Saturday, October 16, 2010

Joie de vivre

 Image source: A Butterfly By Day

It's a phrase that is music to my ears and food for my soul. Joie de vivre is a beautiful concept and it rolls off the tongue in a way only French words can. It's a phrase that translates as the joy of living but can be seen as a joy of everything - a joy of food, a joy of simply being, even a philosophy for life. To feel and experience a little joie de vivre every day and radiate a little of it is no mean feat, but if I can do that in this lifetime, I will be proud.

After a few hectic days at work finalising a large project and dealing with a frustrating supplier, I am not feeling as if I'm exuding as much joie de vivre as I have in weeks gone by. When stressed, it's easy for me to forget all the lovely things happening in life. That knot of anxiety that comes to live temporarily in my gut really makes it hard to remember all the little things that make my heart sing. It would be so easy to list all the things that zapped my perky tune this week. Although harder, the task of recalling the things that actually made my heart sing this week is so much better at banishing the negative vibe. Here's what I came up with:

  • Walking out the front door each morning and returning each night to see the freshly painted front fence
  • Recalling the lovely sunny days spent in the front yard on recent weekends to paint the said fence and chat to passing strangers
  • Spontaneously getting to spend Saturday with a friend when she offered to help me find a dress for my cousin's wedding
  • Dreaming of the wedding and the few days I'll spend with my family on Hamilton Island at the end of the month (oh joy!)
  • Spending a few hours after work curled up with my book, enjoying some quiet, relaxing time without the TV on
  • Cycling to work on the grey, wet Ride to Work Day, beating the rain and whizzing happily through the neighbourhood
  • Remembering how cheeky of one of my little brothers is and how much I loved playing with him when he was a little bubba (while scanning photos for his 21st)
  • Catching glimpses of my new watch and remembering TBBITWWW who gave it to me (the best boy in the whole, wide world, in case you didn't catch that!)
Quelle joie de vivre! Happy weekend everyone. May there be joie de vivre within and around you.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Throw me a cake ball

The sense of control felt while baking can be a little therapeutic. I know a lot of non-bakers will disagree but hear me out. In life, so many things are out of our control and we just have to learn with roll with it. Sometimes, it's nice to know that if you do X you will get Y. It's nicer still to know that you can take a set of ingredients that aren't that enticing on their own and whip them into a frenzy to create something irresistable.

And just secretly, there must be a control freak lurking within me as I love starting with a clean bench, lining up all the ingredients along with all the required tools and following the steps until I've got a finished product that somewhat resembles the picture in the recipe book. Nigella would be proud of me!

When getting through other projects seems impossible, it's comforting and fulfilling to start and finish something in a few hours or less. Life often throws us curve balls but I choose to throw cake balls out into the universe and hope I'll get some scrumptious cake balls thrown back my way!

For a nephew's birthday last month, I decided to make some cake balls - better known as cupcakes - decorated as sports balls. I'm not sure if 14 is too old for decorated cupcakes, but I figured they'll be a definite no-no for future birthdays so I'd get in while I can still get away with it.

My cake balls were inspired by a recipe and photo in the September 2010 issue of Super Food Ideas magazine. However, these cupcakes were made for a 14-year old connoisseur so the magazine's suggestion of packet buttermix just wasn't going to cut it. Instead, I made a batch of the white chocolate mud cupcakes from recommended by my friend Ros (who is now, incidentally, a very proud maman to a beautiful baby boy!). This recipe includes white chocolate icing (mmm!) that I split into several portions and dyed with Queen food colouring. The lines and dots on the balls were done with Queen writing icing and writing fudge. The 'grass' on the serving plate was made by shaking coconut in a resealable snap lock bag with a few drops of green food dye. Fun!

I was quite proud of my creations and thought they must have turned out well when a little cousin asked for a second. When I suggested that this gorgeous 3-year-old try a basketball, she replied "that's not a basketball, silly." She'd told me a similar thing when she took her first one, but as that was the more unusual baseball, I wasn't too fazed. But again? I'll have to improve my cake decorating skills, I thought. Then she announced "this is a cake!" It was hard not to laugh in delight. Cake indeed.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Shop Swooning: Black & Spiro, Brisbane

Imagine you are in Brisbane, being guided around New Farm by your sister, Mister in tow, when something catches your eye. "Stop," you shout. "We have to go back."

Imagine entering a shop that provides such a feast of visual delight that you don't know which way to look first. It's like the best birthday of your life, with all your favourite things layed out in front of you like an opulent scene from Marie Antoinette with cakes, bursts of colour and pure indulgence at every turn. Imagine a store that will make your heart sing so loud that you'll be on a natural high for hours to come. You might also feel like crying. This place is that good.

No, you haven't died and gone to heaven, you are in the magnificent surrounds of Black & Spiro, an interior design store in Brisbane. This is not a dream. This is a true story!

 Anna Spiro is the mastermind behind these aesthetically-satisfying surrounds and also the creator of the Absolutely Beautiful Things blog.
 There is such joy in all the colour used at Black & Spiro.
 Room after room, injected with a drug called colour.
 I've heard that love is the drug. Colour love included.
Forget recreational drugs, I've always been against them anyway.
 Just find a place like this that delights your senses for the highest of highs.
 My breathe drew inwards and an audible gasp escaped when I saw these curtains. It's the Velvet Gate Tuxedo fabric from Kravet that I fell in love with on Carrie and Big's bedhead. Remember?
 Warning: highs like this can be addictive.
Nothing could bring down my mood in this place - not even the Mister looking at all the price tags and saying "This place makes me feel sick". Same time, same place, very different reaction. What a funny, old world.

Black & Spiro
768 Brunswick Street
New Farm  Queensland  4005
Phone:  07 3254 3000

Friday, October 1, 2010

Cafe Love - Mr Wolf, St Kilda

Karen Martini's pizza restaurant was the perfect place to wolf something down before an exhibition opening at a nearby gallery. Delicious food - tick, delightful decor - tick, impeccable service - double tick. 

Even though we were a couple dining very early with all the families (read: KIDS), the attentive and professional service ensured our Mr Wolf dining experience was a comfortable and pleasant one. We ate and thoroughly enjoyed the fresh flavours of the insalata maltagliata ('chopped' rump steak, mixed leaves, ricotta, chilli, balsamic $25). The meat was tender and tasty with the smooth, mild blobs of ricotta providing some welcome reprieve from the almost overwhelming balsamic. The pancetta pizza (tomato, pancetta, buffalo mozzarella, olives, green chilli, oregano $23) was excellent with a thin, crisp base and tasty morsels scattered on top. Surprisingly, the meat-loving Mister commented more on the salad than the pizza. Gourmet pizzas are being done well by so many now that I start to question if it's impossible to be wowed by pizza anymore? Nevertheless, washed down with a Little Creatures brew and a glass of sauv blanc, it was an enjoyable meal for a rushed, Wednesday night. 

It's hard to say whether my heart was singing due to eating melted mozzarella and juicy pancetta - foods I've been resisting of late - or because I had the rare pleasure of walking into a restaurant to find my smiling beloved waiting. Maybe this is why they rave about date nights?! It's often not practical to travel separately when you co-habitate, but I like the occasion it provides. Whatever the reason for my heart singing, I'll take it and remember it as the memory of a crappy morning still lingers. Seize cheese the moment!

Mr Wolf
9-15 Inkerman St
St Kilda, Victoria

(03) 9534 0255 
Mr Wolf on Urbanspoon



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