Meet the maker at Eumundi handmade markets, Sunshine Coast

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Venture into the hinterland regions surrounding Noosa Heads in the Sunshine Coast and you will be mesmerised by the lush vegetation, the calm and the green, and the quaint little towns, and tempted by the wandering tracks through the national parks and past waterfalls. Take those in by all means, but whatever you do, don’t miss the village of Eumundi  and in particular the outdoor Eumundi markets.

Eumundi, about 20 minute drive from Noosa Heads and with a population of just two and a bit thousand, hosts one of Australia’s most loved artisan markets. It’s been part of the local landscape now for nearly 40 years. Rain, hail or shine, it’s on every Wednesday and Saturday, bustling gently among the grand, spreading trees.

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The markets features over 600 hundred local stall holders and artisans displaying their wares, all abiding by the governing motto: ‘make it, bake it, sew it, grow it’.

There’s jewellery, plants and bonsai, fashion, hammocks, ceramics, skin care, musical instruments, gorgeous things for little people, exquisite cards and candles, and beautiful artwork. Just about anything you can think of, and many things you couldn’t.

And then there’s the food, a veritable feast of food. A farmers market and food stalls galore – coffee (like, real coffee), artisan bakeries, gourmet delights, and my personal favourite – poffertjes!

When you’re just about done with shopping, you can take a break – listen to the musical performances, watch creations being born from little balloons, meet an oversized fairy, get a massage or have your palms read. An ever changing feast of talent and options.

These are the markets where 20 years ago Mr T invested in a set of rice-filled juggling balls, complete with a one minute demonstration and lesson, and then spent the rest of our holiday mastering the art of juggling. He still likes to bring out his (limited) juggling talents at events, especially amusing when he decides it would be fun to juggle eggs instead of balls. Spoiler alert: his skills aren’t that high. Just in case you were wondering, you can still buy juggling balls at the markets.

Over the years,  a number of other markets have been added to the Original Eumundi Markets, making it the biggest handmade market extravaganza in Australia. Now boasting 1.6 million annual visitors, it’s come a long way from the original market in 1979 with three sellers and a piddly eight visitors. Seriously, don’t come here and miss it.

Get there early, pay for a park nearby or be prepared for a little walk.

And just when you thought you couldn’t take anymore, there’s the whole rest of the township of Eumundi to explore, from cafes, fashion, a bustling Berkelouw bookstore with books old and new, local galleries and artshows. In short, plan for a long stay.

What’s your favourite thing there?

Who hasn’t been yet?

Saturdays 7am-2pm, Wednesdays 8am-1.30pm

Addendum: I couldn’t resist and went back the next week too, obstensibly for a bit of lunch, but managed to discover a delightful little jewellery stall I’d missed before. That’s extremely rare for me as I’ve got a bit of a thing for jewellery, especially when it comes with a bit of a story. This stall, The Silver Tree, featured silver sterling jewellery made from the little ‘door sealers’ on the bottom of sea shells, polished up after they’ve washed up on shore and the little mollusc inside has died. They’re called operculums. I even learnt a new word. This was the last day you could get them at Eumundi markets, but they’re still available online. No, not sponsored – I just thought they were gorgeous.

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New faces at Lake George Winery

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Lake George Winery wine bottles

There’s new energy being injected into one of the Canberra region’s oldest wineries, Lake George Winery, nestled under the hills of the Cullerin Range as you drive into Canberra from Sydney.

Sarah and Anthony McDougall have recently taken over the helm of this historic winery (no local wine-maker pun intended) about 30 minutes out of Canberra, and are brimming with enthusiasm and ideas. Anthony brings his experience as a wine maker and Sarah brings hers in marketing and tourism, and together they’re a dynamic duo. They also bring their kids and a handful of dogs, so it’s a busy sort of life out there.

Anthony and Sarah McDougall

Lake George Winery has quite a bit of history. It incorporates the oldest vineyard planted in the area in 1971, formerly known as the Cullerin Vineyard, as well as the former Madew vineyard, originally known as Westering Vineyard. Sarah and Anthony are keen to respect that legacy and the existing wine-making relationships, but will bring their own ideas to make it their own. They already know what they’re doing, having made wines at the nearby Summerhill Road Vineyard at Bywong for six years.

There’s a surprising variety of wines produced on the eight hectare cool climate vineyard, including Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir and Shiraz. You can enjoy them in the restaurant, or do a taste test in the cellar underneath, ($5 per person, redeemable on wine purchase). The wines have an excellent reputation and have gained the winery a James Halliday 5-star rating. This year’s vintage wines will be launched later in September.

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Often a winery is just about the wine, but Lake George Winery is making it clear that food’s an important part of the equation too, and there’s a lot of thought put into the pairing of food and wines, and of course some dedicated testing. Not a bad job, that part. The restaurant, which also hosts weddings on the weekends, is warm and inviting: timber floors, earthy tones, an imposing stone wall, a central fireplace, and big glass windows which peer out over the vines. They do hearty breakfasts and lunches, or you can take in pizzas by the fireplace.

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The new chef in the kitchen is Canberra local, Matt Morrissey, with Monica helping out. After a career in the navy and the public service, Matt opted for a late career change and traded in his desk for the kitchen to pursue his passion. His love of his work is clear when you meet him, and it’s all smiles, even as he’s tossing garlic prawns in a frypan. He’s just published a food-centred kids book too as a side gig. Matt’s partner Katie Hancock is also part of the new team, working behind the scenes.

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The seasonal menu is all about good produce, with an emphasis on locally sourced products, and a burgeoning garden is growing out the back. You won’t find much in the way of smears and foams here, but beautifully cooked meals with quality ingredients and great flavour combinations. Think house-smoked duck breast with roquette and fetta salad, baby beetroot and balsamic glaze perhaps, or a hearty pork cutlet with chunky apple and caramelised onion mash. Match the first with a crisp Reisling or light refreshing Pinot Gris, and bring out the richness of the pork with a light Shiraz with a hint of white pepper. So many possibilities. My favourite was the fruity Tempranillo which I’d be prepared to put with just about everything. Perhaps not with the delicious oozy egg over spinach and mushroom brekkie at 10am, but each to their own.

If you want to try out the food, you don’t have to wait for the weekends. Brunch is available all day Thursday and Friday, and till 12 noon on Saturday, when the new lunch menu takes over. Linger over the wines and food as long as you like – there’s no second sitting to put the pressure on – which means you’ll have time to try another glass of wine. Winning! Just make sure you know who’s driving home.

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Sarah and Anthony’s plans for the future extend beyond just the wine and the food.

‘We’re keen to develop the winery as a complete destination. We already have a wedding venue in place, but we’re planning accommodation and other activities for the future too so guests can take in the whole experience of the vines and the mysterious lake across the road.’ said Sarah.

Keep an eye out then, as it looks like there’s more to come.

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Disclosure: Last week I was invited, along with a number of local foodies as part of the Urban Providore Tasting Team, to visit the winery to meet the team and sample the brand new spring menu and matched wines. All opinions are my own.

Canberra’s winter in pictures

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Farewell Canberra winter for another year – you can be very pretty, but you can also be very cold.

Not that I don’t love the photo opps you provide, especially up there at the Arboretum looking out across the frosted fields, but it’s time for you to move on for another year, and time for us to get back into the garden.

Much love, but on your way.

xx

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Thanks for all the declutter advice, but I quite like my bulging house

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We call our house a magic house. Not like in a fairy tale. It’s magic because no matter what you need at a particular point in time— feather boa for a Gatsby event, sandwich board sign, retro crepe maker, dropsaw—we’re more than likely to have it.

The other day a visiting Miss 4 asked if I had a mermaid outfit.

– Do you think I will?

– Yes, she replied, completely assured.

– How do you know?

– Because you told me you have everything in your house.

Clearly the child listens well. Our house houses pretty much everything. There are two main reasons for this:

  1. It’s a big house with a double garage with lots of shelves, a ‘studio’ (a fancy term for a converted garage/dumping ground), and even a shed. Each is full. Having this sort of space is a bit like having a large handbag. The bigger it is, you more you put in it.
  2. We’re hoarders. Not stacked-up-to-the-roof- can’t- walk-around- the-house hoarders, but hoarders nonetheless. Because I’m a die-hard sentimentalist and find it hard to get rid of stuff, particularly family stuff, and because we live by the ‘Justin’ rule. Just in case it comes in handy one day.

This is not ideal behaviour

It seems, though, this proclivity for housing a large and eclectic array of things is not the thing to do. In fact, it puts me at risk of being a social pariah. The notion of decluttering is rampant, with a whole social movement out there promulgating its joys and merits and dedicated to helping others ‘cleanse’ and simplify their lives. Articles, books, TV shows, consultants, YouTube clips and workshops.

It will free your mind, change your life, make you happy, perhaps win you a Nobel prize.

A few years back, the world went mad for Marie Kondo’s book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and set off a whirlwind of global expulsion. Kondo, an organising consultant, encouraged us to put our hands on everything we own and ask ourselves if this item sparks joy or if it’s truly useful. If neither, you should thank it kindly for its past service, then send it merrily on its way. ‘Let it go, let it go.’ After the discarding, the rest is beautifully folded, rolled or hung and tucked away in visible, tidy and accessible places. At this point you will have reached declutter nirvana and your world will be transformed.

There’s also the more recent and rather grim-sounding Gentle Swedish Art of Death Cleaning theory, which basically means cleaning out your own stuff before you’re dead so others don’t have to do it, a notion put forward by a Scandinavian Octogenarian with a very practical approach to life.

Having just cleaned out my own Mum’s house, I’m the first to admit this approach has much merit. I’ve spent possibly hundreds of hours sorting, deliberating and discarding, so I know what can collect. Televisions that haven’t worked for decades, 27 pairs of tummy-sucking stockings, moth-eaten jumpers, Christmas trees that disintegrate on touch, potting mix with the texture of set concrete, by way of example. And so much more.

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This recent and still palpable experience, together with the plethora of well-meaning advice and assistance on the art and benefits of shedding, might almost be enough to have me jumping on the declutter bandwagon like an underweight Labrador throwing itself on dinner. It’s certainly had me doubting my self-worth and feeling guilty I’m badly failing this purging test, or at best destining my children to a world of woe when I kick the bucket and they have to deal with all the things.

Almost.

But not quite.

The alternative view

I am not yet prepared to shed everything in my house and in my life just so that:

  1. I can be exceptionally neat and minimalist and
  2. my house can look like it’s on display for a weekend real estate open house.

That’s because:

  1. I’m not, and
  2. I’m not selling. Not for at least another 20 years at least.

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This is beautiful, but unattainable for me. Surely no one actually lives here? What do they do all day?

I know, I know, one day I’ll downsize and the shedding process will be an ordeal, especially for the children who will inevitably be involved.

But the reality is, I like my shit. I love my crowded cupboards, full of stuff, and memories. I love that the kids’ puzzles, books and board games I’ve kept are getting a second life with the grandkids (actually a third at least given some of it was second hand in the first place, which is a bit confusing really.)

I love my bulging wardrobe. Mainly it’s bulging because it still houses some very old stuff which I call classics, and I’ve been amazingly consistent in my tastes for decades, so I still like it and wear it. It’s just that much of it seems to shrink a bit each year!

And I love my overspilling bookshelves, which now house my parents’ and grandparents’ books as well. There’s a lot of history there, and a hell of a lot of reading.

sign saying it's not hoarding if it's books

A little assurance

Just so you know, I’m not totally bonkers and I/we do shed where possible—donate, sell, discard, repurpose. I clean out my cupboards every so often to cull truly unneeded items, and do runs to the local Vinnies with donations. (Well, I have been known to drive around with boxes in the boot for six months before I get there, but that’s not the point.) I’ve even come up with ingenious ways to give family furniture a new life.

Finding middle ground

But now I’m taking heart from the words of declutter queen Beth at mysimplerlife.com who assures me: ‘It’s not a must-do. You only need to declutter if it feels right to you.’  Praise Lord! She tells me I don’t need to be perfect and just wants me to declutter enough so I can enjoy my home, have a nurturing space (I’m interpreting that as meaning not completely overflowing with shit), make my daily routine smoother or help me accomplish other goals.

I’ve decided on a compromise. I’m not going to rid myself of ‘all the things’ and model my home on the minimalist principles of a Buddhist monastery, because I’m not convinced some crazy purging exercise would instantly escalate my happiness index.

I see a happy medium here.

To answer Ms Kondo’s burning question, do the items in my bulging cupboards bring me joy? Perhaps not every single item and maybe not rapturous joy, but mostly—yes, yes, they do. Hundreds of them. We’ve become quite good friends and I’m not yet prepared to thank them and send them blithely along.

And even those things which aren’t particularly joyous or useful, maybe they will be in the future. Remember Justin? How else could you convert an old beam from a torn down garage 25 years ago into a lovingly made feature-table at your daughter’s wedding? You see what can eventuate with enough passing of time and imagination?

I’ve made a decision

So, die hard declutter fiends—stand down! I appreciate your efforts and accept that decluttering has enormous merit, but I’m going to politely desist the calls from the masses—Swedish, Japanese or otherwise— to purge my material possessions. I just don’t really want to get rid of all my stuff yet.

My house is never going to look bare, but I will put things away and strive for clear benches. And if my cupboards are organised and (relatively) tidy, I really don’t give a rats they’re full.

Pristine and sparse be gone. Homey and neat(ish) it is.

And when Miss 4 comes by and asks if we can build and fit out a cubby house, we’ll probably be able to oblige without even leaving the house.

Seven ways to get more out of your days: in retirement or not

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One of the great benefits of retirement—let’s be frank, great joys—is having more time on your hands to spend as you wish. Time: that elusive objective we aspire to when we’re madly working full time or even part time, juggling a dozen roles and responsibilities, kids, parents, dogs. Time to do all those things on the eternal to do list, or the wish list, the things you’ve dreamed of for so long.

But this (sometimes sudden) discovery of free time can be fraught. There’s so much of it, the imperative to get things done quickly, or even at all, can disappear.

‘Oh, there’s plenty of time’, you mutter quietly to yourself. ‘ I’ll do that next week, or next month…’

And suddenly the days and weeks melt away before your eyes, without even trying and with not much to show for it. Oh, if only tummy fat would act the same way.

Of course, if your aim is to do very little and just relish a different pace, make the most of it. But if you’re keen to get more productivity out of your days, here’s a few killer tips. And the interesting thing is, even if you’re crazy busy, working multiple jobs and generally being a world beater, these ideas will still maximise your time.

  1. Have a plan

Formulate some ideas about what you want to achieve in your day, preferably the night before. Make a list—on a piece of paper, in your task manager, in your head, wherever—but know what you want to get done. Include a timeframe so it doesn’t drift off to the never-never. Include at least one ‘major’ thing that will give you a sense of achievement when it’s done. Tackle the things you’re least crazy about head on and face them first up, when you’re still fresh.

  1. Have a routine

Getting into a regular pattern can help. Maybe get in some exercise early to put a spring in your step, get ‘dressed’ so you feel like you’re ready to meet the world. Doesn’t mean you have to don a ball gown. Bit of lippy puts me into an instantly different state of mind.

  1. Include exercise

A bit of physical exercise can do wonders for your mental energy, as well as the old bod. Get up and get moving, a particularly good idea on a lazy day. Even a walk around the block can be invigorating.

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  1. Allocate a time frame

Have you ever tried using a timer in your shower to encourage you to be short and sweet in there? You can use the same techniques for maximising your day. Give yourself a time limit for certain tasks, or maybe give yourself a reward. I’ll finish xyz then I’ll have a coffee. Basically playing mind games with yourself, but if it works…

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  1. Avoid distractions

Avoid the things you know waste time. Turn music on instead of the tele, put your phone away, avoid social media. Confession: I completely fail here. The first thing I do every day is look at my phone and check my online existence. Hours disappear into a mysterious abyss. I could get one of those apps that monitor how much of your time you actually spend on your phone or certain applications to shock me into a different pattern of behaviour, but I haven’t been brave enough yet. Huffington Post provided a handy list of tools to check your phone use. Will I dare?

  1. Track your time

If you’re struggling to work out where your time goes, consider keeping a quick log of how you spend your day. Pretend you’re a big shot lawyer tracking client billing hours. Of course, you’ll have no one to charge at the end of the day, but you will be a little wiser about where the time’s gone.

  1. Use your downtime

Gain extra time by a bit of multi-tasking: listen to a podcast on a long drive, ring your mum while you’re taking a walk, drink a glass of wine while you’re watching a movie. Maybe that last one doesn’t count. Remember when we were taught to do pelvic floor exercises every time you were at a traffic light? They’re still there.

To be frank, this list is a bit of instructional motivation for myself, because I fear I have absolutely mastered the art of wasting time. If there was a Nobel prize for it, I think I could possibly be up there in contention.

So I hereby humbly swear that tomorrow I will NOT check Instagram as my very first activity. Promise.

What’s on your list to get you motivated? What’s your downfall.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you manage your days.

Postscript: Day 1 after posting this – FAIL! First thing I did was go on Instagram. And I got caught because my daughter saw it. Try harder tomorrow!! Ughhh

Luck and gratitude, and a brand new baby girl

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Only minutes in this world:  Photo: Mel Hill

Just days ago, at about the exact time Australia welcomed its 25th million citizen, a new baby was born into our tribe – another strong, beautiful granddaughter for us. And as I hold this brand new bundle, only hours in this world, I ponder the notions of luck and gratitude.

I’m not going to tell you that this is the most beautiful child ever born to mankind, though of course we think she’s right up there, but I will tell that already this child is incredibly fortunate and in many ways already way ahead of the pack.

She is undoubtedly incredibly lucky.

Sometimes I’m a bit sensitive to comments about luck. It’s easy to dismiss someone’s hard work or even lifelong efforts as being due to this luck, this notion of random fortune that falls out of the sky to clonk you on the head.

– You’re so lucky to have a nice house.

– You’re so lucky to be able to retire early.

– You’re so lucky you get on well with your family.

As if these things land in laps with no thought or effort involved on the part of the recipient. The reality is there’s often a large difference between luck and making our own successes in this world.

But there are indeed many things that just come down to the cards we’re dealt with. Just pure bloody luck.

Take this little babe, for instance. Already, she’s experienced great fortune that many will never have.

First up, she’s lucky to have been born in Australia, this big, bold, beautiful country where we have a democratic government (shortcomings and short-sightedness notwithstanding), and a way of living that provides education, health care, freedom of speech and opportunity for the vast majority. Many other countries have that too, of course, but millions are born into places where abject poverty, perpetual violence or warfare is the norm, and where medicine, education and even food are not available. For millions, even progressing beyond birth or childhood is a challenge. Many don’t make it.

She’s lucky to have been born in an era when medicine and technology allow us control or at least provide ammunition against illnesses, and where we have the longest longevities ever experienced, where women are valued more highly than they have been in the past and have a world of opportunity before them, and when we have more peace in our world than we’ve had previously, though it often doesn’t feel like it.

She’s lucky to have been born into a caring and competent family, who can provide for her, who value education and who will encourage creativity, teach her resilience, and who don’t have to struggle with addiction, mental or other illness.

I’m reminded that as I hold my granddaughter, I’m lucky too. There are friends who are no longer here to meet their grandkids, those who never got to have kids when they would have liked to, or those who lost children or grandchildren along the way in one way or another.

Blessed.

I wonder what this tiny girl might become and what lies ahead for her in life. How much luck will she encounter and how much luck she will make for herself?

Whatever the future, she’s already off to a rollicking good start.

It is the best of times.

 

 

The Judas Kiss, Canberra Theatre – and remnants of our lives on stage

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At a night at the theatre in Canberra, watching The Judas Kiss, I am dipped into the past—in a couple of ways.

We are here to see The Judas Kiss, part of the story of Oscar Wilde, the great Irish literary icon from ages past. Written by David Hare, the play was originally performed in London in 1998. Here it is given new life by Mockingbird Theatrics, a Melbourne theatre company beginning life again in Canberra—and it’s a rather good beginning.

Set in two parts, the play is about Wilde’s life, and as history has shown, its demise. I’ve long been intrigued  how this once-lauded poet, playwright and novelist, and great wit, seemingly allowed himself to fall into destitution, so was interested to learn more. This was a man who was convinced,  at the prime of his career, to sue his young lover’s father—of considerable social standing—for libel, after he accused him of sodomy. Given that they were in fact (male) lovers, and that he had a number of other rattly skeletons in his closet, one would have thought that action a little foolhardy. Unsurprisingly, in the last few years of the 1800s, the suit failed and Wilde was indicted for gross indecency.

This brings us to the setting of the first act of the play, where Wilde must decide to flee from England (with the tacit agreement of the authorities), or stay put and fight. If you know your history, you’ll know which way he chooses.

Chris Baldock, an actor of substantial pedigree who has played the role previously, is a powerful and mesmerising presence on stage. He shines as Wilde, and brings great depth and nuance to the role. He vacillates between being upstanding, flamboyant, sentimental, naively love struck and defeated, and we swing along with him. He stands out among a strong cast of local actors, who breathe authenticity into their roles. Liam Jackson, as young Lord Alfred Douglas, Bosie to his friends, is believable and plays his role—self-serving, petulant, and shallow— with confidence. The other cast members are also committed to their roles and convincing in their portrayals, notably the serious but caring Robbie Ross (Patrick Galen-Mules). In some cases maintaining such confidence must surely be challenging when totally naked.

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Photo: Mockingbird Theatre

This production is directed by long time actress now director Karina Hudson, in her new role as co-artistic director of Mockingbird Theatre. It is a play heavy with dialogue and with little onstage action, so the pacing and character development are all important and pass the test. The staging is simple but effective. A stage swathed in calico and dotted with period pieces in the first act depicts a rather lovely hotel room, transformed in the second where it becomes spare and decrepit, echoing the fate of Wilde himself.

It’s an auspicious and strong beginning for Mockingbird Theatre, and it’s worth a trip to the Courtyard Studio to see the play.

But there’s more to this production than the production itself—at least to me.

Up there on stage is a piece of furniture with which I have a great affinity. It is there to evoke the days of a grand hotel in the 1890s, but it’s actually not quite that old. I know that because it belonged to my grandparents, on my Dad’s side, so was more likely early 1900s, but very close indeed. It’s a tray mobile, perhaps of mahogany, perhaps of teak, a quaint piece from a past era, designed to sit neatly to the side but ready to be wheeled out as required, side pieces flipped up, to serve guests a wee dram or a spot of tea. It spent all of its life until the last few weeks in Newcastle where it served for decades in a room high on a hill looking out across Newcastle Harbour and watched over family adventures and the Stockton Bridge being built, and then moved to other Novocastrian locations as my parents did.

I have an affliction where I find it incredibly difficult to part with items from my past, or the past of my family. When we moved Mum out of her house recently, we rehoused much but I had trouble parting with this piece. I couldn’t fit it in my house and I knew I had to let it go, having kept too much from parents and grandparents already, so when a lovely girl from a local theatre company in Canberra needed a stage prop, I knew it was time to move it on. 

It seemed fitting that it’s now seeing life on the stage of the small and charming Courtyard Studio, the smallest of the three theatres at the Canberra Theatre Centre. The same theatre where many years ago my own daughter spent weeks of her youth treading the boards with Free Rain Theatre, first as a 10 year old ‘Scout Finch’ and then a tragic and disabled ‘Joe Egg’. My dad loved watching her perform in those plays. It seems a fitting and serendipitous way to farewell a piece of my family history, in a new role. (Although, it must be said that I don’t think he would have enjoyed those naked bodies romping around the stage. Not at all. Perhaps it’s just as well that the tray mobile was covered with a tablecloth, so it couldn’t see all that was going on around it.)

I hope that piece of furniture continues to live a useful and interesting life, and maybe one day again house a lovely set of Stuart crystal glasses and a decanter, just as it did in days gone by.

The Judas Kiss is on at the Canberra Theatre Centre until 5 August.

It’s worth catching. If you do, give a little wave to that old tray mobile at which Oscar Wilde takes his lobster lunch.  

Mamma Mia Here We Go Again: go and go again

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Have you seen the new Abba musical movie, Mamma Mia Here We Go Again?

If not, just go. It’s funny. A bit sad. It fills in some gaps, brings back our friends, and makes you feel good. And it’s full of Abba music!

Ten years after the first movie (five years in movie land), the whole cast is back and ready for another party. This edition returns the original characters (well, Donna in the guise of Meryl Streep has left the world in the movie (not really a spoiler) but gets to join the cast anyway) and in a clever prequel/sequel mix, the movie fills in the back story and also takes us forward.

We get to meet the younger versions of the ‘fathers’ and friends and understand a little more of how Donna’s original dilemma develops, as she ever-so-charmingly sleeps her way around the Greek isles as a young 20-something, clearly putting the notion of discernment and the risk of transmissible diseases aside. But she’s so gorgeous and effervescent, let’s just ignore that and go along for the ride.

In fact, the casting of the younger versions to match the original cast members is brilliant. They are all exactly as they should have been and their morphing into the older characters is entirely plausible and delightful. And with the introduction of six new main cast members, the vocal talent improves enormously and allows justice to be done to Abba’s music. Amanda Seyfried (Sophie) and Lily James (a young Donna) are particularly strong, and thankfully Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth, gorgeous as they are, have had their singing parts curtailed. Happily, SOS does not reappear to haunt us and cause the cinema-crowd to laugh out loud.

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They might be able to dance, but those old boys can’t sing

Because—don’t forget—this is an Abba movie, and it’s all about the music. A joyous parade of the songs we grew up with and loved, but might have dismissed at the time as lightweight pop tunes. The seemingly simplicity of the music belies the fact that it is in fact quite complex, grounded in folk beginnings and great musicianship, and consisting of wonderfully catchy melodies layered with rich harmonies. Try singing along to the harmonies to Abba songs, so dangerously close to the melody, without actually straying. The songs remain true to the original arrangements, under the careful watch of Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaes (watch out for their cameos) but with the added bonus of orchestration to lift them even higher, with a greater pool of vocal talent thrown in.

There are a few reviews out there (not many) bagging the movie and the lightness of the plot. Mostly they’re bemoaning the fact that Meryl Streep doesn’t get to play as major a role as she did in the first. Meryl-maniacs— move on! She’s still here and gets her own number as well (have your tissues handy), and does a pretty good job of it. But let’s be honest—the young Donna has a far superior voice and it’s good to see (and hear) the reins passed on.

Some have also described the choice of songs as second tier, given they used 22 Abba songs in the first movie. I call rubbish. There’s a string of big hit numbers, including just three from the original movie, but also the inclusion of some really beautiful heart-rending ballads, the creation of which was one of Abba’s key strengths. Some may be not as well known but they are worthy indeed, including a beautiful version of Andante Andante, into which Lily James breathes new life. You may even have a little sniffle during My Love, My Life.

There will of course also be some who just can’t cope with a movie where seemingly normal people suddenly burst into song and get on their dance moves. But just go with it, and soak up the endearing characters especially the oldies – and perhaps leave the hubbies behind. And yes, yes, yes, Cher’s role in the movie is entirely far-fetched and contrived, but who cares? She’s fabulous with a killer voice and she sings the best rendition of Fernando I’ve ever heard.

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So, you oh-too-serious-reviewers out there pining for more Meryl and pretending this is a movie as meaningful as a Shakespearean tragedy – lighten up.

Mamamia Here We Go Again is a movie to make you smile, bring back all the feels and celebrate the music of Abba. I might even have sung along out loud. (It was a big theatre and not many in it, so no one objected).

It’s a delight.

Now I’ve seen it, I might just have to ‘here we go again’.

Did you see it? What did you think?

 

Urban Providore Tasting Panel: my first bite

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I’m a bit happy to be part of Urban Providore’s Tasting Panel this year, and I’ve just been along to my first meeting.

Imagine this scenario – every month or so, I get to taste delicious foodie things, maybe drink some wine, hang out with some other Canberra foodies and a whirlwind of a business owner, and get to pass judgement – when invited. What’s not to like about that?

This little get together, now in its second year, is the brainchild of Dawn, head *providore of the Urban Providore at Fyshwick, a Canberra foodie establishment that specialises in delicious artisan and gourmet food products and accoutrements.

The idea is that we get to taste and evaluate a range of products, and have those comments passed back to the producers; perhaps meet some of them; do other food-oriented activities; and have a bit of fun at the same time. I had to do a bit of catch up with the evaluation methodology, trickier than you might think. I’m sure I’ll have it down pat soon.

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After we’d had some lessons in our perceptions of taste and the official tasting bit was done for the evening (in the case, balsamic oils), we headed out the door for an evening mystery excursion somewhere else in Fyshwick. Don’t fret – it was above board, and we ended up at the Fyshwick Markets to have a sneak peak at Dawn’s not-even-opened-yet stall in the brand new Niche Markets.

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The new little shopfront, The Canberra Regional Artisan Providore, features gorgeous food and foodie items only from artisans and producers from the Canberra region, of whom there’s a pretty good collection. It’s a tiny space, but it packs a lot in – think oils, sauces, chocolate, honey, aprons and tea towels – even cookbooks featuring recipes from the Southern Highlands.

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I have to say I was pretty pleased to have my fluffy beanie and gloves with me. Having a little party in a icy warehouse during a winter evening in Canberra is somewhat brisk. Luckily we were fed yummy things (try spreading some truffle honey and ricotta on bread and top it with prosciutto) and the lovely Sarah kept up well watered (well, bubbled) with Summerhill Road’s spritzy sav blanc sparkling to celebrate the opening and take our minds off the chill.

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Many of the little stalls were shut up tight but there were a few keen workers doing some late night, last minute shop fittings or finishing touches to their stall before opening, and we got to peek in a few sites and meet a few people. Will save details for next time.

And how lucky for me – it’s all just down the road.

More news soon.

Disclosure: I’ve actually spent way too long trying to work out the difference between providore and provedore, and whether a providore can be a person selling/providore the provisions, or just the establishment, whether one is American spelling and the other English, or whether the spelling is just optional. Can anyone enlighten me definitively? I need to know! My spell checker doesn’t like the ‘i’ spelling.)

* Providore/provedore: A person or business which provides stores and supplies to ship, such as food and beverages. (Wiktionary)

Yes, welcome to my world – where everything takes sooooooo long.

 

Open letter to Kristen Henry, bride to be: listen to your Mum

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Dear Kristen

I’m not an early morning person, so it’s rare I have the radio on when you’re on. But this morning as I was out trying to catch the beauty of a crisp Canberra winter, I caught a snippet of you on air discussing the anguish of your wedding dress shopping, and the advice offered by your Mum. A serendipitous moment perhaps.

I know, I know, I’m a random stranger and why the hell do I think I should give you advice? But I feel I have to add my two cents’ worth.

Listen to your mum, Kristen. Mums are so often right, and I’m with her on this one.

I understand that finding the elusive ‘perfect’ wedding dress can be fraught—frustrating, confusing, and sometimes stressful. But should you rope your fiance into the decision-making process, to make your shopping experience easier and fill you with confidence you’re picking the right one, at the expense of ruining the surprise?

I get why your Mum might be disappointed if you do involve Iain, even a bit angry. I’m projecting, but maybe she’d be mainly just sad. That you’d be taking away a special moment from your hubbie-to-be—that spectacular heart-rending moment when he gets to see his future wife in front of him in her full glory, and be surprised and taken aback at the sight. It’s a special moment indeed.

Let me tell you a story.

Many moons ago as my husband spoke at our wedding, he relayed the story of my father describing the moment he set eyes on his first grandchild. Dad, a religious man, said at that moment he couldn’t understand how anyone could not believe in a God, who had created such amazing beauty. My husband, who’s not a religious man, then told our wedding guests that when he first saw me walking down the aisle towards him, his breath was taken away and he felt the exact same thing. And we cried.

Fast forward 24 years and my eldest daughter got married. On her wedding day, after the months of preparations and the ministrations of the day, finally she was dressed and ready, and she was stunning. We called in her father to see the final result, and as he walked into the room and took sight of her, he almost took a step back. I guess that’s what ‘taken aback’ means. We were all a bit teary. It could be that we’re all just die-hard sooks, but I think it’s a special moment indeed. (Did I say that before?)

My husband spoke that night at the reception. He relayed the same story again, and my old Dad’s eyes lit up in recognition and memory as he listened. And we cried, again. Entire tables of us.

(When I later saw the photo that captured my Dad’s face at just that second, I knew it was destined to go on the cover of his funeral brochure, whenever that may be. Because it captured him and what was important to him, and to us: love and family. Sadly, it was only a few years later that the photo appeared on that brochure.)

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More years later, and we did the whole wedding thing again with daughter number two, and again the ‘first glimpse’ to Dad at home brought tears to our eyes.

I’ve witnessed my husband see both his daughters revealed to him in their bridal glory, after months of preparation he wasn’t always privy to, and perhaps more importantly I’ve watched my two son-in-laws see their brides ‘revealed’, and seen their joy at that first glimpse—so proud, so in love. It’s a wow moment.

But Kristen—don’t stress. Don’t panic about finding THE perfect wedding dress, and don’t expect to burst into tears the second you put it. That mightn’t happen. Doesn’t matter. Because in reality, there will be dozens of dresses that will be beautiful for you, because there are so many damn gorgeous dresses. And whatever dress you end up choosing, of course Iain will love it, because you know him, and most importantly, you’ll be in it. He’s your biggest fan after all.

No doubt you will look stunning, because you’re beautiful, and you’ll be radiating with happiness from the inside. That’s a killer combination.

And listen to your Mum. Don’t underestimate the ability of mothers to be right. My grown and now eminently sensible daughters now totally get that, and heed my freely proffered pearls of wisdom: like never run with scissors; if it’s not important in five years it’s not important; and never take a sleeping tablet and a laxative at the same time. Sometimes Mums just know stuff.

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Don’t make your fiance go wedding dress shopping with you and lose the chance of the magic moment of the bride-reveal. It’s a gift he’ll remember forever.

And you never know—it may be a moment that gets passed on through generations and family lore.

Love from a Mum

PS If you’re really desperate and need shopping support, I’m available—and I have excellent taste.

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Photos: @MelHillPhotography; Steven Murray