Wednesday, August 19, 2009

face v butt

That old quote {to paraphrase}: "Once a woman reaches 40 she has to choose: her face or her butt," has been attributed to many celebs - including Catherine Deneuve. Regardless of who said it, I think it's a mighty potent thought.

I've chosen my face.

Accidently mind. See, I like to eat, and I like to drink, therefore I shan't be seeing a size 10 again. And, you know what? I don't miss it. For years I fought a tough battle to stay a size 10 and now I've realised that if I'm reasonably fit, relatively healthy and happy enough then that's okay.

However, one aspect of old age does scare me - getting a flat pancake bum.

Now, if you start off with a pancake bum, then fine, but I haven't - so I don't wish to end with one. Luckily, a few years ago I wrote a story on exercise for seniors: Grey Power. I spoke to plenty of experts in the field who told me that our ability to build muscle continues - into our NINETIES. You can be buff at 90! Then, one exercise physiologist told me something that made my heart sing, just because you're old doesn't mean you lose your butt - it's a muscle and so long as you exercise it you can keep it.

Woo hooo.

Remember that episode of Sex and the City where Samantha's getting it on with a wealthy geriatric? And what was the one thing that put her off? When he walked out the room, his butt was gently lapping at the back of his knees...

Well, the soggy butt is not inevitable, which is damned heartening. So now I'm kinda choosing my butt and my face - just with a little more padding. I'll just take my rump with a little plump.

girl stuff

I think I'm getting more Parisian as I'm starting to feel rather erky if I'm not groomed. Now, I don't mean all neat and tidy, rather I need my hair to be washed, with the curls formed just-so. Without a pretty colour on my toes I feel nude, and I'm becoming quite the handcream lover.

I'm still pretty low-maintenance, but my new must-do indulgence is an eyelash tint. See, I have stubby little eyelashes thanks to years of abuse, and because I dye my hair black, my lashes don't quite match.

So this morning I toddled off to the beautician where for $20 I've given myself a good month-worth of blue-black lashes. That's only $5 per week people! You can't even buy two cups of coffee for that. Now all I need to do to feel presentable is slick on a coat on tinted lipgloss, sling some beads around my neck and that's it. Done.

That said, I could do with those gorgeous vintage shoes in the shot here.

Ahhh, 1920s Paris. J'adore...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

time-saving tuesday

Normally I'm not a fan of multi-tasking. I believe it dilutes your effectiveness and stops you from concentrating on what matters. Checking emails while you're on the phone? Rudeness.

However, the BEST time to multi-task is while you're boiling the kettle and then waiting for your tea to draw. See, I've always been far too impatient to allow myself to wait the few precious minutes it takes for my tea to infuse properly - so I force myself to DO SOMETHING ELSE while it's drawing. But it's gotta be something in the kitchen, otherwise I'll forget and come back to a soggy cup of tepid tea stew.

Euwww.

I'm usually a coffee from my espresso machine gal, so I only have one cup of tea per day, but boy, do I get a lot done while making it. I set the timer for three minutes and then I'll wipe down the front of the kitchen cupboards with a warm cloth. Perhaps I'll clean out a shelf in the fridge and wipe it down. Maybe I'll sweep the kitchen floor. Or there's a chance I'll dust the skirting boards.

Then, I'll wash my hands and wander off with my perfectly drawn cup of tea. With one job ticked off the kitchen list. Just the one, the others can wait till tomorrow.

Or the next day...

good at/crap at

Some things I'm just fab at. For example, eye make-up? I'm the queen. I can do mine, yours, hers, no problems. Classic styles, fashion styles, contrast with your outfit styles... That I can do.

I'm also a mine of usually useless information. Who was that obscure character in that 80s film? Ask me, I'll know. I swear I'm wasting my life not going out and earning big bucks at trivia nights.

I can put together a meal no problems, I enjoy it, and my plates usually bring out the mmmmmms.

However, I am just crap at a few things. I loathe initiating phone calls - which, as a freelance journalist, I am required to do if I'd like the odd quote in my story. Today's Tuesday, and I still need two more expert quotes for a story I'm working on and due Friday. Eek! I summoned up the strength to call one {who I've interviewed twice before over the years mind} and left a reasonable message on her answering machine. But the other, well, I'm getting there.

I'm not quite sure why I have this phone phobia {but hey, I'm happy to blame Telstra for it!}. I've never been abused, denied, spoken to rudely... every person I've ever approached for an interview has happily said "Hell, yeah!".

Okay, so I'm going to do it. It's 10.14am and at 10.20am I'm making the call. Deep breaths...

Monday, August 17, 2009

monday must-do



The next few weeks look to be busy, busy, busy so I'll be getting ahead of myself and ensuring I have plenty of work finished well ahead of deadline - just so I never have to say no to any work!

The house is in pretty good shape, tidyness-wise, I don't have any pressing laundry I need to do, so tonight, I'm going to tidy my study and prepare to sit in front of this lil computer of mine and type and type and type. Yes, I do think I'd write better on this pink pretty here on this post, but, realistically, my silver iMac is far more practical - and still uber-stylish.

rock solid

Here's a work-in-progress shot of my vegie garden. Now, those thumping great pieces of rock are convict sandstone, way over 100-years-old, that had formed rough 'retaining walls' out the back, before we had the pool. I was a major pain in the butt and made the guys clearing the yard carefully extract these and put them aside for us to use later.

Now it's later.

We've had heaps of people in to quote on shifting them into place, and got a lot of head-shaking, mini-tipper and even the odd, need-a-couple-of-blokes in response. Oh, and the odd, "nah, they're too heavy, you'll never shift 'em". Well they're shifted - by my hubby who managed to summon some kind of superpower. And wow, don't they look amazing!!!!

Once they're dusted off {they'll still be the gorgeous weathered-grey, just not dusty} and spilling over with thyme, chives, shallots, mint, verbena and dozens of other herbs and vegies it'll look mighty spectacular. Yay hubby, you're the best!

purple reign

Oh, the weather's utterly glorious at the moment. We had an amazing weekend, and got loads done. The side garden's taking shape, the backyards looking good and our front yard's a profusion of purples. Check out my lavender - isn't it beautiful? Behind it is a Graham Thomas rose which has the most incredible golden blooms - covered in buds at the moment. I'm also loving on my delicate irises. There are also billions of tiny buds on the wisteria that frames my front veranda - oh, I can't wait till they break out in bloom.

Hubby's taken a long weekend today to get out and move more of the hulking great chunks of convict sandstone to make my vegie gardens, and it's really starting to come together.

I spent some time in the house on the weekend and am rather chuffed to say that two weeks in my kitchen's looking even cleaner than the pics I posted a few weeks back.

Today's going to be very productive on my part. I've got lots of work due in the next few weeks, so I'm just going to put my fingers to the keyboard and type away.

Friday, August 14, 2009

frugal friday

Happy end of the week/beginning of the weekend! We've got a lovely weekend planned. Tomorrow it's my daughter's final game of netball {:(} where I'll be coaching my gorgeous team for the very last time. Fingers, toes, eyes and hairs crossed that I'll get the same team next year - they were a delight. I'm going to be baking some red velvet cupcakes with white buttercream icing for them this afternoon, as their team colours are red and white, and I've bought them all a card {gorgeous $1 cards from the chemist} to write a special individual note to each player. They've taught me so much, I've been very blessed to have such a gorgeous team!

Now, onto Frugal Friday. This week I finally bought some credit and took my headphones out of the packet and used Skype - woo hoo. I'm also trying to get as many friends to join up as possible {particularly my sis-in-law in the UK} so I can make free calls. I downgraded my Telstra account as low as I could sensibly go, and we're trying to keep Telstra calls to a minimum.

Next week I'll be hunting down options on-line to reduce other utility bills - we've already got green power, but perhaps there's a way of running the dishwasher and washing machine at night to take advantage of off-peak rates - if I have them!

While at the chemist I stocked up on $1 cards for birthdays - it's what you write on the inside that counts and they had plenty of pretty options there. Otherwise my gal makes her own cards for friends which satisfies her crafty urges and saves mucho cash.

We're off to a Christening tomorrow, and on the way home we'll call in at Dan Murphy's for a case of my fave cheapo french bubbles. We're coming up to social season so I'd much prefer to pull a delish $11 bottle of Veuve Amiot or Grandin from my wine rack than spend $18+ on an inferior bottle at the local bottle shop. Being frugal's all about being prepared!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

red hot

Some weeks it's really tough to find my shoe-of-the-week, others a pair will leap out and grab you by the heart. Scrolling through my second page of net-a-porter I spied these Valentino Couture pieces of perfection and uttered a strangled giggle/sigh/moan/scream.

Oh my.

Is there a more delicious shade than Valentino red...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

what's cookin' wednesday

Hmmmmm, let's see what's on the menu this week. Must say that last night's dinner of duck confit will be damned difficult to top - but I'll see if I can still come up with some tasty options.

Wednesday: Nigella's meatballs and rice from her Feast cookbook - a mightly fine b'day pressie
Thursday: Rosé chicken with walnut and greens salad
Friday: dinner at a friend's house. Woo hoo.
Saturday: We've got a christening and a lunch during the day, so something simple. Curry in the slow cooker me-thinks.
Sunday: Seven-hour roast lamb and baked vegies
Monday: pork cutlets, sweet potato bake and cavalo nero {black cabbage - with speck!}
Tuesday: baked marinated salmon with home-made salt and rosemary chips and salad

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

it's my birthday woo and a hooo

I la la love birthdays. Just got this cute as a button email this morning from my mum and step-dad with birthday pics of me from, gulp, forty years ago. Must say though, I still experience the same excitement and joy as I did in that bottom pic!

We started off the days with lovely, lovely pressies {a dovecote! my fave lipstick! old-fashioned cake cookbook! french monogramed tea towel and a whopping great rose picture bursting with red and pink roses - vintage - and looking spectacular on my bedroom wall!} A bowl of coffee, toast with blood orange jam and lots of cuddles made the morning even more special.

So today, I'll take it easy. I'm catching up with a friend for coffee mid-morning, and tonight we're hitting our favourite French bistro for dinner. I do believe I'll just spend the day doing my nails, popping on a facemask and kicking back and reading some of my birthday cookbooks. Bliss!

Monday, August 10, 2009

it's almost summer...

Spring's not even here yet and I'm already wishing it away, but only cos I can't wait to go swimming this summer. How welcoming does my pool look? I just couldn't resist snapping a shot.

Now, all I need is a daybed in that pavillion and I'm set!

going potty

Hubby potted up the magnolias on the weekend - don't they look gorgeous between our antique french bench and with the charcoal fence as a backdrop? That was the final backyard task done, {why yes I am ignoring the fact that the pavillion requires another coat of paint. Shhhh}

oh the places we'll go...

Reading the local Saturday paper late Saturday night I stumbled upon the uber-exciting news that there was a four day exhibition in Newcastle - The Art of Dr Seuss.

Now, I've already written on my love for this genius of a man, and this adoration has been passed onto my daughter - who uses the great man for inspiration in her writing and drawing.

So, after clearing next weekend's calendar I read the fine print and found that the exhibition opened on Thursday, and was closing 5pm Sunday - as in yesterday. A quick re-arrangement of plans was in order.

So at 9.45am, after a fortifying bowl of coffee each {not for the nine-year-old...} we all strolled into the Town Hall and were dazzled and amazed by the exhibition. Great big works of easily-identifiable art adorned every surface, along with his early advertising work, mis-understood works for grown-ups and a work-in-progress for The Cat in the Hat that showed how Dr Seuss worked on every stage of the process - words, illustrations, colours, layout and typography.

Genius.

It was utterly fascinating and we were all thrilled that we attended.

I still think his final book is his most inspiring. I bumped into a friend at the exhibition who told me that she gives her graduating Year 12 students a copy of The Places You'll Go - which is the best graduation present ever. No story can more effectively teach us about striving for what we want, acknowledging that there are bumps, upsets and backtracks along the way, but that ulitimately YOU have the power to just be YOU.

Maybe we should all start every week with a dose of the Dr.

the best steak sandwich. EVER.

We had friends around for drinks yesterday afternoon, and, as those things often do, drinks turned into dinner. Luckily I was half-expecting that to happen, so I was prepared. Because I wanted it simple we had the best steak sandwiches, ever, for dinner.

Earlier in the afternoon I prepared some caramelised onions with brown sugar, red wine and thyme, ready to reheat later on. Then, around 4pm I took a 2 kilo rump roast from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. At 5ish I massaged the rump with olive oil and liberally seasoned it with salt and pepper. Then I seared all the sides till caramelised in a frypan and threw it in a pre-heated 160 degree oven.

I cooked it rare, for around an hour and a bit, then left it to rest for 15 minutes. While it was resting I chopped up an enormous clove of garlic for my cheat's aoili... Simply add chopped garlic to a good quality mayonaise and stir. That's it.

I sliced up big hunks of sourdough, sliced steaks off the rump, heated the onions and put them in a bowl, and offered up the aoili and salt and pepper - for a make-it-yourself steak sarni.

The girls had a big bowl of homemade chips coooked in the oven in duck fat - served french-style with mayo - or a bowl of ketchup and for 'dessert' we adults had apricot Bellinis (chilled apricot nectar and prosecco)

A rather fine way to end a weekend I believe. Particularly when shared with impeccable company!

Friday, August 07, 2009

i'm making a list...

Today hubby and I had a sneaky long-weekend and decided to get in early and get some long-neglected jobs done around the house.

I sat down and wrote out a wish-list of tasks - depending on our mood and the weather and we got totally stuck in.

Excitingly, not only was I able to cross off SIX ITEMS, I was also able to retrospectively add another three items, and then cross them off {ah, nothing like retrospectively adding items to a to-do list to feel accomplished...

So now the magnolia trees in the courtyard are potted in their massive french urns. The roses are fertilised. The lilly pillies are trimmed and water crystals have been added to the soil. The side of the house which was flecked with concrete and crap after the backyard reno {ah, yes, the one that was completed in February. Shhh} has been scrubbed and chipped away with a paint scraper. Hubby's cleared even more of the side yard and a spot of weeding's been achieved. Oh, and I vacuumed the whole house and have managed to keep the kitchen in its pristine state for four whole days!

I reckon a cocktail's in order don't you?

frugal friday

Our in-laws came for dinner last night and we unintentionally had the most frugal and delicious meal ever. It all came about because my daughter and I are addicted to Food Safari, which is screening every night on Lifestyle Food - yay, a 'replacement' for MasterChef.

So, on Tuesday and Wednesday nights Maeve brightened two hearts by having two nights focusing on French cuisine - our fave. One dish that tickled my fancy was lamb navarin - made with big chunks of lamb shoulder on the bone. I decided to serve that up with mashed potato and a baguette to mop up the sauce - and followed it with lemon delicious pud with whipped cream. All up cost? I reckon about $25 for four adults and one child. Bargain.

Firstly I asked my butcher to chop up around 1.2 kilos of lamb shoulder, with the bones {which he did unblinkingly - he's used to me now} and, you know how expensive lamb is? Guess how much 1.2 kilos of lamb shoulder cost? $12! Yes, twelve dollars!!!

Here's the recipe - it's damned delicious
Ask for 1.2 kilos of lamb shoulder on the bone, chopped into fist-sized chunks {5cm-ish}
1 brown onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
4 big roma tomatoes, diced
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups dry white wine
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 turnip, chopped
one bunch baby carrots
8 eschallots, peeled and left whole
butter and oil
a few sprigs of thyme
a couple of bay leaves
a few sprigs of rosemary
salt and pepper
1/2 cup frozen peas

Brown lamb in melted butter, with a splash of oil, till caramel in colour, and set aside. Add a wee bit more butter and add onions and carrots and saute over low heat till soft {10 mins}. Toss meat back in and sprinkle flour over the mix, stir and cook for around 2 mins. Throw in herbs, pour over white wine and then add chicken stock and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, bring to the boil and pop in a 160 degree oven for 60 minutes.

Meanwhile, throw a few spoonfuls of sugar into a small saucepan, add a knob of butter and melt. Then throw in your shallots and cook till caramelised, shaking the pan often - probably for around 10 minutes. Add some white wine if the sauce needs thickening.

Then, add the diced turnip and baby carrots, stir and return to oven.

Five minutes before serving, add the caramelised shallots and frozen peas and add more salt and pepper to taste. By now my meat had fallen from the bone, so I fished around and removed the bones from the dish - digging out any marrow and adding it to the pot. I tasted, fell over in bliss, added a wee bit more pepper and salt, popped the lid on and placed it in the oven for 5 more minutes.

I served it with creamy mash and wow, delicious. Slightly sweet from the caramelised shallots an turnips, rich, soft meat, and the perfect way to use new summer veg and the remainder of the winter veg.

Those peasants really knew how to eat!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

pucci coochie coo

Well my jasmine's out in flower, which, in my book means that it's spring. Time to think about ditching the flannelette sheets for crisp, white cotton, swap steamed veg for salads and bring out the floaty frocks and wedges.

These little numbers by Pucci just scream Spring. The varying shades of verdant green hues are like a puff of fresh air after winter.

Come to mama...

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

happy birthday

Turning fifty sure looks fabulous with the gorgeously illustrated Cate Blanchett on the cover.

I needs me a copy of this!

oh, NOW i get it

On the weekend we were at an appliance store, one staffed by youths, toddlers and embyros {so young that I'm thinking, as IF I'm going to take your advice...} and as I was fondling a 900mm freestanding oven {ah, desire...} one of the wee babes came over to me and started spruiking his wares. In a rather learned manner. This lad, with his crazy hair, knew his stuff.

So I listened up as he waxed on about the virtues of this hulking great cooking beast and told me that "Smeg are one of the few ovens to actually hold a true temperature, so when you're following a recipe you normally have to turn the temperature down 10 or 20 degrees to compensate for the other, lesser ovens."

Damn.

I have a Smeg. A Smeg I've complained about since I bought it as it's too hot. I never cook with fan-forced and I now turn the temperature down somewhat just to stop burning. I've been hating on my oven FOR ACTUALLY BEING EFFECTIVE.

I'm sorry oven. Now that I know that you're cooking true I'll happily slide the dial down a few degrees and take the time to get to know you. I'll also remove the 'apparently removable' glass in the door and clean the inside of the triple layers of glass - rather than fruitlessly scrubbing the already clean exposed glass and complaining that I can't see through it.

Thank you young lad for informing me so well about my current oven - which the older salesman who sold me the product neglected to do.

Oh, Gen Y, I'm sorry for judging. And oven, my apologies - now I know that you're just smoking hot... and that's a good thing x

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

time-saving tuesday

You know that the best way to save time is just to get in and do it, don't you? Well, here's a great way to stop procrastinating and just get things done. Give yourself a time limit. Say, I'm going to clean the kitchen, or, file paperwork for 30 minutes and then set a timer and get to it. Don't let anything distract you! Set your mobile to silent, don't automatically check emails, set any kiddies in front of the electronic babysitter... do whatever it takes to not distract you from the task at hand.

Seriously, you'll be amazed at what you can achieve in a specific, designated time period.

Ready? Set? Go!

Monday, August 03, 2009

exhibits a, b and c



Okay, this is my super-dooper-mega-looper clean and tidy kitchen. I'm hoping that by posting it here I'll encourage myself to keep it that way {and to howl like a banshee at family to do same!}

move-it monday

Starting the week optimistically I've decided to give the house a quick run-over {rapid tidy, vacuum, wash sheets} and then start work. Seriously.

I'm uber-motivated today as I've got the world's cleanest kitchen. Truly, I don't know when it's ever been this tidy. There's nothing superfluous on any surface, and all of those surfaces are sparkling clean. It's an anomaly for me - but I like it. I've had enough of no room being completely finished - there's always something marring the lines, so last night, before bed, I cleaned like a demon. This morning, I've made porridge, rinsed out the pot and everything's in the dishwasher ready to go. I'm just about to head in there for my morning coffee {my reward after vacuuming} and reckon I'll just about explode with joy at the pristine surfaces.

Of course I'll have to walk past the other rooms with rose-coloured blinkers on - but that's okay...


Friday, July 31, 2009

frugal friday

Around about this time I'd quite like to fall over a wee bag of money of the footpath. I'm doing the whole frugal thing quite nicely, but, man, the bills! Since starting back at school our gal's come home with four different notes for incursions and excursions - all requiring cashola to be handed over. Which I do. Plus we got our first winter electricity bill, with me working at home every day {with air con on most days...} and the pool filter and in-floor cleaning thing happening. It was a bit of an ouchy bill... And let's not even talk about the testra bill that I've been dealing with for two months - and still hasn't been resolved. Anyone recommend another phone company? Anyone?

Next week I'm going on-line and hunting down the best option for my phone. I'm thinking about stripping back my plan to the most basic - what's the point in getting 50 free calls if I only make 40 calls per month? I need to do some serious comparisons and cut my costs way, way down. And then? Well, next stop is to find two new sources of income - you can't coast along when you're a freelancer - always pays to stay a step ahead!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

what we're eating this week

Meant to post this yesterday, but blogger wouldn't let me post! So here's our meals for the next week. I've got two new recipes - tonight's stir-fry and tomorrow night's slow-braised chicken dish. Tragically I do need a recipe for stir-fry as I'm just crap at the damned things - but I know they're {meant to be} simple and healthy. Let's hope this one's a success!

Thursday: beef, broccoli and almond stir-fry
Friday: slow-braised chicken in white wine
Saturday: parmesan crumbed pork cutlets with mashed pumpkin and steamed mix greens
Sunday: seven hour roast lamb with roasted veg
Monday: vegetarian frittata with salad
Tuesday: lamb chops with roasted potato chips, vichy carrots and mushy peas
Wednesday: beef casserole in the slow cooker

My gal and I have been watching Maeve O'Meara's {sp?} Food Safari every night on Lifestyle Food this week and it's utterly fascinating. We're learning so much about different cultures it's impressive. Now that my gal wants to be a chef {like most Aussie kids thanks to MasterChef} she's all culinarily-inspired. So we're going to seek out recipes from the cuisines we've followed {Sri Lankan, Brazillian and Hungarian so far} and try out new tastes and recipes. I'll also take her to the Asian food supermarket down in the west-end - that'll be an experience for her!

shoe boop be doo

Hello lover... Have you seen anything more delicious than the shade of grape in these patent pretties? Mr Louboutin did mighty fine with these wedges of wonder.

In my dreams I'm tripping around in them wearing my dove grey jersey wrap dress - but I'd love to sizzle by pairing them with a red pencil skirt. Le sigh...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

time-saving tuesday

Hey, I'm back-ish... Went to Sydney yesterday for a meeting, and managed to slip in a wee spot of shopping while I was there. Went to two op-shops and got myself some fabbo books - and a 1950s Vogue dress pattern that's just got to be the makings of a party frock for moi. However, all said shopping and meetings have left me with a wee sore head. Ouch. Went back to bed for an hour, until a knocking at the door disturbed me {not enough to get up to answer it, just enough to decide to get up...}

So, onto time-saving Tuesday. I'm a huge, huge, huge fan of to-do lists. I've got 'em all over the house and on my computer, however, I've learned the ultimate trick in getting your to-do list done. Only have three items {MAX} on your to-do list for the day. That's it - three - no more. I know, of course you've got heaps more things you should do - but just write down the things you MUST DO.

See, what you need is a couple of lists: daily, weekly, monthly and long-term. Work out what you need to do over the long-term and then order each item in terms of how life-savingly important it is. If you have 20 items on your to-do list you'll only get through a few and will then feel crap, before transporting them onto tomorrow's list of 20 things, that you won't get through...

So, do this. Write three achievable things on your list today, cross 'em off - and feel fan-fabu-tastic about it. You'll save time by not faffing about in a stress about all the things you've got to do, and shall feel calm, cool and in-control.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

that's entertainment

We had one of those lovely evenings last night. You know the one? You go along to a friend's house for a meal, the kids are playing, the adults are nibbling, sipping and chatting... The food's delish, abundant and exactly what you're in the mood for. The conversation veers from one fascinating topic to another. Champagne's always on the table... And you end the night in a taxi buzzing with joy.

That's what I call entertaining.

PS: how much do I want a blowsy floral wallpaper after using this pic? Heaps!

Friday, July 24, 2009

meaty goodness

My gal had a friend over for a sleepover tonight, so I set them to work making dinner to earn their keep. We had baked chicken meatballs with linguine and damn, they were good. Here's the recipe:

600g chicken mince
6 thin slices of prosciutto, chopped
4 french shallots, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 slice of bread, grated
1 egg
1/2 tsp dried thyme
grated rind of 1/4 lemon
salt, pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and form into balls the size of ping pong balls. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake at 180 for around 20 minutes or until golden and firm, turning once during cooking.

Serve on linguine with a simple sauce made with passata, garlic, onion, pesto, red wine vinegar, white wine, salt and pepper.

If desired you could stir meatballs through the sauce and leave them to simmer for 10 minutes, but these were crispy on the outside, tender on the inside and had such an array of flavours from the lemon and prosciutto I'd serve them on top of the sauce {and actually, I did - with just a grating of parmigano regiano over the top}.

The girls were chuffed with themselves and gobbled their whole plate up {asking for extra meatballs mind}, my husband thought they were divine, and I got yet another lemon fix for my tastebuds. Gotta be happy with that!

absolute essentials

Well, my gal's at the movies with two of her besties, I've sent off both pieces of work due for today, there's washing on the line and now I can choose one essential task to cross off the "should-do" list. I have my essentials {washing clothes and dishes, cooking, shopping} and anything else in the household arena comes after the essentials and my work is done. Sure, that means that I currently have dustbunnies the size of tumbleweeds rolling down my hall, but, really, it's not going to kill us. {well, maybe if we had serious allergies, which we don't...}

So now, my task of choice is to tidy up that which poses a health hazzard {magazines on the floor - husband, I'm looking at you!} and then vacuum. If I'm so inclined I might give the sink and toilet a quick spritz, and then a cup of tea, a spot of afternoon cooking shows, and then a wander to the butcher to pick up my special fresh chicken mince I ordered for tonight's meatballs.

My home's not spotless, but really, isn't life about priorities? Chatting with a friend this morning cemented this. When you've got a lot going on you can't possibly do everything, which can get you so down you end up doing nothing. So my motto is to choose something, do it well, and the rest? Shrug my shoulders and say "what the hell..."

frugal friday

Well, we managed to get through our holiday without spending up too hugely, and I must say that cooking dinner's at home was probably the key. Coming home I've also tried to base our meals around what we already had - only buying fresh meat and a few veg for our meals. Whenever I'm meal-planning for the week I like to check out what I already have in the pantry or fridge and go from there - with some basic staples you can create so much. I like to have the following on hand:
garlic
onions
carrots
celery
potatoes
sweet potatoes
green veg
lemons or limes
tinned tomatoes
passata
tomato paste
chicken and beef stock
pasta
flour
arborio rice
fresh nuts: slivered almonds, pistachios, walnuts - all kept in the fridge for freshness
dried herbs
fresh thyme and rosemary
eggs
bacon
chorizo
ham
butter
puff pastry

With these essentials you've got the base of almost any meal. I've also always got red wine, white wine, rosé, champagne and beer in the fridge to make any sauce special. If I find any of these items on special, I'll stock up, they don't sit in the pantry for long. This way I can always stretch a meal too - adding an extra side dish or a baguette if we have an unexpected guest or two for dinner.

Nibbles with drinks are also easy to whip up - a hot spicy nut mix is easy made by popping nuts on a baking tray, dotting with butter and brown sugar and a bit of cayenne pepper and cinnamon. Baked in a hot oven for 5 minutes, it's delish. Or I'll sauté up some slices of chorizo, deglazing the pan with a little red wine and pepper to pour over the top. A little more time and I'll caramelise some onions and thyme and make teeny puff pastry tarts.

A well-stocked pantry is a frugal-foodies best friend, as Liss from frillsinthehills.blogspot.com can attest with her latest challenge! What are your pantry staples?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

becoming besties with your butcher

As you know, I'm keen to support local businesses, which is why I'll walk down the street to my local butcher every couple of days to buy whatever I need for dinner. And, tell you what, if you ask politely, your butcher'll do almost anything you ask them {meat-wise that is}.

I went in yesterday to buy my chicken thighs for the pot pies {delish btw and a thousand times simpler than the Ina Garten recipe I'd used previously} and decided to buy the chuck steak for tonight's black ale and beef pie.

There was a new butcher there and I asked him if he'd mind slicing me up big chunks of steak - one inch thick - around a kilo of the stuff. Sure, no problem. So today, when I went to cook up the casserole, I simply sprinkled a few tablespoons of flour in the bag with the meat, added some dried mixed herbs, salt and pepper and mushed it all around. Then I diced up onion, garlic, carrots and celery and softened them in the pan for around 10 minutes in a good slug of oil. When soft, I simply threw in the beef and tossed it in the heat for a few minutes before pouring in my beer. After it stopped bubbling I topped it up with some beef stock, added a few wooden spoonfuls of tomato paste, a couple of bay leaves, a glug of worscester sauce and brought it to the boil.

Popping some baking paper over the top, I added a lid and flung it in a low oven {150 degrees} at 3.30pm and won't take it out till 6.30 when I serve it with colcannon mash and green beans.

my, my, my, my, MY

Oh Mr McQueen! Pour moi? You shouldn't have! Okay, divinity overload - how amazing are these heels? Sure, they cost as much as my first car {ah, the avocado green Datsun 120y - they don't make 'em like that anymore - thank goodness!} however, these shoes are prettiness personified with that pink sole and layers of ruffles. They'd really up the va-va-voom of any little black dress!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

naughty nigella

Well, I had my menu plan all set - until I sat down with a cup of tea to watch Nigella and promptly changed my mind. Now, because of Nigella, we're having Chicken Pot Pies for dinner rather than pork fillets.

Must say, pot pies are the perfect way to get a pastry fix, particularly when served in ramekins with only a circle of pastry on top.

Onions, garlic and pancetta are fried in oil till golden. Then toss chunks of 6 - 8 chopped chicken thighs in a ziplock bag with 2 1/2 tablespooons of flour and some dried thyme. Add this to the pan with a nob of butter, give it a stir till flour is cooked out then add around 375ml of chicken stock. Stir, then pour into ramekins and top with a round of puff pastry {with a few fork holes poked in the top} brush liberally with egg wash, sprinkle with salt flakes and bake at 200 degrees celcius till golden {20 mins-ish}.

Yum.

what's cookin' wednesday

Now I'm back on track and ready to make a meal plan for the next week. It's a bit of a crazy week as I'm away on Sunday night and not back till late Monday, so hubby will be cooking for two of those days and we're off to a friend's for dinner on Saturday night where I'm just bringing a plate of nibbles. Here's what we're eating in between:

Wednesday, pork fillets wrapped in prosciutto and baked on a bed of rhubarb, served with broccolini and sweet potato chips {this is in a book I bought on hols - possible Jamie - found for half price in a wee shop in Gulgong - buy of the trip!}
Thursday: Beef stew, colcannon and green beans
Friday: Baked chicken meatballs with linguine
Saturday: dinner at our friends' - need to think of tasty nibbles to whip up
Sunday: I'm away, so no roast, steak and veg will make my hubby happy
Monday: Spaghetti bolognaise for when I schlep off the train, all tired and hungry
Tuesday: Chicken noodle soup {my gal's special request}

starry starry night

One of the coolest things about our four days in Mudgee was our Friday night trek out to the Observatory. Wowsers. Now, while it was a lot more rustic than I'd expected {we treked up a dark hill, behind a house and saw a tin shed an a couple of domes on the side of a hill - and climbed up and down ladders to get the view} but oh my, what a sky.

Far away from the city lights the sky was just bedazzled with stars - it was amazing and gob-smackingly gorgeous. And because the observatory was privately-owned, the owner was there happy to share his knowledge and love of the stars. Through telescopes I saw a jewelbox of constellations, incredible nebulas and a star in its death-throes {damned spectacular}.

The owner had a helper there with him and between them they had the coolest thing ever - a laser pointer with a 20km reach. That meant I could say, "Where's Scorpio?" and they'd point to it and draw around it - it was so clear and cool.

There was a little cloud which obscured Saturn for most of the time we were there. But we went into the shed and watched a 15 minute DVD on Saturn and when we came out it was peeking out to say hi. Because nothing was too much trouble, these blokes then moved the telescopes to focus on the planet and we saw it in all its glory. It was almost side-on, so the rings were merely lines dissecting the planet - but still, dead cool.

All this for $10 per adult and $5 for kids. Best money I've ever spent.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

time-saving tuesday

Even though I work from home, I still like to be a bit stepfordy around the home, so I'm always looking at ways to trim time from my tasks. And I thought I might start sharing the love. Sometimes the simplest things evade our notice. I know that I used to think that menu-planning was for weirdos with too much time on their hands and a lack of creativity. Now, I see it as quite possibly the best invention ever {yep, topping the wheel, fire, iMacs, television...}

So that's number one on my list: here's number two. I remember years ago going to a friend's house who had three kids under five and being amazed when I noticed her washing line. She had a fabulous old silver hills hoist and on three of the quarters were hung particular items of clothing - each child had a section completely dedicated them. I quickly wrote that off as far-too-much-trouble. However, lately, in an effort to stem my moving various piles of washing from one flat surface to another - but rarely the correct surface {which would be inside the proper drawer or on the correct hanger} I decided to take in the washing in a certain order: my gal's clothes, my clothes and hubby's clothes: and a certain manner according to drawer or wardrobe space {socks and underwear, tops, pants, etc}.

Now, this sounds insane, however, it means that because I fold when I take it off the line, I have to merely take the basket into my daughter's room and then our room, and remove the clothing straight into the correct spot. A little bit of time out in the sunshine of the backyard spent sorting, means less time putting away {my most-loathed of task}. And I reckon I'm getting a wee bit of incidental exercise with that moving around {however, if I had a lovely spinning Hills Hoist I'd just have to spin it - easy-peasy}.

So now, it's 4.43pm and all the clothes from our holiday are washed and packed away - not sitting in teetering piles all over the house. This takes me to a happy place!

simple tastes

After spending our long weekend away cooking the meals each night {as the weekend was my mother-in-law's birthday pressie I wanted her to totally relax} we got home last night, after six hours on the road, and I was after simplicity for our meal. So, I had a packet of spaghettini, some pesto-marinated-feta bought in Mudgee and some chorizo in the fridge {now it's a staple!}

I cooked up the spaghettini till just before al-dente, sauteed some slices of chorizo and then tossed the pasta with a spoonful of cooking water in the frypan with the crispy chorizo. I then broke up some of the feta, tossed it in with a little of the oil and pesto and shook the pan around to distribute it.

There: dinner's served.

On our weekend away I was thrilled to discover a big, fat, free-standing smeg oven in the kitchen, all shiny stainless-steel and cavernous space. So I knew I'd be cooking up in the oven on the first night. Off to the butcher and the grocer and I made a couple of shephard's pies with local lamb mince and topped with plenty of creamy mash. Served with some broccoli and sweet corn on the side. MMMmmmm.

Day two saw us head to the Farmer's Markets, in search of a fat pig - which we found in the local Ormiston Free Range pork. I bought a voluptuous shoulder and roasted it with plenty of root vegies that night, and sweet little bursts of peas. The pork was a lush, ruby red, with a rind that made the most crisp, sweet crackling. Oh my. Delish.

Sunday morning we had the eggs left by the owners of the cottage we rented, and, oh my. Blue and green perfect hen's eggs greeted me when I opened the carton - almost too pretty to crack. However, we'd also bought some pork chippolatas to have with scrambled eggs {and french sourdough toast - from a v popular stall at the markets...} so I cracked away. The richest, lushest yolks and whites greeted me - and made me yearn to make custard with such beauties. However, I do think the creamy scramble did them justice.

Sunday night was a lazy night in preparation for the MasterChef finale. I cheated and bought some King Island Gourmet Beef pies which I served with mash, gravy, peas, corn and broccoli. And, hello, for a cheating meal it was damned fine.

I reluctantly bade farewell to my mega smeg, and came home to my standard-size number. But, realistically, with a family of three it'd be tough to justify losing cupboard space for the extra oven-width. However, for a butler's sink I'd happily skim a few inches from a cupboard or two...

home-sweet-home

I reckon that the best thing about a holiday is coming home. Don't get me wrong, I looooooove the holiday aspect {and our four days in Mudgee were so relaxing and gorgeous} but driving back into my home-town I realise how much I love where I live. Walking up to my front gate I soak in my garden and home, and fall in love with it all over again. There's no place like home.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

frugal friday {well, nearly}

I can't skip frugal friday - and I'll be too busy to post in the morning. So here goes. This week was all about budgets. Going through, trimming, skimming, plotting and planning. We've got a date to pay off debt, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to get there.

When we were at Uni I remember having only a few dollars till the next payday - and making do. We ate well, went out and saw bands, dressed okay {still in op-shop clothes mind - some things never change} and I think it's time to re-embrace that attitude.

We might be headed off for a four-day weekend, but I've packed plenty of stuff to take with us. There's snacks to eat on the way, bottles of water filled from our purifier, soup for lunch on arrival and we're even taking our coffee machine with us to save buying takeaway {yes, big benchtop coffee machine, five people, luggage for four days, Holden Astra...}

Making frugal fun!

country roads...

We're headed off for four days in the country bright and early in the morning. We'll be staying at Mudgee and this is one of the places I'm dead keen to visit - a cafe in an old butchery {I think I'll be coveting those tiled walls...}

My gal and I are also off to the Observatory tomorrow night - can't wait to see the skies without any city lights to dazzle.

There's a farmer's market to explore on the Saturday, plenty of vineyards, a number of gourmet fooderies... I reckon we'll have a damned fine time.

See you all next week!

the kids are aw-right

Saw it. Adored it. Can't wait for the final two films. Am desperate to re-read the whole series. Am utterly besotted with these three - love 'em all. Still have an evil crush on Snape {I know!}. Cried. Laughed. Gasped. Was amazed I didn't have nightmares about scary things in the water. Want to live in the Weasley's house. Think Helena Bonham-Carter was exquisite and wish my curls would behave in the same manner as Bellatrix's. Am reduced to short sentences with its magnificence. Go see.

shiny shiny bad times behind me

A dozen Tra La La Las would trip from my lips wearing these sparkly Miu Miu numbers. I know my friend M is dying a million deaths that they're not in her wardrobe - and me too - considering we're the same size {hey, it's my birthday in a few weeks - I'm a size 37 - thanks}

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

wacky wednesday

Oh my. Harry Potter tonight! Dead excited. However, am v, v, v, busy so must get bucketloads of work done between now and netball training at 4pm. Eeek! My gal's having a playdate {thank you G - you're a lifesaver!}, I've got the ingredients ready for provencal chicken and a to-do list that's just itching to get crossed off.

Now I've had another double shot of caffeine I'm ready to bust a move on this work. Ready, set - kapow and I'm off!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

music that moves me

In an effort to get myself moving I've delved into iTunes and my computer's blasting out Tender by Blur. And, oh, the memories. See this was one of the songs I played during labour and one of the few songs that could calm my child instantly. Even now, she stills and listens when it comes on. That, along with Lullaby by Reef are two of her favourite songs... and the soundtrack to her babydom.

Listening to bits of the JJJ hottest 100 of all time on the weekend I had to agree with many of the top 10. There were plenty of tunes in there that instantly catapulted me back in time - including the number one - Smells Like Teen Spirit that sends me back to the Hordern Pavillion for the first ever Big Day Out with Nirvana steaming up the room. Good times....

The Hordern was also the scene for Blur, where I basked in the presence of Damon Albarn's beauty and magnificent tunes. Sigh.

I've been blessed by being present at some truly amazing gigs in my lifetime - Pavement, The Pixies, Neds Atomic Dustbin {ah, good times}, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Breeders, Foo Fighters, Reef, Iggy Pop, Nine Inch Nails, Chris Isaak {what can I say, eclectic tastes} Scissor Sisters, Supergrass, Smashing Pumpkins {overseas passenger terminal - opera house as the backdrop - oh my}

Ah, memories...

my heart belongs to paris



sounds of silence

My gal's at her grandparents today after having a sleepover last night, so my house is eerily quiet for a school holiday. Strangely, even though I didn't have to, I woke early and was sitting at my computer at 8am {well, early for me!}

I've got bucketloads of work to do today while I'm on my own. Four jobs on deadline for Thursday. Yep, four. I'm the original gal who can't say no - but I love being busy.

We're off on a four-day-break on Friday morning, up to Mudgee with the in-laws. Can't wait. Although last night had an awful thought that ye-olde-homestead in Mudgee might not have channel 10 for the finale of MasterChef!!!! I think we'll be sending a frantic email and if not, putting on our thinking caps {local pub screening it perhaps? Motel room???}

Can't say I was sorry to see Lucas go last night. Serving up two pies, savoury and sweet, that looked identically crap... well, not the final week of MasterChef is it? I've now come to terms with the fact that the Australian MasterChef really only shares a name with it's English cousin. We're not seeing cooking anything like that calibre - although there's a few contestants whose restaurants I'll be visiting.

Tonight, in honour of last night, I might cook a pie... Julia's duck and red wine pie perhaps. Oh, and if I were on MasterChef know what I would have cooked last night? Venison, rosemary and beetroot pie with a blood orange meringue pie for sweets. Yum.

Okay, time to settle down to work now. I've already had two double shots of coffee this morning - should propel me nicely into achievement...

Monday, July 13, 2009

ahhhh, that's better

Our gal's 'new' wardrobe was delivered this morning bright and early at 9am - and by 10am it was in her room. Poor delivery blokes. It's a solid number, I'm thinking oak - and as you can see, it's a whopper. To get it in through the narrow hallway required removing the top {easy - just lifted off}, the base {not-so-easy - the former owners had screwed the base on with plenty of two-inch screws} and a door {100-odd-year-old screws + rust + paint = a helluva job}. Then there was a lot of shuffling, paint scratching, back-breaking work until finally it was in.

Our daughter's in love - even though a few bits of paint have come off. We cleaned it inside and out with a vinegar, bi-carb, hot water and lavender oil mixture and it's sparkly clean. As you can see the Miley Cyrus posters are already on the side - and it's now filled with all her clothes.

Doesn't it just look like it was made for that spot in her room? The delivery guys said that if we decide to get rid of it - not to call them! But it's a keeper. Now the shelves are lined with pretty-scented paper all we need to do is create a little lavender bundle to tie in a sprig and hang from the rail.

That's one room in the house finished.

Sigh...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

the things you do

I spent an hour or so today, in the garden, scrubbing my rose stems with a toothbrush. Neighbours and passer-by must have thought I was mad... But we had a bit of a scale infestation on a few bushes and I like to go with the gentle option first. So there I was, gently scrubbing at the stems with a soft-bristle brush, watching the scale fall to the ground. Then, when the stems were almost visible, I gave them a quick spray with the pest oil.

My new shoots are already peeping out. I do believe they'll be rather happy with their pristine new home!

Friday, July 10, 2009

calling my name

Sometimes you'll spy something so amazing, so once-in-a-lifetime, so incredible on just so many levels that you just have to buy it.

Today, this was mine.

Yep, a Barbara Cartland cookbook.

It works on many levels. It's pretty. It's pretty kitsch. It's hilarious and, surprisingly, it has a few interesting recipes...

Now, I shan't be styling my veal provencale with a range of ceramic figurines and a multitude of flowers, however, chances are that I will be serving it.

See, I've always had a wee soft spot for Barbara Cartland. I loved how she lolled on a chaise and narrated her romance tales. I thought it was magnificent that she always wore pink. I think it's admirable that she was so dedicated to her look - even into her dotage.

There's nothing like a Dame...

that explains it


Having stumbled upon a new blog {lashings & lashings of ginger beer - cutest name ever, from one of my fave books in my childhood, um, ever} I've finally realised how inextricably linked my love of books and lust for food are.

It's all explained here...

why thanks karma, don't mind if I do

Hey, you know how I've been doing about a gazzilion drop-offs at the Salvos lately? Well, even though I've been looking around, I haven't really found anything to buy, so I knew I was building up some good shopping karma. And oh boy, did I.

See my daughter's in desperate need of a new wardrobe. She currently has the old family 1930s lowboy, which we painted, popped on pretty decals and spruced up with new handles, but still, it's too small for a nine-year-old with a love of pretty frocks {have no idea where she gets that from...}

So yesterday, as I was dropping off a load of fabbo kid's books, I took a look around and had my breath subsequently stolen by a jaw-droppingly gorgeous Edwardian three door wardrobe. Not only did it have pretty lines, gorgeous girly carvings and the perfect space - it'd already been painted in antique white and had pretty pink crystal handles.

Perfect.

And, so crazily cheap.

So this morning I measured up her wall and dashed down hoping it was still there, which it was. Plus, it fitted perfectly - made for the space. I called hubby and he dashed down, only to exclaim that it was perfect and I was a shopping genius {I read that genius bit between the lines mind.}

So we bought it and it's getting delivered on Monday. So freakin' excited.

Oh, and I bought something else amazing too - but it needs photos to do it justice, so lunch, coffee, happy snaps and another post to follow!

love it, loathe it

Bethwyn, over at four-little-higgs.blogspot.com compiled a wee list of 15 things she loves and loathes, and we share quite a few. Here's mine - wanna play?

Loathe {I always start with the bad first, so you end up with a nice taste at the end...}
1. Rudeness - seriously, no excuse.
2. Lack of courtesy - similar to number one, but more ignorant than arrogant.
3. Getting manic and in a tizz when I'm stressed and busy.
4. Dirty jobs - toilet cleaning, bin emptying, recycling rinsing - erk.
5. Headaches - sinus, migraine, computer-induced - headaches seem to be my natural state lately and I'm not happy about it!
6. Fickle weather - ominous grey skies stop me from washing - and then, suddenly, blue and gorgeous!
7. Wastage - I can't bear it when I have to throw out food that I forgot to use before its use by date.
8. Shelling out money for nothing - telstra line rental - I'm looking at you
9. Poor service and workmanship. See, when I work, no matter who for, I do my absolute best job. It's complete and the best possible job I can do. So many people can't seem to say that. Why?
10. Lack of response. I work from home and send my completed work, invoices and story proposals via email. If I don't get a response, I worry that it wasn't received, re-send a few days later and generally stressed. I'm not asking for a thesis in return - just a 'got it, thanks'.
11. Jealousy. Hideous emotion and one I'm glad I don't experience. Envy? Hell yeah, just not jealousy.
12. Bitchiness - move on people.
13. Nasty commenters on blogs and sites. Seriously the hatred some reality contestants have directed their way? Scares me.
14. My innate laziness. I'll sit at my desk for ages thinking how thirsty I am, but it's only when I think I hear my brain cells popping from dehydration that I'll actually get up.
15. Hatred. Yep, hate it.

Love
1. My family. Adore my husband, have been blessed with the best daughter in the world, have a crazy but cute kitty. Extended family are all fabulous too. Yep. Lucky.
2. Netball. Love playing it, adore coaching it.
3. Scented flowers - make my life sweeter.
4. Reality TV - sure, I'm a loser, but I'm addicted to the stuff
5. Food - cooking it, eating it, thinking about it, planning meals, serving it up... love it.
6. The beach. Early in the morning, midday, at dusk, at night - what a spectacular place.
7. Pegging fresh washing on the line.
8. Pretty painted toenails.
9. My friends - they're the best.
10. Discovering the world of blogs, honestly, where have you been all my life.
11. Coffee. Sigh...
12. Paris - and plotting to go there again.
13. Sweet old couples holding hands {even if they are just doing it to stop from falling over - still cute}
14. Reading. Books have long been my passion.
15. Anticipation. Five more sleeps till Harry Potter!

frugal friday

Going through our budget recently, I realised how little give there is in some places when you've already trimmed all the visible fat. See I already wash all my clothes in cold water, using half the recommended amount of washing liquid, with a full load, on the economy cycle and then I hang them on the line to dry. I've also nixed the pre-stain sprays, instead I've got a lovely cake of sunlight soap that I dampen and rub over any stains {it's a miracle worker - and smells so purdy}.

With the electrics I turn everything off at the wall when I'm not using it - including the microwave and dvd so I'm not wasting electricity showing a clock I don't need. And lights are always switched off when we're not in the room {and now, at night when we're watching tv, even the living room lights are switched off}.

That said, I'm not going to give up just because things are not immediately obviously. Frugality requires thought. Whenever I do something I'm going to work out if there's a more frugal alternative: if I can mend it rather than replace it, if I really, really need it, or if I can wait till it's on-sale to buy it.

We've also got enough clothes in our closets to see us through this season - so there's no need to buy anything new. And, going alcohol-free this month really has to be having an impact on our expenditure {must say, those wine racks in my pantry are still nicely full after last month's Dan Murphy's run!}

Slowly does it...

Thursday, July 09, 2009

oh honey, no

Here's the thing. When you're on a national television program, one that's alllllll about fashion, it's a good idea not to insult the fashion mentor on the first episode.

I had hopes for the ol' Amber Renae at first. She seemed cute, and wore fluffy jackets. However, her opening lines killed it for me "I like a bit of bling". Aaaarrrggghhhh - that word - aren't we over that word yet? Then, as her portfolio flashed on the screen an image of either Paris Hilton or her doppleganger appeared.

Oh honey, no.

Her hot pink and black dress was a disaster and Henry, in his gorgeous, kind, experienced manner expressed concern that it'd be bulky and unflattering. Amber Renae's to-camera response "Obviously the bandage dress is a bit fashion forward for Henry."

Ouch.

Oh honey, no.

Comparing the exquisite Herve Leger bandage dress, with its impeccable tailoring, miracle fabrics and all-round gorgeousity to, that creature you flung on your poor model is just wrong.

My faves for now? Kelly {her comment that her butt is the price she pays for her boobs was priceless}, Anthony, and a few others whose names have yet to imprint themselves on my brain. Some frocky horrors on that episode though! And a few glimpses of genius...

bella shoes

I am still so totally and utterly excited about Harry Potter next week that it's permeated my Shoe of the Week. Don't these totally give you a Bellatrix vibe? Cuteness. I adored the Mary Janes Helena wore on the red carpet in London, but these little booties would have looked utterly dandy with her get-up {which I loved, and would totally wear...}

I bought my tickets on-line yesterday for Harry. Nearly had a major stuff-up and bought them for 7am - but luckily sense and numerical ability kicked in and I went for the more sensible hour of 6.30pm.

Will be doing some re-reading this week in readiness!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

can't wait


Next Wednesday Harry Potter is finally hitting our screens - I'm positively squirming in anticipation...

And tonight's the premiere of series two of the Aussie Project Runway. Can't wait to fall in love and hate with the designers - and see Henry Roth, who I do so adore... I'll be stitched to the screen!

things that make me go woo hoo

The delicious Tahnee won Australia's Next Top Model last night and looked so smoking hot in her Alex Perry dress it's no wonder a nose bleed had to ensue. Clare deservedly took out the viewer's choice award and I was amazed at how well she handled herself on the night. Considering there were complaints all through the show about her demeanor, she was warm, gorgeous and positively bubbling with confidence and personality. She'll strut down global catwalks in style.

Apparently Cassie was a no-show at the after-party - has her fiance already whisked her away?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

sizzlin' sausages

My husband's special dinner request was for proscuitto-wrapped chicken sausages - which were delish. So now I'm going to share the love - and the recipe...

500g chicken mince
zest and juice of half a lemon
a couple of finely sliced garlic cloves
around a cup of chopped italian parsley
salt and pepper
an egg
1 slice of wholegrain bread, grated

8 - 10 slices proscuitto

Combine all ingredients except prosciutto in a bowl and mix well. Form into sausage shapes and place in a container before refrigerating for around 30 minutes. Take out, roll the sausages completely in a slice of proscuitto {do it on an angle so it's completely enclosed} and then grill them, turning till crispy and browned and firm.

Yum.

My daughter loved these - even with the strong lemon flavour. She did a MasterChef taste test while eating, and managed to get all the ingredients except egg and breadcrumbs {and who'd taste those?}. Served with rich orange pumpkin mash, crisp sweet potato rounds and lightly steamed spears of broccolini I feel this was the perfect balance of healthy and tasty...

Now, to master that lamb dish they just cooked on MasterChef.

eat up

This week we'll be noshing on the following:

Tuesday: Chicken and prosciutto sausages, mashed pumpkin, roasted kumera and broccolini

Wednesday: Slow cooked bolognaise

Thursday: Steak, red wine and shallot jus, pumpkin mash and wilted spinach

Friday: MasterChef lamb kofta pizza thingy with salad

Saturday: Beef stroganoff with buttered noodles and brussel sprouts with almonds

Sunday: Lemon and thyme roasted chicken and veg

Monday: Enchilladas

music is my life

One of my 'special skills' is that I have a song for every moment. It entertains my daughter no end that if she mentions a word, then I can pretty much burst into a song from the 70s, 80s or 90s to match it.

I even used music back in my toddler taming days.

One day my daughter may need therapy, but luckily, even now she can look back and laugh. See, the other day, we were in a store {Laura Ashley actually} when a song came on {as they do} and my gal looked at me and said "Why do I know this song?" I smiled and said "Wait till the chorus." Sure enough within minutes she'd burst out laughing and said, "It's tragedy!" Yep, this is the tale of how the Bee Gees helped with toddler tantrums... {And nope, it didn't involve threatening her with men in tight, gold suits - how hysterical is this shot? And believe me, there weren't a dearth to choose from!}

I used to deal with tantrums with a mix of 'ignore it and it'll go away' and 'selected hits from the 70s'. The first case involved a memorable trip around Coles, where my daughter tried her first {and last} throw herself at my feet screaming about something-or-other. At this I simply moved a few metres up the aisle and ignored her. She of course, noticed, got up, moved, and, again, flung herself at my feet. We repeated this little vignette for a few aisles until eventually she tired, and, thank god, we've never had another incident.

But sometimes, a musical option was called for. See, whenever she thought things were particularly unfair, I'd burst into the chorus of the Bee Gees Tragedy. Loudly. And sure enough, it'd stop her. So much so that after a while, as soon as she saw me taking a deep breath way into my diaphragm she'd say, "Noooooooooo, my not want Tragedy..." and that'd put an end to that episode. {my not was her cute-as-a-box-of-kittens way of saying I don't. Bless}

So thanks Barry, Robin, and Maurice. I had no need for the naughty step, or spanking, just a set of lungs and an inability to ever feel embarrassed...

it's raining again

Yep, drizzle, drizzle, pour, pour, sprinkle, sprinkle - raindrops keep falling on my head.

Sigh.

At least it'll inspire me to stay inside and get all my work done.

But still, rainy days and mondays always get me down... I've got over the mondays bit - how can I burst my seasonally-affected, rain-influenced blues-disorder?

Pink polka dotted gumboots?

Bright red fingernails?

A bowl of hot chocolate?

Every little bit helps.

Monday, July 06, 2009

molten bliss

Last night our pudding was chocolate fondant - the bane of MasterChef contestants and judges in Aus and the UK. However, must say, these worked out rather well. For a start, they're a Gordon Ramsay recipe - which I saw a team prepare on The F Word, to great success. Secondly, I followed a blogger's advice {ironchefshellie.blogspot.com} and froze them before cooking. Yep, froze 'em.

They were amazing. Here's the recipe - all I can suggest is sit in front of your oven, watching them every second of the 12 - 15 minutes they'll need to cook {my hades-like oven took 12 minutes} and as soon as the top starts looking brownie-esque and starts to pull from the sides, whip 'em out, let 'em sit for a minute, then pop 'em out on a plate.

Chocolate Fondant
Gordon Ramsay

50g melted butter , for brushing
cocoa powder , for dusting
200g good-quality dark chocolate , chopped into small pieces
200g butter , in small pieces
200g golden caster sugar
4 eggs and 4 yolks
200g plain flour

Prepare your moulds ready. Using upward strokes, heavily brush the melted butter all over the inside of the pudding mould. Place the mould in the fridge or freezer. Brush more melted butter over the chilled butter, then add a good spoonful of cocoa powder into the mould. Tip the mould so the powder completely coats the butter. Tap any excess cocoa back into the jar, then repeat with the next mould.

Place a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, then slowly melt the chocolate and butter together. Remove bowl from the heat and stir until smooth. Leave to cool for about 10 mins.

3. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and yolks together with the sugar until thick and pale. Sift the flour into the eggs, then beat together.

4. Pour the melted chocolate into the egg mixture in thirds, beating well between each addition, until all the chocolate is added and the mixture is completely combined to a loose cake batter.

5. Tip the fondant batter into a jug, then evenly divide between the moulds. The fondants can now be frozen for up to a month and cooked from frozen. Chill for at least 20 mins or up to the night before. To bake from frozen, add around 5 mins more to the cooking time.

6. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Place the fondants on a baking tray, then cook for 10-12 mins until the tops have formed a crust and they are starting to come away from the sides of their moulds. Remove from the oven, then leave to sit for 1 min before turning out.

7. Loosen the fondants by moving the tops very gently so they come away from the sides, easing them out of the moulds. Tip each fondant slightly onto your hand so you know it has come away, then tip back into the mould ready to plate up.

8. Sit a fondant in the middle of each plate. Using a large spoon dipped in hot water, scoop a 'quenelle' of ice cream.

9. Carefully place the ice cream on top of the fondant, then serve immediately. Repeat with the rest of the fondants.

Serve to a round of enthusiastic applause - even if it's only your own!

monday's motivation

Somehow, despite my annoyingly debilitating migraine - I managed to achieve most of the stuff on my list from last week. Phew.

This week I will:
• Complete two articles on deadline
• Write up copy for a new client
• Make chicken and prosciutto sausages for dinner as per my husband's request {recipe will follow - they're delish!}
• Send out two "hi, remember me, want to give me some work?" emails
• Do something lovely each day for my husband and daughter so they know how much I love them

Anything else'll be a bonus. How about you? Check out Liss's list at frillsinthehills.blogspot.com and tell me about yours.

happy birthday g

I had a right royal stuff-up with my calendar and sense of dates today and called one of my dear friends to wish her a happy birthday - a day late. Whoops!

So, here's my big birthday wishes to you Gina, gorgeous gal, I know you had a fabulous weekend in your new purple party shoes - let's go out in them again soon so I can help you celebrate in the most bubby way!

xx

Sunday, July 05, 2009

good gone bad

Why is that sometimes doing something good can make you feel so bad? Just now I decided to give the bathroom a quick spruce, you know, cos it's been a while, and, um, how did I not notice how gross is actually was in there? I felt like I was in the 'before' scene from How Clean Is Your House. I knew I had "A little" mould in the shower recess, but when I actually got it there and sprayed it realised that it was "A little" in the same way that Johnny Depp is a little bit delicious. Hmmmmm.

So I attacked it with the white vinegar, bi-carb, water and lavender mix and left it to soak in while I vacuumed the eight thousand dustbunnies breeding on every floorboard in my home. I came back, scrubbed it with my grout brush, rinsed it off and all better now. Phew. How did I let it reach such a state and why haven't I been more persistent in my hunt for Oil Of Cloves - guaranteed mould inhibitor which will stop the damned stuff growing back.

I'm not letting it bug me though. Now it's all pristine and on Monday I'm going to track down every chemist that said they had Oil of Cloves on order and make sure I buy some. Then it's straight into a spray bottle with some water and will be slooshed liberally over my bathroom and anywhere else that harbours mould.

Now I'm off to brown off some lamb shanks. As I had a few extras I've invited the in-laws for dinner. Lamb shanks, mash, greens and chocolate fondant for pudding {but I'm only calling it fondant if Gordon Ramsay's recipe is a success. Knowing my hot as hades oven I'll be calling it Chocolate Pudding and serving it with a dob of delicious double cream!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

weekend love

Gotta love a weekend. Especially one with blue skies, winter warmth and sheets flapping on the breeze ready for a cosy night's sleep. Our gal's off to dinner with a friend tonight, so the planned menu of lamb shanks is on hold till tomorrow night.

So tonight, we're having mega veal cutlets, crisp kipfler potatoes, wilted spinach - and maybe a bernaise sauce... {where were the veal cutlets on the meal plan some may ask? Happily exchanged for the roast beef I didn't realise had passed its best-before date. Well hung meat indeed...}

Friday, July 03, 2009

weeding out the nanas

You know, I reckon that this whole word verification thing that blogs have going on isn't to weed out spam or computer generated nonsense - it's to stop oldies like myself from rabbiting on in the comments section. Seriously, how damned incomprehensible are most of those letters? I spend more time trying to work out if it's a G, H, 3 or a q than I do coming up with my attempted pithy comment. And I become more squinty than Renee Zelwegger when I'm trying to decipher them - that's never a good thing...

the answer my friend...

I've always been a huge fan of drying washing in the sunshine and breeze. The other night, while I was poorly, I dropped substantial amounts of bolognaise sauce on my lavender and cream Peter Alexander pjs. Sadness! But my daughter said, "Don't worry, just wash it and the sunshine will take the stains away." Too true. In 30 minutes of hanging in the sun the tomato stains had vamoosed.

Today it's a real drying day. It's sunny and it's windy. I'm even thinking of washing my doona - that's how good a day it is! The load I hung out at 8.30 was dry when I hung my second load out at 10am.

I loved the clotheslines in Venice. Strung between apartments you'd see lines of clothing flapping above the canals. Sure, I did have to chase one of my tops that hadn't been pegged out properly {I did have fun working out where the little courtyard it landed was!}, but everything dried beautifully. I also think that line-dried clothing is easily to fold straight from the line and {NOW} straight into the baskets and into our cupboards.

It's the little things...

frugal friday

Yesterday, as I mentioned, I did my speed grocery shop - but I didn't zoom past the bargains. Instead, what I did was change my mindset from Top Shelf Gal, to Bottom Shelf Browser. See, I've always been one to go for the top shelf spirits in a bar. I'll go for Grey Goose vodka over Karloff anyday. However, now I'm an economista, I'm hunting down low for my bargains, cos, you know, in the supermarket those products at ankle-level are where bargains are to be had. I only spent $60 yesterday on my staples {because I'm buying my meat from the butcher} but I do believe I saved around $10 by buying bottom-shelf items.

Making friends with your butcher is also the best way to be frugal. We're having spanish chicken tonight, so I bought a Lillydale free range chicken from my butcher and asked him to cut it into portions for me - which he did, at no extra cost. Plus, because I'm a regular, I didn't even have to ask him and he kept the bones aside for me to use as stock! Now, confession time, I've never made stock - I'm a buy it in a carton gal. However, because I use so much stock in my cooking it's time to knuckle down and bring out the boiler. I've got all the basic ingredients on standby so I'll mix up a batch and freeze some in cleaned milk bottles.

I'm also going cold-turkey and buying absolutely no pre-made cleaners - so no multi-purpose sprays, bathroom cleaners, floor cleaners... nothing. Instead, I'm going to use the bottles, pour in a quarter white vinegar, a few teaspoons of bi-carb soda and top it up with warm water. I'll give it a shake and then add a few drops of lavender oil and a drop or two of tea tree oil to disinfect. Effective, smells purdy, and the costs are minimal {I estimate around 20 cents per container - much cheaper than your spray and wipe!}

My work-chasing has been successful too which makes me happy. Between getting new work, and cutting back on expenditure we'll be debt-free and saving in no time.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

andelay, andelay...

Just had a speedy gonzales moment. I've been a bit slooooooow after my migraine on Tuesday, so I needed to catch-up, quick-smart. At 2pm I sat down and came up with the week's menu, wrote a shopping list and was out the door by 2.10pm. I zoomed through the supermarket, bought a week's worth of ingredients, even stopping to chat to my great Aunt who I haven't seen for yonks, and I was at the school gate ready to pick up my daughter at 2.50pm. Ahh, the joys of living centrally.

This week we're eating:

Tonight: Shepherds pie and veg
Friday: Spanish chicken with rice {we didn't get around to this last week}
Saturday: Lamb shanks, mash and peas {inspired by last night's MasterChef}
Sunday: Roast beef and vegies
Monday: Chorizo pasta bake
Tuesday: Pork cutlets and veg
Wednesday: Provencal chicken {my daughter's new fave!]

Off to start frying off some veg and simmering the lamb mince for the pie. I love mine slowly simmered for a few hours before topping with mash and baking.

Excuse me, salivating.

boot scootin' baby

I have frosty tootsies today, so my shoe of the week has to be these butter-soft Marc Jacobs beauties I spied with my little eyes over at net-a-porter. Sure, I'll never zip them over my netballer's calves, and yeah, I don't have even a fraction of the cashola to pay for them, but this spot ain't for practicality - it's for living vicariously shoe-wise.

Which I'm doing.

Mmmm, snuggly tootsies...

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

meet me at martha's

And we'll wander through her peony beds together!

head space

I spent the whole day in bed yesterday... with a migraine. A killer migraine. Ouch. So I'm spending today in a spacey-kinda headspace, plodding through things I need to do. Slooooooowly.