Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sartorial Sunday: Bonjour heat

Untitled by Ellise Whyte on

A truely sartorial Sunday is not so easy in 38 degree heat. We retreated from the scorching sun at every opportunity as we visited family and friends in Central Victoria this weekend. Fashions were casual: a light denim skirt with anchor buttons, my newest favorite tee (a perfect gift) and silver sandals. Air conditioning was appreciated as we enjoyed lunch at the Bendigo Art Gallery cafe overlooking Rosalind Park. Berry gelati is keeping me going tonight as I avoid my bedroom and its distinct lack of cooling. Summer is really here. Tonight I've been checking out Polyvore after hearing about it from Christie. Now that's HOT! 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An Australia Day icing explosion

Australians are known for our 'have a go' attitude so what better time to try rolled fondant icing for the first time than Australia Day. It was one of those baking techniques on my 'must do' list. It seemed quite a feat to master until I watched a Planet Cake video online and it seemed a cinch. Wrong! My first hunch was right.

Firstly, I made a double batch of Donna Hay's melt-and-mix white chocolate mud cake. Started daydreaming and looked at the plain flour quantity when putting in self-raising flour. Bad start. Managed to scrape a lot out and replace with plain flour but not before I could see the mixture frothing! Got right back on track.

Once cooled, the cake was filled with Donna Hay's white chocolate fudge icing, similar to a whipped ganache and then covered with a basic white chocolate ganache recipe. Cursing myself for not having two round tins of exactly the same shape. I can already see the cake is whacky at this point but boy does it taste good when I cut a few bits off to "even it up"!

As per Planet Cake advice (and because there are only so many hours in an evening) I left it overnight to set. In the morning, I had a nice solid surface to work with but there is one piece of advice I skimmed over and that was to make a really smooth surface. I should have dipped a knife in hot water and smoothed the cake's surface. I assumed that thick fondant would cover all manner of sin.

Rolling out the Orchard icing was pretty straightforward using a rolling pin and cornflour. It's durable and didn't tear. Using the rolling pin to drape it over the cake, making a ghostly shape in the process, was pretty fun.

Then I tried to rub in circular motions to smooth it from top to bottom just like the Planet Cake people. The rubbing technique did not make up for the lumps of white chocolate peeking through. At this point I told my husband I had made a volcano. I needed to get to the office and I was feeling disappointed.

What the heck I thought, I'll chuck another layer on and see if that looks any better. Planet Cake did not advise me to do this, I'm sure it breaks all sorts of rules but sometimes us amateurs are just stuck in these tricky little situations and we need a quick-fix, however unorthodox. I don't know if it looked better, but I felt better so I pinned on some ribbon, stuck in a little flag and voila, Bob's your uncle. When swivelled around to its less favourable side, the cake on the plate even looks like an Akubra. Hey True Blue?!

 My first attempt at rolled fondant wasn't all smooth sailing but it was a good learning experience and my workmates were very obliging and gracious taste testers at our Australia Day morning tea.

We enjoyed it with lamingtons, chocolate teddy bear biscuits, Vegemite sandwiches, fairy bread and sausage rolls.

It wasn't perfect of course, but my Aussie spirit was telling me that "she'll be right". Nothing's perfect.

Wishing you all a very enjoyable Australia Day. I've found myself a BBQ to attend while listening to the Hottest 100 countdown on Triple J and brushing up on my Aussie slang. Beaut.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sartorial Sunday: A school of primary colours

Welcome to Sartorial Sundays! In an attempt to learn to use Photoshop, I have laboured over this collage of one of my favourite weekend outfits this summer. I may even make it a regular feature and post collages of what I want to wear, not just what I am wearing and open it up for participation with a linky tool. For now, feel free to leave a comment on what you're enjoying wearing (or what you wish you were wearing) this season.

Today I was in exercise gear to play kick-to-kick by the Maribyrnong and work/painting clothes to help the Mister on our roof, so the pictures above are what I was wearing yesterday for a delightful lunch at the Duchess of Spotswood with a delightful mademoiselle.

French Connection promenade stripe ruffle shirt
Country Road stretch twill short
Evolve red linen jacket from Emilio design, 397 Smith Street Collingwood Victoria yellow cruz bag
Elk yellow bird necklace
Tiffany silver beads earrings
The sandals are the only thing I don't really own. I couldn't find a picture of my silver ones on the net and didn't fancy photographing and editing them like I had to do for the jacket so I am posting these similar ones by Giuseppe Zanotti.

Happy Sunday!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Queen Anne brings royal treatment to the guest room

Overnight visitors will be given the royal treatment at our humble abode with the new addition of this Queen Anne bedside table in our guest room.

Here's a 'before' shot of the table on Sunday just after picking it up from the other side of Melbourne. 

An absolute eBay bargain at $28.77. I had been watching this style for awhile and had seen two others sold during the week for $53 and $152. I am so rapt with my project this week - it was well worth the time invested in collecting it and making it over. Sanding it back took me a good hour...

Applying three coats of paint (Taubmans water based enamel in gloss white) took me another three hours over Sunday afternoon and Monday evening, but it cost nothing as I had this paint left over from my desk makeover.

The times above include doing this little chair while I was at it. I couldn't resist a cute chair like this at a garage sale on the way home from picking up the table.

The pine cones had to make the 'before' photo as they were "free because you can buy them in the park". Or so said the young girls who gave them to me with the $1 chair purchase. Hilarious! Had to prise off the gemstone and glitter pen swirls from the backrest and sand quite well to remove the glitter spinkled into the paint during its last makeover!

The guest room now looks like a nice place to curl up with a book with the afternoon sun sneaking through. 

 A wider shot of the room showing the very bare wall above the bed. Not sure of my ideas for this wall from last year now. The chair was a found in the hard rubbish collection next door to my old place and painted white at the same time I did the yukky bedside drawers that used to live in this room.

A 'before' shot of the room taken on my iPhone at night (sorry, very poor). 

You might notice that the curtains are no longer purple. A closer look below at the terrible old drawers that never opened properly... even before I painted over the light brown about 5 years ago. 

One last look at the much sweeter little corner now...

Confession of an imperfect blogger: I hid the lamp from view because it is a desk lamp from my uni days and totally ruins the look. 

The painting was a birthday gift a few years back from my talented, sweet friend Ros who lives too far away these days. And before you ask, the hydrangeas are from The Flower Shed in Footscray not from one of my naughty trips pruning the flower bushes in my neighborhood! I am considering a more interesting knob for the drawer but overall I'm just loving this table. It is so rewarding finding and transforming stuff. Totally makes my heart sing! I do hope it has the same effect on our next overnight visitors, whoever they may be.

Beach Cottage Good Life Wednesdays

Monday, January 17, 2011

Bless you neopolitan chicken parcels with rocket and red onion salad

Having never made chicken parcels before, or many rolled meat recipes at all, I was quite proud when serving up these neopolitan chicken parcels with rocket and red onion salad to my brother and husband. They had spent most of the day putting up new guttering on the roof while I was indoors doing all manner of good wifey things (read: cooking, cleaning and research... of the internet variety...sshhh). So there I was thinking I had done my duty for the day and could sit down smugly and eat my meal.

Alas, my brother appeared to be having a nasty reaction to something. His hayfever worsened almost as soon as he started his meal. Tears streamed down his face and he had to excuse himself from the table to sneeze and get more tissues. Bless you, bless you. I realised it was the red onion and offered to remove it from his plate. I felt like a very bad sister not knowing that my little brother didn't like onion. He assured me he does like it but it hasn't been agreeing with him lately because of his bad hayfever. How crazy and amusing. We had to have a laugh. To think I had halved the quantity of red onion as we are not big consumers of it in this house!

All the rain and humidity in recent months and the high pollen counts that follow have resulted in hayfever, asthma and respiratory problems for many. So it's not just my little brother and it's not my cooking either (phew!). Despite the dramatic start to our meal, we all enjoyed the tasty chicken parcels and two of us enjoyed most of the salad. That onion was really out of favour by then and much of it remained on our plates destined for disposal.

Neopolitan chicken parcels with rocket and red onion salad

4 single chicken breast fillets (680g)
8 large fresh basil leaves
8 drained marinated artichoke heart quarters (100g)
2/3 cup (100g) semi-dried tomatoes
150g bocconcini cheese, sliced thinly

Rocket and red onion salad

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
100g baby rocket leaves
½ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1 medium red onion (170g), sliced thinly (reduce or omit this quantity according to taste and allergies!)
1 tablespoon drained baby capers, rinsed

1. Using meat mallet, gently pound one chicken fillet between sheets of plastic wrap until 1cm in thickness. I had to improvise with a plastic mallet and rolling pin! Place two of the large basil leaves on one side of chicken fillet; top leaves with two artichoke heart quarters, a quarter of the tomato and a quarter of the cheese. Fold chicken fillet over filling; tie with kitchen string to enclose securely. Repeat process with remaining chicken fillets, basil, artichoke, tomato and cheese.

2. Cook chicken parcels, uncovered, on heated oiled grill plate (or grill or barbecue) until browned both sides. Cover parcels with a flameproof lid or foil; cook about 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

3. Meanwhile, make rocket and red onion salad. Serve chicken parcels with salad.

Rocket and red onion salad
Whisk oil, juice and mustard in large bowl. Add remaining ingredients; toss gently to combine

Source: Low-carb, low-fat by the Australian Women’s Weekly

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A hydrangea surprise in le jardin

Growing a lovely hydrangea shrub was one of the things I was most looking forward to when buying our first home. Three days ago marked a year since moving into our Victorian cottage in Footscray and the hydrangea cuttings I've been nurturing since early Spring really stepped up to the occasion and burst into bloom. Ok, that may be going too far. Let's just say there is one glorious little bunch of flowers on one of the cuttings. Can you see them peeking out in the centre of the photo below?

They've made my heart sing every time I've walked past them this weekend! Gardening doesn't come naturally to me -herbs and succulents are my only specialties, if you can call them that- so I'm just excited to know that there are hydrangeas alive and well in Le Jardin at my place.

The hydrangea in the top photo may or may not have been found over a fence down the street. Details are a little hazy. All I know is that I'm loving the sight of it on the hall table every time I come home. Little things can have a big impact.

Hope you've all found something to make your heart sing this weekend, even as the treacherous flooding in eastern Australia continues to touch so many lives. My heart is breaking for all those affected and I send them strength and love at this testing time.

Blackboard garden stakes from Malmaison Botanical Interiors, Castlemaine.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cafe Love - Gusto At Barkly

Cafe * Pizzeria * Wine bar

Three little words that are making my heart sing. Not uncommon words, but they are rare when seen painted on a new eatery around the corner from us in West Footscray's Barkly Village. This strip has Thai, fish and chips and numerous Indian places but until now we had to take a short car ride to Seddon or Yarraville for something like a wine bar. There is one other little cafe in Barkly Village but I've never been impressed with the service and menu and it's not open at night.

Enter Gusto At Barkly. Formerly a more traditional pizza joint (Mamma Teresa), the shop has undergone a massive renovation by the new owners and is now a fresh, clean space with modern, industrial features. The exposed brick wall is a favourite.

So too is the huge share table in the middle under Ikea pendant lamps.

My excitement for this place was such that we went on opening night this week and it packed out despite the pouring rain. They say (whoever 'they' are) that it's very poor practise to review a place on opening night but I just couldn't help myself. There's not much to critique harshly anyway, just some spasmodic service that is to be expected on the first night. We were shown to a table straight away and although we had to wait a few times, for the bill etc, the service was always friendly. Overall, the vibe was upbeat and welcoming.

There are plenty of starters to choose from on the menu but the Mister and I opted to skip them as it was a weeknight and we were heading to the gym later. It was straight into sharing a salad and two small pizzas.

Rocket, pear and parmesan salad ($7)

9 inch Prawn Star pizza rosso (tomato base) - sugo, chorizo, tiger prawns, chilli, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and basil $17
Traditional BBQ chicken pizza $14 (can you guess who chose this?!)

 Chocolate and hazelnut semifreddo $8

Everything was delicious and we didn't leave a thing on our plates. The pizza base was not as thin as I like but that's personal preference. The sweet ending to our meal was an amazing semifreddo. The generous serving was plenty for both of us but I wanted it all. Couldn't get it down fast enough! Seemed like it needed a few more minutes out of the freezer before serving, although I am a bit of a guts and certainly no semifreddo expert. 

Cappucino $3.30

And now for the coffee. None other than my new favourite, Coffee Supreme and the best cup you will find on Barkly Street. I could not be happier to have Gusto At Barkly within comfortable walking distance of home. Thank you Lord  Bec and team for bringing lovely caffeine, tasty morsels and a fabuolous atmosphere to the neighborhood. Hope this is the start of a wonderful, prosperous year in Barkly Village.

Verdict: Cannot wait to return on a balmy evening to experience the outdoor dining area. Looking for a new dining companion though as the eggplant chips with garlic aioli are really calling my name but a certain Mister hates eggplant!


Gusto At Barkly on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cafe Love - Mamasita

I'm a believer that you appreciate things more if you have to wait for them. Maybe it comes from a childhood in a big family where new things came only when the other was worn out and absolutely required, or on birthdays and Christmas. Even new sneakers were cherished because the old ones were so very far from bright white and pristine by then. Not everyone agrees with this of course, and in the case of dining out, you lose some people if they have to wait too long for a table. They'd rather not go at all and I can see where they're coming from (I sometimes scream inwardly when restaurants don't take bookings).

A bustling Mamasita on a Friday night in January.

Last year I was part of the throng of Melbournians who literally couldn't wait to get into the hottest, new Mexican joint in town - Mamasita. After work one evening I led some then colleagues up Collins Street thinking we had a good chance to get in as it was just before 6pm. Wrong. The wait was 45 minutes and we were really keen to catch an early movie at the Kino so we returned down the stairs from which we came, sulking just a little. 

Mamasita doesn't take bookings except for groups of 8-10 so I waited and waited for an opportunity to go again and then seemingly suddenly I was eating there before an impromptu Friday night movie date with the Mister. The place was buzzing and my excitement at being there didn't rub off, even after standing at the bar waiting (and drinking). The staff were so pleasant that it made the experience even more of a pleasure.

I read one review that complained about the noise but that was actually a plus for me. The place sounded like it was positively humming with patrons delighted just to be there. A young and boisterous sound, much like the patrons celebrating the end of the year's first week.

Elotes callejeros - ““Street Style”” chargrilled corn with queso, chipotle mayonnaise & lime. $4.40 each.

We watched everyone gnawing on the corn (pictured above) so when we were shown to our seats this was quickly picked from the menu. Fresh, simple and tasty. Perhaps this dish sums up my Mamasita experience. It's a little different from what I usually eat (ie cheese and chili mayo on corn) but it wasn't surprising. My tastebuds weren't  screaming in pleasure, just happily enjoying the fresh, simple and tasty food.

Tostaditas de Pollo - chargrilled chicken, avocado, queso fresco & chipotle mayonnaise $14

The tostaditas de pollo were nice. Sorry for the boring sentence but they didn't inspire grand strings of glowing adjectives. Again, they were fresh and tasty. Just writing this makes me think I should have tried some of the spicy sauce on the table. Not that I've got a great tolerance for hot spice or chili, it's just that all the dishes needed a little extra 'wow' factor. The thing that got me really excited about this dish was the display board (see bottom of post).

 Tacos de Camarones - Marinated prawns with habanero chillies & chipotle almond salsa $7 each

The prawn tacos (above) were my favourite dish of the evening - the prawns were juicy fresh and the salsa flavour came through without overwhelming the prawns. I hate when you can't taste the delicate flavour of the prawn due to excessive sauces or other additives.

Cordero adobado al horno - roasted lamb with red chilli adobo sauce, preserved jalapeno & mint $28

Due to our rush (again!) to get to the movies, dessert was sadly out of the question. The granitas looked so tantalising on a hot evening. Luckily, we ended our meal on the high of this very well-cooked, tender lamb to curb my envy. And as I bounced down the stairs, happy to be able to tick Mamasita off my eating wishlist, I couldn't help but notice that the envy I felt earlier may have swung away right to the end of the line of hopefuls at the bottom of the stairwell. It didn't look too comfortable squashed so far behind the door that it was hard for it to open and close. The crazy popularity of this place says to me that Melbourne is seriously lacking in quality Mexican eateries.

Mamasita was far and away the best Mexican I've ever eaten even if the food didn't blow me away. I confess that I've eaten at very few Mexican places  because a) I've never been to Mexico or anywhere close and b) my experiences at Taco Bills have left me feeling queasy and unwilling to return. This was a very different experience, as I knew it would be.

A little aside: Mamasita is a pretty groovy place but it's the little things that always excite me. Like the wooden display/chopping boards that the tostaditas were served on. My memory went *ping* as I recalled the gorgeous picture of some boards from Target on the Happy Home blog and the 'have to have it' urge came. Next thing, I'm in Target looking for them and there's 30 per cent off chopping boards. Like a true sad case, I'm saying to myself that it was 'meant to be'!

I can't bear to chop into them yet so I'll use them for cheeses and breads at first. Last night they did a good job at serving my white chocolate and hazelnut ball, mmm. My earlier theory would suggest that I won't appreciate these the same way I did eating at Mamasita as the wait was nowhere near as long!

Mamasita on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 7, 2011

Pearls of wisdom: Do what you love and do it often

I love this design created by the insanely talented Joy Kelley from Howjoyful. She has so generously provided her design in several colours as a free printable download. Check it out here

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Shining lights to swear (or eat) by

Choosing just one thing is so very hard. I love too many things. It's a curse. When it comes to lighting there are three styles I'm considering for our dining area - industrial light shades, bare dangling bulbs and chandeliers. I've shown you the room to date with the fresh paint in Domino (black) and Whisper White, so now it's time for some inspiration for the finishing lighting touch.

The coolest industrial shades are the ones that look like they came out of an old factory, albeit an immaculate one with original lighting in pristine condition. The style in the first image is my favourite and there are usually similar at Pomegranate in South Melbourne (with a hefty price tag).

 Source: decorpad
Ikea sells light shades like the ones in the next image.
 Source: Shelter Interior Design blog

Shades similar to those below are often on eBay for reasonable prices (but I can't overlook that lights should be installed, at a price, by a qualified electrician). 
 Source: Elle Interior. Styled by Kråkvik & D'Orazio and shot by Siren Lauvdal.

This look is inspired by my two favourite eateries of 2010 - Gigibaba and The Hardware Societe. They weren't the most expensive dining experiences, but they were the most exciting, starting with their beautiful interiors and attention to detail. Their quirky and delightful lighting is etched in my memory. Surely I will master the macaroon a la the Hardware Societe if my kitchen and dining has the same lighting?! Mmm...

Source: Broadsheet. Photo of The Hardware Societe by Josie Withers.

 Source: The Age. Photo of Gigibaba, Collingwood.

A little drama is good but too much bling is poor taste. Therefore, a chandelier should create a splendid scene but it should not have a lot of dangling crystal going on. Me likey these:
 Source: House & Garden (Gwyneth Paltrow's home)
Source: Moooi - Paper chandelier

And something to make the oldies eyes pop. THIS on top of a black wall? Oh yes, and it makes a smile push at the corner of my lips.  Irresistible!
Source: M Stetson Design



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