to anticipate later events that didn't eventuate. 

It turns out that with the pruning of Chapter 18, some snippets of it were inserted into Chapter 3, and this is what John Taylor had noticed. Apparently Joan Lindsay "kept silent on the subject of the final chapter for the sake of her publishers and the film-makers". But she did want it to be published after her death.

I do think the publishers were right in editing it out from the book, Chapter 18 is quite mystical where the rest of the book isn't particularly, it would sit oddly as the ending. John Taylor points out that this made Picnic at Hanging Rock a mystery which was never meant to be a mystery (although Chapter 18 is mysterious). Joan Lindsay had an effect on time, she was unable to wear watches as they would stop on her, and on people around her. Is this why she chose to stop time in her final chapter?

Yvonne Rousseau sums up a rather academic commentary on Chapter 18:

Whatever Chapter Eighteen was like, its publication could never have reduced their haunting quality (the film and the published novel). As it is, the chapter adds to the Hanging Rock mystique. Joan Lindsay's original intention is finally disclosed- but her intention was not to dissolve the mystery. The Picnic geography is clarified, but the eeriness remains. 

John Taylor made a rather fascinating observation of the publishing industry:

Being a professional publishing person, I naturally hadn't actually read the book. People in publishing early have time to read anything- a fact that accounts for much of the tension which arises between them and authors. Publishers refer to books as "titles" and collectively as "lists". Lists of titles are what publishing is about. Actual pages of print are too time-consuming. 

I hope that isn't still the case!

Rather incredibly, the original manuscript of Picnic at Hanging Rock was pulped! He tells us that Joan Lindsay was in the habit of writing longhand, and she would then type drafts from her original. He describes Joan Lindsay's initial meeting with Pat Lovell and Peter Weir who were to make the highly successful film version of Picnic at Hanging Rock, that I'm looking forward to revisiting soon

I also did some research about Joan Lindsay after finishing Picnic at Hanging Rock- she was a fascinating woman and very well connected from a young age, daughter of a barrister, she was an artist, formally trained including under Frederick McCubbin. She was to marry Norman Lindsay's brother Daryl Lindsay, a fellow artist who was to later become the Director of the National Gallery of Victoria. I do wonder if her artistic training helped her descriptive passages to be so lush and wonderful? Significantly, St Valentine's Day, the day of the fateful picnic, was her wedding anniversary. 

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Wondrous Words Wednesday 28/8/13

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a fabulous weekly meme hosted by Bermuda Onion, where we share new (to us) words that we've encountered in our weekly reading.

Today I don't have any new words from my reading to share for Wondrous Words Wednesday, but heard this wonderful discussion on the radio and thought I would share it with other word fans. I heard snippets of this on Radio National twice this week, although it was first broadcast in May. I had to search it out and listen to the whole thing.

Why Read Dictionaries was a session at the Sydney Writers Festival earlier this year and happily recorded for us to all enjoy. A delightful conversation between crossword compiler David Astle and author Mark Forsythe. Just click on the Download Audio button to share the joy.

The introduction alone introduces many wonderful words, possibly may favourite being groak. It turns out that I'd seen groaking in action for many years, but never known that there was a word for it.

Groak. Verb. Look or stare at longingly. Free dictionary.
To watch someone eating in the hope they will offer food. Urban dictionary.

Multispecies groaking in 2001

It's a beautiful discussion, and a very enjoyable way to spend half an hour. Very broad ranging from Capucin monks to Spam and Yakuza (although they suggest the etymology slightly incorrectly). Perhaps we should all read the dictionary a bit more often, maybe it's more fun than our school day memories would suggest?

Mark Forsyths' captivating blog The Inky Fool is also pleasantly diverting.

Monday 26 August 2013


When you travel with children you do things that you wouldn't normally do on an adult holiday. Left to my own devices I wouldn't normally visit Aquaboulevard, a rather large water slide park on the outer edges of Paris.  But I've now spent the day at Aquaboulevard twice, first in 2010, and then again on our recent trip. It's a great place to take the kids, and fun for adults too. Although it's quite expensive, 28 euros for adults and kids 12 and over (15 euros for those 3-11 years, no admission for children under 3).

It's easy to get there. Take the Metro, line 8 to Balard. Walk under the Periphery and you'll find Aquaboulevard.

It's a bit odd peering in at all the people having fun
from within the office building

There are some unusual rules for those of us who are sadly non-French.

But you can buy some new swimmers if you need them. 

Or there's a big sports shop as you enter the building
After navigating the compulsory shower most people visit Jonas the whale first.

You walk up into the whale's rear end and slide out the side. 

There's replica whale innards on the inside!
The main pool has a wave machine and a great rope swing too

There's lots of water cannon action
There are internal and external slides. 

The internal slides use tubes. Two of the slides have two and three person tubes, they're great fun.

Master Wicker loving it back in 2010

Lots of slides end up outside

The end of the Aquamikaze
an 80m drop
that gave Master Wicker a near death experience
everyone was shrieking as they came off this one
better for older teenagers I think
wiser adults avoided it....

The dryer room on the way back to the change rooms

Sparkly purple toenails!

They have a great change room system, but it is a bit confusing the first time to us poor Anglophones. The change rooms are walk through cubicles, that you enter from the outside when you are going to the pool, and then from the inside/locker room when you're leaving. The cubicle doors lock at knee height. The lockers use 1 euro coins, but you get it back at the end. 

You're not meant to take picnics in which is a bit of a shame. The cafe is reasonable value though. They have formule meals (baguette, chips and a drink) for around 7 or 8 euros. Master Wicker and I shared one on our second visit. 

Our 2010 lunch
Not the best lunch you'll have in Paris,
but better than you'd get at a water park here

Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog

Saturday 24 August 2013


Last weekend the world lost a very special boy.

He was always handsome

even if just snoozing in the sun

He was always talented

with an eye to where his next meal was coming from

He was never photographed with real food-
it never lasted long enough

Ernie only lived with us for 3 of his 14 years, but lived with other family members for the rest of his life. It was always great to see him, and he always greeted us with a delightful display of joyous singing.

The last time we saw him in April

Saturday Snapshot is a wonderful weekly meme now hosted by WestMetroMommy

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Life List

Thanks facebook wisdom

Last year I made a love list to life. It was a great thing to think about, and I still think about it from time to time, those 100 things still give me great pleasure. Around the same time I came across a number of people making life lists- a list of things that they want to accomplish in their lives. Mighty Life List. Mighty Chookoolonks Life List. That seemed like an important thing to do. After all if you don't make an effort to do these things, they more than likely won't happen, this stuff doesn't tend to just happen by itself. Which would be a great shame. As John Lennon said "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans".

So for my 500th post I thought it was time to think about my Life List a bit more. To put it out there. To remind me to do the things I really want to do.

Go to the Melbourne Cup

Visit all 6,11, 2019 edit: now it's 28(- 1) UNESCO cities of literature- Edinburgh, Melbourne most years since 1987, Iowa City, Dublin  2010, Reykjavik, Norwich, Kraków, Heidelberg, Dunedin, Granada, Prague, Baghdad, Barcelona, Ljubljana, Lviv, Montevideo, Nottingham, Óbidos, Tartu, Ulyanovsk, Bucheon, Durban, Lillehammer, Manchester, Milan, Québec City, Seattle 1985, Utrecht 2013.

(2019 Louise says: Wow, this list is really getting out of hand. 28 cities and Paris still isn't there! I've edited it to exclude Baghdad, as I can't see that I would ever travel there, everywhere else seems doable-ish in some future life)

Travel to Antarctica

Attend all Australian Writers festivals at least once- Adelaide (February), Bateman's Bay (June), Bathurst (May), Orange (July), Bendigo (August), Byron Bay (early August), Brisbane (September), Kiama (October), Melbourne (late August) three times,  Mudgee (August),  Newcastle (March), Perth (February), Sydney (May)

Attend an announcement of Literary Prizes- Age Book of the Year, CBCA Awards, Miles Franklin

Live in Paris for a year

Go to Darwin

Hear a nightingale sing

Visit what I think of as the ancestral home in Scotland

See a puffin (perhaps I'd better hurry up?)

Go on a pelagic trip

Cruise the South Pacific

Read Dickens, all of his major works at least- A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, Barnaby Rudge, Bleak House (still the best book I've half read twice), David Copperfield, Dombey and Son, Great Expectations, Hard Times, Little Dorrit, Martin Chuzzlewit, Nicholas Nickelby, The Old Curiosity Shop, Oliver Twist, Our Mutual Friend, Pickwick Papers.

Cook my way through The Delia Collection Soup

Read all 1001- currently 320+

Drive across Australia

See Sydney NYE fireworks, not just on the tele

Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge 2015 (see my day)

Swim up to the bar (Sofitel Siem Reap, Cambodia March 2018)

Sure, the pool was shut the first time...
But the bar was open the second time I swam up!

1000 fruits what a fabulous idea! Perhaps I'll start with 100?

See Cirque du Soleil's O in Las Vegas

Shave my head

Go on a snorkelling holiday with my son

Learn French, again (a perpetual challenge, but I am working on it)

Go back to Canada

This isn't a final list of course. There will be more over time, and hopefully most of these will be completed. Some are fairly easy, and some, well, they're more of a challenge.

Monday 19 August 2013


I was predisposed to like Nicholas. I have a rather un-secret obsession with Paris, and most things French, and this French classic fits the bill perfectly. So I purposely timed the reading of it with my recent Paris holiday. I had planned to finish it before I went, but didn't of course, so it was tucked into my suitcase.

Originally published in French as Le Petit Nicolas, there are a series of five Nicholas books published in English by Phaidon. They are enduring classics in France and Germany, and published in 26 languages around the world.

Galeries Lafayette 2010

Rene Goscinny was also the author of the even more popular Asterix books, and has been honoured by having a street named after him in Paris, Rue Rene Goscinny, to which I made an early morning pilgrimage one day in July, but you will have to wait a little longer to see the photos- it was surprisingly fun.

Nicholas is a collection of 19 stand-alone short stories about the adventures of a young boy, and his group of friends. Alec the fat friend is always eating. Cuthbert wears glasses "so we can't thump him as much as we'd like to". Geoffrey has a rich father who buys him all the toys he could want.

Each story is a simple tale- mucking up the school photo, taking a lost dog home, playing a game of football, trying to smoke a cigar- mild calamity always ensues of course. I found Nicholas's first person narration a bit too disingenuous for my taste.

It was my mum's birthday and I decided to buy her a present like every year since last year (before that I was too little).

I never really took to Nicholas. I was saddened that I didn't immediately love him, but am glad to have joined the millions of readers of these classic stories.

Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme from Paulita at
An Accidental Blog

Sunday 18 August 2013

Mudgee Readers' Festival

Last weekend I had the particular pleasure of travelling to Mudgee for their fourth annual Readers' Festival. Mudgee is a small town in the Central West of New South Wales, that has made a good name for itself as a food and wine destination, and is now showing us how to put on a Readers' Festival- an interesting change in emphasis, most of these events are called Writers' Festivals.

Australia has quite a few major literary events of course- Sydney Writers' Festival (May), Melbourne Writers Festival (late August), Byron Bay Writers' Festival (earlyAugust). There seem to be more all the time. Newcastle hosted their first Writers Festival this year (and I couldn't go- such despair). Indeed there are so many that these kindly folks at have set up a website to keep track of them all- actually I had no idea that there were SO many festivals, it could be a full-time job attending them all.

A few years ago a couple of farsighted individuals dreamed up the notion of staging a Readers' Festival in Mudgee, and with a wonderful small town spirit of can do, they did. They had a great line up again this year, and a last minute decision or two got me there.

There were 12 authors, in 17 sessions, some In Conversation, some panel discussions, a dinner on the Saturday night and Long Lunch on the Sunday afternoon. There was a second hand book fair on the Saturday and I may have bought a few books there, as well as some by the featured authors.

Bettina Arndt
Richard Beasley
Stephanie Dowrick
Mem Fox
Peter Goldsworthy
Katherine Howell
Susan Johnson
Toni Jordan
Tara Moss
Berndt Sellheim
Sarah Turnbull
Chris Turney

I got to see 10 of the 12 authors in the six sessions I attended.

They were all interesting sessions, and I totally loved 5 of the 6. Even so, I enjoyed them all, and got something out of each and every one. I hope to write a bit about some of my favourite sessions separately.

I think it's fantastic that a town of 10,000 people can hold such an amazing event. I hope to make a return visit next year.

Saturday 17 August 2013

Meeting the French- Gerard Mulot

On our last trip to France we spent an amazing morning visiting a working boulangerie and learning how baguettes and croissants were made. We all loved it so much that this year we did another visit organised by the same company, Meeting the French.

This time we went to the 13th to visit Gerard Mulot and discover how to make macarons and chocolates. But first we ventured into the shop and saw all manner of deliciousness.

This one really caught my eye, but was to remain untasted
Couer Frivole
Biscuit chocolat-amandes punche cacao,
mousse chocolat noir, chocolat au lait

Culinary competitions in France often involve sculptures as a way
of showing off techniques and mastery of many processes.

Meeting the French send a translator/guide to meet you, and accompany the tour, they are always friendly and engaging. After donning our rather attractive protective gear we were ushered into the production areas. First stop for our group was the chocolate room- it smelt so amazing in there!

We learnt about the three main chocolate producing areas
Samples of chocolate!
The first of many...
We learnt how to make molded chocolates pretty
Demonstrating how to cut chocolates with the "guitar"

The chocolate covering machine

Another chocolatier practising techniques for a sculpture
 for a competition later in the year

After our time in the chocolate room, we moved through to the macaron room. Macarons have taken the world by storm in recent years, but they taste even better in France. They are a delicious mix of egg white, powdered egg white, almond meal and flavourings. 

At Gerard Mulot they finish the mix by hand which
gives the chef a  better feel
of the texture and helps ensure a lump-free mix
The regular shells are piped out of a
computer controlled machine to ensure perfect size

While the large sizes need to be hand piped
They're cooked for 14 minutes in an oven on a rotating shelf
Our visit helped confirm my decision not to try making macarons at home myself. I know some people have success with them as home cooks, but it's daunting to see how the professionals cook them, and how they make them so perfect. They can adjust the oven temperature by a single degree to allow for changes in the weather or humidity. I'd rather eat beautiful professionally made macarons on the rare occasion that I get near them than have my likely dodgy home made versions. I'll stick to the more forgiving madeleines.

They were making Ananas Gingembre (Pineapple Ginger) when we visited
They make the flavours from lighter to darker on a given day. Any misshapen shells are discarded.

But there were trays of deliciousness everywhere
And the samples kept coming! 
We ended up sampling four macarons- Nougat, Vanilla, Passionfruit and the Pineapple Ginger.

Of course we needed to buy some more to take home

And check out an ice-cream

I wasn't all that familiar with Gerard Mulot before our tour but am definitely a fan. He has several shops in Paris (we ended up visiting three of them), and offers sweet and savoury creations. His macarons turned out to be Master Wickers favourites this trip. His pineapple ginger macaron was certainly one of my favourite macarons, and a flavour that I would never have ordered left to my own devices, so I was very pleased to try it. I'm sure we'll do another Meeting the French tour on our next visit to Paris.

Saturday Snapshot is a wonderful weekly meme now hosted by WestMetroMommy

This post is linked to Weekend Cooking, a fabulous weekly meme at Beth Fish Reads.
My first Weekend Cooking post for some time.