Friday, October 31, 2008


Happy Halloween! Here are the spooky cupcakes I'm taking to the Halloween party tonight. I felt very Martha making them. The icing's a simple icing sugar, vanilla extract and warm water mix which is so glossy and pretty. I stuck the little ghosts' eyes (little bits of licorice) on with a dollop of icing and am very impressed. The spiderwebs were black icing, drawn on with a wooden skewer - while the spider were created from licorice too. 

While I adore the spookiness and kookiness of halloween it's also a time to remember our dead. So I'm going to spend the next five minutes thinking about those I've loved and lost - and will raise a glass to them later tonight. 

enough already

The poor retouchers at Parade must have been twiddling their thumbs when this cover came through. I know I hark on about it regularly, but Nicole - step away from the surgeon... The woman's my age, yet has skin like my daughter's and, strangely, looks like a hyper-lifted seventy-something. 

All the hype for the movie Australia can keep on twittering on, I can't think of a sum high enough that they'd have to pay me to see Nicole attempting to wring an expression from that frozen face of hers. 

It's a question I ask of all surgery addicts - can't they see themselves? Do they actually look in the mirror and walk away pleased? Why doesn't someone say something to them? And what are they going to look like at 60? 

Thursday, October 30, 2008

fade to grey

I'm besotted with shades of grey in clothing and now I've found these shoes my lust is reaching obsessive levels. They're from Aldo who like to surprise me with the odd gem such as these cuties. I adore the shape of that heel - very Prada-esque non? I have some birthday money still unspent - don't you think this would be a very wise way to dispose of those dollars? I could wear them with my deep blue ankle length gown I wore to the ball the other week, and I have a purple silk frock that would dance in delight if paired with such a pretty pair of heels. Okay, settled then, I'm off to Westfield on the weekend to indulge myself.

all hallows eve

We don't do a large-scale Halloween in Aus. It's getting more popular, but many still bah humbug it as an event. But the old goth in me LOVES it. So imagine my delight at being invited to a Halloween party tomorrow night. It's a couple of families, there's going to be hotdogs and severed fingers and eyeballs (lollies, of course) for the kids, followed by trick or treating in the well-versed street. My daughter and her dear friend are dressing as black cats, while I'm popping a witch's hat to cover my witch's mane! I'm making teeny cupcakes to take along - half decorated in orange icing with little black spiderwebs and a black spider atop, the other half iced in ghoulish green with little ghosts I'm intending on shaping from flattened marshmallows. Cute!

The drinks? Has to be Death in the Afternoon - the absinthe/champagne cocktail discussed in an earlier post. They'll go perfectly with my black fingernails. Mwaaaah ha haaaaa...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

accentuate the positive

When I'm in a grump there are normally a couple of things I can do to send my mood spiralling in an upwards manner.
* paint my nails - instantly uplifting
* step outside and pay attention to what nature's offering up today
* make a perfect cup of tea (so rare in my case that I do tend to applaud myself when I achieve it)
* sit back, close my eyes and let my memory revisit long-lost loves: my grandfather, nana and even a fondly-remembered pet or two
* plan a new eye-make-up scheme
* make one area of my home gleam with gorgeousness
* plot a dinner party and send out an invitation
* smear on some red lippy
* pop a flower in my hair - or in a teensy vase or tea cup on my desk
* dare to dream that if I wish hard enough, I'll be back in Paris again...

Monday, October 27, 2008

respondez sil vous plait

Is there some kind of email etiquette that I'm not party to? You know, the one where people feel they don't have to respond? It's a little like nodding on the end of the phone - you know you're doing it, but the person on the other end doesn't.

Because I've got a Mac, I can't seem to set my email to have a "read receipt" so unless somebody replies, I have no way of knowing if they've got my email, which can be a tad on the annoying side. 

That's my whinge for the day. I'll be off now. To email some friends who always reply!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

rosy glow

My best ideas always come so late. As I was plating up the rosebud madeleines for the fete today (complete with petals and rosebuds from my garden) I realised what a great presentation idea it would be to buy some vintage cake plates and present them on those. Op Shops often have gorgeous little vintage rose plates for around a dollar and they would look ever-so-pretty. I'm going to start hunting around for next year!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

wild about harry

Must say, I've got a fondness for anyone who's inspired to knock up a lovely drink. So tonight, I'm raising my champagne flute to Harry's Bar in Venice, home of the Bellini. Peach puree and prosecco (or any sparkling wine at a pinch) strike me as the perfect summer sip. Sante...

Friday, October 24, 2008

time trial

As queen procrastination of I'll-do-it-later-ville something needed to be done, simply so I could get things done. Whether it's housework, washing, tidying, or writing to earn a living, I needed a push. Here's what I do - and it works. I'll set a timer for 30 to 45 minutes and totally put my head down in the one spot until the time's up, or I've completed what I have to do. No distractions allowed - the phone goes to answering machine, emails go unchecked, blogs are not peeked at for 'inspiration'. It's astonishing what you can achieve in a solid block of time. Which reminds me, article due this afternoon, not complete... see you in 45 minutes!

local yokel

Economies around the world ain't looking so good, so I like to do one little thing that I think can help. I shop locally. I buy my meat from the butcher down the road, fruit and veg around the corner and obsessively stalk my local farmers market every fortnight. Those things I buy from the supermarket must be produced in Australia (except for a teensy few things I'm mad on from France and Italy... but surely that doesn't count?). The supermarket I shop at is also Australian-owned.

So imagine my displeasure when I found out that my daughter's school is changing her school sports uniform and the company they're proposing to go with manufactures all garments in China. Yes, that would be a place where people are campaigning for better conditions for workers, no sweatshops etc. Sigh. So I presumed that the locally made stuff must be more expensive and gave them a call. It's cheaper. Is it lesser quality? Apparently not. So why aren't we going with them? I'll let you know after I've done all my research and spoken to the principal. I think I'm fast moving from thorn in his side to festering wound...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

eye spy

I used to be quite the fan of Dawson's Creek. While I was always a Pacey gal, I had a soft spot for Joey. So it saddens me to see pictures of her these days. That smile and those sparkly eyes that you see on the image on the left have been replaced by a tired-looking woman who looks twice her age. Come back Katie, planet earth misses you.

ice, ice, baby

The crazy weather's continuing here. It's only 10 degrees and my brain is bemused - it's meant to be spring, nearly summer, and yet it's colder than our average winter day. The rain's sporadic, pretty much starting up whenever I open the front door, and concluding when I close it again. 

I also can't for the life of me think what to cook for meals in this weather. I'd undergone the shift to spring foods, and with my dedication to buying locally and seasonally that seems logical. But tonight I don't want salmon and asian greens. I want a steaming plate of slow-cooked meat, heavy on the red wine and herbs. It's confusing. I'm also itching to bbq after watching Jamie Oliver marinate a leg of lamb, a spatchcocked chicken and some ribs in this amazing bbq sauce. However, I'm pretty sure that if I step foot on my back veranda to light the bbq I'll get blown away or the wild rains will start up again. 

I'm trying to live in tune with the seasons, but at the moment it's like the dial is slightly off centre and instead of decent radio station all I'm getting is white noise.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

if I had a little l.a.m.b.

I do so love Gwen Stefani. Not only has she not been spotted swanning about in skinny jeans moments after her baby's birth - she's always rocking a mighty hot look. And may I suggest that these shoes are on fire. The perfect match? A full black skirt, preferably with tulle underlay. Pale pink cashmere twinset. A juicy, red set of lips. Yes please...

i don't agree with what you have to say, but...

Last night I went to the weirdest meeting. It was at my daughter's school and was to be attended by, I presumed, adults. However, when I got there, I realised that there were apparently mean girls disguised as adults dotted around the room. Clever huh? Now these mean girls had a hissy whenever anyone questioned their statements, required explanation, or deviated one millimetre from their ideas. I was pretty sure I was in an episode of Twilight Zone, but unfortunately there was no pithy narrator with a 'punny' conclusion to round out the evening. 

Luckily I also attended with a couple of like-minded mums who were intelligent, impassioned and eloquent in their ideas. These mums didn't have rejoinders such as the classic toddler-statement,"No it's not" when someone expressed an opinion. These mums stated their case sensibly and in a sane manner. These mums also came back to my house for a couple of Kir Royales to calm the nerves afterwards...

Why is it that committees appear to attract the loons? Is there some reason why power-hungry attention seekers vie for posts while those who are willing to quietly achieve stand back? 

It's only been the last few years that I've been brave enough to politely speak up if I disagree with someone. But I'm damned polite about it. No matter how extreme or ridiculous an opinion I can't conceive of scoffing, eye-rolling, or shouting over someone. Yep, that's what happened last night. 

However, we got what we wanted. Unfortunately that also means I'm now on the committee with these charmers - give me strength... or a couple more Kir Royals...

under the weather

Here in Oz, particularly in my little neck of it, the weather is a bit Courtney Love crazy. Dizzying highs inspire cooling off periods in the ocean baths, while the wild rains and nine degree temperatures this morning had me reaching for my ugg boots. Even the leaves on the deciduous trees don't seem to know what to do: grow, change colour, fall off, have a mojito? Makes all the pooh poohing of climate change seem a little hollow doesn't it? 

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

fair food

There's a fete on at my daughter's school on Sunday so I'm trying to work out what to bake for the cake stall. These fetes are my chance to try out something different. Two years ago I made the most gorgeous little petit fours. They were teensy squares of sponge, coated in raspberry jam then coated in pastel fondant (pale pink, pale blue, lemon and mint) with a dainty sugar flower on top. Last year I made individual cheesecakes in mini muffin tins - and they were sublime. They were a Nigella recipe and I truly believe that if you're going to make a recipe for the first time, without any practice, a Nigella recipe's the way to go - that woman loves food far too much to allow a dodgy recipe to bear her name.

This year I'm tossing up between rosebud madeleines (made with rosewater syrup and then decorated with petals from the garden) and revisiting the mini cheesecakes. Actually, considering how often I swear I'll never cook treats in the mini muffin tins  - and swear while I'm trying to clean the darned things up - maybe the madeleines are the best option. I'll take pics and put up some photos on the weekend.

Friday, October 17, 2008

holy sheet

The key ingredient for a good night's sleep, for me, is nice, clean sheets. Sheets that are taut, fresh and untainted by even the merest speck of grit or grime. Ideally I'd wash my sheets every day, but for the environment's sake I settle for weekly. 

I got myself a spray tan last night, to prepare for the ball I'm heading to this evening and I must say that I'm loving the effect. However, I'm not loving what it's done to my gorgeous white cotton sheets! I tossed, I turned, I was sticky, I created grit - and that led to me getting out of bed at 2.30am and logging on. I had a spontaneous chat with a facebook friend in Dubai, musing about morals in a Muslim country, checked out a few blogs, then went back to my no-longer-pristine sheets. I'm about to brave them in a moment to toss them in the wash and hang them on my side veranda to dry in the breeze (in the absence of an actual outside line at the moment). I hope they forgive my sins and regain their purity - my need for sleep demands it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

but i didn't inhale

If I were a celebrity I'd use up my 15 minutes pretty quickly. See, the thing is, I'm honest - about myself that is. Seriously, ask me a question and I'll answer it truthfully, even if I'm internally smacking myself in the forehead moments after the words have left my mouth. I'd be like Eva Longoria when she first tasted fame - a girl who gave out waaaaay too much information.

Which is why I'm in two minds about this whole admitting to plastic surgery thing. Obviously there are some gals out there who've had some work, damn fine work, to look the way they do (Demi, Sophia Loren, Susan Sarandon...) and they just smile through their perfect faces and allow us all to speculate. Others have bad work done and lie about it (Nicole Kidman, I'm talking to you and your plasma screen forehead - thanks for that one Sharon Osborne!) Others take the half road - such as Courteney Cox-Arquette who in an interview this month admitted to 'trying' botox. Um, have you seen her lately? Cos I reckon she's done more than just 'try' it. It's all or nothing with confessions - you're either Joan Rivers or Joan Collins (and secretly, because of her stint in Dynasty, I reckon I'm more of a Joan Collins bless her cashmere socks...)

a cinderella story

Tomorrow night I'm going to a ball, so I'm in a Cinderella frame of mind. I've got the frock - a floor-length Wayne Cooper number in a deep petrol blue - but haven't quite decided on the shoes, or the make-up. For the hair, I'm doing a low bun on the side, with a big red flower in the middle (I'm thinking one of my roses that are fully blown - who'll need perfume with a Oaklahoma rose in one's tresses?). Lips will be red (but of course) - so maybe a simple black cats eye and a rosy glow of blush. If only I had these shoes... although maybe my Manolos could come out from their box for the evening...

the aftermath

Although I'm still surrounded by squalor, I have made some inroads into my post-holiday re-organisation. My bag is unpacked into piles on my bed, I've called my lawn mowing man to get him to get in and slash the jungle of grass that's bound to be hiding whole tribes of jungle beasts, and I paid my rude bill. Why rude? Well, how's a heading, in, oh, around 24 point, bold and all caps screaming out BROKEN CONTRACT sound? There may well have been an exclamation point and a sad face on there as well, I was too flumoxed to notice. Personally I reckon, YOU FORGOT ME or even HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME? would have been more suitable, but I can't say I understand the brains of telecommunications companies. I paid it - but with a cranky face, so I'll be sending them the bill for my botox with IT WAS YOUR FAULT printed at the top. Rudeness!

Cool things about our holiday: our daughter got to pat an echidna (with its spikes down), stand within a metre of a wombat and gaze in awe at whole big bunches of kangaroos at my parents place. We also went to an open range zoo which had, wait for it, TWO meercat exhibits!!! You know what's better than meercats? Nothing. We also got to relax and forget about the demolition site in our backyard and came back to progress which is nice. Our garden also doubled in size in our absence. There are about a gazillion roses in bloom so you are nearly knocked over with their scent as soon as you walk past. The scabiosa and penstemon are a few seconds off blooming, and all the shasta daisies are ready to reveal their pretty faces too. Our cat's beside himself with bliss that we've returned - and have kept the yappy puppy far away. So all's good. Oh, and I also found that Dan Murphy's bottle shops stock a real French version of Cassis - and a guy at the shop also told me that Chambord makes a delish Kir Royale as well. Hurrah - I'm off shopping at the weekend!

I'm now about to start work on my three kilometre to-do list. Wish me luck...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

i'm back

Goodness gracious, why is it that sometimes a holiday leaves one in need of, well, a holiday? We walked in the front door at midnight last night, and I left before 6am this morning for work, and walked back in the door at 8pm. Am exhaustipated. Bags remain unpacked, bills are screaming to be paid and our lawn mowing man has apparently run off to join the circus or somesuch leaving us in need of a machete or two to hack our way through our front lawn. 

Will refresh this poor, abandoned blog tomorrow. Till then, kisses!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

au revoir

We're off on a wee holiday down south to visit my mum, step-dad and baby bro. I'm not sure what their internet connection access is like so chances are I'll be having a break for a week. In the meantime, check out this vintage air hostess shot - how much better would flying be if we had uniforms like that to look forward to!

Monday, October 06, 2008

sweet dreams

I'm ever-so-sleepy. Interstate visitors and their barking puppy have just left and my head is desperate to hit my pillow. I think I'll need to lull myself to sleep with sugar-coated dreams of the parisian kind... I've just been drooling over the Ladurée website and wishing I'd indulged more when I was there. How would one delicately bite into this beauty?

a few of my favourite things

 Manolo Blahnik, a Laduree palette and Marie Antoinette. Le sigh...

Sunday, October 05, 2008

carry on

How's this for a challenge - a one-week holiday - with only carry-on luggage? It's going to give the term capsule wardrobe a whole new meaning. I'll be rolling and stuffing with abandon, but the worst thing is... NO SHOPPING!

could do better...

While I generally feel I do most things to the best of my ability there are a few things I'm absolutely crap at - and am working on.
1. I make a shocking cup of tea. I love drinking the stuff, but my impatience always impels me to remove the tea bag or pour the pot before the tea's drawn properly. Or if I force myself to walk away I'll forget and come back to a tepid, over-stewed mess.
2. I am really, really, really bad at confrontation. I could be served a cold meal, garnished with dead flies, and I'd be lucky to put in more than an inspid, "Excuse me, I'm terribly sorry, but..." Yep, do me wrong and chances are you'll never know it, cos I won't be mentioning it. I'm really working on this one though. Truly. I'm trying to get in early, lower my voice an octave, and not being apologetic for taking offence when half the time that was probably what was meant. Starting now, I'm speaking up. Truly.

fishy business

I've just been for a trip to my local fishmongers which was quite amazing. The last time I visited was well over a year ago, and I wasn't too inspired by what was on display, but today I was spoiled for choice. I've bought some plump white snapper fillets and scallops for the bbq - but I was sorely tempted by the garfish on display - they're such kooky looking fish. Shall I do a fresh fennel and chilli salad to go on the side? Sounds about right doesn't it? I'm simply going to pop the seasoned seafood on the bbq grill - maybe with a little lime zest and black pepper dressing the scallops. I can feel myself just getting smarter thinking about all this brain food!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

yum on a stick

I had a friend to dinner last night, and while I had the second lot of summer puddings chilling in the fridge, I just couldn't work out what to do for a main. Then I had a thought - spanish chicken kebabs. I chopped up some skinless chicken breasts and marinated them in the juice and zest of half a huge lemon, a cup of white wine (sauvignon blanc), masses of chopped garlic and black pepper. I popped it in the fridge for an hour and then threaded it onto sticks in between big chunks of chorizo. I browned each side, then put the lid down to let them steam and they were delish. I also sauteed up some chunks of red capsicum and slices of orange sweet potato and served it all with a platter of salad leaves, roasted beetroot, goat cheese feta and hazelnuts.

They were scrummy. I'm going to cook them again.

Friday, October 03, 2008


I'm besotted with my wisteria. Here's another view of it from the top of the stairs, glancing over your left shoulder. Pretty huh!

summer love

Okay, I have officially found my new summer sweet. The strawberry summer pud was a big hit last night (and the lamb? Melted in mouths and got rave reviews) Here's how I did it.
I popped a couple of punnets of strawberries and one punnet of raspberries in a small saucepan, along with a good shake of golden caster sugar (probably 1/4 cup) then I added a dash of vanilla extract as I had no more vanilla beans in the cupboard. I let it simmer for a few minutes, just until it formed a syrup, then I lined the bottom of four ramekins with a round of sliced, white bread. I poured in some syrup to soak into it, then divided the berries amongst the pots and then placed another round of bread over the top and poured the syrup over it. 

Now, because I didn't have an enormous amount of syrup, it didn't completely cover the tops, but that made it a really pretty marbled pink and white effect which I liked to pretend was intentional. I also drizzed it with my Violette syrup - a rose syrup would also work well, or a liqueur... I didn't line or grease the ramekins (because I forgot) but it didn't matter as they popped out readily. I also loosely placed cling film over the top and popped tins on the top to weigh them town. 

I turned them out onto pretty plates bedazzled with pink roses and threw a dob of vanilla bean yoghurt over the top (King Island) which balanced them out beautifully. Oh, and because I was feeling posh, I also decorated the plates with a strawberry I sliced almost down to the stem in about five places, then fanned out. Very restaurant-like. 

I'll be making these again. Probably tonight when my friend Milissa comes to dinner... they'll go down beautifully with her favourite pink champagne!

Thursday, October 02, 2008


Typical. I fall in love with something (a butterflied, marinated lamb leg to be precise) and decide to invite friends around to share it and... yep, not in the store. Dayum. So I've just gone to the butcher, asked them to butterfly a leg, and I've made my own marinade. About a cup of olive oil, the juice and zest of one whopper of a lemon, around a quarter cup of fresh oregano, a big head of garlic and lashings of fresh black pepper. It's in a zip lock bag and I smooshed it all around and I'll leave it for a couple of hours before smooshing and turning again. Then it's going on the bbq, lid down, for around 45 minutes, resting for 15, and then being laid on a bed of mesclun, watercress, fresh mint, roasted quarters of beetroot and some chunks of goat cheese feta. I'll dress it with a simple red wine vinegar and garlic dressing and serve it with hunks of baguette.

The summer puddings are in the fridge with tins of tuna weighing them down. I did them in individual ramekins and they look dead cute. I've yet to track down any Cassis LJ, but I did drizzle some Violette syrup over the top. I decided against mascapone, and went for a vanilla bean yoghurt from King Island in Tasmania. I'm determined to try out my ability to make quenelles tonight when I serve it. Oooh, best dash off and pop some champers and rosé in the fridge. Hopefully I'll find that Cassis and a Kir Royale will have my name on it around 5pm...

the shoe shoe song

Oscar de la Renta is the man behind these shoes. Paired with a pencil skirt and a peach chiffon blouse I'd be ready to be James Spader's secretary. I'm hankering for some sensible black shoes and I do believe that I need something like this. Of course, they need to be Mary Janes, and a peep toe is perfect for displaying a touch of coloured toenails. 

what would dita do?

There's my new motto when shopping, decorating, dressing... Whenever I'm about to ask a decision I'll think, "Now, what would Dita do?" Now that I know the answer doesn't involve intimate acts with Marilyn Manson, I'm pretty comfortable in following her lead. 

Apparently Dita always wears her favourite shoes when shopping for a new pair. If she doesn't love the pair in the store enough to swap them for the ones on her feet she says "No" and moves on. Love it or leave it ladies.

making scents

When you have a super-heightened sense of smell you want to make sure that you're surrounded by things that smell delish. My dresser is scattered with perfume - Lovely, Tom Ford, YSL, Chanel, Stella McCartney... every scent has its place in my life. The day doesn't seem right if I don't spritz myself with perfume before walking out the door. 

It's the same with my home. I adore my lavender and vanilla room sprays - and I have a scented spiced pear candle that nearly sends me into a state of bliss when the wick is lit. Same deal with food. I love a meal that I can smell before I taste - bland and boring won't cut it.

Of course it's hardly surprising that I clean my home with essential oils sprinkled in warm water and white vinegar. Even if a chemical cleaner promises a pretty scent it's always an acrid version of something I loved - it's like cheese in a can. Why?

All the roses in my garden have a scent, and the only flowers I have in the garden that are unscented have got some pretty spectacular qualities (such as the pale green and pale pink nodding hellebores - stunningly pretty). 

I don't see the point in not surrounding yourself with things that are gorgeous and make you feel happy. Even practical can be pretty.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

goody two shoes

I cannot for the life of me break a rule knowingly. It's entirely possible I'm the world's most law-abiding citizen. When crossing the road, I walk for miles to find a zebra crossing or lights. Any music I download is paid for on iTunes. Someone hands me too much change, I count it and hand it right back.

I'm also mortally offended if I see others knowingly flaunting the law. Couples who eat at a hotel's buffet breakfast - loading up on the bacon and eggs, then paying at the cashier and saying "oh, just a cold buffet for one," while the partner sneaks out on the end of another party's line.

Like now, I'm writing this at work - AT WORK. However, I'm on my lunchbreak, I thought you'd miss me, and I'm not doing anything that jepardises my job. Not like an editor I worked for who'd sit at her desk furiously typing away at freelance articles for other mags, or her first novel (rude!). See, I'm justifying my behaviour because it's for others. For you. Now, where's my gold star?