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I want to love raw chocolate. Really, I do. The only problem is that, in my experience, it simply isn’t as delicious as non-raw chocolate. However, as all my non-raw chocolate tasting took place pre-blog, I feel I ought to get right back on that raw horse again and see where it takes me. (Does anyone else now have the Rawhide theme song in their head?)

Rawganic Chocolate with Hibiscus and Lucuma

Rawganic chocolate with hibiscus and lucuma

First things first. Lucuma. What on earth is it? Those of you in the raw food world might already know, but I had to have a little chat with Mr. Google to find out. Apparently, lucuma is a subtropical fruit from Peru, and is high in fibre, carotene, and assorted vitamins and minerals. I couldn’t really find anything explaining what its flavour is like, though, and so I have to admit I couldn’t really pinpoint anything as “lucuma-y” in my tasting. But we’ll get to that.

Rawganic is an Australian raw chocolate company that produces organic and vegan treats, then donates a percentage of its profits to charities that help animals. So regardless of whether you think the chocolate tastes good, you can feel good eating it. Unless you hate animals, in which case you might feel terrible.

But if you hate animals, you should probably feel terrible anyway.

Where was I?

Rawganic chocolate with hibiscus and lucuma

This particular bar is made of raw organic cacao butter, raw organic cacao powder, raw organic agave nectar, raw organic lucuma powder, organic hibiscus flowers, and pink Himalayan crystal salt. If nothing else, this company displays a great commitment to devising interesting flavour combinations, which I’m always appreciative of.

The chocolate displayed the typical slightly-grainy texture of raw chocolate, but had a crisper snap than I’ve come to expect from its ilk. The aroma was more like cocoa powder than chocolate, and I was pleased to see a few fragments of hibiscus flower peeking out of the bar once I started breaking it apart.

Rawganic chocolate with hibiscus and lucuma

The texture was softer than normal chocolate but wasn’t mushy. (If it sounds like I’m reaching for positives, I guess I am, a little bit. Not mushy! Woot!) My main issue with this creation was that it simply didn’t taste strongly of much at all. It was hard to pinpoint anything definitively “chocolatey” in the taste, although there was a slight bitterness, a very subtle sweetness, and every now and again a tang from the hibiscus flowers.

I enjoyed the hibiscus tang, as it put me in mind of the dried sour cherries used in Green & Black’s Dark Chocolate with Cherry bar (which is the only Green & Black’s creation I’ve bought several times). I can’t help wondering if this chocolate would have had a stronger taste if it had used a different sweetener; as far as I know, agave is known for contributing sweetness without a distinctive flavour, and so I kept thinking that something like maple syrup might’ve helped. Of course, maple syrup isn’t raw (I’m not a die-hard Laura Ingalls Wilder “Quick girls, it’s graining!” fan for nothing!) so maybe that’s not a very good idea.

Rawganic chocolate with hibiscus and lucuma

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but there was one moment when the chocolate flavour in this amped up and I enjoyed it more. That was when I, um, microwaved it.

I’d love to know what someone who has been raw, and hasn’t had regular chocolate, for a long time would think of this.

And even though I didn’t love it myself, I still want to try the other flavours. I mean, there’s a chilli and lime bar! I have to see what that’s like, right?

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A few days ago, I diligently detailed for you the correct procedure for making pavlova for a German. Some of you might have noted that the recipe made three little pavlovas, and yet the German and I are only two. (Two people, that is. Not two pavlovas. I’m certainly not calling myself a pavlova, for while I wouldn’t mind being associated with sweetness, I’d hate to be called hollow inside with a chewy bottom.)

Wow. My mind just went to a really scary image-place. Enough of that. Here’s my detailed timeline for how to eat pavlova like Wayfaring Chocolate.

Caramelised pineapple with sorbet, Flint restaurant

Once upon a time, there was a caramelised pineapple with lemon sorbet dessert at Flint restaurant in Canberra. “Once upon a time” in the sense of “over a year ago” and “has nothing to do with this post”, but shhh. I won’t tell if you won’t.

8:30am: Wake up, buoyed by the fact that at the doctor’s surgery yesterday, you were told to come back in a week’s time, rather than twice weekly as has been the case for the past two months.

8:32am: Look at problem toe and feel heart fall. (I know this isn’t a gory-injuries blog so I’ll avoid going into details, but let’s just say there was a stain of something that rhymes with “glood” on the bandage.)

8:35am: Call doctor’s surgery. Make another appointment, knowing that they probably think you’re a hypochondriac.

9am – 2pm: Alternate marking essays, staring out the window, trying to resist urge to draw on own face with a pen, bursting into spontaneous fragments of angsty Alanis Morisette songs (Ooooo-oooooh, this could get mess-sssssyyyyyy, but you-ooooooo don’t seem to miiiii-iiind), eating, and bursting into spontaneous fragments of that popular recent song you love (I’d like to make myself be-lieeeeeeeeve that planet Eaaaaaaarth tuuuuuuuuurns slooooooooowly). And marking essays. Did I mention the essays? Because there are more of them coming this afternoon.

Roasted pumpkin pine nut salad, Flint Restaurant

Once upon a time etc etc pine nut, feta and roasted pumpkin salad at Flint restaurant etc etc won’t tell if you won’t etc etc.

2:30pm: Slink into doctor’s surgery, where your normal nurse is really ever so kind. She looks at toe, and starts talking about more surgery. Yes, that would be the third round of surgery in less than a year.

2:40pm: Male doctor who is not your actual doctor ambles into room (and I mean ambles. Hands-in-pockets, pelvis-out, shoulders-back, King-Of-The-Domain…) and starts talking in medical jargon, the gist of which seems to be “doesn’t need surgery”.

2:45pm: Nurse pulls out a long grey implement that looks like a giant matchstick and applies silver nitrate to your toe. (I wonder if I’ll make metal detectors go off now? Or if I’ll be lying if I yell “I’m not made of money, you know!” when people ask me to “spare a dollar for the bus cuz” at the interchange?)

3pm onwards: Drive to parents’ place. INTERNET! (I mean, visit my mum.)

Pavolva carob chips

Pavolva prong!

6pm: Arrive home. See lone pavlova in clear Tupperware container above the microwave. Look into pantry of healthy, wholesome dinner ingredients. Look back at lone pavlova in clear Tupperware container above the microwave.

6:01pm: Look into pantry.

6:02pm: Look at pavlova.

6:03pm: Look into pantry.

6:04pm: Reach for pavlova-containing Tupperware container. Open, slip pavlova onto plate.

6:05pm: Look at punnet of strawberries.

6:06pm: Look at packet of chocolate chips.

6:07pm: Look at punnet of strawberries.

6:08pm: Look at packet of chocolate chips.

6:09pm: Open packet of chocolate chips, but decide to make a tacit nod towards “health” by using natural yogurt instead of cream as the intermediary between sugar and sugar.

pavolva with chocolate chips

Ta-daa!

6:10pm: Construct pavlova.

6:20pm: Decide that the use of natural yogurt was inspired, as the tang plays off the super-sweetness of the meringue base brilliantly. Wish there was more. More of everything.

7pm: Realise you should feel guilty about eating pavlova for dinner, and so get off sofa with a sigh and put together a bowl of whole-wheat couscous, chickpeas, baby peas, tahini, and lemon juice.

7:15pm onwards: Watch SeaChange with housemate for the rest of the night because you’re both sick of election talk. (LAURA. How could you ever think Warwick could beat out Max? Nononononono. Don’t you remember the way Max replied with “You, I think”, when you asked him what he wanted, in episode one of season three? You silly woman.)

pavolva with chocolate chips

The end.

And that, my friends, is how you eat pavlova like Wayfaring Chocolate.

When I was younger, my family and I used to go to the coast for a week over the Christmas holidays. Of course, in my family, “going to the coast” meant staying in cabins a half hour drive from the beach and only venturing near sand and surf once in the seven days (if we were lucky). And, usually, that once was at the request of one of my grandmothers, who is over seventy years my senior.

What can I say? Apparently my dislike of water is genetic.

Anyhoodles, my favourite part of those holidays (apart from the Scrabble and tennis and trampoline-in-the-ground and annual expedition to the embroidery/cross-stitch store) was feeding the native birds and wallabies. There are stories relating to that which I’m tempted to delve into, but I shan’t, for I brought this holiday-anecdote up to explain that I now understand why the lorikeets, king parrots, cockatoos, and crimson rosellas were so into my seed mix. (Not a euphemism.)

It was because seeds can be like crack. See below for proof.

C’ôte d’Or Dark Chocolate with Roasted Seeds/Bloc Noir Graines Grillées

C'ote d'Or Bloc Noir Graines Grillées

There are two categories of Top Chocolates in my understanding of life. One category is high-quality, unadorned, pure chocolate, whereby the flavours and excitement emanate from the cacao beans (and perhaps the sugar and vanilla) alone. The other category is chocolates that are enjoyable not because of the chocolate itself, but because of what’s been added to the chocolate: nibs, herbs, salt, caramel, edamame… you name it, I’ll try it (unless “it” is orange).

This C’ôte d’Or Dark Chocolate with Roasted Seeds belongs to the latter category. The chocolate itself didn’t strike me as amazingly mind-boggling, but when combined with its plentiful sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame seed inclusions, it became out of this world.

C'ote D'Or Bloc Noir Graines Grillées

I know that’s a big statement, but just think for a moment. These seeds haven’t been thrown into the mix plain and unadorned. No, these seeds are more like three fairytale women preparing for a prince’s ball; they’ve been pampered and they’ve preened and now they’re presenting themselves in their best possible light, all in the hopes of kissing a frog and landing a kingdom.

The sunflower seeds are roasted.

The pumpkin seeds and roasted and salted.

The sesame seeds are roasted and caramelised.

And in combination with the chocolate, which at 46% is honey-sweet yet undeniably richer in cocoa notes than, say, Lindt’s Excellence dark chocolate, these seeds make me feel like an addict, unable to resist going back for more even when I know all I’ll feel at the end is misery that the sensation/hit is over.

C'ote D'or Dark Chocolate with Roasted Seeds

Each seed in this chocolate stands out, both in terms of its different preparation and its nutty essence. There is no bland, musty nuttiness to be found here, only the savoury, almost-bitter burst of sunflower seeds, the incredibly crisp and intense snap of salted pumpkin seeds, and the burnt-sugar halvah-like crackle of the caramelised sesame seeds. As you can see, this chocolate is bursting with seeds, and the flavour is a testament to such [ingredient] generosity.

I absolutely adored this, and it hurts my heart that this is not a C’ôte d’Or that I’ve ever seen in Australia. Please, if someone in a position of chocolate power is reading this, please swap out the caramel milk chocolate C’ôte d’Or or the raspberry one for this slab of heaven.

200g was simply not enough. I must needs get have tasty eats nom nom more.

C'ote d'Or Dark Chocolate with Roasted Seeds

Panch Phora Lentil Pilaf

Panch Phora Lentil Pilaf

I love cooking. Really, I do. I love the way that cooking is my escape from anxiety and misery; it’s one of the only activities in this world that entirely captures my attention and makes the whirly-burly-thoughts stop their whirling-and-burling. I love attempting to follow recipes then being unable to stop myself from improvising, and I love when the people I care about enjoy what I’ve made for them.

That said, I probably shouldn’t admit the number of times I’ve stood in Smurf Kitchen at dinner-time, peered into my cupboard filled with quinoa, rice, millet, legumes, vinegar, sesame oil, canned artichokes, sardines in tomato/chilli sauce (don’t knock it ‘til you tried it. Unless you’re vegan/vegetarian. Then knock away), coconut milk, canned tomatoes… and made a frown-y face.

You see, sometimes I look at those wholesome, pantry-staple, Make-A-Nutritious-Dish-In-Half-An-Hour items and find myself unable to push away one forlorn thought:

How on earth can I get enough sugar, fat, and processed goodness into my tummy with those stupid ingredients?

More often than not, I’ll succumb to my mother’s voice in my head, which tells me to Make Something Proper That You Won’t Be Ashamed To Tell Someone You Ate.

Panch Phora Lentil Pilaf

Other times, though, the world goes blank and all of a sudden it’s ten minutes later and I find myself, with no idea how I got there, sitting with a plate in front of me upon which is perched a double decker sandwich of wonderment. You know the sandwich I’m talking about, right? It goes: Wonder White bread -> peanut butter -> chocolate chips -> Wonder White bread -> peanut butter -> maple syrup -> Wonder White bread.

And you know what, Mum? The only thing I’m ashamed of is that I never seem to take the final step towards frying such a monstrosity piece of art in butter.

However, for those of you who do like to cook Something Proper That You Won’t Be Ashamed To Tell Someone You Ate, I’ve got just the dish for you. It’s even the dish for me, because when I stopped being lazy and invented this, I couldn’t understand why I’d ever want to eat a sandwich instead.

Also, I want to marry Panch Phora. Just sayin’.

Panch Phora Lentil Pilaf

Panch Phora Lentil Pilaf

Serves 2 (easily doubled)
(recipe from my noggin)

  • 1 American tb (i.e. 3 tsps) Panch Phora
  • 1 tb oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 200g celery, sliced (or celery and carrot, or whatever vegies you have on hand)
  • 1/2 cup (100g) rice
  • 100g red lentils
  • 2 cups veggie stock (estimated… I think I started with 1 1/2 cups and then I threw more in…)
  1. Toast Panch Phora in a dry frying pan for a few minutes until the mustard seeds start to pop and the mix is beginning to get fragrant. Tip the spices into a pestle and mortar and give it a quick grinding. Don’t fuss over it, though. I love the flavour burst of whole spices, and none of these are crazy-intense like, say, cloves are. A bit of whole fenugreek isn’t going to kill you, I promise.
  2. Heat oil in a medium (or large, whatever floats your boat) saucepan, and fry onion and vegetables for 5-10 minutes until softened and gettin’ tasty-tasty.
  3. Throw in rice and lentils and stir around, and then pour in stock. Bring to the boil, cover, then turn down to a simmer and let it potter on its own for 20-25 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Season with salt and pepper. (And tabasco, if you’re me. Which you’re not, clearly, but… hmm. Where was I?)
  4. Eat, and be bemused by the thought that you ever wanted to eat a double decker sandwich of wonderment instead. Silly poppet.

8am: Wake up. Eat breakfast (if you must know, a muffin spread with the last of the crunchy peanut butter, and a bowl of yogurt topped with granola that you should have made yourself instead of buying). Oh, wait. Get dressed, then eat breakfast. Naked muffin eating isn’t so much de rigueur when you live with a friend.

Carrot and Cardamom Muffin

I'm still surprised by how much I enjoy these orange-containing fellows.

9am: Mum arrives to see your finally-decorated room (methinks you won’t be surprised to learn this involves a framed stylistic drawing of a peach and an old-school-French chocolate poster). Ask her whether it’s okay to leave eggs out of the fridge for six hours. She says yes. Forget to take eggs out of fridge.

9:15am: Get driven to doctor’s surgery. Realise you left your glasses at home and things are rather blurry. Awesome mother offers to drive back and get them for you.

9:45am: Finish at doctor’s, rejoin mother in car. Mother hands over glasses, and mentions that she also took two eggs out of the fridge. Big love.

10am: Enter office at uni. INTERNET! (I mean, prepare for tutorials.)

11am: Tutorial. (Happy times.)

12noon: Tutorial. (Happy times.)

1pm: Lunch and various errands.

Salted Caramel Macaron

Okay, I admit it. This wasn't my lunch.

3.30: Home.

3:40: Break egg whites into bowl, then realise you don’t have normal caster sugar. Figure raw caster sugar is pretty much the same thing. (Hint: it isn’t. Moisture = big hollow meringues.)

4ish: Finally finish beating egg whites and sugar to glorious glossy sweet mountain of meringue-y-goodness with electric hand beaters. Dollop meringue onto baking tray in three portions. Pop in oven.

4:05pm: Hover over sink “cleaning” beaters and bowl with spoon and your mouth. Less mess to clean up = clever, right?

4:10pm: Vacuum, clean, tidy.

4:50pm: Realise this still-fairly-new-to-you oven is not so reliable. Meringue is rather brown. Turn oven off, figure The German won’t know any better.

Pavlova meringue

Not quite the colour I was expecting.

5pm: Shower.

5:30pm: Make shepherd’s pie with kangaroo mince. Aussie Aussie Aussie…?

6:30pm: Wait.

7pm: Read a bit.

7:30pm: Wait.

7:45pm: Hello The German!

8pm: Buy wine.

8:15pm: Wine.

8:30pm: Eat shepherd’s pie.

8:45pm: Wine.

Pavlova meringue

Lots of nooks and crannies for cream, though. That's generally a good thing. (If you're into cream.)

9pm: Bring out meringues. Wine makes you admit that they aren’t quite right, instead of allowing you to continue with your earlier plan to pretend all is well. The German laughs about the enormous hollow cave in the middle of each meringue. Stare him down while telling him that they’re “rustic”.

9:05pm: All errors can be hidden with cream, strawberries, and kiwi fruit, right? Even if The German sliced said fruit strangely.

9:10pm: Pavolvas are divinely tasty with the perfect blend of melt-in-the-mouth crust and almost-chewy bottom.

Pavolva with strawberries and kiwi fruit.

Christmas colours! Puuuurty.

9:20pm: Wine.

9:30pm: Try the improvised cake that The German made. Decide lychees, peaches, sour cherries and coconut cream should be added to every cake recipe from now on.

9:40pm: Wine.

9:50pm: Discover mutual peanut butter love.

9:55pm: Wine.

10pm: Do something you never thought you’d do. That is to say, open up your the-company-closed-down-therefore-no-more-can-ever-be-found-one-and-only jar of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Peanut Butter.

PB Loco Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Peanut Butter

Also known as crack.

And that, my friends, is how you make pavolva for a German.

Theo’s 3400 Phinney range has fared rather well on this blog. The Hazelnut Crunch and Coconut Curry bars are up there* with my favourite milk chocolates of all time, I absolutely adored the vegan Fig, Fennel and Almond dark chocolate, and Theo’s gorgeous packaging designs make me smile and say “Aw!” every time I look at them.

I figured it was about time I chatted about another of Theo’s dark chocolates. Sadly, this one ain’t vegan, for those of you of a mind to know such things. You see, thar’s butter in that thar sweetie, me hearties**!

Theo Nib Brittle Dark Chocolate

Theo Nib Brittle Dark Chocolate

The more I look at the lady on this packaging, the more I’m inclined to think she’s a bit of a tramp. Look at that cleavage! And that sideways glance! You can almost see, in her eyes and bowl of rocks, her devious plan to steal that Llama from its Llama girlfriend. Hmm. And now I can’t stop thinking about how if you say “nib brittle” really fast, it starts to sound like a part of human anatomy.

Wait, isn’t this meant to be a chocolate review? Someone tell me to get my mind out of the gutter. Surely it doesn’t matter that the female mascot is an illicit llama-lover, if the chocolate itself tastes good?

Theo Nib Brittle Dark Chocolate

This chocolate is comprised of cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa nibs, butter, corn syrup, water, salt, and ground vanilla bean. The majority of these ingredients are organic and almost all are fair-trade, which means you can indulge with a clear conscious (so long as you don’t mind a bit of llama-lovin’). (Hannah, seriously. Stop it.)

The aroma of this chocolate is pleasantly chocolatey with red fruit notes, although it isn’t as intense as, say, Valrhona or Amadei. Aesthetically-speaking, the bar is a lovely dark black-brown with a plethora of caramelised nibs peeking out at all times.

When I took my first bite, the first thing I noticed was the incredible crispiness of the nibs, which comes from their crackly, sugary, salt-and-vanilla-flecked caramelised coating. The flavour of the brittle often seems more caramel-sugar than earthy, assertive nibs, but there are certainly moments when the nibs’ woodsy coffee notes push through.

Theo Nib Brittle Dark Chocolate

At first this chocolate bar seems rather tentative in flavour, yet if you give it a moment to gather its confidence, you’ll be rewarded with a taste that draws hot fudge sauce, molasses, honey, red plums, earthy cocoa and caramel into a cohesive and delicious whole.

Oh, and sometimes this Nib Brittle chocolate tastes like a piece of toast that’s been topped with butter and sugar and caramelised under the grill. Which, I have to say, is a far pleasanter mental image to hold onto than that of a female floozy eloping with a llama.

* Where is up there? Saying something is “up there” (in order to proclaim its amazingness) is rather a strange turn of phrase, don’t you think? Or perhaps I am simply confuddled from marking essays. I wish I could talk about that on this blog, but I can’t, even though I’m marking for another university. Strangled noise.

** In case you can’t tell, I do an awesome pirate.

My dearest fellow art junkies, I feel it’s about time we finish up our European gallerying with a peek and a poke around some of Florence’s art-world hot spots. Over the following minutes (or hours, if you’re a terribly slow reader), I shall show you works from the Palazzo Strozzi (the “De Chirico, Magritte, Max Ernst and Balthus” exhibition, to be precise), the Uffizi Gallery, and the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. Yes I just switched from English to Italian. What can I say? I’m a talented tour guide. 

Please take a moment to turn your mobiles to silent, pick a tour-buddy so that you don’t get lost amongst the paint and alabaster, and make sure you’ve got a chocolate bar on hand. We might need some sustenance along the way. 

Edipo Re, by Max Ernst. At the Palazzo Strozzi

Edipo Re, by Max Ernst. At the Palazzo Strozzi.

Now, my tour-ees, what do you think of when you see two birds’ heads (one of which has a string attached to its horns), a hot air balloon, a walnut, and fingers that are not only threaded through with metal spikes but are coming out of a building? 

The first thing I think of is the Oedipus myth. 

Well, what do you know? I’m right. This painting by Max Ernst is a depiction of the tale of Oedipus. It’s really all very clear, once you stop and think about it. What else would birds and balloons and walnuts signify but a man who sleeps with his mother and kills his father? 

(Don’t fret if you can’t make the connection as easily as I. This simply shows why I’m the tour guide and you’re not.) 

La Plage, by Pierre Roy. At the Palazzo Strozzi

La Plage, by Pierre Roy. At the Palazzo Strozzi.

Next up we have a painting called “The Beach”. In my wise and expert Art Whisperer opinion, I firmly believe that a more apt title would be “Enormous Clown Shoe Made of Woven Plastic That Will Never Biodegrade You Evil Anti-Environment Shoe Company You”. Feel free to write my alternate title down in your notes. It’s a keeper. 

Adoration of Camaldoli, by Filippo Lippi. At the Uffizi Gallery.

Adoration of Camaldoli, by Filippo Lippi. At the Uffizi Gallery.

I believe I’ve mentioned that, in my non tour-guide hours, I am a PhD student in the field of Sociology. What I haven’t mentioned is that I seriously considered switching to Art History so that I could investigate why the majority of depictions of Baby Jesus make him look like an incredibly ugly half-man-half-child creature. Surprisingly, the above is one of the better depictions, so long as you ignore the strangely bulbous and elongated head. 

Madonna and Child in the Glory of the Cherubs, by Alessandro Filipepi. At the Uffizi Gallery.

Madonna and Child in the Glory of the Cherubs, by Alessandro Filipepi. At the Uffizi Gallery.

Now do you see what I mean? 

 La Vierge et l’Enfant, by Giovanni da Modena. At the Louvre

La Vierge et l’Enfant, by Giovanni da Modena. At the Louvre (yes, I just space-time-continuum-jumped our tour to Paris and back).

And again. Poor Jesus. 

Annuncio ai pastori, by Arnolfo e collaboratore. At the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.

Annuncio ai pastori, by Arnolfo e collaboratore. At the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.

Beware! Alien cows! Don’t let them hit you with their radioactive udders of doom! (Hmm. How did I get from Jesus to dangerous udders?) 

Unknown, at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.

Unknown, at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.

And here we have the original Side Show Alley Clown. Win a free Virgin Madonna painting if the ball you pop in his mouth rolls out and hits a Gates of Paradise gold panel! 

Maddalena by Donatello, the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.

Maddalena, by Donatello. At the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.

And last but not least, the scariest Mary Magdalene you ever have seen. Moral of this statue-story: Become a prostitute, and you’ll start to look like a corpse. If there’s one thing I want you to remember from this tour, it’s that simple fact. 

The End. 

(The exit is to your left, people. But do come back someday soon. I might just have some Australian art to interpret for you in the future.)