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.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Shopping lessons I've learned

If you haven't worked it out by now, I love clothes, shoes and all those many varied accessories.  So it is therefore probably not surprising that I also love shopping.  I'm not really one of those people who can shop for endless hours, I prefer brief encounters with the shopping centre, an hour or two and I'm done.  Still that has resulted in me coming to learn a number of important lessons over the years.  They include:

If you aren't quite sure about something you've tried on and are wishing you had someone there to give you a second opinion - it isn't right, don't buy it.

The only size 10 shoes that end up on sale are truly ugly.  If you love the pretty shoes that are miraculously in stock, buy them, they won't last till sale time.

If you didn't buy something but you keep thinking about it - go back and get it.

And finally

If you find something that fits really well, is flattering and comfortable - buy it in all the colours.

I'm still learning this one, gosh I wish I'd bought more pairs of my perfect fitting black pants.  But I am learning so today I went and bought a second pair of the truly fantastically comfortable ballet flats that S bought me for my birthday.  He got them for me in cream, I now have them in black and they are seriously so comfy it is almost like wearing slippers - slippers that are office appropriate!

What shopping lessons have you learnt?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November 1 and I'm still frocking up

It is the first of November and I'm wearing ... a frock!  I know, several people have already informed me that I no longer have to wear dresses, I think they are missing the point that I'm still allowed to wear them when I want to, they are just no longer compulsory.

Anyway, while today is the first of November it is also Melbourne Cup day.  For those international readers (I know there are a few), the Melbourne Cup is a horse race that has somehow attained the status in Australia as the race that stops the nation.  Melbourne gets a public holiday, everywhere else office productivity drops as people pop out to place a bet, office sweeps are conducted, lunches are held as are hat competitions and many other diversions.  My office isn't big into all those things but we will stop to watch the race and I always insist on wearing a fascinator.  I love hats but they make answering the phone difficult, so a fascinator is the practical office option for cup day.

Anyway even if the rest of the crew doesn't get into the spirit of the day, I like to dress up, which for me most definitely involves wearing a dress and a giant flowery/feathery thing on my head.

This is a shot from last year, hence the different hair style but you can get a better idea of my giant flowery headwear, ideally suited to the office environs.