Friday, January 30, 2009

paint effects

It's friday afternoon and who would have thought I'd be excited at the prospect of spending another weekend painting? Not this little black duck - but oddly, I am. Isn't it so much nicer doing something where you can see an almost immediate result? It's the attitude I'm trying to take with virtually every task - no matter how horrid or annoying. 

Hope you all have a gorgeous weekend.

short and sweet

My daughter went back to school this week, on a Wednesday, which is a nice day to start. Beginning the school year with a three day week is a lovely way to ease into the school year. See, it's easy to come up with a different hairstyle for each day (v important) and something novel for fruit break (variety, spice of life and all) and a new and interesting breakfast (gotta tickle those little tastebuds). I'm also finally getting used to the quietness of the house and getting stuff done.

The housework's falling down though. Now the new school year's started I think a rough plan's going to have to be worked out. We usually clean together on a Saturday, but this weekend will be spent painting AGAIN. Although, in exciting news, it will be painting the pavilion at the end of the pool! Our speedy, speedy carpenter started on Tuesday and on his first day laid the deck. On the second finished the deck and put up the uprights, then yesterday he did the beams and lined the ceiling (making sure there was space for our ginormous chandelier to hang).

So on the weekend, the white paint comes out and we're slapping it on. The tin on the roof goes on today (pale grey, to match the roof of our house) and he's delivering the timber that forms the slats that are going around three sides so we can give them a coat before they put them up. It's all looking so lovely. My hubby also bought a bar fridge to put in there to keep water (and, ahem, champagne) cool. It's hidden away in the wall of built-in cupboards designed to lock away all the pool stuff.

We also had turf laid in the courtyard and it's incredible what a difference it makes - it really cools the whole yard down. After six months or so of dirt in various guises it's so lovely to see a pretty verdant covering. And once the hedging plants are planted in the boxes along the pool's edges it'll be a veritable oasis.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

sweet scents

My darling sister-in-law, who lives far-too-far-away from me in London, bought me the most divine Peony candle and homespray from The White Company for Christmas (I know - spoiled!) So as I'm sitting at my desk, waiting on a conference call, and for the turf men to finally arrive (yep, they didn't come yesterday, are meant to come today...) I've spritzed my study with this delicious scent and am already feeling calmer and more inspired.

what's cooking

As much as I'm loving on summer for the weather, I'm in need of a change so I can find some new cooking inspiration. I'm done with salads. I came up with some variations this year, which made me happy, but now, I've had enough. I need to start slow cooking again. I want the comforting scents to waft through my home. I want richness and the mouth-filling sensation that comes from layers of tastes in winter food. 

Summer food's light, delicate and zesty - but I'm over it. I'm really going to have to pull out the big guns to overcome my culinary ennui. Perhaps I can do an asian-style salmon, with a cold broccoli salad - dotted with slivered almonds with a rich parsley and anchovi dressing. Buckwheat noodles might also help. 

Actually, on Martha the other day she made an amazing dish with buckwheat noodles, flank steak (I think that's what it was called - it's the steak cut from the ribs and is incredibly tender - apparently) and snow peas. She sauteed the steak for a few minutes, then removed, rested and then sliced against the grain. The she boiled up the noodles and drained. Then the snowpeas were cooked in the pan with the steak juices all stuck to the bottom. She threw in some miso paste and soy sauce and stirred them around for a minute. All were tossed in a bowl, garnished with peanuts, sliced green onions and coriander. Yum... think I've got my inspiration back...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

strap me in

Now these, with a pair of feet to fill them out, are a mighty pretty shoe of the week. Honestly, who couldn't love mary janes cubed? If I were a wee slip of a lass I'd wear them with long socks, but for moi, a thick pair of patterned tights might be more appropriate. They're by Chloe and I like them mighty fine.

french chic

Hef might be testing my boundaries with his twins, and by featuring the likes of Aubrey O'Day in the pages of the US version (yeah, who?) but look at the French version of Playboy. Lily's gone all 60s in this adorable retro shoot. With her Gidet-esque hair and the carousel pony - I'm smitten. 

green spaces

Apparently men are delivering turf to my courtyard today. I say apparently as they were due here an hour ago... but hey, who's impatient? I've learned not to expect anyone until they're actually standing in my yard, surrounded by absolutely everything they'll need to do the job - and let me tell you, that's pretty rare. That said, my carpenter turned up yesterday, with lots of timber and actually constructed most of the deck for our pavilion at the end of the pool! Excitement!! More timber was delivered this morning, and he and his son turned up on-time and got straight into working.

Matt and I finished painting the last of the fences last night - at 8pm. It nearly killed us, but thanks to Sara's suggestions on holding a paint brush loosely and switching positions often, my hands aren't nearly as sore as they were the day before. The fence looks spectacular. I'll head out later on and take some photos of it now it's a pretty painted lady - it looked so nude and unfinished before. I'm thrilled it's all finally starting to take shape and the end is soooooo close I can taste it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

brush strokes

Ouch. I have blisters on my hands and fingers from painting the fence - but boy, it looks fabulous. We painted 30 square metres of fence yesterday, which is darned impressive, and only have 29 square metres to paint today. Easy peasy. Once the fence is painted we can plant the lilly pillies which are very patiently waiting out the side of the house in a little straight line. Ignored, except for the couple of times a day I hose them down.

I realised yesterday - about 20 square metres into the painting, that I hold a paintbrush in a very silly manner - the same way you'd hold a pen, which makes for a lot of interesting blisters. I think it's because I've always done the cutting in, while hubby takes over the broader brush strokes of rollering. Today I'm going to load my fingers with band-aids - then try to hold my brush in the manner of a grizzled old house painter - grasped firmly in my palm. Wish me luck.

Monday, January 26, 2009

aussie, aussie, aussie

It's Australia Day today, a drizzly, grey Australia Day, but after Saturday's scorcher I shan't be complaining. I was looking for a pretty lamington image to accompany this post and found the prettiest, but now defunct, blog. It was and while the posts were sparse, they were so pretty and inspirational. Check out her cake stand filled with treats and see if your mouth doesn't water. 

I'm off to the backyard to continue painting the paling fence - does it get any more Aussie than that?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

better late than never

This morning, as I was waving my father and step-mother off from their three day visit I thought I'd just bend down and pull out a few weeds that were poking through the paving in front of the front steps. Then, while I was there, I weeded a few long bits of grass that had straggled into the front bed. That reminded me that yesterday I'd read it was time to summer prune the roses. And oh, did they need it.

The poor things performed valiantly for us this season, but the couple of scorching days we've had, coupled with nighttime rain, and the fact that I've basically ignored them for the past two months meant they were looking straggly, spotty and altogether unwell. So I went all along the front picket fence and pruned them back by a good third. Now they're just sticks again, but I did give them a big meal of chicken manure and a lovely water, so hopefully they'll get inspired to grow and flower again. I've still got the roses up the side to prune - another day perhaps - although they're not looking anywhere near as sickly as the front ones which are exposed to all natures whims and fancies.

Yesterday was a blisteringly hot 39 degrees with unconscionable humidity - so we hired a ute and shoveled four tons of lawn underlay into our courtyard. Not sure if you've ever been introduced to lawn underlay before, but it has a really, really high percentage of chicken manure in it - so it's dead stinky. However, while the whiff factor is high, and we did nearly kill ourselves working in the heat - the area's now ready for the turf men to come and lay some lovely Sir Walter buffalo in the courtyard. Bliss. We also bought 10 lovely lilly pillies to form a three to four metre high hedge behind us, so the pool shall now be surrounded with a delightful patch of green. With the carpenter starting on Tuesday, and apparently knocking over the pool pavilion in a fortnight, we've just got a spot of painting and planting to do before I've got some lovely backyard shots to share with you.

Yay. About to pop a bottle of rosé in the fridge to celebrate.

Friday, January 23, 2009

thinking thrifty

Whenever I read a blog or piece on how to be thrifty I realise how much I just do naturally. Putting myself through uni and living on basically nothing taught me some valuable life lessons, and I'm glad that even when my income's gone up, my spending's still stayed on the frugal side. Of course, I do splurge. A new Chanel nailpolish can do so much for a gal - but I normally only buy one per season. Apart from that - I'm thrift-central.

For a start, if a hem comes down or a button comes off, I sew it back on. Badly, but I'll do it. If a zipper breaks I'd rather pay someone $14 to sew in a new one than buy a new pair of trousers. We do enjoy going out to dinner - but it's rare, and so much more special that way. When I cook it's from fresh ingredients - with the odd sauce from a jar if need be - but my meals come from the ground - not in a box. I always turn the shampoo and conditioner bottles upside down at the end of their life. Then I'll take off the lid, add a few drops of water, shake and get another two washes from them.

We pay our mortgage fortnightly, and pay more than the minimum in order to pay it off quicker. If ever we get an unexpected windfall (pay-rise, tax refund...) that goes straight off the mortgage too. I'll also walk an extra block or two to use my own bank's ATM - I loathe paying the extra $2 you're charged for using another bank's machine - and it can add up too.

I'll also buy big ticket items on sale - or negotiate my butt off for the best possible price and then pay cash to get even more off. My clothes virtually always come from op-shops or sample sales and if I feel the need for a fashion fix I'll buy some cheap beads, a lippy or nail polish in this season's hottest colour.

But I don't do this to feel virtuous - I just do it because it feels right. There's no point in cutting costs and scrimping if it makes you feel deprived and awful - you just need to make cuts in the area where it doesn't matter so you can save enough to spend a little more where it does.

holy sheet

So, I saved up, waited for the sale and bought 1500 thread count white cotton sheets. They're so crisp and look gorgeous on the bed, but, oh, they're loud.

A friend of mine did warn me about this (after I'd bought them!) but I thought he must have just had overly sensitive ears - but no, they're loud.

I think I'm going to have to wash them a few times to soften them up - or learn to sleep like a log. Tossing and turning is annoying enough, without such a noisy soundtrack!

Despite this, once I've fallen asleep I've had some mighty restful nights - and for an occasional insomniac there's nothing sweeter than sleeping through the night.

Ps - not my bedroom in this shot - but spookily similar. I have the same coloured walls and a bay window with a 1920s french cafe table and love heart chairs inset. Instead of a little plate, I have two gorgeous little images of Marie Antoinette I found in an antique store in the most darling of frames on each side of the bay window. I'm thinking I need similar curtains though - how pretty. I also have netting billowing down behind my bed - after all, it's what every princess needs.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

simply stunning

Oh. Marion. Dior shoes. That chaise. Her hair. Her face. That frock. The va va voom.


a real page turner

Sometimes it's easy to think grandiose and contemplate over-embellishment (or is that just me?)

Whenever we've discussed floor to ceiling bookshelves in the study we've thought mouldings and complexity but this image (from the same house as the kitchen I believe - damn, do the people who live here walk around hugging themselves in delight? I would if this were my home) shows that simple can be stunning.


a touch of green

Next week the carpenter's coming to build the structure at the end of our pool. I'm dreaming on white painted floor boards, white slatted walls, a white roof, my enormous white chandelier - and white furniture. However, to give it a kick, I am loving on this shade of green in these chairs. For cushions perhaps?

PS - how well would you cook if this were your kitchen? I found this on Homes & and think it's achingly pretty.

wave of beautification

Hello my pretties - would you like to come and live on my feet? Wow, I found is quite tough this week finding a shoe I deemed suitable for this spot. I frowned, I 'euwed', I pouted, I frowned,I sighed until I stumbled upon this pair of Prada perfection.

Honestly, some times it seems like the shoe maker's have run out of ideas, particularly when you flick through Caroline Cox's Vintage Shoes book and realised that what we consider avante garde was actually de rigeur in the 1930s. So I was very pleased to see a shoe with all the bits I like, but with a twist - or a wave in this case. Personally, I think it would be hilarious if I were to wear these - the colour and shape of the shoe matching the colour and curls on my head. However, I can only dream. Which I will...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

magnificent morsels

Hey, you know how I'm going alcohol-free in February? Do these pink champagne truffles count?

afternoon delights

One of the things I'm most looking forward to, once our back garden is complete, is bringing out our antique french iron furniture. We've got a gorgeous curved bench -similar to this, but in an amazing rusty cream. Plus there's an art deco chair and table set, with the lovehearts naturellement. Picturing them on the green grass in the courtyard makes my heart sing. High tea will taste so much better in such pretty surrounds.


bedtime stories

I was checking out Martha Stewart's site, looking for a little home inspiration when my heart skipped a beat or a thousand. Now, my dream is to have at least one wall in my study lined with floor to ceiling bookshelves {if not all of them...} but oh my, wouldn't this be lovely in the boudoir? As I cannot possibly fall asleep without a chapter or two this has to be a booklover's dream does it not?

things i'm grateful for

Taking time out to count your blessings is quite possibly one of the most productive ways to use your time. 
• Today, I'm grateful that my new life as a freelancer seems to be working out quite well. I'm getting things done, on time and without too much stress. 
• I'm also enjoying spending the last of the school holidays with my gal. Before I know it she'll be headed back for her fifth year of school. 
• I'm grateful for my garden that's still giving to me, despite my not offering much in return. 
• I'm grateful for my body that lets me do pretty much most things that I like to do - and only moans and complains if I try to make it do too much. 
• I'm also grateful for iPhoto - where I can go back and visit the pretty gardens in the Southern Highlands - without the three hour plus drive. We'll be spending this year saving to pay for the backyard - so it's only staycations for us. 
• However, that said, I'm dead grateful for my backyard renovation which is nearly complete and ready to share with you. It's going to look sooooo fabulous, that it'll be worth all the pain.

arctic blast

Another thing I just love about summer is being able to finish off a shower with a frosty cold blast of water. After rinsing off the conditioner there's nothing more refreshing than sealing the cuticles with a final cold rinse. Since doing this I've been able to give one step in my hair care routine the boot. I no longer need to apply shine drops to my hair after the curl cream, cos the cold water scares my hair into shining. And believe me, when you've got curly hair - it takes a lot to make it shine!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

daily pretty

Smiling every day is made so much easier with a pretty picture to look at non?

keeping calm, carrying on

It's always far too easy to stress and fuss. Last year I resolved never to answer "How are you?" with "Busy" or "Stressed" because really, aren't we all? As soon as you put the pressure on yourself by admitting that you're stressed, it really only makes sense that you'll compound that stress and feel even worse.

I wrote an article recently on multi-tasking. See, women pride themselves on being able to do it, but really, it just means we're doing a lot of things - not terribly well. So now, I try to do one thing at a time - where it matters. If I'm unloading the dishwasher I can always have a kettle boiling. Then I might wipe down the benches while the tea's drawing - that's a sensible use of time. But reading while you're watching TV, or sorting washing while helping your child with their homework doesn't cut it - it just dilutes the effectiveness of what should be the priority.

There might not be enough time to get everything done in a day - but what about a week? Or a month? How many things on your to-do list are vitally, life-threateningly urgent? 30 - or 3? Refining that to-do list, prioritising and delegating jobs to others can make us so much more productive, happier and satisfied - and chances are, we'll get more done in the end.

Monday, January 19, 2009

baby steps

So far I'm doing pretty well with my "Things I'll do this year" list (psst, it's kinda like a list of new year's resolutions - just with a different name) and my favourite is walking everyday. Since I decided to walk every day for 15 minutes it's made a huge difference. After all, 15 minutes is nothing - anyone can spare 15 minutes. But the best thing is, that most of the time it's longer - once I even walked for 45 minutes because it was just so blissful.

Every night, after I've cleaned up from dinner, I'll lace up my pink trainers (yes, of course!) and head out into the lovely pre-dusk light. Thank goodness for daylight savings, as it doesn't get dark till after 8.30pm at the moment.

I'm also really embracing the whole "Clean Sink" phenomena (not strictly on my list - but should have been). Putting away and wiping down the sink within an hour of washing up (I still refuse to use a tea towel to dry!) has made an enormous difference to the state of my kitchen. Benches are clean and tidy - so is the island - and it's now a pleasure to be in.

How's your new year treating you?

oh happy day

Today is a blissfully balmy 24 degree day and I've just strung a washing line in my courtyard and hung a load of washing to dry in the sun. If only I had these pretty clothes pegs from to peg them with my day would be complete. (ps: her site? So pretty. I need the peony print fabric - shame she's in the UK - the Aussie dollar never translates well to pounds...)

Once these clothes are dry it's time to wash my pretty new sheets and lovingly lay them on my bed. I swear sweeter dreams will ensue from 15oo thread count white cotton...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

dreaming of daybeds

Last year we holidayed at Byron Bay and stayed at a fantastic house, with a pool, massive covered-deck and a daybed. There were other items of furniture in the house, but when I wasn't in the pool, I was on the daybed. I felt sorry for the next holiday renter as there would be a me-shaped indentation on the cushions that'd be pretty hard to make yourself comfy in.

Well, that daybed made me determined to have a similar item in the pavilion at the end of our pool. But it's hard to find something that's just right. Most daybeds have an asian/balinese theme, which are lovely, but not in the style of our home. We want something simple and white. Like this one we found the other day. It's from a store down by Avoca Beach in Sydney, which is a damned fine excuse for a daytrip and looks like it could fit into our home rather comfortably. Our carpenter's meant to be coming in just over a week's time to build the home for my daybed too, which has me beyond excited. 

Once the pavilion's built and the courtyard is grassed, there's only a few cosmetic things to add to make our backyard complete (trees and stuff). However, can you believe it - it's probably going to be completed in February. Yes, that would be the month we're going alcohol-free. Dammit - how am I to ring in my new backyard with a flute of soda water or a mocktail? This'll test my willpower...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

bright spark

Generally I don't mind aging. Wrinkles don't phase me, the grey hairs can be covered... but it's blotches and splotches that drive me crazy. After a few days in the sun, despite the sunscreen, my face now tends to take on a blotchy brown effect - not pretty. Scrubbing won't take it away, but this cheap trick will.

Palmer's products mightn't be glamorous, but boy, do they work. This mask is my secret weapon against any marks - brown spots, pimples that won't fade, redness. All's gone and pristine after 15 minutes of application. What more could a girl possibly ask for?

Friday, January 16, 2009

think sink

I read a good tip about cleaning your kitchen today which was: "always make sure your sink is cleared and polished". Which is a damned fine idea. Because obviously, if your sink's clear - there's no dirty dishes to wash stacked to one side (or in my case, a teetering pile of washed dishes 'airing' to the other). A clean sink forces you to stack and unstack the dishwasher and then inspires you to wipe down the benches while you're there. What a clever idea!

Now mind you, if this were my sink pictured here, it'd always be gleaming and pristine. Oh for a butler's sink...

pink of perfection

Goodness gracious, have you ever seen such prettiness? Peonies are one of my favourite flowers, and I must say that I love how these little beauties are entwined with grapevines.

refried brains

With the temperature reaching over 42 degrees yesterday I realised just how poorly I cope with the heat. Driving for 20 minutes to reach a big tin shed in the middle of nowhere (which was, thankfully, air conditioned) and then back again nearly caused my circuits to overload. My poor little car's air conditioning struggled to cope with the heat, so I tried the old fashioned remedy of rolling down the windows - to be hit with hellfire's breath...

I came home, pouty and cranky, trying to sullenly deal with the heat, but realised that on days such as those, I should just acquiesce, turn the air con on, and loll on the couch with a water iceblock. Instead, I sat in my darkened study and tried to work. Ineffectually.

Today, however, it's a more balmy 24 degrees - much more my style. I've been out, bought a lovely melamine dinner set that's white with a pretty pale blue floral arrangement on it (from Aldi - shhhhh), taken my daughter from one sleepover venue to another, mopped the kitchen floor, sorted the washing into appropriate piles and emailed interview requests for the next story I'm working on. Much better.

I'm also happy that my new cupcake desktop icons have inspired me to new levels of organisation and effectiveness. I've got all my stories in progress organised in folders by magazine and have given them colour labels depending on their due date: red for the closest deadline, orange for the next, yellow and then purple for ones due in a few weeks. Combine this with Google Calendar reminders, my monthly deadlines pinned to my pinboard to my right, and my new calendar hanging on the wall, and I'm thinking of changing my name to Olivia Organisation. 

Ah, I feel better now.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

minty fresh

In an effort to be uber-thrifty, I've just been wiping down my benches with a plain cloth dampened with warm water. Generally it's done the job, but something's missing - a pretty scent. 

Now, as you know, ants are driving me insane at the moment - in the kitchen and on my desk - so I googled a solution and came up with mint and cucumber* (mmm, sounds like the perfect ingredients for a cocktail... but I digress...).

I dashed to the crisper and came up with a cucumber*, but alas, I'd used up all the mint - and had none in the garden. Nor did my essential oil stash help, until, I remembered my gorgeous Cinderella Multi-Purpose Spray. It's pretty, it's effective - and it's scented with mint. Perfect. So now I have gleaming benchtops and desktop, lightly scented with mint, studded with cucumber* slices, and hopefully repellent to ants. Fingers crossed, if I'm diligent, this'll pay off.

* Note: I just went out the the kitchen to find about twenty ants feasting on a slice of cucumber. Obviously whoever came up with the whole "ants are repelled by cucumber" theory had different ants, or cucumber, to me - or maybe mine are just super-hungry...

green scene

I'm a bit cranky today. It's blisteringly hot (and I'm still sunburned so I can't swim), I had to spend the morning at a child's party and I'm still having issues with ants on my desk (I've just taken to squishing them now, so my fingers smell of eau de ant - not pretty). 

These shoes are my cranky antidote - do you think they work? Wouldn't they be pretty with a dusky pink floaty frock? They're Lanvin in case you're wondering. 

I nearly opted for another pair of Miu Miu, but then, after seeing the Katie Holmes ads I vetoed that option. I think Katie's aiming for a spot of Posh's Alien Chic (as in the Armani undies ads) but is instead channeling Alien Freak... (See, told you I was cranky)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

highly dry

The past two months have been positively filled with fabulous social gatherings. I've had fun at every single one, but, I'm feeling pretty well champagned-out.

That's why a bunch of us have decided to make February a dry month. Yes, not one drop of alcohol will pass our lips for a month (admittedly, sneakily, the shortest month of the year - but let's not quibble).

Just as after gorging on rich food, salads and lighter meals feel like a treat, I'll be happy to have a soda water with a slice of lime in a tall glass after such a period of grape abuse. Obviously if any social events are to be undertaken in February they'll have to be done with our other teetotalling friends - I'm strong, but not strong enough to deal with peer pressure of any kind... Not that my friends would actually pressure me, no, I mean the simple pressure that's released when a champagne cork is eased from the neck of the bottle. That pressure.

Wish me luck, there'll be no more mocking of mocktails from my direction. And yes, the local bottle shops will hurt considering the drinking skills of the group of us that are abstaining. But don't worry, we're sure to help bolster the economy again in March. Probably March 1, 12.01am...

the sound of one hand clapping

Call me crazy, but I am loving on Drew's look for the Golden Globes. From the whacked-out, pouffy starlet's hair, to that sumptuous floaty frock, and the 50s maquillage to match - she's rocking it all. 

Some have said it's an homage to her new film, Gray Gardens and if so, bravo to her. This is gorgeous, eccentric and charming - kind of what I imagine Ms Barrymore's like in real life.

ant music

As a youth I adored Adam and the Ants. The yummy frontman was just one of a long stream of men in make-up that I adored (I'm not sure if it started with Bowie, or Frank N Furter in Rocky Horror - but it was persistent). While I still love Ant Music, I'm not fond of their namesake.

I came home from two days of boating and wakeboarding (yes - ouch!) to find massive trails of ants from one side of my desk to the other. Hundreds, nay thousands, of the little black blighters. Now, I will drink coffee at my desk, and tea, and have been known to sometimes snack on stuff al descko... however, I'd only cleaned it last week so I'm not sure what sumptuous feast they were headed for. The worst part was that they were through my keyboard - which is an impressive feat as I have a newish Mac, and my keyboard's almost flat - with nowhere for an ant to hide - or so I thought. Anyway, I swept most of them up, have sprinkled ant rid all over my desk, and have shaken and cleaned my keyboard so much it's positively glowing.

Next resolution - no food whatsoever, no matter what, at this desk. Those long black lines have put me off nibbling in front of the computer for good. Now the only Ant Music that's running through my head is the Pink Panther theme: "dead ant, dead ant..."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

bite sized

I've tidied up the desktop on my computer today. I'm trying to make things a tad on the more organised side, and now, thanks to Gala Darling {}my desktop is not only super-organised - it's super-pretty too. Gala wrote about the most adorable desktop icons for Macs - and they're cupcakes! I know, dead-girly, but so am I. Looking over at the gorgeous little treats on my left - with all my documents that are "In Progress" designated by what looks suspiciously like a red velvet cupcake {with a cherry on top!} inspires me to work.

And I needed that today. After an evening of too much fun last night, with what are quite possibly the most hilarious people in Australia, I needed inspiration to propel me from the couch - or pool. Thankfully I was very restrained {for me} unlike some people... who stayed up till 4am... drinking red wine and port... you know who you are! So at least I'm just lethargic... not on the verge of death...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

wonderful weekends

We've had a lazy morning today, but we're gearing up for a visit from friends, and dinner with more friends this evening. We're taking on the guest role tonight, so all I need to do is bring some wine and pudding. I was tossing up between trifle and the chocolate ice cream summer pudding - guess which won? Yes, couldn't help it, I had to go with ice cream studded with berries and shards of dark chocolate, encased in chocolate sponge. Yum.

The icecream's softening on the bench, so I'll put it together shortly. However, because there'll be  young 'uns sharing, I won't be swirling cassis through the mix - I'll sloosh in some Rose Syrup instead. Now that's even making me hungry... Off to make some roast beef and salad wraps for lunch. Enjoy your weekend. x

Friday, January 09, 2009

excess baggage

Oh boy, could I do with a good night's sleep. Insomnia's been my closest buddy for the last week again and while I've been doing a lot of lovely reading, I'd much prefer to be dozing. I'm not quite sure why my body seems to feel it's okay to be sleepy and dopey right up till bedtime until, shazam, I'm suddenly wide awake.

I've been doing all the right things, but obviously the one thing I can't do is get my darned brain to switch off. I think I'm going to try that old trick of keeping a notepad and pen by my bed so I can jot down any ideas or blog thoughts so they don't keep racing around my head, only to evaporate in the morning. 

Today's been spent tethered to the keyboard, so I'm looking forward to my evening walk. Since vowing to walk daily for 15 minutes I've found it ever-so-simple to get dressed and stride out the door. Most days I do only walk for 15 minutes, but one night it was so blissful I was out for nearly an hour. Obviously plenty of others agree as there were loads of people out walking, running, riding, scootering, swimming, surfing and kiteboarding at 7.15pm. 

I do have to admit that fulfilling a healthy new year's resolution is a helluva lot easier in Australia - where the warm weather beckons you to come outdoors. I'm also blessed to be living so close to such beautiful beaches - it's so soothing to walk by the shore. Walking really makes me feel thankful for what I have.

So even though today's grey, and a tad on the chilly side (well, it's under twenty degrees - chilly for an Aussie summer) I'm dead-keen to pop on my trainers and go for a walk. Perhaps it'll blow away my cobwebs and banish the bags from under my eyes.

happy feet

Whew, um, where did this week go? I can't believe it's Friday and I still hadn't graced you with a Shoe Of The Week. So here 'tis. It's a Miu Miu a name that makes me happy, and I must say, that this patent orange makes me smile. I'm also adoring on that wedge shape - and hello, peep toes? Gorgeosity. My Revlon Strawberry Electric toenails would love to pop out and say "Hey" in these.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

the name game

Last night we went to dinner to a restaurant that had an appealing name - Meat & Wine Co. Simple, apt, adequately explains what to expect. Now, our friends who led us to this establishment suggested the ribs. No, not suggested, actively prodded us in the direction of the ribs, as apparently, this was one meat this restaurant did well. Of course, once the decision's made, that, yes, I'll have the ribs, comes the next conundrum - which ribs. Give me a choice between beef ribs and pork ribs and I'll find it difficult to decide, which of course this restaurant realised, hence the option of 1/2 beef, 1/2 pork. Perfect, sign me up.

Of course my sensible friend, who'd been before, opted purely for 1/2 beef - which when the massive platter was placed before her I realised meant "Half of the ribs that a cow owns," and, um, that's a lot. Now, a sensible person would expect that 1/2 beef, 1/2 pork would involve a half-size serving of each of these dishes. Sensibility didn't reign supreme in that kitchen.

Do you remember how at the end of every episode of The Flintstones, Fred's car nearly tips over at the drive-through thanks to his enormous plate of Brontosaurus Ribs? Yes, that'd be kind of indicative as to what was placed before me last night.

Don't worry, I soldiered on. Polished the bones clean before rolling home.

Bircher muesli and fruit salad for breakfast this morning...

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

love is

For your viewing pleasure, Mr Depp and Ms Paradis from the pages of French Glamour (doesn't that have a ring, French Glamour... sigh)

haberdashery dash

We don't have any haberdashery stores where I live - just Spotlight, the big fabric store. But I need me a little haberdashery store after watching my new fave show. You know Gok, from How To Look Better Naked? Well he's got a new show where he styles the bejeezus out of cheap clothes and makes them look kinda couture and utterly original. I was inspired to go out and buy dozens of teeny satin roses to sew around hems, until I realised that my sewing skills leave something to be desired. But all that's going to change this year - when I learn to sew properly (see earlier post This Year I Will...)

I'm giddily in love with Gok. He really has a passion for what he does - and I love how he's tracked down his fashion icons to interview about their style. Last night's ep had Geri Halliwell, but it's next week I'm hankering for - Joan Freakin' Collins. Loving her!

Last night also had an interview with the crazily kooky Roberto Cavalli (seriously, do all designers have to be a little nutso these days?). His house in Florence was insanely gorgeous, but he kind of lost me when he uttered one of my pet peeves. See, the girl interviewing him made the mistake of asking him what he thought of her frock and he replied "It's not really my style". Grrrr. Now, this is only minor, because she did actually ask, it wasn't an unsolicited "I don't like that" but still, surely you can always find something nice to say. 

I've never understood people who'll come into someone's home and comment about the walls, "Oh, it's a bit bright for me". Um, that's because it's not your home! Is it that these people have been whacked with the egocentric stick and believe that absolutely everything is about them? 

It's summed up best in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when Frank N Furter asks Janet what he thinks about his creation Rocky. Her response? "I don't like men with too many muscles." To which Frank snarls, "I didn't make him for you!"

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

raising the bar

Isn't Paris just picture perfect? Here's a shot of my favourite bar, just around the corner from our apartment in The Marais. It was teeny tiny, with the most incredible zinc bar and has featured in many tales. There's just something about Paris that makes my heart swell and that calls me back. Maybe I should use this image as a screen saver to inspire me to work harder and faster to pay off the backyard renovation - and start saving for our next Parisian stay.


You've probably noticed that I was bored with my old layout, so I'm trying this one out. The pink's probably a bit more lolly than I like, but I thought I'd ease us all into the change with the original blogger layout and then try tinkering with the colours. 

I also thought I'd pop on a few pics of stuff around my house - and didn't realise how much green I have in my house and wardrobe until I put them all together. I guess I spend so much time in my pretty blue study that I didn't realise that our bedroom, kitchen and living room are all painted in varying shades of a soothing verdant green - with plenty of pink accents.

ooh ah, just a little bit

Last year I wrote a story on the benefits of small bursts of exercise and have decided to make that my mantra this year. While we've long heard of the benefits of getting 30 - 45 minutes exercise three to five times a week, for most of us, that just seems impossible to squeeze into our busy days. That's why I've decided to go for a 15 minute walk every day. C'mon, 15 minutes is NOTHING, you're barely even leaving the house. It's easy peasy, so therefore, you'll do it. And once you've done that 15 minutes you'll get the benefits: a little cardio fitness, a little muscle tone, stress relief, a little vitamin D, mood elevation... and you'll want to do it again, and again.

The problem with most exercise programs is the huge amount of time we have to dedicate to them. There's the drive to the gym or park, finding somewhere to park the car, getting changed, then spending 45 minutes to an hour working out, then getting back in the car, then getting home, getting changed. Eeek. Most of the time it just seems too hard. That's why, this year, 15 minutes is my mantra. An easy, breezy walk down to the beach, along the shore, then home. That said, I'm also going to whip out my Pilates DVD, throw a yoga mat on the floor and strike a few poses, just once a week. Oh, and I do so want to box at the beach on Saturday mornings. Even though it's a 45 minute class, it's only a five minute walk to get there and I adore every second of it. 

I know that exercising makes me feel fabulous, so this year, I'm putting myself first and doing a little, more often.

acting out

From today I'm implementing a plan. I got up early and did a HUGE supermarket shop with ingredients for five different meals. Now, the plan is, that I'll cook those meals, using that exact food, and will only need to visit the butcher in a few days time for fresh meat stocks. Oh, and the fruit and veg store too. My intention is not to visit the supermarket for another full week - at least.

In the past, this hasn't worked. Mainly because I tend to cook to taste. I'll be in the mood for, say, lamb, and must-have lamb that night. My tastes are fickle, and variable, so hopefully I've got enough variety in my meal plan to last the week. There's sirloin steaks with bernaise sauce, home made oven-baked frites and a spinach and baby beet salad, chicken pad thai, organic beef burgers on buns with salad, haloumi and pancetta risotto and grown up mac and cheese (that's the new recipe I'm trying - with blue cheese, chorizo and roasted capsicum!)

I also stocked up on our new fave - mountain bread - the world's thinnest and most delish wraps. Our gal loves them rolled up with peanut butter or avocado, while we have them with salad and ham. They're so light they're barely there, but still fulfill that need for bread. Oh, and they make amazing pizza too.

Monday, January 05, 2009

lovin' oven

Actually, that title's somewhat misleading. As you know, I adore cooking shows - however, I often suffer from appliance envy. Copper saucepans? Oh I lust after. Vanilla Kitchen Aid mixer? Oh be still beating heart. Pots of fresh herbs on the windowsill? If only mine wouldn't cark it after a week. But nothing, oh nothing, turns me green quicker than the pristine, shiny ovens on cooking shows. With their gleaming silver racks, and sparkly glass windows they all look showroom fresh. And how? How I ask you?

See, I spent an hour this morning removing everything removable from my oven and scrubbing it in sudsy, scalding water. Then I sprayed my oven with my lovely, non-toxic cleaner, and scrubbed, and scrubbed, and scrubbed some more. It's cleaner, but it's lightyears away from showroom fresh. It's not because I neglect it either. I clean it pretty darned regularly, and have tried all manner of options - bi-carb soda and vinegar, enjo oven gloves, gumption... and so much elbow grease I should have the most toned biceps in town! 

Nope, it's a used oven, and maybe I just really need to get over it. Who needs a window you can see through anyway?

manic monday

Oh hi, sorry, I haven't forgotten you're here. It's been one of those days today. Productive, but kinda hectic. I've had my nose pressed firmly to the grindstone, or at least I've had my fingers tethered to the keyboard... I must say though, that my early preparation is paying off. Even when an editor emailed me this morning to ask if I could send in a story a week early, I wasn't fazed. With my new, super-dooper attitude to deadlines, and early preparation, I could say yes, and have it to her before 3pm. Not bad huh!

Of course this sounds like bragging, because it is! However, as a former straggler, who procrastinated right up till the last second, it's refreshing being organised. Seriously, why hasn't anyone told me about this before? 

Sunday, January 04, 2009

this year I will...

* Try out a new recipe each week
* Go to outdoor boxing early each Saturday morning - boxing and the beach are the perfect combo
* Concentrate on cleaning one room in my house each day
* Smile every hour
* Do Pilates once a week - it works for Dita Von Teese and Kate Winslet, so that's enough for me
* Ride my bike once a week
* Try something new at least once a month
* Dedicate fridays as Friendship Friday and call one friend on a Friday evening
* Seek out more freelance work
* Learn conversational French
* Listen to more music
* Read a wider range of authors (maybe even some men - oooooh)
* Plan more dates with my hubby
* Continue to declutter my home and mind
* Go for a walk every day - for at least 15 minutes
* Learn how to sew - properly!
* Work smarter
* Do something special with my daughter every day

green fingers

Wow, I feel like I haven't been in my front garden for months... probably because I haven't. We've been focussing all our attention on the backyard renovation and the poor front garden is starting to sulk. It's mid-summer here and we've had some wild weather. The last few days have been reasonably hot, and today is hot and windy, so I think that later on I'll be lavishing some care on my poor, neglected garden beds. The heat and overnight showers have ensured that many of my roses are covered in black spot, so that needs to be removed. Dead flowerheads need to be snipped off. Plus, there's a spot of weeding in one corner that really needs attending to. While I'm there I might also throw on some manure and give the garden a good soak - while talking soothingly to my plants to let them know I haven't completely forgotten them!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

happiness list

Today I'm happy because...
* my daughter's party was a fun-filled success
* I gave nearly all the leftover cake to friends as they collected their children, so I didn't snack on it mindlessly all day
* I'm ahead in my work
* I've come up with a system to keep track of my invoices and income
* Aside from a crunchy and sticky kitchen floor, my house is relatively clean and tidy
* I just made myself a really nice cup of tea
* I've just washed my hair
* I'm listening to girls singing and giggling happily
* We're off to our good friends' house tonight for duck confit and champagne
* I can spy flowers from every window in my study - frangipani to the left, delicate bottle brush dead ahead.
* I am blessed with wonderful friends who make my heart sing
* I live just up the road from one of the most magnificent beaches and ocean baths this glorious country has to offer
* I have a husband and child I adore, and who love me back
* My toenails are a pretty vibrant shade of strawberry pink
* I'm reading a new book by Marlena de Blasi - That Summer in Sicily and she's taking me back to Italy with her enthusiasm and pretty words
* I'm inspired to try a new recipe each week, yep, you read that right, recipe - not just create a meal, but follow a plan
* I'm filled with optimism about 2009 and look forward to enjoying every moment, of every single day
* Comments from you always make me smile! xx


party pooped

Phew, the last of the parties over for a while. Oh, and the Rock Star Party? It rocked! Smiling girls left with exultations of  "Best Party Ever!" ringing in our ears. Nice.

I adore planning parties. And it all starts with setting the scene. An invite has to set expectations. Our Rock Star VIP Lanyards really did the trick. They invited the girls to Party Like a Rock Star and the rsvp asked them to call me to "get on the VIP list" which they were pretty chuffed about. We had silver 'tinsel curtains' hanging over the front door, and the entry to the living room, giving it a bit of a backstage vibe. Twenty pale blue and silver helium balloons dotted the living room ceiling. At the front door, posters were set up with a big gold star and ROCK STAR VIP ZONE to set the mood again, and we posted up a few "set lists" with a rundown of events.

First, we got the girls to come up with a band name - which were all impressive - then we had the Rock Star makeovers (suitable for nine-year-olds). We had a range of nail polishes (black, red, dark blue, purple, fluoro pink, yellow) and coloured hair sprays, lip gloss and a eye shadow to do a subtle cats eye. After the makeovers were complete we did a Rock Star photo shoot - with all 10 girls, then each with the birthday girl, then solo - which Matt downloaded and printed out for later - when they were decorating their Concert Posters.

Next up the Wii got a workout. We put on Disney Sing-It and the girls formed Duos to belt out a number or two. After that it was Munch Time at 6pm with homemade pizza, sausage rolls, party pies and surprisingly popular carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes! All swilled down with jugs of water or lemonade. More singing followed, and then posters were decorated before the Cake came out. And that was it. Undoubtedly the most simple and fun party ever. Nibbles on the table were limited to very popular watermelon wedges and a couple of bowls of chips, and much water was consumed.

My gal came in and gave me the world's biggest hug and thank you before bedtime - which really makes it all worthwhile.

Friday, January 02, 2009

salad days

While I love a good salad, I've never really made one - until yesterday. I made a vietnamese chicken salad and it was mighty fine. Just in case you're interested, this is how I did it.

I grabbed two chicken breasts, poached them for 10 minutes, cooled, then shredded them. The I finely sliced 1/4 head of chinese cabbage,  sliced two lebanese cucumbers into thin batons, grated two carrots, sliced two green onions, chopped 1/2 bunch each of mint and coriander and then threw in 1/2 cup of salted peanuts. I then mixed the chicken through and dressed it with a dressing made from 60ml rice wine vinegar, 60ml fish sauce, 1/3 cup fresh lime juice and three tablespoons of caster sugar combined with two finely sliced birds eye chillis. It was very refreshing and healthy. So I followed it with a trifle!

Poached nectarine and raspberry trifle.
I poached the halved nectarines (6) in a syrup made from water, a couple of tablespoons of caster sugar, a vanilla pod and a good sloosh of rose syrup for 10 minutes (turning over halfway through cooking). Then I layered the nectarines on top of broken sponge cake (which I bought, I'm not crazy) and spooned the syrup over to moisten the cake. Then I studded raspberries in between the nectarines. I then spooned a whole tub of brandy custard over the top, then added another layer of sponge - moistened with the last of the syrup. I sprinkled more rapsberries over top and whipped up some cream to which I added the beans from the vanilla pod. All the cream was smoothed over the top and it was refrigerated for a couple of hours. It tasted damned good. Oh, if I wasn't hungover of course I would have added alcohol to the mix!

new year, new shoe

I'm a day late posting my shoe of the week - sorry! New year's hangovers, spontaneous dinner parties and birthday party preparations all conspired against me yesterday. So today, in honour of my new 'working from home wardrobe' here are a pretty pair of pink, patent Miu Miu shoes to make your tootsies really smile.

party, party, party on

Wow, it's 2009 and the parties haven't stopped. We had friends for dinner last night, and I've got Nigella's sour cream chocolate cake bubbling away in the oven for my daughter's Rock Star party this afternoon. There's pizzas to be made (thanks for that Sara!), decorations to be hung (an abundance of pale blue and silver helium balloons), mess to be stashed and lolly bags to be stuffed. All by 5pm. Eeeeeeek!

Hope everyone had a truly fabulous new year. I'm looking forward to sharing so much with you in 2009. Lxx