My weekend: the pool, pins, some planting and a party. Perfect.

Last weekend was a long weekend here and we managed to fit in some lovely things.

I am consistently guilty of trying to fit too much into our weekends (like waaaaaaaaay too much) but for once I managed to get the balance (almost) right.

We start every weekend at 8am on Saturday with swimming lessons. Getting up and out the door to be in the pool by 8am is not the most relaxing way to start the day but we’re always happy once we’re there.

We swim on the site of some historic old sea baths and it’s a unique place because not only do the floor-to-ceiling glass walls provide a spectacular view of the beach and bay just outside, but the water in the pool is actually filtered water from the bay. I don’t know of many pools (indoor pools, anyway) where you can actually look out to the beach and ocean beyond as you swim. You can see Tasmania on a clear day. Well, almost.

The photo at the top is Olive and I at that beach a couple of months ago. She’s a reluctant toe-dipper.  And, ummm, despite the fact it might appear from this photo that I have a hump on my back, I don’t. As far as I know. (Note to self: check back for hump).

You can see the building the pool is in the background here.  And check out the chubby legs on that person on the bottom left. Edible.

The other benefit is that the therapeutic value of sea water is well-known and although it stings your eyes  (and back of the throat if you’re unlucky enough to get a mouthful) it has far less chlorine and other irritants usually found in the water of traditional pools.

Here’s Evil Knievel powering down the pool.

The rest of Saturday I spent working on some cherry brooches (I only used the word “pins” in the title because I was on a “p” kick) and butterfly hair clips for a  wholesale order I had from a lovely online shop in South Korea.

On Sunday we finally got around to putting in a small vegetable garden.  This is something I  had on my “to-do in 2010” list and it was great to finally see it realised.  If I’m honest I think I enjoyed finally ticking it off my list as much as I enjoyed doing it. Yes, that does make a profound statement about my character.

When one of our enormous olive trees suddenly fell over for no apparent reason 6 weeks or so ago (could have been a disaster if anyone was in the courtyard)  I cried.  Then we found the silver lining: not only did we get to collect all the ripe olives from its uppermost branches that we would otherwise never have been able to reach, but we also ended up with the perfect little square space for a small vegie plot.

Here’s the space after my husband (handsome and hardworking) prepared it with some organic compost.

The olive trees to the left have since been well and truly lopped, basically cut in half, by a handsome arborist. The same arborist to whom, when we were arranging which date he would be coming, I sent a text which I inadvertently (force of habit) ended with “xxx” ie “kiss kiss kiss”. Mortifying. Not least because after I tweeted about having done it (because although mortifying I also thought people might find it amusing) a twitter account called “Builder’s Crack” (sexy) picked it up and re-tweeted it to thousands of tradesmen. So now they know twirling betty is a potentially desperate housewife.  But I digress.

Both girls were very excited to be involved. Sophia got the ball rolling by tickling her nose with the chives.

Olive enjoyed taking as much of the carefully prepared soil as she could and chucking it around the courtyard.

Here’s Sophia reverently planting the climbing pea  that she germinated from a seed at kinder, raised to a seedling and then brought home for planting.

We planted a couple of kinds of lettuce, silverbeet, some swiss chard, broad beans (which I hope will poke their little heads through the spoil, see the trellis, and make for it with glee), and my all time favourite, cavolo nero:

Sometimes called Tuscan black cabbage, this is so yummy and nutritious and reminds me of many delicious winter soups and stews we ate in Italy.

Later in the season we have grand plans for strawberries and tomatoes and perhaps another raised bed with carrots and cucumbers. And herbs. And we might pop in a coffee plantation while we’re at it.

I sourced some of our seedlings (and plan to get the strawberry and tomato seeds) from Diggers Club. This is a fabulous place just outside of Melbourne where you can buy heirloom seeds and seedlings. The owner is committed to the preservation of heirloom and rare varieties and putting CO2 back into the earth. He’s quite inspirational, and although I haven’t been yet, apparently the gardens at Heronswood, the estate he lives on, are spectacular.  I sense a day-trip in my future.

The only problem is, other than nurturing a thriving vegetable patch one season many years ago in Canberra, I do seem to have a bit of a black thumb. That is, I kill plants. Inadvertently, mind. Thankfully, my mum has a spectacular green thumb. So although she’s given up giving me plants, she does come around and provide wise counsel when things get desperate in our tiny garden.

In order to maximise our chances of success (what me? results oriented? never) I wanted to read all the books, consult all the charts, make all the lists and then start planting. Andrew, as is his wont, said “let’s just chuck some in and see what happens”. He’s cool like that.

So, it’s been a week and so far all the plants are still upright and green! And, touch wood, uneaten by pests. I read somewhere that sprinkling crushed eggshells around the perimeter of your vegies will keep snails and slugs away. Does anyone else have any good chemical-free pest solutions? I’d be grateful for any and all advice.

And so we come to the party bit of the weekend.

On Monday morning I hosted a small morning tea to celebrate the fact my father was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia in this year’s Australian honours list. To say I’m proud is an understatement. He was only one of 10 Victorians to receive that level of honour this year!

Dad has always devoted at least 50% of his professional time to charitable works. He’s chaired more charitable boards than I’ve had hot dinners, has mentored hundreds of youths and contributed to Australian business and enterprise in myriad ways.  We were so thrilled to see him, an extraordinarily modest man, formally recognised.

So I threw a little tea party.

We had chocolate and coffee eclairs, apricot and pistachio tart, macaroons and a chocolate chip Viennoise from a lovely local French bakery and my mum made some delicious little savoury tartlettes  – some with smoked trout, some with roast duck and caramelised onion.

Most of those gorgeous doilies, the table runner, platters and cups have all come to me from Betty, my Grandmother, and many I think came to her from her mother and even Grandmother.

I totally embarrassed Dad by pinning the announcement in the newspaper to our front door – with the relevant bit highlighted.

I also made him this temporary medallion as he doesn’t get his until September when there is the formal presentation ceremony at Government House.

I’m pretty sure it’s quite similar to the official one he’ll receive on the day. Wouldn’t you think?

And finally, this ceramic hat/vase of Betty’s is really a little Pollyanna for my tastes but, being the nostalgic thing I am, I can’t bear to part with it.  And I do love that the brim is designed for fresh flowers. This was the perfect opportunity to actually use it and I managed to find fresh violets to decorate it.

So, my lovely friends, that was our long weekend. Have any of you got up to lovely things on your weekends lately?

Before I finish, I also just wanted to say that I am extraordinarily grateful for the lovely, supportive, encouraging comments people left on my last post about twirling betty visors being in Small Magazine. I appreciated each and every one more than you could know. I tend to a balk at blowing my own trumpet (which is what it felt like I was doing in that post) but was so excited I REALLY wanted to share the news. So I pressed “publish” last week with a little trepidation and was really so touched by your responses.

You guys rock. Let’s krump!