Saturday, 29 June 2013

London-dreamin'...


Here's the next playlist - this time it's songs that remind me of my days living in London.
Some of the best times of my life - not least of which the time I met my darling J there.
I surprised myself (and everyone else I think!) at how much I ended up loving living in London - it was a shaky, homesick, bumpy start - but once I had my bearings (that tube map makes SO much more sense after a few weeks) and had met some awesome friends who took me under their wing(s) - I really felt like I belonged in that big, bustling, crazy city.
 
 

For several reasons, none of which are that important or seem that valid now really - we decided to move back to Oz and start this phase of our lives here. But every time I hear one of these tracks - it takes me straight back to a messy night at the Spotted Dog or a chilled evening in my Irish boys' flat playing video games or our little hovel of a flat in Camden amongst the crack heads and punks or one of those glorious London summer days where the shock of the sun hitting your skin was enough to send you straight to the offy for a bottle of beer on your way home from work. Ahhhhh I miss you London :(

Hope you enjoy the mix as much as I do...
Biggest love S xx

1.  Wandering Eye - Fat Freddy's Drop              2. Amy Winehouse - Love is a Losing Game
3.  Over and Over - Hot Chip                            4.  Funky Kingston - Toots and the Maytals
5.  The Sprout & the Bean - Joanna Newsom     6.  New Romantics - Laura Marling
7.   Pretty Little Thing - Fink                            8.   If You Got The Money - Jamie T
9.   Let It Die - Feist                                        10.  Like a Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan                
11.  Fix Up, Look Sharp - Dizzee Rascal            12.  Cold Shoulder - Adele
13.  Hang Me Out To Dry - Cold War Kids          14.  Extraordinary Machine - Fiona Apple
15.  Jackson - Johnny Cash and June Carter     16.  My, My, My - Armand Van Helden
17.  The Boxer - The Chemical Brothers            18.  All I Need - Radiohead
19.  Taper Jean Girl - Kings of Leon                 20.  Ghost Town - The Specials
21.  Love Will Tear Us Apart - Joy Division        22. Second Chance - Liam Finn

ps don't forget the above are links to the songs so just click on the track to have a listen (via Youtube)
pps you can find my previous "grunge" playlist here

Monday, 24 June 2013

Marinated Eggplant

After being given a couple of shopping bags full to the top of different varieties of eggplant this week, I decided I would have a go at marinated eggplant - being that it is one of my most favourite-est things to have on an antipasto platter (and also maybe because antipasto platters generally mean wine for me too hehe).

There seem to be a few different methods for preparing and preserving eggplant. I did some basic research on the net, and had been given a recipe from a work colleague a while ago. So I had a frame of reference for this experiment - but rather than going with one single recipe, I thought I would give each of the methods a wee go so I could compare for the next batch.

As such, I don't have exact amounts for this recipe - but really just an idea of what to use (roughly).
I began with a shopping bag FULL (I mean full to brimming) - and prepared them as such:

These were the round marbled variety - which I had never cooked with before - so I sliced them up and salted them and let them sit for a few hours to allow the moisture to seep out. Apparently this helps with reducing the bitterness (which a lot of people say isn't really necessary with commercial breeds of eggplant now-a-days) - but seeing as I had never used this breed before I thought it might be wise to give this method a go.


These were the common long purple variety - half of which I boiled in vinegar and water until just soft - and then fried in olive oil until completely cooked. The other half I just fried straight in the oil (taking slightly longer than the pre-boiled slices) until slightly golden.

The slices that were sprinkled with salt to seep the bitterness out were also fried lightly in olive oil. 

Eggplant is hella absorbent, so you will use quite a lot of oil to fry them - I used an olive oil with a mild flavour to not over complicate the end product. Normally using a large amount of oil turns my stomach a bit, but seeing as the end result is preserved in flavoured oil it didn't really bother me too much. Besides, marinated eggplant (and all the delicious things you have with it) are a "sometimes" food, so no need for panic stations....

I finely chopped 3 heads of garlic and a handful of sweet golden shallots to infuse in the oil (approx 1L), along with 4 pretty heaped tablespoons of Italian herb mix. I also added two tablespoons of raw brown sugar - just for balance. Don't heat the oil to quickly or to too high a temperature - you don't want to "cook" the herbs as such. After I infused the oil, I did think to myself perhaps I may have been better with a few less shallots - but after the jars have sat for a while to marinate I will have a better idea. It certainly wasn't unpleasant, just maybe masked the garlic slightly.


As the eggplant slices were fried, I started layering them with the garlic/shallot/herb infused oil (including the chunky bits of herbs) in each of the jars

Then right at the end, top with the infused oil and a cap full or two of white balsamic vinegar. Give it a good shake - and let it cool down completely before you put a lid on.




I can't wait to give this a try this weekend - with some yummy cheese and biscuits and olives - and of course, a big glass of wine!

Be warned though, this recipe was a long-winded and drawn out process - and if you decide to give it a go - there is a good chance your kitchen is going to end up looking like this bloody mess! Worth it in the end though...

Enjoy 
S xx 

Winter Warmers














Sunday, 23 June 2013

Half way mark....

Seeing as it is the last week in June - and therefore nearly the end of the first half of this year - it's time to recap my New Years Resolutions and see how far I have come to achieving them. I am afraid it's not going to be very positive - but maybe refreshing my memory of what I set out to achieve this year might spur me on to get my A into G!

1. Treat myself better (and others): Well, to be honest, I am not sure exactly where I stand on this one. I feel like I have been a lot easier on myself thus far and as a result have not had too many depressive, "down-time" episodes. I feel like I am a lot better at forgiving myself my mistakes and not taking too much to heart. That being said, I also feel like I am finally getting my head around letting go of negative, selfish people in my life - even people who have been around for a long time. Whilst that doesn't really bode well for "treating others better" - it does mean that my sanity and happiness has been pushed to the front of the queue, rather than worrying too much about what others think. So yeah, it's a little bit of what I was hoping for with this resolution, but I have a loooooong way to go (I WILL get to yoga classes this year, and sugar you are next on my hit list! eeek!)

2. Visit three new places: This is the one I was most looking forward to - being a bit of a gypsy at heart and having being "stuck" in Bowen since we moved back from London nearly 5 years ago (yep that's right - it's nearly been 5 years!!) Progress has definitely been made with this resolution (we visited Eungella and camped - I am not sure whether that counts though, because I have technically been to Eungella Dam before but I never camped actually at Eungella town before - and the fact that our camping trip revolved around only the camp site since the weather was so miserable and we couldn't go anywhere! Also J thinks we can count our Easter Trip to the Tablelands - although again, technically, I have been there before and Jon hadn't, but we did go to some spots that I had never seen before, so that counts yeah?) - I am looking forward to adding some more destinations to this resolution before year's end.

3. Make one day a week "tech free" and one night a week "date night": Fail. Miserably. I don't even think we have managed one HALF of a day being tech free (we both took our laptops camping and the thought of not being able to Wiki-search some random fact at any given moment on my phone sends me into a cold sweat! haha). I am determined tho - we WILL work harder at shutting off our electronic distractions more often - perhaps the one day a week was a little ambitious though. And as for the date nights, well, we spend a lot of time together at home - watching movies, cooking feasts and baking treats, sitting beside each other while we are on our laptops haha etc - but the out-and-about date nights have been few and far between. To be fair, there isn't a great deal to do in Bowen apart from go to the cinema or go to a pub for dinner. I think we are gonna have to put our heads together here and get a little more creative to sort out some quality time (outside of the house) together. Open to suggestions follks.....

4. Learn two new crafts: Ughhh this is becoming depressing. Ok, so, I have started accumulating the tools and reference materials required to start two new crafts but, being that I had a LONG period of non-craft/creative time - I haven't actually started anything yet. However, I am committed to trying each of these crafts out at least once before the next New Year's rolls around. Watch this space!

5. Do a photo-an-hour challenge at least once a month: I did manage to complete two months worth of these challenges (thanks for putting these ridiculous ideas in my head Instagram!) before I realised that all they were doing was highlighting how fricken boring my life is most of the time. I mean come on, who wants to look at pictures of J and I weeding the garden? Or walking the dog every afternoon? That shit wears thin pretty quickly! haha Maybe I will save the next photo-an-hour challenge up for the next time I actually have something planned on the weekend - and remember to bring my camera!

6. Try at least one new recipe a month: This one was never really going to be that difficult for J and I - we both LOVE to cook - with J being a little more adventurous than I - so we have tried a few different recipes out *with varying degrees of success* over the past 6 months. Some of it was not that difficult but still delicious (ie my Jewish penicillin recipe from this weekend *chicken soup with dumplings for those not in the know*- amazeballs) and some a little more tricky to master (slow roasted pork belly with apple cider and fennel - I am pleased to announce crispy crackle and juicy tender meat were a-plenty that day - it was touch and go for a while tho!). Needless to say, I will thoroughly enjoy continuing on with this resolution for the rest of the year - and hopefully get the chance to post some pics/recipes while I am at it.

7. Start some type of study: Oh hello indecision, my old friend. Thanks for showing up and sewing seeds of doubt in me for this resolution. I have spent many, many, many hours contemplating what is the right thing to do here. Battles of job security vs study costs, age vs desire to learn, head vs heart (and on and on) are still being waged in my head. Not to mention - once the decision to sign on for a course has been made, then the decision of exactly WHAT to study rears its ugly head. Shortlist or not - there are "smart" options and then there are things that are probably not as job secure to study but things I am really interested in...... If I could go back in time and slap some sense into 18 year old me, I sooooo would - and she would never have let herself drop out the first time she had a stab at university study (amongst other dumb decisions she made! haha). In the meanwhile - I will continue to write my "pros and cons" lists and hope that eventually a clear, right decision will make itself apparent to me.

So as you can see - not having a great run of success with these resolutions. But I didn't expect to actually achieve them all. Some are a bit nonsense, and some are a little more important. As long as I keep in the back of my mind the reasons why I thought these resolutions might serve to improve my life, I might actually make some more headway into the second half of this year.

Happy Half-Year y'all
Big love
S x

Thursday, 20 June 2013

RIP James Gandolfini

 
 
I am always a big admirer of creative people (in whatever genre) who are unapologetic in their "different-ness". It's a lot easier to respect a artist when the only reason they are known and loved is for the dedication they show to their craft and not what scandal they have got themselves into for the week. James Gandolfini is one of the few who have managed to maintain that dignity, in my opinion.
 
I am a huge fan of the work he did in the Sopranos - one of the best TV dramas ever made - but for me and my nostalgic tastes - his voice work on Where The Wild Things Are was my favourite.
 
RIP
 
"Now you are a king, and you will be a truly great king"
Carol "Wild Thing" - Where the Wild Things Are
 
 

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Grunge

Someone was telling me the other day about a documentary they watched that focused on new treatment for Alzheimer's patients in the USA. The gist of the therapy is that the patients are played music from different eras in their life (along with other stimulus) and the music triggers memories and responses that have been locked away for so long.

It got me to thinking, that it might be fun to lay down some "soundtracks" or playlists for different periods of my life. So here is the first one - my grunge phase. Definately not the first genre of music I was into (insert cringing-ly embarrassing story about having a huuuuuuuge crush on Donnie Wahlberg from NKOTB) - but a genre that I still really, really, really enjoy. 

Some of these songs bring a tear to my eye - recalling those horrid teen angst years. Some of them are just genuinely amazing songs (in my opinion of course). But all of them remind me of a time when the most important thing to me was hanging with my awesome friends, finding something to smoke and place to have a party that night and not having a single care in the world.... ahhhh those were some days! Enjoy :)

disclaimer - I am fully aware that some of these songs may not technically be "grunge" affiliated - but they were tunes I was into in my grunge days - soooooo shut your face :P
ps the tracks listed below are actually links to youtube if you wanna have a listen (just click) - I thoroughly recommend chucking on a flannel shirt and letting your hair down if you do - hah!


1. Disarm - The Smashing Pumpkins                               2. Plush - Stone Temple Pilots

3. Pretty Noose - Soundgarden                                      4. Nutshell - Alice in Chains

5. Jane Says - Janes Addiction                                      6. Fade Into You - Mazzy Star

7. Elderly Woman.... - Pearl Jam                                  8. About a Girl - Nirvana  

9. Israel's Son - Silverchair                                           10. Miss World - Hole

11. Seasons - Chris Cornell                                           12. Touch Me I'm Sick - Mudhoney  

13. Everlong - Foo Fighters                                           14. Linger - Cranberries

15. Feel the Pain - Dinosaur Jr                                     16. Kool Thing - Sonic Youth

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Time out.....

What's that old saying? Hope for the best, prepare for the worst? Is that how it goes? Or is it expect the worst, hope for the best? Either way, there seems to be an element of acknowledging that the "worst case scenario" is bound to happen at some point - no matter how much of a positive thinker you are. It got me thinking, what is the best approach to this positive thinking malarkey?

Is it A) not allow myself to even THINK about this first step in our infertility journey not working? Do I not prepare myself for the disappointment by not contemplating it? And when the (what seems like inevitable) disappointment comes - am I allowed to be annoyed? 

Or do I B) try and remain as positive as possible - despite the set-backs - but all the while sneakily plan out the disappointment and how to deal with it in my head? Plan B seems a bit cheaty - like pretending to be positive on the outside but on the inside really being realistic (I am starting to really fricken hate reality lately! haha). 

All jokes aside, it is very confusing to me - as I really want to be one of these people who can look on the bright side of things, who can see the silver lining to every cloud, who can do all the other cliché things that positive thinkers do. 

But for now, I guess I will just take each day as it comes, deal with the disappointment as best I can (I am not gonna lie - there are ugly moments) and always try and rein in my thinking to the "positive" realm. Ps if there are any tried and true positive thinkers out there- please feel free to drop me a line with some ideas on how keep my focus and positive-think the sh*t outta this situation.

Ok, now without sounding like Captain Obvious - I guess I should share that the Clomid hasn't /didn't work. By god we gave it a good go - but it just wasn't meant to be. 
My last appointment with Dr Whatshisname was fine - totally what I was expecting ("don't give up", "unexplained fertility counts for 30% of infertility cases", "end of the road for public health" blah blah blah) and a little embarrassing getting teary in front of two student doctors (the girl one was really nice and rubbed my arm - the boy one got nervous and looked at the wall - ughhh boys! Dorks! haha). 

So what does this mean? - well for now, not a whole lot. We had, foolishly some may say, put off signing up for private health cover because we wanted so badly not to need it. So now that we have had to bite the bullet and sign up AND wait out the "non-covered" period - our actual IVF coverage won't kick in until early 2014 - and there is no way we can afford to start IVF without it (although, to be honest, the whole how much it's gonna cost with/without private health cover thing still confuses me a bit - needless to say it's gonna be a LOT!). 

In the meanwhile, we are planning on getting as much as possible done to the house and garden (warning: if considering buying a 100 year old house and you don't know diddly-squat about DIY home renos and you don't earn enough to pay someone else to do it for you - RECONSIDER!), re-focusing ourselves and our goals for the next few years into manageable chunks (study - eeeeeeek!) and spending as much time together NOT stressing. It's going to be a bit of a change - but a welcome one. And you just never know what could happen in the meanwhile ;)

So. To steer the thought train back onto the positive track, here is:

Something I am looking forward to: meeting up with my old mate Anna this weekend in Townsville. 
We haven't seen each other since she visited Bowen in 2008. She was such a huge part of my time living overseas - I don't think I would have survived as long as I did without her friendship and ability to keep up with my pint drinking prowess - so I am very excited to be seeing her lovely face again this weekend - minus the copious amounts of Stella Artois. Yay!

Something I am grateful for: my ma and pa. 
I know most everyone thinks their parents are the greatest (after you grow up from the teenage-parent-hate phase) but I honestly have no idea where Jon and I would be without my oldies. They aren't perfect and they aren't saints - but what they are is exactly what we need. Always there to listen to my whinging and then snap me back to reality (please note I only refer to MY whinging - pretty sure Jdog doesn't have a moaning bone in his body - fricken robot! haha), always there to offer advice when needed but not overstep the boundaries of parenting and meddling, always available to puppy sit when we take some much needed chill time together and most importantly - always there to remind me of what is important in this lifetime - a family who supports you without spoiling you, loves you without smothering you and needs only each other's company to thrive. We really truly are blessed.

Something I am enjoying: the weather! 

Maybe it was the years I spent surviving on minimal sunshine and warmth in England. Maybe its the excuse to wear jeans all the time. Maybe its the lack of sweat beading out of my head. Whatever it is - I am loving the weather at the moment. It's not very often North Queensland will have a cold AND wet winter - but that is how this winter has started out and it is great in my books! Even our 3 day camping trip being washed out wasn't enough to dampen (pardon the pun) my spirits. Keep it up cosmos - someone down here is lovin' it!

Something I am lusting after: these bedside tables
Image via abeautifulmess.com

I haven't been doing a lot of crafting/creative stuff lately - and I am missing it. I have already lined up a sewing date with a friend next weekend (I think I will just use the time to re-introduce myself to my machines - I feel completely lost and will probably need the practice!). I am also definately, absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt going to be attempting these awesome beside tables. It's a bit out of my depth and I will no doubt require the assistance of Jdog and my dad and his power tools... but I WILL get them done - watch this space!

Ok folks, catch up done - thanks for stopping by again. Will be back soon I promise - positive thinking and crafting out the wahzoo....

Big, huge, humongous love
S xx