Wednesday, December 31, 2008

get the party started

My apologies to iTunes. Thanks to being a complete luddite, I didn't realise that the whole iTunes party mix just keeps going on. I started off slowly with Ben Harper, but am currently rocking out to Dinosaur Jr - apple does know best.

I must say too, that having music playing did put me in a much happier mindset - and I've just about finished reworking that story. Happy now!

tasteful tunes

I'm working today, reworking a story I thought I'd finished, but that the editorial director thought needed a complete change of direction. Grrrrr. At least I'm getting paid for the words, but still. Sigh. Anyway, I thought a bit of music might soothe my savage mood, so I went into iTunes and found what they'd called Party Mix. Hmmm, what could that be? Well, while it's made up of my tunes, it's not what I'd put together for a party. My party tunes have a distinctly retro vibe - heavy on the 80s and 90s pop/dance and grunge scenes. This mix is heavy on Ben Harper, who I love, but I wouldn't put him in my must-have party hits mix.

Oddly, there are party bands on this mix - Blur, Silverchair, Filter... but not the songs I would have chosen. However, as I said yesterday, I'm open to new experiences, so maybe this Ben Harper selection - with its heavy load of Gospel numbers, is just what I need to get this work done. I'll let you know. Apparently iTunes thought I needed divine intervention...

pizza party

As it's New Year's Eve, we're off to friends' tonight to ring in 09. There are five families going along, so to feed the hoards we're all bringing pizza to cook and share. I'm making a fresh tomato sauce and will be using that as the base for my prosciutto and parmesan pizza. I'd also like to use the remaining roast beef I cooked up yesterday for lunch (we had it sliced, cold, with salad and baguettes - yummy) and do a caramelised onion, roast beef and baby spinach pizza. It's not going to be cheesy, I thought I'd just throw on a few chunks of a really strong cheddar - and no tomato sauce, just the juicy onions with a little added garlic oil. That should all go rather nicely with the champers, surely.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

rebel yell

I spent a lot of my life inadvertently rebelling against my mother. If you'd asked me, I would have said "No way!" but it's only now that I've realised that a lot of the things I do, I do because my mother didn't do.

When I was growing up our house was always gorgeous. Very fashionable, very clean, very tidy. Our living room was the height of 70s chic - with one wall entirely coated in mirror tiles, deep green modular couches and white carpet. Ye. White carpet. You know what you can do on white carpet? Almost nothing. You could walk on it - in clean feet or clean socks. You couldn't eat or drink on it. Sometimes I wished I could levitate, so I didn't worry about smearing it. 

The kitchen was also very chic, with a white mosaic tile benchtop and splashback - with matching white grout. Now, luckily my mother was a Virgo, so she was keen on clean, and those white surfaces always sparkled under her ministrations. However, I obviously always swore I wouldn't have a house like that. 

See, I refuse to let anyone take off their shoes at my front door, as it always brings flashbacks to that damned white carpet. When we moved into this house, our daughter used to ride her trike up and down the hallways, scratching the floorboards - but adding more character. Food's often eaten at a table, or on the couch in front of the TV - whatever's easiest.

However, being slothful and messy isn't rebellion - it's silly and only impacts on the person who has to live in it. So now, I'm 99 per cent sure I've turned the corner on messiness. These days it's normal for me to put something back where it belongs, immediately. The dishwasher's unloaded as soon as it's finished, and washed dishes are left to dry for no more than half a day before I pack them all away. It's a much nicer life - and I still feel like we've got a lived in and loved in home. It's still pretty gorgeous, but it's worn around the edges. Which is just the way I like it.

something new

I've never been one for resolutions. I always find that as soon as I make a grand statement that I want to achieve... it tends to set me up for failure. I prefer baby steps. For example, this year is the year I try something new as often as possible. A new activity, a new recipe, a new food, a new author, a new album, a new fitness gig, a new restaurant...

To inspire me, I'll tell you all about it. I'd like to step outside my comfort zone in 2009. Stretching the mind and imagination has to be good for the soul non?

Monday, December 29, 2008

pucker up


Okay, I've googled, and reckon that this sounds like the perfect Lemon Drop Martini recipe. Enjoy!

1 1/2 ounces of vodka
1/2 ounce triple sec
1 tsp superfine sugar (I think I'll use caster sugar)
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

Place all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake 40 times to allow the sugar to dissolve. Then, grab yourself a frosty cold martini glass, wipe the rim with lemon juice, then dip it in some superfine sugar. Carefully pour in the Lemon Drop Martini, then garnish with a lemon twist.

Oh my.

See, yet another reason why I really need to plant a lemon tree. 

book club

As an avid reader I place my books in categories. Meh: I'm only reading this to find out what happens. Fine: okay, but not life shattering. Fab: loved it, will read it again, and Oh, wow. I just read an Oh, WOW. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen is such an incredible book. She's one of those rare authors who weave a spellbinding tale, complete with quirky, whimsical characters and can sprinkle on a bit of magic in the most believable manner. I adored every single second of this book.

The cover's different on my version though. It's a pretty blue, with a pair of feathered angel wings and a gorgeous, scroll-script title font in a pretty deep cerise. And it's dotted with raised, sparkly sugardrops. I bought the book for the cover, and I'm so very glad I did.

Oh, and it's spookily magic. One of the main characters in the book had a fondness for a lemondrop - an alcoholic drink I'd never heard of before. And then, less than 10 minutes after reading about this delicious-sounding drink, Jack, on Will & Grace, stepped up to the bar and ordered three lemondrops. Spooky huh? I'm about to google the ingredients, because these little beauties seem to be served in a martini glass - my favourite drinking vessel.

sale guide

We've braving the post-Christmas sales at the local shopping centre today. I'm on the hunt for a new set of sheets and some beach/pool towels. Of course, I'm very, very particular. I only like crisp white cotton sheets on my bed, and for the pool, I want pretty blue and green towels with a cute border of retro fringing. Oh, and I'd like 'em striped if possible. 

We're planning on putting some towel rails up - some on the side of the house next to the intended outdoor shower, and possibly a subtle couple on the fence in the courtyard. Towels get mighty soggy when you swim, so a good drying area is essential, otherwise they get flung over furniture and pool fencing and that just looks very unattractive.

It's also our daughter's birthday tomorrow, so a couple of extra pressies might be in order. We've done most of the shopping, but I love the cheap fillers that make a pile look extra impressive. With girls it's easy - hair bands, lip balm, cute socks...

I've also got the in-laws coming for lunch tomorrow so I'll be roasting up a wedge of beef to slice thinly and serve with a salad and baguette. For dinner we're hoping our favourite French restaurant, Bistro Tartine, will be open. Our little soon-to-be-nine-year-old adores confit duck and creme brulee...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

totally stuffed

Last night I roasted a rather delish chicken. I washed it, dried it, then stuffed it with this:
2 slices wholegrain bread, grated
6 slices prosciutto, diced
1 egg
a generous sprinkling of dried mixed herbs
salt and pepper

Then I rubbed olive oil all over the chicken, trussed the legs, sprinkled salt over it, then placed a few slices of butter on top, rubbing into the skin. The chicken then went onto a baking rack, in a tray, into which I poured two cups of moscato (white wine). 

I baked it at 180 degrees for an hour, then tented it with foil and baked it for a further 30 mins till it was cooked through. Finally, I took it out and rested it for 15 minutes. The skin was crispy and golden, the flesh was oohhhh so moist, and the stuffing was mighty fine considering my limited food options on Boxing Day. We ate it with a simple salad and washed it down with bubbles (you know, cos it's Christmas).

Friday, December 26, 2008

bubbles

Festivities just aren't complete without bubbles - preferably French ones. Which is why I'm rather chuffed that a case of this little beauty currently resides in my pantry. 

While I adore Pommery, Moet and Tattinger, my bank account does not. However, I can justify spending $12 on Veuve Amiot - a refreshing sparkling wine that hails from the delightful Loire region. If you ever stumble upon it I can recommend it. It's light and doesn't have that acrid taste that cheaper sparklings can offer. It's also taken over from Grandin as my other bargain French bubble.

Actually, I may need to pop a bottle in the fridge while my chicken roasts. I am meant to be detoxing, but hey, it's Christmas is it not?

flat out

While doing a bit of the odd cleaning and tidying today I got to thinking about the types of chores that I love and loathe. Some I'll do grudgingly (toilet cleaning - erk), others I try to adopt a zen state while I undertake (unloading the dishwasher, putting away clean clothes) and others I just will not do (ironing). Yep, I'm a non-ironer. 

I think I was scarred for life by a white, cotton pirate shirt I had in the 80s. See, I begged for it, and my mother agreed, but only if I'd iron it. Sure enough, the darned thing would sit at the bottom of the ironing basket, getting more crumpled and despicable with every week. Day-by-day more clothes were piled on top and it shrunk and crinkled and almost glowered with wrinkles. Every now and again I'd bring it out, think about ironing it, and shudder before placing it at the bottom. Of course, sometimes I'd just have to wear it with my white knickerbockers and gold belt and shoes combo (I repeat, it was the 80s) so I'd have to dig it out, spray it with the water bottle and spend half an hour cursing as I ironed out one crease, to replace it with another.

Now, I don't iron. I hang out my washing with care, shaking out all the wrinkles and pulling things flat. Then I carefully fold it when I bring it in, and hang anything that can be hung so any remaining wrinkles fall out. 

It works, we look relatively neat and tidy. My husband's work shirts look fine - not pristine, but fine. I hang them all on hangers and all the wrinkles seem to fall out as they dry.

All this time I'm not spending on ironing, or angsting over the growing pile, means I have time to do other stuff - like sleep, or read, or cook. My brow doesn't furrow every time I think about the ironing - because it just doesn't exist, so I'm also saving on botox - bonus!

festive leftovers

Ouch. I'm still very over-satiated from the Christmas Food Festival. The last few days have been a blur of way too much food, swallowed down with plenty of wine. Breakfast this morning was a very light slice of toast with restorative vegemite and a couple of big glasses of cold water. Lunch will be a carved leg ham salad, and for dinner, I have a lovely free-range chook ready to roast and serve with more leaves and other salad greens.

I've just been musing about what to do with the Christmas pudding my mother-in-law lovingly makes for each of her children's families. They're perfect, but unfortunately my hubby has an aversion to dried fruits, so a dried-fruit-studded pudding is not his cup of tea. I'm not keen on nibbling away at it on my own over the next few weeks, lest my waistline take on an even-greater pudding shape. So here's my idea. We're going to friends for dinner in two days time and I thought I'd create a trifle based around the pud. Slices of pudding will be alternated with poached, seasonal fruits, and a vanilla yoghurt 'custard'. Surely that'll use it all it, the sweetness will be tempered with the yogurt and all will be well.

Now, I'm off for a swim - hopefully I'll float and not sink!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

seasons shoe greetings

Hope you all have a lovely, lovely Christmas. And I really hope that Santa leaves something like these little beauties under the tree for you...

late night shopping

Well, my visit to the local indie stores yesterday was a smashing failure. Nothing for teen boy, and zilch for teen girl. I could have bought something, if I was prepared to pay $70+ for a t-shirt, which I am so not. So instead, boy's getting a stack of cash in his christmas stocking (his favourite gift according to his ma) and girl's getting a make-up bag packed with age-appropriate essentials (a range of nail shades, mascara, eye liner and a few shadows).

But last night, my local shopping centre was open till midnight, so after an early dinner, I bid the family farewell and headed off to... bliss. At 7pm I drove straight into the perfect park, and wandered around a busy, but sparsely populated Westfield. I bought all hubby's pressies, make-up for teen girl, and a few birthday pressies for my gal. Plus, I found a retro DVD - Santa Claus is Coming To Town, a fave from my youth, that Annabella dived on this morning. By 9pm I was home, wrapping pressies and a few hours later in bed feeling very well satisfied after watching Nigella's Christmas to wind down.

So today's Christmas Eve. I'm sitting here with a shower cap atop my head, dye hopefully seeping in and colouring all that grey on my head, food in the fridge ready to make teeny quiches to take to neighbour's for drinks, then to in-laws for supper (I'm doing it easy and making a couple of dozen lorraine and caramelised onion and blue cheese quiche bites - perfect with any wine or champagne option).

Now the only thing I have left to do is collect my car (which had to be left at mechanic's yesterday thanks to a hole in the muffler and a cracked tappet cover - who needs tappets anyway, let alone a darned cover!). I also need to make said quiche pastry, then quiches, pack bags, tidy house and write an article. Oh, and visit Dan Murphy's for wine and champagne - I ran out of time yesterday. 

Easy.

Have a merry christmas, happy holidays etc. I'll be back before you know it.
Lxx

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

serenity now

And breathe... Okay, I've designed the invites for my daughter's birthday party - and they rock. I've sent them off to hubby to have them printed in colour - all ten of them, then I'll go get them laminated, buy lanyards from cheapo shop down the road, and we'll pop them in mailboxes later tonight. Phew. One major thing ticked off the to-do list.

I must say that the one thing saving my sanity at the moment is my new oasis of zen - my ultra-tidy and very well-organised pantry. Every time I look at it it's like a little spot of tranquility in my life. 

I'm finishing off the christmas shopping this afternoon at a local surf shop and local funky clothing store. Sure, I may have to pay a little more for the teen's tees, but I won't have to fight my way into a carpark, then through snarky crowds at the local mall. That's got to be worth a few dollars doesn't it?

After all this I'm rewarding myself with a trip to Dan Murphy's where I'm buying a case of champagne and buying difficult brother-in-law some fine wine and port - surely the perfect pressie. 

ready or not

Oh so not. I haven't really given a great deal of thought to Christmas this year, aside from our fast four hour shop a month ago. But see, the thing is, I just looked at the date and realised that I'm somewhat unprepared for the big day. There's still shopping to do - for a teenage niece and nephew - the toughest pressies. There's a secret santa gift needed for a difficult-to-buy-for brother-in-law (wow, that's a lot of hyphens, even for me) and I may need to buy my husband the odd pressie or two.

I've also got to finalise my daughter's birthday invites and send them out. Plan her party - oh, and actually set a date for it that's not tentative. This is undoubtedly my most disorganised year - particularly with her party. I guess it's because I was hoping for the pool party, then had to do the quick switcheroo when I realised that the backyard wasn't likely to be ready in time. 

So today, I'm all action stations Christmas and birthday. I'll buy those last few pressies, get the invites sorted - and maybe do a little work as well. It can be done, and will, so we can all have a very, very merry Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

oh my

Until today, I never really quite understood the appeal of Penelope Cruz. Probably because of the whole Tom Cruise thing. But today... goodness me...

festive loaf

For dinner last night I made a Christmassy meat loaf. It was very delish so I thought I'd best share:

Chicken and pistachio meatloaf

750g chicken mince
3 slices of bacon, diced
1/3 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
1 green onion, finely sliced
1 slice wholegrain bread, grated
1 egg
1/2 lime juice and zest
salt and pepper
chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

8 slices prosciutto

Mix all ingredients except prosciutto in a bowl - with your hands, go on. Then line a loaf tin with the prosciutto and then pile the chicken mix on top. Cover top with slices of prosciutto and place in a dish, and pour in enough water so it comes half-way up sides of the loaf tin. Cover top of meatloaf with foil and bake at 160 degrees for 45 minutes, then uncover and bake a further 15 minutes till golden.

Remove from oven, allow to rest, then remove from tin and slice. I served this with a sorrel, hazelnut and sliced green apple salad and it was very yummy indeed.

wise guys

My gal had one of her best gals over for a sleepover last night, so we took them out to check out the Christmas lights. First of all we went to Estabar, a coffee and gelato cafe opposite Newcastle Beach where we all indulged. Matt had espresso and chocolate gelato, Hollie had lemon sorbet and a chocolate cherry number, Annabella decided on chocolate and hazelnut, while I savoured a blood orange sorbet. Yummy!

After this we popped a Christmas CD in the player and drove around to look at lights. We finished off at the house above which is stunning in its elegant simplicity. All the curtains of the house are open, with gorgeous little vignettes apparent everywhere you look. These wise men were in the front yard, next to the sleigh that was set up for the children to sit in and have their photo taken.

The couple often come out to wish the children a Merry Christmas and you can just see the joy bouncing off them as they spy the beaming faces of the littlies. That's what Christmas is all about.

pantry raid

Spring cleaning is a task that really satisfies and one aspect I find immeasurably pleasurable is cleaning out the pantry. Going through the shelves one-by-one, taking out all the items and checking use-by dates before wiping over and setting aside, is an almost meditative task. However, what I really don't understand is how I can clean out the pantry at least annually and yet there's always one wildly out of date item. Nothing from the 70s mind you, but a few years out of date...

I also love wiping down the shelves, including the upper and lower sides, with a mix of warm water and essential oils (lime oil today) then allowing them to dry and repacking in a much more orderly fashion.

Today was the first time I haven't had to clean out the pantry as part of a blitz on pantry moths. I've had years of fighting these little blighters, but now I place items such as flour, rice, popping corn etc straight in the freezer once I buy them. The flour comes out after a fortnight, when I know any eggs have been killed off, but I tend to keep the rice and popping corn in the freezer as the grains still remain separate and ready to cook and they take up a little space in my near-empty freezer (I need some food in there to keep the vodka and limoncello company!)

I've only done the left hand side of my walk-in-pantry today. The right-hand-side, with its cake-making ingredients, spices and crackers, will be tackled tomorrow. Baby steps.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

it's just not christmas

I'm a huge fan of signifiers. I need a sign to know something exists, and for me, the Christmas sign is not a tree, or a Santa photo, it's driving around checking out the streets with Christmas lights. I love those families that sling lights and decorations over their homes for our viewing pleasure. 

We had our first drive last night, and tonight we're doing the drive and walk. We'll trek over to a neighbouring suburb, park our car at the top of our favourite cul de sac and wander down ooohing and aaahhhing over the santas, the reindeers, the wise men...

Yep, it's finally beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

Friday, December 19, 2008

best scents

Today, after cleaning off my desk, I soaked a cotton ball in lavender oil and placed it on the window sill in the sunshine. The scent is still wafting my way even though the sun's said goodnight.

action stations

Tell you what, it makes sense just to get in and get things done. Half an hour ago my desk was a disaster, and now? It's clear, it smells of lavender (yummy) and all the paper is in the recyling! Often it's just far to easy to think everything's too hard, but biting off a task in a small chunk (ie my desk rather than my entire study!) means I can achieve something and feel proud of it.

Yes, I will have to put on my blinkers and ignore the rest of my study - but I can do that now the desk is looking so good. Later on today I'll work on the bookshelf to my right, and maybe after that, the chair behind me that's covered in, well, stuff. But right now I'll breathe in the lavender, layer my hands with Cath Kidston Rose & Carnation handcream and work with a smile on my face.

paper chase

When it comes to keeping clutter down the one thing standing in front of my way, and blocking me from a more minimalist existence, is paper. My desk has three piles with paid bills (I just need to transfer all the info, including payment receipt numbers, into a word file), backyard 'stuff' (no idea what it is, just that my husband will need it) and work "stuff" (press releases, the odd printout...)

Today, my aim is to cut through all this paper. I'm grabbing a huge box and loading it all in to take to the recyling bin. By 11am (it's now 8.53am) my desk will be a zen, calm, working zone. Ready, set... GO!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

give me the boot

The last pair of boots I had were bought in around 1985 and I used to wear them regularly to the Friday midnight screening of Rocky Horror - in my full Magenta regalia. I haven't bought another pair because my calves and boots generally do not mix well.

But, should I decide to buy a boot, these little Lacroix sweeties would just about do it. Can't you picture them with a full skirt? The bow detailing at the back just makes me die. Imagine pairing them with a full black skirt that had a little hot pink netting peeping underneath.

Goodness.

starting over

I had my very last day in the office yesterday and as of today am 100 per cent freelance. It's a blissful fresh start, and one I'm very, very excited about. Firstly, I won't have to wake at the ungodly hour of 5.45am to catch a train. A stinky train that's always too cold, no matter what the season, and is often filled with unsavory and potentially scary people. Secondly, I won't have to break up my week with a two day stint away from home. That'll be nice, and hopefully I'll be more organised and will have lovely meals to prepare every night, and bountiful fresh harvest in my fridge to whip up delish salads or soups for lunch. 

But.

I'll miss staying with my dear friends one night a week. That was one of the high points of my week. We laughed, we conversed, we shared the odd bottle of wine... I'll miss that.

I'll also miss the gals at work. In every other job there's always been some type of festering thorn in my side, a reason I'm happy to escape, but on this job, I met true friends. Really amazing and interesting people who've enriched my life. Lunchtimes were always the perfect chance to catch up and chat - and I feel so blessed that I met such wonderful people. The laughter we shared will keep resonating, even though I'm no longer there to shout out over the cubicles.

Creative people always tend to be a little out there - sometimes they're out there in a different direction to you - but every now and again, you find this incredible common ground that forges a bond so deep, you know that a few hundred kilometres isn't going to break it.

I'm looking forward to M & N coming up for the weekend, I'll be opening my home to them the way they opened theirs to me. And the girls at work will all be invited up one weekend for the world's biggest girly sleepover. Change is never a bad thing, just an opportunity to do something in a different way.

attention please

There are some things I prefer to remain in blissful ignorance about. If I can't see it, it doesn't exist - you know, that kind of thing. Which is why I'm very, very peeved with my dentist. See, when I went along a few months ago to have enamel bonding on two of my teeth that were not-so-cosmetically-appealing thanks to a stint of antibiotics as a wee babe, my dentist said "You know, we could fix that chipped front tooth of yours with this". Pardon? What chipped front tooth? 

Ohhhhhh, the chipped front tooth that now leaps out at me every single time I brush my teeth, and yet had hitherto never seen before in my life. That one. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

a sense of urgency

Do you have anything you're utterly compelled to do no matter what? I have an almost obsessive compulsive need to fondle attractive fabric - in stores, on people... I don't even have to like the garment, or the cloth, but if I think it's going to have some special tactile qualities it's between my fingers before I can say "hands off buster". Yes, it's ironic that I won't allow my child to touch anything in a store, but at least I can pretend I'm interested in the outfit if a pesky salesperson casts objecting glances in my direction.

I'm also compelled to deglaze pans. I'd just finished frying off onions, red capsicum, chorizo, garlic and chicken breast chunks in my cast iron pot for the fritatta I'm making for the picnic (easy, yet tasty option) when I couldn't bear to leave all that golden deliciousness stuck to the bottom. Of course, I had no white wine or chicken stock handy, so I had to throw in a swish of red cooking wine. A few seconds later all that gooey goodness was encased in a ruby glow, which I threw over top of my fillings, before popping the egg (with a splash of milk, salt and pepper) mixture over top. A grating of some super vintage cheddar and it's in the oven at 180 degrees for around 20 minutes or until set and golden.

To serve, I'll chop it into squares and serve it with a very garlic-ridden aioli and a green salad. I also have a crunchy baguette to tear up to round out the plate. Then we'll be serenaded with carols by the children at school while we toast in the festive season with friends and some sparkles. How good is Christmas? 

Monday, December 15, 2008

picnic fare

There's a christmas picnic at my daughter's school tomorrow night, and I can't for the life of me work out what to prepare. See, this is the fourth year we'll have attended, so I've made most of my favourites. Plus, friends are already bringing things I'd quite like. I do have teeny little gingerbread babies for the kids - but for adults I'm stumped.

Maybe cold things on a stick? Marinated chicken breast, a grape tomatoes and wedges of yummy fresh mozzarella? With a chunky fresh pesto dipping sauce? Do you think? Or prawn cocktails served in a cos lettuce leaf? Or a big bread salad with fresh tomatoes and slices of a spicy salami? Buttermilk fried chicken bits? Plus a green salad? 

For sweets it's got to be summer berry trifles - that's easy peasy. Ooooooh, or Eton Mess with strawberries, raspberries, meringue and cream. We will be drinking champagne - and then I'll be detoxing for a week. My poor liver, kidneys and other organs I didn't even know existed must be screaming in pain after the last week I've had. I think I'm renaming December the Festy Season...

so long

No, it's not a farewell post, more a post about me saying "thank goodness I didn't write a blog documenting the progress of my back yard - because, boy, this is taking some time..." The guys are out the back finally laying pavers, that we had delivered, oh, a few weeks ago. But once that's done, that's going to be pretty much it till mid-January. So we'll have a pool that's tiled, walls that are painted, paving done... but no landscaping, no pool interior - and most importantly, no pool fencing. But we're going to order the fencing today, with the hope it'll be installed in the first few weeks of January, then we'll have the pool cabana built, then they'll surface the interior of the pool and fill the darned thing.

Of course that meant our daughter's pool party is off till next year. Her birthday's at the end of this month, so I had to think quick and come up with a funky alternative. So now we're having a Rock Star party. I'm printing up Backstage Passes, laminating them and clipping them on lanyards for invites. We'll have rockstar makeovers (lots of coloured hair spray, glitter and dark nail polish), karaoke and dancing competitions. I haven't decided on the cake yet. Maybe a microphone, or a CD. It's gotta be funky and fun. And as for food... M&Ms with all the green ones taken out? It's got to be like a band's rider - except with pink lemonade instead of Jack Daniels!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

quelle heure?

At the deli on Friday, picking up the ingredients to make a caramelised onion, proscuitto and goat cheese tart, I got to chatting with the girls behind the counter about food. I told them how I was making my tart (on a puff pastry base, spread with a little tapenade, then baked till golden) and one of them told me how she'd made a seven hour leg of lamb the day before. I'm so in.

So shortly, I'm studding a leg of lamb 12 times with teeny little cuts, just wide enough to fit in a slice of anchovy and a slice of garlic. Then I'll rub it with olive oil and salt and pepper, before browning all sides in a frypan. Next I'll pop it in my le crueset french oven, pour in a cup of white wine and a cup of chicken stock, cover it tightly and slowly cook it for sept heures at 100 degrees.

I think I'll serve it with a white bean salad - and something green.

Friday, December 12, 2008

ain't no sunshine

Oh the irony in this sunburned country. It's raining here again - just as it has been, off and on, for weeks, months, etc. Of course it's delayed the completion of our backyard, but we probably wouldn't be able to swim in the pool anyway because who wants to swim when it's raining! The frustrating thing is that my stepmother emailed me yesterday to say that all their rainwater tanks were empty and they were going to have to use town water for the first time in two years. I think my mum's tanks down the other end of Australia are also verging on empty. Whereas here, good grief, we could fill about 55 000 swimming pools with the rain we've had over our house in the past year or so. 

You'd at least think it would be good for the gardens but even the plants are over it. When there's a break in the rain on the weekend I'll have to fling some manure at the base of the plants to make up for all the nutrients that must be getting washed away in the downpours. At least all the songs I know about rain are now clouding up my head, rather than Some Girls by Racey which seemed to take up residence for the past few days.

Oh rain, go away. Go play with someone who needs you.

carrie on

Watching Sex and The City last night, as one does, I squealed in glee and told my husband "Oh, this is my favourite part ever" when the scene came on with Aiden, cooking in Carrie's kitchen, singing to Copacabana. Of course, long-term readers will know of my adoration for Aiden and my strange obsession with the song Copacabana - and I also have a soft spot for a bloke who'll whip up a meal. So there I am, smiling stupidly away at Aiden, and all his good points (he came up with the cutest pet names for Carrie - Poptart being my all-time fave) when I realised that it's also the episode where Carrie's Mac dies.

Now, as a writer, my computer is my life. I have the odd bit of info, such as deadlines, printed out, but usually I try to save trees and just have it alllllll stored on my computer. So when everyone told Carrie she should be backing up her work, a little voice inside my head said - 'hey, so should you'. And then I ignored it.

Until this morning.

I hit my start key on my Mac and. Nothing. No lovely little Mac waking up noise, just silence and a black screen. I tried a few more times, becoming increasingly hysterical, checked the power was on, then decided to wash my hair. Everything's better with clean hair. 

Out of the shower, I try again. Nothing. So then I unplug and replug the cords and - bliss - it started up.

You know what I'm doing today now don't you? Backing up till I can't back up no more. I've got, oh, about seven works in progress on the hard drive - due from now till the end of January. They've got research, interview transcriptions and even real words on them. Yes, backing up is today's must-do task.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

seasons greetings

Christmas just begs for red does it not? Which is why these shoes caught my eye. They're patent, they're strappy and I do like the platform at the front which allows for even greater heel height. Now, I'd just need an emerald green satin frock to become Santa's sauciest helper...

scene stealers

Some frocks deserve top billing in a film. Marilyn Monroe's white halterneck was one, Holly Golightly's 'prison' sheath and hat another. A hero frock can almost make sitting through an appalling movie appealing. For example, the gorgeous green gown Keira Knightly is adorned with in Atonement. A shocker of a film, but, oh, what a frock.

I apply the same theory to eye candy. I'm normally pretty happy to give any film starring Johnny Depp a shot, knowing that his performance will be outstanding, and, um, yum, he's delicious. 

I assume it's got something to do with my dogged optimism - I'm always determined to find something positive in even the most negative experiences. There's always something to be learned in every event.

Monday, December 08, 2008

i know what boys like

Well, I've always thought I knew what boys like, but going by some of the google searches that have led people to my blog - Mary Janes for Men and for Boys are surprisingly popular (unless it's the same person who keeps hoping to find something new week after week...) Who knew? I thought I had a handle on Mary Janes of all descriptions - hey, I own many of them, but my hubby... um, not so much. I'm trying not to be Judge Judy of JudgementVille, but I just can't see a bloke in Mary Janes. I've tried visualising Mark Jacobs or David Beckham in a pair - but so far, in my mind at least - even they haven't been able to get away with it.

Oh, and I tried to do a google search to find out more - and found myself back here!

wet and wild

This weather really is a bother. Last night it poured bucketfuls of rain, which meant that the painters, who'd come to paint the rendered walls, had to leave, with walls unpainted. Now, late in the afternoon, the skies are once again grey and threatening and I'm trying not to pout. Just when it seemed like we'd be swimming by Christmas, the completed pool project has once again been stalled, ironically, by the wet weather. 

Serenity now, serenity now...

Sunday, December 07, 2008

special guest blogger

My eight-year-old daughter is desperate for a blog, so here's a post she'd like to share.

FRIENDSHIP

My best friend Maisie and I are 2 peas -in- a -pond we  do everything together we are always on the phone and meeting on webkinz .......

bill and ted were right

I've always struggled with perfectionism. Which to those who may know me will seem odd - as I'm a bit slapdash in what I do. But I think there's a reason for that - if I don't try to make things perfect, then nobody can notice that it's not. However, I will spend ages procrastinating on articles that I write, just in case the perfect word comes to mind. When I clean the house I'll always leave something askance, again, so people don't think I've tried to be perfect and failed.

But recently, I read an idea that was revolutionary. Don't try to be perfect, try to be excellent. It's true, nothing's perfect, but things can be excellent. I've been trying to apply this to my life, and it's working quite well. I'm getting ahead in my deadlines, and am happy with what I've been writing.  My house is pretty clean and tidy - I'm happy enough if people drop in unexpectedly. It's something I'm trying to take into all areas of my life. My relationship, parenting, friendships...

I saw a magnificent example of excellence yesterday at my daughter's dance concert. Her teacher, Miss Heidi, always puts on the most excellent concert. The music, the choreography and the joy on the dancers' faces are all excellent. It's not perfect, costumes get caught in the curtains and they fail to open, the odd step might be out of place, but the sheer joy on everyone's face, from the three-year-old tiny tots, to the senior dancers is infectious. You know that they are trying their darndest to be excellent - and every single one of them succeeded.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

one upmanship

I don't know if it's a Leo thing, but I, and a few other leonine friends, have odd accidents. On three separate occasions I've had a small insect, probably a gnat, fly directly into my eye. It's disconcerting as you can watch it approach, seemingly in slow motion, and yet there's nothing you can do to stop it. You'd think that blinking, or turning your head would work, but no, the trajectory is actually at light speed, while appearing so, so much slower. I have also alighted from a car only to have the top of my ear catch on the corner of the car door. That smarts. 

You can guarantee that if some weird thing is going to occur to a human being it'll happen to me. Or my friend Nick. 

Which is why I knew that after breaking my ankle at my advanced age, he'd have to do something to top it. He has also had the ear/door connection thing - particularly impressive given his stature - nearly a good foot taller than me. The gnats in eyes? He's seen 'em coming plenty of times. So when he recounted a spectacular fall a few weeks ago on his blog (a grey area - see my list of buds to the side) I knew something would have to come of it. Yep, not just one measly break, but a few, in the ribcage. Honestly the things some people will do...

Friday, December 05, 2008

ritual habitual

I'm always trying to be a little more zen-like in my activities - particularly those repetitious chores around the house. That's why I'm soooooo looking forward to my backyard renovation completion, so I can return to one of my favourites.

I love, love, love hanging out washing. It's soothing and I'm good at it. In the past six months I've been either hanging on my clothes horse in the living room or (eek) in the dryer. I'm getting no satisfaction whatsoever from that. But soon I'll have an outside line again - whoopee. I adore standing in the sunshine, shaking out the clothes and pulling them flat before carefully hanging them and choosing contrasting pretty pegs to hang them. When bringing them in I shake and fold, so I never, ever iron a thing. Seriously, nothing - not even hubby's business shirts or my daughter's school uniforms. Nil.

So I cannot wait to christen my new outdoor line when it's installed. I don't know what kind it will be, but I'll be buying special, scented powder and may well wash my white, cotton sheets in lavender-scented water, before pegging them up with pale green or lilac pegs, and watching them shake and dry in the breeze.

addendum

I just thought I'd best clarify why I do so love me a bit of Posh Spice. 
1. She's hilarious and keen to have a laugh - while still never appearing to smile in public - that takes dedication.
2. She wanted to be a star and is happy to work at it. You'll never see Posh beating up a pap or hiding her face behind her Birkin.
3. She has a passion for fashion that goes above and beyond - I know that every single time I see her she's going to surprise or thrill me.
4. She's married to Becks - sigh.
5. She was in the Spice Girls.
6. She has an even greater dedication to heels than even me.
7. She stages perfect photo ops - working the media, rather than allowing them to work her.
8. Her boys are just divine - particularly when they break out in some seriously wicked dance moves on stage or courtside at a ball game.
9. Did I mention the whole David Beckham thing?
10. She's Posh...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

love/hate relationships

There are some people I adore, and nothing they ever do will change that. Dita Von Teese is one. Kate Winslett another. The Fug Girls, Posh Spice - ooooh yeah. Others I loathe and they'll be able to do not one thing to win me over - Heather Mills, Siena Miller... 

However, sometimes I jump ship. My husband assures me I haven't always idolised Victoria Beckham, whereas I will swear I've always wanted her as a best friend. But one person I've totally turned on is Rachel Zoe. Loathed her, now love her. She's bananas. I die. Yes, all those catch phrases I so despised in the lead up to the Rachel Zoe Project now spill from my mouth like pearls. I adore her, covet her wardrobe, love her hubby, am besotted with her assistant Brad... and all this is balanced out by my loathing of her ever-so-mean assistant Taylor. I will be bereft when the show finishes - where will I get my vintage and couture visual fix from? Certainly not my wardrobe (even though I have a hefty stock of vintage, it pales in comparison to Rachel's - le sigh...)

a tribute

bargain box

Ooooh, Christmas shopping. It's weird how something that should be so joyous can be so stressful. We did most of ours in a fast four hour hit last Saturday while our daughter had her dress rehearsal, but I just tried to buy one final pressie - and failed. It's a special game, obviously THE game of this Christmas, on-sale today at a special price, with added bonuses. So, being an astute bargain hunter I called the store yesterday to confirm it would be on-sale today, yes, and was waiting at 8.50am this morning for the doors to spring open at 9am. I then raced through with other bargain hunters to find... the game not on the shelves. After waiting in line with other avid parents, while sales assistants fruitlessly went from dock, to storeroom, to counter, etc for 30 minutes, before finally ascertaining that the special courier, with the special order, wasn't here. Grrrrrrrr. So I've left my name at the desk, and they'll call me when it gets in. Grrrrrrr. Then I'll have to find another pre-christmas parking spot, schelp through the store, and hopefully buy the darned thing.

Oh well, that's what I get for wanting to buy what is obviously the Hero Gift this season. I really should have left that one for Santa...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

seriously scentsual

Today, I didn't have any perfume at my desk so I dabbed some Agent Provocateur Tuberose Intoxication massage oil at my pulse points. Delish.

(Oh, and why the massage oil at my desk? Pressie from a PR of course!)

dizzy heights

Oh, how I miss my heels. On the weekend I tried on a beautiful pair of black patent sandals, with the most pencil-thin stiletto heel - and a platform at the front. Standing there, now much closer to six foot tall than five, I felt at home. Hopefully my husband took note of the yearning expression on my face and those shoes will find their way into my christmas stocking (surely if he's a smart man he'll be checking my blog for hints...non?)

I met a friend for lunch today, wearing flats. I felt I was doing our reunion an injustice. Even with lippy and a pretty lilac eyeshadow I didn't feel quite dressed up enough because my feet weren't at a Barbie angle.

However, it's our wedding anniversary next week and we'll be heading to the city's finest restaurant so my Manolos will be delicately lifted from their box and placed on my feet with a sigh. Surely that's the best possible way to reintroduce my feet to the joy of heels.

Monday, December 01, 2008

cherry cheer

Ah, the joys of seasonal eating. I'm sitting here, nibbling on cherries - perfectly presented in a pink ramekin - and plotting christmas pudding recipes. We're off to a friends in two weeks for a christmas do, and I volunteered to make the pud for 10 adults. I'm planning on making a sweet number that nods in the direction of a summer pud, but with a difference. I'm lining a big pudding bowl with slices of chocolate cake, that I'm going to drizzle with some liqueur - not sure which flavour yet... then I'm going to allow some really nice vanilla icecream to soften before stirring in raspberries, cherries, unsalted pistachios and shards of dark chocolate. I'll then fill the chocolate well with this mix, then top it with more chocolate cake, weigh it down and refrigerate. I'll take it out an hour or so before serving, so the icecream's not too hard. Invert it, slice it and serve it with a vanilla marscapone 'custard' - studded with more pistachios. Yummo.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

clean queen

My handy hubby fixed my vacuum cleaner yesterday and I'm rather thrilled. While I've been enjoying sweeping, from a purely meditative perspective, I have re-embraced my electronic cleaner. The dust, sand and grit in the house was almost overwhelming thanks to the various gaps in the house that allow it to enter during construction in the backyard, combined with mud and crud being trekked in on the bottom of our feet. However, a few rounds with the vacuum have seen my floors taken to a new level of clean and it's always astonishing how much a clean home can elevate my mood.

My moods are dramatically affected by many things; grey skies, seemingly overwhelming deadlines, tired and cranky children, my dodgy sleep patterns - and also, it seems, by a messy, dirty home. Alternatively blue skies make my mood soar, being organised enough to deal with deadlines makes me very happy, popping a child to bed early so she gets her beauty sleep is a tonic for all in the family, a night only broken by waking three to four times seems like bliss to me, and a clean, tidy home makes my heart sing.

Now when this is combined with the scents of tonight's meal cooking (bbq prawns and chorizo on salad), well, I'll be so giddily happy giggles and smiles will have to ensue.

Friday, November 28, 2008

belle fille

Emilie Simon not only has the most exquisite voice I've heard in some time, her face could launch a thousand sighs. I've just found out she has a new album, which I'm also adding to my christmas wish list. I adore The Flower Book, which includes the most amazing version of Iggy Pop's I Wanna Be Your Dog, plus many glorious french tunes to tickle your eardrums in the most delightful way. So I hope her new album offers half as much promise! PS. I do need an event to wear headgear as pretty as this little number.