Châteaux of the Loire Valley – Chambord


Ok, so we’re up to Stage 5 of our Le Grand Tour of France…or should that be Étape cinq? Whatever it is, it’s also the Loire Valley – and the Loire Valley means châteaux.

The thing about the châteaux is that they are somehow too grand, too ostentatious, and too too much. If you’re not careful, château fatigue can sweep through you before you can say Chambourcin. They (“they” being experts in this type of thing) say you should do no more than two a day, and, if possible, make that two a day one of the biggies and one other. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself shuffling mindlessly with your eyes glazed over and muttering…

The other thing about the châteaux? Let’s just say that I now understood why France had a revolution – and we’ll leave it at that before my anti-elitist soapbox comes back out from it’s resting spot.



First up was the big daddy of them all – Chambord. Almost too big to fit into the camera frame, this chateau is more a statement of the splendour of the French monarchy than it is anything else.

Apparently, 25-year-old Frank the First spent just 8 weeks here in total.

Many of the rooms aren’t furnished – but then apparently they never were – at least not permanently anyway. the French court was constantly on the move and with them to the next place went all the furniture and fittings. The monarch’s entourage might number 10,000, with 20,000 horses. They didn’t just drop in – if you know what I mean.

The highlight, though, of this chateau is the double spiral staircase.

Apparently, it’s double helix design was designed by Leonard da Vinci – although that has never been confirmed. The two spirals ascend the three floors without ever meeting.

Next time… Clos Lucé, Amboise and Leonard Da Vinci

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.

Saint-Gengoux-le-National and the andouillette incident

With Lyon as our destination and the start of stage 4 of our Tour de France, we’d left Burgundy relatively late, planning to stop in Cluny for lunch. That was until we saw the sign “Cité Médiévale” – always a reason to turn off the highway and go and have a look.


According to Wikipedia, this place has had a bit of an identity crisis over the years. At the revolution, Saint-Gengoux-le-Royal took the name of Saint-Gengoux-le-National. It reverted to Saint-Gengoux-le-Royal is 1834, Saint-Gengoux-le-National in 1848, Saint-Gengoux-le-Royal in 1852 before finally settling on Saint-Gengoux-le-National in 1881.

This town is full of houses with history – and by history, I mean hundreds of years. The church was built in 1100 something by the Benedictines of Cluny but has been extensively renovated over the years – following semi-regular plunders, trade issues, and changes in architectural taste.

There are plenty of other properties from the 16th and 17th centuries as well. I loved looking through the fences to see the medieval gardens – many still growing the same plants as they would have grown back then.

When we arrive it’s just past midday and the whole town is deserted. The only activity is in the few coffee shops and restaurants in the village square.

After walking around we decided to stop for lunch too – in what ended up being the only truly bad meal with truly bad service that we had in our entire French experience.

There were a couple of lovely looking bistros in the square – the sorts of places that had wisteria hanging down the stone walls and yummy sounding fixed price lunch menus. As tempting as the menus were, we had dinner booked at Le Nord that night so didn’t want a full meal – just something cheap and light.

There was a place across the road that looked as though it could be okay – pretty ordinary from outside, but they’d made some effort with the decor and the menu was cheap.

F and I order a croque monsieur – sort of like a French toasted ham and cheese sandwich, but so much better. This one is served spread across a disposable plate – like the ones you use at barbeques – and slapped on the table with some plastic knives and forks. It’s the worst croque monsieur that we’ve had, but then, even an ordinary croque monsieur is pretty good. It’s one of those dependable things in life.

Hubby, however, wanted to eat here because they had andouillette on the menu for 7E. This sausage made of pigs large intestines is often referred to euphemistically as a tripe sausage – and my husband has been wanting to try one ever since he got talked out of one in a Paris bistro back in 1995. What can I say? He has a long memory.

Of course, I tried to talk him out of it. I told him that Gary Mehigan said in a podcast that the first time he tried one it was like he was eating a biology lesson. I told him that the food writer Terry Durack said you needed to be able to get past “the aggressive aroma of stale urine mixed with sweet spices and pork fat” in order to enjoy it. As an aside, Durack apparently does enjoy it – as do (inexplicably) so many others. There is, believe it or not, an Association Amicale des Amateurs d’Andouillette Authentique (AAAAA) that was formed in order to protect standards and to honour those establishments serving the true, original andouillette. True story.

After both F and I repeated all the reasons why he’d be an idiot to eat something that sounded so gross, hubby reminded us that he enjoys blood sausage, tripe and haggis and that this could not be much different to that. Besides, he said, at 7E if it was really awful he wouldn’t have ruined a nice dinner. Then he reminded us that he’s a Scotsman – although what that had to do with anything I didn’t know.

The andouillette turned up on yet another disposable plate with a handful of ordinary chips and an approximation of a salad. When he cut into it the smell permeated everything and all the bits that were previously inside the sausage were suddenly not – and that is the nicest way I can explain it. Gary Mehigan was right when he described it as a biology lesson.

Bravely he took a bite and wordlessly F and I each handed across half of our croque monsieur and ordered him a beer – which also came in a disposable cup. Even the chips tasted of the smell of the sausage. He said that neither the beer or the croque monsieur was able to get rid of the taste.

When we indicated to the waiter that we’d finished our meals, he grunted and nodded towards the garbage bin in the middle of the floor. We understood that we were to take our plates and our cups and our utensils and the remains of the foul sausage and dump the lot in the bin. The meal was memorable for all of the wrong reasons.

We saw andouillette on virtually every menu in every Bouchon over the next couple of days in Lyon. If they’re that popular, maybe I’m missing something. I must have just had a bad one, hubby decided. Perhaps I should try another one here or maybe there? F and I simply glared at him.

Have you tried andouillette? Are you a lover of all things offal?





101 things in 1001 days

A couple of weeks ago I read a post by The Annoyed Thyroid. It was an update on her 101 things in 1001 days challenge. It interested me, so I did some more research at Day Zero Project.

The challenge is to come up with 101 things that you want to achieve in the next 1001 days – that’s about 2.75 years. The theory is that for people like me with long-term dreams and a short-term focus, this sort of time period gives you a better chance of achieving the big stuff – it covers seasonal consideration and gives time for bookings, training etc, but also allows lots of smaller wins along the way to keep you going.

The deal isn’t so much to change the world as you know it – although who says that you can’t? – but rather to have somewhere and someway to keep track of all those little, middle and big things that you say you want to do someday.

It’s about ticking off achievable milestones along the way to bigger projects. The only criteria are that tasks must be really specific – measurable or clearly defined – realistic and represent some amount of effort on my part. My challenge starts today, August 27, 2018, and will end on May 24, 2021.

The hardest part of the challenge? Breaking things down to come up with 101 – and keeping it reasonably realistic. To do that I broke it down into categories. Although me being me, I’ve also thrown in some pie in the sky stuff too – I had to.

And for the positive living police, the weight loss thing is there for health reasons. My big aim is to do a 100km+ walk and at my current weight that’s way too much pressure and stress on my joints, heart and back. Ok?

Oh, and for Sam at The Annoyed Thyroid? There’s another one you can cross off your list.

Ok, here goes:

Personal, Health and Fitness

1.Lose 5kgs

2. Lose another 5kgs

3. Lose another 5kgs

4. Lose another 5 kgs

5. Have a photo shoot – outside, casual with decent hair

6. Get a decent bio pic and update my websites

7. Take a tai-chi class

8. Take a yoga class

9. Take a pilates class

10. Walk the path from Pt Cartwright to Golden Beach

11. Nail the Lara Drive stairs

12. Walk up the Ballinger Rd hill

13. Walk up the Dixon Rd hill

14. Walk up the Cogill Rd hill (there are a lot of hills in Buderim)

15. Walk up Emu Mountain

16. Walk up Mt Coolum

17. Average 10,000 steps a day for 30 days. Done.

18. Get into a meditation habit

19. Write the family history – on the Lyons side

20. Write the family history – on the Hamilton side

21. Update my will

22. Learn how to take decent food pictures

23. Learn how to style brown food

24. Drive on the highway without having an anxiety thing

25. Go 30 days without spending money on books or music – not even if it’s a bookbub special.

26. Get better at French – duolingo

27. Learn basic Italian – duolingo

28. Read 10 memoirs

29. Read 5 craft or business books

30. Put our France photos into a digital photo book

31. Put our UK photos into a digital photo book

32. Put our Vietnam photos into a digital photo book. Done.

Blog and Writing

33. Finish writing my France blogs

34. Send out a monthly newsletter – every month

35. Publish Happy Ever After

36. Publish I Want You Back (Careful What You Wish For #1)

37. Finish the Tiff Book (Careful What You Wish For #2). Done.

38. Publish the Tiff book

39. Finish the Alice book (Careful What You Wish For #3)

40. Publish the Alice book

41. Release the Careful What You Wish For series as a box set

42. Publish ebook of recipes used in Wish You Were Here and Happy Ever After and use as a lead magnet for the newsletter

43. Set up Max’s kitchen diaries blog – Brookford Kitchen Diaries. Done.

44. Set up Clancy of the Campfire website. Done.

45. Publish Clancy of the Campfire

46. Write The Lilac Queen

47. Write the first book in the Alice Delaney mysteries

48. Write the first book in the Rambling Rose series

49. Mad About The Mac – the definitive mac cheese cookbook

50. Astro site – a monthly newsletter – every month

51. Astro – Jupiter ebook

52. Astro – Saturn ebook

53. Astro – beginners course

54. Astro – diary and planner

55. Astro – Moon ebook

56. Replace my day job income with income from writing etc


57. Sleep in a tent

58. Do a road trip to Cairns

59. Do a road trip to Adelaide

60. Stay at the Eastern & Oriental in Penang

61. Have tiffin at Raffles

62. Walk up Queenstown Hill

63. Walk the lighthouse track in Byron Bay

64. Walk up Mount Warning in Byron Bay

65. Swim with sea-turtles

66. Snorkel in the Barrier Reef

67. Ride a horse along the beach at Noosa

68. Take a Noosa Everglades cruise

69. Fly business class

70. Eat at one of the world’s top 100 restaurants

71. Have Christmas in the UK

72. Wear a proper dressed up dress and heels for Christmas in the UK

73. Attend a Christmas midnight mass in a village church in the UK

74. Do a long distance walk in the UK – eg The Cotswolds Way, The Ridgeway, Hadrian’s Wall

75. See bluebells in a bluebell wood

76. Take a cruise to the Baltics for hubby’s 60th

77. Visit St Petersburg (as above)

Foodie Stuff

78. Make rice noodles

79. Make dumplings

80. Perfect pasta

81. Make potato gnocchi that doesn’t bounce

82. Make focaccia. Done.

83. Cook a steak to medium rare (hubby usually does this)

84. Make an omelette (he does this too)

85. Make decent scrambled eggs (and this – but I’m great at boiled and fried eggs)

86. Make a piccalilli

87. Preserve something for later

88. Make cannoli

89. Try 10 new meat-free dishes

90. Try 10 new soup recipes

91. Try 5 new ice creams or frozen desserts

92. Make more ice-cream

93. Make honeycomb

94. Be meat-free for 30 days

95. Make a proper tiramisu

96. Make marmalade

97. Make lemon curd

98. Make light as air cupcakes

99. Make a Victoria sponge

100. Make a Tarte Tatin


101. Inspire someone else to write down 101 things to do in 1001 days.




Boiled eggs and sardines…

In the opening scene of the most recent (and I think best) version of Murder on the Orient Express, a servant boy is seen running around town to fetch some fresh eggs. The eggs are boiled and presented beautifully in front of Kenneth Branagh’s  Poirot who then takes out a ruler, measures them and sends them away. Although (we assume) they are cooked perfectly, Poirot requires them to be perfectly matching. he has a thing about that. Off runs the boy again for some more eggs.

I have no such hang-ups – as you can see from the pic above. the eggs were the same size so I suspect one egg cup is wider than the other. Whatever.

I can’t remember the last time that I had boiled eggs and soldiers – it was probably the last time I was sick. Yet I craved them all last week – presumably because I wasn’t well. It was nothing serious – just a head cold followed by a couple of days of asthma as head colds tend to go with me. Let’s just say that the shareholders of Kleenex would have been happy with me.

It was, however, the first head cold I’d had in at least 18 months, maybe 2 years, and my first sick day since 2011. Come to think of it, maybe it was more serious than a cold – it might have even been man flu.

As well as the boiled eggs, I also had sardines on white toast for brekky one morning – another dish from my childhood that I have a hankering for only when I’m sick. Naturally, I didn’t have the boiled eggs at the same time as the sardines – that would just be too gross.

I’m fussy about each as well. The eggs have to be soft-boiled but with the whites set. The toast has to be plain white bread with proper butter, and the sardines have to be John West and squashed quite thinly on the toast.

As far as cravings go, the sardines are, I grant you, an unusual one – and something I didn’t even crave when I was pregnant. It did, however, get me thinking about comfort food.

When I’m feeling tingly in the throat or my energy is a tad low a bowl of pho or Thai Boat Noodle soup is usually enough to lift me back up. I always have home-made chicken stock in the freezer and a bag of dumplings, so it’s also easy to knock together a chicken dumpling soup.

My ultimate comfort food of choice is, however, Hainanese chicken rice – it’s sometimes also called white-cooked chicken. It’s essentially poached chicken that’s sliced and served cold with a bowl of the stock, some chilli sauce, kecap manis (sweet, sticky soy), minced ginger and shallots, cucumber and rice that’s also been cooked in the stock.  I haven’t found a good one here on the coast so we make our own. It’s simple, full of flavour, and seriously comforting.

Hainan Chicken Rice – not my pic – mine is never styled this nicely

It’s probably no wonder that I put on weight when I’m sick!

Anyone else out there craves certain foods when they’re a tad low? I’d love to know…your secret is safe here…

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.

A Day In The Life Of A Writer…

I was lucky enough to be featured in my friend Jodi Gibson’s A Day In The Life Of A Writer series.

The day I chose was a few weeks ago, but is pretty typical of a normal working day – except for the Abba singing part…I don’t sing to Abba every day.

Anyways, duck over and have a look. You’ll find the link here. While you’re at it, check out more days and more writers at this link.

Soupe a l’oignon…a cheat’s version

Soupe a l’oignon in Paris

Of course, I’m still a tad obsessed about all things French at the moment. I’m slowly working my way through blogging our travels back in April and May and I’m playing around with story ideas in my head.

Another thing that I’m doing is attempting to recreate some of the tastes that we experienced in France. That goes with the story ideas…naturally.

I expected the food to be good, but I also expected to be overwhelmed with way too much cream, butter and rich sauces that sat heavily on my tummy. What I didn’t expect – and probably should have – was the simplicity and seasonality we found and enjoyed.

F, the friend that we stayed with at Lille and road-tripped with for a couple of weeks, cooked a lovely meal on our first night in France that was quintessentially French – without a heavy sauce in sight. It was roast beef studded with garlic and herbs, painted with mustard and served with a roast potato and pea salad. For sweets, she doused some new season strawberries in crème de cassis and drizzled over some cream. Parfait et très français.

It was this menu that I wanted to play with for our Bastille Day dinner. Herby roast beef with potatoes roasted whole with garlic, rosemary and salt, and green beans with shallots and a simple mustard vinaigrette.

What I really wanted to start the meal with was onion soup or soupe a l’oignon – even though it can be almost a meal in itself. The last time I made it though, it was so deep and rich we couldn’t eat anything else afterwards. Plus the house reeked of onions. Having said that, it was a beer, onion and cheese soup – is there any wonder it was heavy?

Onion soup made the traditional way, though, is both a taste sensation and a labour of love.

Aussie author John Baxter attempted the traditional method of soupe a l’oignon when writing about it for his fabulous “The Perfect Meal: In Search of the Lost Tastes of France.” The beef stock itself took almost a day to cook, reduce and strain. Then the meticulously finely sliced onions were slowly caramelised – this part took another 40 minutes or so – before cognac was added and boiled off. A roux – butter and flour – then formed the base of the soup itself to which the jellied consommé from the previous day’s efforts was added. Cheese croutes completed the dish. After almost 2 days of labour, he got la soupe.

This recipe is much easier than that – it’s also the no tears version. You get the caramelised sweetness from the roasted onions without the (sometimes therapeutic) stirring, and the depth of taste without the heaviness of beer or beef stock.

Just take 4 onions, peel them and slice them in half from root to tip. Pop into a roasting tray with salt and pepper and dots of butter – about 40g – and put in an oven heated to 200C. Cook them until they’re dark and toasty on the outside and soft and tender on the inside. I turned them twice and cooked them for a total of 45 minutes.

Once they’re cool enough to handle, cut the onions into wedges and put in a saucepan with 1 cup of white wine. Let the wine bubble down to almost nothing and then pour in 1.5 litres of vegetable or chicken stock and allow it all to simmer happily for about 20 minutes.

Onion soup is usually served with cheese croutes – thinly sliced and toasted slices of baguette with gruyere or emmental or some other melting cheese floated on top of the soup. You’re supposed to toast the bread, top it with cheese, pop it on top of the soup and put it all under the griller until it’s bubbling and rustic, but I don’t know how my bowls will go under the griller, so I melt the cheese on the toast and put it in when it’s all done.

As for a photo? Sorry, I’m yet to master making beige soup look anywhere close to good.


Y is for…

I’ve taken on the challenge of an A-Z during April – one post each day on a chosen theme. My theme? Books and writing, of course…

Y is for Yoga

I’ve been saying I’m going back to yoga for the whole time that we’ve lived here – and no, I still haven’t done anything about it.

The thing is, I need to. For these reasons:

  • I sit on my bum pretty much all day every day. This isn’t good for the spine and mine is already more than a tad on the dodgy side. Yoga helps with flexibility and pain management.
  • Writers live in their heads and yoga is grounding.
  • I’m a bit of a stress bunny – ok, that’s probably an understatement – and yoga calms the mind.
  • Yoga helps with neck and shoulder stiffness from sitting at a laptop all day. It can also help with repetitive strain.
  • Yoga clears the mind and can help with creativity.
  • Yoga can help you go within.
  • Yoga is a practice – just like writing
  • Nigella does it – so that’s good enough for me…

The Bucket List Update…

Ok, so it’s my birthday on Monday.

I joke that last year (my 50th) was spent on a Jetstar flight back to Sydney. I’d had a flying visit to Queensland to see my family (who had already moved up) and had to fly back to Sydney to continue to pack the house up and be in the office the following day.

Don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t a bad day, it just wasn’t the day that I’d planned. I don’t do parties, but I’d been planning my 50th party for years. I ended up giving it to one of my characters for her 60th instead – the theme was denim and the music was retro pop. You’ll read about it in I Want You Back – when I finally release that.

Despite being away from my family there were some lovely bright spots in the day – a breakfast with my family before I went to the airport, a surprise afternoon tea with my parents and sisters when I finally got home (there was trackwork on the airport line which meant I had to bus it), and dinner and lots of bubbly with my neighbour.

This year we were supposed to be in Sydney over the weekend for a friend’s 50th, but some other stuff has got in the way. So we have some other lovely last minute things planned, and if they happen they do, and if they don’t, I’m sure there will be something else lovely. The members birthday gift at the Surf Club is a vienetta log, so there’s nothing but old-school good from that!

Anyways, because it’s my birthday I’m doing an update on my bucket list – always a good thing to do on one’s birthday.  I get to cross things off that I’ve already done and have added a couple of new things to the list. If you’re interested, you’ll find my last update here.

Since my last update four items have been completed:

  • Speak at a writing conference
  • Go whale watching
  • Have pho in Vietnam
  • Cruise through Halong Bay

My list as it stands today is below*. The fine print is that I continue to reserve the right to add things as I see fit – I happen to think it’s karmicly (yes, that’s a made-up word) dangerous to have just a handful of things on a list. The fine fine print is that this doesn’t include all the places I want to go to – just the things I want to do…there’s a whole other list for travel!

      1. Make a proper living from writing (yes, there’s a $$ amount attached to this). I’m not sure if this is a bucket list item or a goal. Perhaps it’s both.
      2. See the cherry blossoms in Japan
      3. Ride a camel on the beach at Broome at sunset
      4. Swim with whale sharks somewhere
      5. Swim with sea turtles somewhere
      6. Snorkel in the Barrier Reef
      7. Attend an AFL Grand Final at the MCG. It would be a bonus if St Kilda or Richmond were playing. I’d consider the Anzac Day match a tick.
      8. Learn to cook a steak…to order… and get it right (hubby says there’s no need for me to learn how to do this because he does it so perfectly for me…)
      9. See the northern (or southern) aurora…lights, that is…and photograph them.
      10. Stay on a deserted (ok, not deserted- just not heavily populated but still with all the trimmings) island in the South Pacific.
      11. Get to my goal weight – and have a photo shoot to mark the occasion. Something tasteful and fun – on the beach.
      12. Learn another language and speak it in that country
      13. Spend three months living like a local in another country – I’ve always dreamed of Tuscany
      14. See a bluebell forest – like the one I wrote about in Wish You Were Here.
      15. Set a story around whisky in the Scottish Highlands or Shetland…
      16. Walk a very long way from pub to pub in either The Cotswolds or Cornwall
      17. A road trip through France in the Spring
      18. Do a cooking class in France
      19. Find one of those earnest writers style cafes in Paris to be earnest and literary in.
      20. Write some of my family history – or at least one of the stories.
      21. Take a cruise through the Baltic
      22. Take a canal cruise through Burgundy or Bordeaux
      23. Walk the Cotswold Way…or The Ridgeway…I haven’t decided
      24. Attend a writing retreat in Europe


*There are a couple of others that aren’t for public view…and no, I’m not telling!

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.

Sentence a day – February

St Collins Lane, Melbourne

Ok, I make no bones about the fact that February is my least favourite month of the year. There’s an astrological reason for that – it’s to do with the fact that February is the month before my birthday so you have that whole finishing the cycle wanting to rest and retreat thing, but we won’t go there. It’s also got something to do with the fact that it’s the most humid time of the year… it also usually coincides with a couple of big freelance jobs that I juggle my day job and my novel writing with.

Every year I vow not to over-commit – yet this February was no different. The fact that I haven’t blogged properly for a couple of weeks should tell you that – last week’s blog was written in advance in anticipation of the messy times ahead. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been busy, but it hasn’t been all bad – there’s been some play too. And, on the plus plus side, this time last year my family was in Queensland and I was packing up the house to move as well as doing the juggle above.

Anyways, enough of the whining, let’s close February off.

1.Rain (as an aside, it rained so much this month – more than 3 times the normal monthly average with almost twice the monthly average in one day – 21 Feb.)

2. Rain – heavier than yesterday, but managed 3000 words on the novel and astro blogs written and scheduled for most of February.

3. Rain. Again. Finished astro blogs for February, wrote horoscopes for March, cooked a seafood risotto and a cheesecake for dinner and procrastibaked apple and cinnamon scrolls.

4. Not quite as much rain. Brisbane for some shopping and lunch at Fat Noodle at Treasury.

5. Unravelled all of next week’s Adelaide travel. On the plus side, I’m not travelling next week.

6.  Walk. Work. Nothing more to say here.

7. Sarah to Sydney, coffee with a friend from my childhood in Bombala, and a catch-up at a seriously cool tea-house with another dear friend.

8. Long long day in the office.

9. Worked on the novel this morning at the Surf Club this morning, lunch with Grant at Saltwater, and published The Little Book of the Moon for my astro newsletter subscribers. Tick, tick and tick.

10. Sarah home today. Brain is exhausted so spent the afternoon watching period movies. Sense and Sensibility and Emma.

11.  A swim, lunch at the Post Office in Maroochydore, another swim, and spent the rest of the afternoon going through accommodation options for France.

12. Monday. Walk and work. That’s all.

13. Take yesterday and repeat.

14. Valentine’s Day – words, work, gremolata prawns and gnocchi.

15. Counted to ten a lot today.

16. Haircut, grey be gone and lunch with the delightful Min from Write of the Middle. So much sheet lightning tonight that the night sky was almost permanently lit.

View from lunch. We were having such a good chat we forgot the selfie.

17. Welcome to Sydney where the airport trains are closed for trackwork…on a weekend. Seriously? Who plans this stuff?

18. Dumplings and catch-ups – the perfect combination.

19. Lots of hellos – it’s actually good to be in the actual office…pity about the bus ride to get here.

20. Reimagined escalators – these York Street escalators were heritage listed, so the developers popped them on the ceiling as art. Love it.

21. Surprise catch-up with Mel Kettle, a copy of her new book, The Social Association, and drinkies after work.

22. More drinkies after work – this time with the Unisys tribe at Concord. Fab to catch-up.

23. Melbourne – and my feet are full of blisters…the two are not related. Dinner at Chez Olivier with mon amour. (See how I threw in some French?) As an aside, I will blog it separately…

24. Brekky at Cumulus, dimmies at South Melbourne, dumplings at Hutong, shopping at Debenhams, cocktails at QT and dinner at Tonka. A day well spent.

25. Heading home, but first an egg sundae at The Grainstore.

26. Back to work and my pooch beside me snoring – life as it should be.

27. Final pieces of the French accommodation puzzle fall into place. And work…of course….

28. Longest teleconference in history to finish off the month. Bring on March.

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.

Let’s talk about love

Ok, I’ll admit it.

I don’t do Valentines Day.

There, I said it.

In fact, I happen to think it’s the least romantic day of the year. And I call myself a writer of happy endings!

And it’s not just because I’ve never received a card at Valentines – let alone anything else. Ever. Even before I decided I didn’t like the Hallmark sentimentality. I don’t think I’ve ever been that type of girl – the type of girl who is sent flowers or cards at Valentines – although when I was younger, I desperately wanted to be that type of girl. Cue sad violin music.

I remember clearly the Valentines Day before the man who would become my husband and I started dating. We were working together and he received flowers from a soon to be ex-girlfriend. He was mortified. I’m still not sure whether it was the surprise (he doesn’t like surprises), or the fact that she’d blown that much money, or that girls aren’t supposed to buy guys flowers. Whatever. He hated it and they split very soon after. I think they were probably already in the processes of splitting – hence the flowers.

By the time the next Valentines Day came about we’d been together for about 8 months. He asked whether I wanted to do anything, and copped the (first of many over the years) soapbox stance about how the food is worse on Valentines Day, the price of everything goes up, and how there’s no romance or spontaneity in being told that on this day you should show your partner that you love her/him.

To me, it’s like New Year’s Eve: when you’re told that you have to party and have a good time because it’s New Year’s Eve. I don’t like being told what to do, and when.

Now before you go and assume that I’m not romantic, that’s absolutely not the case. I absolutely believe in romance – I have to: I’m in the business of writing happy endings. Nor is it the case that hubby doesn’t do the occasional flower thing – usually though, it’s when I least expect it, and most need it. Like the time when I went in for some nasty girly surgery and he brought me two bunches of flowers: herbs for his wife, and daisies for his lover. Awwwww.

So when I say I don’t do Valentines Day, what I really mean is I don’t do all the card, flowers, expensive set menu brouhaha of it.

But, when you’ve been together for a while when domestic business, as usual, takes over, days like Valentines and anniversaries are little reminders that every so often your relationship needs to be put front and centre.

Sometimes in the whirl of work, bills, mortgages, homework, family stuff, you need a reminder about why you’re together. And Valentines is good for that.

To me, it’s about the sentiment, not the expenditure.

We won’t share cards. But we will share a joke – about the flowers he ordered from that florist in Canberra. It’s the same florist he’s ordered from each year for the last 28 years who never delivers. Somehow I think the delivery will go astray again this year.