Monday, March 31, 2014

MEATLESS MONDAY STEW RECIPE


Tonight's dinner is the ultimate penance for the sins of the weekend. I'm specifically talking about the late afternoon rendezvous with I had with a box of Krispy Kremes on Sunday. I actually ate them in the car, right after I dropped my brother at the airport. Yes, couldn't even wait until I got home. But don't worry, I wasn't driving... Eating and driving is a low I haven't stooped to - yet.

Okay, no more rubbish talk about food and diets! This dish is actually a perfect Meatless Monday dish for a few reasons. First of all, it's meatless (!!!) Secondly, it's really filling while also being incredibly healthy. Thirdly and perhaps most importantly, it's actually a very cheap meal. In fact, it's called the "End of Pay Month Stew" and comes from the blog Moving Out and Eating In. I've adapted it to suit my lack of pantry products and it's still really delicious. Here's my adaptation:

1tbsp olive oil
1 onion
1 tsp garlic
1 carrot
1 zucchini
1 tsp thyme
2 cans crushed tomatoes
1 tsp salt
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 can chickpeas
1 can borlotti beans (or similar)

Place a saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil, onion, garlic and thyme and cook until the onion has softened - a few minutes ought to do it.
Add carrot and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes
Add canned tomatoes, bay leaves, salt and red wine vinegar to the saucepan.
Cook for approximately 10 minutes before adding the rinsed and drained chickpeas and borlotti beans.
After 15 minutes, the stew should have thickened sufficiently to serve and enjoy!



HEALTHY EATING + AND THE STRIVE FOR THINNESS


I consider myself a healthy eater. I won't lie, my number one priority would definitely be keeping slim, but healthy eating is obviously key to this. I think this fact probably makes my mental approach to food unhealthy, really. I don't think I'm the only one who feels this way either. People can wax lyrical all they like about detoxing, green smoothies and all things "wellness" but I am willing to bet that for many of them, there's a hidden preoccupation with thinness lurking beneath all the health talk. I'm not criticising, after all, I am one of these people. I think admitting that you think about your weight a lot or make food decisions based on it is kind of taboo. We replace the word "diet" with "clean eating" and that makes it okay, even if your calorie intake clearly lends itself to weight loss. And don't get me started on the word "detox" or "cleanse". What a lot of people are really striving for is that feeling of utter emptiness. Let's face it, those skinny teas and other "cleansing" concoctions are laxatives in much more palatable packaging. They help you purge. It doesn't sound good, but can you really call it anything else?

Anyway, why am I talking about this? Well, because I have beaten myself up over my dietary "indiscretions" lately. When it comes to That Time of the Month, heavy carb and sugar-laden food is the only thing on my mind. I'm like a pregnant woman with cravings. They're almost impossible to ignore and though I do my best to do so, I usually end up at the corner store seeking out pringles and bars of chocolate to placate me. Not long afterwards, the guilt sets in. Thoughts like "I've undone all my hard work" and "I'm never doing this again" swirl around in my mind. It's quite sick. For the rest of the month I'm Gwyneth Paltrow! If I was watching anyone else beat themselves up like I did, I'd definitely think they had an unhealthy, possibly bordering on disordered, relationship with food. I have, in the past, lived with anorexia. The physical anorexia didn't last long, but the nervosa, or beliefs and anxieties, took a long time to go away. Are they completely gone now? I doubt it. I would define body security with being OK with your shape even if it completely transmogrified. And I am sure I can't say this about myself. Can anyone?

This week, I had back-to-back days of crappy eating that could probably amount to a bit of weight gain. Even if it did, why should I allow it to turn me into a self-hating wreck? How many of us are truly unfazed, even as the number on the scales increases? All I could think about on Sunday was making that icky, puffy, full-of-shit feeling go away. And avoiding the mirror, scales and every "fitspo" account on instagram like the plague. I'm sure that's the very same feeling that leads a bulimic to purge or an anorexic to starve. For me, ridding myself of it came in the form of a few hours of walking and a resolve that I would be really "good" this week. I find this way of thinking about food difficult to watch in others. In fact, I find it cringe-y. Especially when it's dressed up as "I'm doing this purely for my health and well-being and has absolutely nothing to do with wanting to be thin". Perhaps it's a bit like that phrase "we hate most in others what we dislike in ourselves". Strangely, I respect when someone is honest enough to admit what most of us don't wish to. Kate Moss sparked a storm of controversy when she said "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels". I know there are many of us who tut-tut that statement but when we really think about it, about the disgust we feel after we stray from our clean diets and how great it feels when our jeans don't cut into our hips anymore, don't we secretly agree with her?

I'd like to hear your (measured and non-judgemental) thoughts...

Monday, March 24, 2014

FRIDAY/SATURDAY/SUNDAY : THINGS I LEARNT


- My dogs are wonderful citizens. I've decided to take Elsa and Poppy to an aged care facility each week. Last friday was our first visit and they were so well-received. Elsa, in particular, made herself at home. She became everyone's lap dog and even hopped into a few people's beds for a cuddle. I was really proud of her and I think the residents loved having them there too, even if Poppy was a bit weird and anti-social that day.


- Do people still think there is a man drought? Our Friday evening pub-hopping in Paddington would say there isn't. Alex (whose gaydar is finely tuned) walked into The London with me. With a wink and  a nudge I drew his attention to the mountains of men that filled the place. He simply said "They're not my kind". So, for the record: single straight men can be found in droves here.


- I need to keep away from food. Specifically chocolate covered pretzels. And McDonalds. And cooked breakfasts. The list goes on. If you saw a running sheet of all I ate this weekend (some of which I've captured above), you'd be shocked. I don't know how it all fit into my stomach. But what I do know is that now I am sporting quite the Carb Face today. This can never happen again.


- I am addicted to reality TV. Just when I thought The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills was the best reality television program going, I found the Miami franchise. Then I discovered the catty Vancouver crew and thought the holy grail was finally in my hands... But that's only because I hadn't met the Rich Kids of Beverly Hills. That girl above is the hilarious Morgan Stewart from RKOBH. I can't get enough of her one-liners. She also has a blog which you can read here.


- Alcohol leads to the dreaded next day depression. This can only be cured by a long, long walk. We walked all the way to Bondi then took the coastal route to Bronte and then home. Isn't it pretty?


- Dallas Buyers Club is a great film. What a comeback from Jared Leto! I also have to add that Matthew McConaughey really delivered too. I already knew he had it in him when I watched Mud and realised that he wasn't just one of those actors who plays himself in every single role. Mr. McConaughey, you need never sign up to another Rom Com as long as you live!

Friday, March 21, 2014

FRIDAY



My brother ALEX is in town. We are about to go out and have some fun. But first I have to iron a shirt for James. Happy Friday One and All!!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

YOLANDA'S HOME (AND THAT FAMOUS FRIDGE)

I never thought I would be saying this but I am obsessed with this season of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Once upon a time I would have watched this program and had dozens of eye rolling moments but these days I find myself quite enamoured with the characters. I'd love to list all the redeeming characteristics of all of them but I'm sure you've got better things to read. Though I would like to say I think Yolanda has a wonderful way with people (did anyone see her with Brandi's father?) and despite having a life of insane privilege and luxury, has a generosity of spirit and down-to-earth personality. Beyond the immaterial, she also has one of the most charming homes I have seen. Her closet and bathroom are designed in such a way they feel almost like an extension of her living areas; inviting, with ample seating and space. Her fridge, as you'll see, ain't just your everyday whitegood. So remarkable it is, it even has its own twitter account, with approximately 14,000 followers. So, without any further adieu, let's have a look-see:


Thoughts? I personally think these images don't do it justice, pretty as they are! Watch Season 4, Episode 8 (available on Apple TV) for a better look. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

INVESTING

The shops are full of exciting new arrivals just now. I have, of course, been staking them out. I've certainly gotten better at shopping, in the sense that I need to be able to have a concrete event in mind before making a dress purchase, rather than hoarding them as I used to.
I picked up this black number from Kookai with racing season in mind (anyone else going to Golden Slipper at Rosehill?) It's seriously slimming, shows off the shoulders nicely and has a lovely little frill at the bottom to keep things interesting.


The only "rompers" that suit me are also from Kookai. When I buy shorts, I always have to examine the length of the inside leg. I have this problem with my thighs, you see. I don't have long legs, just long thighs so most shorts make me look like I am baring way too much. These days the inside leg of shorts has crept up by about 70% in most brands so when I find a pair that fulfils the right ratio of shorts to skin, I can't walk away from them. I'll probably wear this to drinks or dinner one night while my brother is here. A sound investment, I'm certain.


I read somewhere that orange is the most rejected and under-used colour, despite giving off such powerful vibes. If you know me, you know I can't bear to see anyone or anything being excluded. But that isn't the only reason I bought this top. Last week I was scrolling my insta feed when yummy mummy and blogger Mrs Bouw posted a pic of herself looking splendid in this very top. It's a head turner and I really do need some charismatic colours in my wardrobe. This one's from Sportsgirl.


I've wanted over the knee boots for ages now. I fell in love with the style the moment I saw Victoria Beckham rocking them in 2005 or 6. As you know, they're huge right now (in more ways than one). I really wanted thigh highs but because of my fabric : thigh shorts rule, you wouldn't see any skin if I wore the shorts and boots together. Also, there's always the risk that if they're too high, they might bear too much of a resemblance to the pair on Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. So, not being a risky investor, the length I've gone for with this Tony Bianco pair is a safer bet. I'll be wearing these all winter long (cost-per-wear = ) with skinny denims.


Which looks have you been eyeing or "investing" in lately?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

BISTRO MONCUR


It was three years ago that I was introduced to my husband for what I believed was the first time. "We've actually met before, in fact we spoke for some time at the work Christmas party", he said as I introduced myself. My memory flashed back to said party. Cocktails at lunchtime; a late evening paper scissors rock contest which involved downing shots of goodness-knows-what heavily potent concoction. I strained to remember him but I drew a compete blank. Luckily, he found it all rather amusing, despite numerous instances in our conversation where he informed me that yes, we'd covered all of this conversational ground before. Fast forward hundreds of text messages and one lucky escape from the Japanese Tsunami, and we found ourselves on one of our first proper dates at Bistro Moncur, a stalwart of the Sydney dining scene. I had called my mum prior and told her of our evening plans. "Mon Couer is French for My Heart, you know" she said. "It isn't spelt like that, mum,  but I'll take it as a good sign!"

Coincidentally, I was so nervous that mon couer was experiencing palpatations. At risk of being overly gushy, the metaphorical connotations of the phrase was ringing true too - the evening turned out to be one that will always be dear to my heart. We've always said we must return when the anniversary of our meeting came along (we're sentimental, let it be known!) but that never eventuated, of course, until this year. James was at work this weekend so I had a ridiculous amount of time to beautify myself. That meant I could indulge in a bit of contouring, hair curling and thoughtful consideration of what to wear. This was how I wound up:

Dress: Forever New / Heels: Tony Bianco

Bistro Moncur has long been known as a no-bookings kind of place (I hear they've started taking limited bookings now). This could be offputting for special-occasion-dates if it wasn't located within a buzzing local hotel, where you can order a drink from the bar and wait for staff to fetch you when your table is ready. We hadn't long been waiting when our lovely hostess came looking for us. That's one thing I can say about all of the staff at this establishment: they're so very polite and friendly. For me, personally, a great evening is made that much more so when this is the case.


The space itself is timelessly chic (look at that ceiling!) and has a wonderfully busy ambience. If you're into wines, you've come to the right place. This is a fact widely accepted but one I can't tell you anything about as I've switched to Vodka-based concoctions (I'm convinced they don't give me the same pounding head and next-day "flatness" that wine has a tendency to do). Thus, I started with a Campari/Vodka cocktail:


The bread bowl looked really enticing.


We ate the best Sydney Rock Oysters I've ever tasted. Plump, juicy and served with a red wine vinaigrette, I could have eaten the dozen to myself. Now, if you're not an oysters person, you should probably start being one. They're full of Zinc, which apparently is the key to avoiding stretch marks. I know this because I've googled "Avoid Stretch Marks Pregnancy" more times than I can justify.


Our mains were out-of-this-world. I am always the girl who orders her meat cooked medium-well. This time I forgot to but I'm so glad I did. Lamb is so much better when it's verging on red! Mine came served with a bean, heirloom tomato and almond salad, which was perfect as I'm trying to keep my meals as light as possible. 


Let's face it, though. Mashed potatoes will always have a place in my heart. James let me help myself to his, which was the accompaniment to some rather spectacular pork sausages and a moreish Spanish salsa that I'd describe as chutney-like in flavour and texture. Who knew Bangers and Mash could be so refined?

I wanted, really really wanted, to avoid the dessert menu. But how could I when my favourite item was on it? They described it as a banana caramel cream pie but I'm calling it Banoffee. And possibly the most genius one I've ever tasted (equal first with the chocolate biscuit based one at Bootleg in Potts Point). The Moncur offering involved a shortbread-like base, dark Dulce de leche, layers of bananas, a brûlée glaze (DROOLING AS I TYPE), whipped cream and the most spectacular chocolate balls on top that  had a centre not unlike the inside of a Crispy M&M. I'd actually love to know what these little chocolate delights are known as because, apart from the pie having the perfect marriage of flavours, those crispy chocolate drops made it the most gratifying textural treat too. Because of both of these things, that tart has now catapulted right up to the top of my Banoffee Pie Hero List.


I couldn't have imagined a better "anniversary" celebration. The icing on the cake was when we decided to take the longest way home possible, playing some romantic tunes through the car's iPod connection. We reached a bit of a quiet reflective point in our journey, while Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' stunningly beautiful song "Into my Arms" was playing. "What are you thinking about?" I asked. His reply?

"Just work, sweetie"

:-\

If you too would like to experience an evening that is pleasing to both your heart and palate, check out Bistro Moncur's website here

Friday, March 14, 2014

SJP AT HOME

I was never an OMG I LOVE CARRIE BRADSHAW person but I have always liked SJP herself. Remember her in Hocus Pocus? I must have been 7 at the time I saw it and I thought she was the most gorgeous woman I had ever seen. I still do - her face is incredible and I'd swap bodies with her in a heartbeat. And she seems like a cool person (with a home to match): check out this fun, fast-paced interview she did with Vogue recently:

 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

POOLSIDE PLAYLIST

Seeing as the warm weather is showing no signs of abating this week (at least in Sydney, anyway) I was inspired to put together a little pool party playlist. For me, swimming pools are less about splashing around in than providing a pretty backdrop to a cocktail party. That makes me sound about as shallow as a wading pool but I know many of you think the same. Let me know if there are any tracks you think ought to be on the list... Enjoy!

Monday, March 10, 2014

WEEKEND


When I was young and losing at the popularity contest they call Your School Years, I'd come home crying to my mother about it. Primary school, high school, her response was always the same. She'd either say "If you can count your true friends on one hand, you're doing very well" or "Everybody's friend is nobody's friend". My young mind couldn't comprehend this. Remember how it was? If you were seen alone, that was it: you were a Nigel No-Friends. A thing to be mocked. To have a crowd of acquaintances, even if they talked rotten behind your back, meant you were popular and that you'd succeeded at friendship. Having a "group" to belong to was the be all and end all.

When school was over and I was living in the big wide adult world, my mother's old adages hit home. The key message was about true friends. If I had a couple of those, then I was doing alright indeed. If I had a lot of acquaintances, could I honestly say that I had cultivated any truly meaningful friendships? Truth be told, I don't have a wide social circle. I have a few very incredible quasi sisters scattered around the country whom I don't see all that often but whose presence in my life makes me infinitely luckier than those with a bulging address book. They are the women I can trust with all my secrets; the people I can count on to rejoice at my successes and never judge nor secretly gloat at my misfortunes. One of these friends is D. She's my Sydney sister and she's got my back. In all the eight years I've known her, she's never failed to be honest with me, always with my best interests at heart. She'd let me know if she didn't think the latest squeeze was worth my time, or if the dress I was thinking of wearing was going to make me look as ravishing as another one in my wardrobe might.

This weekend she made the trip down to Sydney to see me. Saturday was International Women's Day so having a weekend with my most empowering and supportive gal pal was a brilliant coincidence indeed. Saturday afternoon started with all the catch-up chatter and unloading you'd expect and, before we knew it, it was time to get a wriggle on. We were off to see Bruno Mars in concert and then see where the night took us. We flicked on the music and poured ourselves a Vodka Cranberry while we dolled ourselves up.


After lashings of Nars "Laguna" and a generous helping of Romantina fragrance, we were ready to party.
^^Can you believe that D is a mother of 2?! Me neither!^^
After the cab dropped us at the Entertainment Centre, we had just enough time to find our seats before it was time to welcome Bruno to the Harbour City. I usually don't normally attend pop concerts. I'm not ashamed to say that this one was worth breaking out of my stupid pretentious bubble for. The highlights:

- Mr Mars isn't just a pop singer. The guy plays the drums, piano, bass and guitar incredibly.
- We danced the whole time. I don't think I've ever been to a concert that has had me out of my seat for so long.
- He sounds uncannily like the late Michael Jackson.
- No girls dancing on stage - well played, Bruno, well played.


When the concert ended, the search for a place to cut some shapes was on. Lockout hour was approaching and we discovered that every decent club had a queue. Joining the line was just not going to happen so we hot footed it to a cafe for dinner. Lets face it: a good night of girl talk is a lot more fun than Leering Luke or Desperate Dave slurring in your ear or accidentally spilling his drink down your arm in a sweaty club.


Feeling somewhat refreshed by Sunday morning, we trudged up to Bondi Junction for a good old fashioned Yum Cha and a spot of shopping. These are only iPhone pictures, but doesn't the food look incredible? It totally was too.


We returned home to watch back to back episodes of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, obviously with frequent pauses to discuss all the important matters, like Mauricio's obvious ogling at Joyce at Kyle's Chamber of Commerce Party and Carlton's many opinions on what is and isn't socially acceptable behaviour. By late Sunday afternoon, it was time to say our goodbyes. Hopefully it won't be long until the next girls night out! My brother is coming up to Sydney very soon and spending time with his fabulous self is basically the same as a GNO anyway ;-)

What did you guys get up to this weekend? Did you do spend some time with your favourite ladies for International Women's Day?