Monday, June 29, 2009

moving on a monday

Lots to do this week. How 'bout you?

I've got some new work, so I need to knock that over quick smart, then I need to chase even more work {damn you money...}. My aim is to have everything in place to get stuck into some intensive meetings in two weeks time.

This week's five things that I must do {following the lead of Liss at frillsinthehills.blogspot.com}
• Mop my kitchen floor - it's beyond gross
• Tidy the papers in my study
• Send out three "Hi, remember me? Want to give me some work?" emails
• Buy birthday pressies for two spesh friends
• Finish copy for new job by Friday

That'll do. Off to mop the floor {it's a hot water and sugar soap job thanks to roast pork and tarte tartin spillages on Saturday night that've just been vaguely wiped. Eeek!}

Enjoy your week.

Friday, June 26, 2009

especially for me

I love a good challenge, especially when it seems it was designed just for me. This week's blogthis challenge runs as follows:
The Dinner Party

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to plan a fabulous dinner party. You've been given a healthy budget, so don't scrimp!

Guest list - 8 people, dead or alive, real or ficticious.

The menu - will this be your very own masterchef moment, or is outsourcing more your style?

Is there a theme? What will be the entertainment for the evening? What will you wear? What will you talk about? Don't forget the wine!

Have fun planning, be as creative as you like. If you're creative, maybe even design the invitation. Make this an event not to be missed!

Hello, does this challenge have my name all over it or what?

Now: guest list
I'll be inviting Matt Preston, MasterChef judge just so I can see the look on his face as he tastes my food {hopefully he'll enjoy...}
I'll invite Ross Noble, because I think he'd be one of those comedians who are always 'on' and in an intimate setting reckon he'd get me and my guests giggling.
Also on the list is Amy Sedaris -it was a toss-up between her and her brother, but I've got to up the girl factor for this party so Amy's it.
My hubby will be there, cos I do all the prep-work and he sees to filling glasses and carving meats etc.
Amanda Keller will be another girly guest - I'm so digging her on Talking Bout Your Generation, she's quick witted and looked damn fine in that pencil skirt and red frilly blouse last night.
The Fug Girls from GoFugYourself - I'm going with the quick-witted theme tonight.
Finally, my last boy, hmmmmm, big call, but I'll go with Johnny Depp so when we need time out we can just gaze upon his calm beauty.

Now, it's my party so I'm going for a spring fling. We'd bring up a trestle table and pop it in the pavillion by the pool. And, as money's no object, I'm strewing the surface of my pool with pink and red rose petals, and covering it with a glass dancefloor. Vases of blowsy pink and red roses are dotted around the place, with bowls of flower heads serving as a centrepiece.

I like bitsy menus, so starting off with bowls of tasty nibbles, tapas-style, always works. We'd have spicy caramelised prawns, chilli lemon haloumi, warm rosemary and maple syrup mixed nuts, sauteed chorizo with a sherry jus, and strips of herb and chilli pita crisps - served with rose champagne cocktails.

For a main I'm doing my viking chops - a standing rib roast marinated and cooked on the bbq before carving into single man-sized cutlets. With it I'll serve a simple watercress, radish and cashew salad, roasted pototoes and beetroot with aioli dressing and a red wine, caramelised shallot jus. This will be accompanied by big hearty bottles of red.

For afters, I'll serve chocolate tart with fresh rasberries, creme fraiche and caramelised pistachios with a sticky semillion from the Hunter Valley {Margan perhaps?}

Finally, for those who linger, there'll be a cheese and fruit board and more fortified wines, and perhaps an espresso or two for those in a European frame of mind.

frugal friday - having an ouch moment

Well, we got our tax bills from our accountant today - yes, bills, not refunds. Luckily they're less than we expected, but still, we've got to cough up. So that means going even harder on the frugal front. How? Well, we're going alcohol-free for a few weeks from this Sunday {after having guests on Saturday night for a last hurrah...}. I'm going to look at how I can keep shaving money off the shopping bill and am busting a few blood vessels chasing more work at the moment.

Foxtel's going to get cut to the minimum. The movie channels have to go because there's never anything I want to watch when I want to watch it - and lately the only films I have watched have made me angry or sad {Nights in Rodanthe I'm looking at you!}.

Food-wise I want wastage to be at zero, zilch, nada, none. I'm going to make myself up a little compost somewhere so I can actually put all our piles of coffee grounds to good use so I have lovely lush compost when I do eventually get my vegie garden.

Exotic ingredients are a no-no {so I shan't be importing pigeons and perigord truffles to replicate a MasterChef dish - although it did look absolutely amazing!}.

No air-conditioning during the day while I'm working - and I'm keeping the thermostat down at night and adding more blankets so when I turn it off when we head to bed we'll stay all toasty.

From now on it's all about making-do.

so sad

The deaths of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett have me in a pensive mood. I look at that gorgeous young face to the left, with all that talent, and am saddened by the shell of a man that recently died.

While I wouldn't have considered myself a fan, Michael Jackson provided the soundtrack to many memorable moments in my life. The digital jukebox at my 40th was pumping with plenty of his hits that got us all up and dancing - and a smile will forever be tweaked from my lips at Jennifer Garner's Thriller interpretation in Suddenly 30.

May they rest in peace.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

don't you know who i am?

My blog spent the entire afternoon pretending to have not one clue who I was. I had to sign in and write up that crazy, incomprehensible word verification - whenever I tried to comment on MY BLOG. Then, when I tried to post, blogger told me I wasn't the author of any blogs yet. Scary stuff.

Luckily it's recognising me now, which is fortuitous as I'm teering on the edge of hysteria with Justine being sent home from MasterChef. Yes, Justine: talented, calm, fabulous, should have won the first celebrity chef challenge, graciously allowed Lucas to take the second challenge to secure his berth in the final {even though he's not one onehundredth of the cook she is...} - that Justine. And yes, Justine, while Sam {one dish wonder} and Andre {strawberry risotto} remain in the competition. Not happy! At least Julie's still there. I just love Julie.

Chris for the win I reckon - hey, I'll be at whatever he has to offer next time I'm in Melbourne.

happy days


When you're happy and you know it, post some Betsey Johnson shoes on your blog! I'm in a super-fine mood this morning. I've got new work coming in, the sky's a remarkable shade of blue and I had an enormous bacon and egg breaky to start off the day.

I'm also thinking about how blessed I am with my friends. I've got some pretty darned amazing ones and feel like giving them all a great big hug.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

meal planning

Whew, my parents have gone home and I can get back to my usual meat-filled menus. While I did enjoy coming up with some vegetarian creations {the zucchini and haloumi fritters with aioli were a hit!} the carnivore within needs some stoking. So here's what's cooking in PPMJ's household this week - after some serious browsing at taste.com.au:

Wednesday: strictly comfort food: sausages, mash, gravy and green beans

Thursday: beef casserole with parmesan dumplings, cauliflower and mushy peas

Friday: chicken and potato provencale

Saturday: friends to dinner so I'm cooking up a pork belly feast. Mmmmm, pork belly... served with lavender creme brulee {thanks MasterChef - my gal decided this was a must-cook}

Sunday: spaghetti bolognaise in the slow cooker {big day of household chores, this'll make us happy when we schlep in at 5.30pm.}

Monday: garlic, lemon and oregano lamb in the slow cooker - with braised French lentils and roasted broccolini

Tuesday: Spanish chicken - heavy on the chorizo with a spinach rice pilaf

the way to a man's heart...

Those of us who love to cook agree that there's nothing better than the sight of someone obviously enjoying the fruits of your labours in the kitchen. I've always thought that there was more than a degree of truth to the adage, a way to a man's heart is through his stomach, and now it's been confirmed.

Undoubtedly the most unexpected sex symbol to have taken many hearts firmly is his grasp is MasterChef judge and food critic Matt Preston. Now, I'm always a fan of the Oscar Wilde floppy hair brigade, so he already had a point in his favour. And, must say, a snazzy dresser with individual style will also catch my eye. When I found out that he started wearing cravats at 18 to cover his lovebites, the sense of the bad boy appealed, but oh my, his passion for food? That closes the deal.

Most fans will have viewed the crikey.com video ode to Matt, and nodded their heads in agreement, sighing all the way through. I don't think he's quite inspired Robert Pattinson rioting in the street levels yet, but I imagine anyone finding themselves in a restaurant in the vicinity of Mr Preston would soon uncover scenes akin to the time Samantha goes to seduce Smith at Raw, competing with many lascivious women licking their lips, revealing more cleavage and enticingly biting on asparagus.

I wonder if he's free for dinner any time soon? I'll happily import a container of truffles for his masticating pleasure...

tv times

I've always been addicted to television. Even as a youth I spent a disturbing amount of time glued to the screen - not that I can work out how as my brother and I were out riding our bikes or roller skates until the streetlights came on every day after school.

I'm still addicted. Last night I was squirming in anticipation of MasterChef followed by Talking Bout Your Generation {mainly so I can be a smug girly swot and answer every question correctly - that's my kinda show} and rounding off my evening with Australia's Next Top Model. They're a treat for all the senses.

So it's no surprise our daughter's also a fan of the box - but of course, these days, with Foxtel any time's children's programing hour. She's still active, gets all her homework done, plays with friends, so really, I can't see why I should stop her. TV hasn't rotted her brain, turned her into a brat or distracted her from any other childish pursuits. And hey, when she grows up she too can be a pop culture show-off and be the team member all trivia teams fight over.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

finally tagged




It's really simple. I love how every photo tells a story. Some short stories, some long tales. I want to know what is your favourite photo of yourself. Everyone has one. The photo they look at and smile. It reminds them of something, some time, some place. A moment in time.

So share the photo, share the story and then tag three other people. I want to see photos and stories all around the blogosphere.


Chantelle from fatmumslim.blogspot.com tagged me yonks ago - but my technological incompetence stopped me from posting. Damned if I can work out how to post her pretty pic, and text, plus mine - so I chose mine and her text. Get it? Plus, the tag is a doozy. See, I've got a gazzilion fave pics of my daughter, plenty of my hubby, but me? Well, that's a tougher call. I think I first started getting self-conscious about having my picture taken when I was in primary school - and it's persisted. However, a few years ago a friend mentioned something that was a revelation. When she was asked why she always looked fabulous in photos she replied "Because I like having my photo taken" and it's true.


Look at photos of children - they always look beautiful, and totally like themselves because they're just open, honest and happy. They're not standing at the perfect angle, holding their chin up, sucking their tummies in, holding their arms out so they look thinner... Nope, they're just themselves.


Anyway, I finally understood what I had to do just before my 40th birthday party and in every single shot I look happy, and, well, like me. It was also the perfect, perfect party. Everything was decorated in pink and red, I had a digital jukebox so we danced the night away, yummy food and lots and lots of lovely champagne. I was surrounded by so many wonderful friends and laughter is still ringing in my ears. Oh, and on my feet were my new Manolos... Sign


So here's one of my fave photos from that night. I look happy, I'm anticipating the fun that's to be had, and, I look, well, like me. Here goes the blogging anonymity!













screen time

If the story alone doesn't impel you into a cinema, or the knowledge that Tim Burton is directing, or even the exquisite casting of Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter, take a look at Anne Hathaway as The White Queen and tell me how you could possibly miss Alice in Wonderland on the big screen.

Monday, June 22, 2009

using my loaf

Okay, the sour cherry, walnut and coconut loaf was a smashing success - here it is in all its soft focus {oh, alright, outta focus} glory.

Here's what I put in it - remembering that I barely measure stuff, relying on what I think looks good. It tasted good though - moist, crispy outside, and yummo if you got a whole cherry in one of your mouthfuls.

In a bowl sift one and a half cups of self-raising flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 tsp of baking powder together. Then add about 1/2 cup shredded coconut. To this add one beaten egg, about 1/4 cup warm milk, 1/2 cup melted butter and about a cup of frozen, pitted cherries. Then sloosh in a couple of tablespoon's worth of sour cherry jam and about a cup of really fresh walnut pieces. Barely mix it together, using a butter knife like you would for a scone mix. You want a barely moist mix.

Pop it in a greased loaf tin {I used my 8 million dollar tupperware silicon loaf tin} and sprinkle the top with more chopped walnuts, some brown sugar and a little cinnamon. Bake at 180 degrees for around 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when poked in the centre.

Serve dusted with icing sugar, and if there's any leftover, toast it and serve it café style with a lump of melting butter and a dusting of cinnamon.

And "I'm it"

Oooh, the lovely Liss at Frillsinthehills.blogspot.com tagged me, bless her frilly socks - so here goes...


The rules:

1. Respond and rework; answer the questions on your blog, replace one question that you dislike with a question of your invention, add one more question of your own.

2. Tag eight other people. So, I'm not tagging 8 other bloggers, 5 will do.



What is your current obsession?

I love a good obsession. I'm obsessed with shoes - in a vicarious way as I'm not spending at the moment. I love a good cup of coffee and you can't tear me away from reality tv shows like MasterChef and ANTM.


What are you wearing today?

A long, black cotton/lycra dress from the salvos, a grey floral cardi from Vinnies, green glass beads {multi-hued}, black opaques and black patent and leather Nine West Mary Jane flats.


What’s for dinner?

Pasta with roughly chopped pesto. I love pesto that's not blended, just leaves roughly chopped, chunks of pine nuts, a good slug or five of olive oil, shaved parmesan and plenty of roughly chopped garlic. Strewn through a bowl of spaghetti it's a bit yum. That'll be our last vegetarian meal, as my parents head home tomorrow - so tomorrow night it's a big plate of beef!


What’s the last thing you bought?

Croissants for my daughter's lunch - easy monday! But on Saturday I finally caved in a bought a white ceramic Donna Hay colander - this one won't rust out like my metalic ones.


What are you listening to right now?

My cat howling at the backdoor, refusing to acknowledge he's an indoor cat.


If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go?

Paris, Laduree where I'd fill suitcases with Macarons... before dashing to eat one at the top of the Eiffel Tower.


Which language do you want to learn?

French, naturellement... But I'd love to be multi-lingual and also able to speak Italian and Spanish.


What do you love most about where you currently live?

Everything! My house itself, it's ever-so-pretty. My location, it's ridiculously central to everything I need. My backyard and pool - long longed-for, forever enjoyed. My front garden with its roses and cottage blooms.


What is your favorite colour?

Pink, every shade.


What is your favorite piece of clothing in your own wardrobe?

My red suede vintage Charles Jordan Mary Janes. Always stylish and add a sense of je ne sais quoi to every single outfit.


Describe your personal style?

I'm a frock girl. The only time you'll see me in pants is on the netball court, or when I'm exercising. I love vintage, a splash of colour and think almost every outfit can be gussied up with a pair of heels.


If you had $300 now, what would you spend it on?

Really amazing French champagne if I was horribly impractical and it was just 'mad money'.


What are you going to do after this?

Eat lunch with the family and friends.


What are your favorite films?

Ooooh, lots. Retro-wise there are many that float my boat. I too am a big fan of Fast Times at Ridgemont High {classic dude}, I adore Amelie and Chocolat, Waitress tickled my glee bone, I always sigh at Fried Green Tomatoes and if Ferris Bueller is screening, I'm watching.



Your favourite books?

I'm a re-reader, probably because I tend to forget the plots of books and am pleasantly surprised upon re-reading. I love laughing out loud when I read. I'm really visual and there's always a film accompanying the book in my head. That's why I adore David Sedaris, Maggie Alderson and Augusten Burrows {who, in person was NOTHING like the lead actor in my head...} I'm also fond of books that take me to France along with the author. I'm re-reading and enjoying The Sharper the Knife the Less You Cry at the moment, and will probably do so again next year. I'm also besotted with Adriana Trigliani and all her books. Oh, and Big Fish - love, love, love that book. As a kid? Dr Seuss and What The Witch Left by Ruth Chew - made me who I am


Do you collect anything?

Apparently anything with a floral motif looking around my home. Dust bunnies too - apparently I have quite the collection of those. I used to collect gorgeous glass ware, till I ran out of space. Oh, and as I have a chandelier in every room {including the one by the pool...} I'd say those too. Ingredients and meal ideas - I collect those in my head. I'm always dreaming up new taste sensations...


What makes you follow a blog?

If I identify with it, chuckle or nod along to it, or just sigh in admiration...


Do you like to comment on blogs or just lurk?

I adore my comments so I try to return the favour - but only if I have something to add. I can't just say "Nice Post" although I am a fan of compliments for all occasions.


What's one thing you dream of doing?

Living in France for an indefinite period. I love my home here, but my heart is continually tugged across the oceans.


What is your biggest regret?

I don't do regret. I'll muse for a bit, then move on.


What's your most loved/loathed household task?

I adore cooking, obviously, and am also a big fan of pegging out a load of washing. Swooshing my floors with nicely-scented water makes me feel happy. I'd much prefer I had some staff to perform the following tasks: putting away the washing, cleaning the bathroom, putting away the washed dishes.


Who am I tagging? Whoever's interested really. But also, if they're so inclined...

Hannah from unjolievoyage.blogspot.com

Sara Rose from chatterboxsara.blogspot.com

Annets at meanderingthroughmotherhood.blogspot.com

Rita from sourcedfresh.blogspot.com


I've also got another meme I'm working on - still ploughing through my pics to get it up and running - by the end of this week for sure!

monday monday

After a lovely weekend it's time to start the week off. As you know, I'm no longer grumping into the week as I'm embracing Mondays, rather than huffily putting up with them.

So today, we've got guests coming to lunch - my step-dad's cousin and her husband. My step-dad's roasting up vegies for a frittata and I've put together a sour cherry and coconut loaf. Now, if it's a success I'll post the 'recipe' if not, we'll be having hot trifle with the results... I couldn't find a suitable recipe, so instead, cobbled together something - usually a no-no when it comes to baking. But so far, I like the texture, so finger's crossed it'll work out just fine.

I've got a few things on the to-do list this week, but I'm just going to slowly chip away at them. If I achieve just one decent thing each day I'm going to be mighty pleased.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

smells like team spirit

Ten games in and my gorgeous little netball team still have yet to win a game, or come close. It's hard ranking at the bottom of the grade, but they're such a divine team that there's still a fighting spirit and enthusiasm with each game. We played two games this weekend, and in yesterday's game we actually won the fourth quarter four goals to three. My girls didn't give up.

It's hard losing week after week, but they are becoming much better players for it {although it's a tough concept for nine and 10 year olds to grasp...} They play like winners though, every single game.

The graders game around to watch the game yesterday and I expressed a wish for my girls to stay together as a team next year. They've bonded so well, have developed lovely friendships and have a team spirit that'd rival the Australian Diamonds. Every week I watch each player do at least one exceptional thing. I spend most of the game calling out praise - and it's not tough to find something to praise - these girls put their all into their game.

I consider myself blessed to have the opportunity to coach such a lovely team. They've taught me so much this year. Go HotShots!

many hands

Having my mum and step-dad up has not only made for a spot of lovely family-time, it's also meant we've got heaps done around the house. Because my mum's taken on full-time 'taking care of grandchild' business and done a lot of cleaning, and as my step-dad's paving and working out drainage by the pool room and up the side of the house, it's meant I've been able to get the odd job done, while my husbandarooni has been an utter legend and has weeded all the front gardens and pruned, fed and mulched the roses - a mammoth task!

So, to celebrate, we're off to dinner tonight. Our gal's going out for dinner with one of her bestest of friends {and her family, naturally}, so we'll wander down to a local eatery with a nice bottle of red or two and nibble on some of Newcastle's finest. Now, if there's soft shell crab as a starter I'll be putting my hands up for that. And a nice rare steak for a main? Don't mind if I do...

Tomorrow friends of my parents are coming for lunch. I think a nice frittata, salad followed by sour cherry and walnut bread with coffee is the way to go.

They're headed home on Tuesday, which will be sad. The only consolation in them living so far away is that at least when they do visit - it's intensive.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

weekend aw bless moment

I came home from netball this morning to see a card and a little gift on my front doorstep. Opening the card I saw it was from the lady who ran into my car last week, hoping I was okay and thanking me for being understanding.

Bless.

I got all teary - and still do just thinking about it. I think I'll have to write her a letter next week to return the thanks and well wishes. Accidents happen, and the wellbeing of others is always far more important than a few bits of metal.

Friday, June 19, 2009

snow business: blogthis challenge

When I was growing up I was jealous of my cousins for two reasons. Firstly, my uncle was a sales rep for Cadbury so visiting their home felt like popping in to Willy Wonkas - there was confectionary everywhere. Secondly, they went to the snow every year.

See, in Australia, snow is an almost mythical beast. It seems foreign because for most of us it's soooo far away, so expensive and, seemingly, for the affluent few.

So when we decided to go to the snow a few years ago I was thrilled that my daughter would get a chance to see the pretty white stuff close up.

On the two occasions I did visit the snow as a youth I didn't get a chance to ski, but went on a toboggan, in a pair of tracksuit pants sprayed with waterproofing spray - imagine how well that worked...

We went down for a magical week in 2006 and were on the snow for my birthday - which happily coincided with the friday night ride and a fireworks display. Woo hoo! I also snowboarded which was a damned fine activity. Our gal was six and had the time of her life. Every day she went to the Milo Kids Club and would do activities interspersed with skiing and eating. I wasn't sure how she'd react, but she adored it. The first time I looked up and saw her sitting on the chair lift, little skis on her feet, beside two total strangers, my heart welled up. Next thing I knew I heard "Hi Mama" and watched her weave her way down the slope looking like a seasoned skiier. I, of course, spent half the time on my butt, the other half flat on my face. But a schnapps at the end of the day cured all ills.

We haven't been back again, since my husband had a knee reconstruction, but next winter I'd love to sneak back down again. Snow angels, snow men, the first sight of falling snow, all of these make for some pretty spesh memories.

I love a good family holiday - and every single one of ours has spawned some glorious memories. I'll never forget the way my breath caught when I first spied the Eiffel Tower and the sheer joy I experienced just being in Paris. A trip to Italy with my sister- and brother-in-law and our two nieces was unforgettable. Venice, was, as expected, utterly magical, Rome, bellisimo, but it was on the trip to Tuscany where I experienced pure joy. We'd been out to dinner at a glorious restaurant where I tasted my first black truffle {mmmm} and the meal was concluded with a frosty glass of limoncello {double mmmmmmm}. As we left the restaurant and walked down the slope to our Fiat, I noticed dancing, flickering lights that I realised were fireflies. Fireflies!! I'd spent my childhood enchanted by the notion of fireflies, and to actually see them in real life was a life-enhancing moment.

Staying in a Chateaux complete with turrets and centuries worth of family heirlooms in the Dordogne in South West France was beyond divine. Tasting teeny strawberries the size of a pinky fingernail at the moments will never be forgotten. My heart always remains in France.

But I don't need grandeur to make a holiday memorable. Each year we take my husband's parents away for a few days: to the Blue Mountains, or the Southern Highlands. We'll stay in a house together and just potter around and it's just lovely. I love how our daughter gets to spend this one-on-one time with her grandparents and I like sharing the holiday experience with them. We're headed off to Mudgee with them next month for four days and I know we'll have a fabulous time there too {and we'll get to load up the boot with wine and gourmet goodies}

Holidays are the perfect chance to relax, to strengthen bonds and to create memories that'll last a lifetime. What's not to love?




frugal friday

Wow, really, another week? Goodness me. I've had my mum and step-dad up this week, testing out my frugal skills by cooking vegetarian for them {and testing out my brain: 20 years of vegetarianism - three years of avid carnivorism = a brain designed to come up with meat-heavy dishes...} That said, we've had pizza, where the broccoli, marinated mushroom and blue cheese number was a winner. I made individual shephards pies - with a french lentil and veg mix for the vegos {leftover shredded seven-hour lamb for us} and last night caramelised onion, pumpkin, feta and pine nut pasta {soooooo good}.

I've bought very little, been able to use ingredients in my cupboard and am happy to make-do where possible. For example, last night there weren't quite enough pine nuts to roast, so we threw in some shelled pistachios as well. Mmmmmm.

I've also been hunting down bargains. I just bought a loaf of heavily seeded, light rye sourdough for $3.60 - rather than the ridonculously expensive $6 loaf I tend to go for {it does last for days, so at least cost per meal is cheap...}

Last night I sat down and went through our Entertainment Book, bought as a fundraiser for our daughter's school. Obviously the big attraction is the meal vouchers at restaurants around time - buy one main get one free is always a good idea - but I'm also checking out the other offers to see where I can save.

We're also co-opting anyone into slavery we can. While my parents are up my step-dad's laying down a concrete path around the side of the house to be paved over once we save for the pavers, mum's doing some sewing, cleaning and plenty of one-on-one time with my gal. My mother-in-law mended one pair of hubby's work pants that were beyond my rudimentary sewing skills and father-in-law can polish school shoes and trainers so they look like new.

This week we also found a fabulouso accounted who's taken care of our tax and given us some really good financial advice. Yay!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

spin me right round

You're never too old to ride a carousel in Paris...

sensible shoe of the week

Because I'm pretty sure that it's forecast to rain, pour, bucketdown or sprinkle for the next foreseeable future I'm thinking I may need to invest in a pair of gumboots. Normally, when it's raining, and because I don't want to ruin any of my suede or leather shoes, I'll wear a pair of havaianas - even the other morning when it was eight degrees. That's just craziness.

So I may go wellie shopping on the weekend. Chances are that as soon as I have a pair sitting by the front door we'll be in for a long dryspell - which is just dandy as far as I'm concerned!

shoe of the week

Why thank you Bottega Veneta, don't mind if I do. Any time is Mary Jane time and these are just what I need for a pair of everywhere shoes. I could wear them everywhere, with anything, with a grin spreading across my face. If only my bank account would agree...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

going off

I just went one hour and 23 minutes without an internet connection, which promptly made me realise I was addicted to the damned thing. Seriously, if I'd turned on a tap and there was no water I'd shrug and realise that it'd come back on eventually - but my internet? Oh, I refreshed, checked mail, re-started, pushed in every single plug that seemed remotely connected to my mac, and had more than a small whizzy.

It's back now, so I can settle down. Whew.

rear window

The precipitation we're currently experiencing brings new gravitas to the phrase "bucketing down". It's not just raining cats and dogs - it's pouring elephants and rhinos. This is the view from my kitchen window where big fat raindrops the size of baby's fists are hammering down on the surface of the pool - which is about 2mm from overflowing.

Since the Newcastle floods a few years back it's hard not to experience anxiety when the rain is so harsh and unrelenting. Luckily we don't seem to be experiencing the king tides at the beach which fought with the rain trying to escape the storm water drains.

The romance of the sound of rain on a tin roof is sounding a bit hollow these days...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

motorin' mama

I'm unusual for a girl in that I really like cars. My head will swivel at the sight of a cool set of wheels - particularly vintage ones, with fins. Despite this, since having a child I've gone all sensible with my wheels. When hubby and I met he owned a cute little Morris Minor and I was restoring a pale grey and white vauxhall cresta {it had fins, whitewall tyres, red leather interior and was a hydromatic - you know, like Greased Lightening...}

So, here I am, a bit of a rev-head yet our two cars are teeny little silver sensible numbers, a hyundai getz and a holden astra - five and eight years old respectively. And I was fine with that. Until today. Today I went to pickup the hire car I'm entitled to under my car's policy {yay Aami!} and emitted a 'kwoar' of delight when I spied what I was driving - a brand new, black Holden Astra.

Oh my.

Anyways, I got behind the wheel and am pretty sure I looked just like Ferris when he slid into the driver's seat of Cameron's dad's car. Sweet.

That's it, I'm smitten. I'm now in new car love, and am pretty sure there will be a petulant pout on these lips when time comes to hand back Black Beauty {yep, already named her} and get back into Old Grey Mare {my new name for my old silver car...}

I'll just enjoy it while it lasts I guess...

to doodle doodle do

For some reason, between yesterday and today, strange things have been afoot. For example, yesterday, if you'd asked me, I would have said I had things pretty well under control for my interstate visitors. Today, when I'm leaving to pick my mum and step-dad up at 1pm from the airport, I'll actually realise that there's a helluva lot to do before they get there.

The sheets for the guest bed are in the washing machine - and will be going in the dryer as it's raining. The guest room needs a good straightening after the sleepover on the weekend. There's paper ALL over the house as my husband's been working on three years worth of my tax for the past week. {I know, a shocker, shan't be doing that again}

So, a plan's in order. I'm going to quickly wash my hair and then start in the kitchen and work my way back through the house. 15 minutes full-on tidying in each room should do it - leaving me free to have a coffee before I leave.

Ready? Set...

Monday, June 15, 2009

easier than opening a pack

Call me odd, but I do like making things. The other day, as I had some sausages I knew I wouldn't use, puff pastry in the freezer and kids coming over I whipped up some sausage rolls. It was as simple as slicing a nick in the end of the sausage casing, peeling it off and laying it on a piece of puff pastry I'd sliced in thirds {three chiplatas per row}. Then I rolled them in the pastry and pushed down the edges to seal. A quick baste with plenty of beaten egg and they went in the oven for 15 minutes - a lot quicker than the frozen ones. Plus, if you've got a butcher you trust, using sausages can work out easier than mixing up your own filling. Served with a big bowl of tomato sauce that's some pretty satisfied kids!

my unreal life

You'll never see me auditioning for reality television. For a few minutes earlier this year I pondered applying for MasterChef, and every night as I watch it I'm sooooooo glad I didn't. For a start, the challenges stump me. Last night? Kingfish, coconut, pineapple and rum? Sure, I can imagine making a few things out of them - but nothing I'd want to eat. The contradictory nature offends me as well. "Think outside the box" exhort the judges, "Don't go out of your comfort zone," they implore... Huh?

Last night the judges whooped with joy when Geni affirmed that she'd be making baklava with the nuts, then tutted and told her she needed to step away from home-cooking when said dish was placed before them. And let's not get started on the vicious forums dedicated to reality contestants. Harsh, mean, soul-destroying. Seriously, if I were MasterChef contestant Sandra and her hubby I'd be moving to another country - one without access to YouTube... 

That said, of course I tune in every night. My week's not complete without its reality run. As horrified as I am by the treatment of Cassie on Australia's Next Top Model do you reckon I'll be protesting by turning it off? Um, nope. It does mean that I'll be helping to realistically boost my daughter's self-esteem, and, should she ever state she'll be auditioning for one of these programs, I'm pretty sure I'll be investing in a couple of plane tickets and scooting her out of town quick smart. 

Reality really does bite.

not another manic monday

From now on I refuse to start the week off in a grump. My loathing on Monday often plummets me into a serious dose of the blues - but that ain't happening from here on in. So today I dressed in a gorgeous new {op-shop new} bright blue top, shiny silver pendant, favourite black and white vintage skirt, opaque tights and pale pink flats. 

I'm finishing off the article I've been postponing, have done a massive load of washing that's drying in the gorgeous winter sunshine and I think I'll cook up a seven-hour leg of lamb for dinner tonight. I've got netball at 6.40 and the MasterChef pressure challenge later on tonight. Seriously, what's not to love about Mondays huh?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

living the crazy life

Hope that's put a nice little image of Ricky Martin in your heads for the weekend! I'm having one of those weeks - that started mid-week so I'm guessing it'll end around Wednesday next week. You know those weeks where it seems like the universe is playing one massive mind-game with you? It started with Thursday afternoon. I had a computer induced eye-head-ache, you know, the headache in your eye thingy? So once my daughter came home from school and I fed and watered her I popped on an eye mask and lay on my bed, blinds drawn. Then, I heard this almightly bang and thought to myself, 'wow, that sounds just like a car crash except their was no breaking glass or creaking of metal' and settled down to rest. Until my doorbell rang. Yes, that would be my car, or the rear of it, in all its plastic and non-metalic glory that'd been rear-ended by a little old lady after taking her husband to the Drs. Sigh.

Then today, at netball, I'm there, on the sidelines, encouraging my little team, who're playing their hearts out - and actually in the lead for the first time ever, when an official comes over and tells me there have been complaints that I'm coaching from the sidelines. Me? I apologise, bemused, and ask what constitutes 'coaching from the sidelines' and apparently it involves moving from the one spot and calling any instructions. Which, colour me confused, I don't believe I did. I start looking around for the parallel universe, or Ashton Kutcher, anything, but no. Sure, I move up the sidelines, and yes, I call out, but it's retrospective praise, or the odd "Move in front of your player" kinda thing. Obviously the other team aren't used to losing.

So then I stand, frozen, mute, watching my team - and the opposing coach cruising up and down the line, calling out instructions, standing and coaching under the goal posts. And I fume. Silently mind.

After the game I approach officials and ask for a little more clarification and am left as bemused as ever. C'est la vie. I've asked the coaching official at my club exactly what I can and can't do and will just have to shrug and move on. My main goal is for the happiness of my team. If they never win it won't bother me - but I know that they'd love just one win - just once before the end of season. They'll get there.

You know why all this is happening don't you? Hubby's away and I've got a witchy-poo pimple on the end of my nose, and another right on the bridge so that every time I look left, there's a pimply obstruction in my view. Is it possibly for anything to go right at a time like this? Oh, did I mention the whole PMT scenario?

I'm trying to get over it - after all, these are just teensy irritations designed to let you see how good your life normally is. I've washed my hair, my gal's invited her bestest bud over for a sleepover and we'll do nails, go out for gourmet burgers, pop corn and watch a DVD. Then, once they're in bed, there'll be a hot chocolate with my name on it.

Tomorrow's another day.

Friday, June 12, 2009

ships ahoy

You'd get me on a cruise if I could pack this little number in my luggage. Chanel, in Venice, sigh...

sew excited

Chances are that I've mentioned before how my husband just tunes out ads - never, ever pays attention to them. Not me. Oh no, the opening seconds and I can tell you exactly what it's all about - particularly if it's an ad I loathe.

Anywhaddle, I was just tidying the living room, TV still on after I'd watched a few minutes of SATC over lunch {had to stop - it was the one where Carrie and Big have the affair - hate that almost as much as Berger...} and I heard the opening for a Project Runway Australia ad. Thinking it was just the usual, I wandered out, hands full of little bits of my daughter's stuff to return to her room, and when I came back in realised that they were SHOWING THE NEW CONTESTANTS!!!!!!!!!!!  Dammit. I caught a quick flash and am already feeling excited. Sure, nobody can ever eclipse the love I feel for Leigh {my husband was dead-over my crush on him by the end of the series} but still, looking diverse and interesting.

July 8 - off to get that date tattooed on my brain.

oh fair lady

Despite still being on the plan which allows us to view every single Foxtel channel {for an exorbitant sum mind, not out of the goodness of their teeny black hearts...}, we tend to stick to a few favourites. Well, last night, due to a dearth of anything on my usual channels I stepped outside my comfort zones and watched a biography of Audrey Hepburn. I've always been enchanted by her, have watched most of her films, and could just drown in those gorgeous eyes. Which was why I was astonished to hear that she described her face as "a square, with tiny, little eyes". What? Those enormous doe eyes above? Sure, she has the most exquisite eye make-up, but small, square? Pardon? 

People never see us the way we imagine ourselves do they?

no boys allowed

Hubby's off on a golfing weekend {Heaven help the town of Terrigal} so my gal and I have a big weekend of being girly together. We're starting off by having some friends over for afternoon tea and then we're having a special dinner - as per my gal's request. Unlike most nine-year-olds she's asked for duck confit, potatoes cooked in duck fat and green beans with toasted almond slivers {she'll eat the almonds and leave the beans of course!}. Luckily I had two pieces of confit duck in the freezer {as you do... it was from the 12 pack I bought and loved} so that's defrosting.

We'll do our nails, watch a movie - then she can have a sleepover with me {yep, no night's rest for me next to that little windmill!} Saturday will start off with netball - with her grandparents coming down to watch. Then they'll pop back here for morning tea {oooh yeah - a lot of baking - scones this time, quick and easy and delish} followed by an afternoon of bike-riding, visiting the beach and finishing off her assignment. Saturday night we'll go out for dinner - her choice again {second choice - her first was the french Bistro Tartine - second the gourmet burger bar - more in budget!} and once she falls asleep I'm going to make myself an enormous hot chocolate and settle in to watch a good girly film.

Sunday we'll get up and make breakfast {eggy bread and bacon perhaps} and rug up and eat it in the pavilion by the pool before greeting hubby when he comes home...

frugal friday

Nowadays I'm looking for items with more than one use. Lavender oil for example. Smells purdy - has dozens of uses...

• Mix a few drops into a bottle of water and it's a swish-smelling multi-purpose cleaner, great for swiping down the bench tops or the bathroom vanity

• Again mix it with water and spray it on as an insect repellent

• A few drops in your rinse water, or in your fabric softener zone, will leave clothes smelling like the South of France

• A drop on your temples can relive sinus or headaches

• A couple of drops on a cotton ball can remove sticky residue from stickers etc

• A few drops on a cloth, rubbed over a cold light globe will help infuse the room with scent when the light's turned on - repelling mozzies and helping you get a good night's sleep

• Mix some milk powder with a couple of drops of lavender {and some lavender petals if you grow it} for a milk bath solution that'd make Cleopatra turn green

• Nasty pimple? A little lavender oil on the end of a cotton bud applied in the middle will see it to its death in the nicest way

• A handful of sea salt, a sploodge of olive oil and a few drops of lavender and you have a scrummy body scrub

• I always mop my floors with hot water with a couple of drops of essential oils and lavender's a must for the bedroom

• and finally, for really sweet dreams, a few drops of lavender oil on a cotton ball, placed under the bottom sheet near the pillow, welcomes the sandman in the most scentsational way...

What's your multi-purpose fave?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

louby douby doo

On this uber-frosty morning I thought I'd turn up the heat with these red-hot-mamas. I'm loving on the sleek lines, that glorious shade and the teeteringly high heels. Imagine them with a purple pencil skirt... Mmmmm.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

do it yourself

When it comes to helping your child with their homework and assignments it's a fine-line. I remember when our daughter was in kinder checking out some incredible dioramas and flip-top contraptions revealing the insects the children were meant to be writing about. Our child had a sheet of cardboard with wonky insects pasted on and some words written in her own, cute hand. That'd be it. 

Each year I watch with interest and see the kids whose parents obviously dive on the assignments with joy, seeing them as a chance to fulfil their childhood prophesy; the ones where the parents obviously reluctantly assemble the projects the night before; the ones where the kids have primarily worked on it themselves and the poor little ones where the kids have had no guidance at all. This is where it's tough, trying to guide, but not lead.

Our daughter has an assignment at the moment {she's in year 4} where they have to come up with an imaginary country and imagine all the different aspects of it {climate, mapping, flora and fauna... heaps of stuff} it's pretty cool - but hard to find the time on top of regular homework, netball, dancing and playdates. However, yesterday she stayed home from ballet cos she's got a cold - and snotty tissues and ballet don't mix - so we got started. I wrote out all the questions in a word doc, and she sat there and typed - while I tried to keep my gob shut. Luckily she decided to pretend to be Dr Seuss and came up with the coolest ideas ever. She has the best animals and insects, cool flowers, an amazing flag, national dish, sports... and all through her own imagination - with me only asking the odd question. Phew.

I want her to be creative and imaginative - but how do children know what's out there without a little subtle guidance? Hopefully by pointing her in the direction of inspiration {for example she checked out things like the population of Iceland - which is just near her 'country' Winter Wonder Land for guidance} I'll help her develop new ways of thinking that'll see her through her schooling. She knows we're happy to help - but is dead keen to do as much as possible herself. Gotta be happy with that.

birthday boy

Oh Mr Depp. Forty six huh? Le wow...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

what about me?

I don't know if it's just a girl thing, that becomes magnified when it also becomes a mum thing, but tell you what, how hard is it to do something for yourself? Take yesterday. We got home from a sleepover at our in-laws and I rushed to put on a load of washing, then hubby and I sat down to go through my tax {without killing each other - hurrah}, then I made snacks for hungry girls, and felt overwhelmingly tired. 

Instead of napping I thought I'd go for a walk - more invigorating. Then I looked into the backyard and realised that a few windy days have probably left the trees in the planter boxes by the pool rather thirsty, so I took myself out to water them. 45 minutes later I'm inside, and preparing dinner - no walking. 

Then, I smacked myself into some sense and realised how much I need a daily walk. I love it for the exercise, the stress-relief and the time to myself. So at 5.30, despite the darkness, I headed off to the beach and boy, was it fabulous. Sure, it was a little scary {seriously, were there more streetlights when I was a kid, or were they just brighter? It's so freaking DARK these nights!} but that just made me walk more briskly. I got to see the most amazingly full moon hanging over the ocean leaving a shimmering white path from the horizon to the shore which was pretty cool. I got to breathe in that amazingly fresh ocean air and hear waves come crashing down on the wet sand.

I came home in a much better mood, refreshed, no longer tired and capable of doing so much more than I would have with a nap. I'm now even more determined to fit a 30 minute walk into every day - seriously, if it were a drug I'd be taking it every day...

a simple plan

For years I was a disorganised mess. If you'd asked me, I would have told you that despite all the chaos, I knew where everything was and was totally under control. I would have been lying {to myself, as well as you}. Now that I'm getting things sorted I'm finding that so many other things are slotting into place. Sitting down for five to ten minutes early in the week to work out a menu plan sounds like a girly swot thing to do, but it spills over into every aspect of my life.

Firstly, as I've mentioned, I don't have to stress every afternoon about what I'm going to cook. 
Secondly, there's little to no food waste as I only buy exactly what I need.
Thirdly, we're having really well-balanced meals.
Finally, I'm saving heaps of money.

Today, I've just written up my menu plan and have worked out that I only need to go to the supermarket to buy dishwasher tablets and washing liquid - that's it. I have plenty of cat food, and all the ingredients I need to make my weekly meals. Anything I need I'm buying fresh from my local butcher and fruit and veg shop. Happy!

Here's what we're having:
last night: butter chicken, rice, wilted greens, pappadums 
tonight: proscuitto-wrapped pork scotch fillet {with maple syrup glaze}, roasted root veg and greens
wednesday: beef and beer stew in slow cooker with mash and steamed greens
thursday: lamb shanks, braised french lentils, pumpkin mash and roasted broccoli
friday: my gal and I are headed out to dinner as my hubby's off on a golfing weekend
saturday: home-made pizzas on the bbq
sunday: lemon and thyme roasted chicken and veg

I only have to go to the service station to buy milk and bread {they've got deals on which make it cheaper than Coles} and stop off at my local stores every few days. The best thing is that this means I can walk and save the car trips for ballet drop-offs and netball training.

I've also got a friend and her kiddies coming over on Friday afternoon, so I'm about to make up a batch of home-made sausage rolls to freeze. I've got quite a few leftover sausages from the weekend, so I'll remove the skin, pop em in some puff pastry and freeze them ready to serve on friday afternoon. I'll also bake up something yummy for afternoon tea - but I'm pretty sure I'll have whatever I need in the pantry and fridge. Feeling mighty frugal on this Tuesday morning!

Monday, June 08, 2009

off the shelf

Hey, you know how we've been decluttering like our lives depended on it lately? Well, I kinda cluttered up again today. But in a good way. 

See, I've had a few boxes of books stored at my in-laws, and they're also in decluttering mode, so I said I'd check out what I had in their loft. Hubby climbed up and found - books. Lots and lots and lots of books. But oh, what books. 

All my old classics are there, even ones I've subsequently replaced {such as Perfume, by Patrick Suskind, love that book}. I found some gorgeous hard cover stuff, some 50s and 60s girls annuals and plenty of classic children's books that'll be just perfect for my daughter {including a 1950s hardcover version of Little Women - sigh!}.

All the more impetus to get those floor to ceiling bookshelves built. Then, I'm 100 per cent sure, my life will be complete...

Sunday, June 07, 2009

damn fine chicken pot pie

Well, last night's chicken pot pie was delish, so I'm going to post the recipe. I ended up veering away from the recipe a bit - as always. When it comes to recipes I'm only slavish when it comes to cakes and puddings, otherwise, I'm happy to tweak. Now, this ended up making sooooo much filling that I served it up in my loveheart pie dish, rather than individual ramkekins. Still looked pretty and tasted good though.

Here's what I did.
2 chicken breasts
1 carrot, diced pretty finely
1 large onion, diced finely 
2 waxy potatoes, diced the same size as other veg
2 cups of chicken stock
1 chicken stock cube
{random stock vegies, half an onion, half a carrot, stick of celery, bouquet garni}
1/4 cup butter and a little olive oil
1/2 cup finely minced flat-leaf parsley
dried tarragon
3/4 cup plain flour
1/4 cup thick cream
a glug of brandy
salt and pepper
one egg, beaten

First I poached the chicken in the chicken stock, stock cube along with all the random stock vegies and bouquet garni - I also seasoned them generously with ground black pepper. This took about 10 minutes and I removed them from the stock {which I kept simmering} and then I chopped the chicken into largish bite-sized chunks and set that aside.

Next, in my le crueset, I threw in some butter and oil and tossed in the diced vegies and let them soften over a low heat for around 15 minutes. When the potatoes were cooked I added 3/4 cup of flour and stirred it for around 2 minutes over the heat. Next, I strained the stock and poured it over the vegies {I tossed out the bouquet garni and stock veg}. I stirred this through and then added the brandy, cream, salt and pepper and herbs. After tasting it, I poured it into my pie dish, and popped a piece of butter puff pastry over the top, folding the edges over and giving it a couple of random slashes in the centre so the steam could escape. Finally, I brushed it generously with an egg wash, sprinkled pretty pink Murray River salt over the top and baked it at around 180 degrees for around 45 minutes until the top was really golden and crunchy.

I served it with slices of zucchini I'd layered with sliced almonds and drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice before baking for around 25 minutes. It was yum.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

tinkering with perfection

First, a disclaimer. I live in Australia where, for some reason, buying chicken breasts with their skin on is a feat I've yet to manage. Particularly as I like my chicken free-range, and preferably from Lilydale {Food tosser? Moi? Oui!} I could buy a whole chicken from my butcher and ask him to chop it up for me, but then I'd have to think of a recipe to use the rest of the chook - and frankly, I can't be bothered today.

So, anywho, tonight we've got friends coming for dinner {stop reading right now if that's you - I like to surprise my guests!} and, as one of said friends is a chicken breast fan I needed to find a recipe to use them. In the past, I haven't had much success with chicken breast, I tend to find it dry and lacking in flavour, but that's probably the way I've cooked it. Friends have cooked it for me and it's been scrummy, maybe it's just me...

Oh, and to the point of this post... I'm making a dish that the reknowned Ina Garten came up with, and as she has plenty of devotees I was prepared to almost follow her recipe slavishly, until she asked me to bake the chicken breasts. See, her chicken breasts were covered in skin, and had the bone on, so I'm pretty sure they'd taste moist and delish, but my skin-less, bone-less wonders... not so. Instead, I've poached them in chicken stock, with extra pepper, onion, carrot, celery AND a bouquet garni. So far, so moist.

I'll let you know how they turn out once they're added to a rich sauce and in the finished dish. Surely there's no such thing as too much flavour!

happy weekend

Hope you all have a lovely one. For me? Entertaining friends tonight, cooking and pottering today, a sleep-in followed by a big bowl of coffee on Sunday, dinner at my in-laws on Sunday night and a visit to Dan Murphy's for champagne at some stage.

For now, I'm poaching chicken breasts and listening to So Frency So Chic - surely I'll cook better with a French soundtrack...

Enjoy xx

Friday, June 05, 2009

no whales, plenty of waves

Well, we went to the beach - and it was fabulous. No whales, apparently they're too busy getting into fisticuffs around Sydney Harbour. Plenty of surfers though, and one brave deep sea swimmer. It was all pretty gorgeous and the perfect Friday afternoon activity.

slowly does it

If I counted up how many times each day I uttered the words, "hurry up", or "C'mon, quickly" or even "Quick sticks - let's go" to my daughter I'm pretty sure I'd be horrified. So to start the long-weekend off on a good note I'm going to walk down to the school pick up and then we'll meander down to the beach to see if we can spot any migrating whales. I'll let her order whatever she wants from the café {in her own time!} and then we'll hang around, or not, whatever she's in the mood for.

When she was a teeny toddler we'd often go for a walk around the block and I'd be happy to go at her pace while she checked out flowers, picked up stones to put in her pocket {I know! So Amelie!!} and chattered away. Now, with school, netball, ballet, homework, playdates and all our stuff - work, housework, netball, socialising! - rushing seems to be the order of the day. 

Well not today. I've made a tomato sauce and baked some meatballs and now they're all simmering in the slow cooker. The sheets are washed, so I'll bring them in, make the beds and the afternoon will be all my gal's. 

Fingers crossed we'll spot some whales - or at least some surfing dolphins!