Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Eleven, Eleven, Eleven

No it is not a date, it is a quiz which I was tagged in by the gorgeous Famously Frocked.

I love answering these, but hate tagging other people, so if you like the quiz, feel free to tag yourself in the comments and then join in, otherwise just read on!

The Rules:
  • You must post the rules
  • Post 11 fun facts about yourself in the blog post
  • Answer the 11 questions the tagger set for you in their post, and then create 11 new questions to ask the people you tagged
  • Tag 11 new people and link them on your post (Ok, I'm letting the side down by not doing this bit)
  • Let them know you've tagged them.

11 Fun Facts About Me!
  1. I drink on average 6-8 cups of tea a day.  This is probably too much, but I love tea!  However I do not drink coffee.
  2. I can't sleep if the cupboard doors are open.  I would like to say it is because I'm tidy, in reality it is so that the cupboard monsters can't get out.
  3. I have a fear of velvet.  I love how it looks but how it feels - ugghhh!
  4. I am insanely proud of home grown produce.  I think there will be an entire blog about my tomato plants soon.
  5. If given the chance I will eat the entire bag of salt and vinegar chips.  No matter how big.  I just can't stop once I've opened the packet - which often results in a sore tummy.  I think I have a chip addiction.
  6. My mother can make me laugh anywhere, anytime by doing her impression of the Queen smiling.  I swear it is much more hilarious than that sounds.
  7. I iron pillowcases.  And doona covers.  And sheets.  And tea towels.  Yes I am that person.
  8. I am one half of "that couple".  You know the ones who are always sneaking kisses and canoodling in public.  I know it erks some people, but honestly I can't help it, S is just the light of my life.
  9. I once performed in a burlesque show.  True it was just end of term show when I had done a burlesque class, but it was burlesque and it was in public.
  10. The flower in my avatar is from a painting I did.
  11. I am somewhat addicted to the sky (such an air sign).  I love it in all its shades and moods.  If I'm trapped inside all day the first thing I do when I go it is look up.

11 Questions I was Asked
  1. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
    Is everywhere a good answer?  No seriously, I want to go everywhere.  But I would say India or China are very high on my list at the moment, although Europe looks to be more imminent.
  2. Do you have a goal you aspire to at the moment?
    Finding time to do some painting.  I suspect that it won't be happening in the next couple of months though.
  3. What is the food you eat most frequently?
    Weet-bix - nearly every morning although I have been flirting with muesli recently.
  4. What is the best meal you ever ate?
    So many!!!  But it is probably a tie between my 25th birthday at Tetsuya's in Sydney and an amazing dinner I had in Siem Reap in Cambodia at a restaurant called Nest last year.  That was definitely the best steak I've ever eaten and it started me eating pork again.
  5. Favorite type of chocolate?
    Dark - somewhere in the 60% range is usually my favourite.
  6. Who did you last talk on the phone with?
    A random wrong number.  I don't know what it is about our office number but we seem to get a disproportionately large number of those.
  7. What is the last book you read?
    "The Imperfectionists" by Tom Rachman.  It is a novel disguised as short stories.  Quite fantastic.
  8. Open- or closed-toe shoes in the summer?
    Normally open, but owing to a bad knee and a distinct lack of summer like weather, this year my enclosed ballet flats have seen far more wear than my huge collection of peep toe shoes.
  9. Have you ever won a prize?
    Yes, a couple of small things, I'm manic at entering competitions.  Although I'm determined that I'm destined to win a car at some point because both my grandmother and mother have won cars.  Surely that means I'm destined to someday doesn't it?
  10. Do you consider yourself to be shy or outgoing?
    I'm pretty sure everyone considers me to be outgoing, but I used to be quite painfully shy.  Drama classes gave me the skill to "fake it" until the outgoingness became natural.
  11. Do you live near or far from family?
    Very close.  I'm currently a whole 4 minutes away from my parents and 10 from my sister.

11 Questions for You

As I said I'm never any good at picking people to respond to these things, so I'm not going to tag anyone. Instead feel free to volunteer yourself in the comments section below.  You just post 11 random facts about yourself and then answer the following 11 questions.
  1. Beatles or the Stones
  2. Did you have a pet growing up?
  3. When was the first moment you felt "grown up"?
  4. Who is your hero?
  5. Are you a green thumb?
  6. If you could have any skill in the world, what would it be?
  7. When did you last watch the sun come up?
  8. What is your go-to recipe when having people over?
  9. What is your dream job?
  10. How do you get to work?
  11. What is your favourite movie?
Please do tag yourself, it is such an interesting way to learn about fellow bloggers!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bargain Pastry

As I'm sure you will have gathered by now one of the things in life that I can't resist is pastry.  Another is a bargain.  Put them together and you get bargain pastries - a totally irresistible mix.

I have found a source of deliciously sweet, flaky gorgeous pastries, filled with chocolate, or adorned with nuts, cream or fruit at super cheap prices.  And by cheap I mean an expensive one is $3, most are around $1.50 or $2.

The bargain pastries in question come from the IGA supermarket.  I was dubious at first, pastries from a supermarket didn't hold a lot of promise for quality, but they really are great and at half the price of anywhere else, I'm a fan.

I'm pretty sure that they are mass manufactured and that the IGA buys them in frozen, but they must be baked on the premises, because if you are there early they are still warm and they do get replenished over the course of the day.  And as for whoever mass manufactures them, well they certainly have flaky pastry down to an art.

I don't know if all IGA supermarkets do them,  the one I go to is the City West Carpark, but it is certainly worth checking out, because, oh, those chocolate filled, nut topped croissants - my mouth is watering at the thought.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Happy Australia Day

Happy Australia Day!  For my few international readers, Australia Day marks the day the first fleet landed in Sydney Cove.  It is a bit of a controversial date because for the native people it is essentially invasion day, but moving on from that, Australia Day is a day to celebrate our nation and all that is great about being an Aussie.

As I wrote last year, Australia Day is extra special for me as it is the wedding anniversary of my dear friends (who picked this day, then promptly moved overseas so they don't even get the public holiday - I'm sure that will one day change).  However another important part of Australia Day each year for me, is taking the time to reflect on all the great things about this country.

I've said it before, but to live a life where I do not fear for my safety when going about my everyday business, where education and health care are affordable and where I am not limited in my opportunities based on gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or political beliefs is a true privilege.  I relish in the fact that I can safely drink the water from the tap.  I love that when I step outside the air is clean.  While obesity is an issue, there are not children starving to death on the streets.  I have the right to elect the politicians of my choice and if they do not represent me, I have the freedom to protest their decisions.  There are so many aspects of life that we take for granted here and I think it is important that we realise just what luck and privilege it is to live in Australia.

So today, while I celebrate Australia Day with family, friends and a BBQ, I will also be reflecting on just how lucky I am to live in this truly beautiful country.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Book Review: The Hunger Games

When I was a kid and a teenager I was a compulsive reader.  I was rarely found without a book in my hand and I would get completely absorbed in them, reading long into the night when I was supposed to be asleep.  Reading till I got headaches from not looking up.  Reading till I drove my sister nuts because I was so engrossed I had failed to listen to what she was saying.  Reading on the bus, at lunch, under my desk in class.

These days it is rare for me to be so absorbed in a book.  Partly it is just that I don't have the same time available, but also I think it is that recently I've been reading a lot of literature that requires slow, careful reading and absorption of the prose.  Between literature I've read the kind of chic lit that while entertaining, is easy to dip into then put down for a few days.

However at Christmas S's parents gave me "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins.  For the first time in a long time I was so compelled to read that I stayed up too late, read on my lunchtime, in fact even read a bit at the traffic lights and sneakily under my desk at work.  The day after I lent my Mum the first copy I rang her and she mentioned she was tired because she hadn't gone to sleep till 1am.  Why - because she hadn't been able to put the book down (she stayed up till 3.15am to finish the third book!).

There are plenty of synopsis's of "The Hunger Games" on the internet, but in short the trilogy follows Katniss Evergreen as she is reaped into a grotesque form of gladiatorial battle where the tributes of the 12 districts in Panem (a post-present day USA) kill each other for the sport of the citizens of the capital.  It really is like a story of ancient Rome brought into a future where the earth has been irreparably damaged and countries re-formed.  Katniss's role in the games and what happens after is truly compulsive reading.

"The Hunger Games" is marketed as young adult fiction, but I think pretty much anyone over 12 would enjoy it.  The first movie is due out this year and I can guarantee my Mum and I will be queing up to see it.  If you were a fan of the "Tomorrow When the War Began" series, I'm pretty sure you would love "The Hunger Games."

Friday, January 20, 2012

Soothing Mosquito Bites

The other night we enjoyed a delicious dinner alfresco in the (finally) warm summer air.  It was gorgeous, good food and wine, great conversation, highly entertaining antics from the dogs and a deliciously warm evening to laze about in.

The problem was we weren't the only ones enjoying dinner in the warm summer air.  Despite various traps and repellents, the mosquitoes were out doing their worst.

Poor S got particularly attacked - even mosquitoes know how sweet he is - and soon had a number of swollen bite sites.  However we fixed him up in no time flat with a trick we discovered a few years ago.  All you do is break a leaf off an aloe vera plant and squeeze the juice directly on.  It is amazing how well and instantly it works.

The fresh plant definitely works better than a bought lotion and the plants are easy to grow - just keep them away from frost.  So if you are one of those people who the mozzies target, get yourself an aloe vera plant!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Vanilla Sugar

Do you keep your used vanilla beans and turn them into vanilla sugar?  If not then you definitely should.  Those gorgeous beans are full of so much flavour.  Even when the seeds have been scraped or they have been used to infuse a sauce or custard, they are still full of deliciousness.

Every time I use a bean it gets rinsed, dried (with paper towel - I don't worry too much about the moisture) and shoved into my vanilla sugar jar.  It is then topped up with castor sugar which in no time at all takes on the gorgeous vanilla aroma and becomes perfect to sprinkle on top of confections or used in dishes where you want a subtle vanilla flavour.

The moisture in the beans tends to make the sugar clump together somewhat, but it is easy to break up and the heavenly intense smell of vanilla every time I open the jar is just magic.  This is recycling at its best!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Panatone French Toast with Roasted Balsamic Strawberries

Christmas was a feast of deliciousness, but one thing we never got around to eating was panatone.  So we were quite thrilled to find them on super special at our local supermarket.

Normally we eat slices with custard and ice cream, or Mum makes a super bread and butter pudding but today I decided to make it into french toast.  I added some cinnamon and both vanilla sugar and vanilla extract to complement the spices already in the panatone.  To accompany the french toast I roasted some balsamic strawberries.  The tartness of the balsamic and the intense strawberry flavour was an excellent match for the sweet spiciness of the french toast.

A great way to start the day.

Panatone French Toast with Roasted Balsamic Strawberries

Panatone French Toast
2 thick slices of panatone (cut in half to 4 pieces)
2 eggs
A teaspoon of vanilla extract
A large tablespoon of castor sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
A sprinkle of cinnamon

Whisk together the eggs, sugar and cinnamon.  Soak the panatone slices in the mix.  If you can, leave for 5 or 10 minutes to really absorb.  It will get really soft so be careful when you pick it up to fry.

Heat a frypan over a medium heat.  Melt a little butter and fry the panatone slices.  You want to cook relatively slowly so that the egg cooks right through.

Serve with balsamic strawberries or maple syrup.

Roasted Balsamic Strawberries
Wash and hull strawberries.  Sprinkle thickly with castor sugar and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.  Roast at 180 degrees for about 10-15 minutes.

They are great with the french toast or on their own with vanilla icecream for a simple tasty dessert.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Today is theoretically the middle of summer.  I say theoretically because with the wind chill factor it is around 4 degrees at the moment and snow has been predicted in the high country.  Only a few days ago I had bare arms and strappy shoes, today I've dug out a scarf and stockings.  It really is proving to be a strange summer.

But the change in weather which saw me reach into a different part of my wardrobe, also inspired me to have a better look in my jewellery box.

I don't know about you, but I tend the wear the same accessories a lot.  It is easy, I don't have to think, I just grab the same few things and go with them.  However today, I wanted to wear something different, not just go with a full on winter outfit - after all even if the temperature doesn't agree, it is summer!

I ended up choosing a necklace and earrings that used to belong to my mother to go with my long sleeved dress.  They aren't a set, but the colours and the design work really well together and with my scarf from Peru.  It isn't expensive jewellery but wearing something my Mum used to wear always makes me feel a bit special.  It also reminded me that I'm lucky enough to have a heap of accessories and that I really should wear them all more often!

Are you the same?  Do you get stuck in a clothing/accessory rut?  And how do you like to mix it up?

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Yesterday I wore this fabulous pair of shoes.  Their very high heels are the only reason that I don't wear them more often because they really are great.

At the BBQ we attended I got several compliments, one of which led to a really interesting discussion on compliments.  I love compliments - although I'm much better at giving than receiving them.  On many occasions when I've seen a complete stranger who looks great I've complimented them.  I'm also a huge fan of the thank you note.  If I get some truly excellent service, I love to send a little note on to the company.

I recently read an article talking about the need for women to be more assertive.  If your coffee is cold - send it back, if the hotel room isn't what you wanted, ask to change.  I completely agree with this.  Too many of us put up with substandard service because we don't want to make a fuss.  As long as you are polite, it is usually fine to ask such things.

But if we are learning to become more proactive complainers, I think it is important that we also learn to be proactive praisers.

The person I was speaking to at the party aims to make one person (unrelated to her) smile every day.  I think that is a gorgeous mantra.  As she said it can be as simple as saying a welcoming hello to someone, or complementing a stranger on her shoes.  Imagine if we all did that, wouldn't the world be a happier place?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Regaining Balance

The last couple of weeks have been a festival of food.  Delicious, special meals.  All the good stuff that you save for treats.  There were helpings twice normal size, double serves of dessert, snack food galore - all washed down by liters of wine and soft drink.  It was oh so good and oh so bad at the same time.

So now my body is rebelling.  It is over the richness.  I have an endless supply of chocolate on hand but all I want is veggies.  So last night I whipped up a massive veggie stirfry.  Oh those delicious, nutritious bites.  With a simple sauce of ginger, garlic, chilli and soy it was exactly what I needed.  I could feel my stomach rejoicing as I practically inhaled the colourful, flavourful and nutritional meal.

And then I ate Hannah's Raspberry Whip - well we wouldn't want to send my body into some kind of health shock would we?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Welcome 2012, what will you bring?

It I've learnt anything over the last few years it is that fate is a surprising thing and I'm not game to guess what is to come.

But I will hope.  I will hope for laughter, for peace, for health, love and prosperity.  And I will hope that you too have such a fortunate year.