If You Always Do What You've Always Done...Then You'll Always Get What You Always Got

Friday, 28 June 2013

Getting My Flanders On, Part 2: The Pantry

I have several friends gallivanting around France, Italy, Spain, the UK...  And what did I do this week?  Well, among other exciting things, I organised my pantry.  (In the breaks between drooling over their travel/food photos.  You know who you are).  This - the pantry - had been on my To Do list for a few weeks, after an Incident that left the herbs and spices in total disarray.  I knew where the breakfast spices were, but aside from that, mayhem.  And I have been aware for some time that the fruit and nut area was catastrophic.  Usable, in the kind of "I need almonds... I know they're there... Yep, found 'em" type of way, but far from organised, and hiding some items that had been put there and forgotten and then superseded in importance.  I am also aware that the pantry is one area I feel needs to be ordered, and I was quite logical before, but that is possibly a bit too obscure.  When I say, for example, that the sugar goes in the sugar area, I think it's quite obvious from the other sugars in that area.  But not everyone sees that, and admittedly, dried fruit has a high natural sugar content, and chocolate is ... sweet...  Anyway, I organised and cleared out and cleaned my pantry.  And then I stuck little labels on the shelves.  A la Ned Flanders (explained here, if you need it).

I am being brave and showing the mess that was.  You probably can't grasp the UnOrder of the herbs and spices.  Trust me on this.
And in other kitchen news, I bought new bowls for breakfast.  And soup.  And risotto. 
The top one is my favourite.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Pasta with Sardines

This is so totally out of order it's niggling at my brain.  Partly, this is because I recently did a cleanup of my phone photos.  And now I can no longer find (as in, I'm pretty sure I deleted them because they no longer exist) the photos I took of the meal I was meant to post about today.  So I'm just going to have to make that one again (ooh, tough) and tell you all about this other one instead.  This was part of my carb-loading before the City2South run. 

From the Jill Dupleix book Good Cooking: the new essentials, it's really meant to be Bucatini with Sardines.  I tried to find bucatini.  I don't think the food stores in my local area have heard of it.  Well, maybe they have, but the closest I could find was fat spaghetti.  Not very fat, mind you, but not the super skinny stuff.  And as the little blurb at the top of the recipe reads along the lines of make do with what you've got, I thought (slightly) fat spaghetti would have to do.
400g bucatini (fat spaghetti)
sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, smashed (my favourite way)
1 tablespoon salted capers, rinsed
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes or cayenne
2 anchovy fillets, chopped
300mL passata, or 400g tin tomatoes, drained and chopped (I always buy diced tomatoes so I just used the whole thing)
300g tin sardines or tuna, drained (I used sardines)
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted (forgot to put these on)
1 tablespoon roughly torn parsley (very approximate measurement here, and I put it all on my plate)

Cook the pasta - you all know how to do this.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a low heat, and add the garlic, capers, chilli flakes and anchovy fillets, stirring.  Add the tomatoes, stirring well, and simmer for 5 minutes.
When the pasta is almost ready (this was the first time ever I put the timer on to cook pasta), drain the sardines (if not done already) and roughly chop.  Add to the sauce and gently heat through.  Drain the pasta, reserving a few spoonfuls of the water, and add the pasta to the sauce, tossing well.  If dry, add the reserved hot pasta water.
Scatter with the toasted pine nuts (...or not...) and torn parsley, and serve in warm pasta bowls.  Or just, you know, bowls.
In the book, it says it serves 4.  Ha. Ha. Hahahahaha.  I had one large serve the night before the run.  I had a recovery-carbs meal - another large serve - the night after the run.  It served 3 of us for dinner on the Monday (not girly serves, either).  And another 3 serves later... And we're up to 8.  I added bits of protein to each option, but still - double the expected amount.  Wow.  Next time I would probably reduce the amount of pasta but keep the sauce the same - I like to have a bit more sauce in the ratio.  But this is a nifty way to eat some unattractive fish without thinking about it!

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Movie #39 - New In Town

I've actually done many New Things today, but none have reached the stage worthy of a blog post.  So you get my thoughts on a movie instead.  And now I realise I've just been writing about a different movie.  Take two...

We were still in the mum's choice romantic comedy group.  I think this was the closest to the centre of the genre out of those I chose.  Mum watched it first, then I watched it another evening.  So I'd heard her laughing as I was heading out one night, and she'd told me some of her thoughts.  Neither of us were all that impressed, but I don't think either of us had very high expectations, either.

1. Renee seems to have become the new Meg Ryan.  I don't think this is such a good thing.  (Note, Renee - branch out!).
2. This falls into a few categories.  Romantic comedy is just too broad.  It does have romance, and it is funny, so I'm not disputing that categorisation.  But digging deeper, we find the Company Executive-type Sent to Ditch Employees scenario, then of course (I imagine these must go together) the Company Executive-type Outlook Change coupled with the Whole Town Needs to Band Together scenarios.  See how I don't consider these things spoilers?  Predictable.  We also have the variety of romance that is like Pride and Prejudice - nothing wrong with that, of course, but again - predictable.  Of course they're going to clash at the start.  Of course they're going to have a little bit of attraction.  Of course they're going to fall in love, find that love fraught with difficulty and overcome it against all the odds.  (Sorry - do we need a moment?). 
3.  My favourite of all these plot categories (at least, here) is the Whole Town Needs to Band Together one.  It takes a while to build, and then we have the requisite montages, but I find it the most satisfying.
4.  I like that these look, and sound, like real people.  The Minnesota accent.  The normal faces and body shapes.  The skin that looks like it's living in a cold dry prairie.  And the community does the type of things that communities do.  
5.  My overall impression of the movie was that I would like to visit Minnesota.  Very much.  I know you probably need a few moments to recover from your laughing fit there, especially if you really know me and how cold I get (today, for example, I have been icy all day - it got to a mere 18C), but I really love the cold.  And if you're in an actual cold place, then you're allowed to be cold, and people aren't stupid about it so they dress for it and use things that keep out the cold and heat the air.  Heaters.  Yeah.  And the scenery!  The snow that covers everything and blots out all the unnecessary stuff that litters our lives and our vision.  And lots of flat, wide, open spaces.  Dotted with evenly-spaced telegraph poles.  Yes.  I realise I would probably die of cold and/or stupidity if I wasn't accompanied by a guide at all times - or maybe I would just suffocate under a mountain of doona, quietly, overnight - but this is something I would like to do.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Photo Trip #2 - Story Bridge Maroon Lights

Last night I was on duty for Evensong, which I love.  And the cathedral has a fabulous view of the Story Bridge, which surprised me by being pink, then red, then blue, then red, then- I decided to head out and take some photos this evening.  At first I was going to go to the Riverside/Eagle St Pier area, but I figured if I caught a train to Fortitude Valley I would get a better view.  So right.
I left at 5 (home by 6:30) and took my photos from Bowen Tce.  I took some on my normal phone camera, and one on Instagram, and several on Hipstamatic and Oggl.  I was pleased that my suspicion of the best lenses to use on Hipstamatic were correct, and I had fun editing all the Oggl shots.  Note that I have spared you all the photos...  The sky colours in this one are part of the appeal - and are inspiring me to try another photo trip soon, just for the sky colours.
I wasn't the only one taking photos, either!  Someone else was standing at the start of the path across the bridge with an upheld camera.  I think this is my favourite from this evening.
Go QLD!!!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Fete de la Musique

Yesterday was Fete de la Musique.  I love this day.  [If this is the first you've heard of it, every year on June 21, musicians perform all over the world for free.  The idea is to bring music to the masses, celebrating the diversity of local music, and giving musicians a chance to show their abilities and enthusiasm].  For the last couple of years, I've been involved both as a venue (I was the one who asked at a cathedral council meeting if the cathedral was involved, so I got to be the organising person), and as a performer.  But this year, the cathedral couldn't be involved, as it clashed with the Synod Eucharist, so I had the day to myself.  I could go wherever I wanted and see whichever acts I wanted!  Oh the excitement. 

Well, it wasn't quite as free as that makes it out to be.  I had a hair appointment mid-morning.  And it was raining.  After the hair appointment I went into town, and after checking out all the options, I bought myself a coffee and sat down at the Queen St Mall stage.  Playing at midday was Bec Laughton and her band - they were great!  Very upbeat, and with lyrics that weren't the repetitive drivel you hear in many songs around these days.
I visited a friend who works in a store in town, then before heading home I also saw Hannah Rosa playing under an umbrella a little further down the mall.  Her music too was something to make you stop and listen, but totally different from the band.  Wintry music, just right for a rainy day.  No shelter for audience there though, so the pillars at the entrance to the Myer Centre were propping up several listeners.  I wasn't quick enough with my camera to catch a dad with a little girl of about 2 or 3, the girl leaning forward intent on listening.  This is just one of the things I love about this day. 
I did feel really sorry for everyone meant to be performing outside.  Even with shelter, it was rather chilly - Bec Laughton could see steam when she sang! 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Outfit #152 - Clash of the Pinks

I still wanted to wear the not-really-mine-because-it's-on-loan pink scarf.  And I figured this pink knitted top would be lovely and warm.  At least I didn't go with red or something, because this combination was just a bit too much for my eyes when I had to look at it.  Thankfully it was cold enough that the jacket stayed on for much of today, shielding the eyes.
Dress: Country Road (op shop). Top: Kookai. Scarf: David Jones (on loan). Stockings: Target. Boots: Sandler. Earrings: Cose Belle.
I really had to wear these earrings today.  In a recent tidy-up I went from having a pair to having only a lonely one, and was so happy when I found the lost one caught up in a rug.
My first girl after school really liked this outfit.  Especially the stockings.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Outfit #151 - Colour, Step By Step

Today's outfit started out as tomorrow's outfit, and black and white. 

Top: Base Layers. Skirt: Country Road (op shop). Boots: Mina Martini (from Jeannie). Earrings: from Mombasa. Stockings: Ambra and Voodoo.
Step 1: I realised today was a good day to wear these boots (a very short day) and they would go with this outfit.  Days swapped.
Step 2: Add a pink scarf so I can get as much wear out of it before I have to return it.
Step 3: Add the maroon-ish jacket because it's the warmest option.
Step 4: Realise the stockings, being fishnets, would result in freezing legs.  Realise this would be a perfect opportunity to do some stocking layering with new colour block stockings.
Ta DA!  One black and white outfit has turned colourful.  I am really happy with the stockings result.  My legs were nice and warm and I like the look - much more effective than black and black.  This is only my second time layering stockings - and today someone found my site through search keywords 'layered stockings'.  Neat.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Outfit #150 - Apparently Crazy

A few weeks ago, I restrained myself and did not buy stockings.  Over the weekend, I took advantage of the sales and bought a ... few... pairs.  I contemplated some really crazy options.  I believe today's pair was rather conservative. 
Skirt: Gina Tricot (op shop). Top: Country Road (op shop). Jacket: Sportsgirl (from Jeannie). Scarf: David Jones (on loan). Stockings: Leona Edmiston. Boots: Sandler.  Earrings: Pandora (gift).
One member of the Fashion Police saw me and said, "I see we're wearing Crazy Lady Stockings today" - !!!  I tried to tell her they're not crazy, I'm a creative type anyway, but I was told she and I need to go shopping together.  I'm so glad that will never happen.
I also started the day (it was cold!) with a sudden agh! moment, realising I should be finding my gloves and a warm hat.  All I could find was one glove and my baker boy hat.  As it turns out, you need more hair to wear one of those.  I took a classic photo wearing it, but won't share it today. And although my envisioned outfit was the second photo, the reality for nearly the entire day (minus about 2 hours) was the top photo. 
My camera doesn't capture the colours so well so you get a close-up of the scarf/jacket/top - although the top is actually much more purple.  Right, now I'm off to find a warm hat and another glove.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Pearl Barley, Cabbage and Chorizo Soup

When the weather gets cold, I tend to spend my time in the kitchen.  Is anyone else like that?  I have this urge to cook and bake and make yummy good things.  And then eat them and freeze them and have yummy leftovers for a while.  This soup is another Tana Ramsey recipe, and has been teasing me for ages.  It really needs cold, damp weather to be savoured properly.  Finally, the weather cooperated, and I made this soup.
3 tablespoons olive oil (listed as extra virgin, but I used regular)
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped (listed as red onions, but I used brown)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 sprigs of thyme (I didn't have any fresh, so sprinkled in some dried stuff)
250g chorizo sausages, skinned and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/2 sugar loaf cabbage, shredded (meant to be Savoy cabbage, but I am yet to find one)
100g (about 3/4 cup) pearl barley
squeeze of lemon juice (I may have omitted this)
1 handful chopped fresh parsley (washed thoroughly to remove the caterpillar...)
salt and black pepper (I may have omitted this, too)

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan on a low-medium heat.  Add the onions, garlic and thyme and cook gently for about 5 minutes, until softened but not coloured (5 minutes always seems like rather a long time).  Add the sausages and fry 4-5 minutes until the oil begins to run.  Meanwhile, put the kettle on to boil.
2. Add the cabbage and pearl barley to the sausages and pour in enough boiling water to cover everything generously.  Bring to bubbling, then reduce the heat and cook gently for 50-60 minutes, until the barley is tender.  Top up with more hot water if the mixture gets too dry.  (I cooked gently for 30 minutes, turned it off, went for a run, turned it back on when I got home, had a shower, and hey presto!  One soup all cooked and ready to go.  Brilliant).
3. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Toss in the parsley, stir through and serve in warm bowls with lots of crusty bread with butter.
Serves 4.  I wouldn't put this in the 'healthy recipe' collection... But it is a good one for when you've earned your treats.

Sunday, 16 June 2013


This morning, I ran in the inaugural City2South race.  A few firsts: first time running that distance officially (as opposed to a proper half marathon, the Great Ocean Road 'extended version' half marathon, or a 10km); first time paying to run in a Brisbane race that included part of my regular run; and first time I ran to raise money for a cause.

As far as race organisation went, Brisbane did quite well.  Things that could have been better were signage at the start area, as well as the baggage drop off point actually being marked on the map on the back of our bibs; barriers along more of the route (the absence of these resulted in a number of bottlenecks in the first quarter or so); and timing.  Every other race I've done has provided a gun time and a net time.  Even those races - like the Twilight Half Marathon - in which there was maybe a 30 second difference.  But this one - where they even started us at different times, and I couldn't hear the starter anyway, and it was a good few hundred metres from where I was past the start of our zone and around the corner to the official start line - no.  I know a lot of people would use their own timing devices, but that doesn't count for future race things where they only go on the official time.  So my official time is about 7 minutes slower than what I wanted, and I have no idea how close I actually was to my goal.  Thanks, Fairfax.

On the upside with timing though - they showed times at 5km, 10km and finish (14km).  So I could see just how consistent I was - it was a matter of seconds difference between my first 2 timings.  My PT sometimes calls me Miss Consistency and I can see why!  Towards the last 4km I could really feel the effects of my recent cold - every breath reminded me that things are still not quite what they should be.  And I really dislike running with a runny nose.

I really appreciated the kilometre markings (like, really).  I also really appreciated the folks who came out early on a Sunday morning to cheer us on.  I had a little giggle when we passed a dad and 2 kids - the younger kid whined "How many people are there?!" and the older one replied "About 500".  Ha.  Admittedly, 500 would seem like a ridiculous number to a 6-yr-old, but they were about 5000 off.  And the best sign was the one which read, "It's all down hill from here".  Such a relief. 

Another aspect I appreciated (and always have, since Melbourne) was hydration.  This was so well done - thanks people!  Water in white cups, Lucozade in coloured cups, and volunteers calling out enthusiastically to point us in the right direction.  And there was no waiting, they had a few people lined up with cups ready to give out as well as the tables all filled and ready to go.  Bonus - at the finish line, water, then a free bottle of Lucozade.  Score!  Baggage was also well-organised.

Other bonuses: being on a really early train (again, better than Melbourne!) with a whole lot of other people clad in running gear... alongside the occasional passed-out or sobering-up passenger.  Ahem.  Also, starting with my brother... Who is much faster than me... But it was nice to have a smiling cheering friend at the finish line. 
Sunrise over the river.  Which has inspired me to get up early at least one day these holidays.  Ooh, and recovery breakfast. 

As for fundraising... This didn't have as much effect on me while running as I expected.  It did help me beforehand though, and I feel pretty good at having raised some money for a worthy cause.  After I'd made a donation, they actually called me to say thank you - I could tell they really appreciated it.  I was pleasantly surprised by the people who did donate, and was really encouraged by their words of support (so if you're one of those and reading - THANK YOU!).

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Movie #38 - Flypaper

Returning some DVDs, I asked mum (who was staying) if she had any requests.  Something funny and romantic was the request.  I have a confession (maybe you've worked this out already) - I don't like chick flicks.  At least, not very much.  Does Chicago count?  Anyway, especially right now, I can't deal with people falling in love with each other on my tv screen.  I came home with 3 that sort of fit into the romantic comedy genre, and after a very scientific behind-my-back shuffle, we watched Flypaper that night.  And it was about as un-romantic as a romantic comedy can be.  I enjoyed it very much - and so did mum, if you're wondering.

The main protagonist is a Sherlock Holmes-type of character.  I liked him immediately.  Actually, I'd put this comedy as a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Ocean's 11 - both movies up there on my favourites list.  I'm still working on the relationship analogy, but I'm sure it's out there.  And - for the record - I found this a much more acceptable path to a relationship than what I often see (and, for example, in Beautiful Lies).  Basic plot: the Sherlock Holmes sort (okay, Tripp - played by Patrick Dempsey) is in the bank and gets caught in the middle of two bank heists, one professional and one very unprofessional.   And finds himself attracted to a teller (played by Ashley Judd).  This movie has a decent dose of problem solving (ooh!  my favourite!) and a matching dose of comedy.  One bank heist team is very professional (hence the Ocean's reference); the other ... not so... More like the comic relief.  But the professional lot are being sorely tried, at first by the incompetent lot, and then by the pressures of decades of bank heists.  Stereotypes go out the window.

Another aspect I relished was the concept of all those carefully laid plans going awry.  The mastermind behind the whole thing (really trying to avoid spoilers here) had so much planned, like a chess player - but, in a bank robbery during business hours, you can't predict the actions or thoughts of the bank customers.  And even if the mastermind had predicted or relied upon typical, or even slightly outside the square, reactions, having someone like Sherlock Holmes present shakes things up somewhat. 

The movie had a few areas of predictability, but so many other maybes that the predictability is not so noticeable.  It was like watching a long episode of a crime show.  One that has comedy writers on deck.  Aside from all the funny stuff, though, it does touch on what we do and why we do it (couldn't just leave you with no deep commentary here).  Sometimes it's because we're drawn to it for whatever reason (like the explosions), or discover in ourselves an unusual, highly sought-after skill (like being cool under the pressure of blowing up a safe).  Sometimes it's because we can trace a long lineage of similar selves (having seen this movie, that now gives me a giggle every time, and I won't spoil it).  And sometimes we just know we can get away with it.   And no, I won't spoil that one for you.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Outfit #149 - Double Quartet Fun

My junior quartet performed for the first time today, in junior schooling assembly.  Which is the cutest thing, really.  And then I had a catch-up rehearsal with the continuing quartet.  Both quartets are so much fun - very different, but buckets of fun.
Skirt: Sinerji (swap). T-shirt: Ambra organic cotton. Striped top: Quick Brown Fox. Cardigan: Levi's (from Jeannie). Stockings: Razza Matazz. Boots: Sandler. Earrings: gift. Scarf: Alta Linea.
I was so proud of my junior girls.  They played better than ever!  And the grade 6 girls have got one of their new pieces (which are all a step up in difficulty for them) together in just a couple of weeks.  Not to mention, they played at the AFTAs yesterday on 2 days' notice. 

The rest of today was pretty full - some work stuff, pt, picked up my 'race pack' (ie, bib) for Sunday's race, some Myer sale shopping, some practice - oh and here we are.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Outfit #148 - Groovy Legs

Picking up a grade 2 girl from her class music lesson, their music teacher commented on my 'groovy legs'.  This afternoon, one of my very entertaining grade 7 girls also commented on the stockings...

Dress: Spicysugar (from Jeannie). Top: Dotti. Stockings: Target. Boots: Sandler. Earrings: from Mombasa, I think.

Checking the label of the dress and the earrings, I discovered today was almost a match.  But not quite.  (See the last time I wore nearly all these things together here).  And apologies for the hair.  Just - ugh.  I did wear the same scarf and jacket as that last time, too, but it wasn't cold enough for them to last very long.  Sigh.

I took this last photo while waiting for a train.  I love the totally blank floor and slightly on fire edging effects.

UPDATE: You can read the grade 7 girl's stocking quote here!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Outfit #147 - A Foggy Oggl Day

When I opened my front door at 5:45 this morning to go to the gym, there was fog in my driveway.  I don't remember seeing this before.  I had fun taking photos of the fogginess all morning.
Dress: Jeanswest (op shop). Tank: Now. Stockings: Target. Boots: Sandler. Earrings: ? Scarf: David Jones (on loan). Jacket: Sportsgirl (from Jeannie).
I was really happy with this dress.  When I bought it over summer, my arms were not quite as lean.  I tested it out on Monday as was delighted at the room in the arms now.  Yippee!
Next time, I'll try to get a better detail shot of the trim.  Meanwhile, here's one that shows the actual colour of this jacket.  Minus the top of my head.  Deal with it.
And, my favourite foggy photo from this morning.  It seems whenever I have that "maybe I should sleep in instead of going to the gym" thought, I see something wonderful that makes it all worthwhile.  Thanks, world.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Outfit #146 - Favourite Patterns

The damask pattern of this dress.  The rosebud pattern on the stockings.  The dandelions on the scarf (plus, it is so soft!).  I did feel my boots let me down today.  But whenever I think my boots collection is even approaching completion, I come across an outfit like today's.  So, enough!  These will have to do.  For now.
Dress: Kinki Gerlinki. Top: Dotti. Stockings: Leona Edmiston. Boots: Sandler. Scarf: Atmosphere (gift). Earrings: from Mombasa. Jacket (not pictured - only worn to school but it was too warm after that): Dotti.
I was a bit sad to see a tiny hole in the toe of the stockings this morning.  And even sadder to see this evening that the hole had grown somewhat over the course of the day. 

Monday, 10 June 2013

Movie #37 - Beautiful Lies

I had an urge recently to watch a French movie.  A trip to the movie store provided me with Beautiful Lies, a comedy starring Audrey Tatou.  Such a good choice, and I watched it a second time with my mum.  When reading the back cover, I was struck by 2 similarities to Amelie (which was my fallback option if nothing took my fancy).  1 - Amelie/Emilie.  2 - both characters are trying to help other people.  Oh, and they both fall into the love story department.  Some other thoughts:

This is about family relationships, and personal relationships, with a love triangle thrown in for good measure.  A daughter trying to boost her mother's mood, increase her self-esteem so she can deal with what's to come.  A daughter trying to make her mother into an approved version, no longer embarrassing to her.  A mother trying to mourn the ending of her relationship (even 4 years on), be sad when she wants to be, enjoy what comes her way.  A man who loves the daughter but sees the goodness in the mother.  A man who wants to please, who is very human, emotionally and intellectually intelligent.  And all of them show, to varying degrees, how our preconceived hurts can affect our responses in new situations.

Of the 3 main characters, I like the mother the best.  That said, I can really understand why Emilie reacts the way she does.  And for all I don't really like Emilie's character (after the fabulous opening, my next impression was that Jean is wasting his affection), her intentions regarding her mother are good, and she was put in an awkward position by a cowardly father.  Actually I rather like Jean too.  It's just he is so stupidly in love with Emilie - I associate that behaviour more with females but it doesn't mean I like it.  It's such a relief when his true colours shine through, his intelligence and kindness and integrity.  Maddy (the mother) is the sort of person I can see myself becoming.  And that's not all a good thing, but a recognition of my personality and the knowledge that all women become their mothers.

There are 2 strong support roles - Sylvia, the salon co-owner; and Paulette.  I'd actually (gasp) forgotten her until I rewatched with mum.  She is fabulous.  Highly strung, wanting to be nice to people and do the right thing, reminiscent of Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter series - I'd be happy to watch a movie with her story as the lead.  She has some of the best lines!

Emilie has a wardrobe akin to what I'd like my wardrobe to be.  She was pretty skinny in this, though.  Actually, apart from the mother's mad dash into town in her nightie, and her "I'm sad" clothes, the wardrobe in this is ... I'm having trouble finding a word.  I want it.  That is all.  One of the best lines is about clothes.  Emilie is frustrated by her mother's depressed mood and says to her, "Look at you!  It's spring, and you're in sweatpants!".  So French.

I laughed so much in this, and it's not often I'm ready to watch a movie again within a matter of days.  The music is just right, the scenery rather delightful (French Mediterranean), and did I mention the clothes?  Yeah.  However... After both viewings, I was quite upset.  Not as the credits were rolling, but later.  I still don't quite understand Jean's love for Emilie, and how she managed to redeem herself in his eyes.  Maybe being that beautiful just changes all the rules of life.  Or maybe I missed something vital both times.  Although maybe having someone beautiful fall in love with you might change how you feel about them.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Where To Put The Candles

I like candles.  Not just candles, but actual candle holders.  I also reclaimed my dolls' house recently (thanks mum and dad!).  A couple of weeks ago, I had the light bulb moment - why don't I move all the candles and candle holders from the top of the drawers and ledges around the place, and put them in the dolls' house?  And while I'm at it, move the dolls' house to somewhere less awkward...

It being a long weekend, and having had my mum staying recently, today it just had to happen.  The top of the drawers looks so much neater and calmer, the ledges marginally so (still some tidying to happen in that department!), and the dolls' house looks much comfier in its new place beside the keyboard.
I also moved the stationery/teaching items that were hanging around to the middle floor.  There is still one long multi-candle holder on the drawers, and my music alphabet, and a photo of a niece and nephew, and a beautiful silver dish, and (at present) a vase of flowers - but it's much less busy.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Opera at the Movies

Yesterday evening, I had a message from a violinist friend - she had a spare ticket for Nabucco at the Palace, would I be interested?  Yes.  Yes I would.  A 1pm showing, and my 1pm student had to come earlier because he was in a concert in the afternoon - perfect.  I'd known for some time that the Palace screened operas and ballets, but hadn't ever gone to one.  This was well worth it so I can see this happening again.

I had no idea of the story, or any famous bits (yes - as a musician I'm a little embarrassed about this).  However, it wasn't just the opera - the musical director, and the conductor, spoke about the work.  Where it fit in Verdi's life, the significance of various aspects, what the plot was all about, etc.  Before the beginning we had a snapshot of rehearsals with the 2 leads, and before the 2nd half (after a timed 15 minute interval) we had a bit of chorus behind-the-scenes.  Both of these segments I found wonderful.  Seeing the personalities of the top shots (just, you know, Placido Domingo and Liudmyla Monastyrska) as well as the enthusiasm of the chorus made the whole experience a bit more personal.  It was such a relief to hear the chorus members being so excited about their jobs - especially when we heard that 400 people applied for 4 jobs.  Two of them said the best thing - and it's something I've felt myself.  That is, that looking out at the 2000 or so people who are there to watch you, and you're singing to them, and not only that, but you're surrounded by 60 other singers who are singing with you, all on the same page (so to speak), is the most amazing feeling. 

As for the actual opera-on-the-big-screen - I'm a little bit morally torn.  It was such a good production.  I'll get to that in a moment.  The moral dilemma comes from knowing that, if we always went with the cheaper cinema option, the opera industry would die.  And there is so much involved in producing an opera!  However... This was fabulous.  Close-ups of the singers (slightly disconcerting with the mouths doing what they need to do, but I can deal with that); easy-to-read sur-titles; peeks into the pit.  And I don't have the money to get to London, so this is a reasonable alternative. 

The setting work was so simple but very effective.  It didn't detract from the music or drama at all.  Well, except for the fire, which had me slightly on edge.  Yes, I knew it would be controlled and safe and all that, but still.  The costumes I mostly liked.  They went with a modern setting, and they all looked like they were in a World War II movie.  Which was rather appropriate, considering this is a war opera.  However, the 'sisters' Fenena and Abigaille wore these really unflattering tent-like coats.  I really wanted them to wear 40s dresses that wouldn't make either of them look like a big lump.  Oh well.  The orchestra was noticeably wonderful.  Tuning.  Tone.  Balance.  But, best of all, togetherness.  The pizzicati!  So together!  There was only one place where it sounded like there were maybe 2 people playing them together, and then - only just.  And when there was an instrumental part (without singers, that it), it was so intense. 

The singers.  Wow.  The chorus was well done (and snaps to the guys willing to go shirt-free for an act).  The soloists were all top notch.  Opera hasn't made me cry before, especially when seen live (creaking stages, anyone?) but this one had me tearing up a few times.  Well-balanced voices combined with acting skills make for a powerful production.  Placido Domingo is a well-known force, and rightfully so.  He sang and acted his part so well.  Liudmyla Monastyrska was a new name to me, but jaw-dropping.  Such a huge voice, with (as she put it herself) enough vocal mastery to pull off the part.  I'm so glad I went to this!

Friday, 7 June 2013

Cinnamon Beef Stew

It's stew weather, and I'd had this Tana Ramsey recipe bookmarked for quite some time.  One of the aspects that had stopped me was experience in the size of my casserole dish compared with the size of Tana's meals.  There's always so much food!  So, without a large-family-sized dish, I halved the recipe.  I also didn't do a thorough check of my pantry before shopping so was without the tomato puree - I don't think it really suffered though.  And as it turned out, I didn't have enough marsala either, so topped it up with some soy sauce.  This was also a 'day of' decision, so I didn't get to marinade for too long either - next time.  Here I'll put my quantities and indicate what it was meant to be.

500g braising steak (I used chuck steak), cut into 5cm/2 inch cubes
100mL marsala (I had maybe 30mL, and just sploshed over some soy sauce - enough to cover the meat)
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1/2 stick celery, cut into chunks
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/2 a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
150g shallots, peeled (I didn't even come close to this amount, and just used the 8 or so remaining in the vegie drawer)
175g carrots (preferably baby - my organic carrots were quite small), scrubbed, topped and tailed, or cut diagonally into 2.5cm/1 inch chunks
[1/2 tablespoon tomato puree]
100mL water
1 bay leaf
1 large cinnamon stick
125mL (1/2 cup) beef stock
salt and black pepper

*Put the beef in a mixing bowl and pour the marsala over it.  Stir well to make sure the beef is separated and covered in wine.  Cover and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes-2 hours.
*Preheat oven to 180C.
*Put the onions, celery and garlic into a food processor/mini chopper and process until completely smooth.  Add the tomatoes to the food processor and blitz again.
*Remove the beef from the marinade [and dry on absorbent kitchen paper - oops missed that bit].  Reserve the marinade.
*Heat half the oil on a high heat in a casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid until it shimmers [or, if you don't have an stove-oven dish, like me, use a large saucepan].  Add the beef in batches and brown on all sides.  Transfer to a plate and put to one side.  Add the remaining oil and cook the carrots and shallots until coloured at the edges.  Either return the beef to the casserole, pour over the pureed vegetables and tomato mixture, add the tomato puree and reserved marinade and water, or put all ingredients - minus the stock - into a casserole dish with a lid.
*If using a stove-friendly dish, bring to the boil while stirring, then season with salt and pepper.  Tuck the bay leaf and cinnamon stick into the stew, making sure they are completely submerged in the liquid. 
*Place in the oven (with the lid on) and cook for an hour.  Add the beef stock, season with salt and pepper and stir.  Return to the oven and cook for a further 1 1/2 hours or until the beef is tender.
Great served with mashed potato (and a nice glass of red).  Serves 2-3.  This was just perfect for this weather.  I used a bit of cornflour to thicken up the sauce, but aside from that, this was just right.  Meltingly tender beef and the aroma of cinnamon.... Mmm...

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Outfit #145 - Who Says You Can't?

I'm not quite breaking every rule in the fashion book here, but a few.  However, I feel the overall result isn't too bad.

Skirt: Sinerji (swap). Tank (only sometimes visible): Now. Long-sleeved top: Dotti. Dress (as shirt): Sunny Girl (op shop). Vest: Portmans. Stockings: Ambra. Boots: Sandler. Scarf (not pictured): Alta Linea. Jacket (only worn to school, not pictured): Sportsgirl (from Jeannie). Earrings: from mariachi.
I'm wearing a dress as a shirt.  Pattern with embroidery. Short sleeves over long. Black and blue.  Black and brown.  Who made these rules, anyway?!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Outfit #144 - Benefits of Baggy Clothes

Dress: Don't Ask Amanda (op shop). Top: Tokito. Stockings: Target. Boots: Sandler. Scarf: David Jones (on loan from mum). Jacket: Dotti.
1. If tops bunch up, you don't look lumpy.
2. No need to suck in mid-section (although good posture is still advisable).
3. Comfy as.
4. Stretching is easy!  Not just lower legs or arms, but quads and hip flexors and pretty much everything. 
I've also noticed that I feel more like a creative person when I'm dressing like this.  And I do appreciate that I can wear all sorts of clothing styles to work - the only no-nos are denim and shorts, and I've added 3/4 pants to my list of 'not for work' clothes.
I only took this last photo to show the colour of the top, which looks brown in the main photo.  A certain sporting event is on tonight...  And to reassure myself that my face won't always look as weird as yesterday.  Phew.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Outfit #143 - Sore Almost Everywhere

Title says it all, really.  I could go through the list, but I'll just leave it at letting you know that yesterday's PT session was thorough.  I have ow-ies in places I haven't felt since the days I did circus.  Meanwhile, next time I wear this skirt I think I'll need to do some close-up shots.  Likewise with the top.  The skirt is a dark denim-type material with large buttons, and the top is black and white but looks slightly psychedelic in photos.  Unless I make the photo really large...  And then you can get a slightly better idea.

Skirt: Country Road (op shop). Top: Limited Edition. Stockings: Target. Boots: Mina Martini (from Jeannie). Earrings: gift. Scarf: David Jones (on loan from mum). Jacket (not pictured): Dotti.
These boots were much-complimented.  I have walked around Melbourne and my own neighbourhood in them, so I thought a Tuesday would be fine.  Er - maybe not.  If I'd worn flat shoes for the walk to and from stations, or if they didn't have a narrow wedge, or if I wasn't in pain from, you know, the neck down, it might have been different... But by the time I got home my feet were complaining.  Lesson learned. 
I do like them so much though that you get 2 photos of them.
I know my face looks odd here. The purple bits around my eyes seemed to be especially weird today.  I wasn't going to go nuts with concealer, mostly because I couldn't really be bothered most of the time, and then I have days like today...

Monday, 3 June 2013

The New Dish Drainer

Actually, the new dish drainer is more like a symbol of me relinquishing control.  You see, I wasn't very well, and my mum came to stay.  I wasn't at the stage of being sick where I needed hot soup brought to me or anything, but I was still in the 2 naps a day, when possible, stage.  Normally, I resist change and help, especially when it's in the kitchen.  But I just let it be.  I'm not good at the whole cleaning thing either, but I now have a sparkling clean kitchen.  And a new dish drainer.

The dish drainer is on probation.  There isn't much space on the lower level, and the water collects a fair bit and stops those dishes drying quickly.  It's also smaller than my last one - but this fact I'm counting as a plus.  Plus it's really purty.  So, right now at least, I'm loving my kitchen, mostly, and glad that I let my mum do what mums do, mostly.  (And I apologise for the crooked photo!)