Provence – an exploration of the senses

When I think back to our visit to Provence, about this time last year, I think of the warm summer glow in the Les Alpilles mountain ranges that inspired Vincent Van Gogh; the sound of the cicadas which intensified as the day’s warmth waxed and wained; and the lively and harried markets with the blended smells of lavender, chocolate, cheeses and the season’s fruits.

I think of the company of my dear friend from Paris and her charming family as we feasted on local culinary delights, with the rambling gardens of our villa as the backdrop. I think of the many carousel rides Lily and I took – so many rides. And I think of all the amazing sights we experienced: the ancient arena where we saw a bull fight; the medieval mountain top village we climbed to; the icy cold waters of the Gardon River running under the Roman-era aqueduct; and the Shakespeare-inspired theatre performance whose stage setting was the actual relics of the ancient Roman village Glanum. Amazing interactions with history.

When I look back at all our photos from that one week in Provence, with our villa in St Remy de Provence as our base, I can’t believe we experienced all these amazing things. What a sensory delight.

Here is the travel article I wrote about our time in Provence, which was recently published in The West Australian newspaper:


From dolphins to turtles

Lily, me and hubby had an extended Easter holiday along WA’s Coral Coast, spending a week at Coral Bay, our favourite WA holiday spot, and stopping along the way for some sightseeing.

Kalbarri’s coastline

First we drove up to Kalbarri for some sight seeing at the national park. Nature’s “window” was closed but we enjoyed some other coastal spots.

The next day we drove to Monkey Mia to hang out with the dolphins. We had a great little cabin by the beach, as part of the Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort. The water in the bay was super flat so we all gave stand-up paddling a go for a bit of fun.

Monkey Mia – Lily made up for the lack of actual monkeys

In the morning, Lily got to feed a dolphin which she was super excited about. She thought she’d be able to swim with them as well, so um, there was some expectation management involved there 🙂

Feeding the dolphins

Next stop was our final destination – Coral Bay – where we had a villa overlooking the bay. This is our favourite all-time spot in WA. It’s a great beach for kids as the water is always flat, and there is snorkelling just a few strokes off the beach. It’s one of those spots where you can do as much or as little as you want.

On one of the days we did a beach buggy adventure ride, ripping along some dune tracks south of Coral Bay where we got to see some turtles and had an awesome snorkel at Five Finger Reef where there were so many amazing fish and beautiful coral.

One of Lily’s Coral Bay highlights was hanging out with local artist Sadie James who does inspiring artwork that captures the coastline and sea life in creative ways. She’s also written a kids book with great illustrations about a whale shark and she has another book on the way.

Lily with Coral Bay artist Sadie James –

I reckon a nice big canvas painting from Sadie would look great in our newly renovated living room as a reminder of the great times we always have up here. See you in another two years Coral Bay.

Glorious sunset at Coral Bay

Beautiful Barcelona

Hamming it up in Barcelona
There’s those gingerbread houses

Last Summer, Lily, Jason and I spent a month in Europe, starting in Rome, travelling through Umbria and Provence, before ending up in Barcelona. The only reason we chose this northern Spanish city was the convenience of not having to backtrack to Rome to fly out. We had no hopes or expectations about Barcelona but it ended up wowing us – the friendly people, the easy of getting around, the lively flameco dancers, intriguing architecture (Lily was particularly intrigued by Parc Guell’s “gingerbread houses”) and of course the fact that there was a Desigual clothing store in every district.

Here’s a travel story for The West Australian travel section on our brief Barcelona experience which was published on the weekend:

The local beach where Lily and I collected smoothed pieces of glass to make a collage.
Local street art on a store’s front doors.
Lily adored this street performer
A local ice cream joint in our neighbourhood

Slumber party success

IMG_5144.JPGEver since Lily’s 6th birthday, she’s been planning for her 7th. The days just can’t go quickly enough for her. Meanwhile they can’t go slow enough for me. I don’t want her to grow up so fast but like she keeps telling me, she can’t help that and damn it she’s right.

So her 7th birthday steam rolled ahead and before I knew it I was saying farewell to my little 6 year-old one night and singing happy birthday to my 7 year-old the next morning.

She was so excited about turning a year older she could hardly sleep. And she was even more excited about her birthday party on the weekend when we would have seven girls for a slumber party. Yes, I know, hubby and I must be crazy but despite moments of chaos, seeing this bunch of girls have so much fun made it all worthwhile.

I think the winning formula for the event was making sure we had an itinerary, keeping the girls busy and letting them know what the plan was. Changing up the venue when we went on an “excursion” also helped, so they didn’t go stir crazy in the one location. And of course letting them know who was boss so that they understood this was no Lord of the Flies experiment was key as well.

First we had game time – Twister and Apple Dunking which ended up like a backyard bath which they loved. Then some free play time in Lily’s upstairs studio which sounded more like a competition of who could screech the loudest. Then icecream birthday cake and opening of presents.

IMG_5069We then changed venues, walking to a nearby nail salon where the girls were treated to a mani-pedi spa treatment. It was more like a mini tornado swept through the salon, with other customers looking at us parents with a combination of sympathy and admiration.

IMG_5117.JPGDinner was right next door at an Italian restaurant where the girls inhaled pizzas before we walked back home.

Somehow I managed to shower 7 girls in under 25 minutes – one of my proudest mummy moments I reckon. The girls then settled down to watch Sing, a movie Lily chose beforehand so there was no 15-minute debate about what to watch.

Then it was off to La La Land – slumber time. And guess what – after their busy schedule and no sugar since the afternoon birthday cake, those girls drifted off within half an hour.

The next morning the girls were treated to pancakes, bacon and maple syrup – a good old fashioned Canadian breakfast. Then we played a couple more games including musical statues. Before pick up time we walked up to a nearby park for a play so by the time we got home, parents were already arriving.

IMG_5204.JPGIt was one of the easiest parties to organise and host but yes, it definitely required a focused parenting “presence”. And hats off to all those parents who have more than three similar ages kids. To do that every day would require so much effort. Our little one night effort just wouldn’t compare but I’m still chalking it up as a victory.

Now I guess we start planning for the 8th birthday party but in the meantime I want to enjoy having a 7 year old for as long as I can.

Europe through a child’s eyes

Check out The Weekend West Australian‘s travel section, June 20-21 2015, where there’s a travel story I’ve written about the trip I made with Lily to Europe last year. I think I make a convincing case for why it’s worth taking a four-year-old on a four-week European adventure. Now we’re trying to decide where to go to next. Any ideas?

Lily loved anything to do with the Eiffel Tower.
Lily loved anything to do with the Eiffel Tower.
Grabbing a sunset at Santorini
Grabbing a sunset at Santorini
Lily on top of one of the Trafalgar Square lions after seeing The Lion King musical performance. She's even holding her toy Simba.
Lily on top of one of the Trafalgar Square lions after seeing The Lion King musical performance. She’s even holding her toy Simba.

Lily’s marmalade painting

While I was preparing another batch of marmalade on the weekend, Lily got busy painting – one of her all time favourite activities. This is her first effort at a marmalade painting for our pretend marmalade shop. Three giant jars of marmalade sitting under our orange tree with a ladder to the side. She’d pick oranges every day if she could.

Lily's marmalade painting
Lily’s marmalade painting

Her other favourite activity is being a joker. Here’s a little video of her in the process of making her marmalade painting. Listen to how she describes the marmalade – a classic case of “kids say the darnedest things!”. Check out the separate page called “Lily-isms” – where she’s joking or mucking around, or just having a good laugh about something. The “Lily-isms” page leads with a video of her laughing her head off when she was a baby…and she still has that some contagious cackle today. I’ll be adding some more videos and snippets to “Lily-isms” soon.

Lily & Mummy’s Marmalade

Lily & Mummy's Marmalade
Our first batch of marmalade was a success.

When we moved to our new place earlier this year, there was a large orange tree with an abundance of green oranges a long way from ripening. I figured when they’d ripen Lily and I would set up a little stall on a curb-side and sell some oranges. A kind of exercise in commerce and retailing.

But as we waited…and waited for our oranges to get sweeter, it occurred to me that they’d never get sweet and that perhaps we had Seville oranges. After some google research, I discovered Seville oranges are ideal for making traditional marmalade. I’m not 100pc certain our tree produces Seville oranges but what the heck, I decided to put our oranges to good use anyway.

Let’s be clear at this point, I’ve never made marmalade before in my life. When I was a little girl, I used to help my mum make jam on the family farm up in the hills of Perth. So perhaps it was imprinted in me somehow. “In my bones” as they say. Lily and I picked some oranges that were ready to be pulled off the tree and earlier this week after intense research to find the recipe we liked the most, I got busy in the kitchen.

I’m happy to report that our first batch was a complete success. We’re now providing marmalade to friends and family and Lily is super excited about being able to be involved in turning something that grows on a tree into something yummy in a jar that puts a real smile on people’s faces. Of course now she wants us to make marmalade cake and marmalade muffins and marmalade cookies. Hmm, maybe.