Friday Fleurish: A Lush of Peonies


pencil & watercolour illustration on cotton paper, 6.5' x 7.25" [16.5 x 18.5 cm]

Flowers always bring out the gratitude in me.  And right now, it's peony season, so I'm especially grateful.

Symbolic of prosperity and derring-do, peonies were also said to conceal mischievous nymphs within their petals, earning the meaning of Shame or Bashfulness in the Language of Flowers. I suspect they are the lushes of the flower world, and I mean that most affectionately, as they are among my favourites.  Each one's somewhat rapid descent from a tiny, tightly wound bud to a frothy, tulle-like handful of sweet, ruffled petals is something to behold.  My beautiful mum bought me a bunch a few days ago, and when we were chilling out in the cold room at the flower market, tossing up how much faith to place in the buds opening, we met them halfway and chose ones that had just started flashing their frills.  By the time I was home, they'd undone the top few buttons of their hot pink blouses.  By the time they were trimmed and in the vase, they'd started dancing le CanCan.  They make me smile whenever I look at them.  They may not be here for a long time*, but they are here for a good time.  And thank heavens for that...

Happy Friday Fleurish to you!

{I found this tip for longevity here, along with some beautiful peonies and descriptions: a daily trim, plus 1/2 teaspoons sugar and a sprinkle of Vitamin C powder per litre of vase water.  Might want to give it a whirl.}

The Legend of the Lamington


Much speculation surrounds the origins of the humble Lamington.  The story I love most involves a Frenchman.  {Of course.}  Yes, just as we've observed in the past, the French find their way into the most surprising and seemingly innocuous of things, including a sweet treat that's considered to be an iconic Australian food.  The most romantic of the legends {or so I think} starts in the grand old household of Lord and Lady Lamington, residents for a time of Old Government House, just down the road from this, and overlooking the Brisbane River and the old City Botanic Gardens.  According to the official website for Old Government House {newly restored and one of Brisbane's sandstone beauties}, "Lord Lamington was the ninth governor of Queensland and it was his French chef at Old Government House, Armand Galland, who first thought to coat cubes of stale sponge cake in melted chocolate and then dip it in coconut, a touch thought to be inspired by his Tahitian wife, when unexpected visitors arrived in 1901."

If you want to make some of your own from scratch, you could try the more traditional version here, or a modern take by Gourmet Traveller here{Australian measures used throughout.}

Old Government House has its own Tea Room based in the 1872 kitchen and spreading to the shady central courtyard of this gorgeous old sandstone building, where you can take High Tea and other refreshments, including lamingtons made to the original recipe.  {"Original" according to this legend, at least.}  

Bon Appetit!

Venerdi in Venice: Shutterbug Alexa


ink & watercolour illustration on cotton paper, 6.5" x 8.5" [16.5 x 21.5cm]

I'm not the daring kind, but if I was going to invest in an enterprise in Venice, a shutter business would be high on my list.  Along with water {lots of water}, crumbling stucco and geranium-filled window boxes, shutters are a fundamental part of the Venetian landscape.  Thanks so very much to Alexa for her photo inspiration for today's little corner in Venice.  Followers of her blog bask in her cultured and artistic eye every day, mostly with photos of New York, but with the occasional surprise 'visit' to her beloved Paris or Italy.  Aqua is one of my favourite colours, but I didn't take poetic license ~ the ones in Alexa's pic are just so.

Happy Venerdi in Venice to you!

Stumping the Heat with a Queenslander


Here in Queensland, we like to keep it simple.  We spend so much time in summer glowing, perspiring or sweating {depending on whether you're a woman, man or horse} that we don't waste energy coming up with fancy architectural terms to confuse matters.  For instance, the iconic style of housing construction in Queensland is called a "Queenslander" Designed to maximise the natural cooling effects of breeze and shade, the house is made from timber with large verandahs, and lives on stumps, like this lovely one here.  There are variations on the theme ~ and generally speaking, the grander the home, the more sides the verandah wraps around.  The end result may not cool like air-conditioning, but it's a greener way of coping {until winter comes around and the proverbials of your brass monkeys freeze}. You can read a bit more here and see some examples of the evolution here

People continue to buy and renovate old Queenslanders, {a costly exercise involving the involuntary thinning of paint with tears}, and people continue to build new homes in the Queenslander style, such is its enduring charm.  We don't live in a Queenslander per se ~ but it's still an enchanting timber home, with a deck on two sides, telling you at a glance that we have sufficient means to provide you with afternoon tea of lamingtons and scones but may not stretch to caviar.  "Lamingtons???" you may ask?  I'll put them on the menu for next Tuesday!

Francophile Friday Fleurish: Eiffel Flower Trifles


A shockingly long time ago {seven weeks if we're counting}, I mentioned our Brisbane miniature of the Eiffel Tower at Park Road, Milton, and sort of promised {ok, actually promised} to a certain lovely Eiffel Tower-obsessive in the comments section that I'd show it to you.  I was even so bold as to allude to {maybe} showing it on the next Francophile Friday.  Sorry to drag my heels, but at the time, I planned on visiting said monument, taking some photos, artfully arranging myself for a coffee at Rue de Paris {then La Dolce Vita for good measure and dangerously unstable levels on the Caffeinometer}.  Then, I would come home and illustrate a 2009 version for you.

That hasn't happened.  So here's what I propose.  Today, I'm showing you the one I drew quite a while ago.  And for the sake of fun and posterity, I will fulfill the daydream described above for a Francophile Friday in the near future. {I won't say exactly when, as there's some juggling to do on the drawing board queue at the moment and I don't want to drop any balls. Perish the thought.}  We can see how much the streetscape and my drawing style have changed {or not} since then.

And now, let's swan into our weekends with a patchy pink pot of hydrangeas, and a few rosebuds and hyacinths tucked in for luck and fragrant intoxication.

Happy Francophile Friday Fleurish to you!

Sweetening Up Louis


It's been a while since I made a thinly veiled attempt to inspire a luxury brand into showering me with beautiful free fripperies out of gratitude for illustrating one of their objets de lust.  {Even a light sprinkle or dusting would be quite all right.}

Today, it's Parisian Louis Vuitton's turn, with this bold resin, metal and brass bracelet of jewelled candy.  The pieces include the quatrefoils and flower symbols from its legendary Monogram Canvas {launched in 1896 and inspired by the trend of using Japanese and oriental designs in the late Victorian era ~ according to Wikipedia, at least}.  I couldn't locate this design on the website but I was temporarily blinded by something quite sparkly and spectacular on its home page, so please, forgive me.  {And if anyone from LV is watching, I'm happy to accept luggage in lieu of jewellery.  I'll even forgive Marc Jacobs for this.  You're welcome.}

Venerdi in Venice: San Polo Per Pierre


ink & watercolour illustration on cotton paper, 9.75" x 6.5" [24.5 x 16cm]

Not long ago, when I pressed my nose up to the glass for my regular glimpse into Venetian life over at Venice Daily Photo and saw this, I said aloud to myself, "Ooooooooh!!!"  {I do that a lot.}  Pierre most graciously said to please go right ahead and illustrate his stunning photo of an idyllic scene in the sestiere of San Polo.  Here 'tis.  It was only when I sat down with the large view that I noticed another bonus I'd somehow missed at first sight {shame on me} ~ a kitty sitting at the window.  And it seemed fun to turn the two-legged resident into a flaming redhead.  I hope she doesn't distract Hugh while he's negotiating a tricky bend in the canal with our gondola...

Happy Venerdi in Venice to you!  And thank you so very much, Pierre ~ you're most kind ~ I love it over at your place.  Update 7th Nov: Pierre has featured my little illustration over at Venice Daily Photo today ~ grazie, Pierre ~ I, too, am chuffed!

Melbourne Cup Tipping the Macarons Way


graphite & watercolour illustration on cotton paper, 6.75" x 4.5" [17 x 12 cm]

It's Melbourne Cup Day ~ so let's eat macarons!  At around 3:00pm AEST, the horse race that stops the nation will stop the nation.  It's the richest and most prestigious "two-mile" handicap in the world.  All over Australia, we're celebrating ~ it's a festive, feel-good day, whether you typically follow the gee-gees or not.  Those like me {clueless} have 'a little flutter' and put one dollar each way bets on horses based on their names, colours, numbers, and touching stories.  The serious types will study form guides and videos and check the weather reports in hopes of picking the winning trifecta from a field of 24 horses {Australian, New Zealand and a bunch of internationals as well} over the generally-untested 3,200 metres.  And inevitably, at least one of the three place-getters will be a 'roughie'.  {Hub uncharitably refers to such rogues as 'nags' as he tears his slips into little tiny pieces afterwards.}  Office sweepstakes proliferate, fashions include high heels and hats or fascinators ~ not to mention what the women are wearing.  Any food that's half-passable when eaten with bubbly is the snack of choice for the day. 

And so, we arrive at today's macarons ~ delightful any time, but especially so with champagne.  Though I'll be eating the local variety made here in Brisbane, these are of the genu-ine Parisian persuasion ~ a napkinful of Gérard Mulot macarons, photographed by Virginia shortly before scrompfing them.  What's that, Virginia? Oh. Sorry, I meant, "slowly savouring them".  My guess on the flavours? Chocolate and caramel.  Or maybe rum & raisin and coffee.  Taking this as 'a sign' from above, I was going to place my bet based on which of the Cup runners are chocolate or caramel coloured.  Turns out that didn't narrow the field much.  Enjoy your Cup Day, whatever you're doing!   {Thank you for the mouthwatering photo, Virginia!!}
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