Thursday, December 27, 2007

Southern Highlands

When: Boxing Day
Where: Southern Highlands
Status of villages/towns visited:
1. Mittagong: closed.
2. Bowral: practically all closed.
3. Berrima: open. Yay!

We finally struck gold at Berrima, a lovely historic town with quaint shops and well-preserved old buildings. The hand-stirred jam shop was a favourite but I restrained myself, having already bought 6 bottles of jam earlier at Huskisson. Even the Berrima jail which is still a operating facility, was a pretty sight. Gorgeous flowers lined the outside of the large sandstone buildings.

We spent a nice afternoon browsing the shops, eating ice-creams and drinking coffee.

We made a final stop at Fitzroy Falls to see this 84 metre waterfall before heading back to Sydney after a very long day out.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Keith's Jams

As always, food was one of the highlights of the trip to Jervis Bay. The towns of Vincentia where we stayed and Huskisson where the water activities are based, are small and sleepy. We ate at a Mexican restaurant on the first night at Vincentia and thereafter decided that we should buy groceries and make dinner ourselves. Dinner on the second night was lamb chops, which was M's specialty. My contribution was the vermicelli in pesto sauce, a basic stir-in attempt but the basil/cashew/Parmesan pesto made the difference. The lamb chops were yummy.

At Huskisson, we chanced upon a house with its front porch basically converted into a little, charming shop, with jars and jars of homemade jams and chutneys on shelves along the front of the house. This was the quaintest shop I've seen in a long time. Keith, the owner has been making his jams and chutneys for the last 15 years. There were lots of delicious-sounding jams, things like filyphilly and quince.

I chose a mulberry and apple jam but was a bit hesitant to get more because the jams were in all sorts of recycled jam jars, all non-standard of course and I doubt if they were vacuum-sealed in the bottles. We weren't quite sure about the bottling and hygiene standards, but there were some regular customers who had dropped in to restock their jams and return their empty bottles, so that was somewhat a reassuring sign. The others had no faith and left empty-handed. We tried the jam with ice-cream when we got back and it was delicious. I made pancakes for brekkie the next morning and we had it with the jam as well.

We could see and taste the whole mulberries and apple shreds and after breakfast, fully convinced that the jams were not only delicious, but also met our health and safety standards as well, we made our way back to Keith's shop and bought up a whole lot more after perusing the shelves and spending a long time deliberating which jams to get. I ended up with a blueberry and peach jam, a tomato chutney, a melon and passionfruit jam, a marmalade and passionfruit jam and a melon and ginger jam. And the others bought a bunch of unusual jams as well.

This was a gem of a find, a highlight of the trip!

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Dinner

We had a traditional Ozzie Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. Not turkey but seafood.

Cconsidering that Christmas falls in the summer in this part of the world, raw oysters, fresh tuna and salmon sashimi for our starters, grilled king prawns and lobsters as the main courses, seem more appropriate and lighter than a roasted turkey with all the trimmings. We had sides of green beans and mash of sweet potato, pumpkin and potato. Dessert was a caramel mud cake. I think we did well, improvising with various marinades we found in the pantry - garlic/coriander butter and the masala paste.

We were contented without feeling like we had stuffed our faces. A good gauge in my books.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Jervis Bay - Booderee National Park

Booderee Park is a beautiful place. The gorgeous weather was a bonus considering it was supposed to be rainy the whole time we were in Jervis Bay. The various beaches were really pretty, but the water was just too cold even for a quick dip. I got in thigh deep before giving up and sitting in the creek which was as warm as bath water. I say creek, M says ditch.

We saw an echidna in the bushes, it was so cute and we thought it was a porcupine, it had yellow-tipped quills. We also saw some tame kangaroos in the garden of some holiday accommodation in the Park and they were watching me sceptically as I half-crouched in a ready-to-flee position as I posed for a photo. I mean, kangaroos apparently can kick you in the guts and yank out all your insides with one powerful kick, except these two were little joeys. I stayed clear of the big mummy/daddy one which was standing about six-foot tall at the other end of the grass patch. As we drove out of the Park, we saw a wallaby standing by the side of the road, as though waiting for the lights to change before he crossed! He didn't even bat an eyelid as our car went by, he must be so used to traffic, it was a really interesting sight to suddenly see a wallaby standing by the car.

We certainly had a good day out with Mother Nature.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Water Woes

The noise on the busy party, gay street that I live on, was not something that could be controlled. I have learnt that Friday and Saturday nights were the worst nights of the week. Wailing sirens, drunkards talking loudly, party-goers chatting on the pavement, all contribute to the sudden piercing through the night.

The second irritant of living in this apartment was the numerous baby cockroaches that began to pop up ever since the weather started warming up. This was another thing I contended with until I started having to kill between 5-10 creatures every single night. My high tolerance threshold was breached and I emailed the real estate agent who quickly contacted a pest exterminator who came and did his non-noxious magic and within a week, I stopped seeing cockroaches.

But tonight, the water supply was abruptly cut. It didn't occur to me that the roadworks on the street next to me, which had caused muddy water to slightly flood the road, which I had witnessed on my way back, would have a repercussion on my water supply - or at least that is what I suspect. With the bare trickle of water from the kitchen tap, I filled up my kettle so I wouldn't 't thirst to death and also managed to fill a third of my small bucket before that trickle dried out. I had to make do with a wet towel wipe down instead of a shower.

I'm hoping that my water supply gets restored by the time I wake up tomorrow. Otherwise, there will be trouble.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mino - An Encore Performance

Mino is one of those gems that you find and then struggle and debate whether to tell everyone about it and risk having hordes of people descend upon it and have prices put up, or to keep the secret nugget of knowledge to yourself and smile knowingly when discussions arise about where one can find good Japanese food in Sydney.

But I have been selfless and have shared this experience with some friends tonight. I tried the "goshu" mini-Kaiseki this time, as I had the "mino" mini-Kaiseki the last time which was barely a month ago only.

Everything was picture perfect and delicious. The appetisers and entrees were the best parts of the meal, particularly the seared scallops and the asparagus-wrapped duck; dessert came a close second. I had the eel as my main course tonight. Dessert was the same as the last time, the dark chocolate coated with the soya powder was the highlight, creating a contrast in texture.

Everyone had smiles on their faces as they patted their bellies, content with their choices and declaring they would be coming back for more.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Go Fish!

It was fish night again, this being our fourth week of cooking fish for dinner on the weekend. I had done steamed fish, Chinese-style the last three weeks in a row, so G did a Western-style grilled fish on the barbie tonight, seasoned with rosemary and thyme.

He also made a mash of potato and sweet potato, seasoned with wholegrain mustard, with grilled onions, red capsicums and tomatoes. His arrangement was gourmet-chef style, stacked high, while I just arranged mine the peasant way, with every item laid on neatly on its own, next to the others.

Gourmet or peasant, it still tasted good.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Breakfast For Dinner

Inspired by the pikelets G made last Sunday for our High Tea, I decided to make them for dinner. They turned out to be more like flapjacks as they were thinner than pikelets. I had them with sausages and mushy peas, with a little knob of sundried tomato and herb cheddar. Breakfast for dinner was delicious.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Chestnut Conserve

Last Saturday, we spent an inordinate amount of time perusing the shelves in an Italian deli. Bottles and bottles of interesting jams, preserves, chutneys, relishes lined up in rows. We lovingly caressed the bottles, turning them over, carefully studying the labels, discussing the merits of each. Rhubarb, burnt fig were amongst the more unusual ones.

What finally caught my eye was the chestnut conserve. I immediately recalled (albeit vaguely) in my nightly foodblog reading sometime back, some interesting entries - probably Japanese or French, involving this ingredient. That's what I want to do too (although exactly what is the "that" I wasn't too sure at that point standing in the deli).

I did some research on the "that" and I think it is a chestnut souffle at this point.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Foodie's Weekend

It was a foodie's weekend again. We cooked a lot this weekend. And watched our ever-expanding waistlines increase somemore horizontally. This is what happens when two foodies get together. It is a dangerous relationship, in which we have to remember to be checks and counter balances for each other. We eat too well, like our food too much. Otherwise we will end up as replicas of the Goodyear Blimp.

We made a quatro-funghi pizza for dinner on Saturday. The recipe has stood us in good stead. Constantly meeting our exacting standards. I think it's not unhealthy nor excessive and I don't understand why our waistlines are seeking new territories.

Saturday night saw me baking curry puffs. It was my first time and I know my handiwork is not delicate nor pretty like mum's. I did not inherit that from her - all I inherited were the wavy hair and the innumeracy. My scallop edges of the puffs were unwieldy and ugly. The next time I make curry puffs I must remember to make the filling spicier and saltier such that when it's wrapped in the pastry, the taste gets offset and becomes blander than the original. But overall it was still passable (or so I would like to believe, and to all my friends who ate them and gave me the thumbs up, I believe you with all my heart).

The curry puffs were my contribution to the Christmas High Tea on Sunday. G protested the chicken in the puffs and made pikelets instead, with a recipe he had googled up. They were of varying sizes but tasted quite nice, especially slathered with King Island cream and strawberry jam. I really liked the roast beef and caramelised onion finger sandwiches and the sticky date pudding is probably the biggest culprit of the sprawl of our waistlines. The apricot eggnog was refreshing, even though I skipped the brandy. Everything was beautiful and delicious and it was yet another successful attempt at our own high tea catering efforts.

So was it a wonder why we have to control our intake when we are all blessed with culinary skills and friends who can cook?

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

So It Doesn't Kill You

So Bikram Yoga didn't quite kill me. But this morning when I finally got out of bed and tried to make my way to the bathroom, I was giddy and like a pinball, bumped my way all along the two narrow walls of the corridor, as I tried to walk a straight path. That was not a good sign, so I crawled back into bed. I turned to my right side and the room started spinning around. Oh-oh, vertigo? Might have been triggered off by the yoga I think.

I guess I will have to write off the Bikram Yoga after all, and just go to regular yoga classes. Fainting spells during class is one thing, having this ongoing vertigo attack today is another. I don't feel so bad when I sit still, but when I try to stand, everything goes woozy again.

I hope this goes away soon.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

It'll Only Make You Stronger

As I struggled to not faint at Bikram Yoga again tonight in the middle of the variety of standing poses we were put through, I debated if I should give it up and go back to regular yoga where at least I get to work out a in a normal environment. And not feel like I can't breathe and that I'm going to collapse from lack of air and the thick blanket of humidity pressing down on my chest.

But as the poses moved into the lying ones, the fainting spells got better, and I was able to do more than Monday. I felt a little bit more motivated, and more assured that I wasn't going to suffer an imminent stroke from not getting enough oxygen to my brain. I was breathing better, my lung capacity feels like it's being opened up which is good. And my skin looks shiny and radiant after each class. I like the fact that I am detoxing and purging all the badness from inside with the buckets of sweat expelled.

The instructor from Monday remembered me and asked how I felt after tonight's class. I honestly replied, "I feel a BIT better." and held out my index and thumb a distance of an inch to emphasise how MUCH better I felt. It was an improvement, and I think I'll stick it out to the third class.

This is literally a case of "if it doesn't kill you, it'll only make you stronger".

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Turn The Heat Up


Buckets of sweat. I haven't sweated (yes, not "perspired" because it doesn't bring home the point I'm trying to make here) this way in the two years I've been in Sydney. Actually let me rephrase that - I've probably sweated more tonight than the total amount of sweat in the entire time I've been in Sydney.

I was at my first Bikram Yoga class where the studio is heated up to 37C. The class was 90 minutes long, I think I probably managed to do about 70% of the exercises, the other 30% I was trying not to faint from the heat, humidity and difficulty in breathing.

It was a good workout, if all that detoxing is a measure. My skin feels smoother, more radiant and I swear my pores are smaller. On the minus side, apart from the faint feeling, my chi was also going haywire. My hands, arms, legs and head were tingling like crazy. It's good to get the chi moving, but it's certainly not fun when it's so tingly it feels like I'm all numb and unable to control my limbs. The instructor assures me that it's normal, especially for a first-timer and things will get better with more practice.

The pluses outweigh the minuses. I'm definitely going back for more.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Looking For Love (In All The Wrong Places)

Everyone is looking for love. Well in the context of my cookies which I brought to work some weeks ago, everyone seems to zoom in on the heart-shaped ones and ignored the star-shaped cookies even if it meant having to wriggle the pile a little. I wondered why and I pointed it out. So conclusion was everyone is looking for love, even if unconsciously or subconsciously, even if in all the wrong places!

Anyway, tonight I decided to make a second trial batch and only used the star cutter. The cat's tongues are made from the leftover dough which was hard to shape. So no more love for the folks at work tomorrow. They can all reach out for the stars this time!

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Eat A Bowl Of Tea

G is finally back after two weeks' holidays in HK and China. And these are the lovely ceramics he brought home for me from a gallery in HK. They are by a Thai potter, Somluk Pantiboon who had studied under several Japanese master potters and he now has a gallery in Chiang Rai, Thailand. You can see the Japanese influence in these pieces especially my favourite which is the teabowl with the beautiful copper red glaze on pale blue celadon. I am going to make full use of this bowl for my nightly cup/bowl of tea. Eating and drinking out of lovely ceramics make a big difference in one's life. As they say, an object of beauty is a joy forever.

G is really getting to know me and my tastes.

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