Monday, March 31, 2008

I would like a boiled egg

An hilarious moment of note from our weekend in Manly. God love him, but the terribly British Philip asked for 'boiled eggs' with his bacon for breakfast. Of course, this set the staff in a flap with no less than three staff coming back to confirm that yes, he did want boiled eggs, yes, hard boiled and yes, he's okay with a 10 minute wait.
After longer than 10 minutes, I joked that the staff were probably frantically fashioning egg cups from foil. Call me Alison DuBois but I was right. See how his eggs arrived! Hilarity ensued.

Sydney's a bit spesh

We took our overseas rellos to Manly this weekend and wasn't Sydney a flirt? Beautiful blue sky, sparkling 20 degree waters... oooh Manly, you're a tart - and I do love you. We caught a ferry to Circular Quay on the saturday, before swapping ferries and cruising over the harbour to Taronga Zoo. It's just so beautiful there. Honestly, if our UK relatives weren't besotted by Sydney at this stage, nothing was going to prevent them falling head over for the town at this stage.

We had a gorgeous apartment opposite the beach - the Norfolk Pine fringed shores are utterly spellbinding. Sitting on the balcony, a Peroni or glass of rosé in hand was the perfect end to the day. I have some gorgeous shots, but Blogger's being a difficult bugger today and isn't letting me upload them.

Today's a big workday. It's a lovely crisp autumnal day and my third load of washing is flapping in the breeze. Dinner's been simmering in the slow cooker all day and taunting me with its delicious scents. Anything seems possible after a weekend of bliss doesn't it?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

pardon moi

Please forgive my absence - has your heart grown any fonder? Crazy deadlines combined with Easter long weekends and a husband on crutches has lead to many things falling off the 'must do' list. So today, while dust bunnies the size of mutant hares roll down my hall like tumbleweeds on steroids, I will ignore the call of the vacuum (for now) and check in and say 'hi'.

We're off to sunny Manly on the weekend with the English fam. Staying in an apartment on the beach together will be a fabulous way to catch up. I'm most looking forward to taking Tallulah and Ruby to the zoo - there's barely a more spectacular location in Sydney. Of course, poor boy on crutches will have to stay back at the apartment as more than four steps causes agony to his knee. Sigh, sports and the over 30s don't mix do they (shh, I'd like to pretend that the over 40s - me - is a whole new category of okay!)

Enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

pet peeves

Generally I'm pretty happy, optimistic etc, but some things just topple me into the annoyed-abyss. They are, in no particular order:
* receiving an email that signs off with "sent from my blackberry..." Now, I know it's not pretentiousness on their part, but honestly, isn't there some way to turn that off? I'm ridiculous with how often I check my emails, but a blackberry is just obscene.
* loud, tinny music coming from someone's iPod. People, turn the damned thing down. Honestly, in a few years your eardrums will thank you for it, and everyone you're commuting with will sing your praises.
* Poor parking. If there's enough space for two cars, leave enough space for another. Thanks.
* Pimples and wrinkles - one at a time ladies!

and that's it for today thanks, gee, I mustn't be as pre-menstrual as I should be.

gift ideas

 I'm stumped. I need to buy a 40th birthday pressie for my divine sister-in-law and have NO idea what to look for. Having received so many utterly perfect pressies for my 40th I feel the pressure's on. I've been looking at etsy and have found some cute-as-a-button things, but nothing's screaming out her name. I am at least making the red velvet cupcakes for her, but really, I'd love to be a crafty critter and make her something spesh. Guess a visit to the antique stores is an option - a cameo perhaps? Ideas? I'd love some comments!

slowing down

Multi-tasking is a myth. I know we all do it, and have to do it, but really, I don't think it works. While I've long suffered under the delusion that I can read a book, watch telly and have a conversation - while planning the week's meals in my head, I have to face up to what is actually reality - I'm not doing anything particularly well.

So this week my new mantra is stop, focus and then act. For some reason I've always felt that if I don't immediately offer up a solution, response or action people will think less of me, but I reckon that pausing to think first can only be an admirable trait. So that's today's task. Stop, pause, think then act. And the first place I'm doing this is when I'm actively listening to someone. Is there a nicer compliment to be paid than being the full focus of someone's attention when they're talking to you.

I do believe the world won't end if I'm not huffing around in a flap, but if it does, oh well, at least I'll be more relaxed!

Friday, March 14, 2008

how rude

I have a little ritual before I start my working day. Firstly, I anally check my emails (it's a compulsion) then I head off into blog land. Reading through what's happening in other people's worlds inspires me to create something interesting in my own. Since my late introduction into the world of blogs I've become quite the decorator - creating little tableaus with interesting objects, rather than just plonking them on any available surface. I'm also more inspired to cook, mainly so I'll have something to blog about... So today, I'm running through my favourites, bemoaning those who have failed to update (what's with this flu running through the blogosphere?) when I realised that I too tend to neglect my blog when times are a-busy. So here's todays blog, um, about how I'm going to blog more regularly... Yep, that's it, I'll move on now...

Rather than sitting at my desk waiting on a recalcitrant publicist to send me the releases she's been promising for well over a week I'm going to pop on my trainers and go for a beach walk on this utterly glorious, sunny autumnal day. Is there a nicer time of year? 

Thursday, March 13, 2008

mind your manners

Manners tend to get a bit of a bad rap, which is sad considering they're merely social lubrication. Good manners make other people feel happy- simple as that. Manners aren't all "how do you do" and knowing exactly how to use a fish knife (although I did spy a gorgeous set in an antique store the other day and was pleased I'd spotted a segment on telly once showing me how... oh, what, off the track?). No, manners are all about considering other people. Simple case in point. Last night, a meeting for an event at my daughter's school. Due to start at 7pm, but that's a hellish time so of course, people are dashing in and out, early and late. Not a problem. The room's set up with rows of chairs, tightly placed in a semi-circle to face the speaker out the front. Makes sense. Now, here's where the manners come in. I am sure that every single person in that room is lovely. A sweet, kind, thoughtful person... but, and here's my little niggle, a little thoughtfulness wouldn't have gone astray. 
All the early arrivals sat at the ends of the rows, leaving massive gaps of empty seats in the middle, meaning that those who arrived later, had to really squeeze past the knees and backs of heads at the start of the rows. It's just a little thing, but kind of reminds me of the whole "Please move to the back of the bus" phenomenon. It's not that these people were thoughtless, or particularly ill-mannered, but until they were squished past, they probably really just didn't think too much about it. Yes, of course, the latecomers shouldn't have been late, but many of them probably had a very good reason, and felt stressed and anxious about it, so making them squeeze through people, rather than falling gratefully into a chair close to the door, wouldn't have made them happy.
Today, I'm going to do something to make three people feel happy. I'm not sure who, or how I'm going to do it, but I'll do it. You?

Monday, March 10, 2008

S is for super

I am now 100 per cent convinced that simple is best. With an array of stain-fighting, super-boosted products at our fingertips sometimes it's easy to forget that our grandmothers (or in my case, mother-in-law) was right. 

I was just making my daughter's bed (an annual event, not a daily number) when I popped on her pretty Annabella pillow. My forehead then furrowed at a big yellowy blotch on one side. Now, I first spotted this blotch a year ago, sprayed it with pre-stain remover, soaked it in super-boosted stuff and then washed it. Sure, the stain faded, but it was still there. Sadly I'd just place it at the back, with another little pillow jauntily placed to cover the stain.

Today, well, I wasn't having any of this hiding guiltily nonsense, I was going to get it out. I stormed on out to the laundry and grabbed the pre-stain remover... before remembering my mother-in-law's secret weapon that was stashed in the bottom of the laundry cupboard - Sunlight soap. I ran a little water in the tub, immersed the case in the water, then lathered up generously with this little square of golden nostalgia. Rinsing away, yep, you guessed it - stain gone, vamoosed, outta there. So now it's hanging in the sunshine, pristine and proud. Oh sunlight soap, I do love you.

to market

Do you have to have a special gene to feel genuinely excited at the notion of market day? I think I inherited a few of them. Yesterday was not only time to visit the often-crappy-but-sometimes-amazing Adamstown markets, but the second sunday in the month and farmer's market day. Thank goodness for friends with the same genes... particularly when husband and child seem to have skipped out on them!

After breakfast I picked up Amanda and we dashed off to Adamstown, which was having a good day. So many gorgeous tablecloths just begging for a good home, but I restricted myself to just the one. Of course, yes, it has pink roses. And, what's that? The accent colour? Um, sure, it might be green... It's a wee bit french looking and sits perfectly on our little round table on the side veranda (even though the cloth's square).

The farmer's markets were brilliant, except the lovely stall with the to-die-for children's notions was missing. Sigh, sorry Finley, you'll have to wait another fortnight for your 'welcome to the world' pressie. Of course I bought far too much chorizo (one for $5 or three for $12... what would you do?) and a delectable washed-rind cheese. I sautéd slices of the chorizo and served them in a bowl when we had the neighbours over for drinks later that afternoon. Spicy, but nary a speck left in the bowl when they left... I have one chorizo left over, so have to decide what to do with it. I'm thinking maybe a corn chowder for dinner, topped with sautéd chorizo chunks - what do you think? I do believe corn and chorizo would get along famously, and it might help me become more of a corn fan too. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Oh, and the lamb breast the other night? Yum. Stupidly rich, but meltingly tender. And I love the basis of the recipe even more than my lamb shank version. Think I might always use it when making slow-cooked treats.

Friday, March 07, 2008

slowly does it

Yes, the sun may be shining, but half the leaves have fallen from my crimson ash so I do believe that represents the onset of autumnal cooking. There is nothing, absolutely zilch, that beats a slow cooked meal. Our first purchase after returning to the carnivorous life after two decades of vegetarianism (one for darling hubby) was a french blue le crueset oval dutch oven. It was hellishly expensive, even at 40 per cent off at David Jones, but it's one of the best kitchen investments I've made. 

This meal came about thus: I was at home recovering from a migraine on tuesday afternoon when I finally felt up to moving beyond my darkened bedroom beckoned by the call of the telly. I felt like being nurtured so I switched to Lifestyle Food and kept it there all afternoon. Because of my laziness I watched Tamasin's weekends, a show I normally switch off because of her seeming aversion to wearing a bra (sensing a theme here? Look, bralessness is fine in the privacy of your home, but not when your home contains cameras filming you for an internationally syndicated show - or if the paps follow your every move!). Anywho, laziness led to serendipity as she was slow cooking on this program and ooh, baby, did she do it well. 

Cut to today. It's 1.30 on friday afternoon and tonight's meal is slowly simmering in the oven. It's made with a cut of meat I'd never tasted, nor heard of, so excitement is brewing. I'm cooking with lamb breast which is apparently the pork belly of the sheep world - and let me tell you, I'm more than a bit partial to a mouthful of pork belly. Mmmmmm. I had to specially order it at the butcher, but it's a cheap cut of meat - 2.5 kilos-ish for around $10-15... (I bought a few other things as well, so not sure on the exact figures - but cheap for lamb)

Here's the recipe as memorised by moi. I will be serving it with mash (what else?) and a couple of french sticks. That's it - got to save room for the apple and raspberry crumbles with home-made egg custard for pudding...

Slow cooked lamb breast
5 rashers smoked bacon
3 carrots, diced
2 onions, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
bouquet garni (fresh if you can)
bay leaves
750 ml red wine
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
salt and pepper

Dice the bacon and fry it till golden in a pot. Then add vegetables and add a splash of olive oil. Cook slowly for 5 - 10 minutes, or until softened. (I also added garlic here, it's an addiction) Place the lamb breasts over the vegetables, tucking them in so they cover the veg. Slide the bouquet garni and bay leaves under the lamb.

Heat red wine in a pan till simmering, then pour over top of the lamb. Pour over tinned tomatoes (I could only fit one tin in my pot - I'm going to pop the other one in around about an hour or so into cooking) and bring to the boil. Season with salt and pepper then place a piece of baking paper snugly over the top*. Pop on the lid and place in a pre-heated 150 degree oven for at least three hours.

To serve, remove the breast, slice into servings and place on a platter. Pour over the sauce and vegies and serve with mashed potato and a whopping big glass of a good red wine.
* I've seen a few TV chefs do this and apparently it keeps the steam close to the meat. I'd also imagine it would prevent any exposed meat drying out or burning - I'll let you know.

Oh my god, get the irony - a lamb breast recipe by a woman who i ignored because of the whole bralessness thing. Priceless!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

flour girl

I love baking for people I love. I'm a bit slap-dash with the decorating - but I think you have to be so it looks home made. However, my gorgeous friend Amanda perfectly piped the vanilla bean frosting on my red velvet cupcakes for my 40th and I do believe I'm going to take a leaf from her beautifully penned book when I'm next icing. Don't they look divine?

It's my sister-in-law Michelle's 40th birthday soon and we're celebrating early while she's out from London. A picnic party on Easter monday is called for so I'll be mixing up a batch of red velvet cupcakes for her on Easter sunday. Don't you think they should be a traditional 40th cake? I know Annabella loves it when I bake for her birthday, and considering her special day falls just five days after Christmas we do what we can to make it special. I'm still a bit in love with the sleepover cake we made for her 7th birthday - complete with a decorated face for each girl who attended. And my wonky yet delicious castle was a hit with 20 little princesses for her 6th birthday. 

I'm also still chuffed with the anniversary cake I made for Matt's mum and dad - with the gold ribbon to celebrate a golden anniversary. Nigella's chocolate sour cream cake was the basis - and I marbled chocolate to box it all in. Tasty and impressive. 

You know, I'm kinda getting a hankering for flouring my hands...

mutton test

I do quite love being 40, but one of the things I'm not fond of is a fear of looking like mutton. So here's the dilemma, how does one still retain a quirky, individual style and not reek of Kylie dressed as Miley? (yeah, I know... but Whitney dressed as Britney doesn't work anymore thanks to those hideous brown boots and bralessness Britney keeps persisting in - even at her cracked-out worst I'm sure Whitney wouldn't have gone there!)

So here's my test. I choose an icon five years older than me... and because I'm lazy I've chosen Demi Moore (because I know at 45 she's smack on five years older than me). Now, when contemplating an outfit I try to picture it on Demi - would she look like she'd raided Tallulah's wardrobe, or would she look smokin'? If flames are emanating from my mental image I'll say yes and pop it on myself. 

That's my mutton high five test and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, March 03, 2008

pretty spesh

Hello - cuteness alert. Now, how's this for serendipity? After telling my friend Nat about my fabulous op-shop bargain buys I let her in on a few Newcastle shopping secrets - including my favourite antique store near Honeysuckle. Well, not only did she also bag a few bargains, but she told ME about a new shop that had opened Auld and Grey. Now this was a little stall at my fave antique store, and I'd always been loving on it, so we skipped on down there on the weekend. Well, I was a mess. Constant 'oohing' and 'ohmygoding' nearly drove my shopping-loving hubby insane. Then Annabella spotted this gorgeous vase - cute non? And only $25. How well does it work against our green walls? Loved the woman who owned the shop, adored the french soundtrack she had playing, and seriously could have bought every second item... 
Thanks Nat x

shiny and new(ish)

This rather divine sideboard was the inspiration behind our new Laduree green living room, and I'm a bit in love with it. We've topped it with a few of our favourite things, collected over the years and it's adding a special something to the room. I love how well it works with our pretty wall sconces, purchased years ago and framing my Mary image so well.

The room's slowly coming together and now makes me smile every time I walk in there.