Thursday, July 31, 2008

hearts on fire

I heard of a deed so good this week it didn't just warm my heart, it nearly made it spontaneously combust. My in-laws live about 45 minutes away, in Maitland. They're in their 70s, but still like to do plenty in the yard and around the house. But they've been a bit under the weather lately, a chest infection caught both of them and has hung on for weeks. 

Now, the other day, they got a load of firewood delivered for their heater. A whole uteload of wood was dumped out the front and James had to pick it up, load it into a barrow and shift it to the wood pile around the back. Now this isn't an easy job for a strapping young lad, let along a man in his 70s. Anyway, one load and James was struggling, sweat pouring down his face despite the five degree temperature. It breaks my heart just thinking about it. So he gave up, came in, washed his face and they set off to do some shopping.

The next morning there's a knock on the door. It's a bloke from down the street, a guy who James used to teach, and always had a little bit of extra time for. This guy had seen James struggling, raced home to get his barrow and ute, but by the time he got back, James and Annette had gone out for the afternoon.

So, God love him, this bloke came back early the next morning and wheeled the whole load around the back, accepting only a glass of water and the most greatful thank-yous. When I called later that day, Annette told me the story and I was so extraordinarily touched. It's obviously a case of paying it forward though. My in-laws are the kindest, and most generous people you could meet. As a teacher James would have been one of those chatty teachers that everyone loved - and who always had time for everyone - even the tearaways that other teachers steered clear of. 

That's what I call good behaviour. And kindness will always be rewarded in kind.

in conclusion...

Um, you know how the other day I couldn't find the receipt for my printer, computer and software for tax purposes? Well, I went and visited 'nice man' at the Mac shop and sheepishly took my new receipt, jumped in the car, and put the receipt in the glove box - because I didn't want to fold it and shove it in my teeny bag. Oh, what was that I put the receipt on top of? Ah ha, that would be the original receipt. oh.

budget busting

I walked around the supermarket today tutting and tsking like a pensioner at the price of groceries (speaking of pensioners, how on earth do the poor things survive? I find everything astronomically-priced and we're on two incomes!) Thank goodness for the slow cooker. I bought a kilo of beef blade roast - a huge big chunk of meat - for $10. Brought it home, chopped up some onions, placed them on the bottom of the slow cooker, popped the beef on top, seasoned it, then placed some halved potatoes, sweet potatoes and whole, baby onions around the edges. I poured the requisite 1/2 cup of water over the top, turned it on low, and tonight, around 8 hours later, it'll be ready for dinner. Of course, we'll get seconds so that'll be two meals, for three, for around $15 (including veg). I like my vegies crispy so I'll pop them in the oven on high for ten minutes while I rest the meat and use the pan juices to make a gravy (if there's heaps, I'll transfer a ladle-ful to a pan and add some red wine, if there's only a small amount, I'll turn the slow cooker to high, add the wine and stir till it thickens). I'll serve it with some steamed green beans to get our vitamin B intake soaring.

Monday, July 28, 2008

organised - not chaotic

I've gone dead-off being disorganised. It's not clever, and it's not funny. So we've been going through the house, room at a time, tidying and tossing out - and boy, it feels good. Because we'd been organising, our dining table was clear which meant my hubby was able to sit down last night and go through all his medical bills for his knee op and recovery. And because he did that I was able to visit medicare this morning and get a rather special refund that should help pay for some of our pool waterline tiles (should the rain ever ease enough for them to get back to work on building the actual pool...)

And while Matt was being productive, I sat myself down and started getting things ready for my tax. Now, I remember years ago laughing along at a co-worker when she described plonking a shoe box full of receipts in front of her accountant at tax time. Let me tell you how I wish I'd put all my receipts in the one shoe box. My receipts are, well, kind of all over the place really, and the only one I can't find is for my computer, printer and software - yes, that would be the most expensive and claimable things I've bought! However, in the frantic scrabble to find it, I was able to do some tidying of one cupboard, toss some books I've no use for in the 'to sell' pile and find a couple of books I'd forgotten existed and would quite like to read. That makes me happy.

Now, although I didn't find the receipt I did call the Mac shop and the nice man's going to print out another copy for me today. Bless him. Every shop should have a nice man...

Saturday, July 26, 2008


It's champagne o'clock, and boy, would I like to be here again. Only in Paris do you find this is a department store....

saturday's shoe

I would like to add a new feature to my blog: Saturday's Shoe. Now, I'm not kidding myself, or you, that I can afford these - but aren't they purdy! I have an electric blue dress that would be set off nicely by a pretty t-bar heel and although I'm a Leo, this is the only time I've ever been tempted by an animal print. And boy, am I tempted... I am woman hear me Rrrrrroar.

Friday, July 25, 2008

restorative blooms

It might be still raining, but at lunchtime, when the downpour eased, I stepped outside and walked around the garden and guess what? Yep, nearly every rose had little red or green shoots poking up to say "Cheer up Linda" and it worked!

you're dead to me

Mould I'm talking about, mould. Not you, I adore you! 

Now, on June 29 I sprayed my shower recess with a mix of bi-carb soda, white vinegar and water and gave it a good scrub a dub to remove a wide range of multi-hued moulds. A lot of mould. Not the amount of mould that's the equivalent of "Oh, excuse the mess" when you walk into a pristine home with barely a magazine at a jaunty angle. Serious, disgusting, you'd thing a bunch of boys lived in the bathroom mould. (I'd been busy, and when I'm busy, I'm a slattern - it's my thing).

Anywhoodle, today is July 25 which is nearly a calendar month later and guess how much mould is in my shower recess? None. Guess how many times I've cleaned it since then? Yep, none. Bi-carb and vinegar kill mould, are nice to the environment and don't make you choke on toxic fumes. 

If, like me, you think pretty-smelling things do a better job, pop a few drops of essential oil in the bottle (I adore orange blossom in the bathroom - it smells clean and fresh, but I'll never say no to a few drops of rose oil).

on struggle street

I'm an unflinchingly optimistic person. I refuse to believe that something can't be done, and always find a positive in a negative. Today, I'm struggling. With the excavations for our backyard starting on Wednesday they've been stopped dead by the relentless downpour. Now, when it rains in Newcastle, it rains. Hard. And long. Until recently we had nearly four months without a dry day. I know, it's impossible to believe when we are still hearing about the drought which I know is affecting so many. But here, I'm dead off the rain. I don't like the fact that half the retaining wall is pulled down and there's an exposed metre and a half of just sheer dirt and clay between us and the enormous house behind us on the hill. I'm also not terribly fond of the fact that the exposed surface where they've excavated on the ground is just clay - so even when it stops raining it'll just sit there until there's a lot of sun and/or wind to dry it up.

I need distraction, and work's not cutting it. In my study I look straight out the window behind my computer - and I see rain. Or if I turn my head to the right I look out the glass panel at the top of the door - and see rain. I am grateful that we weeded, fertilised and mulched the gardens recently. Hopefully the rain will prod the just-pruned roses to start shooting. Red-tipped shoots and the promise of blooms might just turn my mood around.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

bucolic bliss

Can't you just smell that country air? This was the view from our holiday house in Burrawang, and isn't it a beauty? Oh, and that's the house. Sweet non?

scarier than clowns

Yes, I may be going a little too far with that title, cause, really, nothing's scarier than a clown. However, I've discovered something while cleaning that kinda made the hackles on the back of my neck stand up.

I've dumped my vacuum cleaner. Not by text, not by post it, but in the old fashioned, "Just ignore it and hope it'll go away kind of way." Actually, it wasn't really a dumping, more of a mutual "you're fired", "No, you can't fire me, I quit". "You can't quit, you're fired" kind of thing. See, it's stopped working properly and I don't really feel inclined to fix it (the fridge and washing machine are first in line for the repairman's long-overdue visit). So what I'm doing is I'm sweeping - yep, even the rug (and you know what? Sweeping is a far better way to remove cat hair than vacuuming!) However, sweeping has a down side. While it's completely carbon friendly, and is a nice form of incidental exercise, it reveals in piles of growing horror exactly how much dust, dirt and hair was on your floor.

Now, I've been sweeping every day or two, not like my weekly, or fortnightly vacuum and yet great gobs of hair still appear. Mulberry sheds so much blue fluff I wouldn't be surprised to see him rendered completely hairless, but nup, he's not cultivating a Kojak look just yet.

Does fluff, dust and hair have the same breeding cycle as wire hangers?

dampening my enthusiasm

In exciting news yesterday the diggers came into our yard and started excavations. Whooppeeee! It's amazing the changes they created in a single day. Our yard's much lower than it was yesterday, and happily, looks larger. I can now actually picture how low our pool will be (I'll be able to gaze into it from my kitchen window!) and where everything's going. 

So because everything was going along so swimingly with our pool construction the weather decided that, gee, haven't rained for a while, let's see what a combination of a downpour and a newly excavation can create. Um, that'd be mud. I have fingers, toes and even strands of hair crossed that the rain will let up and a great gust of wind will come and dry the yard out so they can come back next week some time. Make a wish with me?

Monday, July 21, 2008

order in the house

I'm almost not game enough to say it, but I think the excavators are coming in tomorrow. It's been such an amazingly drawn out process. Everything has taken so much longer than expected - ridiculously so. I guess because I've always worked on magazines to me, a deadline is a deadline and must be met or there'll be blank pages - not what the reader requires. So if I'm given a deadline, I stick to it - unless circumstances cause me to beg for an extra day. So when I'm told I'll have plans by a Friday, colour me naive, but I expect them on a Friday, not months later. The structural plans that were meant to take two weeks took three months - and that's after we had to keep sending them back because my husband kept discovering major errors (retaining walls located in our neighbour's yard - other walls that didn't exist...) and now, the construction certificate that takes "seven days, max" is still not complete - 25 days later. Sigh.

But the excavators are still coming in tomorrow to do 'pre-excavation' work - whatever that is. I don't care, so long as it's progress. With only four months till summer I want to be swimming in my own backyard - and not in the Barbie paddling pool - in our real pool! After all, I already have the frock for our "pool cooling party" and have chosen a cocktail to co-ordinate (it's a red and white strapless frock and I reckon a pale blue cocktail "Splashing Out" will be just peachy).

Here's how I'm going to make said cocktail (served in a martini glass - the only way to drink a cocktail)
Splashing Out
A shot of vodka
A shot of blue Curacao (for colour - use more or less to match your pool - our pool's going to be a very retro ice blue - with a white interior so I reckon just a splash of curacao will do it)
A shot of Limoncello
Soda water to top it up

I'll garnish it with a twist of lemon zest and will pop a red mermaid on the side, what's a water-themed cocktail without a mermaid perched on the side? Nibbles to go along with it will include chicken, chorizo and haloumi kebabs, prawn puffs with a smoked chilli dipping sauce and some other delights... Bring on summer.

brand loyalty

I was applying my moisturiser today and realised I'm a bit of a floozy when it comes to products. There's one of almost every label on the market inside my bathroom cabinet, dressing table or linen closet (where I keep the overflow - that's what happens when you write about beauty!). But there are some brands I hero worship because I know I'm going to love what they do. Here they are:
Moisturiser: Gatineau. Day, night, anti-aging, body, serums, they all work for me no matter what the season. And they smell yummy too. And their facials? Bliss!
Hair: MOP. I love their shampoo and conditioner, and their curl cream works a treat too. But I must admit, I'm now more than a bit partial to the Kevin Murphy Motion Lotion. It defines curls, fights frizz and doesn't give my hair an awful crunchy look a-la Michael Jackson in the Pepsi commercial era.
Lips: Guerlain. Their kiss kiss range is infinitely pashable. I adore the Cherry Shine which is more than a gloss, more than a stain - and with a hint of glitter thrown in. I'm down to the last remnants of mine, which shows how much I love it.
Eyeshadow: Ooh, a tough one. I like my fashion colours, but I need it to go on smoothly and stay. I'm tossing up between Chanel and MAC here - with the odd Dior thrown in too.
Eyeliner: Liquids are easy - you can go cheap and cheerful here - but for the ultimate black pencil, for me, it's Shiseido. Goes on smoothly without pulling, and shapens easily.
Foundation: I love Diorskin, or Chanel for a porcelain finish. I adore Laura Mercier tinted moisturiser in summer for a glow that covers any nasties.
Mascara: For night it's Dior Blackout. Long, lush, thick and not sticky. Daytime I like Napoleon Madame Lash.
Nail Polish: once a season I treat myself to Chanel, but for fashion colours that go on smoothly and last, it's Revlon all the way baby. For pretty on-fashion toes, they've got the hottest colours around.
Blush: Becca creme - no others will do.
Problem solving: adult acne, super-dry patches - all can be solved by Dermalogica. Reliable, effective products with responsible research behind it.
Lipbalm: Propolene. I've lost my rose-scented tube and need to find me another quick smart. I love well-moisturised lips and need a balm I can apply before my lippy. Napoleon's Lip Primer also works a treat though.
Facemask: Palmer's Skin Success Eventone Brightening Facial Mask. This is soooooo cheap and Sooooooooo Good! It actually does what it says and leaves your face looking brighter, skintone more even and feeling daisy-fresh.
Perfume: Daily, I'm a sucker for Lovely by SJP. It's just, lovely! To vamp it up a notch I love me a bit of Tom Ford (who wouldn't?)

fine lines

I'm not one for slavishly following fashion - that's for skinny 20 teens - I know what suits me and it's vintage or op-shops all the way for moi. That said, I do like to update my make-up every season. I'm always checking out the mags and on-line for looks that'll update my face and this season, it's all about the cats eye. Now, I'm 40, there's no way I'll be doing an Amy Winehouse style line, only she can get away with that one. But a well done cats eye will do amazing things to your peepers.

Personally, I like a liquid liner. Years as a goth in my late teens had me wielding liquid liner like a pro - but there is a secret - practice and position. You can't expect to master something so tricky so well straight away - otherwise everyone would be doing it. Sit yourself down one afternoon with plenty of cleanser and eye-make-up remover and have a play. Now, as for the position, I like to keep my eyeliner on a firm surface, so when I'm painting on my upper eye line, I'm resting the foot of my palm on my cheekbone - or resting it in my cheek. This makes my eyeliner work almost like a compass. 

Secondly, keep your line as close as possible to your lash line. The aim is to look as though you've got thick, lush lashes. If you want it thicker, so a second line next to it - or flatten your brush out more by pressing down a little.Stop a few millimetres from the end of your eye before flicking up at the same angle as a nicely curled eyelash.

Colour-wise there are plenty of options. Black's the ultimate, and looks perfect with a flawless foundationed face, a hint of blush and a red lip. I had an amazing brown happening yesterday (YSL Eyeliner Moire) and today I'm going with a MAC fluidline in turquoise (I'm wearing a red and white patterned dress to go shopping, it seemed like a logical option). 

burnt offerings

I was dead impressed with myself last night making yummo carrots to go with the leftover meatloaf and brand new mash. I'd sliced them beautifully on the diagonal - so well they could easily go undercover at a silver-service dinner. Then I popped them in my little saucepan, covered them with chicken stock, added a little butter and some salt, pepper and finely chopped parsley. YUM.

However, I set them to simmer and then wandered off to hang up some washing - I know, what was I thinking, it's a four minute simmer at the most, and hanging the washing is a good 10 minute job. Of course I came back to a very, very, very burnt pan - complete with tragic diagnonally-sliced carrots stuck to the bottom. Not happy Jan.

Now, because this was one of my good pans (not a copper one - I'm still not grown up enough for those!) I worked hard at getting it clean. Here's how:
Rinse out and scrape and burnt vegies off the bottom of the pan. Cover the entire base with bi-carb soda and then fill pan around 1/2 way (or up till where your burn marks end). Now, put it on the stove, turn to high and bring to the boil. Allow to boil for one minute, then turn off the heat and pop lid on. Allow to soak overnight, then drain, and wash as usual - scrubbing off the loosened black stuff with a scourer. If it's really, really stubborn, repeat the bi-carb, but pour some white vinegar over the top so it fizzes. Then fill with water and do it again. I had one really badly burnt saucepan once and after soaking it over night I left it in the backyard with the lid off. I do believe that sunshine has special healing powers (notice how tomato sauce stains when hung on the line will be gone that afternoon?).

Next time I'll be hovering over my carrots like parents over a first-born sleeping babe.

Friday, July 18, 2008

I'll make you happy

I've realised that the list of what makes me happy (pinkofperfection project for July) is far too vast just for the 16 I dashed off yesterday - and is a rather nice start to the day. So here's some more.

17. Walking along the beach at that time when the ocean is shimmering and dusted with a melange of pearlescent colours - from pink, to yellow to the iciest blue (it was 4.30pm yesterday - might be 4.35 today).
18. Smiling at as many other walkers, runners, surfers getting their exercise fix down by the beach - and feeling joyous when some smile back.
19. Finding a treasure in an op shop or antique store.
20. Old people holding hands. Actually, anyone holding hands. Life's all about expressing how you feel so anyone from toddlers to the elderly grasping digits will elicit an "Oh, bless" from me. Here's my most recent favourite. At the premiere of Sex and the City a distinguished elderly lady entered. From her gorgeous grey chignon to her leopard print accessories, she was everything I want to be at her age. Then I noticed her hubby behind her - resplendent with the most extraordinary moustache cultivated outside Yosemite Sam. Now, this was cute! Then, at the end of the film, she got up, he got up, and they held hands and walked out together. Good grief, I thought I'd cried enough during the film! That's why love lasts.
21. That first cup of coffee - especially when it's served in a pale blue bol from Paris.
22. Emile Simon's tunes. Discovered her yet? She'll make you smile.
23. Unexpected thoughtfulness from my hubby. 15 years and he still does it for me.
24. Spying people walking past gaining joy from our front garden. I love a person who is drawn to smiling by a few well-placed flowers.
25. A good book, a comfy chair and a really good cup of tea in a china cup. Sigh.

Margaret's doin' dinner

Tonight is a very special event. It's the first time I'm using a recipe from my new (old) and very, very spesh Margaret Fulton's Crockpot Cookbook. I'm making Coq au Vin - one of our faves, but I normally do it in the le crueset rather than the slow cooker. 

Because I'm kind, I'll share the recipe with you.
1.5kg chicken pieces (I'm using drumsticks and thighs, cause they're more moist)
3 rashers of bacon, diced
1/2 cup spring onions, diced (I'm using French Shallots)
4 small onions halved (as above)
250g small mushrooms, whole
1 clove garlic, crushed (I'll use three, we're immune to the stuff)
1 tsp salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
8 small new potatoes, scrubbed and halved
1 cup red wine
1 cup chicken stock
chopped parsley

In a large frypan sauté diced bacon and onion until the bacon fat is clear. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and brown well on all sides. Remove the chicken when it has browned and set aside. Put the peeled, quartered onions (or whole french shallots), mushrooms and garlic in the crock-pot. Add the browned chicken pieces, bacon and spring onions, salt and pepper, thyme, potatoes, wine and chicken stock. Cover and set on low for 7 - 8 hours, or high 3-4 hours.
Serve garnished with plenty of chopped parsley.
Serves 4-6.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

mouldy oldy

Before we went on holidays I cleaned our so-mouldy-it-looked-like-a-science-experiment- shower recess with a mixture of bi-carb, white vinegar and water. I popped it all in a spray bottle - roughly 1/4 bi-cab, 1/4 white vinegar to 1/2 warm water and sprayed it all over the tiles and grout. I then scrubbed my little arms off till it was all white and shiny. Well, colour me tickled pink because I was just about to clean the bathroom when I realised that two weeks later, there's no mould in the shower - none. And it's been used, so it's not that no water's hit the surface. I am amazed. But don't worry, I won't become blasé and ignore it till more mould grows back - I'm intending on wiping over it regularly. 

Just thought I'd share that with you.

Happy happy joy joy

Sarah at one of my regular must-see blogs, has regular monthly projects and I am so in on this one. July is happiness month and I am pretty sure that I could devote a couple of pages to this one. While life mightn't always lead you in the direction you expected, I think that it's essential to a person's sanity to find something to be happy about every day. Here's what makes me smile:

1. My gorgeous gal. I've had eight precious years with this delightful child and she's made me smile every single day.
2. My hubby. That's why I love him, 'cause no matter what, we always find something to laugh about together.
3. My dopey, boofy cat and the way he knows that the quickest way to my heart is to roll flat on his back exposing a ridiculously fluffy tum.
4. Roses - pink, red, yellow... so long as they're scented they'll always boost my spirits.
5. Friends who can always be relied upon to make your heart sing.
6. Pretty shoes. I'm an optimistic gal who likes to look up and forwards, but when I look down it's always a nice surprise to see something pretty on my feet.
7. Red and pink nails - fingers or toes - so long as they're contrasting they'll bring many an admiring glance from my direction.
8. Kind acts. There really is nothing nicer than helping make someone else's day a little brighter.
9. Pink champagne in my vintage etched champagne glasses.
10. Cupcakes - who could be grumpy when faced with one of these little mouthfuls of cute?
11. Polka dots. I've never seen anything ugly adorned with spots - or maybe it's just that they bring out the beauty in everything.
12. Pugs and french bulldogs. I don't need to own one - just to look at one every now and again. They're ever-so-gorgeous.
13. Paris, France and everything that comes from that neck of the woods. My memories always take me back and my dreams will send me there again.
14. Violets and peonies - two vastly different fleurs but they're like roses in that they work in a vase, on jewels and in pictured form.
15. The scent of jasmine and frangipani - spring and summer scents that'll always tickle my fancy.
16. Nurturing friends and family with a delicious meal - preferably over a nice glass of wine.

And so much more - I'd much rather be happy than sad. To be continued...

I'll have what she's having

This body at 36 would make most women very happy indeed. But at 63? Take a bow Helen Mirren and pass my regards on to your genetic heritage.

Happiness is...

Imagine looking down at your feet and not breaking out in a smile every time you saw these pretty little numbers. No, I don't own them, but every gal's gotta dream about something...

pet peeve pooh poohed

One of my pet peeves was banished today. It really used to bug me that SOME people on facebook (I know, those who caved to peer pressure... but still) didn't have a picture of their FACE on the page - just a question mark. It peeved me. 

Now, I know as well as anyone how hard it is to find that one photo that completely illustrates you: how fun you are, how little you've aged (for those who've tracked you down from school...) etc - but still, a question mark just didn't cut it. So now, we have shadowy silhouettes which I find much more appropriate.

Puppy love

We debated over whether to buy Annabella yet another soft toy - but aww shucks, she kinda hearts Gigi to bits and pieces.

words worth

There are some words that seem to have fallen from fashion, while others persist (do you reckon that Cool is always going to mean that for generations of kids? Other terms come and go, but cool keeps on hanging on - which is kinda cool). 

I'd like to see the following returned to the vernacular:
Peachy. If people ask how you're doing, I do think that "Peachy" is the perfect response.
Forthwith. Gives a sense of urgency and honor to any event.
Anywhoodle: Much cuter than anyhow.

How 'bout you?

un petit plat

The Southern Highlands is the cutest mix of England and France. We came across this gorgeous vineyard who offered quite possibly the nicest luncheon menu I've seen in a while. The three of us shared the charcuterie plate and moaned in rapture over the homemade pork rillettes. We also had a very civilised wine tasting over our meal and walked out with a rather nice bottle of red.

Should you be in the region, I strongly recommend you drop in. The Vineyard's called Mount Ashby Estate and while you're there, check out the french antiques on sale in the barn. They're pricey, but so pretty to look at.

Monday, July 14, 2008

down boy

I took the fairy lights down yesterday. You know how I said that you couldn't really still see them because of the wisteria? Well, considering that the wisteria is now merely brown sticks, buds and a coupla sickly-looking leaves, those blue icicle christmas lights were somewhat on the obvious side. Oh, and will I be putting them up again next Christmas? Um, no. Some pesky critter (possum, cockatoo, husband...) chewed through both wires so they're dead. At least that helps us make up our mind about the solar pool heating. The cockatoo and possum resistant glass panels are looking far more attractive than the black plastic strips (purdier too).

sloth city

I do believe that my butt has fused to my office chair. Since returning from holidays I've only left it to shower, cook and sleep - oh, and go out for a quick cocktail and tapas with the girls yesterday (they were aghast when I left at 6pm to come home to work - well, imagine how I felt! - and yes, you read that correctly 6PM not AM...)

My daughter just came in and squealed "You're still in your pajamas - at three o'clock" and tragically, it's true. Without the motivation of the school run it's leopard-print flannel pj pants, a tank top and a bejewelled pink cardi - and my pink uggs. Super glama mama... or mega-sloth? Yep, the latter. I will have to change to dash out to Coles later for dinner stuff, and thank god I've got netball to enable me to prise my butt from the chair. At least I've been productive-ish.

Husband sick in bed, daughter calling out for yet another snack (how much can one child eat?) and brain cells begging for another glass of water. At least I've got Project Runway Australia to look forward to. Caught a little of the first ep last night before bed and am rather sweet on it already. Love the cute little platinum blonde girl - and the cutey patootey with the amazing bangs (fringe doesn't do what she's got going on justice) - and Leigh, my new gay crush... I'm such a fashion victim. So glad that first girl went home - she performed serious crimes with pink chiffon.

Idol chatter

Am stupidly excited this morning, which is a nice change from plain old stupid... My friend Milissa just emailed me to let me know she'd booked tickets to see David Sedaris a man I worship ever-so-much. He's in conversation with Judith Lucy so I'm pretty sure the banter will be as dry as ye olde creek bed in central Australia. 

Saturday, July 12, 2008

there's no place like home

We're finally back from our relaxing week in the Southern Highlands, and as soon as I get the energy I'll pop some photos up. The house we stayed in was absolutely amazing. A gorgeous structure with sublime country views. And the town of Burrawang is undoubtedly the perfect country village. It only has a butcher and a pub - but what a pub, and what a butcher. Sometime soon a restaurant will be opening in the old General Store and we'll be zipping back down to check it out. 

There were a few glorious finds. Exeter General Store contains a rocking cafe that did a sour cherry and walnut bread (served with spiced ricotta and honey) that is quite possibly a coffee's best accompaniment. I also adored the town of Bundanoon. The cutest little cafe, Bloomin' Cafe, sits in the main street and it's bliss in a storefront. Cosy, with scrummy homemade goods (lemon slice and those yummy mushroom cakes!), great cofffee and service by the sweetest ladies you're ever likely to meet.

I had quite the find in the local op shop in Moss Vale - and oh, it was squeal-worthy - the Margaret Fulton Crockpot Cookbook. For 50 cents. Seriously, this tome is priceless. I'm so in love with it and can't wait to crack out the slow cooker and try a few meals. The hints and tips contained within its aged pages would be worth $50 alone, and the recipes... Have I mentioned before how I do so love op-shopping?

The Southern Highlands really is quite the gem. I could easily spend another week exploring and pottering around its shops and peering up majestic drives to spy yet another jaw-dropping house. The houses were perfection in weatherboard. There was a real french feel about so many homes that obviously I adored. It did also make me appreciate our home all the more (especially the air conditioning after a day where it seemed to hit a high of five degrees!). Our house welcomed us home with a display of snowdrops, iris (three varieties) and the first of the jasmine - I know, it's nowhere near Spring...

Just heard to washing machine beep - time to wash another load before flopping down to watch a film on Foxtel.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

browned off

Hey, guess what? Because I was so stressed and time poor today I didn't brown the meat before popping it in the slow cooker (I did brown the bacon though... mmmm) and cheapo blade steak has never been soooo tender and succulent. How much do you love it when the lazy way turns out to be the best way?

Oh, and are you wondering how stressed a human can be? Well, today I was in such a state I forgot to breathe. Twice. Yep, a waking form of sleep apneoa (can't spell it, too tired) was what I experienced. I am so not googling that!

Another positive out of my time-poor state? I took my fave french vintage skirt to have the elastic waist replaced at my dear little op-shop/alteration place (the one on Darby St where I found the pristine black suede vintage italian t-bars - sigh) and she repaired it while I waited. Bless. So while I was waiting I browsed the racks and found this fabulous black corset belt. It's the softest of leather, about six inches wide and it has buckles and if I hadn't told you I'd bought it there for, yep, six bucks, you'd swear I'd ripped it from the pages of Vogue for six hundred. 

Getting schleepy now. Must rest before the road trip. Have a wonderful week - let's catch up when I get back! I know  - we'll do photos over champagne. Super!


I can't quite remember what it was like to have all the time in the world, but I'm pretty sure that when I did, annoying, urgent tasks didn't pop up constantly. Now, we're going on a week's holiday tomorrow morning and I before we do I have to:
1. Finish one more article (sent one off this morning - yay!)
2. Organise interviews and do the research for another article that's due the day after we return
3. Pack my bag
4. Wash a load of dark clothes to take on holiday
5. Take up my new tracksuit pants that were obviously designed for stilt walkers
6. Tidy the house so my house-sitter doesn't drown in squalor
7. Pay rego on the car
8. Go shopping to buy bits and pieces for holiday (cereal, crackers, etc)
9. Take down the damned fairy lights
10. Take out the recycling and rubbish
11. Pop casserole in slow cooker
12. Pick up my hideously expensive toner cartridge from refilling place

Pretty comprehensive non? 

Well today as I walked out the door on the way to the mechanics to get my pink slip I noticed that the wind had blown a third of my jasmine from the fence. Great. Now, my jasmine spans about 5 metres and is about a metre thick and covered in teeny red buds - it's not going to be easy or fun. But what's the point of droopy, noddy jasmine, that's only going to fall further in our absence? Can my husband do it? Hardly. He's in the car driving 3 hours to Sydney to have his six week check up on his knee and won't be home till after dark. 

Oh, hell, I'm up for a challenge...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

better off red

Because she spent the first five years of her life vegetarian, we've been slowly introducing Annabella to the world of meat, and now, I think we've turned a corner. Tonight, we were shopping when she said "Tomorrow, for dinner, can we have that beef in red wine you cook?" Yes, that would be an eight year old asking for a rich, beefy, wine-soaked stew. Now, kids and stews don't usually mix. Kids normally like their food readily identifiable and not invading the personal space of any other item on their plate. But my gal's obviously developing quite the palate. Wanna try her new fave meal?

Annabella's beef in red wine
1kg stewing meat (there was really cheap scotch fillet when I last made this, tomorrow, it's blade steak)
3 bulbs of garlic (I had fresh garlic from the markets that week, this week, it's just bulbs)
1 stick celery
1 carrot
2 onions
2 cups beef stock
6 strips of bacon
steak seasoning (was in a cheating frame of mind, but it worked, and I'm doing it again)
2 tblsp tomato past
2 cups of red wine
1 tin cherry tomatoes (my new lust)

Dice the meat into mega chunks. Finely dice everything else. Sear the meat to brown, specially the bacon, then throw absolutely everything into the slow cooker on low for six to eight hours. (Have I mentioned how I do so adore my slow cooker?)
Before serving I thickened with a paste made from a good tablespoon of cornflour mixed with water and threw some chopped flat leafed parsley leaves over the top. I served it with mash, cos I'm no fool. 

win win

Today I had to drag myself out of the house as my printer's run out of toner. This, of course, necessitated a trip two suburbs away to the refilling toner shop in Hamilton. Fortuitously I found a park, and, excitingly, it was smack bang in front of the Smith Family op shop. J'adore op shops and it's my motto that it's a sin to pass one by. Ducking in I flicked through the clothes, but nothing jumped out and bit me on the credit card, so I went to the treasure chest that is the linen section when, "Oh, hello, fancy meeting you here!"

Now we've been looking for fabric to cover the cane day bed in the living room for yonks. And it's soooo hard to find anything nice. We'd quite like a subtle floral, with roses, in a kind of washed out colour. Nana chic. Well colour me chuffed if I didn't find a bedspread/sheet/valance thingy in just the colours I wanted - in a pretty rose pattern too. It even had a ruffle along one side that was the exact length of my day bed. And it was only $4 - a stark contrast to the gazilion dollars per metre we were previously looking at. It's the perfect size, so now I just need to develop the sewing skills necessary to cover the mattress. 

I rock at op-shopping.

boystuff v girlstuff

Although I'm undoubtedly a girly girl, with sprinkles on top, there are some 'boy things' that I do. I take care of the cars, get them serviced etc (hell, I used to do it myself when we had our little Morris Minor!). I'm also keen to be in charge of the open fire in our farmhouse next week. However, I don't want to be the person to take down the fairy lights. Now, before you exclaim, I'm not one of those slatterns with christmas decorations up in July (oh wait, I am, but really, you can't see them 'cause they're hidden in the wisteria). Unfortunately I do have to be that person as my husband's knee injury precludes him from climbing ladders. Selfish.

I managed to reach up and pull most of them down, but there are two sections stuck in some particularly tenacious wisteria tendrils which are now just flapping around in the wind, reminding me that I need to get out the ladder and get climbing. I can't even enjoy my usual view of the veranda from my study window as all I can see is a flappy pile of lights. Sigh, another task to add to the to dos...

now what?

Project Runway's done and dusted, ANTM was revealed - Demelza, of course! Now how am I supposed to spend my nights? Well you just know that I'll be jumping on the crazy train that is America's Next Top Model - although how many seconds into an episode will I get before Tyra makes me want to pluck my eyeballs out with a toothpick? And Australian Project Runway - how do I feel about that? The ads have been cute, I'm liking the concept of Kristy Hinze, but the three 'designs' revealed on the stage at Luna Park last night... not so fond. I coveted items in the US show - I wanted to fly Rami over and have him design me something all lush and drapey (but I'd choose the colour - man, is that boy colourblind?) And Christian? Oh, I so want to keep him in my pocket and pull him out for moments of delicious giggles. 

Don't you fret about me though, a true TV addict never goes without.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

why i need to fall over a big bag of money that's just sitting on the sidewalk

So I can go to Petersham Nursery and have lunch at a long table filled with bouquets like this. Bliss!

This weekend

I'll be sitting here. Yes, chances are there'll be a glass in my hand. I will be ever-so-rugged up. I've found my thermals (which fortunately are an attractive shade of lavendar - not old lady beige) and will be taking my snuggly charcoal cashmere/wool Stella McCartney cardi (god love her for doing a range at Target). Over my lap will be a pale pink and ice cream Laura Ashely throw and I'll only move if the temperature moves into the minuses...


I felt like a bit of a change was in order, and, as I'm poorly sick, lugging around the furniture in my house just wasn't going to cut it. So I've changed my blog. You likee? I'm slowly navigating my way through the technological stuff on blogger - see Nick, I've learned how to link! But I couldn't restyle my old page without a weird, 70s bridesmaid burgundy - and I only do burgundy in a glass, or over beef. So, old - you're outta there, and new, Hiya, how you doin'? I also put up a picture of me in glowing health - yes, a few glasses of champers may have been consumed before said image... don't you think that's the only way to appear happy and natural in a 'candid' shot?

I'm counting down the days till we leave on our winter holiday. A week in the southern highlands, friends, good food, red wine, champagne, schnapps... and I'll be taking along a few books too. I've got a pile of 'only good enough to read once' novels I'm going to sell at the 2nd hand store, and with the money I'll earn, I'll regift myself with a few second handies. I'm in an extraordinarily optimistic mood and feel quite certain that Julie and Julia will be on the shelves. After reading The Sharper Your Knife, the less you cry by Kathleen Flinn last week, I'm all over french cooking books. So J&J sounds perfecto. Fingers crossed!

I loves me a bit of posh

I was watching the Project Runway finale last night (Yay for Christian!) and fell a bit in love with Posh all over again. Is she the only white woman who can look good in orange? And to see the tender little love story blossoming between her and Christian was just so, so sweet. 

I'll never understand why I fall so hard for some celebs and loathe others so deeply. Liz Hurley for example - why does she still exist? I just viewed a picture of her going to one of Elton's parties and wanted to scream at my monitor... but I've lost my voice so I had to resort to gurning. But because I'm fickle it's entirely possible that one day Liz will do something to charm me and I'll revert to loving her forever. Not as much as I love Posh ('cause she's married to Becks so that's double the love) but still, there's the possibility of inexplicable fondness.

Pammy, however, oh Pammy, sit down. I'm proud to say that I haven't watched a millisecond of this series of Big Brother, and there's no way I'm tuning into the car wreck viewing it's bound to be with Pammy appearing. I used to love her so, but now, not so much. I do appreciate though that, as we're a similar age, she does make me look youthful and fresh (was is going on with her?) I would like to clarify that I'm not being ageist here. I'm happy that Pammy has said no to the bo (botox is satan's spawn - as evidenced by the judging panel on ANTM and all the other shiny, possibly happy, or maybe sad, people in celeb-land). Pammy, it's time to leave the house and quit drinking - you do remember you've got Hep C don't you?