Picture the scene - 4 of us in our trusty German car (Fritz) bowling away from Avignon,France.  It was exactly a year ago, and we were a tad tired. Had been in Avignon for the day.

       av usums         av buildings

Oohed and aahed our fill, and now we needed somewhere to rest our weary heads for the night.The boys had confidently attacked the very reasonably priced hotels outside the walls of the city - only to be laughed away - several conventions plus a squillion tourists meant there was no room at any inn.

               chat - road

Roads were really really busy, and as we left the beauty of the old city behind, the area degenerated quite quickly into ugly factory - type landscape. What to do ??  Was obvious - Desiree got out her Magic Fairy Wand, started waving it madly,and there it was - a signpost that read - Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 5km.

          av chateauneuf-du-pape

Woohoo - this we have heard of - ancient wine growing area. Micha roared off the road in search of food, bed, wine, new feet, pixies, prostitutes, anything. 

              chateau sign

Maybe that magic fairy wand worked a tad too well - the crenellations of a massive Chateau hove into view through the tree tops.

             chateau - first view


And it was a bit rich to swallow on our SENSIBLE budget, but we had to sleep somewhere, didn't we ??

          the view   

                 French countryside looked amazing from the Chateau.

our room - best1


Ours is the room behind the winter tree, and Des and Micha were high up in the tower.


Four poster bed - fireplace - sumptuous.

    inside our room


              entrance 1   

                   Inside the entrance. Ooohh -

              drawing room1         

                And aaahhh - the drawing room.

Of course we had dinner in their private dining room.

             dinner mixture

Precious !! Ooops, I meant scrumptious !!Almost a degustation menu with sorbet between course, every plate perfect and delicious. With their own wine from the area, good food, gorgeous setting,and once they knew Micha was a chef from Australia, the jokes came thick and fast!! Truly, truly a fabulous night.


           However, like the best nights ever, it was followed by morning. We had to pack our bags and scarper. Damn shame. Maybe again just as well - seeing as the dinner cost even more than the room, and the package was almost our yearly holiday budget - Well, you get the picture !!

But I'm jumping ahead. Early morning, we had time to wander and soak in the countryside - and the mountains in the distance. Beautiful morning - cold, but quite bracing.

          morning mix 2    

         Time to hit the high road.

                  morning 11a 

If you would like a life enhancing experience (at a price) here's the phone no. -

                  phone no

Recommended - book a few years ahead to get a room in summer. Or take potluck in late March like we did.

         full view

 And finally, I had to usurp a picture from their website to show the whole Chateau. Must have been taken in high summer.


Comments ?? Yes, please. But don't ask me the price of a room - Malkie wouldn't tell me !!

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or by email - click on THIS link





 Way way off in Atlanta, I have 2 beloved Grandies. Lachlan and Zachary. Zachie came roaring into the world a few years after Lachlan, and proceeded to catch up to "bruvva" in doubly quick time. Zachie at 4 ? We recognise he is in the 95th percentile for height, but even more than that - the 125th percentile for personality. Such a delight, was amazing I ever managed to catch these photos of a boy so full of life he rarely ever slows down !!


                         2 grandies

 On a very very cold day in January, Zachie turned 4. How cold ? I was there, and let me tell you it was icy !! But forget the weather - whenever you turn 4 is a very happy day, and specially also when your VVBF turns 4 at the same time. So this is Tyler, he is 4 as well and sharing parties.

                      zach and tyler 20        party door 1

    What type of party would they be having ? Batman party of course, mixed in with lots of running jumping hopping climbing sliding laughing meandering eating drinking enjoying playing !! What else would you do when you're 4 ?                               

                         party setting

                                            Party central.

                   party mix 1 

                   party mix 3

                   party mix 4

Slipping sliding running jumping - then the eating drinking bit -

                  pary food 1mix

                         - with a Batman cake - WOW !!

                    party mix this one

 The Zachie support group was all there celebrating with him -

                        party zach 2

and he rewarded us all by helping to clean up. He even offered to wheel out his pressies - how about that ?

But wait, there's more - 

On another even colder day, his kindy class organised a "pinata" party for the 2 boys. Can you think of anything better, when you're little, than to have a stick in your hand and be encouraged to whack the pinata as hard as possible till all the goodies tumble out ? 

                      pinata whack better

                      Blindfold was a liability, but the whack whack action worked.

                      pinata mix

In years to come, Zachie will have many assorted parties - but I reckon this one will rank as one of the best birthdays ever. I also realise as I scroll through the pictures - this little boy that we are used to seeing as a baby, is growing up - he's becoming a young man. And a very very interesting young man !!


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Noticed any new flowers on the streets lately ?


Notice how the birdies are congregating in them ?


Notice how, once you have seen one, you see lots ?


And how the flowers are massed all over each tree ? Stunningly beautiful. Thought I better find out more about them.

Distribution Map
Family: Myrtaceae
Distribution: Coastal rainforest in north Queensland from Townsville to Cape York
Common Name: Golden Penda
Derivation of Name: Xanthostemon...from Greek xanthos, yellow and stemon, a thread or stamen
chrysanthus...from Greek chrysos, gold and anthos, a flower, referring to the flower colour.
Conservation Status: Not considered to be at risk in the wild.

 They are called "golden penda" and yes, they are a native, similar to bottlebrushes and eucalypts. How amazing !! And I had never noticed them before.



Mystery is solved - they were first brought to our notice at the World Expo in Brisbane in 1988, where they were featured as "Expo gold" and so have been growing in our gardens ever since. I geuss it has taken a few years of amazing rain to bring them to such full flowering. Whatever, I am wrapped.


While they are flowering, I am going to overdose on their magnificence.


Look beyond the everyday bits and pieces that hogtie us in our own mental world, and have a look around you. Are there trees flowering in your area ? Are there birdies in your trees ? If you sent me a picture of anything natural that you glory in, I would love to include it in a future post. How about it ? 

Simply send it to jeanette@farnarkle.net 

or add it to my facebook page as Jeanette Blake




Take a long narrow room, divide it in half lengthwise, spend hours and days and weeks gradually carving out a train layout that is on 3 levels, and curves around and through the partition within the long narrow room. Use enormous skill and patience and time - and you will see something amazing evolve.

             long narrow room

                       Long narrow room, partition on the left.

     other side Tracks go round the corner, and down the other side of the partition, with a tunnel connecting them to the first side at the far end.

         rounf the corner  


                       lachie loop          

The Lachie loop, and the Zachie zig - zag, allows the little trains to climb the mountain from one level up to the next. So all 3 levels are accessed in this way, making the total layout an interconnected super loop.  Malkie covers the zig zag up normally with a specially curved green wall, but I like seeing the innards. I have written many times about this engineering marvel - this is just one of them - http://www.jeanettejenkins.net/index.php/23-train-tracks-on-top-of-the-world-ooops-i-meant-the-helix (August 2012) 

                  tracks first 

Once the basic structure was built, each separate part had to be moulded, painted, primped, landscaped - and only then tracks are laid. This shows one snippet with 2 layers.


Roundhouse appeared - (don't you know anything - there has to be a roundhouse) and as the little trains were each one built, they started cluttering (enhancing?) all the tracks.


         and very gradually, even more scenery magicked into position. 

Did I mention - Malkie models South Australian trains, and this layout is taken from the region around Adelaide. At least the full scale version covers the stations around the Adelaide Hills. So that means all landscaping has to be accurate - if there is a scruffy section of bushes - that's what the area actually is like in Sth Australia, etc etc. If it was me - I'd make it ALL pretty !!!!

                  mt lofty

Now for the stations - this is Mt Lofty. 

                 mt lofty 2

Way up on the top level of the layout, sits this amazing station. So the little train groans round and round on its way up the Zachie zig zag, and eventually gets to here. Mt Lofty - the real one - is 1600.00 ft high. (I have to stand on the ladder to see it) 

                murray bridge               

Next is Murray Bridge Station, way down on the right hand side of bottom level.

                murray bridge 1

So much painstaking detail in these buildings, each one an accurate model of the full size station. Murray Bridge, the Bridge itself, I talked about on July, 2013 http://www.jeanettejenkins.net/index.php/109-the-river-the-bridge-the-paddle-steamer-and-the-wharf

                belair 2

AND, the third and final station is Belair

               m belair

This station is on the top left hand side of the layout, against the partition wall. Once again, I have to stand on the ladder to see it. I need to do this, as I have been helping with the trees - Malkie calls me "the Forester".    

              m forest 1          

              m forest 2

For me this is the interesting bit. All the station buildings, all the bits and pieces, all need to be settled into the landscape with touches of greenery. And the forests themselves - much better than "pretty", I want them to look like authentic, Adelaide style, Australian bush - and that, for me, is a labour of love. 

All systems go for the next month - Brisbane is host to the "n" scale convention in April, and for that, Malkie needs to put his best foot forward, and finish as much as possible. A major work like this layout, however, may not EVER be completely finished - and that's just fine. The crucial thing is that Malkie and his mates can run trains round and round and up and down.


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