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

Friday 30 July 2010

The sights you see....

Whilst out walking this morning with Muffin I saw three incredible sights each on a different level. The first was beautiful. The second kind of weird and the last just plain gruesome.

The first...

One beautiful pink blossom flower opened with such faith and exuberance that spring is about to arrive. I do hope it isn’t disappointed.

Secondly, and this was rather odd...

I thought it might have been someone's macabre sick idea of a joke. I wasn’t sure if in fact it was real at first (well actually if I’m truthful I’m still not sure). Is it some weirdo’s joke or is it doing some specific job for the waterways like scaring yabbies, carp or turtles or just the local residents?!

I must admit I had to look twice and then yet again to check. Any ideas anyone?

Similarly that is what happened on my third sighting. This one caught me unawares and like a car crash, or a train wreck, I couldn’t drag my eyes away... What is it about human nature that makes us do that?!

A kookaburra having breakfast – rather him than me. He certainly put me off mine.

Vegetarians look away.....

Then to make matters worse I focused on it through the lens! Eek!

Monday 26 July 2010

Master Chef Madness

What am I going to do with my winter evenings?
I need help or counselling... I’m not sure which? I’m feeling totally at a loss.

What am I going to do now that MasterChef has finished?!

Although I do feel a little sad that the programme has come to an end, I also appreciate that I’m a little sad for getting so hooked. I’ve watched MasterChef in the UK but I have to admit the Australian version surpassed all my expectations. Not only did it grip me but my other half rushed home one evening from a works function in order not to miss elimination. He obviously will profusely denigh this but I know the truth.

Another amazing and staggering fact is not who entered the final or the incredible viewing ratings but Callum and Adam even inspired my son to enter the kitchen. Normally first stop when he enters the kitchen is the fridge, secondly, if the first didn’t hit the spot, the cupboards trawling for tasty treats. I nearly fainted when he decided he would have a go at cooking. Yes, Cooking!!!! In order to reduce the risk of breakages, burning himself or in the worse case scenario burning the house down, his pressure test was an omelette!

How I stayed away listening to all the clanging, hissing, crashes and profanities I have no idea but finally the dish was completed and ready for the judge’s decision. Well, it would have been but my son wouldn’t give up food easily at any time never mind when he’s produced it himself!

Verdict... “could do better” (his words not mine)....but whether he takes up the challenge again will remain to be seen.

I’m now heading through the website checking episode’s I may have missed (fat chance) and recipes that have taken my fancy.
I’ve seen the sneak preview of the Junior MasterChef due to arrive soon, but quite frankly that just scares me. It’s taken me literally decades to acquire the few skill’s I have and to see these kiddiewinks hardly able to see over a counter top producing exceptional dishes blows me away.

Thursday 22 July 2010

Incy Wincy Spider

For all the arachnaphobic's out there....look away now.

I couldn't help but stop and wonder when out walking with Muffin this morning. "Charlotte" had been very busy during the night.

I was hoping for the 'missle' to dry up and a glimpse of sun shine for this photo, well we are in Australia and not the highlands of Scotland after all, but like
there it wasn't to be - not today anyway.

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Muffin's Mission from Middle East to Melbourne

I thought it was time to introduce 'Muffin' and her expat experience to you.... yes, as you can see she rules the roost and has a certain air about her.

Once we knew we were leaving the Middle East and that Australia was on the cards there wasn't a moments hesitation, she had to come too. Remember Dogs aren't just for Deserts they're for life! No way would we want to leave our youngest even with so many offers of good homes, and although Muffin only knew heat, sand and the muezzin call to prayer we wanted to give her a chance of a proper doggy life ie trees, dog walks, lamp posts, and fire hydrants.

Here is Mufftypup socialising at her leaving 'do'! Saying goodbye to all her puppy pals. She's always been a party animal.

After months of prep, paperwork and thankfully a brilliant pet relocating company we were ready to head off. The only trouble was that the airline had indicated that they wouldn't transport any snub-nosed animals, either cats or dogs. So a quick rethink was called for and drastic measures taken. How to make a Shih Tzu appear to have a proboscis?!!?!?! Not an easy feat as you can see from the photos. Hairdressers would be sued for this kind of make-over.

It was a very tense time waiting to see if she was detected and busted or would she be successful in her mission. After flight delays and long hauls we received the call that she'd finally made it.
Welcome to Melbourne Muffy.... Just one hurdle - quarantine!

After the initial excitement and desperate wags powerful enough to light up a large suburb she crashed and slept in my arms for two hours.

Obviously overdone the duty free! See once a party animal always a party animal.

The trouble came when time was called and I had to leave her once more. Not an easy task, let me tell you.

Disclaimer....the following picture comes with a warning and may cause some distress but no animal was harmed in the making of this film.

Yes that's her in the centre of the pen but she did her time and finally.....

Free at last, FREE AT LAST....

"What's all this green, soft stuff and it smells sooooooooo good"? Can't beat that cool breeze blowing through your hair.

Living the Dream.....

It's all too much this paparazzi performance....wake me up when its dinner time.

Once a diva always a diva.

Wednesday 14 July 2010

All your ducks in a row

I've spent many a pleasant morning feeding the ducks on our local waterways since moving here and I know that they certainly appear to be appreciative on these cold winter mornings. I'm convinced that they are beginning to recognise me and can't help but feel guilty if I've forgotten or... heaven forbid eaten all the tit bits ourselves and have nothing to offer. I'm virtually scrambling past in the undergrowth in order not to make eye contact with them but they seem to know and head my way.
Imagine my surprise when they now appear in my own garden. I promise you I never lead them by enticing them with a 'Hansel and Gretel' crumb trail, honest!

Last Saturday we had an invite to a large Sunday lunch and my friend mentioned she wanted to cook duck. My other half was ready to divulge where she could find some fat plumptious health specimens, but I managed to gag him in time. How could he? Anyway, before I could stop myself I spouted forth with a good recipe that I'd cooked and loved. Before you could say 'boo to a goose' I had volunteered to cook four... Argh!
After trials of traffic and footy fans, we managed to get through the city to the Queen Vic Market and bagged four. Four and not out! I even managed to negotiate a small discount.

Once home I realised I had a major assignment - to fit all four plumptious birds in my oven to cook at the same time. Just call me a 'Domestic Engineer' and see for yourselves.
Dah dah....

Looking good and smelling amazing....pity not "smell-a-puter"!

The ducks were delicious and thankfully didn't take flight whilst in the boot of the car being transported to the venue. I managed to keep my guilt to a minimum making up for it on this mornings walk. Fresh deli seeded bread, muffins and fruit cake!

Friday 2 July 2010

Winter Warmers

One of the main things I missed whilst living in the Middle East was the changing of the seasons. To be lucky enough to catch sight of a fluffy white cloud sailing across the expanse of blue sky like a floating island in a tranquil sea was a rare sight for the majority of the year. Even my dog would stand and gruff at the spectacle not sure what to do about it if anything.
Winter there would have temperatures plummeting to an unthinkable mid 20’s range, but having suffered upwards of 50+ degrees during the summer, this would begin to feel like winter. If you were really lucky you may even see a few droplets of rain on the path or ground. It was a sight that couldn’t be ignored – people would text each other in case they missed it. Everyone would stand on doorsteps or go out just to see the spectacle! I can remember being so disappointed when unfortunately the rain drops didn't ever join up and the cloud would just move on.

So to finally see true seasons again is a joy. We are right in the middle of winter here and have enjoyed some of the heaviest rain seen here for years. In fact since we arrived here we’ve witnessed the hottest temperature (last January) and the most rainfall for over eight years. Personally I really enjoy a good rainy day but I must confess I’m quite looking forward to the warm sun’s return.

With the changing season’s come the anticipation of seeing something in the market place that has been missing for months, then suddenly they return. It’s like meeting an old friend. You’re immediately revitalised into wanting to take it home to cook, bake or just devour.

I’ve always been a believer in cooking and baking with seasonal produce. Maybe it’s all the cookery programmes and celebrity chefs preaching’s that have entered my being by osmosis. By the way, I’m now hooked on Australia’s Master Chef and feel I really know these contestants. What a competition! I’ve even decorated my plain white crisp apron with ‘Mum Masterchef’ I know how sad but if I don’t no-one else will!

I’ve recently taken to cooking with pears, (not too many of those in the Middle East or not without a huge carbon footprint) I've found the following recipe which you may like to try....it’s definitely a winter warmer.


•150g unsalted butter, softened
•125g caster sugar
•2 medium eggs
•75g wholemeal self raising flour
•75g ground almonds
•A good pinch of cinnamon
For the caramelised pears:
•3 pears (reasonably firm, but not rock hard)
•25g unsalted butter
•1 tbsp granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 170°C/gas 3. Grease a 20cm-diameter springform cake tin and line the base with baking parchment.

2. Peel, core and quarter the pears.

3. Melt the 25g butter in a frying pan big enough to take all the pear pieces, over a medium high heat. When it’s bubbling, add the sugar and stir gently until it has dissolved into the butter. Add the pears and cook gently, turning once or twice, until they have softened and are starting to colour – 5-10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

4. In a mixing bowl, beat the softened butter with the caster sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in one egg at a time, adding a spoonful of the flour with each to stop the mix curdling.

5. Combine the remaining flour, the ground almonds and the cinnamon, and fold into the mixture. Scrape into the prepared tin. Arrange the pears on top and pour on any buttery juices left in the pan.

6. Bake for about 40-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

7. Stand the cake in its tin on a wire rack to cool for a few minutes, then release the tin. Serve the cake warm with clotted cream – or cold.

I’m having a little difficulty this winter. Where do you draw the line....to actually celebrate Christmas in July – surely not?

I know that quite a lot of people here actually do celebrate Christmas during the month of July! There are even programmes televised to help get you in the mood with recipes, planning and timescales etc. This I can’t get my head around. At the moment, I’m having difficulty even chatting to family and friends in the UK and hearing that they’re having good summer temperatures when I’m wrapped in my winter woollies. This still comes as a surprise. They’re even managing the odd BBQ for heaven’s sake! The current tennis tournament at Wimbledon proves this, so to throw Christmas into the mix would literally turn my world upside down.

I think we’ll keep it to December thank you very much.
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