Monday, November 3, 2014

MY WORK HERE IS NEVER DONE

So I changed the guest bedroom a little. To me, the room was feeling 'icy' and 'depressing'. If I feel like that just going in there to make the bed, imagine how my guests must feel sleeping in there? All I needed to do was have wallpaper stuck to the wall behind the bed and it feels like a completely new space.

Before:


After:


The best part is how warm and cosy the room becomes at night, when the lights are on and the gold in the paper is illuminated.


So... what do you think? 

Friday, October 31, 2014

SKINNY 'BRUNCHY' SALAD



We all know that our fascination with brunching is making us all a bit weighty. Or, at least forcing us to sign up for more 'fun' runs than ever before. Hotcakes, fry-ups, thick-sliced sourdough, lattes... Double chin and thunder thighs, meet your maker!

One of my old favourite brunch items was the corn fritters with bacon and avocado from Bills. Though they look so fresh and healthy, one must ask how they get the ingredients to hold together when frying. And the answer is flour. Plenty of plain flour, which is my thighs' arch nemesis.
This salad I dreamt up conjures the taste, texture and excitement of said fritters but with absolutely no guilt or heavy feelings afterwards. There's no need to be pedantic about measurements, but you can use my recipe as a general guide. To serve two people, you will need:

Cos/Romaine lettuce
3/4 cup sweetcorn (tinned is fine)
1 avocado
1/2 cup packaged fried shallots (they're in the Asian section at the grocery store)
2 middle rashers of bacon
A drizzle of olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Start by frying bacon 'til crispy, then leave it to cool.
2. Chop your lettuce into manageable pieces, dice the avocado and prepare your sweetcorn.
3. Once the bacon is cool, toss it together with the lettuce, avocado, corn, shallots, oil and salt and pepper. I like to mash up the avocado a little while I am tossing the salad so it can act as a "binder".
4. Eat and feel smug!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

LOEB BOATHOUSE, CENTRAL PARK AND SOME NYC SCENES

Want to know some of the things I most loved about New York City? Here is my very edited list:

1. Brussels Sprouts, which you can find almost everywhere. Ever since I was a child I've loved this maligned vegetable. Turns out they love them in NYC too. They use them to their potential there and I ate them all the time.
2. I love the way daylight looks there. Their morning feels like our dusk. It's magical. Did you ever realise how bright the sun is in Australia? Not complaining, just observing, but it's so bright here that the world literally looks slightly faded at times. Sunglasses aren't optional down under, that's for sure.
3. It's noisy and it's busy and the whole of Manhattan is literally city. Outside your front door will be plenty of passers-by. That makes me feel so safe.
4. Theatre! Art! Music! Fashion! Architecture! It's a culture vulture's paradise. Actually, no. You don't need to even be a snob to enjoy NYC. Whatever style of entertainment you like to consume, you'll find it there before you find it anywhere else (mostly).
5. The daily reality check. The world is a big place and it's a tough place. It takes all sorts of people to make the world go around - kind people, nasty people; introverts, extroverts; the narrow and the broad-minded; people who've had it easy, people for whom life has been a struggle since the get-go. And of course, everyone in between. You'll find them all in NYC. It's a fantastic place to learn about the world.
6. Bacon. Need I say more? You know I will!!! I love smoked, streaky bacon. The more fat on it, the better. Sometimes the Americans cook it too crispy for my liking, but I'm not going to lose the plot over it. Want to know the best bacon I have ever had here in Australia? It was the morning after our wedding and we had our breakfast in the hotel at the Park Hyatt. I went back for seconds, it was so good. And by seconds, I mean I filled my plate just with bacon twice. I think I'm going to need to find out who their supplier is.

If you've been to NYC, what did you love most of all? Another thing I loved was the restaurants and cafes. Not only do they do food well, they also nail the ambience like nowhere else. Despite the fact that Loeb Boathouse may be a bit of a tourist magnet, it doesn't feel that way. You know when there's places you just don't want to go because of the very fact they only cater to tourists? And I'm not saying that as a slight against tourists at all. I'm having a dig about whoever owns a restaurant where they think just because they're serving tourists, they don't need to try. The focus is on turning over as many tables as possible, they don't care about being polite or cooking decent food because they aren't aiming for repeat business? Well, the Boathouse is the exact opposite of that.



We made a booking for 12.00pm, which is when it opens for lunch. Little did I know, it was a genius move because a serious queue for tables forms right about then. As soon as we arrived, we were ushered to our table and were met with this glorious scene:


Yes, Central Park was still very green, and continued to be right up til we left.


As you can see, the meal was lovely. We won't kid ourselves and say we then commenced to walk it all off, but we did see some of Central Park that day. I wish I didn't take such awful videos and I would have shared the incredible musicians we saw busking after we left the Boathouse. There are many and varied buskers and live music acts in NYC, even on subway platforms. It's pure magic. I'll tell you all about the concerts we saw in another blog post, for now: some of the times we spent at Central Park.


My favourite part of Central Park was Strawberry Fields, the memorial dedicated to John Lennon. It just so happened that we were there on what would have been John Lennon's birthday. On special occasions like this, a large crowd gathers to sing Beatles/Lennon songs and generally pay tribute. It's very moving and quite reassuring, in the sense that in the internet age, celebrating people who have passed (particularly well-loved public figures) is a bit half-arsed and lasts a few days at best. Is that a huge generalisation on my part? Or perhaps the reason we see these kind of scenes is because John Lennon and the Beatles in general, impacted our culture in such a hugely significant way that it's impossible to forget or become indifferent? 


Even this guy showed up:


Kidding.

I think it's time for another NYC photo scramble!


So... who's coming back there with me?! Stay tuned for part three.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

HOTEL HUGO, CRONUTS AND THE BIG APPLE'S BEAUTY

Hello friends! How are you?

Me? I am experiencing a sort of reactionary depression since returning to Sydney after what is now the greatest holiday - nay, experience - ever. I was so glum (or dramatic) yesterday, I found myself googling "Sydney is depressing" to see if anyone else had ever shared my woe. They had, but were quite often met with responses like: "Life in Australia too boring for you? Why don't you move to war-torn Syria if you want more adventure in your life." I texted my parents about my conundrum. Dad told me to go to the library, mum said to move overseas (I think this is motivated by her own desire to travel and seeking a worthy excuse to do so!)

Without solution, I didn't feel like doing much at all, blogging included. Then I figured it might help to relive the great time we had and share with you some of the things we got up to. I took something like 2,500 photos so it's probably best to dish across a number of blog posts. Over the next few days, I'll fill you in on where we stayed, what we ate, what we saw, how long the cronut queue was and so on and so forth. 

We touched down in NYC at dusk, after a very sleep deprived flight. I can't complain about that because, for me, it was a successful journey: minimal anxiety, no real turbulence or nasty surprises. Part of the reason I haven't done a lot of flying in the past three years is because my fear of flying became really crippling. Even though I have been on hundreds of planes in the past, somehow I developed this neurosis and it just snowballed to the point I would be so anxious I'd walk off a flight the minute before it was about to take off. You can imagine how much my fellow passengers liked me for that! I have made a dramatic improvement this past year so I will certainly be making up for lost time. Even though James is at work, from across town I can just make out a loud gulp from him.

As variety is the spice of life, we holed up at three different places on our visit. Actually, I was scared of booking just one place, turning up and being stuck somewhere I didn't like for the rest of the trip. Thankfully for us, everywhere we chose was pretty good. I'm going to tell you about the first place we stayed today: a stylish SoHo newcomer by the name of Hotel Hugo. As with many New York hotels, the rooms are much smaller than what we're used to in the vast land of Oz. Hugo had the smallest space of all the places we stayed but it didn't matter because the room is frankly charming and as long as you clean up after yourself, space won't be an issue for you. The rooms, like the rest of the property, is urban and chic. I particularly loved the fact that the rooms still feel very new, staff are friendly and love sharing their knowledge, and housekeeping does a bloody fantastic job (I love returning to the room and it feels exactly as pristine as the moment I checked in. A huge ask when you're probably filling the room with all your clutter, but awesome when it happens.) Hugo is cool without being intimidating for dags like me, and definitely rivals some of the more established downtown boutique hotels you're always hearing about. There's a fantastic Italian restaurant within the place that exudes some seriously suave and European vibes, and the rooftop bar is everything a Manhattan rooftop bar should be. Silly me only took pictures from the bar on instagram, but the rest of the hotel is here:


The advantage of staying at Hugo was that it was a short walk to a lot of fun places: eat streets, galleries, boutiques... We were waking up at an ungodly hour most days, so we figured we'd use the time wisely and pound the pavements. The benefit in that was seeing the city at its quietest:


You'd normally see a Cronut queue snaking around this corner by 6.30 or 7am. That's how early we were up!


We even joined the queue one day, which is a big deal for me because I have no patience and feel like queuing is something you do only when you really must, like at customs or the bank. Queuing for a pastry item makes me feel like even more of a wilfully gluttonous yuppie with mixed up priorities than I already am. I'll concede that it probably was worth the wait. Only because, like childbirth, we completely forgot about what we'd just been through and fell in love with that perfectly formed, dough-ey little bundle of joy. Seriously though, I think everyone should try a Cronut once in their lives, because it's something novel for the palate and it's delicious to boot. I'm not saying you have to fly over to NYC right this second and queue for it - wait til every other artisanal bakery is making them or buy the Dominique Ansel book (available for pre-order) and DIY.


^^GLEEFUL^^
Bitten into food pics are a bit gross. Sorry. But I thought you should see inside the cronut (that's not my hand by the way). The flavour of the day was "fall" inspired - pumpkin spice chai type of thing.

I wish I could make this post longer but my computer is running extreeeeeeeemely slow. It has taken me approximately 3 hours for these photos to upload to blogger. Madness! I'm going to need to delete some files and then I'll put together my next post tomorrow or the next day. I hope you'll stay tuned, and if you've been to NYC please please please leave a comment so we can reminisce together!