Friday, 31 December 2010

Bring on 2011

My last post for 2010.

What a year.

Saying I'm glad it's over would be the biggest understatement EVER!

Mixed in amongst the horrible there were some lovely things....and it is nice ( & in my nature) to reflect on the positive.

So here is some of what made this year a little better for me......

It has turned out to be so much more than I ever imagined.  For years I have had friends asking me (begging me) to do something with my cooking. The name GourmetGirlfriend came from one of those friends.  She used to email me with questions & advice about cooking.  I don't pretend to be any kind of guru- I just love food & cooking and this blog is intended to be a look at that journey as I try to manage the wrangling of five young boys. It has helped me to stop and spend more time reflecting.  For giving myself that in my very busy life I am very thankful. It has been the biggest bonus of all that my audience seem to really enjoy it too! So thankyou a million times over to all of you who have taken the time to read & to those of you who have commented.  I REALLY appreciate it!

To those of you who know me this paragraph kind of goes without saying! I used to make cd compilations for friends as a means of sharing my musical loves & new finds.  That was before the wonders of iTunes & youtube! Now I put a youtube link at the end of EVERY post to let you peek into the window of my listening pleasures. As usual music has been my saviour- to help me with my sorrow felt at losing a very precious loved one in horrific circumstances to helping me celebrate the good times with my beautiful friends & family.   Music helps me feel, it helps me breathe, it helps me through each &  EVERY day.

My extended family & our friends have experienced a significant & tragic loss this year.  It has been the most difficult of times for us all.  But through this we have strengthened our love of each other, and made & developed new friendships & reconnected with some old friends too.  I look forward very much to the continuation of those friendships I have made.  And thankyou to all those very special people who have supported me so wholeheartedly when I needed you most.   You know who you are!

Always...... always I come back to my divine, fabtastical, magnificent, cherished, fun, crazy, wondrous, mental, awesome lunatic family! You are what make me whole. You are also what drive me crazy with frustration & rage and what make me fly into fits of panic at the uncontrollable nature of a family of SEVEN!!!!!  But essentially you all make my heart hurt with LOVE &  I wouldn't have it ANY OTHER WAY. Thankyou for being you- all of you..... & thankyou for loving me- all of me! xxxx

 I look forward to next year like I have NEVER looked forward to a new year before &  I look forward to sharing more of my journey with you.

I am not normally a resolution type but when I saw this the other day I had to will remain on my blog as a reminder to us all.......

and to finish I must post a song........a new track from one of my fave artists ...I too am looking for some magic in 2011!


Not missing you already.........

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Christmas Fabulousness

Christmas day has come and gone.


I love the browsing of catalogues by the kids in the weeks before Christmas as they wish for things that Santa might deliver.

I love that we make time to catch up with people that we may not have found enough time for during the year.

I love the chatter about what might be on the menu.

I love the decorating of the tree- this year it is what I needed to get me into the spirit after the most challenging of years .........

I love the writing of notes to Santa & his team of fluffy four-toed friends & the careful choosing of food & drink to sustain him on his 24hr ride.

I love the checking on the road out the front of our house on Christmas morning to check for evidence of the reindeers!

I love the wonder & excitement of the kids as they discover their bounty from Santa under the tree.

I love the mess on the floor after the whirlwind of present opening & then the way the day slowly goes on as the kids continue to visit their little bits & pieces of treasure that Santa has so dutifully and silently delivered in the quiet of their sleep!

But most of all what I love is that it brings people that love each other together.

Often it involves a shared meal.  Sitting at a table that is festively decorated, wearing paper hats & telling bad jokes from the bon-bons!

I am always a little sad to close my eyes at the end of the MOST magical day of the year.

This year it was no less fabulous.

Watching our five littl'uns opening their bounty was just utterly joyous.

And at the table was something I have been planning on for a while as I thought it looked so delicious, simple & festive!  Perfect for the Christmas table.

It was my take on a Karen Martini recipe she calls Moroccan Mess.  It is her take on the classic English dessert called Eton Mess.

I am going to share mine below.  If you want to check out hers click here.

There are a few ingredients in this recipe that require a shopping trip to your local Middle Eastern grocer.  I am lucky enough to live near Oasis bakery in the  Melbourne suburb of Murrumbeena. It is a favourite haunt of our family.  One of my children makes it his task to find an ingredient he has never heard of before every time we go & then he buys it and uses it!  It is a fun job!  If you don't have a middle eastern grocer nearby you can easily omit the ingredients sourced from here and it will still be delicious- just play with ingredients!

This month I am joining in with a monthly cooking get-together called The Mum & The Chef where several bloggers cook with an ingredient chosen monthly.  To read more about it click here. It was started by Katrina Higham (the Chef) and Mish Lilley (the Mum). They take turns in choosing the core ingredient & anyone is welcome to join in.  A great way to share expertise & recipes.

I will provide links to all other participants blogs at the end of my recipe for you to look around & see what everyone else made!

This month's ingredient is STRAWBERRIES!


What you will need:

STRAWBERRIES - 2 large punnets
Shelled pistachios (200g). I bought slivered ones from a middle eastern grocer but whole ones will do just as nicely: just lightly chop them to expose their gorgeous green insides!
Meringue (to help with the easy peasy-ness I bought ready made meringue- 2 small boxes). You will find these at most supermarkets now.
300ml cream.
1 tblspn Pomegranate molasses. Also from my local Middle Eastern grocer but you could also use rose syrup - or neither!
60g pure icing sugar.
seeds of a Pomegranate
Pashmak (Persian fairy floss) 

  • Add cream, molasses & icing sugar and whip till cream holds stiff peaks.  
  • Slice strawberries.
Now for the fun bit!
  • Find a large platter and crush some of the meringue onto it.
  • Then blob some of the whipped cream mix.
  • Scatter some strawberries and some pomegranate seeds.
  • Continue until you have achieved a little mound of loveliness.
Finish with the Pashmak and then scatter the pistachios.

 et Voila!


And you can see here that it was well received by the crowds!

Check out these links to see what everyone else did!

And we were groovin' to this on Christmas day- it's not Carols but it's oh so magnifique! :

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Simple & Beautiful

As the end of the year beckons my family are flat out attending graduation ceremonies, end of year concerts & work parties.

Things can easily get overwhelming.

Times like this we serve a whole lot of weetbix in our house!

See my previous post about that here!

It's a good time to KISS (Keep It Simple Sam).

I'm not so keen on weetbix so I like to have something else.

Take last night- Hubby and I were having such a lovely time sitting outside with our bottle of wine and some catch up conversation while we listened to music.

We had both had a busy day racing around to concerts & end of year feasts & just wanted to sit down for a bit.

It was 9.30 before we realised that a bottle of wine for dinner probably wasn't a good idea!

Anyway we both ended up with a good ol' Bacon Sarnie.   Such simple goodness.  Bacon frying is one of life's special smells!

It was especially good accompanied by a glass of V.S.O.P. Cognac!

I was taking some advice from a VERY special person in my life who suggested I needed some Cognac for medicinal purposes!  I was just following orders you understand!

Yesterday as I wandered around the garden I discovered something that excited me sooooooo much.

Two years ago we planted a Pomegranate tree.  My Mr.10 & I share a passion for pomegranates.

They are so wondrously secretive in their beauty.  The tree is covered in sharp spines hidden between delicate pretty pink tinged leaves.

The fruit itself is something to behold- 100's of red ruby like jewels wrapped tightly in their red leather jacket.  But the flower too is just beautiful.

They ripen in Autumn but as with most things now we are able to buy them most of the year.

I'm so glad I took a walk in the garden and found it.  I could have so easily missed out on it in the busy-ness of this time of year.  A perfect reminder to keep it slow or we miss out on some of the simple treasures to behold.

Typically Pomegranates are used in Middle Eastern cooking.

I love using them in all manner of ways.  A couple of years ago I  used Pomegranate Molasses for the first time.  Now I am a devotee! An ingredient that can be used sparingly but it exudes it's unique flavour very well!

Seeing the very first flower on my tree yesterday has me wanting some pomegranate today!

I was looking through a favourite cookbook of mine- "Moro- the cookbook" (published by Random House 2001) for a sauce that uses Pomegranate to share with you.  It takes about 5 minutes and involves NO COOKING!

It is so fabulous & so simple.

It is delicious on lamb, chicken, duck, fish. I sometimes use it served on top of chargrilled vegies - like Eggplant or zucchini.

Or as a salad dressing. Are you seeing how versatile it is?!

Tonight I think I will serve a big dollop of it on top of a piece of fish served on peas that have been blitzed with a bit of mint.  This dinner takes about as long as it takes to serve a bowl of weetbix- and it's soooo much yummier & it looks outrageously beautiful.



150g Greek Yoghurt 
1/4 garlic clove (i go with a full one as I am a believer in "you can never have too much garlic!". Crush this in a mortar and pestle with a good pinch of salt.
seeds of 2 pomegranates.
small bunch of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped (mint works REALLY well too!)
S & P.

In a bowl mix the garlic paste with the yoghurt.
Stir in pomegranate and roughyl chopped parsley.
Taste for seasoning.

I hope it becomes one of your favourite simple & beautiful things to use in the kitchen too!

This week I have been listening to this ALOT & LOUD!
Play it loud now won't ya- it is soooo good!
It helps you cook- I promise!......

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The silly season

Until last week I have been in denial of Christmas.

This year has been indescribably hard for all of my family and lots of our friends.  We said farewell to a loved one - a cherished bubba- way way too soon.

I'm not able to talk about it here yet- maybe some day but not yet.

We are all kind of waiting for next year to begin and shut the door on 2010.  It's just been too sad for words.

Celebrating anything has just seemed too hard.  Too many reminders.

I normally LOVE Christmas but have really really struggled to get in the spirit this year.

But then last weekend Hubby disappeared into the shed and came into the lounge room where all our five children were with a big long box.

In that dusty box was our Xmas tree and all the decorations.

There were squeals of delight and chatter about whose turn it was to put the star on the top.

All he did was open the box and the kids took care of the rest.  It was beautiful.   Mr.7 put on the daggiest Christmas Carols record he could find and they were away! I had to take a daggy portrait in front of the tree!

A reminder of what Christmas is.



So since then the kids have been busy perusing the catalogues dreaming of all manner of goodies....hoping Santa will indulge them with all the things that us parents won't!

And taking down the decorations off the tree to play make believe games........

"Hi Santa my name is Santa"
And outside the lights are up too- to let everyone know....we are in the spirit!

Now for the menu.........

What do you love to eat for Christmas?

Our family has always been very spontaneous with our menu- when I was growing up the rule was always to choose something you love to eat and love to prepare- we were all responsible for bringing a dish to the table to share.  Not a bad rule me thinks!

The kitchen was full to overflowing with all of us cooking up delicious goodies.   There would be curries, beautiful mayonnaises, pates, ham, and seafood.  I remember my sister once making a killer home made Baileys too- YUM!!!!!

One of the things I remember always being on the table though was- Gravad lax-  a Swedish staple.  Our family learnt to love it from the days we spent living in Sweden.  My dad made it - now most of us do the same.

A simple but DELICIOUS dish.

Click here for a link that gives you simple instructions with step by step pictures- and a link to make the accompanying Mustard sauce too.  You need to prepare it 2 days ahead but it is VERY SIMPLE and soooo worth it!

I would love to  hear what you love to eat for Christmas.

This week I have been listening to ......

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Are we there yet?

For the last week & a half my kids have been sick.  Not just a little bit sick but a BIG bit sick! Hospital sick.....

Having a big family is fabulous- we LOVE it!!. But in amongst the good is a whole of lot of HARD!

Ever amplified when the bugs roll in......

So over this time while I was disguised as Florence Nightingale I was loving reading about another big family who live in the States- designers Bob & Cortney Novogratz ( of SIXX DESIGN ) and their 7 kids.

Here's their kitchen. There is evidence that someone ACTUALLY lives in the house- see there are UTENSILS on the bench & even a teatowel-  quelle horreur!!

image via

They design fabulous spaces- filled with the style I love the most.  A mix of beautiful modern design pieces interwoven with quirky old pieces they find at markets & vintage stores around the globe.  Each home they have built tells you about the people who live in it- tells you about their interests & personalities.  This is just what I believe the spaces we inhabit should be like.  I like to think that my home is like that too- I like people to be able to learn a bit more about me by looking at my art & between the mess!  Our home is to be lived in & loved - NOT just looked at.

Anyway the one section that really resonated with me this week was Cortney's favourite recipe.

Allow me to share- I know you too will LOVE it!

(with thanks to Cortney Novogratz via her book : DOWNTOWN CHIC published by RIZOLLI NY)

Serves: 4 to 6
Time: 35-40 minutes depending on how long it takes you to flip through the phone book.


  • telephone
  • phone book (i'll add here- access to Google!)
  • cash/credit card
  • favourite cocktail
Flip through phone book.  
Find number of your favourite restaurant that delivers.  
Place phone in hand and dial the number.
Order 4 to 6 of their tastiest dishes.
Add 2 to 3 desserts to your order (optional) .
Pour your favourite cocktail, lounge back with your feet up and wait 30-40 minutes.
Dish is done when your doorbell rings.
Leftovers can be held in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Friday, 26 November 2010


This week as my eldest prepares for his final primary years exhibition I have been thinking about how quickly the years have gone by since he was born 12 years ago.

We were living in London then in a great flat on the river in Putney.  Right at the very spot where the famous Oxbridge Head of the River rowing race takes place.  The rowing houses where right next door to us.  It seems like an eon ago yet only yesterday at the same time.

Since then we have moved countries & cities so many times and it seems in every city we have added another little lovely into our life.

We are in Melbourne now and loving it with our 5 boys.

Moving is so stressful and not something I actively look forward to anymore in the way I used to- new city, new adventures and all it that I am getting old?

Whatever it is I am just very very thankful for our 5 little lads and my life just as it is- chaos and all!

Yesterday in amongst my  thoughts I had a hankering for a terrine. 

I love terrines.

Sooooo i got to work and made one.

I didn't have a recipe but the principle is pretty simple.

I had some lovely fresh in season asparagus bought from the market and that was the inspiration.

You can play as much or as little with terrine as you like.  Some of the loveliest ones I have eaten are vegetarian but yesterday I wanted a Pork & Veal number.  I also LOVE pork!


you will need:
900g pork & veal mince
700g streaky bacon 
5 eggs (one raw the others I hard boiled and popped in the centre of the terrine)
2 or 3 cloves garlic
good bunch of fresh sage
3-4 juniper berries
fennel seeds
4-5 asparagus stems
good handful of shelled pistachio nuts


  •  in a mortar and pestle add fennel seeds, garlic, salt, juniper berries and sage and pound to a paste.
  • add this paste to the mince with the raw egg  & pistachios and squeeze thru your hands to incorporate the mix well.  (tip: any leftover mix can be wrapped into puff pastry to make the most delish sausage rolls EVER!)
  • then line the terrine dish with the bacon strips as in pic below so the strips hang over the edge- these get tucked over the top later ( a loaf tin will work just as well)

  • now add some of the mince mix- press it down well and then add the asparagus stems.  I added my boiled eggs lined across the terrine here too- skip this if you don't want eggs in it.  I just thought they would look pretty!
  • keep adding mince, asparagus till terrine full. press down firmly.
  • then place rashers across the top to seal in mince- like this

  • now pop terrine lid on (or foil if using a loaf tin) and put the terrine in a deep roasting dish.  Pour water it into the roasting dish so it comes half way up the terrine .  Place in the oven at 180c for about an hour.
  • take it out of the oven and let it cool down.
  • now place weights onto the terrine and place in fridge for 2 hours or so to cool and set.
  • take out of fridge and upturn onto a plate. it should look something like this

Now you can slice it and enjoy!

I served mine with an orange, fennel & cucumber salad 

......and some apple & rhubarb relish on the side.
It looked beautiful on the plate & was devoured very quickly! 

And we were listening to the MAGNIFICENTLY TALENTED Mr. Andrew Bird accompanied by Martin Dosh on Drums.....

Wednesday, 24 November 2010


Today I cleaned out the fridge.

It's been a LONG time coming.

My fridge hasn't had this much space in it for a VERY long time indeed!

There is something very cathartic about a fridge cull -mais non?!

You renew old friendships with long lost loves.

Remind yourself of opportunities wasted.

Reacquaint yourself with old friends.

And lastly a reminder to try out some new friendships.

Bit like real life really............

While I purged & pondered-  I listened to a wonderful ol' friend:

Friday, 12 November 2010

Music, love & food.

Most people understand & appreciate the marriage of food & love.

I wholeheartedly agree.

Food cooked with love DEFINITELY tastes better.

But I propose that MUSIC also makes food taste better.

In fact I can't cook without listening to music.   Well actually I can't seem to breathe properly without music!

My passion for music is well known.  I spend hours & hours every week reading about & listening to music- new & old.  I like a wide range of genres from Opera & Classical right through to some pretty hard rock'n'roll and lots in between.  I get lost in my music.  Hours & hours pass......

Our house is rarely without music playing.

The kids already have pretty a pretty strong sense of music and what they like already.  The big three have all created their own playlists-which  make for good listening.  Mr.4 demands 'Vicious" by Lou Reed every time we get in the car- he knows all the lyrics and sings along at full volume! And the bubba loves to bust out his moves to his favourite tracks too.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a household filled with music too.  Our parents loved music too.  Mum was and still is a passionate jazz lover so we grew up to the sounds of Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Dave Brubeck, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald and more.  Dad loved classical music but also loved Bluegrass, Johnny Cash, Leadbelly and Flamenco music.   He was famous for busting out his German Dance Hall music at the end of dinner parties which seemed to bring the parties to an abrupt halt!

Alongside all that music us kids were playing (and playing very loud most of the time)  David Bowie, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, The Specials, British Beat, Iggy Pop, P.I.L, Velvet Underground, Television, Modern Lovers, The Clash, Stray Cats, The Sunnyboys, The Saints to name a few......there were many many more.  All five of us liked the same kind of music- which was lucky.  Mum & Dad were pretty tolerant really......

I was reminded on another blog I love about another band of this era (late 70's early 80's) from Glasgow called  Orange Juice that I haven't listened to in ages but was also on the list of stuff we all loved. You can skip over here to read it. Caroline & Charlie are parents to six kids and live in Scotland and like Hubby & I they also have a passion for music and cool stuff.  It's definitely worth a scroll through.

Our big three (sounds like a band name really!) are all playing instruments (Mr.12 drums, Mr.10 guitar & Mr.7 piano) and have had some 'jam' sessions together.  I am so happy we have passed on our love of music to them.

Music can help us in so many ways and in so many situations.

Recently it was International teachers day & Mr.12 compiled a music CD for his teacher as his way of saying thankyou.  I thought that was great.  A momento that says so much about him. 

It helps soothe, it helps inspire, it helps you smile, it reminds us of important times in our lives, it helps you work and I believe it helps you cook super delicious food!

Depending on what  I am cooking and what mood I am in the choice of music is very different- as is the volume.  But mostly I like it LOUD!

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that there is ALWAYS a song at the end of my post.  I love to share music. 

Do you listen to music when you cook?

I'd love to hear what you listen to.......

Today I am listening to Iron & Wine and wishing I had booked those Flamenco lessons.......

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Being thankful

What a week!

If you read my last couple of posts you would have realised that Hubby flew to NY for the week for busy-ness.

He doesn't travel a lot and usually just within Australia.  The trip to NY is an annual event and held at the same time of year.

He has made the trip many times without any hitches.

Not this time!  He was away when the Qantas shit hit the fan- well actually the engine exploded......leading to the grounding of the fleet of A380's.  The type of aircraft  that would normally bring him home.

It set off a trip home not to forget.....although we would all rather forget it to be honest.

I don't really want to write about that my effort to try and forget it!  Let's just say it was really truly ruly SHIT!

Being me I like to look at the positive here goes.....

It made me think of all the things I can be thankful for.

At the moment I am feeling more aware than usual at how lovely it is to be home with the last two of my five lads beofre they go off to school.  Mr.4 & Mr just turned 2.

Mr 4 has been a challenge to say the least!  A previous post explains more about how I have effectively been home-bound by his challenging behaviour.  You can click here to read that post.
Some days I feel better than others about being homebound.  At the moment I am thankful that I am able to be around.

This week while Hubby was away I needed to try & help myself out a bit by simplifying life.  So our dinners were things like: toasted sandwiches, bacon & egg sandwiches &  good ol' weetbix!

Click here for a post ALL about the benefits of Weetbix dinners!

But the other dinner that I HAD to have for reasons of spiritual well-being (read- I CAN'T GO ONE WEEK WITHOUT A HIT) was.......


You all know by now I am an addict.

"My name is Gourmet Girlfriend and I am addicted to Dumplings".

A few weeks ago on my Amazon buying bender you may remember I purchased an Asian dumpling cookbook.

So it was time to put it to the test.

I've made plenty of dumplings in my time and have made my own wrappers before but have to admit that most of the time I buy store bought ones just for ease.

I am always keen to test out recipes so I headed to the dumpling wrapper dough recipe.

I was pretty much as I have made it before.  That is adding boiling water to flour and making a dough- I'll get to the recipe later.  I have to say I didn't really learn anything new form this one but I am REALLY looking forward to making the green wrappers that have blitzed spinach mind whizzed with ideas of other options and blends!  Will experiment and post later......

I like to use 00 Flour as I think it it gives a better result.

This time I enlisted the help of Mr.4 & Mr.2.  They LOVED it!

It is pretty much like playing with playdough.  What's not to love?!!

So here is the basic dough formula:

2 cups 00 flour
1 cup boiling water.

I blitz mine in the blender initially to get it amalgamated and then turn it out onto a board to knead lightly- don't overwork it here!

Get the kids to do this step- the dough is lovely and warm- not too hot for kids to handle.  It feels lovely.
Roll it into a ball.

 Then place in a plastic airtight bag and extract as much air as you can.  I find those ziplock bags are perfect for this.  Let it sit for an hour.  It will get all sweaty- this is fine.

While you rest the dough you can get the filling ready.

I don't really measure out my ingredients but this is my usual list :

2-3 spring onions
good handful of fresh coriander (rinse the roosts well as you should add these- the bulk of flavour is found in them!)
a goo knob of ginger
2 cloves garlic
a splosh of Shao Xing wine (pic at end of ingredients list below- this adds a magical flavour- you will find it easily in most Asian food stores- it is easily identifiable by its pale blue& red label- it seems all different brands use the same colour scheme!)
a good splosh of Sesame oil- be generous!
a generous pinch of salt
1/3 cup chicken stock.
about 500g minced pork


Blitz the spring onions, garlic, ginger coriander & salt.

Remove from food processor and add wet ingredients & meat.  
Stir through- the mix should be quite sloppy.
This is desirable or your dumplings will be too dry.

After an hour remove the dough form the bag and roll out into a sausage.

Cut into inch long sections- as below.

In my dumpling book they use a dedicated dumpling wrapper roller- we improvised and used a pastry brush handle to roll out the segments into their circular shapes.  Mr 4 did all of them.  And he did a MAGNIFICENT JOB!

Here's Mr. 4's wrappers ready to stuff- don't they look amazing!

 Now you place about a teaspoon of mix into the centre of your dumpling as below.

Then fold it over and seal the seam- I must say I find this super easy with home made dough.  it is more tricky with bought wrappers as they are more tough. I use a bit of water on bought wrappers to help seal them.  I don't fond this necessary with home made dough.  Ours came out looking like this.

I place them in a non-stick frypan something like this.

 Add cold oil (about 5 tblspns) and about 1/2 cup of water.  Then put the pan on a medium high flame.

I leave a lid on for about 8 minutes or so and then remove it to let the water evaporate off.  The dumplings then fry in the remaining oil for about another 5 minutes or so.

Once you can see a lovely brown tinge at the base of the dumplings take the pan off the heat.  Carefully drain off the oil.

Find a plate that covers the frypan and carefully turn the pan onto the plate.  The dumplings fall out of the pan onto the plate in this beautiful design.  The dumplings just lift away from each other as you eat. Are you drooling yet????  I am....I need a fix!

I can tell you these didn't last long at all!

I like to eat mine with a dipping sauce made of chiu chow chilli oil, soy & chinese black vinegar.  

I recently tried another variation on the stuffing mix with beef mince and orange zest- that was really good- you can play around as much or as little as you like.  I am looking forward to playing with the wrappers next!

 I think making the dough from scratch makes them sooooo much yummier.  But store bought wrappers will give you a very good substitute if you want to save some time.

OK cooking dumplings by this method may be tedious for some but I find it VERY therapeutic.   I get totally lost in the moment.  It is one of those old fashioned methods of cooking that has the kids really involved.  It's what I imagine it would be like to be hanging out with Nonna in the kitchen making pasta- not that I'm Italian or have a Nonna but you get my drift.

I am ever so thankful to have the time to be with my kids to share these moments.

This week I have been LOVING listening to this:

Monday, 1 November 2010

Writing letters you know from my last post I turned 40 on Sunday.

My birthday was 40 shades of awesome!

It started with a bed full of our family- the bed was a bit squishy with all 7 of us in it but it was truly lovely.

Followed quickly with waving goodbye to hubby as he flew off to NY for busy-ness.

So I didn't feel too sorry for myself about hubby leaving me on my big day I had booked tickets for an event I have been coveting for a while- Women of Letters.  A writing event invented by the lovely Marieke Hardy & Michaela McGuire to bring back the dying art of letter writing.

Click here to check out what it is all about.

I went with one of my most cherished friends.  I am still weeping at how ridiculously MAGNIFICENT it was.

I may have just a had little time before the show to buy myself a little something or three from a lovely little shop near the theatre......

.....well really how could I leave them for someone else to buy?  It would have been remiss of me.  They had my name ALL over them!  I'll find them an appropriate spot ASAP. A lovely momento from a lovely day.

I wrote recently about making sure as parents we make a little time for ourselves.  It was a reminder to myself more than anything probably!  It is really healthy for our children to grow up seeing that we MAKE time for ourselves.   It's vital we bring them up with an understanding of how important & loved they are. is just as important not to lose sight of the soul inside that makes us who we are- aside from being a parent.  Doting on the children's needs is only part of the job description but in our busy days it is oh so easy to lose sight of the other parts that make us whole.

It is very difficult for many reasons for me to leave my children during the day- but yesterday as  a present to myself on my 40th birthday I had booked tickets to the inaugural Men of Letters event.  I am happy enough to do a fair bit of evening outings (usually to go and see live music) when the kinder types are in bed but leaving 5 children awake aged between 12 & 2 is hard for anyone!

It was extraordinary.  What a line-up of the fabulous male species we were treated to.  These men were asked to pen a letter "to the woman who changed their life".

The men read their letters out to us.  And thankfully Tim Rogers (You Am I) & Paul Kelly sang to us.  What a gift.  And Bob Ellis......wowness, wowness, wowness.

Click here to look at some fab photos of this extravaganza.  It gives you a good idea of the mood.

Why oh why did I not pack the tissue box?  Still at forty I am the biggest cry baby on the planet.    Music and words really just set me off........and there,  right there yesterday I was amidst some of the most heart- wrenchingly, courageously honest writing I had ever been lucky enough to hear.  What an awesome present to myself.

Today I feel emotionally wrung out and a bit high on it all still.  It was the absolute highlight of my day- shared with a beautiful old friend and also a lovely new one (a fellow blogger- we are like minded souls- skip over here to read her take on yesterday too!)

 How lucky am I?!!

And who knew that when I came home the children were all still fabulously happy and couldn't wait to hear all about my day but mostly wanting to know what was for dinner!

I have already booked next months Women of Letters event as part of the birthday treats for Hubby- can't wait!  Check out the line up here.

One of the lovely parts of the show is being provided with writing materials and stamps to write your own letter which is posted by the hosts- like FOR REAL!!!!  How fabulous is that!

It really is a dying art isn't it- the letter.  I remember as a child how amazingly exciting it was when a letter arrived in the post addressed to me.  I still get just as excited because lets face it the only correspondence I get is of the 'you owe me money' variety.  Boo hiss to those.

I thought yesterday as I sat there tears rolling how lovely it would be for me to write to my children.  I  guess we think we need to be away from them to write a letter.  But I thought I might just write to them all anyway- not for any particular reason except to say the kinds of things that I forget to say in the busy-ness of our days.  And believe me the days here are really truly busy- not just pretend busy.

So........excuse me while I pen a real life letter to one of my brood.

Here is an example of Paul Kelly's magnificent of my kids favourite tracks.  It makes me cry EVERY time....

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The BIG Four-Oh!!!!!!

On Sunday I celebrate my 40th birthday.

Alot is made of this's significant in the scheme of our lives.

Most of us celebrate this one in a big way.  We think about it as a BIG milestone.

I have been too.....thinking about it that is.  Kind of thinking about it's significance.

What does it mean to me particularly?

Well I'm not sure that I have figured that one out yet but I have been thinking about my life and the bits of it that have been and are significant to me today.  I won't be able to mention everything here but I intend to mention a few.......

When I was 1 ( my eldest brother was 8 and there were 3 others in between!) my mum & dad borrowed money for a one way fare (by boat!!!) to Europe.  They bought a camping trailer & a Citroen DS station wagon like just like this one:

images courtesy of

.......and we lived in the camping trailer for two years travelling around Europe.  The longest portion of that time was spent in Sweden- where I developed my ongoing obsession with CLOGS and many other things Swedish.

Here is a pic of me and my siblings when we were back in Oz.........I'd be the one with the clogs on at the front!  Aaaaah the fashion of the 70's......rick rack, flares and zip up jumpsuits....what's not to LOVE?!

I still have the clogs in that amazing photo.....and about 5 other pairs that fit me now.  Much like I start the day with a bowl of coffee- I HAVE to end the day with my clogs on, even if it is just for  a little while.  If I haven't been wearing them during the day I have to slip into them for the last bit of the day.  Clog therapy.

I have no doubt that this European trip has had an enormous influence on me and my siblings in so many ways.  Literally opening up the world for all of us.  Cuisine, culture, music, language- how lucky we are to have had that.

Our family lived in a camping trailer very similar to one that I managed to find through the trading post.  The Europeans know how to camp in style!  While our Aussie style campers are decked out in SUPER heavy canvas- the euro's are lightweight with lots of windows for air and light.
Mine is a Dutch camper from the 70's that has all the original trim throughout. Magnificent.
My siblings & I have all grown up loving camping , my children LOVE it too.

Here it is.

Inside it is like the "tardis" from Dr. Who.  There are 2 double beds and a zip on annexe that we call the "extension".  It even has a kitchen with sink!  Me & Hubby sleep in one double bed, the middle two sleep across the other and we set up a camping bunk for the big two and the porta-cot for bubba. PERFECT!  In fact PURE LUXURY!

I love CAMPING- it is one of the few things as a family where you are kind of forced to just be.  We cook yummy food- it's a kind of tradition that we cook a chicken curry the first night and then whatever.......we love our vintage round cast iron"toastie toasties".  You can readily buy square ones at camping stores but the round ones seal the sandwich so much better and they are now very hard to find except at op-shops. 

A "toastie toastie" is a camping version of a toasted sandwich.  All manner of yumminess can go in.  In fact the more strange often the better- its usually last nights dinner with cheese added.  But to make it super delish you have to put a rasher of bacon on the outside so it comes out with all that crunchy pork goodness on the outside. YUM.

Her's my bubby loving the camping trailer.  Checkout the way the beds have their own little 70's chic fabric cocoon for that necessary bit of camping privacy!  Hilarious!

As you already know COFFEE is also very important to me.  Here is my beautiful Atomic coffee machine  that comes camping with us so I don't have to be without.

I fell in love with it probably on that trip to Europe. Mum says I used to love sitting with her and having a coffee with her.  That is where we learnt to drink it from bowls.  The Swedes have their moring coffee in a bowl- a beautiful way to warm your cold hands.  It is still how I prefer to drink my coffee.

My CHILDREN........  Well who could ever be prepared for the heart melting love that you feel for one's children?
I always knew I wanted a large family.  I was lucky to meet my beautiful hubby three weeks after I turned 17 and we had enough time to make our dream together of a big family reality.  

Here are our FIVE beautiful boys- I love to laugh with them, play with them, learn with them, cry with them, cook with them amongst other things.   Most of all I heart-achingly adore them.

My GORGEOUS HUSBAND- here we are on our wedding day.   I couldn't have done any of this without you!  It's been a fun 23 years so far.....looking forward to many many more!

And then there are my beautiful friends who have helped me through good times and bad. Who have sat around my table with me laughing and crying, feasting and drinking- wine and of course COFFEE!

My wish going forward is that I can continue to share my life with interesting people.  Life is about sharing- sharing the good, the bad, the sad, the difficult, the joyous. 

I am lucky to have a beautiful family & amazing friends- old & new- to share life with.  I have a wonderful life and I am thrilled to say I am very happy to be turning 40.  Long may it continue but may I never GROW UP!

I feel like cooking this Hot & Sour beef shin.....a fave from the LONGRAIN cookbook by Martin Boetz.  It is sooooo deluxe and not that tricky.  Just needs a while to develop it's me AGED 40!!!!!!

                         ......sweet ol' life you taste so sweet!