Saturday, May 28, 2011

It's been swell

... but the swelling's gone down

My first blog has been a really enjoyable learning experience (emphasis on the learning) - I was excited to share my thoughts on all of my many interests and to find a few new friends along the way. Now it's time to step away and let new ideas and directions emerge.

Thanks for visiting and stay tuned for my next adventure...

image: impawards

Monday, May 23, 2011

Just in time for winter

It's been a while but I wanted to pop in and share with you the end to what has been a very exciting project. Do you remember the mantlepiece we installed at the end of last year?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

febfast update: Week 4

It's the 1st of March! You know what that means don't you - yeah yeah summer's over but what else? I made it through febfast!

I'd like to thank each and every one of you who's encouraged me with your words and donations - they all meant a lot to me. I faced a few challenges along the way but overall I appreciated the opportunity to enjoy a clear head and believe it or not - less temptations and distractions. I have discovered lots of delicious alternatives to alcohol which are here to stay although I do look forward to savoring a glass or two of mouth-watering Victorian wine one day soon.

If you had intended to donate (but wanted to see if I'd succeed first) you can still sponsor me until 31st March. And if you're considering a week or a month 'on the wagon' - I highly recommend it - you'll feel great and be so proud of yourself when you've achieved your goal!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

febfast update: Week 3

Apart from the conventional non-alcoholic beverages on the market today - I wanted to explore those that are not so conventional - can a de-alcoholised wine or beer taste anywhere near as nice as the real thing? Or is it just as disappointing as carob compared to chocolate?I decided to see what's available (in the name of research).

Maggie Beer's Sparkling Ruby Cabernet  
This is a really pleasant, flavourful drink which might benefit even more from crushed ice and lime wedges. At about $15 it's a nice change from the usual bubbles and definitely not expensive.
Recommended by none other than Derryn Hinch, I found the Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon at my local Coles supermarket for $7.99 per bottle. Upon opening each bottle - I got a distinct sweet aroma of grape juice and although there was definitely a hint of the real thing, I found that the red wine lacked body and finish - while the white had less 'grape juice' overtones and a bit more flavour. Interestingly - my non wine drinking husband enjoyed the red much more than any other wine he's tried.

a Californian range whose Blanc achieved a Gold Medal against regular wines in LA many years ago. Thomas Dux carries this range and I purchased the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Brut Cuvee at about $17 each. I tried the red with a wine friend of mine and we both agreed that while it still had a sense of wine, it was lacking in body once again. I described it as 'empty'. I'd purchased the Brut Cuvee to enjoy on a weekend away with my mother and sister, and although it had the colour, fizz and smell of a standard sparkling, once again the flavour wasn't quite there. I didn't finish my second glass.

Aigua de Moritz
Our local wine store had a de-alcoholised beer for sale this month, so I grabbed a couple to share with my husband on a humid evening. It is made in XXX and the colour is similar to a Corona. The first taste is enjoyable and refreshing but the last taste in my mouth was something else.

The moral of the story
As with most things, an imitation is exactly that - an imitation (ie not quite the real thing). I would have enjoyed a lime & soda much more than any of these beverages and although I'm sure they have their place, my palate would prefer the real thing or nothing.

If you're looking for some more info about Non-Alcoholic beverages try these sites

febfast update: Week 2

When I began this challenge, I wanted to arm myself with lots of great ideas as well as have some ready to drinks to fall back on when time was short. I remembered my old favourite recipe book - Marie Claire Food & Drink by Michelle Cranston and wanted to share with you some of the great drinks I've tried over the month:

Moroccan Mint Tea
Place 4 springs of mint, 1 wedge of lemon, 1 star anise, 1/2 cinammon stick and 1 tsp caster sugar (optional) in a small glass and top with boiling water. Stir well to dissolve the sugar and drink while hot. Serves 1. Tip - this is just as delicious without the sugar!

Rose Petal Sherbet (adapted)
1 cup rose petal syrup
2 litres sparkling mineral water

Divide the rose petal syrup between 8 chilled glasses and to with sparkling mineral water. A beautiful choice for Sunday afternoon with the girls.

Mango Lassi
In a blender combine 3/4 cup of roughly chopped mango flesh, 11 tsp honey, 1 tsp lime juice, 1/2 cup natural yoghurt and 1 1/2 cups ice cubes. Blend until smooth and pour into chilled glasses. Serves 2.

Banana Cardamom Lassi
Remove the small seeds from 1 cardamom pod and place them in a blender aklong with 1 roughly chopped banana, 1/2 cup natural yoghurt and 1 1/2 cups of ice cubes. Blend until smooth and pour into chilled glasses. Serves 2.

Orange & Rosewater Ice Cubes
Combine 1 cup of rosepetal syup and 1 cup of water , pour into ice cubve trays and freeze. Place the ice cubes into chilled glasses and fill with freshly squeezed orange juice. Serves 6.

Fall Backs (always have these in the fridge)
Hepburn Springs sparkling mineral water
Bundaberg Ginger Beer
Cranberry Juice, Lime & Soda

See? Dry needn't mean Dull.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

febfast update: Week 1

One week is over and I haven't felt the slightest bit cheated. Hubs did offer me a beer but his embarrassed face told me it was definitely an accident! I ate out twice this week, contenting myself with Lime & Soda's, beware if you're not used to fizzy drinks - they fill you up fast!
I have been overwhelmed with the amount of support I've received from friends and family - my donations were at $120 before February has even started and since then they've risen to $140 - GO ME!

Last week we enjoyed a Moroccan inspired menu at home and I was thrilled to find some interesting and tasty Moroccan drinks courtesy of Cooking with Alia.
The Peach & Orange Blossom, Almond & Orange Blossom and Watermelon & Rosewater drinks were not only dead easy to make, they tasted just like summer in a glass! Moroccans often use these wonderful flavours and essences which can take any standard juice and whip it up into something far more exotic -they'll all be in my repertoire long after febfast is over.
Like any lifestyle change, the trick to making sure this isn't a drag is to be prepared. At the beginning of the week I hit up our local green grocer Pompello (Victoria Street Seddon - visit if you can!) for a great range of fruit and berries and went home to try out a few cordial recipes I'd found online...

Left to Right: Raspberry & Rosewater Cordial, Orange & Lemon Barley Cordial, Almond Sherbet

Raspberry & Rosewater Cordial from

  • 1 1/2 cups caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 300g frozen or fresh raspberries
  • 6-8 drops rosewater

Method: Place sugar, lime juice and water in a saucepan over medium-low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add raspberries and increase the heat to bring to a simmer. Simmer for 8-10 minutes then remove from heat and stir in rosewater. Allow to cool. Pour the raspberry mixture into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Press mixture through a sieve to remove seeds. Store cordial in a clean, dry jar. To serve, add a little cordial to iced water, soda water or lemonade. 

Verdict: What a delicious treat - not too sweet and the combination of Raspberry and Rosewater is a winner!

Lemon Barley Cordial from Aussies Living Simply
Makes approx 600ml. Keeps for 2 weeks, refrigerated.

  • 2 organic oranges
  • 1 small organic lemon
  • 85g pearl barley
  • 200g caster sugar
Method: Pare the zest of 1 of the oranges and the lemon and place in a bowl. Squeeze the juice from all the fruit and strain to remove pips and flesh (you should have about 250ml juice).
Put the barley in a small saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to the boil. Then strain through a sieve and discard the water. return the barley to the pan. add 600ml of boiling water and the fruit rind and bring back to the boil.Reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for 40 minutes. Strain the barley and return the liquid to the pan.
Add the sugar to the strained barley water, stir once then heat gently without stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Boil for 2 min, stirring a couple of times, then add the strained fruit juice and bring back to the boil.
Pour immediately into warmed sterilized bottles using a funnel.
Seal, and leave to cool, then store in fridge Shake before use. 

Verdict: I used a combination of oranges and lemons in this one and it's a beautifully refreshing drink - hint - add some fresh mint leaves to serve!

Almond Sherbet from Marie Claire Food & Drink
by Michelle Cranston
Place 200ml of water, 4 Tbs almond meal, 4 split cardamom pods and 1 cup of sugar. Boil until the mixture thickens. Cool, add 1 tsp rosewater and 2 drops almond essence. Top up with cold sparkling water. Serves 10.

Verdict: OK so my muddy brown syrup doesn't look like the photo in the book, but this is an amazing flavour and it's just perfect on a hot day - dare you to try it!

As far as my mini challenge of walking every morning went - Rossi and I enjoyed a beautiful sunrise on Tuesday but too many late nights meant that my well-meaning endeavours came to a grinding halt by Wednesday. Nevermind - this week I'll be aiming for a 10pm bedtime (where I should have started all along!)

Next week
Join me as I explore the unique world of non-alcoholic alcoholic beverages - beer or wine anyone?

Monday, January 31, 2011

febfast update: one sleep to go

WOW! I'm already overwhelmed with the amount of support I've gotten since announcing my challenge a week ago. With $120 in the bank already I look forward to inspiring even more donations throughout the month.

Now for my Grand Plan. To make this an enjoyable month I've decided to explore some non-alcoholic alternatives for when I might get a hankering for a nice cold glass of wine. There are lots of refreshing ideas out there and tonight I'll be stocking up on citrus, ginger, berries, delish tropical fruits and yoghurt. I'm going to try out all sorts of yummy juices and cordials and I can't wait to share my favourite recipes with you!

So onto this week’s mini challenge – I’m going to make the most of this unseasonal summer weather (Melbourne joke) we’ve been having and rise at 6am each day for a morning walk with Rossi. The sun is set to rise at 6:33 am tomorrow – is anyone out there willing to offer me a $20 bonus for catching a photo of it from the stands at Whitten Oval?

February Forecast: Dry

Febfast Update Hi Everyone,

Just popping in to let you know why I've decided to take on this seemingly crazy project ... and you know I love projects!

I came across the idea while reading the very inspiring work of Sarah Wilson and when I jumped onto the FebFast website I was really excited about the testimonials of past fasters and wanted to be in on the action.

I mean - a clearer mind, better sleep, being more productive, enjoying bright and early mornings, a stronger mind and body - who wouldn't want a piece of that??

Now it's not like I drink a LOT, in fact I enjoy several AFD free days a week but I'd just like to feel the difference going dry for a whole month will do for me. And of course, there's nothing better than setting a goal and achieving it!

'But, Christie - don't you work in the wine industry?'
Yes. Yes I do.
'Isn't this a bit, you know, not in the spirit of the industry?'
Well maybe, but I'm talking about MY best interests here - nothing else. And besides, although I love a nice drop of Victorian wine as much as the next gal, I'm under no illusions that I'm keeping the industry afloat all by myself. Got it? Good.

So if you understand what I'm trying to achieve here, and you want to lend a hand to young people battling alcohol and drug abuse, please donate to my worthy cause, it's good karma!

I'll update my blog weekly, and I'll set some little challenges along the way to see just how well this new and improved me can perform. Who knows - I might even pick up some great new habits... 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

This week's Haul

Today's expedition to the Melbourne Showground's Farmers Market was an interesting one - and not only because I was on 2 wheels instead of 4.

It was about 9am as I was riding along the Maribyrnong, when just before the giant golden statue I heard the unmistakeable sounds of dance music pumping out over the river. Surley enough, there was a dance party happening in the bushes! Didn't they know the Big Day Out was on just a bit further up the river today?
Nevertheless it looked like this mob had been enjoying themselves for hours - and didn't seem to be packing up to head over to the racecourse any time soon.

Upon arriving at the market, I sat down to enjoy one of Chef Michael's burgers with the lot and some iced mint lemon water - how thoughtful on such a hot day! I had to shop carefully today, with only my basket and panniers to carry my goodies home. I've really been enjoying the lemon apple cucumbers from Yellow Box Rd Organics and couldn't go past those beautiful organic blueberries at 3 for $10! And yes - that is 2 dozen eggs you see there - I carried them safely in my basket - just for added difficulty.

2 dozen eggs for $7! 3 punnets of organic blueberries for $10!

Today's haul set me back $50 including a delicious breakfast - for that price why wouldn't you want to buy fresh, in season, locally grown, organic, free range food??

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Welcome back Farmers!

Finally! Our fridge is full of wonderful healthy treats after Sunday’s return of the Melbourne Showgrounds Farmer’s Market.
There were lots of delicious things to entice us and I grabbed a Yapunyah chook before we sat down with our morning coffees (Yapunyah won't be back until April - we'll miss you guys!)
Other things in my new shopping trolley this week:
  • Eggs from Kaz's Googs
  • Rainbow Chard and parsley from Spring Creek Organics
  • MMMMM real butter from the Myrtleford Butter Factory
  • Thai basil, golden nugget pumpkin, ronde de nice zucchini, purple carrots, lemon apple cucumber from Yellow Box Rd Organics
  • Carrots, broccoli, cauli, zucchini, beans, plums pears and apples

Myrtleford Butter Factory are now on board

Herloom Varieties from Yellow Box Rd Organics

My favourite Christmas gift of them all

All for just $81.30 people!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Secret Crush

Have you ever had a secret crush on someone-thing? And you haven't been able to shake it for years?

One of my old crushes has re-emerged this year - possibly since I've been dreaming up all sorts of lovely mantlescapes I'm looking forward to trying. Years ago, I purchased my very own copy of Vicki Archer's 'My French Life' and within it's pages was the most stunning vase I had ever seen...

Behold le Vase d'Avril Grand Modele 
of Tse & Tse's Bazar

Isn't she glorious! She'd look equally stylish running along a mantlepiece - with every few tubes holding a tall tulip or crazy daisy to attention - as she would when wandering down the dining table, filled with roses for a special occasion. However good she looks, it's the 175 Euro price tag that stings and this is the one reason why I've only admired from afar.

I have used the as inspiration for my own creations - little Sanpellegrino or Moo Brew bottles lined up have a lovely effect, but they are still missing that certain je ne sais quoi that I believed I might only find in France.

After a long and desperate search over a year ago - I found the Flex Vase at Andy Designs in the US and even tried to order one through there for a fraction of the designer price - but alas, they were out of stock and I never heard from them again, nor did I try to follow it up. Maybe deep down I knew I wouldn't be satisfied with the affordable US substitute.

Maybe I just want a little piece of French Life in my life too. Will 2011 be the year? I'll happily keep drinking Sanpellegrino and Moo Brews to add to my other collections in the meantime...

Friday, January 7, 2011

Free as a bird (or 'My Saturday List')

For the last 18 months I worked a weekend 'hobby' job. Partly for some extra cash and partly to keep myself out of mischief when Trav was out at the army or working. I loved it. My plan worked too well actually - I selected a place where I would enjoy working so much - I wouldn't regret giving up my Saturdays and it took about 4 months of deliberating to finally break away at the end of 2010. They'll always be there though - happy for a visit and to show me the latest delicious product.

Having missed out on lots of fun things I have a new-found appreciation of 2-day weekends and I'm not about to take them for granted so I've written up a Saturday List which holds all sorts of exciting plans. I hope it doesn't get out of control!

I'm especially looking forward to this Saturday as it's my first real one off since the Christmas break. I'm going for a leisurely walk with my close friend Tamra on the hunt for vintage frocks and we've already lined up 2 must-see shops.

Bam-Bam Vintage Clothing in Williamstown and recently reopened Diamond Dog in my own lovely Seddon. I popped my head in there last night and Sally assured me that she's just restocked with lots of beautiful frocks and shoes, all from television sets so barely worn. I'm already eyeing off a cute little red and white duck sundress in the window, I hope it's waiting for me on Saturday!

Got any other recommendations in the area? Keep in mind we're on foot for the day!

The language of flowers

Back in the good old Victorian days when gentlemen carried handkerchiefs and wore top hats, and women's dresses sweeped the floor, a secret language was used to communicate between lovers. Floriography is the language of flowers, and the intention of the message was deciphered by the type of flower and its colour - as well as the way it was delivered.

I had selected shades of yellow and gold for our New Year's Eve dinner as I liked their cheerfulness and according to Chinese culture they would bring wealth and happiness. I guess you could say that I was embracing the local culture while I was shopping at Little Saigon in Footscray.

Not until afterwards did I think to sit down and decipher what I actually did set the table with that day. Generally yellow blooms can have quite negative connotations - relating to jealousy or disappointment, so I preferred to lean towards the positive explanations in this case (but let that be a warning to anyone handing out a bunch of yellow flowers!)

From Left Green Chrysanthemum cheerful and honest Yellow Rose friendship and freedom, the promise of a new beginning Yellow Alstromeria wealth, prosperity, fortune or friendship Yellow Chrysanthemum courage Yellow Calla Gratitude, also considered resurrection and rebirth (fitting for a new year don't you think?) Yellow Carnation friendship and a sweet smile.

Looks like 2011 is going to be a good one!

My sources
Carnations - here and here
green and yellow chryssies
calla lilies here and here
Chinese culture

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Year idea: a pace for everything | Sarah Wilson

New Year idea: a pace for everything | Sarah Wilson

The words in Sarah's post echo my own feelings about this coming year. They say that how we spend our day is how we spend our life so we decided to take our New Year's Day at a relaxed pace, with a flexible plan. We enjoyed a slow morning, a nice walk, a movie and a suprise treat. We also faced a difficult afternoon with our little dog Rossi succumbing to a round of seizures (not the first time). So we took the good with the bad, and will keep a positive mindset for 2011 - knowing that whatever happens and wherever we find ourselves, we are in exactly the right place - sometimes for reasons too big to understand.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My thoughts on 2011

The time has come when we are given a fresh start. A blank canvas. A new chance. A new year. 365 days to do with whatever we see fit.

Or is it?

Someone once said
You decide every moment of every day who you are and what you believe in.
You get a second chance, every second.
I haven't tied myself to a long list of resolutions and I'm not starting out on an ambitions fitness plan either. 2010 was a big one for us, with really big highs at our wedding in June, to a couple of thumping lows with the passing of some loved ones. Everyone was bracing themselves for 2010 - we were promised be a big year and I don't think anyone was untouched.

We have our plans and goals for 2011, there are some things we hope to achieve by the end of they year, and the plan is in place, but my own 2011 intention is to take it slow and keep it simple. I'll be doing things because they make me happy this year, and won't be committing to too much or too many. If I feel that I'm starting to miss the little details that make life grand then I'll know it's time to take a step back and take my second chance. The beauty is this - we don't need a New Year to make a change or start something new - we get that second chance, every second of every day - take it if you need to.

Thanks to Me from iwrotethisforyou for the quote.

Stoking the fire

Isn't it wonderful when everyone' imagination runs away with them for a moment! When visiting our friends Di and Matt (the artist) in Castlemaine recently, we all looked at pictures of the mantle and discussed the fire which would soon be burning inside it.
Our thoughts wandered to the warm weather outside as we considered what to do in summer - surely we don't need it burning 365 days a year and we definitely don't need to stare at a blazing fire during one of  Melbourne's inevitable heatwaves.
Matt's words were 'we need a reversy!'. Yes! Why not - one side will have a fireplace and the other side can be an empty hearth - brilliance!
Now where do we find a double sided canvas? Do they even exist? Can someone make one? How will we attach it? Well Trav had the answer to that one straight away, two eye hooks on the inside bottom of the mantlepiece and 2 hooks along the top of the canvas will make 'putting the fire on' a breeze.

So I've started contacting some canvas and art suppliers to find out if it's something that needs to be custom made - and at what cost? Of course, we could also glue 2 canvases together ourselves, but I think this would end up quite bulky and the depth of the mantle walls is no more than an inch.

What's that? Have 2 separate canvases? Nah - I don't want to be worried about unnecessary storage and anyway this other idea is way to clever ... I'll be back soon with my findings!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hello Mantle!

Ta Da!

What a beauty! She finishes our little lounge off perfectly - and dare I say, even makes the space appear larger! She was definitely worth the princely sum of $41 and a few hours work - and I was rapt that we got it together before NYE!

And a few pretty shots all dolled up for NYE...

I have a feeling you'll be seeing a lot more of her...

PS One of my goals this year is to take better photos!

Summer Project - Day 2

After waiting 24 hours for the first coat to dry - we were ready to put the mantlepiece into position in our lounge room. 

Using the original holes, we fixed the mantle into the wall using these plugs,

and then patched up the evidence with builders putty.


When it was all attached, it was finally time for the 2nd coat of paint

Can you notice anything wrong with this picture? When measuring the height of the skirting board, we measured the one in the garage - not in the lounge, which was a bit shorter due to the tiles on the floor. So there is a small gap there but it's not something we're worried about, the mantlepiece is reinforced and securely fastened to the wall - but hopefully someone else might learn from this simple mistake!

Next up - the great unveiling.....

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Summer Project Day 1

(Or "How to transform your lounge room in 2 days")

I didn't get a chance to get my hands on my new project until after Christmas and I couldn't wait to get stuck into it in time for New Year's Eve dinner at our place.

First I had to sand back the glossy grey/green paint
As we wanted the mantle to stand on the floor, we had to cut into the back of the base to make room for the skirting boards. As you can see, the two side pieces are seperate to the front - so all we needed to do is shorten and remove these.
Trav measured and marked the height of the boards and moved the screws on the base to reinforce the backing.

Then he expertly sawed off the side pieces and using some metal from an old wine rack, reinforced the base.

Once the brackets were in place, we tested out our handiwork in the garage - looking good!

Our trusty site foreman

Finally it was time for the first coat of paint - we had a full tin of Dulux Napkin White which we'd used on all the trim when we moved in, so it's been a very affordable project so far...

Coming up... Day 2!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy 2011!

How did you ring in the New Year?

Were you out and about - facing the throngs of people in town for fireworks? Or did you have tickets to one of the big parties? We took it easy and enjoyed an amazing meal with 4 close friends. We hosted, but everyone brought a course so the pressure was off...

 I had more time to decorate the table
 and our new mantle (the full story coming soon!)
 I found every glass vase and jar in the house and filled them with a cheerful mix of blooms

Happy New Year to you all!
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