Friday, July 30, 2010

Food Porn

Once a month, porn arrives in my mailbox. I buy it for the pictures, but I do sometimes read the articles and once in awhile I might even make a meal from it. Yes, it is the ultimate in food porn, Gourmet Traveller.

It is filled with obscenely complicated, decedent, over engineered food marvels. The food styling is gorgeous, beautiful dining ware sits under perfectly plated food with an artistic scattering of salt crystals or drizzel of oil to whet the appetite.

But more often than not, the recipes are just too complicated or have too many exotic ingredients. They are inspiration, not reality. That said, the brown sugar sponge cake with caramel pears on the cover does look very tempting - but I might make it half height in the interests of safety in serving and that the full cake involves a full dozen eggs!!!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Melody Gardot

I listen to all types of music. You probably aren't going to find any real gangster rap or death metal on my iPod, but pretty much everything else is there. However the thing I love the most is jazz.

I recently discovered Melody Gardot and I adore her music. She has a soft, husky voice, is a very talented composer and has the most amazing life story.

In 2003 she was riding her bike and was hit by a car. She had horrific injuries which still mean she walks with a cane and has to wear dark glasses because of a brain injury that makes her very light sensitive. One of the other side affects of the brain damage she suffered was difficulty with communication. Music therapy was prescribed for this and she began to sing. Prior to her accident she had been musical, but the jazz she has written, recorded and performed since is just amazing.

Today I discovered that her first record "Worrisome Heart" has been re-released, so I have a whole new bunch of her beautiful music to listen to.

If you like jazz, check her out. Her story is amazing and her music is just wonderful.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The savoury side of life

I've written quite a bit on chocolate and other sweet things so it might interest you to know that I actually consider myself as having more of a savoury tooth than a sweet one. Hence in the quest for balance, today's musing is on the wonder that is coagulated milk protein - I'm talking cheese people.

I love, love, love cheese. Hard, soft, red, white or blue, it is all good. About the only cheese I don't like are those ones with what I term "foreign bodies" things like pepper, chives or fruit.

Really, you can't beat a gooey piece of brie, unless maybe it is with a sharp piece of parmesan or a good old stinky blue - really I can't pick just one. One of my favourite desserts is slices of crisp fresh apple topped with a thin slice of edam. mmmm

Such is my love of cheese that I really look forward to "cheese slices" a show all about cheese (!!!) on the ABC on Wednesday nights.

And possibly it is in anticipation of "Cheese Slices" that my thoughts have turned to cheese today, or possibly it is because I just ate a slice of tasty cheese and enjoyed it hugely.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Matching Underwear

I regularly read this great comic "9 Chickweed Lane". In it, the mother and daughter often discuss the secret power that leopard print underwear gives a girl.

I'm not convinced on the need for leopard print, but I do believe a matching set is fantastic for confidence. Really, it shouldn't make any difference at all, but I know that when I'm wearing something gorgeous underneath my (hopefully stylish) office attire, it just gives me that little extra boost for the day.

If I had endless money and an enormous wardrobe it would be matching sets every day!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Climate Change

Ok, climate change is nothing to smile about, but a 15 degree afternoon in Canberra in the middle of winter sure is nice.

I was out and about this afternoon and snapped this picture of swans (you can just make them out) on Sullivan's Creek at the ANU. They looked so gorgeous, every time they came up from foraging the sun caught the drops of water on their heads and necks and gave them a shimmery, golden outline.

And standing in the sun with that very picturesque scene before me, I certainly felt at one with the world. I wish for the planet's sake that it was a normal, freezing winter, but I still enjoyed the afternoon for its own sake.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A productive garden

I have a small but productive garden. In summer it delivers tomatos by the bucket load, lettuce, lemons and usually something else like eggplant as well as a whole host of herbs.

But even in winter it is still home to a variety of herbs which are hardy enough to survive the frost including thyme, rosemary, bay and sage. Tonight's dinner (parsley and lemon crumbed flathead tails) gets its parsley from the garden. I really love knowing that my gardening efforts have contributed to part of dinner, it makes me feel very productive!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Lazy mornings

This morning I had a lovely, slow start to the day. A luxurious lie in under a feather doona. After a long week I just think you can't ask for anything better.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Top Drawer Supplies

Well it has been at least 3 days since I wrote a blog about chocolate, so I think I should tell you about the contents of my top drawer at work.

My top drawer contains emergency supplies. There is a nail kit, hand cream, bandaids, nurofen, the mandatory feminine hygine products and a variety of bite sized chocolates. Oh, and I think there might be some business related stationery somewhere in there!

I don't know about you, but 2pm is my chocolate witching hour. I just need something small, so the individually wrapped chocolates are perfect. A box can last me literally months because I just have one and I find the Lindt ones particularly good as they are both a nice variety, and also are very intense in flavour so really help to kill the cravings.

I think I also love these as they were a treat we sometimes got from my grandmother. My Mum has passed on a love of small things, so small, individually wrapped chocolates just seem particularly delightful.

Ok, must stop writing about chocolate now, or my one a day limit will be blown out of the water!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Warm Car

We have reached that really cold point in winter where even on a sunny day, the air is fairly brisk. So I ask you, is there anything better after a cold walk than getting into your car which has been sitting in the sun?

In summer it can take your breath away as you open the door and allow the heat to escape, but in winter you jump in, keeping all that enveloping warmth. You can feel all those muscles which have contracted against the cold relaxing as you let the warmth sink in. Just lovely.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Keeping in touch

This afternoon as I was working away, my Skype popped up and there was my friend A with her gorgeous little baby Scarlett. We had a quick chat while Scarlett had afternoon tea and caught up on all the important news as well as saw how well they are both doing.

Last night I had an email exchange with another friend who is in England. With her it wasn't such happy news, so being able to quickly exchange notes back and forward and offer at least some semblance of comfort was really good.

With friends around the world, skype, email, facebook etc are my lifeline. It isn't that long ago when I was just out of high school and some friends were doing tutorships in England that I used to write letters. I still write the odd letter and send Christmas and birthday cards, but the instantaneous of communication now just thrills me.

I hope you all get to catch up with someone special in your life today.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fresh Laundry

Don't you just love the smell of fresh, sun dried laundry? That clean, crisp smell.

I had a super busy weekend and didn't manage to get my washing done so I did it last night. Now I have a whole basket of fresh, lovely smelling washing including fresh sheets and towels. Mmmm I will sleep well tonight.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chocolate Cake

This is the remains of a rather delicious chocolate cake that I made for a birthday at work.

We are a new business so are still setting in place our traditions. This was our first work birthday and the cake went down very nicely.

It is one of those tried and true recipes, from a Family Circle treasury of chocolate cakes originally I think. I usually make it into cupcakes and this is actually the first time I've made it as a cake in a long time but it was well worth it.

If you are in a chocolate cake mood, here is the recipe.

Chocolate Fudge Cake (from Family Circle)

4oz (125g) butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2/3 cup cocoa
½ cup hot water
2 teaspoons vinegar
1 cup milk
1 ¾ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
Chocolate Vienna Icing (recipe follows)

Beat butter until creamy, add sugar, eggs and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. Blend cocoa in hot water to make a smooth paste. Gradually add to creamed mixture. Add vinegar to milk to sour.

Sift together flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, and add to creamed mixture alternately with sour milk. Stir lightly but thoroughly.

Pour into two greased 20cm (8in) sandwich tins and bake in a moderate over 30 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly pressed.

Cool in tins for 10 minutes then turn out and allow to cool completely.

Fill and ice with Chocolate Vienna Icing. Decorate with chocolate curls if desired.

Beat 125g butter until creamy. Sift 2 ½ cups icing sugar and blend 3 tablespoons cocoa with 3 tablespoons hot water smooth. Add the icing sugar to the butter alternately with sufficient of the cocoa mixture to bake desired spreading consistency.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sitting Down

This post is going to make me sound like a little old lady but it is so true - how great is it to just sit down on a comfortable couch after a long day?

I've been at tango workshops all day and I ache. So just a little while ago I came home and flopped on the couch. My feet thanked me, my back thanked me, really just my whole body thanked me.

I had my couches recovered a couple of months ago. They were perfectly good, but I had inherited them from my grandparents, so speaking of old ladies, they were old lady taste. Anyway now they are stunning in shades of deep red with black and gold accents. And they are super comfy. So with my feet up and my back supported, here I shall stay for a good while.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


I've had a quiet day today, because I had a fairly big night last night.

It was a cocktail party at J&R's place. They throw wonderful parties and J is a brilliant cocktail maker. She is very creative, makes jewelry, does calligraphy and paints, and she certainly lends all of that creative flair to her cocktails.

Given the cold weather the cocktails were winter themed. There was:

Hot buttered rum - oh yeah, so good
The Cure - a fantastic warm take on lemon, honey and whiskey with a few other ingredients in there
Mulled Wine - always a favourite
Plum Pudding - another warm cocktail based on plum pudding vodka which I make from this recipe.
Creme Brulee - I didn't try this as creamy cocktails aren't my thing but it was very popular

It was a wonderful night, lots of fun and a great indulgence.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Being Pampered

I'm writing this from under a shelter of alfoil. Neatly folded back around my face are numerous foils and my free hair is a fluffed out nest. Not yet a good look but I have complete faith that the end result will be great.

I love going to the hairdresser. Like the beautician or having a massage it makes me feel extremly decadent to be fussed over, primped and attended to. Yes of course we pay for these services but once you reach adulthood there are just so few occassions when yon can sit back and be the absolute centre of attention.

Ahh the buzzer is sounding. Off to get beautiful and enjoy the massage chair at the wash basin. Oh the luxury of it all.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The strange things that make us laugh

Isn't it funny the things that make you laugh? Today B caught her finger in the drawer (not funny) and broke her nail. But it didn't just break across, or just at one side, it broke on both sides leaving a freaky little strip of nail in the middle.

Honestly, she looks like some strange killer from a horror movie and every time I catch site of her typing away (she reckons cutting it off would ruin her typing ability)with her freaky nail point it cracks me up. It has been a funny day.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Baby it's cold outside

There is no other way to describe tonight than cold, wet and miserable. But snuggled up in bed, the rain pelting on the windows and the wind howling around the eves I can help but feel extra cozy.

I know I've written about this before but nights like tonight just make me feel particularly blessed.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Leftovers - you just can't beat them. It is all the enjoyment of a great meal with none of the work!

I wrote on the weekend about my fab Boeuf Bourguingnon well tonight I'm having it mark 2. To make it a bit more interesting I mixed up the leftover mash with frozen peas and fried up little patties, then served it with the lovely heated up beef.

Fab meal, so tasty and perfect for a cold, wet, windy winter night, in no time flat. What a great end to the day.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A special afternoon tea

People in Canberra and Melbourne will know Koko Black. It is a haven of chocolaty goodness. Filled with all sorts of wonderful concoctions made of chocolate (unlike the Lindt cafe they don't even try to pretend to serve savory food) set in elegant and comfortable surroundings.

It is a great location for a catch up, so much nicer than the ubiquitous "coffee". Today, I met up with my friend S. She was my early mentor and we have been friends ever since. Koko Black is our normal meeting place as both of us love the excuse for an indulgence.

The photo is my afternoon tea: hazelnut hot chocolate, silken chocolate and raspberry tart and a raspberry thing that was like whipped aerated raspberry coulis. I must admit it was much richer than I'm used to and I am feeling just slightly that I overdid it, but it sure was enjoyable to over-do!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Small Creatures

Today I got to cuddle babies. A human one, 3 days old, and an 8 week old puppy.

The human baby, is my friend A's little girl and I have to say she is a REALLY beautiful baby. I mean all babies are gorgeous, but this one really is beautiful. And very cuddly. I got to have a real snuggle with her for quite some time. Both parents also seem to be doing well so it was lovely all around.

From there, I got to go to my sister's house and cuddle her new puppy, Marlow. He is a tiny little schnautzer and was dead to the world when I arrived. But he eventually woke up and is a jaunty little boy with a tail that appears to be on a spring it is so waggy.

It has been just a lovely day, cuddling some of the newest members of our circle.

Comfort Food

Apologies, I forgot to press publish yesterday!

Today I made a big pot of Boeuf Bourguingnon. It is beautiful winter comfort food. It's warm smells filled the house and its tasty goodness filled my tummy! Here is my receipe, which is adapted from various sources.

Boeuf Bourguignon
Marinate chuck steak overnight in red wine with 2 fresh bay leaves, several sprigs of thyme and parsley and a couple of crushed cloves of garlic.

Drain (reserve liquid) and pat dry with paper towel.

Seal well (you want a fair bit of colour) in a casserole in batches in a mix of butter and olive oil.

Next, fry off some whole pickling onions, till they are caramelised on the outside, then do the same with some small button mushrooms.

Fry off bacon that has been cut in lardons until it is crispy and drain the fat.

Wipe out the casserole, then return the beef, onions, mushrooms and bacon to the pan. Add in a cup of beef stock, the reserved red wine marinade, a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste and some carrots chopped into roughly the same size as the mushrooms. The liquid should just cover all of the other ingredients.

Bring to the boil, then simmer stiring occasionally, for several hours.

Serve with mashed potato and green beans.

Friday, July 9, 2010

One hell of a strawberry

I'm a berry fan. Raspberries are my favourite but I do love a good strawberry.

Last night I was at my parents house and Mum suddenly exclaimed she had to show us something. This has to be getting on for a record for a strawberry - it weighed 96 grams! That is my sister's hand and the other one is a normal, reasonably large strawberry. For the record, it was as tasty as it looks.

I guess sometimes good things come in big packages.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Swishy Skirts

Today I'm wearing a lovely swishy skirt. It russells and swings and makes me feel all girly! I've attached a (slightly grainy) picture so you can see its swishy goodness and my nice patterned tights - also excellent in the girley front.

But best of all it has pockets. I find women's wear is often lacking in the pocket department and a skirt with pockets is just so damn useful! A handbag is great, but wandering around the office a pocket keeps my tissue, phone and lip balm all handy.

Designers listen up - give us more pockets! In the meantime I shall swish off to a meeting.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Glorious gossip

I dance a few times a week. It is my hobby, my exercise and most of all a major centre of my social life.

Tonight I worked a little on a routine, had a social dance or two but didn't even come close to doing a class - I was too busy catching up on gossip. There is nothing like a good natter with your friends. We don't really gossip (well not that much) but we do chat. Tonight we discussed shoes, cocktails, refugee policy, costumes for an upcoming party, the law and criminal sentancing and what we had for dinner. It is no wonder I stay interested with such diverse conversation!

Anyway after long somewhat stressful day, it was a brilliant way to spend an evening.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sticky, sweet goodness

I donated blood today so I felt I deserved a little treat for doing some good for humanity and that treat came in the form of Maggie Beer burnt fig jam, honeycomb and caramel ice cream.

Ooooh, it is so very good. Sticky, rich, that over-caramlised burnt flavour is amazing. Just a couple of scoops were so very satisfying.

On the blood donation front, I did have a fab nurse and barely felt it. If you haven't done so recently, please donate, they are always in need but particularly in winter.

Monday, July 5, 2010


So I could write today about how I've managed to have another great hair day (two in a week, I know, it could be a miracle) but I thought I would write about memories.

This time last year I was in South America, in fact to be precise, I was in La Paz and today is actually the anniversary of me getting hit by a truck. It was a bit scary, but I wasn't injured and moments later I was completely distracted by fresh pastry products then a passing parade (I've added in some photos of the parade so you can see).

It was an amazing trip which I did with two really good friends and since it is the year anniversary I've been thinking about it quite a bit at the moment. I'm using pictures of the trip as my screen background at work, and if I'm feeling stressed, I just close the document I'm working on and look at the dancing women, or the animals in the amazon, or ancient ruins, or a beautiful waterfall and my mood instantly lightens.

I think a holiday can just keep on giving joy and I'm enjoying mine all over again.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A guest for lunch

Today I had a picnic lunch, well a picnic kabab, by the lake. We sat in Weston Park by the Siev X memorial as swans waddled past a small mob of kangaroos grazed peacefully and fishermen drifted past. It was so peaceful there in the sun, still and quiet with just the sound of the birds.

And speaking of birds, no sooner had we sat down but a magpie jauntely came up to us to ask for some of our lunch. He must have been hand reared becuase he happily took lamb from my hand and wandered around us eyeing off the roll well within arm distance. He hopped around us begging scraps till the kababs were gone, then with a rurefull eye at the scrunched up paper he flew off leaving us to enjoy the afternoon sunshine alone. It was such a treat to have a wild bird so close, I really wish I'd had my camera with me to snap a picture!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A random act of kindness

My boyfried gave me a bundle of cookies today. He had baked them himself and packaged them up specially for me.

A random gift like that is so sweet. There is nothing like finding out that you are being thought about when you are not there to make you feel all warm and fuzzy. I hope everyone out there is bring made feel special tonight.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A good hair day

Don't you love a good hair day?

My hair has a mind of its own, and generally that means it is a little bit wavy, frizzy, curly and maybe even straight all at the same time. But today it has cooperated and given me nice smooth curls. Such a good feeling, I'm going to go out to dinner to show it off!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A yummy dinner

Thursday night is family dinner night. My family is very close and I would speak or email with them nearly every day but nothing beats actually seeing them, so every Thursday we gather at Mum and Dad's.

Tonight however Dad couldn't join us so we decided to go out for a change and have Vietnamese which he doesn't particularly like. I love it and it was such a good meal. For anyone in Canberra we went to My's in Cooleman Court and it really was truly delicious. We started with spring rolls and duck rice paper rolls before moving on to steamed chilli mussels, salt and pepper calamari, beef with lemongrass and caramalised pork. I don't usually eat pork but it was great and everything else was fantastic.

Now I'm sitting here full, content and ready for a good nights sleep.