Monday, April 20, 2009

meat market

Oh, we had such a lovely weekend filled with friends, laughter and food. Saturday night saw us get together with our dearest friends, and added some new friends to the mix - which made the evening positively pop. We laughed, chatted, drank and ate "Fred Flintstone Chops", the size of which delighted the boys, and the texture which entranced the girls. {I'm talking about the standing rib roast, cooked on the bbq - recipe a few weeks back} I'm thrilled I've finally mastered the art of cooking red meat - it's taken a while, but by jove, I think I've got it!

On Sunday my dear friend M and I went to our favourite antique store, where we fell in love with numerous bits and pieces, but I'm holding strong and only buying what I need! Speaking of what I need... is a white day bed for the pavillion. After browsing through the big antique store, we went to my favourite shop next door, Auld and Grey. The owner is a kindred spirit, and I just adore wondering through her treasures. As we were leaving I happened to ask if she had any day beds in storage, and she said "Oh, yes, I have a split cane day bed... painted white... I can bring it in on Tuesday for you!" Heart be still. So tomorrow, I'm heading over, hope in heart. Wish me luck!

Last night we had fellow francophile friends around to share our massive pack of duck confit. At first hubby and I were disappointed that it was confit duck breast, not leg, but once I opened the vacuum-sealed pack I was delighted to find breasts with skin intact, and, excitingly - bones! Just like on the real cooking shows!! I placed them on a hot oven tray and baked them in a hottish oven for about 10 minutes, before turning on the grill to crisp up the skin. {okay, salivating now at the memory}. I served it very simply with a plain potato mash and green beans, tossed in garlic olive oil and topped with roasted slivered almonds. Oh, wow. We drank a Margan Semillion with the duck and it was the perfect accompaniment, balancing out the juniper and star anise flavours in the confit in the most divine manner. 

Tonight, we'll be having the last of the duck, tough job, but someone's gotta do it. I'll serve it sliced on a julienne salad with rice noodles and an asian dressing - after the indulgence of this past weekend, a wee bit of detoxing respite is in order!

Today's a big working day for me. With school holidays I haven't managed to fit much work in. So my darling friend G is having my gal over to play with her gal. Bless. It's wild and grey and windy in Merewether today, perfect weather to plonk myself before the computer and get on with it!

Friday, April 17, 2009

chicken tonight


Why yes, a real stylist would have wiped off the smears of sauce around the outside, but let me say, free-range chicken drumsticks, in the slow cooker with plenty of sliced onions, sliced red capsicum, a tin of tomatoes, a sloosh of pinot grigio, tomato paste, olives and selected herbs and spices, then served over spaghetti = yum.

ad sense

There's an ad on tv at the moment that drives me completely insane. In it, there's a woman in a lovely house {naturally} who goes toward her bin, wrinkles her nose and sprays it with air freshener. Of course, that's not good enough says the voice over, so she reaches for her Glen 20 which kills the germs that cause the smell. Next she wafts around the house spraying the dog's bed and then a pile of stinky sports gear. 

Now, my nine-year-old saw that ad last night, turned to me with an incredulous expression and said "Why doesn't she just empty the bin and wash it out, wash the pet's bed and WASH the stinky clothes?"

Exactly!

What kind of world are we living in where spraying something is considered some kind of viable alternative to cleaning it. Gross!

couture comfort

Emily Blunt looks utterly exquisite in the pages of Vanity Fair - I think I'll be tracking down an air freighted copy of this one at Borders. I adored Ms Blunt in The Devil Wears Prada, caught her in The Jane Austin Book Club the other day while I was lying on the lounge feeling poorly - and on Sunday night, was mesmerised by her turn in Dan In Real Life. She's so transfixingly beautiful that I could watch her in anything, but what's most amazing, is that there's a bundle of talent within that glorious skin.

parterre perfection

Now that my hubby's been excavating the side yard, ready for gravel paths to be laid, I feel mere moments away from my parterre vegie and herb gardens. Having a little potager out the side of my house will be bliss. It's a pretty sunny spot, so I imagine most herbs and veg will do well. 

I'm also dreaming of an espaliered lime or lemon tree on the fence behind the garden beds - we don't have room for a full-sized tree, but if we strap it down to the fence I'll have plenty of citrus for recipes and vodka!

Now that I'm working from home I'll also have more time for watering, so raising plants from seed is an option. I'd love to look into the range of heritage veg on offer from The Diggers Club. That's their garden in the picture and I know they'll have varieties that will not only make my garden look divine, they'll tickle our tastebuds as well.

maxed out mary janes

You know what, I don't think I've featured a pair of Louboutin's on my shoe of the week - so here's la premiere. I adore the scarlet sole, but was bored to death with seeing them on every starlet's hoof around town. Now every wannabe is wearing those Vuitton numbers that look like the set of Survivor I can re-embrace Louboutin's - and what better way to do so than with these multiple Mary Janes? Classic black patent is my go-to fave for shoes, it always looks fresh. 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

flat out

My daughter is not at all fond of school holidays, which is a shame, as we're currently in the midst of them. We've been trying quite a few things to keep her entertained, but doing tasks around the house seems to be top of her list. Yesterday she ironed my napkins - and did a magnificent job. Just in time for my guests who're coming up on the weekend.

Oh, and in exciting news, we've nearly finished the courtyard. We're having two plants delivered today to go either side of this gorgeous antique bench that's now sitting against the wall. It'll really make the whole yard complete. 

And yes, I will try to post some pics!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

belle blanc fleurs

Foxgloves are just the most magnificent flower. With their spires towering over a metre high they're the perfect backdrop to a garden. I haven't had any foxgloves for a few seasons, and I miss their lanky prettiness - so I'm buying a punnet of white foxgloves this year, and planting them around my pink Gertrude Jeckyl rose and in front of my cream and pink climbing Pierre de Ronsard rose. The border in front is dotted with varying Iris so it should make a pretty site come next spring.

My hubby spent the whole long weekend doing some serious manual labour, getting our side yard ready for the final stage of our renovations - a drystone retaining wall, cute little shed and vegie and herb garden. Today I need to find a means of getting rid of around six cubic metres of clay that he's dug from paths. Time to dial a skip I do believe.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

quick quack

Every member of my family has had a craving for confit duck recently, so short of shelling out around $35 per serve at our favourite restaurant, I needed to source some of the stuff. So imagine my delight when I was buying my coffee beans this morning and spied a pack of 10 confit duck legs at The Essential Ingredient. Apparently they freeze well, so we won't have to stuff ourselves stupid - or invite other duck-loving friends around {luckily, as our fellow duck-obsessive friends are on holiday this week - although I'm sure they'd do the eight hour drive back to share with us!}.

Now I just need to google some serving suggestions - which will be interesting as none of us are into the whole duck and fruit combo. When it comes to fruits, serve 'em to me with cream or icecream... I'm fussy that way.


Monday, April 13, 2009

grill girl

I think I've finally mastered my bbq. I've just had family to dinner, cooked up a honey and rosemary marinated butterflied leg of lamb, garlic and olive oil smashed potatoes, and tuscan spatchcocked chicken. Yummy. I par-boiled the potatoes then smashed them down with a potato masher and drizzled them with garlic-infused olive oil before putting them on the bbq hot plate to brown. The lamb was studded with rosemary, drizzled with organic honey and left to marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours, before being brought to room temperature. 

I let the bbq heat up then turned off the middle two burners before searing the lamb and marinated chicken for a few minutes on the grill plate. Then I popped them in the middle, closed the hood and left them to cook for around 45 minutes. After the lamb was cooked, I took it off, covered it with foil and left to rest for 15 minutes before slicing finely. It was served with a tuscan bread and tomato salad, green salad and the smashed potatoes. Because I was feeding a crowd I made my chocolate sponge, icecream and raspberry number... Oh, it was good.

I reckon that barbeques are the ultimate entertaining accessory. Everything tastes amazing, you can leave it to cook while you chat, and it's all done in the great outdoors.

Friday, April 10, 2009

easter goodies

Hope you all have a lovely easter filled with special times with your family and friends. Wouldn't it be nice if one of said friends were crafty enough to make pretty easter decorations like these? I found them on CountryLiving.com and think they're impossibly divine.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

loooooooong weekend

I'm a bit excited about the Easter long weekend - specially as my hubby's taking a five day break. We're planning a mix of relaxation and action. There's still quite a few jobs on the to-do list {as there always will be...} but we can do them relatively simply just by chipping away at it. 

It's my mum and step-dad's last night here tonight, so I'll have to plan a vegetarian feast to bid them farewell. They seem to have had a nice, relaxing week here - mum's certainly got her money's worth out of the pavilion - every day she'd sit by the pool, magazine in hand, coffee by her side. I agree that it's going to be a lovely spot for morning coffee with a warm winter sun streaming in. We've completed a few jobs with their help, and my step-dad's offered to help Matt with paving, gravelling and draining around the side of the house {one huge job left to do}. Perfect drainage is obviously essential now we get such downpours for days on end in this neck of the woods.

Easter Sunday will of course, start with an easter egg hunt - hopefully it won't rain so the eggs won't get soggy! And hopefully my daughter will sleep in a little so the easter bunny won't have to get up toooooo early...

Mum's invited my aunt and uncle here for afternoon tea, so I'll be making Nigella's scones and some rosebud madelines to tickle tastebuds. Mmmmmm.

i heart marc


Bless, it's a pair of wedges with a heart cutout - cuteness! The touch of whimsy this adds to these shoes makes me just want to smoosh Marc Jacobs, my lips always turn up at the corners upon spying his creations.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

oh coco


It's impossible not to adore Audrey Tatou - so the thought of her in Coco Avant Chanel has given me chills. The film's released this month in France and is on my must-view list. Hopefully we won't have to wait too long for it to hit the screens in Aus.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

well dressed


I'm seasonally cleaning today. My mum and step-dad are up from Melbourne, so I've roped them into helping me do stuff that I'd prefer not to do on my own. We're halfway through washing all the crockery on my kitchen dresser, and, um, there's a lot of it. A 12 piece service, with many plates, serving bowls and dishes, platters, tea service... now it's all sparkly and clean. 

Next step is to remove all the vases, ramekins, bowls etc on the shelving above the stove... it's pretty scary up there, so I'm steeling myself. Wish me luck...

Monday, April 06, 2009

musical score

Don't you think that everything goes better with music? Shopping centres know this; that's why every time I go to Coles, I find myself humming, and often singing and dancing down the aisles to tunes that hold a special place in my past. Depeche Mode, Abba, Village People - either the person who programs the music in my local store is from my generation - or knows that I'm the core demographic and plays music accordingly. I cleaned the kitchen cupboards the other day to a stirring rendition of Elton John and Kiki D's Don't go breaking my heart, and it certainly made a drudge-ridden task flow more smoothly. It's also why you see so many people out running with iPods. 

However, my daily walk is one time when I don't need a soundtrack. Every step I take is my meditation. I walk, I breathe, I peek into peoples gardens and windows {hello, voyeurism - but only at their decorating style - I don't want to see actual people!}

I'm now feeling the urge for a big iTunes splurge. There's a few tunes that have been rattling round my head that would be much better served on my iPod. After all, I've got one final burst of painting to undertake - that needs some serious accompaniment from either some New Romantics, or 90s grunge!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

colour coding

Isn't this a pretty idea. This vignette, in a farmhouse featured on countryliving.com exemplifies spring. A collection of simple bottles, that rejoice in their colours and shapes celebrate that glorious spring bloom - the daffodil. Of course it's autumn here in Aus, but still, couldn't you just imagine a bloom for every season?

Friday, April 03, 2009

zen and the art of home maintenence

I've blogged before about my loathing of certain tasks: unloading the dishwasher, packing away clean clothes... etc. But reading Buddhism for Mothers has given me an idea. When your life's busy, taking the time to do these tasks mindfully can be a great way to meditate. I've never been one to meditate - never been able to shut off my mind long enough to sit. Plus, I feel a strong urge to multi-task - if I'm sitting, I might as well be reading, and if I'm reading, I might as well be drinking a cup of tea, then I might as well think about what colour I should paint my nails...

No more. Now, I'm going to just focus on the task and be. I'm not going to be cross or cranky about it, or begrudge doing it - I'm just going to do it. I do that now with food preparation - I adore chopping, slicing, dicing, sauteeing, so why not do it with other tasks? It's just a matter of finding a method you enjoy - and doing it often enough till it becomes a habit. So I'm going to try doing things in reverse. I'll try taking the washing basket into my daughter's room and unloading her folded laundry directly into her wardrobe and drawers, before heading into our room. With the dishwasher, I'll start at the bottom shelf and unpack my way to the top. Hopefully this'll confuse my brain into setting into a new habit with glee - where I can just breathe and get on with it.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

strap me in


Today's shoe of the week had to be Manolo's. My hubby's been designing wardrobes for our bedroom and showed me his plans for my 'shoe wall' and, oh my. Seriously, a wall of shoes? 

If I had some of these gorgeous critters, I'd make sure that each individual shoe pigeonhole was backlit and with a teeny glass door to keep the dust off my pretties. 

Until then, a gal can dream...

meaty moments

Well, I seem to be over my crappy cooking phase. Phew. So allow me to share with you the delicious meal with shared with friends on Saturday night. I'd bought a standing rib roast, divided into two - with two ribs in each piece. After lunch on saturday I stabbed these all over by plunging a knife into the meat and then stuffed them with slices of this gorgeous purple garlic. I popped them into the cooking trays, grated lemon zest over the top, strewed them with thyme sprigs and drizzled over some olive oil. After massaging all this in, I poured some red wine over the top and popped them in the fridge.

The night before I caramelised some finely diced french shallots, added thyme and a cup of red wine which I simmered for an hour so it was rich and reduced. I then popped that in a jar and kept it in the fridge.

An hour before I started cooking I removed the meat from the fridge to bring it to room temperature and started warming up the bbq with all burners on high. When it was time to cook, I turned off the middle two burners, brought the meat out and seared it till it was brown on all exposed sides before popping it back in the aluminium trays and placing them in the middle racks. Then I pulled down the hood, and settled back to drink more champagne. In an hour they were roasted to rare perfection {I had my trusty meat thermometer to ensure that they were} and I pulled them out onto a plate to rest. Then, in the trays with the juices, I added the red wine and shallots that I prepared earlier, deglazed and reduced for around 15 minutes.

All this was served with cubes of potato cooked in duck fat {also on the bbq} and a green salad with walnuts. The meat was then sliced into a huge Fred Flintstone cutlet each, the red wine jus drizzled over top and we all enjoyed it immensely.

After this? A chocolate tart and caramelised pistachios with vanilla icecream {I couldn't find any creme fraiche anywhere on Saturday!}. Yum.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

dirty girl

How could you not want to seriously immerse yourself in household chores with products as beautiful as these? I do so adore Cath Kidston's eye for design, wandering into her store in Wimbledon my delighted peepers didn't know where to alight. 

Products as pretty as these wouldn't be stashed under the sink - they'd be left proudly on display - and I'd have no excuse for dirty dishes or stains on my clothes - now would I?

Oh, and with my in-laws on holiday in the UK... surely they could sneak me home that teensy bar of stain removing soap... Must go on-line and check out what's available and write up my begging list,


ouch

Sorry for the lack of posts today. A v bad headache's kept me away from the computer screen {but not the tv screen so I now have a new love for Ellen and Halle Berry!}

Back tomorrow with, hopefully, a clear head.
xx

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

due credit

Are you a credits lover or do you dash to leave your seat before the first name rolls up onto the screen? 

I'm a stick it till the end gal - for me, a movie's denouement is when the final credit has rolled. Luckily my hubby's content to sit with me - the final two patrons in a cinema, staff cleaning up the popcorn around us.

I've also started a tradition with my daughter. In the holidays she takes a friend to a kid's film and as the final credits roll, they're allowed to rush down to the front of the cinema to dance in the space below the screen while I sit there alternately reading the cast-list and smiling at their antics.

ma toilette

I love how french women attend to themselves. Dedicating a period each morning to grooming is a rather lovely way to start the day. I can be rather slapdash in that area, but am determined to allocate a little more time each day to putting myself together. I'm currently in love with a new skincare regime. I treated myself and my sad old skin to the Olay Definity range and I must say that I'm loving what it's doing. The cleanser has gorgeous little microbeads to buff away impurities and I adore the mousse moisturiser {they'd sold out of the regular stuff at Coles - obviously the advertising's paying off}. After spending too much time swimming and inadvertently sunning, dodgy blotches have taken up residence on my face. Apparently this range positively revels in fighting blotches and splotches - so, ding ding, let the first round commence!

day of judgement

Generally I couldn't give a toss what others think. Catch me on a good day and I'll simply raise an eyebrow, shrug my shoulders and not even give judgement a second thought. But this week, a few events have conspired to make me realise how judgy judgy so many women are. The whole working mum v stay-at-home mum raises vitriol and now it appears there's a new round - domestic goddesses v domestic drudges.

Obviously, if you've read a post or two on this blog, you'll know that I lurve cooking. Adore it. I enjoy cooking for my family and for my friends. It doesn't define me, but it makes me feel pretty bloody good. Sure, I work full-time {from home} but I also like to do the odd housekeepy thing. I like a nice clean sheet on a bed. I don't usually get around to making said bed until just before I climb into it again, but hey, freshly made beds every morning aren't my priority. That said, I don't judge women {or men!} for whom they are. If you leap out of bed, smoothing sheets and doonas before your feet touch the floor good for you. 

Now, how's this for a domestic moment? Last week I went to a Tupperware party {I know!} and one of the friends of the hostess brought along a lovely tray of nibbles. Delicious they were. Looked gorgeous, tasted sumptuous. I dug in wholeheartedly. However, another woman had to say, "Oh, how on earth does she find the time to make something like that?" Um, she prioritised that's how. Yes, turning up at a house with a tray of nibbles at 7pm is impressive - and laudable, not derisible.  If you're one of those people who can't do it - fine - I'm not going to judge you. If you are, again, woo hoo - no judging here.

Let's all stop, appreciate what others have done, and unless it somehow negatively impacts upon us {and not in a egotistical, jealous manner} let's just allow others to do what it takes to make themselves happy - and continue on our merry way.

Monday, March 30, 2009

raindrop rhapsody

Oh, it's raining at the moment - and more blissful timing we couldn't have asked for. My hubby had the day off so we spent the morning, after dropping our child at school, having a gorgeous breakfast at a new cafe called The Kitchen. I had a delish croque madame with chilli jam while hubby dug into some pretty spesh eggs benedict. Then we came home, hung out, then Matt went outside and pruned away in the front garden.

Our murraya is now the most perfect sphere, the buxus hedge perfectly squared off, vines have been tamed and the indigo spires is no longer taking over the perennial bed. After all that pruning it's heaven to receive a nice quenching dose of rain.

My mum and step-dad arrive on the weekend, so we're setting them to work helping us lay the stepping pavers in the courtyard and helping us finish off a few other jobs - they like to keep busy! I'm sure they'll be stunned to see how green we are in this part of NSW after coming up from their parched and charred area of Victoria. 

Ooh, rain on a tin roof - is there a more blissful sound?


pudding perfection

See this? It's pudding perfection. On Sunday we invited my hubby's sister and husband for lunch and I thought I'd make a bread and butter pudding - with croissants. Oh. My. God. Now, some of my puds have received acclaim - this received the equivalent of a 10 minute standing ovation - and it was dead-easy.

Slice up four to five butter croissants and spread them with jam - I used rhubarb spread and smoosh them into a buttered pie dish. Then mix together 3 tablespoons of caster sugar with three eggs and then add 300ml of pouring cream and 200 ml of milk. Mix until well combined and pour over the top of the croissants. Then {and here's the really yummy bit} drizzle the top with a tablespoon of golden syrup. Bake in a 180 degree oven till the top is golden and the custard is thickened - around 25 minutes. Cover it with foil if the top is browning too quickly. Serve with a dollop of vanilla icecream and bask in glory with words such as "Best pudding I've ever eaten in my life" ringing in your ears.

Friday, March 27, 2009

into the void

While I'm loving working from home, I'm not so fond of the isolation. Sending off my work via email is ever-so-handy, but it seems that people are becoming so increasingly busy that having the time to acknowledge a received email isn't happening. I'm normally ridiculously prompt answering my emails with a quick "Thanks!" - unless they're something I need to dwell on, in which case they may sit on the backburner for a while. But it seems that lately I'm spending a reasonable chunk of my working time wondering if a story or invoice has been received, dwelling on it for a week, before sending off another email to question the arrival of another email.

I wish my Mac Mail had a received mail function - where I could attach a read-receipt. But as it doesn't I think I'll just have to get over it, assume my emails have arrived and if they don't, then assume someone will ask me to send it again. I'm not taking on any more stress - it doesn't suit me. 

lift me up

I was reading Gala Darling yesterday and she had a phenomenally long list of super-cute things to do to banish the blues - check 'em out, even if you don't have the blues they're brilliant things everyone should do. 

My blues banishing list is short: find something pretty to look at. Here's my something pretty for today - Fendi sandals in my fave colour combo, and they're patent. Every frown would turn upside down with these decorating your tootsies.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

web of lies

Obviously I love the internet. It fuels my working life, my social life and is a major part of my r & r, but it bugs me when it's used for evil instead of good.

The other week I needed to buy a new washing machine, and, as I was happy with my current brand (Fisher & Paykel) decided to go with their eco-friendly aquasmart washer. My mother-in-law has one and she just adores it. So off I trot to the Black Friday sales, bag myself a bargain, then come home and do something stupid. I googled it.

This caused me to happen upon a review site where page after page caused my heart to plummet - and nearly stop. Every review dripped with vitriol. The loathing of this machine was phenomenol - you'd read better press for Pol Pot. Complaints varied, and praise was thin, until I happened upon a review that urge "Read the manual people!". See, the complaints seemed to be about lint, creasing, water levels and many other issues, that yep, were covered in the manual. See, Fisher & Paykel recommend liquid - or a low-sudsing front loader powder - and many complaints were about their regular powder not dissolving. Or they'd complain about creasing - when there's a no-iron wash. Or that there were problems washing sheets - easily resolved by selecting the sheets mode. Every complaint had a ready solution - in the manual.

I've had my machine for a few weeks now and I adore it. It washes beautifully. Spins dry so well that clothes need much less time on the line. Removes stains better than before - and wishes me a nice day when it's finished. I love it, but if I'd just read these negative reviews I would never have experienced it - and would have bought a less eco-friendly machine. And would that machine have wished me a nice day? Doubtful.

So now I need to hunt out this site, and do what others have done - post dozens of posts under different names - except mine will all be singing the praises of this wonderful machine. {ps: I won't post heaps of different posts - you know I'm far too law-abiding for that!}

great expectations

There is possibly nothing I love more than having friends over for dinner. I adore planning the menu, shopping, cooking and eating and drinking with good friends. However, lately I've had a few shockers. I've never been afraid to mess up when I'm cooking for friends. They know I've tried, and if something's completely inedible, there's always enough baguette or other ingredients to go down - or champagne to wash down a total failure. But the other week I had two shockers in the one meal. The first was seriously incinerating the caramelised radishes. Of course, my friend should feel honoured that I was so entranced by her company that I allowed them to char so violently - but I was peeved with myself. Then, my bernaise sauce split - irredeemably. Poop. Luckily my rib-eye steaks were still tender, but, it shook me.

So this weekend we have good friends coming for dinner for the first time. I'm not sure why, but even though we've been friends for years, I've yet to have them over, and because it's the first time I'm a little nervous. It's Thursday and I still have yet to finalise a menu. Working backwards I'm making a chocolate tart with creme fraiche and a few rasberries. For starters I'm doing a nibbles platter with chorizo, garlicky potatoes, olives, chilli haloumi. For a main I'm making a caramelised onion and red wine reduction... to serve with something beefy - but what? Maybe a standing rib roast and roasted vegies - all cooked on the bbq? Could I? Would I? Shall I?

Oh, what the hell - it's gotta taste good. And we went to Dan Murphy's on the weekend so I have bucketloads of wine and champers to wash it all down...

coaching clinic

I'm three weeks into coaching my daughter's netball team, and loving it sick. In three short weeks I've already noticed the power of positive. When we first started I refused to hear the words "I can't" as in, "I can't shoot" or "I'm crap at defence..." I've told everyone to say, "I'm learning how to shoot," or "I'm getting better at defence". And it's worked. In those three weeks, one of my players who swore she was "crap at shooting" {ps: crap - another word I've banned, despite it being one of my faves...} has shot some goals - that's four more than she's ever shot before. Guess where her confidence level is now? I'm also teaching them that when our team has the ball, every single player on the court is an attack player - and when they have the ball, everyone is defence. I'm already seeing their confidence rise, so I want to see it continue this Saturday for our first game, against one of the best teams in the comp. Gulp.

Positive gives you power. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

bad habits

Procrastination is probably my biggest vice. It causes me angst, stress and just makes me damned annoyed with myself. For example, for a few weeks now I've had piles of, well, crap, on the floor in front of my bookshelf to the right of my desk. Some of it was good, like novels a friend had passed on, some was bad, you know, stuff you keep 'just in case' and other stuff was unidentifiably odd. Now it's gone. I sat down with a bag and ditched 90 per cent of it, then went out, put all the paper in the recyling, anything for the salvos in my salvos bag, and pitched the rest. The books went on the actual bookshelf and now it's all blissfully organised and tidy - and now I have no more reason to procrastinate.

I can't bear my habit of saying, "oh, I really must do this," and am now determined to set a time and date and get on with it. If something really bugs me, I'll do it straight away. I won't walk past the overflowing recycling bin grumbling that I have to empty it soon - I'll empty it now. If there's a sticker on the floor for some unknown reason {not totally unknown, I do have a nine-year-old} then rather than stepping over it, I'll bend down, prise it off and walk off with a free space in my mind. I know, simple, but for some reason not something I've done in the past.

Setting a few must-do tasks for each day helps. Keeping the sink clear for example has a flow-on effect that spreads through my kitchen and helps the whole thing look cleaner. Spending 10 minutes before heading to bed tidying the living room means that the mornings go much smoother. Wiping down the bathroom sink and toilet daily means no massive one-a-week effort. Same with writing up the weekly menus {yep, week two and I'm still loving it!}.

Off to start a productive day now, with my lovely tidy study helping motivate me and get me moving!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

ain't life grand

When I was growing up I was lucky to have all four of my grandparents living. Actually, until I was 10 I also had great grandparents - three of them. And I saw plenty of them, which is one of the best memories I have of childhood. Every week my mum would visit her mum, my nana, and then we'd drive out to my great grandparents' house for lunch. They had the best garden, which is where my love for gardening began. You'd walk out the back and then through a gate into the secret garden, a glorious area framed by hedges and filled with flowering shrubs and rich green grass. My brother and I would play out the back before coming in for lunch. I remember always being amazed at how little my great grandmother would eat - one lamb cutlet, a spoonful of mashed potato {it seemed like a teaspoon-ful} and a little of a green veg. After lunch my great grandfather would lie in their teeny little sun-filled porch, on the floor, and have a nap. Then he'd wake up and give us a lolly from his secret stash.

We'd also spend time visiting my dad's parents. Every morning my dad would get up early and walk down the road {about a kilometre or so} to have breakfast with his mum and dad. Grandma would make fresh juice, and then serve up eggs. If we got up early enough, we could go too. I loved Grandma's poached eggs on toast with vegemite - yum. When I was really young my grandfather would get up at six, walk down the the lake in front of their house, dive in and swim for a mile. Every day. Every season. Even though he'd had a serious motor bike accident in his late teens, and had a seriously bunged-up leg, he still swam every day. It kept his body moving, and his mind active. My grandfather taught me a lot that I'm still putting into action.

That's why I'm glad that my husband's parents live nearby. I try whenever possible to involve them in my daughter's life, particularly as my parents live on opposite ends of Australia {North Queensland and Melbourne!}. At least when my parents come to visit they spend a few days to a week here, so it's a nice, intensive visit. Thinking back on my childhood has made me determined to make even more of an effort to spend extra time with Matt's mum and dad when they get back from their UK holiday. It's those simple things that create such special childhood moments and I want to do my best to ensure that my daughter's childhood memories are filled with magical moments.

global warming?

Okay, it's autumn and it's meant to be 30 degrees today. Crazy. My golden robinia out the front still hasn't lost any leaves, positive that it's still summer. The poor thing will probably just dump every leaf mid-winter, and then start sprouting new buds the next day.

My mum and step-dad arrive in a week, on their way to a kombi jaunt up north. This crazy unseasonable weather will at least mean they can take advantage of the pool. It'll be odd as they haven't seen any of our lengthy renovations - just the starting point and the end result - none of the mess in-between. We'll also be asking them to knuckle down and help us get a few things finished off. Now that the grass has settled in the courtyard we can lay the stepping pavers to the pool gate - and use the lawn we dig up to patch our front lawn with lovely Sir Walter buffalo - rather than the mutley breed we've got out there now.

 

Monday, March 23, 2009

screen time

I must see this. After happening upon the actual Grey Gardens one evening, I've developed an obsession. As soon as I heard that this film was in development, with Drew and Jessica Lange, well, I died. However, after squealing my way through the trailer last week I was devastated to learn that it's screening on HBO - and do we have an HBO in Australia? I think not. Please tell me that someone's picking this up to play in Aus... Someone? Anyone? C'mon, if only for the fashion! {and those roses in the background, oh my}

monday moaning

Mondays always bug me, but I'm determined to get over it. So today, I started off well. I washed up the remainders of last night's feast, rinsed too many bottles and popped them in the recycling and put on a load of sheets. I arrived at the laundry just in time to see my load finished and to discover that my machine tells me to "have a nice day". Why, thank you, I will! I've also written up this week's menu plan all ready to take to the supermarket later this afternoon. Organisation is the best drug.

All this busyness put me in a really good mood. So good that even though I'm still chasing the only person I need quotes from for a story, and she STILL hasn't got back to me a week later, I'm okay with it. It'll come. I just need to do whatever I can to get them. It'll happen. Oh, and I feel so good that even when my husband emailed me to say that someone had smashed the quarterpane in his car I didn't scream in frustration, or curl into a ball of angst, I just called my mechanic and asked for a recommendation and now have a guy coming to fix it in the morning. 

I know why they broke in - my daughter had left one of her handbags on the backseat and they obviously saw it, broke in, and then were sorely disappointed with its contents {oh, and they were blokes because I found, lying next to it in the gutter, a pretty pink Chanel lipgloss that my daughter had obviously 'borrowed'...}. Live and learn. I know never to leave anything of value on display in a car - but I didn't even think that a child's bag would fool someone - except maybe a drunk thief...

So now I'm about to get stuck into work, stuck into the PR gal who needs to get me these quotes and get on with it all. After all, it's a glorious day... who can't be happy? And I'm super-happy knowing that I'll be sleeping soundly on freshly washed sheets, dried in this glorious autumnal sunshine. What's better than that? Ah, that would be nothing!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

cheezburgers anyone?

I reckon I've had about 20 or so cats in my lifetime, but none have had such a love of lying prone, fluffy tummy exposed, as Mr Mulberry Toulouse. It gets me every time, despite his naughtiness and total disdain for my existence.

See, cats love me. I go for a walk, cats come sprinting into their front garden, knowing I'm a sucker for a good patting session. Every cat I've ever owned has adored me - except this little blue number. Mulberry's a daddy's boy, and if he can't have Matt, he'll take our daughter. Me? I'm just the staff - I feed him, water him and change his kitty litter. Maybe that's it - a disdain for those "downstairs". When we bought him his registered name was Lord Rajah... Typical upper class...

Actually, I think he's warming to me - two years on. He probably realises that as I work from home I'm his best option for daytime affection. The other day he actually plonked himself down next to me and allowed me to scratch his head for around five minutes. Yep, I'm blessed.

oh baby baby

This was my lunch - blackened baby barramundi on a salad of leaves, tomatoes and bread - with a lime mayo. Oh baby. It was divine! My hubby had a fabbo pasta with prawns and baby calamari, which was utterly perfect. Even served on plastic plates it was mouthfillingly beautiful.

blue hues


How pretty is the sky today! I had to take this shot of two of my gorgeous red roses against the perfectly azure hue. Seriously, my roses at the moment are just kicking serious butt - gorgeousness! We're having a pretty spesh sunday. After breakfast we walked down to a friend's house and then meandered down to the Wine and Waves festival at the beach. There we had a few glasses of wine {rosé, verdello and semillion were the tipples of choice between us} and then a plate of delish food from a stall set up by our fave restaurant. Then home for a swim, a few chapters of a new book, coffee, and now it's nearly time for another swim. Maybe we'll get some gardening done - or maybe I'll just content myself with having a blissful day of rest.

self-sufficiency

I believe in teaching children cooking skills from an early age. For a start, it shows them the whole store to table process that food goes through, they develop an understanding of the basics, and they're more likely to eat what they've prepared themselves. 

My nine-year-old and her friend are on the back veranda eating scrambled eggs that were totally completed, go to whoa, by the girls {Annabella took great delight in showing Hollie all the steps}. They're smooth, creamy and delicious and would give Bill Grainger a run for his money {Annabella follows Bill's method, but doesn't need to use a cookbook anymore.}.

I keep reading about a generation of people growing up without the most basic of domestic skills, of being unable to identify the most ordinary vegetables {when there are kids who can't identify a potato you've got a problem}. That's so sad. There's nothing more satisfying than choosing a delicious, nutritious meal, shopping for the best ingredients, preparing it and serving it up. I adore the challenge of coming up with new ways to 'eat a rainbow' so we get all the nutrients we need.

Tonight our nephew's coming to dinner so I'm making my new love - rib eye steaks - on the bbq and serving it with fresh beetroot relish and a rainbow 'coleslaw'. I've got red cabbage, spanish onions, carrots, zucchini and walnuts for the salad - and I'll dress it with a red wine vinegar and chilli dressing. Yum.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

job lot

We've been spending most weekends just pottering away at the odd job. Last weekend I went through my piles of mags and got rid of two categories {apparently so our cat Mulberry could have somewhere new to rest his head!}. This weekend we're heading outdoors to de-weed the construction debris down the side of the house. We'll slash it all down just in time for the green waste collection next week. Then it's time to work out what to do down there. I'm hankering for some soil to plant some herbs and veg - and maybe even espalier a lemon and lime tree along the fence... In time.

Friday, March 20, 2009

all white now


Is there any such thing as too much white? We're tossing up what to do with the decking in the pavillion by the pool. Paint it white, leave it to weather to grey {and introducing a new entrant in the mix} paint it grey...

Oh, and I need that sofa/daybed, although I have a sneaking suspicion it's a v pricey Lloyd Loom kinda number. Can I find something similar, pile it with cushions and still feel the love?

just wow

As an avid booklover, my dream is to have bookshelves everywhere an eye can alight. So, ahem, how cute is this reading nook? I found it on Black Eiffel today and am beyond smitten. Am really in a decorating mood {but should probably do a little cleaning and tidying first...}

dare to dream

I think I could live like this...

write way

I may only be a few days into my whole menu-planning scenario - but I'm liking it. Earlier this week I devised a week's worth of meals, wrote them in a word document and allocated a day of the week to them depending on degree of difficulty and time requirements {busy days meant an early start with the slow-cooker - or a quick 15 minute kebab and salad dish}.

Under this I wrote out a shopping list for each meal and then went to the supermarket to buy all the essentials that'd keep for a few days {most veg, tins of beans, tomato passata...} and I'm buying any remaining fruit and veg fresh every few days. Well, it's worked, I haven't hit Coles for a few days which means I'm not spending up big. We've had really yummy meals - remind me to post last night's chorizo pasta bake - omg. And I feel organised and in control. The best part is not having to do ask myself that endless "What shall we have for dinner tonight?" question - cos you already know it.

Tonight's dinner's easy - sausage sandwiches at the school's family disco. What a way to start a weekend. Oh, and Saturday, as we're off to our fave nursery to look at plants and a couple of stores to look for a daybed for the pavillion, I'm making chilli con carne in the slow cooker. I haven't had this childhood fave for yonks, so am really looking forward to a steaming dish served with brown rice. Heavenly... Sunday night we've got our nephew coming for dinner. He's a big, body building bloke so he's easy - a big rib eye steak on the bbq with a big salad will serve him well. Oh, and plenty of beer - he's a boy that's not big on sweets.

Oooh, I do love a friday. Off to walk down the road to watch my gal singing in the choir. Cuteness!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

stew hoo

Last night's stew was delicious. Here it is, freshly served, with steam rising from the most tender and moist meat to ever grace a plate. Here's how I made it in the slow cooker:
Beef and guinness stew
1kg of chuck steak, cut into mouth-sized chunks, fat removed
1 onion, finely diced
1 stick celery, finely diced
1 carrot, diced
275ml guinness or dark ale
275ml of beef stock
2 bay leaves
2 tbs of tomato paste
a good sprinkling of dried, mixed herbs.

Throw everything into the slow cooker, give it a stir then place a sheet of baking paper over the top, tucking in the edges. Cook it on low for 7 hours, then remove the lid, take off the paper, turn the heat to high and stir. Add cornflour {I added about 4 tsp mixed with water to a runny paste} and stir well. Throw in some salt and pepper. Leave on high for around 30 minutes, or until thickened. Serve with mashed potato, and, if you remember, some freshly chopped parsley. Bask in adoration of husband who thinks it's the most tasty stew you've cooked. Have leftovers on toast for lunch the next day and feel like Nigella's smarter sister!

beady eyed

Rushing to get out the door on the school run, I had to stop to untangle a set of bead that had been entwined through one of the many that hang on my hall stand. "Why do you always have to wear beads?" my daughter asked, and it made me think. I believe that beads are the punctuation point to my outfit. I no longer have my ears pierced, only wear a rose gold wedding band, and bracelets tend to get in the way of typing and other daily activities. But beads can dress up an outfit no end.

I don't have any expensive beads, I think the most pricey were a couple that my mother bought me for my last birthday, and maybe my nanna's old crystal beads. However, in the old cost-per-wear category, some of my beads are now paying me. I'm wearing a long strand today that's varying shades of green 'glass'. Each bead is a different size, and shade, and looped around my neck twice is the ideal option with any oufit. Today I'm wearing a sky blue tank from French Connection {originally, but bought at the Salvos...) and a white skirt with a blue and green floral print - the beads bring it all home.

On the mum's night out last friday I wore a simple black dress, but jazzed it up Chanel-style with a long strand of faux pearls and layers of black beads. Tres magnifique.

I can go out without lippy {but probably not lip balm}, don't fret if I've forgotten my mascara {that's what tinting eyelashes is for!} but if I leave without beads - well, I feel half naked. What's your outfit punctuation point?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

home scents

Yesterday I discussed annoying ads, and ads that always irk me are ones for spray home fresheners. Erk. I reckon that if your home is clean, and preferably cleaned with scrummy essential oils, then it should smell fresh - particularly if you open some windows to let more freshness in. Don't get me wrong, I have my room sprays - lavender in the bathroom, peony on my desk, vanilla in the living room, rose in the bedroom... but these are all gorgeous scents and I don't use them to cover another smell, I just use them to add a punctuation of pretty after I've finished cleaning.

At the moment my home has the best scent of all - my beef and guinness stew bubbling in the slow-cooker. Can you imagine the bliss when we come home after netball training to be welcomed with such a homely aroma? Personally I love a cooking smell, which is lucky because as it's over 100 years old my home tends to retain aromas - and I love reminding of that delicious lamb roast, or the caramelised onions for a frittata, or even the coffee the espresso machine pumps out at regular intervals. 

Oh, and at the moment I have so many lush roses blooming after their summer prune that even one house away their aroma starts to blossom and by the time you walk through my front gate you're enveloped in their heady perfume. Bliss.

life lessons

As I mentioned yesterday, we're in frugal mode. Yep, lock down those purses, put away the credit card and scrimp and save every penny. Luckily for us it's out of want, not need. Having finally renovated the backyard after seven years of living with a useless eyesore the red side of our bank balance is exceeding the black. So we're tightening the budgetary belts to help pay it off.

The best part of it is, that it's a really good opportunity to teach our daughter some financial skills. She's only nine, so the lessons are small, and never preachy, but I think you can never learn financial nous too early. When I was young I always learned to save for what I bought, and with the exception of our house, and renovation, I've stuck with it. If we don't have the money, we put off the purchase - unless it's an emergency like a hot water service {two years ago} which is when we dive into the emergency reserve.

So, about my child... At the moment we're reading Milly Molly Mandy, the most delightful girls stories on the planet. Milly Molly Mandy lives with her mother, father, uncle, aunty, grandma and grandpa in a white thatched cottage, and in last night's bedtime story, finally got a bedroom of her own in the loft. They painted the walls pale primrose, died some old curtains and her coverlet green, grandpa came home with an old dresser {again, which they painted green} and aunty and uncle donated their old mirror. Milly Molly Mandy was delighted! Now, none of this stuff was new or purpose made, it was all adapted, or they made do. In Annabella's room she has a wardrobe, painted white, that's been in my husband's family for decades. Her dresser is an old 60s chest of drawers, painted white with new glass handles and her desk, used to be her aunts when she was a lass. Her sheets and doonas are new, but she knows that these things are all perfectly serviceable - we just needed to tweak them to suit her.

When it comes to shopping she helps me spot the items on sale and we'll often refrain from buying something as it's too expensive, or we can't afford it. Kids need to know that instant gratification isn't sustainable, or even desirable. When I went to Uni I wanted to buy a second hand computer so I borrowed $1000 from my grandfather and paid him back, with interest, in twelve months. Sure, he could have waived that interest, but he was teaching me a lesson - if you borrow money it always costs you more.  

oh my guinness

It's a stew night tonight, and one day late, we're having beef and guinness stew. It's a long, busy day today, so I'm going to bring out the slow cooker - and adapt my recipe to suit. According to my Margaret Fulton Crockpot Cookbook virtually anything can be cooked in a crockpot - you just need to adjust the liquid levels as it won't evaporate while cooking. So my recipe calls for 1 cup of guinness and 2 cups of beef stock... Margaret reckons that one cup is enough liquid... Hmmmm. Do I go half a cup of guinness and half of beef stock? What do I do with the leftover guinness? Freeze it perhaps? Or, do I double my recipe so there's more meat and then freeze the leftovers? That'd be the sensible idea wouldn't it? Oh, and thrifty too!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

steady on, soldier

Normally people pay next to naught attention to ads. My husband's one. He'll look like he's staring intently at the TV, and when I comment on the ad he'll say, "Oh, I wasn't watching". Which is an impressive act - I'd love to be able to zone out, especially for the annoying ones, but, wait, where was I? Oh yes, the one ad that so many people seem to have taken to heart is the one about Soldiering on when you're ill. Remember that? All these grim-faced, grey-toned people marching off to work with the flu because they'd taken some fancy-smancy pill. Good for them. Why stay at home recuperating when you can be off spreading your germs around others. Yay for infectiousness.

I have a point. Last night I played netball, and on the opposing team was a distinctly ashen-faced goal shooter. She kept stopping to bend over and take deep breaths, and at one stage the game stopped while she swapped positions with the Wing Attack {not strictly legal I reckon, but anyways...}. Then, a mere few minutes before the whistle blew for the end of the game, she raced off court, pulling off her pinny and dashing off upstairs - presumably for the loo.

At the end of the game, she came back on court to good-naturedly shake hands with the opposing team {that'd be us}. I asked her if she was okay, and she said "Oh, yeah, I've just been throwing up all day..." And yes, she said this after shaking my hand. Hello, germapolooza. Now I'm one for team spirit and not letting down the side etc, but, um, I'm also one for not spreading around any vomity viruses - I'm fussy that way. So now, today, I keep feeling distinctly queasy, and wonder if it's just my suggestible-hypochondria {yes, that's an actual syndrome} or if I've actually caught something.

Damned soldiers, should've stayed in the trenches...

green with envy

It's St Patrick's Day today, so cook up a beef and guinness stew and create a gorgeous green eye like this in honour of the day. Green eyeshadow is the perfect foil for those of us with brown eyes - and can look startling on those with baby blues. Use your brush to paint along the upper lash line and extend to just above your upper eyelid, then sweep a line under your eye. Lashings of black mascara complete the look - and for a real dash of evening flash, use a black liquid eyeliner to slick a catseye from the inner to outer edge. For a change of mood, wet your brush and slick on your eyeshadow for a look similar to this...

money matters

We're back on the frugal track in our household. Which means reigning in the budget and sticking to it. Probably the scariest part of working on a budget is actually tracking how much money you spend... on nothing. For me, my big killer is the supermarket. I tend to shop sporadically, without a plan, and walk out spending a small fortune every time - yet still have no food in the fridge. So now, I'm back to the plan. Which means:
1. Make a plan, Stan: planning a week's meals {and sticking to it!}
2. Supermarket saver: only shopping weekly at the supermarket for the essentials and buying fresh fruit, veg and meats from my local stores every second day.
3. Walk this way: cutting back on car trips - the less I drive, the more I save on petrol and the fitter I get through walking. Bonuses all round.
4. Make do: We're so used to instant gratification, thinking we have to have something - NOW. But really, most of the time you can make-do with what you have. So before I make up the shopping list I'll look through the fridge, freezer and pantry and see what I've already got there. I know I've got all the ingredients for a tuna risotto just hanging around, so that should be on the menu plan right now.
5. Spend a little to save a lot: I use a lot of fresh herbs in my cooking, and am forever buying bunches and only using half. So this weekend I'm going to get a big pot {while I'm waiting to create my real herb and vegie patch} and plant a few essential herbs: italian parsley, sage, mint, rosemary, thyme...
6. Get creative: Autumn's here, and the days are getting cooler. I'll sort through our wardrobes and think of how we can mix and match to make the most of what we've got. I've already stocked up on a few essentials for my daughter at Target's 20 per cent off sale, hopefully we'll make do for a while with that.
7. Frugal cooking: slow cooking is cheap cooking. Even though retailers have caught onto the slow cooking boom and raised the prices of many cheap meats {wow, have you seen the price of lamb shanks lately? They used to give them away for dog bones a few years back} you can still get cheap cuts at a bargain price. I'm going to hunt down the specials and cook them up with some vegies and a good slosh of cleanskin red wine - and my fresh herbs...
8. Elbow grease: one of the easiest ways to save is to put some muscle behind your cooking. So it's broom over vacuum, damp cloth for dusting and using a squeegie in the shower. No chemicals, no electricity, no fumes - just a clean, satisfying home.

Monday, March 16, 2009

expert advice

I love the work I do. As a journalist, I get to interview experts in the field and get their tips to help make my readers lives {and then, my own} just that little bit better.

In the years I've worked, I've been lucky to find a few experts who are just so good at what they do and enthusiastically like to share the love around. Paul Timms, the CEO of the Australian Institute of Personal Training is one. This man obviously has a love for knowledge, soaks it all up, then is happy to chat away with me about it. He's given me some great fitness, health and lifestyle tips over the years - all in an accessible, enthusiastic manner. 

While we were chatting the other day he reminded me that it takes 21 repetitions to make or break a habit. So if you start on a new fitness plan, by the time you've done whatever you're doing 21 times, you've created a new habit - and busted that old one. Most people think it's 21 days, but if you think about it, most of us only tend to exercise a few days a week, so three weeks in, we've probably only hit the 9 repetitions mark - not even halfway to making a habit.

Maintaining a positive mindset and learning to love what you do is one of the best ways to form new habits. If you sigh and groan when you lace up your trainers, chances are you're not going to get a lot out of a session. But if you get ready with enthusiasm, looking forward to this little chunk of 'me time' there's a good chance the time will fly by. That's why it's also important to keep hunting around to find something you love - particularly in the fitness arena. We all know how good strength exercises are for us {they help maintain muscle mass, increase your resting metabolism and replace fat stores with lean muscle, to name just a couple} but if you don't like lugging weights, you're not going to do it - no matter how good it is for you. 

Personally I like to snatch the odd couple of minutes throughout the day to do a few squats, or push-ups against a bench - and I love doing these exercises in the pool after a few laps. Or when I'm out walking, I'll stop at a bench and do a few tricep dips. However, my weights? They're usually spending quality time as door stops... I have netball tonight which is a life-long love. No matter if we lose or win I know it's doing my body and soul good every time I hit that court with a great group of gals.

Today's positive task is to tidy my desk for 10 minutes before I start work. The nailpolishes, beads, paid bills and skype headphones have no place on my desk during a working day. When the surface is all cleared off, I'll wipe my desk down with some hot water, with a couple of drops of lime essential oil added to it for an invigorating way to start the day. Happy monday!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

lazy sundays

Sundays have to be the laziest day of the week - surely it's in the constitution... After a great night with friends last night, today's going to be lazy with a capital L. And an exclamation point. Probably underlined as well. Yep, that lazy.

A bowl of coffee is in order, while reading the papers poolside of course. Then maybe a swim while the weather's still blessing us with warmth. I do believe that the markets are also calling my name, I need some homemade pickles created with love.

Maybe some gentle gardening in the afternoon? I should treat the roses with some manure as they're flowering so beautifully at the moment. I'll dig out a couple of weeds that are also invading their personal space {I know, rude!}. Enjoy your weekend.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

in the raw

I'm making beef carpaccio. I know, it seems like I'm blogging, but nope, I'm preparing a culinary masterpiece. See, in the freezer, along with ice cubes, vodka and frozen bananas, is a fillet of beef. Apparently I need to freeze it for one hour to help slice it to extraordinarily slender levels. Then I'll arrange it on a platter - dress with a mixture of olive oil, baby capers and semi dried tomatoes {with salt and pepper and a dash of tabasco} and leave it for an hour to marinate. I think I'm going to put some lemon zest on it as well, cos, you know, that's what I like to do. A salad of baby rocket will sit on the top and this will form our appetizer this evening.

After that I'm planning an encore of last week's main - as I couldn't find any decent veal today - probably because I left my shopping till the last second. But rib eye steak, cooked to perfection and served with a homemade bernaise sauce isn't to be sniffed at. Must say that I'm also looking forward to a crisp, green salad. The mother's night last night was bucketloads of fun, but my body's not too happy with the deep fried platter of food I consumed along with the champagne. Eeek. Last night I did realise that my friends are too much fun - and too hilarious. I feel so extraordinarily lucky to have managed to accumulate some pretty spesh people over the years. You've got to be thankful for every minute you share with someone who enriches your life, non?

Friday, March 13, 2009

weekend wonder

Ah, who doesn't love a good weekend? I'm particularly enamored of them when they start on a Friday night - makes them seem all the more significant. Tonight's a mother's night out at a local pub which is gearing up to be too much fun. It's black friday, so I reckon the attire's going to be pretty heavy on the noir which suits my fashion mood today. I'm just tossing up whether I go totally goth with black fingernails, demi-goth with dark purple or try classic with red nails... Thoughts? I will be drinking champagne, and really, every colour goes with champers {and rouge lips}.

Tomorrow night we have friends to dinner. I've promised beef carpaccio as an appetiser, so I'll need to get googling - and hunt down a butcher with a fresh piece of beef. Mains-wise I'll be on the barbeque again - but I haven't decided on the meat. Perhaps veal cutlets with gremolata? And for dessert, I'll think I'll be running with pear tarte tartin again - or a lemon tart... Wow, so indecisive!

Enjoy your weekend xx

Thursday, March 12, 2009

a piece of green

Taking eco-friendly steps is always my preferred option. When I do a load of washing it's always a cold load - and there's nothing I like better than pegging it out to dry in the sunshine and soft breezes. When I find aphids on my roses I'll blast them off with a hose, then feed the plants with more manure to make them healthier and better able to fight off disease. If I need to use a toxic spray to combat a pest, I'll remove the plant and try something hardier in its place {that's what I did with the two standard azalias at the foot of my stairs - they were constantly stricken with red spider mite - ugly little critters}.

If I have a choice, I'll choose organic over chemically-grown products - I prefer to reward farmers who are doing their best for our environment. And turning off a light when I leave the room just seems like common sense. Generally I also find warm water and a cloth cleans most things, if not, I'll add some essential oils and white vinegar and find it cuts through most gunk. Sure, scrubbing at my grout with a brush is more labour-intensive than spraying on bleach and spraying it off with the shower head. But I don't get bowled over by fumes, and I quite like the incidental exercise and arm toning I get {I am going to have the most buff right arm any day now... I find it hard to be ambidextrous}. 

I reckon that if it worked for my grandma - why shouldn't it work for me?

in the bag

Do you know what could get me through dreary winter days? This Valentino purse. I'm not a statement bag gal, but for this, I could be convinced to change my mind...

love is

Look at these. Gorgeous non. They're Oscar de la Renta and the pink of perfection. I'd love to wear them with a little black dress (Herve Leger if I'm really dreaming) bright red lips.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

what you love

Hey, you know how yesterday I said I was going to jump on my exercise bike for 20 minutes? Didn't manage it. Six minutes in I was hating it {actually, one minute in I was hating it, but I forced myself on for another 5 minutes}. I'm always writing about doing what you love, and now I have to acknowledge that I loathe the exercise bike. My hubby loves it though, so at least it gets use with him. 

But I love, love, love going for a walk - and sometimes even breaking into a run {just sometimes, not very often...}. Walking's an underrated form of exercise. If you mix it up and walk up and down hills, find some stairs, swing your arms and vary the pace, it's a great workout. It gets your heart pumping and your lungs working and tones your legs and butt. If you maintain good posture and pull in your core it can help tone your tum as well. A daily walk's got to do more for your physical and mental wellbeing than forcing yourself to do something you don't enjoy.

It's easy to get caught up in doing what you think you "should" do. Generally, I know that if I "should" do something I won't. I'll rebel, and loathe it, and not manage to complete it. Whereas if I find that 15 to 30 minutes for a walk {I timed my "15 minute" walk last night and realised it takes me 30 minutes - woo hoo} then I feel amazing and that spreads into every little corner of my life.

Oh, and today's my first netball coaching session for my daughter's team. I've got my plan all ready to go - wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

time quest

Oh, it's a busy time again. You know how just when things calm down a little and you think you've got things under control, something will rear its ugly head... That's my week.

Over the last few days I've finally got back into the regular walking thing, but then last night, just as I was thinking how much I love walking at dusk, enjoying the views of the ocean, two enormous rats scurried across mere centimetres in front of me. I NEARLY STEPPED ON THEM. I kept wanting to do a girly squeal, but nobody was there to hear, so really, what's the point. Instead I settled for a lot of shuddering, and decided to change my route to bypass the festering old surf house, home of a gazillion rats apparently {or just the two...}

Aside from the rat incident I love making sure I get active every day. Reading Chatterbox Sara's blog today reinforced the need for all of us to do something special for ourselves each day, whether that's pampering, exercising, meditating... they all lead to the same place. So even though I have dinner guests arriving at 6pm tonight, I'm going to jump on the exercise bike at 4.30 and pretend I'm in a Spin Class for 20 minutes. That'll do.

Monday, March 09, 2009

clutter busted

We had a bit of a purge yesterday, going through the obscene amount of magazines weighing down the shelves in the study. Now I've got a massive stack of food and pool mags to take to the salvos. The room seems so much lighter already! 

I was also able to get rid of more cardboard in the recycling bin yesterday. It's a shame that our recycling collection is only fortnightly - we could do with a fortnightly rubbish, and weekly recycling collection. Slowly chipping away at the piles of cardboard that encased our bbq.

Speaking of barbeques, oh, I'm in love with mine. On saturday night it cooked the rib-eye steaks to perfection, then I rested them on the warming rack above while I cooked the bernaise sauce on the burner on the side. And oh, home-made bernaise? Delish. Served with a green salad with walnuts and the yummable glazed, simmered radishes it was simply blissful. Of course I forgot to take photos - but you'll have to trust me. The steaks were striped with caramel on the outside, pink and succulent inside and the sauce a lovely golden hue, speckled with green from the tarragon. 

Last night I tried again and cooked up some pork ribs - and yes, again, perfection. I'll be bbqing every night now till the dead of winter when the slowcooker can come out again.

Oh, and yesterday morning we had a family breakfast to say farewell to my in-laws before they jet off the UK. We were to bring breads, so I bought a brioche from the deli and sliced it up, a couple of baguettes, a loaf of sliced and I made Nigella's super-easy pain au chocolate. Oh my.

Take a sheet of butter puff pastry and cut it in four quarters. Place a couple of squares of chocolate a few centimetres from one corner and slowly roll it down. Seal it lightly with your fingers and pull the ends around into a crescent shape. Coat it with egg wash and pop it in a really hot oven for around 10 minutes. Serve immediately and prepare to drown in adoration. {Oh, and don't tell everyone how easy they are to make - just revel in your domestic goddess status - particularly if you've had way too much wine and champagne the evening before...}

Sunday, March 08, 2009

pizza grande

We come from a rather sheltered upbringing in Oz, where our pizzas are usually the size of a regular dinner plate - and made to share. Imagine this six-year-old's delight at spying a slice of pizza bigger than her head. We allowed her to try one for the novelty, and amazingly, she polished it off and asked for seconds... and then demolished that too.

Eyes bigger than stomach? Not in this gal's case.


iconic status

I've long been infatuated with religious iconography, which is why Italy left me so enchanted. From roadside alters to the unexpected homage, simple beauty was always on display and allowed me a moment to reflect.

sunday sighs

We were reminiscing today about our trip to Italy, and so I just had to revisit the magical town of Venice. It had long captured my imagination and it's forever stolen my heart.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

high steaks

We have friends coming to dinner tonight, the first time we'll be using the backyard for entertaining. Woo hoo. I knew all week what I'd cook for dessert (pear tarte tartin) but couldn't think of a main. Now I have. I'm buying fabulous steaks and making my own bernaise sauce. I'll serve it with a well dressed green salad (with walnut dressing) and I'll be cooking up some pretty pink radishes again (glazed with a slick of butter and sugar - oooooooh).

The kids are getting a mini burger bar and eating on a picnic rug in my grassed courtyard (gotta take advantage of that grass!)

So that means we have to set up the bbq for its first ever cook-off. Wish me luck. Enjoy your weekend. xx

Thursday, March 05, 2009

shoe who

I'm going to a Black Friday do next weekend. Imagine these snippets of sexy adorning my feet. Meow.

ode to op-shopping

Regular readers and friends know of my passion for op-shops. I think it's the ultimate way of recycling, saving and finding something different. Today I needed a break so took a bag of stuff to the salvos {I know, still, where is all this stuff coming from?!?} After dropping off my donation I headed to the book room and picked up a fabulous hard cover copy of Little Women for my daughter {which I'll read again, and sob over again, until she's ready - maybe when she's 10? What do you think?} I also find myself a Wilde Bedside companion with four of his fab novels in one!!! For $2 - bargainalicious. Then, oh, and this is priceless. VICTORIA BECKHAM'S LEARNING TO FLY. Yes, I died a little. Hardcover, brand new, $4. Some may say that's $4 too much, but I do love the OTT Posh. And, there's pictures. I haven't looked yet, but c'mon, some of them have to be of her hubby do they not?

But wait, that's not all. I got myself a brand new gunmetal grey swimsuit for $5. Crazy. My hubby also needed some new work pants and I found a snazzy pair of pinstriped Saba trousers for $5. They're flapping on the line as we speak {I ignored the strict dry clean only info - they're not a bargain if I have to pay twice that much to dry clean them, so I handwashed.}''

Happy.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

lunchbox love

When I went to school I had vegemite sandwiches every single day. Tomorrow my daughter is having chorizo and potato frittata. I must say that I prefer progress...

For these lunchbox delights, I sliced chorizo and cut the chunks in quarters and sauteed them. Then I finely sliced some potatoes, and browned them. Then my gal beat 12 eggs and added a little salt and pepper and we poured them into muffin tins lined with polka-dotted muffin cases. She sprinkled the tops with grated parmesan and we baked them for 15 minutes at around 180 degrees till they were puffed, golden and set.

I reckon they're going to taste a lot better than a vege sarni...

take a seat

Here's the pavilion at the end of the pool which we positively la la love. At the moment we've got our old cane setting in there, until we find the perfect daybed, seating combo. Can you see our chandelier? It casts the perfect subtle light at night. We haven't decided yet whether to let our thick decking weather to grey, or to paint it white... Although I'm dead over painting at the moment.

We're having friends over on the weekend, so the bar fridge, cunningly hidden behind the chair on the left, will be put into service holding champagne! All we need to do now is a little more planting, doors on the pool equipment room {under the stairs! clever non?} and a final coat of paint on the pavilion itself. And enjoy it of course!!

sneaky peak 1

Okay, my backyard's not quite ready for its close up, but I had to share this with you. Here's my pool - from the pavillion's eye view. There's a planter box on the right, running the full 10 metre length of the pool and it's been planted out with Lilly Pillies for hedging. At the end of the pool is another planter box - with the pool butts directly up to {with a pool seat at that end...}. We're thinking of either a lime green New Zealand Flax or gardenias at the moment... And yes, the pool is just as refreshing as it looks.

mini morsels

Everything tastes better in miniature. Last night I made individual apple pies and mmmmm, they were good. I diced up some granny smith apples, placed them in a pan with a broken cinnamon stick, a good sprinkling of brown sugar, a splosh of brandy, a little butter and a splash of water. Then I covered it, brought it to the boil, then let it simmer for around 10 minutes.

Then I put the filling into four ramekins and cut out a round of puff pastry, with two slits cut into it to let the steam escape. I pressed this over around the edges of the ramekin and brushed the top with milk before sprinking over some white sugar. I baked them in a hot oven for around 10 minutes and served them in a bowl with an espresso cup filled with vanilla icecream beside them.

Yum.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

go slow

Now it's autumn I'm entitled to bring out the slow cooker again. Hurrah! I used it for the first time on Saturday to do my leg of lamb studded with garlic and anchovies, and oh, it was good. Now, a friend of mine reckons that nearly everything that comes out of a slow cooker tastes the same, which I tend to agree with - so I thought I'd try something different this time. 

I sliced a brown onion finely and made a bed on the bottom of the slow cooker, threw in a few bay leaves on top and then, after studding the meat with the garlic and anchovies, I browned it in a pan. I place the meat in the cooker on its bed of onions and bay then deglazed the pan with a half a cup of white wine (sauv blanc actually). I ground pepper over top of the lamb, poured the wine over top and then let it slowly cook for nine hours. 

It ended up with a whole, new taste. Not slow cooker taste, nor slowly cooked in the french oven taste - a bit of a combo of both. Very tender and tasty. We only ate half the lamb, so I had enough to make lamb and bacon pie for dinner {and caused my child to leap up and down in delight!}. Now, if I were an intelligent person I would have saved the onions and broth from the lamb in the slow cooker as stock for the pie. 

I'm not an intelligent person.

Tonight, I'm having my in-laws for dinner so I'm making beef bourginon in the slow cooker. I've had big chunks of steak marinating overnight in red wine, garlic and bouquet garni and now I'm off to fry up some bacon and throw it in the slow cooker with the meat, marinade, carrots, french shallots and sliced onions. With an hour to go I'll saute some button mushrooms and throw them in. I'll serve it with vegies and a baguette, and for pudding I'll make individual apple pies in ramekins - served with cream. Mmmmmmm. {But I'll cheat and only put pastry on the top layer so it's nice and crispy}

Monday, March 02, 2009

now and zen

I think I need to revisit a book I read a few years ago, Buddhism for Mothers, by Sarah Napthali. I'm not a religious person, and I'm not a buddhist, I am, however, a tad on the spiritual side. I like to take little snippets from organised religions and make them my own, and I think that the buddhist art of zen could be what I quite fancy at the moment. 

I particularly like the whole notion of living in the moment - something I so rarely do. Slowing down, breathing and totally focussing on one aspect of life is desirable, but something I rarely achieve. That's probably why I adore pegging out the washing. The act of taking a freshly washed garment from the basket, shaking it, turning it so I've got the seams straight, then shaking it again, before pegging and smoothing it is all remarkably meditative. I can't do anything else when I'm pegging, I just breathe, take in the blue sky, the feel of the lush green grass underfoot and relax. 

I'd like to work out other ways to make other household tasks so satisfying - particularly putting away the folded washing - I'm still dead crap at that. Unpacking the dishwasher also rarely gives me cause for joy - but I love packing it... I like the art of cleaning, and I enjoy the end result, there's just a weird bit in the middle that prevents my domestic goddess from bursting out.

Oh well, baby steps. Off to peg out my towels, ahhhhhh.

monday musings

It's Monday, it's grey and drizzly-looking, and it's autumn. I'm also still in my jammies at 10.30am {breaching one of my main working-from-home rules}. However, I've got a story due today that I hadn't written at 9am, but finished my first draft by 10.30 - hurrah. I also have to dash to my daughter's school at 11am for an hour's work at the tuck shop. So I'm saving my showering and real clothes till 10.45 {I know, speedy}...

Autumn's funny in coastal NSW. One of our deciduous trees has lost nearly all its leaves, while another's still coated in them. We don't get the pretty colour-changes here, and have to head south for autumnal colours. But I'm feeling autumnal in my cooking. I roasted a 7 hour lamb on saturday so the leftovers are going in a pie tonight. Mmmmm. I have my in-laws coming to dinner tomorrow night, one of the last times we'll see them before they head to the UK to stay with my sister-in-law and family for eight weeks. Jealous much? Of course I am!

Our weekend was relatively relaxed. We pottered around doing a few odd jobs, nothing huge, just pleasantly satisfying. Then on Sunday I attended a Coaching Clinic to get some skills for coaching my daughter's netball team. It started at 9am and finished at 3pm and I was blown away by what I learned. An enthusiastic coach from Netball NSW drove up from Sydney and spent the day passionately infusing us with knowledge that'll help us become better coaches and inspire girls who are talented, polite and respectful {one of her top tips was treat the umpires with respect, and teach your team to do so - very, very important!}. Only 10 of us attended - and there are 4000 girls who play at Newcastle on a Saturday - so that's a lot more coaches than just 10! I also picked up a few attacking and defensive moves I'm going to use in tonight's game - my opposition had better watch out!

People who so generously share their knowledge are just golden - what's the point in having a skill if you're not prepared to share it with others?