Monday, 27 August 2012

Get ready for a rant and the wedding that's ALMOST here


Life

Every so often a book comes along that rocks your world. You stop watching tv and read it instead. You nearly miss your train stop from being so involved in it. So awesome you can’t imagine there is anyone out there that wouldn’t love it.

50 shades of grey is not one of them. Nor is book two, or book three in one of the WORST book series I have ever read in my entire life. The main character is ridiculous. The love interest is a controlling idiot. Why was there a need for having an inner goddess who wears outfits? Was it really necessary for the pair of lovers to tell each other on every single page how attractive the other person is? We get it. They’re hot, now let’s move on. Why have storylines that are SO farfetched they just made me roll my eyes in disgust. Pointless dribble that as I read each chapter, I just got more and more irritated.

Fine, I’ll give the author a bit of credit for the first book. Something a bit different that isn’t quite as woeful as Mills & Boons. But after that, the next two books just get more and more stupid and the ending to the third one – don't worry, I won’t give it away to those lucky people who are still keen on reading them – is so bad, I nearly ripped the pages out.
Yes, fine, now you’ll ask me why, if they were SO bad, did I continue to read them? And as some wise person once told me (who also told me not to read them, because they were so bad I would hate every page. She was right.) ‘It’s like a car crash. You don’t want to watch, but you just can’t turn away.’

My advice to those of you who haven’t read it is don’t. But you’ll probably get caught up in the hype like I did and just want to know what happened so you’ll read it and regret it. Try to borrow the books from a friend and not waste your money – spend it on a decent book, like Harry Potter, or ‘A thousand splendid suns’. You won’t lose brain cells by reading those books.

I refuse to put any 50 Shades
referenced photo up. Harry Potter studio
tour - amazing. I bet 50 Shades won't have
a studio tour. And if it does... gross
Rant officially over.

Love
I hereby solemnly swear that I will always RSVP to every single wedding invitation that I ever receive, even if they already know we can / can’t make it. Chasing RSVPs has got to be the most annoying thing so far. That is all I will say on this subject – wow, and I just said ‘rant over’ – clearly not!

Right, moving on... Three weeks to go! THREE WEEKS and I am getting ridiculously excited now. Well, I was up until last Thursday, but more on that later.

First, let’s talk about my no bows rule. It seems that my hatred of chair covers, bows, twinkly twig lights, glitter, ruffles and ‘love’ signs is most unusual. It seems that my style and taste is NOT the norm for good old stuck in the 90s Toowoomba. Most brides like wedding reception rooms that look like this...

Photo courtesy of Elegant Weddings by Florence
Or this...
Photo courtesy of Elegant Weddings by Florence
Each to their own I guess! The bridesmaids have been pre-warned. If you see a bow, get rid of it before it comes into my site!

And then there’s the dress. Fitting two weeks ago, went quite well, despite the dress maker getting angry at me for forgetting my shoes. “Did you honestly forget your shoes? [huge, irritated sigh] Well we can’t do the HEM without your SHOES.” Chill out love, we’ve got two more fittings booked in, we can do them hem next time.

Dress fitting number two and the hem was the least of my worries. “Have you put on weight?” Yes, that’s the first thing the dress maker (a different one this time as the first dress maker was dealing with another bride who was in tears because her dress has been altered all wrong and couldn’t be fixed...) said to me. Oh joy! My dress was taken in two inches too much and she had the nerve to ask me if I’d put on weight. Sure, I’d had a piece of chocolate cake at lunch but there’s no way someone can put on two inches of fat on their back, in seven days.

And so now we wait. My awesomely wonderful matron-of-honour, J, was outraged at the bridal stores unhelpfulness and rang up and complained, getting me an earlier appointment despite them telling me over and over again that there were NO more appointments. Seems you just need to go bridezilla (or in this case, ‘bridesmatron-zilla’) on them in order to get stuff done.

To be continued...

Travel
So from wedding rage and drama to the perfection of Sardinia, Italy. Sardinia is by far, one of the best places in the entire world for a number of reasons. 1) There are no tourists. I mean, no English tourists. The entire time we were there, we heard just one other English speaking couple. Bliss! 2) No tourists means no picture menus, no overpriced stuff just because and no westernised menus. 3) The food. It. Was. Incredible. Best seafood pizza I’ve ever tasted. Best spinach and ricotta ravioli in the world. Best place to eat simple, delicious Italian food that just made me go ‘Mmm!’ with every single bite. 4) Beaches and sunshine. There is nothing more to say on that.

B and I went to Sardinia, Italy in July and had one of the best ever holidays. The weather was in the high 20s the whole weekend with nothing but blazing sunshine and bright blue skies. We hired a car and travelled all around the top of the island from Alghero to Bosa to Olbia. Every day was brilliant. Every meal we ate was amazing. The people were so wonderful, the beaches were heavenly and the water was so perfectly blue, it took my breath away. But enough of the gushing, I will just let my photos do the talking.







Food
I suppose I could just waffle on (no pun intended - I haven't had waffles in ages) about Sardinia and all the amazing food we ate there but I think I’ve mentioned it enough and it will just start to get a bit boring. But just so we’re clear, I have never had better Italian food in my life, not even in Rome.

Food perfection in Bosa, Sardinia
The last few weeks have seen us taste all kinds of foods, including my current cooking obsession of Chinese food. Ever since a bad Chinese takeaway experience in Canberra three years ago, I have been severely put off Chinese food. Watching a cooking show changed my mind and the obsession began. Rice paper rolls, prawn and tofu steamed moneybags, chicken and leek potsticker dumplings, ginger and beef ‘wellness’ soup, sticky pork fillet and twice cooked melting pork – just to name a few. Normally I think my cooking is good-ish but this stuff has been amazing! I keep on raving to everyone about how good all this stuff tastes, to the point that my Mum has bought a bamboo steamer in anticipation of my return home to cook the whole family a Chinese banquet. Wish me luck with that one!

Prawn and tofu steamed moneybag dumplings
As for eating out, I can very happily report that I have FINALLY had a decent, well cooked, delicious steak in London! Thank you Marco Pierre White's steak & ale house. It’s only taken two years but there you go, better late than never. The triple cooked chips and b√©arnaise sauce were both pretty average but I guess that’s what you get when a ‘celebrity’ (I use this term very loosely) chef sells his soul and has his face on chicken stock cubes. And B was disgusted at the selection of ales on offer, considering it was called a 'steak & ale house' his expectations were high and very much let down. But hey, a decent steak after two years of searching so neither of us was too upset.

There was also a trip to an American style diner, Sticky Fingers, on the cards where racks of ribs were enormous, chicken wings were tasty and most items on the menu were deep fried. Not amazing food but still good enough. They must've got something right considering we went there to celebrate a belated J's birthday and we ate ALL the starters before she even arrived... Hey, turn up late and it's your own fault!

Ribs, coleslaw and fries at Sticky Fingers, London
A more resounding success was The Seagrass – a pie shop by day and a pop-up restaurant by night. B and I took our friends visiting from The Netherlands, M and D, to this place which has a small menu that changes daily, three courses for £30 (about $45) BYO wine with NO corkage! Brilliant, I was in love with the place before we'd even set foot in the door.

Roasted wood pigeon; smoked salmon salad; whole sand crab; venison with spinach and red wine jus; scallops – not just two or three on a plate, there were about ten or more, all giant and juicy and just sooooooo good. The whole menu was amazing and when the table next to us left and gave us a whole, unopened bottle of wine, the night just got even better. I also like being forced to try things I wouldn’t normally go for and both my entree of pigeon and main of venison were new and seriously tasty experiences for me.

A whole crab at The Seagrass, Islington

Pigeon breast on a rocket, pine nut
and crispy pancetta salad from
The Seagrass, Islington
Next blog post... THE WEDDING...

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The things the Brits just can't get right


Life


Having just celebrated our two year London anniversary, I have discovered that I am still as much in love with this city as when I first arrived. Perhaps even more so, considering that now we actually have money to spend, rather than just watching everyone do the fun London stuff or eating the wonderful London food. Even so, I DO miss home and right now with all those gorgeous little babies growing up so fast (one stands out in particular – my nephew who I haven’t met yet and am counting down the days until I get my hands on his chubby little cheeks – I believe the countdown is currently at 72 days!) I’m missing it more than ever.


And what makes me miss home even MORE, is a list I have recently compiled of all the stuff England does badly. I mean, REALLY badly. So here is my 'Things the Brits just can't get right' rant list.

  • Coffee. I don’t know WHAT they’re doing over here but it is nearly impossible to get a decent cup of coffee. One that you take a sip of and just feel happy. I have experienced this only twice in the past two years in England (Italy, Portugal, France and Spain, this doesn't apply to you). And both times were coffee shops owned and run by Kiwis and Aussies. You can't argue with that.
  • Fish and chips. Massive, chunky oily batter than leaves your hands slippery with grease and your stomach hating you after one bite. And the fish tastes like nothing. Yet the Brits think it’s the best thing  in the world and something they're famous for. Don't believe them. It's all lies.
  • Beaches. It's not a beach if it doesn't have sand or sun. Enough said.
  • White wine. If you ever get offered a glass of English white wine, run away. Fast. Trust me, I am yet to taste a good one and the last one I had was so bad, B and I left half the bottle at the restaurant. And believe me, leaving behind alcohol in that proportion NEVER happens.

Have you noticed that almost everything on my list is food? That’s a bit worrying and yet, it continues...

  • Steak. Every claim in the book that this place does amazing steak and that place is genuine and awesome. Not. True. Nothing compares to the awesomeness that is the Caxton steak lunch deal back in trusty old Brisbane. Where you can get a decent steak, cooked to order and at a great price (schooner of XXXX Gold optional - man I miss home right now!) Because yes, England does have good steaks but it will cost you the equivalent of a mortgage repayment. And you can't have it with a XXXX.

This is not a proper beach. Nor is it
proper beach weather, Eastbourne
- June 2012

I whinge yet how can you REALLY complain when this
is an every day site in lovely London?
- June 2012


And so my list comes to an end. I could go on about the weather, summer, and my hatred of 1 and 2p coins, but then this would become a serious rant, rather than a blog so let’s just leave it at that and I may do a part two another time!


Love


So it’s been almost six weeks since my last blog and since then, loads has happened with the wedding. One such happening was my slight wedding-induced panic at a) the thought of all the things still left to do and b) the thought of all eyes on me as I walk down the aisle/say my vows/the whole entire day. But as for a) my best matron (she’s married, she’s not allowed to be called ‘maid’) of honour, my ever so helpful Mumzie, bridesmaids and friends all came to my rescue just by asking ‘can I do anything to help?’ In the end, everything was an easy fix (I know, typical over dramatic bride) but just by those people asking the question made SUCH a difference and really calmed me down. J does deserve a special mention, she has been my rock during all this and the one who has been the victim of one too many wedding rants. Best matron of honour EVER!


And so, the guest book pen has been purchased (oh the things you worry about when planning a wedding) the grooms outfit is complete and the flowers have been ordered (thanks Mumzie!) The countdown is officially on but I can’t help but think I’ve forgotten to do something REALLY important. Oh well, if I have, at least my nail polish will match my shoes.


Travel


June was a bit of a lazy month. We did get in a sneaky trip to Cambridge and a trip to the seaside to Eastbourne, both of which were awesome so I guess that's something. Nevertheless, I’m getting seriously itchy feet, wishing the days away until next Thursday afternoon when we will be on a plane to Sardinia, Italy for some MUCH needed sunshine, Vitamin D and relaxation. Oh weather, if you rain on me that long weekend, I will most definitely cry!


And so, for the purposes of my blog still seeming like we travel on a weekly basis and making as many people back home as jealous as I can, I will backtrack all the way to May, when we took a long weekend to the country that now has a permanent place in my top five most loved countries.


Germany. Berlin and Hamburg to be precise and one word just sums up the whole trip. Cool. Seriously, seriously cool. The people are lovely and can switch to perfect English if you stutter and stumble while trying to get out some sort of broken German sentence when attempting to order a beer. The architecture is amazing, the walking tour was informative, the history was mind boggling. The street art in East Berlin, the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, Hitler’s bunker, the holocaust memorial – just wow.


We spent three nights in Berlin and spent one of those days cycling around the city, using the incredibly efficient bike paths to travel to places we hadn’t even considered visiting. It rained but it didn’t really matter because we saw so much and had the most brilliant time. Oh, and German beer is seriously good. B had looked up various ‘must visit’ pubs so that was really our cycle path – follow the beer trail. 


The next stop on our trip was Hamburg. Not quite as happening or exciting as Berlin but great just the same. We even managed to find a brewery! I think B has a GPS tracker inside of him that just happens to stumble across every brewery known to man. We spent lots of time just wandering around Hamburg and because the weather was pretty rubbish, did a spot of shopping too. Although what B describes as shopping (in and out as quickly as possible looking at nothing, only zoning in on the one thing you entered the shop for) is not really what I call fun.


And then there was the food. I adore German food. The bratwurst, the sauerkraut – ahh, I love it! In between all the beer sampling, we had some awesome food including pork knuckle (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it) which rocked my world. German meatballs in a creamy herb sauce, more pork knuckle and seeing as it was white asparagus season (or 'spargle' as the Germans call it) a seasonal set menu which included cream of white asparagus soup, slow roasted pork with sauerkraut (yes, I ordered it with almost every meal – breakfast excluded) and potato dumplings (like a big ball of dough but surprisingly delicious) all for the tasty little price of €8.50. Then Hamburg served me with the best roast chicken I have ever tasted in my entire life. It was AMAZING. I hardly let B have any because I wanted it all for myself it was that good. I would fly back tomorrow to have it again. I left Germany feeling very bloated but very, very happy. It has well and truly earned it's place in my top five. 


Holocaust memorial, Berlin
- May 2012

Museum island, Berlin
- May 2012

Holocaust memorial, Berlin
- May 2012

East Berlin gallery
- May 2012

Dreary weather in awesome Hamburg
- May 2012
Food


Well seeing as the ‘life’ and ‘travel’ section of this blog post has already gone into way too much food detail, I’m not sure if this last part is really relevant. But as you all know by now, food dominates my life so I STILL have lots more to blog on about.


Work baking continues. It seems that every team meeting, every birthday and every ‘just because’ occasion falls back to me to bake. I can’t say that I mind, I love feeding people and as long as there’s some for B to try, he’s happy too. So lately it’s been triple chocolate chunk brownies, lemon drizzle yogurt cake with lemon cream icing and apparently my ‘best ever’ contribution of chocolate brownie cookies with peanut butter frosting. After I made those ones and knew what went into them, I only ate one quarter of a cookie but they went down a treat and have been request for an upcoming birthday. In November.


THE brownies - calories per cookie are terrifying
- June 2012



Home cooking has seen my new obsession of Chinese cooking come to life with a trip to a giant (seriously, this place was massive) Chinese supermarket to pick up my supplies. On my first attempt I made steamed beef and coriander meatballs, steamed prawn and tofu moneybag dumplings and a ginger and pork soup – all, if I do say so myself, were amazing. I plan on doing a mini Chinese banquet at some stage but I’ll keep you posted. B doesn’t think my Chinese cooking phase will even last that long so I’m determined to prove him wrong!


Chinese dumplings - not bad for a first attempt!
- June 2012


As for eating out and about, there’s so much to talk about! Highlights have included a trip to Camden Town Brewery (with a second visit scheduled for this Friday) although I have to admit, no food was consumed. I will have to try harder this week. We visited Jamie’s Italian with our friends from Canberra K & B and we all had to agree that it just wasn’t up to scratch. It was ‘good’ but not great which, for Jamie’s standards, was really disappointing. A trip to Eastbourne over the Queen’s Jubilee long weekend saw us stop in at a pub, just for a drink, and stay for a pig on a spit roast lunch. Just yum. A trip to a tiny, unknown tapas bar (thanks for the recommendation J!) saw me try sand eels, mussels, lamb sweetbread, beef cheeks and lots of other weird and wonderful things. The wine here stole my heart though. A ros√© that actually tasted like strawberries but was lovely and dry – perfection.


Speaks for itself
- June 2012

The baby eels. Strangely enough, they
tasted like fish and chips in one bite
- June 2012


And finally, to wrap up this blog, B and I visited Bread Street Kitchen, a Gordon Ramsay restaurant, to celebrate our triple celebration – three months until our wedding, two years living in London and nine years together. I had high hopes. Most of them were fulfilled, just not from the food on my plate. My fish (what IS it with English and getting fish wrong?!) was over cooked and just a bit rubbery but the sauce and artichokes on top were great. B’s lamb dish just fell apart when you touched it – seriously amazing. I should have gone with my gut instinct which was to have the pork collar but was put off by B's answer. When I asked him what he thought it might be like, he said, “That’s where they snap the piglets head off!” Nice.


Bread Street Kitchen. Too dark for pictures of
the food so instead, a picture of the impressive
wine fridge that went along an entire wall. Love
- June 2012


Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The fabulous baking sisters

I’m a bit behind in my blog posts at the moment because I haven’t written about our amazing trip to Berlin and Hamburg. Problems with IT blocking my blog at work (classifying blogs as ‘not work related’ – how can that be?!!) as well as no internet at home means I’ve sort of dropped off the face of the blogging earth. But before I get back to my regular posts, this next one deserves a special post of its own.

My hugely talented sister, J, is a designer and was approached by some events people in her local area to design flyers for the upcoming
Hither Green festival. In exchange for her design talents, she was rewarded with a stall at the Saturday food and craft fair and of course, roped me in to do it with her. As both of us have blogs about our love for food (check out J’s blog here and her home renovation blog as well) we email every day and always talk about food, we visit restaurants and immediately want details as to what each other ate, it seemed very appropriate that we should have a baking stall.
 
The fabulous baking sisters

The day started early and a short ten hours later, we were done for the day. Injure-bread men (gingerbread men missing arms or heads) lamingtons, carrot cake, lemon yogurt cake, triple chocolate cookies, chocolate brownies, red velvet cupcakes, vanilla cupcakes and pupcakes. All iced, sprinkled, sparkled and decorated with love and a bit of exhaustion. Can't say I was sad to see the last of the icing, I was well and truly over it by the end! We celebrated the end of the night with a trip to the pub, a few well deserved pints and some great food.
 
Injure-bread men sure do get harder to
ice after a few glasses of wine
 
Bake sale day! With London putting on some spectacularly hideous weather of late, all we wanted was it not to rain. Grey skies was fine, cold weather in Spring was also ok, just no rain! Amazingly, our wishes were granted and the entire day was grey, cold and not rainy. We set up our stall (called 'Cupcakes & Pupcakes') nice and early so it felt like we'd been there for ages when I said to J, "We're going to have SO much stuff to take home with us. Look at how many cupcakes we made! Oh gosh, this is going to be a disaster." Only to have J remind me, "The festival started six minutes ago. We've got another five hours to go. We might just be ok."
 
So much to sell. And this wasn't even half of it!

And we were - lamingtons were a hot favourite with most people having no idea what they even were (I know, where have these people BEEN all their lives?!) with the carrot and lemon cakes flying off the table. We had a near disaster when a lady just could not grasp the concept of the pupcakes being for dogs and not for human consumption. As she lifted one to her lips, we both yelled, "NO! DON'T EAT THAT! They're for DOGS!" she finally understood.
 
Cupcakes & Pupcakes - ready for business
 
Our favourite customer was a lovely English gentleman who was working on another stall. He visited us for one lamington. Then returned for another. Then returned for two cupcakes. Then some cookies. Star! And let’s not forget the wonderful ladies who responded to Jen’s twitter post, ‘Just two more lamingtons remain!’ raced over and bought the last two, even after they bought four previously. I hope they tasted ok and they weren’t disappointed!

We left the festival four hours later with just two packets of cookies left. It seemed a bit wrong to stand there for another 45minutes with just four cookies on our giant stall so we upped and left, happy and well and truly baked-out.

If anyone needs us for cake stalls, bakeries, cafes or anything food related, we're your girls, we're both willing to quit our day jobs should the necessity arise.

Edible glitter just made our cakes

Because everyone knows, cupcakes just taste better when they're sparkly.

Friday, 13 April 2012

The month that I realised I'm old, I'm an awesome bride and that I overdosed on potatoes

LIFE
What’s going on? It’s April! My birthday has been and gone, St Patty’s Day went by without me having a Guinness and my gorgeous little chubby nephew is already over a month old. As the year continues to fly by, that saying alone has made me realise there are a number of things in life that now officially make me feel old. Yes, I realise to those of you who are older than me that this may result in you rolling your eyes in disgust but bear with me, I’m sure you will agree that the following things do make me old.
You know you’re getting old when...
  1. you enjoy marmalade. In fact, I love it and chose it over jam now because jam is just, ‘too sweet’.
  2. you now use a chiropractic pillow. I even went to complain over the weekend when the pillows at our B&B weren’t up to my usual standard. I didn’t though, I refuse to admit I’m that whingey just yet.
  3. if offered the choice between lemonade or soda water, I am ashamed to admit I'd pick soda water. With fresh lime, none of that overly sweet lime cordial stuff. What?! I feel like it was only yesterday that I had a sip of what I thought was lemonade and swallowed it in disgust realising it was soda water. Who drinks that stuff? Oh yes, that’s right. Old people.
  4. you get excited when buying a woollen blanket. Yep, I couldn’t contain my excitement when in Ireland, we bought a beautiful multi-coloured woollen blanket. I know, how young, hip and cool am I? Oh gosh, I can't believe I just wrote 'hip'.
  5.  And this one really is the clincher. On the weekend, I ordered (and this isn’t the first time it’s happened) mash and vegetables instead of chips and salad with my meal. I remember seeing my Mum and Dad doing this and thinking to myself, “Why would anyone not want chips?! I will never be like that.”
Sigh...

The day I start making my own
is when we really have to start
getting concerned. I'm sure
it isn't too far off.
Image by: petit-jardin-secret.tumblr.com

Yep. I really did buy a blanket. And
yes, I absolutely adore it. Shut up.
- April 2012


Good old refreshing soda water that
I will drink willingly without any
cordial or vodka.
Image by:
boozebagbettygoestorehab.blogspot.com
LOVE

Remember how I said a while back that I liked to think of myself as 'the coolest bride ever'? Well, five and a bit months out and I still reckon I'm being pretty sane and level headed about what really is just one day of my life. Ok, it's a day pretty much all about me (sorry B but really, it is) and where I get to wear a beautiful dress and fabulous shoes but I'm trying to keep it real during all the planning. My original ideas where much more extravagant and I thought I wanted everything to match and everything to be perfect but in reality, B and I aren't perfect. And we aren't matchy-matchy so why should our wedding day be like that?

And so the theme has kind of taken a turn and has ended up being what I like to call country chic. Bridesmaids in different style dresses that they've picked themselves, coffee jars as vases (to all my Moccona coffee drinkers out there, keep going, we need lots more vases!) simple bouquets using flowers that I used to think were in my top three most hated flowers (I still hate you gerbera, don't think you're getting anywhere near my wedding) and just relaxed, casual and fun - exactly how I would describe B and I. No fuss.

Yep. Totally cool bride. Ask again in a few months and it may well be a different story.


Simple but beautiful.
Image from: weddingwire.com

I think this sums us up quite nicely
Image from: ruffledblog.com

I don't think we'll go so
far as to have our cake in a
shed but it's still the style
that I am loving
Image by: heygorg.com


TRAVEL

Ah the luck of the Irish. What a brilliant country, I can't believe we haven't been their sooner. And I simply can NOT believe J & L, who have lived in London for seven years, hadn't, until now, visited that little green island called Ireland. So we set off to spend Easter with the Irish. My lovely B, my sister J and my brother-in-law L.

To start, I have to tell this story because I think it's hilarious. I was at the train station in London buying some water and the nice cashier asked me if I was on my way home. No, I said, I'm off to Ireland. "Which island?" he asked. "Just Ireland. The country of Ireland," I said. "What's Ireland?" he questioned. "Um... Ireland. The country right next to the UK. You know... Ireland..." he just stated at me and clearly had no idea about this mystery country so just smiled and nodded and I left with a funny story to tell.

So after a bit of a boozy airport adventure (getting their super-duper early... we thought it would be hectic at Luton being a small airport and flying out the day before a four day long weekend - but it was absolutely dead so we had quite a bit of time to kill) we landed and headed straight out of Dublin to the small seaside town of Bray. We pretty much went straight to bed although B & L decided to take a wander and pick up a greasy burger and two enormous bags of hot chips right before bedtime. First potato of the weekend. There would be many, many more to come. So many in fact that I find it quite painful to talk about them. I'm currently on a no-potato diet.

In Bray we climbed a mountain. Well, maybe not a mountain, just a really big hill and the view was beautiful. Oh look! There's another thing that makes me old. Enjoying lookouts. When I was younger, I used to HATE lookouts and thought walking for ages just to look at a view was stupid, boring and pointless. Now that I enjoy and appreciate them, I think that's another thing to add to my 'I'm old' list.

From Bray we drove to Killkenny, a gorgeous little town with cobblestone streets, stone houses, great cafes and shops and a brewery. A brewery that was closed. Because it was Good Friday and in Ireland, Good Friday means no pubs, no alcohol, nothing. Oh dear... we were spending the night in Cork, a town known for good nights out but seeing as everything was closed, it was... shall we say, a quiet night. 24hours into our Ireland trip and we were not only stone cold sober, but we'd not even had a taste of alcohol. L did choose a Bailey's Irish cream cheesecake for afternoon tea to try and compensate for it but it just wasn't the same.

So Cork was quiet and I think we definitely need to go back there to experience it properly. That's not to say we couldn't have had a drink while we were there because the pub below our B&B opened at 7am on Saturday but we weren't that desperate. From Cork we went to Blarney Castle to kiss the infamous Blarney Stone. Didn't really feel all that much different after I'd kissed it but the castle was beautiful and we wandered around the grounds before we'd all had enough and were ready for that first Irish pint. And it was AWESOME!

From here we visited the gorgeous town of Kilarney and then on to Galway where we all got stuck into the Guinness. I always used to cringe at the thought of stouts but with my more mature palette, it's something I now really like. Look at me! Drinking like a real Irishman! Galway was brilliant, proper Irish bands, great atmosphere and the people were just so nice. From Galway we went up to Sligo, along the coastal route where we met a random dog when we stopped to take photos of the mountains, had a drink in a pub that made us feel like we were taking part in an episode of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and soaked up the Irish atmosphere.

So that was Ireland. A few more fun things we did included each of us achieving the 'you must drink five pints of Guinness' rule set by J, visiting some brilliant pubs, having potatoes in some shape or form in almost every single meal (even just writing the word 'potato' is making me feel ill) meeting the locals, eating take away pizza in a pub because our final town had absolutely nowhere to eat (the dodgy looking Chinese takeaway does NOT count as an option) having more than a few laughs with some brilliant quotes that we came out with (none of which are appropriate to write on my blog - if you're interested in what they are, let me know!) Ireland was just brilliant. Way too much driving and not enough site seeing but at least now we know where we want to go back to and I simply cannot wait to get back over there as soon as possible.

Oh, I almost forgot my magnet update! Our Ireland magnet is in the shape of an Irish pub. Sounds pretty average but here's the best bit. The pub is called Murphy's - brilliant! It now stands to be one of B's favourite magnets.

Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral, Cork
- April 2012

View from the top of Blarney Castle
- April 2012

Irish water droplets
Blarney Castle gardens
- April 2012

The beautiful Irish countryside, the
mountains on one side and the sea on the
other. - April 2012

Just your everyday rest stop along the
road. - April 2012

FOOD

I've been a bit slack lately. After the eating frenzy that was March, I feel like I'm letting the side down a bit with our food adventures for April. I've been so distracted with taking photos of all the amazing spring blossoms that have been popping up everywhere that I have barely been taking any pictures of my foodie delights!

I was amazed at the food in Ireland. Almost every meal I had was delicious. Not just good, but really, really good. Full Irish breakfasts, scones and espresso, homemade cottage pie, Irish stew - all seriously tasty and often better than the pub food back in London. C'mon London, pick up your game!

The two vegetarian meals per week continues although the second vege meal is often cooked when B is away for work so he really only has to endure one a week but we are having a fair few successes. Polenta pancakes with avocado salsa, potato mince pie made with quorn mince (and he couldn't tell it wasn't meat - woo hoo!) spinach and thyme pasties, tomato, beetroot and goats cheese tart, just to name a few. I'm happy to report that the complaints are getting quieter too! I think he secretly likes vegetarian but refuses to admit meat-defeat.

And of course my baking. This time, it was for an American friend who recently left my work after being there for 25 years (I was two when he started working there!) I decided to bake some special cupcakes for him. I called them 'smores cupcakes but it was really just a mish-mash of a few different recipes to come up with this creation. They were chocolate cupcakes with a melted, gooey marshmallow centre with chocolate and marshmallow icing. As always, I ate way too much of the batter and icing as I was making them so didn't actually feel like eating one of the finished products. I felt like I'd well and truly already had my calorie intake. While the end results didn't look quite as pretty as I'd hoped, they still looked alright, all got eaten (B had three) and G from work who gave up chocolate for Lent broke it by two days so she could taste a cupcake so I think they were ok!

My next food post will be better, I promise. I WILL take photos of my food before I get too excited and inhale it, and I will go to some exciting places so I can write back about it all. I've already got a brewery and Brazilian meal lined up with B; I'm making a chocolate Bailey's cheesecake for a dinner party with friends; another visit to my favourite Mexican restaurant, Wahaca; pizza with a friend, her little man and J; my fabulous Canberra friends B & K coming over to visit us which will include a trip to Jamie's Italian AND a trip to Germany to write about.

Hmmm... this wedding dress diet isn't looking so good.

The 'smores cupcake messy but tasty
- April 2012


This was my first ever pint
of a meal in a glass
- April 2012

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

A couple of injuries, many lists, Spanish wonders and food delights

LifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLifeLife

So as part of project-wedding-dress, I've challenged J and I to enter and attempt a 10k run before the end of the year. Gym membership was purchase and I was off to a flying (ok, maybe not flying, maybe more of a slow jog) start. I was up to 6k's on the treadmill (yes, I realise to those of you who are fit-bunnies, 6k's is probably just a warm up) and then... shin splint. Oh, and add to that some sort of shooting pain in my neck that slowly worked its way down to my shoulder and has been there niggling away for over two weeks now… Progress and training are officially on hold. But as much as I like to pretend to whinge and complain that my training is now all off track and my routine is gone, I have to admit that sleeping in past 6.25am, not bumping into people on the tube with my back pack and showering at home in the mornings is really quite nice.

Anyone got any tips for how to prevent getting shin splints? Oh and J, now that I've announced our 10k plan to the blogging world, we can't back out now.

Going dusty from lack of use

 LoveLoveLoveLoveLoveLoveLoveLoveLoveLoveLoveLoveLoveLoveLoveLoveLoveLove

Save the date cards. Flower bouquets. Wedding rings. Table settings. To have a veil or not to have a veil - these are all the questions I am now pondering in as we approach the six month mark. Scary, I cannot believe the time is flying by so quickly but at the same time, I simply cannot wait to become Mrs M and share the day with friends and family. But of course, for most of you that know me, I have to be organised. I hate thinking I've forgotten to do something so I have started writing lists. If you saw how many wedding related lists I had, you would think I was somewhat of a Bridezilla - I don't think I've been too unreasonable about anything... have I? One list for the budget, one for flowers, one for menu choices, one for music... oh it goes on and on. To quote the saying from the front of a card a very good friend of mine recently gave me, 'Nothing beats the satisfaction of crossing things off a list.' I think this quote defines me.

And one more thing relating to love that's got nothing to do with lists or weddings... my beautiful big sister L and her wonderful husband G had a baby boy - a leap year baby! I am now officially Auntie d and am thrilled to pieces. Each morning I get a photo of the little guy and it just makes my morning. I adore him (he’s my phone wallpaper – I think this worries B a little bit) and he's the most wonderful little chubby thing in the world. Congratulations L&G, I am absolutely thrilled for you both! xx

I can't wait! Six months
and two days. But who's
counting?

Do you reckon I can get B and the boys to
do a photo like this?!

THIS is what I want - a whole cupboard
of wedding folders - ahhh, bliss...

TravelTravelTravelTravelTravelTravelTravelTravelTravelTravelTravelTravelTravelTravel

FINALLY! A trip worth blogging about! Our first overseas trip (not counting Aus) since October! We flew in to Barcelona, Spain on Friday night and after a smooth and easy trip in on the Metro (so clean, so efficient – London underground, you should take note) we headed out for drinks and tapas. B’s first beer in over two weeks (a detox that I personally did not take part in) turned into slightly more than one and to cut a long night short, we ended up catching the last train of the night home and finally made it into bed at 3am.

Saturday saw us take a walking tour (with an English speaking Spanish guide who spoke ridiculously fast and who looked like an older version of one of my housemates) exploring this wonderful city and soaking up the much needed sunshine. It was an amazing 19 degrees and I spent most of our tour trying to find the spots of sunshine to stand in when we stopped to admire the city sites. The buildings, the beach, the football, the people, the FOOD… all amazing.

That night we went off the usual tourist track and hung out with the locals where menus contained no pictures and we guessed our way through drinks and foods. Brilliant, I loved it! B likes to think that because one of my best friends is Argentinean, that I immediately know what people are saying to me when they speak in fluent Spanish. He looks at me with big wide eyes as if to say, “Come on, you know Spanish! What did she say?” My Spanish vocabulary consists of being able to count to ten (although I’m not 100% on how to say ‘7’) chicken, meat, water, hello and “two beers/wine/sangria please!” But we got by, ordered food not knowing what might come out and loved every second of it. I am also proud to admit that I am trying to be a much more adventurous eater than when I first left Australian shores. I will eat random un-known meats, taste weird fishy things and give everything a go once. The exception being brown chicken. And mussels. And oysters. Ok, I said I’m trying!

I can’t wait to plan another trip to Spain. But before we go back, V, I think we might need to start up those Spanish lessons again! And one final thing – every country that we visit, we buy a magnet in order to have a lasting momento and what I hope will be the most interesting looking, conversation starting fridge. I am ashamed to admit that I quite often judge a country by the quality and novelty of the magnets they have on offer (front runners in this department are currently Spain, Germany, Belgium and France). Barcelona’s magnet is a plate of paella, complete with tiny mussels, peas and prawns – brilliant!

Sagrada Familia - incredible

Look at that blue sky!!

Just an every day seat in Barcelona - complete with
beatifully painted tiles and a story to go with it.

Gaudi wonders

It was t-shirt weather!

 FoodFoodFoodFoodFoodFoodFoodFoodFoodFoodFoodFoodFoodFoodFoodFoodFoodFood

So much deliciousness going on lately! I have been making a conscious effort to make my food look pretty (haven't quite got the talents of Donna Hay just yet but I'm working on it) and taste even better, knowing that I have to blog about it. My new work mates have decided that rather than buy food or treats for meetings and birthdays, they will just commission me to bake for them. So far there's been chocolate caramel filled vanilla cupcakes, carrot and hazelnut cakes, Anzac biscuits and baby ginger and lemon tarts.

On the restaurant scene, I sampled an amazing English brunch at Bumpkin. Ok, so it was really breakfast but considering I'd technically already had breakfast that morning, brunch makes me sound like less of a fatty-boom-bar. A few weeks ago, on our weekly date-night, I had an entree of Italian spinach and ricotta ravioli with a sauce so amazing, I could have gone on eating it forever. And to posh it all up a bit, a French meal in Notting Hill of duck with chorizo, garlic shallots and duck egg in a basket (basically like really, really rich French toast) which if I'm perfectly honest, was almost too 'French'. There was so much going on, so many flavours and they were all so rich and over powering that by the end, I just stopped enjoying it. Such a shame because the restaurant was lovely and the waiter was so French, I really felt like I was back in Paris.

In Barcelona we had tortilla, paella, churros and hot chocolate, pimento carne, jamon iberico (I think this could possibly be one of B’s most favourite things in the whole wide world) and loads of other tasty delights whose Spanish names I can’t pronounce or spell.

From brunch to Italian to French to Spanish to Jew-‘ish’ American diner style – I do get around. A recent night out with the girls saw us visit one of the upcoming, happening food places - Mishkins in Covent Garden. Where mac & cheese is on the menu, sandwiches are back in style, food is described as ‘soggy’ and this makes it cool. Just yum. I haven't taken any photos from this night because my photographer friend Helen took some incredible pics with her pro camera while the rest of us acted as the lighting in this ridiculously dark restaurant by shining our mobile phones over the food while she snapped away. That’s just how we roll in London.

Home baked tastiness - Carrot & hazelnut
cupcakes with cream cheese icing
Lots of different types of fish with olives and pimento.
Ordered because I recognised the word 'grilled' and 'pimento'.
Not at ALL what we expected but delicious all the same.

Paella - the one thing on the menu that
I could understand

This was a complete guess. Some type of fish
in some type of sauce with cockles and fried
potato. Mystery food turned out to be good!

Churros y hot chocolate