The Islington Hotel's dining Conservatory

I've just got back from a trip to Hobart, Tasmania to meet up with my friends Romy, Faux Fuchsia and blog commenter Pammie. For those of my readers unsure where Tasmania is, it's the island at the bottom of the map of Australia, and Hobart is the Southernmost city in Australia.

The Islington's Yellow sitting room 

It was freezing and even snowed while we were there. It felt very English to me for a few reasons. Firstly we had to walk through a door at the airport that said "International Arrivals". I'm not sure Tasmania has officially Seceded from the mainland yet, but all the little black faced sheep in fields, rolling green hills, misty rain and Georgian style Architecture of the original Colonial era buildings combined to give a very English feel.

Mona's bunker like buildings overlooking the Derwent

We started our trip at MONA - the Museum of Old and New Art. It's one Billionaire's collection centring on the themes of life, death and sex. At one point I thought we'd entered Dante's fifth circle of Hell as we had to keep doubling back through a room with an installation of televisions with people screaming as performance art. We zipped through it all fairly fast, especially the infamous poo machine (the smell was awful), but I highly recommend the food in the cafe- we all had a great lunch.

The Fat Porsche - a message about overconsumption.

Later that night we had dinner at Franklin, recently anointed Hottest New Restaurant in Australia by Gourmet Traveller magazine and also The Australian newspaper food critics. If you like spending time in spartan concrete warehouses sitting on stools, and all the fun of deciphering menus with dishes containing three words ("nettles, grains, Sumac" etc) then this is the restaurant for you. It was full to the brim on Friday night with unhappy hipsters morosely eating Iceberg lettuce sprinkled with seaweed.

The Agrarian Kitchen cooking school before chaos started

Thankfully Tasmania has a very vibrant food scene, and our other dining experiences were fabulous. Every street seemed to have cool little hole in the wall cafes selling excellent coffee and cakes made on premises, and one of the purposes of our trip was to attend a cooking day at The Agrarian Cooking School with the theme of Vintage Baking. Faux Fuchsia has already done a post on it, so you can live the magic there.

But it was akin to being in an episode of The Great British Bakeoff. We baked our little fingers to the bone Vintage Style. So much so that I'm pretty sure Faux Fuchsia (who was standing next to me) was about to hit me over the head with a vintage style rolling pin at one point as I morphed into one of those annoying people that moan about how much easier it would all be if I just had my Thermomix with me. But we turned out an impressive array of Suet and lard based pastry goods. Delicious! An under-utilised ingredient these days.

Where we ate lunch - pastries and cakes we'd baked

We spent that night lying fatly around in front of the fire in the red sitting room at the Islington Hotel where we stayed chatting about houses, books, art, antiques and gardening. It's such a beautiful hotel, it's very cosy with lots of open fireplaces, books, art and china and feels like you're staying in someone's really nice home.

A spot of Cartier China in the Dining Room

Speaking of nice homes we spent some time also camped out at our hostess Romy's house, which is divine. Full of colour and art and books and so personal and eclectic. Lots of mementos of family travels and special occasions, it's all I love in a house.

corner of Romy's Dining room with Designers Guild covered velvet bench seat and coloured wine glasses

Romy's Boathouse

Sunday saw us eating lunch at Smolt, which was excellent, browsing bookshops and wandering around Salamanca Place which is the old wharf area of Hobart. Romy also took us to her boat shed, which is in a most lovely, tranquil little spot and drove us around and around Hobart which curiously reminds me of Sydney. Perhaps it's all the little one way curvy streets, sandstone walls and colonial era Architecture? Plus the water is always turning up around a corner as you enter another little bay.

Salamanca Place

Back to Adelaide with a thump late last night. It was such a fun weekend escape but too short! I can't wait to get back there again. Lastly, we always exchange little presents on our yearly catch ups, and I was so pleased with these I thought I'd mention them -  Project Ten chiller bags that come in a bunch of fun patterns. I like giving useful presents and these are perfect for the supermarket shopping, picnics or transporting things to lunches or dinners (they also make different sized shoppers, totes or zip wallets that match too). So I bought one that matches with each of my three Hobart bakers in arms.

I'll leave it out to you to work out who matches up with which one! Hope you had a good weekend too.
my sitting room drinks table

Well, it's the weekend and I've got a celebratory drink on my mind for surviving another week of craziness. 

the casual living area drinks tray

This has lead me to think about the drinks table, and it's super sized cousin, the home bar. I read last year in The Australian newspaper that home bars were again becoming big news. Apparently they are the new Sales Feature demanded by The Market in a luxury house (the home theatre has obviously infiltrated the mass market too much, as have full Miele kitchens...). Used by caterers, and often adjoining casual living and entertaining areas (such as outdoor pools) apparently Designers are being inundated with requests to make the home bar look like an upmarket boutique hotel. Mirror, chrome, marble and every liquor and spirit known to man is required to give the edge over its rather more subdued 70's parent. 

Home bars back in the 70s in Australia revolved more around the fantasy of having your own pub at home with you playing the role of the publican. They tended to feature wood panelling, beer mats, bowls of nuts and a miniature keg to pull your own beers from. The new incarnation is a slightly more glossy and sophisticated take on all that, but still (to me) fairly unnecessary unless you entertain constantly or harbour a deep longing to play shop as an adult.

But the drinks table… well, that's another matter. There is nothing that says "welcome" or "relax" (or possibly "alcoholic") to me than a well curated drinks tray. 

Bar carts recently become a Thing, and are now easily available in Australia through a variety of suppliers, as well as frequently being available at estate auction (called tray mobiles, and far cheaper than the brand new versions). But to be honest, I've never understood why you need wheels on it. They are generally left in a stationary position somewhere, so I'm more in favour of a decent sized tray with the essentials on it. A few bottles of your favourite tipple, mixers, ice bucket and glasses, some citrus and you have a welcoming drinks tray. If you want to fancy it up with attractive stripey prop straws, then by all means go for it. 

I have two drinks trays in my house - one on the side board in our dining area (a part of the casual living zone). This is used fairly frequently as we are generally in this area. The other drinks tray is in the library/ sitting room. It's smaller and is less frequently used. At some point we will have to do away with the permanent drinks tray as our children become teenagers, and we start keeping everything alcoholic in the lockable cellar. Mr AV and I both have vivid memories of sneaking things out of our parent's cellars, either when underaged, or after than in student enforced poverty to take to a party. 

Two incidences in my family spring to mind. The first was when my parents decided to have a Gin and Tonic. It was a hot day, so my Father fetched the half full bottle of chilled gin from the cellar fridge rather than using the bottle on the sideboard. He spent some time putting it together and presented one to my mother who sipped it and asked him if he'd remembered to put the Gin in. Yes he had, he assured her. She sipped it again and said she couldn't taste it. So Dad poured some more in. Same result. At this point my younger sister and I, who were sitting on the sofas nearby started whispering to each other "have you been drinking the Gin?" Yes, it turned out we both had (and possibly my older sister too). We used to decant it out of the bottle then top it back up with water to the same level…. 

The second instance occurred on Christmas Day. As per family tradition the pudding was to be lit up with flaming Brandy. Except that Dad hadn't checked how much Brandy he had. There was only a few drops left. So he improvised. He pulled out the full bottle of Vodka a patient had given him around 10 years before as a substitute. My parents never drank Vodka, so it was full. He poured it liberally all over the pudding, my sisters and I held our breath, he lit a match and we all watched the match fizzle. Another match, still no flame. The pudding would just not light. The extended family was surprised, Dad confused. How could it not flame? Well, unfortunately that was another bottle my sisters and I had gradually diluted with water over the years. Essentially Dad had poured water over the Christmas pudding. It was a soggy, water logged pudding that year.

So for the time being I'll enjoy my drinks tables in all their welcoming glory before the bottles are stashed in the cellar and only brought out with keyed access. 

Enjoy the weekend!    

more images of drinks trays via Pinterest
Hello! I haven't abandoned the blog completely, but we've had three weeks of school holidays, and then I spent two weeks trying to catch up with work/ family/ generally recover so things have been a little quiet on here. But I thought I'd write a very generalist blog post about all sorts of random things I've found/ been enjoying in the past few months.

This week, while googling Kit Kemp fabric images for a client project I'm working on, I came across another collaboration she's done. Kit Kemp, for those of you unaware of whom I speak, is a celebrated Designer/ Hotelier of the Firmdale group of hotels - a variety of boutique hotel properties in London and now New York with a very singular aesthetic.

Kemp is renowned for using a very eclectic mix of fabrics and objects and her Ham Yard Hotel was instagrammed to death last year when it opened (and rightly so). She has previously partnered with two fabric companies to produce ranges, one being Christopher Farr's Cloth range, the other being Chelsea Textiles.

Kit Kemp for Christopher Farr Cloth used on the Bedhead via 

For those unaware of Chelsea Textiles (it is not distributed directly in Australia sadly) it plays into my love of embroidery - the range is all hand embroidered (in China and India I believe), and has a traditional Jacobean/ Georgian hand made feel to it, with a few small design ranges that they've partnered up with Interior Designers that have a more modern twist. Kemp's design is below.

"Mythical Creatures" hand embroidered cushion via

It's probable that it isn't distributed here as the market for expensive hand embroidered fabrics with an 18th Century aesthetic would be very small. But one of her designs for Chelsea Textiles is now available here in china form.

Kit Kemp has partnered with Wedgewood to produce one of her designs "Mythical Creatures" on a Tea Service. Certainly it's an unusual pattern on china - it's not a stereotypical "pretty" pattern which I quite like for a change. Unfortunately, prices are not exactly budget on that one too, so while I may think it's a lovely tea service, It's highly unlikely to make its way into my china cupboard. Possibly her new book is a more likely addition - a second book on her signature style is due out later this year.

via Firmdale's instagram account

Changing tack, I've been very pleased with a recent addition to my wardrobe - a new black puffer jacket. It's been fairly freezing, wet and grey in Adelaide, and the AV family also had a ski trip during the school holidays so it came in handy when walking around in the village.

I searched for 2 years to replace an old (14 year old) J Crew jacket that I bought in 1999. It was a fantastic, warm jacket, but after such a long time it was definitely time to move it on. So why two years for such a utilitarian purchase? Well, unfortunately puffers are not exactly flattering on. I am not that tall, and most end up making me look like the Michelin Man as a result. A lot are made of high shine fabric too, which I didn't like due to the extra visual bulk a shiny fabric adds. Additionally, I have spent two years trying to buy one on sale… with the obvious result that the nice ones in smaller sizes sell out well before going on sale. Stalemate.  So, I've been keeping an eye on the incoming Autumn/ Winter fashions overseas online, and when I found this Herno brand puffer with the hem that dips down at the back, and interesting side quilting pattern I snapped it up. Good thing too as it sold out in my size in the space of two weeks.

Herno is an Italian brand I was previously unaware of - they specialise in rain coats only (since 1948), and it has lots of interesting details. It has built in wrist warmers,  a zip off hood, a funnel neck and rubber coated zips which are a nice touch. It was purchased through Matches fashion for those interested… above are the Instagram pics I put up of it. Of course it still has a Michelin Man element to it, but it's definitely not quite so pudding-y as others I tried on in the past, so I'm very happy with it.

After the purchase of the puffer, Matches fashion saw fit to send me an email with some of their new season things that apparently based on my past purchases I would be highly likely to buy. I was surprised that based on buying what I'd probably describe as "conservative basics", I apparently would be interested in this very expensive Angry Birds inspired tote bag from Fendi.

via Matches

Something has gone very wrong there with some sort of algorithm…. however while I was browsing around on the new bag offerings after I stopped laughing, I came across this Mark Cross "Grace" clutch, which is much more my style (but sadly not going to be purchased in the near future as it's kind of pricey).

 Mark Cross, for those who are not familiar with this brand has been in operation in the USA since 1845 and claims to be "America's first luxury leather goods brand". It's had some pretty impressive product placement in the classic Hitchcock movie "Rear Window". In the movie Grace Kelly stays overnight with Cary Grant to investigate the murder and uses her Mark Cross bag to pull out all she needs for a sleepover.

In honour of the original, they named the slightly more petite clutch bag after her although the original, larger version is available. I love it because in this world of the big logo, it's nice to find something that is well crafted yet outwardly logo-less.
Funnily enough, while searching for the image of Grace with the Mark Cross bag I came across a quirky blog with a "Find your Classic Movie Star Style" quiz. It's fun, so try it (and let me know who you are - I'm a Grace ironically…).

In garden news I can't say I've spent a lot of time in the garden - too snowed under with work, and the weather hasn't exactly been conducive a lot of the time (rain/ wind/ freezing cold). I am definitely a fair weather gardener. But something I did last Summer has borne fruit (not in a literal sense). The hedging expert told me that with small box hedges that rather than tip prune them constantly (as is normal advice) to take the long leaders and peg them down. Eventually they will send out shoots into the ground, but they'll also produce new shoots all the way along the original branch, thus doubling or tripling your size of bush. I took a photo around 5 months ago and here it is

 and one this week to show the difference - bear in mind that most of the growth has been through Autumn and Winter, so this is pretty good in my estimation (it's more than doubled in height, and is probably 3 times as wide).

End result - the bush is only marginally shorter than the ones I didn't do this to, and it's much thicker and less of that sort of vase shape that you normally battle them growing into. So I think it definitely works. It's a labour intensive thing to do to set it up, but usually putting in the hard yards early on with soil prep/ pruning sets you up well into the future, so I definitely recommend trying this.

Sadly though the weeds have been out of control, and you can see a lot in the photo above.  I've become very interested in this fantastic personal flame- thrower as  it burns the weeds and kills them. Environmentally friendly as it isn't a pesticide, and saves your back with the laborious hand weeding. It's perfect for areas with gravel or paving (obviously you don't want to try this on piles of combustible mulch or on total fire ban days). It's from Diggers Club and I can't wait to get my mitts on one of them - nothing better than some hard core flame throwing garden equipment in my opinion.

Finally, if you're on Instagram I thought I'd highlight a few feeds I'm enjoying following (and I'm @anadelaidevilla on there).

One of my favourite feeds is that of Jenny Rose Innes. She has exquisite taste and if you haven't been to visit her blog, go and have a look (on my side bar - the Lime Walk), but in the meantime some snippets of her feed which is full of gardens, interiors, and good things…

nicolasdepompadour is a Scottish based Interior Decorator with very classic English- Country- House- style taste.

Humphrey Munson - classic English kitchen maker (all of you Hamptons/ classic kitchen style lovers will find plenty of inspiration here)

Teggy French - she is Faux Fuchsia's doppelgänger. Seriously, it's uncanny.

seriously - twins!

Mccormick Charlie - stunning floral arrangements and views of the English countryside

Wood_Farm - Marilyn has just returned to Australia from travelling through France, and posted the most sublime photos.

a_cannata - A Melbourne based designer who posts pictures of his rather nice weekender, city pad and multiple classic Mercedes Benz (in fact, he seems to like to purchase things in multiples - check out his Gucci loafer collection)

Phew - well that ended up being a long, random catch up post. I'll try not to leave it so long next time!

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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on
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