Slow Cooker Congee with friends

congee

Just back from another lovely craft weekend.  A weekend full of making and chilling and eating.  Fun.  Always, always fun.

And one of the nicest things about these weekends is the pleasure of being fed, and being able to prepare just one meal, and being able to take the time to make sure it’s a special one.  This weekend I was on brunch with the lovely Alison and we made Congee, a delicious chinese rice porridge, which is usually savoury, but could be sweet too.

Congee is such a flexible dish, you can make it sweet or savoury – adding to the basic recipe for the last few hours of cooking to create a base, to which garnishes can be added.  So great when you can put it all on the table and people can customise their own dish, and amazing to take to work the next day as a lunch.  It’s also a great way to feed a crowd. We served it up with dumplings on the table, and plates full of tofu, seaweed, enoki mushrooms, chilli, soy and spring onion.   

Slow Cooker Congee

This recipe is probably enough for 6-8.  I made 1.5 quantity to feed 12 people. 

Basic congee:

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup shortgrain rice
  • ½ cup of sweet rice (available from Asian supermarkets & best for congee)
  • 10 cups of water (10 cups of stock if savoury)

Method

Set cooking level to low – and cook overnight – 8-10 hours (can go longer if you like). You can make sweet or savoury congee by adding to this basic mix. 

For savoury congee, add stock instead of water.  Most recipes use stock powder added to the water for cooking. Then you flavour the basic congee however you like. I added a pork slow cooked casserole, which I just made up:

Asian pork

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion
  • 1kg pork scotch fillet
  • Punnet of shitake mushrooms
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • ½ cup chinese cooking wine
  • 1 Small chilli (optional)
  • Oil or fat to brown.
  • Ground pepper & 1 tsp salt

Method

Cook onion in oil or fat until translucent, add chopped pork and brown.  Add the rest of the ingredients and cook on low 140ish for a few hours or until meat is falling apart.  Keep in fridge until ready to use.

Pork congee:

When rice is cooked, add pork and stir through – you can leave it to cook for another hour to throroughly warm, or warm it up before adding and stir through.

Add spring onions, white pepper, and soy to taste.

Garnish each bowl, or leave them on the table for people to make their own:

  • Enoki Mushrooms
  • Tofu
  • Spring Onion
  • Chilli
  • Boiled Eggs
  • Asian pickles

Canterbury Art Show

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It’s the opening of the Canterbury Art Show tomorrow night – and I’ll have 7 works in it.  Astonishingly this will be my 8th year!

This was one of the first shows I was even involved in, and it remains close to my heart.  So many of the local artists I strongly admired at the time were involved and it was with my heart in my mouth that I delivered my works that first year.  What a thrill to have sold some, to have been invited back, to have been invited back each year.

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My work has changed so much in those 8 years.  My name has changed too.  But for me, looking back at past works reveals a journey of joy, discovery and optimism.  Some of those works represent difficult times.  Some pure wonder at the world and everything in it.  Some the marks of a woman drowning. All of it made with love for the medium and the joy of being able to put something down in a concrete form and see it external.  I’m lucky.  I know not everyone has that privilege.  I lost it for a bit.  I know how precious it is to have that freedom.

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In approaching works for this year I stalled.  I stalled for the longest time, because my time for painting has become limited, and in some crazy way the limiting had made every session a bit too precious to be easy.  

And it used to be so easy!  Fling my arms around with abandon and make marks – throw the canvas, grab another.  Angry – put it down.  Happy – put it down.  Filling in time while a baby sleeps – put lots down.  I used to experiment a lot.  I used to scratch paint off, layer and layer, and play.

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Needing to be strategic didn’t work for me.  It got too tight and nothing moved.  I wasted so much time.  After wasting hours on a painting that wasn’t working I wiped it all off and started again. Image

I grabbed the sander and took off the carefully applied landscape that was nicely rendered but uninspiring.  Taking back a sliver at a time.  UNPAINTING.  Brilliant fun.

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I played with surface, with tools, with technique, with subject matter.

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I abandoned where I felt I was moving as an artist in developing themes and threw it all out the studio door for a time.

It was SO fun.  And I stepped back at the end of it.  Where one gets to the point end of hanging on D-rings, and wires, and labels, and loading them into the car, and I thought – what a joyful collection!  It’s a collection.  Not a series, but these are works to make happy corners in homes, and that’s what this show is all about.  

And along the way I discovered some old ways of working I had forgotten and some new ones I can’t wait to explore more.

So if you feel like visiting – it’s on this weekend – 2nd to the 4th of May at Canterbury.  Details (and links to my works here).

 

 

Trash and Treasure

Our house is always evolving.

Paintings go up and come down at regular intervals.  Cushions rotate. Furniture rotates. It’s fun.  

I thought I might share some recent finds!

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A mid-century cocktail cabinet – that opens up to reveal a mirrored bar.  I love the long proportions of this.  It was a bargain and scored from here.  

The Lowen SC55 was bought on ebay last year and restored by my lovely man.  Upholstery by Ellie.  Eliie is awesome.

The footstool a lucky market find!

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Our Hall cabinet was another lucky market find from here.  And the mirror was from a job lot auctioned on ebay.  Damn I love that mirror.  It’s HUGE and opens up the small space between the stairs and the bathroom beautifully.  Read the story behind the Munch print here. Perhaps I forgot to mention that I stole it from a Tram.  Lets keep that to ourselves eh.

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Our dining room (almost never used for dining).  Parker chairs picked up from here.  Table another find from Ellie, and the chaise is a family heirloom brought back from the UK by my grandparents.  It sat in their bar room and I remember swinging my legs on it as a kid and being told to be careful not to spill my drink.  My mum gave it to me a few years ago and we recently had it recovered.  It’s special!  Side table from here, and cushions made mostly by me.

It’s a moveable feast – all of it.  And none of it cost very much.  The nicest part of it is knowing when you find a bargain its because it hasn’t been valued, and that it was meant to come to you for oiling, and loving and long lingering looks.  So addictive the hunt!

Coooeee!

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I was with some friends a few months back, chatting about stuff, and one lovely said ‘nobody blogs anymore do they?’, and I thought; I do!- but it actually appears that I don’t!

It’s been several months since I was here, so that hardly counts does it…

There have been times – mostly when my smallest was youngest, that I felt a great need to put my thoughts, pictures and experiences on the web. To diarise. To make them feel real. To explore my art and journey was a luxury I have to be strategic about the days.

Life is very real with older kids.  All good, but much less time for thinking about the space between life.  The spaces are filled. There is less time for thinking, or should I say, that the thoughts are less abstract and more structured around feeding, organising, worrying, counselling and planning, than on how to get through just the day itself and sink into the studio and my own head.

But I have done quite a lot of sewing that has so effortlessly slipped into my wardrobe that it feels dishonest to talk about it.  Isn’t that strange!

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Two Macey Tilton V8982 Jackets – one in Stainless Steel, the other a lightweight stretch cotton. What a great and super easy pattern!  I did put two back darts in to reduce the boxyness on my sway back, and I love, love love them.  One in leather would be killer.

More than one Scout Grainline Tiny Pocket Tank, that is possibly the best fitting shell I (I have ever known).  I’m planning on making many more of those, but have no photograph to show of my muslin.  It’s the perfect shape for a summer day work top that isn’t too boring, or revealing, while keeping you cool.  The other super great pattern that has been tried was the Deer & Doe Plaintain Tee. So well fitting it has been in regular effortless rotation and never photographed – but trust me, it’s a beauty!

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We are still rescuing furniture.  This one, from a garage sale, has been sanded and reupholstered and is a joy.  It seems every time we decide that’s it – we need nothing more, something else appears and then we start all over again.  Gosh it’s fun.

The garden, however has been sadly neglected.  Coming back from Switzerland last year to a few weeks of growth was quite a shock, and I can’t seem to quite get on top of it.  Grass has sprouted between every paver, and I spent the weekend pulling them up and digging out roots that were speeding towards beds.  I fear we shall have to redo them and concrete underneath.  Which is what we should have done in the first place, I know, but…

The summer harvest came and went, and we have loads of butternut pumpkins, limes bursting off the tree (our first crop!), and herbs aplenty.  The zucchini grew,and for the most part were not harvested but fed to the chooks (oh the shame).

But we did get a carrot a few weeks back that made us laugh (insert parental advisory warning here)

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Which was good for a laugh if nothing else.  Those seeds were planted 2 years ago.  This is the first we’ve seen of them.  She’s got a good sense of humour that mother nature.

 

Salad Days

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Quinoa, edamame & roast pumpkin salad

I have become obsessed with salads of the unleafy kind lately.   Particularly mixed with grains – Freekeh & Quinoa have become a weekly treat.  And what a TREAT!  Tasty, good for you superfoods that have gorgeous texture and play nicely with a wide range of flavours.

Freekeh is made from roasted green grains – which could be wheat but can be other grains too.  The texture is somewhere between rice & barley, and it is cooked prior to using by boiling in water.  Boiling in stock adds another dimension to your dish.  We have had it hot, and cold, and I love it in a salad with cooked onions, slowcooked lamb, pomegranate molasses, spinach leaves and pine-nuts. Squeeze a lemon over & add chilli salt as desired.

I just can’t get enough of Quinoa either.

Quinoa, Edamame & Roast Pumpkin Salad (serves 3)

  • 1 cup Quinoa + water as recipe packet specifies
  • 1/2 cup (or more) shelled Edamame Beans (available frozen from asian supermarkets)
  • 1/4 butternut pumpkin – diced and roasted in Olive oil
  • Handful toasted pine nuts
  • 2 (or more) large tomatoes diced.
  • 1 spring onion chopped into small slices
  • handful of flay leaf parsely chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • splash of olive oil
  • Chilli salt
  • Ground Black Pepper

Cook 1 cup of Quinoa (yields about 2.5 cups) according to the directions on the packet and leave to cool.

Add shelled Edamame Beans to the cooling quinoa and leave until lukewarm.

Add tomatoes, roasted pumpkin, pinenuts, spring onion & parsely & toss.

Add lemon juice, olive oil, salt & pepper to taste & toss.

Serve with some kind of grilled or roasted meat, or on it’s own as a vegetarian meal.  Would also be great with crumbled fetta or goats cheese tossed through.

Are we there yet?

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The view from my studio yesterday as it poured outside.  Bliss.  Tin Roof, Tom Waits, and excellent company.

I’m not the kind of girl who usually starts the year with resolutions.  Sometimes I’m halfway through the year and still writing the wrong year.  It’s just another day y’know. The days go so fast.  They really do.  Especially when you watch TV. I watch TV,.  There isn’t even anything good on…

This year feels different though, and there’s been quite a lot of ‘aha!’ thinking that has crept up on me in the last weeks and pushed me to some important crossroads that I hope are pointers to the kind of year this is going to be for me.  I need to be strong.  I need to put myself first a bit more.  I need to stop defining myself by what I do in a practical sense, and move forward a bit more.

There have been so many resolves in the last year – to spend an hour a night being creative.  To make more, to sit less, to eat less, to talk more, to have my website clean and functional.  FAIL.  On all fronts.  Enormous fails.  There has been wallowing. Helplessness. Guilt.

And yet it was a great year.  My kids are thriving, we have done some amazing things and had some truly wonderful experiences, but in many ways I have been rudderless.  Stressed by big decisions to be made, and how those decisions might ripple outwards. Anxious about not being able to give more to communities I belong to.  Wailing at the absence of any sort of muse.  It has been a year devoid of art which has been an experiment of sorts (unsought).

It’s been a year of watching.  Of grief (mine and others).  Of enabling others freedoms.  Quite a lot of it spent in some sort of suspended readiness with no firm plans.  I’d say it sounds like a lazy year but nothing could be further from the truth.  I’m glad to see the end of 2013 to be honest. A lot of it was not fun.  

A lot of it was very stressful.

In thinking lately about what gives me joy, apart from the love of my wonderful husband and kids, it’s those moments of freedom that are usually found when knee deep in an inspiring project of the creative kind.  Pushing through the frustrations of discovery to find new skills and techniques.  Watching how the tiniest dab of crimson can pop next to khaki in a section of a canvas and push things off in a different direction, and having the freedom to pursue that guilt free. Looking at the world with an artist’s eye again and seeing inspiration in the world to keep me hungry.  And I am SO hungry to be in the studio.  It’s having things ready to go; idea; materials; time; deadline.

2014 will see me pursuing structure more – making order on Saturdays to free me for painting or inspiration on Sundays.  Scheduling deadlines and being more disciplined.  Not giving in self-imposed guilt.  Re-claiming the ‘exhibiting artist’ status because it is true.  Charging others in my house with responsibilities instead of feeling like I should be doing it all.  Waving off complaints instead of giving them weight.  Getting OUT there again.  And so far – it’s been good.  A good 3 days studio time in the past week, and something decent to show for it, apart from the smile on my face & the glint in my eye that means I am working again at something wonderful and feeling good about it.  2014 is going to be GREAT.  

I am making it so.   

whooosh!

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It’s Christmas.  Again!

I love Christmas, always have, but these days the man and I agree it’s the delicious rush leading up to the big day that brings the most enjoyment.  The day itself is ace – but bittersweet too, because, in increments it is over quickly and gone.

Don’t get me wrong – I panic in the leadup trying to think of presents, getting presents, wrapping presents, making presents, sending presents, eating presents… BUT, the carols, watching decorations going up in the streets, oddly fascinating tours of electric decorations draped over neighbourhood houses, the making of christmas food while listening to cheesy music (Arcade Fire Anyone?)and general excitement are FUN.

Hope you are enjoying your leadup too, and that the sun is warming your back.

 

multitude

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Some ideas are like moths – fluttering at the brightest light they can find.  Chasing it even though it means it will break them and damage their tender wings.  Can’t be helped.  Must be done. Forget the cost.

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Some require you to bury yourself deep.  Working away quietly until that need abates and you emerge feeling satiated and industrious and thrilled at a job well done (even if nobody else notices).  Sorry – lunch? See what you can find in the cupboard, I need to keep going here.

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Some, by the simple fact of being YOUR idea, mean that the execution is yours alone.  From start to finish, and that’s what makes it special, and has the double gift of bringing you knowledge and bringing something unique into the world.  It’s a gift, and a responsibility, and a pleasure, and a burden.  And a JOY.  Blessed are the self-obsessed (wish I could go that deep without guilt).

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Some ideas are incessant.  Nag, nag, nag.  You can’t quite get to them, but they are there gnawing away at you at regular intervals.  Quiet for a month, noisy for weeks, forgotten for a day, back the next twice as loud.  I have had some going on for YEARS now.

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And then there are the bees, requiring constant industry to keep everything running smoothly, drowning out the noise of the ideas and gently draining the energy levels in keeping the hive active.  Fed.  Clean. Uncomplaining. Don’t get me wrong.  I like chanelling the bees and knowing that I am contributing to a happy home, but sometimes, I’d like to take off my striped jumper for a bit and indulge in one of my other multitudes.

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The problem is, like so many other creative people I have multitudes.  Today I read that’s like having 35 windows open in your browser.  I think that’s certainly true some days.

As Confucius says – he who chases two rabbits, captures none.  What if you have 6 rabbits?  And a job?  And an art practice that needs attention?

How do you figure out which rabbit is going to be the best one?  How do you figure out whether any of the rabbits is worth chasing at all?  Or whether bee keeping is enough in itself?

Let me know if you figure it out eh!

 

 

 

Shaksuka to share

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shaksouka

I’m back from another wonderful craft camp at Sewjourn.  Time to sew and chat, and share meals with a most fabulous bunch of ladies.  This time was difficult for me – I seem to be in the middle of a wardrobe crises – probably brought on by a combination of prolonged jetlag, change of seasons and return from a conservative country.  I forgot all my long learned lessons about what works for my body shape and tried all sorts of things that were never going to work.  Frustrating.  All my own fault.  I still made some good things, including a Cabarita Tee which I love, and some Noodlehead pouches – one of those beautifully and thoughtfully designed constructions that take a bit to wrap your mind around and then you are never the same again.  Brilliant.  I still don’t know how it works….

As a result of sewing malaise & frustrations the food was my highlight.  Everyone cooks (or shares the cooking) of a meal – which gives you the time to thoughtfully plan and prepare a meal for nine friends that will sustain the heart & soul.  It is such a pleasure to sit down, take a break and chat without the noise of sewing machines.  We had some truly spectacular meals, and it’s one of the major joys of craft camp for me.  Suzie suggested we share some recipes, so here’s what I cooked for Sunday Brunch:

Shakshuka (Serves 2-4) as brunch, though in feeding nine I multiplied by 5 and made enough for 10 (or 20).

Ingredients

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp coriander seeds, ground
2 tsp cumin, ground
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric, ground
2 x 400g tins of tomatoes (diced)
4 tbsp tomato paste
4 tsp honey
2 bay leaves
4-6 free range eggs (allow 2 per person)
Additional salt to taste

Method

Sauce (prepare the night before to allow the flavours to deepen)

  1. Saute the onions in a large, deep saucepan with the olive oil over low-medium heat until translucent.
  2. Add minced garlic and ground spices and saute for another minute or so until they become aromatic.
  3. Add the tomato paste and fry until it thickens and colours slightly.
  4. Stir in tinned tomatoes, honey and bay leaves.
  5. Turn the heat up to medium-high until sauce starts to boil and then lower to a simmer.
  6. Finish with additional seasoning to taste if required then turn off the heat and allow to cool.

Shakshuka

  1. Warm up the sauce and put it into a wide, shallow skillet or frying pan (I had a huge quantity, and used two large deep roasting pans instead).
  2. With the back of a large tablespoon, make an indentation for each egg into the sauce, allowing for enough room so the eggs won’t spill over into each other.
  3. Turn the heat on to medium-high and bring the sauce to the boil (we used roasting pans instead)
  4. As soon as the sauce reaches a boil, turn down the heat to a simmer, cover the frying pan with a lid (or cling wrap/foil if you don’t have one) to retain heat and help cook the eggs more evenly.
  5. Cook for around 5-10 mins, depending on whether you prefer your yolks runny or hard. Make sure to keep an eye on the eggs and check in on them every minute or so to see if they’re done so they don’t overcook.    Our eggs went into a highly unpredictable oven – what should have taken 15 minutes took 25 to start cooking, then 5 minutes to cook, resulting in hard cooked eggs which should have been runny in the middle.  Dang.

Serve an egg (or 2) in a generous amount of sauce with a couple of slices of toasted sour dough bread. If cooking in a small container add some goats cheese or fetta & some cooked chorizo).  Finish with a drizzle of some good extra virgin olive oil.

return

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flight to zurich

The view from Lindenhof

When life presents you with an escape, particularly a temporary one, no matter the adventure, I think one should always say YES.  Grab it with both hands and then think about the logistics later.

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So, when the beloved husband being his super-creative self, was offered the chance to work for his head office in Switzerland, we got very excited and started planning an adventure.  Zurich!  On our own!

An adventure I benefited from with the freedom to explore, while he slaved away, but an adventure noneless, in beautiful Switzerland.

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It’s not often one gets the opportunity to explore a city quietly, sans children for 2 weeks, following ones nose, and just seeing where laneways and twists might end up.

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I kept a diary of sorts for the kids to read through, full of strange things we had seen – like a busker in Berne with an act that consisted of hiding under spangled fabric with a stick poking through a hole in the middle.  The stick had a puppet head (if you could call it that) that opened and closed its mouth making a snapping noise.  That was it.  It went in the book. We paid him/her for bravery.

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Flamingos at the Zurich Zoo -they come from a cold climate.  Incongruous nonetheless.

I went to the Zurich Zoo, a day trip on my own that was wonderful, and confronting.  There was a fabulous Masoala rainforest dome that was hot and humid – while it was cccold outside. Awesome.  The hippo enclosure was so inadequate it brought me to tears.  Ditto the gorillas.

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Grounds of the Reitberg Museum

The Reitberg was a fabulous experience.  Not so much for the exhibitions – though they were great, but because the grounds were sensational, the buildings themselves beautiful and carefully thought out, and  everything was beautifully presented.

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Swiss Carnival Masks at the Reitberg.

By far the most emotional experience of the trip was had on the first full day, when D & I went to see an exhibitions of prints by Edvard Munch.  An artist so close to my heart for most of my life.  Retrospectives of his work are not often seen in Melbourne, and the few we have had have always been highly emotive & been highlights for me.  The first when I first moved to Melbourne on my own (back in the dark ages), the second, when Z was born and I took her in a pram and she blissfully slept as newborns do, while I wandered and sat, and breathed it all in.

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A poster for the exhibition.

This exhibition at the Kunsthaus was no exception.  Shared with my soulmate in a new country, I was so overwhelmed I had to sit often.  There were tears of joy and disbelief and it was incredibly moving. So nice to be sharing that big experience with him.

The riches of the Kunsthaus didn’t stop there – and while we avoided the very old art for the most part, there were rich seams of beautiful works at every turn.  One room casually had some Van Gogh works opposite some Monets (as you do), which brought D close to tears himself.

Works by Cy Twombly and Rothko, Giacometti, a room full of assorted surrealists.  All very surreal in itself as an experience.  I should have gone back.  I didn’t want to spoil the magic.

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We caught a train to Bern.  We should have been more informed about Bern, which became a pretty place to second-hand shop and eat lunch.

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We missed the museums and galleries that were probably there.  We didn’t know Einstein lived there.  We saw lovely rooftops and mountains.  We had some very good chocolate.

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The next day saw us on a train to Lucerne – lovely Lurcerne, which was mostly closed on a Sunday, but was perfect for wanderers looking to escape the crows and see the buildings themselves.

We took a 2.5 hour boat trip around lake Lucerne, where my camera ran out of batteries early on, so The snow tops are etched in my mind.  spec.tac.ular.

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And there were bugs.  At the strangest most dated little museum with an ancient echidna that looked like it has been stuffed with a shoe box, and a koala that was almost unrecognisable.

The bugs though, were fabulous!

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We had amazing Sunday buffet brunches at Imagine at Rail City.

Mexican in Zurich’s colourful old town section (we loved the old town with its cobbled streets and grungier feel) with too much Sangria and a chilly walk to the tram.

And italian, italian, italian.  Weirdly, we couldn’t even find any swiss food.  Italian food everywhere.  There were some great places near us in Milchbuch (the suburb we stayed in), but we just craved some Thai.  The lack of vegetables was staggering!

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It’s a conservative city.  People sit in the extremely punctual and tidy trams with their hands neatly folded in their laps.  Almost everyone is polished and tidy and the few people we saw who made fashion statements executed them deliberately, not casually.

I secretly craved some chaos, but soaked up the amazing chocolate with coffee at Globus, the perfect-every-time Bretzel Koenig, and the ease at which one could fit in.  The uniform seemed to be skinny jeans tucked into boots, with a warm jacket, and straight hair.  I was set.  I took skirts and felt like a freak, so lived in my one pair of jeans.  My boots need re-heeling,  The shopping was not inspiring but basics were readily available.  I liked it.

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I’ve been asked a lot since coming back if we would consider  moving there…

It’s shocking how comfortable one gets in life.  Living spaces are small and expensive.  Everything is expensive actually.  And on the whole people and places are not as bright as they are here.  The light is so different (Australia is blinding), and people assess you as you walk down the street – in a cold way.  It’s not aggressive, just an assessment which is probably flattering in its own weird way.  People smile a lot more in Melbourne.  We missed our home.

We missed the kids.  We missed our cat. We missed grunge & the rich design scene.

But I think we’ll be back…

 

 

 

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