New Year’s Eve. Home and Away, 2014.

As I cast a lazy summer’s eye over the year that was 2014, one thing stands out clearly. We travelled a lot. Overseas trips were interspersed with hard work at home, followed by more travel to recover. Mr T and I made an early New Year’s Resolution to travel less in 2015, but I have noticed some overseas bookings creeping into the 2015 calendar: only because the fares are so ridiculously cheap and because we are irresponsible old gypsies at heart.

Our year away begun in January with two weeks spent in West Java and Sumatra. The highlights of this trip included time spent with my old friend Banardi and his partner, Adam in their house in the mountains near Puncak, West Java. Daily cooking lessons were the highlight of this trip as well as spending time with B’s family. Lake Toba, Sumatra was an exotic side trip and an intriguing foray into Batak culture.

B cooks up ma storm in his Indo kitchen
Banardi ,the barefoot chef ,cooks up a storm in his Indo kitchen
Chinese New Year in Jakarta with B's Family.
Chinese New Year in Jakarta with B’s Family.

Thanks Banardi and Adam, but also our big thanks goes to B’s family, especially Baria and family, Tony and Li Li and all B’s extended family, who made our stay so special.

Side trip to Lake Toba, Sumatra. Our xx by the shore,
Side trip to Lake Toba, Sumatra. Our losmen by the shore.
lake Toba
Lake Toba from our terrace.

After returning to Melbourne, we soon set up camp in our family compound by the sea on the Mornington Peninsula. This annual camp is as old as Methuselah and involves four generations of family members. As we travel between homes, our regular home and our ‘canvas’ trailer by the sea, various family members and guardian angels take care of things left behind at either end. Thankyou for watering our garden and looking after our chooks, and thanks to the ‘guardians’ down by the sea.

Family Play time
Family play time
Gloriuos sunsets of Port Phillip Bay
glorious sunsets of Port Phillip Bay

In May we set off for our annual trip to New Zealand. The North Island is still wonderfully clement in May, and as the prices for hiring a motor home plummet to $30 a day, it’s a mere hop, step and jump to fly to Auckland and then on to the glorious bays of the North. The natural scenery in New Zealand is breathtaking. And the local seafood is pretty tasty too. We have decided that NZ is not to be classed as an overseas trip since we share the same sea and a few relatives as well. Thanks Rachael, Andrew and Renato for monitoring things at home.


I’m always keen to hunt for shellfish!

On returning from New Zealand, things turned rather cold in Melbourne and it was just as well we had our holiday booked for Thailand, China and Indonesia. After a few days experiencing Bangkok and its Coup, we headed off to China for a few weeks in Yunnan province and then a further two weeks with our wonderful friends, Tia and Carol in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. The food, the glorious days in ancient walled cities: China stole my heart. Thanks Tia and 松树 for the wonderful long drive through the countryside of Sichuan, and Carol and husband for the great trips around Chengdu. Also thanks to Richard and Jo Jo for the great day out at the Panda zoo in Chengdu.

Ma Po Dofu
Ma Po Dofu


Night market food stall in Kunming.
Night market food stall in Kunming.

On the way back from China home, we called into Indonesia again for a month, this time in Pemuteran in the North coast of Bali, an ideal spot to snorkel, dive and relax. This area is not a major tourist destination- unlike some of the other hotspots in Bali. It is restful, shopping free and remote. We also flew over to the island of Flores, followed by a lazy week back in Sanur. Thanks Helen for being such a relaxing and easy-going travel companion and to Rosalie and Ian for your great company and friendship too.

Balinese culture endures, despite the tourist influx.
Balinese culture endures, despite the tourist influx.

We did stay put for six weeks of Melbourne winter and then headed off to the outback, via South Australia, a rather slow meander through lovely countryside. It’s good to be a toursit in your own country.

Baby emus in the Flinders Ranges
Baby emus in the Flinders Ranges

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA quick five day trip to the Murray River with family in November, saw the cousins get along in the great outdoors.

A bend in the Murray River
A bend in the Murray River

And in December, our annual trip to my favourite beach, Lake Tyers, in Gippsland provided a fitting finale to the year, along with a side trip to Paynesville and Raymond Island to visit the land of our great grandparents. Thanks Kerrie and Bruce for sharing this trip with us.

A Double rainbow. over the fifty mile beach at Lake Tyers, Gippsland, Australia.
A double rainbow arches over the fifty mile beach at Lake Tyers, Gippsland, Australia.
The iviting h=jetty at Fishermans Landing
The inviting jetty at Fishermans Landing. A good spot for a picnic.

And thank you my dear readers if you got through this rather long and indulgent New Year’s Eve Post. I hope you had a great year too. Best wishes for the next one. Capo d’anno. F xx

Melbourne for kids. A cheap day out on foot.

A day out in Melbourne for kids can be cheap, exciting and exhausting. Not only will they learn a lot, they will sleep well and have stories to tell.  The itinerary we followed involved a lot of legwork as the best way to explore Melbourne is on foot. Now travel has become even cheaper as all trams in the centre of Melbourne are free and the cost of train fares into Melbourne have been reduced. Why would you take a car into the centre?

The images below focus on legs, in response to Ed’s Sunday Stills photographic theme this week.

a young boy stands at his easel, sketching xx enca
Oliver concentrates on capturing the long legs and body of Phar Lap, the famous race horse, his taxidermied body enshrined.
the skeletal remains of a xx fly above
The skeletal legs and wings of a Pterodactyl fly above.
Images of Dinasaur families strolling by  are projected onto the wall. More art for the boys.
Images of dinosaur families stroll by as the boys tackle more art.
Graffiti lanes of Melbouren. An artist prepares to redo a door.
Graffiti lanes of Melbourne. An artist prepares to re- spray a door in Hosier Lane.
The boys are mesmerized by the graffiti art on the walls of Hosier Lane and  Rutledge Lane.
The boys are mesmerized by the graffiti art on the walls of Hosier Lane and Rutledge Lane.
Many tourists enjoy walking around Melbourne and these lanes are now on the itinerary.
Many tourists enjoy walking around Melbourne and these lanes are now on the itinerary.
A quick walk through Federation square for some people watching and then a walk vy the Yarra river.
A quick walk through Federation Square for some  ‘people- watching’ and then a walk along the Yarra river.
The iconic Flinders Street station, a short stroll to the train for a ride home.
The iconic Flinders Street station, a short stroll to the train for a ride home.

Some useful links on Melbourne for tourists.

Travel Theme: Minimalist

Black Swan of Paynesville
Black Swan of Paynesville

The term black swan was a Latin expression, “a good person is as rare as a black swan” (“rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cygno”). It was a common expression in 16th century London as a statement that describes impossibility, deriving from the old world presumption that ‘all swans must be white’, because all historical records of swans reported that they had white feathers. Thus, the black swan is often cited in philosophical discussions of the improbable. Aristotle’s Prior Analytics most likely is the original reference that makes use of example syllogisms involving the predicates “white”, “black”, and “swan.” More specifically Aristotle uses the white swan as an example of necessary relations and the black swan as improbable. This example may be used to demonstrate either deductive or inductive reasoning; however, neither form of reasoning is infallible since in inductive reasoning premises of an argument may support a conclusion, but does not ensure it, and, similarly, in deductive reasoning an argument is dependent on the truth of its premises. That is, a false premise may lead to a false result and inconclusive premises also will yield an inconclusive conclusion. The limits of the argument behind “all swans are white” is exposed—it merely is based on the limits of experience (e.g., that every swan one has seen, heard, or read about is white). Hume’s attack against induction and causation is based primarily on the limits of everyday experience and so too, the limitations of scientific knowledge.*

Had these philosophers lived in Australia, this discussion may have been quite different, or at least, different examples may have been used to illustrate the point. Black swans are common place and can be found in briny shallow water and lakes around Australia


A good person is as common as a black swan!

Thanks Ailsa, I’m hoping to embrace a bit of minimalism now that the Festive Season is over.


Sweet Inspiration. Mango and Coconut Upside-down Cake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAround this time of year, I turn to my large magazine stash for sweet inspiration.  I pull out all the December Christmas editions of Delicious and Gourmet traveller and Donna Hay’s annual Celebration edition. Sticky notes flap from far too many pages. I’ll attempt some of these but make some old-time favourites too.

The following Upside down Mango and Coconut cake turned up on an SBS food site. Anneke Manning has a new segment devoted to baking.  As a food columnist for many a magazine, and cookbook author, her recipes are always very reliable. This recipe happily coincided with the arrival of mangoes from the annual mango box fundraiser. It’s a light textured summer cake to follow a Christmas Eve seafood BBQ.



  • melted butter, to grease
  • 270 ml coconut milk
  • 135 g (1½ cups) desiccated coconut
  • 200 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 220 g (1 cup) caster sugar
  • eggs
  • 150 g (1 cup) plain flour
  • 100 g (⅔ cup) self-raising flour
  • cream or ice-cream, to serve (optional)
  • shredded or flaked coconut, toasted, to serve (optional)

Mango topping

  • firm but ripe mangoes (about 400 g each)
  • 50 g unsalted butter
  • 60 g (¼ cup, firmly packed) brown sugar


Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Grease a 24 cm x 30 cm (base measurement) lamington tin with melted butter and line the base with non-stick baking paper.

To make the mango topping, cut the cheeks from the mangoes, remove the skin and then cut lengthways into 1 cm-thick slices (reserve the remaining flesh for another use, such as, a mango coulis to be used later on ice cream). Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stir in the brown sugar and cook for about 1 minute until well combined. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin and spread as evenly as possible over the base. Arrange the mango slices over the top of the brown sugar mixture. Set aside.

Combine the coconut milk and desiccated coconut in a bowl and set aside. Use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until well combined.

Sift together the plain and self-raising flours. Add half the flour to the butter mixture and use a large metal spoon or spatula to fold until just combined. Fold in the coconut mixture and then the remaining flour until just combined.

Spoon the mixture into the tin over the mangoes and use the back of a metal spoon to spread evenly, being careful not to move the mango. Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Stand the cake in the tin for 10 minutes. Run a palette knife around the outside of the cake and turn out onto a serving plate or large bread board. Serve warm or at room temperature with cream or ice-cream, or on its own, and sprinkled with the flaked coconut.

The cake will keep for two days in an airtight container in the fridge. Bring back to room temperature before serving.

Upside down mango slab cake emerges from it's tin.
Upside down mango slab cake emerges from its tin.


An Unadorned slice for the cook. Tomorrow the rest will be served with icecream.
An unadorned sample for Moi!

I can highly recommend Anneke’s New column, Bakeproof,  for sweet inspiration.

The Little Yellow Vespa of Lucca.

I wonder who owns this little yellow Vespa? How many wonderful buildings does it pass each day? Scooting around the medieval lanes close to Centro,  then onto larger streets, passing decadent villas and the tree topped towers of the Giunigi. The ghost of Elise Bonaparte waves an imperial hand and the sounds of Puccini echo as musicians and singers practice tonight’s performance.  A quick run out to the ancient walls of the city for some fresh air or maybe to meet il ragazzo under a chestnut tree, then a meander back, down to the long weekly market just below the walls. Perhaps it’s time for a coffee in the Piazza di Anfiteatro before heading home for lunch.

1-Rae&Stu2 403Daily Post. Yellow. 

The Golden Shoes of Lucca.

On one of our trips to Lucca, our dear friend Rod became rather taken with these golden shoes, as well as many other scarpe lucchese . He bought four pairs.

Rod's Golden shoes.
Rod’s Golden shoes.

We stayed in the San Concordio district in a little apartment within walking distance of the station.  Our kitchen window framed the cistern of the Nottolini aqueduct and the foothills of the Garfagnana mountains.  In the late afternoon, it became our golden temple. This, and the Nottolini aqueduct are not so well known to travellers.

Cisterno do San Concordio
Cisterno do San Concordio

Thanks Ailsa, and a Golden Christmas greeting to you at Where’s My Backpack.

Last night I was reading a book when…..

Last night I was reading a book in bed. When I came across this passage, I stopped in amazement. Something sounded shockingly familiar,

Nothing was as it had been. Martin Place, where once she had happily browsed the fine designer shops, now appeared to her as empty and strange as the ruins of an ancient city that somewhere, sometime long ago, stopped making sense. For a moment she stood surrounded by colourful bunting and beautiful images that communicated nothing. Dolce & Gabbana. Louis Vuitton. What did any of it mean? On vertical banners pushing a designer label, models, no more than kids, were reproduced with their strange unfocused gaze, as if they had witnessed a massacre or horror they still could not comprehend.

p 169. The Unknown Terrorist. Richard Flanagan, 2005.

Although written some years ago, this novel is a timely reminder of the complicit and nasty role that politics and the fear mongering media often play in society, especially after events such as the recent Sydney siege at the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place by a lone lunatic and the tragic outcome for two innocent victims.

I recommend this novel, and as we are saddened by the loss of Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson, we might also strongly express our opposition to any sensationalist media coverage which, like piranha, feeds off these events.

Vale Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson
Vale Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson

Footnote. from letters to the editor, Sydney Morning Herald. Dec 18,2014.

It ill behoves our Prime Minister, the head of our political decision-making process, to lead the charge of divisive recrimination against the administrative decision-makers, police and judicial officers who have determined matters relating to Man Haron Monis (“Abbott’s open question: how was the gunman ‘at large’ in the community?”, December 17). To second-guess decisions relating to issues as complex as refugee status, surveillance and bail knowing little more about those decisions than that something went horribly wrong at some later time is to succumb to the seductive lure of hindsight reasoning, the most insidious threat to logic and the calm analysis of evidence. This is a time for our leaders to encourage healing and cohesion, not blame.

Justice Lucy McCallum Sydney

Apricot and Almond Summer Crumble

Blink and you’ll miss it: that’s how fast the apricot season comes and goes.  This crumble is simple and elegant and can be thrown together in 5 minutes. It is also a lot lighter than the oat topped crumble one usually associates with winter. As I always have a big kilo bag of almond meal on hand, my mind tends to wander towards fruit and almond creations. I can’t wait to make this with blood plums later in the season.


The crumble shown is in a smaller gratin dish for two. The recipe below makes a larger family sized dessert.


  • 30 ripe apricots
  • 100g sugar, plus extra to sprinkle
  • 125 g plain flour
  • 100g almond meal
  • 175 g unsalted butter
  • 60 g flaked almonds
  • cream and ice cream to serve.

Preheat oven to 200c/180c Fan Forced. Cut apricots in half and remove the stones. Arrange them in a ceramic or enamel baking dish to fit. Sprinkle with sugar. Mix the flour and almond meal together and rub in the butter. Spread over the fruit and sprinkle with almond flakes. Sprinkle lightly with a little more sugar. Bake for 30 minutes. Be careful not to burn the almond flakes by covering with foil or reducing the temperature. Serve warm with cream or ice cream OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This makes an excellent breakfast with thick yoghurt. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARecipe originally from Maggie’s Farm, Maggie Beer. Reprinted in Let’s Do Lunch, Delicious . ABC 2003.

Zucchini Pasta for Vigilanti

Tagliatelle, with robust flavours from the Mezzogiorno.
Tagliatelle, with robust flavours from the Mezzogiorno.

It is always exciting when the first zucchini of the season appear. That initial joy occurred one month ago. We are still happy about the little flushes, but it pays to be vigilant. Turn your back, and the zucchini turn totally phallic. Large zucchini also sap the life out of the plants, slowing the fertility. It pays to pick often.

This recipe is similar to the classic Orecchiette con Broccoli e Acciughe but substituting zucchini for the broccoli. It tastes like the Mezzogiorno, a robust pasta from the south of Italy.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tagliatelle con Zucchini e Acciughe-  Tagliatelle with zucchini and anchovies.

Recipe ( for 2 )

  • 200 g tagliatelle egg pasta
  • 3 medium zucchini, grated
  • Extra Virgin Olive oil
  • 6 anchovy fillets
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped finely.
  • chilli flakes
  • freshly ground black pepper.
  • fresh parmesan to serve


  1. Grate the zucchini on a box grater or with a grating disc on a food processor. Squeeze out the juice lightly.
  2. Heat a medium-sized frying pan, then add oil- around 2 or 3 tablespoons. Add the garlic and anchovies, heat and melt the anchovies, then add a sprinkling of chilli flakes to taste. Then add the grated zucchini, toss around well for a few minutes.
  3. Cook the tagliatelle nests in ample salted water. Drain, retaining a little moisture on the pasta. Add the pasta to the zucchini and toss around.
  4. Serve with torn basil leaves and grated parmigiana.

    The grated zucchini are tossed in a pan with oil, garlic, anchovy and chilli
    The grated zucchini are tossed in a pan with oil, garlic, anchovy and chilli



Travel Theme: Freedom

I am envious of surfers. The ultimate freedom is to spend a day on the sea, waiting for the perfect wave, to ride that wave to the shore, then to spend the rest of the day with a perfect companion, a dog. Bliss.

I'm going surfing: you wait here
I’m going surfing: you wait here.
surfer boy on west coast of Victoria
Surfer boy , Bells Beach, Victoria
Freedom is surfing.
Freedom is surfing.
Now we can play.
Now we can play.


See Where’s My Backpack for more pictorial thoughts on freedom.