Sunday, November 9, 2008

Who doesn't love presents in the post?

My BBM package arrived on Friday!!

I was so excited after unpacking everything, that I packed it all back up and drove to my brothers where we unpacked it again and ran around the house yelling out the names of the products in really awful Southern accents. Nothing worse than true-blue aussies trying to sound Texan!

Thankyou to Marci. I had never seen any of these items in Australia before:

Pumpkin Pancake Mix & Gingerbread Pancake Mix from Kerbey Lane Cafe. I love what this cafe stands for - from it's green ethics to it's 100% american style of recipes.

Stubb's Bar-B-Q Sauce. Before I ever left Australia to go travelling 10 years ago I naively thought we did barbies better than any country. And was I ever proven wrong! I can't wait to impress at the next summer bbq.

Apple Butter We don't really have 'fruit butters' here - usually only jam. So this was a very exciting find. My family suggested doing an apple glaze on a roast ham, but I could also use it on scones or as a sweet jam. Ah, the possibilities . . .

Texas Chewie Pecan Pralines and 'Longhorns' (Pecan Pralines covered in chocolate). Their website says 'Lammes still uses its century old family recipe to cook the world-famous "Texas Chewies.' They're delicious and very moreish. Went beautifully with a cup of Earl Grey Tea while typing this post mmmmmmmm

New Canaan Farm East Texas Blueberry Jam and Citrus Sangria Jelly. These look so good I went to buy flour for scones so I could do them justice.

Guarana Antarctica - Brazilian soft drink. Am going to wait for the next really hot day to drink this so I can pretend I'm in Brazil.

Mole Verde Sauce. This looked home-made. I'm a huge fan of home-made things. I had to look this one up: A spicy Mexican condiment which is a mixture of pumpkin seeds (pepitas), ground nuts and sesame seeds, tomatillos, green chile peppers (typically poblano or serrano), spices, soybean oils, bread or crackers (wheat flour and corn starch), sugar, and other seasonings. I can't wait to cooking dinner for my friends or family so they can try this out.

Thankyou to Stephanie at Dispensing Happiness for arranging Blogging by Mail. And most of all to Marci. Thankyou! Your parcel is truly a gastronimc adventure!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pussycat Pussycat where have you been?

Well - I've been everywhere but to London to visit the Queen!

It's been a busy couple of months. Here are some highlights:

More Author events at Gleebooks. The most recent was to hear Debra Adelaide talk about her book 'A Household Guide to Dying'. I listened to the audiobook as I walked in a daydream to work, or down the hill to Balmoral Beach. Have decided that reading a book on paper is a far stronger connection to the written word than audiobooks. Although I'll take other people's writing any way I can at the moment! Yann Martel, author of The Life of Pi (one of my all time favourite books) is talking on Sunday 28th September. I'll be driving to the Southern Highlands the same day for lunch at The Zen Oasis with my Granny, Mum, Brother and Sister-in-law, toddler niece and the latest little addition to the family - my 10 week old nephew.

Work-related brainchilds. The result of 16 hour days for a couple of months. Some of the most challenging and exciting work in my current role.

More Moveable Feasts. Most recently at Sugaroom at Pyrmont. Great company in a restaurant by the harbour in a converted sugar factory. Pork cheeks and peppermint tea ice-cream. Oh, and lots of wine. This week it's dinner for 10, with lots of regulars and a few newbies at Oy in Potts Point - thai in a modern industrial fit-out.

Had a stall at Kirribilli Markets. S helped me and we had a fun day selling stuff I didn't want any more (books, shoes, CDs etc). Made a little bit of money and it was a good way to get rid of some of the clutter around my house. Not sure I would do it again though. Felt a bit funny watching stuff, that was mine, being adopted by new owners. Also felt a bit funny about how much 'stuff' we all accumulate and how meaningless it actually is. Which is maybe a bit contradictory. Must be the nomadic tendancies in me kicking in!

Visited Koonorigan on the mid-north NSW coast. My lovely hippy cousin lives on a self-sustaining farm up there. It's such a different lifestyle to the work-focused Sydney life. Spent time in a cafe on the beach, watching whales migrating. I caught up with my old uni friend S who has a brave new career in spices - designing and packaging his own blends. His products won two bronze medals recently, and his design and packaging is fantastic - the work of S and friends in Byron

Tried house-sitting. Didn't really like it. I was staying in a beautiful house, much fancier than my own, looking after a gorgeous dog. But there is no place like home, no place I feel more relaxed. I kinda took for granted the restorative properties of being in my own space.

Tried dog-walking. And liked it! In fact I love it and am now spending every other weekend being a 'pet butler'. My boss is great, it's light relief from heavy thinking and high drama work of my day job and my four legged clients give me my 'pet therapy fix' without making a mess in my own house and upsetting my body corporate.

Travel writers. We welcomed back S after a year travelling through Cuba, Central and South America, UK and Africa and celebrated her adventures with lots of wine :) Sensing a theme? It was the beginning of a very relaxing 5 day holiday for me.

Work team day out - Amazing Race. Running around the city, a ride at Luna Park, water taxi across the harbour, and an open tab behind the bar at the London hotel in Paddington. Exhausting but very exciting.

Upcoming - Good Food Month. Main course and a glass of wine for lunch for $35 - perfect. Also 'Sugar Hits' - $20 cocktail and dessert at some of the classiest hotels in Sydney. Last year my team at work booked consecutive Thursdays to treat ourselves: Becasse, Quay, Aria and Boathouse at Blackwattle Bay. This year I hope to make the most of it with lots of client and team lunches and girls nights out.

Theatre with my Dad. Looking forward to a bit of culture. Don't think I have seen a play for a few years actually, since O and I went to the Old Fitzroy Pub in Woolloomoolloo.

Ooh - and camping with a few good friends on Cockatoo Island in the middle of Sydney harbour on October 4th.

Am loving watching my step-nieces travels around Europe on:

An dreaming of nature-loving midsummer dinners with

Having trouble getting Japan out of my system

And wishing that this luddite could work out how to add links to her blog.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

People of Influence # 2

Saw Markus Zusak, the author of ‘The Book Thief’ at Gleebooks this afternoon, as part of the monthly ‘Book Club’ author events. Not only was he very good looking, he was also a warm and open personality.

A few inspiring comments:

Of sharing his work-in-progress with friends and family he says he doesn’t really get into that – not because he is an ‘artiste’ who won’t share his work before it is ready, but because he figures ‘I got myself into this mess and I’m the only one who can help me find the way out.’

He accidentally talks of ‘Liesels sister’ when talking of the central character’s brother dying on a train in the beginning of the book. The assembled crowd murmured ‘brother’ – a collective exhalation and momentary horrified chuckling that the author himself would make a faux pas about his own book. It was clear where the crowd’s loyalty was, even when faced between choosing between the creator and his work. An author releasing his work to the public is also about surrender and giving it a chance to create its own life and become part of other people too.

He wrote the prologue to make sure that the wrong people didn’t read the book. The first 15 pages aren’t the easiest to read and a few people admitted they put the book down and walked away. It’s the sort of book that requires the passionate endorsement of those who have read it – to encourage others to ‘get past’ the introduction.

Zusak chose Death to be the narrator and inevitable comparisons to Terry Pratchett's ‘Death takes a Holiday’ emerge. Certainly other books about Nazi Germany have been written. An audience member asks about how that could influence his writing. But Zusak points out that ‘you find your own way’.

Another question relates to research and Zusak talks of other historical fiction writers who he speaks to at writer’s festivals – who claim they could research forever. But he says ‘Doing the work is the best research’ and that if a reader wants to know more about certain facts they can go and look it up. He wants the research to be secondary to the story.

He also wrote an actual message in my signed copy, not just a squiggle.

From the Random House microsite: It took seven years to get published and there were countless daily failures, but I’m glad those failures and rejections happened. They made me realise that what I was writing just wasn’t good enough – so I made myself improve.

I am momentarily smitten and will search out his other 4 books. They’re all categorized as ‘young adult fiction’.

People of Influence # 1

Andrew Denton has a new show on ABC TV – ‘Elders’. The program introduction talks of how we are a society obsessed with youth. The 6 part series is made up of interviews with elders of our society and their views. Two weeks ago the subject was 82 year old David Attenborough.

Three comments in particular resonated:
Q: What is the secret of a successful marriage?
A: Tolerance. A person who questions whether the decision they have made, or are yet to make, is the right one is not going to be happy. But once the person has made a commitment to the notion of being part of a family they can work towards a successful marriage.

Attenborough’s father was a teacher by profession and a great teacher by nature – because he encouraged a young Attenborough to ask questions and find the answers himself. Attenborough loved perusing the rock cliffs near his home. When he would find a fossil he would take it to his father who would say ‘How interesting. A sea fossil found in the middle of Britain. How do you think it got there?’ and a young Attenborough would go to the library and find the answers and the story of the fossil.

Attenborough also pointed out that ‘Early humans lived with enough space around them that if they are confronted with people they didn’t like – they had the space to find people they did agree with. The over-populated planet means that humans don’t have the space to find their own way. But wherever there is 1) female emancipation and education and 2) the choice of when to reproduce then the birth rate can begin to decline and the human balance needed can be readdressed.’

This rang true in an Attenborough documentary I saw recently about pandas – the same theory applied. That pandas were faced with more confrontation as their natural environment was being depleted.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Neanderthal Chicken

Had dinner at Sushi Samurai tonight. Really tasty soba noodles, perfect on a winter night - who would think a clear soup could pack so much flavour and joy? I eavesdropped on this conversation:
German Boy: what sort of food do you cook? Swedish, German or Austrian? I mean Australian.
Danish Girl: I don't know. I don't cook much (Pauses to pop an edamame bean). Actually I make one thing called Neanderthal Chicken.
GB: what . . .?
DG: Take any meat, any vegetables put them all in a pot on the fire for 2 hours, walk away and come back two hours later and it's perfect.
GB: No liquid or water?
DG: No - the vegetables have enough water in them.
GB: And you put it with rice?
DG: Depends if I have found a potato to put in the pot.
DG: In the oven or on the fire?
GB: On the fire (am guessing she meant stove-top). I call it Neanderthal Chicken because I imagine that's just the way neanthderthals would cook.
GB: mmm . . . slow cooking is the best . . .

I am so trying Neanderthal Chicken one day soon. Provided I can tear myself away from those amazing soba noodles.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thankyou Postman!

Love getting a parcel in the post! Dad & G are in Paris at the moment and sent me this stunning necklace. It's quite chunky but it suits me, and when I wore it with black the other day - it looked very nice. It's from the Musee Jacquemart Andre. Ah, to be in Paris in the springtime.

Meanwhile - am waiting on tenterhooks for the arrival of new neice or nephew any day now. I'm the on-call at midnight person to go look after my little 2 year old neice in the event that the baby arrives - am very excited!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Purple Gorilla

Further to my previous post: Here's the poem Kate Jennings read out in her session at the Sydney Writers' Festival. I'm not melancholy our mourning anyone or any thing right now, so it's no expression of me. It's just that I really liked the poem when it was read:

by Matthew Dickman
New Yorker 5th May 2008

When grief comes to you as a purple gorilla
you must count yourself lucky.
You must offer her what’s left
of your dinner, the book you were trying to finish
you must put aside,
and make her a place to sit at the foot of your bed,
her eyes moving from the clock
to the television and back again.
I am not afraid. She has been here before
and now I can recognize her gait
as she approaches the house.
Some nights, when I know she’s coming,
I unlock the door, lie down on my back,
and count her steps
from the street to the porch.
Tonight she brings a pencil and a ream of paper,
tells me to write down
everyone I have ever known,
and we separate them between the living and the dead
so she can pick each name at random.
I play her favorite Willie Nelson album
because she misses Texas
but I don’t ask why.
She hums a little,
the way my brother does when he gardens.
We sit for an hour
while she tells me how unreasonable I’ve been,
crying in the checkout line,
refusing to eat, refusing to shower,
all the smoking and all the drinking.
Eventually she puts one of her heavy
purple arms around me, leans
her head against mine,
and all of a sudden things are feeling romantic.
So I tell her,
things are feeling romantic.
She pulls another name, this time
from the dead,
and turns to me in that way that parents do
so you feel embarrassed or ashamed of something.
Romantic? she says,
reading the name out loud, slowly,
so I am aware of each syllable, each vowel
wrapping around the bones like new muscle,
the sound of that person’s body
and how reckless it is,
how careless that his name is in one pile and not the other.

Sydney Writers' Festival

I don't like poetry much. High school english classes dragging over Browning's work for endless hours quashed any joy I could find in the format. But today was different. In the Wharf Theatre, overlooking the harbour through louvered glass, swimming in sunshine so bright I had to wear shades, 3 poets offered their work in The Sydney Readings. Each poem focused on aspects of Sydney personal to each poet.

Peter Kirkpatrick read a poem he had written for a friend's wedding. I leant back and closed my eyes against the sun while Kirkpatrick read the poem. I assume I am a lazy poetry reader - I just don't get the magic of the words when they are in front of me, ink on paper. But being read by their creator? A few simple words created a thousand images. My untrained mind drifted in and out, like when I try to meditate. But when the wild pony of my imagination did stop to rest on Kirkpatrick's words they had such resonance. Non-cliched expression leapt about, the format of poetry and gift of the poet giving freedom. He talked about familiar city scenes, of a little chapel overlooking the ocean where the 'wild pacific ocean thrust it's cold wet nose between the couple as they spoke their vows'. Well, it was something like that, but better.

I'm not a poetry devotee, but sometimes it just gets me.

Brook Emery was the second poet to read - a beach bum of the poetic kind. His work was about the ocean, he talked of the 'the fear, uncertainty and isolation that is part of the surfing experience'. His humility and talent were endearing, but it was the images he painted in his poem about Gould's Bookstore in Newtown (from his book 'Fingers dug into the sand') that was best received with loud guffawing and applause from the audience whose humour he had tickled. John Tranter was the third poet. He has a lot of accolades but the haiku style of his poetry he selected to read didn't tickle any part of me.

I love the Sydney Writers' Festival. Two years ago it was on when I was between accepting and starting my current job so I was able to spend days wandering around and dipping in and out of authors talks. Last year I was so busy with work that I wasn't able to take any time off to go to the festival and it depressed me that I couldn't even spare a day for an annual event that I get so much from. So this year I took Friday off, against the odds, and will return to work on Monday refreshed, inspired and the better for it.

On the subject of poetry - I saw the inimitable Kate Jennings yesterday talking about grief and the catharsis of writing. Jennings read a poem from pages she tore from The New Yorker - an enchanting poem about grief being like a big purple gorilla. The poem spoke about how death seperates people into lists between alive and dead. The last line of the poem spoke about how reckless it is that some people end up on the wrong list. If I didn't believe in poetry before, the economy and power of that last line gives as good reason a reason as any to believe.

PS The hessian bag in the photo is the souvenir festival bag which comes free when you buy a book - this year from Vintage publishers.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Moveable Feast #6

Moveable Feast #6 . . . J & S were the brainchildren behind the idea - start with a core group of people and go for dinner to a new place each time. And each time we're to bring a friend that the others hadn't met. Really just an excuse to try new restaurants and meet the people that our friends like. J & S did a great job of organising the nights out. But sadly the call of old blighty dragged them both back to the motherland. I didn't want to let the idea fall by the wayside so I helped reconvene and add new recruits. So I'm pleased to report that last night at Favela was the first Moveable Feast for 2008!

I think the consensus was that the rating would be 3 out of 5. Or 5.5 out of 10. We haven't rated restaurants before. The white lounges and white-cheesecloth draped waiters were nice to look at and good to sit on (the lounges, not the waiters). It seems to be a good place to bring a first or second date - the 3 couples we spied in the candle-lit shallows of the room had to contend with all 7 of us ogling and giving a running commentary. We almost should have held up scorecards. The rest of the populous in Favela seemed to be female - including a table of gazelle-like beauties to our left.

Having pushed my clubbing days aside in favour of wilder pursuits like writing and baking, it was fun for me to see inside the popular club without having to press myself against sweaty bodies or endure stilletto stabs as I would if we were there on a Friday or Saturday.

The food was good but not great. 6 courses for $40 is good value: for entree - crab cakes, san choy bow, salt & peppar cuttlefish, crispy spring rolls; and for main - spicy cod and a really creamy mild comfort-food style curry. Based on the words I added to describing them - obviously the curry was my favourite. The bill took forever and there was some confusion about our Club VIP cards which gave us 30% off.

But in all it was a calm, stylish, evening out with great company.

Bring on Moveable Feast #7!

Suggestions are:
Oy, Potts Point - (brand new just opened this week sister restaurant to the ever-popular Sailors Thai)
Holy Cow, Surry Hills
Busshari, Potts Point
China Doll, Wooloomooloo
Firefly, Pyrmont
Forbes @ Burton
Bird Cow Fish
Astral, Star City

I'll put up another post/email Moveable Feasters next month!

FYI - Here's where we've been before:

#1 Ripples, Milsons Point
#2 Encasa, City
#3 Garfish, Manly
#4 Oscillate Wildly, Newtown
#5 Ju Ju's, Kings Cross

#6 Favela, Kings Cross

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A little zumbo magic

Word on the street in blog world is that Adriano Zumbo is the hottest patissier in town. So much so that he named the Meying after Sydney blogger Raging Yoghurt. Choosing a pastry from his take-away only Darling Street store is like having your nose pressed to the glass of a pet store window. Which one is your favourite? Which one begs to be taken home? His macaroons are notorious - the day I went in there were rose, mint or passionfruit-yoghurt to choose from (the flavours change frequently). I had stopped in on my way to my parents house for dinner, so opted for the truffle eclair which actually had truffles stuffed between the chocolate cream and sandwiched by the chocolate pastry. I loved the joker-hat style of the passionfruit meringue - we couldn't eat it after dinner and my stepmother teased that I would wake up in the middle of the night and the alien-like sweet would be on my face trying to suck out my eye. Instead of an evil brain I discovered symmetrical perfection and meringue construction phenomena when I dissected the beast for breakfast in the morning. And heaven at the base with the passionfruit tart. You can see more (and better pics) at I'm still a luddite who can't get her links working . . . Oops - seems I can't find the photo for this post as well. Oh dear.

Yum Cha at dawn

Well, not quite. But almost. Crystal chandeliers and rouched sheer curtains at 10am makes sense only when there are mature chinese ladies pushing around stainless steel carts loaded with steam baskets, leaving a trail of drooling diners in their wake. Yum Cha at Kam Fooks in Chatswood rates one of the better reviews for yum cha in Sydney. And with good reason - $20 each brought us steamed sweet doughy pork or chicken buns, dim sim densly packed with pork and steamed in its wonton paper wrapping, spinach dumplings with little shrimp suprises inside. The breaded and deep fried shrimp balls in the picture and the sweet donuts were favourites when I was a kid, but after all the steamed goodies they seemed too dry, too fried, tasteless. We eased the dumplings down with green tea and diet coke. After a frenzy of eating, pointing through fragrant steam and lifting dumplings from the pot-sticky paper we all sat back, stuffed like a fois gras geese. Yum Cha for breakfast is a sort of parallell universe of the foodie kind.