Friday, December 30, 2011

Wine and Dessert

Ahhh, the bliss of being on holiday - properly on holiday, away from home so chores can't call, normal activities don't fit in and days can be dedicated to doing not much more than eating, sleeping and reading a good book.

I'm spending time with S's family in Adelaide and I've discovered that while my family is known for our over catering, S's family has taken that to heart in regards to dessert.  I don't think there has been a night with less than 4 on offer and if you eat less than 2 people think there is something wrong.  At this point we have eaten two whole trifles, two cakes, a series of mango puddings, a pavlova, a Christmas pudding, roasted strawberries and a whole host of chocolates and other "snack" desserts.  It may come as no shock to you that I'm using any opportunity possible to get out for a walk.

But yesterday we took a break from the endless desserts and drove up to the Barossa Valley for a day of wine tasting.  We visited 6 wineries (I think) and Maggie Beer's farm as well as having a delicious pub lunch.

I love winery tours.  The chance to try so many great wines is never something to turn down, but there is just something lovely about wineries.

 Stepping out of the hot South Australian sun into the cool of a tasting room.  Being surrounded by giant oak wine barrels.  Hearing about the wines from passionate wine makers.  Oh and did I mention tasting the wine?

Luckily we had a chauffeur for the day.  S's Dad was kind enough to drive us around, choosing the smaller more boutique wineries for us to visit.  We drove past the giants - Penfolds, Jacob's Creek, etc - but it is the little labels that is the joy to discover on such a day.  It was in the tiny wineries where we tasted some delicious gems - it is only limited carry on space that prevented me buying many bottles.

It was great fun to visit Maggie Beer's farm shop and see where "The Cook and The Chef" was filmed.  But it was by far the busiest place of the visit and we really only lingered long enough to buy some of her icecream to eat (well it was hot and as you can tell it had been several hours since we had eaten a dessert).

Finally, the heat and the alcohol combined to create a car full of sleepy passengers, so we headed back into town where we were once again confronted by the desserts on offer.  As you can tell, I'm having a fantastic break.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Eve

My family is of German and Austrian descent and as a result our Christmas follows those traditions.  The key one is that our big celebration is held on Christmas Eve, not Christmas day and like anything to do with my family, it is centered around food.  Around a feast to be precise.

The photos never do the spread justice.  So to give you an idea of just how crazy it is, here is a list of what the 6 of us ate:
  • Potato Salad
  • Spinach Salad
  • Pumpkin and Eggplant Salad
  • Roasted Capsicum Salad
  • Tomato and Boconcini Salad
  • Cucumber Salad
  • Coleslaw
  • Asparagus
  • Seafood - prawns, oysters, smoked salmon
  • BBQ chicken
  • Ham
  • Cabanossi
  • Procutto with melon
  • Eggs - plain hard boiled and deviled
  • Homemade Pate
  • Cheese - brie and chedder
  • Two types of bread

That is right, 6 of us ate that - and a pav for dessert!  There were plenty of leftovers which Mum and Dad happily took possession of and will feed them for a week.

Everything was washed down by an excellent bottles of champagne, white wine and red wine.  As a result things did get a bit silly at some points, my sister modelling the new fashion for Christmas hats is an excellent example.

As per tradition after the main meal we went for a walk.  When my sister and I were small the walk was to look for Santa.  We would hunt up and down the street, checking the sky for a red light that would be the telltale sign of Rudolph's nose, until eventually we would see the curtains of our house open and the candles lit, the sign that Santa had somehow snuck past us to deliver our presents.  These days the walk serves the important purpose of allowing us to digest the vast quantities of food we have just eaten before we get stuck into dessert.

It was a gorgeous night.  After the feast of food there was a crazy number of presents.  My sister's little dogs were even in the swing of things with their tinsel collar accessories.

And of course seeing that we do all of this on Christmas Eve that leaves Christmas day for my sister and I to head to our partner's families to partake of the English traditions.  We really do get the best of both worlds.

I hope your Christmas was as special as mine.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone. I hope you all have a day filled with joy, laughter, special treats and time with your loved ones. S and I have been wonderfully spoilt by my family at our lavish Christmas Eve (full post to follow) and are now in transit to Adelaide to celebrate with S's family. I'm certainly feeling the love today.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Time Out

It has been a busy and stressful few weeks, so S and I used a few free days before the Christmas festivities begin to escape the hubub and head to the most relaxing place on earth, which (in my humble opinion) is the NSW south coast. 

On the whole the weather has been grey, but today is glorious. But it doesn't really matter what the weather is like down here.  Somehow within minutes of arriving and smelling that fresh salty air, cares and worries disappear, muscles unwind and a deep relaxation sets in.

We have walked on the beach, eaten ice-creams by the sea wall, had lazy meals and generally done little.  And as a result, I feel great.  Energised and ready for a busy Christmas which will include a trip to Adelaide to be with S's family.  It has been the perfect break.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The World Record for Christmas Lights

If someone asked you to guess what country held the record for most Christmas lights on a house, most people would probably think of America.  They would be wrong.  The record is held by Australia; in fact, by a house in Canberra.

The house in question is located in Forest.  Those who know Canberra will realise how incongruous this is.  Forest is one of the poshest, most elite suburbs in the city.  The kind of suburb where manicured hedges hide genteel houses.  It is a suburb of quiet tree lined streets, the sort of place where the only traffic is local.

However in the middle of this quiet oasis of the wealthy, one couple has created a mammoth Christmas lights display that attracts hundreds of people a night.  Cars line the surrounding roads, there was actually a mini traffic jam on their street.  Not only that but the 331,038 lights are coordinated to the music that is played, creating a noisy, brightly flashing display that is brilliant to see but must be a nightmare to live next to.

S and I made an impromptu visit on our way home from another event.  We didn't actually know the address but once in the suburb we were easily able to follow the continual stream of traffic and once we were close the overwhelming display made it clear which house we were visiting.

It is hard to describe.  There is a 25m tunnel made of closely woven strands of LED lights.  A huge tree is wrapped in them, the house is adorned.  It is overwhelming really and the photos do not do it justice.

We arrived at about 9.30 and parked a couple of streets away.  The actual street was in gridlock and there were people thronging in all direction.  The display takes donations which are given to SIDS and Kids and I think they would make hundreds of dollars each night.

I can't say I would want to be their neighbours, but I have to say, it is an awesome display and I admire the work to achieve it.  The display is clearly a labour of love but it is one that brings a huge number of people a lot of joy.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Summer Picnic

This part of December is a busy time, so a moment of stillness is very welcome.  Kicking off my shoes in the cool grass, lazing under a tree on a picnic blanket with S was the perfect way to spend an afternoon.

After weeks of wet, unseasonably cool weather, today was perfect.  Mid-20s, a gentle breeze, just the day you want for a picnic BBQ, which is exactly what we had been invited to.  The gathering was to celebrate a birthday and wet weather plans had been made, but the summer gods smiled and we spread our picnic blankets under shady trees and fired up the BBQ.

After stuffing ourselves with egg and bacon rolls and sausage sandwiches, S and I lazed back on the rug.  There was gentle conversation, warm fresh air and full bellies.  I don't know if contentment is quite a strong enough word to sum it all up.

While children ran about, dogs watched for the remains of BBQ and people laughed, I looked up at the canopy of green above us and reflected on just how lucky I am to have these gorgeous moments in my life.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dance, dance, dance

Kari yesterday asked me what style of dance I do and I realised that while I have mentioned how much I love dance I haven't really talked much about what kind of dance I do.

When I was a little girl I did ballet classes, followed by jazz ballet for a time.  But I was always too tall, too gawky and the enthusiasm I had was never really encouraged by the teachers who knew with my physical size I was never going to be a professional dancer.   I think it is so sad that they wouldn't encourage such enthusiasm.  Sure I was never going to be a ballerina, but if someone loves something you should always encourage them.

So from the age of about 8 or 9 I didn't dance.  In high school there were dance opportunities in things like Rock Eisteddfod, but I had built up a whole host of myths in my head about dance (see below) that meant I never gave it a go.

In 2003 (I think) I went to a Christmas party where the hostess prompted a conversation by saying to someone he should tell us about his dancing.  He told us about Ceroc (modern jive) and in doing so blew all the myths that I had built up in my head out of the water.  At that point in my life the majority of my friends had moved away, I was unfit, had a minimal social life and I needed a new direction.  The next February I dragged two of my girlfriends along to a class and fell in love.  I came home that first night and sat on my Mum's bed beaming.  My words to her were "I think I could be good at this".

A few years later, after much dancing and hard work I was asked to come on staff.  I've moved from a demonstrator, to a junior instructor, to a senior instructor.  It would be fantastic to go back in time and tell those snobby ballet instructors that these days I'm a dance teacher!

My interest in dance has grown and grown.  Over the years I've tried out a multitude of styles.  As well as teaching Ceroc, I do lessons in and dance argentine tango, salsa and rumba on a regular basis.  I know the basics of zouk lambada, waltz and cha cha.  I even did a fantastic term of burlesque dancing that was probably the hardest class I've ever done with one of the most inspirational teachers ever.

Dance has quite literally changed my life.  I'm fitter and healthier than ever.  I have the most remarkably wonderful, quirky, brilliant and supportive group of friends.  I've developed body confidence and much better posture.  It has given me a hobby that I love and that brings me joy every time I do it.  And, most importantly, it was through dance that I met S.

So as I said earlier, I had built up a list of myths about dance in my head that prevented me trying it out for years.  So that no one else has them, here is my list of Myths of Dance.

Myth 1 : You have to go with a partner - I have no idea where I formed this impression but I can categorically say it is not true and the vast majority of people do not come to dance classes with a partner.  If anything coming with a partner can hamper you because if you only dance with them, you don't learn from all the other people, so if you do come with someone, make sure you still dance with as many different people as you can.

Myth 2 : Dance classes are really expensive - the average classes I've seen cost somewhere between $15 - $20.  Ok, this isn't cheap, but it also isn't a huge cost, most of us can find $15 or $20 a week for an activity.  These days I do private classes which are $60, now that is getting expensive but they let me learn all the styles I want to and I learn at a much faster pace than in group classes because I've been dancing for so long.  For me I find that valuable, but I had my first private class 7 years after I started learning, so if you are starting out group classes are all you need.

Myth 3 : You have to be really coordinated and graceful - ha!  If that was true there is no way I would be dancing.  I was someone who can fall over her own feet.  It took time to get my balance etc but these days I do cut a reasonably graceful figure on the dance floor.  And I still fall over my own feet.

Myth 4 : Dance isn't real exercise - I always love it when they have athletes on "Dancing with the Stars" and they say how fit they have got.  A few years ago the ceroc teachers did an exercise where they wore pedometers in class and they managed to do the entire day's recommended steps in a single dance class.  It is hard work, I've never been as fit as I am now, and the only difference in my life is dance.

Myth 5 : Only cool people know how to dance - yup, I was convinced you had to be in the in crowd to know how to dance.  Learning to dance is cool, but we all have to learn.  I've seen people from 18-80 in classes.  Those who dress fashionably, those who really, really don't.  And then comes the day when you decide it is more comfortable to wear socks under your dance shoes because what you are wearing, how your hair is done etc doesn't matter - you are just there to dance.  That said personal hygiene is really, really important!

Is there any activity that you have put off only to later discover you love?  And do you have any questions about dance, feel free to ask away.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Busy times

Sorry about the break between posts but it 'tis the season to be busy, busy, busy!  Work is full on in the lead up to leave (yay!), there is the all important gift purchasing and other shopping needs plus my social life is as full as can be as everyone fits in their Christmas activities.  Sleep has become a precious commodity.

This weekend just gone had end of year parties for two of the dance schools I attend.  They were great fun, loads of dancing, not to mention having the chance to catch up with people who we haven't seen for quite some time.  S and I probably spent more time chatting than dancing, but it was just perfect for this time of year.

The party on Saturday was at 8pm and while it included finger food, some friends of mine and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to try the new Dumpling House at the ANU.  We were somewhat overdressed for the occasion, but the food was just delicious.  Given that we were about to go dancing, we limited ourselves to just a few baskets of dumplings, although having seen the extensive menu I'm keen to go back and try more.

We ended up eating the Shanghai fried beef dumplings, the fried pork dumplings, steamed prawn dumplings and steamed vegetarian dumplings.  The boys were a bit taken aback at ordering the vegetarian ones, but I think they ended up being everyone's favourite!  They were generous serves and while I'm sure we could have stuffed ourselves more, we were all happy with that selection and at $11 a person, it was good value too.  Dinner also came with complimentary tea.

We had a great catch up over dinner which was much needed as we haven't had much of a chance to see each other recently - as evidenced by the fact that they bought me a birthday present (my birthday was 2 months ago).  Lauren has a business doing high quality artificial flower wedding bouquets.  Her work is gorgeous and she made me this stunning posy which was just perfect for an antique green and gold vase that has been sitting in the cupboard, just waiting for something to be put in it.  That is right, all the flowers in these photos are artificial.

If you are looking for someone to do your flowers for a wedding, or you are just after a special and permanent flower arrangement for home or the office, check her out at her work is beautiful.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Opening Doors

Have you been opening your advent calendar doors?  I'm firmly of the belief that one is never too old for such Christmas traditions, which is probably helped by the fact that I have an extremely cute advent calendar.  It was a present from Mum a few years ago, my sister has one too and we love them.

Each day I open a door and get a new little decoration to hang on the tree.  When I pack it up in January I always put them away in a random order so that I surprise myself with what comes out on each day.

The house is feeling very festive.  Every night I put the lights on the tree and sit in semi-darkness admiring it.  Gosh I love a Christmas tree.

But the rest of the house is decorated too.  From the wreath on the front door, to the little ornaments on shelves and coffee tables.

I love blue and gold, so even in my red themed home I have a special place for a crystal bowl of blue and gold baubles in the middle of my dining table.  Isn't the runner great?  I got it for $3 from the Reject Shop this year.

Do you decorate the whole of your house, and where do you set the line between tasteful decorations and OMG the house vomited tinsel?

Friday, December 2, 2011


Kari over at Bite-Sized Thoughts has tagged me in the Food Bloggers Unplugged concept started by Susan.

There are 10 questions to let you know a little bit more about me.  It is meant to be a food blogger quiz, hence the foodie nature and while I may not identify as a food blogger, I do love food so they are quite appropriate questions really.  So here goes:

1. What, or who inspired you to start a blog?

I started a travel blog in 2009 when I was heading off around South America to keep my family and friends (but mainly my Mum who is a worrier) in the loop of what we were doing.  I really enjoyed the experience, it was a long time since I'd done much non-work related writing, but when I got back I didn't think of turning into an every day blog.

Then one day I had one of those great days where I was in a super awesome mood for no reason at all. As I drove home that night there was a story on the radio about depressive thought cycles and it occurred to me, if you can have a depressive thought cycle, can you have a happy thought cycle?  Was there a way that I could focus on positive things and continue this great mood.  So I decided to start a blog where I would post happy things every day.  I did the every day post thing for a year and proved that you can do it, even on really bad days there is some positive to be found.  I don't post every day now but I love that I pay attention to happy stuff because it occurs to me that I can blog about it.  I think it has made me happier and it has definitely made me pay more attention to the good stuff that can go unnoticed.

2. Who is your foodie inspiration?

This one is all about context.  In the world view, I think Jamie Oliver is completely inspirational about how he believes everyone should be able to cook and eat well.  Also about how much he believes in food and family, very much my thoughts too.  I also love Maggie Beer and how cooking for her is about creating great flavours to give people enjoyment.  Cooking to feed people and make them happy is what I enjoy.

In real life my inspiration would be Mum and S.  Mum taught me to cook (more on that in a minute) and I think I cook my best when we are working together.  S comes up with the amazing combos and ideas that I then try to turn into a meal.  He makes me think outside the box and best of all will try my weird and wonderful experiments quite happily.

3. Your greasiest, batter-splattered food/drink book is?

My recipe folder.  Full of copied out recipes from other people or the internet, or cut outs from magazines etc.  It is pulled out and used more than anything else. (and you can even see that it is slightly starting to fall apart.

4.Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?

Such a tricky one because I love food and travel and so have eaten some amazing things in amazing places.  I'm going to say guinea pig in Peru, because it was an all round great day/night.  We had just returned from our trek to Machu Picchu.  I was still on a high from the achievement of seeing a place I had been longing to visit since I was a little kid, but had also had a proper night's sleep in a real bed, a hot shower and a lazy day wandering Cuzco, a city I love.  We decided that we wanted to try guinea pig, but we also wanted something fancy after our days of camping.  So we headed to a posh restaurant, drank pisco sours (national cocktail of Peru) and ate massive, delicious guinea pig with roast potatoes.  It is slightly gamey, I would probably compare the flavour to quail although it was much more meaty.  They had marinated it in garlic and rosemary and it was so flavourful and juicy that we ended up with grease covered hands to the wrists.  Adding to the experience was sitting in the fancy restaurant, with starched white napkins, in our backpacking clothes while eating our meal with our hands (as is customary).  It was a great night.

I should add that photo is just one person's serve, we each had the same!  Luckily we were hungry after all that hiking.  And by that stage of the night we were on to pisco-politans - a cosmopolitan made with pisco.

5. Another food blogger's table you'd like to eat at is?
I am so inspired by all the food bloggers I read, really if you love food enough to discuss it, photograph it and blog it then I would totally love to eat at your table.

6. What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?

Easy one - a thermomix!  At first I thought they sounded too good to be true and as a fan of slow cooking from scratch I doubted the quality that would result.  But with chef after fussy chef reporting the wonder that is a thermomix, I think I would love one.

7. Who taught you how to cook?

Mum.  From the time I was tiny I would sit at the kitchen bench and "help".  I learned as much by doing as by watching.  We were always given sharp knives and proper food so learned how to be careful as well as how to construct a recipe.  Mum and I also talk food all the time, working out what flavours go together and how we can make new dishes.  I love cooking with and for Mum.

However, Dad deserves an honourable mention for teaching me how to make apple turnovers which became a Saturday night ritual for most of my teenage and early 20's years.  Dad was also the instigator of other such delights as ridiculously indulgent french toast (which I will do a post on over Christmas) and the full breakfast fry up.

8. I'm coming to you for dinner, what's your signature dish?
My fail safe recipe is a Donna Hay recipe where you top a thick slice of eggplant with basil, slices of tomato and a chicken breast then sprinkle with mozzarella.  It gets baked for 20 minutes, works perfectly every time and requires no effort or unsociable cooking activity.  But I like to experiment and create a menu that reflects the season and those eating while also letting me socialise and not be tied to the kitchen all night.  So dinner would probably be an antipasto entree, a nice main with several sides for choice and a decadent dessert.

Somehow along the way though I've become known as the jelly shot queen.  I'm not entirely sure I'm comfortable with my culinary legacy being in alcoholic jelly, but oh well, at least it is memorable.

9. What is your guilty food pleasure?

Oh, so many.  Hot chips with vinegar.  Melted dark chocolate.  Cheese.  Red wine and chocolate.  Coke.  Cake for breakfast (I should be specific here, only the family secret recipe chocolate cake or guglhupf). And of course there is my desk drawer of chocolate.  Hmmm, I did mention chocolate didn't I?

10. Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?
I am not perpetually happy!  I'm a bit of a stress head at times, am usually way over-committed and trying to figure out how to fit everything into my life.  This blog is really my "Little Book of Calm" (Black Books reference for anyone who knows it).

Now I have to tag 5 other bloggers.  This is tricky.  It is a foodie questionnaire, but I'm tagging some non-foodie bloggers, hope you guys enjoy!

Hannah @ Wayfaring Chocolate

Leaf @ The Indolent Cook

Shellie @ Iron Chef Shellie

Heidi @ Applies Under My Bed

Z @ Lovely Jublies

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Summer Love

I don't have a favourite season.  There are things I love about each one, and things I don't.  But on the first day of summer I'm thinking of all the things I love about the hot part of the year.  There are so many, from the coolness of the early morning when the sky is the hard blue that tells you it is going to be a scorcher, to sipping cocktails in the long warm twilight of a summer evening.  Here are a few thoughts:

Summer Fruit - peaches, nectarines, cherries, berries, mangoes that are so ripe and full of flavour that the juice runs down your arms in sticky trails while you eat them.

Long days - daylight for hours and hours.  From the cool of the early morning, through the scorching midday when you retreat to the air conditioning, only to venture out in the long lingering warmth of summer evenings.

Ice creams - eaten fast so that they don't melt, cooling after a long walk.

Bare legs and arms - lily white from winter hibernation, they are released.  Fresh air on bare limbs and bright painted toenails in open toed sandels.

Summer Storms - excitement of thunder and lightening followed by the refreshing cool, clean post rain air.

Picnics - under shady trees in gorgeous gardens, by the lake, or at the beach.  Lazing on a picnic blanket eating delicious morsels while reclining in luxuriant relaxation.

And so much more ...

What do you love about summer?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sleepless in South Canberra

I'm a little tired today, so are most of my colleagues, friends, and random people in coffee shops were all talking about how tired they are.  In fact most people in Canberra are a little tired today.  You see last night we had a series of epic storms over the city.

They started at about 4.30pm, coming in waves throughout the night.  They were spectacular, an amazing amount of lightening accompanied by driving rain, hail and strong wind.  All of this combined to make for a rather sleepless night for many.

I love thunder storms, the electricity in the air makes me feel all excited.  Driving home before they really hit you could tell it was going to be amazing by the fantastic castles of blue black clouds.  But I have to admit that the resulting strobe like light show and thundering rain at 2am felt a little more horror movie.  It was so regular and bright it lit up the room just like your classic scary movie scene.

This morning however the storms paused and the air had that fantastic post rain freshness.  For the sleep deprived among us, it was an excellent wake up moment - well that and a caffeinated beverage.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tree Finial

I had a few people over this weekend and my tree attracted a fair bit of attraction, particularly its topper.

No star or angel for me, I have a finial on my tree.  Based on the architectural look of a spire on European churches, it is a different look but one that is very familiar for me - it is what we always had on our family Christmas tree.  It took a lot of searching to find one, although they seem to be becoming more and more popular.

For me it is normal but my friends think it looks somewhat a spaceship!  What do you think?  And what tops your tree?

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Thanksgiving is one thing I would be perfectly happy to adopt from the US.  I'm not talking about the big meal, the football, the holiday stress, I'm talking about having a day where you actually give thanks for the good things in life.  It is something we don't often take the time to consider.  I'm thankful for so much, I truly feel blessed in the life I lead, but here is the list of things that are really making me thankful today:

I'm thankful for the love in my life.  From my amazing family, my fabulous friends and my absolutely gorgeous boyfriend. 

I'm thankful for my health.  It is easy to take for granted but good health is of unquantifiable worth. 

I'm thankful for my education.  Education is everything in my book.  With education the world is your oyster, without it, the paths are closed.  I'm so grateful to my parents for ensuring I got it and the wonderful teachers who gave it to me. 

I'm thankful for my upbringing.  For growing up in a house where I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was loved and safe.  Where I was taught everything from manners to critical thinking.  Where I was (and am) loved and supported in all my efforts.  Where I was taught to respect money but not revere it.  And where laughter was a part of every day. 

I'm thankful for being born in Australia.  I live in a country where I am free to express my views and elect my leaders.  I am not denied opportunities because of sex, marital status, age, religion or ethnicity.  I go about my everyday activities without fear for my safety.  I have enough to eat, a warm comfortable home, a well paid job.  I know that not everyone in Australia has access to all these things, but vastly more people here do than in other parts of the world.

And last but not least: Today I'm thankful that it is almost Christmas and the German gingerbread is in store!

What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Christmas tree time!

This year has rushed by and seems to be picking up speed as we head towards the end of the year.  There is lots to get done and not much time to do it.  However the end of the year does herald my absolute favourite time - Christmas!!!

Last night I decided it was about time I really got into the spirit and I put up my Christmas tree.  It still needs some work, it is feeling under-dressed to me (as far as I'm concerned more is more with Christmas trees), but it is standing, sparkling and the sight of it makes me very happy.

I don't do tinsel on my tree.  I feel it takes too much space away that could be filled with baubles.  I also don't do much silver, I'm more gold themed.  And it is white fairy lights only on my tree.  I have 8 settings, but I prefer solid on, I'm not much for the twinkling look.  In other words I'm rather fussy when it comes to tree decoration.

I do have some beautiful decorations though.  Most have been gifts from my Mum.  She loves Christmas as much as I do and has always made it a wonderful time.  Most of my strongest childhood memories revolve around the wonder that was Christmas in our house.  I think we would both pick Christmas over our birthdays if we could only celebrate one of them. 

This angel is so sweet, although heavy, you need to pick a good solid branch for her.  The gold ball below her came from the wonder that is the Bredbo Christmas Barn.  Well worth the drive for anyone in the ACT region.

I think this lovely snow bubble of a bauble was originally a decoration on a Christmas present.  I always try to hang it where a light will shine though.

And what about this gorgeous fat Santa?  He is actually a bell.  I love his chubby little face and shiny round body.  He always gets a position of prominence.

So be prepared for many Christmas themed posts in the next few weeks.  I warn you now, I adore this time of year, the decorations, the food, the present selection and best of all, relaxation time!  It may be early, but Merry Christmas everyone.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gratuitous Food Shots - AKA I went to the Flute Bakery this morning

It has been awhile since we have had a post filled with gratuitous food photos of something delicious I ate from The Flute bakery.  But yesterday was a colleague's birthday, so instead of my usual 15-20 minute commute, this morning I did the hour long trip to come to work via The Flute.  As I've mentioned before, it is stuck in an out of the way location, open odd times (8-3 weekdays) and only takes cash, but by the time I arrived at 8.30am most of the outside tables were full and supplies of popular items like chocolate crossiants were already running dangerously low.

Every time I go, the temptation to take one of everything is massive.  But I was restrained and just picked up this delicious flourless chocolate terrine and a few extra macaroons for the birthday boy.

As with many of Flute's creations, you don't get a full appreciation until you cut into it.  The terrine was a rich and fluffy mousse, topped with toasted hazelnuts.  But inside was a hidden layer of flourless orange cake on a raspberry jelly.  The flavour and texture combination was superb.

And luckily for the rest of us, while birthday boy had his own macaroon supply, the cake was decorated with a row of vanilla and orange macaroons for the rest of us to share.  It certainly made Monday morning at the office a bit easier to cope with.

And lets finish with a macaroon close up.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Vaguing Out

I love a funny t-shirt.  But is it just me or do the boys get all the good ones?  I don't know if it is because the words/pictures end up over our boobs, but more often than not girls "funny" t-shirts seem to lean towards the slutty side of the humour spectrum.

There are a couple of great websites that do feature genuinely funny t-shirts for women, however I've also found that those seem to end up being on high necked, non-fitted t-shirts.  The kind of thing that as amusing as it is, I would never wear.

As  result I generally continue to admire the t-shirts of my male friends while wearing unadorned ones myself.  The exception to the rule is my hot pink Mambo t-shirt.  I think the genius lies in the fact that the font and layout are just exactly like a Vogue cover and with only one letter different in the main word, I've had many people see me in it for a considerable period of time before they actually absorb what it says.

The other thing is that it is so perfect for me.  My ability to vague out is pretty well universally acknowledged - to the point where this t-shirt was actually bought for me by my mother.  I love the reaction that it gets and that the bonus that it is a really flattering cut.  So well done Mambo, feel free to make more genuinely funny and flattering t-shirts for women.

P.S. Can I just add that it is surprisingly hard to take a photo of your own top?  However I did feel that asking one of my male colleagues to take a photo of my chest might just be deemed inappropriate office behavior.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Draw a Stickman

One of the things I like most about Facebook (other than it reminds me of people's birthdays which makes me look like a good friend for remembering) is the cool stuff people post up.  This may be that I have some very cool friends, but whatever the reason, it means that I often get sent to fun and fantastic places on the Internet.

Like Draw a Stickman.  An extremely cute website where you draw a stickman and it comes to life.  Really it is that simple, but absolutely gorgeous.  And quite addictive, I keep thinking of different types of stickmen that I could draw and how cute they would look doing ... well I'm not going to give the punchline away, you will just have to go and draw a stickman.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Listography - Top 5 Random Things I Like

This week's listography on Kate Takes 5 is the "Top 5 Random Things I Like".  And not random like the first random things I thought of, random as in, other people probably think it is weird to like them.  So here goes:

1. The smell of tomato leaves warm from the sun.  I have no idea why I like this, I also like the smell of geranium leaves. 

2. Salt on chocolate.  Ok, I know I'm late to this bandwagon, but I've just discovered it and it is extraordinary what it does to the flavour. 

3. A cup of hot water.  Yup, just hot water in a cup, no additives, just hot water.  I discovered this when I was trying to cut down the inordinate amount of tea I drink each day, particularly in the freezing Canberra winters and I've found that I really do like hot water.

4. Reading my horoscope.  I particularly like to read multiple horoscopes in different publications and decide which one sounds the best so I can believe it over the others.

5. Pate.  This one divides the masses, you probably love or hate it.  All I can say is that all the haters are lucky for me because on more than one occassion I've got to eat several people's hors d'oeuvre.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Voices in the Forest

2001 and 2003 in Canberra were marked by bushfires.  Everyone has heard of the 2003 fires in which 4 lives and over 500 homes were lost.  But they were eerily forecast over Christmas in 2001 when bushfires made it into the heart of the city, destroying the pine forest that divided the city in half.

There was much debate over what to do with this land.  It really is prime real estate, and many arguments were fought, till in the middle of a drought it was decided to plant an arboretum on it.  Yes, we had no water and everything that had previously been there had burned down, but the government decided to go ahead and plant trees.  Many people are still highly skeptical of this idea, but I can see that given 50 years or so and the arboretum is going to be truly magnificent.  It will feature 100 forests of different types of trees.  There will be function centres, it will provide a permanent home for Floriade and will no doubt be the best spot around for a picnic.

But for now it is still a construction site.  Many of the forests have been planted, but the trees are tiny, it takes a lot of vision to see something like this come to pass.  However bearing in mind how long it is going to take to come to maturity, there has to be a time when it starts to be used, and while there have been open days, last Saturday saw the official first major event - Voices in the Forest.

S and I took Mum and Dad as an early Christmas present to the concert which featured a fantastic line up of singers.  Anne Sofie von Otter the Swedish mezzo-soprano was the headliner, but she was more than ably supported by Louise Page, Henry Choo, Christina Wilson and a massed choir of local students.

I would say that the first half of the program was a little heavy on the show tunes (and I like show tunes!) and it definitely took them awhile to get the sound right, but the second operatic half of the program was lovely.

The Arboretum features a natural amphitheater which over time will have properly terraced seating, but for now consisted of beach chairs on the slope and a temporary stage.  We (like nearly everyone else) brought a picnic to enjoy during the concert as well as a heap of sun protection, those tiny trees are a long way from providing any shade.  In fact the orchestra and singers needed to wear sunglasses while they performed.

S and I are possibly some of the whitest people on earth and our sun protection ended up being a little inadequate which resulted in me draping S in a multicoloured sarong.  It may not have been the best look but he wasn't sunburned at the end of it!

Being the first event there were some teething problems, trying to get large numbers of people into and out of the venue showed up the limitations in the road system and I do hope that when the amphitheater is terraced they will get some more comfortable chairs, but it was a wonderful evening and a great first event to be a part of.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Accidents

Sometimes a random series of events occur that result in a happy accident.

I usually have a handful of nuts as my morning tea.  Generally I'm careful to select raw, or at least unsalted nuts but a super sale price led to an impluse buy of some delicious salted cashews.  Because I'm useless at stopping eating nuts if I have them straight from the packet I always put them in a little dish for portion control.

My other usual snack is some form of chocolate mid-afternoon.  At the moment I'm completely in love with these freeze dried, chocolate covered blueberries.  Anyway, again I could easily eat a whole packet in one sitting, so I poured out a few into the dish which had previously held my cashews - and in which remained remnants of the salt - resulting in salted chocolate blueberries.

We all know salt is a flavour enhancer but I often forget how it can enhance sweets.  All I can say is salted chocolate blueberries are incredibly addictive.  Never fear I'm not going to suddenly end up with a salt addiction but it did remind me that I should experiment a bit more with the interesting ways that you can enhance flavours.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


So you know that I love all things girly.  Flouncy skirts, pretty flowers, bows and ribbons, puppies and kittens.  All that stuff.  But did you know I also really love scary movies, particularly those featuring zombies and vampires.  Yay for contradictions.

That said I am a total wimp and will only watch such things in S's company.  Which provides significant amusement for him as I watch large sections through my fingers or curled up with my face half hidden in his shoulder.  Such scary stuff must always also be followed by a comedy before bed, lest my highly vivid imagination decide to give me a night filled with stunningly real zombie adventures.

So it was with much excitement that I informed S I had just read about a new zombie TV series "The Walking Dead".  Ok, I know it isn't really new, audiences have been enjoying it for two years now, but just as I would hope the real zombie invasion would work out, our island continent seems to have missed out.

Now if you remember zombie viewing must be followed by comedy, so I had also suggested that we watch a fantastic old(ish) British series called "Teachers" as S had not seen it.  With both series ready to go, we got set for a weekend of scaring ourselves (well myself) silly followed by laughter.

However as the first scene of "The Walking Dead" filled the screen I realised that in a weird coincidence we had picked two shows, made years apart and in separate countries with the same lead actor, Andrew Lincoln.

Somewhere along the way, the irresponsible teacher had turned into a zombie fighting sheriff, quite a cool transformation if I do say so myself.

If you like a good zombie story, then get hold of "The Walking Dead".  It really is brilliant, very well made, great stories, excellent acting and I seriously hope they have been getting all the awards for makeup.

But if you prefer a story about a group of irresponsible young teachers trying to figure life out while random and crazy stuff happens in the background, "Teachers" is for you.

Either way, you get to enjoy the talents of Andrew Lincoln, and I have to say, whether fighting of zombies or high school students he makes some pretty enjoyable viewing.

Monday, November 7, 2011


Not the actual surprise flowers, there wasn't time to take a photo.  These are some from last year
Do you know what is better than getting a suprise - giving a surprise!

My garden is bursting with roses.  They have been teasing me with buds for weeks but the last few days of hot weather (I have a feeling it is going to be a long hot summer) has coaxed them out en mass.  One of the brilliant things about roses is that cutting them actually encourages more flowers, so I love to fill my house and those of my family with them.

My parents were away this weekend and I knew that they would arrive home this afternoon to a hot, shut up house.  So this morning, I got up early enough to pick a large bunch of gorgeous fresh roses, head over to their house and open it up so that it would be cool, fresh and fragrant when they arrived home.

Of course the art of the surprise is keeping it, which should be easy, except that for various reasons I spoke to my parents multiple times throughout the day.  However I did manage to resist spilling the beans which meant they could come home to a lovely suprise.  Well the flowers were a lovely surprise, unfortunately I'd put the airconditioning on too low and managed to freeze them - I guess it is the thought that counts!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Happy Friday!

Things that are making me happy today

Mango and strawberry with a squeeze of lime - mmmmmm.

Sunny skies and the promise of a hot weekend.

Jeans!  Dresses are fantastic but yay for jeans.

My new super comfy Joanne Mercer shoes.

Finding a mini mars bar in my desk drawer (although only the wrapper now remains as evidence!).

I hope you are having a happy Friday too.