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Last week, my adorable niece Sweet Pea came for a visit. It was a joy to have her in town, even for just a few days.

On Thursday, I took her and Monkey Girl (Big Boy’s girlfriend) to Pipilotti Rist’s Sip My Ocean, the newest ticketed exhibition at the MCA. The second floor of the museum has been transformed into an amazing mix of colour, light, sound and movement. Swiss artist Rist’s projections combine everyday items with audio-visual projections, turning them into something new and magical. Like this saggy underwear chandelier…

Much of the art was interactive and immersive – visitors were invited to sit on sofas, at the dining table, and even to climb into this queen sized bed…

Set with crockery and cutlery, this dining table featured a constantly changing kaleidoscopic projection…

Perhaps my favourite artwork (although I loved them all), was this two inch hole in the floor through which a naked woman called out from her tiny fiery hell below. It was literally the size of a 50c piece and went unnoticed by many…

I had to laugh at the gender differences in our family – when I take Big Boy and Small Man to art galleries, they’re inclined to look for a few minutes and then move on. By contrast, it took forever to drag Sweet Pea and Monkey Girl out of Pixelwald (Pixel Forest) – the quest for the perfect selfie takes time!

I gave in and joined them…

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Pipilotti Rist’s Sip My Ocean is on until 18th February 2018 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in the Rocks, Sydney. Tickets are $22 for adults, $17 concession. Definitely worth a visit if you get a chance!

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Christmas Spirit

It’s beginning to feel very festive at our place!

The Christmas Elves have set up the tree – as always, Small Man dragged the tree up from under the house, assembled it, then added all the lights, before asking Big Boy and his girlfriend Monkey Girl to help him with the decorations. I think they did a wonderful job!

I’ve pulled out my Christmas sunnies

…and paired them this year with red Indian happy pants. Yes, I went walking in this outfit. If elastic waisted, hand printed cotton pants are your thing, I can highly recommend buying them from Parvez on Ebay. He’s been excellent to deal with and ships directly (for free!) from Jaipur, but you need to buy ten pairs at a time (I gave five away as early Christmas presents). Here’s the link.

My Chatbooks have arrived and they’re awesome.

Edit: I’ve discovered that as an existing customer, I can give you a referral link. If you use it, you’ll get your first book free and I’ll get a $5 credit! Here’s the link.

I made two Christmas cakes and gave one to my mum…

This year’s Christmas spirit is Drambuie 15, made with aged malt whisky…

…and a batch of homemade Chivas Regal irish cream (or “Mummy’s Little Helper”, as my girlfriends call it…)

Last week, chef Steve Manfredi offered me some of his gorgeous stone ground Italian flour to bake with. Molino Quaglia Petra flours are the secret behind the amazing pizzas being produced at his restaurant Pizzaperta at The Star Sydney. The Petra 3 is stone ground and wholemeal…

I took him a furoshiki full of cime di rapa and purslane from our garden as a thank you…

The flour was sheer joy to work with, producing a bouncy, pillowy dough that baked to perfection…

I’ve always found local stone ground flours heavy and unresponsive, but the Petra loaf was light and crispy with an elastic, open crumb. Thanks Steve! ♥

Speaking of bread…I’ve been baking like a madwoman.

Yesterday, I had three batches on the bench before 9am. The baguettes were straight from Emilie’s book, and the chocolate sourdough was a variation of her recipe as well, with two types of Belgian chocolate and added cacao nibs…

The three loaves at the top left are filled with walnuts and Lebanese fig paste. If you’re a bread baker, the paste is well worth seeking out (you should be able to get it at Arabic grocers). Each jar has a mountain of figs, sesame seeds and a hint of anise, and it works brilliantly in a filled focaccia or walnut loaf. Good for just eating with cheese as well.

The 800g jars at Harkola were just $5.50 – my preferred brand is the Salloum Bros. one on the left. Here’s the formula I used for my three loaves:

  • 100g bubbly starter
  • 1kg bread/bakers’ flour
  • 200g walnut halves
  • 200g Lebanese fig paste
  • 750g water
  • 18g fine sea salt

Our garden is full of leafy greens at the moment! We’ve planted shiso for the first time…

…and we’re harvesting this much cime di rapa every day for dinner…

We have a seasonal dinner with close friends every three months. The final one for 2017 had this amazing entree of bought and garden greens (purslane, shiso, basil and mint) on a green mole sauce…

The recipe came from Bread is Gold, a wonderful book by the amazing Massimo Bottura. All the recipes in the book were created by internationally renowned chefs who cooked at the Refettorio soup kitchen that Bottura created to use up waste food from Expo 2015 in Milan. There is a documentary about it on Netflix called “Theater of Life” – well worth watching if you get a chance…

My gorgeous neighbour Jane went on holidays to the Northern Territory and brought me back a grab bag of beautiful scrap fabric designed and printed by indigenous artists and craftswomen at the Bábbarra Women’s Centre in Arnhem Land. My friends know me so well!

The scanning of old photos continues. This one of Pete and Big Boy is priceless…love is letting your wife dress you and your toddler in matching homemade jungle print shorts…

Our hydrangeas have been stunning this year…

…and our daily walks have been blessed with views like this…

I hope you’re all enjoying the festive season as much as we are!

Much love from our house to yours! ♥

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A Year of Daily Walks

Solvitur ambulando – “it is solved by walking”

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It’s my walkaversary!

I started recording my daily steps on my phone on the 14th August 2016, with the aim of walking at least 8,000 per day. It’s now a year later and I haven’t missed a single day.

It’s swings and roundabouts, of course – my absolute minimum on any given day is 5,000 steps (which I only allow myself if I’m sick or the weather is particularly inclement) but on most days, I’ll manage more than 8,000.

Here are my stats for the year – 3,366,509 steps walked and 1,953km covered. That’s a daily average of 9,223 steps and 5.35km per day

Big Boy still walks with me about four mornings out of seven.

We don’t walk fast – the process is meditative as much as physical – and I don’t want to mess up my stats by incurring an injury (yes, I know that makes me sound like an old woman). We are incredibly blessed to be able to stroll by the sea every morning, often in time to watch the sunrise…

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There is almost always a light show on display…

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Our walking route takes us along the Iron Cove Bay Run…

…and then back to Hawthorne Canal and the Greenway…

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On weekends, I’ll often walk in the city – starting at one end and working my way down to the Harbour. There’s always so much to see…

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To celebrate my walkaversary, I went for an extra long walk to Birkenhead Point with my friend Carol, where I bought myself a new pair of Merrell walking shoes…

Do you go for daily walks? I’d love to know where your steps take you – hopefully you enjoy them as much as I do! ♥

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Happy Moments

Let me share some happy moments from the past few weeks with you…

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Little Tom had his 8th birthday recently and I made myself very popular with his parents by giving him a mountain of chocolate…

While I was in tempering mode, I made these dark chocolate ginger bites for Pete (dropping a piece of naked ginger into each mould was much easier than dipping them individually)…

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Cash Palace Emporium in Leichhardt has now closed, although their pop-up shop in Paddington will be open for a few months longer. When Elaine was clearing out her shop, she found this Japanese New Year’s decoration and gave it to me as a gift…

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I caught the train to Auburn to explore the Arzum Turkish Market and came home with a bag full of treasures – Jordanian za’atar, tulumba, pastirma, two sorts of olives and three types of ground chilli – pul biber, isot and maras…

That night we made pizzas topped with Turkish tomato and pepper paste, and sprinkled with dark isot biber chilli flakes…

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I’ve been reading about Japanese boro – textiles created from mending and patchworking old fabrics together. Traditionally a peasant craft born of necessity, the few pieces which have survived now sell for thousands of dollars each. If you’re interested, there are some wonderful photos here.

I found an old denim shirt in our rag pile and was inspired to repurpose the fabric. The aim is to gradually add bits to it as time goes on…

It already ties into quite a funky 60s-style shoulder bag…

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My friend Diana gave us a large bag of her homegrown “Hot Lips” chillies. They dried brilliantly in the dehydrator and we’re fully stocked for the next year at least…

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I took Mum to the Rocks and Minerals Show at Paddington RSL Club a couple of weeks’ ago. While there, I picked up this gorgeous boulder opal from Brett of Opal Empire for just $20…

Mum bought this magnificent Canadian jade, carved locally by Tom Taverner. He’s widely regarded as the best jade carver in Australia…

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As I’ve so often mentioned before, I really do have the best friends in the whole world. PeteV and Nic bought me this special salt from Mexico – it’s sat on my shelf for a while now as I was under the impression that it contained ground up grasshoppers. It turns out that’s not the case, it actually contains ground up worms.

When the laughing had died down, PeteV showed up at the front door (they live three houses away) with a bottle of aged tequila and a vial of grasshopper salt so that we could do a taste comparison. It’s amazing how two shots of tequila at 5pm on a Monday can brighten up the entire week to come…

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Last Saturday, we climbed the Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout with Uncle Steve and his kids – it was a glorious family day out, and the view was stunning

It always surprises me that this attraction isn’t more widely known! The Bridge Climb can cost up to $380 per person, but the Pylon Lookout, which takes you up nearly as high, is just $15 for adults and even less for students and concession card holders. Better still, you’re allowed to take a camera up (which you can’t do on the Bridge Climb) and there is an unobstructed 360º view of the city and harbour…

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Our daily walks continue – the winter mornings are cold, but often sunny. I loved this photo so much that it ended up as my computer screen wallpaper…

A rainy night left a perfect sky mirror on the Greenway’s basketball court…

Gorgeous Sammy at UTS Rowers makes the best coffee on the Bay Run – in the morning light, she glows like an angel…

We took this photo last week from the Rowers’ Club, just as the sun was rising…

A couple of bridge photos…here’s the pedestrian overpass, which is home to the light show, bathed in golden light…

…and this morning, the motorway bridge was a visual feast of curves, lights, reflections and blue…

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Finally, the scruffy-haired love of my life forgot to turn the dishwasher on before going to bed. The following morning, I gave him a sock (a stripey one, of course)…

“What’s this for?”

“I’m setting you free. You’re a rubbish house elf!”

“What?”

“Mistress has given Petey a sock. Petey is freeeee…”*

(*It’s a Harry Potter reference)

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Wishing you all many happy moments!

Thank you for letting me share mine with you! ♥

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A couple of months ago, my young friend Rory, who takes great pains to keep me up to date with all that is cool and hip in the 21st century (including not using the words “cool” and “hip”), tried to explain to to me what a “homegirl” was.

I’m still not quite sure I understand, but what I am certain of is that if I did have a “homegirl”, it would be Allison. We don’t see each other as often as either of us would like, but when we do, it’s always for a food adventure. And it can’t be expensive, high-end restaurant dining – we’ve tried that and always ended up disappointed. Instead, it has to involve ferreting around for treasure in little suburban stores, finding new and exciting cuisines that we haven’t tried before.

On our most recent day out, we started in Homebush West (formerly Flemington) at the recently opened Hometown Hand Made Noodle Restaurant (97 The Crescent, Homebush West). Their house special –  the Xi’an Cold Noodle dish – was delicious and set us back just $7.80. The noodles were chewy and handcut, and the sauce was spicy and sour. It was an auspicious start to a great day…

The Special Pan Fried Pork Dumplings were a huge serve of 15 pieces for $10.80. Al declared them to be the best dumplings she’d ever eaten…

If you’re in the area and feeling adventurous, pop in and try this place out. They’re closed on Tuesdays…

From there, we wandered around the corner to the Viet Hoa Fish Market. Since discovering this place, I’ve almost completely stopped going to the Sydney Fish Markets in town. Their stock is always fresh (often live) and interesting, and the prices are very reasonable. Cash only though!

On a tip from  my mate Jay, we asked about the live eels they keep at the back of the store. I’d never cooked eel before, so I bought one ($20/kg) which they killed and filleted for me. Packed with a bag of ice, we stashed it in the boot of Al’s car and kept going (be warned, there’s a freaky end to this story coming up…)

From Flemington, I persuaded Al to come with me to Petersham on the promise of Portuguese tarts. First stop was Charlie’s Deli – an old established store on the main strip. I love this shop, because whilst it’s quite sparsely stocked, every single item on offer is unusual and interesting. I’ve bought ceramics there in the past but this time I came home with imported Portuguese chicken seasoning mix.

By the way, the blue slabs in the photo below that look like Play Doh? They’re laundry soap…

The promised Portuguese tarts were scoffed with coffee at the Honeymoon Bakery. We prefer these to the ones sold at the more famous Sweet Belem across the road, and at $2 each, the price is hard to beat. We both bought a box to take home for the kids…

We ended our day with a visit to the intriguing Petersham Liquor Mart. Where else can you find Serbian plum brandy in Sydney?

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Al went home with amazing beef ribs from the Portuguese butcher, but I still had my eel to tackle. Lovely Ania suggested I cut the fillet into pieces and then simply flour and fry them in butter. Sounds simple right?

Well, it was, except that no-one warned me that eels have very primitive nervous systems and can continue to spasm even after they’re long dead and dissected. Warning! Warning! Don’t click on the video below if you’re squeamish!!

This video was taken four hours after the eel had been killed. Pete pointed out that it was only happening as it  warmed up, so hopefully it didn’t do this the whole time it was in the boot of Al’s car. The sound is off so you don’t have to listen to me screaming…

It was, without doubt, the best eel I’d ever eaten, but Pete had to fry them for me, as I couldn’t touch them again…

Finally, a free range chicken, roasted in  my Portuguese chicken seasoning. The boys loved it…

Thanks for a fabulous day, Al! Can’t wait for our next food adventure! ♥

 

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