the week in photos

It’s been a week of highs, lows and middles. Without dwelling on the lows, let’s dive straight into the wrap…

What amazed me…

That my internet is still working. Between the recorded robotic messages from people named (variously) Michelle, Cheryl, and others from the “Australian Broadband Network calling from Australia” telling me that my internet will be cancelled, and the usual calls from “Telstra” with the same message, I’m surprised I’m still operational. Of course, it makes them so much more believable when they say they’re calling from Telstra in North Sydney. In fact, once I said, ‘Really? I work in the same building! How about I bring my credit card down?’ Strangely that caused a hang-up.

Anyways, they’ve seemed to have upped the number of nuisance calls of late, but I’ve found that the best (and most enjoyable) way of getting them to hang up is to say, ‘Oh My God! I’m so glad you’ve called again. Would you like me to get my credit card because what you did last time didn’t work!”

I’ve even managed to get a few of them to swear at me before they hang up – which I take as being a fist pump moment.

While on the subject, this week I’ve also had calls from “the Australian Taxation Office” and “the Australian Federal Police” and the “Australian Accident Authority” threatening me respectively with tax fraud, an outstanding warrant and non-payment of an insurance claim.

By far, though, the most annoying of all have been the texts from Clive Palmer’s UAP. Hilariously the last (unsolicited) text read as follows:

And no, even the thought of no more unsolicited texts isn’t a good enough reason to vote for them.

What made me giggle…

This, as seen on Instagram during the week.

What made me sing along…

Hubby and I spent Saturday in Brisbane to see Jersey Boys. I’d seen it a few years ago in Sydney but had to admit to remembering very little of it and was amazed yet again that some of the songs I knew from being recorded by other artists were done by Frankie Valli first. I still, however, can’t think of “Bye Bye Baby” without thinking of the Bay City Rollers. As an aside, that song was on the first album I ever bought in 1975. Yes, I am that old. And yes, I still have the album “Once Upon A Star”.

Anyways, it was a lovely day out and a show well worth the drive down the Bruce Highway for.

The Brisbane Eye

Making friends with hills…

I still haven’t made it to the top of the Ballinger Rd Hill, but have set myself the target of doing so this week – even if I do have to stop all the way up. At least the stops allow me to notice things like these gorgeous flowers. From Feb I’m going to park at the top and walk down – so I have no choice but to walk the whole way back up.

As an aside, I’ve found another annual event that uses this hill – a charity run up and back called the Ballinger Burn.

What I blogged…

About Roast Chicken – an introduction to my Nigella Challenge; the one where I cook my way through How To Eat.

What I wrote…

Nothing. I need to sit down and get a timetable to my editor for the year. The characters in my Christmas book are, however, screaming at me very loudly so I’m going to start writing it with a view to a November release. The title will be Christmas at Curlew Cottage. For those of you who have read Wish You Were Here, this is a return to Brookford – the fictional village in the Cotswolds. It is, however, a stand-alone.

What I read…

Another Jenny Colgan – I’m addicted. I’m currently reading Jay Rayner’s The Ten (Food) Commandments. I’ve also been reading restaurant reviews in The Guardian by Jay Rayner, Grace Dent and others – for research. There you are: I’ve given you a little hint about Christmas at Curlew Cottage

What I cooked…

I’ve started my Nigella Challenge with, naturally, roast chicken. I’ll write about it on Thursday.

After being inspired by an English friend’s sticky date syrup steamed pudding a couple of weeks ago I made my very first steamed pudding – a lemon syrup one. I think I could be just a little bit addicted to my pudding basin. While, like the roast chicken, it wasn’t terribly photogenic, it was easy to make and tasted of lemony comfort. I served it with some lemon cream that I made by mixing together some leftover lemon curd with double cream. Anyways, the recipe, if you’re interested, is here.

My recipe of the week though is this super easy, cheese-free spicy omelette. I’ve been attempting the 5:2 diet for the last couple of weeks and this is the perfect lunch on “fast” days. Again, it’s based on a Nigella recipe, but the recipe is more guideline than instruction.

Preheat your grill and grate a small piece of ginger and a clove of garlic, and finely slice some spring onions and a couple of small red chillis – de-seed them if you’re not into the heat. Fry it all, and a 1/4 teaspoonful of turmeric in the tiniest amount of oil in a non-stick, oven-ok frypan until the onions have softened. Add a teaspoon each of ground coriander and ground cumin and fry for another minute. Pour in 2 beaten eggs and swirl it around a tad to help it set.

Once it’s almost there, flash it under the grill to finish off and tip onto a plate to serve. I chopped up some coriander and mint to toss on the top and added a dollop of Greek yoghurt.

Healthy lunch in 10 minutes.

Ok, that was my week…how was yours?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, first up, up until about 5 seconds ago I had no idea what I was going to call this bloggy series.

Given that it’s a kitchen diary of sorts I was thinking of “The Nigella Diaries” but figured that could attract readers for a very different reason. Then I thought of “How To Cook How To Eat” because that’s what the challenge is – cooking my way through Nigella’s mammoth How To Eat, but that title is way too much of a mouthful (pun intended). “Nothing Like Nigella” or “Not Even Close To Nigella” also crossed my mind but both of these are too similar to another blog – Not Quite Nigella.

What am I talking about? My Nigella Challenge. Or rather, number 100 in my 101 things to do in 1001 days list – to cook (and blog) my way through Nigella’s How To Eat.

I understand that this is probably a strange thing to see on a list like this, but I was inspired to add it to my list because:

  • I’d re-watched Julie and Julia – the movie where New Yorker Julie Powell embarks on a project to prepare all 524 recipes in Julia Childs’ landmark cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” – and wondered to myself “how hard could it be?”
  • I reorganised my cookbook shelves and began re-reading my Nigella collection – that’s the thing about a Nigella cookbook, sometimes you get so caught up in the words that you forget it’s a cookbook
  • I’d decided to name the dog in the Christmas novel that I intend to write this year Nigella. The other dog will be named Nigel after my other favourite food writer, Nigel Slater. Hopefully, they’ll never know. I’m toying with naming my character Delia, but that could be too much of a cliche.

So, now it’s on the list I have to do it – and what sounded like a cinch when I was contemplating it has grown into something much bigger. In answer to my “how hard could it be?” question, the answer is “actually, pretty tough.”

The biggest challenge though was how to tackle the, well, challenge.

The book is humungous – and a modern classic. First published back in 2008 there are over 300 listed recipes in the book, but many more wound through the words that are more ideas than prescriptive recipes – and that’s what I love about it.

Another thing I love about this cookbook – there are no pictures. That’s right, not one. Even though Nigella is absolutely one who photographs everything she eats, this book was published before the Instagram revolution. It’s unashamedly home cooking and by virtue of that many of the recipes would be a nightmare to style.

Rather than falling into analysis paralysis I’ve decided to approach this in a very Nigella way:

  • From the beginning – a very good place to start… The first chapter, appropriately titled Basics is about the foundations. Nigella says that confidence comes from competence and it’s only through mastery of foundations that you can be a tad creative. In this chapter, we’ll learn about custards and pastry, ice cream and sauces. Many of these basics are used in later recipes, so that’s what I’ll do too. Sure, I’m an experienced cook, but believe it or not, I’ve never made things like mayonnaise and hollandaise and bearnaise from scratch. Where it is something that I’ve cooked repeatedly I’ll let you know how I do it too.
  • If I don’t like it I’m not going to cook it. That’s also a Nigella thing – life’s too short to eat something you don’t like. How to Eat is about pleasure – and that, for me, is what cooking should be. If I choose not to cook something, I will, however, tell you why. Like the liver recipes. I won’t be cooking the liver.
  • Some ingredients are tough to get out here. When we get to game birds such as grouse and pheasants you’ll probably read me prattling on about cooking something other than that.
  • If I adjust anything – as I tend to do – I’ll tell you what and why.
  • If it needs equipment I don’t have I won’t cook it. Again, I’ll tell you why.
  • I won’t photograph everything. Some food has, to quote Nigella, “a face that only a mother could love.” Besides, this is a cooking challenge – not a food styling one.
  • I won’t post each week – or I might. I might also stray into other of her cookbooks from time to time – usually to illustrate something from How To Eat.

So, that’s the challenge.

The first recipe in How To Eat is roast chicken. Nigella prefaces it with these words: “You could probably get through life without knowing how to roast a chicken, but the question is, would you want to?”

And that is why this series will be called About Roast Chicken…and why my first post in the series will be about that – roast chicken.

This series will also be available at Brookford Kitchen Diaries.

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishWrite of the Middle, and, of course, me.

Inlinkz Link Party

the week in pictures

Well, that’s it done – the first working week of 2019. I’m touching wood as I say it, but it was a pretty cruisey week to ease into the year.

Speaking of cruisey, what made me happy

Watching the cruise ship come into Mooloolaba during the week. There’s something really special about watching it sail past the rock wall and anchor just off the beach for the day.

P&O isn’t the only company who has added Mooloolaba to their itinerary and although I know that there are people who don’t like the additional tourists that descend on the Esplanade, beach and Surf Club, the ships bring so much additional money into the economy – not just directly on the day, but afterwards as well when those people go home and tell their friends all about the Sunshine Coast.

What also made me happy…

My parent’s celebrated 55 years of wedded bliss on Friday. Okay, perhaps bliss is a minor exaggeration, but 55 years is a pretty phenomenal feat.

What challenged me…

One of my challenges this year is to make it up the Ballinger Road hill near our place. It’s long, steep (at an 18% gradient) and I’ve committed to walking up it twice a week with a goal of being able to go up without stopping and pretending to take photos of poincianas, kangaroos, and the way down the hill while I catch my breath/ look for my lungs.

Once I conquer Ballinger I intend to take on Dixon (which is longer but not as steep), and then Cogill (longer and steeper at 21%) and Lara Drive steps. Yes, there are a lot of steep hills in my suburb – so much so that they have an annual cycling event called the Buderim 9 – which is a 76km 3-hour bike challenge to climb all nine hills in three hours. Riders must ride the hills according to the event map and all riders receive a  jersey and a certificate to indicate the number of hills accomplished.

Yeah…I reckon I’ll be happy just getting to the top of Ballinger.

What I blogged…

My fresh start and an update on my 101 things in 1001 days list – and the reason why I’m NOT doing resolutions or a word of the year this year.

While on the subject of blogs…

I re-worked the theme of my astro website. I’d set the theme to something quite similar to my author page with lots of cool sliding up and down panels that made me feel terribly clever. Unfortunately, it meant that my astrology readers couldn’t get to the information as quickly or as easily as they would have liked. So I spent Friday afternoon changing it. Now it’s more magazine style in theme and much easier from a navigation and reading viewpoint.

What I wrote…

Nothing. I have to get back into it. This week, I promise.

What I was proud of…

Okay, so I cook and bake – quite a lot. There are, however, some basics that I’ve never really mastered – not properly. Basics like cooking a steak to the way I like it (medium rare), and eggy things like scrambling, poaching and omelette-ing (is that even a word?). As an aside, my boiled eggs are perfect every time – and they should be given that I have one most mornings.

Anyways, this week I mastered the poached egg. Not just mastered it but nailed it. Sure, it’s a bit of a palaver, but the egg was perfect. It is, of course, thanks to Nigella.

Recipe of the week…

Speaking of Nigella, this week’s recipe of the week is my Lunchtime Noodles – based on her Drunken Noodles. I make these at least once a week – they’re quick and easy and I can eat them at my desk in need.

All you do is soak some flat rice noodles – the ones you use in pad thai – in boiling water for about 8 minutes. While they’re soaking grate a knob of ginger, a clove of garlic and the zest of a lime. Put a tablespoon of oyster sauce into a small bowl with 2 tablespoons water, 3-4 tablespoons soy sauce and the juice of 1/2 the lime (more if you want extra zing). Grab about a heaped teaspoon (more if you love chilli, less if you don’t) of chilli flakes and have that set aside too.

Once the noodles are done drain them and refresh immediately in cold water. In a wok or frypan heat 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and 1 teaspoon of regular oil (I use rice bran) and then fry the ginger, garlic, zest mix together for about 30 seconds. Sprinkle over the chilli flakes and then add the drained noodles. Mix it all together – I use a spoon in each hand for this – and then stir through the oyster sauce/water/soy sauce/juice.

I like to stir through a handful of chopped coriander, but otherwise, it’s done – and in less than 15 minutes.

That was my week…how was yours? 

 

 

The eagle-eyed amongst you might have been expecting to see a New Year goals post from me – something about how much weight I intend to lose this year (which would be 1kg more than the weight I was intending to lose last year), something about how many books I intend to write and publish (actually, I will be doing one of those posts over the next week on my author site), and maybe even something about a word of the year (or WOTY as it’s abbreviated to).

Not this year.

As an aside, the word of the year thing has worked for me in the past. Last year though? Nope. My word was HEART and it was supposed to inspire me to get heart healthy, but I forgot all about it by the end of January. I seriously have the attention span of…something with a very short attention span.

This year I’m doing things differently – for no reason other than it’s time I mixed things up a tad.

Normally I’d begin a new diary/planner on January 1, but this year I bought myself one of those undated planners and started it in December. It’s from Octaevo and titled “A Year of Sun.” It opens flat, has travel planning pages, notes pages, a lovely yellow ribbon place-marker (that I use in my travel planner pages) and hand painted blue page edges. I mark my spot with a lobster bookmark from the same company.

Usually, I also begin January with a fresh new bullet journal/notebook, but this year I just continued with the one I’d started at the beginning of December. It was all part of me reminding myself that January 1 was just another day with another sunrise, another sunset, and another new opportunity.

Instead of resolutions and words, this year I’ll be focusing on the list of 101 things to do 1001 days that I, inspired by The Annoyed Thyroid, posted at the end of August last year.

For those who missed it, the challenge is to come up with 101 things that I want to achieve in the next 1001 days – that’s about 2.75 years which takes me through until May 2021.

The theory is that for people like me with long-term dreams and a short-term focus, this sort of time period gives you a better chance of achieving the big stuff – it covers seasonal considerations and provides ample time for bookings, training etc, but also allows for lots of smaller wins along the way. Sometimes it’s those small wins that keep you going – you have no idea how stoked I was to nail the perfect poached egg the other day.

It’s about ticking off achievable milestones along the way to bigger projects.

The hardest part of the challenge? Coming up with 101 things – and keeping it reasonably realistic. To do that I chunked it down into categories and, where appropriate, aligned each to bigger long-term goals. Although me being me, I’ve also thrown in some pie in the sky stuff too.

And for the positive living police, the weight loss thing is there for health reasons. My big aim is to do a 100-mile walk in 2020 and at my current weight that’s way too much pressure and stress on my joints, heart and back. I wrote about that yesterday.

Anyways, in the interests of accountability, here’s an update. Spoiler alert – I haven’t ticked much off yet! My primary long-term goals are in bold.

Health and Fitness – Operation Excess Baggage

1. Lose 5kgs. I’m guessing the 2kgs I lost and gained 3 times in 2018 doesn’t count. Me and Sustainable Change aren’t, as yet, friends. As at this morning, I’m 3 kgs into the first 5kgs.

2. Lose another 5kgs

3. Lose another 5kgs

4. Lose another 5 kgs

5. Take a tai-chi class

6. Take a yoga class

7. Take a pilates class

8. Walk the path from Pt Cartwright to Golden Beach. I’ve done 2 segments of this walk now: From Point Cartwright to Kawana, and from Currimundi to Moffat Beach.

9. Nail the Lara Drive stairs

10. Walk up the Ballinger Rd hill without stopping. I reckon it will take me 6 weeks before I can get to the top without stopping for photos to find a lunfor a breather.

11. Walk up the Dixon Rd hill (there are a lot of hills in Buderim) without stopping.

12. Do the Noosa National Park Walk along the coast to Hells Gates and back via the inland track

13. Do the Noosa National Park Walk to Sunshine Beach

14. Walk up Emu Mountain

15. Walk up Mt Coolum

16. Average 10,000 steps a day for 30 days. Done – back in September. This is now updated to at least 30 minutes activity every day for 30 days.

17. Get into a meditation habit – 15 minutes a day for 30 days.

Personal

18. Have a photo shoot – outside, casual with decent hair and maybe even make-up

19. Write the family history – on the Lyons side

20. Write the family history – on the Hamilton side

21. Update my will

22. Learn how to take decent food pictures. Not sure how to measure this, but I’ve absolutely improved. Check out my Brookford Instagram feed.

23. Learn how to style brown food. As above.

24. Drive on the highway without having an anxiety thing

25. Go 30 days without spending money on books or music.

26. Get better at French – duolingo

27. Read 10 memoirs. According to my Goodreads list, so far I’ve read 6.

28. Read 5 craft, business or self-help books

29. Put our France photos into a digital photo book

30. Put our UK photos into a digital photo book

31. Put our Vietnam photos into a digital photo book. Done.

Blogs and Writing

32. Finish writing my France blogs.

33. Send out a monthly newsletter – every month

34. Publish Happy Ever After. Done.

35. Publish I Want You Back (Careful What You Wish For #1)

36. Finish the Tiff Book (Careful What You Wish For #2). Done. It’s been through structural editing so I’m in the middle of the rewrite.

37. Publish the Tiff book

38. Finish the Alice book (Careful What You Wish For #3) In draft.

39. Publish the Alice book

40. Release the Careful What You Wish For series as a box set

41. Write a Christmas novel

42. Publish ebook of recipes used in Wish You Were Here and Happy Ever After and use as a lead magnet for the newsletter

43. Set up kitchen diaries blog – Brookford Kitchen Diaries. Done.

44. Set up Clancy’s Campfire website. Done.

45. Publish Clancy of the Campfire

46. Write The Lilac Queen

47. Write the first book in the Alice Delaney mysteries

48. Write the first book in the Rambling Rose series

49. Mad About The Mac – the definitive mac cheese cookbook

50. Astro site – a monthly newsletter – every month. January done.

51. Astro – Jupiter ebook

52. Astro – Saturn ebook

53. Astro – beginners course

54. Astro – diary and planner

55. Astro – Moon ebook

56. Replace my day job income with income from writing 

Travel

57. Sleep in a tent. Done. Ok, it was a posh tent, but a tent it was. Ketchup’s Bank Glamping.

58. Do a road trip to Cairns

59. Do a road trip to Adelaide

60. Stay at the Eastern & Oriental in Penang

61. Walk up Queenstown Hill

62. Explore Agnes Waters and the Town of 1770

63. Explore the Scenic Rim region of South East Queensland. Done. October 2018 – Camping at Ketchup’s Bank Glamping.

64. Swim with sea-turtles

65. Snorkel in the Barrier Reef

66. Ride a horse along the beach at Noosa

67. Take a Noosa Everglades cruise

68. Fly business class

69. Eat at one of the world’s top 100 restaurants

70. Have Christmas in the UK

71. Wear a proper dressed up dress and heels for Christmas in the UK

72. Attend a Christmas midnight mass in a village church in the UK

73. Walk The Cotswolds Way in 2020 – 100 miles 

74. See bluebells in a bluebell wood. I did see some in France, but it didn’t count.

75. Take a cruise to the Baltics for hubby’s 60th in 2021

76. Visit St Petersburg

Foodie Stuff

77. Grow ginger

78. Grow garlic

79. Make dumplings

80. Make potato gnocchi that doesn’t bounce

81. Make focaccia. Done.

82. Cook steak to medium rare (hubby usually does this)

83. Make an omelette (he does this too)

84. Perfect the poached egg (he usually does this too). Done – thanks to Nigella.

85. Make decent scrambled eggs (and this – but I’m great at boiled and fried eggs)

86. Make a piccalilli. Done.

87. Make cannoli

88. Try 10 new meat-free dishes

89. Try 10 new soup recipes

90. Try 5 new ice creams or frozen desserts. So far I’ve made strawberry ice cream and a blender strawberry sorbet.

91. Make mayonnaise by hand

92. Make hollandaise by hand

93. Make bearnaise sauce by hand

94. Make honeycomb

95. Make marmalade

96. Make lemon curd. Done.

97. Make light as air cupcakes

98. Make a Victoria sponge

99. Make a Tarte Tatin

100. Cook (and blog) my way through Nigella’s “How To Eat”. How to Cook “How To Eat”

Other

101. Inspire someone else to write down 101 things to do in 1001 days.

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishWrite of the Middle, and, of course, me.
Inlinkz Link Party

 

I’m not making resolutions this year or setting a word for the year – I’ll tell you why tomorrow. I am, however, continuing with my list of 101 things in 1001 days. (Don’t worry about looking it up – it’s in tomorrow’s post.)

On that list are 3 key long-term goals that I’m aiming to achieve in 1001 days ie by May 2021:

  1. Make a living from my writing
  2. Walk the 100-mile Cotswolds Way in 2020
  3. Cook (and blog) my way through Nigella’s “How To Eat”

Operation Excess Baggage encompasses the first 17 items on my list of 101 things to do and comes in under no. 2. Why? Because to complete the Cotswolds Way – and enjoy it – I need to be:

  1. lighter than I am now – for both heart and joint health
  2. stronger than I am now
  3. more flexible than I am now
  4. mentally and emotionally more resilient than I am now
  5. more financially healthy than I am now

The baggage I’m referring to isn’t just extra weight – it’s pretty much any habit or perception (and trust me, I have plenty) that holds me back from achieving my goals or moving forward.

Other than those listed on my 101 things in 1001 days list (check back here tomorrow) I’m not setting targets. I am, however, changing habits – 3 each month. I’m calling it:

Three For Thirty

The idea is that I can build on these small changes as the year progresses and update my progress monthly in the Wellness Wednesday Link-ups. Over the course of the next 12 months, I’ll look at habits around food, movement, money, wellbeing, emotional health, relationships and more. It’s about continuous action rather than a number on the scales or a balance in the bank – but all linking through to support my long-term goals.

My habits for January are:

  • 30 minutes of activity each day
  • Tackle the Ballinger Road hill twice a week – on my first attempt I only made it halfway up!
  • Try one new healthy meal recipe each week

And, to get things started, here’s a recipe for Salmon Salad with Green Tahini Dressing…Super easy, super colourful, & super yum. Give it a try. (Apologies about the pic – the lighting was terrible and I just slopped everything on the plate).

Linking up on the 2nd Wednesday of each month with Natalie et al for Wellness Wednesday and with Leanne and Sue at MTSTL…

 

I’m back to work in the day job from tomorrow and have to admit to having done not very much at all over the last week – apart from reading books and faffing about in the pool, that is.

Aside from not logging into the day job, things were otherwise back to normal. Hubby went off to his volunteer job, Ms T went off to work, and we did our 5km walk each morning along the beach path – even in the rain one morning.

Yesterday we did our usual shop at the Farmer’s Market – although a number of our regular stallholders were on holidays – and came home with some beautiful fresh figs that we enjoyed with blue cheese and prosciutto as part of a lunchtime platter. I’m loving the baby cucumbers, mini apple cucumbers and radishes at the moment – and am eating them like apples.

And last night we visited the new home of old Sydney friends in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. They’ve built on land that used to be a dairy farm a few kilometres out of town and wake up to this stunning view each day.

Despite being the middle of summer, they have no need for air-conditioning as they’ve designed the home to make use of the breezes. Besides, closing up would mean missing out on sunsets like these.

New Year’s Eve

Although it was tempting to head down to Mooloolaba, the reminder that all the roads were closed and the prospect of 40,000 people converging on the beach was just a tad too much for me. Instead, we visited the fish co-op and bought a whole snapper to grill – Balinese style – on the barbecue. We ate outside, put some music on and opened some bubbles. It was a fitting way to see out the year.

While I didn’t stay up until 2019, I did, however, last until 9pm – although was awake at midnight at the thud of the fireworks from Mooloolaba Beach…does that count?

Ikan Bakar – Balinese Grilled Fish

We’ve been having a few Bali cravings of late so decided to channel the barbecued fish in Jimbaran, Tanah Lot and some of those other beachside seafood warungs. Sure, they’re touristy, but there’s really something about sitting on the beach with your feet in the sand watching a Balinese sunset and smelling the fragrance of Bali wafting out from the grill.

Naturally, it’s not quite the same in South-East Queensland, although at this time of the year the humidity is definitely similar to that of a Bali night. The taste of this, though, took us back. As an added bonus, it’s really quite healthy.

The key to the Balinese flavour is in the spice mix or Base genep. This one is an excellent all-purpose paste and, despite the list of ingredients, is actually quite therapeutic to make – especially if you do so with a wine glass close by.

In a mortar and pestle grind 5 candlenuts, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, 2 teaspoons coriander seeds, 2 cloves and ½ teaspoon sesame seeds into a powder.

At this point you can either transfer the spice powder along with:

  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 5 red shallots, roughly chopped
  • 3 small red chillies, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh turmeric
  • 2 stalks lemongrass – the white part only
  • 5 tablespoons chopped galangal
  • 2 tablespoons chopped ginger
  • ½ teaspoon belacan or shrimp paste
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

into a food processor – I use the nutribullet – and add it all to the mortar and continue to pound it all into a smooth paste. (If you go with the food processor option you might need to add a splash of water to get it all moving about.)

Pour it into a jar until you’re ready to use it.

Tomato sambal and base genep

To prepare the fish pat dry and then slash it quite deeply with a sharp knife diagonally on both sides. Rub the spice paste over each side, making sure that you get into the slashes, and pop it back in the fridge for an hour.

I used that hour to make spicy tomato sambal that we tossed through some blanched green beans – that’s it in the pic above – and a sambal matah, a freshly chopped sambal. I’ll pop the recipes for these up on Brookford Kitchen Diaries in case you’re interested.

As for cooking the fish? We did it on the barbecue in one of those things made for barbecuing fish – just take care to oil it well or the yummy crunchy skin will stick to it. How long you cook it for depends on your barbecue, the weight of the fish and so many other variables. We had a medium sized snapper and grilled it for about 5 minutes on each side.

Just before it’s done, you can brush it with a glaze of ¼ cup (60 ml) kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), 2 tbsp vegetable or canola oil, and a squeeze of lime juice. This is, however, optional.

Serve with steamed rice, some green veggies – we used green beans – sambal and fresh lime.

As for the rest of the spice paste? We had used some during the week as a base for nasi goreng, and we’ll be using the rest in a chicken curry this week.

That was my week…how was yours? 

 

On the whole 2018 has been, relatively speaking, good to us and – after the stress of 2015, 2016 and the first half of 2017 – that was a huge relief. I continued to work my day job and we think hubby has probably retired and is now doing some volunteer work. Our 20-year-old daughter finished her 2nd year at uni – she’s doing Occupational Therapy – and is working for the same charity that hubby volunteers for.

Okay, let’s wrap up the year…

What did you do that you’ve never done before

Ummm it was as always an action-packed year but not one where I pushed any decent boundaries or made myself uncomfortable in any way. While I firmly believe that discomfort is needed for personal growth, we’d had a few years in a row where things were supremely uncomfortable so 2018 felt a tad cruisey…no complaints.

Having said all that, I did a road trip through France and went glamping – both things I’ve never done before.

What was your word for the year? How did you go with that?

My word for 2018 was Heart, and other than continuing to put my heart into everything I pretty much ignored the intent behind the word – which was to be heart healthy. Let’s just say that’s still on my agenda.

What countries did you visit?

France, Belgium and the Netherlands

Did you keep your New Year’s Resolutions?

Are you kidding? You’d think that I’d know better by now.

Health

  • My pack pain is heaps – and I mean heaps – better.
  • I hit the fattest point I’ve ever been in 2018, so enough said about that one.
  • I spent the last couple of months of the year with ankle tendon issues – due at least in part to the point immediately above.

Blogging

Actually, I did pretty well on this.

  • I revamped this site and launched my kitchen diaries blog
  • I kept a fairly consistent blogging schedule, although let the content slip on the astro site for most of the year
  • Visitor numbers were down on the astro site – largely as a result of no new content – but still totalled over 400,000 for the year, bringing me in at no. 2 in the Australian astrology blog list and no. 38 on the international list.
  • I’m still struggling with visitor numbers on my personal blogs although there were some improvements this year. It’s still well below where I’d like to see it.

Writing

  • I published Happy Ever After and drafted Careful What You Wish For. I Want You Back is still sitting there waiting on the completion of Careful What You Wish For and It’s In The Stars– which is about 60% there.

Travel

Our year started in Fraser Island and pretty much went from there:

  • 3 weeks in France road-tripping, including almost a week in Paris. We had an amazing time.
  • A long weekend “glamping” in the Scenic Rim in Southern Queensland
  • A 3000 km road trip through country NSW to go “camping” with my brother and his family.
  • Four trips to Sydney for work and to visit family.
  • A couple of trips to Melbourne for play
  • An unscheduled trip to Canberra for a funeral
  • A weekend in Brisbane to celebrate the release of Happy Ever After and do some Christmas shopping and exploring

Did anyone close to you give birth?

No

Did anyone close to you get married?

No

Did anyone close to you pass away?

Sadly yes. We said a final goodbye to a close friend in November.

How did you spend New Year’s Eve 2017?

In Fraser Island with friends. We had dinner and then danced and drank champagne. I managed to last until 11pm – which I was proud of.

How did you spend your birthday in 2018 and how old were you?

It was a Monday so I was at work. Oh, I was 51. We went for dinner at the Surf Club and I broke my no dessert practice for the members birthday special – a Vienetta. Yum! (For US readers it’s a vanilla ice-cream cake with cracky chocolate in the layers…)

What would you like to have more of next year that you lacked in this one?

Willpower and book sales.

Did you tick anything off your bucket list this year?

  • Road-tripping through France
  • Speaking French in France (I’m fluent in menu)
  • A cooking class in France

What dates from this year will remain etched in your memory and why?

My father’s 80th birthday at the end of October was pretty special.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Publishing Happy Ever After. I’m so flipping proud of this book.

What did you learn this year?

  • That I’m ridiculously busy, but not nearly as productive as I could be.
  • That we have enough.
  • That we are enough.
  • Self-care is an entirely different concept from self–nurturing. I’m good at the latter, not so much with the tough love aspect of the former.
  • Losing an entire salary has proved to us the importance of retirement planning.

Did you suffer illness or injury?

A head cold in August and a dodgy left ankle – tendon issues.

What was the best movie you saw all year?

The only movie I actually went to see was The Greatest Showman. I did, however, enjoy Mamma Mia 2 and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

What song was on high rotation this year?

As I was writing Happy Ever After it was Elton John’s “Something About The Way You Look Tonight” and Katie Melua’s “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today”. As I drafted Careful What You Wish For I played Mika’s “Any Other World,” Dido’s “Don’t Believe In Love” and “See You Soon.” Other than that I downloaded music by Amy Shark, Dean Lewis, She & Him, Missy Higgins, Jasmine Thompson, Agnes Obel and Vance Joy.

Where did your money go this year?

Ummmm books, music and travel.

Compared to this time last year, are you:

Happier or sadder?

About the same – “contented” would probably be the word I’d use. It might sound trite but every night before I go to bed I’m grateful for our house and every morning I’m grateful for where we live. We might be earning substantially less money than when we were in Sydney but I love our life so much more.

Thinner or fatter?

Fatter – by a kilo. I finished 2017 the fattest that I’d ever been and I can now safely say the same about 2018. It’s not something I’m proud of.

Richer or poorer?

Poorer – we’re down an entire income on this time last year and there was lots of fabulous travel – but richer in terms of contentment and experience.

What do you wish you’d done more of?

Writing, exercising, marketing and selling more books.

What do you wish you’d done less of?

Beating myself up for eating too much, drinking too much, not exercising enough, not being productive enough and not marketing enough to sell more books.

How did you spend Christmas 2018?

For the first time ever it was just the three of us. We started the day with a swim and some bubbles at the beach and, once home, ate lunch in spaced out courses – with swims in between. The food was great, it was put together easily, but we did miss the noise and bustle of the big family Christmas that we’re used to.

What was the best book you read?

According to Goodreads I ended up reading a total of 100 books by the end of the year and was obviously feeling very generous this year as I handed out 5 stars to 17 reads. I’m not a great critic – if I’ve really enjoyed something it will get the marks from me. As for my favourites out of this list? That’s a tad tougher, but in no specific order here is my top 5:

  • The Land Before Avocado, Richard Glover
  • Paris Is Always A Good Idea, Nicholas Barreau
  • The Man I Think I Knew, Mike Gayle
  • The Chilbury Ladies Choir, Jennifer Ryan
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows

For a rundown of my reading in 2018 check out this post.

What TV shows did you watch?

The Split, 800 Words, Rake, Bodyguard, Unforgotten, The Crown, Harrow, Maigret, Pacific – In The Footsteps Of Captain Cook…and more…

Who did I miss this year?

Friends and family left back in Sydney…but not enough to even consider looking backwards. I also missed dumplings and diversity…does that count?

What kept you sane this year?

Kali, Adventure Spaniel snoring under my desk. Also, my walks along the beach with hubby followed by coffee most weekday mornings are the highlight of my working day.

What has 2019 got in store for you…so far?

  • I have a girl’s weekend in Melbourne planned with my daughter at the beginning of February.
  • In March we have a mini road-trip in NZ North Island to attend a friend’s 60th birthday/30th wedding anniversary in Wellington
  • In May we’ll celebrate 30 years together and 25 years married by revisiting Penang and Singapore
  • We’re planning to have Christmas 2019 in the UK
  • Depending on how quickly I can write – and my fabulous editor’s availability – there’ll be more novels, possibly even the Christmas one that’s crowding my head at present.

That was my year? How was yours? Any highlights? Lessons learnt?

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishWrite of the Middle, and, of course, me.

https://static.inlinkz.com/cs2.js

 

 

Ok, so I’ll do the where oh where has the year gone thing later in the week, but for now, let’s wrap up this Christmas week which, to be honest, was pretty much about eating and faffing about by the pool.

How we Christmas’d…

Breakfast by the beach…

We started the day with an early walk and swim down at Mooloolaba – early enough that we managed to snaffle a table by the beach (they were all gone by 6am…us Queenslanders are up and about at stupid o’clock).

We took a bottle of bubbles and our potato scones, smoked salmon and creme fraiche with us and breakfasted in style.

Lunch at home…

Christmas lunch was in stages – with breaks in between for swims. First up were lychee-tinis followed by local Mooloolaba prawns and spanner crabs…

While we were digesting that I cooked the roast veggies and let the turkey and pork rest a tad. This year for the first time, as well as putting a heap of seasoned butter under the skin, I cooked my turkey in an alfoil “tent” – effectively steaming it in the oven. The alfoil came off for the final 30 minutes to crisp the skin and we all agreed that we’d never cook a turkey in any other way ever again.

After another lengthy digestion break, dessert was finally served late in the afternoon – hubby’s trifle and my lemon pavlova with homemade lemon curd.

It’s the first time that we’ve spent Christmas with just the 3 of us and while we really enjoyed the day and made it special by dressing the table and turning it into an extended feast, we all missed the noise and chaos of spending it with extended family and/or friends. It was, however, a real treat to cater Christmas lunch.

How we Boxing Day’d…

With friends up at Tinbeerwah – in the hinterland out of Noosa – in an incredible pavilion/resort-style house that they’d rented for the week. We all met nearly 21 years ago in pre-natal classes when our babies were bumps; and have been friends ever since. Our babies will be turning 21 this March.

What I’m grateful for…

The temperatures. In our little part of the Queensland coast, it’s been a relatively mild (for this time of year) and consistent 27-28C.

Yet again I’m grateful that we’re not in Sydney where the temperatures have been over 35 (with a few over 40) in the last week or so with little relief in sight. Even though I know that the humidity we get in January and February is on its way I don’t miss those extreme summer temps in North-Western Sydney at all.

In the kitchen…

Hello, it was Christmas. Other than that it’s been pretty much leftovers for the last week. I did, however, use the last of the leftover turkey in a Vietnamese style glass noodle salad based on this one from Nigella.

I also cooked a pasta con salsiccia di maiale (pasta with pork and fennel sausage) from my new cookbook. How did Santa know that I really wanted this one? Clever Santa…

Where we visited…

Montville – a touristy town in the Hinterland. There’s a German cuckoo clock shop there that sells speculoos presses and rollers – to imprint the speculoos biscuits with traditional images. Unfortunately, they didn’t have exactly what I was after, But I did get one. If you want to know more about speculoos (or speculaas, as they are in the Netherlands, or spekulatius in Germany) I’ve blogged a recipe here.

Plus we got to have a wander through Montville which, although touristy, is a beautiful village and a must-visit if you’re at the Sunshine Coast.

Where we lunched…

Sunday lunch this week was at the Imperial Hotel in Eumundi – a great pub with a colourful vibe in another fabulous hinterland village that’s famous for its twice-weekly markets. There is, however so much more to Eumundi than the markets…perhaps a subject for another time.

Ok, that was my wrap of the last week of the year…I’ll be back on Thursday with my usual end of the year closing thingie, but until then, happy new year!

 

As I write this I’m sipping at a negroni – my favourite cocktail ever…except perhaps for a martini, or an Aperol spritz, or a kir royale in Paris. At the moment though, this Negroni is my favourite cocktail in the world.

Hubby has just put the first part of the trifle in the fridge to do its setting thing and is currently rolling out potato scones. He has quite a production line happening: roll out the bannock, cut into farls, cook in the cast iron pan, while they’re cooking roll out another bannock…and so on. On the speakers is my Christmas playlist and it’s very much feeling like Christmas.

Anyways, let’s wrap this week up…

What I’m chuffed about…

We managed to get the prawns – Mooloolaba king prawns are the absolute best in the world – and a couple of spanner crabs with only a 10-minute wait today at the local fish markets. It was all actually a bit of a party atmosphere down there today – I’m sure that won’t be the case by tomorrow!

Update: At 6am this morning the queue was around the carpark and down to the beach. Somehow I don’t think the mood will have been as light as it was yesterday!

What I was really chuffed about…

The beach boardwalk at Mooloolaba – which has been closed for the last few months for rebuilding, forcing us to walk part of our morning constitutional on the road – has opened in time for the holidays and was absolutely worth the wait. The path is wider and way better lit.

What I’m watching…

Christmas cooking specials on Foxtel and Christmas movies. So far we’ve had Bridget Jones’ Diary, Elf and Polar Express. Our Christmas Eve tradition is Love Actually.

What I visited…

Solar Nights at the University of Sunshine Coast. This free and fun for all the family event was well worth going to. All the displays had been designed by USC staff, with an aim of promoting energy efficiency.

What I cooked…

Yep, it’s been a busy week in the kitchen with rum balls, speculoos biscuits, a 5 spice and cider ginger bundt cake and parmesan shortbread being baked.

There’s Christmas Crack in the fridge waiting to be broken up, so all I’m left to do is a lemon curd pavlova for the big day.

Where I lunched…

The $10 spicy pork lunch special at the local Korean #winning.

Where I Christmas partied…

I’m on holidays from the day job now until January 1 so the employees of my office – ie Adventure Spaniel and I – with our plus ones ie hubby and daughter – all trooped down to Mooloolaba Spit for our Christmas Party. A kilo of prawns, some bread rolls and cold beers – obviously not for the dog – and a view like this. What could be better?

So, that was my week…how was yours? Wishing everyone a happy Christmas and all the joy of the season…

Looking out to sea from the top of Buderim Village

 

Back in 2015, we spent the leadup to Christmas in the UK. It changed our idea of Christmas forever. Sure, Christmas in Australia is great. It’s the beginning of our summer holidays and there’s a real carefree feeling in the air. It feels right to be drinking beer and eating (some of the best) seafood (in the world) outside by the pool on Christmas Day – although we also do switch on the air-conditioning and enjoy a traditional turkey roast as well.

That year in England, though, showed us the possibility of a different Christmas: one that was full of markets you rugged up for, of mulled wine, of the smell of spices hanging in the cold air.

The first time I made this cake our daughter walked in, smelling the air and said, ‘it smells like England at Christmas.’ It did – smell like England at Christmas, that is. It also tastes like it.

Nigella says in her lead-in to this recipe that she used to call it a gingerbread cake, but it’s much lighter than that – and less gingery. I do, however, amp up the ginger. Last year I made it with a brewed ginger beer rather than cider and this year I grated additional ginger – maybe an extra teaspoon or so – and squeezed the juice straight into the cake.

Buderim Ginger do a ginger and pear beer – which is, incidentally, pretty good with vodka – so I got to thinking that next year I might try using pear cider instead of apple…for a change.

Anyways, here’s the recipe. It’s seriously easy: you combine the wet ingredients and the ginger together, you sift the dry ingredients together, you combine the two and pour it into the bundt tin. Job done.

What you need…

  • 250 ml cider (I used a fairly dry apple cider)
  • 175 ml sunflower oil
  • 100 g soft dark brown sugar
  • 300 g black treacle (or 1 x 250ml cup – oil it first so the treacle slides out)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3cm piece fresh root ginger (peeled and finely grated to give 2 teaspoons)
  • 300 g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2½ tsp Chinese 5 spice powder – check that there’s no garlic in the mix
  • 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 x 10-cup (2.5 litre capacity) bundt tin/pan or 1 x 20cm/8-inch square cake tin approx. 5.5cm/2 ¼-inches deep

What you do with it…

  • First up, oil your bundt tin well – I use one of those oil sprays – and leave it to stand upside down for any excess to drip away
  • Preheat the oven to 170C (150C if you’re using the fan option)
  • Open the cider so it loses its fizz.
  • Beat together the oil, treacle, ginger, cider, sugar and eggs in a bowl. I use the mixer, but you can do it by hand.
  • In another bowl, combine all the dry ingredients ie flour, spices, baking powder, bicarb soda. I sift it, but that’s probably not necessary.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the treacly mix, beating as you go. I do this spoon by spoon to make sure there are no pockets of flour anywhere.
  • Pour the runny batter into your tin and cook for 45-50 minutes (50-55 minutes if you’re using a square tin), testing after 40. It will be cooked when it’s starting to come away from the sides and a cake tester comes out clean.
  • Leave it to cook in the tin for about 30 mins before attempting to tip it out – it might need some persuasion to part from the bundt tin.
  • Once it’s completely cooled, wrap in foil – Nigella says it’s best eaten the next day & up to a week after, but it tastes pretty good on day 1 too…just saying.
  • We dust with icing sugar to serve, but hubby loves it with pouring cream as well.

Christmas in a cake.

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