Thursday, 28 January 2010

Biscuit o'clock

Yesterday Jack and I went for a bit of a jaunt down to Albury while S was away. I say jaunt but it's about two hours away, maybe longer if you stop for tarts and ciabatta at the Quinty bakehouse. While there we purchased a new puzzle for Jack (who is quite simply MAD about jigsaws and very good at them) and some new biscuit cutters from the Essential Ingredient. Albury - it's not that far from Wagga but culinarily speaking they are in different worlds. They have a hatted restaurant, cafes, delis where you can purchase fresh pasta, cold rock ice cream*, an Essential Ingredient - you get the idea. And Wagga? it's getting a piano bar. Very ontrend.
Anyway Jack and I conferred and decided on a hand, a lamb, an apple and a frog biscuit cutter. Actually Jack just wanted to touch everything so it was a quick visit. Today we made some dough, cut out the biscuits and prepared to ice them.

I was going to do artistically stylish icing but then that would've deprived Jack of the fun so I relinquished control and we had a much better time. I may have been a tad heavy handed with the colouring. Or maybe it's the flash.

*I am aware that cold rock ice cream is not gourmet but it is fun working out what you can smush into ice cream - I like the choc gelato with cherry ripes.

Scarlett's Birthday

We could make it to Scarlett's birthday this year (again). I was disappointed because it was a pirate princess party (actually I think Craig and Lou were the only pirates). S was disappointed because he missed out on the jumping castle and Jack, well he loves a party. Luckily my Mum was there taking photos and making mental notes for the blog.
It was that really hot day is Sydney (43 degrees) and apparently the aircon broke. Luckily there was the pool and did I mention the jumping castle? The Pirate princess party soon became a pirate princess pool party.

Princess Scarlett
Captain Pugwash (aka Craig)
Princess Chelsea & Landlubber Lou
Lou's Parrot (unfortunately chopped off so it looks like a big yellow grub)
the cake!

the jumping castle (Ganma can't resist)

Ganma & Scarlett on the jumping castle
(she takes her ganma duties very seriously)

Wednesday, 27 January 2010


On Australia Day my Dad was officially named Mosman citizen of the year for all the work he's done in the local community over the years. Disappointingly he didn't get a sash or a crown but he will get to have a special cocktail party. People have taken to calling my Mum Lady Sandra, which they think is terribly funny and original, but they should know she only answers to 'your highness' or 'your majesty'. Apparently the ceremony went well with Johnno and Danno hosting the whole thing (does anyone else remember them from the 80's?), lots of new Australian citizens getting their trees and sausages and lamingtons being served.

Here's the article that appeared in the Mosman Daily. For anyone that is interested or if this is tricky to read here's the address. He's on page 4 (yes I think it was definitely front page news too).

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

the reunion

I've been kind of putting off writing about my reunion. I'm not sure why - it certainly wasn't the disastrous evening it could have been. It was only on my return when I felt a 'little under the weather' which S thought was due to overindulgence but was actually a gangrenous appendix, that things went pear shaped.

Alex, Nicole, Snoz, me at the buena
The night itself was surprisingly okay. I had arranged to meet up beforehand in a pub called the buena, the site of many a drinking session in my uni days. When I arrived, some of the girls I went to school with were there, Alex, who looked surprised when I mentioned her mum's amazing cooking, Nicole who did a plaster cast of my face as part of her year 12 major work

Claire and Nicole (my partners in crime from maths)

and Jacqui who I remember wore a hired costume (before anyone did that) to the book week parade in year 7 and won a prize. She was a princess - maybe even Cinderella whereas I was Raggedy Ann. That's so primary school.

Alex and me
They were instantly recognisable in spite of some being blonde and some having made friends with the hair straightener (thanks Nicole). Snoz turned up (her real name is Elizabeth) and Claire did too. I have known Claire since primary school and she has really been the only person that I have kept in touch with. Actually she kept in touch with me - I was rubbish at keeping in touch. I'm not one of those people who has regular get togethers with school friends and the reunion and the flurry of emails beforehand have been a revelation. There are still some people that I think Who are you?Do I know you?
So then some of the guys I went to school (and Uni) with turned up. Reminder to self: not cool to greet someone by saying, "you didn't reply to my message on facebook" It makes you sound like a crazy lady. Some of them have obviously consorted with hobbits or something because their complexions could only be described as dewy in spite of many years exposing their skin to sun and surf.

Andy, Simon, Dave and Big Al

Eventually we reluctantly made the move to the RSL and to the harbourview bar. It was weird. I had lots of OMG that's (insert name here) moments (hopefully inside my head) as I moved towards the bar. Some people were immediately recognisable, others, even with the aid of a name tag I'm still wondering who they were. Ours was a pretty big year (about 180 peeps) so it was possible to go our whole time at school without talking to someone. Dave was someone that I can't recall ever really chatting to at school. Not sure why as he sat in front of me in English. Weirdly in the months preceding it I had some bizarre dreams about the reunion including one where it was being held in an above ground swimming pool and Dave was there with a boogie board talking about wetsuits. Weird but not as alarming as the dream where the reunion was being held in the ballroom in my house (fortunate) but I was dressed in Pjs (unfortunate).
For awhile a group of us got boxed in near the bar which made escape (if required) difficult. I was standing next to Sean (who I went out with at Uni and who introduced me to S) and people kept walking up and saying to Sean, "Were you this tall at school?" to which he would reply, "yes" and sigh and then they would turn to me and say, 'Where's your frizzy hair?" to which I would say, "curly - it was curly" and grit my teeth.

Justin, Dave, Sean, me and Michelle boxed in at the bar

so not frizzy - big but not frizzy

Eventually we made a bid for freedom to a spot with more possible escape routes (though that didn't always work). I had a lot of short conversations of the 'How are you?' variety that quickly tapered away to nothing. People would smile and then their eyes would start searching the room for someone else to chat to. As a result when I thought about those people later I knew very little about them. Other people shared too much.

Sean, Avery and Peter

Bec and Lucy

It was strange to note that while most of the girls looked amazing (though as someone's mother would say some didn't make the most of themselves that night - at least put on a dab of lippy ladies) some of the guys had obviously peaked early. Sometimes it felt like I was talking to Homer Simpson, except without Marge, or Bart or Lisa or Maggie and not quite so yellow or successful. Some people had changed (ie they were nice) while others still appeared to be well, wankers. And some had become let's say a touch dull.

Michelle and Diddles

Samantha, David & Andrea (who I may or may not have
stabbed in the knee with a pencil in 3rd grade)

It was disappointing that my friend (and high school Biology buddy) Nick wasn't able to make it as there were some nostalgic biology class moments. Our teacher was there, which was nice and we got this pic together. She was the teacher that really got me into science and it was in her classes that I started to do well.

Me and April
Maybe I was too scared to fail, because she had a bit of a reputation for being scary (she wasn't really). When I went to Uni I actually started out doing a science degree but that's a whole other story.

Andy, April and Simon

And I spoke to my arch nemesis (we used to vie for first place in Biology, yes I know ' loser'). Actually I also had issues with her because I was the confidant of a guy that had the most ginormous crush on her (lots of guys did) and he'd pull me aside at parties just to talk about her for hours and hours and hours. Actually i think I reminded both of them about that on the night. Disappointingly another classmate Nina Nematode (named during the study of invertebrates) couldn't be there. I still managed to reminisce with George about a rather memorable talk he did on Siamese twins.

George, Andy and Bec

Disturbing doesn't even to begin to describe it. He seemed a little dismayed that I remembered. I think he'd blocked it out until I mentioned it and then it came flooding back.

Howie, Penny, Dave, me, Sean
I chatted with people I wanted to chat with and some I didn't, heard some very funny stories about a honeymoon from hell (would you take your new spouse to a nudist colony followed by diving with great white sharks?). I was in turns amused, scared, relieved and a little bored.

Me and Howie
And then it was about 1 am and we were being kicked out. Funny as I thought I'd be going home around ten. Some people had plans to party on at the 'metrohole' but being the mature person I am (old) and meeting my friend Soph for breakfast in six and a half hours I trotted back home to my parents place and to bed. Funnily enough I didn't get swept off my feet by an old school flame as S feared. I think I got spaded by one of the bad boys of our year but I was too busy laughing to know for sure.

Dan, Sean (trying to visualise a happy place far away from
men's room conversations about receding hairlines), Avery and Peter.
oh and me.


There have been times when I have been starstruck, not by movie stars (though I did see Jimmy Stewart at the Lincoln Memorial once) or musicians (I still remember standing next to Tex Perkins at a BDO) but writers. I either go mute and gaze at them adoringly (Alain deBotton) or I turn simple and ask them to come and stay at my house (Alexander McCall Smith and he demurred politely). I'm not sure what it is but my brain fries and I get all dorky and twitterpated. I long to be uber cool and utter some witticism that will have the author and I chuckling companionably but my brain says no dice. I think it's something about relating to what the author has said and how they have said it that makes me feel like I know them (sounding a little bit like a stalker now) and of course I don't simper around all authors. In fact I can pretty much guarantee it would be a simper free zone around Bryce or Dan.
And then there are blogs and the bloggers that write them. Finding a great blog can be a time sucking revelation and because there are so many details of the blogger's life revealed you do feel like you know them. There's the problem of catch ups with blogger friends who in turn read your own blog. It's easy to run out of conversation when you've both been reading what the other is up to.
My friend Amy and I have been fans of NQN's blog for a while now. We got a little competitive about Lorraine (NQN) leaving comments on our own blogs as we were quite enamoured with her blog and consequently with her. So when Alison (my web editor) organised a lunch last November for the online writers for webchild, I was excited for the following reasons:
a) I would be having yum cha
b) I would actually get to meet Alison instead of emailing and phoning
c) I would also get to meet Lorraine, my food blogging hero (and Amy was jealous hehe!)
I somehow managed to shoehorn it in between my haircut, shopping, the reunion, breakfast with my friend Soph and was rewarded. It was so good to eat dumplings and rice noodles again (sigh I might just pause a moment to think about the har gau) but of course it was also good to meet my cyber friends in person. I must say Lorraine was very well behaved when it came to claiming dumplings, maybe that's how she stays so tiny. As opposed to me who should have worn a t shirt saying,"Do you mind if I eat this last dumpling?"
I presented her and Alison with some culinary goodies from this area (yes, they do exist) such as some Junee Licorice factory chocolate, Harefield pistachios and of course the bum hummers that later got a mention on Lorraine's blog. I got some more books to review and of course I got to meet Linda who reviews the gadgets for webchild and Duncan who reviews games.
So was I a gibbering fool? No, I felt very relaxed and had a thoroughly enjoyable time. Little did I know that my appendix was festering quietly away.

Me, Linda, Alison, Duncan and hiding away in the background,
Lorraine (she prefers photos of food)

Monday, 18 January 2010

the kite returns

I was kind of hoping that Jack had forgotten the kite. I'd put it up high in a room with the light off and the door shut, but this boy has a memory that you would not believe. If you say that you will give him ice cream, even if you whisper and you are standing in another room, he will hear you and remind you every ten seconds for hours till you give in.
On Saturday a light went on in his brain and it was a large flashing one that said KITE!
While I was distracted (his usual MO for getting the chocolate out of the locked medicine drawer in the fridge) he got a chair and climbed up, got the kite and then ran into every room with it. The first I knew of it was when I found the string running from room to room and around furniture and the dog.

Today was unseasonably cool and windy - perfect weather for kite flying and so we did. He enjoyed it for ten seconds and then it all came back; the reason for putting the kite away. Not power lines - just that when we try to run to get the kite in the air he thinks we are running away with his kite and not sharing. Problem. Eventually after some tears and some clever thinking by S a compromise was reached and Jack and S both held the string. Success.
And then I put the kite away again.

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Sunday, 17 January 2010


For a while now there's been a bit of unspoken rivalry between my Dad and me. I think it first started when he got a mention in Column 8. Then I appeared in our local paper (not hard to do) a number of times then he graced the cover of the Mosman Daily, I got a gig on local radio, he appeared on the front page of the Herald and so on.
Then last week I got a mention on NQN's fabulous blog because I gave her a bottle of bum hummers (with 1000 farts in a jar, truly the gift that keeps giving).
Then after writing about our delicious lunch at Bells for dad's birthday, the chef Stefano Manfredi tweeted about my blog. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
But then Dad was voted Mosman Citizen of the year.
Congratulations Dad.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

back to the beach (again)

The day after that amazing meal, we had an early breakfast together (somehow Mum and Dad tore themselves away from Bells and their gourmet breakfast basket) and went to the beach. It was only a quick swim because we had a long drive home but we had told Jack we were going to the beach and our last swim in the hotel pool was not a huge success (luckily the swimmer nappy maintained its integrity - just). We went to the little rockpool where Jack and Scarlett tried to take Ganma for a swim or at least get close to the waves that kept splashing over the wall. It was nice and probably the last beach we'll visit for a little while - unless we go to Wagga beach.

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Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Nonno's feast (the looooong lunch)

Dad (Nonno) and jetlagmama

My father turned seventy last week (Happy Birthday Dad) and to celebrate he (my Mum) organised a lunch at a favourite place of his called Bells at Kilcare. S and Jack and I arrived the day before so we could prepare ourselves for the mammoth feast that awaited us. Others stayed at Bells while some (but unfortunately not all) caught the ferry over from Palm beach. As people arrived we gathered in the bar

Richard and Chris start with an aperitif

Cheryl and Peter

and Ganma took Jack and Scarlett to her cottage to show them the exciting games she had bought for them to play with. The adults too found them hard to resist.

Aunty Judith, Jack and Scarlett try the fishing game

Then Shelley, the babysitter arrived and we wished her luck and returned to the restaurant. We took our places at the loooooooooong table on the verandah and scanned our menus.

the long lunch (view 1)

the long lunch (view 2 with photographer seated)

It seemed like a long menu. As the food started to appear (Parmesan and caper biscottini, Liguarian and Sicilian olives, bread and olive oil) Dad made a speech thanking everyone for coming and giving a bit of background on all of the guests and how they came to be there (not Craig and I - I think we know how we got there).


No one took up the offer of right of reply (at that stage) and we all readied ourselves for the antipasto.


I tried to take photos of all the food but some were pounced upon so quickly that not all photos show the dish as it looked when it left the kitchen. I was supposed to be taking photos of the guests but as you'll notice most photos are taken from my seat. I didn't want to move in case I missed anything.

Parmesan & rocket frittata with sweet & sour roasted peppers
with batons of polenta wrapped in prosciutto

We started with Parmesan and rocket frittata with sweet and sour roasted peppers and batons of polenta wrapped in prosciutto and little dishes of the most delicious and crisp pickled vegetables I have ever tasted. Next we had grilled prawns with salsa salmoriglio served on radicchio (sorry no photo as they were consumed too quickly) and freshly shucked oysters (they definitely were fresh and they were wonderful - living in the country I can't remember the last time I ate oysters - for some reason the Seafood night at Junee Reefs Hall makes me nervous, though apparently it is one of the great social highlights of the year).

freshly shucked oysters

One of the most popular antipasti was the braised oxtail 'agrodolce' which was tender and aromatic and lived up to its name which translates as sweet and sour. It was certainly a far cry from the flouro pink sweet and sour of many a cheap chinese smorgasbord. Again no photo as this time I was too busy eating. Antipasto concluded with these lovely little spinach and ricotta gnocchi.

spinach and ricotta gnocchi

After a visit from Jack, Scarlett and a mildly frazzled Shelley it was time for mains. Jack and Scarlett made themselves at home in the bar with dessert.

jack, scarlett and lou 'relaxing' in the bar

Scarlett took against the panna cotta and after sticking all ten fingers in the top she then flicked it around the walls with gusto. Jack, who is not the kind to wantonly waste anything sweet got stuck into the cassata. And so onto the mains.
porcini risotto

We started with a porcini risotto and I have to say as I rule I rarely order this in restaurants (unless it's a very good restaurant) and I'm not a big mushroom fan, but this was luscious and creamy and wonderful. I think I had about five servings with Richard across the table also partaking enthusiastically. The risotto was followed by the slow roasted pork belly with sage and roast garlic (it's pork belly do I need to say more?)

slow roasted pork belly with sage and roast garlic

and then morsels of grilled Blue eye with salsa piccante.

grilled blue eye with salsa piccante

We finished the mains with roast Flinders Island suckling lamb with roast rosemary potatoes and salsa dragoncello. There was a brief discussion about what dragoncello was. I knew the information was rattling around in my brain but it refused to present itself. We didn't ask the waitress because we'd already asked about agrodolce and salmoriglio. It wasn't till later when I was supervising the bubble machine (and Jack and Scarlett) that I got to ask one of the chefs as he nonchalantly walked past with a shovel and a handful of freshly dug horseradish. Dragoncello is tarragon. He stressed the importance of using french tarragon and I have to say the flavour of the lamb was fabulous. My only regret was that the pieces were quite small. I guess this is to be expected when you get suckling lamb instead of some of the jurassic lamb (ie mutton) that you get some places. Was it true that a group at one end of the table feigned missing out on the lamb and thus secured themselves another serve? The potatoes were crispy and hard to resist as I noted as some of the guests snaffled an extra one or two while their partners weren't looking.

roast flinders island suckling lamb with roast
rosemary potatoes and salsa dragoncello

It was at this time that a helicopter appeared on the horizon and kept getting closer and closer. Several jokes were made about the identity of the occupants, including the speculation that it was Clive James, an old school friend of Dad's, arriving fashionably late. Actually he's probably more likely to arrive in a hot air balloon powered by himself. Our questions were answered when a young couple having finished their meal, dashed from the restaurant in the direction of the helipad.

By this stage it was still quite hot and we were blissfully unaware of what was going on in the kitchen with staff experiencing two blackouts as they prepared the meals. We still received our desserts, which we had chosen at the beginning of the meal, with only a slight melting of the cassata indicating that anything had gone awry.

my slightly melted cassata - still delicious

The choices were tartufo di amedei chocolate or raspberry, pistachio and vanilla cassata or lavender panna cotta with cherries and moscato jelly. Funnily enough S and I ordered exactly the same thing we'd had when we had dinner at Bells the year before. Funny but not surprising that S would choose chocolate and I would choose pistachios. Dad also chose the cassata and his came with a candle (just the one not seventy luckily). Jack and Scarlett were unavailable to help with the candle, but made up for it later.

Nonno's birthday cassata

Scarlett samples the panna cotta

the tartufo

During desserts there was a sudden flurry as a spontaneous series of speeches was made. No sooner had one person sat down after talking, then another person would leap to their feet to sing Dad (and Mum's) praises. By that stage a middling amount of wine had been consumed so I'm a touch hazy on the specifics but the jist was to thank my dad for his support, generosity and friendship or in the case of my Aunties Judith and Nette for being a great brother. Craig also spoke about Dad being not only a loving father but a role model too. Unfortunately as I was seated most of the photos were not great (chin close ups) so I'm only posting this photo of Aunty Judith.

Time was marching on and some people had to leave to catch their ferry back. Jack and Scarlett appeared as did some very pink birthday cupcakes that Craig and Lou had had the foresight to bring, with candles.


These were lit and Jack and Scarlett helped blow out the candles, while Richard eyed off the cupcakes.

blowing out the candles

After some extensive repairs to Jack's tractor (thank you Jenny and Chris)

we adjourned to the bar so Nonno could open his presents and the restaurant staff could prepare the tables for dinner (the lunch went that long). Jack helped Nonno open his presents

don't read the card nonno - just open the present

and then he and Scarlett abandoned what was left of the cupcakes and went outside to play with the bubble machine. There is something about kids and bubbles and except for a mild case of bubble eye, they had lots of fun. I could see some of the chefs preparing for dinner that night watching rather enviously and eyeing off the machine.


And so, with our numbers depleted and our bellies satisfied we decided to return to Terrigal where Jack was keen to go for a swim. Mum, Dad and Cheryl were contemplating a piece of fruit for dinner, while Richard was thinking about popping back to the restaurant for a spot of dinner.