Monday, August 31, 2009

busy with a capital B

I was really busy last week - and now, this week, I think I'm going to be even busier. Gotta be happy with that though! Hopefully I've got everything in place to make it a success - but if not, I'm afraid I'm going to be like that ol' deck of cards...

I've already had one stumble. Yesterday our indoors-only cat escaped, and somehow managed to get a grass seed or similar in his eye. Now his right eye's all puffy, weepy and swollen. So that's a 9.15 emergency vet visit on the cards.

I'm also going out for lunch with friends for a birthday and citizenship celebration which I shan't be cancelling - I didn't work through my Sunday to give friendships a miss!

Wish me luck {again} and let's hope I don't wear any dangly bracelets that'll cause my house to fall down {totally a Brady Bunch reference for tragics like myself who saw every episode, oh, about a hundred times...}

Sunday, August 30, 2009

sunny sunday

When it's already 18 degrees at 8am you know you're in for a warm ol' day...

We had a most productive shopping day yesterday, tiring, but amazingly successful.

Firstly we went to the hell that is IKEA {seriously, are there people that actually enjoy walking that 10 kilometre trek through thousands of fighting punters? Not this little black duck...}. But we had success and bought this cute little 'butcher's block' that we're going to put in an unmanageable corner in the kitchen {after painting it white} and it's going to be our coffee zone - housing the espresso machine, cups, grinder, canisters... Freeing up a lot of bench and cupboard space and looking cute.

Next, we went waaaaaaaay out Bankstown way, to a place called Yagoona, to look at a white cane daybed for the pavillion. I wasn't holding out much hope for the fabrics. Waterproof, UV-rated stuff is often stiff, and even these days, while it has a range of colours, not much take our fancy {we are serious fusspots. Serious.}

So when the bloke toddled out and we told him what we were after, he said, "Oh, I've had some cushions made up for a photo shoot that look great on the white daybed" and I, being a cynic, thought "Yeah, right."

Now, imagine how I feel when the EXACT fabric I wanted {in my head mind, I didn't even know it existed} comes out in his hand. And instead of it being in the practical three separate cushions {that I knew I should have wanted, but preferred the look of one, long cushion} it's in the one whole cushion. Maintaining a poker face was difficult.

So now, we're getting the daybed delivered on Wednesday, he's even painting it the way we want. Woo hoo. So that means my husband's going to be out with a paintbrush today putting the final coats on the pavillion so the new daybed has a worthy home. Ooooooh, the lazy sundays I'll be spending lying on that little beauty reading the papers on a weekend, while our gal swims in the pool.


Friday, August 28, 2009

tonight's the night

Uber-excited as tonight I'm heading off to see Coco Avant Chanel. Woo hoo. Our gal's off to her bestie's for a sleepover as we're off to Sydney early in the morning for a shopping day, so we thought we'd take advantage of the free babysitting and head off to the movies. We might even be super-sneaky and take advantage of the local cocktail offer our local restaurant Lime has: a cocktail and a tapas plate for $15. A totally balanced meal non?

Enjoy your weekend xx

frugal friday

Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of what's good value. My gal loves mangos - eats them almost every day of mango season, and when they're out of season, is aching for when they come back into season. So on Monday, I'm in Coles and I see the first of the real mangos have hit the stands. But they're $4 each so I nearly walk past them. However, I stopped to think about it and realised that I'd be happy to spend $4 on a cupcake - so why shouldn't I spend that on something that's delicious and nutritious?

I picked one up, took a sniff and the heady aroma made me swoon. I bought one, lovingly took it home and for her afternoon snack one very excited gal had fresh mango cheeks to feast on {while her lucky mum got to gnaw on the flesh around the stone - mmmmm}.

Treating yourself and your family with something so glorious is to easiest way to breeze through a frugal lifestyle. You just need to step out of the confines of what it's acceptable to spend on - and what it's not. The $6 bunch of freesia's I bought on Tuesday are sitting on my desk still bringing me joy days later - that's $2 for happiness each day - and I think they'll last till at least next monday - under $1 per day.

Sometimes it's the little things that make you feel spoiled isn't it?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

so amazingly yummy

I really should have taken a photo of tonight's dinner - that's how amazing it was. Here's what we did though {a day late, cos last night we had a hospital visit - and bbq chicken and salad for dinner}.

So, tonight, gremolata and panko crumbed pork cutlets. So, so good they bring tears to my eyes, and I find myself constantly patting myself on the back. Yep, that good.

Firstly my gal made the gremolata on her mezzaluna {doesn't every nine-year-old have a mezzaluna? They do when they spy one in a kitchen shop and sigh, "Oh, I've wanted one of these forever..." Yes, she's quite the Nigella fan...} So, 1/2 cup of flat leaf parsley, rind of one lemon, two fat cloves of garlic, all mushed together.

Then, the cutlets. I flattened them out a little, getting out some aggression with my fists, then salted them. Next, they were dipped in a beaten egg mixture and then popped on a plate where I'd mixed equal quantities of panko bread crumbs {if you've never had these, run to the nearest store and buy them - they're japanese and utterly delish}. I pushed them right into the cutlets and then placed them in about a centimetre of hot olive oil in a frypan and fried each side till golden {one minute each side?}.

Then I finished them off in a 180 degree oven for 10 minutes till they were cooked through.

Tender, crispy, lemony, garlicky... seriously, what could be yummier?

me to a t

Obviously I'm a fan of patent leather. And, yep, I love Mary Janes, however, coming in at a close second are t-bars. They have that certain something non?

Here are a pair by Jean Paul Gaultier that I'm rather fond of...

Oh, and guess what I just did? On my way to the dentist I stopped off at a shoe clearance, foraged through boxes of divine heels in a size 37 and walked out with


Nope, I didn't fall madly, deeply in love, so I walked out empty-handed. That's what you've got to do when you're enticed by shoes that were $285 reduced to $40 - stop, step back, ignore what they used to cost and what they're reduced to. Think about whether or not they make your heart sing. If not a note escapes, then walk away.

I wasn't totally empty-handed because, at the front door they had free shoe boxes in a pretty aqua and white stripe so I grabbed a couple to house my box-less shoes. Now I just need to get hold of a polaroid and snap off some shots of my shoes so I know what is where...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

oooh venizia

My love for Paris has another rival, Venice. We spent four glorious days there a few years ago, and feel like I'd barely skimmed the surface. This shoot by Karl Lagerfeld has me scheming to return to the grand canal. I'd like to actually visit the Guggenheim, rather than just viewing it from a vaporetto. Next time I'll hunt down more intricate laneways and explore every canal.

Can you see I've got the travel bug? Best start saving, I can feel a European sojourn coming on.

what's cookin' wednesday

This week I'm excited by the arrival of warmer weather {aside from the current crazy wind situation!}. Last night I cooked crispy skin salmon with salad and it was just utter spring perfection {in late winter...}. Here's what else we're having.

Wednesday: Pork cutlets with gremolata and panko crumbs with a pumpkin, almond and spinach salad.
Thursday: St Tropez chicken {which I'm actually going to cook this week - I'm buying the chicken today to marinate tonight in rosé, honey, mixed herbs and lavender flowers and then roasting it for 90 mins. Mmmmm}
Friday: Beef and cashew stirfry with noodles
Saturday: some kind of take-away, we're heading to Sydney for the day to shop for our daybed for the pavillion - roll on summer!
Sunday: Roast butterflied lamb and salad
Monday: home-made pizza
Tuesday: steak and salad

Oh, and that little table vignette above? One night our gal cooked dinner for us and set the table just so. Cute huh!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

belle fleurs

There were no ranunculas at the florist today, so I bought these pretty fragrant freesias instead. I love the way the white blooms are blushing with the faintest hint of lilac.

I popped them on my 1920s french cafe table in the baywindow of our bedroom for this shot as I adore how they look against the blue sky and the old lace of my curtains. However, I think I'm going to move them from room to room to be close to me at all stages of the day.

Everything goes better with some pretty and a delicious scent.

le sigh

Airfares are crazy low at the moment. So low I could fly to New York for under $1000. And the Aussie dollar? Pretty damned good compared to the US dollar.

One day...

white out

Okay, I'm tempting fate and am switching from flannelette sheets to cotton - in AUGUST! So I dug my white cotton sheets out of the linen closet - ready to hang them out to get a little sunshine in them, when I realised that the damned things have yellowed over winter*. What the hell?

So now they're in the wash before I hang them out. Luckily it's a hot-ish, windy day - perfect drying weather. If all else fails I'll lay them on the grass in the courtyard to sun - apparently that's a surefire way to keep whites white - who knew? Although with this crazy wind they'd end up blowing into the next suburb!

Now I'm sitting here, listening out for the rinse cycle to start so I can sprinkle some lavender oil in the water. Oh, sweetly-scented dreams you're heading my way.

* Hurrah for sunshine - the yellow's been bleached out and they're looking pristine and snow-like again after only an hour on the line! Seriously, line drying - it's the best!!

time-saving tuesday

Overcommitting is probably the easiest way to lose time. But, if you're like me, you might find the word no almost impossible to utter.

I don't like to turn down work, because in an industry as fickle as mine, it's easy to be forgotten and they'll move onto the next, more accommodating person. So now I make sure that I can always offer a one-week turnaround to any work I accept. Usually I get a longer time-frame, between two and four weeks, but, if needed, I know I can juggle things about to make things work.

Take this week for example. I have four pieces of work due on Friday. One's from a long-standing deadline, another's from a long-ish deadline, and two are short-notice - but do-able. I've already sent the one from the long-standing deadline, I finished it last Friday and sent it in that afternoon. The second is finished and just waiting for a final read-over before sending this afternoon. The third is halfway to completion to be sent on Thursday and the final piece (the really short notice) has everything in place, interviews set up, research done, ready to go on Friday.

However, because I'm doing all this paid work, something's gotta give. I've told my husband that I'm busy and he's doing the school run in the morning so I can start working at 8.30am. He's also taking on some of my regular tasks - or I'll just let them go this week. I've said "bye-bye" to aimless television this week - I'm only watching what I love and will use the time I'm usually goggling at the box to get other stuff done.

Meals are simple too - and with this unseasonable weather that's an easy thing to do. Hubby and my gal will throw together a salad and tonight I'll pan fry us all a piece of crispy salmon. Tomorrow night my gal can chop the parsley, garlic and lemon rind for the gremolata and panko crumbed pork cutlets {she can crumb them too - I'll just cook them up} and dadda and daughter can prepare the side dishes too.

With a bit of delegation, a lot of organisation and a little luck we'll get through this week - setting up some habits that'll see us all through.

Monday, August 24, 2009

spring fling

To celebrate this utterly amazing weather I'm thinking of bringing out the cotton sheets and bringing in some pretty blooms. Ranunculus are just a stunning flower. They've got the tightly held blooms of Peony, with an astonishing array of colours.

While digging out in the side yard this morning, my hubby found a gorgeous old glass jar. I'm thinking I might need to clean it up and pop in a petite bunch of pretties...

busy, busy, busy

This week is going to be one of my busiest this year, so to ensure I don't have a breakdown - I've broken down my week.

Last night I sat down, worked out everything I had to do, what I needed to do to complete each task, and exactly how long I expected each aspect should take {allowing the usual time for people not getting back to me, stuff popping up, etc}.

So now I've got a time-line for each day this week, broken down into hours or part thereof for each task. I've just written it up in a word document on my computer - in a pretty handwriting font and gorgeous colours. On the computer it's flexible. If something crops up, I can shuffle things around. I know how long everything should take, and have allowed enough time, so now I'm not stressed.

I know I've got plenty to do - but I know it's achievable. I can't wait to write the first - done - next to one of my tasks.

So now I'm going to grab a coffee and get started. Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

the big blue

We had our first swim of the season today - and it's not even officially spring. Sure, my 'swim' involved diving in, coming up gasping due to the cold and then zooming up the other end of the pool - quite possibly atop the water... but still, it was a swim.

My gal took a while longer to get in, but actually did a few laps atop her boogie board - and a lap without. While the crazy females in the house got wet, hubby sat in the pavillion reading the papers - giving us a fine indication of the long, hot summer ahead. It might have cost a gazillion dollars, but gee, this backyard renovation was worth every single cent!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

mah boys

Back in my lives, tellevisually speaking.

Life is good.

colour crush

I need to find some space in my home for my new colour crush - raspberry and creme. Last night we were watching my fave decorating boys, Colin and Justin from Home Heist, and they did the most incredible things to a dull little house, in varying shades of these tones.

Ordinarily I'd never let a designer near one of my rooms. I'd prefer to slowly build up over the years. However, I'd totally trust Colin and Justin - and it's not just that I love them so. Seriously, how could I not have a gay-crush on these boys? They're funny, they're Scottish {with the most glorious accents}, they tend to call people bebe {scottish-wise, not French} and they're rather splendid sartorially.

Thank you so much Lifestyle Channel for bringing them back into my life. It's made our Friday night's so much happier!

Friday, August 21, 2009

my new obsession

You may have noticed from previous posts that I'm a wee bit addicted to television. Chances are you've also noted that I have a tad of a telly crush on John Corbett. Allow me to introduce my new love - something that marries the two.

My new tv crush is The United States of Tara. I'd meant to watch the first ep, seeings as it stars Toni Collette {who I think is a freakin' acting genius} and is about multiple personality disorder {something I've been fascinated about ever since Sybil - not sure if I've got the spelling right there - but you know the film don't you?}. So anyway, I meant to, but I missed it, until I was flashing through the channels the other week and found it on ABC2.

I was instantly entranced and then John Corbett walked on-screen. WHY DIDN'T ANYONE MENTION HE WAS IN THIS????? All the press poor Toni Collette's done {including Rove, which I suffered through, for her} and all she had to do was mention his name and, poof, I'd be there.

He's the ultimate boyfriend. Seriously, I can't think of another actor that I could so easily imagine slotting into this role. He's believable, he'd do it. I know he would. Oh, and last night's episode? With his "Gentleman's Time"? I'm still giggling.

Chris in the morning. Aiden, and now, oh, damn, don't know his name... I'm too smitten everytime he enters my screen to pay attention. Let's just call him mon petite chou shall we...

coulda, shoulda, woulda

The word "should" is now officially banned from my vocabulary. Realistically it's only used when referring to something you don't really want to do. Therefore there are two choices: do it straight away {or set a time to do it} or decide not to do it at all.

I'm going to work out why I think I 'should' do it, and then decided whether or not I'm going to do it.

I'd hate to end up on my deathbed {presuming I have one to ponder in, that is} bemoaning all the things I'd like to have done, but didn't do because I was doing all the things I 'should' have done.

Nah, either I'm going to do them because I want to do them, or I'm not going to do them at all.

I'm going to spend my time catching up with friends I want to be with. I'm going to do tasks I enjoy doing - or that just need to be done. I'm going to be organised enough to enjoy the work I do. If I see something that needs to be done, I'm just going to do it.

Same goes with, "Oh, I shouldn't". Either it's "Yes please, that cake looks delicious, I'd love a slice." Or it's "No, thank you, I couldn't possibly eat another thing." Should and shouldn't are just cowardly words that place conditions on what we do and don't do - they're apologising for us having an opinion and doing what we really want to do. So that's it, they're dropped.

Instead of saying, "I should", I'm going to say "I will".

So today, I will go for a walk before picking up my daughter from school. I will finish and send off that article before 2pm. And I will have an utterly fabulous weekend!

music is my life

Everything goes better with music. If ever a job seems to dull or deathly I'll sling out the iPod and get it pumping. Today I've got a story due, and I want it finished off my lunchtime. However, I was feeling a bit sluggish - so some tunes were in order.

I quickly read through all my must-see blogs {no comments today, sorry, too busy!} and now have an old fave blasting out - Black Francis fronting the Pixies... Ah, Wave of Mutilation, This Monkey's Gone To Heaven, Debaser... This was the soundtrack to my years at Uni and has so many fantastic connotations that it never fails to boost me to a level way higher than I ever thought I could reach.

So at 9.45am I'm starting on this piece, and with the help of those cute lil Pixies I'll be finished in no time.

frugal friday - just do it

I've mentioned before that to be frugal requires just a tad of organisation. But the best thing about organisation is that once you've been doing it for a bit, it becomes second nature. Seriously, it takes me about 3 minutes to come up with a weekly menu plan these days.

My big frugal goal is to completely eradicate food waste. I loathe waste in any of its guises and plan on living like my grandparents did and using absolutely everything I can - food wise.

So last night we had a roast chicken dinner {it was a Lillydale Free Range ready-seasoned chicken, with onion and sage - and a jasmine rice stuffing and was the most moist, tender and delicious chicken we've ever eaten!}. Now, ordinarily when I cook a chook, I'll wrap the leftovers and pop them in the fridge, to pick off the next day for sandwiches. Fine, no food waste there... But see, then I have plans of using the bones for stock - and I never, ever do. Nope, I think about it, know that I SHOULD do it. And don't. Before I know it it's too late and the body goes in the bin.

However, the new and organised me picked off all the flesh last night, popped it in a container, shredded and ready to go for lunch {salad I think - I have baby cos in the crisper, mmmmm} and then I threw the carcass in a stock pot, chucked a halved onion that was in a container in the fridge in, threw a few cloves of garlic around it, covered it with water and left it to boil.

So now, in the fridge I have two litres of chicken stock. Granted, it's a very mild chicken stock, but it's still homemade and I'm feeling very virtuous and frugal that it's there.

From now on the word SHOULD is totally banned from my vocabulary. Like the multi-national corporation says, Just Do It.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

solid gold

The sky's all grey again today, so I needed something shiny to give me a lift. These'll do.

We're going to a ball next month. On the harbour, very swishy. These shoes would look magnificent there. Although it's in one of the old dockyard buildings where they may be gaps between the floorboards - a skinny heel's worst enemy. Best wear a pair of old faves and save my cash for filling my vegie garden. My dress is floorlength so I could wear havaianas and nobody would notice {except me, cause I'd be uber-short...}. But c'mon, you need heels to dance in - and quaff champagne in. Don't you?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

face v butt

That old quote {to paraphrase}: "Once a woman reaches 40 she has to choose: her face or her butt," has been attributed to many celebs - including Catherine Deneuve. Regardless of who said it, I think it's a mighty potent thought.

I've chosen my face.

Accidently mind. See, I like to eat, and I like to drink, therefore I shan't be seeing a size 10 again. And, you know what? I don't miss it. For years I fought a tough battle to stay a size 10 and now I've realised that if I'm reasonably fit, relatively healthy and happy enough then that's okay.

However, one aspect of old age does scare me - getting a flat pancake bum.

Now, if you start off with a pancake bum, then fine, but I haven't - so I don't wish to end with one. Luckily, a few years ago I wrote a story on exercise for seniors: Grey Power. I spoke to plenty of experts in the field who told me that our ability to build muscle continues - into our NINETIES. You can be buff at 90! Then, one exercise physiologist told me something that made my heart sing, just because you're old doesn't mean you lose your butt - it's a muscle and so long as you exercise it you can keep it.

Woo hooo.

Remember that episode of Sex and the City where Samantha's getting it on with a wealthy geriatric? And what was the one thing that put her off? When he walked out the room, his butt was gently lapping at the back of his knees...

Well, the soggy butt is not inevitable, which is damned heartening. So now I'm kinda choosing my butt and my face - just with a little more padding. I'll just take my rump with a little plump.

girl stuff

I think I'm getting more Parisian as I'm starting to feel rather erky if I'm not groomed. Now, I don't mean all neat and tidy, rather I need my hair to be washed, with the curls formed just-so. Without a pretty colour on my toes I feel nude, and I'm becoming quite the handcream lover.

I'm still pretty low-maintenance, but my new must-do indulgence is an eyelash tint. See, I have stubby little eyelashes thanks to years of abuse, and because I dye my hair black, my lashes don't quite match.

So this morning I toddled off to the beautician where for $20 I've given myself a good month-worth of blue-black lashes. That's only $5 per week people! You can't even buy two cups of coffee for that. Now all I need to do to feel presentable is slick on a coat on tinted lipgloss, sling some beads around my neck and that's it. Done.

That said, I could do with those gorgeous vintage shoes in the shot here.

Ahhh, 1920s Paris. J'adore...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

time-saving tuesday

Normally I'm not a fan of multi-tasking. I believe it dilutes your effectiveness and stops you from concentrating on what matters. Checking emails while you're on the phone? Rudeness.

However, the BEST time to multi-task is while you're boiling the kettle and then waiting for your tea to draw. See, I've always been far too impatient to allow myself to wait the few precious minutes it takes for my tea to infuse properly - so I force myself to DO SOMETHING ELSE while it's drawing. But it's gotta be something in the kitchen, otherwise I'll forget and come back to a soggy cup of tepid tea stew.


I'm usually a coffee from my espresso machine gal, so I only have one cup of tea per day, but boy, do I get a lot done while making it. I set the timer for three minutes and then I'll wipe down the front of the kitchen cupboards with a warm cloth. Perhaps I'll clean out a shelf in the fridge and wipe it down. Maybe I'll sweep the kitchen floor. Or there's a chance I'll dust the skirting boards.

Then, I'll wash my hands and wander off with my perfectly drawn cup of tea. With one job ticked off the kitchen list. Just the one, the others can wait till tomorrow.

Or the next day...

good at/crap at

Some things I'm just fab at. For example, eye make-up? I'm the queen. I can do mine, yours, hers, no problems. Classic styles, fashion styles, contrast with your outfit styles... That I can do.

I'm also a mine of usually useless information. Who was that obscure character in that 80s film? Ask me, I'll know. I swear I'm wasting my life not going out and earning big bucks at trivia nights.

I can put together a meal no problems, I enjoy it, and my plates usually bring out the mmmmmms.

However, I am just crap at a few things. I loathe initiating phone calls - which, as a freelance journalist, I am required to do if I'd like the odd quote in my story. Today's Tuesday, and I still need two more expert quotes for a story I'm working on and due Friday. Eek! I summoned up the strength to call one {who I've interviewed twice before over the years mind} and left a reasonable message on her answering machine. But the other, well, I'm getting there.

I'm not quite sure why I have this phone phobia {but hey, I'm happy to blame Telstra for it!}. I've never been abused, denied, spoken to rudely... every person I've ever approached for an interview has happily said "Hell, yeah!".

Okay, so I'm going to do it. It's 10.14am and at 10.20am I'm making the call. Deep breaths...

Monday, August 17, 2009

monday must-do

The next few weeks look to be busy, busy, busy so I'll be getting ahead of myself and ensuring I have plenty of work finished well ahead of deadline - just so I never have to say no to any work!

The house is in pretty good shape, tidyness-wise, I don't have any pressing laundry I need to do, so tonight, I'm going to tidy my study and prepare to sit in front of this lil computer of mine and type and type and type. Yes, I do think I'd write better on this pink pretty here on this post, but, realistically, my silver iMac is far more practical - and still uber-stylish.

rock solid

Here's a work-in-progress shot of my vegie garden. Now, those thumping great pieces of rock are convict sandstone, way over 100-years-old, that had formed rough 'retaining walls' out the back, before we had the pool. I was a major pain in the butt and made the guys clearing the yard carefully extract these and put them aside for us to use later.

Now it's later.

We've had heaps of people in to quote on shifting them into place, and got a lot of head-shaking, mini-tipper and even the odd, need-a-couple-of-blokes in response. Oh, and the odd, "nah, they're too heavy, you'll never shift 'em". Well they're shifted - by my hubby who managed to summon some kind of superpower. And wow, don't they look amazing!!!!

Once they're dusted off {they'll still be the gorgeous weathered-grey, just not dusty} and spilling over with thyme, chives, shallots, mint, verbena and dozens of other herbs and vegies it'll look mighty spectacular. Yay hubby, you're the best!

purple reign

Oh, the weather's utterly glorious at the moment. We had an amazing weekend, and got loads done. The side garden's taking shape, the backyards looking good and our front yard's a profusion of purples. Check out my lavender - isn't it beautiful? Behind it is a Graham Thomas rose which has the most incredible golden blooms - covered in buds at the moment. I'm also loving on my delicate irises. There are also billions of tiny buds on the wisteria that frames my front veranda - oh, I can't wait till they break out in bloom.

Hubby's taken a long weekend today to get out and move more of the hulking great chunks of convict sandstone to make my vegie gardens, and it's really starting to come together.

I spent some time in the house on the weekend and am rather chuffed to say that two weeks in my kitchen's looking even cleaner than the pics I posted a few weeks back.

Today's going to be very productive on my part. I've got lots of work due in the next few weeks, so I'm just going to put my fingers to the keyboard and type away.

Friday, August 14, 2009

frugal friday

Happy end of the week/beginning of the weekend! We've got a lovely weekend planned. Tomorrow it's my daughter's final game of netball {:(} where I'll be coaching my gorgeous team for the very last time. Fingers, toes, eyes and hairs crossed that I'll get the same team next year - they were a delight. I'm going to be baking some red velvet cupcakes with white buttercream icing for them this afternoon, as their team colours are red and white, and I've bought them all a card {gorgeous $1 cards from the chemist} to write a special individual note to each player. They've taught me so much, I've been very blessed to have such a gorgeous team!

Now, onto Frugal Friday. This week I finally bought some credit and took my headphones out of the packet and used Skype - woo hoo. I'm also trying to get as many friends to join up as possible {particularly my sis-in-law in the UK} so I can make free calls. I downgraded my Telstra account as low as I could sensibly go, and we're trying to keep Telstra calls to a minimum.

Next week I'll be hunting down options on-line to reduce other utility bills - we've already got green power, but perhaps there's a way of running the dishwasher and washing machine at night to take advantage of off-peak rates - if I have them!

While at the chemist I stocked up on $1 cards for birthdays - it's what you write on the inside that counts and they had plenty of pretty options there. Otherwise my gal makes her own cards for friends which satisfies her crafty urges and saves mucho cash.

We're off to a Christening tomorrow, and on the way home we'll call in at Dan Murphy's for a case of my fave cheapo french bubbles. We're coming up to social season so I'd much prefer to pull a delish $11 bottle of Veuve Amiot or Grandin from my wine rack than spend $18+ on an inferior bottle at the local bottle shop. Being frugal's all about being prepared!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

red hot

Some weeks it's really tough to find my shoe-of-the-week, others a pair will leap out and grab you by the heart. Scrolling through my second page of net-a-porter I spied these Valentino Couture pieces of perfection and uttered a strangled giggle/sigh/moan/scream.

Oh my.

Is there a more delicious shade than Valentino red...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

what's cookin' wednesday

Hmmmmm, let's see what's on the menu this week. Must say that last night's dinner of duck confit will be damned difficult to top - but I'll see if I can still come up with some tasty options.

Wednesday: Nigella's meatballs and rice from her Feast cookbook - a mightly fine b'day pressie
Thursday: Rosé chicken with walnut and greens salad
Friday: dinner at a friend's house. Woo hoo.
Saturday: We've got a christening and a lunch during the day, so something simple. Curry in the slow cooker me-thinks.
Sunday: Seven-hour roast lamb and baked vegies
Monday: pork cutlets, sweet potato bake and cavalo nero {black cabbage - with speck!}
Tuesday: baked marinated salmon with home-made salt and rosemary chips and salad

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

it's my birthday woo and a hooo

I la la love birthdays. Just got this cute as a button email this morning from my mum and step-dad with birthday pics of me from, gulp, forty years ago. Must say though, I still experience the same excitement and joy as I did in that bottom pic!

We started off the days with lovely, lovely pressies {a dovecote! my fave lipstick! old-fashioned cake cookbook! french monogramed tea towel and a whopping great rose picture bursting with red and pink roses - vintage - and looking spectacular on my bedroom wall!} A bowl of coffee, toast with blood orange jam and lots of cuddles made the morning even more special.

So today, I'll take it easy. I'm catching up with a friend for coffee mid-morning, and tonight we're hitting our favourite French bistro for dinner. I do believe I'll just spend the day doing my nails, popping on a facemask and kicking back and reading some of my birthday cookbooks. Bliss!

Monday, August 10, 2009

it's almost summer...

Spring's not even here yet and I'm already wishing it away, but only cos I can't wait to go swimming this summer. How welcoming does my pool look? I just couldn't resist snapping a shot.

Now, all I need is a daybed in that pavillion and I'm set!

going potty

Hubby potted up the magnolias on the weekend - don't they look gorgeous between our antique french bench and with the charcoal fence as a backdrop? That was the final backyard task done, {why yes I am ignoring the fact that the pavillion requires another coat of paint. Shhhh}

oh the places we'll go...

Reading the local Saturday paper late Saturday night I stumbled upon the uber-exciting news that there was a four day exhibition in Newcastle - The Art of Dr Seuss.

Now, I've already written on my love for this genius of a man, and this adoration has been passed onto my daughter - who uses the great man for inspiration in her writing and drawing.

So, after clearing next weekend's calendar I read the fine print and found that the exhibition opened on Thursday, and was closing 5pm Sunday - as in yesterday. A quick re-arrangement of plans was in order.

So at 9.45am, after a fortifying bowl of coffee each {not for the nine-year-old...} we all strolled into the Town Hall and were dazzled and amazed by the exhibition. Great big works of easily-identifiable art adorned every surface, along with his early advertising work, mis-understood works for grown-ups and a work-in-progress for The Cat in the Hat that showed how Dr Seuss worked on every stage of the process - words, illustrations, colours, layout and typography.


It was utterly fascinating and we were all thrilled that we attended.

I still think his final book is his most inspiring. I bumped into a friend at the exhibition who told me that she gives her graduating Year 12 students a copy of The Places You'll Go - which is the best graduation present ever. No story can more effectively teach us about striving for what we want, acknowledging that there are bumps, upsets and backtracks along the way, but that ulitimately YOU have the power to just be YOU.

Maybe we should all start every week with a dose of the Dr.

the best steak sandwich. EVER.

We had friends around for drinks yesterday afternoon, and, as those things often do, drinks turned into dinner. Luckily I was half-expecting that to happen, so I was prepared. Because I wanted it simple we had the best steak sandwiches, ever, for dinner.

Earlier in the afternoon I prepared some caramelised onions with brown sugar, red wine and thyme, ready to reheat later on. Then, around 4pm I took a 2 kilo rump roast from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. At 5ish I massaged the rump with olive oil and liberally seasoned it with salt and pepper. Then I seared all the sides till caramelised in a frypan and threw it in a pre-heated 160 degree oven.

I cooked it rare, for around an hour and a bit, then left it to rest for 15 minutes. While it was resting I chopped up an enormous clove of garlic for my cheat's aoili... Simply add chopped garlic to a good quality mayonaise and stir. That's it.

I sliced up big hunks of sourdough, sliced steaks off the rump, heated the onions and put them in a bowl, and offered up the aoili and salt and pepper - for a make-it-yourself steak sarni.

The girls had a big bowl of homemade chips coooked in the oven in duck fat - served french-style with mayo - or a bowl of ketchup and for 'dessert' we adults had apricot Bellinis (chilled apricot nectar and prosecco)

A rather fine way to end a weekend I believe. Particularly when shared with impeccable company!

Friday, August 07, 2009

i'm making a list...

Today hubby and I had a sneaky long-weekend and decided to get in early and get some long-neglected jobs done around the house.

I sat down and wrote out a wish-list of tasks - depending on our mood and the weather and we got totally stuck in.

Excitingly, not only was I able to cross off SIX ITEMS, I was also able to retrospectively add another three items, and then cross them off {ah, nothing like retrospectively adding items to a to-do list to feel accomplished...

So now the magnolia trees in the courtyard are potted in their massive french urns. The roses are fertilised. The lilly pillies are trimmed and water crystals have been added to the soil. The side of the house which was flecked with concrete and crap after the backyard reno {ah, yes, the one that was completed in February. Shhh} has been scrubbed and chipped away with a paint scraper. Hubby's cleared even more of the side yard and a spot of weeding's been achieved. Oh, and I vacuumed the whole house and have managed to keep the kitchen in its pristine state for four whole days!

I reckon a cocktail's in order don't you?

frugal friday

Our in-laws came for dinner last night and we unintentionally had the most frugal and delicious meal ever. It all came about because my daughter and I are addicted to Food Safari, which is screening every night on Lifestyle Food - yay, a 'replacement' for MasterChef.

So, on Tuesday and Wednesday nights Maeve brightened two hearts by having two nights focusing on French cuisine - our fave. One dish that tickled my fancy was lamb navarin - made with big chunks of lamb shoulder on the bone. I decided to serve that up with mashed potato and a baguette to mop up the sauce - and followed it with lemon delicious pud with whipped cream. All up cost? I reckon about $25 for four adults and one child. Bargain.

Firstly I asked my butcher to chop up around 1.2 kilos of lamb shoulder, with the bones {which he did unblinkingly - he's used to me now} and, you know how expensive lamb is? Guess how much 1.2 kilos of lamb shoulder cost? $12! Yes, twelve dollars!!!

Here's the recipe - it's damned delicious
Ask for 1.2 kilos of lamb shoulder on the bone, chopped into fist-sized chunks {5cm-ish}
1 brown onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
4 big roma tomatoes, diced
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups dry white wine
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 turnip, chopped
one bunch baby carrots
8 eschallots, peeled and left whole
butter and oil
a few sprigs of thyme
a couple of bay leaves
a few sprigs of rosemary
salt and pepper
1/2 cup frozen peas

Brown lamb in melted butter, with a splash of oil, till caramel in colour, and set aside. Add a wee bit more butter and add onions and carrots and saute over low heat till soft {10 mins}. Toss meat back in and sprinkle flour over the mix, stir and cook for around 2 mins. Throw in herbs, pour over white wine and then add chicken stock and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, bring to the boil and pop in a 160 degree oven for 60 minutes.

Meanwhile, throw a few spoonfuls of sugar into a small saucepan, add a knob of butter and melt. Then throw in your shallots and cook till caramelised, shaking the pan often - probably for around 10 minutes. Add some white wine if the sauce needs thickening.

Then, add the diced turnip and baby carrots, stir and return to oven.

Five minutes before serving, add the caramelised shallots and frozen peas and add more salt and pepper to taste. By now my meat had fallen from the bone, so I fished around and removed the bones from the dish - digging out any marrow and adding it to the pot. I tasted, fell over in bliss, added a wee bit more pepper and salt, popped the lid on and placed it in the oven for 5 more minutes.

I served it with creamy mash and wow, delicious. Slightly sweet from the caramelised shallots an turnips, rich, soft meat, and the perfect way to use new summer veg and the remainder of the winter veg.

Those peasants really knew how to eat!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

pucci coochie coo

Well my jasmine's out in flower, which, in my book means that it's spring. Time to think about ditching the flannelette sheets for crisp, white cotton, swap steamed veg for salads and bring out the floaty frocks and wedges.

These little numbers by Pucci just scream Spring. The varying shades of verdant green hues are like a puff of fresh air after winter.

Come to mama...

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

happy birthday

Turning fifty sure looks fabulous with the gorgeously illustrated Cate Blanchett on the cover.

I needs me a copy of this!

oh, NOW i get it

On the weekend we were at an appliance store, one staffed by youths, toddlers and embyros {so young that I'm thinking, as IF I'm going to take your advice...} and as I was fondling a 900mm freestanding oven {ah, desire...} one of the wee babes came over to me and started spruiking his wares. In a rather learned manner. This lad, with his crazy hair, knew his stuff.

So I listened up as he waxed on about the virtues of this hulking great cooking beast and told me that "Smeg are one of the few ovens to actually hold a true temperature, so when you're following a recipe you normally have to turn the temperature down 10 or 20 degrees to compensate for the other, lesser ovens."


I have a Smeg. A Smeg I've complained about since I bought it as it's too hot. I never cook with fan-forced and I now turn the temperature down somewhat just to stop burning. I've been hating on my oven FOR ACTUALLY BEING EFFECTIVE.

I'm sorry oven. Now that I know that you're cooking true I'll happily slide the dial down a few degrees and take the time to get to know you. I'll also remove the 'apparently removable' glass in the door and clean the inside of the triple layers of glass - rather than fruitlessly scrubbing the already clean exposed glass and complaining that I can't see through it.

Thank you young lad for informing me so well about my current oven - which the older salesman who sold me the product neglected to do.

Oh, Gen Y, I'm sorry for judging. And oven, my apologies - now I know that you're just smoking hot... and that's a good thing x

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

time-saving tuesday

You know that the best way to save time is just to get in and do it, don't you? Well, here's a great way to stop procrastinating and just get things done. Give yourself a time limit. Say, I'm going to clean the kitchen, or, file paperwork for 30 minutes and then set a timer and get to it. Don't let anything distract you! Set your mobile to silent, don't automatically check emails, set any kiddies in front of the electronic babysitter... do whatever it takes to not distract you from the task at hand.

Seriously, you'll be amazed at what you can achieve in a specific, designated time period.

Ready? Set? Go!

Monday, August 03, 2009

exhibits a, b and c

Okay, this is my super-dooper-mega-looper clean and tidy kitchen. I'm hoping that by posting it here I'll encourage myself to keep it that way {and to howl like a banshee at family to do same!}

move-it monday

Starting the week optimistically I've decided to give the house a quick run-over {rapid tidy, vacuum, wash sheets} and then start work. Seriously.

I'm uber-motivated today as I've got the world's cleanest kitchen. Truly, I don't know when it's ever been this tidy. There's nothing superfluous on any surface, and all of those surfaces are sparkling clean. It's an anomaly for me - but I like it. I've had enough of no room being completely finished - there's always something marring the lines, so last night, before bed, I cleaned like a demon. This morning, I've made porridge, rinsed out the pot and everything's in the dishwasher ready to go. I'm just about to head in there for my morning coffee {my reward after vacuuming} and reckon I'll just about explode with joy at the pristine surfaces.

Of course I'll have to walk past the other rooms with rose-coloured blinkers on - but that's okay...