Monday, February 25, 2013

meal planning monday

Hi, sorry I'm late. I slept in this morning and barely made it to work on time. Here's what's on the menu this week at Chez PPMJ.

Monday: I've bought a roast chicken from the supermarket and a family-sized microwave basmati rice. With these I am creating a chicken fried rice. Sauteed bacon, shallots, corn, capsicum, broccoli - added rice, soy sauce and stirred. Then I'll toss through shredded chicken and fresh basil at the end.

Tuesday: the 10-year-old netball team I'm co-coaching has grading tonight. It starts at six and ends goodness-knows-when. I have leftover slow-roasted lamb shoulder and french lentils from sunday night so I'll dice up the lamb, and make a sauce with beef stock, bacon and red wine. I'll mix in the lentils, pop these in ramekins and make some mashed potato for the top. Hubby and daughter can pop them in the oven when they're hungry and serve them with some corn and peas.

Wednesday: I'm making my new fave - Nigella's Greek Lamb chops, these things are addictive! Served with a watercress salad.

Thursday: Perhaps salmon on the bbq tonight? With salad.

Friday: Nothing planned - so we'll have a bbq. Steaks. Big ones. Salad. Big too.

Saturday: Hmm. Butterflied chicken on the bbq perhaps? With a salad. Perhaps that quinoa salad in the pic above with the duck confit? Yes?

Sunday: I'm going to slow-cook something tonight. Could be pork belly, could be roast beef, could be ribs... let's see where the mood takes me.

And you?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

a soggy ol' saturday

Oh it's raining, pouring here in Newy. Again. So it's an inside kinda weekend. I have a gigantic pile of chuck steak to chop up and slowly cook with speck and red wine for dinner tonight. Yep, it's a beef bourguignon kinda night.

Tomorrow night I have a fabulous lamb shoulder that shall be slow roasted.

And now? I'm watching Mumford & Sons Road To Red Rocks on my telly, reliving the fabulous concert experience that was the Gentlemen of the Road tour last year.


French word of the day: Pluie (ploowey) rain.

Friday, February 22, 2013

fabulous friday

Yesterday this cranky-faced little beetroot tart popped into my Twitter stream, and I knew he must be mine. Look at that cutely-cross lil face.

He's a beetroot and blue cheese tart, and he was at Quint Cafe at The Essential Ingredient - until he was in my belly.

He was delicious.

Do you like silly things that make you giggle? They're my saviour. Especially when they're absolutely scrumptious.

French word of the day: pouffer de rire (pou-furr d rear) - giggle! 

I'm sorry, but I thought giggle was an awesome word until I saw the french word for giggle.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

love is all around us

Sometimes it's really obvious, and other times we have to look a little harder.

Have a happy wednesday everyone.

French word of the day: amour (ah - more) love.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

sydney sojourn for sarah blasko

So, we arrived in Sydney Sunday afternoon and checked into our hotel room. This was the view - not too shabby non? The harbour put on a rather dazzling display which we gazed at adoringly, before flopping on our beds to rest up for our big night.

We decided to walk down to the ferry terminal to catch the ferry to circular quay, which would have been a fabulous idea if it weren't far, far, away from our hotel.

One day my feet will recover.

But it was worth the walk as we got to see pretty things like this! Is there anything more fabulous than a Ferris Wheel backlit by pale blue sky and fluffy white clouds? I think not.

There were approximately seventy five bajillion photographers taking photos of the bridge, the opera house and the harbour. They had swish cameras on tripods. I had my iPhone.

We had a speedy dinner at the Opera House Kitchen - burgers all round. Before settling in to take our seats. Look how close we were! Row M - damned fine view.

The concert was brilliant. That made the fifth time I've seen Sarah Blasko live, and it was probably the best. The acoustics in the Opera House were magnificent for highlighting that incredible instrument that is Sarah Blasko's voice. And the backing by the Sydney International Orchestra?

Oh my.

Too fabulous.

There was a rousing standing ovation at the end of the performance. So well-deserved.

We caught the ferry back home again, and it went the long-way, via Balmain. We got to check out the pretty lights and night.

I also got to put my feet up. These shoes aren't made for walking.

I do love an iconic face. Couldn't resist taking a few shots as I hobbled along.

Look at this. Ahhhhh, pretty.

Sydney you're a damned fine photogenic beast.

And Sarah Blasko, thank you for the music. You make my heart sing.

Monday, February 18, 2013

meal planning monday

Well, obviously I survived the crazy-busyness of last week to blog another week. Just.

Guess what? This week is probably just as busy.

I know!

But hopefully Saturday should see the bulk of my busyness complete in my volunteer role as registrar for the netball club when all 600+ registrations are taken to Newcastle on Saturday.

Big. Sigh. Of. Relief.

Here's what's happening, and what we're eating in-between. Hopefully. I had toast a few nights last week. Well hey, vegemite is rich in B-vitamins isn't it?

Monday: We'll be coming back from a day in Sydney, to go down to the netball courts at 6pm to find out which team my gal's in (which, obviously I know as I'm registrar...) Then it's back here with a few other committee members to work out exactly what I need to get done before Saturday. We'll have Sticky Rice Thai takeaway after that.

Tuesday: Burlesque class tonight - hallelujah. After all the busyness I need some stress-relief and exercise in my life. Spaghetti Bolognaise for dinner.

Wednesday: it's the AGM for netball at 7pm. I can whip up some chicken pot pies and vegies to serve before that surely.

Thursday: nothing happening. Phew. I want to make caramelised pork, udon noodles and wilted greens for dinner tonight.

Friday: nothing planned (so far! I said that last week and ended up going to an art opening AND out for a drink with some friends afterwards. And home to toast with vegemite). I'm going to cook salmon on the bbq with plenty of salads alongside. A nice, crispy shredded veg salad would be good: beetroot, carrot, zucchini, baby spinach, toasted pinenuts. YUM.

Saturday: we're going to my in-laws for the night - maybe having dinner there?

Sunday: home for a roast chicken, salad and a warm lentil salad.

ps; that pic is the fabulous French camembert my from C and I dined on Saturday night. It's from the Essential Ingredient and it was seventy shades of fabulous.

French word of the day: moindre (mwadre) - smaller.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

sweet sunday

So, we're off to Sydney today to see Sarah Blasko at the Opera House, but we've decided not to rush it. We're going to spend the morning pottering around (or sleeping in, in my husband and daughter's case!)  and then slowly head down to Sydney to check in at our hotel.

Why rush?

French word of the day: lentement (lon-ti-mon) - slow.

image from

Saturday, February 16, 2013

let there be light (and sun)

Okay, so we currently have blue skies in Newcastle - please let them remain. If they do I'll be sitting up there picnicing on zucchini slice and french cheeses, sipping on something cool and sparkling and watching a french arthouse film.

Please, let the weather smile kindly upon us.

French word of the day: s'il vous plait: (si vu play) - please.

Friday, February 15, 2013

c'est magnifique

Allow me to define magnificence.

Is there anything better than a truly magical live performance? One that resonates through your entire body and keeps you smiling the entire time? What about one that has you constantly trying to stop the tears of joy that keep springing to your eyes?

Well, that's how last night's performance of Baby et Lulu affected me.

You know I'm a Francophile. Anyone who has more than a cursory glance at this blog knows how deep my love for France is. And I have plenty of French CDs in my collection. But to hear beautiful songs sung in French up close-and-personal? Wow.

Once again credit for this discovery goes to Twitter where there was a conversation about a band Baby et Lulu. I quickly went to check them out online and found out that Abby Dobson, she of the amazing voice from Leonardo's Bride made up half of the duo.


Lara Goodridge, a violinist and singer harmonises beautifully with the haunting majestic of Abby's voice. And then there's the band. A lovely bunch of blokes playing guitar, keyboards, double bass, flute, saxophone and, naturellement, the piano accordion.

With tunes ranging from Piaf, to Camille to Gainsburg to Bridget Bardot I was enchanted from the opening bars to the closing. And when Abby Dobson sang the Leonardo's Bride classic Only When I'm Sleeping IN FRENCH - mon dieu, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.
Go check them out here and buy the album if you're a Francophile like me. And if you have the chance to see them live please do. They're playing at the Byron Blues Fest later this year, and a festival in the Blue Mountains next Month.

If you're anything like me you'll go home singing. And keep that song in your heart well into the following days.

French word of the day: heureux (err- ro) - happy.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

newcastle writers festival

There's something fabulous headed to Newcastle in April - the inaugural Newcastle Writers Festival. Yesterday I was thrilled to attend to the launch, in the Lock Up Cultural Centre in Newcastle East. Here, the program was unveiled, and we got to hear the story behind the festival and how it came to fruition. I was thrilled to hear that the delightful Miriam Margolyes is opening the festival with the keynote address on the Friday night (April 5). Every time I've ever seen her on screen, Miriam has delighted me - so I am brimming with anticipation at seeing her in person.

Here's the festival organiser, Rosemarie Milsom. Like many of these events, The Newcastle Writers Festival started as a mere glimmer in Rosemarie's eye last June. But now it's a fabulous reality. I can't even begin to imagine the hard work behind it, but when you see the program, you start to get an idea.

So far nearly half of the program has been released and the 16 ticketed events went on sale yesterday. I've already got my tickets to four events, and I'm now just trying to juggle which of the others I need. There's so much on offer that I want to stuff my greedy, literary-loving face with them all.
Head to their extremely well-executed website for details on the lust-worthy program and ticketing.
But, for a hint, here's a few things on offer:
• Guests including: Anita Heiss, Robert Drewe, Stuart Littlemore, Jane Caro, Richard Fidler, Kerri Sackville, Amanda Hooton and David Marr.
• Topics are diverse: True Crime, The Sea, Women and Social Media, Pride and Prejudice, Sport, Romance, War.
• Locations: The Lock Up, Noah's on the Beach, The Tower Cinemas, Newcastle City Hall.
The festival opens on Friday April 5 and runs on the Saturday through to the Sunday April 7. More events (free events!) are being announced on March 9 in the Newcastle Herald.
Quick. Snaffle up some tickets for what's bound to be the first of many great festivals.
Thank you so much to all the volunteers behind this - you're legends. See you at the festival.

French word of the day: je t'aime (zh tem) I love you.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

how sweet it is

I don't eat enough fruit - which is crazy, as it's the ultimate sweet treat isn't it? Actually, I'd eat more fruit if they were like these English strawberries - check out the depth of colour - no erky white interiors with these.

I like things that offer on the inside what they promise on the outside. Don't you? Whether it's people, books, bottles of champagne - I want goodness through and through. Life's too short to bother with those who're sweet on the outside, but bitter inside.

That's why I'm so lucky to have found such lovely, lovely friends. They make me smile.

French word of the day: Intéressant - (an-ter-ess-on) - interesting.

I'm meeting my new netball team this afternoon. I'm co-coaching this year with a 13-year-old who I've coached for the past five years or so. She'll make the most awesome coach, but needs to be mentored for a few years to build up confidence - and the skills to deal with parents (the toughest part of coaching by far!). On to new adventures!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

and breathe

A quick one today - just so I can quickly share one of my fave shots of lavender fields in Provence - and the French word of the day: courir - (cou- reer) run

Have a lovely day

Monday, February 11, 2013

meal planning monday

Okay, deep breaths, I honestly do not know how I'm going to get through this week - busyness is amped up to the max. Eep! But it's all (mostly) good. Ready? Strap yourself in:

Monday: I'm grading the 15 year olds at the netball courts at 5pm tomorrow. They'll play for an hour, then we'll have to form them into teams. Wish me luck. Oh, and my gal goes back to ballet too - so she won't be home till after 7pm. Cheaty butter chicken and rice with garlic naan from Coles tonight it is.

Tuesday: I love my daughter, but her teeth drive me (and her) bonkers. See, they won't fall out. So every tooth so far, except two, has to be extracted by the dentist. Today it's a molar. Eeep. I'll make her some soothing homemade chicken noodle soup tonight to take the edge off. Might have a bowl myself when I get home from burlesque.

Wednesday: Burlesque class again. I'll make steak and salad for dinner tonight.

Thursday: It's Valentine's Day and hubby and I are going on a date night to Lizottes to see Baby et Lulu - and have a two course dinner. Romantic! My in-laws are coming down to stay with our gal, so I'll make them Nigella's greek lamb chops and salad for dinner. I can throw it in the oven when I get home from work, and my mother-in-law can just serve it when it's done.

Friday: Nothing planned. Woo hooo. Now, two separate people have RAVED about this recipe on Twitter so I'm going to cook Nigella's Pasta Risotto with peas and pancetta. It's from Nigellissima.

Saturday: Okay, please, please cross your fingers for nice weather as my friend C and I are off to Nobby's Lighthouse for a spot of open-air cinema tonight. We'll take some picnic food, cheese, crackers, bread, fruits - and sparkling wine.

Sunday: all three of us are off to Sydney to see Sarah Blasko in concert at The Sydney Opera House. Woo hoo! We're staying in a harbourview hotel on the northern side of the harbour, so we'll catch a ferry to circular quay and have dinner at Opera Bar before the show. So excited. It's my gal's first concert and she adores Sarah Blasko - what a first concert!

And that's it. You as exhausted as I am at the thought of this week?

French word of the day: occupé (ock - you - pay) busy!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

hey, hey it's sunday

Morning. Hope you've got something lovely planned for today. I have a pork belly that's crying out for a slow cooking today - and to be served with apple and radish coleslaw.

Oh, and by the looks of the blue sky and temperature there will also be swimming.

French word of the day: Frais (frays) - fresh!

Have a fabulous, fabulous Sunday.

pretty spring fleur image from

Saturday, February 09, 2013

art in life

A few weeks ago I went to the Newcastle Art Gallery for a sushi and sake night, and while I was there I fell a bit in love with the works of Del Kathryn Barton. This is one of them - gorgeous isn't it?

The artworks are based on the classic Oscar Wilde story The Nightingale and the Rose. In real life they're just extraordinary. The saturation of hues, and the incredible dots that Barton uses in her work make for a work that's so extraordinarily tactile I had to view everything with my hands behind my back. Just gorgeous.

I was naughty and snapped off this pic - I love the way that people interacted with the pieces - up close, far away, head cocked to the side. They're not glance and move on pieces.

Today Del Kathryn Barton was in conversation with the Associate Director of the Art Gallery, and it was a fascinating insight into how the works come about. And how she works. I'm intrigued by how creative people work - and Barton's no exception. She fits her work into long 10 to 12 hour stints at the start of the week - trying to knock the top off of as much as possible in this time.

Because these pieces were devised as artwork for a book the question was asked, "Why not just do a series of drawings? Why work on large scale paintings that took up years?". I loved the answer. I'll be paraphrasing, but Barton effectively said that she worked on each piece and gave it the space she needed. She had 10 canvases, all different sizes and shapes - and that each painting just evolved.

I loved this answer. I think that's why these pieces work so well - they're individual.

Here's the book that resulted. Isn't it just glorious? The exhibition is on display until February 17 - go see it.

I love supporting the Art Gallery, and today I finally signed up for family membership. I adore these events they come up with to share art with a wider audience - today's talk was packed with art-lovers of varying ages and interests (and one fabulous pair of leopard-skin legs).

What a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon, particularly when it's with a friend and it's sandwiched between coffee and a spot of shopping on Darby Street.

Life's good huh?

French word of the day: poser (po-sehr) - to put.

ps: art gallery peeps, don't get mad, I found the shots of the artwork online, I didn't take them myself! Well, you know, aside from those two that I obviously took, but hey, that's not *really* of the artwork is it? And I didn't use a flash, and had my volume down, so, you know, not like doing anything at all really!

pps: two official images from here.

Friday, February 08, 2013

happy blogiversary

Nawwwww, my lil blog is five years old. Bless. Happy birthday you sweet, sweet thing. Here, have some cake - it's from Martha so it should be delish.

Happy Friday everyone. Are you doing something fab? I'm off to lunch with a gorgeous friend today, we're trying a new Korean place so I a v looking forward to that one.

Thank you to all of you who come to hang out in my place of pretty. You're the reason I keep on blogging - so thank you.

French word of the day: anniversaire (ann-e-vehr-sayr) - birthday! Bonne anniversaire mon jolie blog x

Thursday, February 07, 2013

silver linings playbook review

Hey, you know how you were thinking, "Gee, I'd really like to go see a movie..." well go see this one. It is ace. I went to check this out with friends on Sunday and I was hoping I'd enjoy it, but oh, I loved it. The story is unique and the performances extraordinary.

I haven't stopped thinking about it since viewing it on Sunday. It's really made me think - and it also made me laugh, and cry.

It's not for those who don't like swearing, cos there's a lot of it. But it's a real must-see. I can't say anything else without giving too much away - and this film is one you need to see to be surprised.

Go on, go check it out.

French word of the day: vie (vee) Life. 

It's there to live isn't it?

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

a-z of reading

The only thing I love more than a fabulous book, is a fabulous book with a gorgeous cover. So c'mon, imagine my squeal when I saw these new Penguin classics.

Oh my!

They would make alphabetising the bookshelf so much easier don't you think?

Drool over the full alphabet here.

ps: I am home sick today :( I have a blocked up ear that's causing me to feel dizzy and unbalanced. That's sad. But it does inspire today's word.

French word of the day: malade (muh-lard) - sick.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

my cherie amour

I think of all the new habits I've created my fave could well be my weekend bike ride out to Nobby's breakwall. Look at that view!

It's not the just exercise I love (and I do love that bit) it's the views. The glorious, glorious views. So much blue in so many shades - in the sky and in the water. Not to mention the rather fabulous foliage pathside.

Sorry, did someone say blue?

French word of the day: bleu (bleuh) - blue.

Monday, February 04, 2013

meal planning monday

Monday, monday, monday, monday. After a busy weekend, it's time to plan for a relatively calm (for me) week.

Monday: my gal has netball grading this afternoon, so we won't get home till about 7pm. I'll quickly cook up some steaks and whip up a salad.

Tuesday: burlesque fitness class tonight. I'll make tacos for the family.

Wednesday: burlesque again. The nights have changed so we're going two nights in a row until we can work out which other type of class we want to do. I'll make Nigella's greek lamb chops tonight. With a greek salad too. Mmmmm.

Thursday: nothing on. NOTHING. I can take my time with dinner tonight. Might make caramelised pork fillet and serve it with a glass noodle salad chockers with vegies.

Friday: nothing planned, so far, so I'll make some corn and bacon fritters. With lots of salad.

Saturday: as this is our first weekend with nothing planned, we'll try to get a lot done around the house. There's a lot of painting to be done, as well as heaps of other bits and pieces. Might make a big pot of chilli con carne. YUM.

Sunday: I need to make something from the French Laundry Cookbook. But what? I've read through it and oohed and aahed. I just need to decide. This requires its own post I think. To be confirmed...

French word of the day: danser (don - sahr) - dance. 

image from - how cute are those clocks?

Sunday, February 03, 2013

sweet sunday

After two days of torrential rain blue skies have finally broken out. YAY! So I'm off to the Farmer's Market this morning, before coming back and getting into loads of essential tasks. One essential task is bunkering down this afternoon and reading The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller. A chef friend lent it to me, and I'm pretty sure it's going to inspire me. In fact, I'm going to choose a recipe to cook next Sunday night (Sunday nights shall henceforth be known as French Laundry Night).

Oooh, just remembered, I'm also off to the movies this afternoon to check out Silver Linings Playbook - our movie date was washed our last monday.

French word of the day: équilibrer (eh-quil-e-brear) balance.

Have a fabulous Sunday.

image from

Saturday, February 02, 2013

underground epicureans on high

I don't know if words are going to do justice to the magnificence of the Underground Epicurean experience last night. But I'll try. It was bucketing with rain, so, instead of dining on the rooftop of a city building - we had an apartment set up with long tables, glassware galore, and lovely tealights glowing in little jars. We had our first glass of champagne for the night and the waitresses brought around the most incredible oysters with an eschelot dressing.


I read the menu. Died a bit. Went to heaven. Came back again.

Hello prettiness! The most perfectly plump figs drizzled with honey, delicious spears of asparagus dipped in truffle oil and a quail scotch egg. Topped with watercress and toasted almonds.

That scotch egg?


A taste sensation.

See that dressing on the plate? Every morsel went from my fingertip to my mouth.

A table of very satisfied epicureans. Lots of wine (or champagne in our case) chatting and orgasmic Ooooohhhsss over the food.

I've only had venison once before. Raw, as carpaccio at Subo. I think it's now my fave. This rare cutlet, and the pile of shredded braise melted in my mouth. Those little balls of pumpkin were sublime, and all perfectly accessorised by a pile of spinach. There was a hint of chocolate there, but subtle, so subtle. It set off the dish. Everything hummed to a bring the meal to a delicious crescendo.

You need something to wash down the food. And it's true, champagne really does go with everything. In between courses the rain abated and we walked upstairs to the rooftop to take in the view.

What a view.

Oh look, another of my fave restaurants - "bonsoir le petit deux".

One of my fave things is watching chefs in action plating up. I actually got a non-blurry shot, but I love this one as it shows the speed and finesse used. Guys, you are AWESOME. Add Restaurant Mason and Chris Thornton to my list of Newcastle Chef Crushes.

Have you ever, in your life, seen anything more beautiful than this? No. You haven't. Macerated and compressed strawberries, vanilla, white chocolate honeycomb and candied violettes. My idea of heaven on a plate. And in my mouth? OH MY! The perfect combination of textures and flavours. I haven't tasted strawberries so delicious since France.

On the way home we discussed our favourite dish. T said his was the entree of figs, G loved the venison, my hubby adored the dessert. I agreed with each of them and said, yep, that was my favourite too. They pointed out that *every* course couldn't be my favourite. And I accused them of nitpicking.

White Rabbit, I love you for bringing this to Newcastle. Expect to see me at every single event in the future.

Oh, and a special shout-out to my lovely blog-readers who also attended last night. How FABULOUS was it?

French word of the day: magnifique - magnificent. 

Because, let's face it, last night was magnificence magnified.

Friday, February 01, 2013

flowers for friday

How pretty are these tuberose? And they smelt even better. Thanks III Bean for having these on your table the other day, they made my week. Now, speaking of making my week - it's Friday. Woo hooo! And tonight it's a special Undergrounds Epicureans at a secret location. I know there's four courses based on aprodisiac foods (ooooooh) and that the chef's from Restaurant Mason (a place that's been on my must-visit list for a while) but we won't know where we're going till we get the email at lunchtime.


I have champagne chilling in the fridge - after all, champagne goes with everything, particularly aphrodisiac foods don't you think? I'll try to snap off some sneaky shots for Instagram - find me there as PinkPatentMaryJanes (surprise).

French word of the day: amour - love.