Sunday, April 27, 2008

To Market, To Market

This long ANZAC weekend was pretty full-on. We enjoyed several good meals (including some good pumpkin and Parmesan soup at a cafe run by worshippers of a cult who live in a commune and grow their own food and bake their own bread for sale) , got together with a dozen plus friends, stayed out late (which we hardly ever do) ate, drank and made merry. And we will probably be paying for it the coming week. I have decided I would get on a quasi-Nazi diet for some detox. Fruit, veg and tofu for dinner for the next 5 nights. This is probably the guilt talking. For now at least.

I also managed to squeeze in a couple of visits to Rozelle Markets, the Vinnie's and Salvos at Rozelle which always seem to yield some interesting ceramics, no exception this time where I found a great cheese bell to pair up with the smaller cheese/butter bell I got myself when I first arrived in Sydney and a container with a cork lid. I also got a little creamer jug and a pair Chinese/Japanese teacups, 1 stoneware with some brushwork and another porcelain with delicately painted leaves and vines. I am going to enjoy drinking the really fragrant Oolong tea from Taiwan with these cups.
There is another stoneware dish with an interesting glaze. I always feel that my food will taste somewhat better in these ceramics than in some "normal" Ikea crockery.

Other great finds this weekend include a black hat with flowers and feathers trim, just in case I ever go to the races. I mean for $4, having a lovely, standby hat for that you-never-know moment when you need it, is a good investment I reckon.

And finally, to top it off, I got this vintage, ochre faux leather jacket for $5! It has a 1970s Karen Carpenter feel about it I think and the braid detailing adds another dimension to it. I really, really like it.

So I've had a fantastic haul these 3 days. That's what I love about living in Sydney - all the treasures you can chance upon in the markets and the opp shops. I know that when I leave Sydney and return for holidays, my vacation will be planned around market days for sure.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Finally Friands

Finally. Friands. Fresh.

Ok, granted they don't look like the traditional friand and that's because I didn't feel like shelling out another $12 for another baking tray just so the final product conformed to our notions of what a friand looks like when my scalloped cases would do the job as well.

Taste-wise, they tasted like friands. These are orange friands, I had topped them off with orange zest as well. I am quite pleased with my efforts and for finally getting round to it. They are really easy to make, easier than cupcakes as there is no creaming of butter with sugar involved which is the painstaking part. The butter is melted, cooled down and merely stirred into the mixture.

This opens up endless opportunities to explore making different friand varieties. I can't wait.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Scrapbooking has been a fad for some time already. But looking at the great array of scrapbooking paraphernalia available in the shops, I wonder if anyone else notices the irony.

I mean the very term "scrap" in "scrapbooking" refers to odds and ends, discards, stuff which you find everywhere and which you can use in this craft. Basically a recycling of sorts, changing the original use and making it into something else, useful, pretty, interesting. Breathing new life into it. But with today's instant "I want it now" culture with people not wanting to spend much time waiting or making things, the shops are stocking up ready-made, instant, little trinkets and accessories for the hobbyist to pretty-up a scrapbook without having to do much else except lay them out in a pleasing manner.

With my first project for a friend's baby shower, I decided to stay true to scrapbooking or at least what I think it should be, and make most of the accessories myself, or incorporate real "scraps". So I used cords from paperbags to bind the pages together, amassed ribbon roses which I made, captions from magazines, old ribbons, buttons, concertina baby cut-out, Chinese New Year "ang pow", bits of felt and incorporated them all in my scrapbook. I don't want this to be an assembly job, a "just add water" project. I want this to be a project with real effort and real heart. And a bit of creativity doesn't hurt either.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Lazy Afternoon Of Crepes

I have been in love with crepes for a long time. Or rather with the idea of making my own crepes.

When I think of crepes, I don't think of France, home of this little creation. Rather, memories of munching on savoury or sweet crepes with curry chicken filling or just strawberry jam along Harajuku, made by kawaii Japanese girls in the little kiosks dotting those cobblestone lanes, come to me. The Japanese, with their adulation of the French, with many a little French tea-shop, stylish pastisserie and classy restaurant inTokyo, have taken this to a higher level, with their own interpretation and value added to French cuisine.

And so I've been lusting after a crepe-maker for years, one of those idiot-proof contraptions where you ladle batter onto the maker and sandwich the lid down and in no time, have a pretty picture-perfect crepe. Except that I've been talked out of getting one by many more rational, less crepe-loving folks, along the lines of "How many crepes can you possibly eat, by yourself, to make it worth the while? You will be sick of eating crepes in no time!"

Fast forward many years to the present. After one cooking show where the celebrity chef (French of course) opined that in every good kitchen, there were 4 essential equipments, of which, a good crepe pan was one of them, G decided that we needed to get a crepe pan. But of course. Finally, a man after my own heart, I had no objections! I was going to get my crepe pan after all these years.

However, I was soon to find out that G had his eye on a fancy $200 Swiss designer crepe pan with diamond flecks (which will improve the performance of the crepe pan) with some jagged edge running on one small side of the rim. Luckily, there was no immediate commitment and by the time we were ready to get it, that design no longer seemed to be in production. As such, we reverted to a regularly-designed crepe pan which did not warrant parting $200 for. And I bought my $30 heavy-iron crepe pan which was put to the test this weekend.

We had a girls' lunch with savoury crepes with ham, tuna, cheese, tomatoes, and G's homemade pesto accompanied by the Taiwanese Oolong tea, which was much lighter and more fragrant than the usual Oolong blend. For dessert, we brought out Keith's jams and some other equally yummy jams and purees, slapped on the cream and bananas and had the crepes with Earl grey tea.

It wasn't quite Harajuku, but it was a nice, wet, lazy afternoon in Sydney.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Swing

It was a garden apartment, 2 bedrooms with a courtyard. The fourth property we were viewing on Saturday. The living room was compact and the corridor to the courtyard, narrow. Along the corridor was a really small bedroom with a built-in cupboard.

Except that instead of a bed, there was a... contraption. A metal frame with a leather seat in the middle, suspended with 4 steel chains with leather stirrups. It was as though we had walked into an S&M lair!

We gave each other a look, and wordlessly scurried into the courtyard, before we had a whispered discussion. "Was that for bondage?", "Why would they leave that thing in there when the apartment is up for viewing?", "That room was so small anyway, they probably can't fit a bed in!"

This was the first time I've come across anything like that in real life. A sex swing! It looked quite intimidating with the black leather and chains, even though now after trying to find a picture of a similar contraption online for this blog, I know that the one we had seen, was a high-quality, luxury model. And obviously a complete shock in a property viewing situation.

Whatever happened to fresh flowers, and the smell of cookies baking and coffee brewing?

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Keep Fit, Eat Right Nazi Says

The Keep Fit, Eat Right Nazi (formerly known as G) laid down his imperial decree last night. In order to battle the (my) bulge and to arrest (reduce, exterminate, eliminate) the excess baggage of 5 kgs since July last year when we met, there is a strict diet plan to be followed. Since it has delivered (substantial) results for the Nazi over the last 3 months and is hence tried and tested, the diet plan is indisputable.

On the list of permissible food, and in fact the menu is a boring repetition every single day:-

1. Breakfast: Porridge (meaning oats not rice) which I hate. So as a concession, the Nazi is going to allow me to substitute it with muesli.
2. Lunch: 1 sweet potato, a cup of steamed/microwaved veggies (fresh or frozen), fish or tofu.
3. Afternoon snack: an apple - which I am not fond of because apples are hard so the Nazi is allowing me to swap that for a pear instead.
4. Dinner: Steamed/microwaved veggies and protein. Since I am a meat-eater (and the Nazi is not), I am allowed to have lean meat like turkey breast. I am thinking beef. Dessert is half a rock melon. On reflection, this photo is of a meal we had last week and it is effectively a permitted meal AND is what we normally cook on weekends anyway. I don't know whether to feel happy or sad.

I am allowed weekends off. I also negotiated for 2 out of 5 weekdays off at lunch so that I can have a sociable meal out with colleagues.

Desserts like these 2 babycakes are on the list of prohibited food. I am also not allowed rice, bread, noodles or pasta during the week, I am not sure how that will sit with my system.

I will give it a go for a bit as summer has come and gone and I haven't lost the winter weight that I was pretty certain I would lose. Being happy has a lot to answer for.

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