Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I don't know if it is because of the rapid onset of winter, or just one of those seasonal things that happens, but it seems like everyone has had a cold recently.  Every person I seem to be meeting at the moment has or is just getting over a cold.  And I'm definitely in that camp, a couple of weeks ago I felt awful with a cold although have luckily recovered now.

But there is a whole world of difference between the sniffles that most of us have had and the virus that put my dear friend A's little girl into hospital with bi-lateral pneumonia.  I can't even imagine how terrifying the experience for A and her husband must have been when they were told on Friday before last by their GP that it was nothing, to on Saturday being told by the hospital that they may need to be sent to Sydney by chopper.

But she is one tough little girl.  After managing to breathe at double rate for several days she has beaten the virus and they were released from hospital on Friday.  Last night I managed to visit and the sight of her gorgeous smiling face peering over the edge of the couch at me was like a ray of sunshine in my day.

She is just a delight of a little girl and seeing her smile, explore and paint everything within reach with mashed kumara so soon after such a life threatening situation was a real joy.  When we are feeling well it is easy not to think about health, but at times like these, I feel extra grateful that my body is working as intended.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Flox Stockings

Sometimes I wonder what architects think about when they design buildings.  The building in which I work was designed with a large airy atrium.  True it brings light and fresh air into the middle of the building, however in summer it acts like an oven and winter like a freezer.  It gets so cold out there that you have to seriously consider donning a coat and scarf to make the dash to the toilet.

The biggest downside is that every weekend, it sucks the warmth from the office and it takes half of Monday to build it up again.  Last year I survived Mondays in trousers, boots and thick socks.  But I prefer to wear skirts, so today I decided to road test Flox stockings.

According to their website "The secret to Flox is the superfine fleece lining. It creates maximum warmth and comfort while still making sure you look fashionable. It’s a secret because they look just like any ordinary pair of tights on the outside. While you wear all your favourite dresses and tops over Flox, no one will know the difference, except you."

Pulling them out of their wrapping, they certainly felt thicker and more spongy than normal opaques, but once on (and they fit my silly long legs well) they look just like your normal black opaque stocking.  They do indeed have a fleecy lining somewhat reminiscent of fleecy track pants and I immediately noticed that they were considerably warmer than normal stockings.

After numerous injuries, my ankles are quite sensitive to the cold and while I wouldn't say they felt toasty like they would in hiking socks, I wasn't attempting to wrap my feet in a scarf as I have done before.  My upper legs which had the added protection of a pencil skirt were really quite comfortably warm.

They are quite quick to pick up fluff, but that might just be static from having been in plastic, so I will give them a handwash (as recommended) in woolmix and see if that helps.  I've also heard that they are prone to stretching, so it will be interesting to see how long they last, but so far, very good!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sleeping in

I had the most glorious sleep in this morning. Everything seems to be go, go, go at the moment but today we had no commitments so we took our laziest time.

It wasn't just the sleep in, it was the ability to luxuriate in laying about, dozing, discussing the merits of getting up before finally rising in time to have breakfast when most people would be finished having lunch.

I guess some might consider it a wasted morning - I however think it was very well spent.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Today I had my first ever waffle! Somehow I have managed to live almost 32 years of life without trying them.

The serving was enormous - 4 waffles, 3 scoops of ice-cream, swirls of whipped cream and the best most intense strawberry sauce I've ever had. The plate was so massive that S and I shared them.

Of course this being my first exposure to waffles means the bar is now set very high for any future encounters.

Friday, May 27, 2011


How many families do you have?

I know the official definition of a family is generally something along the line of a group of people related by blood or marriage.  However I prefer a more open interpretation of a group of people related by a common bond.  The bond could be blood or marriage or it could be shared experiences, interests, etc.

I of course have my often referred to fantastic family who are genetically and legally related to me, but I like to think of my circles of friends as families too.  Like a hugely complex venn diagram they intersect but have their own identities.

Today I had lunch with with SEAF - the South East Asian Family.  They are the group of people who I travelled to Vietnam and Cambodia with earlier this year and who you may have got to know on my travel blog http://havepassport-willtravel.blogspot.com/.  It was such a great trip, it absolutely cemented the bonds of friendship between the 8 of us.

But we are 8 very busy people, corralling us together is not an easy task.  Not all 8 made it to lunch, but those who did had the usual rowdy, irreverent, laughter filled conversation that marks our get togethers.  It was just lovely.

On a side note, to those who started to follow me from the Vogue forums, I have been banned.  Apparently over the many years and thousands of posts, I've started a number of inappropriate threads.  I do know I started one about pets and another about cleaners before I become aware that those were no, no topics and I've also started a few on news and current affairs that were more about society today than strict news topics, so the Vogue Fashion Police have spoken and Vivacious is no more.  I hope that I've been a productive member of the community, it has been fun!  However who knows what fantastic new forum I will now find to waste my time on (feel free to make suggestions).

And I hope the Vougettes will continue to read me!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A baby's laughter

I am at that age where my friends are having babies. Long ago I think I thought that when this happened we would have turned into different kinds of people.  Now I know we are all just the same, my friends just arrive places with bigger handbags and small bundles of cuddles.

But the arrival of small people has given me the excuse to buy the gorgeous products available.  I've found the most divine handmade toys, fantastic outfits and recently I purchased the cutest mobile.  It was for a friend who now lives in England.  I thought her little girl should have some aussie influence, so I found a mobile hung with felt Australian animals.  It certainly made me smile and my friend proudly hung it over the change table.

Today I received a fantastic email telling me all about the wonder that is the new arrival Bess and the love that she has brought into their family.  But it also included some news for me.  Here is direct a quote from the email:
And...I've saved the most exciting news for last. Last night, we went out for a drink and left mum at home with Bess and...drumroll...she did her very first laugh...

...wait for it...

...while looking at...

...wait for it...

...your Australian mobile!!!!

So there, how many people can say that they've given a baby a present which brought on their very first laugh? 
How many people indeed?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I am a humbled food snob

I'm a snob.  I'm admitting it here and now.  I'm slightly ashamed to say, but I look down on packet cakes.  I sneer at simmer sauces.  I scorn ready made marinade.  Yes, I'm a food snob.

I've always justified it by saying, but made from scratch is best.  And that I control the ingredients like salt levels and preservatives when I make it myself.  And most importantly, it just doesn't taste as good if you don't make it yourself.  My Mum makes pretty much everything from scratch.  In fact she does it so matter-of-factly that one day when someone asked "is this a scratch cake" she looked at them blankly and replied "no its a chocolate cake" having never heard the term before.

Well I'm here to say that I have been proven wrong.  That I have discovered something in a jar that will revolutionise my cooking.  And that has humbled my snobbishness.

Sharwoods curry pastes.

I will say that the fact they have been around since 1889 is probably an indication of how good their products are, but I have been quite blown away.  It all started with the recipe for corination chicken which I made for my Royal Wedding party.  It required curry paste and specified a mild Sharwoods one.

I picked a korma, and made the coronation chicken which was a great success.  But I still had most of a jar of curry paste.  So, I reluctantly cooked up what turned out to be a really delicious curry.  Then sniffing a colleague's lunch in the microwave and correctly guessing it was a rogan josh (I do love curry) we had a discussion in which he revealed it too was from a Sharwoods jar.

I've always been a bit nervous of making curry, of getting the spice mix right, but now I can quickly and easily make one any time I like.  Maybe I will have to try  a few more of these packet things and break down the wall of my snobbish ways further.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The most amazing friends

I've said it before, and I'm sure I will say it again, but I am truly blessed with the wonderful group of people who I have the privilege to call my friends.  It is enough that these wonderful, special, talented people let me be part of their life but then they go and do something so touching, I'm almost beyond words.

Last Saturday I had a busy day.  A dance rehearsal, walking in the city to meet friends, checking out some furniture stores, a lunch and dinner out and a house party.  We were out and about from 11am till 1am, and it was only when I got home that I discovered I was missing an earring, and not any normal earring.  It was a sapphire earring, one of the set that my parents gave me for my 21st.

I immediately realised that after such a busy day, it would be almost impossible to trace my steps and find it - most likely it was gone forever.  Dismayed I headed to bed, thinking about how much I love those earrings.  When I got them, they seemed like my first "grown-up" jewellery.  They would be worn for the rest of my life and one day, passed down to my children or grandchildren.  I was so excited to show my friends at uni that I ran down the driveway, tripping and spraining my ankle!

Much as I was trying to be all que sera, sera about it, I was pretty upset.  That night I even dreamt about finding the earring.  Being in S's car and looking down to see it twinkling up from between the seat and the door - and yes I did check there the next day.

On Sunday I realised my only hope to finding it was to identify a time when it was lost.  As we had seen a bunch of friends during the day I posted about the loss on Facebook and asked if anyone had noticed I only had one earring in.  Miraculously someone recalled I was wearing both at the dinner and as a result I got in touch with my friend who had hosted the house party - and he found it!!!

I could not have been happier, I literally did a little dance in the office when the news came in.

However, while all this had been going on, my amazing friends had already been planning a rescue.  After seeing the Facebook message, and knowing how important it was to me, they were quietly organising a kitty from which they were planning to get me a new earring.  People had pledged serious amounts of money and they were working out a strategy to get hold of my other earring so that they could get it matched.

These are not rich people.  They have kids, mortgages, bills etc. I know that these are people who would always be there for me in a crisis, but to know that they care so much that they would try to help me out in this kind of situation is just mind blowing.  I mean, it is really just an earring, but they all knew what it meant to me.  I do not have the words to express how amazingly lucky I feel to have people like this in my life.

So guys, I could name and shame you all, but you know who you are as do I.  From the bottom of my heart please know how much you all mean to me and how your friendship blesses my life every day.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Traffic, if there is one thing that is guarenteed to annoy me it is traffic.  But you live in Canberra, I hear you say, there is no such thing.  And in reality, you are right.  My idea of traffic is loads of cars moving slowly.  I don't think I could cope living somewhere like Sydney with actual traffic that really grinds to a halt.

Anyway, this morning I had to come to work via a rather circuitous route.  And it was raining, which instantly doubles the traffic as people abandon public transport and a walk for a nice dry drive.  As much as I plotted various routes in my head, I knew I was going to start my week with a whole pile of frustrating traffic.

But somehow it didn't happen.  Yes there were loads of cars and even some slow spots, but somehow I just got green light after green light.  There were no accidents, there were considerate drivers.  It was like the driving gods were on my side.

And because I went a different way, I got to see the sight of an avenue of trees where every leaf was gold and the trunks dark almost black from the rain, just as a beam of sun broke through the cloud and lit them up.  It was such an unexpected surprise and to be honest a really great way to start the day.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rain on the roof once more

La Nina has finished and the past couple of months have been very dry. Today rain was promised and it threatened for much of the day. Finally when the sun went down the heavens finally opened.

I so love the sound of rain on the roof. It is truly soothing and tonight that glorious sound is sending me off to sleep.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mmmm burgers

A really good burger is a fantastic thing. The perfect combination of meat and vegies, all in an easy to hold bun - in theory.  In reality I've found the best burgers are always so deliciously juicy that they drip all over the place.  They really are finger lickin' good!

I've been lucky enough to try some great burgers in the past 24 hours.

Yesterday we checked out Grill'd. It opened with much fanfare a few weeks ago and its popularity was evident by the line and lack of tables.  After managing to secure one right down the back, S and I split two excellent burgers and greatly enjoyed them.  The first was a beef burger with cheese and bacon.  This was definitely our favourite.  A great balance of flavours and a particularly nice patty.  The other was a Moroccan lamb burger.  While it was a good burger, it didn't stack up to the beef and could definitely have been better spiced.

Today after a dance rehearsal S and I headed to London Burgers (on London Circuit) for what is rapidly becoming our traditional post rehearsal burger. Their burgers are massive and come with a large side of beer battered fries so we always split a burger - yes, we have half a burger each and that is definitely enough for lunch!  Today's option was a fantastic rosemary lamb burger. We would criticise it as being possibly a little heavy on the onion and a little light on the rosemary but it was still great. S rates them as the best burgers he has had in Canberra.  Next week however we may try the fantastic looking waffles we always see people eating there.

Mmmm burgers.

Friday, May 20, 2011


3.30itis, mid afternoon slump, low circadian rhythm.  Call it what you will, it hit me hard this afternoon.  After hours of reading procedural documents and reviewing detailed items, I found myself standing at the office door wondering why it wouldn't open - till I remembered it isn't an automatic door and I was going to have to open it myself.  It might be ok if I was new, but I've worked in this office on and off for about 5 years.

I determined that a walk and some sugar was required.  I headed out into the cool, fresh day.  We might be headed for the second coldest May on record in Canberra but today is quite pleasant and a quick walk through the chilled but not cold, refreshing air was much appreciated.

Sugar came in the form of a rather decadently large piece of chocolate caramel slice.  I could have taken a photo, but I just ate it.  All.  In one go.  I'm quite fussy about chocolate caramel slice as I make a fantastic one (very similar to this one), however it was very good, with a deliciously sticky caramel filling.

Thus revived, I returned to the office now functioning at a level where I could once again operate a door.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I don't think there is a type of shop in the world that can absorb time quite like a bookshop.  My ability to walk in purposefully and get totally sidetracked within seconds is amazing.  If I ever early for something and need to use up some time I head into a bookstore and usually leave running late.

Yesterday my bookish friends lead me to this fantastic article on The World's Most Inspiring Bookstores.  Every single one of them is now on my must see list (that theater in Buenos Aires and the staircase in Porto are particularly phenomenal).  My local bookstore, Daltons, may not be an architectural marvel but it is filled with wonderful books.

I prefer small bookshops.  The big chain stores may have everything, but I find the service and quality of small bookshops much more satisfying.

I went looking today for a children's book and the people in Daltons were (as always) so very helpful and knowledgeable, but along the way I got distracted by numerous things.  Gorgeous coffee table books, tiny funny books, interesting sounding novels.  The staff know about every book and point me in the right direction, effortlessly finding great things for me.

I may love technology, but I just doubt that I will ever feel the same way about an e-reader as I do about the books that line my shelves.  So my custom at least is guaranteed for those wonderful bookshops.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Something old, something new

My family was one of those very many families that were thrown into dislocation by World War 2.  Many family members died, fortunes were lost and those that survived fled at various time leaving their possessions behind.  As a result I treasure those few things that survived and which provide a link with the past.

One very special thing I have is a pair of earrings that originally belonged to my great grandmother.  They used to sit in my jewellery box as I would hate to lose one, but I realised, that keeping them safe wasn't letting me enjoy them.  So now, I regularly wear them.  I love them, they are small and delicate.  They don't attract any particularly special attention or comments from others but they are very special to me.

They are also the oldest thing in my wardrobe and today I paired them with the newest, a white shirt from Witchery's ovarian cancer research foundation fundraiser range.  After the death of my Aunt last year from ovarian cancer, I like to do whatever I can to support this great research cause.

So I've ended up wearing two items that are very special for very different reasons today.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jumping in leaves

Would it be a bit sad to write a post on how much I'm appreciating the softness of aloe vera tissues right now?  I have a head cold and they are saving my poor nose.  The ad for them used to feature a woman blowing her nose with sandpaper and really, when you have a cold that is exactly what normal tissues feel like.  But aloe vera ones are just so silky and soft.  It was brilliant advertising.

However I refuse to fall into the pit of woe is me that is so easy when you have a cold.  So here is a post in homage to fallen leaves.

This year's warm early autumn kept the leaves on the trees and turned them the most beautiful and brilliant shades, but this super cold snap has seen most of them fall to the ground to form big, dry, crunchy piles - perfect for stomping about in.

My mother is a fan of jumping in piles of dry leaves and she has passed that love on to me.  I have great memories of being a teenager and jumping in a massive pile of leaves with Mum outside a popular market while my sister stood back wishing the earth would swallow her up and take her away from these embarrassing relatives.

Even now dressed in a suit and high heels, if I spot a lovely big drift of leaves I just have to jump into it (after a quick look around to make sure no one is watching).  I'm not entirely sure why it is so enjoyable.  It is something about the crunch, the dry earthy smell and that feeling of being a child all rolled into one.  While not quite as good if the leaves aren't thick enough to jump on, scuffing through them causes a very nice rustle that satisfies the craving.

As winter wears on, the leaves will be raked and put into compost heaps or used as mulch, but for now, they are my plaything.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bakery fresh

So if it hasn't already been obvious from recent posts, it is c-c-c-cold in Canberra.  Of course it gets cold here every winter, I just want to point out that it isn't winter yet!  -7 degree mornings in May are just a little out of the ordinary and it has caught me somewhat off guard.  My brain hasn't quite switched to winter dressing and I've been caught chilly a couple of times recently.

All of which makes me ever the more grateful for warming things in life.

This morning was freezing - literally.  There was ice everywhere accompanied by a thick fog so that you couldn't even bask in the sun to warm up.  I bundled myself up and headed off to work via The Flute bakery to pick up a cake for a colleague's birthday.

The cake was delicious (an apricot frangipane tart) but my smile for the day was the moment of stepping into the bakery.  On a cold and - well to be honest - miserable morning, I don't think anything smells quite as fantastic as a bakery.  And of course The Flute being the bakery to end all bakeries it smelt extra fab.  It is a combination of the smell of yeasty fresh bread, rich sweetness and the warmth of the ovens.  It was like stepping into a little bit of heaven.

Stepping out was difficult, however I did have my (now) hot little hands full of baked goodness, so that softened the blow.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Eurovision 2011

Bets were laid on the timing of the sight of the first white suit, completely sequined outfit and unitard. The room was full of people in strange outfits, speaking with random fake accents and eating European themed foods. The TV was on and all eyes were on it. What else could it be but the finals of Eurovision 2011!

I love Eurovision, there really is nothing like it for sheer madness. Over the years it has produced a few great songs, but overwhelmingly, the memories are of the crazy costumes, appalling dance routines and wacky themes. 

If the quality (or lack there of) of the songs, costumes and choreography weren't enough, every year the host country has to put on a show. Germany filled all the requirements. A "funny" male host with two attractive, yet ridiculously attired women as foils. Intros to each country's performance that just serve to mystify the viewer - this year the postcards featuring a native of the performance country who lives in Germany. And of course a stadium filled with screaming fans in costumes that equaled the contestants for strangeness and creativity.

There were actually a couple of great songs.  Italy's jazz number was a definite standout, as was Iceland.  I loved Estonia for its adhearance to the Eurovision "rules" of a catchy pop song, neon costumes and crazy dancing.  In the end the winner was Azerbaijan with their duet and range of white costumes (yes white suits AND a white fishtail dress). The best comment was from SBS commentator Sam Pang who said that the couple looked "a little too mother and son for my liking".

However I hold out that Moldova was robbed. Not only did they have a great song, they were wearing 4 foot high black gnome hats and had an equally hatted fairy on a unicycle riding around during the song. Now if that wasn't enough to win, then the lead singer installing his monical at the end should have done it.

Photo Source http://ilkar.blogspot.com/

It has been another memorable year.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I don't know about you but I was not a confident teenager.  I grew fast and it took a long time to be comfortable with my height.  I had massive glasses, braces, no idea how to deal with my waist length hair or how to dress.  I wasn't a shrinking violet, but I wasn't about to make myself standout in a crowd.

Over my 20's I slowly developed more of a sense of style and more importantly a sense of self.  I have come to feel very comfortable and confident in my own skin.

So tonight I'm attending a charity dance event clad only in a corset and tiny, tiny skirt, fishnet stockings and my super cheap long black gloves.  Those who have seen the outfit say it looks great and I have to say I feel super sexy and fantastic in it.  It is the kind of thing that as a teenager I could never have imagined myself wearing, so while others may think it just looks good, to me it represents just how far I've come in feeling comfortable with myself.

Working from home

There was no blog entry yesterday because blogger was down.  Which also meant that unpublished comments disappeared!

If there was a blog post it would have been about how great it is to work somewhere that gives me the freedom to work from home.

Yesterday I was feeling, well crap.  I have a cold, not bad enough to warrant not working, but certainly that made me want to stay at home in trackies and my ugg boots.  Thanks to a fantastic flexible workplace, I was able to do that, connecting via the internet and phone when I needed to and I actually had a really productive day.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Moroccan Carrot and Chickpea Soup

With the sudden and fierce onset of Winter I am craving all those wonderful warming goodies that are so enjoyable in the cold weather.  Roasts, stews, casseroles and of course soup.

On Tuesday, I read a fantastic recipe for a Moroccan carrot and chickpea soup on one of my favourite blogs "Apples Under My Bed".  Its golden, spicy warmth looked perfect for this miserable weather, so last night I whipped up a batch.

It was perfect.  So hearty and warming, just what my body was craving.  I had some leftover pumpkin and corriander in my fridge so I threw those in and used up some baby spinach instead of silverbeet (the added greenery is genius, it really makes the soup).   It is quite spicy, for those who don't like things hot, you should probably leave out or cut down on the chilli but I thought it was brilliant.  In fact the only change I will make next time is to cook twice as much so I can freeze it for lunches!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

On the inside looking out

Well yesterday may have been glorious but today has been freeeeeezing.  Icy cold wind, sago snow in places, sleet in others.  There was black ice on the road this morning and thick low clouds have hung around throughout the day.

Certainly NOT the day for a walk around the lake - however exactly the kind of day for catching up with a friend over chocolate cake and orange pekoe tea!  One of my last friends from high school still residing in the nations capital is abandoning this miserable cold weather and is moving to Perth, so we made sure we had one final afternoon tea together.

It is slightly surreal saying goodbye.  I will definitely see her again and thanks to the wonder of technology will be just as in touch as when we lived in the same city, but it is a goodbye none-the-less.  So we enjoyed a lovely afternoon tea and mused about what is to come.  And outside the dried Autumn leaves rushed past on arctic blasts while we sipped and gossiped and were warm.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A glorious day for a walk

It is a glorious day in the nation's capital.  The sky is a deep clear blue, the sun is shining, there is a slight chill of winter to the breeze but that just makes the autumn leaves flutter all the more beautifully.

And what better way to enjoy this stunning day than a stroll around the lake with a girlfriend?  Ok, with only an hour for a lunch break it was more of a power walk, particularly for A who had baby S to push. But we got to enjoy the beauty while catching up on both exercise and gossip.  Along the way we reflected on how lucky we are to live somewhere so glorious, where in the middle of our city we can enjoy such lovely surroundings.

We weren't the only ones out.  There were people running, riding bikes, doing bootcamp and plenty more pushing babies.  It was great to see and certainly was a much better way to spend my lunch break than the usual eating at my desk while I read the news.

Unfortunately I didn't have a camera with me, so I couldn't capture the beautiful day, but here is a shot of the lake from last winter to give you a bit of an idea about how lovely it is.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Bargain Hunt

I do love a bargain and today I scored an excellent one.

I'm going to an event in costume this coming Saturday and decided at the last minute that what I really need to finish it off is elbow length black gloves.  However as I'm hardly likely to wear them frequently I didn't want to spend a lot on them.

Elbow length gloves aren't the most common item around, but DJ's stock them.  Still I wasn't really pleased about the idea of shelling out a lot of cash for them, so I high-tailed over to Hot Dollar to see what I could find.  Sure enough, for literally a 10th of the price of DJ's, I found a great pair in a stretchy fabric that actually fits my long fingers!  I was thrilled.

Now just to find a red rose for my hair, and I will be looking smokin'!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

I've said it before and I will no doubt say it again and again - I have the best Mum.

Mother's day is always a tad challenging.  In reality we know that Mum will love whatever we do and whatever we get her.  But every year my sister and I want to come up with something even better than the year before.  There are some elements that have to be included - the first being spending time together.  There is nothing more important to all of us than our family, so being together is the most important thing.

The next element is usually food.  We are all foodies, so good food is a must.

Finally a present.  Mum has long said she doesn't want "stuff:".  She has a house full of things, and doesn't need more.

This year I think we hit a winner.  The get together was brunch - food and family in one.  We included my brother-in-law's family because the more the merrier and had a wide array of breakfast delicacies from museli with rhubarb compote and a beautiful vanilla yogurt to the traditional cooked breakfast.  It was held at my sister's house so that the puppies could be involved too.

Family and food out of the way, it was on to the present.  Mum loves to read, so books were an obvious choice.  However her favourite book "Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett has just been made into a mini-series that isn't even available in Australia yet.  Thanks to the wonder of the internet, we were able to source it for her.

All in all it made for a lovely mother's day.

So Mum, I hope you enjoyed it, because we love you and you deserve it!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Surprise Parties

Have you ever organised a surprise party?  If you have, you will know what it is like.  The sneaking around, organising of diversionary tactics, the hoping none of the guests give the secret away!

Over the last few weeks I've been involved on the edges of the organising of a surprise party for someone who is almost impossible to surprise.  Sneakily we have sourced photos to create a photo book present.  People have been invited, games have been arranged, catering organised.  There have been elements of danger, such as how to involve the people who we know absolutely cannot keep a secret.  There has been complications such as the fact everyone is working really hard and has hardly any free time.

But people have been amazingly helpful.  Friends offered their houses as staging points.  Others are providing food (including the most amazing custom birthday cake) or transport or any number of the other elements you need for successful party - let alone a surprise one.

And in the end, we managed it.  I don't quite know how, but it all came together in the end. What a brilliant success.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The recipe for success

Do you have an old faithful recipe?  Something you know is guaranteed to work out, a crowd pleaser that always gets you compliments?

Tonight I have a dinner with friends and have been charged with bringing dessert.  The added complication was that there is no time to prepare something after work today and due to the busy nature of the week I had to be able to make it a few days in advance which ruled out lots of my recipes with fresh pastry or fruit.

After a bit of serious thinking I suddenly thought of my old faithful Tia Maria cake.  It looks impressive, is rich and decadent and best of all, actually improves after sitting quietly in the fridge for a couple of days.

I haven't made it in ages, goodness knows why because everyone loves it.  It has such a reputation that recently I ran into someone I went to high school with (now a considerably long time ago) and she asked if we still make it because she remembers it so fondly.  There are lots of funny stories associated with it.  Like the time a half eaten one slid off the box it was resting on, crashing into me bending below it, depositing the cream onto my lap but managing to stay on the plate so that we could finish eating it.  Or serving it to my teenage friends who got "drunk" from the tiny bit of alcohol in it. Or making an orange flavoured version of it in my friend's tiny kitchen for their housewarming.  So many memories.

So it is sitting in the fridge ready to go and tonight it will make its triumphant (I hope) return.  Here is the recipe, I think it was from a Family Circle or Women's Weekly cookbook originally.

Fudge-mint Torte (also known as the Tia Maria cake)
300g (10oz) cooking chocolate, chopped
250g (8oz) butter chopped
1 ½ cups firmly packed brown sugar
4 eggs
1 ½ cups sifted plain flour
2 cups thickened cream
¼ cup green Crème-de-Menthe liqueur (or Tia Maria, or any other flavoured spirit you like)
2 tablespoons icing sugar
grated chocolate to decorate.

Grease two 23cm (11”) round cake tines, line bottoms with greaseproof paper, then grease paper lightly.
In a small saucepan, combine chocolate and butter. Stir over very low heat just until melted and combined. Remove form heat.

Transfer chocolate mixture to large mixing bowl; beat in the brown sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until combined, then beat in flour until well blended. Divide batter equally into tins.

Bake in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes.

In a medium bowl, beat together cream, liqueur and icing sugar until very stiff. Stack and fill cake layers on serving plate. Decorate with grated chocolate. Refrigerate until required.

Note: You can use any liqueur in it. While the original recipe specified Creme-de-Menthe, we have never made that version, we usually use Tia Maria.  I've also used cointreau for a choc-orange version which was delicious and equally think Frangellico for hazelnut would be great but you can really choose any flavour you like.  

Make sure you have a long knife or something to smooth the top because it looks really professional like something you get in a cake shop all smoothed.  The cakes are quite thin, so be careful when getting them from tin to plate, but don't be fooled and serve large slices, it is extremely rich.

It is definitely better after being left in the fridge for 24 hours as the cake absorbs some of the moisture from the cream and goes deliciously fudgy as well as it all sticking together better.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Snug as a bug in a rug

It is properly cold tonight. According to my car it was 4 degrees as I drove home which means there is a decent chance of slipping well below zero and the first real frost of the season.

All of which makes me so grateful for my thick fluffy doona and electric blanket. I'm tucked up in bed as snug as a bug in a rug and feeling very comfy indeed.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Finishing the chores

I have just collapsed into bed, bone weary. It has been a busy day with a full on evening of activities however at the end of it I have crossed all the jobs off my list.

I have cooked, cleaned, washed and folded. I've done shopping, run errands and picked things up. At the end of the day it is a great feeling to know I've achieved what I set out to.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Playing games

Before I met S I hadn't played board games in years.  Board games, I would have said, are just for kids.

S loves board and card games though, so when we started dating I found myself playing them and to my absolute surprise, I found I actually enjoy it.  There are so many interesting games and while I'm really not competitive and don't care if I lose at all (although it is always nice to win) I like all the strategic thinking you need for them.

I have also been introduced to the amazing underground world of board gamers.  They meet up in clubs and restaurants toting massive bags of games and are quite serious in their enjoyment.  Who are these mysterious gamers you may ask?  Before my introduction I had the image that you probably do right now of socially awkward, geeky types. But they are just normal people who enjoy the escapism of a game.  It is much more interactive than a couple of hours in front of the telly and requires a whole lot more serious thought.

I can't imagine that I will ever be truly addicted to gaming, but it is one of those things where you realise that there are whole other worlds hidden right under our noses.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Making an artful point

Art often has a message, a story to tell. I'm a great art lover but my favourite genre has for a long time now been the art that has been specifically created to convey a message, to tell a story and most importantly to sell - poster art, especially from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

However there is another similar art form which often captures my attention through it's ability to convey a message and story exceptionally concisely and that is cartooning. Like poster artists, cartoon artists' ability to make us laugh or think with often simple drawings and a few words is an amazing skill.

Today a cartoon about climate change popped up in my Facebook news feed. It is one of the best arguments for action on climate change I've ever seen and is so simple and concise you wonder why everyone can't understand it this way. I hope you enjoy is as much as I have.

A Joel Pett Cartoon, courtesy of http://greenmomintheburbs.wordpress.com/

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Being Spoilt

Being spoil, tis there anything better? This evening while lazing in front of the telly S has been spoiling me. He has fetched me delicious food, cleared spaces for me to stretch out and covered me up with a snuggly doona. I've done nothing except be waited on hand and foot. What a great evening.