Sunday, October 19, 2014

clearing my mind

How's the serenity?

Do you have a spot in your home that just sighs with serenity? I do, well, when the house is tidy...

Today's aim is to reveal them, to have them looking super-spesh. So we'll keep ploughing through our Happy Home List of things that we just really need to do. Today's plan is to get the living room and bedroom in tip-top shape, and to move the planter boxes I re-planted with geraniums the weekend before last back to their spot on the living room window sills. Might even clean the windows in the living room so the view is even more stunning.


Monday, October 13, 2014

meal planning monday

Bags the comfy chair! Excuse me, but why have I never thought about having a cozy couch as a banquette in my dining room? What is even wrong with me? I swear, if I can find one the right height I am just going for it.

Also, need to add painting my chairs in gloss pastels to my Happy House List. And tick it off.

It's been a few weeks, and lots of scrappy meals without meal planning. So I'm back into it.

Here we go:

Monday: gal child is back at ballet then home to study for a math test the next night. I'm going to make a salad of flattened, grilled chicken breasts (marinated in garlic, oregano and lemon zest), grilled proscuitto, boiled eggs and baby cos lettuce. So good.

Tuesday: to reward gal child for doing her exam I shall make spaghetti and meatballs. It's funny, some meals she complains we have ALL THE TIME if I serve them more than once a month, others, like this, I reckon I could serve daily.

Wednesday: I'm just going to do a bbq tonight. I've ordered some meat from Aussie Farmers so I'll grill it and serve it with a salad.

Thursday: pork cutlets, potato cakes and greens.

Friday: we are going to go out for dinner as a family. Perhaps to Scotties to have a picnic under the palms. I think that's a plan, Stan.

Saturday: first weekend with nothing planned in yonks. We might do some planting and some painting. So a bbq will be in order. Or paella. I'll see what I feel like.

Sunday: roast on the bbq. Perhaps lamb shoulder. With a greek-style-salad.

image from

Sunday, October 12, 2014

cycle newcastle

My new aim is to convince people how easy, and wonderful, it is to cycle around our city. It really is the best way to see the place.

I've yet to start timing it, but I am quite positive that it is quicker and way cheaper to ride into the city than drive. Parking costs in Newcastle are getting crazy-expensive - and who wants more cars in a city? (Not this little black duck!)

A few weeks ago I went on the Spring Fling vintage bike ride and it was a joy to ride en-masse with other cyclists. Newcastle's pretty flat, with some lovely wide streets for cycling - and some dedicated cycle-walking paths (nowhere near enough, but hey, we can lobby for more).

There's so much you don't see if you don't ride. For example, look at the lovely harbourside poetry I snapped last weekend out at Nobbys breakwall. Stunning.

Riding also gives you time to gaze adoringly at our historic architecture - particularly through Cooks Hill and the East End. What's not to love?

Because I live in an area annoyingly unserviced by Public Transport, my aim is to cycle as much as I possibly can. I've even worked out a way to get to work - cycle to Civic Station, then catch the train to uni and back again! Just in time for Ride2Work day on Wednesday October 22. There'll be a free breakfast at Wheeler Place in Newcastle from 7am - 9am - and there's one at the uni too (for Ride2Uni Day!) Hurrah!

Where will you #CycleNewcastle this week?

Monday, September 15, 2014

meal planning monday

image from here

How on earth is it already Monday? And Spring! Eep. This year is flying by ridiculously quickly. However, I do find that planning helps my week go by more smoothly. So here's this week's plan.

Monday: I bought two of the most enormous t-bone steaks you ever have seen from Aussie Farmers. Best grill them on the bbq with lots of garlic and black pepper. Hubby can have one, and my gal and I will share the other. We'll have them with a salad - baby spinach, orange, walnut and feta.

Tuesday: I do believe that my gal would eat chicken every meal if I'd let her. I won't let her, but she can have it tonight. Chicken breasts butterflied, flattened and marinated in lemon, olive oil and fresh thyme grilled on the bbq. Served with a green salad.

Wednesday: mid-week lazy meal of spaghetti bolognaise.

Thursday: salmon fillets on the bqq with a lemon potato salad and a green salad.

Friday: more steak. This time it's porterhouse. On the bbq. With a beetroot, baby spinach and walnut salad.

Saturday: chicken, basil and lemon pasta.

Sunday: bbq leg of lamb with salads.

And that's all folks!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

vintage ride: spring fling

I got up terribly, terribly early this morning {well, for a Sunday} and frocked up in my new Laura Ashley floral frock. Here's a bit of it.

And here's a wee bit more. It is an explosion of flowers, and even has some pretty blue birds on it. I heart it so. It just had to make its debut at the Vintage Bike Ride's Spring Fling.

I left home at 8am and pedalled my way into the park at Nobbys where there were so many glorious bikes - both serious vintage and awesomely modern. And people dressed up SO FINE! {Lads, we need to bring back suspenders - they look so spiffy!}.

I wish I'd thought to decorate my basket with flowers. I did have my pale pink and cream Laura Ashley blanket in there, to coordinate with a vintage pale pink handbag {which did have a flower on it!}

A bike, with a suitcase, with a globe. How often do you see that? {I'm thinking never, well apart from today}. Cool huh?

Because it's Bike Week there was a free breakfast and the guys from Hadley's Bikes were there to give our bikes a bit of a go-over. I bought my bike from these guys, but haven't had it serviced in its lifetime. But now it's running like a dream thanks to Mr Lycra here. Thank you! PS: see that guy next in line? Best speaking voice, spiffy outfit and beautiful Bianchi cycle.

Love this man's outfit, bike, helmet and puppy. There were so many things to look and oooooh at today.

I was terrible at taking photos on today's ride. But go over to Polka Dots and Frocks later - she had a real camera and took about a gazzilion photos. And check out Bicycles In Newcastle to see some of the glorious rides from today - I am kicking myself that I didn't get a photo of Vicki's awesomely elegant outfit. She looked stunning.

Check out the Vintage Tweed Ride's Facebook page for more pics, and news.

Oh, and just LOOK at this gloriously delightful video that Tom made. Isn't is just joyous?

What a glorious way to spend a Sunday!

Monday, September 01, 2014

meal planning monday

Hurrah, it's the first day of spring!!!! I am so excited. This means bbqs for dinner, salads and easy meals all round. So to celebrate, here's a fantabulous floral arrangement from Petersham Nurseries from my holiday. Le sigh.

Now, for food.

Monday: gal's ballet, I'll shop before picking her up. Tonight's dinner will be bbq chicken breasts (flattened, marinated in garlic, lemon and olive oil) and salad.

Tuesday: chicken chipolata bake - throw halved kipfler potatoes, cherry tomatoes, pumpkin, red onion in a roasting tray. Drizzle with olive oil and strew with fresh thyme. Pop in a 180 degree oven for 25 mins. Then throw in some chicken chipolata sausages (they make really tasty ones at Aussie Farmers Direct) then pop them back in for 15 mins, or until the sausages are browned and cooked. Serve with a crisp green salad.

Wednesday: for hump day it's an easy dinner night. Spaghetti bolognaise.

Thursday: I ordered some lamb rumps from Aussie Farmers, I'll cook them on the bbq then slice them thinly and serve them with a baby spinach, marinated feta and walnut salad.

Friday: my gal has a school dance, so she'll want a light, early dinner. Depends on if she has a friend over, but I think we'll go for homemade pizza.

Saturday: we'll be getting stuff done from the Happy House List, so we'll need to be rewarded with a lovely bbq dinner. Butterflied leg of lamb perhaps? Or butterflied chicken? With salads.

Sunday: chicken with 40 cloves of garlic with salad.

And that's it!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

dreaming of decorating

We've been spending the day getting the house in order as we're hosting eight fifteen-year-olds for a sleepover tonight. Yes, eight. Eep. In order to do so, we've dedicated the entire guest room to mattresses (and kind of expecting a serious lack of sleep during the night).

Doing this has made me get an itching for redecorating. I think I'm a little bit in love with this shade of blue - and this awesome little shelvy thing spotted at - cute huh?

We're doing pretty well with our Happy House List. Ticking off a little something every weekend.

Monday, August 25, 2014

meal planning monday

Hey, look at me with three blog posts IN A ROW {well, days of posting, you know…} I'm in a super-organised mood at the moment. Spring's in the air and I'm determined to end the year on a high. So I'm back on the meal-planning mode this week.

Monday: caramelised chilli chicken thighs with glass noodles and greens.

Tuesday: beef burgers and lemon slaw.

Wednesday: chicken chipolatas, greens and mash.

Thursday: mexican tonight - quesadilla perhaps?

Friday: dukkah-crusted salmon, lemon potatoes and greens.

Saturday: we're off to my in-laws for dinner. There is a very good chance we'll have roast. :)

Sunday: I might have to fire up the bbq to get in the mood for summer. If it's really summery I'll do garlic prawns with a salad, if not, steak with a nod to France (simply seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper and grilled over the flames. Yum.)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

the happy house list

I love a list. I do! If there's anything I need to get done, you can pretty much guarantee that I'll make a list for it. Primarily for the satisfaction of ticking things off.

But I don't like to get disheartened. So I am not a fan of the long list. Lists that are too long can seem overwhelming and scary and like just too much trouble.

So I've come up with a cunning plan for the loooooooooong list of jobs we need to do around the house. I'm calling it The Happy House List. We're going to come up with a list of tasks to accomplish each weekend, from the teeny, to the huge. Then, we'll go through plotting and ticking them off - and celebrating them with a very big 'hurrah' at the completion of each.

Rather than moaning that we need to prune the roses, we'll do it with the end goal of a bushy shrub just like the one in the pic above {because my house looks extra-pretty when viewed through pink and red rose bushes!}. Touching up a spot of peeling paint just by the front door is a 10 minute job - but the satisfaction will be long-lasting. New front fence? Oh, priceless!

Do you love a list?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

sweet saturday

This is our first weekend without sporting commitments {and may I throw in a small 'hurrah'?}. I do love my netball teams, but that full Saturday morning commitment really adds up. I did have to do a couple of hours work this morning, but the weekend's drawing out before me looking fabulous for getting things done.

I must say, it kicked off well. Last night my friend C and I checked out a friend's Art Exhibition opening, had a glass of champers, chatted with other friends, then went for a sneaky pizza and beer in what I think might be my fave pub in Newcastle - The Oriental in Cooks Hill. Why's it my favourite? Because it retains the classic bones of a pub, but has a slightly updated edge. It's cozy, has good beers on tap - and oh THE PIZZA!

Then we wandered down to a 'venue which shall remain nameless {because, well, blerk} to meet our friend A and see the formidable Courtney Love. My inner rock chick loved being able to see Courtney live again - it's been years and she hasn't lost her edge. My voice is sore from screaming along with the songs - and my body's sore from spending 30 minutes in the mosh pit {so worth it}.

We also bumped into some fabulous peeps along the way {one of whom was wearing FABULOUS red lippy for Courtney!}.

Today's it's family time - complete with paella for dinner.

I love weekends :)

image from housetohome

Sunday, August 17, 2014

well hello

As you can probably guess from this pic, I'm yearning for Paris a little. Life's back to normal now, which makes me cast my mind back to days when I had nought to do but wander the streets of my favourite city. Oh well, we'll be back there soon enough.

This weekend was a lovely combo of catching up on stuff, and spending time with friends and my lovely little family. Last night's birthday night out with my gal pals was just perfection. First of all, there was sparkling rosé at Newcastle's newest small bar - The Red Baron's. It was pretty darned cool. We also shared some russian-style tapas before moving on to another pub for a quick drink. Then, we were still a wee bit peckish so we went to Chook and Broosky - a chicken and beer bar! SO GOOD! Fried chicken, coleslaw and chips with lime-zest for the win!

After this we ducked down to the Lass for a dance. We saw THREE great bands/performers, including my new favourites Nova And The Experience. What an experience! They played danceable indie rock while doing such awesome things as throwing paper aeroplanes, passing out newspaper hats for us all to wear, or passing our percussion cuteness and bubbles! We danced our wee feet off we did.

Hurrah for fun nights with the very best of friends.

Today I caught up with a very old friend from way-back-when for lunch and a brainstorming session. It was super-fun. Then I helped my gal with a crazy-difficult assignment for school. Oh, and it was a GOOD DRYING DAY! So hello clean sheet night.

Tomorrow I start a new adventure at work. I've moved over two desks and into a new role. I love a new challenge. Bring it all on.

And you, how's things with you?

Monday, August 04, 2014

meal planning monday

Well, I'm back! It's been a week now, and I think the jetlag has finally vamooshed. Pesky thing that it is. So last week was a bit of a write-off meal planning wise - I think I only cooked once (no idea what we ate…) This week we're back to normal. I'm going to use my food from France and England as an example to follow. See that pic above? It's just a salad, from a café in Paris - but check out the detail. That's finely sliced raw beetroot you're seeing - candy-striped, yellow and white. Seriously. I'll be digging out my mandolin and adding some of this to my salads this summer - it was both pretty AND delicious. Here's what's on the menu this week.

Monday: I'll ease back into the week with a simple meal of Nigella's Greek Lamb with a spinach, feta and walnut salad.

Tuesday: my gal's netball training. It'll be COLD. To warm us up when we get home I'll make a quick butter chicken, rice and wilted greens.

Wednesday: it's my 11-year-old netball team's last training session for the year (*insert sad face here*) so I'll make spaghetti and meatballs. I'll make the sauce in the slow-cooker then brown the meatballs while I'm cooking the pasta when I get home.

Thursday: hubby and I are off on a date with Underground Epicureans. We're off on a marvellous food adventure. Not sure what's happening with the gal yet. Either she'll stay with a friend or we'll ask my husband's parents to come stay. If they stay, I'll make a cottage pie wednesday night so they can heat it and serve it with veg.

Friday: chicken provencale tonight. With roasted potatoes and lots of greens.

Saturday: it's nearly spring isn't it? If the weather's kind I'm going to do a bbq. When in France we'd merely season steaks with garlic, salt and pepper. I'll do that. And serve it with a big salad like the one above (sans the raw salmon).

Sunday: pork belly roast on a bed of rhubarb with lots and lots of veg.

And that'll do it.

Friday, July 25, 2014

last days in london

We made the most of our visit to London, and one of my fave moments was this. I really wanted to see a play in the West End, so we thought we'd make it a family-friendly one and see Matilda. I'm not normally a fan of musicals, but I thought I'd sit through it for the kids.


Tim Minchin is behind the music, so no wonder it was awesome. The performances were all spot-on, and each player on the stage drew the audience's eye. Miss Trunchpole was played by a bloke, and he was just perfection. Hilarious it was.

The set design was so fabulous too. It was in a teeny, tiny theatre, perfect for such a production. Apparently it's coming to Australia, so if it does - go see it!

After the matinee we walked through to Covent Gardens, where I swooned for quite some time at this floral display, and the gals ate some Laduree macarons (side note: do you know that I did not eat ONE macaron while in Paris?)

We then went to find some dinner along the Thames and found THIS! It's the Summer of Love in London and the city's celebrating. My gal took the opportunity for a wee rest on a deckchair.

Then the three cousins rode these super-cute slides. The girls have had a blast, as have we. We're flying out today (hopefully). We were meant to fly out last night, but we got to the airport to discover that our flight was overbooked so we are now flying out this afternoon via Los Angeles. Another stamp for the passport I guess. So now we're home Sunday morning instead of Saturday. Hopefully it's true that jetlag's better when you fly in from the states...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

cornish delights

After our four day trip to the Cotswolds we visited another glorious part of England. Cornwall. Coming from a beachside suburb in Australia like Merewether it's hard to be impressed by a beach - but oh, I do love Cornwall.

We drove down this little country lane to visit the family holiday home Viddy Vu. It's perfectly located in the market village of Camelford.

We did lots of drives, gasping at countryside that looked a little like this.

I may have spent a little time daydreaming about owning this hotel on the rugged cliff top near Port Issac. It was boarded up and looked abandoned, but there were cars there making me think someone was in the midst of renovating.

How's this for a view? It made me wish I painted. Look at al those colours and textures. I adore the drystone walls.

This is the port itself. And those were really the colours. There were people swimming away in there, including one older fellow doing leisurely laps. He reminded me of my grandfather who used to walk out the front of his house, dive in the lake and swim and mile each day before breakfast. What a habit.

So many shades of green. And blue.

I love the white and grey of the buildings and how well they contrast with the sky and the sea - and the cliffs!

I am totally going to plant more pots of flowers when we return home. Don't they just make a place?

For fans of the TV show Doc Martin, this is where it's filmed. Apparently that's his house in the shot (somewhere, I'm not sure which one, but if you watch you'll know).

I loved the patchwork nature of the cornish countryside. Fields are outlined with dark green hedges, and the colours of the fields range from pale lemon to deep green. It's stunning.

Oh, and while we were in Cornwall we lunched at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen. OH MY! We had the three course lunch: grilled, flat white peaches, buffalo mozzarella and balsamic was followed by a slow-roasted short-rib ragu, and ended with vanilla pannacotta, shortbread and strawberries. Simple, seasonal perfection.

It's our second-last day today (le sob). We're heading into the city to see the musical version of Matilda! The songs were written by Tim Minchin which delights me to no end. Tomorrow we might need to do a final shop (although we've already boosted the British economy no end!) We fly out at 10.20pm. Wish me luck. Hopefully there will be some good films on the plane, and I'll take a book too, just in case I'm in the mood to read.

I've enjoyed every single second of our holiday. It's been utter perfection. However, I am looking forward to coming home. It's time to see my friends (hurrah!), family (yay!) and get back to work (also hurrah, seriously!).

Oh, and once I plant 1000 flowers I'll probably start planning our next holiday (and saving madly!)

Thanks for coming on the trip with me x

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

picturebook perfect: the cotswolds

See this? This is Plum Tree Cottage, our storybook home for four days in the Cotswolds. Isn't it just super-cute? The garden's off to the side, and way up the top there, you can see the historic church which dates back to 1180. It's just stunning.

This house has been recently renovated with a real decorator's eye. It's a Grade II Listed cottage, in a row of terraces which were built around the mid 1800s. Spring chickens really.

How's this for detail? A wee windowsill on the stairwell contains this pop of prettiness!

I adore this kitchen and feel terribly guilty for not cooking in it, but, a mere two minute stroll up the road is the Great Western Arms, a recently renovated pub that serves rather delicious meals such as Toad In The Hole, scampi, fish and chips and cottage pie.

Oh, tonight I had scampi followed by a steamed syrup pudding.


Check out the girls' beds. What you can't see from this shot is just how high they are. They have gloriously soft mattresses AND mattress toppers! So soft and pillowy!

Our room is right at the tippy top.

How's the serenity in our secret back garden? I really need to purchase some Pimms to sip up here one afternoon don't you think?

The house across the road has the most stunning shocking pink climbing rose.

Here's a dream house, just behind us. Can you even IMAGINE driving in those gates and calling this place home? Oh, I can!

Today we visited Upper and Lower Slaughter. Despite their gruesome-sounding names, they're utterly gorgeous. We wandered around, took snaps, ate icecream, and sighed.


Oh, finally we went to Bourton on the Water. A stunning place, but so heavily populated with tourists it was hard to catch breath. We found a fab little Italian place in a quiet back street where we ate a delish pizza, then the girls got lost in a maze (my worst nightmare, but they had a ball!)

Tomorrow we'll head back up to Brockley Village Shop and café again where we had the most amazing breakfast of a scrambled egg and (OHMYGOD) bacon on a bagel, with GOOD coffee.

This place is a delight. All the joys of the Cotswolds without the hoardes of tourists.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

au revoir france

We sadly said au revoir to France, but only after totally making the most of it. We took a cruise on the The Lot river where we were treated to blue skies and stunning scenery.

Including breathtaking scenes of St Cirq Lapoppie from below. Isn't it glorious?

At one stage, the river becomes too shallow for ships, so the clever French have created these locks. What happens is the gates are opened, you ride in, and then the water is slowly equalised to the new level - either up a few metres, or down. It's very clever. And apparently was invented by Leonardo Da Vinci. Once you go through the lock you then travel along a totally manmade canal, until the river's a decent depth again. One thing I loved was the detail - see the flower boxes on the gates? Everything's considered an opportunity for a bit of fabulous. 

We also visited the historic hilltop city of Rocamador. We parked our car down the bottom and rode a wee train up to the historic village. We wandered up the streets, ate some icecream, then climbed the 200+ steps to the historic chapels. Apparently pilgrims would make the journey up the stairs - on their knees! My knees had enough difficulty with just the walk.

When we arrived there were massive groups of school kids who'd just completed some kind of bike-riding pilgrimage. Groups of family and friends lined the stairs and applauded them as they climbed into the chapels for a service.

Because of the crowds we couldn't fight our way inside to see the very famous Black Madonna. But we saw plenty of fabulous.

Now we're back in England and have a jam-packed itinerary planned. Today we're off for a family bbq at my brother-in-law's family home Cherry Hill. Our visit coincides with the annual family gathering, so that will be lovely. Tomorrow we're off to The Cotswolds for four days, then three days in Cornwall. 

Taking advantage of every minute of this trip? Damned straight I am.