Five good things to do in winter

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It is chilly-billy in Melbourne at the moment. Yes it is. The sky has been fluctuating between a threatening shade of dark grey and bursts of blue, and the wind is a-blowing. Am I cracking the sads? Not really because I think there are some pretty nice things to do on cold and blustery days!

Make bolognese Comfort food! I loved it when I was a little and I could smell onions sweating in the pan on the old St George stove. I’m sure my mum sweated onions for a multitude of dishes but I’ve always associated that aroma with bolognese. Now that I’m the one making it, I appreciate the ability to make double quantity and whack half in the freezer for the night I don’t want to cook, and that everyone in the fam likes it. There is some debate over the ratio of sauce to pasta. The females in the house favour more spaghetti, the men, more sauce. What do you like?

Wear tights So much warmer than jeans or pants, right? I think they can add a touch of colour, fun and quirkiness to a grey winter’s day. I’m probably a bit more conservative in the tights wearing department so I tend to go for something along these lines but these are beautiful. The only bum note about tights – what’s with the weird itchiness that sometimes appears out of nowhere on the back of the thighs? Is it the tights? Is it the chair? Is it just me?

Knit or crochet a blanket/scarf It’s about warmth on multiple levels. As it grows, it warms your legs and your hands as you’re click-clacking or hooking away, you end up with a lovely, warming finished product from your hours of labour, and if you’ve made it as a gift for a friend or charity, it warms the cockles of your heart to present it to someone else. Wins all round I say! There are lots of lovely patterns on Ravelry and Love Knitting or you could be creative and make up your own pattern. And before you can make your woolly project, you need to visit the wool shop which is niceness in itself!

Binge watch Pride and Prejudice When this came out 20 years ago (eek!), I remember hearing a radio host saying she watched the whole six hours in one go and I scoffed ‘as if you’d do that!’. Yep, that’ll teach me! I loved it when it came out and I love it still. I was pregnant when it was shown on Sunday nights on the ABC and I had ‘Eliza’ pegged as a name for my possible girl baby. I scratched it because I was convinced that everyone else would be as enamoured with ‘Miss Eliza Bennet’ as I was and that school playgrounds would be filled with Elizas! Turned out not to be the case, and also turned out to be a boy so I had no need to worry! But all these years later, he doesn’t mind a bit of P&P and my girl (not named ‘Eliza’!) loves it too! And because my mother told me you can watch TV as long as you are doing something else, I can binge as long as I’m making that scarf or blanket!

Go for a walk I remember reading an article about playtime in Finnish schools and a teacher declaring that the weather is never too cold, it is simply that you are wearing the wrong clothes. So pop on the hat, scarf, gloves and coat and pound the pavement. It will get the blood flowing and warm you up. And surely having done a bit of exercise it’s then perfectly okay to sit down in front of telly with a bowl of bolognese or some making?

What are your winter tips? Do you have an excellent slow cooked meal? Bingeworthy telly? A favourite way to keep warm?

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Taking Stock: June ’16

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Don’t these Japanese windflowers look pretty? I’m loving opening my front door to find these blooms waving their pretty little heads at me. They provide a lovely bit of cheer on a grey, wintry day. Halfway through the year, and with the days becoming ever shorter, outdoor delights are harder to find and we need to look for them indoors. Personally, I quite like snuggling down inside, slurping soup and listening to rain pattering on the roof. Here’s where I’m at the moment.

Making: a start on my sketchbook for The Sketchbook Project. You can read about that here.

Reading: Reckoning by Magda Szubanski. I’m really enjoying her memoir. Much to take out of it about our search for our identity.

Watching: Hugh Laurie in both Veep and The Night Manager. Chuckling at him in the first and a bit wary of him in the second!

Cooking: lamb saag. Yum on a winter’s night! I use this recipe from Gourmet Girlfriend but add a bit more meat for my protein loving man and boy. And I use baby spinach instead of the kale.

Eating: my mum’s fruitcake baked for us at my man’s request. What a gem she is!

Drinking: English breakfast tea. Lots of mugs!

Listening: to Bowraville. If you enjoyed the first season of Serial, you will enjoy this. It investigates the murders 25 years ago of three aboriginal youngsters over a five month period from the one street. Aside from the murders, it is an interesting commentary on race relations in Australia.

Enjoying: watching this Carpool Karaoke. Lin, Audra, Jesse, Jane and James having a singalong is pretty ace!

Looking: forward to the school holidays

Coveting: this dress. I think it would be a perfect trans seasonal frock but how much can I afford to spend?

Feeling: pleased with myself for pulling lots of weeds out of my back garden this morning before the rain came down.

Wondering: if I can make it to see this movie this week.

Waiting: for my wool order to arrive so I can start making this cowl

How are you going as you head towards to mid-winter? Or are you looking forward to long mid-summer days? Maybe you want to take stock too?

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Redemption complete!

Hey! How you going? We have been plod-plod-plodding along here. Heads have been buried in schoolwork and work commitments but this weekend feels like we have released the pressure valve a tiny bit. So I thought I’d quickly pop back into blog land to share my successful baking of a batch of Anzacs after my hubris resulted in a bit of a failed effort. I wrote about that here.

Ta-da!

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This is what you get when you bake with two hands and measure your ingredients properly! Round, risen, lightly golden, and crunchy! Perfect with a cup of tea or to pop in a school lunch. Oats make them healthy, right? For any non-Ausdie or Kiwi readers, I’ve popped the recipe below.

How about you? Have you ever come undone due to a bit of culinary arrogance? Had to eat humble pie rather than your intended creation?

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Anzacs

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup plain flour

1 cup caster sugar

3/4 cup dedicated coconut

125g butter

2 tablespoons golden syrup

1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda

2 tablespoons boiling water

Heat oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Mix all the dry ingredients. Melt the butter with golden syrup. Combine the bicarb and boiling water and tip into the warm melty butter and syrup combo. Watch it fizz. Pour that into the dry ingredients and mix. I use a soup spoon to the squish the mixture into a nice cookie shape and then pop them onto a lined baking sheet and into the oven for 20 mins, swapping trays halfway through. Easy peasy!

Chocolate cake

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I like baking for my family but Wednesday’s efforts were a big fat F! Thought I’d whip up a quick batch of Anzacs between  grocery shopping and heading out to my next commitment. I had the oats, coconut, sugar and flour all mixed and the butter getting all melty when my mum rang. Well, I THOUGHT I could continue on with the phone sandwiched between my ear and my shoulder but I could not.  Nup. My lovely new cowl proved too bulky to enable this. Was I deterred? Me? ‘I’m a pro’, I thought, ‘made these a zillion times. I can do it one-handed.’ Not the best decision. Slopped too much water in with the bicarb soda, too little golden syrup in with the butter and pretty much ended up with anaemic Anzac pancakes rather than golden Anzac biscuits. So… ‘These look a bit different’ was the quizzical response from the fam! And whilst they tasted Anzac-y enough, they were a bit soft and chewy, I thought I should make an effort to redeem myself on Thursday with something quick and chocolate-y.

I wanted to find a mix and melt chocolate cake and this one from Donna Hay via Fat Mum Slim proved just the ticket.  Quick, easy, moist and tasting a bit like a lamington, bit like a Bounty, it was my salvation. It probably could have had a little longer in the oven but it just meant that the centre was a bit gooey and fudgy which was fine by me.

If you need to redeem yourself – or if you want to be the best mother/partner/friend in the world – you might want to give it a go too!

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Taking Stock: May ’16

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So. Here we are. May. How did that happen? Finally for us Melbourne peeps the weather is starting to climb only to the high teens, as autumn weather is meant to do. I can legitimately think about making soups and stewy things. Yay! Love a salad but adore warming, comfort foods. The leaves are falling and I am doing A LOT of raking up. After skipping past April, it’s time to take stock and see where this autumnal road is leading me!

eating: homemade chicken soup with a bit of chorizo thrown in. Yum!

drinking: green tea

cooking: this chicken bake for dinner

looking: after my boy who has a throat infection. Two in three months is a bit annoying!

making: ginger and honey tea for the sore-throated one. He probably won’t drink it but at least it makes me feel like a nurturing mumma!

listening: to the rain on the roof. One of the best sounds, don’t you think?

hearing: someone mowing the lawn. In the rain. Really?

reading: The Year of Magical Thinking. Thanks Isabel for the lend!

wearing: new jeans and new top. Exciting! Sprucing myself up a bit!

wanting: the current issue of Dumbo Feather. It was too stormy to cross the road to the newsagent’s this morning!

watching: Masterchef. I always say I won’t and then it starts, and the judges are so nice, and it’s such an easy to show to watch, and then someone is apparently cooking the best dish EVER…

giggling: at the amusing messages on my Mother’s Day cards!

enjoying: the prospect of a week with no after-school activities

hoping: to finish my cowl very soon so I can get on to my scarf project

wishing: I could feel some sense of routine about my weeks. Everything feels like it has been a bit higgledy-piggledy this year. People are at uni/not at uni, home for dinner/not home, going to work early/going late, etc. I’m waking up each morning thinking ‘what IS going on today?’

knowing: I’m super fortunate to have spent Mother’s Day with my mum and both my children

feeling: happy Waleed won the Gold Logie. Not that I hold any reverence for the Logies but I do love Waleed. He’s ace. My boy sat a couple of seats away from him at the football on Friday night. He said he was a focussed and contained supporter.

wondering: how we will survive an eight week election campaign? So many on ads on TV already.

pondering: who does deserve my vote?

How are things travelling for you now that we’re nearing the halfway mark of the year? Are you bunkering down for the approaching winter or anticipating the coming warmth of summer days? Taking Stock posts are the brainchild of the ideas queen Pip Lincolne. Maybe you want to ‘take stock’ too?

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This was nice

imageimageimageWith my man working and the boy at the beach with friends, my girl and I decided to enjoy a very warm Wednesday night at the Queen Victoria Summer Night Market. It was pretty nice. We were overwhelmed by the array of tempting food. What to choose, what to choose? Greek, Indian, Asian, Italian, macarons, crêpes, gelato? We thought the pizza at the 400 Gradi stall looked pretty delish but decided eating pizza is not a particularly novel dining choice so thought we’d go for something a little bit different. We opted, instead, for chicken momo and Nepalese style grilled chicken from the Nepal Dining Room. The plan was to sample a bit of this and then move on to something else but my girl decided what were eating was too yum to not consume it all! So polish it off we did! We had a nice little food chat to the people we shared our table with.  They were peeling some pretty fat and fresh looking prawns and licking fingers after consuming a pork slider. The homemade lemonade from the Traditional Lemonade Stand was excellent for slaking our thirst on a hot summer night.

We do love a cake and a crêpe but when it’s over 30 degrees there’s no option other than gelato, is there? I chose the salted caramel and my girl went for the  bacione from Mercato Gelato. Severe melty, drippy problems were incurred by my girl which were pretty precarious with a white t-shirt on.  There were some interesting arm contortions in the interests of maintaining pristine clothing as we wandered around the stalls selling vintage and handmade clothing, nice smelly stuff, and jewellery.

We loved hearing the happy hubbub of people sharing the night with family and friends, the live music playing in the background, and inhaling the smells of so many different foods cooking. If it’s a balmy Melbourne night and you’re in town maybe you might like to pop in too?  We might have to go back and sample some of the other food stalls. Do you like going to markets? Do you like foodie ones? The Night Market runs until 30 March 2016 (closed 23 and 30 December).

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One + Four = Life: the ordinary and something ace

Hello! So here we are! Sunday has rolled around again and we are gathering momentum as we hurtle towards the end of the year. Do you dread the frantic-ness of the end of year or does it exhilarate you? I try to feed off the happy energy but sometimes it just feels like a rather routine ‘to do’ list of things to tick off. Does that me sound a bit ‘bah humbug’?  Anyhoo, I am wandering off topic a little. How has your week been? Mine has been pretty standard but I did have one really nice thing happen. Read on!

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Baking for the week was the trusty old brownie. Can’t really go wrong with chocolate-y gooey -ness, can you? If you want to find the recipe, head over here.

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I’ve been following artist Jodi Wiley on Instagram for a little while now. I love her paintings of tree bark, books, and urban sketching, and, well, just everything really! I find her work so inspiring. She had a piece (the one at the far end in this photo) included in the ‘In Space’ exhibition at the Hatch Contemporary Arts Space in Ivanhoe so I thought I’d make the trip over there to have a squiz and at the same time catch up with an old mothers’ group friend for lunch. My day was made because the lovely Jodi was there manning the desk! She was so nice. I told her she was the reason I was at the exhibition and we had an ace little chat about art and motherhood and finding time to draw. You might like to check out her work too. She has an exhibition coming up at  Monstalvat from next week. If you’re a Melbourne person, you might like to pop out and have a look. You could make a day of it exploring the beautiful grounds.

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Our weekend walks take us along leafy streets, and through parks and gardens but it also takes us along the railway line. I like the strong lines of the tracks, the graffiti on the bridge and to see the trains passing by. I wonder where the people on the carriages are going on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Are they heading off for a fun day? Maybe they are going to work? Or are they heading home after a big night out?

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I was eating my lunch today and when I looked up and outside my back windows to see the oleander in the neighbour’s garden casting this beautiful shadow on my back fence. Isn’t it lovely? I think it would make a great fabric print, don’t you?

I hope, even if your week was just a fairly ordinary one, that you were able to find some little pleasures in it. If you want to see what others have been up to, head over to Isabel’s blog.

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