Friday, 31 August 2007


A cool, mellow start to the day. A partita or two from my mate Johann Sebastian, a potter about the kitchen, then off to the park with the dogs. Cool, wet and very green there, with just a tinge of colour in the starting-to-fall leaves of the liquidambars. Lots of kids playing and laughing in the sandpit - gorgeous. Lots of proud grandparents pushing their little charges on the swings, or around the park in hi-tech strollers. Mellowness affirmed.

And over on the side of the park, in the shade, an elegant Asian man and woman, grey-haired and ramrod-backed, doing tai chi. Perfect flowing slow-mo mellowness.
And then the tai chi woman hawked loudly and spat.

Mood over!

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Lepidoptimism, or waiting in the wings ...

I'm flat out over here. There's a baby shower party on Sunday, for one Bondi baby on the way, and the baby of a great friend of all of us at the Bondi.
I decided these two new little babies - and a third, who won't be represented at this weekend's party - had to have pictures for their rooms, and so I've been splashing paint about like a madwoman. A perfectly content madwoman!

I turned the dining table into a work bench to prepare all the canvases. I spent an afternoon prepping about a dozen little ones and two or three big ones, leaving them outside to dry in the warm shade.
Now I have my desk all set up, with Pandora blaring away out of my computer. It's bliss!

Here's the work so far., pictured, as usual, by the pool:

They're all based on actual butterflies, and I've changed the colours a bit. The top left one was my prototype - it's not centred correctly and I was just trying things out. The tortoiseshell, bottom right, is unfinished. I'm unsure about the turquoise one because while its design is based on a real butterfly - the common blue - it looks a bit too science-fiction. Doesn't fit with the others. Like the colours, though. Or do I ... ?
We'll see how we go!

Sunday, 26 August 2007

A few crowded hours ...

On Thursday night, some hotel group had bought out the whole of Bondi for a private function, and as this was our first buy-out, Dave felt he had to stay to see how it all went.
At nine o'clock, he saw some people outside wondering what was happening, so he went out to tell them about the private party ... and then he recognised them.
It is SO good to have a husband with a razor-sharp rock and roll mind! They were Crowded House, in town for a concert, and they had walked several blocks from their hotel to check out the Bondi, as they'd heard so much about it. Can you
believe this?
Anyway, Dave pulled himself together, grinning from ear to ear, and with okays all round from private party people, he and Michelle, our marketing wiz, installed them in a gleaming boab in the restaurant area at the back of the venue, which was not being used.
Needless to say, Bondi had another party going on that night! The result was that Dave got home at 3 am, completely legless (so was Nick Seymour, the bass player, who was still hungover when the band started playing), and we had 10 tickets to last night's show,
plus ...

... invitations to party on afterwards!

The concert was incredible. What a band. So polished and accomplished. All but the bass player and the drummer played several instruments and sang, which must be why they can achieve such a rich, layered sound. How many wonderful songs have they put out?
And the audience, like all American audiences I have been in, was just fantastic. They knew all the words, they hollered and whistled and cheered and sang along, and thoroughly partied. It was
SO much fun!

Neil Finn's son, Liam, was the support act and played along with the band in the main part of the concert. Very happy to report he seems to have the full complement of the Finn musical and cuteness genes (... but he should lose the beard!)

Afterwards, we joined a very sedate and privileged little group who waited for the band to emerge. Not my sort of thing, in all honesty - but we really wanted to thank them for the tickets; the show had been a sell-out, so it was no small thing to get freebies.

And yeah - I did the daggy thing and got Neil to autograph my sticker so I can send it home to my brother, who is a huge, huge fan.

So ... wonder who else will come a-knocking at our door? Ain't it grand?

Friday, 24 August 2007

Another cosmicoincidence!

Just got back from the supermarket, and from having my car cleaned (first time in many moons). While I was waiting for my car, I bought a coffee at Starbucks and was affronted by the barista's blackboard offering 'carmel frappuccino'. That's car-a-mel. Just because everyone pronounces it carmel, is that any reason to spell it that way? And what are carmelised onions?

And then it was on into the supermarket, and the check-out reserved for customers with '10 items or less'; overhearing people behind me talking about 'laying' on the couch ...

This morning, I was reading Harry Potter with my tea and toast and feeling incredibly pissed off to read how Harry had gotten (GRRRR!) into trouble; and there was 'a parcel from Ron's mom'; and finding minuscule spelt min-i-scule (thanks, Sue M for that lesson aeons ago!); and how all the book's -ise and -ice endings have been Americanised, which totally messes with the logic of distinguishing verb from noun ...
That led to my spending a long while wondering if in Australia we treat American literature with similar disrespect? Like completely changing words? Here, the first Harry book is re-titled 'The Sorcerer's Stone' (and they've messed with one of the titles from Philip Pullman's 'Dark Materials' trilogy) ... So you can see the way my mind has been running today. Yes, I do need to get a life, don't I?

Anyway, then I got home to find a parcel in the letterbox: a scarlet T-shirt, ordered for me as a surprise by David, bearing the words: 'Good grammar is hot!' Aaaah!

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Is August the new Feb?

It's been horrid if not quite torrid here - the clear, bright, sparkly days I raved about earlier have been replaced with pea-souper days of 65-70% humidity that make the otherwise balmy days in the high 20s/low 30s hard going.
And, bloggers in other parts of the country, where summers are truly hot with life-sapping humidity, write of sadness, ennui, irritability, stagnation and enervation that can only be attributed to too much summer.

I'm truly a winter soul and, in only my second year in this corner of this hemisphere, already find myself looking forward to September and the return of the cool.
Just when I was thinking that August was kinda like February/March back home, I came upon this excellent piece in Slate, which says it all.

:: Joyful reunion ... yesterday, I drove one of our new managers, Stephanie, to the Qantas freight terminal at LA airport to pick up her dog, Lewis.

Stephanie is from Perth - if you've ever had coffee and baklava at the amazing little Boucla, in Rokeby Road, or wiled away a happy hour or two at the Brisbane Hotel, you may well recognise her. She was the dynamo who ran both places - and now she's ours!

Poor Lewis, a staffy-boxer cross, was a very happy young dog when he was released from his crate. Eighteen hours in the air from Perth via Sydney, and then two friggin' hours on the ground in LA while we got the paperwork sorted with Qantas staff, the health department and customs.

Anyway ... there was such a happy ending!

Friday, 17 August 2007

Weird spooky cosmicoincidence, yeah!

** Don't watch this video (above) until you've read my ramblings! **

I am such a Pandora-adora.
It's a shame that you can't use it in Australia: basically it's a wide-world interweb radio station thingy which lets you list about 10 of your favourite artists. It then plays you - through your computer machinery - non-stop, f-r-e-e music by them and by other artists which Pandora reckons you would like, based on characteristics it has determined for the artists you have listed ('the Music Genome Project').

So, for the past few weeks, since I fell in love with The Lovely Antony, whose name is on my Pandora list, I have been listening, fascinated, to a whole other world of music and artists that I'd never have experienced otherwise.

Well, one of the new songs I have become addicted to is Joanna Newsom's Swansea. It is so astoundingly w-e-i-r-d. And wonderful - she is a classically trained harp player with the singing voice of an eight-year-old and the face of a 16-year-old. But so very talented.
So now watch the YouTube video at the top of this post, and then click on this to see Joanna live on YouTube, singing Swansea.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Laura and I had our picture taken on the Skywalk, and Laura took it with her to Wisconsin by accident, so she posted it back to me. Thought you'd like to see! Note the sexy paper slippers you have to wear over your shoes so you don't scratch the glass floor. Entrance to the Skywalk costs $24. The view behind us shows very clearly the eagle rock formation - see the spread wings, and even the eagle's head and beak, in the low v-shape cleft between the two ridges? - after which the Hualapei Indians named this part of the canyon's Western Rim. They own a great deal of the land on the Western Rim, the rest is national park.

Home and home ...

Looks like we've sold Gloster Street (above)! It went on the market the Friday before last, and we had an offer the very next day. We knocked it back, saying we wanted what we were asking, and they came back last week with the full amount.
So now, this really is home ...

... and if I do say so myself, it's looking pretty darned good'n'comfy here these days. Dave and I struggled to bring home - as baggage on the plane - two big paintings from Australia, and hanging them in the living room here in cookie-cutterville has made a world of difference. The first is the wonderful Jane Flowers painting, Dam in Landscape - an almost totally white-on-white work with just the subtlest touch of colour ...

... not photographed very well at all, but there you go. It looks really good here - though it also looked amazing in Gloster Street on the aubergine wall in the front room, and on the dark, dark green wall of the big room, where you might have seen it.

The second is this red pic (below) I painted a few years ago, which has always been a favourite of mine. I'm very pleased we managed to get it and the Flowers here safely - thanks to Konrad's fantastic wrapping skills with cardboard, bubble wrap and about a kilometre of duct tape.

The two blue-and-white vases were a wedding anniversary prezzie from David; the skeletal lady is a Katrina doll (a Mexican Day of the Dead figure) that Lily brought back from Albuquerque for my birthday last year; the leafy thing with the stick was one of those glorious moth orchids - it's been hanging in there for several months now, putting out new roots, and I kid myself that one day it will send out a lovely stem full of flowers; the sunglasses shouldn't be there (no-one knows who they belong to); the little earthenware animal figure is from Guatemala - Lily bought it at a museum shop to give to someone in Australia, but she left it wrapped in tissue paper on the floor and Will trod on it, reducing it to a jigsaw - I patiently glued it back together again, but there are bits missing that were either pulverised or too minuscule to work with. But we love it all the same. The blue-and-white dish is an old Chinese bowl that I bought at an estate sale last year when Dave Lilburne was visiting from NY on the hunt for old prints.

And with a few bits and bobs about me, my own little corner (below) is very much my special place.
It's always messy, and as it's the first big horizontal surface you meet when you enter the house, it's the constant repository for stuff that really should live elsewhere. Like mail, washing, tools, pills, newspapers and mags. But I'm very happy right here.

:: I've decided to return to art school - so I'll be enrolling in a painting class at the art academy just as soon as poss. I've been looking longingly at my paints and brushes lately - but there's just nowhere to work at home. So class it is. Yay!

Monday, 13 August 2007


I hate to blog without pics - maybe it's my newspaper history: no story worth its salt should be without a pic!
Anyway, these glorious six-foot cannas are rioting in my front garden. I didn't plant them - must have been a previous tenant - but I love them, especially as they stand in front of a huge bougainvillaea, and the colours really zing.

We have a rabbit living in the front garden (can you believe it? I mean, this is the epitome of Cookie-cutterville suburbia) and every now and then I find one of the cannas is lying across the lawn because the bunny's had a nibble at the stem.

:: We went out last night, with our chef, Chris, and his lovely wife, Amanda (baby due late October - so exciting!). The excursion was the result of a visit to Bondi by the English band, Squeeze. Now, not having ever been a fan of Brit-pop, I wouldn't know them from a bar of soap, but David has long been a huge huge fan, ever since seeing them in England in the early '80s, when I think they were called UK Squeeze and had Jools Holland on keyboard.
Anyway, being the big bold groupie that he is, he went straight up to them at the bar and introduced himself, and I think he actually put his hand on his heart and said: "You guys are my heroes!"
So-oh, we had tickets to the best seats in the house for their concert. It was at a town in the mountains about an hour east of downtown, called Alpine. The government allows Native American people to build and run casinos on their reservations, and at Alpine the Viejas people of the Kumeyaay Indian nation have a huge complex, called Viejas, with a casino and a massive outlet shopping centre, in the middle of which is an amphitheatre-style concert arena.
The architectural theme is sort of, ummm, pueblo-moderne, with waterfalls and fountains and palm trees wrapped in fairylights.

The support band was a pretty cool set-up from NY, the Fountain of Wayne. And when Squeeze came on, I realised I did know a couple of their songs, but the concert sound was SO bad that it was a bit of a fizzer really. It was incredibly loud - which you can tolerate if the mix is good. But it was truly awful; painful even. I was quite relieved when it was all over - though it was a great disappointment for their Number-One Fan next to me!

:: Fab Sunday dinner coming up. Squeeze's Number-One Fan has spent all arvo in the kitchen making one of his amazing slow-cooked lamb casseroles, with red beans and potatoes in the pot. Yum-oh. Seeya!

Thursday, 9 August 2007


Those teasers at just emailed me with this tasty travel morsel.
Home again!
Well, we got Will back home yesterday. Yay!

Dave and I went up to LAX to meet him off the plane from Sydney. I know he's a resourceful 17-year-old, but, secretly, I was just a bit nervous about him doing the trip from Perth alone for the first time. Four hours from Perth to Sydney at sparrow's; then getting from the domestic to the international terminal at Sydney; green form for Australian immigration; a fourteen-hour flight; white form for US immigration; US customs ... you know the stuff.

Of course, it was a breeze for him. He wasn't even tired! And his phone started buzzing almost immediately - before we even got to the car.

Once back at the house, he was soon off to catch up with his mates and spent the afternoon on the beach at Encinitas.
Bed at 8.30 last night and up at 7am for lots of this:

It's SO GOOD to have him home!

:: This is a pic of David and me with Lily and Will at the farm at Eagle Bay, just a few days before Dave and I left to come back to the US:

:: It was wonderful for Lily and Will to get back and see all their mates and to be back on home turf. Will says he was sad to leave Perth again but ready to get back to San Diego all at the same time. And looking forward to school!
:: There's an oak tree at the farm, just the same size and look as the one Garry and I used to play on when we were kids in England; we called it The Old Oak, but it probably was only about 20 years old.
Lily and Will climbed this one with Devon (left) and James. Devon was our next-door neighbour at Gloster Street, and James lived three houses down. They were all born while their families lived in Gloster Street, and they've remained friends.
Dev's studying psych at Curtin; James is studying aviation and aiming for the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra; Lily's a sophomore at the Evergreen State, WA; and Will's about to enter his last year at high school with his sights firmly set on the Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara.
James took Will to Perth airport to see him off on Tuesday night - such a kind thing to do at 4am. Dev and James are coming out to California to spend Christmas with us - so I'd better get cracking and book a cabin up in the snow!
:: Now all I need is for Lily to return to the fold!

Tuesday, 7 August 2007


I feel I've neglected book reading lately.

We subscribe to some fantastic magazines, which are SO cheap here, and SO good, that they sometimes are all I have time to read. Recently, for example, I've started receiving the 'New York Review of Books', which is heaven on a stick. Just take a look:

The size of a tabloid newspaper (I had to scan it in two bits) and printed on newsprint, with very few photographs or illustrations of any kind, it has page after page of articles by brilliant writers. Lots of recommendations and lists.

:: Because this is the summer of A Very Important Harry Potter Book, and because I cannot for the life of me remember what happened in the earlier HP books I read, I have started again at book one. Loved it and finished it yesterday with the morning's tea and toast in bed. So I'll be off to B&N this morning to get the second volume. My guess is that by the time Lily gets back, early next month, I'll have caught up enough to discuss the latest one with her!

:: HP has interrupted my reading of Monica Ali's Brick Lane, which I was also thoroughly enjoying. It's about a Bangladeshi woman who finds herself in London after an arranged marriage to a much older man. Well-drawn characters and a fascinating picture of England. Why do I, an English-born Australian living in the US, enjoy these novels about transplanted people so much?

:: I recently finished yet another mind-bogglingly excellent book by Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams. I find that when I read her stuff, like Ian McEwan's, i want to w-r-i-t-e. It's a bit like how really great paintings make me want to p-a-i-n-t!

:: Talking of great paintings, David and I were up at the Getty Center again yesterday (we had time to kill in LA before meeting another of our Australian recruits at the airport). On loan, and on display in its own beautiful room, is Manet's A Bar at the Folies-Bergere. Oh bliss!
In adjoining rooms there was a big exhibition of 1800-1900 Modernist drawings from the G collection, by artists like Turner, Delacroix, Seurat, Daumier, Van Gogh, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec ... Just edible!
We didn't have time to see the main show, The Painted Menagerie, of life-size paintings of animals by Louis XV's court painter, Jean Baptiste Oudry.
So exciting at the Getty. There's this vast treasure trove of priceless art, and they make it such fun, and so accessible. There were huge tables set up on the marble tiles in the beautiful courtyard so kids and parents could paint and make stuff inspired by items in the galleries; and on the other side of this outdoor space, an artist had set up a classroom to demonstrate how the old masters had painted animals, and explain their techniques. Wonderful stuff!

:: Okay - now I want to hear from you all what you are reading. I miss your book chat!

Friday, 3 August 2007

A pot of basil (here pron. bay-zill)

And she forgot the stars, the moon, the sun,
And she forgot the blue above the trees,
And she forgot the dells where the waters run,
And she forgot the chilly autumn breeze;
She had no knowledge when the day was done,
And the new morn she saw not; but in peace
Hung over her sweet Basil evermore ...

Basil always makes me think of Keats'
Isabella, whose proud Florentine brothers did away with her lover, Lorenzo, and buried him in a shallow grave (of course!) in woods by the Arno. But love wins - sort of - when Lorenzo's ghost tells Isabella what happened. So she goes out in the dead of night (of course!) and digs him up, cuts off his head, wraps it in a scented hanky and takes it home. She cleans him up, brushes his hair, kisses him a bit and then - brainwave! - plants his head in a pot of basil. All of which is a pretty dodgy plan which, needless to say, doesn't end at all well. Though she does grow a fantastic crop of basil, apparently.

Much like mine here, which was given to us by our dear friends, Paul and Debby Hopper, who had us out to dinner at their house in beautiful Rancho Santa Fe on Tuesday night. The basil they gave us has almost filled our house with its sharp, sunshiny scent - yum. They also grow zucchini, pumpkin and the plumpest, reddest, juiciest tomatoes:

They even save the seeds to plant for the next summer.
I do so miss having a garden when I smell their basil and the warm skin of their tomatoes - sigh!

:: The weather in San Diego is absolutely, spot-on, perfectly perfect. This week, the expected maximums are all in the 26 to 28-degree range, and the nights are so cool that I had to put a cardie on last night when we were having drinks by the pool.

:: Keeping the summery theme going - and to remind you of the glories to come over there as your wet and wild winter really digs in - here's a pic of the lovely golden tulips that newly-arrived Bondi recruits Steph and Matt, from Perth, brought me last night when they came over for a home-cooked meal:

Meet Mack ...

... our adorable grandson, four in November, and such a boy.
He has the bluest eyes, and people stop you in the street to tell you how cute he is! As if we didn't know ...

NB: Note the San Diego Padres (our favourite baseball team) T-shirt!
And I miss him to bits!