Tag Archives: masterchef

The Sponge Cake Queen…Friday Fictioneers.

This year the judging of the Best Sponge Cake at the Royal Sydney Easter Show was breaking with tradition. In addition to the regular judging panel from the Country Women’s Association, Melissa Leong from Masterchef was guest judge. She couldn’t wait to slice into Madge Gerbera’s sponge. She’d won Best in Show for 25 years, and was “the Sponge cake Queen”. However, the knife couldn’t cut through. There was something odd in the middle of the cake. Meanwhile, back home Grandma couldn’t find her teeth. Last seen when she helped herself to the mix. Humph! This was a truly unforgettable sponge.

…..

100 words

Ever since I was a small child, I’ve had an acute phobia of false teeth. So, while for some finding a rodent of any description in their cake would give them the horrors, for me, it would be a set of false teeth.

I had actually planned to write about my mother and her sponge cakes. She was the sponge cake Queen of our family and friends and she added a bit of melted butter and warm milk to her sponge cake. She icing them with passionfruit icing, filled them with cream, but also kept a piece plain for my Dad who doesn’t like icing.

The recipe came from a family friend, Val Gerber, who I believe had won at the Brisbane Show and the recipe was printed on the back of the Fielder’s Cornflour as “Val’s Sponge”. I remember meeting Val when I was a little girl out on the farm. We were treated to a very special country afternoon tea where the table almost sank under the weight of all the cakes and treats. Yum!

I hope this story hasn’t made you too hungry!

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Todd Foltz.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share – 11th May, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Yesterday, was Mother’s Day here in Australia. Geoff gave me a beautiful bunch of flowers, the kids did nothing and I ordered myself a book I’m really looking forward to receiving through the mail…Julia Baird’s: Phosphorescence. I can’t wait to read it, especially because I have a dreadful track record for buying books and not reading them, which mirrors my approach to gardening….buying plants and leaving them out the front dying of total neglect. So, wish me luck and I think you’d better hold me to an update next week. Hopefully, it should be here by then, but you never know with the post. Like everything else, it’s not running on all cylinders either.

We went down to my parents’ place in Sydney yesterday for Mother’s Day lunch. Up until a year or so ago, my mother had been coming up to our place once a week for something like 14 years, but we haven’t seen them since Christmas Day this year. It’s been so long that it even feels like a mistake. I’ve got it wrong. Geoff and I ended up with chest infections so we didn’t go down for the kids’ birthdays back in early March and then lock down slapped us in the face and cancelled Easter. And my brother’s birthday….So, our Mother’s Day Cake actually had Happy Birthday on it.

Happy Birthday Cake

An update on the coronavirus  here in Australia, We’ve currently had 95 deaths and have around 750 active cases. You could say we’ve been very lucky, and I guess in many ways we have. However, it’s more a case of wise judgement, quick action by the government, heeding the examples of Wuhan and Italy and knowing just how rampantly infectious this virus is before it got here.

I’ve also wondered whether there’s some kind of correlation between Australia’s response to the coronavirus and gun control. You might recall that Australia dramatically changed its gun laws following Tasmania’s Port Arthur massacre on the 28–29th April 1996 where 35 people were killed and 23 wounded in a mass shooting. Australia’s response is often used as a shining example of what is possible whenever America experiences another mass shooting. Once again, our infection rates are sending the rest of the world a message…Stay home and stay safe.

The big question for Australia and New Zealand is… where to now? Each state in Australia has different incidence rates and so there’s no overarching national prescription. At the moment, where we live in NSW, two adults and dependent children can visit someone at home, which allowed us to visit my parents for Mother’s Day yesterday. On Friday, restrictions will further ease  with 10 people being able to meet indoors and non-essential shops are starting to open. For many, this will be an alleluia moment. However, when you listen to our Chief and Deputy Medical Officers and our State Premier, there’s definite caution and the situation is described as “precarious”. We still need to social distance and people in high risk categories are still being told to stay home. I’m planning to lie low over the next two weeks and if the stats remain low, I’ll ease up a bit. After all, amidst all the optimism, there’s also the expectation of new cases and I need to ensure that’s not me. Indeed, we all need to think about how to keep our immediate circle and ourselves safe and work out from there and not necessarily just go by the rules. The more people we can keep out of circulation the better.  This is no time to be a lemming!

Billy the Bantam crop

Billy the Bantam arriving home in Sydney on board the China in 1919. 

Meanwhile, my research into WWI Australian soldiers serving in France continues. Last week, I found out my Great Great uncle’s battalion, the 13th, had a lively animal mascot, Billy the Bantam Rooster. He travelled all the way to France via Egypt and even managed to return home, unlike way too many of his human mates. On arrival at their billets in the French village of Steente-je near Bailleau, Billy immediately set about showing those French coq’s who was boss and defeated four roosters well over twice his size in a battle of David meets Goliath. Indeed, to use an old-fashioned Australian colloquialism, you could say Billy was as mad as a two bob watch (that was a cheap watch back in the days before decimal currency arrived in 1966.)

Amiel's journal

I was also chasing up on a quote which took me on a thrilling literary adventure. While reading a NSW Red Cross Journal from December 1916, I stumbled across this quote from Swiss philosopher and journal writer Henri-Frederic Amiel:

“Never to tire, never to grow cold; to be patient, sympathetic, tender; to

look for the budding flower and the opening heart; to hope always; like

God, to love always–this is duty.”

Henri-Frederic Amiel

This has led me to his Journal Intime, which was published by friends after his death and completely eclipsed his other life’s works. I have read throiugh the introduction and a couple of entries and am intrigued and gripped by what I’ve read so far. Have you encountered his work at all? I wrote an introductory post the other night: Midnight With the Philosopher’s Journal and will be posting more and would love you to join me.

I’ve also been watching Masterchef, which I’m enjoying as much as ever and the other night I watched Graeme Murphy’s production of Romeo & Juliet featuring the Australian Ballet. It’s possibly only the second ballet I’ve ever watched from start to finish, and to be honest, I prefer more of a medley with acts of various works put together. I couldn’t see the point of the start which was the court scene, but the death scene at the end was amazing and as tragic as ever. I’ve also been listening to podcasts from the Irish Times. I haven’t listened to a podcast before so that was yet another new thing I’ve tried since lock down and I’m pretty chuffed by my capacity to branch out and explore these new things.

No one is bored here, and we will be craving boredom over the next couple of weeks. Geoff noticed a few pallets of floorboards on an auction site and won the bid at 25% of retail. They come from a movie set and have barely been used. While FINALLY replacing our very cruddy carpet in the lounge room and conquering the adjacent kitchen dining areas sounds very exciting, there’s a staggering amount of work involved moving all the stuff out and it doesn’t help that i collect very delicate and fragile antique china. Indeed, our numerous collections aren’t going to make this much fun, and in the meantime we’ll be needing to store the floorboard. I can already feel a massive headache coming on. Indeed, make that a massive, skull crushing migraine. However, it will make a world of difference to our place. Wow. I can’t wait. I can’t wait until it’s OVER!!

Before I head off, I just wanted to tell you about a heart warming touch of human kindness we received on the weekend. We’ve had friends from Church offer practical assistance and some groceries. We knocked these offers back due to social distancing concerns on the practical assistance front, and we felt there were people who had lost jobs who could use the groceries more than us, and we switched to buying our groceries online. Anyway, just because you’re being self-sufficient doesn’t mean you don’t need connection, friendship, love and encouragement particularly at the moment. The very morning after a rather melancholy and reflective night, the package arrived. We waited for all the family to arrive home before we opened it, which naturally fuelled our curiosity. Who had sent it? It had come from Melbourne, which threw us a bit. We’re from Sydney. Finally, we opened our box of tasty snacks and there was a card from our niece, who was simply thinking of us. I was so touched and it really warmed my heart. We tucked a bit more in my brother’s birthday card. I didn’t want to be tight after being so blessed.

Panorama Yattalunga2

Pano sunset Yattalunga….Geoff and Rowena Newton 

Lastly, my local walks have continued. I managed to spot a pelican at our local beach on Wednesday afternoon on sun set, which was quite unusual. I don’t think I’ve even seen a pelican there before and we’ve been living here for 20 years. Thursday, I met up with my usual coffee friend, Roland, but we’re now walking instead and we walked along the rocks on the Southern end and sat on a rock inhaling the view across to Umina Beach (home) and the sea air. Driving home, I saw possibly the most electrically beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen. There were magically layers of glowing pink and orange cloud and I was almost delirious…and annoyed. I didn’t have my phone or my camera, but managed to catch the moment past the moment on my SLR when I got home. I had to drive a bit down the road to escape all the power poles. (Who put them there??:?)

sunset

I didn’t quite capture the moment, but it’s still stunningly beautiful. 

On Friday night, I desperately hoped for a repeat of the previous night’s sunset and so I rallied up Geoff and a friend and headed over to her place at Yattalunga. It took a bit longer to get there than anticipated and I lost my phone (yet again) before we left, which also delayed things. So, the sun had actually set by the time we pulled up, but it was still beautiful and serenely atmospheric!!

Yachts Yattalunga pano

Yachts at Yattalunga.

Jetty Yattalunga

Low tide Jetty At Yattalung, NSW Central Coast.

Yachts Yattalunga

It’s amazing the different colours you can bring out. 

I am finding my time beside the ocean very therapeutic. I’m sure so many of us are just longing for those waters to wash over us and take everything associated with this rotten coronavirus away. Cleanse away the grief, weirdness and stress of trying to keep ourselves and loved ones safe go to work and juggle school at home for the kids. Indeed, I might head back to the water tomorrow and cleanse my soul again. This is also a spiritual thing for me, and I can feel God with me through all of this, but it always gets complicated.

Anyway, what’s been going on in your neck of the woods? I am quite interested in what it’s like for people in different countries as we make our way through the coronacrisis as well as some of the artistic and creative responses.

Anyway, this has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to come along and join us each week.

Best wishes and please stay safe,

Rowena

 

Masterchef 2020 – My Friends in the TV.

Over the years, I’m not sure whether I’ve mentioned that I’m a die-hard Masterchef tragic. Indeed, I might not have let on just how much I long for Masterchef season to come around every year. Indeed, I’m there poised on the very edge of the couch with the same intense enthusiasm as a  Rabbitoh’s footy supporter longing for kick-off.  By the way, in case you’re wondering what a Rabbitoh’s supporter might be, they’re a particular crazed breed of Rugby League fan with actor Russell Crowe as their fearless leader. They’re anything but your average fan. So, that really says a lot about me and Masterchef. Indeed, I’d be wearing the apron if you didn’t have to go on the show to earn it for yourself. To the best of my knowledge, this is something money can not buy.

However, my love of Masterchef doesn’t stop at the couch.

I’ve also mentioned in one of my recent travel posts, that I’d consider moving to Melbourne for Masterchef, trading in my Sydney stripes for good.

That says even more!!!

Juli Rabbit Rowena in kitchen

Julie Goodwin (right) photographed in my kitchen. Rabbit and Julie hosted the breakfast run on  our local radio station.

Also, just to show off just a little bit, Australia’s very first Masterchef,  Julie Goodwin, has even been to our house to cook us a meal. My cousin also works on the show. However,  she has to adhere to a code of silence, and she also moved to Melbourne.

Anyway, every other year, I’ve been in parked on  the couch in front of the box gripped with tense anticipation on opening night. However, somehow what with watching all the coverage of the coronavirus, and all the car restoration shows my husband and son have been watching on some random channel, we not only missing the first night. We missed the first week. I was in shock! I know we’re living in a very strange world atm what with all the changes the coronavirus has wrought. However, the fact I missed the start of the new Masterchef season, shows just how far the earth has shifted from its axis,  taking us into very alien territory.

However, all was not lost. Last night, I wrestled with catch up and went to bed very, very early in the morning after binge watching five episodes of the show.

For those of you who follow Masterchef and many of you who don’t, you’d also be aware that Masterchef 2020 has had major changes of its own. At the end of last season, all three of the original judges (Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan) left, leaving a very big question mark over Masterchef’s future. Could the series survive? What was it that made the show Masterchef, and could that go on? In many ways, it felt like the end of the world with a bunch of survivors escaping through the flames on a life raft.

However, this show clearly has a lot of bedrock underneath it. In Masterchef 2020, they cleverly launched the new judges within very familiar territory. They brought back previous contestants…the people we know, love and have been gunning for in the past. Moreover, just to ensure the new-look season went off with a bang, they launched off with Gordon Ramsay Week. Could the show start off with more fire and brimstone?

I don’t think so.

Since we’re all in isolation, I haven’t been able to talk about the show with my two support workers who are just as passionate about the show. Obviously, I haven’t talked about it on Facebook either yet. However, this post might generate some discussion.

Reynold at Koi

Reynold Poernomo photographed at Koi a few years ago.

Personally, I love Masterchef 2020 just as much as usual, and I must say that I’m personally very glad to see Reynauld back. I’ve been to his Koi dessert bar in Sydney and his desserts taste just as exquisitely scrumptious in real life as they look on TV. I also have loads of other favourites on the show. Poh Ling Yeow, who placed second in the first season, has been a major personality on the show so far, and had been tipped to be one of the new judges. However, all of the contestants have unfinished business and are back to win.

Nomtella inside at Koi

A treat from the Koi…yum!

Binge watching Masterchef last night was also strangely comforting in this very strange world we’re currently living in. You see, it was filmed three months ago pre social distancing and the contestants are all standing in their regular positions at their benches. Indeed, they’re even HUGGING EACH OTHER!!! Wow! It’s absolutely wonderful to be a part of all that love, joy, friendship and community, even if it is on TV. I miss all of that in real life so much, and as we all know, the lines between the people on TV and us at home has always been blurry, and we feel we know these total strangers in quite an intimate and personal way. However, now more than ever, we need our TV friends and some sense of normal when reality is anything but.

So many people I know, especially people living alone, are really longing to hug someone, especially their friends. For huggers, it’s just such a part of who we are, our joie de vivre and even more importantly, our love and connectedness with people. I really miss that too, even though there are four humans and three dogs under our roof.

Although we’re all doing isolation together, not everybody here feels like a hug, and might not feel like a chat at the same time either. We’re not always on the same page. Indeed, my husband and I have ended up in different time zones, where I’m night and he is day. Of course, binge watching Masterchef only compounded this scenario last night. That was the latest (or should I say earliest) I’ve ever been to bed since university!!

C

Jonathon & Amelia Jan 2007

Kids learning how to cook January 2007.

Before I head off, there’s one other thing I love about Masterchef, and that  hasn’t changed this year either. That’s how it inspires my cooking and certainly raises the bar several  notches. While I’m fairly strong on the sweets front, I’m not so versed on the savoury side, and every season, I at least pick up a few extra ingredients. I started baking fennel last year, and I should be inspired to get my herb patch at home up and running. In my typical style, I bought a few punnets from Bunnings and they haven’t made it past the front door and are still in their punnets. I would love to be able to experiment with liquid nitrogen and see how that works for myself. However, that’s well beyond the scope of my home kitchen. So, I’ll just have to keep on dreaming.

ballet shoes

A current view of the whiteboard in our kitchen.

By the way, speaking of my home kitchen, while Masterchef is playing in our lounge room, our kitchen’s been converted into a dance studio. As you might be aware, our daughter is a dedicated, aspiring dancer and ballerina. Thanks to social isolation, all her dance classes are now being transmitted via zoom. She’s currently on school holidays, but rehearsals for a production whose performance date is very much in the air, continue and when you have a look at our whiteboard, you can see that is no small undertaking involving serious commitment from the studio and families alike. For the first time ever, I’ve truly wondered whether it’s all worth it. Of course, anyone with a more practical mindset, would already be questioning the viability of  career in the performing arts. However, I come from a family of professional musicians and so this world isn’t quite so foreign or precarious to me. I also have my own writing dream inside my heart, which was buried in the corporate world for quite awhile, but has found release. Even if I’m not paid to write, that should never detract from who I am. I’m still frantically working towards that one day which I’m believing will come. Thanks to the coronavirus, it’s taken another hit, although perhaps this time at home will finally mean it’s done. I hope so! Yet, my own dreams also mean I understand our daughter’s vision.

Have you been watching Masterchef 2020? What are your thoughts? Are you hooked just as much as ever? Or, perhaps, you’ve called it quits. I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I would also like to acknowledge those of us whose dreams are currently in suspended animation with this incredibly powerful song from Les Miserables. Better still, I’ve chosen Susan Boyle’s audition for Britain’s Got Talent: I Dreamed A Dream

I’ve dreamed a dream too. How about you?

 

Weekend Coffee Share… 20th April, 2020

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Since we’re meeting up in a virtual sense, let’s throw social distancing out the window and we can all shake hands, hug and even throw a party together. Don’t you just miss all of that close social contact and being with family and friends beyond your front door?!! It’s particularly hard on people people who are living alone. After all, it’s not a lifestyle choice which everyone chooses, and it’s times like this that those twists and turns of fate can be particularly hard to get through.

By the way, since we’ve been doing a bit of baking here, you can have your pick of chocolate Caramel Slice, or  chop chip cookies and there might’ve been a pavlova in there somewhere or perhaps that was a few weeks ago. Of course, you’re always welcome to Vegemite toast where you pop round here. It’s an Australian staple, especially for me.

How is the coronavirus impacting your part of the world? It’s sure inflicting a lot of grief  in a lot of places, but fortunately Australia and New Zealand are doing okay atm. However, it’s hard to know just how it’s all going to pan out and nobody has a crystal ball.

Still, lock down isn’t bliss and so many people have lost their jobs and are doing it tough. I’m gaoled inside, except for going out for exercise, and then I have to breathe in every time I approach another human being, I almost flinch. Our local footpaths weren’t made for social distancing. They weren’t made for two dogs on leads to pass each other either. None of our three dogs tolerate other dogs either, and even bark and lunge from across the road at times. It’s so embarrassing. I’m clearly not a good dog mum and it’s back to school for me.

However, clearly other parts of the world are doing things much tougher and so many loved ones are losing their lives. I also want to give a big shout out to all those working in our hospitals and essential services. Many, many thanks and I hope you’re getting along okay. You’re all working under very extreme war zone type conditions and we as a global community are thinking of you and sending our love.

Well, how is lock down looking for us?

Well, I’m in lock down with my husband Geoff and our two teenaged kids aged 16 and 14 along with our three dogs. Geoff’s working from home and has also completely dug up our backyard and buried a layer of subterranean “pavers” which are designed to stop dogs from digging holes. Yes, we needed to reclaim our backyard, especially because we’re wanting to put our new isolation camper in the backyard without it falling down a hole. My research on WWI is continuing and I’ve also been beavering through the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge, where I’m writing about places I’ve been. I’m currently a day behind because I’m trying to get Paris write. What I want to say is fairly complex, because as the saying goes “not all that glitters is gold”.

ballet shoes

Meanwhile, the kids are on school holidays. Our daughter has three days of dance rehearsals this week which will be running via zoom in our kitchen. I’ve had to put a schedule on the white board out there so the rest of us can schedule in our cups of tea and there’s also a matter of cooking dinner, which seems to clash with the schedule and the rest of us are left huddled together with empty tummies out in the loungeroom. That goes double for Lady, one of our dogs. She’s thinking about dinner as soon as she’s finished breakfast.

Bruce

Bruce the Shark Grass

Our son has been doing Scouts for years and is now a Venturer. They’re also conducting their meetings via zoom and their leader also set them a lock down challenge. They’re growing grass animals and there’s naturally a competition to see whose animal has the longest hair at the end of the holidays.

Zac at the beach

Meanwhile, the dogs have been the overall winners during this lock down scenario. Since we’re only allowed out for exercise, they’ve been going for a lot more walks and they’ve also had all of us home. That means four ball and stick throwers and they’re thrilled to bits. I’ve been enjoying our walks along the beach, although Zac wasn’t allowed off the lead until all the other dogs had gone home. We have some work ahead.

Meanwhile, I’m binge watching Masterchef tonight. Somehow, I missed the start of the series and I had a week to catch up on. I wasn’t sure how it would go with the three new judges. However, they brought back contestants from past seasons and that’s provided the familiarity and I quite like the new judges. This week was Gordon Ramsay Week, and I must say I feel sorry for the contestants launching off a new season with him. Talk about being thrown in the deep end.

Well, I’d better finish this off and get to bed. It is very, very late, but I just ran out of hours today. I run out of hours every day. I wonder where they go…

Take care and stay safe.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share… 5th August, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, I’m a year older and wiser, after celebrating my Birthday on Monday. I’m not going to get into the specifics. However, I can still claim to be in my 40’s, although I’m now hanging on by my fingertips!!!

My birthday was fairly low key. The kids went away skiing at Perisher with the Scouts, and my husband and I stayed home. From memory, we crashed out most of the time and slept. It’s still Winter here and I’m still inclined to hibernate. That said, we’re now starting to head into t-shirt weather by day, although it’s still pretty cold at night. Just to put you in the picture,  it was 9-19°C today.

Masterchef Australia 2018 Title Goes To Indian Origin Prison Guard Sashi Cheliah

Last Tuesday night, was the Finale of Masterchef Australia 2019. Have you ever watched Masterchef? You guys come from all over but the show seems to have something of a global audience. I’ve been a diehard, loyal fan since it first appeared 10 years ago when Julie Goodwin became Australia’s 1st Masterchef. Given how much I’ve always loved cooking, especially baking, it’s no wonder I love the show. However, I don’t just watch it as a cooking show. Rather, I’m lured right in, watching the highs and lows, the conquests and defeats of the human spirit. While I’m sure all these contestants are perfectionists by nature and extremely driven, making mistakes on the show is par for the course. The key, however, is not to have two bad cooks in a row, because that’s what sends you home. I made no secret at home, that 19 year old Jess Liemantara was my favourite, although as she faced pressure test after pressure test, it didn’t seem likely that she was going to last the distance. However, she eventually survived long enough to place fourth…a great achievement. The finale saw Ben and Sashi fight it out. While Sashi had been a strong contender throughout and an obvious winner, his form dropped back a bit in those last final cooks and I thought Ben had the title in the bag. However, it wasn’t meant to be, and Sashi romped home with the largest score in Masterchef history.

I’m not much of a TV watcher, but I’ve been left feeling a distinct void since Masterchef ended, even though it’s clearly time I caught up on my violin practice which has been an unfortunate casualty. I’m also waiting on the transcripts of the bigamy case I’ve mentioned a few times. My 3 x Great Grandfather, John Johnston was convicted of bigamy in New Zealand in 1864 and I’m waiting on them to arrive before I do more research on that front.

Asher Hart 1931 record Breaker

Instead, I’ve dug up my research on my grandfather’s second cousin, Asher Hart, who was a swimming champion during the 1930s. However, in 1932, he contracted polio and spent four months in Sydney Hospital in plaster. I didn’t expect Asher to rise from the horrors of polio and certainly not return to competitive swimming and being a lifesaver at Sydney’s Bondi Beach. However, slowly but surely he got back on his feet and into training and his father, Reg, massaged his legs every night for 18 months. He didn’t throw him back into competition either. Rather, he valued rest as much as training and instituted what seems to be a pretty level-headed training regime. I’m still nutting out all his various achievements. However, in 1938 a mini tsunami hit Bondi Beach and hundreds of people needed to be rescued. Moreover, most of them couldn’t swim. Five people drowned that day, but Asher Hart saved four lives. I am so proud of him. Not just because he’s family, but because I’ve also survived the horrors of debilitating illness and for him to be able to do all of that, blows me away. I’m in awe. Indeed, when I first put the pieces of his story together five years ago, my muscle disease had flared up and I had my own questions of whether I was going to get my own muscle strength back, along with very real concerns that my lungs were steadily turning into concrete. I needed a hero. Not any kind of hero, but someone who was where I was at and climbed out. I’ve recently found out that he didn’t recover full strength in his legs, but his arms and shoulders compensated. He was certainly an extraordinary man, and from what I’ve also read, his character was equally inspiring. I am yearning to find out more.

Black Sunday SMH Feb 7 1938

Black Sunday Bondi, 1938. 

Speaking of which, I read a fantastic book this week: My Australian Story: Black Sunday by Evan McHugh. It recounts the story of “Nipper” a 12 year old Bondi lad who is desperate to become a lifesaver. However, it is 1938 and back then you needed to turn 16 and get your Bronze Medallion before you could join up. However, keen as mustard, Nipper starts training, swimming in the surf. The story goes off on many twists and turns and doesn’t just focus on Black Sunday itself, but provides more of an overview of what it was like to grow up and live in Bondi Beach at the time. It also places it within its historic context of the Great Depression, and the rise and rise of Adolf Hitler as the world steadily marches towards another world war. One of Nipper’s friends was a Jewish regugee from Germany.  I found it a gripping, easy read and couldn’t put it down. Read it in a day. Highly recommend it.

Book

 

I’ve also started reading Raphaelle Giordano’s: Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One, which I spotted while on holidays at Blackheath but requested as a birthday gift from my mum when I returned home. I’m really enjoying it so far. I love a philosophical, reflective read and so far, this one shows promise. However, it didn’t get a very encouraging review from Sydney Morning Herald Reviewer, Cameron Woodhead, who could well be true to name:  “This awkwardly titled, though bestselling, French novel claims to have made 2 million readers happier. It didn’t make me happier. But then, I didn’t grow spiritually from reading Eat, Pray, Love. Raphaelle Giordano has created the kind of shallow feel-good novel that resembles a self-help book, with the same tiresome platitudes, the same hyper-focus on personal fulfilment.”

However, life hasn’t been all about reading during the last week and indulging in Masterchef. Today, we helped one of my support workers move house. Her situation was untenable and she needed to move in a hurry. I rang a friend from Church with a van and trailer and recruited my husband and son and off we went. It’s not easy to move in a hurry and while I kept myself pretty light when I was in share accommodation, she had the full kaboodle and was moving to a first floor flat with a narrow staircase. So, the guys hoisted the bed up over the balcony and my dear son proved himself a man and quite a rock helping without complaining and doing what needed to be done. Our team of men, and our friend’s son, showed how male strength can be used for good and make a difference. I was not only very proud of them. It touched my heart. I was really thrilled we pulled off the move because it’s not easy for me to help other people in practical ways with my health issues and just this once, we pulled it off. I was able to be the sort of person I admire and want to be…a helper and not a drowning soul myself. I have grown so much stronger.

In terms of what I’ve posted this week, I did my usual contribution for Friday Fictioneers. This week’s contribution was : Secret Shed Business. I also posted a newspaper clipping I came across of my grandmother, concert pianist, Eunice Gardiner. I’ve never seen this photo before, but it showed my grandmother carrying her first son in a backpack and talking about how she attaches the baby on the front to go to the shops. Meanwhile,all in the same breath, she talked about giving a Beethoven recital at the NSW Conservatorium of Music. The baby was three months old at this point. My grandmother was something of a superhuman, although she didn’t go it alone. She had considerable support, despite my grandfather being away with the Army. In was 1943. The Japanese had already knocked on Sydney Harbour. These were very difficult times and yet she played on.

Lady & pups sleeping

Lady with the pups when they first arrived a year ago. 

Lastly, I just thought I’d finish up with a  bit of a tribute to the dog. It seemed everywhere I turned last week, people were caught up in serious trouble and needed an ear. Indeed, I was starting to wonder if there was anybody who was feeling on top of the world. That life was good. By this point, my own gear had moved into neutral, the observer…it’s an easy place for a writer to sit and turn into something of a home.

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A simplistic interpretation…or is it?

Then, I looked up at my dogs…Lady, the Border collie x Cavalier and Rose and Zac our year old Border collie x Kelpies who are brother and sister from the same litter…our “twins”. Just the sound of the car pulling into the driveway, is ecstasy. Rosie is always there with her ball, stick, or fragments thereof, full of drive and enthusiasm. Zac is inclined to whimper when a door closes on him but he doesn’t forget how to wag his tail. It is no coinsidence that we have three dogs in our family and if we lived on acreage, there’d be a fourth…one each. They are simply the best!

Hope you’ve had a great week!

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share…23rd July, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, I’ve been a bit of a bower bird and we’re enjoying the warm fire at the Central Coast Bar and Grill where we indulged in a scrumptious Sticky Date Pudding. Indeed, we loved it so much, that I had to make one for dessert last night and added some pecan nut praline for good measure. Dinner was supermarket lasagna just in case you think I’m about to enter Masterchef myself.

Amelia Coast Quest

Last week, was jam packed with rehearsals and performances. Our daughter competed in Coast Quest with her dancing and went extremely well. Well, perhaps “extremely” is being a somewhat over the top. However, if you’d seen her beaming smile when she came second in her ballet solo and third in her contemporary (with a higher mark of 89), you’d understand. We don’t receive many awards, so these were pure gold.You can read about the the full experience here.

 

 

The kids were also performing in the  Scout & Guide Gang Show with four performances at Laycock Street Theatre. The show was fantastic, and this was more our son’s turn to shine. He even made an appearance as NASA astronaut Michael Collins from the Apollo 11 (moon landing) mission. He delivered his lines well and smiled throughout the entire show. He looked like he was having a ball. Our daughter’s involvement was cut back due to clashing commitments with dancing but just managed to stay in the show. It looks like it will be her last. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time last week in the audience. It is a role I cherish, and I turn it into a much more active role by encouraging the performers. I also love watching the performances, and really feel quite privileged. I’m definitely not there under sufferance.

Last week, I also took part in Friday Fictioneers. I actually had two attempts this week, after some feedback, and my second effort An Unpredictable End was much better received.

The kids have been on school holidays for the last two weeks, and school goes back tomorrow. So, I’m thinking along the lines of getting organised for the term ahead while writing on the blog. That works, doesn’t it? Humph…

Anyway, it’s actually a beautiful sunny day outside. Well, not quite as warm as I’d first thought. It’s about 18°C so still not what we’d consider “balmy”. It’s still rug-up weather as far as I’m concerned.

Hope you’ve had a great week and I look forward to hearing from you!

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share… 11th June, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

It’s well after midnight here and the dog who was parked underneath my desk, somehow relocated without catching my attention, and another dog, Zac, is parked beside me. Raindrops pitter-patter on  a tin section of roof overhead. Meanwhile, outside the backyard has become something of a wetland, submerged in water. Sitting here at my desk, it doesn’t take much imagination to believe I’m onboard some kind of house boat. Well, the only except being that the ground is steady underfoot and not lilting with the waves.  Thank goodness for that! By the way, the waves aren’t that far from here…just at the end of the street about 700 metres away.

Needless to say, I should be snuggled away in bed asleep, basking away in the warmth of my electric blanket. However, it’s a long weekend and I slept in this morning and had a nap this afternoon. So, I set myself up for this post-midnight moment with you, a cup of herbal tea, my computer screen and the dogs.

It’s so easy to feel reflective, out in the elements with the rain falling all around me. Our house is built more for Summer. So, there’s a fine line between inside and out. Moreover, with the dogs needing to go in, these boundaries merge even closer . Indeed, the back door is open beside me, and I know I should be cold. That it should be closed.Yet, there’s something very refreshing merging with the rain in semi-darkness.

Or, perhaps I’ve finally crossed that fine line into madness, delirium. Drunk on too much poetic thought. A case of Keats.

Oops, I just got sprung. My son just appeared in his dressing gown and found me awake. I’m in trouble. So, I’m needing to pause our coffee til the morning, which could very well extend into the afternoon. I have a feeling that it’s going to be hard to sneak into bed without alerting my husband about just how late I’ve stayed up. But it’s hard. The raindrops almost sound like music and like the pied piper, they’re luring me off into some sort of trance. A trance that should be sending me to sleep, but is actually doing the reverse. I’m firing up on all cylinders. Oh oh!

However, before I head off to the land of nod, what did you get up to last week? How was it for you? I hope it’s been good.

……

It’s now Monday afternoon, and I swear my backside has barely touched my seat after walking the dogs with the family, and already I’m being called away. Last weekend, I bought some daffodil bulbs and my husband’s informed me that they’ve already started to sprout AND he’s putting some good soil in the pot and it looks like the only thing missing now, is me. Humph!

Last week was quite reflective for me. Last week, I shared about my friend’s funeral, and that’s not something you just throw off like a blanket on a hot night. Indeed, I was in the supermarket on Friday and suddenly had this intense awareness of both her presence and her absence, which kind of gripped me. It was strange, too, because I don’t recall ever seeing her in the supermarket. It was just one of those things. I don’t think it’s such a bad thing to have this conscious awareness of the fleetingness of life, but there’s that temptation or even expectation just to get on with it, and even not to talk about her anymore. Yet, I don’t want to be like that with people I care about, even more so with people I love. Moreover, when I go, I don’t want my loved ones to be crippled, but I don’t want them to pretend I didn’t exist. I want them to build a statue…a place for birds to stop and chat. Perhaps, that’s going a bit too far.

Famous Fights

Anyway, this week I’ve been uncovering all sorts of secrets researching my family history through the online newspapers. I shared two of these stories on the blog. The first was about a fight between Thomas Waterhouse & One-Eyed Bourke in 1857 and the other was  the fractured love story of Ivy and Jack, which ended up in court for breach of promise. That story provided quite an insight into dating around 1910, which was much more supervised that today. Of course, we know that, but it was interesting to see how that all played out.

Valentine 1910

This week, I also contributed to Friday Fictioneers. My take on the prompt, Lover’s Potion was rather influenced by reading the love letters of Ivy and Jack and his betrayal.

Yesterday, I also wrote a post questioning whether most of us feel different and that we don’t belong in some way and also whether that sense of difference and not conforming to the perceived norm was actually a good thing. Had benefits. I put this out there more to get feedback and generate some kind of discussion, so I’d love you to check it out. I’ve just thrown different ideas out there, and haven’t really formed a strong conclusion. Here’s The Struggle to Belong…Or not.

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Hot Roti made by yours truly and served with babaganoush.

Lastly, I did want to mention that we’re engrossed in Masterchef Australia 2018. We LOVE it and all sit around the TV watching it every night it’s on. While I don’t try to replicate the dishes from the show, I tend to pick out new ingredients or elements to add to what I already make. I was particularly proud of myself on Friday night for making roti or flatbread. I’d watched them making it on the show, and it seemed so easy that I thought I’d have a go. Much to my amazement, it worked and I was so proud of myself. I am very quick to doubt my abilities and really should have more faith in myself. Do you find that?

Anyway, being a public holiday here in Australia and having my husband and kids home, sitting here and the dogs running around, isn’t doing much for my capacity to write. So, I’m heading off., not doubt just in time for them all to take off. They have Gang Show rehearsals this afternoon.

I hope you have a great week ahead and I look forward to popping round to your place for coffee too.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali

Best wishes,

Rowena

Masterchef 2017 Finale…Three Minutes To Go.

Tonight, I wanted to share the magic, pressure and suspense of the Masterchef 2017 Grand Finale with you from the comfort of my loungeroom, which may not be so cosy with all of us in it.

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Fake Bilbo watching Masterchef with the family.

As much as I love Masterchef, it does terrible things to your nerves and loyalties. I had no idea who was going to win this year and the producers were very sneaky. They built up all these other characters and we pinned our dreams onto them, only to watch them fall like dominoes as their hope and dreams were dashed, along with our own.

There’s been much discussion, at least in our house, about who was going to take out this year’s title. It wasn’t who we thought. Indeed, you could say this year’s winner fell under the radar, but in aiming for the thrilling twist at the end, I presume the producers kept her fairly low key throughout. Yet, she was incredibly consistent, had the inner stillness  you need to overcome all these uber-stressful challenges, and she plated up with such flair. Of course, I obviously can’t comment on the taste. Indeed,  watching Masterchef makes the perfect case for taste-TV.

Obviously, in the time it’s taken me to write this post, my three minutes has well and truly expired. The show is over and tonight is almost gone as well.

I know who won.

However, we’re just going to reverse back a bit and go back to the start of tonight’s show. Back to where I was poised in front of the TV set with only three minutes to go.

….

Tonight, we’re parked in front of the TV watching the finale of Masterchef Australia 2017, where Diana Chang and Ben Ungermann are fighting it out. We have watched every single episode at least once. Well, at least I have. I’m hooked.

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It seems it takes more than divine intervention to win Masterchef. It really looks like I caught Ben in prayer in this snapshot.

While they had to get through three challenges tonight, the first two are a prelude to the dessert challenge. I swear the judges must travel the globe to find the trickiest, bastard of a dessert on earth. I’m not even sure that a word exists to describe their dessert challenge which was terror stacked on terror.

Chocolate fruits

Trust me. This is the dessert they had to recreate and not real fruit.

Tonight this involved tackling a dessert by “Queen of Chocolate”  Kirsten Tibballs  When they lifted the cloche to reveal their challenge, there was platter of fruit sitting there and I was thinking…where is it? Where’s the dessert? Well, those fruits were the desserts. If you think recreating the outside is tricky, the interior was worse. As beautiful as it looked and surely tasted, it was pure hell in terms of complexity and technique, with layer upon layer of scrumptiousness. Well, it would’ve been if I’d been there to actually taste this thing, instead of watching the whole thing from my lounge chair at home, feeling like I was on the set of Gogglebox

 

 

Just to share a bit of the action. I took some screen shots with my camera (definitely NOT my phone. Get real!!) and you can see rows of my prized tea cup collection on the shelf above the TV. So, you can feel right at home, even though there are no photos of me. My SLR doesn’t do selfies. That’s justification enough for me!!

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You can get some “interesting” effects photographing things on TV.

So, as it turned out, Diana won Masterchef 2017. Congratulations! Well done and well deserved.

However, I couldn’t help feel sorry for Ben who came in at number 2 and Karlie at number 3. So close and yet, too far.

Of course, this leaves me with the terrible realization that everybody on Masterchef 2017 has gone home, including the judges, and there will be a huge void in my TV wtahcing. Well, at least until The Batchelor starts on Wednesday night. This year’s Batchelor is Matty J, who was the runner up in the Bachelorette last year, so we’re old mates. Not that I watch a lot of TV. However, I do find these TV competititons the ultimate in people watching. They fascinate me. Well, the ones where the contestants are nice to each other do. I switch the rest off. There’s enough bitchiness and hate in this world without adding to it or becoming part of the audience.

Indeed, I’d much rather watch Friends. That’s what the Masterchef contestants were for 2017, and I think for every other year too. Despite the huge stakes, there’s such a supportive and enouraging vibe and I truly love it. So much  so, that I’ll be playing it again Sam. Watching re-runs on catch up TV without shame.

Who knows, one day I might even throw my hat into the ring with Rowena’s Vegemite Toast. 

Something tells me, I might need to reinvent that dish just a little…

Have you ever watched Masterchef and what sort of cook are you? Do you have a speciality dish? Mine would be pavlova.

xx Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share 29th May, 2017.

Welcome to Another Monday Afternoon Coffee Share in Australia.

This week, you’ll be thanking your lucky stars you popped round for a visit. That’s because I’ve not only been to visit the Koi Dessert Bar of Masterchef fame, I’ve also made Pumpkin Soup. For me, there’s only one way to make Pumpkin Soup and it has nothing to do with tins. Indeed, tins are heresy.

So, would you like tea, coffee, juice or water and I’ll let you help yourself to a choice of soup or sweets.

How was your week?

Our week had more than the usual ups and downs.

On the upside, I caught the train down to Sydney for a medical appointment and had the afternoon to myself walking around Central Station, through Chippendale and into Surry Hills and Paddington. This area is characterised by 19th Century terrace houses and even though much of it has been renovated and gentrified, there’s still that element of grunge and even though the real estate there is very pricey, the terraces still only have a yard the size of a folded handkerchief. Every time, I go to Surry Hills, there’s something different and this trip, I focused on the striking Autumn leaves, which looked so poised against a deep blue sky.

I arrived back home with the excitement of a few desserts for the family to try. However, that excitement was broken by news that the son of a family friend had died suddenly, leaving behind his wife and three little kids…not to mention his parents who have been friends of my Mum’s since forever. This guy was a year younger than me and being a boy, I never played with him growing up, but he was around. His parents were around a lot. Naturally, that felt like a brick just hit me in the head and I reiterate previous questions about why bad things happen to good people, even though even I’ve reached an uneasy truce with this imponderable conundrum.

Friday afternoon, I rang my 11 year old daughter to tell her that I was stuck in a queue at the supermarket. I was meeting her only metres away and all she needed to do, was turn around to see me. However, she was sobbing when she answered the phone. She’d walked into a pole. Broken her glasses. Cut herself and was at the Medical Centre. This wasn’t the medical centre we usually go to either so she was in a very unfamiliar environment with people she didn’t know, and she can be very shy. Fortunately, the staff were exceptionally kind and another Mum had found her and taken her in. So far so good, except once I appeared, stitching up the cut needed to be addressed. Either they could do it there with only a local anesthetic or she could have it done at the local hospital where they could give her gas. That was a 30 min drive away and a hassle. Fortunately, she was brave and had it done there. Well, neither of us was feeling very brave, but we survived and I took her for an ice cream afterwards. Saturday morning, her eye was so puffed up, that it barely opened. However, she was of to dancing and is on the mend.

I had a huge nap yesterday to de-stress wrapped up in my doona with the electric blanket on.

Well, I’m runnning out of time to post this. So, I’ll head off now.

Hope you’ve had a great week.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share.

xx Rowena

 

 

The Walk, Sydney.

Last Thursday, I ran away. Absconded.

Well, to be precise, I walked. However, “walking” doesn’t sound as good.  It doesn’t conjure up that same sense of theatre. Lacks drama. Walking also sounds, dare I say, rather “pedestrian”.

After going down to Sydney for a doctor’s appointment, I decided to pop into the Koi Dessert Bar in Chippendale. Koi was roughly “on the way home”, even if it was in the diametrically opposed direction. Koi is co-owned by Reynold, the Dessert King of Masterchef 2015. So, I was more than willing for my sweet tooth to lead me astray. Mum was taking care of the home front. So, I was a free agent. Cinderella dancing away at the ball with no thoughts about midnight.

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After catching the train from St Leonards to Central, I was walking to Broadway via the Devonshire Street Tunnel. This long pedestrian tunnel houses buskers, the homeless, beggars, along with a vendor selling The Big Issue. The tunnel itself has been there since 1906, but the characters keep changing. Today, I was mesmerized as the notes of a saxophone rose above scuffling feet into some kind of heaven. At least, heaven in a dingy tunnel. I didn’t feel like dancing, but I certainly felt my spirit soar.  It felt like the scene out of a movie. Indeed, I made my own so stay tuned.

I walked on, emerging into daylight and city streets.

 

My destination was only a few streets away. I was heading to the Koi Dessert Bar in Kensington Street, Chippendale. This is not any ordinary restaurant or cafe. Rather, it is home to Reynold, the Dessert king of Masterchef 2015. Moreover, so many of the current Masterchef contestants end up doing work experience at Koi, after they’ve left the show. I was hoping to experience a touch of Masterchef. I’d met Reynold on my last visit to Koi and enjoyed watching their open kitchen at work and was hoping to see someone and talk Masterchef.

Above: I met Reynold and watched him and the team in action at Koi last year.

However, neither Reynold nor any familiar faces were there. So, I didn’t feel I could gush like a Masterchef tragic.

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Dessert Heaven at Koi.

Rather, I had to choose my dessert…not an inconsiderable process. With so much yum on display, it creates that impossible choice. You know they’re all sensational, and it’s just a matter of personal taste. I chose the Nomtella…a dome with Espresso mousse covered in chocolate, and a mousy salted caramel centre nesting on a chocolate brownie base. I loved it, but found that half was enough. My sweet tooth hasn’t been quite so sweet lately and I blame the increased exercise for that. I bought an Orange Creme Caramel and a citrus dessert to take home and they were much more to my palate, which surprised me. They were truly sensational.

After leaving Koi, I ended up walking up Cooper Street into Surry Hills. I explored a few alleyways, chasing images of autumn leaves back-dropped against a deep, blue sky. I was swept off my feet by a special kind of Autumn magic, which was a world away from to do lists, action plans and responsibility. I still haven’t forgotten what it was like to wander the world as a backpacker, but now I have the love and security of home and my family to go home to. I only seek temporary escape. Not a one-way journey.

I don’t know what it is that keeps drawing me back to Surry Hills.

My Dad’s side of the family, Irish immigrants from County Cork mostly following the Irish Famine, settled in Paddington and Surry Hills and the family stove making business was at 90 Fitzroy Street for many years. However, that was long before my time and even my father’s. Yet, the stories were passed down. Indeed, there’s a photo of my grandfather and his Dad standing by their truck, which gives me that sense of belonging…origins. That at least a part of me, harks back Surry Hills, back when it was a surrogate Ireland and not the rough slum that it became.

JCurtin

The J Curtin Truck with my Great Grandfather and Grandfather.

Moreover, although I’ve never lived in Surry Hills, I did live in neighboring Chippendale for a number of years. Lived in a range of terraces, and even a converted warehouse a life time ago.

Surry Hills is an eclectic, constantly changing place, and you never know quite what you’ll find or what to expect. There was a little cafe I’d found, which made the most scrumptious Coconut Chai Lattes, but it closed about 2 years ago. Gone, but not forgotten. On Thursday, I went to see what I knew as the art dungeon in Campbell Street, but it now sells shampoo and looks so sanitized. It’s such a travesty…a sell out. A place with so much character, gone.

Surry Hills is expensive real estate, and yet it retains its sense of grunge. Crumbling, run-down terrace houses can still be found, along with signs of Struggle Street. I can’t account for that. After all, I’m only passing through. Picking out bits and pieces through the lens, and immortalising what I’ve seen today on my hard drive. My perspectives or interpretations of an ephemeral, kaleidoscope world.That’s without even delving into its characters. I merely chat to a few people in shops, not knowing whether they’re local or not. Then, I go home.

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I was starting to fade.

Walking along Crown heading towards Oxford Street, was a long walk and I was starting to look out for passing buses….a magic carpet to carry me home. Or, at least, back to Central Station. My legs can struggle to keep up with all I see and it’s easy to conk out half way.

 

Yet, I kept walking until I finally staggered into Museum Station and caught the train to Central. I walked over to Country trains and slumped in my seat. Unlike most of the daily commuters, Too excited to sleep and pulled out the mag I’d bought in Surry Hills:

I was heading home.

 

Before we leave Surry Hills, I thought you might like to join me on some of my previous visits:

Window Shopping, Surry Hills.

Surry Hills to Gore Hill, Sydney/

Surry Hills…A Sense of Place.

Have you been on any epic urban walks that you’d like to share?

xx Rowena