Friday, September 28, 2012


I spent all of autumn taking pictures of trees in their glorious seasonal colours, so it is only right that I show the other end of the spectrum, the beautiful blossom that is covering our city in delicate shades of pink, cream and white.

I do love autumn, the rich red, orange and golds of the city seem imbued with the warmth of the summer past.  The blossoms of spring are different.  They hold a message of hope for the summer to come.  They speak of the coming warmth, the banishment of the long cold winter.  They are full of life and happiness. Every year the first brave blossom arrives while the days are still short, dark and cold but my heart lifts at the sight.  I know that spring will soon be upon us and I revel in their beauty.

After days of glorious sunny weather today is grey and thundery and the blossom is looking a bit bedraggled from the rain but  I know that these examples I saw over the last week or so are only the beginning.


What is your favorite season?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

When is a pie not a pie

There is a hard fought debate over whether or not quiche is appropriate man food.  S has a long held view that he doesn't like quiche, something I didn't know the first time I made it for him.  The thing is, he does like my quiche but to hold up his anti-quiche reputation he proceeded to rename this one zucchini pie.  This name does cause difficulties on occasion, when S requested an egg and bacon pie I made him a quiche lorraine - he actually wanted an egg and bacon pie.  Still this remains one of our go to meals.

Zucchini pie is a brilliant meal.  Delicious, tasty and best of all there are always leftovers.

If I have time I like to make the pastry, mainly because I enjoy making pastry, but also because it is extra flaky and delicious.  However store bought shortcrust works just fine.  I serve this with a nice garden salad.

Zucchini "Pie"

210g plain flour
100g butter
1 egg yolk
cold water

olive oil
1 onion finely diced
2 rashers of bacon diced
2 medium zucchini grated
100g tasty cheese grated
4 eggs
100ml light thickened cream
pepper to taste

With your fingers work the butter into the flour till it looks like breadcrumbs.  Add the egg yolk and then cold water a little at a time till you have a smooth pastry that holds together and doesn't crack.  Give it a light kneed.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Alternately you can use pre-made shortcrust pastry.

Grease a 23cm quiche or shallow pie dish with  butter.  Roll the pastry out till it is 3-5mm thick.  (Tip, it is much easier to roll if you roll it out between two sheets of baking paper.  It doesn't stick to the bench or the rolling pin.)  Line the pie dish with the pastry and prick the base with a fork.

Blind bake the pastry case by first baking for 10 minutes with the base covered with baking paper and weighted down, then 10 minutes without the weights and baking paper.

Fry the onion and bacon in a little olive oil until onion is golden and the bacon is crispy.  Drain on paper towel.

Mix the grated zucchini and cheese together then add the bacon mixture.

Put the zucchini mixture in the pastry case.  It will look like the case is full.

Whisk the eggs, cream and pepper together, then carefully pour over the zuchinni.  It will soak in and should fill to the edge of the case.

Bake for approx 40-50 minutes till puffed and golden brown.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


One of the joys of living in Canberra is the seasons.  We get all four in all their glory (well except for last year when summer forgot to arrive).  Hot green days of summer, the golden trees of autumn, icy winter many times complete with snow and the brilliant flowers of spring.

There is no place better to experience the colour and scent of spring than Canberra's annual flower festival, Floriade. Each year has a theme, this year it is style and design but the themes never mean too much to me, I go for the glorious display of over a million flowers in bloom.

Of course like any festival there is the side show.  Stalls selling everything from hamocks to jam, soap to tea and everything in between.  There are performers, rides, bands and entertainment and of course the gnome knoll.  One of these years I might even manage to get to Nightfest, the 5 nights Floriade is lit beautifully and open for an evening of entertainment.

But all of that is just a side show.  Floriade is about the flowers.  True to my girly girl nature I adore flowers, so this is just heaven for me.  Today was a stunning spring day.  Clear blue sky, warm sun, a light breeze.  I wore a dress and a short sleeved cardigan and at times felt a little hot in the sun.  We wandered pausing to admire blooms or stop getting in people's photos.  The park was full of families, tourists and cameras everywhere.  It was absolute heaven.

If you love flowers and have the opportunity, I highly recommend a visit to Canberra at this time of year.  It is just stunning.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Spanish Cream

S loves dessert.  Actually S LOVES dessert.  I thought my family were into over catering till I saw the dessert selection at his house at Christmas.  There is nothing that makes him do a little dance of joy quite as quickly as the discovery that a new dessert is awaiting his taste buds.

With such a willing dessert eater at her table each week, Mum has been creating more and more elaborate desserts for our family dinners.  Once upon a time dessert was an icecream, or some fruit salad.  Now most Wednesdays there is a new creation, made specially for S.

As I mentioned earlier this week, Mum recently found her mother's recipe book and inspired by that made the 70's classic, Spanish Cream.  S liked it so much he googled recipes the minute we got home and when we had to bring a dessert to a dinner party last week it was his first thought.  This recipe is a combo of my Oma's and a Women's Weekly one.  It is an interesting dessert, while you mix it all up in one bowl, it sets into two distinct layers, a jellylike cream layer with a moussy fluffy layer on top (well on the bottom when you turn it out).  You can just see the second layer in the bottom corner of the picture.

When mine set there was a funny break in the fluffy layer which I think was from how I poured it into the mould.  So I would suggest carefully pouring it into the mould from one side only.

I served it with strawberries that had been marinated in a little cointreau and sugar and the whole thing went down a treat. There is nothing quite like delivering a quivering, jiggling, wobbly dessert to the table to bring out the inner child - and have people purposely knocking the table for some extra wobble, but it was people going back for seconds and thirds that really had me smiling.

Spanish Cream
3 eggs separated
3/4 cup cater sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups milk
3 teaspoons gelatine
1/3 cup hot water

Whisk egg yolks, sugar and vanilla in a pan until thick and creamy then whisk in the milk.  Stir over heat, without boiling, until the sugar is dissolved.  Bring to the boil then remove from the heat.  Sprinkle the gelatine over the hot water to soften, then stir into the milk mixture.

Beat the egg whites in a small bowl with an electric mixer until firm peaks form.  Fold whites into milk mixture in 2 batches.  Carefully pour into a wetted mould (4 - 5 cup capacity) or individual dishes (we did one in a margarita glass, it looked awesome) and refrigerate until firm.

If you have set it in a mould, turn out onto a large plate and decorate with strawberries to serve, otherwise top your glasses with some strawberries.

You can make this a day or two in advance and it will keep fine covered in the fridge.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Frocktober is here again!

It is that time of year again.  When I start looking through my wardrobe, getting excited about the prospect of a month in dresses.  Yes that is right, a whole month wearing nothing but dresses.

If you are new to reading this blog, you may not be familiar with the concept of Frocktober.  Frocktober is a month long fundraiser for ovarian cancer research.  It is a choose your own adventure type fundraiser, but all the activities involve frocks!  You can frock up on Fridays, have a special frock afternoon tea.  You can wear a different dress every day of the month or the same one all month.  You set the challenge and get sponsored.

Last year I wore a different dress on every day of the month.  This year I will again be frocking up, but each Friday I will wear the same dress styled differently.  That dress is to be revealled (actually it is yet to be chosen) but here is a taste of what you can expect throughout October.

If you would like to join in, the frockettes would love to have you.  Just head over to the Frocktober website, set yourself up a page and choose a challenge then get as much sponsorship as you can.

I will be blogging about my frocking adventures including the biggest part of the month, the annual fundraising dance I run called Rock your Frock.  If you are in Canberra or will be on the 13th of October I would love to see you there.  All the details can be found on our Facebook page.  I have had amazing support from the Canberra dance and business community so there will be some wonderful prizes on offer and as everything from the venue to the prizes has been donated, every dollar that comes in the door will go to the OCRF.

It isn't often that we can raise funds for an amazing cause simply by getting dressed in the morning, so I really encourage you to join in.  Frock on!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Oma's Baked Cheesecake

My Oma (Grandmother) was not renowned for her cooking.  Well in a way she was, but not a positive way.  I think it says a lot that my Mum's favourite meal as a child was boiled new potatoes served with parsley and butter.  However, my Oma was German and could therefore bake a good cake.  I have a theory that it is a genetic thing available to all German / Austrian people.

Recently my Mum found Oma's old handwritten recipe book.  Some of the recipes are in old German that Mum can't even read, but there are plenty she could including some 70's classic dinner party items, one of which will feature later this week.  My excitement on the discovery of the recipe book though was that it contained my Oma's cheesecake recipe.

I've never been a huge fan of the set cheesecake.  I find them overly sweet, too creamy and rich.  Needless to say S loves them.  Even most baked cheesecakes are too rich and sweet for me.  This cheesecake however is traditionally made with quark, a sour firm cheese.  It is available in Australia but according to those in the know (i.e. my Mum) doesn't taste the same, so the best substitute is farm cheese.  You do need to push it though a sieve to crumble it finely enough.

The resulting cheesecake isn't particularly sweet.  It has a slightly sweet/sour flavour, doesn't taste as fatty as a normal cheesecake and has a firm if slightly crumbly texture.  Needless to say I LOVE it.

Oma's Baked Cheesecake

750g farm cheese
200g butter
375g sugar
6 eggs separated
Juice and grated rind of 1 lemon
Packet vanilla sugar
Slivered or flaked almonds - amount to taste, I would use about 100g
3 - 4 tablespoons semolina

Preheat oven to 180oC.

Grease a springform pan and sprinkle with semolina. Line base with baking paper. (NOTE: if you want to make this gluten free you can leave out the semolina, I accidentally did, just really grease your pan well).
Push the farm cheese through a sieve so that it is finely crumbled.

Whip egg whites.

Cream butter and sugar, add egg yolks and some of the lemon juice. Beat until well incorporated. Add the rest of the juice, sieved farm cheese and vanilla sugar. Finally fold in the whipped egg whites and slivered almonds.

Pour mixture into pan and bake for approximately 70 minutes.

It will still be quite jiggly when you take it out of the oven.  As soon as you take the cake out of the oven carefully remove the outside of the pan. This allows the cake to settle uniformly.

Remove the cake from the base when it is completely cooled.  Serve with whipped cream.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

R U OK? Day

Today is R UOK? day.  It is a day dedicated to inspiring everyone to regularly ask each other “are you ok?”  This might seem a really simple message, but ask yourself this, when did you last ask someone if they were ok?

I am actually quite a shy person.  This may come as a surprise to many, but I’m what is known as a shy extrovert.  I love being with people and get my energy that way, but I’m still actually quite shy and have had to learn to have an outgoing personality.  Doing drama at highschool was fantastic for me, it gave me a whole heap of resources which enable me to overcome my shyness to be a part of the social situations which make me happy.

However, there are still plenty of times when my shyness comes out and asking if someone is ok is one of those situations.  I find that there is something confronting for me in asking that question, almost like I’m intruding on their privacy, but those times when I have overcome my inner shyness to ask the question have invariably resulted in some really great conversations and a few times in me being able to really help someone.

R U OK? Day is a great reminder for me that this is a really important question and one I shouldn’t hesitate from asking, even when my shyness tries to get the better of me.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Spring has sprung!  Everywhere around me I can see new fresh green leaves, the soft colours of blossom, happy faces of daffodils, birds flying by with absurdly long twigs for nest building. And bliss, oh such bliss, the days are getting warmer and longer.

Every spring I feel a sense of relaxing just a little.  It is like the muscles in my body are unclenching after trying to resist the long cold winter.  Going about my everyday chores somehow seems easier when I don't have to put on a parka to go out to the clothes line and the work day seems shorter when I get to go home in daylight.

But one of my absolute favourite things at this time of year is the influx of fresh produce, notably this year being the amazing abundance of delicious strawberries!  Each sweet mouthful is bursting with flavour.  I can almost feel the vitamins and goodness entering my body.  Much as apples and mandarins have been lovely, morning tea is suddenly a whole lot more exciting with strawberries on my plate.

What are you loving about the arrival of spring?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Carrot Cake Day

On Saturday I got up at an indecently early hour to return a favour for the chief architect of my built by friends pergola, by handing out how to vote cards for his Mum who was running in the local council elections.

At what was quite literally the crack of dawn I rugged myself up and headed out into the country to a small local church whose hall had been turned into a polling station for the day.  When the sun shone and the wind dropped, it was actually quite nice standing out there, but for the other 95% of the time I was very glad of my thermals, parka and gloves.

Over the course of the morning it became clear that there were two pressing concerns for the electorate, who was going to fix the local roads and where on earth was the sausage sizzle.  Not being a local myself, the second of these issues was of most concern for me.  After all, what is an election day without a fundraising sausage sandwich?

Luckily at around 10am, a team of what appeared to be crack sausage sizzle operators turned up to set up the stall which they did in world record time.  Not only did they have the usual sausages in white bread with onion and tomato sauce, this was a full fundraising stall with hand knitted goodies and loads of cakes that would have made the CWA (Country Women's Association for those not from Australia) proud.

My shift went till 11, but before I dashed home to change for a wedding, I happily gobbled up a sausage sanga and bought a carrot cake.  I love carrot cake, it is definitely in my top 5 cakes, maybe even in the top 3 depending on my mood, so I was very happy to get it home and enjoy a slice with a hot cup of tea before frocking up for the wedding.

Little was I to know but that would not be the last carrot cake of the day.  After the very romantic ceremony and lovely reception, the wedding cake was served.  It was, you guessed it, carrot cake!

You can never be quite sure what a day will bring, but a day that brings me this much carrot cake is a good day by any measure.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Lipstick Index

There is a truism in marketing that when times are tough lipstick sales go up.  It is a phenomenon known as the lipstick index and mad as this might sound, there is actually some logic behind it.  The theory goes that when budgets are tight but women still want to give themselves a treat, they spend on the smallest luxury item they can find, i.e. a lipstick.  And it does make sense.  When you don't have $100 for a new pair of shoes, you probably can find $12 for a new lipstick or $9.95 in my case.

S and my trip to Europe this year was wonderful, but the timing was not ideal financially so we are now on what can only be described as a very tight budget.  I don't know about you, but when I'm not spending the world seems filled with desirable objects, much like it is full of yummy food if you are ever on a diet.  I have been very good at avoiding temptation however when a walk through a busy shopping centre left me feeling a bit blue about all the gorgeous things I can't afford right now, I decided to lash out and spoil myself with a new lipstick.

The colour is Alarm in the lasting finish range by Rimmel and I think it is an excellent day red.  Since attending charm school a few weeks ago I've been wearing lipstick a lot more but have not been happy with my reds.  They have all seemed a bit too much, more for an evening event.  This is perfect for the day and at under $10 it did give me a real lift.

Today's smile, brought to you by tight budgets and bargain lipstick!

What is your treat when you are on a tight budget?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


My hair on a good day!

When I was about 10 a friend's mother commented that I should be a hairdresser because I was always playing with everyone's hair and was quite good at it.  Hairdressing is not my profession, but I do still love to play with my hair and the hair of my friends.  My hair is naturally somewhere between a wave and a curl, but on any given day it will be curled, straight, braided, pinned, you name it I play with it.

And I don't just limit myself to styling, I've done plenty of colour experimentation over the years.  When I was about 15 some friends of mine and I dyed my hair red.  To say my father was not happy is the understatement of the century.  Luckily it was the kind that washes out, so I preceeded to stand in the shower and wash and wash and wash till it was gone.

My next hair dying adventure happened when I was at uni.  My Mum bought me some natural henna dye from Lush and we dyed my hair a brownish red.  It was amazing dye with a strong spicy scent that reactivated for months every time I washed my hair.  However I could never quite get used to myself as a red head, so I let it fade away.

I've been various shades of brown - once almost black after a mistake by the hairdresser - and experimented with foils which I quite like but S doesn't.

The point is till now I have just been playing because I felt like it.  I say till now because this morning I spotted gleaming in the light several grey hairs.  I'm not surprised.  My Dad's side of the family go grey early on and I have their hair.  In fact I would have thought I would be a lot greyer by now.  I have great hope that when I do go grey I will get the gorgeous silver hair of my grandmother. but I have to ask myself, am I ready to go grey?  And if I dye my hair now is it the same as before or am I trying to deny something?

It is a funny thing, coming to terms with aging.  For so long we spend our time wishing we were older and then it seems that everyone wishes they were younger.  I have for a long time tried not to be defined by an age.  I don't feel a need to be older or younger, I'm happy to just be.  But am I happy to be grey?

I'm still not sure what the answer is.  My few gleaming grey hairs don't upset me, but they do have me thinking.

To dye or not to dye, that is the question.  How do you answer it?

Sunday, September 2, 2012


Yesterday was my parent's 39th wedding anniversary and today is, of course, Father's Day.  So this morning we descended upon the family house for chocolate cake (the secret family recipe of course) and general merriment.

After cake, coffee and presents, the glorious spring sunshine beckoned to us and we moved outside.  We sat in a semi circle, basking like lizards under a clear blue sky, quietly chatting as the dogs played and birds fluttered overhead.  I sat there, in the middle of my family, my hand resting on S's leg, eyes closed, sun warm on my face and felt utter peace.  Stress and worry floated away.  In that moment, I felt warm, loved, and oh so very happy.

I hope today brought you a similar moment of truly carefree peacefulness.