Monday, September 29, 2014

Not a normal post

I've been travelling a lot for work. It is easy to spend the whole day inside. Waking up in the hotel. Eating breakfast in the hotel. Running a day long event in the hotel. Retreating at the end of the day back to my hotel room for some room service. It gets claustrophobic.

So I often head out at night. I walk around the block, or several blocks, or half the city depending on how stir crazy I am. Just breathing in being outside.

Today was one of those days and I needed to get outside. I'm in a part of a city I know quite well, so I picked a route that took me past plenty of pretty shop windows to admire. It was dark, just after 8pm and as I walked past lit windows filled with luxury goods homeless people were rolling out their sleeping bags. The contrast was just enormous. Canberra has the second highest rate of homelessness but you don't often see it.

As I walked I saw a young man go up to a homeless man sitting by a wall. He crouched down and pulled two bottles of beer from his bag. The homeless man looked so happy but then realised he had no way to open them. The young man produced a bottle opener and opened them both. As he stood up the homeless man was thanking him. There is a good chance beer is one of the reasons that man is homeless and a sandwich would probably do him more good but the beer made him so happy.

It is easy to be judgmental. But here I am sitting in a lovely hotel room, how do I know what that homeless man's life is. How can I judge that young man for giving him the beer? Happiness comes in so many forms. That was probably the highlight of his day, maybe his week. Am I to judge his happiness?

This isn't one of my normal chirpy posts. Maybe it is a one off, maybe I'm taking the blog in a new direction, towards more reflections. There is a lot of random stuff that wanders through my head and I might share it every now and then. What do you think?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Recipe: Chorizo and Kale Pasta

I've been on a bit of a kale journey recently. Yes, just as it was announced there is a world wide shortage of kale seeds, I've discovered this yummy veggie. Well I think it is yummy, I know the jury is out on this for a few of you, but I like it. This foray into cooking with kale has also coincided with a concerted plan to cook something new at least once a week, so several of my new recipes have featured kale.

I made this pasta out of what was left in the fridge and could be scavenged from the pantry. I made enough for dinner plus a leftover lunch, but S enjoyed it so much he had seconds and there were no leftovers! In his words it was something he could easily imagine having in a cafe - high praise for leftovers indeed.

The lemon and red wine vinegar give a real freshness to this dish, but are totally something to add to taste. I love vinegar so I put in quite a significant amount but add just as much as you would like.

Chorizo and Kale Pasta
olive oil
1 leek, white part only cut lengthwise then into strips
1 chorizo diced small
2-3 cargrilled capsicum cut in strips
3 cups kale leaves, cut off stem and torn into small pieces
lemon zest - roughly 1/4 large lemon, 1/2 small lemon
chili flakes to taste
1/2 cup grated parmesan
red wine vinegar
pasta of choice

Add a lug of olive oil to a hot frypan and cook down the leek and choritzo, until the leek is soft and caramlised and the chorizo is crispy. Add the capsicum, lemon zest and chili and stir to combine.

Meanwhile cook the pasta (I've done it with both spaghetti and pene) in a large pot of salted water. About 2 minutes before it is ready add the kale leaves.

Drain the cooked spaghetti and kale, return to the pan, add the chorizo mixture, the parmesan, a little more olive oil and red wine vinegar and toss to combine.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Xtending Myself

I have written before that I do not naturally take to exercise. I know people who look forward to the gym, voluntarily run and swim, play organised sport - I am not that person. I do love to dance, but as I always tell my classes, I'm a lazy dancer. With good technique I can get my partner to do a whole heap of the dancing for me and I'm just fine with that.

All that said, I come from a family with a genetic predisposition to osteoperosis and giant bums, so I know that I do need to exercise to keep myself healthy and able to walk through a door easily. So when I heard about an exercise class based on dance but low impact (bad knees and zumba are not a good combo) I was excited.

And so I started Xtend Barre classes. If you haven't heard of it, Xtend Barre is based on ballet and pilates. It uses lots of small, repetitive movements to build long lean muscle. You use small hand weights, yoga straps, small pilates balls and stretchy rubber bands (aka the moment everyone groans in class) to work out and work hard. Seriously I haven't sweated this much since I was in a tropical country.

But it is working. Just a few weeks of classes and I can feel a difference to my posture. My chiropractor commented on how much better my pelvis was being supported, it is making a difference.

And while I wouldn't say I enjoy the classes, there is too much sweat, groaning and pain for that, I do think it is something I can keep doing.

Do you exercise? Do you enjoy it? And what motivates you to keep going?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Baking Joy

I love to bake. Let me rephrase that. I LOVE to bake.

Cooking is a passion of mine. I really enjoy producing food that people enjoy eating. I love to cook for friends and family and having people over for a meal is a joy for me.

But the thing I love to do most is bake. Biscuits, cakes, tarts and pastries. I enjoy the amazing chemistry reactions that make things rise, becoming light and airy. I really love how the house smells as something delicious comes out of the oven. But the best bit is watching others enjoy the fruits of my labour.

Over the last few weeks the extra time I've had has allowed me to do a bit more baking that usual. I don't think I've made a cake in months until this weekend when I made two! We are eating home made biscuits and there are delicious desserts in the fridge. But the best bit is just how much fun I've had creating all this yummy food.

On a different but slightly related note I've also realised I need to start doing a whole lot more exercise.

Monday, July 28, 2014


As I mentioned a few posts ago, my previous employer was defunded in the recent Commonwealth budget meaning that I, like all my colleagues, lost my job. I was however fortunate to be immediately offered some casual work which I have been busy with the last month.

I'm only doing 20 hours a week. That means on my work days I get in later and leave earlier than I have in a very long time and I have two days not working each week. When I started this process I was so excited about those two free days and all the things I could do on them but have increasingly found myself becoming frustrated. Somehow my two free days were packed with things and yet I don't seem to be achieving anything!

I have lists of things to do, but not one item has been completely ticked off. Bits have been done, things have been achieved, just not everything I wanted to and I've also struggled for the focus to power through my lists the way I usually do. I just haven't been able get into a rhythm, into a comfortable mode of operating and I've been frustrating myself with my own distractability.

It was really only today that I figured out what was going on. I'm decompressing. The last few months (and years) have been so busy, so crazy, so action packed that what I'm really doing is slowly making my way back to the surface. Back to an equilibrium. Readying myself to be able to launch forward with that verve and enthusiasm that everyone knows so well.

This realisation has reminded me why it is so important to be mindful - aware of the affect the world around us is having. So I still have my lists, but I'm going to focus a little more on taking some time out for tea and cake than worrying that I haven't got around to vacuuming out the heating ducts or doing my tax return. And it will mean that when I do go back to full time work I will be able to power in with all my focus and enthusiasm refreshed and ready to go.

How are you feeling today? Things under control or do you need a bit of decompression like me?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Recipe: Cauliflower Soup

I pretty much eat everything. I'm not the hugest fan of pork, but I still eat it and have been enjoying it more recently. I don't love aniseed but then again I liked the fennel I cooked the other day. So pretty much, I will eat whatever arrives in front of me.

S on the other hand has a reasonable list of stuff he doesn't like. I consider food to be one of life's great pleasures, so I don't cook things he doesn't like which is simple except when it is stuff that I really do like. Seafood is easy - I eat it out. Mushrooms, well I sneak those in disguised under sauce or as a quick side for just me. But cauliflower, that one is hard.  You can't disguise cauliflower, it isn't really something you go out for and eating an entire head on my own is a tough ask. But when I have a cauliflower craving there is one way that I can use up head in a way that I find completely satisfying and that I don't have to subject S to - soup.

I think cauliflower soup is one of winter's great comfort foods. Thick, hearty and warming, it is the perfect lunch for a cold, grey day and we have had plenty of those recently. My version uses beef stock and herbs for a richer flavour that I find very satisfying. When I'm feeling flash I will pan fry some breadcrumbs and parsley in a little butter till golden brown and sizzling hot to top the soup with, but you know it is just as good, straight from the pot or as I mostly enjoy it, freshly heated from the microwave at my desk at work.

We are on a real soup kick at the moment. Which soups have you been enjoying?

Cauliflower Soup

olive oil
1 leek, white part thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic diced
2 sticks of celery, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
head of cauliflower cut into florets
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
beef stock (about 4 cups)

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot over a medium/high heat. Add the leek and saute until soft and fragrant. Add the garlic and cook for another few minutes until everything smells great but hasn't coloured too much.

Add in the celery and carrots, continue to saute for a few minutes till nice and hot then add the cauliflower, thyme, bay leaf and stock. Add as much extra water as you need until everything is just covered by liquid.

Bring to the boil, then simmer for around 30-40 minutes giving the occasional stir. When ready the cauliflower should be be soft enough to smush apart with a spoon. Remove the thyme and bay leaf.

Either allow to cool and blend in a normal blender or use a stick blender to blend the soup into thick, smooth puree.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Exceeding limitations

Last week a disaster happened. A disaster of such epic proportions that my heart sank, I cried, I stormed about, I swore furiously in person and on Facebook. You see, my computer died. My laptop which is the centre of my life. Which I need to work, socialise, relax, generally live life. Which had not been backed up for 6 months. It was dead.

I am, however, blessed with a large number of highly geeky friends who came to my rescue and resurrected it enough for me to get my data off. As luck would have it I was also in the process of buying my work laptop from my old job which is closing down, so I had a new device. But its hard drive really wasn't big enough for me, and while I had the data from my old machine, it was in fragments.

So last weekend, I dug deep, found my inner geek, dusted her off and set about creating myself a new life partner (aka working laptop).

I would say I speak tourist level geek. Just as tourist level french will let you order a coffee, say hello and introduce yourself but not have an actual conversation, tourist level geek means you have some idea what is going on when the techies get together and can occasionally interject with a comment that makes it sound like you know what you are talking about but doesn't actually mean you know how anything works. And as a tourist in the geek space, I generally call on an expert when I need anything significant done. However I do have expert level google skills (seriously you need it found, I can find it), so last weekend I decided to put those skills to good use and set up my own computer.

I am very proud to say that in the course of one rainy, cold Saturday I
- bought a new hard drive (250G SSD for those geeks playing)
- installed it and set it up from a system image and system boot disk I had created
- installed all my needed programs
- found a program to rip a backup from my iPod to allow me to set up iTunes (one of the few things we couldn't get off the old computer)
- recreated and improved my old file structure
- cleaned out the files (soooo many drafts are now gone)
- and customised all the displays.

S, who has a degree in computer science, wandered into the room at one point and remarked that he should have left me to set up his computer.

What it really proved to me is that like so many things in life, we have more capability than we imagine. I can't do the amazing things that my techie friends can, but I can use the tools that clever people have built to achieve what I need to.  And it reminded me that most things in life come with some sort of safety net so it is worth giving new things a go.

And if nothing else, when my geeky crowd start talking about the computers they have built, I can talk about my new laptop!

Have you surprised yourself with what you can do recently?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Recipe: Potato and Fennel Bake

Winter took some time to arrive this year, but now that it is here, boy is it here. Today started with a minus 5 degree morning, followed by a brief splash of sunshine before heading into the depths of icy cold rain.

All of this cold, grey, wet weather means one thing - it is time to hunker down with some full on comfort food. And what is more comforting than a lovely creamy potato bake?

As it transpired, I also had a random fennel in the fridge. Fennel isn't something that we regularly eat which was made especially obvious by S asking what it was. However we inherited one from my parents who were doing a fridge clean out so as I contemplated my potato bake I decided to incorporate the fennel.

The result was just yummy. Rich and creamy but with that lovely light aniseed tang of the fennel.  I think fennel may just be seen more regularly in our fridge!

What is your go to comfort food in this cold miserable weather?

Potato and Fennel Bake

salt and pepper

Allocate roughly  2 medium potatoes, a quarter of a fennel and 50ml cream per person - but make extra because you will want seconds!

Grease a baking dish thoroughly with butter.

Heat the cream a little to make it more runny - 30 seconds in the microwave will usually do it.

Thinly slice the potatoes and fennel (I use the thick side of my mandolin slicer). Layer one third of the potato, slightly overlaping to fill the base of the baking dish. Scatter with half the fennel, a generous amount of salt and pepper and a third of the cream.

Repeat another layer of potato, fennel, seasoning and cream then top with a final layer of potato and the last of the cream. Sprinkle over with a generous amount of freshly grated parmesan.

Bake at 170 degrees C covered for one hour, then uncovered for 20-30 minutes till lovely and golden.

Eat with, well just about anything, or potentially just a fork straight out of the dish. Mmmmm

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Restaurant Review: High Tea at Ricardo's Cafe

S and I are very fond of high tea. To be honest I really love any food that comes in small serves of different flavours. Canapes, yum cha, tapas, anything of that style really. A successful high tea has to combine sweet and savoury and have a variety of tastes and textures - and today's high tea certainly delivered in that regard.

Today we headed to Ricardo's Cafe at Jamison. There had been a slight mix up when I booked so they didn't have us listed for high tea (it turns out you need to book and pre-pay through their website) but they were great and organised high tea for us after a short delay.

We had a variety of sandwiches, blueberry scones, 4 cakes and a number of macarons. Everything was delicious. It was slightly awkward to eat in that we had to cut up each cake to share between the 4 of us but it was a good way to have a taste of each thing without filling up too much. And of course that is always the issue with high tea. The stand didn't look too full when we started but we ended up taking home some of the macarons because we were too full to finish them.

The other issue with high tea for me is that I always run out of the accompanying tea. At Richardo's the $35 cost includes 2 beverages, so half way through we got to reorder. The teas are from Adore Tea and I had Gorgeous Geisha a lovely green tea for both my pots and it kept me going through all the food.

All in all we had a lovely afternoon. Looking at the other high tea stands it appeared you had a bit of pot luck in which of the cakes you got from the huge display case full of them at the front counter but we were very happy with our passionfruit tart, vanilla slice, blueberry cheesecake and layered mousse. It was certainly great value and a yummy way to spend a Sunday afternoon, even if I'm in a bit of a food coma now!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Long time no blog!

In times of stress and trouble, tea always helps!

Sometimes life changes the rules on us. Sometimes you come to a fork in the road and have to chose a path and sometimes the path you are on just veers in a direction you didn't expect. Pretty much all of these have happened over the last few months.

In the last few months I have been faced with challenges in the workplace which have been at the extremes of the spectrum. It started with one of the busiest periods I've experienced, where weekend work and very long hours were standard. Only to have that followed with the news delivered in the budget that from June 30 the organisation would no longer be funded and have everything draw to rapid stop.

I literally spent one day planning activities for the next 6 months, then the next day pulling out my CV to start applying for new jobs.

Needless to say my brain has been rather busy and blogging just had to take a backseat. But today is June 30. This morning, after weeks of hard work closing off programs, shutting down activities and packing up the office, I handed in my access pass and finished up.

It has been a tough time. I've been in similar situations before, but my staff hadn't so there has been lots of mentoring and keeping up of spirits. It has been a great opportunity to remember the ethos of this blog, that there is happiness even in the worst of situations. We have been inundated with messages of thanks for all our work, everyone has acknowledged what an amazing team it has been and how sad we are that it is over and we have found lots of opportunities to celebrate triumphs small and large.

The future is by no means certain. I have some fantastic casual work lined up but I'm still searching for a new permanent role. After the emotional rollercoaster of the last few months though, I'm quite looking forward to having a little more spare time, a chance to get back here every now and then.

And most of all, I know that despite my path having turned in a very unexpected direction, there will be new adventures, new joys and a continuation of a wonderful life ahead of me.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Getting around to it

I remember being very amused as a child when someone gave me a "round tuit". The idea being that when you had one you didn't have an excuse not to do things straight away. If only it really worked! It is so very easy to put things off, especially those things that are only done out of an interest and which don't have a real impact on daily life. Which brings me to hot cross buns.

For years each Easter I've intended to try my hand at making hot cross buns. I love them and purchase many a half dozen over the weeks leading up to Easter. I also love cooking, particularly baking, so it seems an obvious thing for me to have a go at making and yet I never have.

Today I finally did it, filling the house with delicious yeasty, spicy scents, peering under the tea towel as they rose and finally enjoying one smothered in butter.

I used this recipe from the Taste website but following the comments I doubled the spice and could potentially have tripled it. However, what resulted was delicious, fluffy, yummy hot cross buns. I don't know that they are so much better than those you can buy that they are a must make, but they are very satisfying.

And best of all, I finally got around to it!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Happy International Day of Happiness

"Happiness may have different meanings for different people. But we can all agree that it means working to end conflict, poverty and other unfortunate conditions in which so many of our fellow human beings live." Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Today is the UN International Day of Happiness. I hope today everyone finds a reason to smile and better yet, finds a reason to make another person smile. You can read a few of my thoughts on how to be happy here and more will be coming soon!

Friday, March 7, 2014


Every year I grow a bountiful supply of tomatoes in our veggie patch. Home grown tomatoes are wonderful things, so bursting with flavour and perfect for the tiny space we have available. I've experimented with many other crops over the years with mixed success, but I may have just found something to compete with the tomatoes - cucamelons.

Cucamelons, also called Mexican Sour Cucumbers, are tiny bite sized cucumbers. They are the size of a grape tomato, look like a miniature watermelon and taste just like a cucumber. I'm still getting used to the experience of eating them. They don't have the explosion of flavour that you get from a grape tomato but have more crunch than a piece of cucumber. And they are prolific! I can see why there are so many recipes for pickling them, I would say that in the next couple of weeks we are going to be inundated.

I grew them from direct sown seeds (bought from the amazing Diggers Club) so they have taken a while to get to fruiting stage. Next year I think I will grow them as seedlings so that I can get them in the ground earlier, but now that they have hit the fruiting point, I'm thinking of all the possibilities of what I can do with the fruit.

I find it really exciting to be growing a vegetable that I've never seen before, only read about and having had a browse of the Diggers Club website I realise there are so many options out there. I can imagine that at some point in the future when we have a decent sized back yard I will grow all sorts of amazing things.

Do you grow your own veggies? And have you discovered any unusual and exciting crops along the way.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Slouchy Saturdays

I read something the other day that said "never trust a woman who says she doesn't own track pants". Now I wouldn't say I would go as far as not trusting her, but I'm not sure we could be good friends. You see track pants are an important ingredient in slouchy Saturdays, which are one of my most favourite things. Other important ingredients are a complete lack of plans, to-do lists or time pressures. A slightly grey sky is helpful, as it negates any chance that you feel compelled to take advantage of perfect weather by leaving the house.

Slouchy Saturdays are not lazy Saturdays. In fact quite a lot often happens on them. It is just that with no to-do list needing to be ticked off by a certain time or having to leave the house, things happen in a relaxed, pottering kind of fashion.

Silk flower cleaning - the kind of chore that only gets done on a slouchy Saturday

Sleep-ins are often involved. Followed by some chores done in a random, as I feel like it, order. A bra is optional, track pants are not.

At the end of a slouchy Saturday I generally feel incredibly relaxed, and yet I have a tidy house, something delicious simmering on the stove and a neat garden. It feels like without any effort I've done everything that is needed.

With a busy life slouchy Saturdays are fairly infrequent. Usually we have plans, something that needs to be done, or people we are seeing, activities we are doing. Those weekends are great, but there is something so refreshing about a slouchy Saturday.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Recipe: Panzanella

Each season has its own flavours and in summer we are particularly spoiled. Mangoes are for me sun in a skin. Peaches and cherries are Christmas. But summer, summer is sun warmed tomatoes and basil.

Each year I transform our tiny veggie patch into a tomato oasis, under planted with basil. And when it is full of sun warmed, perfectly ripe tomatoes I just love to make my version of the Italian bread salad, panzanella.

Traditionally panzanella is just bread, tomatoes and basil with a simple dressing. You use stale bread which you soak in water and squeeze out before making the salad. However, I like to add a few extra veggies and prefer my bread a bit more solid so skip the water step. I like to make this with a sourdough or Italian style bread. I recently made it with an olive sour dough and it was especially great.

This is not a traditional recipe but I think it is yummy. It goes really well with a simple steak or sausages, or just on its own.

(note I haven't included quantities because this recipe really is to taste. I try to have about equal amounts of bread to tomatoes) 

Day old bread

Olive oil (roughly 2/3 to 1/3 vinegar)
Red wine vinegar
crushed garlic
salt and pepper

 Cut or tear the bread into roughly 1cm cubes. Cut up the tomatoes to an equal size and add to the bread (along with any juice that comes out when you cut them up). Roughly tear up the basil and cut up the cucumber and capsicum to similar size as the tomatoes. Drizzel with dressing and toss to combine.

To make the dressing combine all ingredients in a screwtop jar and shake.

This salad is best made at least 15-30 minutes before eating so that the flavours have time to meld.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day

S and I have never made a huge fuss of Valentine's Day. We don't ignore it, but we also don't go over the top with huge presents and expensive dinners either. Instead we have always given each other a simple card and had a simple meal - often just homemade pizza eaten sitting on the couch. We love each other to bits every day of the year, but it is nice on this "day of love" to acknowledge it in some special way.

This morning, as I was getting ready for work, my bleary eyed beloved emerged from his sheet cocoon (honestly I don't know how he manages to wrap himself up like that) and presented me with the most gorgeously written card and a box of Turkish delight. It wasn't some special Valentines Day Turkish delight. It wasn't in a fancy box. It was in a plastic takeaway container - because that is how it comes when it is super fresh from the deli that I like - onto which he had stuck a sticker which made it look like there was a cat in there trying to get out.

Because that is what love is, knowing that amidst the sea of red roses and chocolates, what I would love is some simple fresh Turkish Delight with a funny cat sticker on it.

I hope your Valentine's Day was as romantic as mine.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Recipe: Messing with a classic - creating a Summer Tiramisu

There are a heap of recipes that have stood the test of time, that have earned the status of "classic". They are flavours that are known and loved, so if you mess with them, you better be prepared for the fallout.

With the bounty of fresh berries at the moment, I wanted to make something that showcased them but that was also a bit of a decadent dessert. So I came up with the idea of playing with the flavours of tiramisu. I replaced the traditional coffee and chocolate - flavours that I think of more as for winter - with light citrus and berries.

The reaction was, well, mixed. Everyone really enjoyed it but with the thought of tiramisu in mind they were confused. I got a lot of "I like it but it isn't tiramisu" comments. Maybe I should call this a creamy berry pudding or something - if you can think of a better name let me know in the comments!

There is quite a bit of booze in this (plus raw egg so definitely not one for pregnant ladies), but the liqueur is all about the flavour. The recipe uses both orange and raspberry liqueurs, I used cointreau and an amazing raspberry nectar made by Centennial Vineyards in the Southern Highlands of NSW, but there are a heap of options out there. And the lemon syllabub has both wine and brandy in it, but trust me, I could eat it by the spoonful, it is just that delicious, and adds a fantastic tart element to offset the creamy richness of the mascarpone.

I have no idea how people take good photos of tiramisu, presentation wise, it looked as it always does like a bit of a mess when spooned out, but then again it getting a photo would have been tricky as it disappeared very fast. So I may have messed with a classic, and it may actually need a new name, but it would appear this was a success.

Have you played with any classic recipes recently? How successful was it?

Summer Tiramisu
Juice of one orange
3 tbsp cointreau (or other orange flavoured liqueur)
30 (ish) sponge-finger biscuits
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup caster sugar
500g mascarpone cheese
3 tbsp raspberry liqueur
1/4 cup caster sugar, extra
1/3 cup thickened cream
mixed berries (I used a punnet each of raspberries, blueberries and strawberries)
lemon syllabub (recipe below)

Place the orange juice and cointreau in a shallow bowl.

Beat egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Fold in the mascarpone and raspberry liqueur until just combined.

Beat egg whites and extra sugar until soft peaks form. Gently fold into the mascarpone mixture and then fold in the thickened cream.

Dip half of the biscuits into the orange juice mixture and place in the bottom of a 8-cup capacity rectangular dish. Spread half the mascarpone mixture over biscuits, then sprinkle over with half the berries. Repeat with the remaining biscuits and mascarpone mixture but reserve remaining berries. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

An hour or so before serving top with lemon syllabub and remaining berries.

Lemon Syllabub
1 lemon
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 1/4 cups cream
1/3 cup white wine

Thinly peel lemon. Place the peel and juice of the lemon in a measuring cup and add enough brandy to make half a cup. Cover and let stand overnight.

Strain the juice/brandy mix discarding the peel and any pith from the lemon, add the wine and sugar to the juice/brandy and stir till dissolved.

Beat cream till soft peaks form then very slowly beat in the lemon mixture. When the cream holds its shape spoon over the tiramisu.

Monday, January 27, 2014

New Linen

I am really very house proud. I love living somewhere comfortable but also attractive and while I wouldn't say I work towards any kind of theme or style, I'm pretty happy that I've created a warm, welcoming home.

That said, it isn't often that we buy new decorator or homewares so when something lovely and new arrives in the house it is quite exciting. This week some glorious new Florence Broadhurst linen arrived courtesy of a great special on Peter's of Kensington. I think it is about 4 years since we had new linen that wasn't plain white sheets, so I couldn't wait to get this on the bed.

S remains unconvinced, I think the move from shades of white to navy blue has somewhat thrown him but I LOVE it. I find myself wandering by the bedroom just to admire it and I love how it makes our bedroom look.

Have you had any exciting homeware purchases recently?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Embracing happiness

I've noticed the hash tags #365gratitude and #100happydays popping up in my Facebook feed and on Instagram a lot at the moment. It is one of those movements where someone's own personal journey has gone viral and many people are joining in.  It all makes me very happy because I know the impact that focusing on happiness can have. I started this blog as a year of happiness and it did change my life.

The change was small, but so very, very important. You see happiness, every day life happiness, is quiet. It is sitting in a ray of sunshine, a perfectly ripe peach, a silly joke that makes you laugh till you cry, it is moments that unless you paid attention to them you could miss so very easily. And that is the change, the gift that my happiness project gave me, it made me mindful.

I seek out those moments in every day and when they happen, I pay attention, I give them my focus and I raise their importance from a moment that could disappear unnoticed to the highlight of my day. And in doing so it makes every day just that bit happier, sunnier and more enjoyable.

With the current prevalence of hashtags about happiness and gratitude I hope that many others will get the benefit that I had and that the world will become just that little more mindful of the happiness that exists in every day.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Mini Break

I first heard the phrase "mini break" when reading Bridget Jones Diary. Since then I've become a dedicated fan. There is something amazingly refreshing about taking just a couple of days out of your normal routine. There isn't the level of expense and planning that a proper holiday requires, yet it provides a complete change from every day life and the result is just so refreshing.

Last week S and I enjoyed mini break on the Gold Coast. The Gold Coast wouldn't be our normal choice, too many people, too humid and being such white, white people, a day on the beach would end in hideous sunburn but we had another reason for going - a birthday party. My Nanna (who isn't my Nanna at all, I adopted her from my best friend) celebrated her 90th birthday.

It meant we got to spend most of  what would normally be a work day being wined and dined. There is nothing quite like a glass of champagne at 3pm on a Thursday when you know all of your colleagues are hard at work.

We walked kilometers each day, wandering through the shops and along the beach - which was excellent given the number of calories we ingested! After a day of celebration with Nanna, the following day S indulged me by taking me to Palazzo Versace for high tea.

It was just enormous! At least 15 items each, including sandwiches, scones and a huge array of sweet treats. Each was small, delicate and intricately crafted. My only real criticism would be that it was a bit overwhelmingly sweet, but it was a gorgeous venue and a fun way to spend a few hours before slowly wandering back, trying to walk off those calories.

It was just two days but they were two fun, refreshing, relaxing days that has stretched the summer holidays out just that bit further.

I will end with some advice from Nanna as recounted by her daughter at the birthday party.

Be kind to your mother
Keep a positive and happy outlook on life
And always have champagne in the fridge - you never know when you will need to celebrate something!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Eggplant, chickpea, quinoa and goats feta salad

In the warmer months I could quite happily live on salad. And to be frank I would be pretty much satisfied with a good old garden salad most days but variety is the spice of life and there are so many delicious salads it would be a shame to limit myself.

This one was inspired by seeing a picture of an eggplant salad on pinterest. That salad was completely different and I still intend to try it, but this salad turned out exactly as I wanted. I wanted something substantial that I could have as a work lunch, so it needed the protein and carbohydrate from the chickpeas and quinoa. I particularly love the flavour combination of goats cheese and eggplant but that can get a bit cloying so I added the parsley to freshen it up. And pine nuts - well every salad benefits from a few of these fragrant beauties.

I prefer to cook my chickpeas from dried, I think they have a better texture. But that does require a certain amount of pre-planning so canned is fine. And as with many of my recipes, the quantities are open to interpretation, if you like something more, there is nothing stopping you playing with the amount.

This salad was delicious warm but is also great cold. The flavours meld together beautifully.

What salads are you enjoying this summer?

Eggplant, Chickpea, Quinoa and Goats Feta Salad
2 medium eggplant cut into 2cm (approx) cubes
3 tbs olive oil
1.5 cups of cooked chickpeas (which is equal to about a can or 1/2 cup dried)
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup parsley leaves picked
100g goats feta
100g pine nuts toasted

3 tbs olive oil
1.5 tbs red wine vinegar
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp minced garlic
salt and pepper

Lightly toss the eggplant in olive oil and bake at 180 degrees celcius until golden brown - about 20-30 minutes.

Rinse quinoa thoroughly then boil in about 2 cups of water for about 15 minutes. It is cooked when it becomes translucent and you can see the germ.

Cook chickpeas according to packet or can directions till tender.

In a large bowl combine the warm chickpeas, quinoa and eggplant with the parsley and toasted pine nuts. Crumble feta over, add the dressing and toss to combine.


To make the dressing combine all ingredients in a jar and shake to combine.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Getting the little jobs done

Have you seen the quadrant management tool? Where tasks fit into categories of:
Important and Urgent
Important and Not Urgent
Not Important and Urgent
Not Important and Not Urgent

It is one of those devices that you get taught in productivity courses and where you inevitably find that too much time is wasted on not important but urgent tasks and the important but not urgent tasks get neglected.

The principles can be applied to nearly any part of life and so over my break I've been trying to address some of the important but not urgent issues around our house. We have finally fixed the disintegrating fence and peeling paint on the outside of the house.

I've got up and checked the gutters, got rid of the wasp nests and we have finally fixed our screen door.

About 4 years ago my sister's little dog, excited to see our Mum her "Nana" in the house, leaped through our screen door. It looked hilarious, like one of those circus acts where an animal jumps through a hoop covered with paper. But of course the result was a rather large dog shaped whole in our screen door.

Well this week we finally got around to fixing it. All it took was a five minute trip to Bunnings and about 30 minutes of work and we can once again have our sliding door open without letting in all the bugs. And as it is right near the entrance to the house it makes the whole place look that much better.

It really is amazing the difference it makes when those jobs are done. Our whole house looks so much neater and fresher. It is protected from the weather which will save money in the long run and of course we can enjoy fresh air at night without mosquitoes!  This year I really do resolve to do my best to make sure that those important aspects of life be they urgent or not don't get neglected.

Do you have any important but not urgent tasks you have been neglecting? And what are your new year's resolutions.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year and a recipe

Happy New Year! Have you recovered from New Year's Eve yet? After a late night and a fair bit of cocktail consumption we had a very quiet start to 2014. Even the day seemed a bit hungover, the sky was a pale grey, the air cooler, everything just that bit quieter.

The tradition with my group of friends is for a fancy dress party each year. The venue has changed over time but fancy dress continues and people make a HUGE effort. This year's theme was Fairytales so S and I went as Hansel and Gretel. We looked pretty awesome if I do say so myself, but there were amazing costumes from the frog prince, to Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, the Beast, Alice and the Mad Hatter, a complete set of Peter Pan, Tinkerbell and Hook (Peter was taking being young to the extreme at 8 months) and so many more. As always I'm in awe of the effort my friends put in to such things.

As with many such parties, the invitation asked us to please bring a plate. I was tempted to make a gingerbread house but I doubted it would be eaten. I considered a basket of bread (you know to leave a trail home) but that would have involved leaving the house on NYE. So I went with my go to party snack, savoury pinwheels.

These pinwheels are so easy to make, take next to no time and I usually have all the ingredients on hand in the fridge, freezer and cupboard. Best of all they are really yummy. In fact the plate full of them disappeared within minutes of me setting it down.

All in all it has been a great start to 2014. I hope this year brings you joy, laughter and great happiness.

Savoury Pinwheels
makes about 24
2 sheets of puff pastry
sun-dried tomato pesto
3 rashers bacon - finely chopped
1 small onion - finely diced
Approx. 200g grated mozerella cheese
Approx. 20g grated parmesan cheese
olive oil spray

Heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius (fan forced)

Place the sheets of puff pastry, still on their protective plastic sheets, on the kitchen bench.

Spread all over with the sun-dried tomato pesto, leaving a 1cm border on one side. For two sheets I generally use about half a jar.

Sprinkle all over with the chopped bacon and onion and grated cheeses (you can use spring onion too which looks great with the colour contrast). Make sure you go right to the edges, just leaving the 1cm clear border on just one side. Lightly spray the clear border with olive oil.

Using the protective plastic sheet, roll up the pastry, ending with the clear side. The oil will help the pastry stick together. Try to roll it as tightly as possible and press the clear pastry boarder into the roll to secure it.

Use a sharp non-serrated knife to cut each roll into 1cm slices and place on a baking paper lined oven tray. you should get about 12 from each roll.  Leave a fair bit of space between them as they will puff up and out. They squish a bit when you cut them so just re-form them and put any filling that has fallen out on top.

Bake for 15-20 minutes till golden brown then cool on trays (if you can resist them!).