Wednesday, 20 July 2016
At the end of June our beautiful girl set off for to see the world on her big Gap Year trip. It was exciting but just a little nerve wracking watching her go. She and her friends have been planning this trip for ever though and I'm so proud of them for saving up and doing it!
She's off for five months around Asia and Europe. We'll miss her but already its fun sharing her travels vicariously through stories and photos.
Luckily, as a distraction, we'd booked a week in Tasmania for the school holidays and on Monday last week my three boys and I packed our own bags and headed for the airport!
None of us has been to Tassie before and I planned our itinerary to see as much as we could in the six days which meant lots of driving round the place at the start of the week.
We landed in Hobart on Monday, staying right on Constitution Dock.
A big icebreaker ship, the Aurora Australis sits right at the Dock. This is the ship that transports people and supplies to Antarctica, and there's something very romantic about having a bright orange icebreaker parked outside your hotel! On our walk around the area we filled up on local scallops and chips then visited the replica of Mawson's Hut.
It was raining when we arrived and a planned trip up Mount Wellington was thwarted by ice on the road. Hobart sits below this cloud capped mountain with a huge river harbour flowing down the middle. Its a beautiful city.
The next morning we woke to more rain but managed to beat the clouds by heading north and east towards the coast. By the time we reached Spiky Beach and Spiky Bridge blue skies had opened up, and we were blessed by great weather from then on through the week.
We headed back in from the coast and arrived in Launceston that afternoon. The city is sited on a big hill overlooking a wetland river, the grand Tamar. Tasmania is an island of majestic lakes and rivers, huge rocky crags and rolling green hills. Its really beautiful and perfect for a roadtrip in that the distances between places are relatively close.
Day three we visited Cradle Mountain. The two plus hour drive from Launceston is jaw dropping and passes through some beautiful green country overlooked by craggy mountain ranges. At Cradle Mountain we did a two hour bush walk around Dove Lake, time to take in this most beautiful landscape.
Back in Launceston we had enough just enough energy for a gourmet burger from Burger Junkie food truck. Highly recommended.
Day four we drove the Tamar Valley up as far as Bass Strait. At Beauty Point we did a guided tour at Seahorse World and held some seahorses in our hand. It was great. On the drive back down south was one of the highlights of the trip for me - visiting a valley where my ancestors lived in the 1800s.
How amazing to find the beautiful weatherboard church and stand beside my great great great aunties' Margaret and Alice's graves. They came out with their mother and sister, my great great grandmother from Ireland in 1848, to be reunited with their father, transported eight years earlier.
They went on to become respected pioneers in this idyllic rural valley... but more of that another time, I think it deserves its own post.
Back in Hobart we made another attempt at the peak of Mount Wellington. This time the road was open but the top was fogged in! Next time I come to Tasmania, and there will be a next time, I hope to see the view from up here. I bet its spectacular!
Day five was our trip to MONA. For readers who don't know about MONA it is the celebrated private gallery of Old and New Art on the banks of the Derwent, a great drawcard for the city and something everyone had recommended to us. If you get a chance, do go. It was the gallery space that really amazed me. Carved from rock the galleries take you down into the centre of a hill into the most magical reality. I need some more time here next visit too. It is a testament to its popularity that we ran into neighbours of ours on the MONA ferry and friends from Sydney who'd flown down for a weekend in the first gallery!
Day six, the day we left, we headed south to Port Arthur. On the way we dropped in to Unzoo and saw them feed the Tassie Devils, and Spotted Quolls. We patted kangaroos and fed Green Rosellas and walked down to the water to look across to Flinders Bay the site of the now disappeared Flinders Bay Probation Station where my ancestor Richard Clancy spent his sentence cutting wood.
Port Arthur is a major site of Tasmania's Penal program, but also the site of a modern day massacre which changed the course of Australian gun laws. It is a deeply resonant site, but to me the positive spirits have the stronger voice.
After Port Arthur we headed for the airport, tired but happy, dropping on Doo Town and its blowhole on the way. We flew out of Hobart late arriving home tired but happy, to the familiar lights of Sydney.
We loved Tasmania, it was great to go somewhere where we didn't know what to expect, to a most beautiful natural landscapes, this island with the purest air in the world and new and interesting birds and animals is a great family adventure, and we will definitely be going back, there is still so much to see.
Tuesday, 24 May 2016
My blog voice is rusty.
I have been back to this space many times, trying to craft a post, to get the machinery moving again. But the longer you stop the harder it is to start again.
So please accept this photo heavy post about the part of my creative life that is getting the most attention and taking the most of my time - Ceramics.
I want to document this part of the journey before I travel on further. You can see how I ended up here by using the #clay tag which I've added to all my ceramics posts.
Its all about clay at the moment, which you will know if you follow my instagram @flowerpress, or definitely if you've seen my new clay themed account @flowerpressclay!
There is something about the meditation of throwing in particular, the slow journey to improve at this very difficult skill that is consuming all my creative brain.
And it can't be rushed, so I'm learning patience along with my practice.
After a few weekends at the wheel I have a big batch of thrown pots now sitting waiting for decoration and to be fired. But this post records some of the pots I've made so far this year, before I rush off to that next batch.
As you can see I've tackled handles, and found them not quite as scary as I thought. There's something wonderful about the shapes they make and the magic of their strength.
I've also experimented with different styles of decoration too, wax resist, mishima, crackle glaze, underglaze and pooling glaze.
I promise another blogging in the not too distant future.
Tuesday, 1 March 2016
Around here we love dips, we have lots of favourites which we eat with crudites, crackers and corn chips. We spread them on toast and sandwiches and add them to meals.
So the small store bought tubs don't last long and when we're entertaining they go even quicker.
All of which led me to experiment with making my own. And as I've found its quick, easy and cheap. I've been really delighted with how fast and unfussy they are to make so I thought I'd share.
I'm starting with the one I've been making most, and where the recipe I've been using seems pretty failsafe. I must have made it ten times in the last six months.
Baba ganoush is smoky eggplant in a tahini base with a squeeze of lemon to give it zing and a slight garlic tang. This is one of those home made dips that is better made than bought. And its lightning fast when you're up to speed.
1 medium to large eggplant
1/4 cup tahini (abt 1 and half dessert spoons)
juice of 1/2 lemon (just less than 1/4 cup)
One garlic clove crushed or fine sliced
Cook eggplant over a flame till skin burns and goes black. I have a gas burner and I sit the eggplant on the hotplate, over the naked flame, turning it until all the skin is blackened. When grilling like this I've learnt not to use half measures. A really blackenend burnt skin makes it much easier to peel and gives a better flavour.
It can be messy on the hotplate as the juices run out but its easily cleaned.
For those of you without gas ranges, I had a look online, and it seems cutting the eggplant in half and grilling (broiling) it in the oven is the way to go. Place the eggplant on a baking tray with skin side up and cook till blackened.
Leave it to sit until cool and then peel off the skin. If you've really blackened it it should come away easily. I cut away the stringy bit from the stem down about an inch and discard that too.
Once you have your eggplant flesh add it to the food processor and give it a quick blitz, then add tahini, lemon and garlic and process. It doesn't take too long and I like to leave a bit of texture.
You could tweak the lemon or tahini at this stage depending on taste.
Turn out into a bowl and eat, or chill it a bit first. Yum!
The garlic and other flavours develop over time.
Lucky for me my eggplants have started bearing these beautiful purple fruits so I will be able to trial home grown homemade baba ganoush. And as you know that's the sort of thing that makes me very happy.