Friday, February 28, 2014

you've got to have friends...

How good are good friends? I mean, seriously, HOW GOOD? So good they'll stand in a group to snap off a shot like this, even if they're sans pedicure…

I have been very blessed to make some really, really fabulous friends over my lifetime. Friends who make me smile, laugh and warm my heart. They make my soul sing.

ps: don't you just have shoe-envy from my friend J's shoes on the left of this pic? I do.

Monday, February 24, 2014

meal planning monday

Well good morning lovely, lovely people - how are things in your neck of the woods? I have a VERY big week on this week - no socially, but work-wise. So there shall be much pre-preparing and I'm sending my husband back into the kitchen again.

Here's what we're eating.

Monday: chicken schnitzel, mash, corn and broccoli - tonight's one of my few nights where I'm home early-ish, so I'll prepare this. My gal has ballet till 7:15 so she'll be starvational.

Tuesday: my gal's netball team start training - 5 - 6pm, so I'll arrive straight after work and help out. I will make a dish in the slow cooker in the morning - probably the chilli con carne I didn't make last week.

Wednesday: my netball team start training, again, 5 - 6pm. When I get home my husband will have prepared me a delicious dinner. Probably mexican I'd say.

Thursday: I have to drive to Port Macquarie and back today for work. BIG day. Thai takeaway tonight.

Friday: I'll have had Orientation Week activities all week at work, very fun and very full on, so I'll need an easy dinner. How about husband and child cook ME salmon on the bbq?

Saturday: nothing planned. Bliss. I think we should go out to dinner tonight.

Sunday: roast dinner night. Dare I cook my first pork belly since having my oven professionally cleaned in December? I think so!


Saturday, February 22, 2014

newcastle writers festival: i get around

Today the program for the second Newcastle Writers Festival was launched. Hurrah! Opening on Friday April 4, and featuring a packed program on Saturday and Sunday, lovers of literature from Newcastle and beyond will hit Newcastle for a literary fix.

For those who are new to Newcastle I thought I'd write a bit of a guide to getting around and grabbing some food or coffee in our fabulous city. To make things easier, I'll divide the city into sections: West End, East End, City Centre or Honeysuckle. Ready?

West End

There's been a lot of action in the West End of late, with fab coffee shops popping up in the most unexpected places. The latest launch is festival venue The Edwards - open from 7am till midnight is a must-visit. A gorgeous space with great food, drinks and atmosphere. While you're in the West End check out Bank Corner in Bellevue Street Newcastle West (open late with a secret courtyard that makes for a fabulous Deco winebar), or take a short stroll around the corner to The Social for fab coffee and food with a cuban influence.

City Centre

There's always action on Darby Street - a hub of cafés, restaurants and funky shops filled with bespoke beauty. If you fancy a cider or cocktail between sessions check out 5 Sawyers or The Hop Factory - both on Darby Street. Don't miss festival venue Agosti Espresso with their divine Art Deco reno and, as the name suggests - coffee! (and food and more). Or just around the corner back in Hunter Street try The Clarendon Hotel - pub food with a fancy twist as the kitchen's now held by hatted Chef Lesley Taylor.

One must-not-miss venue is The Press Book House - a café combined with second hand bookstore - any reader's dream. They have a delicious range of tea, great coffee and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves groaning with vintage fabulousness. I swoon.

Now, hopefully Coal & Cedar will be opening soon. However, it's a speakeasy so keep its location hush-hush...


Down on the harbour is Honeysuckle, and if there's one thing I'm proud of, it's our beautiful working harbour. My fave spots down here are MoneyPenny with their ever-changing bespoke cocktail menu and The Landing and their truffled fries (oh my!)

If you have time, go for a wander along the foreshore. If you're lucky you might see a couple of cute tugboats guiding in a majestic bulk carrier. Take your phone - it's very Instagramable down there.

East End

Hello fancy pants. The East End is where Newcastle gets really swish. There are bars-a-plenty and plenty of cafés to get your caffeine fix. For bars, check out:

  • Casa de Loco - hello tequila and mezcal bar with brilliant *real* mexican food
  • Name the Lane - cool cocktails and tapas
  • Le Passe Temps - authentic French wine bar, with French staff. Le swoon
  • Reserve Wine Bar - high end wines and divine whiskeys in a gorgeous location
  • Grain Store - beers-a-plenty of tap, the good stuff, not the average.
When it comes to food, well, you can get food at all the bars mentioned above - or you can have a Spanish feast at Bocados, German delights at Oma's Kitchen, fab coffee, breaky or lunch at One Penny Black or Sprocket or Good Brother or fab Japanese at Asa Don. Oh, and cupcakes, coffee and drinks next door at Hello Naomi.

Phew, it's too much for one weekend isn't it? And I haven't even mentioned the awesomeness that is Maitland Road Islington, the vintage shopping delights all over town, or Maryville and Baked Uprising

However, I will insist that you allow yourself a moment to check out our wonderful Newcastle Art Gallery (where the beautiful Lucas Grogan mural above features). 

Actually, you can't possibly do all this in one weekend.

You'd best come back again - we haven't even spoken about our beautiful beaches... 

the simple things

For years I've driven my family mad with my calls of "Quick, come and look at this sunset!" where I'd drag them out to the front veranda and point out the various hues. I'd also make them stay and watch while it faded to different shades of fabulous before finally dying away.

So imagine my delight the other day when I heard my 14-year-old dragging her dad from the couch to go check out the sunset.


She then made me bring out my camera so she could snap off a few shots.

My parenting work here is done.

Friday, February 21, 2014

fabulous friday

Phew, it's the end of another busy week, or, the start of a busy weekend! Today I celebrate the end of my first fortnight make in full-time work - and it's been rather fabulous. Huge learning curve - but fab! And flexible! Today I'm starting early and finishing late because I'll be dashing off in the middle of the day to check out the launch of the Newcastle Writer's Festival! Wooo hoooo! I can't wait to see the full program and find out what delights are in store.

Oh, I do know one person that's on a panel - me!

Yes, eep, I'm on a panel, but more to be revealed tomorrow (hint: it may just be about blogging…)

As for the rest of the weekend, tonight I'm off to the Grand Reopening of the Regal Cinema. I love this place and am so happy that a bunch of dedicated people have spent years working on its restoration and revival after it was closed by council many years ago. I have no idea what to expect from the opening night - a lot of tears of joy I expect.

Saturday night I'm off with three friends to an outdoor cinema event - in the Carriage Sheds down near Nobby's Beach. We're going to get Scotties takeaway for a picnic, and take a thermos of Pimms to share. We're going to see Frances Ha, my fave movie of 2013. Can't wait.

Sunday I'm off to the movies (again!) with FOUR of my friends, to The Regal, to see Dallas Buyers Club. FUN!

And, in between, I'll be spending some time catching up with my family and just relaxing. Like in this glorious image from here. How's the serenity?

Monday, February 17, 2014

meal planning monday

Well hello there and aren't you looking all fabulous this Monday morning! (Of course you are, I won't take no for an answer…) Now, I'm heading into week two of my new job - hurrah, and slowly getting myself into a new routine. It's a bit of a busy week, but not as busy as last week so that's a relief.

Here's what's on my meal plan this week:

Monday: netball team announcements on Monday night at 6.30 at the netball courts, and my gal's got ballet lessons. I'll make a green chicken curry when I get home from work at 5:30 and serve it up when we're all done. (Taylor's Green Curry mix is my quick-cheat of choice - plus microwave rice!)

Tuesday: I haven't made chilli con carne in yonks, so I should shouldn't I? Hello slow cooker!

Wednesday: AGM tonight at 7pm so an early dinner of lamb cutlets, mash and greens.

Thursday: pork kebabs tonight. With a coleslaw that includes finely sliced fennel. I had this on Saturday night on my pork belly burger and it was DIVINE!

Friday: tonight I'm going to the opening of the Regal Picture Theatre. So excited. I love this place and was devastated when it closed down. Community dedication over the years has seen it reopen and I'll be sure to support it. It's only 5 mins from my work, so I'll work back a bit and then go. Hubby and daughter off to Maitland to visit his parents.

Saturday: Cinema in the Carriage Sheds tonight when my twitter besties A, C and J. We're seeing Frances Ha (my movie of the year last year) with a picnic that shall include a thermos of Pimms! As for food, hmmmmm, finger food's aways good. Little pancetta and goat cheese tarts perhaps?

Sunday: family roast dinner night - followed by SPC peaches and icecream (naturally). I might do a roast beef tonight and include baby beetroot in the vegies I roast.


ps; that pic is my peaches with almonds and greek yoghurt on 'bircher' breakfast (oats soaked in water for 15 mins!) tasty and easy.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

diving off the edge of the world

As a proud Novocastrian I try to do my best to support local ideas and talent. So, last night I went along with a couple of friends to check out Diving Off The Edge Of The World. 

Having been in production for a few months my anticipation was high, and, as I've seen a few Tantrum  Youth Arts productions I know what these guys are capable of. The setting was perfection, Newcastle Ocean Baths at night. Bliss. We decided that we'd take advantage of the Bath's Kiosk being opened late and have a traditional meal of Pluto Pups for dinner but, sadly, the doors were very closed when we arrived at 6.30. Luckily, my fave place, Scotties, was a mere short walk away so we indulged in a pork belly burger and beetroot scallops (OH MY WORD!)

Probably better than a Pluto Pup just quietly.

The show was a moveable feast. We were given passports at the start of the evening and colour-coded and matched to our hosts. I loved travelling from spot to spot.

PS: how beautiful are the gorgeously coloured Ocean Baths? I love how they're painted in rich heritage colours that highlight their deco-fabulousness.

 Look! Pretty!

These sirens of the sea were haunting. Just beautiful.

This was probably my favourite moment - where we learned about the history of the area in a short film featuring locals who grew up when the giant Map of the World was in the Mariner's Pool. Legend has it that it's still buried under the sand… I love how the map contributed to the wanderlust of kids who swam at Newcastle. What an inspiration. Can we bring it back? Kickstarter perhaps?

These ghost brides made for a haunting sight crossing in front of the baths.

So many kids got involved - starting with workshops during the school holidays. The joy on their faces was wonderful, and the audience were loud in their appreciation.


 I also adored Postcardia where audience members selected a postcard which was read by a performer, while the other players acted out scenes from afar.

It's great to see kids' imaginations set afire in local productions, and to see art and culture taken out of institutions and on-site. Well done to all the peeps involved. You did good.

Diving off the edge of the world is on again next Friday and Saturday night. For tix, click here.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

sweet, sweet saturday

Aaahhhhh, it's the end of what has probably been the busiest week of my life. I've settled in to my new job at the Uni (working in the digital marketing dept which is exciting), did over 40 media interviews re: SPC Sunday (which culminated in the company coming up with a deal so it can stay in Australia - hurrah), guest-tweeting on a new, rotational Twitter account I Am Newcastle and finishing off bits and pieces of other work.

And being a mum and wife.

And netball stuff.


Today I started off with breakfast with a friend, have bookclub this afternoon to discuss The Book Thief, and then tonight I'm off to see THIS!

Tomorrow I'm hosting a meeting with Jazz and Ruth who are my co-presenters at a Blogging Workshop hosted by Hunter Writer's Centre next month. Given it's SPC Sunday I guess I should bake a cake - a peach or apricot cake I imagine.

Have a lovely weekend my lovelies x

image from

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

soooooo sleepy

Hi, how's things?

Couldn't you just climb into this bed and sleep for a couple of days? No? Just me?

I've had a surreal last few days. As I mentioned on Friday, on Thursday night I wrote a couple of Tweets to try to drum up support for SPC, farmers and the community that are at risk of closing.

And it exploded. Really, really exploded. In a good way.

Many of you know me, and know what's happened, but, if not, Google SPC Sunday - it got national news coverage. And, excitingly, it lead to a massive increase in sales for SPC Ardmona. We won't know for a few days, but there were reports of shelves being stripped of these Aussie-made and produced products.

The reach on Twitter alone was over 28 million by this morning. And that's not counting Facebook and Instagram - or the people who just chatted about it over the kitchen table or in the supermarket.

Let's hope it's a start and that the company can stay in Australia for at least another 85 years.

I also started a new job on Monday. And kept having to duck out for radio {and one television} interview. Goodness. It's looking like a fun gig though.

Anyway, I guess the point of this blog, aside from saying 'hi' is to encourage you to alway try to make a difference. From little things big things can grow.

I'm off to bed, sweet dreams x

French word of the day: peche - peach!


Saturday, February 08, 2014

happy birthday to my blog

Oh my goodness, it's my blog's birthday! Eeeeeep! It's now six years old - all grown up.

So, to celebrate, Martha Stewart totally made me this cake.

Well, she didn't, but she would have if she could have… I just borrowed her image.

Wow, six years huh? Who would have thought when I started blogging all those years ago that I'd still be here six years on? Not I. I have loved it though, which is why I keep going, no matter how busy I am. It's for you guys, I love the community I've found through blogging, and the fact that I get to share cool stuff with you. Thanks for coming by.

Here, have a slice of virtual cake!

French word of the day: gateaux - cake!

Friday, February 07, 2014

farmer's best

One of the things I love the most about France is the markets. Base yourself in a town and you can pretty much plot out your week attending a local market each day, a short drive away. At these markets you'll be overwhelmed by the glorious produce. Ripe, heady with delicious scents. And local.

I can't imagine a French person abiding by imported foods at their markets, let alone out of season foods. They live in the moment, buying food each day for their meal - and oh, their tastebuds are richer for it.

I've noticed in Australia we're finally getting the message with our fresh fruits and veg. Now foods are marked with their place of origin so we can avoid the lemons shipped over from the US, or the Mexican garlic, and choose locally-grown.

However, as we've seen in the news, this isn't the case with our canned goods. Our local growers and producers are in trouble due to competing low-priced imported goods, and whole regions are at risk. I've been saddened by this plight, and wondered what I could do. Naturally, choosing to buy locally next time I shop will make a difference - but I think it needs to be bigger.

So, last night on Twitter, a chat came to this: SPC Sunday - this Sunday choose to eat an SPC product and share it online. Using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram people are encouraged to use the hashtag #SPCsunday and share their peaches and ice cream they're having for dessert. Show us the pear crumble you've made. Take a pic of the baked bean jaffle.

It's very popular. From one tweet there are now hundreds who have shared. I also set up a Facebook page for those not on Twitter. It's a small step, but one that we can all take quite easily. I'm looking forward to reliving my childhood memories of tinned fruit and ice cream. I'm not sure if I'll have peaches, pears, two fruits, plums or fruit salad. Perhaps I'll buy them all and see what tickles my fancy.

I hope you'll join in. Our farming regions and all the people whose jobs rely on it need us to offer this sweet bit of support. What will you be eating on SPC Sunday?

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

fill in the blanks

image: Jonathan Adler for Paperless Post

I do not care for blank spaces. In my ideal room, wherever eyes should alight, they should receive delight. So imagine my surprise when I realised that there is a wall in my kitchen that is blank. BLANK. It's not a wall you'd normally notice, which hopefully it explains why it's escaped my concern. In fact, it did have some rather lovely pics on it that migrated to my study when I redecorated. But now I have noticed that it's nude, and it's disturbing me.

I must rectify.

Don't you think I need a wall of travel pics interspersed with lovely text like the one above?

Onto it.

French word of the day: cuisine: kitchen.

Monday, February 03, 2014

meal planning monday

Well, I have a really odd schedule to plan for this week. It's the first full-week back at school, I have to attend two night's worth of netball grading (hold me) and my husband's going down to Thredbo on a cycling trip from Wednesday to Sunday.


So this week is likely to change a fair bit - but we'll start with this shall we?

Monday: grilled chicken breasts on the bbq. I'll marinate them in olive oil, lemon zest and thyme before going to netball grading at 5, then they'll be ready to whack on the grill at 6:30. I'll prepare a couple of salads too.

Tuesday: husband's last night here, he'll want steak and salad, so that is what we shall have.

Wednesday: just me and my gal. I think I'll do a green chicken curry earlier in the day and serve it up when I come home from grading. With steamed rice and wilted greens (I do like to serve my greens separately to the curry, makes for prettier colours).

Thursday: hubby hates couscous, but my gal does like it. I'll serve a couscous salad tonight - with lamb backstrap, roasted vegies and chickpeas.

Friday: my gal and I can go out to dinner!

Saturday: mexican sounds like a good option to me. Grilled chicken burritos perhaps?

Sunday: husband home (I think). So I'll make a roast beef dinner tonight to celebrate.

Whew. You?

French word of the Day: imparfait - imperfect {I do like things that are imperfect, don't you?}

image: from

Sunday, February 02, 2014

so sweet

Oh hai, here I am, raving about my city and how awesome it is again. I don't mean to - it just keeps leaping up into my face being fabulous all the time.

For example, look at this. This is the back courtyard at the Bank Corner café. How gloriously
European and fabulous is it? For a start it's in one of my favourite buildings in Newcastle - a gorgeous corner building that makes me sigh with delight every time I see it. The café itself is also an Art Deco delight. And now there's this - a courtyard that makes me feel like I'm in New York, or Berlin, or
hey, Newcastle!

Speaking of sweet, Hello Naomi is the newest kid on the cupcake block. Residing in my favourite stretch of King Street, a plane-tree lined series of cute terraces right near the Tower Cinemas Hello Naomi serves up the sweetest series of cupcakes and cookies with damned delicious coffee in the cutest little space.

I am a BIG One Penny Black fan. These guys were one of the first to recognise the potential of Newcastle Mall after Renew Newcastle came in and started populating empty storefronts with awesome. After a few years in their little corner space, they've moved down the mall and into a much bigger space that's still not big enough to cater to the crowds who come for the delicious coffee and tasty treats. See this? It's avocado on sourdough, a classic, but oh, with such a twist.

My meal came with a fresh beetroot relish and feta. YUMARAMA! And the great tastes didn't stop there, oh no. It was the little things, such as the drizzle of chilli oil, and sprinklings of herbs, seeds and other yummy additions that made this such a tasty treat.


Now, I'm a coffee drinker, and I don't drink nearly enough tea, but that's probably because I don't hang out often enough in cool tea houses like Madame Mo's. Located on Maitland Road, Islington this is THE spot for a pot of tea to wash down your dumplings.

Oh yes, I said dumplings.

For my tea I chose Fairy Tale - for the name alone. But the flavour was something else. Green tea, rose and marigold make for a magnificently-scented tea - and a surprisingly light, refreshing brew.


Now, I have waxed lyrical about Alice from Baked Uprising for yonks. The things that this woman does with a cake/tart/sweet defy belief. But, just when I thought she couldn't excel herself any more she did. She and her partner Christo have opened Uprising in Maryville.

Oh my.

Now the fabulous sweets are accompanied by bread that dances on your tastebuds - they do the rhumba, the samba, a bit of dance and some classical ballet. Not since Paris have I swooned so hard at a loaf. The crispy crust, the fluffy insides, oh yeah baby. On a weekend morning the line stretches out the door almost to the street, and it's so worth the wait.

My aim is to cycle over so I can justify all the goodies I'll have to stuff myself with. Choosing is ridiculously difficult, everything looks so amazing, and tastes even better.

Newcastle - I love you. And all the awesome people who conspire to keep me eating well.