Luminous

Category: Places

Mega Swim for Multiple Sclerosis 

This weekend I’m joining a team of 15 bright young things from ACT Young Lawyers and participating in a 24 hour Mega Swim to raise funds for people living with Mulitiple Sclerosis. We are going to be lapping the pool on a rolling basis from 12 noon Saturday and all through the night to 12 noon Sunday in the hope we can raise $30,000.00 to support the ‘Go for Gold’ scholarship program. The scholarships fund a whole range of programs in education, the Arts, travel, sport, music and employment. The ultimate goal is to help those living with MS live their lives to their full potential and provide them with the care and support they need to do so. If you are willing and able to help us achieve this goal, you can sponsor our swim here. All donations, small, medium and large, will go a long way towards making a difference. Since I started on this fundraising venture many people I know have mentioned that they know or have known someone who suffers from MS, as I have, so I’ll be out there for all of those people, and your messages of support will be ringing in my ears on each and every lap. So if you’re able to donate, please don’t forget to leave me a super inspiring and motivational message of support. I’ll need it! 

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Bronte to Bondi

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I’m normally hopelessly fickle, and it’s nigh on impossible to get me to pick a favourite out of, well anything really. But I think I’ve decided that the Bondi to Bronte walk (or Bronte to Bondi, depending on your parking preferences) is my favourite Sydney walk. Almost every time I go there, I come away with dozens of photos of the sea, the rocks, the crowds people, the flowers and coastal scrub, and I couldn’t resist sharing some of those with you.

I’ll admit, this time around I didn’t quite make it to Bondi, but I did glimpse it from the clifftop halfway from Tamarama. With the early summer heat and the sparkling clear water beneath me beckoning, I just couldn’t wait to get in the water.

I am completely committed in my love for this winding walk that stretches all the way from Bondi to Coogee Beach. I may even love those crowds.

From Paris to Provence

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I had exactly zero bad coffees in Melbourne, but a particularly good one at A La Folie on Chapel Street in South Yarra, which is also where I heard about the Melbourne French Festival, From Paris to Provence. By chance, it was on the same weekend as my visit, so I was able to squeeze in a quick trip to the festival to see what it was all about.

Held at the historic Como House and Gardens in South Yarra, the festival celebrates French food, language and culture and is a great event for Francophiles and those who want to travel to or live in France. Aside from market stalls with artisan foods, clothing, antiques and homewares, there was live entertainment, cooking demonstrations, educational seminars and champagne in abundance. I even learned that in some parts of France it’s normal to greet your friends and relatives with up to five kisses! With a fairly big extended family, that would make our Christmas get togethers quite drawn out I think. Though the thing to do, apparently, is to agree on the number of kisses before you start in order to avoid any awkward cheek-suspended-in-the-air moments.

Inspired by all the crepes, bread, cheese and wine at the festival, I decided to test out my French cookery credentials and make a french inspired tart, because if I can’t whisk myself away to Paris right now, I should at least afford my taste buds the opportunity.

My Spinach and Three Cheese Tart is adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Swiss Chard, Herb and Young Cheese Tart. It’s a flavour packed recipe that differs nicely from my usual spinach and feta combinations, and makes for a delicious light meal with a simple green salad.

Spinach and Three Cheese Tart

Serves 4 as a light meal or appetiser

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

3 celery stalks, thinly sliced

1 bunch Silverbeet spinach (approximately 200g)

2 garlic cloves, crushed or thinly sliced

1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon mint leaves

1 1/2 tablespoons flat leaf Italian parsley. chopped

1/4 teaspoon dried sage leaves

15g pine nuts, lightly toasted

Grated zest of 1 lemon

75g feta, crumbled

50g parmesan cheese, grated

100g fresh ricotta cheese, crumbled

1 egg, beaten lightly

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 sheets (330g) Pampas puff pastry

1. Sauté the onion, celery, garlic, mint, parsley and sage in the olive oil for a good 8-10 minutes over a medium-high heat. Add in the spinach and cook until just wilted. Turn off the heat, then stir in the feta, parmesan, pine nuts, lemon zest, salt and black pepper to taste. Leave aside to cool.

2. Preheat oven to 200°C. Take your 2 sheets of pastry, and cut as large a circle as you can from them by removing the corners. This will form the base and sides of your two tarts. Place them on to a baking tray lined with wax paper, then spread the filling on to the pastries, leaving a 3 cm border all around the edges. Crumble the ricotta over the filling, then bring the pastry up around the sides of the filling and pinch the edges together firmly to form a secure edge.Brush the pastry with the beaten egg, then refrigerate for 10 minutes.

3. Bake the tarts in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and cooked on the base. Remove from the oven and serve warm or at room temperature.

Melbourne Wrap Up

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Aside from being great for shopping, Melbourne CBD has a thriving cultural centre and is perfectly situated next to the beautiful trifecta of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Alexandra Gardens and Queen Victoria Gardens in Kings Domain. In Federation Square, there’s a whole host of creative activities and cultural events on offer throughout the year, and it’s a great meeting place and starting point for Melbourne venturing. You could easily pass a day wandering the city laneways, gardens in the Domain and the Arts Centre, where there’s a weekly Sunday market filled with artisan and locally made products. The National Gallery of Victoria has some really high quality collections, and is currently holding the spectacular Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition. Since I had already been to the JPG, I spent a decent part of my last day in Melbourne exploring some of the other galleries, including the Modern European and Asian collections and the Decorative Arts Passage, which has some seriously heist-worthy kitchenalia. I had to settle for tea in the gallery cafe, which I have to say is a pretty lovely setting itself. If you’re lucky enough to visit between now and 1 March 2015, you can even take a ride on Carston Höller’s Golden Mirror Carousel in the gallery foyer. I was wishing I had one of my nephews or the ability to shed my self conscious and take a solitary ride and a trip back down the memory lanes of childhood.

Getting around Melbourne is so easy. I bought a Myki card on the first day and a $35.00 weekly pass which allowed for unlimited travel city-wide. I especially loved getting around on the trams, such an integral part of the Melbourne landscape, as is Flinders Street railway station. I love these focal points around the city and imagining the countless stories of the lives of people crossing paths there. And winding through it all, the Yarra River provides a peaceful backdrop for those (like me) who crave for water bodies.

There was so much in Melbourne that I didn’t get to see and do on my short trip, and I particularly would have loved to have spent more time exploring the Fitzroy/Brunswick area. I’ve put together a little list of stores that I did happen to chance upon, and would love to come back to. It’s by no means an exclusive guide to the very best of Melbourne, because there really is a lot on offer, but it’s my little list of places I did get to visit, and loved, on this trip.

After walking through the Botanic Gardens in Kings Domain, I stumbled on the lovely Turner & Lane, chock full of beautifully crafted homewares, gift inspiration and boutique clothing lines. 179 Domain Road, South Yarra.

I got oodles of inspiration for my own little online boutique at The Fabric Store, 184 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.

I think I could have done all of my Christmas shopping at Third Wing, 2/180, Toorak Road, South Yarra.

Probably the (equal) best of several excellent coffees consumed in Melbourne, was from tom dick and harry, 1/242 Toorak Road, South Yarra.

I had two very good Japanese meals at Teppankai, 34 Bray Street, South Yarra. Lovely food, excellent and very friendly service. The maître d sat down next to me, asked me all about my trip and gave me Melbourne foodie tips, plus a copy of the Good Food Month guide from The Age to help me navigate my culinary course.

Famished and fairly tired on my last night in Melbourne, I had a really nicely done steak at Squire’s Loft, 166 Toorak Road, South Yarra.

I had my other equal best coffee at A La Folie, an authentic French patisserie in South Yarra. 589 Chapel Street, South Yarra.

I can’t wait to get back to Melbourne, because I get the feeling I’ve only just scratched the surface of everything the city has to offer. And did I mention the shopping? Perhaps it’s best I’m home for now.

Hosier and Rutledge Laneways, Melbourne City

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I still have some photos to share from my trip to Melbourne, but I thought I’d do a separate post with some images taken on the Hosier and Rutlege Laneways, which are fairly well known for their colourful street art. Both alleyways are pretty much entirely splashed with graffiti, so much so that it can be difficult to make out a subject amongst the colour riot. It doesn’t seem to matter, however, as the overall effect is something akin to a Jackson Pollock, If you like that sort of thing. Which I absolutely do. Closer up, you can hold your smartphone/camera/iPad up to just about any section of the wall and make your own little abstract reproductions, and believe me, I could’ve spent forever framing interesting colours, shapes and lines with my iPhone. You can see why I’d make a terrible travelling companion. I loved the little details I noticed in the process, such as the street commandment plastered on the wall in the image third from the bottom. Now that’s a vice I can’t refuse.

Saturday in St Kilda

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Goulburn (NSW) born and Sydney raised, I am something of a Melbourne freshie. I knew that St Kilda was an iconic Melbourne suburb, much loved by locals and visitors alike, but hadn’t realised what historic and cultural landmarks I would come across until I hopped on a tram and took myself on a morning walk along the esplanade last Saturday. I always loved that Paul Kelly song though.

I started at the south end with a lovely coffee at Monarch Cakes, one of several European style bakeries on the main shopping strip. I didn’t get any photos, but I loved this one for all its Eastern European old world style and authentic looking baked goods and decor. If not for the contemporary garb of its inhabitants, I really would have felt as if I’d stepped back in time. In fact, the bakery dates back to 1934, so it’s quite a historic little bakery in itself.

Speaking of historical facts, I learned that the Kulin people were in fact the traditional owners of Euroe Yroke (the land now known as St Kilda), and lived in the area for more than 30,000 years prior to European settlement in the 1840s. A little internet research informs me that many an ancient Corroboree were held at the red gum tree at St Kilda Junction, which is still standing.

Along the esplanade today, the colonial and modern day influence is fairly evident. Strolling out towards the pavilion, where the famous yellow kiosk stands, I wrote myself into the pages of an early Victorian novel of the Gaskell/Dickens/Bronte ilk, with the wide open sea before me, a lovely grey sky above and a perfectly cool breeze against my skin. Skipping ahead to the 20th century, I learned that visiting American servicemen came to dances held at the pavilion during the Second World War and taught young Australian women the jitterbug. I could almost hear the music floating down the pier, thinking of the excitement those evenings must have brought and all the little histories created from those times.

The kiosk on the pavilion was re-constructed in 2006 according to the original 1903 plans, after having been destroyed in an arson attack in 2003. You might be able to see the half burned flag flying above the kiosk in the black and white photo above, shot from behind the kiosk facing towards the shore.

Back along the esplanade, you can still visit Melbourne Luna Park, which has been operating almost continuously since 13 December 1912. After a day of family fun and fairy floss, you can head over to the Palais Theatre, which has also been in existence in some form or other since 1914. I love the Art Deco exterior of this historic Melbourne icon, and although I’ve not been to any event here before, it’s now officially on the bucket list. From what I’ve read about the theatre, it has a Baroque inspired interior that I’m very keen to set my sights on. If current events are anything to go by, it’s also home to some excellent line ups.

It would be hard not to love St Kilda, and I’m feeling quite keen to get back there.

I’d probably even travel 13 hours on a bus.

The Shrine of Remembrance and Melbourne Botanic Gardens

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I took some time yesterday to visit the Shrine of Remembrance in Kings Domain in Melbourne. When I walked inside the crypt one of the memorial attendants told me that it was originally built as a place of bereavement for family members of those who died in the First World War and were unable to be repatriated or formally buried, but has since become a memorial to all of those who have lost their lives serving in conflicts since then. Having recently undergone some new development, the site also includes a Gallery of Remembrance which acts as an administrative and exhibition space, formally opened on Remembrance Day this year. Taking a walk through the crypt, sanctuary and the areas surrounding the memorial, I was particularly moved by the Cobbers memorial, which depicts a soldier carrying a wounded companion from no man’s land in the aftermath of the devastating battle of Fromelles, in which over 5,500 Australians, 2000 British and between 1600-2000 German soldiers lost their lives in the space of just 24 hours. Reflecting on the experiences of those men, their families and loved ones, was a reminder of my fortunate position in life, and the freedoms I enjoy. That I can come to Melbourne, immerse myself in the culture by exploring the galleries, restaurants and cafes around town, and indulge in a little bit of shopping, is a far cry from the lives of many who have gone before me and many who live today. I walked away feeling that, although there’s no glory in war, there’s instruction in remembrance, which is why memorials like these are such an important part of our cultural landscape.

On the lighter side of things, I also took a walk through the 150 year old Botanic Gardens, which is the perfect destination for a break from the city and all its goings on. Whilst I love a city, I also love a garden sanctuary, and Melbourne certainly provides both of these in style. I joined a garden walking tour and learned some interesting historical and botanical facts about the trees, plants and gardens that I otherwise wouldn’t have learned by myself. One fun fact I learned was that the Bird of Paradise is pollinated by the tummies of birds who sit on the blue stem of the flower feasting on the nectar. When they leave the blue stem, where all the pollen is located, they carry it away with them to the stigma of another flower, and so the process goes. The marvels of the natural world never cease to amaze, and I kept on thinking about how life imitates art imitates life. Everywhere I looked, I kept seeing Jean Paul Gaultier gowns, in the botanical gardens! I really do believe it’s nigh on impossible for any creative artist to avoid being influenced by the natural world that surrounds them.

Melbourne Discovery

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It’s taken me all of 29 years to come down and discover Melbourne, and now that I’m here I realise I don’t know what I was waiting for, and that I really have to make up for lost time. So I hopped to it this morning and started early at the Prahran Markets, full of delicious looking fresh food, flowers and artisan products. I saw the most stunning looking portobello mushrooms, and wished I had a little kitchen down here so I could have cooked some up. I couldn’t resist the new season cherries and they definitely lived up to their enticing looking display of fresh, juicy sweetness. Yum. I stocked up on caffeine at Lucky Penny on Chapel St, a really cute looking cafe with the most lovely service, something I’ve encountered everywhere I’ve been so far. Even though I’ve only been here 24 hours, it seems that many strangers down here are very kind, thoughtful and chatty, but not too. Just the right amount. Maybe Sydneysiders are a little more shy?

I took a walk around the South Yarra and Prahran district, then up High St Armadale, although I relented halfway up and got on a tram because it turns out it’s quite a long walk from South Yarra to Armadale. I did a little ‘window shopping’ in/outside some of the more high end retail stores on High St, saw some cool vintage posters and visited quite a few commercial galleries, which was fun. I got on a train and had a little look at Toorak, mostly because I got off at the wrong stop, but I’m happy about it because it was really cute and now I have another little suburb to go back and explore.

I had intended to go eat lunch in the gallery cafe before seeing the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the NGV, but I couldn’t go past the queue for Ban Mhi outside Master Roll in South Yarra without seeing if they lived up to the hype, and they were pretty good! Just the right amount of everything and for $6, you can’t do much better. I was left feeling pretty full, which was a good precursor for the gallery visit, as the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition is really something and I spent a big chunk of the afternoon there, wistfully admiring a beautifully detailed collection of works. There were a few outfits that I desperately wanted to walk away with..the cone bras I can probably leave for Madonna though. On the whole, I realised what a creative genius JPG was, and I don’t think anyone really does French couture mixed with British punk in the same way.

With my main aims fulfilled for the day I indulged myself in a little shopping at Bourke Street Mall and the newish Emporio centre just over the way. I blame the rain, which drove me away from Federation Square, a potentially great place for people watching and just plain hanging out. Luckily though, it’s kind of a focal point for the city so I’m sure there’ll be plenty of time for that later. Here’s hoping for good weather tomorrow!

Lost in Venice

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I met a lovely Italian family on the train travelling from Rome to Naples who told me that the best way to see Venice is to simply abandon the tourist trail and fully lose yourself among the streets and canals, hidden corners, open squares and alleyways. Turns out I didn’t need much encouragement to do that as I discovered that NOT losing yourself in Venice is nigh on impossible, and all the more memorable in the midst of a summer storm and an absolute deluge of rainfall. It also turns out that thunder, lightning, and buckets full of rain couldn’t stop me falling hard for this beautiful city that is timelessly romantic and contemporary glam all at once. Venice to me was unexpectedly edgy, and although it had the same ability to have me staring at a beautifully rendered patch of wall as say, Florence or Rome, I also saw some of the very best contemporary art during my two day sojourn, including a fantastic Irving Penn retrospective and a stunning collection of contemporary light installations at the Palazzo Grassi. There’s just something about the juxtaposition of historic buildings and contemporary art that is incredibly appealing to the senses, and when combined with the romance of the city of Venice, has all the makings of an indelible memory mark.

Florence Dreaming

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Since I got back from Europe, I’ve been practically bursting at the seams with creative inspiration, and it seems that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to turn the impressions of my mind into some kind of reality. Since I lost the majority of my photos towards the end of my trip, my brother suggested I do some sketches from memory of all the places I visited, so as not to lose sight of the experience. I haven’t got so far as that yet, because funnily enough, it’s images from home that keep making their way from my brain to the page (if that’s even how art making works, or the route that it takes). As often happens when travelling, being away from home really made me reflect on my own ‘home’, and what it means to me. I first started blogging over 12 months ago when I moved into a tiny little bedsit in Sydney’s Balmain and started going on weekend expeditions around the city, coming home to cook my own little meals in my very own little ‘Balmain Kitchen’. I fell in love with Sydney all over again (after having spent four years or thereabouts living, studying and working in Canberra), and I’ve clocked up literally thousands of photos that are an endless point of reference for my artmaking. I think I gathered up so much visual inspiration from these trips that now that I’m rediscovering my creative side, it’s the images from home that are bursting to be seen, as if by birthright. And now that I’m currently living in Goulburn (in the NSW southern tablelands), a luscious Spring and the beautiful stillness of the countryside is constantly bombarding me with fleeting moments of beauty that are also fighting for actualisation on the page. Tonight though, as I’m looking back over some much-cherished photos from my trip, I feel super nostalgic for the days spent wandering aimlessly through foreign cities, and ever more inspired to push myself creatively and start memorialising, or perhaps I should say ‘pictorialising’ my trip. Luckily, I have these photos salvaged from Facebook to keep me going until then. I felt conscious when travelling that I should at least *try not to post too many photos on social media, now how I wish I had posted more!

*unsuccessful, I’m sure.