Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Random Musings: Leadership lessons for women

Those of you who have been following this blog for awhile will know about 12 months ago I suddenly lost my job when the organisation I worked for was de-funded in the federal budget. Since then I have been lucky enough to secure a position with a great organisation that not only does excellent work for the health sector, it is highly supportive of its staff and our professional development.

It was due to that support, that three of us attended the "She Leads" conference on 19 May. She Leads is put on by the YWCA Canberra as part of their activities to support women on their journey to leadership roles. It was a fantastic day, with many wonderful and inspiring speakers. I said to a colleague that while I didn't find anything truly revelatory during the day, there were lots of reminders about how to find opportunities,

I thought I might share just a few of those lessons and reminders and hope that they help you too.

Making the rules
Too often we don't think we can make our own rules, that we have to stick to a societal expectation of how work works. Kate Carnell, former Chief Minister of the ACT and now CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce spoke about how as Chief Minister she put rules in place that she didn't do breakfasts. She had young children at the time and it was her priority to be there in the mornings and do the school run. She was a highly successful Chief Minister and did it all while getting the kids to school. This example reminded me that we can make our own rules, that we do have the right to say no and that if we are clear about our needs, people will (hopefully) respect them.

Make the most of opportunity
Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, made the point that women tend to wait till they have certainty of outcome before they try something rather than face the risk of failure. Not only is failure a really important learning tool, it means that women wait longer to try for promotion, pay rise, new ventures etc. Kate Carnell made the point that the time is never right so we have to take the opportunity as it arises. It was a good reminder to me of something that I have always thought which is that we must always be open to opportunity and there is always a way to make something work.

Work/life balance is a myth
Clare Bowditch made the point that we all secretly believe that someone else is managing find the magical work/life balance point when the reality is that there is no balance. Everyone feels guilty that they aren't doing enough, being enough, for their family, friends, work. We feel guilty that we don't get to the gym enough, that we don't make our own bread, about a million different things.  All the speakers agreed, the key was to acknowledge the guilt and just get on with it. The balance will sway over time between the various aspects of our lives, we just need to ride that wave of continuum.

It really was a great day. It was wonderful to be surrounded by so many interesting women and hear from people who have achieved so much. It reminded me that while all our journeys are unique and individual, we can learn from others to help us along the path.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Restaurant Review: Welcome to Winter Degustation Dinner at Parlour Wine Room

I do love a degustation dinner - basically because I really love food and it is an excellent excuse to try lots and lots of different dishes in one meal. Luckily I'm blessed with a group of friends who think the same way so when I heard that Parlour Wine Room was putting on a special Welcome to Winter dinner it wasn't hard to find people to go with me.

It was my first visit to Parlour since it reopened 18 months ago after the fire that destroyed it and Flint Dining Room (home of the best pancakes in the world that I still miss) in 2011. That meant that I had to wander about for a bit as the door has changed to a completely different side of the building! But once in, it was lovely to see how the redesign has quite transformed it, yet it still has the feel of a cosy and intimate space that was one of the characteristics of its first inception.

But onto the food. We were treated to 6 delightful courses.

First up was a Jerusalem artichoke soup with truffled hazelnuts. Everyone immediately commented on the gorgeous smell of this soup. It was rich and creamy, perfectly winter warming but also refined with the touch of truffle oil and roasted hazelnuts.

Second course was grilled Freemantle sardines, fresh horseradish, pickled sobrassada with sauce vierge. This one divided the table as we had a few people who found the sardines just too fishy for their tastes. I adore sardines and loved this dish. The cripsy croutons, spread with salty sobrassada which had been made into a paste really complimented the sardines and the sauce had an acidic note that cut through the richness perfectly. That said, I could hardly taste the horseradish and wondered if it somehow missed my plate.

Next was braised oxtail with wild garlic and spinach mash. I think of oxtail as an intensely rich dish, generally something you would have as the finale. In this case, the oxtail had been braised in white wine rather than the usual red which meant that while it was still rich it didn't have that coat your palate quality it often does. A few people found it too fatty but personally I love that unctuousness.

Wild mushrooms, cauliflower and blue cheese risotto, cauliflower carpaccio and nettle gel came next. I was so excited by the prospect of this dish as mushrooms, cauliflower and blue cheese are three of my favourite things which S doesn't like so we rarely have. It was great. The risotto balanced the cauliflower and blue cheese perfectly - although it was ever so slightly overcooked for my taste. The cauliflower carpaccio was wafer thin slices of cauliflower stem which added a nice crunch. The mushrooms were meaty but a bit lacking in flavour for me and I could take or leave the nettle gel.

The final main was roast haunch of wild venison, celeriac puree, quince jelly sauce grand veneur. OH MY GOD. I loved this. The venison was perfectly rare. The celeriac puree rich and indulgent. The crispy root vegetable chips gave crunch. The quince jelly offered a sweetness that countered the other flavours and the sauce grand veneur, well I could have licked it off the plate. I glanced around the table as we were finishing this course and noticed that everyone had absolutely scraped their plates clean.

Dessert was dark chocolate and coffee terrine, dulche de leche, peanut shortbread, vanilla bean ice cream. Ahead of its arrival there was some discussion on the table about how people weren't that excited because they didn't love dark chocolate and/or coffee. One tiny bite however and all those views changed. The intense dark terrine somehow managed to avoid the bitter note that people had indicated they didn't like. It contrasted beautifully with the peanut shortbread crumbs and dulche de leche sauce and the vanilla ice cream provided a sweet foil to the intensity of the rest of the dish. Again plates were super clean at the end.

The boys at our table had the matched wines. Each was unusual, either varietals or techniques we had not previously heard of but they all commented how each was a brilliant match for the food. The staff were also great at explaining what we were eating and why the wine had been chosen to match it.

The biggest downside to the evening for me was that it was a very late night. The time had been advertised as 6.30pm for 7pm but our first course didn't arrive until about 7.20pm and with a few delays in between that meant we got our dessert at about 10pm. While that might be ok on a Friday or Saturday night, the dinner was on a Wednesday. Allowing for a little digestion time made for a very late night and not so happy Lisa at work on Thursday.

We did sense that the kitchen struggled at times to feed an entire restaurant at the same time. Function catering is quite different to running a usual staggered restaurant kitchen and there were moments where some of the plating suffered, the ox tail was a good example where half of the table (including me) had beautifully presented plates while the other side of the table looked a little more rushed out.

But overall it was an extremely enjoyable evening of very good food and I'd be keen to go back and try their a la carte menu and a few of their famous cocktails.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Random Musings: Autumn in Canberra

Today is grey, cold and windy. A shot of winter as autumn draws to a close in Canberra. But overall it has been a gorgeous autumn, with plenty of clear blue skies, warm days and cool nights.

I love the fact that we have 4 seasons in Canberra and I really can't pick any as my favourite because they are all glorious in their own way. However I do believe that Canberra looks its best mid-Autumn when all our trees are putting on a stunning display of colour.

My Instagram feed has been packed with beautiful photos of Canberra, the autumn trees and particularly glorious sunsets we have had of late. We have enjoyed walks on warm afternoons under multi-coloured trees. Moving around the city has been a journey through a landscape filled with colour.

But the weather is changing. Today is a sign that the season is wrapping up. The leaves are dropping, bare branches form beautiful silhouettes against the sky, it is time to transition to winter. And as I say goodbye to the divine colour of autumn, I'm already looking forward to open fires, slow cooked meals and an excuse to wear my extensive scarf collection, because if autumn is the season of colour, I think winter is the season of comfort. Bring it on!