Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Our Easter


We took it slow over our Easter break.

  • Sleep ins.

  • Dog walks at the beach.

  • Just hanging out at the block, planting trees.

  • Snuggling under my Easter present from Rob, a heated throw rug.

  • Inviting ourselves to cook a paella at our friends place.

  • Eating chocolate.

  • Camping at the hut overnight and christening the new Weber Q bbq.




The little hut is getting there, unfortunately the builder has run out of the timber for the back wall. So there may be a little wait til it's completed. I've decided that instead of having matching timber Z strap Barn doors for the laundry hut, I'd like blue doors. Rob has graciously allowed me this slight change of plan!


Yesterday the builders made a big mess at the block by installing the septic tank and water tanks. So there will be mud everywhere. But he's starting to promise the end is near.

Not long now.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A cracker day

When I was little I for some reason had a day dream about getting married at home. I’m not sure why? But I thought that it would be nicer for some reason.
Fast forward 20 years or so.

We had a short working week last week, as we had to prepare for Rob’s birthday party. On Wednesday evening we went to meet the lovely Emily Snadden for a drink. I nervously looked around for anyone we knew in the bar, but luckily I saw nobody. Perfect. We purchased a bottle of bubbly and toasted each other and Emily pulled out two little boxes from a white paper bag. Inside each was a silver ring with tiny bunnies and foxes chasing each other around endlessly. We were lucky to have them, as our design had proved more difficult to execute than planned, only days earlier we thought we might have to lose the animals, but Emily persevered (she may never want to see a bunny or fox ever again) and created exactly the rings we hoped for. It was a lovely relaxing start to a slightly crazy couple of days.

The pace changed quite rapidly from there, I rushed out to the airport to pick up my friend who was one of five people who knew what was about to happen. Thursday dawned a grey and uninspiring day, after the torrential rain earlier in the week, the constant drizzle wasn’t letting up. I imagined the block to be a quagmire of mud. We got baking, two Maggie Beer orange pound cakes with a layer of dried cumquats that had been soaked in dessert wine, and a gluten free almond pear cake. We headed into Hobart to start the food shopping (but first we ate a quick burger from Devil’s Kitchen overlooking the Derwent), first stop was Vermey’s. Marcus had been ageing two beef rib roasts for a couple of months for us, and we also picked up two fresh ducks and some mince for stuffing them. Next stop was some fresh vegetables. Then home, Rob was feeling nervous about the moat that had developed behind the hut, so headed down to the block to dig some trenches with the dogs. My friend and I decided to stay inside, and began icing the little hut gingerbread biscuits that I had made earlier. She painstakingly iced each one to make it look like vertical cladding, and added a fondant roof, which she later painted silver. I meanwhile started stockpiling platters. Rob came back after dark, with two very muddy dogs, and an even muddier car (Claudia had decided to shake off inside). But he pushed on and removed the bones from the two ducks, then stuffed them with pork and veal mince, onions, sage, pistachios, dried cumquats, apricots and chicken thighs.

Friday was still grey but at least the rain had stopped. Rob headed off to work to give a lecture. I cooked the ducks. My parents let me know that my grandmother had another dizzy spell (she’d had one a couple of weeks ago that caused her to faint, hitting her head and giving her concussion), so I was more than a little concerned. Especially as I knew that they were booked on a flight to head over the next day. They were another two of the special five that knew something was up. But I pushed on, baking olives and tidying up. Rob returned to start cooking the roast beef. I got the call from the courier bringing the three pork bellies from Mt Gnomon. I was looking forward to them I can tell you. Three extremely large pink bellies with lovely layers of fat. We pushed on and made the buttercream icing for our cakes, not entirely successfully I admit, the sugar syrup turned into toffee in both batches instead of being incorporated into the egg yolks, but we improvised and finished both cakes. My aunt called to let us know that their doctor thought my grandmother fit enough to travel. Which was a big relief. We headed to the block to tidy up after the builders. After some sweeping and rearrangement (and a thorough disinfecting of the builders porta loo) we left in the twilight to head home to continue cooking. Jo and Michelle had suggested that we pre-cook the pork bellies and reheat them in the barbeque. We cooked them in our favourite way, ala Movida, blasted for 40 minutes on a high heat, before removing the meat and adding carrots and leeks, bay leaves, white wine and sherry vinegar, returning the meat and covering them with foil to cook slowly until tender.

I woke up early on Saturday and looked outside to see a clear blue sky. It was going to be a ‘cracker’ day, as Rob and I like to say. Buoyed by this we enthusiastically headed off early to pick up 10 loaves of bread from Jackman and McRoss, a 2 kg French cheese from Wursthaus, several bunches of red tulips and a few of chrysanthemums from Salamanca, and 10 dozen oyster from Mures. Then we seemed to unrail slightly timing wise. It seemed to take an age to slice the ocean trout gravlax (that had been curing since Tuesday), duck and beef. Whilst Rob did that I packed all the crockery, cutlery, glasswear, serving platters, wine and food into the cars. Off to the hut, I realised we were running a little late! There was only 40 minutes til when people turned up. Rob and I threw ice into galvanised buckets and added Jansz NV sparkling, home brew in Grolsch magnum bottles, and mineral water. We got inundated by what seemed like hundreds of wasps. It was hot and I manically threw table clothes onto trestle tables, put tulips in vases and set out the platters of meat. Luckily some of our guests arrived early so we were able to delegate some of the set up. I snuck away eventually to get changed into my dress. A blue silk dupion halter neck (that I’d had especially made) this was trickier than it sounds as our master bedroom has no door, and guests were already taking themselves on tours of the hut! Much to my sisters disgust, I wore a pair of silver Birkenstock thongs! (she knew too, as she had returned to the UK).


Our guests all arrived and started nibbling on the oysters and gravlax, whilst the pork warmed in the bbq. Time disappeared again and it was suddenly 1.45pm, this may not normally have mattered but I knew something had to take place at 2.30. I rustled Rob along, and soon our guests were sitting at tables, or the pop up bar (the builders work station), or inside the hut. I tried to nibble on some food, but found that I was a little nervous. I insisted Rob change from his shorts, t-shirt and explorers into some trousers and a linen shirt, which he did do, the celebrant arrived, I found Rob nibbling on a beef rib bone! We prepared to do the “announcement”. Lynn had a few funny moments where she had to pretend to know us from work (one of my aunts decided to be friendly to the poor lady on her own!). We gave her the signal and she tapped a glass to get their attention. At that precise moment Rob’s mother headed straight for the porta loo! Oh no! I thought they’d guess what was about to happen. But once everyone was gathered (which seemed a long time but probably wasn’t) Lynn announced that although they were here to celebrate Rob’s birthday, there was also going to be a little ceremony, that we were getting married. The collective gasp was priceless (and I think I’ll remember it always). But Rob’s parents immediately started to cry! I’m a terrible sympathetic crier so started too! But they were happy tears, I should say there were a lot of smiles too!


The ceremony was quick, Rob and I standing at the end of the living room, with a very church like ceiling above us, with wet muddy dogs wandering amongst us as we said our vows! Rob’s daughter (who was also in on the secret) was the ring bearer. It was quite surreal, in no time at all we had our rings on and were announced as Dr and Dr Wiltshire! It was a great way to have a wedding. Corks popped whilst we signed the certificate and there were many hugs, tears and laughs.


We cut our orange & cumquat wedding cake, and the beautiful cheese.


Rob opened his gifts which included a mirror made for dogs to admire themselves in, and a personalised hut apron! Our family and friends relaxed now, wandering around the block, the dogs romped through the grass. The bride may have been seen running after them in her silk dress and blundstones. Then the sun started to fall, and the golden sunshine that had been with us all day started to fade, our guests left with huge smiles and little hut biscuits with heart shaped windows, and Rob and I packed up and smiled to ourselves- we had surprised them all!


It was indeed a ‘cracker’ day.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

It's just a little wet out there

Claudia walking up the drain along side our driveway- I can only imagine Nigella is wondering about the sanity of her sister. A very full dam and a very green block. Nigella likes to inspect things. This is the water pooling above the drain in our drive.
Myrtle trim around the windows.
More myrtle trim...
Just one more - these little windows are my favourites- like framed pictures.

Not big news to most people in Australia this year. Flooding rains.

I love a sunburnt country,

A land of sweeping plains,

Of ragged mountain ranges,

Of droughts and flooding rains.

Dorothy Mackellar

It was hideously wet last night in Hobart. We braved it for a quick dinner for Rob's actual birthday. Sushi at Orizuru in town. They made his night by serving it up on the wooden boat. We feasted on oysters, grilled eel, kingfish, tuna, salmon and a myriad of sushi. Washed down with a large Sapporo. Rob was quite happy with his birthday present, I ordered 10 more fruit trees from Woodbridge Fruit Trees, including 5 cider apples, 4 quinces and a plum. To go with this, I'd found an apple picking bag in an antique shop, he loved it and insisted on putting it on in the restaurant (much to his 15 year old daughter's embarrassment!)

As the rain continued to fall last night, I couldn't help but feel nervous about the driveway at the block. It runs over a creek (with a large pipe underneath) but that quantity of rain in 24 hours is always a worry. Especially with the neighbours dam that sits above our driveway. We woke to hear that the main road that leads to the block was closed due to "deep water". That's not what I wanted to hear.

So Rob headed down there today with the dogs. More to relieve me of my constant worrying than anything else. I'm happy to report that whilst extremely wet, the driveway and hut has survived. I feel a little selfish talking about it with all that has happened around the country this summer- but it certainly brings home just how nerve-racking it can be.

The dam is overflowing, the drains are flowing quickly. Claudia enjoyed a quick dip in her personal pool with the two geese that have adopted us. Rob was slightly surprised to find the builders there as the weather was so foul. But they have been working on the myrtle trim around the windows and doors- INSIDE. It looks great!

It may be a bit quiet here for the next few days- we're preparing for a big birthday party (40 people) at the block on Saturday. With a little surprise for the guests.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Timber progress

Just a quick update- the front of the hut is finished, and the back almost too. Just need to do the ends and the hut is done!

Monday, April 4, 2011

The long goodbye to the blue hut

So the builders have been busy- and the timber cladding is slowly going up. I think of it as a reverse strip tease!
I only had the little point and click camera, and conditions were not the best, but I think you can get the idea.

Rob has been busy painting every single one of those boards with a preservative to stop the boards going silver, or black with mould. It really is very smelly, after a day helping him move the boards around we both ended up with head aches. Not nice. But he's nearly finished. Will post more as the blue continues to disappear.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A crazy busy week

Thank goodness for an extra hour of sleep (end of daylight savings) last night, after this week I needed it. Last weekend Rob was on a field trip with his university students, so I had a weekend to look after the dogs. My sister had flown in from Sydney for a few days before heading back home to the UK. So there were a few family dinners (I seemed to spend the entire weekend peeling potatoes). I did bake an experimental cake. I had bought a bag of limes that were just going to sit and grow mould if I didn't do something with them. So I made lime curd. I baked a couple of coconut cakes and sandwiched them together with the curd. Next I made a Nigella italian meringue frosting, a little exciting but manageable (egg whites, sugar, golden syrup over a double boiler), thank goodness for electric whisks! Verdict was pretty favourable. It certainly looked the part. Rob came home Sunday night and we rushed to have a look at the hut (not much had happened during the week) Rob spent a few lonely days coating the boards in a preservative but the builders weren't really there. I'm afraid I am quite an organised traveller, I always write a list, and tick off things as I put them in my bag. Normally I am laughed at for this behaviour. I even put out the clothes to wear the next morning. I had picked the horrible 6am flight to Melbourne, which means being at the airport at 5.30am. So I set the alarm, booked a taxi and fell asleep. The next morning I woke to my work mobile phone ringing. Gosh I thought that's wierd. The phone call was the taxi company, wondering if I still wanted the taxi waiting at the front gate?! After a few exclamations of oh my gosh, I quickly put my contact lenses in, dressed, threw the last few things in my suitcase and was in the taxi in 5 minutes. I swear I wasn't awake til I got to Melbourne. I collected my suitcase and tried to make myself presentable in the airport bathroom. But wasn't really looking forward to a whole day at the conference without having had a shower! Luckily on arrival at my hotel my room was ready (I had even been upgraded to a spa room) so I felt far more human once I'd showered. The conference didn't start til quite late so I visited a favourite shop. Cake deco (in a little arcade opposite Flinders St station) they have so much stuff in there. Cupcake cases, icing colours, biscuit cutters, books. It's quite overwhelming. But I got a few things I needed for making "hut" biscuits, and couldn't resist a tea pot cookie cutter. A quick coffee stop at Degraves and then I hopped on a tram to head up to Carlton for the conference. The conference food was as normal quite ordinary. A few of us decided to head out to dinner together. I should've heard the warning bells when they both admitted to eating baked beans in their hotel rooms the night before (rather than dining out). We wandered around china town (although one of the group was keen on Thai), even sat down in the Hairy canary, but ended up in a little Thai place. It could have been worse and the company was excellent but it wasn't a good use of an evening meal in Melbourne! I was quite tired though so didn't mind heading back to my room by 8pm. Next morning, I was up and wandering up Bourke St to Spring St for breakfast at the European, I'd read online they serve the best eggs benedict. It was a cute little place, a long narrow room with dark panelled walls. The eggs were certainly very good and the two coffees woke me up. Off to the conference. The lunch breaks were very long, (and the food was certainly not worth lingering over overcooked chicken drumsticks or an unidentifiable white fish), so I headed for a walk along Lygon street, eating a gelato as I window shopped. At the end of the day I squeezed in a little shopping before deciding to try my luck at Movida. One of our favourite places (although I ususally book weeks in advance). Being 8pm I thought I'd give it a go. Sadly the main restaurant was busy, but they directed to me to their little sister, Movida next door, and I was seated at the bar in a few minutes. Perfect for the lone diner. After ordering a glass of El coto (Spanish red of course) I tried to narrow down what I'd like to try from the menu. I settled on a white anchovy on tomato, some Queso cheese, a potato bomba, flathead wrapped in jamon and mussels, and I hate to confess confit pork belly. That's right I put the body on the line to try as many different plates as I could! I waddled out into the warm Melbourne evening, satisfied and headed back to the hotel. I made the most of last remaing meal in Melbourne and headed to Earl Canteen for breakfast. Ok but I think I'd like to head back at lunch for the famous pork belly sandwich! Rob and the builders have been busy at the hut, the timber overlay flooring has been stuck down in the living room, Rob has coated most of the boards and, finally the blue is starting to disappear, slowly replaced by vertical celery top boards. It looks just how we imagined. All going well we should have a timberclad hut by the end of this week. It was nice to have a weekend together again, we spent time at the block (coating more boards) and drinking tea in the living room yesterday. Then today we've been to the market for vegetables, bread and treats and a chat with Jo and Michelle from C & C cupcake factory. Couldn't resist some hot cross buns as well from Jackman & McRoss. Rob has some quince jelly bubbling on the stove top.Time for tea I think. - Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
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