Thursday, June 24, 2010

Leading Ladies

What a historic day in politics with Julia Gillard (above left) becoming Australia's first female Prime Minister. Whatever your political affiliation, it seems the excitement of change touched many in the last 24 hours.

Since I am under no illusion of being a political commentator, I won't analyse the new leadership of our fine land except on the matters of style and to ask, didn't the PM's make-up look great? Amazing what some eye make-up can do for a girl! Unfortunately, our Governor-General is a stylish operator so when she showed up to make it all official, Ms Gillard's glow was a little overshadowed by Ms Bryce's red lippy, not to mention the dashing yellow suit and corsage (pictured above, centre). Her Excellency is one classy broad. I can't write about her and not show you this page taken from the March 2010 issue of Madison magazine. My love for this quote is such that I copied it and gave it out to anyone who didn't pull their hand away fast enough. Here it is for you:

“I’d like young women to understand that they can have it all, but not all at the same time. It’s so important to take good care of yourself, of your mental and physical and spiritual wellbeing, but it’s hard to do. It’s easier to be a workaholic than to have a truly balanced life.” 

Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC, 67, 
Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia

Friday, June 11, 2010

A winter warmer to swoon about

With 15 years between my oldest and youngest brothers, there are always great observations to be had around generational differences and the inevitable change in family dynamics, particularly parenting, as the six of us "grow up". As you might imagine, this has caused a little angst and hostility at times but mostly it gives us a laugh as we marvel at the changes and differences in each of us and our circumstances. Conversely, our similarities, in spite of growing up in different decades in vastly different environments, bring about a sense of wonder. It raises the question "are we products of nature or nurture?"

Recently my youngest brother (15) wrote a Facebook status update that began with the word "swoon" and related to his love for a music group. Just hearing that word makes me swoon. How perfectly it captures the heart's tendancy to focus on an object of affection for one extravagent moment as if nothing else exists. Teenagers are passionate creatures, discovering what it is that makes them tick. Their obsessions are not always understood, not even by them, but they are always enjoyed with intensity even if it comes from a defiant place or a desire to belong. With social networking becoming commonplace, our passions are often out and proud. As a result, our differences are perhaps celebrated more than they were in decades gone by and that's a positive that today's teenagers may be partially responsible for. Obviously there are well-documented  negatives to posting our details and desires online, but I'm not here to warn against stalking, bullying and other horrors. I'm here to swoon like a teenager and convince myself that my gorgeous little brother and I are surely more similar than we are different!

Here is a winter dish that totally makes me swoon. In light of the above about passion, discovery and following your loves without question, I am not going to continue trying to work out why I like it so. I just do. I like each ingredient on it's own and I like them even better combined on the same plate. What more could I ask for in a winter warmer? Try it for yourself. I call it chargrilled lamb with cheesy polenta and red wine balsamic sauce. Swoon!

Chargrilled lamb with cheesy polenta and red wine balsamic sauce
Adapted from Simply Heaven, the PHILADELPHIA recipe book.

Serves 4

500-600g lamb backstraps or 8 small lamb steaks
Olive oil spray

½ cup red wine
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup honey
1 clove garlic, crushed or 1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 sprigs rosemary
2 cups water

1 ½ cups milk
1 cup polenta
125g light cream cheese
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

2 red capsicums cut into large cubes
2 squash, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced

1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Spray vegetables with olive oil and roast in a single layer on a tray for at least 30 minutes or until the vegetables start browning. Turn halfway through cooking if you can.

2. Combine the wine, balsamic, honey, garlic and rosemary in a saucepan, bring to boil, then simmer gently until ready to serve.

3. Spray the lamb with oil and chargrill for 3 minutes each side.

4. Meanwhile, bring the water and milk to the boil in a medium-large saucepan. Reduce heat and whisk in the polenta. Continue to whisk until the mixture thickens and comes away from the saucepan. Turn off the heat and whisk in cream cheese, parmesan and salt and pepper if desired.

5. Divide polenta between serving plates, top with chargrilled vegetables and two lamb steaks (or slices of backstrap if using). Drizzle with red wine and balsamic sauce and garnish with a sprig of rosemary. Serve immediately.

For a very simple take on this dish, try serving the lamb and vegetables on a prepared box of Continental flavoured cous cous Mediterranean vegetables and herbs. Not quite swoonworthy but tasty all the same.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A touch of sea salt

So there is lightly salted, slightly sweet popcorn and a few other salted nut and choc delights out there for those of us in favour of some sweet with our sour, but until recently they all seemed to be lollies designed for kids or recipes you had to make yourself. Now Lindt has come up with a genius flavour for the big, sophisticated kids of the world - sea salt chocolate anyone? Try it before you diss it.

Lindt Excellence 'A touch of sea salt' appeared in the Melbourne Lindt Chocolat Cafe in Collins Street a few weeks ago and I purchased a wee stash in fear that it may be a limited edition or experimental range. When it turned up at my local Coles a week later (see below), I thought we may have a regular range in the making. I almost started my own sales spiel on the unsuspecting ladies deliberating in the chocolate aisle. Surely higher sales equals a greater chance of salty choc for keeps?

Lindt have made this flavour with a dark base so milk lovers may find it too much but the advertising does describe it as "surprisingly sweet". For others, the tingle of salt on your tongue mid-bite will tantalise. Unlike other chocolate, I found a few pieces satisfying. Now if it was a little sweeter, in a milk chocolate say, the salt
would contrast delightfully and I'd never be able to stop. Does this mean chocolate with a touch of sea salt is perfectly satisfying or not quite right? You be the judge.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cheating on fashion with furniture

It would not be a stretch to surmise that when Carrie announces that she's "been cheating on fashion with furniture" in Sex and the City 2, the passion for the show was re-ignited in fans across the globe. Characters and viewers alike have aged a few years since the final season and the first movie, and in some of us our yearnings have moved from fashion designs to interior ones. When compared to the show's four stars, Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte, it could be argued that most of us never were fashionable. The volume of designer fashion seen hanging from their limbs is, and always has been, out of reach for the majority. Indulging in fantasy is all part of the appeal though, and the interiors in SATC2 are similarly gratifying. Some may still ogle at the fashion, but I admit my eyes were eating up the interiors, particularly the New York apartments. Any scene in Carrie and Big's bedroom is a blur in my memory and I was enamoured with the striking bed head (pictured below).

This is Velvet Gate Tuxedo fabric from Kravet. Loving.

The movie also provided enough wallpaper to satisfy my penchant for beautiful and unique designs running across interior walls. There were birds on walls and even on cushions (you can just see a glimpse of the Paul Smith Birdie Blossom cushion in the first photo of this post). And how's this for a chandelier? I think the wallpaper in the background is the one with birds.

Whatever the critics are saying about the latest instalment of this cult show, it holds visual appeal in buckets and the feel good factor by the handbag-full. At times the comedy goes so far that the movie could be taken as a parody of the series, but I guess that was their technique for making it into a show for the big screen. If this element holds no appeal, just use these moments to feast your eyes on something in the background and wait for the more poignant scenes. One that sticks with me is when Miranda finally gets perfectionist Charlotte to admit that being a mother is really hard. Finally, the facade falls.

Charles Whyte was a guest of the lovely Anna Tee (aka my cycling idol) at a very special SATC2 preview screening. It was an evening of entertainment and surprises, so much so that we declared ourselves to be like two kids in a candy shop! Endless thanks to Karen Gee for enabling it all.



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