Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bruschetta at the Shafston Hotel

I got this "starter" bruschetta because I thought that would mean entree size. I'd already eaten three cupcakes an hour before so there's no way I could have eaten a whole meal. Too full!

These portions though were VERY generous for $8.95. The bread was thick and lightly toasted  with a very hearty spread of salted tomatoes and basil, topped with bocconcini and balsamic glaze.

It was divine (bit heavy on the garlic, I can still taste it 12 hours later), but I just couldn't finish it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Another Day Another Cupcake

Ohhhhh Red Velvet and Peanut Butter Cupcakes from Poppy Cakes. I know I said yesterday that nothing tops the Oxford Street Bakery but....I'm awarding this a tie!

Rich, moist, buttery and just heavenly delicious. We had these for the birthday boy, but he was late, so we ate them in his absence.

Something about first in best dressed?

Regent Theatre Update

The news on the tragic demise of the Regent Theatre just goes from bad to worse and breaks my heart with every word I read. Irreplaceable history, architecture and character gone with each swing of the wrecking ball. A wrecking ball that's not even supposed to be used. The artefacts that were to be preserved were supposed to be removed by hand, not smashed to pieces with a wrecking ball.

26 February - Brisbane Times - "A 'grotesque' destruction of a heritage theatre".


Haloumi Platter - The Three Monkeys

I hadn't been to The Three Monkeys for 12 years and in the past week I've been twice! I did love this haloumi platter. It came with pita and a salad. The haloumi was divine. Squeaky, rubbery and salty and lightly pan fried...just as it's supposed to be. The garden salad was a bit ordinary though, the lettuce was tasteless but the feta and olives on it were fab.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Cupcake Heaven

There's only four people in our little media team at work and two of those have birthdays on consecutive days. That's pretty low odds isn't it?

So one must celebrate with cupcakes I say! From my own personal quest for the best cupcakes in Brisbane, nothing has yet topped the simple, but unbelievably delicious and moist cupcakes from The Oxford Street Bakery in Bulimba. One must, must try the passionfruit ones before they die!

Others I've taste tested (and not in any order)

My Sweetopia
Couture Cupcakes
Poppy Cakes
Cakes by Judy C
Cake Star
The Cupcake Parlour
Shingle Inn

I know that's not even close to all of those in Brisbane - send me suggestions for others to try if you have them! I'm willing to eat my way through the town's cupcake scene...cause that's the kinda girl I am ;-P.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tropical Paradise

I visited the most amazing tropical garden today, in the middle of suburban Brisbane. Dennis Hundscheidt has done an incredible job transforming a 1000m2 into a lush, serene paradise.

This is actually smaller than my block, but in creating a series of garden "rooms", it seems extraorindarily larger and I'm inspired for ideas for when (and if) my house is built.

I'm positive it looks AMAZING all the time, but the recent rains seemed to have made everything bright, plump and full of waxy colours with that damp tropical rainforest feel. It was truly magnificent.

For once I'm a bit lost for words, but luckily I took photos. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousands, enjoy!

A Hungarian Breakfast

There's sooooo many things wrong with having this for breakfast. Firstly, it's deep fried and I don't have a hangover. And we're not talking pan fried or flash fried, we're talking dropping a large ball of dough into a large vat of oil and letting it soak up those all that artery clogging goodness.

Secondly, there's garlic and onion in it. And the onion is in the salsa, so it's uncooked. Not a great idea first thing in the morning. Thirdly, it's loaded with cheese and sour cream...a dairy feast for the lactose intolerant on an empty stomach.

But you know what? Who cares!! Because it was DELICIOUS!!!

Langos is a traditional Hungarian dish, a deep fried sweet dough base topped with a variety of toppings - this one was sour cream, cheese, salsa and sweet chilli sauce. I shared this with my foodie cousin Tehana at the Eagle Farm Markets this morning. Actually, it's lucky we did share it, because even between the two of us we couldn't finish it. Ohhh and I now I have a langos-ache.

I'm off for a cleansing carrot juice.

The Rain

It's absolutely pouring in Brisbane at the moment. We sat out on the front deck yesterday for lunch and the air was clean from days of rain, the ground saturated and squelchy under our feet and the leaves on trees were heavy and droopy from the downpour. Droplets of rain were beading on our newly planted tropical garden leaves and making a sodden, muddy mess of the front garden, where the grass had't had a chance to grow through the topsoil we'd put on the grass last week. Despite the mud, the mess and the inconvenience, I loved it!

With last year's floods still fresh in his mind though, Josh was more thinking of disaster. He's too young to remember that when he first started school, Queensland was in the grip of one of the worst droughts in history.

The levels in Wivenhoe Dam has slowly been dropping over the years and we started with level 1 restrictions, limiting our watering days to 3 days per week. As things got more serious the level restrictions increased until we couldn't use water outside at all. No washing the car, no washing the house, no hosing down the paths, no letting the kids run under the sprinklers watering the garden.

I had planted fairly drought hardy, native plants but they certainly weren't thriving. In fact, they were hardly even surviving. I remember buying a 20 metre hose pipe to pump all the water from the washing machine onto the garden, but it was too big for the washing machine hose, so I would hold the two bits together for the duration of each drain cycle and end up covered in soapy water.

I even siphoned the bath water, running a hose out of the upstairs bathroom, down the hall and over the front deck to give the poor lilly pillies in the front garden a chance to grow. It was hot, dusty, dry and depressing.

When I thought back to those days, the irony of the recent floods aren't lost on me. Back then we would have done anything for a drop of rain. The ground was so hard and dry from lack of moisture that even when I threw water on it from a bucket I would shower with to catch the excess water, it would just pool at the top. But during the floods and also this week, the ground is saturated to capacity, with the heavy downpour washing away half the leftover top soil we put on the grass after finishing the garden. But I still love it!

Even though we're STILL not back in our house 13 months after the flood, I still love it. I don't feel that anger towards the flood (or the Government, or the dam operators) that some people feel because I remember what it was like when Wivenhoe was at 15%. I feel grateful for every drop that goes on my garden, that allows me to water and shower and clean as often as I like.

And the cold, hard reality of the situation is I live in a flood zone and that means, sometimes, it floods. We've been unfortunate enough to see both ends of the spectrum in a very short period of time, and while it's caused heartache and dispair for different reasons, it's also made me appreciate water.

So I'll go out today and my brand new wedges will probably get all wet and muddy and my hair will probably look like a bird's nest even if I GHD it, but I won't complain. I'll come home to a healthy green garden, clean car, clean house and clean home.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Apple Slinky

We got an apple slinky for Christmas. It's one of crazy, gimmicky things that's actually kinda fun. Josh often gets an apple in his school lunch or after he comes home and he's happy to eat it, but as a SLINKY, well, he wants TWO!

"Josh, they're the same as the other apples you have."
"No, they're not, they taste better!"


Allannah Hill WANT!

Ohhhhhh.....want!!! Allannah Hill are having a flash sale and this "A Summer Fling Dress" is on sale for HALF PRICE!! I have a couple of Allanah Hill pieces and they are so, so beautiful.

Sigh...first world problems.

Friday, February 24, 2012

New wedges...sort of

I love, love, love these wedges! They're from Joanne Mercer, and it's not the first time I've had them.  I bought a pair back in November last year and the raffia started coming away from the base probably in the first few weeks. Graham patched them up with a bit of glue but they continued to fall apart.

I finally took them back last week, 3 months old with lots of wear. I was hoping they could send them away for proper repair, but to my surprise (and delight) they replaced them with a brand new pair! Brand, spanking new! I'm in love all over again.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lamp Envy

I've been admiring this gorgeous lamp for weeks. It's in the window of a homewares store I drive past almost every day and I finally stopped today to ask how much it is.

It's even lovelier close up, a dark chocolate shade with cream coloured graphic. I thought it was black from the window. The lovely lady inside said you could have it custom made in any colour. I think a pair in navy would look so divine in my not-yet-even-started-building home.

But...$560...each! Ouch. I might have to just admire this from afar.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Autumn is just around the corner and the weather has been bizarre to say the least. After days of hot, sticky, humid weather, it's started raining, storming and hailing.

This is the spectacular mango tree in the back yard. The leaves have just started to turn red. Tonight at sunset the rain clouds had gathered behind the tree and the sun bathed the tree in this surreal luminescence.

It was spectacular and eery at the same time.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Renovation - The Downstairs Bathroom

Bathroom Before

The downstairs bathroom was the ultimate salute to early 90s design. A lovely peach and pale blue combination, right down to the matching blue toilet, bath and vanity suite.

We had already started the front garden renovations so I wasn't keen to start any others until that was finished, but the bathroom was always something that Graham had hated and I guess when the renovation bug bites...

I came home after work one day and he had ripped out the old timber vanity and blue toilet and everything else was in piles on the floor.

We had managed to salvage a few things from the flooded house that we thought we may be able to reuse in the renovations at Graham's. We took two toilets and a vanity. I didn't think they worked after being submerged in muddy floodwater for two days, but I guess they're made to use with water and Graham managed to get them all working.

The new (well, sort of new) toilet was much more compact than the old suite and the chunky wooden vanity was replaced by the pedastal and tapware from the flooded house. It was quite the challenge to make the plumbing fit and I think he had to clear quite a bit of silt from it, but he did it.

A lick of Dulux Vivid White, new towel racks, lights and glass shelving and the bathroom was transformed.

Pure Indulgence

Pure Indulgence in the Wintergarden

A lovely client of ours gave me a voucher to a beauty salon for some website work we did. Well, Graham did. I just wrote the copy for it.

It was back in November but it's only been now that I've had a chance to use it. I booked in for a microdermabrasion and massage at Pure Indulgence in the Wintergarden.

Microdermabrasion is basically sandpapering your face with a diamond tip tool to take off the first layer of dead skin cells. A lot of those in the beauty industry disagree with the procedure, saying it's harmful to the skin probably is.

But it feels sooo good. My skin felt baby soft afterwards. The massage was so amazing that I fell into a deep sleep and only woke up by the sound of my piggy snore.

The lovely beauty therapist just carried on as if nothing had happened. I guess she's trained to do that.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Renovation - The Front Path

The front path and surrounding gardens was finished yesterday, in darkness, with the planting of these stunning orange and yellow canna lilies that make me unbelievably happy.

It was a mixed sense of achievement and relief as this was a project that had started 6 years ago and not last November as most of the other renovations had.

In 2006, Graham's back neighbour needed to run a drain along the entire length of the yard and construct a rubble pit at the front to carry the overflow of water created from a triple size tennis court he had constructed. The tennis court flooded every time it rained and in turn flooded all the neighbours below. Reluctantly (and regrettably), Graham agreed and the heavy machinery they brought in completely destroyed the original path, which was very old (probably 1950s), but original and in perfect condition. In addition, the machinery also carelessly knocked out half of the beautiful frangipani tree next to it.

The cracked path

Branches missing from the tree
Anyway, to cut a long and disappointing neighbour story short, the path was useless and while we explored many different options of having it restored or painted/concreted over, we kept coming back to the conclusion that it was beyond repair and needed to be removed.

In 2009 we brought in the heavy machinery and ripped out the defunct path and reshaped the front lawn to create a gentler slope and a flat surface for a future path along the side of the garage.  For over two years, it remained like this.

Then in November last year we finally made a start. The property is on a very steep slope so the plan was to run a paved path from the front of the house to the footpath with a step pad in the middle. The right hand side of the path which was next to the garage would be become a garden bed, and the path would lead to the front of the property with two garden beds either side and steps down to the common footpath.

We already had about 2000 pavers we'd bought a couple of years before and sleepers, concrete, bedding sand and dirt were going to be expensive, so we did all the labour ourselves. Luckily Graham is very handy, a former concreter and builder's labourer and we put those skills to good use.

Side of garage before

A path was also planned for beside the garage, stepping down and running off the side of the other path. This would lead to the front of the garage and give a clean, clear path from the front of the house to the car.

Framing down
It was pretty hard labour. It rained, it was hot and when it was dark we got bitten by mosquitos. But finally we got to the final stage (yesterday) where all that was needed was the final touch of putting the plants in.

From the Discovery Markets at Rocklea
Lucky for me, Graham let me plant whatever I wanted and I wanted tropical! Canna lilies to be exact. I could imagine a mass hedge of thick, lush, strappy foliage and brightly coloured flowers on the path near the garage and the garden beds at the front.

We went to the Discovery Markets at Rocklea. I'd been going there for years and bought all the plants for my last house from there. They were usually at least 50% cheaper and sometimes if you bought in bulk the stallholder would give you a further discount or some freebies.

I found the exact cannas I wanted and would have been willing to pay up to $8 each (I'd seen large ones at Bunnings for $22), but we bought a LOT of them and with his discount they ended up being $4.50 each. Bargain.

I had a couple of errands to run for the rest of the day and didn't get home until 6pm. I DESPERATELY wanted to see the plants in and the project finalised so I made Graham come out in the darkness and plant and mulch.

We finished around 8pm, sticky, sweaty, but finished. So, behold!



And after...

Step down pad

Canna Lilies

Step down to the garage door

Some of the bricks had to be cut to size

The gorgeous cannas!


Before Front Path

And after...

We're so happy with the outcome of this, especially after four years, we've been skipping down the front path just for fun.

Project - closed :-)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A night in West End

There are markets popping everywhere in Brisbane and I love it!! West End is the latest - Twilight Markets on a Saturday night in an old airplane hanger.

It's a bit hard to describe West End. When I first moved to Brissie for uni back in the mid nineties, it was super grungy and occupied by hippies and some druggies and drunks. I only ever went there to shop during the day or have coffee with friends at night at The Three Monkeys.

Today's it still has a very strong hippy/alternative element, but other parts have been very gentrified with uber cool apartments and shops.

These West End Twilight Markets I believe have only been operating since the beginning of the year so there's not very many stalls, but they had a band playing and the atmosphere was pretty good. There were mainly handmade or vintage store stalls as well as lots of food stalls like wood fire pizzas and vegetarian fare. We had some grilled haloumi with lemon....delicious!

We decided not to eat at the markets and take a look around West End instead and just see what was on offer. It's been a long time since I've been there at night and it was definitely a buzzing place. We ended up at The Forest Cafe, a vegan cafe we've been to before. They had bain marie with a delicious looking offering of curries and I ordered the Forest Bowl (2 curries and rice) and Graham had the Forest Plate (3 curries and rice). Sadly, it didn't taste as good as it looked. It was nice, but just not that delicious taste sensation I was hoping.

Nevermind, The Three Monkeys to the rescue! Looove this place! It doesn't look like it's changed in 18 years. It still has that dark, cosy atmosphere and fabulous, simple food. I had this divine mango cheesecake and Graham had sticky date pudding. We sat in an intimate corner and devoured our sweet treats with a cup of tea.

We were sooo full by the end, otherwise I would have stopped at the Greek place on Boundary Road for the grilled haloumi  I saw one of their patrons eating. Next time...

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Back in November last year we started some renovations to Graham's house and this weekend we've pretty much finished it. The original plan was just to fix the front path and paint one of the rooms downstairs.

Three months down the track and we're putting the final touches on the brand new front path, brand new front garden, repainted downstairs guest room with new floating floor, repainted downstairs office with new floating floor, repainted downstairs media lounge with new electricals, repainted downstairs bathroom with new vanity, toilet and fixtures, repainted bedroom for Josh with new floating floor and repainted upstairs bathroom with new toilet.

Sigh...everything they say about renovating is absolutely true.

- You will blow your budget.
- You will start renovating a new project before finishing the first project.
- You will want to kill your partner.
- You will have many moments of despair.
- You will have moments when you consider just paying someone to finish the renos for you.

But they also say it's incredibly rewarding, and that's true too. It's been so nice to sit back at the end of the day and just admire the fruits of your blood, sweat and tears.

We did so many renovations in different parts the house, I'll have to post them in separate posts.

Breakfast under the frangipani tree

We're loving the front of the house now that we've finished the garden. We had breakfast under the frangipani tree this morning. I made Graham eggs and mushrooms on Burgen toast and I had vegemite on Burgen toast.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Food Orgasm!

I think this hazelnut cheesecake was made in heaven, and if it wasn't, I was there after I ate it. I was sharing it with my bestie Bernice at The Java Lounge and it was melt in your mouth delicious.

It had a light, creamy texture rather than the dense cheesy texture I was expecting. Mr Java Lounge said it was made in house and steamed rather than baked. Ohhhh, that's the secret!!

I've never ANY cheesecake like it! I wish I hadn't been sharing...