Well for those of us who have been in denial, we really must say goodbye to summer now because the nip in the air is officially taking over. I'll be sorry to say goodbye to suntans and beach days but I must say I do love dressing for the cooler weather with jeans, jackets and gorgeous boots. It's also the perfect season for snuggling, hot chai's, blocks of chocolate and movie days so you might as well indulge while it lasts. Here are my must haves for the season...
I am pretty massively freakin' excited for my trip to France. Not long now until I'm indulging in croissants, cafe au lait and the finest champagne the French have to offer! The trip-planning has come together well and I've pretty much got everything sorted. As much as I'd like to be one of those fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of travellers, I have done plenty of research because I'd hate to miss something wonderful! Here's what I've got planned so far; I'd love to hear your suggestions...
Paris is the first stop. I have been here once before when I did all the main touristy things like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Sacre Couer. This time I'm looking forward to exploring the city a bit more like a local; I'm thinking shopping at the markets and lunchtime picnics along the Seine. I also can't wait to indulge in some Parisian fashions - I've been saving to shop shop shop! While in Paris I also plan to do a day trip to some of the region's chateaux. This is where I'm quite torn: Versailles or Loire Valley? I only have a day to spare and Versaille is much closer and easier to get to whilst Loire is further but has those castles that look like they're straight out of fairytales. Has anyone been to either? I'd love to hear what you think.
After a week in Paris is it on to Lyon. They say if Paris is the heart of France, then Lyon is the stomach - this city is renown for its gastronomy and I can't wait to sample the local cuisine. I'm not sure I'm ready to give snails a go but I'd really like to try frog's legs! I've never been to Lyon before so I'm looking forward to exploring the old and new parts of town. I'll be here for Bastille Day so am very excited to be involved in the celebrations. I hear the fireworks along the river are quite a sight! While in Lyon I'm going to do a day-trip to Annercy; a small town nestled at the foot of the French alps which looks like a miniature version of Venice with so many waterways! I'm sure there will be plenty of wonderful photo opportunities!
After five days in Lyon it's onto the final leg of the journey - the Cote D'Azur. The French Riviera is referred to as the "Coast of Gold" so I'm expecting some spectacular sights. I'll be based in Nice for a week and during this time I plan to explore Cannes, Monaco, Eze, Grasse and Ventimiglia (just so I can pop over the Italian boarder and say "ciao bella!"). A boat trip out on the water is certainly on the cards, as well as sunning myself on the golden sand (which I hear is actually shipped in from the Whitsundays - how about that!?).
What do you think? If you've been to France I'd love to hear what your favourites sights were, I'm open to all suggestions. Merci beaucoup.
Another year another number! I celebrated my birthday over the weekend with my nearest and dearest. Cocktails, dinner, dessert and dancing - four of my favourite things. I have a feeling 24 is going to be a really good year and I'm excited for what's ahead. Big thank you to my beautiful friends and family who helped me celebrate, I feel very loved. So in love with this beautiful dress, it's definitely a favourite. Here's what I wore...
If I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life I think it would probably be seafood [and perhaps some bread too, am I allowed both?]. I adore oysters, prawns, crab, fish, octopus, scallops - you name it, I love it. Which is why I was so excited when a friend recommended this soup to me, particularly coming into the chillier months of the year. The recipe is very simple but it really has such lovely flavour and you feel pretty good eating it too with all the veggies. The milk makes it lovely and creamy without the guilt of using actual cream. It's definitely a winner in my kitchen.
What you'll need
1 onion, chopped
2 rashers bacon, diced
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 capsicum, diced
2 medium potatoes, cut in 1cm cubes
30g plain flour
250g fish (I used cod)
100g peeled prawns
grated cheese for garnish
What to do
In a large pot, fry the onion and bacon gently in the butter until onion is translucent and soft. Add the aromatics, using 3/4 of the parsley. Add the vegetables and stir. Add the flour and season well with salt and pepper. Stir again until the flour is evenly distributed.
Now add a third of the milk and stir well before adding the remaining milk and the water. Bring up to the boil stirring frequently to prevent catching. Turn the heat down low and simmer very gently for 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. If the mixture seems too thick add a little water.
While the soup simmers, cut your fish into small pieces and peel your prawns. Add the fish in as the vegetables get tender and then add the prawns to heat through about 3 minutes later. This should be perfect timing to cook your fish and warm your prawns. Serve with a sprinkle of cheese and the remaining chopped parsley.
If you hadn't heard already, I'm off to France in July to explore the countryside for three weeks. There has been plenty of planning that has gone into the trip and I'm now a connoisseur on all things Paris, the French countryside and the Cote d'Azur. I have exhausted every map, trip advisor suggestions page, hotel site, French travel guide and local person with knowledge that I know of!! Seriously, ask me any question and I'm pretty sure I'll know the answer.
I must say it has actually been rather a lot of work. France isn't the easiest place to plan a trip for a number of reasons: so many things provide limited information, their English translations are misleading and often mean something completely different to what I read in French, and France is culturally quite different to Australia [forgive me for stating the obvious]. One particularly sticking point is the state of the plumbing in Europe. You wouldn't believe what difficulty I've had trying to find hotels to stay in that actually have showers - you know those 21st century things where you stand up to wash rather than sitting down. I would have thought they were as basic as having a bedroom with a bed but not quite so!
I did so much research to find places to stay and always had the same problem. I'd be getting excited about my latest find thinking this is definitely the one - "great location, reasonably sized room, balcony, good price......... oh wait, bathtub - no shower. Back to the drawing board!" I don't know how the French manage, particularly the women. They are always so chic I can't possibly envisage them washing their hair in the bath... It's a mystery how they get themselves looking so good.
So, a word to the wise. If you're planning a trip to the land of the croissant and you don't want to be stooped over in the tub you better do your hotel research, or alternatively come to me; I've now got a short-list!
Bags are my fashion love affair; who needs a man for arm candy when you can have a designer tote? I get such a rush of joy when I'm walking down the street with a gorgeous bag swinging on my forearm. Whether it's a tote, clutch, backpack, shoulder bag or travel bag; fashion houses are whipping out gorgeous designs faster than I can say "where's my wallet?" Here are my favourite trendy, and more importantly, timeless designs...
Bruschetta, bruschetta; I just love saying the word, especially when you do it a la the Italians with a hard 'k' sound. Not only do I love saying it, I love eating it. This delicious snack makes the perfect lunch or pre-dinner appetiser and here's a quick and easy recipe that will have you whipping it up in no time!
What you'll need
1 sour-dough style loaf; I like using Pane Di Casa
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, bruised
4 vine-ripened truss tomatoes, finely diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
12 leaves basil, chopped
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
What to do
Slice your bread according to your needs. If for lunch then I suggest chunky toasts slices, and if for hors d'oeuvres then small rounds work well. Drizzle the bread with olive oil on both sides and rub well with the bruised garlic. Heat a griddle pan and toast your bread for a few minutes on each side until warm and firm.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine your tomatoes, onion, basil and vinegar and stir well. Season with salt and pepper.
Remove your toast from the pan and top it with the tomato mixture. Crumble over the fetta and finish off with another crack of salt of pepper.
The dictionary's definition of magic is very ambiguous; "the power of apparently influencing events by using mysterious or supernatural forces". I like to think that magic is so much more than that because we refer to it in so many contexts: magicians, fairytales and stories, lucky events, feelings, a way of thinking, design and love - they can all be magical. When I was young, magic to me was just tricks; I used to be fascinated with magician shows on TV. Watching them saw someone in half, make them disappear or magically escape from some inescapable situation.
I had two profound experiences with magicians, both when I was under 10, that spurred on my fascination. One day at the local shopping centre there was a magic show and I was selected to be "made to disappear" in a box on stage. Looking back now I was pretty game to go up there because I'm sure my 8-year-old self would have totally believed the magic man and I certainly wouldn't have wanted to actually disappear! Anyway, I'm still here so things clearly went alright. I remember being in the box and then him opening the door but I couldn't see the audience any more and they couldn't see me (there must have been some sort of trap door in the back I'm guessing).
Another time at what I think was my 6th birthday, we had a magician come to the house [thanks Mum, it was an awesome birthday party]. I helped him make a concoction of tomato sauce and eggs and stir it around. He put a lid on it, gave it a shake, and low and behold a dove flew out. He also pulled a rabbit out of his top hat. I thought it was fantastic to have these lovely animals in my lounge room that seemed to appear from thin air [I think Mum was more concerned about the carpet!].
I'm not sure whether I believe that side of magic or not. The logical part in me says that it's all mind games and they are just very quick and clever with what they do. But the fantastical part of me wants to believe that magic actually is possible and in many different shapes and forms; whether it's a perfect sunny day, a lucky event, a shooting star or finding your one true love in this world of 7 billion people. Besides, if it's true that we only ever use 10% of our brain capacity, then who's to say we aren't all magic and we just haven't figured it out yet.
The Mexican food craze has officially hit the Gold Coast; in the last month at least three new Mexican restaurants have opened here - which is quite considerable since our food scene is relatively small. I for one am really happy because I love burritos, enchiladas, guacamole and sangria - yum, yum, yum. Located on the western side of the Gold Coast Highway at Mermaid Beach, Bonita Bonita is the latest Mexican to open its doors. I was expecting low-key street style food but I can tell you it is so much more than that!
This place has a really great vibe with an authentic themed fit-out and candles EVERYWHERE! It really creates a great ambience. We sat at the bar and spent our evening watching experienced bartenders mix up some delicious looking cocktails. The beverage list has a great range of choices, some classic and some new and inventive. The menu is fairly refined but still offers plenty of choice; there are entrees and snacks to share including chips and guacamole, fish ceviche, sticky ribs and wings - it all looks really delcious. Then there is a large selection of tacos and burritos that you buy separately ($9) which I found great as you could try a few different flavours. Some choices were beef, chicken, ham hock, pulled pork, fish and vegetable.
My friend and I started with some chips and guacamole which were really delicious; the chips seem like homemade oven roasted tortilla ones and the guac had great flavour. Next I had two burritos; the pulled pork with pineapple salsa and the fish. Both were really lovely and full of great flavours - I would highly recommend!
This is definitely a place to check out if you're a local. I enjoyed a night of great food and good vibes. 5/5
Where: 2460 Gold Coast Highway, Mermaid Beach QLD 4218
Bookings: this place is pretty popular so I would recommend booking
Phone: (07) 5575 2669
I've been a busy little bee lately, tripping all around the place with a few weekends spent in Melbourne visiting family and exploring the Great Ocean Road. As much as I love travel, adventure and being somewhere new, I will say it's nice to have the occasional quiet weekend at home. I headed out for dinner with my girlfriends last week; we indulged in Italian, a few drinks and some dancing. Here's what I wore...
Bandage Dress and Shoes from Forever New, Kimono from Kookai (it's actually a scarf, read how to make your own here)
Here's to another wonderful weekend. I'm going to be home again but have plenty more new adventures on the horizon.
Each time the printer in my office restarts itself it likes to print a colour test page and the clever people at Epson always choose bright artistic photos. Of late, the printer has been shooting out delectable images of delicious dinners and the funny boys in graphic design like to pin these up on the wall; taunting us about how lacklustre our lunches are. The one that has really caught my eye of late was a beautiful image of a prawn laksa, I'd been staring at it for three weeks when I decided it was about time I satisfied my craving and made the dish for dinner.
What you'll need
500g butternut pumpkin
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 x 230g jar laksa paste
500ml chicken stock
500ml coconut milk
500g cooked, peeled prawns
100g green beans, top and tailed and halved
2 teaspoons soy sauce
200g thin rice noodles
1/2 cup bean sprouts
2 spring onions, sliced
1 red chilli, sliced
What to do
Chop your pumpkin up into small 1cm cubes. Bring to the boil in a saucepan and simmer until tender (I thought pumpkin would be an interesting addition to a laksa and it really does complement the creaminess of the coconut milk).
Meanwhile, heat your olive oil in a large saucepan and add the laksa paste. Cook over medium heat for two minutes until fragrant. Add the stock, coconut milk and beans and stir to combine. Simmer for 5 minutes.
In a separate bowl, prepare your rice noodles by pouring bowling water over them and allowing them to sit. You pumpkin should now be be cooked. Drain it and add to the laksa. Add the soy sauce along with the bean sprouts. Add the spring onions and chilli, reserving a little of each for a garnish.
Drain your noodles and add these to the laksa along with your prawns to heat them through. Garnish with the spring onions and chilli. Finish with a good crack of sea salt; it really brings all the flavours together.
You've gotta love a designer watch - these days, if we're being honest, I'm sure 90% of people wear them for their aesthetic purpose rather than their ability to tell the time. If I've got my Michael Kors watch on I still check my iPhone to see if it's lunch time! We truly are a funny generation aren't we? Here are some of my favourite designs this season.
Nestled way up in the trees, on the mountain over-looking Apollo Bay on Victoria's Great Ocean Road you will find Chris's. This contemporary restaurant has Southern-European influences true to the Greek heritage of the restaurant founder and owner Chris Talhimanidis. First-time visitors could easily overshoot the back-road turnoff to this long-established restaurant but it would be a real shame to do so as you're guaranteed to have a wonderful meal. The restaurant matches its surroundings with sandstone floors, polished timber ceilings and panoramic windows. As the sun sets you can see the lights come on in Apollo Bay down below and the great vastness of the ocean out to the horizon.
Before our meals we were brought lovely warm bread-rolls. I'm a sucker for these, I think more restaurants should offer them, it's always a lovely beginning. For entrée I ordered the octopus which was out-of-this-world delicious. It had a lovely combination of flavours with a red wine sauce, rocket, apple, beetroot and goats cheese.
Photo via Chris's (mine was just too dark!)
The list of mains provided quite the difficult decision as they all sounded so delicious; isn't it nice to have difficulty deciding for all the right reasons. I ended up settling on the confit duck for main and it was just as lovely as the entrée; so tender and just falling off the bone with an accompaniment of lyonnaise potato, wine jus and poached pear.
The service throughout the evening was immaculate with friendly, knowledgeable and attentive waiters. The wine list is extensive with a great variety on offer. The ambience in the room is spot on with the panoramic views and split level design. Tick, tick, tick.
Whilst this is a highly priced restaurant with mains starting at $38, the excellence of my meal was well worth the investment. It was the best dinner I've had in a long time. Would love to return next time I visit the Great Ocean Road. 5/5
Where: 280 Skenes Creek Road, Beacon Point VIC 3233
Phone: (03) 5237 6411