Vintage 21 modern classics look good on any bookshelf


In my hunt for weekend reading I discovered the most beautiful collection of books…..21 books in a rainbow of colours by Random House for the 21st birthday of Vintage.  Each book is not only a divine shade (with sprayed edges which look so good on a bookshelf) but they have a wonderful tactile quality with a supermatt finish.

The design of these books is quite stunning and titles include….Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Atonement and A Week in December.

The bookstore had done an eye catching window display showing how spectacular these books look when put together.  It made me want to go home and re-arrange my bookshelves.

I know there are people who arrange their bookshelves/bookcases by colour……I have to say I have always been quite dismissive of this idea, however having seen the divine shades in this collection of books I am very tempted to either start a display of these alone…. or even use these shades as a start to a whole re-arrange by colour of the bookcase !!!

We all love a good bookshop and can just lose ourselves for hours browsing ….. the glossy and exquisite covers, the smell of the new books and the joy of discovery.  Who would have thought that a paperback with no pictures could excite to such an extent.


Rustic twig furniture by Joe Vinks to suit any design style


I had the pleasure of meeting Joe Vinks and browsing amongst his beautiful pieces some time ago… a rustic tin shed in the Southern Highlands…..much to my surprise…..a very stylish setting as I recall.  I have since seen his pieces looking magnificent in a number of different interiors…..some rustic others rather more formal.

These pieces seem to work anywhere …. in edgy inner city apartments, English country house interiors or beachhouses !!!

I think what makes this furniture so versatile is that it can be stained, waxed or painted to achieve the desired look or fit in with the overall feel of the interior.

I love the silhouette of the twigs against a backdrop when painted white or black but equally there is something just so soft about the aged patina of the natural wood…..some of it the bleached colour of driftwood.


European style by the sartorialist


                                                image: The Sartorialist

On a rainy and cold weekend in the Southern Highlands what else is there to do …. but lose oneself amongst the beautiful images of Scott Schuman.  I long to be swanning around New York, Rome or London in this divine coat !!!

I could well … in fact … be in Europe with the weather we are experiencing.

Parisian chic by ines de la fressange


I have loved every little bit of this cute book…..packed with invaluable advice and information.

Advice like ‘split your budget in two’…. use half for quality basics and half for impulse buys that will brighten your wardrobe. After reading Dress like a Parisian I found myself rushing out to buy white jeans …. somewhat relieved to find my wardrobe did include some of the other basics.

What To Wear When is invaluable but the shopping in Paris section …. which is extensive ….is brilliant because it is all,  in the main …. online !!!

Still haven’t got to the sections on beauty, beauty tips, home or how to organize your closet.  However, one quote leapt off the page …. “Frivolity is the key to youth !” …. I will most definitely be embracing this.

Am really looking forward to …..”Secret Paris” !!

Southern Highlands Christmas Tree Hunting

Today is the day I am taking down our Christmas tree…….and it is with mixed emotions.  The end of another Christmas and all that goes with it……the anticipation and preparation both good and not so good!!!  The start of a new year …..always exciting but can be a little daunting as well.
I reflect as I take down and wrap each decoration…..the beautiful ones that have been passed down from generation to generation and the ones that bring back memories of where or when they were purchased….each with a story to tell.
Each year we try to have a theme or at least a colour scheme….that is until we can’t possibly not use the favourites that don’t quite fit in with the scheme.
The Christmas tree ritual starts with identifying the date that we are acquiring the
 tree.  This doesn’t vary greatly and is usually mid December.  This is based on trying to maximise the amount of time we have prior to Christmas to enjoy the tree.  Holidays to the beach happen soon after Christmas.
The only variation to this being when we spend Christmas in London……yes we must still have a tree but it is put up earlier in December.
We set off from Bowral to the couple of tree farms on the way to Kangaloon…..never really knowing which one will have the best trees.  Some have years where they don’t open in order for the stock to grow or where they have been depleted from previous years.
Each year there is disagreement after disagreement over which is the perfect tree with each family member adamant that their tree is the best.  After cutting the ‘best’ tree with the saw provided the tree is netted for the journey home on top of the car……not an unusual site in the Southern Highlands at this time of year!!!!
The decision over which lower branches must removed followed by the orientation of the tree are always tricky …….by which time a cup of tea is always in order.
We have the ritual of cutting our Christmas cake to enjoy with our tea and the decorating of the tree (once bags of decorations from the previous year have been located….also tricky!!!)
And the joy of rediscovering those beautiful decorations starts all over  again.
PS The date to take down the Christmas tree is generally believed to be somewhere between the 2nd and 6th of January.

French Style in Bowral combines Home, Garden and Chrismas !!

Courtesy Suzie Anderson,Hopewood Country House

Last weekend I was thrilled to vist another of Suzie Andersons Open Days at Hopewood Country House in Bowral.  She displays her French and Country homewares, soft furnishings and ….gorgeous Chrismas decorations in stunning room displays with such style and exquisite attention to detail.

It was divine to browse endlessly, trying to absorb it all and then enjoy afternoon tea in the glass fronted Pavillion overlooking the garden…. chatting about which pieces I would pop back in to purchase.

I was thrilled to see on her website that she will continue to open on a Thursday until 15 December!!! More chance to shop, particularly for those Christmas presents and the decorations I just can’t resist…and it probably won’t be nearly as busy.





Eclectica -More Than An Art Show as Frensham Shines


When I received the invitation to the Winifred West Schools Foundation Art show I naturally thought I would be attending your typical school art show. Oh no, not this event.  Wow is all I can say! The quality of the paintings, photography and sculpture is certainly impressive. We are talking names like David Bromley, Bob Marchant, Garry Shead, Glen Preece and Rex Dupain to name but a few.

I was excited to see the collection of Aboriginal Art from the Western Desert but even more excited to see all the red dots beside so many of the paintings.  I have to say that the setting for the exhibition at Frensham beautifully showcases the schools magnificent gardens which are looking a picture at this time of the year.  Fabulous sculpture and garden art spills out into the gardens and nestles in and around the magnificent trees.

All this of course capped off by the glorious weather which is not quite so typical of the Southern Highlands at this time of the year.  How lucky they are! Frensham’s headmistress declared at last night’s opening that the girls would be very happy for the school to stay just the way it looks this weekend, forever.

Getting Ready for Xmas

As much as I have been somewhat alarmed at the pace at which Christmas is xmas_decorationsapproaching my heart skipped a beat this week the day The White Company London Christmas catalogue arrived.  I guess it gives you a little taste of how beautiful the stores in London are and takes you there as you drool over the perfect lifestyle settings.  Maybe that is how our table/house could look this Christmas!!

I am putting the cashmere bedsocks on my Christmas list!!!

Not Such a Long Way to the Long Track Pantry


I have heard that people drive down to Jugiong just for lunch at this gorgeous café……well at least from the Southern Highlands!  And it is worth the drive in my opinion, however I am somewhat biased.  Having spent the last 20 years on and off travelling to Harden to do the design work on one of the districts magnificent properties, I was just thrilled when Long track Pantry opened its doors.  This country is God’s own and such a delight to have the excuse to visit regularly – probably not as harshly affected by the wrath of the seasons as some areas, I have, never the less seen it in times of desperate drought and times where the lushness of those rolling hillsides takes your breath away.

Long Track Pantry is the highlight of my trip, summer or winter.  Always a smiling face behind the counter and a feast of goodies freshly baked to tempt me.  While coffee is being made I browse to find jams and relishes to bring home or take to friends, everything I have tried is super.

I have a sweet story that made my day and gladdened my heart.  On a recent trip I decided to buy a jar of honey and also jam for my gorgeous neighbours who go beyond the call of duty and bring in my bins on collection day when I am not in Bowral (seems like they do it every week!!)  Anyhow, Long Track Pantry did a beautiful job of packaging the two purchases with tissue etc and popped in a fridge magnet with their recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I couldn’t wait to duck up to see our neighbours with the gift.  They were delighted of course, but not nearly as delighted as I when the following cold and drizzly afternoon just about afternoon tea time they arrive bearing a plate of the freshly baked cookies on a plate with a doily and a note  – For the Brennan Family from Gwen’s Kitchen. How lucky are we to have such divine neighbours !! 



Sunday Lunch

There is something rather special about Sunday lunch whether it be family or friends gathered around the table.  One never really knows in Bowral if it will be a matter of an open fire and misty rain or French doors flung open to bring the spring garden in.  Either way suits me and I revel in having family home and friends included.  I have a firm favourite when it comes to slow cooked lamb and just about everyone I know has been served it by now so thought I would be adventurous and try another version.  I have included the recipe below and was thrilled with the result.  I think this is my favourite now!!!

Slow-Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Pears and Cumin

2 brown onions, skin on and sliced into rounds (not sure why skin on as it tends to fall off)

1 lamb shoulder (bone in)

1 tbs cumin seeds

1 tbs black peppercorns

3 cloves garlic

1 tbs flaked salt

1-2 tbs olive oil

7 sprigs thyme leaves only

3 beurre bosc pears skin on and cut in half

3 tbs raw sugar

2 tbs red wine vinegar

Preheat oven 160 degrees C fan forced (180 conventional)

Place onion in base of a heavy ovenproof dish (second time around I decided on the throw away foil baking tray)

Trim and slightly score top of lamb.

Crush cumin and peppercorns with a mortar and pestle, then add garlic and salt.  Crush to paste and add oil.  Smooth paste over lamb, rubbing between bones as well.  Place lamb on top of onions, scatter with thyme and add pear halves.  Sprinkle with sugar and vinegar and pour in 80ml water.

Cover dish in a double layer of foil and roast for 4 hours until will pull away from bone with fork.  You can increase temp at end or grill briefly to achieve a crusty top if necessary.

Serves 4 depending on size of lamb shoulder

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