Friday 29 May 2015

Andy Griffiths and Roald Dahl's Enduring Influence

I almost read this Sydney Morning Herald article on time. Well, pretty close for me. I actually found it the weekend that it was printed. Andy Griffiths is of course one of our most popular Australian writers writing for children. I've seen him speak at several writers festivals and he always has tremendous queues of kids eager to meet him and have him sign the huge stack of his books that they've brought with them. Certainly they were in Melbourne in 2012, and he was the best selling author at the Sydney Writer's Festival just last week. He spent seven hours signing books for kids!

Andy writes in a comedic style, and obviously sees humour as an important, as did Roald Dahl. According to the article Road Dahl once wrote that the four ingredients of children's fiction were suspense, action, eccentricity and magic. Plots with ghosts were good, and so were those with chocolates, toys, treasure or money. Children, he wrote, loved to be spooked and "made to giggle". Read Roald Dahl's full advice here.

The books and authors Andy Griffiths suggests are keeping the Dahl legacy alive:

Stinking Rich and Just Plain Stinky: Grubtown Tales - Phillip Ardagh

My Life Series- Tristan Bancks

Horribles Histories - Terry Deary (some not all of course there's so many, see my reviews)

Gasp! - Terry Denton

Two Weeks with the Queen - Morris Gleitzman

The Un Series - Paul Jennings

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series - Jeff Kinney (again some not all)

Captain Underpants - Dav Pilkey (quite a few, but still not all)

Holes - Louis Sachar (see my review)

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales - Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

A Series of Unfortunate Events - Lemony Snicket (read 1/13)

You're a Bad Man, Mr Gum! - Andy Stanton (review coming soon)

The Harry Potter Series - J.K. Rowling (read 1/7)

Demon Dentist - David Walliams (wouldn't you know it? The only Walliams I haven't read! But you can read all my other gushing Walliams reviews) July 2015-  I've read it now! (see my review)

The descriptor in the article about You're a Bad Man, Mr Gum! sounds fantastic. It's so good to live now, so that even if a book isn't published in Australia (and why would that be?), you can get your hands on it very quickly online. It will be mine, oh yes it will be mine.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Dress, Memory

I'm not quite sure why I was so desperate to read this book but I was. Fashion memoirs aren't typically my thing. But I saw a review somewhere when it came out last year. Then as soon as I saw a copy in a shop it was mine.

I think that Lorelei Vashti spends more time thinking about what to wear in a single day than I have in my entire lifetime. Fashion is important to her in a way that it never has been for me.

Some people remember stages of their lives through the smells of certain places or the music they were listening to during that time. I remember them through my clothes. The dresses are precious because they mean something to me. Things become more valuable once you know the story behind them...

I guess I think about books that way, I'll remember where I was or what I was doing when I read a particular book. Anyway, Lorelei's story starts in small town Queensland. She grows up in Australia's ginger capital Buderim. Her family is quite creative and artistic, her grandmother was a drama teacher, her mother sews, her brother paints. She has been vegetarian since 4 which interested me, as Master Wicker has been vegetarian since he was 2.

Most of the story though is of adult adventures. Lorelei spends an exchange year in Turkey in high school. Soon she moves to Brisbane for uni, and later to Melbourne and New York. There are significant holidays to Thailand and India. I had an international life in my twenties as well, but quite different to Lorelei's. It's interesting following her progression from creative writing student, to musician, to editor- as someone completely removed from these fields it's always rather a mystery how people pursue these lines of work.

The book is told mainly chronologically, and the chapters span  her twenties. There are colour plates of a dress representative of each year ( my favourite is 29).

Image source

I'd wondered at these dresses surviving so long, but clearly Lorelei keeps her dresses- she has 5 wardrobes in 2 states!

I'm always astonished at how dresses survive so many years. But they do; while the bodies inside them age, they stay young and shapely and full of hope. 

Ultimately though, the dresses are intertwined with her sense of identity.

I had my dresses. Everyone seems to think fashion is what other people are wearing- it's a thing you do fro other people, that it's how they see you, but for me it has always been how I see myself. 

I enjoyed my time with Dress, Memory. There is a Dress, Memory website, some of the dresses featured in the book are included there, Lorelei has a rather retro vibe.

Monday 25 May 2015

The French Confection

The French Confection was a very obvious book for me to read this month. I'd just read Anthony Horowitz's Stormbreaker, and was about to see him speak at the Sydney Writers Frestival. I'd never heard of The French Confection, and reading it would clearly break my "must read series in order" rule, but as soon as I saw the title in the library catalogue I was sold.

Anthony Horowitz has written quite a few books, a number of them in a series. The French Confection is a book in the Diamond Brothers series. It was helpful that I saw Anthony speak this week as he explained that there are never any parents in his books, he usually kills them off in Chapter 1. Of course this has been a very common ploy in children's books for a very long time, but I'd never heard an author say it before. The Diamond Brothers are Tim, who is 25 and a private detective, but rather dumb and not a terribly good detective. Tim's younger brother Nick is 13, and clearly the brains of the operation. Nick and Tim's parents have emigrated to Australia in an earlier book, and Nick and Tim have stayed on in London.

The French Confection takes them to Paris of course. We can see that clearly enough from the cover. And I'm going to like pretty much any story set in Paris. Here, the boys set off to Paris on the Eurostar after Tim wins a trip to Paris on a tub of strawberry yoghurt. Very quickly odd and rather dangerous things start happening. Someone is dead under a train. Two men are trying to kill Nick and Tim.

Anthony Horowitz at the Sydney Writer's Festival said that he tries to write visually, and he certainly does.

The first was in his forties, tall and slim, wearing a white linen suit that was so crumpled and dirty, it hung off him like a used paper bag. He was one of the ugliest men I had ever seen. He had green eyes, a small nose and a mouth like a knife wound. None of these were in quite the right place. It was if his whole face had been drawn by a six-year old child. 

I can see that man. Just like I can see Paris from this:

Paris is a big city full of French people. It's a lot prettier than London and for that matter so are the people. They're everywhere: in the street-side cafés, sipping black coffee from thimble-sized cups, strolling along the Seine in their designer sunglasses, snapping at each other on the bridges through eighteen inches of the latest Japanese lens. The streets are narrower than in London and looking at the traffic you get the feeling that war has broken out. There are cars parked everywhere. On the streets and on the pavements. Actually it's hard to tell which cars are parked and which ones are just stuck in the traffic jams. But the strange thing is that nobody seems to be in hurry. Life is just a big jumble that moves along at its own pace and if you're in a hurry to leave then maybe you should never have come there in the first place. 

Actually, I don't really need to read that paragraph to visualise Paris, but Anthony Horowitz nailed it right there! The parking is atrocious.

The French Confection is but a mere confection itself at 77 pages. At the Sydney Writer's Festival Anthony said that the Diamond Brothers series were based on old stories and films from the 1950s, and that he liked to put a humorous twist on old murder mysteries. Which makes sense now as The French Confection/Connection had been bothering me for a while. I don't have any real memory of The French Connection, apart from the title, but having a look at the plot on wikipaedia it seems no mere coincidence anymore.

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

French Bingo 2015

Thursday 21 May 2015

Laurie Halse Anderson at Sydney Writers Festival Secondary Days 2015

I had a fabulous day at the Sydney Writers Festival Secondary Day this week. There was a great lineup of 4 authors, and I was very keen to go after a similarly fabulous day last year (but I never got to telling you about that). I wasn't familiar with all of the authors, but got to reading at least one book from three of the four before the day.

Laurie Halse Anderson was first up and she fairly exploded onto the stage. She gave such a high energy presentation the audience of high school students were silent, completely captivated, she held them entranced by her words and her passion. It was honest, true, funny and moving. She spoke to each of them, and so many of them queued to buy her books and get them signed afterwards. It's always great seeing new books fall into the hands of children, and I may have been a little merchandised myself.

I hope all these books have new homes
with readers who will love them
Laurie had several important messages for her teenage audience. Mostly importantly that we have all survived something and everyone has a story to tell. She talked of her own childhood, disrupted by her father returning from World War II a damaged man. Like many returned soldiers he turned to drink, and this caused problems within the family- they lost their home, and the frequent moves naturally meant frequent changes of school for young Laurie. Laurie feels that she was kept alive by reading, even though she had difficulty learning to read in the first place. She didn't of course like the dreary stuff that was assigned in her English classes (who did?), and she rightly believes that teenagers don't like to read things that suck. Just as a point of interest, adults don't either. Laurie was then "saved" by an exchange year spent on a Danish pig farm where her teenage vegetarian self learnt to eat meat.

A library is a hospital for the mind. Anonymous.

Laurie has a great sense of adolescence, which really informs her writing. "It's weird, smelly and awkward for everybody, and it's worse if weird stuff is going on in your family". Laurie's first book success was the amazing Speak, published in 1999- a book that I read quite a few years ago, so long ago it was pre-blogging, so while I have some memories of reading it, they're not particularly detailed memories anymore. Speak tells a powerful tale about the rape of a young girl, and is widely taught in American schools. Laurie has spoken to thousands of kids about this book, and she was struck by how many boys could not understand how the girl would be so devastated for so long.

She then spoke specifically to many boys and learnt three things. Boys were generally confused about girls. Many boys had to deal with bullying, and many were sad because they don't have a relationship with either their own father, or a father figure. Her fourth book Twisted was written from a male point of view.

Her latest book, and my current read, is The Impossible Knife of Memory, a story born out of her father's experiences with PTSD after WWII, and also those of her nephew who is a recent veteran. "When your parent can't be your parent, that's about as bad as it gets". The Impossible Knife of Memory took a year to write, working 50 hours per week. Laurie's historical fiction takes longer to write as it requires lots of research.

Laurie talked about her writing process. She will often think about a story for a few years before she writes it. She writes well about things that make her angry. She never planned to write a story about eating disorders, but her readers were asking her for one. Still she didn't plan to write about it until she discovered that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric condition. Her book Wintergirls came from those thoughts.

She had a great response to a question about writers block. She thinks three things contribute to writers block.

1. Putting off your writing to the last minute. Emotions then hijack your cortex and you can't think straight.
2. We all sit down too much, and don't move. Moving helps. 
3. Stop trying to be perfect. "Noone writes a great first draft". Fear of not writing perfectly can create writers block. 

I can't overstate how much I loved this session, it was my favourite of the day. It was almost therapy at times. 

Everyone has to deal with sad stuff. We have little control over what happens to us, but we have almost complete control over how we react. Some young people will turn to drugs and alcohol to mute their pain as many adults do, but this will really only create more problems. 

These are powerful messages for young (and not so young) people to hear. If you get a chance to see Laurie Halse Anderson in person you should do it. She's amazing. If not you can still read her books. 

Monday 18 May 2015


Stormbreaker is not the sort of book that I would come to by myself, spy stories not being my thing at all, but you know, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Which is impressive for one who gave up watching James Bond movies in the 80s. Because the Alex Rider series is very much in the James Bond mould. Indeed Anthony Horowitz was trying to get a job to write a James Bond film (he has an extensive background in film and television writing) when we thought about how old James Bond was now, and wouldn't it be great if James Bond was a teenager. He carried that thought about for five years, and then Alex Rider was born. Stormbreaker was to be the first of 10 books in the phenomenally successful Alex Rider series. It has sold in the tens of millions, and has been credited with getting many kids reading, including reluctant and dyslexic readers.

Stormbreaker packs a punch right from the start.

When the doorbell rings at three in the morning, it's never good news. 

Anthony Horowitz credits those words with literally changing his life. Adults know this to be a self evident truth and indeed for Anthony they echo a phone call many years ago in the middle of the night with the news that his father had died.

Alex Rider is already an orphan, brought up by his uncle, a well-to-do banker in London who takes frequent business trips. Alex's parents died in a plane crash just a few weeks after he was born. And so we have it by page 3, 14 year old Alex is on his own in the world with only a twenty-something American housekeeper with visa problems to look after him.

Incredibly soon Alex is drawn into a world way beyond the scope of normal 14 year old boys. There is non-stop action, drama, dangerous villains, evil plots and James Bond style gadgetry to keep the reader entertained and highly amused right to the end. Stormbreaker is firmly set in London and Cornwall but is universal in its appeal. I haven't read a lot of the hard-boiled detective story either but was reminded of them from time to time.

He turned back and looked again at Alex. Something very close to an emotion slithered over his face. 
He glanced at the slices of cold lamb on his plate. Dead meat. Suddenly he knew how it felt. 

I am rather tempted to read on with this series. I hope my nephews have read them, I do think they'd love them. Even though Stormbreaker was only published in 2000 the technology is remarkably different - yellow pages not Google and game boy devices instead of mobile phones. The whole Alex Rider series is just being rereleased to mark the 15th anniversary of the publication of Stormbreaker. Alex Rider has a pretty cool looking website.


Saturday 16 May 2015

Milk and Honey

I saw this fabulous exhibition at Orange Regional Gallery recently. I've visited several times so far, and know that I will see it again before it closes. 

From the exhibition brochure:

The exhibition Milk and Honey consists of paintings and sculptures executed between 2011 and 2015 and takes the Biblical expression "a land flowing with milk and honey" (Exodus 33:3) as a metaphor for rural Arcadia.

Coyte was born in 1953, in the bush, with a father who worked as a wool classer and a mother who came from a sheep farm. His earliest schooling was in a tiny convent school in Borenore, not far from Mount Canobolas and a ten minute drive from Orange, and this was supplemented by senior school in Orange itself. The 1970s were spent largely in art schools in Sydeny, while by the early eighties he was travelling and exhibiting his art in Europe. By the mid-eighties he was back in the Orange- Bathurst region with a growing family and teaching art.

All the paintings are for sale. I just wish I could afford one. 

Milky Moon 2011

Endless Column 2015

Udder Disaster 2015

Bee in Your Bonnet 2015

Count your blossoms (diptych) 2014

Sting  2015

Odd Couple (collaboration with Ros Auld) 2014

There's an excellent video that plays during the 
exhibition showing Martin working on some of the paintings. It's fascinating to watch and then look at the painting he was creating at the time. Thankfully through the magic of Vimeo you can watch it too.

10 April until 7 June 2015
Orange Regional Gallery
151 Byng Street
Daily 9-5
6393 8136

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Wednesday 13 May 2015

The Brothers Quibble

I do enjoy Aaron Blabey's work and try to keep up, but somehow I missed The Brothers Quibble when it was released last year. It was only when I read the very fun Pig the Pug also last year (see my review) that I saw The Brothers Quibble was chosen to be the book for National Simultaneous Storytime 2015 (11am May 27) that I sought it out.

The Brothers Quibble is a very clever book about sibling rivalry. From the dedication onwards it is fabulous.

For those who had sharing thrust upon them. 

Spalding Quibble is an only child. Living the life of an only child.

Until the inevitable, awful thing happens.

Spalding reacts in a rather typical first child way. 

The Brothers Quibble is a great journey into sibling rivalry, and what families must do to get along. It is particularly clever, and you notice it is even more clever every time you pick it up.

Kingston Library have uploaded a Virtual Storytime version of The Brothers Quibble.

And SBS have made a French translation available!

Check out the NSS website and The Book Chook for a great range of resources for activities.

Monday 11 May 2015

Baby et Lulu

I love finding something new and unexpected. And today I certainly did.

I like to listen to an hour of news in French on SBS. It's on four times a week. Mardi, Jeudi, Samedi et Dimanche à treize heures. I like pretending that I can understand most of it- actually they tend to talk somewhat slowly and so it is good for those of us still trying to master French, and then from time to time someone will speak in English and you think "wow I'm really getting the hang of this"... And then the crashing realisation. D'Oh. Thankfully though we can listen to it anytime online. Even so I don't manage to listen as often as I should.

I hadn't got to listen to it for ages. And this week I listened to the episode from Sunday May 10. Half way through they played a song that stopped me in my tracks. Literally.

It was Baby et Lulu's For Me, Formidable. I hadn't heard of either Baby et Lulu or this song, an old formidable Charles Aznavour standard from 1963 as it turns out. Baby et Lulu have given it an updated Australian swing and somehow it's very Paris. Baby (Abby Dobson) and Lulu (Lara Goodridge) are very talented Australians performing in French. How fitting that as many things Australian it started after a few drinks at a party.

Very soon today I was making my way to iTunes and bought both their albums for a mere $16.99. I've been listening to them all day.

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

Sister Madge's Book of Nuns

Recently I came across a great list of 25 Classic Australian Kids Books. Most are very well known, but a few were completely knew to me. One of the new to me titles was Sister Madge's Book of Nuns. I've been keeping my eye on Doug MacLeod for a while now, ever since I saw him speak at the Melbourne Writers Festival in 2012. But I've only managed to read a picture book or two of his. He's one of those writers that I fully expect to love, I just need to find time to read more of his work.

So I couldn't go past Sister Madge's Book of Nuns- the title alone is proof enough that you can write a picture about pretty much anything. Indeed it is a book of nuns. But unlike any other book of nuns you may have come across before. Irreverent was possibly coined as a term to describe this book.

Written in verse, Sister Madge tells us about 10 of the nuns inhabiting Our Lady of Immense Proportions. These are no ordinary nuns. Murderous, bossy, bikie gang nuns, hoarders of Women's Weeklies.

Sister Laurel, rough and tough
Was very fond of taking snuff
I wonder if you've ever seen
The sort of substance that I mean?
It's powdery and black like soot
And up your nose is where it's put
Your nostrils twitch, they start to ache
You sneeze til your suspenders break.

The verses are full of great things loved by children- bursting nappies, burping babies, antlers growing out of nunly heads.

And quite a number of things seem to end up noses.

The manager who'd been so rude
Was knocked into the frozen food
And there he lay in cold repose
With two fish-fingers up his nose. 

Doug MacLeod has a rather hilarious account of the genesis of Sister Madge's Book of Nuns at his website. Is it true? Possibly. Probably. I certainly hope so.

Thursday 7 May 2015

Readings' Children's Book Prize 2015

Time for yet another prize shortlist- this one the Readings Children's Book Prize 2015. Readings is a great Melbourne bookstore with five shops throughout the city.

The Readings Children's Prize was established only last year (see the 2014 shortlist here).

Rivertime - Trace Balla (see my review) WINNER

Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy - Karen Foxlee

Figgy in the World - Tamsin Janu

How to Save the Universe in Ten Easy Steps - Allison Rushby

The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race to the End of the World - A.L. Tait

Stuff Happens: Jack - Tony Wilson

See the judging panel comments here. I'm disappointed to have not read any of these books yet.

The winner will be announced in June. Rivertime was voted the winner.

Wednesday 6 May 2015

National Simultaneous Storytime

Each year since 2001 Australia has hosted a National Simultaneous Storytime. A great idea highlighting the importance of reading to our children, and the importance of reading Australian stories to our Australian children.

Recently I came across the list of books used over the years. It makes a great starting list for recent Australian picture books.

National Simultaneous Storytime 2015 is coming up soon on Wednesday May 27 at 11am.

2016    I Got This Hat - Jol and Kate Temple, Jon Foye
2015    The Brothers Quibble - Aaron Blabey (see my review)
2014    Too Many Elephants in this House - Ursula Dubosarsky and Andrew Joyner (see my review)
2013    The Wrong Book - Nick Bland
2012    The Very Cranky Bear - Nick Bland
2011     Feathers for Phoebe - Rod Clement
2010     Little White Dogs Can't Jump - Bruce Whatley and Rosie Smith
2009     Pete the Sheep - Jackie French and Bruce Whatley (see my review)
2008     Arthur - Amanda Graham and Donna Gynell
2007     The Magic Hat - Mem Fox and Tricia Tusa
2006     Good Night, Me - Andrew Daddo and Emma Quay
2005     Wombat Stew - Marcia K Vaughan and Pamela Lofts
2004     Muddled-up Farm - Mike Gumbleton and Jobi Murphy
2003     I Don't Want to Go to School - Christine Harris and Craig Smith
2002     Mrs Wilkinson's Chooks - Leone Peguero and Mike Spoor
2001     Edward the Emu - Sheena Knowles and Rod Clement

Tuesday 5 May 2015

Mister Monday

Arthur Penhaligon is a true unlikely hero. A sickly asthmatic boy starting at a new school two weeks into the new term because he's been in hospital with his asthma. Arthur suffers another asthma attack during cross country on his very first day and sees some rather odd things. He is given a special key on the basis that he is about to die.

Arthur is soon grappling with dramatic adventures of a decidedly otherworldly nature. There are mysterious beasts, dog faced- half human Fetchers, a veritable astonishing array of monsters and creatures. But Mister Monday is not just an action story- Garth Nix's intelligence, far reaching curiosity and word play really shines through the whole story. It's all so very clever. He weaves many worlds, history, time and the seven deadly sins into the story.

Mister Monday was originally published in 2003, and is the first in the seven book Keys of the Kingdom series. Garth Nix has created an incredible, complex amazing universe. His writing is so descriptive, it's almost like being there, like you know what it would be like to be in this unimaginable fantasy world.  It is an incredibly exciting story with many plot twists and cliff hangers. I hope to get Master Wicker to read/listen to this- I think he'd love it.

I listened to the audiobook of Mister Monday while driving to Newcastle for the 2015 Newcastle Writers Festival. It was fantastic, and made the kilometres literally fly by. I was very pleased to see Garth Nix in a session at the festival. I've seen him speak a few years ago in Adelaide, but I didn't know all that much about him at that stage, and it's always nicer to see an author speak if you've read at least some of their work I  think.

All the way in the car something seemed familiar about the audio version, rather unbelievably it took me until the final disc, disc 7 (coincidence, I expect not) to work it out. The narrator totally reminded me of Monty Python and the Holy Grail! And then I knew why Arthur Penhaligon had seemed familiar, surely it must be a riff on Arthur Pendragon? Oh and don't you hate it when you have a blinding insight like this, all by yourself, and there it is, already made on wikipedia. Hmph. Although I had to resort to my knowledge of Monty Python to work it out, not my knowledge of the classics (which is scant and sadly lacking).

This is a series and an author definitely worth pursuing.


Monday 4 May 2015

Paris Chocolate Tour

Way back in 2013 we spent a fabulous few hours one morning on a Parisian chocolate tour from Context Travel. I don't often join tours, particularly in cities I know moderately well like Paris, but was so glad that we did this one. I had seen Carol of Paris Breakfasts description of her tour  in the months leading up to our trip, and knew that our group would be keen too. Six of us went along this morning. 

We met up with our guide, Laurel, outside Eglise St Germain de Pres one slightly cool and damp morning. Laurel was an American pastry chef who had been living in France for 19 years. She was an enthusiastic and knowledgable guide. 

Laurel explained that people have been eating chocolate for 4,000 years, although for most of those years their experiences were nothing like the gustatory delights we were about to experience that morning. The Incas had used cocoa beans for taxes. The explorer Cortes was the first European to taste chocolate- ingested as a drink back then. Cortes took it back to Spain and added vanilla and sugar to the drink. 

Spain kept their chocolatey discover to themselves for about 100 years, before two Austrian princesses adopted it and spread the practice outside Spain and into France. Marie-Antoinette loved chocolate, and employed her own pharmacist, Monsieur Debauve to make her particular chocolates. At that time egg white was whipped into the chocolate, and Marie-Antoinette favoured her pistoles, discs of flavoured chocolate, as her medicines. Possibly Marie-Aintoinette was the first woman documented to use chocolate to help her mood?

Monsieur Debauve was saved from the guillotine by Napoleon, and he was to become chocolatier to the emporer after the revolution. He set up a business with Monsieur Gallais in 1800, the shop still trading at the location at 30 Rue des Saints-Pères where they opened in 1806. Today we started our tour passing by their historic location. We were to visit houses showing us the historical and the modern approach to French chocolate. 

The French worked chocolate into their favourite pastries, viennoiserie, again brought to Paris by Austrian princesses, creating the now classic pain au chocolat. We then visited Josephine Bakery at 42 rue Jacob 75006, run by an ex head baker from La Grande Epicerie (our corner shop this trip) Benoît Castel. He makes an intriguing chocolate bread, apparently good with fois gras, and quince bread, sadly not sampled on this chocolate focused day. 

Nor were these, but they look so pretty

Next we visited a Ladurée Salon de Thé. Monsieur Laduree had opened a bakery at the same location, sadly it had burned down in 1870. Madame Laduree created the first salon de the when the shop was rebuilt. At that time ladies were not able to go to cafes or bars, which were the domains of men. Until the creation of the salon de the fashionable ladies were only able to meet their friends in their own houses. Laduree was family owned until 1993, and it was the grandson of the original Monsieur Laduree, Pierre Desfontaines, who continued the creative nature of the family by inventing the macaron as we know it in 1930.

It's not just macarons at Ladurée

This day we were to sample the three different chocolate macarons that were on offer at Laduree that day. Chocolat. Ghana. Venezuela. Each was quite a different, glorious taste, the chocolat basic, the Ghana more subtle and the Venezualan deeper. 

Laurel explained that tradition is particularly important to the French, they are not early adopters of new trends, which is why the pastries at different bakeries will often look similar, they are classics and generally not to be toyed with. Debauve and Gallais still make the pistoles as Marie-Antoinette liked them. Laduree still uses their original 19th century packaging design by Jules Chéret.

We took a brief detour from chocolate to visit France's only master caramelier Henri Le Roux at his amazing store at 1 Rue de Bourbon le Chateau. Henri is the man who invented Caramel Beurre Sale! He is well worth a visit to worship at his feet. We sampled both his amazing caramel and his exquisite chocolates, and I think all of us went away with a jar of his sensational CBS. 

And maybe a marron glacé or two

The last stop on our tour was at Pierre Marcolini one of the new forces in Parisian chocolate-even though he is Belgian. I had heard of Pierre before arriving in France and was very keen to visit. Clotilde Dusoulier had informed me that Pierre Marcolini uses reconditioned 150 year old machines to process his chocolate as he believes that this creates a superior chocolate even though the production is a little slower. We sampled four of his different place of origin blends- each quite different, each lovely, but the Equador was exquisite- it had beautiful floral notes like a flavour had been added- and yet it was simple chocolate magic.

Every morning in Paris is amazing. This one was particularly splendid. 

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

All About France a monthly
love fest for France

Saturday 2 May 2015

Last Saturday, 25/4/15 was the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landings at Gallipoli. I've been reading about it, and thinking about it quite a bit. So I was very keen to go along to the exhibition which opened recently at Orange Regional Gallery. It is a very moving Anzac art installation exploring the impact of World War I on the Central West.

It is the lives of the men from Orange and district, the volunteer soldiers who died on active service during the First World War, whom we are here to remember. Their remains are geographically scattered across war cemeteries in the many overseas theatres where they fought and died. 

The room is dominated by a large 9 metre 4 panelled painting, Via Dolorosa- Dulce est Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori (The Path of Sorrow- It is Sweet and Fitting to Die for the Fatherland).

Via Dolorosa

The paining represents the industrial scale and magnitude of the production of gravestones to mark and honour the dead in the First World War. 

Crossed Flags 2007-2015

I was really quite taken with this painting of Ernest Powter- the youngest person from the Orange district to volunteer in WWI.

Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling-
4919 Stretcher Bearer Private Ernest Lachlan
Powter AIF 2015

It was shocking to see a baby faced boy in a soldiers uniform. And the markings down the side of the of the painting are the typical markings every parent makes on a door jamb to chart their child's growth. These boys were still growing. And that growth stopped in a muddy field in France. 

White Feathers 2015

Hundertyarzeit 2015 

I wondered about the name before I went, and it took me a while to recognise the commemorate connection. Do check out the website it shows interesting detail and information about the exhibition. Or get along to see it if you can. 

April 25 - July 5 2015
Orange Regional Gallery
151 Byng Street
Orange NSW
Daily 9-5

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