Monday, 22 December 2014

Happy Monday

What a crazy, sad, funny, heartwarming, heartbreaking week it has been. Last week's Happy Monday post went live right just before I found out that it most certainly was not a happy Monday. I'm not going to talk about the siege, because I need to stop thinking about it. Danielle from Keeping Up With The Holsbys wrote the most beautiful post that really just sums it all up for me.

vines, vineyard, sunlight

I am getting better at not letting horrible things drag me down into the mire. As I was hearing the siege unfold I just felt grateful that my loved ones were safe. I checked in with my dear ones in Sydney and was so relieved that hadn't gone chocolate shopping that morning. I lived the day of the siege and those that followed clinging onto the happy stuff, feeling so privileged to be able to feel happiness when there are people in the world that may never know happiness again. That is how we can get by and not let the bad guys win. There is so much goodness in the world that we just need to give it the same amount of attention as the bad.

Things that made me happy this week:

:: Listening to a friend tell a "7 minute joke" that lasted about 20. She corpsed about 200 times and the joke was just dreadful (sorry darling if you are reading this) but I would happily lose another 20 minutes of my life just to see her tell it again.

vintage, cars, vintage cars, vineyards

:: Being called a free spirit by an old (young) friend. I have never really felt that about myself but always liked the idea of 'those kind of people.' I mentioned this to The Bookworm and he pointed out that I am not scared to follow my heart and do something different and unexpected.  I had never recognised that part of me that is brave enough to leave the path and bush-bash for a while. I've spent that last few years bush-bashing and while I really like paths with their lack of bugs and scratchy bits, life is more interesting and satisfying in the wilderness.

:: A quick chat and a hug from a friend on Tuesday afternoon when I just could not make sense of the world. She is a wise old soul (in a young vibrant body). She grounded me and helped me on my way.

:: Christmas drinks with a new group of friends. I think if I had to name the most cherished thing that 2014 gave me, it would be all the new friends. So many. I spent my first few years in Melbourne clinging tightly to the handful of people I knew here. Then at the beginning of this year I decided to just start saying yes to catch-ups and opportunities to meet people, even if they were a bit scary for this little introvert.

:: Cramming into the bathroom of a wine bar with said group of new friends to take a selfie and potentially win a bottle of Champagne. Marvellous stuff.

:: Hanging out with Miss Carly. and eating lots of dumplings. Dumplings are good for the soul, as is time with the life-force that is Carly.

:: My first paid-for work Christmas party in 10 years and by-geez it was a good one. So much good wine and lovely chats with a great team of people. I have a lot of whinges about my work (which I deliberately never share here) but I can't fault the people; absolute delights.

grapes, chardonnay, vines

:: Surprise Christmas trees. I am not really feeling the love this year. We are having an orphan Christmas- I can't get back to family in Brisbane due to study/work/finance restraints. I am picking up some retail work which means eight days in a row in the lead-up to Christmas. However, I arrived home from work yesterday to a little tree in the corner of the lounge room which we decorated together last night. We did'nt have a star for the top so The Bookworm created an angel out of a champagne cork. It feels like Christmas might be happening after all.

How are you doing? It has been a tough week for so many people. Take care of yourself x

Happy Monday

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Meet... The Spice Adventuress

I want you to meet Dhanya who blogs at The Spice Adventuress, a gorgeous blog with a bit of a focus on Indian food but with exploration of other styles of cooking as well. I am a big fan of Dhanya's blog because she cooks food that is so outside my comfort level. I am in awe of the way she combines all of those spices and ingredients to create magical flavours (check out her recipe for Biryani). Dhanya also writes about trying new wines and is really getting into the local wines now that she has so much choice (since moving to Australia)- a topic close to my heart.

So without further ado, let's get to know Dhanya...

You've been blogging for almost a year and a half and recently rebranded- tell us a bit about your blogging journey so far.

My blog was a random decision that happened on a lonely afternoon in August last year. But I believe destiny was at hand as it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. Though I had initially christened my blog as ‘Skinny chef de cuisine’, I ran into a bit of legal trouble with another company who had already registered a similar name (blame it on my lack of blogosphere knowledge!)

And that’s how ‘The Spice Adventuress’ was born. It has been an exhilarating and joyous journey so far. I have learnt so much about global cuisine, culinary cultures, discovered new ingredients, re-ignited my love for spices and met so many wonderful people along this journey.

Initially I had a bit of scepticism about making this my career, but the past one year my blog has got nominated for so many national and international awards which reinforced my belief that this was all meant to be. Blogging has also opened so many creative doors for me; the opportunity to be a journalist for a leading Indo-Aus community paper and several writing offers for leading websites.

If your afternoon suddenly frees up, all your jobs are done and there is an opportunity for some me-time, how do you spend it?

I love reading and most likely, you will find me with a book and a cup of coffee. 

What is the thing you are most proud of?

It would not be wrong to say that I am most proud of my son. Call it a mother’s vanity, but I am one of the proudest moms around simply because Adi is the most adorable and friendly 5 year old. He is a happy child, a sensitive and caring individual; and I am happy I made the life-altering decision of throwing away my career to raise him (I was a medical scientist in my previous professional life!)

What is the thing you would most like to do or learn?

I would love to travel more, especially to the lesser known places of the world. I would love to use my love and knowledge of food to transcend cultural barriers in some form or the other. But speaking of short term, I would love to take my photography knowledge forward.

You're originally from India, how is your life different in Australia and what would you like people to know about India?

My personal life really hasn’t changed much between both countries. But from a culinary perspective, the biggest difference has been the availability of all kinds of ingredients and produce in Australia. It is quite difficult or expensive to source many ingredients when it comes to International cuisines in India but here in Australia, I could find all kinds of ingredients so easily.

A myth that has existed about India for the longest time is that it is the land of curries. The cuisine of India goes much more beyond curries and I wish that people would experience the real Indian food.

What is your most memorable food and/or wine experience?

Oh! This would be hard. My most beautiful and memorable experience around food and wine was on my 13th birthday for which I asked my parents for a terrace party and a bottle of wine to welcome my teen years. I was living in Dubai at the time; we had a pent house and my parents threw a grand party for me inviting all my friends. I did not drink wine then but I wanted a bottle of sparkling to shake open as I had watched innumerable times on television.

When I was little I always wanted a treehouse where I could escape from the world and fill with my favourite things. Name five things you would have in your treehouse?

Hmmm...I would have my pen and diary, maybe a blanket to snuggle in, books, coffee and of course food!

For more from Dhanya, make sure you check out her blog and keep up with her adventures on her Facebook page.

This post is part of my new Spotlight advertising package. For just $20 you will get your advertisement in my sidebar for a month, a shoutout on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and feature in a spotlight post just like this one.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

I want to tell you a story...

I want to tell you a story of a refugee I met years ago when working in a hospital. She had given birth under emergency circumstances and remained gravely ill so was transferred to a medical ward while her baby was cared for in the Special Care Nursery.

As her medical condition improved she became a problem patient; trying to leave the ward, ignoring requests to return (she didn't speak English) and fighting like a wildcat when physically restrained. She was labelled as 'psychotic' and heavily medicated. Finally a translator was called in. She seemed almost unresponsive when he tried to speak with her and the outbursts continued.

I watched this unfold. I heard her screams as she was hauled back to her room. She was terrified. I took the time to read back through her medical notes. Her relative, with whom she was staying, had provided a detailed social history including torture, sexual assault and how she witnessed the murder of her family members. She had been granted residency quickly due to her pregnancy and was hoping her husband could join her in Australia soon.

If that had happened to me, as an Australian citizen I would have been provided with significant counselling, treatment for PTSD and an outpouring of support. She received time in a detention centre before being allowed to settle here without her husband. No counselling, no support, no psychological rehabilitation.

Is it any wonder she fought for her life when restrained by male security guards.

I organised a Pharmacist friend who spoke her language to come to the ward. With the relative safety of another female she opened up and explained she just wanted to see her baby. She thought we were taking her baby away from her. She was scared and confused. 

Within days we changed her treatment, organised frequent nursery visits and her condition improved. A few weeks later she went home with her baby.

I tell you this as I watch the aftermath of the Sydney siege tragedy. I do not want to speak or speculate about the accused other than to note his political asylum status.

Our refugee policies are murky. In some cases we don't screen appropriately, allowing dangerous and politically charged individuals to stay here. In other cases we lock desperate victims of horror in detention centres and do more damage. Rarely do we spend the time to rehabilitate them from their experiences. Rarely do they receive adequate care and treatment for all that has gone before reaching our shores.

I often wonder what would have happened to that woman if she had not had access to an educated female translator who was able to give her back her voice.

I cannot stop thinking about the man who changed the way we view our country. This doesn't happen in Australia, until it does. All those affected by yesterdays events will receive endless support and care, as they should. But this happens in other countries everyday. Every. Single. Day. And the victims have to just get on with their lives.

We have shown our goodness to those receiving unwarranted discrimination. #iwillridewithyou has drawn our people together amongst darkness and fear. We must remember this and speak up next time we see discrimination, let's make #iwillridewithyou our way of life from this point on. I am worried that we are the minority and that one of the outcomes of this tragedy will be further restrictions on immigration of refugees.

This post is not about answers. This is about not letting the actions of one person affect the fate of others. This is about changing the way we deal with asylum seekers to aid them in becoming valuable members of our society. This is about understanding the need for compassion and rehabilitation and providing it.

I have no sympathy for the actions of Man Haron Monis and I question the effectiveness of our justice system that he was out on bail when he shook our world. However as we learn more of his history it may provide answers on how he got to that place and how we can help avoid it happening again.

Please let's not tar others with the same brush.

I can see it, hear it, feel it, taste it - but I can never be on the inside of it with you. I cannot even be sure whether I really know what it is like. Is it 'like' my own? Or incomparable? Just as I can never know if what you see at any given moment is exactly the same as what I see. We look at a colour. We both call it red. But it is only because we have been taught to call it by that name. There is no guarantee - not ever - that we see it in the same way, that your red is my red.
André Brink, Before I forget

Monday, 15 December 2014

Happy Monday

Oh gosh I'm feeling a bit tired. All this pre-Christmas socialising is just so wonderful but I do really need a little bit more couch-time in my life (not that we own a couch:). It has been another lovely week with some gorgeous clear days, too much good food and lovely time spent with friends.

Things that made me happy this week:

:: A little dally through the Abbotsford Convent. Such a pretty place with such a warm, loving communinity vibe.

:: Dinner with Mel from Eat Quaff Laugh. We ate baked boozy cheese and Blitzen venison, and drank lovely wine from her impressive little cellar.

:: An entire night evening spent with The Bookworm at Prix Fixe for their December "Nutcrackers Christmas" menu. I know that sounds odd but we really never get to just hang out anymore. We don't have days off together, nights are always busy catching up on work and housework and he goes to bed hours before me. Time together without distraction is so precious. You can read a review of our dinner on Champagne and Chips.
prix fixe, melbourne, restaurant, nutcrackers Christmas

:: Baking some absolutely ridiculous chocolate brownies for a work Christmas party. I will be talking about them more soon on Champagne and Chips. Isn't it just so much fun to make something completely OTT and decadent!?!

:: Square-dancing in the local community hall. We take Ted for a wander around the block last thing before bed so he can check his pee-mail. Sometimes as we walk back through the park there is a square-dancing group boot-scooting in the community hall. I love to stop and stare watch for a bit at the fierce concentration on their faces and perfectly ordered lines of naff dancing. It looks almost cultish. Gosh I chuckle, it just tickles my fancy. At the same time I have the utmost respect for this gorgeous little organisation who have apparently been running for 20 years (overheard in a speech the other night). 

abbotsford convent, jacaranda
PS. How wrong is the expression 'tickles my fancy' if you think about it. I'm bringing this one back. I just love it.

How is your pre-Christmas socialising going? Are you tired out yet? :)

Happy Monday
N x

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Taking Stock: November

I wrote my first Taking Stock post at the end of October and I think they may become a thing. October it seems was all about studying. So much has happened since that post was published. My Grandma passed away that week, I launched a new blog, I have had so many wonderful catch ups with old friends, met new ones, drank Champagne on a rooftop in Sydney (yes I keep mentioning that because it is a life highlight :) and had the most wonderful mini-holiday.
sydney harbour bridge, sydney, view, australia

sydney, australia, centrepoint, lamp, view, photography

As we enter the craziness of the Christmas month I'm feeling unusually chilled. We aren't flying 'home' this year because we really do have a new home now in Melbourne. Of course we will miss our families but it is nice to be creating our own little traditions.

So, I am:

Making : Delicious Christmas treats like spiced nuts and striped cheesecakes.
Cooking : Slow-roasted legs of lamb. I know it is completely inappropriate for summer but I have only just discovered how remarkable and easy it is.
Drinking : Wine. So much beautiful wine. Not in large quantities but frequently and I like that.
Reading:Blogs, so many blogs and I just finished "The Husband's Secret" by Liane Moriarty, which I loved!
Wanting: More time with my love.
Looking: At the nail polish chipping off my fingernails.
Playing: Yikes, nothing. I am not playing at all and that is a problem.
Deciding: Where to go from here, what to do, how to manage the next step.
Wishing: For some ease.
Enjoying: All the pre-Christmas catchups with friends.

Waiting: For a few peaceful days off.
Liking: Lots of photos on Instagram, especially the ones prompted by #fmsphotoaday
Wondering: If there is an easier way to do all the things.
Loving: Taking photos everyday.
Pondering: Employment
Considering: My options
Watching: The days get longer
Hoping: For just a little more success.
Marvelling: At where life is taking me.
Needing: Balance
Smelling: Beautiful scented candles made by my neighbour (Shadow Moon Creations)
Wearing: Dresses as often as I can. I always dress far too practically so I'm trying to wear more colour and stuff that makes me feel pretty.
Following: Nobody ;)
Noticing: The little things

Knowing: It's time for a change
Thinking: About these prompts, they are so damn difficult :)
Feeling: Tired and energised at the same time.
Admiring: The DIY Christmas trees popping up on the blogosphere and wishing I had the time to make one.
Sorting: Out my finances
Buying: Treats here and there for Christmas day
Getting: There...
Bookmarking: Nothing. If I sat down and tried to read through everything I have bookmarked I would die first. Happy thoughts anonymous :)
Disliking: Driving an hour and a half every day.
Opening: Bags of Rodeo mix. I am freaking addicted to the stuff.
Giggling: Not frequently enough.

Feeling: Overwhelmed
Snacking: On Rodeo mix...
Coveting: A macro lens for my camera.
Wishing: 2015 is a happy one
Helping: Not frequently enough
Hearing: The rain on the roof

sydney, australia, champagne, sydney harbour bridge, rooftop, view

Do you like these kind of posts? I feel quite narcissistic writing them but I enjoy reading other people's so that makes me think it's no quite so bad. If you want to play along, pick three and respond in the comments  N x

Also don't forget my Christmas Giveaway is still open. You can enter via Seeking Victory or Champagne and Chips

Monday, 8 December 2014

Happy Monday

Isn't this time of year crazy!?! The world shuts done for a whole week at the end of December so we spend the three weeks before seeing everybody we have been meaning to see all year just in case the world ends. Cynicism aside I actually love this time of year for all the catch-ups with friends but I really do not understand why we can't have the same drive to see each other in August...

Anyway it has been another lovely week. I have had a dear one from Brisbane visiting who I have not seen for about four years, ridiculous, I know. That has meant lots of eating out, which you know I really hate ;) as well as time spent showing her my city and rediscovering it for myself.

Things that made me happy this week:

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Underwater Puppies

I have to admit that when I heard about this book my first reaction was awww puppies, such a good idea, he's gonna make a mint.

I'm a cynical cow.

Then I happened to be on the treadmill on the gym when one of the morning shows interviewed the photographer, Seth Casteel. I fell in love. Well, he's pretty cute, but moreso I fell in love with his message. He teaches water safety to dogs.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Local Artists and Makers for Christmas and a Giveaway

I love love LOVE giving unique gifts, things that people have not seen before and that are not widely available. I also delight in shopping locally, knowing that my money is going straight into the pocket of the artist rather than to a large multinational. I've put together some of my favourite things from local artists to help your Christmas shopping be that little bit more special.

I've talked about Lou Endicott a few times before (here and here). You might also recognise her gorgeous style in my logo and that of my food and wine blog, Champagne and Chips. Lou is an extraordinarily talented illustrator and has an Etsy store- One Two Carabou, where you can buy the cutest prints for your little people (or big people).

This is a lesson in why you should chat to your neighbours- one day I was returning from a Ted-walk when Damo was unloading multiple large boxes from the back of his car. I was in a nosy mood, so asked if he had a market stall. As it turns out, some of the loveliest candles I have ever smelt were being made right next door. Shadow Moon Creations make beautifully scented eco-friendly soy candles with some absolutely delicious scents. They are available from the Rose Street Market or via their online store. They even offer refills so you can reuse the lovely jars.
Sandra Reynolds is a wonderful local blogger and recipe developer. She is the woman behind the very successful blog $120 Food Challenge and in 2012 launched a cookbook of her delicious, affordable recipes. Sandra's life changed when she became unemployed and realised that after her rent and bills were paid she had about $120 per fortnight leftover from her unemployment benefits to buy food for herself and two children. To my UK readers that might sound like quite a bit but to put it in perspective, two litres of milk and a loaf of bread in a Tesco equivalent will set you back about $4-5 here. Sandra started posting her cheap and nutritious recipes on Facebook but got such a response that she started a blog. You can pick up a copy of her book for all the people in your life trying to get by on a budget (let's face it, that's probably most of the people you know...) from Booktopia.

Ellie from Saturday Lollipop makes the cutest jewellery around. Her beautiful pieces take you right back to childhood. I had the most fun doing last year's Christmas shopping on her website. Your loved one's face will light up with delight when they open their gift to find their favourite treat as a wearable miniature. She has a range of Christmas jewellery including plum puddings, or for something appropriate year-round, how about a jar of Nutella... oh yes! Ellie also offers custom pieces when she has time (she posted a KitchenAid pendant on her Facebook page and I got one made for a dear friend in duck egg blue- Squee!). You can purchase her lovely pieces from her website or on Hard to Find.

Dee is a wildly talented lady that blogs, is super crafty and is behind some of Melbourne's best handmade markets. She is about to launch her own online store, much like Etsy but with everything locally made! You can check out her blog and soon-to-be online store over at Wild About Melbourne. Meanwhile she is a crochet-gun and has her own little range of gorgeous crocheted coasters and place mats.

Now for the most exciting bit. I am running a little giveaway across both my blogs so you can win a little care package of some of my favourite things just in time for Christmas.

The first prize includes:

A signed copy of $120 Food Challenge
Lollipop jar necklace from Saturday Lollipop
'Backstroke Maiden' print from One Two Carabou
Champagne & Strawberries candle from Shadow Moon Creations
Set of 4 crocheted watermelon coasters from Wild About Melbourne

I also have a little runner-up prize of:

'I grow' print from One Two Carabou

To enter you simply have to follow me on two of my social media accounts- you have a choice of 

Leave a comment below telling my what your favourite Christmas treat is. Be creative, my favourite answer will will the prize. You can also enter over on Champagne and Chips (the comment system is a little more flexible).

Competition closes at 5pm Sunday 14th December. 

N x

Monday, 1 December 2014

3 days in Sydney

I have had another glorious week. A few months ago while desperately yearning for a holiday it occurred to me that a trip to visit one of my dear ones in Sydney might be an option. Then, a second dear one moved to Sydney for a three month window. The stars aligned and early Tuesday morning I jumped on a plane.

I have never been that into Sydney but I now know I was just doing it wrong. I have previously stayed in the city, which is uninspiring, whereas the inner suburbs are full of character and fun. I also think that I am looking at the world differently these days and appreciating all the little moments of wonderful more keenly. Plus Sydney is beautiful. I suspect it has Melbournised a little since my last trip four years ago- the coffee is better and cheaper and there has been a move towards more of the casual dining I enjoy.

You simply cannot argue with this scenery