I wish everyone a very Happy Christmas for 2017.
The ‘Joy ‘ of the pre – Christmas – filled with the many gatherings for workmates, friends and neighbours, shopping, getting the post on time, end of year concerts can be overwhelming. Many of us have the need to feel we have to get everything completed before Christmas and our annual Summer holidays. We don’t have it easy in the Southern Hemisphere – but…. hey make the most of it, enjoy the ‘spirit’, relax and enjoy Christmas day and take time to spend a few moments looking after you.
Once again 2017 was filled with life’s challenges and rewards.
I worked hard to get the Normandy Scotland tour off the ground and it was a resounding success, along with my NZ tour showing off Dunedin and Central Otago and my flagship tour to Italy and France. All the tours are only made successful by the incredibly lovely people I get, that want to share and have loads of fun with others on the tour.
Sadly, I lost my mother in June and as a family we had a few very memorable days together. She lost her identical twin sister 6 months earlier and it is lesson on how life long bonds make such an impact on us. As in life our family also welcomed 3 new babies – My sister is the lucky Nana!! and we have enjoyed visiting these little people in the North Island.
Planning and publishing the second Fonebook called ‘Otago Fonebook 1’ after last years popular Dunedin Fonebook has been a hilarious ride with my partner Michelle Chalklin -Sinclair – we have literally nothing in common except we love where we live and want to celebrate our region in the form of these little books filled with Michelle’s Photos taken on an iPhone and my recipes.Our book launch in the historic Garrison Hall carpark in London St surrounded by volcanic rock and Peony roses was pretty exceptional.
Best Wishes everyone for a very Happy Christmas. Make the most of 2018.
Life has many challenges that we have to either dodge or process.
Good luck for a fun filled rewarding year.
Its here in beautiful blue with gold printing
Otago Fonebook 1 was launched on Sunday with friends in one of Dunedin’s oldest buildings – Garrison Hall.
Since the very successful Dunedin Fonebook launched a year ago Michelle and I felt our City and environment deserved more and especially wanted to include all the beautiful interesting places to visit within a days drive and must not be forgotten.Michelle carted her family out on many many Sunday afternoon drives and with her artistic licence has filled our little Otago book with stunning images and certainly captured the mood and atmosphere of our seasons throughout the year.
I have included 8 recipes which I think represents some of the huge wealth of food choices in our region. From seafood caught in the Otago Harbour and off the coast by the Harbour Fish boys, Havoc Pork and Merino Lamb from the Otago Farmers Market, Beef from Silver Fern Farms to Oamaru’s delicious Whitestone cheeses and now our famous Dunedin Ocho Chocolate. Michelle did have my arm up my back to include Southern cheese rolls and somehow I think they will be a good staple .
My Favourite morning of the year is being let loose in Geoffs peony rose patch in Wakouiti picking all the open blooms that can’t be sold. Michelle’ didn’t want to miss out this year and her truck was filled with buckets, bursting with red, pink and white peonies and along with solomon seal filled 4 huge urns borrowed from the orchid florist.
A car park is not your usual venue for a book launch but this car park is very special and unique. It is built into Bell Hill and the Phonolite rock is a feature on 3 sides of the carpark. Garrison Hall was built in 1877 by Mason and Wales, the fortress like exterior has had has had a long illustrious history – including once being Dunedin’s major entertaining venue, University graduation and capping site, home for television production and documentary making, sports hall, lecture theatre and not forgetting its original use as headquarters for the Otago militia.
Michelle and I can’t thank William Cockerill and Octa enough and we felt privileged and honoured to launch our Otago 1 book in such a prestigious significant site.
We live in a beautiful region and it is right in front of us and all around. Our little book is to pay tribute to those wee places some us only get to pass through and see Dunedin through Michelle’s clever artistic photos. We want this journey to be a celebration and for you and to share with friends and family who have lived, worked and loved Otago.
Otago Fonebook 1 and Dunedin Fonebook are available at all major book shops and many gift shops including Moi, Made and Found, Toitu, Art Gallery and of course direct from us.
Judith Cullen – Judith@judith-cullen.com
The Artists Room- Michelle – email@example.com
Along with our black velvet ‘Dunedin embroidered cushions and Gasses/Phone wipes featuring a selection of Dunedin Photos we reckon we have the perfect small gift or stocking filler..
Everyone interested in gardening is proud of their exploits and achievements especially during Spring. Work over the winter pays off and what seems like a few days turns a mass of new foliage in every shade of green and a riot of colour from the early flowering Aquilegia’s, Digitalis and Irises to Oodles of rose buds waiting to burst into bloom.
My dear friend Penny invited me to visit her colourful garden, where seeded plants spread in abundance and produce a spectacular display. Ranging from a multitude of pale Aquileia’s, antique hues of wall flowers to the dazzling cinerarias showing off in front of a wooded shed.I will be back to collect seeds in the Autumn, meanwhile Penny will have a succession plan and her garden will remain colourful throughout the summer. The smell of freshly baked Ginger nuts in Penny’s kitchen was too much for me and after eating a couple had to have the recipe. Really!!! homemade biscuits are so easy and definitely delicious.
In contrast my neighbour Juliet just threw in a packet of sweet peas in amongst her lavender bushes. When I went across the road to raid her herbs, she said come and pick some sweet peas – I thought she was referring to the new tender tips and was astonished to find colourful sweet peas cascading and tumbling out and over her path literally covered in fabulous pink flowers. I am now enjoying a vase of tendrils spilling out of a vase on our mantle.
Inviting friends into your garden is very satisfying. Taking time to sit, enjoy and share ideas over a tea or coffee and…. a few freshly baked biscuits is not only rewarding but good for the soul.
This is a very special time of the year – not only is October my birthday month but its Lilac time. My friend Betty always brings me a bunch of Lilac and has some special place where she manages to source a few branches !!
They not only have a delicate perfume but display themselves in a huge variety of colours from deep purple, pale lavender, blue to white. After a visit to one of New Zealand’s foremost Lilac specialists ..I was unaware how diverse they are and indeed the enormous varieties available in places like Russia and Canada.
Along with my blooms from Betty, my huge bowl did I’m afraid come from a few bushes hanging over fences in Central Otago where Lilacs grow in abundance and beautifully. They have the affect of old fashioned planting, but my first introduction was way back in 1995 at Hidcote garden in the Uk where they had the most stunning Lilac walk has never left me.
The Lilac Thief
By Young Dawson
She is aghast
as I explain that once each year,
just about now,
I drive slowly through the neighborhoods casing likely targets,
and when I find one,
I park just across the street and walk over
with a great inner calm.
I use the very sharpest snips possible,
and cut one, two, but never more than three
clumps of perfectly bloomed purple lilacs,
then move on until the lead-heavy scent
inside the car makes me almost dopey.
I bring them home and arrange them in vases,
place them where they will find afternoon light.
But, she cries, that is just wrong!
Lilacs belong to all the people.
Yes, I say. Yes.
And I am one of the people.
Just had to include the blues from my garden!!
Enjoy your Labour weekend everyone.
In Burgundy the famous vineyards of Cote de Nuit and Cote Beaune which sit to the North and South of the picturesque charming town of Beaune were all bustling with activity as thousands of pickers were hand picking the precious Premier Cru and Grand Cru grapes. It was a hive of activity between the pickers and machines doing the Village and Borgogne grapes. Europe has experienced a hot long summer and I have never been here at this time of the year to see the harvest in full swing. Many tractors carrying trailers of grapes were readying the individual wineries to begin the de-steming, crushing and fermentation process and commence the 2017 vintage.
This is a stunning region in the of the world wine and the appellation of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is world famous. Wine here reaches the most expensive prices in the world and with the the help of the most enthusiastic character of a local guide called Jean Louis my group enjoyed an afternoon they will never forget.
Tasting wine is an art and understanding the complicated system of wineries in Burgundy takes time. Even more scary is trying to choose a wine from the huge bible at each restaurant and become familiar with some of the names of the wine makers.
Towns all over France have gorgeous displays of colourful perennials filling roundabouts, hanging baskets and borders. Most are colour coded and I just love the selection of plants, from flowers, grasses and vegetables that always look stunning and I plan to copy in Dunedin.
As in my previous blog – Beaune too has a market that operates each week to provide local produce to the surrounding towns and villages. Beaune’s market never fails to impress me and once again I couldn’t resist the old old linen from the Brocante stalls. At least it is relatively light and easy to pack – Well that my excuse!!
Just over an from our home base of Yvoire on Lake Geneva are the French Alps, which are covered in ski fields in the winter and beautiful villages with exquisite wooden cladded chalets. Each year we always enjoy a mountain lunch experience at Le Bettex over looking Mt Blanc and the following day a picnic lunch beside the gorgeous Lake Annecy.
Both days provide a chance to become familiar with food available to the French on a daily basis and provide an opportunity to look and buy.
The first stop on the way to our mountain lunch is at a supermarket in Sallanches and apart from the TV’s, clothes, toys and electrics etc, the fresh food, chacuterie , cheeses, meat, seafood and bread is incredibly extensive. It’s surprising how a walk through a supermarket can provide you with an indication, not only of the local food choices but obviously the cuisine and culture of the region. It was nice to know the good old Savoy cabbage’s history evolved from this region. Terrines and pates are sold by the slice from very nice terracotta baking dishes and are available at any charcuterie counter, along with a wide range of hams, air-dried meats and salamis.
On the other hand markets are held in Villages on certain days during the week.The Annecy Market is always on a Tuesday and vendors line the narrow streets in the old medieval part of the town. Everyone had to buy something to contribute to a picnic lunch under the trees in the park.
While I was standing in a long queue waiting to purchase a slice of terrine and pate. I got to observe what the locals were buying and they were very fussy if the product wasn’t up to their standard. An old man in front of me had a long list and it was a good lesson in patience as no one was hurrying. The perfect espresso is hard to find in France and I just don’t understand how it can be so different to Italy. However, I was amused by this cute little puppy asleep in its basket on the counter of the coffee vendor. But, sadly once again the coffee was average. I would loved to have bought a bunch of flowers full of colourful zinnias but it is one purchase that is difficult when you are traveling.
Our picnic lunch selection was enormous. Everyone excelled themselves with a huge variety of cheeses, foie gras, meats, breads, salads, olives, radishes, heritage tomatoes, figs, myrtles, strawberries and grapes. Even a plate of hot roasted potatoes!! Charles provided Aperol Spritz, so really we didn’t lack for anything other than a few deck chairs.
We even had enough for lunch the next day in our hotel garden after a morning visit to Geneva. The sun was out and the temperature was perfect for a relaxing afternoon around the pool. Yvoire is a small medieval village and one of our highlight meals is on the balcony of the restaurant Lac Leman overlooking the impressive architecture towards the lake eating fried lake fish and chips.Timing is all important on tours and meals here take time. Nothing is rushed, dining starts at 7.30 earliest and there is always baskets of delicious French bread. Its a good lesson for us to embrace the French style of eating out.
My father loved Dahlias and as teenagers we used to make fun of him and his flower choices – like Gladiolas. (which I love but not to plant in the garden) Each year we visit the garden of Villa Taranto on Lake Maggiore and it happens to have an astonishing display of very tall, very colourful dahlias. I am always mesmerised by the range of colours, shapes and the sheer size of some of the blooms. This year was no exception and I have picked on ‘pink’. Plus I could have put up many more photos !!!
Europe has had a long hot summer and the gardens are showing signs of tiredness and look rather ‘Over’. They all need good shower of rain, but for many trees they have started to drop their leaves already.
The vineyards too are having a difficult season and grape picking is much earlier this year. Our day trip to Piemonte to visit New Zealander Jeffrey Chilcott at Marchessi de Gressi was very different since they had almost picked all their grapes except for the Nebbiolo. In past years the harvest usually hadn’t started, so they are contending with less juice and a challenging year. Jeffrey wanted rain and indeed he got a night of impressive thunder, lightening and torrential rain.
Our long lunch after a wine tasting in the village of Barbaresco never fails to impress and Jeffrey enjoyed a 3 hour lunch with us, which was a treat for him during busy harvest time. Course after course of delicious Piedmonte food along with a range of wines ensures this lunch always goes down very favourably – especially with Charles and we had some very jolly people getting on the bus for the drive to Lake Maggiore.(well for the first 30 minutes ) Here too experienced the stormy weather all night and the lake and mountains remained moody and stormy looking the following day although rain didn’t eventuate. Island hopping from Isola Madre – Islola Bella – Islola Pescatore makes for a fun day on the lake and a peak into the life of the Borromean family which still to this day own the lake and the islands.