Wednesday, May 30, 2012

eye spy

A friend and I went to a new café the other day. It was fine, but it just lacked a bit of oomph. It was only recently opened, and they'd obviously spent a bit of money on the fit-out, but we both agreed it was just a bit too... sterile.

I've spent a bit of time thinking about it. Because obviously these people are passionate about their business and would like it to succeed, but I'm a bit worried that it's just not possible. You see, when it comes to a successful café it needs personality.

And I think I've worked out what it needs.

It needs to be instagramable. (Is that a word? Is now).

Ideally you should go into a space and be seized with inspiration. Your eyes need to alight on something interesting that fills you with delight. It can't be sterile - it has to offer something. Here's a few shots I've snapped off in other cafés recently. Each of them offers something that delights you, intrigues you and makes you feel you're somewhere worth being. 

See this shot above? It's at Bank Corner Espresso - the most FABULOUS Art Deco hole-in-the-wall café. It was FILLED with Instagram-worthy moments. I could have gone crazy. Actually, I did. And so did my friend. We loved it.

Here's another teeny tiny. The WoolStore at Maryville. Teeny. Two tables teeny. But fabulous. My friend and I both managed to snap an almost identical shot here - but look at it - gorgeous!

I love Frankie's Place. Seriously you could just wave your phone around at random snapping shots and they'd all be incredible. Great atmosphere, fabulous staff, cool menu. Love.

Here's Ground Up at Carrington. For a start it's housed in an old butchers so has the authentic tiles on the wall. Love. But there's much to look at here. And the coffee is divine. Oh, and crispy bacon? Totes drool-worthy.

Here we have Dark Horse Espresso. Love the dark painted walls, cushions, and vintage-style artwork. Heck, even that fan's worthy of a close-up.

And it's not just in Newy that has image-worthy places. Here's a gorgeous nook at the Maitland Art Gallery Café. Love it. You should have seen the piles of fabulous books to browse through. This bookworm's going to spend an afternoon there one day...

Here's a bit of coffee art from Conroy Bradley Pistol Club. Fab coffee, vintage spoons and saucers and a gorgeous table topped with a vintage map make for an Instagram-worthy café experience. Oh, and the barista may well be one of my faves - enthusiastic, great service and so very sweet.

So there you have it, my guide to starting a café. You might have great coffee and food, but you need to consider the ambience first. That's what makes people come in, order and linger. It doesn't have to be vintage (although that's obviously my fave style) it just needs to be atmospheric and interesting.

What do you think?

ps: that loveheart coffee is from Ground Up - bless.
pps: what some would arguably say is Newy's first 'proper' café, Goldbergs, totally subscribes to this theory. It has an amazing ambiance that's visible from the street. Showing why it's still as popular after years in trading and many owners (who were smart enough to go with the flow and not try to make it their own).
ppps: these are just a couple of fab places I've visited in the last month, a mere snippet of what's on offer. Newy coffee peeps - share some of your faves?

Monday, May 28, 2012

meal planning monday

Ah, I'm feeling lazy and nostalgic this week, so the meal plan shall reflect that. Last week's meal from my vintage cookbook was a huge success, so I'll be trying out another old family favourite from my youth on my family this week. Finger's crossed it'll be well-received. I've got a few busy nights and days this week, which is where meal planning saves my sanity. Here's what we're eating.

Monday: roasted pumpkin soup. This is so easy: in a baking tray I add chunks of pumpkin, a quartered onion and a few cloves of garlic and roast till tender (but not browned). Then I add it to a pan, throw in a litre of so of chicken stock, some thyme and salt and pepper and blitz it with a stick blender. Dinner is served. With warm, crusty rolls and maybe a dollop of sour cream on top - and a few chopped chives.

Tuesday: here's the retro-meal, Tuna Noodle Casserole. So simple, and, from memory, so tasty. Let's see how it goes down.

Wednesday: netball training till 5.30, so I need something quick I can throw together when I get home. it must be time for chicken pot pies. These are so simple to make, and so delicious that they make my heart sing. I'll serve them with mash and big pile of peas. Comfort food to a tee. I'll make the filling earlier in the morning, and then simply throw them together when I get home. Perfect.

Thursday: I'm off to a meeting, then dinner with a friend. We're checking out a Sudanese night a few suburbs over - $10 for curries and rice. Brilliant. My husband and daughter can make home-made pizzas for their dinner.

Friday: my gal has netball early in the morning, so I'll make her a meatloaf for energy. Served with lots of roasted veg: potatoes, sweet potato, beetroot, carrots and pumpkin. And green beans perhaps.

Saturday: it's got to be a bbq doesn't it? Lamb do you think? Lamb chump chops, salad and a pile of buttered noodles? Yep, that sounds good.

Sunday: Roast beef I think. Haven't had that for a while. It must be time I think. With a lovely red wine gravy made with the pan juices.

How about you? What's on your menu this week?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

girls just wanna have fun...

And they did!

Check out G, the birthday girl, in all her double denim, crimped haired glory. I went with early Madonna - many layers of bracelets, necklaces and lotsa vintage lace. N and J frocked up in fabulous fluoro which really lit up under the blue light on the dance floor. My friend R was seriously authentic after using a vintage crimper to add some glitz to her side pony! She even had a teeny clinging koala on her neckline - love it!

Nibbles by Sprout catering, bubbles from France and lots and lots and lots of dancing made for the ultimate party. Everyone got into the spirit and dressed a la 80s. There were mullet wigs a plenty, shoulder pads and fab bright make-up everywhere you could see.

Sure, I can't walk today after all that dancing - but oh, it was worth it.

I love a good party.

PS: what kind of handbag does a gal dance around at an 80s blue light disco party? Pink Glomesh - natch.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

80s makeup a go-go

Beside myself with excitement as it's my friend's 40th birthday party - 80s Blue Light Disco themed.

See those eyes? That's pretty much what I'm doing tonight.

Using this.

Ignore the manky sponge applicators - I'm a brush gal. Those sponges have been used when my gal's dived in to have a play.

So excited. My fingernails are already a vivid shade of yellow - and my hair shall be sprayed so big they'll have to widen the doorways to let me in.


PS: For serious intensity it's best to wet the brush first - this really gives great depth of colour. Shall I be wetting that brush? Damned straight I will.

Friday, May 25, 2012

flowers for friday

Look what I saw in Coles the other day. Peonies!

They were fabulous - but $30 a bunch which is $5 over my max limit for a bunch of flowers {I prefer to pay $10...}

I'm now regretting not splurging, particularly as they had the most glorious range of colours, including the most fabulous deep coral.

Can you really put a price on fabulous?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

oh em gee it's laduree

Am in the midst of an hysteria attack as I've just found out that Laduree are opening this year in Sydney.

Yes, the ultimate in pastel prettiness and macaron magnificence.

Oh my.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

oh my wow

How amazeballs is this bench made out of books? It's in Tokyo and I'm pretty sure I'd squeal if I saw it in person. What an awesome idea for a desk in a study.

Oh my.

Monday, May 21, 2012

meal planning monday

Life's back to normal this week. I'm off the crutches and we'll get into the swing of normal meals again.

Monday: my daughter wanted to make home-made pizza yesterday, so I moved the roast dinner to tonight. Autumn calls for crispy-skinned roast chicken don't you think? And I'll have to make a potato bake as well. But don't worry, we're not going heavy on the cream, I have a sneaky version that tastes as good as the cream and cheese laden version - with way less fat. Here's the recipe.

Tuesday: I dug out a childhood fave recipe book the other day. I spent my teen years cooking from this, and when I found a copy in the Salvos one day I nearly screamed with joy. It's the Leggo's Italian Cookbook, circa 1970 complete with awesome illustrations. Those of you who follow me on Instagram would have seen a special shot. I heart it so. Tonight's a beef and capsicum pasta bake. Simply delicious. I'll serve it with a green salad.

Wednesday: I'm out to dinner with friends, so hubby and daughter shall fend for themselves. They're both steak fans so it'll be steak, chips and salad.

Thursday: I have a hankering for pork chops, served with lemon-roasted potatoes, green beans and apple sauce (I have many apples taking up space in my crisper - they shall become a quick apple sauce)

Friday: Prepare for an excited squeal to be inserted here as I'll be cooking paella in my $6 Aldi Paella Pan.  So excited. I've been waiting for these to come back in stock again and they finally have. I caught up with a friend for coffee the other day and she told me she'd just been to Aldi to buy a pan, but they weren't on display. So, tempting fate, I called in there later this night and saw the space for paella pan was empty. There was an Aldi dude stocking the shelves, so I thought I'd ask him if there were any paella pans out the back. And there were! I quickly applauded, then asked if he could grab me another for my friend. This week's my first attempt at paella. I'll give it a shot and post the recipe if it's a success. Check back on my recipe blog next week!

Saturday: it's a friend's birthday party tonight. An 80s, blue light disco themed party. Excited! It's retro-authentic with West Coast Coolers and everything. So I'd best prepare for this before leaving - there shall be pancetta macaroni cheese for dinner tonight. With a green salad.

Sunday: Roast night. I'll see what tickles my fancy at the farmer's markets. I'm thinking pork, or lamb shoulder. With plenty of roasted, seasonal vegies - and greens on the side.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

oh sweet sunday

Don't you just love the weekend? Even more so, don't you just love weekends where the weather is so utterly sublime? The sky at the moment is the deepest shade of blue - perfect weather for a trip to the farmer's markets I think. Hubby's off to play golf today, so it's a bit of girly time for me and my gal. We'll shop for dinner provisions at the market and then come home for a spot of baking. This afternoon we might just get on our bikes and go for a bit of a slow ride. My knee's made enough progress that a bike ride seems more than possible.

Ah autumn, you're a very special gift. I'm going to really embrace it today. You?

Friday, May 18, 2012

flowers for friday

Mother's Day roses still kicking on. Pink, white and green - oh my.

It's a glorious friday here today, blue skies, crisp temperature. Bliss. What's on your agenda for today? Something fab I hope. Happy Friday. x

Thursday, May 17, 2012

around my house

Hi, welcome to my house. Those of you in Newy might have seen it in last weekend's Weekender magazine, but, for those who didn't, I snapped off a few shots while it was photo ready. Here's our front veranda with gorgeous chairs positioned to sip a cup of tea and bask in the sunshine. I love this spot. Oh, and there's my bike over in the corner - it's going to help me with my knee recovery {good bike}.

Come on in. Here's my gorgeous leadlight, made by my mum and step-dad with some glass that featured in my beloved Nana's front door. I just love it. I've also kept the heart-shaped white jingle bells I bought from Sussan for Christmas {they're not really Christmassy - just fabulous}.

Here's my favourite part of our bedroom, lots of pretty things collected over the years. Dresser from an antique store in Newcastle, old mirror from Melbourne's Camberwell markets, my perfumes, make up and other bits and pieces. Oh, and I love that vintage magnolia pic we found at a random garage sale one day.

Here's my gal's room in the new French iced blue shade. As you can see there's the odd French touch in her room - somebody's inherited their mother's Francophia.

Just a tad...

It's very important to co-ordinate your Blythe doll with your bedroom decor.

Most of you have seen my big bookshelf with the ladder in my study, but I love this little one too. It's filled with many of my classic books. That bottom middle shelf has some seriously ace 1950s and 60s books for girls.

This here's our living room. We're still deciding on window coverings after the timber venetians broke beyond justifiable repair. Currently the lace curtains that used to be in our bedroom are here looking pretty. I do love the colour palette in this room, it's so soothing. This is the third shade that we've had this room since moving here. It was a bright buttercup yellow when we moved in, then we painted it rich red {looked fabulously dramatic - but better suited to a film set than a home} and now this. I love this colour. It's called April Love and is the perfect vintage green in my opinion.

This is our new love - antique french farmhouse table. It extends to seat up to 12. I'm in love. PS: why yes, that is my vintage glass collection you can spy behind it - a gal does need a glass for every kind of cocktail or aperatif...

We bought this planter holder from a lovely store in Singleton, Worn Out Wares. I am in love with these pansies and their pretty, pretty faces. This is out on the back veranda.

We had less than a week to prepare for the photoshoot, and we'd already decided to paint the verandas - but this back veranda had tester paint on it and needed a quick couple of coats. I love it. I think we're going to go with matte charcoal for the front veranda, but this really adds some light to the area.

And then there's this. I will never tire of this. The view of the pool from the daybed in the pavilion may well be my favourite thing about the house. It took so much planning, stress, and money, but oh so worth it. Every time my mother comes to visit she's like an additional part of furniture in here - I make her a coffee, she grabs a pile of magazines and relaxes in the sun. Bliss.

Well that's it for today. I've left a few things for another visit if you'd like to come back...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

my favourite things...

My husband and daughter know that to make me happy when it comes to gifts, go with a big stack of books. And look, books about France - quelle surprise! I also received The Bloggess's new book - which I devoured in one hysterical sitting - the upside of a dodgy knee is uninterrupted reading time.

What's your fave pressie? Books, clothes, jewellery, champagne?

Monday, May 14, 2012

meal planning monday

Hey, you know how last week's meal-plan was all easy, peasy lemon squeezey? Well, this week's going to be even more so. See, I stepped up to umpire a netball game on Saturday after our umpires didn't show and managed to cause myself some kind of knee damage. My knee hyper-extended backwards and then just wouldn't hold my weight (surprise), so I'm on crutches, and this week's a husband-and-daughter-cooked fest. Here's what they'll be making

Monday: beef and bean nachos, with lots of guacamole and a lovely salad on the side.

Tuesday: Late ballet night. I'm going to pull a stool up to the bench and make a beef in red wine casserole. Hubby can then make some mash potatoes and green beans to serve.

Wednesday: home-made pizza and salad. I'll be hopping off to the theatre tonight - so many stairs to navigate, but hey, 30-odd years of netball-related injuries mean I'm pretty confident with crutches these days.

Thursday: Spaghetti bolognaise. Yep. Such a comfort food.

Friday: Fish and chips - from the local takeaway.

Saturday: Bbq steak and salad.

Sunday: roast chicken and veggies. Even on crutches I can manage this one. Simply cut a lemon in half and place it in the chicken's cavity, season with salt and pepper and brush with olive oil and roast until golden. A family fave.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

happy mama's day

Today is one of my favourite days of the year. A time to sit back and be spoiled.


Hope there's pressies, and breaky and bed for everyone. xx

Friday, May 11, 2012

flowers for friday

Would you LOOK at this image - so many of my favourite things. Single blooms in wee little containers, blue milk glass, tulips, glorious, glorious roses. Oh my WORD. My carnations have finally given up the ghost this week, so I think I need to gather some more blooms. Luckily my Duchess de Brabant roses are in full bloom so I can do the single blooms in wee containers trick. Love.

So, it's Friday - YAY! Very, very happy to see the end of this week. It was, you know, just one of those weeks where things are annoying. My gal had a massive assignment, which, despite her starting on early and doing lots of work over two weeks - still required a gigantic burst at the end. Then there's Naplan next week {shudder}. Thankfully there doesn't seem to be the same pressure at high school as there was at primary. Oh for the olden days when Naplan was there to point out where your child needed help - not used as a tool to assess schools...

It's GLORIOUS weather here at the moment. Seriously, we've had 25 degree days. Bliss. And the sky is the most exquisite shade of blue. We've got a fair bit on this weekend, lots of sporting stuff tomorrow, and then I'm off to check out another French film {yay!} with a fab friend {double-yay}.

Sunday's mother's day and I've asked for a French breakfast - warm croissant, Lurpak butter, Bonne Maman jam and a bowl of coffee. Easy peasy - but soooooooo good. Then we're off on a day trip to Gloucester - fun!

Enjoy your day, and your weekend.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

super looks

Quite possibly the only thing I love more than a shiny, sequinned silver frock is a cape - so, hold the presses what do we have here? Lana del Ray (with fabulous glossy locks btw) looking super awesome on the Met Gala red carpet in a silver frock AND A CAPE!

By jingo that's one super look.

I need a cape.

Monday, May 07, 2012

meal planning monday

Some weeks meal planning comes easily. Meals flow readily from my mind and everything's smooth.

Not today.

Today things aren't flowing. So I'm taking this as a sign and making this week's meals easy-as.

Monday: sausages, mash and peas. With gravy. Yummo.

Tuesday: My gal has late ballet, so I'll whip up my version of Nigella's spaghetti carbonara. It's so simple, and I don't add cream, just eggs and parmesan for a creamy texture.

Wednesday: Roasted pumpkin soup. Simply roast your pumpkin pieces with quartered onion, garlic cloves and sprigs of thyme. When cooked, blitz it with a blender and add stock (chicken or vege) to create desired thickness and season. That's it. Served with crusty rolls that's just about my fave winter dinner.

Thursday: We're off to the shopping centre to swap some of hubby's presents and shop for mother's day. We'll have dinner at the food court - Indian for my husband and child, Japanese for me.

Friday: Simple fish and chips. If I'm so inclined it will be so simple as to be bought from the fish and chip shop, if not, it'll be frozen beer battered fish and some regular frozen fries and sweet potato fries.

Saturday: BBQ. I have some garlic prawns with my name on it this week. I'll also cook up some potatoes and chorizo alongside. Serve it with a salad.

Sunday: Well, last week's lamb roast didn't eventuate as one of my friends on twitter had pork belly for dinner saturday night and that set off my cravings. So this week, seven hour lamb it is. Seriously.

What are you eating? Are you simple this week? Or cooking up a gourmet storm?

ps: how CUTE is that sign in the piccy above? Once again it's from Provence. I was obsessed with the cute metal signage and took snaps everywhere. I think this was my fave though.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

mt washmore

All it takes is one busy week, and a couple of rainy days, and I start to feel defeated by Mount Washmore.  It's only 10.30 and I'm already onto my second load of darks, with a load of whites, and probably two loads of towels to go. Thankfully I've decided to switch back to Monday as clean sheet day - Sundays are too hectic.

See this piccy above? It's taken in the town of Tourtour in haute Provence when we visited last year. Many of the towns had these glorious "washing stations" {I've no idea what they're really called} where fresh spring water flows readily through old stone troughs. One day we saw a woman, dressed in beautiful white, flowing linen, bring a basket of clothing over to rinse here. I squealed in delight to witness such a glorious ritual, one that's probably taken place over centuries and generations.

And the view ain't half bad either. Check this out:

The only thing that I love more than an awesome view is one that's framed through something so beautiful. This glorious stone arch provided the picture-perfect frame for this shot. Can you just imagine living here? Can you?

Here's the town. Perched high on a cliff top. My husband chose the location purely for its proximity to the Tour de France route, and because he'd found a villa to perfectly accommodate three families. Not only was the villa spectacularly beautiful and absolutely perfect, this town is on my must-visit-again list.

See why?

Haute Provence is the road less travelled in this glorious area, but I've no idea why. It's just exquisite. So original and untouched. And look at the colours of that sky. I never tire of looking at them. It makes me want to pick up a paintbrush - no wonder it inspired so many artists.

Oh well, I'll keep washing with my lavender-scented wash pods and dream that I'm in Provence, and that my Fisher & Paykel is a washing trough with streaming Provencal water. Might help make tackling that pile a lot easier...

Enjoy your Sunday x

Friday, May 04, 2012

flowers for friday

I have a newfound love for carnations. I bought these the other day and they're just so pretty! And the scent! Oh my. As my first job was in a florist as a 13 year old, I grew tired of carnations very quickly as the most common request for for a bunch of mixed carnations, with one sprayed blue.


No blue spray in this bunch - just a hyper-saturated pink {blame instagram - I had to mess with it}. I know that carnations have been heralded as making a comeback for years, but my prejudices blinded me. No more, I'm going to embrace these poor gal's peonies.

So, today it's my lovely husband's birthday. His 40th! {bless} He's having a sleep-in then I'm making him a bowl of coffee and bacon and eggs. Oh, and the pressies, let's not forget those.

Looks like Newy's turned on a nice day for it - hopefully he'll fit in a bike ride today too.

Enjoy your Friday x

Thursday, May 03, 2012

le sigh

I know, two film reviews in two days... but I can't help it. Last night I went to an Alliance Francais screening with one of my fellow Francophile of the new Audrey Tautou film La Delicatesse. Oh my.

Before the screening we sipped on sparkling and nibbled petite croissants filled with ham and cheese. Bliss. And chatted about all things French {including my friend's DIVINE trench which she'd picked up in Paris. Oh my}.

The film itself was an absolute delight. Really sweet, with a lovely storyline and the ultimate shot of the Eiffel Tower {from a bridge, at night, in lights!} The soundtrack was provided by my favourite chanteuse Emilie Simon - and I shall be treating myself to that today. Oh yes I will.

Of course it's made me want to return to Paris. Everything makes me want to return to Paris. If you're a lover of all things French, Audrey Tautou or you just enjoy a really sweet story then I think you need to see this. There's some gorgeously understated acting - performed with just minimal facial expressions, or even with a bodily stance - very smart.

C'est tres jolie.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

my night at the movies

I went to the movies with two friends last night and we caught the new Aussie film Wish You Were Here. Goodness. This psychological drama will sit with you for quite some time: it's harrowing, thought provoking and takes you on a very wild ride.

It's beautifully shot, paying homage to some gorgeous South East asian scenery, and Sydney's beautiful Tamarama - and so well cast. The plot's gripping, and causes your loyalties to waver throughout as the story weaves a magnetic web. There are some disturbing scenes, including one that brought out a phobia I thought I was well and truly over,  but I really enjoyed it.

It's raised so many issues that I'm keen to get together with my friends and discuss it again over coffee. Recommended viewing.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

how sweet it is

Today I have a hankering for something sweet. This hankering began because I've been thinking about what kind of cake to bake for hubby's birthday on Friday and I can't get the delicate flavour of rose madeleines out of my head. Luckily I found this piccy of a batch I made for the school fair a few years back. Pretty sure that the only thing prettier than a plateful of madeleines is one decorated with rose petals and the odd pale pink rosebud.