“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ....Oscar Wilde

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Melbourne Spring Carnival - Derby Day

Talley hoe everyone,

I was at the races on Saturday and had a great time. The Melbourne Spring Carnival to be precise. It was Derby Day and what a day it turned out to be.

I have to confess that its the first time I've actually been to an actual race meeting, so it was all a new experience for me. I've always loved horses and enjoyed riding, but there's something completely different about spending the day at the racecourse.

Firstly though, I only just found out by chance that Derby Day has its traditions. Ladies wear black and white for example, and this year's buttonhole for the men was a cornflower. In fact all these snippets came in a brief conversation whilst in a boutique along High Street. So if the lady happens to read this blog - thank you for keeping me so well informed. Your tips saved me ...

It was lovely to see everyone had made such a huge effort for the occasion. Carnival is such a true description of the occasion. Everyone was so friendly, smiling and out to enjoy the day to the maximum.
We travelled to the course by train, and although I protested initially thinking I might be the only person in a hat.....wrong....it turned out to be a very entertaining trip. As we entered every station it contained frills, feathers and fillys.
When we got on the train to Flemington, we were all squished together and I had to laugh at the bald chap standing in front of me getting his head tickled occasionally by another female passenger who had long sweeping feathers on her hat. I've never had such an amusing train ride, with everyone passing on their humorous tales, jokes and generally the feel good factor.

Now I'm no Clare Balding of the racing world and after the first three races that was certainly confirmed. But that still didn't put a dampener on the day. That was already taken care of unfortunately with the torrential rain. It happened to be the heaviest rainfall for an October day in over 35 years! Typical. Although I have to confess we were dry, comfy and copiously supplied with champagne - what rain???
It was lucky I took this photo so early on in the day because after a short while the skyline of the city disappeared under the clouds.
When the heavens opened only the true diehards or insane stayed out. But what fun they had especially with the improvised water slide. I just wondered if the chaps would remember how much fun they'd had when they looked at their suits on the Sunday morning.
I didn't think I'd be buying a hat before my daughter's big day but when standards are set what can you do....just a little gesture surficed.

And obviously there's no show without Punch....or should I say Muffypup!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Who is it?...(Part 5) The Peck Family

Just a quick update on the Peck family......
Mr and Mrs Peck are doing a grand job on keeping these hungry mouths fed.

At this rate I think they could be flying off soon.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pizza casalinga saporita

This may be surprising to some people, but I have never really been one for pizza.
They just aren't my first choice off a menu, but recently I've discovered that I actually quite like them. Thanks to Jamie Oliver's recipe.
Maybe its the satisfaction of producing them at home, that makes them taste different.
Also the fact that I can tailor them to suit my own taste with whatever topping I fancy at that time helps (or truthfully whatever happens to be in the fridge).
I have to confess I haven't tried making the dough by hand, but then why would I when I have a bread maker but perhaps one day I will. The bread making machine just makes the job so quick and easy.
No messy flour everywhere either.

I suppose the downside is that you don't get to work off your stress kneading the dough when using the machine, but when times limited then its perfect.
Just pop all the ingredients into your mixing bowl:-
1kg strong white bread flour or 'Tip '00' flour
1 level tablespoon fine sea salt
2x7g sachets of dried yeast
1 tablespoon golden caster sugar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
650ml lukewarm water

Switch on to dough setting and away it goes.....
It takes about 45 mins but you can go off and prepare the toppings, mop the floor, or just sit and chill with a glass of vino
Just don't leave it in the machine once its finish on the timer as I once did. When I opened the lid it was like Mount Vesuvius!
I place mine in a bowl covered with a damp cloth until I'm ready for the next stage.

It's great to cut into portions which can either be placed in the fridge or into the freezer for another day. This really cuts down on the time when you want a tasty lunch or quick snack. It's just there ready to go....nearly fast food but sooooooooooo much better and so tasty.
My son passed through the kitchen whilst I was preparing these and added his touch....
I personally like to wrap them in cling film then tin foil if going into the freezer. If we are having them later in the day then I only wrap in cling film and place in the fridge.

The quickest tomato sauce - makes 500ml

olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
a bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked and torn
3 x 400g tins of good quality, whole tomatoes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place a large non-stick frying pan on the heat and pour in 4 generous glugs of olive oil. Add the garlic, shake the pan around a bit and, once the garlic begins to colour lightly, add the basil and the tomatoes. Using the back of a wooden spoon, mush and squash the tomatoes as much as you can.
Season the sauce with salt and pepper. As soon as it comes to the boil, remove the pan from the heat. Strain the sauce through a coarse sieve into a bowl, using your wooden spoon to push any larger bits of tomato through. Discard the basil and garlic that will be left in the sieve, but make sure you scrape any of the tomatoey goodness off the back of the sieve into the bowl.

Pour the sauce back into the pan, bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes to concentrate the flavours. It will be ready when it's the perfect consistency for spreading on your pizza.

Store the sauce in a clean jar or container in the fridge - it'll keep for a week or so. Also great to freeze in batches or even in an ice cube tray, so you can defrost exactly the amount you need. But to be honest, its so quick to make, you might as well make it on the day you need it.

Now for the fun part with everyone either choosing what topping they would like or better still they add their topping themselves. All tailor made to suit. (This way it takes the pressure off the cook, namely me although I do have my assistant helping - so its either a glass of wine or a bottle of beer depending).

I've even tried the dough rolled with cheese wrapped around the edges - yum!

Heat the baking tray first on a hot BBQ then sprinkle the tray with some flour or semolina and place the dough base on top. You need to be careful at this stage as the tray is extremely hot and starts cooking the base straight away. Pop the pizza back onto the hot barbie. Wait 10 minutes or until the base is crisp then devour.

The finished product....just add a little drizzle of olive oil, parmesan and cracked black pepper.

Thanks for the inspiration to try this at home Jamie. http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes

Monday, October 25, 2010

Blooming Lovely

I came across this beautiful flower on my walk this morning and it immediately stopped me in my tracks.
I'm missing my garden in the UK so here's a few blooms to brighten your day.





These photo's were from my garden in Qatar....not bad for a desert.



I just love hanging baskets


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Who is it?....(Part 4) The Peck Family

Here's an update on Gregory's family....
Aren't they doing well.

Mrs Peck was very accommodating when I took a peep shot. She just waited patiently on the fence until I moved away, then swooped back down onto the nest as soon as my back was turned. Maybe she's just thankful for the few tit bits I put out for her every afternoon. I know what its like to try and feed the hungry. My youngest is now 18 and nearly six foot!

Doesn't the saying go.....? "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" Well Mrs Peck certainly thinks they're all beautiful and is incredibly attentive to their needs.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What a way to start the day....

I have a little visitor come to me in my bedroom most mornings, which I think is a little special. It's not just my other half bringing the first cuppa of the day, although I realise that this is kinda special, when I mention this to anyone. Apparently this isn't the normal way for most households to start the day.

(This is a kind of where's Waldo photo.....only its where's Neesie?)


Sorry I digress, I was telling you about my visitor. As I said I feel its special and makes me think about making a wish for what the day might bring....

Unfortunately there's no pot of gold. I've checked!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Who is it? (Part 3)

Look who's sitting pretty....
Mrs Peck is doing a wonderful job so far. I didn't want to disturb her but its rather inconvenient where she's built the nest. It's extremely close to my washing line, but she doesn't seem to mind me.

Maybe she knows its me that puts some little tit bits out for her on the decking.
So I nipped in a little nearer....

She had her eye on me though....and Gregory was chirping on a nearby tree.
In fact he's singing his heart out whilst I'm doing this post.
He's obviously such a proud Dad-to-be.

I'd much rather him sing than peck my windows!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Work in Progress (2)

Just a quick post today to give an update on the DIY pine drawers make-over.
I know you thought I'd forgotten them, but its typically turned into a bigger job than I anticipated.
Story of my life really.....

This time I worked out on the decking and not in the garage. And here's a little secret - I rubbed them down with my bikini on! Shocking I know but hey...after last time I was covered from head to foot in fine dust. This way it was easier, I just headed straight for the shower.

Is it me or do these drawers look happy to be getting a make-over?


I thought I was nearly done but I when went to check how many drawers there were left to do I thought there would be two but there's six!

Pressure is on to complete the project because my guests will be arriving on Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve and I don't really want the guest bedroom smelling of paint.

I'll be back as the saying goes.....

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wet Walkies

Muffin thought it was a good idea to go out into the pouring rain for her walk today. I did warn her it was near torrential out there but she still insisted.
I'm not sure she felt the same once we were out there though....
To think that for most of her life she hardly saw two raindrops join together

On to the drying process....yet again. We seem to be doing this on a regular basis here in Melbourne these last few months. But help is at hand, I've booked the groomer so at least a teddy bear cut will shorten this performance

She knows the process.....

One bonus is that Muffin loves the hairdryer. She often comes into my bathroom when I'm using it to have a quick blast. I think she may be reminiscing about the hot breeze or the warmth of the Middle East.

Don't worry Muffy hopefully the Melbourne weather will change....give it five minutes, it usually does.

The Finders Keepers Craft Market

Here we are at the weekend again. ...I can't believe that its come around so quickly.
It has been such a busy week that I never got to post about my trip to the Finders Keepers Market held last weekend in Melbourne's Dockland.

The Finders Keepers Markets are a bi-annual event that showcases the work of emerging designers and artists from all around Australia and New Zealand!
They are held in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.

The market was FREE entry for all and featured brilliant live music, with a cafe and bar open all day to sit and relax. This I have to admit was my other half's favourite bit, although he did walk two paces behind me without muttering anything - bless. As you can guess these kind of events aren't really his cup of tea.

It was so inspiring to wander round and see such talent.

Next Market Dates for 2010
Sydney held at CarriageWorks:
Friday 3rd & Saturday 4th December

Brisbane held at The Old Museum:
Saturday 6th & Sunday 7th November

Here's a link to a brilliant website that give far more detail than I could about these event's http://www.thefinderskeepers.com/melbourne-markets.php

There's something for everyone.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Orchids

The other day my friend brought me some fresh orchids out of her garden.
Aren't they beautiful?
They just make me smile whenever I look at them, so I thought I'd share them with you.
They're probably more special to me because I've always personally had difficulty growing them myself.
Well in Qatar I did, much to the amusement of my older sister. She has at least four plants dotted around her house in full profusion!

When I visit she likes to boast...never a good quality especially to someone who can't compete.

Although my friend did say she may share some with me next time she thins them out....who knows I may well have the last say

It's always important between siblings - especially when your the baby of the family.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Upside-Down Spiced Honey and Apple Cake

I thought it was time to have a little baking session this afternoon, especially as this recipe reminds me of Christmas...well the cinnamon and cloves do.
I think its a really wintery cake, so I thought I'd give it a go before our days here in Melbourne really start to warm up.

Serves 8 - 10
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour (plus 10 minutes sitting time)
2 tbs honey
1 pink lady apple, thinly sliced crossways
125g butter, softened
3/4 cup (155g) brown sugar
1/4 cup (60ml) honey, extra
3 eggs
1/2 cup (75g) self-raising flour
1/4 cup (40g) plain flour
1/2 cup (55g) almond meal
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1/3 cup (80g) sour cream
1 pink lady apple, peeled cored, finely chopped, extra
Natural yoghurt, to serve
Preheat oven to 160C. Grease and line the base and side of a 20cm round springform pan with baking paper.
Drizzle 2 teaspoons of the honey over the base of the pan. Arrange apple slices, overlapping, over the base.
Drizzle with remaining honey.


Use an electric mixer to beat the butter, sugar and extra honey in a medium bowl until creamy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition until just combined.

Add the combined flours, almond meal, ginger, cinnamon and cloves and stir to combine.
Add the sour cream and extra chopped apple and stir to combine.
Spoon into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Remove from oven.

Set aside for 10 minutes to cool before turning onto a serving plate.
Serve warm or at room temperature with yoghurt, if desired.

Recipe from http://www.notebookmagazine.com/

Sunday, October 10, 2010

'Who is it'? (Part 2)

CONGRATULATIONS ARE IN ORDER

Well, now we know why 'Gregory' has been singing his heart out at 4.45am every morning.....

He's going to be a Dad!

Look what my other half found this morning.

He was busy doing some chores (I know I was surprised too) when he walked past the hidden nest with a set of ladders. Not surprisingly the female flew off, so once we knew the nest was there, I quickly grabbed my camera to take a photo to show you.

I then waited tentatively thinking I may be the culprit of their demise causing her not to return to the nest....but after a while she sneeked back to them. Both her and the nest are so well concealed I never noticed either yesterday when I put all the bedding on the line.

Latest update: I left some cake crumbs on the decking for her, and she's just flown down for them. She'll need her sustenance ready for when they hatch....life will never be the same again.

So who would have thought, we are going to have 'Grand chicks' - how special....maybe I can forgive Greg for all his tapping's earlier in the year.

I just hope he doesn't pass on the habit!

Friday, October 8, 2010

From Little Things Big Things Grow....

This morning I woke to the sound of a chainsaw....eek!

Immediately I had visions of an over zealous hairdresser let loose with a pair of scissors.
How big was the job and what tree was involved? I am paranoid that the trees outside the house will be a target...I went off in hot pursuit to investigate.

I've always adored trees, but I think that due to living in the Middle East it's highlighted the fact I can't live without them....

No, the victum was well away and needed to be cut.....phew!

I have to admit there is a downside especially having the huge oak trees so near to the house. The autumn clearance of leaves and acorns can take days, but then look what I found in my garden - how cute. The spring sunshine has worked its magic and up they pop.

All the ones I missed.

From little things big things grow.....



Here's one I potted earlier.

This one has obviously been around for some time...



...and this oak is located in a local park in our home town in the UK.

It's my other half's favourite.

Yes and there's some blue sky too - amazing!

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