Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dinner at Aria

My Englishman and I at Aria

It was my birthday over the weekend – one of the big “0” birthdays. As has become a bit of a tradition for my Englishman and I, dinner at a fancy restaurant was on the cards. The Englishman had booked 6 months ago and had not told me where we were going. I found out on my birthday morning when I opened one of my presents and found a Matt Moran cook book “Dinner at Matts”. I knew straight away what that meant – we were going to Aria for dinner!!!!

So on Monday night, we both got dressed up to the nines and caught a taxi to Opera Bar. The weather was abominable but there were still a lot of people about, being so close to Christmas. We had a drink at Opera Bar – a beer for the Engilshman and a ‘Twisted Collins’ (fig and pear flavour) for me – and looked out at the dreary scenery. Then, up to Aria for dinner! We chose to have the Seasonal Tasting Menu with matching wines as this gave us a chance to try a few different dishes in small doses and really get a feel for the food.

The food was overall, delicious. It was well cooked, well seasoned and beautifully presented. Some of the dishes were served on black stone instead of traditional white crockery, which fitted with the dishes. What appeared to be a 7 course menu however was really a 10 course menu! With 2 appetisers (one at the very beginning and one between the mains and dessert) and petit fours with coffee, it was a LOT of food. Plus matching wines which couldn’t go to waste!

We had a number of different people look after us throughout our evening. The gentleman who took our order, got our cutlery (and brought more at ‘half time!’) and took our photo was friendly, had a sense of humour but remained very professional. The woman who mainly served our dishes and explained them was a little dry and humourless and almost looked like she wasn’t interested in her job. The sommelier who served our wines however, was fantastic. Knowledgeable, but not reading from a script, she gave us lots of information and really explained why each wine had been chosen to match each dish. This was great as a few of the wines seemed like an unusual match until the sommelier explained and we then tasted. Then, they made sense.

We had great seats in the restaurant – right at the window with an unobstructed view of the Opera House. It was perfect for people watching! The restaurant was a little noisy however – it was very busy although there were a few empty tables, and the air con above my seat was a tad too cold.

Neither of us was impressed with the toilet facilities. There was nothing wrong with them per se, however they were pretty standard and without any of the trimmings you would expect in such a high end restaurant. They really just had lots of clean hand towels, but that was it.

This was my dessert - just a bit of Birthday 'specialness'!!

If you’d like to see what we ate and what I thought of it, check out my website, Monstercake, for a run down of the menu and my ‘review’.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ankle - Day 3

Just thought I would post an update photos and show how much 'progress' my sprained ankle is making.

It's starting to go an interesting colour!

I made it to work today so my foot has not been particularly elevated for the past 8 hours, although it has been compressed in one of those stockings people wear on planes......

 I think it looks just as puffy as yesterday, possibly worse......

My toe pointing is making some progress however!

Monday, December 5, 2011


After spending all day at home immobilised today, I discovered a great little blog by Lady Daa Doo which inspired me to get back on here and do some more blogging.

Her Lord Daa Doo sounds suspiciously like my Englishman, she grew up in a country town like me (I have to face it, Newcastle is a country town!) and from the blog posts I've read so far, she loves a laugh, a glass of wine and getting creative now and then.

Hopefully I'll be able to keep up the inspiration and blog a little more.........

Sprained ankles hurt!

I sprained my ankle on the weekend.
Thankfully, luckily, I didn't sprain it until halfway through Sunday. So I still got to enjoy my weekend.
On Saturday the Englishman and I had a sleep in and once we got moving, we both had very different ideas of what we wanted to do. I wanted to 'explore our local area' while the Englishman wanted to 'go shopping in the city'. BOR-ING! I've been shopping in the city before and besides....I'm broke.......
Instead, we ended up just walking up to our local shops and getting a pizza for lunch, renting some movies and having eggs on toast for dinner. Simple, easy, and cheap.
Sunday, I finally got my way and the Englishman agreed to go on a 'bushwalk' in close by Hunters Hill. There was a reserve with nice boardwalks and some off road terrain as well. It sounded pretty and to be honest, I wanted to just get outside and do something that felt a little like exercise.
The walk was fine, and pretty, and peaceful (although you could see houses above some of the trees and the main road was humming away in the distance) and as we headed back to the start, the thunder rolled and the raindrops started falling, so we decided to run back to the car along the road.....then we veered off the road and onto uneven ground and about 3 steps in, I went down.
The Englishman has never heard me in pain and now says I am not allowed to have babies if I make that much noise when I sprain my ankle!
Mind you, I didn't cry, I actually laughed and also swore A LOT and then wanted to just get up and go home....seeing as it was also raining and I was getting wet and cold!
I forgot how painful, and how much of a hassle having a sprained ankle is!
I made it home and up the 3 flights of stairs to our flat (pulling myself up the banister, fun!) and it took most of the afternoon for the pain to die down. Still, I thought I'd be right to get to work today, that somehow with all my following the RICE rules it would be miraculously much much better and I would be able to just limp a little.
No such luck. It wasnt really feeling any better this morning and although I think the swelling has gone down now, I think thats mostly due to the compression stocking I've been wearing for the last few hours.
Here's a few photos for graphic effect:
Looking much better than yesterday but definitely still swollen!!
This is an illustration of my current range of movement - my ballerina pointy toes ain't working so good.....
A close up - I only realised when I took this that it has started to bruise already.....
My Englishman has been pretty good at looking after me but it has been partly out of guilt - he felt like it was his fault for not agreeing to go bushwalking on Saturday (although I've told him it's definitely NOT his fault!). He's been good at cooking and fetching, but he does have a low tolerance for small requests so I've tried to keep them to a minimum, and I've also done my best to get up and 'try to do it myself' which helps with the sympathy factor ;-)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The magic of reading

I confess: I'm a total bookworm.
I love to read! Ever since I was able to read, I loved to pick up a book and get lost in the words. At 6 years old I would get lost in Enid Blyton - Noddy books and The Adventourous Four...a little older and I read the Magic Faraway Tree, the Wishing Chair, and discovered the Babysitters Club series. I'm pretty sure I read every one!!
When I hit high school I discovered John Marsden and the 'Tomorrow' series. Other favourites included the good old 'Point Fiction' series - Horror, Thrillers and everything in between.
At some point towards the end of High School, a boyfriend introduced me to Fantasy Fiction and I've never looked back!
While I will read just about anything, it is still good old fantasy that gets me hooked everytime. The worlds conjured up by the authors, the ideas explored and the characters created, while sometimes are a bit 'same same but different', many others have different ideas, different themes and are just plain good fun.
Favourites in the land of fantasy fiction include my first fantasy fiction book Magician (Raymond E Fiest), the Wheel of Time series, a bit of Stephen Donaldson (although I found him difficult at times to read), Sara Douglass, Terry Goodkind, of course Harry Potter........
The reason for this post is twofold: firstly, I'm currently re-reading a series of fantasty fiction books that I began in high school but have had to wait 10 years for the final book. The series is known as the 'Obernewtyn' series and is by Isobelle Carmody. I quickly re-read the first 3 books and I am more than halfway through the 4th (which is bigger than the 1st three put together!) I still have another entire book to read after this which is so exciting!
Secondly - I was struck the other day by how well I can zone out everything else when I'm reading.
I was sitting in our lounge room the other evening, reading. The tv was on and my Englishman was watching tv and net-surfing. A couple of times, my Englishman made a comment about something on tv....well, I barely even caught what he said, never mind what he'd seen on tv! My mind was so focused on my book that everything else was totally 'zoned out'. I even had to get him to repeat what he'd said as I really didn't hear the words......totally lost in the story.
Now, why can't I do this at other times??????

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner...

I think I've said this before, but my Englishman and I both love to cook :-)
Mostly, the Englishman cooks dinners and I do baking, but I also like cooking dinners! So, when I get the chance, especially if I get home before him, I'll often either have something in mind to cook or quickly find a recipe according to what we have in the cupboard.
Today, I got home super early so was keen to cook something nice for tea! We've had some porcini mushrooms in the fridge for a week or two after buying them for a chicken and mushroom pie recipe, so I wanted to use them before I forgot all about them. We had chicken breasts in the fridge and normal mushrooms as well, so I wanted to try and find a recipe that would use these items but also utilised other things we had in the house (and avoid needing to go out and buy anything if possible!)
I ended up picking a simple recipe for Chicken with Porcini Mushrooms from . I ended up using this as more of a base for the recipe and made the following changes:
* I added fresh mushrooms as well as the porcini mushrooms
* I didn't have any wine (the horror!) so used the liquid that the porcini mushrooms were soaked in instead.
* I didnt have any cream, so used evaporated milk - less fat and cheaper!
* Instead of a whole onion, I used half a small onion and a few baby leeks.
* I didnt have any tarragon so just went without.
* We served it with a small amount of pasta and lots of asparagus and carrots :)
Last time I used porcini mushrooms, the reconstituted liquid was used in the recipe and it just made sense not to waste it. Mind you, while we were cooking it, the Englishman commented that the liquid smelt like "a pet shop" - its pretty pungent! Once you add the cream/evaporated milk the smell and taste calms down though, and gives it another layer of flavour.
Another tip - before adding evaporated milk, always take the pan off the heat and let it cool slightly. If you add it while the pan is hot, it'll separate and will look pretty yuck!
Anyway, The Englishman got involved and cooked the chicken as I'm not keen on cooking whole chicken breasts, and I did the preparation and got the pasta and vegies cooking while setting the table (women can multitask!). Despite the Englishman's reservations, it turned out delicious! I wish I'd taken a photo but I guess that just means I'll have to cook it again...........

Monday, April 11, 2011

How things change between drivers licenses.....

I renewed my drivers license today. It's been 5 years since I've had to renew it and as I was furiously straightening my hair and trying to get my fringe to stay put, I started thinking about where I was 5 years ago. 5 years doesnt really seem that long, does it? Certainly, the older I get, the shorter it seems. But so much has happened in the last 5 years that it seems like a lifetime ago to me. So here's where I was 5 years ago: 5 years ago, I was 24 years old. I was in my last year of University (finally!) and working part time in a banking call centre, where I'd been working for 2 years already. I made some lovely friends there, and some I havent kept (including the ex-friend I mentioned in my last post). I was living in a sharehouse in Newcastle, where I'd been living for a year already. I had made some beautiful friends while living there, most of which I have managed to keep! By this time, there were 4 girls in the, my good friend Manda, Miss Kristen, and a 4th...previously, the beautiful Miss Beth had lived with us but when she moved out we had a few girls through to replace her....none of them stayed long though and they havent stuck in my head either! Regardless, Miss Beth was often at our place visiting, staying to party, or coming back to sleep after partying.....a regular little party animal, she hasnt changed! I owned my own car, a little green Ford Festiva, which got me from A to B to C whenever I needed it to. It had no air con, no power steering and no central locking, but I had replaced the tape player with a CD player and it was the best thing I ever did! I had a long-time boyfriend, who I refused to give up on (in our relationship and in life in general.). We'd lived together for a bit but that didn't work so good, so I found a sharehouse to live in and he would stay there with me about 50% of the time ( I think....). We'd been together since the end of high school, and I couldn't imagine being with anyone else. I spent my weekends trying to do uni work, occaisionally going out with my housemates or with my uni friends, seeing family and seeing long-time boyfriend, if he wanted to. Some mornings, I would meet up with my lovely friend C and we would go for a walk into town and back. We were both doing jobs with late starts so meeting at 8 worked well....although I think this may have been the year before as my schedule got a bit crazy in the last year of uni! Either way, it was a good way to get some exercise and I feel like we built our friendship during those walks :-) Funnily enough, I was blonde for my last license photo and I'm blonde again now, but I've been every shade from blonde to almost black over the past 5 years! I had no idea what I was going to do when I finished uni - I was having trouble focusing on anything other than getting through my thesis, and NEVER having to study again. Now, 5 years later a LOT has changed. I'm 29 now, I live in the Big City and have done for 4 years! I live in a 2 bedroom unit with my not-so-long-time Englishman boyfriend (though I'm pretty sure it will become long-time eventually). I don't own a car (the Englishman does though!) and I catch public transport most places. I havent gone back to uni and I dont intend to EVER. I have a job that is my career and know EXACTLY what I want to do with it, which is such a good feeling. I dont go on walks with C anymore but as she also moved to Sydney, and lives close by, we still catch up for coffee/tea, dinner, and cuddles with her adorable baby C. I even babysat for them the other day! I guess looking back, I can't say there are any things that have changed that I regret. I love my life! I live in an amazing (although expensive) city, I have a comfortable place to live that is mine to share with just one other person, and that other person is the best man I could ask to share Life with. I love my job and how its purpose makes it rewarding. I love having old and new friends around and I LOVE not being an Uni! I just wonder what the next 5 years will bring for me.........

Friday, March 25, 2011

27 Dresses......well....5 so far!!!

Sooooo I've been a bridesmaid 5 times in the last.....4 years or so. Since my younger sister tied the knot in September 2008, I've put on a pretty dress, fancy shoes, got my hair and makeup done, carried flowers down the aisle, fixed dresses and makeup, got drinks, given hugs, organised photos, created Hen's nights and weekends as well as bridal showers, played Toilet Paper Bride more times than I care to mention....and generally been a bridesmaid what feels like many, many times.

After I was bridesmaid to 3 very close friends within 5 weeks of each other (actually, before the actual weddings even happened!) I told all my other friends 'No more, sorry.' Being a bridesmaid can be stressful, is generally expensive, and takes a lot of time and energy! Not to mention, when all you see around you is people getting married, you really start to think that you want that, too. And it can mess with your head :-S (but thats another story)

This meant that friends I think may have asked me, couldnt. Which was tough. But some of them found other ways to include me, such as doing a reading at their wedding (which I loved!)

Since it's been a while since I last blogged, I though I would make this one a bit longer, and I figured out how to add photos (although they're in the opposite order I wanted - I'll remember that next time!) here are the dresses I've worn as a bridesmaid so far.....

FEBRUARY 2011 - Little Sister's Wedding
So, I have 2 little sisters, and in February this year, the youngest one tied the knot with her Defence Force Man. It was a military wedding, with a guard of honour, men in uniform, and lots of fun! There were 3 bridesmaids, Little Sister L's BFF M, myself, and our Middle Sister J. All our dresses were the same colour and fabric but different styles, to suit each of us. I opted for a more straight across bust than the other girls and it was one of my more favorite BM dresses to wear!

APRIL 2009 - C and D's Wedding
My Girlfriend C, who has her own blog ( and inspires me to get back on here all the time, married her perfect match D in April 2009,...... almost 2 years ago now!
Her bridesmaids were her BFF A, myself, and E, who are all really close friends ourselves. We all went shopping together for these dresses and tried to pick something that fitted C's idea for her wedding, but that we were all happy and comfortable with as well.
I wore this dress a few times afterwards, but after a while I knew I wouldnt wear it again, and wanted it to go to a good home. Sooooo......I sold it on ebay. It was such gorgeous material, and such an unusual colour (my Englishman wore a blue and brown tie to match rather than purple or grey). I'll always think of that dress with warm memories.

MARCH 2009 - Wedding of the ex-friend....
This photo is not from the wedding (I can't find the photos and I'm positive I wouldnt have deleted them out of spite!)....but I was maid of honour to a girl who was a good friend, in fact I would have said my best friend at that time. Things changed last year and we're no longer friends (but thats another story!).....but this is the dress I wore for her wedding. It was custom made, boned and fitted. This was the most expensive bridesmaid dress I ever had to pay for! It did fit well, but unfortunately, it just looked like a bridesmaid dress. I wore it in this photo to another wedding 2 or 3 weeks later as I just simply couldnt afford to go and buy any other dresses,.....ex-friend's wedding was the week before C and D's wedding and a month after my friend Miss A......

FEBRUARY 2009 - Miss A's Wedding
This wedding was SO MUCH FUN!!!! Miss A is a long-time friend and I was so excited when she asked me to be a bridesmaid for her. Our dresses were very different to all the other BM dresses I've worn- Miss A had a vision but had bought this gorgeous Thai Silk to make the dresses, which I think limited the options for how our dresses would turn out......... and while the dresses turned out differently to her vision, she was really happy with them (I think!) and they really fitted with the rest of the wedding (which was stunningly over the top - diamantes, feathers and frills everywhere!)
I haven't worn this dress again but I had such a brilliant time in it on the night, and it was so much cheaper than most of my other dresses, that it didnt matter. This photo is me with the other 2 BMs, who were such fun fun girls. We had an awesome day!

SEPTEMBER 2008- Middle sister J's Wedding
I have 2 little sisters, and when the middle sister J got engaged to her man J (I like to call them J Squared...haha), she asked Little Sister L and myself to be bridesmaids, along with her BFF G. She expressed a wish for black BM dresses and one weekend when I was in town, the 3 of us went to look at one she had picked out. L and I tried it on and approved, and J said "great, I'll get G to come in with me one day and if she likes it we'll get them."
Just as we were walking out of the shop, G and her man M walked in - perfect timing! G tried the dress on and we bought them on the spot.
This dress has been my cheapest BM dress so far and the one I've worn the most. I had it hemmed from below the knees to just above, and I've worn it a number of times to the Races and other weddings. It's colour helps - black never goes out of style - and it fits so nicely!

I have one more scheduled set of BM duties in October this year - my Englishman's little sister S has asked me to be a BM for her and I am so honoured. She called me the day she found our dresses and has had mine sent to me! I feel so lucky to be included in the family in such a way as S, my Englishman, their parents and S's man D are such beautiful people.
I've been lucky that none of my dresses has been hideous, they've all been different in colour or shape, and (apart from one) I've been able to avoid the worst of bridezilla behaviours.
I can only hope, when its my turn to pick bridesmaids, that I can do as good a job as my beautiful friends did of being gracious and considerate.
Being a bridesmaid was a little stressful at times but gosh it was fun!