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When I had my recent cross stitch revival, I went digging through the storeroom to find my old patterns.

In amongst the appallingly twee designs (Holly Hobby, cutesy angels and an entire books of teddy bears), I found my Charley Harper charts. And I realised that after thirty years, I still loved them…

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Given that they’d withstood the test of time, we thought it might be nice to try and find some Charley Harper art for our walls. Harper was a Cincinnati-based American Modernist artist, with a highly stylised, geometric style that focused almost exclusively on wildlife. Both Pete and I find his use of shape, colour and humour very appealing.

We bought this beautiful coffee table book from Amazon...

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I also added two sets of postcards to our order. They’re printed on thick gloss card, which makes them ideal for framing. We laid them out on the dining room table and spent an enjoyable couple of hours sorting through them…

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I’d purchased three silver photo frames at a closing down sale earlier in the year, and the mats were exactly the right size for the cards. Narrowing it down to just nine designs was tricky – I, of course, simply picked the ones I liked best, but Pete took into account colours and curves and themes. The nesting birds, for example, all have similar leaves…

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Art really doesn’t have to be expensive – the frames (including mats) cost $20 each (half price) and the postcards worked out at just 50c each.

I’m so chuffed with how these turned out – they’ll look wonderful hanging in our hallway!

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Some of our happy moments from the past few weeks…

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The 40 year reunion of our Year 6 OC class was an unqualified success! I spent eight hours(!) catching up with old friends, drank a wee bit too much, then broke out the selfie stick. We all look pretty good for 51 year olds! And yes, I had that insane manic grin on my face the entire night…

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I uncovered a 30 year old unfinished project and thought I’d have another crack at it. The tiny 18 count fabric in this kit is sorely testing my eyesight – luckily I’m (obviously) not in a rush. If anyone is interested, it’s the Allura Australian Alphabet kit – there was also a book with graphs for each individual letter (which is now out of print, but widely available secondhand)…

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Pete and I went shopping at nearby Birkenhead Point, then sat outside and ate half a kebab each in the winter sunshine…

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Small Man and I took in a 10.30am Saturday session of Finding Dory. I had to smile at how excited he was – much as he had been in 2003 when the first movie came out, but he wasn’t drinking double shot cappuccinos back then. I love that kid so much it hurts…

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Later that evening, we actually found Dory. She was glowing blue in a well kept marine tank at Wagyu House…

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My nephew Bryan, the lovely Lilian, Monkey Girl and Small Man had just finished university exams, so I treated them to dinner at our favourite all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ.

Bryan’s preference for the fattier cuts led to flare ups – the kids roared with laughter every time it happened, as a worried waiter would rush over and douse the flames out with a lettuce leaf…

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Monkey Girl skillfully pulled flaming bits of meat off the grill – she could get a job as a fire eater…

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Having thoroughly enjoyed the Björk show at Vivid, I booked tickets for us to see the David Attenborough virtual reality screenings at the Australian Museum in Sydney. It was great fun, although I had a little difficulty getting the focus right with my glasses (I’m very short sighted). I particularly enjoyed the First Life VR, which naturally appeals to the fossil collector in me…

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On our way to pick up cars from servicing, Pete, Big Boy and I stopped for coffee. As I was waiting at the counter, our eldest son was excitedly telling his dad about how his business was going.

Everything about the photo below makes me proud and happy – our son’s enthusiasm for his work, his eagerness to share that with Pete, and the ease with which conversation flows in our family. I never take that closeness for granted – I know what a huge gift it is…

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 Happy days! I hope you’re having a good week too!

These were going to be Red Leicester cheese and tapenade biscuits (cookies).

But as I stood in the kitchen at 5.45am, tasting little bits of the cheese with the olive paste spread on top, the combination didn’t seem to zing. So, on a whim, I tried the cheese with a little Gochujang instead. This fiery Korean chilli paste (red tub, photo below), with its umami blend of  red pepper, fermented soybeans and spices, is delicious and  quite addictive…

As I’ve mentioned previously, it’s worth looking out for Gochujang labelled “medium hot”. Make a point of reading the tiny English text on the back of the packet, or ignore it at your own peril. The “Classic” blend is usually extremely hot!

These savoury treats are a variation on our three cheese biscuits, and they’re a doddle to make in the food processor…

  • 175g plain (AP) flour
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 20g Gochujang paste (or more to taste)
  • 125g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 150g Red Leicester cheese
  • 50g Parmesan cheese

Fit the food processor with a coarse grating blade, and grate the cheeses. Switch to the cutting blade, and add all the other ingredients. Pulse together until everything comes together to form a crumbly ball.

Tip the dough onto a sheet of clingfilm and shape it into a log (about 4cm thick).  Wrap it up and pop it in the fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180C or 160C with fan. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Remove the dough log from the fridge and unwrap it, then slice it into 0.75cm thick discs. Lay the biscuits on the lined tray and bake for 20 minutes.

Allow these to cool on a wire rack before scoffing – they’ll keep quite well in an airtight container for a few days if any last that long.

The chilli paste adds a subtle depth of flavour to an already moreish cheese blend – I only realised this after I’d eaten SIX on the first day. Approach with dietary caution!

The Art Gallery of NSW is a fascinating place.

It seems to meander on endlessly, floor after floor, each filled with a different genre of art.

We took Mum there recently to view the Tang Exhibition, a collection of artifacts from the Chinese Tang Empire (618 – 907AD). Ignoring my suggestion that we start with lunch at the cafe, Mum took us to the very fancy Chiswick restaurant inside the gallery. The food was very good and after lunch, they brought us this elegant Queen Anne bone china plate with four pieces of excellent dark chocolate (made in-house no less – I was impressed!)…

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The Tang Exhibition is spread out over two floors and includes some audio-visual and virtual reality components. It would definitely appeal to a fan of antiquities…

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This statue made me laugh – I loved her round moon face. She would have fit right in with our family…

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The lower floor had mostly Buddhist artifacts, including this large statue of the Medicine Buddha from the late 700s or 800s…

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We left Mum admiring the ancient treasures and went off to explore the rest of the gallery.

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I know I bang on about this a lot, but it never fails to amaze me that we Sydneysiders can view so much magnificent art for free! Like Brett Whiteley’s extraordinary, wall-filling, The Balcony (1975)

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…and Claude Monet’s Port-Goulphar, Belle Île (1887)

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One of the lower floors houses the John Kaldor Family Collection, comprising over 200 international contemporary art pieces recently gifted to the gallery. You can view photos of them all here. Two artworks by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone caught my eye…

Clockwork for Oracles (2011) is a site specific installation of 52 “windows”…

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…and If There Were Anywhere But Dessert. Wednesday (2000)…this one scared me silly. I was concerned that it might be performance art and that the clown was going to leap up at me when I walked in. It turned out to be a very convincing fibreglass model…

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Finally, my favourite landscape in the whole gallery (and apparently everyone else’s too) – Spring Frost (1919) by NZ-born Australian Ellioth Gruner. It’s an unbelievably beautiful work, painted largely in situ at Emu Plains. At a time before computers and high quality photos, the artist sat outdoors with his legs wrapped in hessian bags to prevent frostbite while painting this masterpiece…

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It was as if sunlight was shining out of the painting…I stared at it until Pete finally dragged me away…

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If you haven’t explored the Art Gallery of NSW before, it’s definitely worth a visit!

The In My Kitchen gathering is on hiatus at the moment, as our lovely host Maureen concentrates on getting herself well. She’ll be back on the job in September and we wish her all the best for a speedy and complete recovery!

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In my kitchen…

…are pizza bases made using our new high hydration sourdough, topped with pancetta, mozzarella and feta cheese. Pete has decided he likes these more than our usual yeasted version…

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In my kitchen…

…is celeriac and potato soup, garnished with crispy sage leaves and served with sourdough focaccia croutons. I adore celeriac, but really only need to eat it once a year to be content…

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In my kitchen…

…were Pete’s clever faux bacon bits, made by deep frying dried (not rehydrated) porcini slices for exactly ten seconds (they burn at twelve). They were part of a vegetarian dinner party we had recently for close friends…

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In my kitchen…

…are dead soldiers from the abovementioned dinner party. It was a big night!

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In my kitchen…

…are surplus sourdough loaves, sliced and stuffed with garlic and salted butter, ready for the freezer…

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In my kitchen…

…are these stunning little cakes from Koi. Monkey Girl bought them for us – they tasted as good as they looked!

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In my kitchen…

…are new dough scrapers from Chefs’ Warehouse. At less than $1 each, they add colour to my early morning bakes…

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And speaking of early morning baking, in my kitchen…

…was very ripe high hydration sourdough, proved for 24 hours (including an overnight stint in the fridge). When I turned it onto the bench in the morning, it was blowing bubbles…

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It was baked into three airy focaccia loaves (the recipe is here)…

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Small Man eats his focaccia plain, cut into huge chunks. He paused for a second to allow me to take a photo…

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In my kitchen…

…were two boxes of prawn and pork mince, made for us by Monkey Girl’s wonderful mum. We combined it with blanched broccoli rabe from the garden and folded it into dumplings…

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Perfect, easy dinner!

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Tell me, what’s happening in your kitchen this month?

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