Sunday, February 16, 2014

diving off the edge of the world

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

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

Probably better than a Pluto Pup just quietly.

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

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

 Look! Pretty!

These sirens of the sea were haunting. Just beautiful.

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

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

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


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

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

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

Saturday, February 15, 2014

sweet, sweet saturday

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

And being a mum and wife.

And netball stuff.


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

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

Have a lovely weekend my lovelies x

image from

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

soooooo sleepy

Hi, how's things?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm off to bed, sweet dreams x

French word of the day: peche - peach!


Saturday, February 08, 2014

happy birthday to my blog

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

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

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

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

Here, have a slice of virtual cake!

French word of the day: gateaux - cake!

Friday, February 07, 2014

farmer's best

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

fill in the blanks

image: Jonathan Adler for Paperless Post

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

I must rectify.

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

Onto it.

French word of the day: cuisine: kitchen.

Monday, February 03, 2014

meal planning monday

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whew. You?

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

image: from

Sunday, February 02, 2014

so sweet

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

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

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

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

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


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

Oh yes, I said dumplings.

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


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

Oh my.

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

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

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

Friday, January 31, 2014

fabulous friday

Oh my goodness, it's a really lovely day today. Fresh air, blue sky and it's FRIDAY! I've also realised that I've developed quite the fetish for the colour green on these chairs - I need to paint something this weekend in this colour. Or blue. I'm looking at my dining chairs actually.



So, plans for the weekend - do you have them? We're pretty free so far, but I'm sure it'll fill up. There will be swimming. And cycling. And visits to the markets. You?

French word of the day: béatude - bliss

image: MarthaStewartWeddings

Monday, January 27, 2014

meal planning monday

Sorry this is late - it's a public holiday here today and I've been chilling out with my gal, swimming, lolling etc while hubby's been on a loooooooooon bikeride.

But we're now getting back into the swing of things for the new school year - my gal goes back to school on Thursday {and cannot wait!}. Here's what we're eating {at my gal's request}:

Monday: I have some chicken sausages from Aussie Farmers Direct, and I'm planning on cutting them in thirds and roasting them with potatoes, sweet potatoes, capsicum, zucchini and corn cobs. YUM!

Tuesday: homemade pizza.

Wednesday: Mexican fiesta as a back-to-school feast.

Thursday: chicken kebabs and salad.

Friday: duck confit to celebrate the end of school week!

Saturday: salmon on the bbq with salads.

Sunday: roast beef on the bbq with warm potato salad and greens.

Plus we'll be doing lots of back-to-school goods - banana muffins for breakfasts on the go, potato and chorizo pasties, bean salads and whatever else tickles my gal's fancy.

image from

French Word of the Day: école - school!

Friday, January 24, 2014

bill henson - across time

It's very rare that a person is afforded the chance to meet an idol, let alone the opportunity to interview them in a room with their work. For me, that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity occurred with Bill Henson when he came to Newcastle to generously offer his time sharing his wisdom with an enraptured audience. I arrived early which gave me a chance to settle in to a back row seat while Henson spoke to over 150 high school students who'd come to listen to his lecture.

Lucky kids.

He was so generous. He obviously wanted to share his talent and his passion - calling regularly for questions and spending an extraordinary amount of time giving detailed, intelligent answers.

I hope most of them went home inspired. 

I know I did.

Newcastle Art Gallery is currently hosting Across Time, a collection of Henson's work stretching from around 1974 to the early 2000s. Breathtaking works from his Paris Opera Garnier series feature, as well as haunting landscapes with a saturation of colour that makes you sink deep into the frame, pondering what's in the richly-hued depths.

With a Bill Henson display there is one consistency - the walls. They're a special colour that Henson specifically mixed to showcase his work perfectly. It's a deep, dark, velvety brown. Rich, yet unobtrusive. On this background the works pop.

For an artist, it's rare that they have the chance to see their work in a collection once it leaves their hands. It's only when it's on display that they have the opportunity to explore it again, seen through a curator's eyes. I loved watching Bill Henson rediscovering his works in Newcastle, and discussing the cohesion of colour in all these works, as diverse as they are.

Henson says that darkness expands the suggestive potential of a photograph. "The palette is quite subdued in the Opera Garnier works - the light on the audience is the light that's reflected from the stage. And there's uplighting too - which we're not used to - they create an ethereal and unreal atmosphere. When they asked me to do that commission it was interesting as they told me it could be anything - I could design sets, photograph the building anything. But watching the audience gather together with a sense of anticipation, I found that fascinating."

These works are stunning - with a haunting quality that's beautiful and begs for closer inspection. Bill Henson has a very distinctive photographic style, it's considered more painterly than your typical photographs. I asked him how he came upon this style, and he said he didn't set out to develop one - everything's just determined by the individual picture.

He works in groups of photographs, considering each of them as they relate to the other - which is probably how this style is formed - we're seeing a world through his eyes.

That's a true artist, someone who doesn't work thinking about what an audience wants to see - but what he wants to show them. His final piece of advice to the students, and something that's still ringing in my ears, is: "Be true to yourself and don't stop working."

Seeing photographs like these hung in an exhibition is an experience that many deny themselves, "The funny thing about photography is it suffers more than any other artform in that if people think they've seen a reproduction somewhere they think they've seen it," said Henson. "But it's really important to have the experience of seeing the photographs in person - hung with so many others. Seeing an exhibition gives you so much scope for your imagination. Contemplation and deeper examination requires silence and a little bit of time."

Bill Henson: Across Time is on display at Newcastle Art Gallery until February 2 - don't miss it!

And what do you do when you meet an internationally-renowned photographer? You take a selfie with them and pop it on Instagram. Natch.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

a place in paris

Well, in super-dooper exciting news we've booked our accommodation in Paris for a week! Yep, arriving on June 28 we get to spend a whole week in my fave city before driving way down south to The Lot for another week.

This time it's all about location. We really wanted to stay in The Marais, which is probably my favourite place in Paris {aside from Ille St Louis, which is teeny and only has limited accommodation}. We're staying with friends, the friends we regularly holiday with in the Southern Highlands, and we've found a glorious apartment with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, parquet floors, french doors with ironwork lace balconies and fireplaces. So pretty.

We're a mere 500 metres to Place des Vosges {pictured} a place I just adore. And then, in the other direction, 500 metres to Ille St Louis. Now plans just need to be made. On the essentials list:

  • dinner at the Musee de Orsay
  • a romantic dinner for hubby and I
  • a day trip to the champagne region
  • lots of shopping!
  • climbing the Arc de Triomphe
  • a guided tour of the Louvre with my friend G who's an Art Gallery Guide!

French word of the Day: promettre - to promise.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

my imaginary dinner party

For years I've been addicted to the TV show Come Dine With Me. Have you seen it? It's where a group of between four or five strangers each host a dinner party - and are scored in secret. It's been going for YEARS. It's a hugely successful franchise with versions from the UK, Canada and Australia. There are also celebrity versions (currently screening in Aus is our celebrity version, which I'm loving).

Anyways… ever since I started watching it I've been planning my imaginary menu - what I'd cook if I were ever on the show. Because it's been going on for years my menu's displayed a range of fashion trends - from lamb shanks to pork belly. But last night, just after going to bed, I think I've nailed it.

There's a fine line on the show. See, the people who talk themselves up as gourmets tend to be marked down for their arrogance. Similarly if your menu's too simple, or too healthy, you'll also lose points. Entertainment can be a cool way to notch up points, but it can also lose you points if you have a party pooper who hates dressing up in your midst.

You need three courses, some kind of cocktail on arrival - and then, ideally, after dinner entertainment. You need to have obviously spent a lot of time on the food - but don't spend too much time in the kitchen or you'll be accused of not tending to your guests.

Chances are they'll throw a curve ball your way: if you say on your entry form that you're a big meat lover, then a vegetarian will be included in your dinner guest list. You've got to be prepared, and unflustered. So here's my plan.


A 1970s theme.

Who doesn't love the 70s? It'd be easy to pick up some 70s style plates from an op shop or on eBay (not like my floral ones above - they'd be ideal for my Marie Antoinette dinner party!). Guests would have to frock up and wear 70s style clothing to get into the mood, obviously. And the food?

Okay, here's the menu:

Canapes - retro cheese cubes, cabanosi and red and green pickled onions on sticks with tequila sunrise cocktails.

Entree - prawn and avocado cocktails served in martini glasses.

Main - beef bourguignon with mash and greens (fancy French foods were big in the 70s) mushroom stroganoff if I get a vegetarian.

Dessert - creme de mente pie - this is a grasshopper pie with a chocolate biscuit bases and a fluffy green inside made with creme de mente.

For drinks I'd decant decent wine into Ben Ean Moselle or Mateus Rosé bottles. And have a punch bowl on the table too.

Afterwards - disco dancing! Yep, I'd get an instructor in, fire up a mirror ball and have everyone busting a move like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. Televisual gold and great fun!

And there you go. That's a good, solid 8 - 10/10 night there.

What would YOU do?

Monday, January 20, 2014

meal planning monday

Oh, I've been such a slack blogger. But last week I had an excuse, I was feeling poorly and could do no more than lay on the couch. And moan. But now I'm back baby and ready to leap into a new week - and back with the daily blogs and daily French Word of the Day. Now, here's what we're eating - healthy stuff!

Monday: green chicken curry with lots of green veg and sticky rice.

Tuesday: steak with beetroot, persian feta and walnut salad - and a green salad.

Wednesday: garlic prawns with a mango salad.

Thursday: cold meatloaf with salad (I love cold meatloaf even more than I love hot meatloaf, so I'll whip one up earlier and put it in the fridge to chill).

Friday: salmon patties with salad.

Saturday: I cannot believe that I don't have anything on tonight - after two weekends in a row in Sydney this is a very good thing. I might make chicken with 40 cloves of garlic tonight.

Sunday: bbq lamb, with chickpea and roasted capsicum salad and green salad.

French word of the day: s'imaginer - to imagine oneself.

image from

Monday, January 13, 2014

meal planning monday

Forget sliders, Jaffles are the new kids on the food block. This sweet modified Kombi was serving Jaffles at the Sydney Festival on the weekend - cuteness! I was too Starvin' Marvin for just a jaffle, a burger was needed after a long day of public transport - but let me assure you that Jaffles will be added to my meal plans - with a wee side salad!

Another busy week in this neck of the woods. Here's what's on the menu:

Tonight: my gal's off to spend the night with her cousins, so it's just hubby and me. Steak on the bbq and salad will do it.

Tuesday: I'm off to see a French film, A Woman In Paris with my friend C, so an early dinner of bbq pork and lemongrass kebabs is called for. Served with udon noodle and veg salad.

Wednesday: my gal's keen to try Sloppy Joes - so who am I to deny her?

Thursday: bbq chicken with a shredded salad.

Friday: salmon on the bbq - with lemon potato salad.

Saturday: I'm off to Sydney again, to see one of my fave authors - David Sedaris. YAY! Opera Bar for dinner I'd imagine.

Sunday: home again. Sunday night Jaffles?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

oh i do like to be beside the seaside

And we're back.

How cute is this almost identical pic to the one I took on our last holiday to Manly. Amazingly, we stayed in the apartment block right next door to the one we stayed in last time so I could replicate the image quite easily. How much the girls have grown! {see my last blog post}.

Manly was gorgeous. We had such a lovely, relaxing holiday - with lots of long strolls along this lovely beach. One of the things that struck me about the Northern Beaches were the fabulously painted surf clubs. They're all in lovely seaside colours that just sing of their heritage and make a fabulous pop of colour in photos. Sadly, all the Newcastle surf clubs have recently been painted - in beige. Blah. Beige doesn't belong at the seaside.

Manly council has also installed filtered water stations so you can sip from a bubbler or fill a water bottle with lovely fresh, cool, filtered water. What a fabulous initiative. Great for tourists and all the locals who walk, run, cycle, skate or scoot along the promenade.

The Sydney Festival is in residence, so we had to peek. We took a ferry to Circular Quay and had a fabulous lunch at Opera Bar. Love this installation of Summer Backyard themes! So cute.

The girls had the best time ever, with loads of twilight walks and cartwheels on the beach. Thanks Manly, you were ace. We'll be coming back.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

a wee beachside break

So, you may have noticed that yesterday's blog post was NOT about meal-planning. And I'll tell you why - it's because today we're headed off for a short holiday with the English rellos.

In 2007 we spent a few days with them in Manly {see pic above} and it was just lovely. So we thought we'd best do it again. I love this shot of the three gals, we'll have to recreate it now they're all so much taller!

We've managed to do plenty of touristy things in Newy while they've been here, so it's a good chance to get away from it all and explore some place a little different. There will be swimming, there will be dining out, and there will be a ferry ride to the mainland.


Oh I do like to be beside the seaside.

French word{s} of the Day: en bord de mer {on bord d mayr} seaside.

Monday, January 06, 2014

girls just wanna have fun

I'm having a very girly night out tonight. One of my friends, who's been living in Canada for, like, EVER is back in Oz. Hurrah. So while she's here we're catching up for drinkies at a lovely bar.

Time for a little fabulous frocking up I'd say…

French Word of the Day: robe - frock!

PS: isn't this image divine? It's from a Calleija Jewellers promotion for pink diamonds. I need pink diamonds. And that frock. And that table setting...

Sunday, January 05, 2014

summery sunday

If there's a flower that reminds me of summer it's petunias. While Frangipani are the obvious symbol, I remember my nana digging up the pansy beds and replacing them with petunias, so, for me, it's petunias all the way.

These purple pretties are currently providing a pop of colour on my back veranda and making me smile every time I walk out the back door.

What is your summer flower?

French word of the Day: floraison - flowering.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

hello beautiful

While planning this year's trip OS, I'm also revisiting our holiday from 2006 - and swooning over some of the beautiful sights we saw. This was my favourite fairytale castle - Chateau d'Azay-le-Rideau - isn't it dreamy?

We've decided that after our week in Paris, we're going to drive down to our second French destination in The Lot. That way we can hopefully veer off and take in a few sights en-route.

I do love making dreams a reality.

French Word of the Day: Réve - dream.

Friday, January 03, 2014

holiday. celebrate.

Are you a quick unpacker? Or, when you come back from hols, does your bag sit sulking in a corner for a few days {weeks…}. I used to be the latter, now I'm the former. I love delineating that was now, this is then by the simple act of unpacking.

It's the same when we have people come to stay. We had the English rellos here for a couple of days, and boy, was it fun. There was much swimming in many locations {pool, Bogey Hole, ocean baths}, feasting {again, in many locations, Nobby's Beach, harbourside, back verandah, in the pavilion by the pool, the Beach Hotel…} And so much fun had  - the main one seemed to involve a sheet fort that took up 1/3 of our living room!

By the time our rellos had turned the corner from our street I'd stripped two of their three beds and gathered up beach and bath towels to wash. One hour later the fort was dismantled and back in the linen closet, loads of washing were chugging away and the house was back to normal.

Time for the next adventure {or aventure as they'd say in France!}.

French Word of the Day: lavage - wash!

Thursday, January 02, 2014

whip it good

My gal requested a Blue Velvet cake for her birthday on Monday. It's like a Red Velvet cake, but with blue food colouring instead of the red. I used Nigella's recipe for Red Velvet, and, oh my, it was as delicious as you'd expect. Here it is {complete with wee French sugar teddy bears!}.

And here's the interior. It's more green than blue because of the cocoa, but nobody cared. It was delicious! One thing I discovered was this. I googled a recipe for Buttercream Frosting, which suggested whipping the butter on its own, for around three minutes, until it's white and fluffy. THEN you add the icing sugar a little at a time. Hello - revelation! This is the best icing I've ever made. Normally the icing sugar doesn't integrate very well, and the mix often splits before it's dissolved. This was light, fluffy and delicious {and very blue!}. Happy days.

We had three very content gals; the 14-year-old and her two cousins.

French Word of the Day: glaçage {gla sahj} - icing!

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

happy new year

Happy new year lovelies! This is where we spend a big chunk of New Years Eve {day} - having an adventure in the Bogey Hole. This fabulous ocean pool was carved out of rocks by convicts many, many, many years ago and is Newcastle's most wonderful swimming spot. Waves were crashing over the edge - but we decided to brave it and oh, how glad we were.

Afterwards, we went here.

To Nobby's. For lunch.

I know, hideously ugly isn't it?

Then we made our way to the foreshore for a lovely relaxing picnic, followed by fireworks before coming home to champagne and more fireworks on the telly.

This is the life.

Now, onto my 52 new things - both these shots were taken with my new baby - my Nikon digital SLR - I am in love. Secondly, here's my
French Word of the Day: Aventure - adventure. Shouldn't we treat our lives as an adventure? Let's!

Happy 2014 everyone x

Sunday, December 29, 2013

52 new things

Okay. Here's the list for 2014 - 52 New Things! Ta da!

  1. Ride my bike on more varied routes {I do love my trek out to Nobby's breakwall, but perhaps it's time to mix it up}.
  2. Go for a family bike ride!
  3. Bake bread.
  4. Make cheese!
  5. Go for a nighttime swim in the Ocean Baths or Bogie Hole on a hot summer's night.
  6. Take REAL photos! I got a digital SLR for Christmas and I plan on using that baby!
  7. Learn French. Quickly! I need to find an intensive course, I have six months to improve.
  8. Have my girlfriends over for cocktails by the pool.
  9. Organise more drinks parties.
  10. Learn crochet, knitting or sewing with my gal.
  11. Ride the Fernleigh Track. I think I'm nearly fit enough.
  12. Do some yoga with my gal.
  13. Go on more dates with my hubby.
  14. Weed out my wardrobe. Ditch the old stuff, and sew/buy some new.
  15. Continue to find new ways to increase the vegetables in husband and child's diet.
  16. Do something that scares me.
  17. Write those e-books I've started.
  18. Bring a smile to someone's face every day.
  19. Keep discovering new music.
  20. Get a damned mammogram - honestly, I didn't do this one this year. I'm a nincompoop.
  21. Give blood monthly.
  22. Organise my files on my computer. Blerk.
  23. Save like a maniac for guilt-free spending on our OS holiday.
  24. Sell or give away on Freecycle all superfluous items.
  25. Print out photos from our OS holidays, frame them and hang them.
  26. Make a start on painting the house {well, at least the fencing on the verandas!}.
  27. Get back into the making the bed every day habit.
  28. Create new and interesting salads.
  29. Clean out the DVD and CD drawers!
  30. Eat out more often, supporting locals!
  31. Shop as little as possible at the supermarket, choosing small and local instead.
  32. Get those weird, pesky jobs done - such as putting handles on the wardrobe that's in my study!
  33. Catch up more often with my friends from far away {um, Sydney, and Melbourne…}
  34. Blog more often {poor, neglected blog!}
  35. Learn something as a family {the other two were not keen at all on this last year, but I shall find something, oh yes I will}.
  36. Go out and take pics with my gal. She's studying photography as an elective, and what better way to learn than to do!
  37. Go back to looking on the bright side. Politics have got me down. But I can still fight for what I think is right and not allow myself to be brought down!
  38. Start plotting a bathroom makeover {once we've had our holiday and can save enough for it}.
  39. Find alternative lunches for my sandwich-loathing gal. Something new.
  40. Get those weird little places in my house sorted. We have a really cute lowboy in the alcove outside the bathroom. My plan is to place a couple of baskets on top, for towels, and fill inside with excess bathroom stuff. Instead random crap gets piled on top. Must measure, buy baskets, and get this sorted. Stat.
  41. Go around the house, gather all the random piles, jars and cups of coins, and take them to the bank - hello OS spending money.
  42. Repair those items of clothing that are filed away under 'to repair'.
  43. Do something with the ideas buzzing around in my head.
  44. Find and nurture collaborators.
  45. Go to burlesque fitness each week.
  46. Read books somewhere other than bed.
  47. Do another course at the Hunter Writer's Centre - the Travel Writing one was ace.
  48. Do some travel writing.
  49. Make an effort to dress up regularly.
  50. Do something spontaneous and awesome!

a year in review {a very brief one}

Last year I decided that I'd ditch the New Year's Resolutions and, instead, came up with 52 New Things thanks to a friend on Twitter who did the same. Now, while I certainly didn't achieve every one of those 52 things, I came pretty close, and I think 2013 was more awesome for it.

Amongst the best things:

  • starting a book club {my friend C organises it and loads of friends, new and old, from Twitter are in it - it's been brilliant}
  • catching up with friends more often
  • seeing more live music
  • be a tourist in my town
  • put away the washing when I bring it in {well, most of the time}
  • do a cooking class with a friend {so much fun I am still giggling!}
  • go on more dates with my husband!
  • organise another tweet up {we had TWO}
  • save up for an overseas holiday - tick! Yep, we've booked five weeks next year OS. We're going to spend time in England with the relos, then a week in Paris with friends, then a week down south in The Lot - near this gorgeous town above. Then back to London again. So excited!
I love having a plan, but the best thing about 52 new things was that it made me even more open to trying new things, and experiencing something different. I was more likely to say 'yes'. I saw lots of movies with my friend C that I probably wouldn't have chosen to see, and LOVED them. I made time to see as much of Newcastle Writers Festival and This Is Not Art festivals when they were on, even though, at the time, it was exhausting and a whole weekend away from my family. But I still have a buzz from them, and so many great memories with my fabulous friends.

Stay tuned for 2014's list of 52 New Things. Some from last year will be on there - but there'll be some new ones too.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

have yourself a merry little christmas

Well, here we are - Christmas Eve! Are you prepared? I *think* I am. I have all the ingredients I need {well, after calling hubby and asking him to pick up a couple of bottles of prosecco at Vintage Cellars on his way home from work} and all I have to do is wrap the last few pressies, do my Christmas nails {red with gold glitter tips!} and pack.

Oh, and bake a little.

And finish writing an article.

Then I can loll about on a fabulous wingback chair dressed in claret velvet, with my ermine stole flung casually just-so over my lap.


Have a simply beautiful Christmas. xx

Monday, December 23, 2013

merry christmas to all

Well hello, how's your Chrissie preparations going? Swimmingly I hope. We're pretty much set, aside from one last grocery shop {which I'm trying to plan to avoid the hoards - is that even possible?}. I'm not doing a meal planning post this week, as it's Christmas, but I thought I'd share the recipe for the Christmas crackers I'm making for Christmas Eve supper at my in-laws.

I did a trial run a few weeks ago for Christmas drinks at my neighbours, and think I only need to add an extra layer of filo to the centre to have them perfect! Here's how I made them.

Cute sheets of filo in half, brush with melted butter, and place one sheet over the other.

In the middle third place a piece of pancetta or proscuitto. On top of this, add a dollop of the following:

  • ricotta cheese
  • goat cheese
  • lemon zest
  • fresh shredded basil
  • freshly grated pepper.

Make this to taste, I used more ricotta for a milder flavour, and I also used truffled goat cheese because I saw it in the supermarket and went "OHMYGOODNESS, TRUFFLED GOAT CHEESE!".

Roll up tightly.

Grab ends and give them a twist to form fanned out cracker ends. You could tie with a piece of chive if you're feeling like you have time. I never do.

Brush with melted butter and bake at 180 degrees celcius till they're nice and brown. Keep an eye on them - the ends brown quicker.


I'll be serving these with Pink Christmas cocktails: a few pomegranate seeds, a splash of rose syrup topped up with prosecco in tall glasses or champagne coupes!

Merry Christmas everyone, thanks for hanging around with me this year. I do so enjoy sharing things with you. xx

Monday, December 16, 2013

meal planning monday

Well, we're into the final countdown. It's nearly Christmas. How are you coping? Taking lots of deep breaths? I have a spray bottle of Rescue Remedy in my handbag that's getting quite the workout. However, it's all about simplicity this year. I'm trying to tone things down a bit.

I've bought all the pressies for our nieces and nephew, and Christmas pressies for our gal. Because her birthday's at the end of December I usually shop for her birthday AND Christmas pressies before Christmas, but this year I'm leaving birthday stuff till after Christmas. Should save a little sanity.

And speaking of simple, meals shall be simple too. Very.

Monday: poached chicken, avocado and mango salad.

Tuesday: thai beef salad.

Wednesday: spanish chicken salad: grilled, sliced chicken breast, chorizo, grilled corn, grilled capsicum and lots of greens.

Thursday: chicken and spinach gozleme.

Friday: salmon and salad.

Saturday: duck confit and salad {because it's nearly Christmas!}

Sunday: roast beef and salad.

Phew. Now I just need to shop and restock in preparation for school holidays which start tomorrow. Eep! How's your pre-Christmas week going?

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

i'm your fan

I've always *liked* Leonard Cohen's music. His voice has an incredible timbre that just gets more beautiful as the years go by. But I wouldn't have called myself a real fan, until recently.

My friend C asked a few months back if anyone was interested in going along to see Leonard in concert at his recent Australian tour, and I thought, "why not?"

I have a concert-bucket-list of bands/artists I'd like to see live, and, as so many of my friends had raved about him live {one of my friends has seen him in New York AND Berlin!} I thought I should. How glad I am that I did.

What a night. This concert will have to go down as one of the best I've ever seen. I love a performer that gives their all - and Leonard gives more than you think anyone possibly could. The crowd was positively enamoured: with sighs, screams and lots of singing along happening.

Worshiping at the altar of Leonard? Yep, I'm there now.

If you ever have the chance to see Leonard Cohen in concert, do what it takes to get there. He's Your Man.

Friday, December 13, 2013

fabulous friday

Ahhhh, how's the serenity? This was my view yesterday when I went with my mum and step-dad down to Merewether for a coffee. Afterwards we went for a wander down to the ocean baths where we saw this cute paste-up on the back of a sign.

My favourite place is the Ocean Baths - and this surf club. Pretty as a picture isn't it? The baby pool was devoid of water - but had sand-a-plenty!

I adore the new SurfHouse - the design, the positioning, the café, kiosk and pizza downstairs, the restaurant upstairs.

And the bar. Don't you just imagine it saying "Excuse my beauty"? La-la-love.

Oh I do love to live beside the seaside!

Monday, December 09, 2013

meal planning monday

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Especially when I share this pic of the rather decadent trifle I made yesterday. We had an early Christmas dinner with my dad and step-mum who were down from Queensland for my gal's ballet concert on Saturday. To give us time together, my mum and step-dad (who are staying with us this week) went to the movies - and we had a chrissy dinner.

I must say, rose and vanilla poached white nectarine and raspberry trifle is a bit bloody delicious. There was lots of vanilla - even in the whipped cream on the top {and in the custard!}. No jelly, I reduce the poaching liquid {water, sugar, vanilla, rose syrup} after I've poached the peaches, so it becomes a sticky syrup and pour that over the bottom layer of sponge jam roll slices. Mmmmm.

Tonight we're having the other half of that trifle - with a vegetarian Christmas dinner!

Monday: we'll stuff a hollowed out loaf of bread with layers of pesto, roasted vegies and feta cheese. This'll be weighed down in the fridge to squish it together so the flavours mingle, then we'll slice it and serve it with lemon-thyme-roasted potatoes and green beans with almonds. Then trifle.

Tuesday: we're off to a neighbour's across the road for Christmas drinks and nibbles. I'll make mini-bon-bons a proscuitto, herb and goat cheese mix encased in filo pastry and shaped to look like bon-bons. Then we'll come home for a late final dinner with my folks - mexican perhaps.

Wednesday: hubby will be craving a steak {surprise, when is he not?} so I'll cook steaks on the bbq {to which my daughter will say "Steak AGAIN?"} and serve with salad.

Thursday: netball committee dinner night out at MoneyPenny on Honeysuckle. Mmmmm. Hubby and gal will have grilled chicken and salad.

Friday: salmon on the bbq, with salads.

Saturday: I'm out with my gal-friends for a Christmas celebration. We're hitting a tequila bar and mexican place. Yummo!

Sunday: quiet night at home - and I'll be ordering thai takeaway!

That's it for me. You?

Friday, December 06, 2013

fabulous friday

My parents are up from Melbourne at the moment, so, amidst my work, I'm trying to squish in fun things to do with them. On Wednesday we went for a bike ride to check out some of the new Street Art in Newcastle {my latest obsession}. I love what's happening in Beresford Lane down in the West End. This piece is one of my faves - the exuberance and ridiculousness is just wonderful.

Today we're off to the Art Gallery where I'll be interviewing photographer Bill Henson, which I'm both nervous and excited about. I remember studying Henson's work way back when I was majoring in photography at Uni and being astonished by his painterly photographs. My parents will be coming along and checking out the four exhibitions on display at the Gallery while I'm being all journalistic.

Tonight my gal has a school dance, so I'll take my parents along to Darby Street After Five where we'll do some Christmas shopping, check out some of the fab buskers and grab ourselves something to eat.

Tomorrow it's Olive Tree Markets for more shopping, then my gal's ballet concert in the afternoon - before I head off to a friend's birthday party! Woo hoo!

Have a fab weekend everyone.

Monday, December 02, 2013

meal planning monday

Summer! Finally! {Hopefully!} Last Friday I went with my friend C to Christmas in the City and we were all rugged up and wintery to combat the endless drizzle. Not so good for checking out the Christmas lighting, but we did do a spot of shopping before accidentally catching up with another friend - and meeting our friend J when she made it in. Now it's finally looking like swimming and cycling weather - and bbq weather! Hurrah!

My mum and step-dad arrive from Melbourne tomorrow - so I'll be planning lots of vegetarian meals while they're here.

Here's what we're eating:

Monday: I'm going to marinate and then wrap some chicken breasts in proscuitto before baking them on a bed of french lentils. I'll also cook up some roasted vegies. I think I'll do this on the bbq  so I don't grotty up my still-sparkling oven after getting in cleaned two weeks ago!

Tuesday: parents arrive. Tonight's dinner will be orichette pasta with broccoli, caramelised onion, toasted pecans and crumbled roquefort cheese.

Wednesday: last week I went to my Bookclub for an end-of-year dinner to Talulah at The Junction. One of my friends RAVED about the pumpkin salad, while another raved about the pork belly. So I had both - and shared the salad with my friend L. OH. MY! Roasted pumpkin, quinoa, baby rocket, goat cheese and praline!!!!! all tossed through with what tasted like an orange vinaigrette. I shall try to replicate this tonight.

Thursday: we'll have a bbq tonight - lots of roasted veg and haloumi, along with chicken breasts for the meat-eaters.

Friday: we should go to the beach and have fish and chips {or potato scallops and chips for the vegos}.

Saturday: it's my gal's ballet concert at lunchtime today - so all the grandparents will be in the audience with us. I'll make an afternoon tea for everyone for when they come home. Then I'm off to a uni-friend's birthday party - with my friends V and M coming up from Melbourne and Sydney for the night!

Sunday: I'll leave this dinner up to my step-dad - he's an awesome cook. Perhaps I'll see if he can mimic the carrot and haloumi fritters from Quint Café at The Essential Ingredient. Mmmmm.

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