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!