Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Hi folks! Sorry I’ve been quiet these last couple of months – we’ve had a lot on our plate. It’s been a busy and quite stressful time, punctuated with pockets of joy. Perhaps that’s what life is all about, finding moments of peace and enjoyment in amongst the chaos. Here are some happy bits and pieces from May.

. . . . .

We celebrated our friend PeteV’s 50th birthday with a glorious lunch at Nomad in Surry Hills. I managed to take just one photo – these savoury churros with goat’s cheese were sublime

. . . . .

Last Sunday morning, I caught the train into Circular Quay to meet Amanda of Lambs’ Ears and Honey and her friend Megan. It was a crisp eight degrees Celsius, but the South Australians just laughed at me when I said it was cold…

As I sat at Ashfield station waiting for my train, I marveled at how wondrous 2015 technology is. I didn’t have to buy a ticket, as my new Sydney Opal Card lets me travel on any form of public transport without having to worry about finding the right change (it’s linked back to my credit card).

The TripView app on my iPhone updates real time arrival and departure information. It works brilliantly for the train and light rail systems. After just a short wait, I was seated on a heated, comfortable train, reading my Kindle and watching the suburbs whizz past. I can’t recall public transport ever being such a pleasant experience before!

After breakfast, Amanda, Megan and I visited the Light Show exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art. It was fabulous and well worth the $20 admission fee, but we weren’t allowed to take photos…

The MCA is always full of interesting and quirky things, like this example of indigenous La Perouse shellwork

I love how the hand dryers emit warm air with a blue glow…

. . . . .

I drove over to Lario International to buy some Amedei chocolate from Tania and we went to the Sub-Station Cafe for a quick lunch. The parking was a nightmare, but the food was great – their Reuben sandwich had tender toast, just the right amount of meat, and burly pickles…

When the goats cheese and pumpkin arrived, Tania exclaimed “Ooh, I love a chunky salad!” It certainly was that…

. . . . .

I’ve got rings on my fingers – one made from a spoon and the other from a fork…

…and socks on my toes… (I adore toe socks!)…

. . . . .

I stocked up the freezer with pulled pork – two free range pork hocks plus five hours slow roasting gave us enough meat for four dinners…

. . . . .

As I’ve mentioned before, I find breadmaking wonderfully therapeutic. I indulged myself with an extra 25kg sack of flour last month (at a cost of just $25) and have been baking up a storm. These two slabs of sourdough focaccia measured a metre in length combined…

I baked a figgy fruit loaf for baby Evan and brioche for two year old Matilda – Pete says I’m turning into the street grandma…

…and hamburger buns for dinner tonight. Did you know it’s International Hamburger Day today?

. . . . .

Here’s something which made us laugh a great deal – I know it’s terrible, but I also found it hilarious. Big Boy pulled out the official government advisory pamphlet for L and P plate drivers. The examples given were unbelievable – 19 year old David had consumed 15 standard drinks, and 18 year old Sarah had a blood alcohol level of 0.24. Only in Australia…

. . . . .

Last night, Pete and I popped into town for an early visit to Vivid Sydney. There’s a separate post to follow on that…

. . . . .

You know, I feel so much better having written this post – it’s like I’ve had a cup of coffee with you and filled you in on what’s been happening in our lives. So tell me, how’s your month been?

Last Saturday, my cousin Lynette, who is mad keen on arts and crafts, wanted to visit the Kirribilli Markets.

I met her at Milson’s Point and, after an hour or so of wandering around there, we decided to walk across the Harbour Bridge to the Rocks Markets on the other side. It was a glorious day for a stroll and I’m embarrassed to admit that despite having lived in Sydney my whole life, I’ve never walked over the Bridge before…

As we approached the city side, we passed a sign for the Pylon Lookout. I’d never heard of it before, so we decided to go up, despite the warning of “200 steps to the top”.

If you’ve ever been on a Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb, you’ll know that it’s both an amazing experience and a very expensive one – prices range from $218 – $358, depending on when you go. By comparison, entry to the Pylon Lookout costs just $13 per person…

It was quite a big climb, but there were rest stops, exhibits, seating, drink fountains and a shop on the way up. It was all very civilized and doable…

These models of bridge construction workers hung in the stairwell – occupational health and safety rules were clearly less stringent in the 1930s…

When we finally reached the end of the stairs, we found a balcony circling around the top of the entire pylon, offering the most glorious, unobstructed 360 degree view of the harbour and city! I took a stack of iPhone photos to share with you.

The small format of this post doesn’t really do justice to the panoramic shot below. I’ve uploaded the larger version – please click on the photo for greater detail…

Walking around the top clockwise – we could see over to Kirribilli… …the Sydney Opera House in all her glory… …Circular Quay, with the ferries shuttling in and out… …the Bradfield Highway, with cars entering and exiting the Bridge… …the piers of Walsh Bay, now prime Sydney real estate…

…and finally, the top of the Harbour Bridge. It was amazing how high up we were!

Like mad tourists, Lynette and I both tried to take selfies with the best background in the world…

From inside the pylon, this small window offered a very unique framing to the Opera House…

These painted panels formed part of the public displays from 1948 to 1971…

This detailed exhibit provided a wealth of information about the Harbour Bridge…

On the way out, there were artefacts on display, as well as an audiovisual presentation on the construction of the Bridge…

The lookout is located on the South East Pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. From the city side, it can be accessed via the pedestrian walkway on the eastern side of the Bridge (use the ‘Bridge Stairs’ in Cumberland Street, The Rocks). If coming from the north side, use the steps near Milsons Point Railway Station. More information is available on the Pylon Lookout website, including this fabulous brochure with the history of the site (a family of cats used to live on the top!).

We had the most wonderful time! If you’ve ever considered a Bridge Climb but been put off by the cost (or the fear factor), then this is an excellent alternative and amazing value at just $13 per adult (kids and concession are even cheaper). The Lookout is open every day from 10am to 5pm (excluding Christmas) and has been since 1934, just two years after the Bridge was opened. Even though we were there on a Saturday, it was remarkably uncrowded.

I’m not sure why the Pylon Lookout isn’t more widely publicised (the Bridge Climb certainly is), but it feels like a bit of a Sydney secret that we stumbled onto purely by chance. And now you know too!

My cousin Lynette loves dried figs.

She’s visiting from Malaysia at the moment, so I bought a bag each of Turkish and Greek figs for her on our last visit to Harkola. She chose the Turkish ones (she doesn’t have enough baggage allowance to take both home), which left me with a kilo of these gorgeous sweet morsels to play with…

I added a few to an olive and anchovy tapenade

…made a fig, walnut and macadamia bar (this time I toasted the nuts lightly in a dry pan before adding them in)…

…then I blitzed the rest…

…and made these figgy rolls

I first posted this recipe in 2010 and I don’t think I’ve made them since. I’d forgotten how delicious they were! Here’s the recipe for this year’s batch, with reworked instructions for making the dough in the food processor.

Filling (make this the day before):

  • 450g dried Greek figs
  • 225g raisins
  • 165g light brown sugar
  • 85ml lemon or lime juice (this time I used lime)
  • 85ml water
  • 45ml brandy
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Pulse all the dried fruit together in a large food processor until the mixture gathers together and forms a ball of fruit mince.

2. Turn this into a heavy based pan and add the remaining ingredients. Stir  constantly over a medium heat until the mixture bubbles, the liquid evaporates and the filling cooks down to a paste-like consistency.  Scrape the filling into a bowl and allow to cool, then cover with cling film and chill in the fridge overnight.

 Dough:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 225g bread or bakers flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder, sifted
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 55g light brown sugar
  • 150g white sugar
  • 3 large (59g) eggs, at room temperature

1. Take the eggs out of the fridge and leave them on the bench before you start. Also take the filling out of the fridge as well. Preheat the oven to 190C with fan and line a couple of baking sheets with parchment.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt.

3.  In the large bowl of a food processor, pulse together the butter and sugars until soft and combined. Add the eggs one at a time and pulse until smooth.

4. Add all the flour mix and pulse until just combined – do not overwork of the dough will toughen up. Scrape out onto a lightly floured bench.

Assembly:

1. Gather the dough into a ball and divide it into three parts.  Between two sheets of parchment, roll out a third of the dough into a rectangle approximately 30cm x 13cm. Carefully lift off the top sheet of parchment.

2. The aim is to form a filled tube, so spread a third of the filling over the centre of the dough, spreading it out carefully to within 2cm of the edge.  Don’t push down too hard, or you’ll force the filling through the soft dough (I used my hands).

Using the parchment paper, fold the top of the dough over the filling, then fold the bottom over to seal the dough into a long tube. Seal the ends of the tube and carefully turn the log onto the lined tray, seam side down.  Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.  Make sure you leave some room between the logs, as they’ll expand a bit during baking.

3. Bake until light golden brown – approximately 15 – 20 mins, depending on your oven. Allow the rolls to cool on the tray for 15 minutes, then on a wire rack for a further couple of hours . Once the rolls are completely cold, they’re much easier to slice without cracking.

4. Using a long, thin knife, slice the cooled rolls into 2cm pieces.

. . . . .

We delivered a batch of these to Pete’s baby cousin Jono – he ate them with yoghurt for dessert. I’ve been dunking mine in hot tea!

As some of you already know, I’m a keen fossil collector.

It started ten years ago with the purchase of half an ammonite from Terrific Scientific, was fueled by our visit to the Somerville Museum in 2010, and has grown steadily (but slowly) from there.

It’s a hobby on which I’ve placed some strict rules. I focus on searching out small, interesting fossils which can fit on the mantlepiece in our dining room. The most I’ll allow myself to spend on a specimen is $200, and it has to be pretty special to warrant that kind of money – most of my fossils fall in the $15 – $50 range. Did you know that it’s possible to buy a 400 million year old mud trilobite for $10? I reckon every child should have one on their shelf.

If you’re keen on fossils and you live in Sydney, seek out our new friend Tom Ross-Clift, whom I met at the Rocks Market on Mother’s Day. Tom is the ultimate fossil retailer – he’s extremely knowledgeable and more than happy to share information; he’s totally honest, so you can be absolutely sure of not being stung with a fake; and because he imports directly, his prices are very reasonable.

His Mosman shop is called The Living Fossil Gallery, and like all galleries, people are welcome to walk in and view the items on display. Many of his pieces are museum quality (and priced accordingly), like this extremely rare Ammonite Speetoniceras Versicolor, with its chambers of gold, silver pyrite and calcium crystal ($4,000 for a matched pair)…

Tom’s great passion is for ammonites, and he has a wide range on offer…

I adore the feathery suture pattern on these – they’re actually the layer below the original exterior (which has worn or been polished away) and formed where the walls of the chambers joined up to the shell…

Here you can see both the original shell and the suture pattern underneath…

Ammonite fossils often developed an iridescent sheen. Polished pieces of shell from a rare species of ammonite found in Canada are now recognised as a precious gemstone called ammolite and used in fine jewellery…

Fossilised coral is rare and expensive…

This interesting carved piece is a crystalline formation known as a Septarian or Dragon’s Egg…

A rare Mosasaur jaw in original condition – many of these are “composite” or “rebuilt”, but this one is as it was found, and therefore extremely valuable. The composite ones are made up of teeth set into sandstone to look like a jaw (I’ve been caught out with one of those before)…

The gallery has lots of unusual crystals, like this pyrite cluster…

I love fossilised fish – there is a wide selection on offer from the Green River Formation in Wyoming, USA, starting at just $15. Because the surrounding rock is pale, these show up in great definition…

Pete and I popped in specifically in search of crinoids – I’ve wanted one ever since seeing them at the Somerville Museum. Unfortunately, they’ve always been very expensive and hard to find – the large 440m year old specimen below retails for $880.

Known as “sea lilies”, these ancient marine animals would attach themselves to rocks and filter-feed in exactly the same way as their present day descendants do…

A large mammoth tusk is the newest addition to the gallery…

Did you know that fragments of mammoth tusks are the only legal form of ivory? Living Fossil creates its own range of carved tusk pendants and supplies pieces to a specialist knife maker in Melbourne…

…who incorporates them into these amazing Damascus steel knives (there’s more info on them here)…

The shelves are packed with enough treasure to fill a day of browsing…

There is a wide selection of trilobites, many in great detail and all guaranteed authentic – trilobites are the most commonly faked fossil around, so it’s important to buy them from someone you can trust…

I have a great passion for fossils “in the rough”. Whilst I love polished ammonites, there’s so much detail to be found in a piece like this one which has simply been cut out of the rock face…

In the end, I found my crinoid. It’s a gift from my mum (who gave me a red packet for my birthday – I think she hoped I’d spend the money on clothes) and yes, it was below my self-imposed price ceiling…

This diplomystus (a 45m year old herring-like fish) came home with us as well…

I admired this ammonite, but it was quite broken and had been extensively repaired, so lovely Tom gave it to us as a gift. Pete thought the shell looked like erupting volcanoes…

We spent a wonderful afternoon fossicking! If you’re interested in fossils, do pop in for a visit – Tom is in the store on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and at the Rocks Markets on Saturdays and Sundays.

. . . . .

The Living Fossil Gallery
44 Spit Road
Mosman  NSW  2088
www.livingfossil.com.au

Ph: 9968 1000 /0405 105 061 
Email: info@livingfossil.com.au
Hours: Monday – Friday 10-5pm 
Saturday 10-3pm 
Open late by appointment.

. . . . .

The Rocks Markets
Saturday & Sunday 9am – 5pm.
Playfair Street, Opposite Caminetto Italian Restaurant
The Rocks, Sydney, NSW

. . . . .

Sorry I’ve been offline this week – we’re all had the lurgy!

We’ve been drinking ginger tea and eating squishy carbs (rice congee, pasta soup, arroz caldoso) and hunkering down indoors. Feeling quite a bit better now, so today I was up early putting together a 50th birthday present for our old friend and neighbour Pete V.

. . . . .

Here’s what’s going onto the board…

…a birthday card of feuilletine chocolate (50/50 dark/milk)…

…two cane toads from the same blend…

…two dark origin chocolate dragons (mix of Callebaut 811 54% and Tanzanie origin 75% dark)…

…nine chocolate “50” lollipops, six in the feuilletine blend and the remainder in dark…

…ten dipped candied orange segments and eleven squares of dark praline chocolate…

…five large pieces of Pete’s unbelievably good roasted hazelnut praline…

…and ten World Peace Cookies, made with the last of the fabulous Amedei chocolate callets that Tania gave me…

All up, fifty pieces for fifty years!

The large cake boards that I bought a couple of years ago have proven very handy for these gifts – I used a huge round gold one this time to match the praline and orange segments…

It took four sheets of cellophane to wrap!

Have a great weekend, folks! Hope all is well at your place! ♥

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,379 other followers

%d bloggers like this: