Archive for Daily Living

 

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Pinching Myself

28 June 2015

Pink Sunset

It may be the middle of winter here in Perth, Western Australia… but the evening skies are simply magical!

I’m falling in love with the river all over again. And these last few weeks I’ve been making sure I fit in some running and cycling by the water!

Hope you all have a wonderful week ahead!


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Say Hello to Mount Lesueur!

19 June 2015

Hello Mount Lesueur!

I know you’re not really a mountain… you’re more of a cute looking mesa (a flat-topped, elevated landform)… but you still gave us a fun afternoon!

Mount Lesueur, Lesueur National Park

During our recent camping holiday, our family and some friends took a drive to the Lesueur National Park.

We did a 4km return hike up Mount Lesueur, walking along the marked bush trail – it was really lovely!

To be honest, the park is not particularly famous for anything phenomenally iconic. It does boast of an exceptionally diverse range of flora (like 900 species!) which makes up 10% of the total floral known in Western Australia!

But er, if you look at the photo above, you’d probably need a very. keen. eye. to appreciate this “biodiversity hotspot”, as it is known to botanical geeks.

Anyway, so because of the very unique formation/location/conditions of the area, there are some species of plants that are absolutely unique to this area.

Meaning, that you won’t find them anywhere else in the WORLD!

Mount Lesueur, Lesueur National Park

This is the Djanda (Hakea Neurophylla) and according to the botany geeks, if you look at the leaves with the sun behind them, you’ll see a web of “nerves” from which the scientific name was derived.

SO COOL! I love this geeky stuff.

Mount Lesueur, Lesueur National Park

The bush tracks were covered with small rocks and sand, which made the hike accessible and interesting.

It can’t remember how long the whole 4km walk took us… maybe 2-3 hours, with a few breaks?

The other family that came with us have 5 year old twins… who walked (and sometimes ran) in pink sparkly sandals, with my 6 year old all the way to the top and back! It’s a fantastic mini-hike for families with small children.

This photo above shows my husband having some “man time” with one of my sons..

I spent some time with my other son, telling him about how it’s really important to walk on rocky ground so you can strengthen the vestibular system (motion, spatial orientation, balance) in your brain – *cue eye roll*!

Mount Lesueur, Lesueur National Park

Even though I’m a city girl, I really do LOVE all this outdoor adventuring under the big blue sky!


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The Pinnalces of Western Australia

10 June 2015

When I was about 9 or 10, my family went with a tour group to look at The Pinnacles.

I didn’t think much of them at the time. I just thought they were a boring bunch of rocks in the sand!

And to be honest, nobody local ever talks about driving North for 3 hours to see The Pinnacles… because that’s what tourists do to experience a picturesque postcard version of Western Australia.

The Pinnalces, Western Australia. Nambung National Park

However, during our little trip up North, we stopped by the Nambung National Park to check out The Pinnacle Dessert… and it was AMAZING!!

I really enjoyed myself, the kids thought it was cool and my husband took so many great photos.

The Pinnalces, Western Australia. Nambung National Park

Around this Northern coastal region, all you will see are white sand dunes and low bush scrub. But right in the middle of it, The Pinnacle Dessert is a vast area of strangely yellow sand and lots of pointy rocks!

Apparently no one can agree to how these limestones structures were formed; some say that they are “tree casts”, others say they are “root casts” or even “pipes” of solution built up over the years… but they all agree that the structures are some crazy mix up of chemicals, limestone concrete, acid, and decay.

We were all so fascinated by the history and the science behind it.

The Pinnalces, Western Australia. Nambung National Park

They were weird and wonderful!

They were not very tall or monolithic, but the colours were beautiful, and the textures, shadows and shapes were just stunning. I reckon it is definitely worth the drive from Perth… if you’re into this kind of stuff!

There is a nice information centre there, but there is no cafe (just a vending machine).

So you might spend an hour there and then head into Cervantes or Jurien Bay for lunch.

Enjoy!


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Jurien Bay, Western Australia

3 June 2015

Over the long weekend, we went camping with friends up at Jurien Bay, which is about a 3-hour drive North of Perth.

It was AMAZING!!

Here’s a little snippet of pictures from the trip…

Jurien Bay, Western Australia

WOW!! What an view!!

I was pinching myself. I was soooo happy to be alive!!

Jurien Bay, Western Australia

We stayed at the local caravan park, pitched a tent and spent most of the time hanging out at the beach.

We were so lucky with the weather. It was just spectacular!!

Jurien Bay, Western Australia

The kids loved all the big, open spaces.

They were constantly playing and laughing and up to all kinds of fun, crazy things.

Jurien Bay, Western Australia

Me sporting double denim at the beach yo.

Jurien Bay, Western Australia

The sand dunes were so much fun.

The sand was just beautiful… fine, soft, smooth and squeaky clean.

Jurien Bay, Western Australia

More silly antics!

Jurien Bay, Western Australia

Rock pools at another part of the bay.

Jurien Bay, Western Australia

Me and my two big boys. Thankfully they’re not taller than me yet and still a good cuddling size.

Jurien Bay, Western Australia

And… great coffee every morning from the Jurien Jetty Cafe!

Hope you managed to have a fabulous weekend too!

xxx


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HBF Run for a Reason 2015

25 May 2015

So… I wasn’t really planning to do another running event this year!

I was just planning to work towards running longer distances and to increase my running stamina.

But the team at HBF asked me if I’d like to join in the fun at the HBF Run for a Reason and to do a bit of social media for them.

I accepted eagerly and committed myself to both the 12km distance and er… learning how to run and take photos at the same time??

Surely there’s an app for that.

HBF Run for a Reason 2015

So this was me, the day before the event, picking up my participant running pack at the HBF Event Centre at the Perth Arena.

I asked a HBF Volunteer (a girl on her morning tea break) to take my photo… and I was trying to think of some clever way I could change the word REASON with my silhouette.

But all I could think of was TREASON and RANSOM… and decided they weren’t very appropriate haha. So I was just went with a kind of generic “Y”.

HBF Run for a Reason 2015

On the morning of the run, I drove to my local train station and caught the train into the city. Participants were allowed free public transport all day. It was fast and easy.

There were thousands of other participants using public transport too, so the atmosphere of the city was buzzing with excitement.

The only downside of the early morning start was that it was so freaking cold!

I think it was 7-8C?? Thankfully the event had a special service where you can wear a jacket or jumper to the event, wear it for the 30-45 minutes while standing around soaking up the pre-event entertainment, and then leave it hanging on the railings at the start line, where it will be donated to charity!

For me, I clung onto every last bit of warmth from my jacket and waited till the *very last minute* to donate it.

HBF Run for a Reason 2015

And we were off!

Unfortunately when I tried to run and take photos, they turned out terribly blurry.

So this is my “stand still and get into people’s way” photo.

 

HBF Run for a Reason 2015

One of the things I looked forward to during this event… was to run through the Northbridge Tunnel (1.6km).

I have never done it before and it was just one of my little running aspirations for my own city. Yay!

Again, I had to stop and take this photo, because I definitely couldn’t run backwards and take snaps.

HBF Run for a Reason 2015

The whole event was dotted with photographers, TV cameras, cameras on cranes, camera drones… it was all quite exciting!

I spotted two of Perth’s coolest photographers (David Chong and David Broadway) camped by the side of the road. Ok yes, they were my mates, so I slowed down to take a photo of THEM at work.

In fact, I doubled back so I could do a silly slow-motion run for them to photograph.

I pretty much knew then, with all my stopping to take photos antics and uploading to socal media… that my running time for this event was going to be very average! Oh well!

HBF Run for a Reason 2015

The day cleared up and the sun came out.

It was such a beautiful day for a run next to the river!

HBF Run for a Reason 2015

I sprinted towards the finish line, but 10 metres before I crossed it… I stopped to take a photo haha!

Aaah in the end, it was so much fun. I really wasn’t concerned about my running time at all.

I was surrounded by so many people who laughed, cheered, skipped, sang. There were people in all shapes and sizes, young and old, all going different speeds, all getting out there, being active, raising money for a good cause – it was a really enjoyable day and a fantastic event to be a part of.

HBF Run for a Reason 2015
After the event, I was invited over to the corporate sponsor’s area for a VIP breakfast and massage.

That was veeeeery nice indeed! Thank you HBF!

For those interested in my running details…

I did a 12km running event in September last year (after I had a flu) and my running time was 1 hr 30 mins.

For this 12km run, including all my stops, my time was 1 hr 31 mins (which is a pace 7:35 min/km) – how funny!

Usually I run at a pace of 6:00 min/km, so it should have taken me 1 hr 12mins. So I have a small part of runner’s pride in me that is annoyed that these times are set in stone on the internet as my “official times” but as I said, I’m not too fussed about it.

In fact, I’m keen to do it again next year with my kids! And maybe we’ll dress up!

See you there next year :)

xxx


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Brain Training with a Rubik’s Puzzle

19 May 2015

I’m very INTO brain training these days!

I know it’s a bit of a buzz word at the moment. But my father-in-law has been encouraging us to train our brains for the last 7-8 years, so I actually feel a bit slow to catch on.

Anyway… in the last year or so, I’ve gone back to reading literature, I’ve subscribed to brainy magazines, and started to tinker with music.

But my latest obsession is the Rubik’s Cube Puzzle.

Rubik's Puzzle

It started with my 10 year old son. He recently bought one with his birthday money and he watched some online videos on how to solve it.

I peeked over his shoulder and was amazed to find that you actually have to watch 6-7 VIDEOS, which were all about 8-10 minutes long!

I was intrigued.

So I sat down next to him and we watched them together.

We took notes, we drew diagrams, and we practiced.

Rubik's Puzzle

I am so, so, soooo pleased that I can solve a Rubik’s cube now!

It’s definitely one of those things I can say that I know how to do haha!

There are lots of steps involved and lots of moves to memorise.

I had to refer to my notes A LOT.

The first time I solved it completely, without looking at my notes, this was my record time:

Rubik's Puzzle Record

21 minutes!

Oh man it was painful. It hurt my brain. My neurons were definitely stretched in ways I never thought possible.

I did it 3 times… suddenly my lunch hour had passed in a snap and it was now time to pick up my kids from school.

Possibly not the best use of my time on my day off, but hey I guess it’s better than watching day time TV??

I practiced a bit every day… and after a few weeks, this is now my best record time:

Rubik's Puzzle Record

That’s right! 2 and a half minutes!

I’m so proud of my brain!

Yes, so just like learning how to make cupcakes, it won’t solve the world’s problems, but it’s a baby step towards having a higher functioning brain in my old age.

Plus it’s a great party trick.

(Btw I think the world record is 5.6 seconds!)


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Feeling Alive on a Sunday Morning!

18 May 2015

Footy in the Rain

So this is how I spent my Sunday!

I was wearing 4 layers of clothes, rain boots, sitting on a camping chair, hiding under an umbrella… while watching my 10 year old boy play football in the pouring rain.

Ah the things we do for our kids.


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Learning How to Make Pretty Cupcakes

14 May 2015

I have always wanted to be able to make kick-ass cupcakes!

I guess you could say, it has been one of my “personal goals” for a long time.

Sure, it’s not saving the world. It’s not learning a new language. But cakes can be expensive these days, and I’d love to be able to make gorgeous looking cakes or cupcakes for my friends and family.

Yes I know I have been making cupcakes for years (especially since having kids), but they never turn out consistently pretty. Which is why I want to up my skill.

Here are some of my baking notes:

Mother's Day 2015

I made some cupcakes for Mother’s Day on the weekend. They looked really cute!

I tried out a new recipe, but in my opinion, they tasted too dry.

I also think that I didn’t put enough batter in the cupcake case, so there’s too much of the case showing.

And next time I won’t make fondant shapes to go with a batch using sprinkle decorations.

Oh AND I think I’ll try piping the frosting next time. This flat-style just doesn’t cut it.

Vanilla Cupcakes

My second batch!

This is the first time I’ve tried piping with a proper piping bag and tip. It was quite easy and fun!

But I didn’t make enough frosting to cover all the cupcakes. So after I covered 3 cupcakes, I realised that I had to pipe less frosting, oops!

The cupcake recipe was only so-so. Still not completely happy with it.

Do you have an AMAZING cupcake recipe you can recommend to me?

I also experimented with the baking time, just so I could get that lovely golden brown top. But at the same time I may have dried out my cupcakes.

AND I used the wrong baking pan, so the cupcake cases folded in a bit and make them a little wonky – not a perfect circular shape.

Haha it sounds like I’m totally trashing myself!

But I don’t think I’m being negative. I’m being critical, taking notes and being mindful of how to improve next time.

I’m a bit like that with my kids. I tell them to – Research, set goals, work on skills, re-evaluate, improve, and practice, practice, practice!

Be thrilled by the learning journey, be determined to improve and celebrate the sweet success at the end!

If that sounds like a Tiger Mum, then so be it :)


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My Best Crazy Moment This Week

8 May 2015

Once a week I play netball with my girlfriends at a local indoor sports centre.

Sometimes my game starts at 6:15pm. Other times it starts at 8:15pm or 8:55pm.

It’s a fantastic, high intensity workout!

No matter what time the game ends I always leave with a FABULOUS BUZZ.

One night, after a late game, I popped over to the supermarket to buy some bread and other bits and pieces.

Supermarket Dance

I had my earphones on, blasting through my workout tracks.

I was high on life.

I felt so youthful, happy and full of energy!

And with all those factors combined… I saw this ahead of me and I danced!!

Supermarket Dance

I was going up and down the aisles skipping to Taylor Swift and Katy Perry! Ha ha!

Have a fantastic weekend everyone.

xxx


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Reading: I am Malala

4 May 2015

I am Malala

Earlier this year, I read the book I am Malala.

I was keen to find out more about Malala’s story, as I only knew of what I heard from the news; that she was a 16 year old Pakistani activist fighting for the rights of girls to have an education; that she had been shot in the head by the Taliban; that she won the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2014.

Honestly, I had wanted to read the book since it was released in 2013. But I felt a bit guilty and morbid that my interest was piqued by such a horrifying act (a young girl being shot in the head!). However on the other hand, I am fully aware that she is using her own story of survival and her new found fame to drive her very worthy cause and take it to a wider audience – to people on the other side of the world, like me.

So it was with that internal mix up of guilt, curiosity, and a desire to support her … that I went out and bought her book.

The book is a bit chopped up. There is a bit about the history of Pakistan and regional politics, which I found really fascinating and informative.

Then there are parts of the book with a more personal tone, where Malala speaks of her hometown in Swat Valley, her upbringing, her family, the everyday dramas they faced, the events leading up to the Tabilan invasion, the shooting, and her life after the shooting. I really enjoyed reading about all this too.

It is written in a very easy, simple, straight-forward style.

Overall it is interesting, inspiring and gave me lots of think about.

These were the main ideas that struck me the most.

Poverty
I understand poverty at an intellectual level, but I can’t handle it on an emotional level. The more I tried to absorb the kind of poverty Malala talked about in her book, the more I was rendered with a heart-gripping helplessness, sense of unworthiness and sadness… that made me consider selling all my possessions so that I wouldn’t feel the guilt of my own Western richness. I seriously couldn’t handle it. And I have no clue about what to do about it in a way that would even make a difference.

Her Attitude Towards Education
I loved that she loved to learn. That was very inspiring to read. I loved that education was so precious to her; Chemistry, algebra, geography, all of it.

Her Upbringing
I wanted to know… what kind of teenager feels so passionate and so driven, that she endangers herself and speaks up against the status quo of her country and government??

Well, her story points to her father. Her father was passionate about education and speaking out about human rights. Her father was a teacher. He built schools – many schools! He loved education. He loved helping people. He loved his country. He went to meetings with other community leaders in the middle of the night, to discuss politics and education and how to create a better future for his country.

So it was very heartening to see that she had followed that path too and has now made it her own.

As a parent, I read most of this book with a bursting pride in my heart. What an amazing young lady she is. I am so proud of her!

Finding a new home
After Malala was shot, she was brought to the UK for medical treatment. Weeks later, the rest of her family were also moved to the UK. Now they have a new home, they live in a comfortable little town house, with running water, supermarkets, education, safety, security, freedom. They pretty much have everything they could need or want. But they are alone; away from the rest of their family and their friends, away from a world that they know, and are comfortable.

I felt their gratefulness for their new home, but I also felt their disconnection, loss, emptiness and sadness from being away from their old home.

It gave me a bit of insight as to how refugees in a new country might feel.

And I am so deeply grateful that I live in a such a comfortable and prosperous place that I can call home.

East and West
Having been educated and lived most of my life in a Western society, I see nothing but inspiration and empowerment in Malala’s story.

But in Pakistan, I have heard that there are critics who speak out against her story and her “Western” ideals. They point out the hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness of her global supporters, who look past the bigger issues of conflict, history, politics, economics and war involving the West in the region. I’m no expert on the topic, but I do know that it’s extremely complicated… and that sometimes Western ideas are not always the solution.

Phew.

And that folks… is as heavy as I’m going to get on global politics on my fashion lifestyle blog ;)

The cover of the book is bright and modern. The publishers chose a wonderful photo of Malala. Her face and expression really said: Peace, confidence, looking past her troubles towards something greater than her own.

The book was a fascinating and easy read – I recommend it for everyone!


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The Launch of Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea!

28 April 2015

Australia's Biggest Morning Tea - Launch

I was invited to the launch of this year’s Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea event.

Here I am with fellow fashionistas with a cause: Andrea Tonkin (stylist and blogger) and Rayne Embley (presenter and blogger, who was also the host for this launch event).

If you haven’t heard of it… the idea of the Biggest Morning Tea is to inspire people to host a morning tea, invite friends and family along, and raise money while sharing a cup of tea and treats!

The morning tea can be as big or as small as you want.

You can get super creative with decorations, table settings, all kinds of finger food, sweet treats and more!

It’s absolutely, right up my alley!

It’s a nice, simple fundraising idea, and it’s for a great cause.

You can find out more about it here, and sign up if you like.

If you need a few ideas, the website has a whole section dedicated to “Help for the Host”, including tips, downloadable resources… and of course, there is always Pinterest (Search for ‘Tea Party’) to get yourself incredibly excited and ambitious about hosting a tea party!

Australia's Biggest Morning Tea - Launch

The launch was held at The Shipping Lane, a very cool cafe over looking Leighton Beach (North Fremantle). They treated us to an amazing spread of scrumptious treats, and the coffee (a soy flat white) was just divine! I definitely have to go back soon to try a meal off their menu.

To end this post, I have to be a bit honest…

While I looked all chirpy and vibrant in my cute yellow dress, on the inside I was in a state of emotional fragility.

Cancer was very much on my mind. My good friend’s husband passed away from cancer earlier this month, leaving behind his wife and 3 young kids. I have no words to describe my grief for her and her family. I just have a lot of quiet tears, hugs and an urge to help in some way.

I spoke to lots of people at the event (and tried very hard not to cry). Everyone had a connection to cancer. Everyone had a story to tell. I also spoke to several cancer survivors, who told me about some services (provided by the Cancer Council) that they used during their treatment.

So I thought I’d share some of the ways your donations will help.

The Australian Cancer Council uses raised funds for:
Cancer Research
Patient Support Networks
Counselling services
Cancer nurses on a support line 13 11 20
Support groups and networks
Education groups, programs and information
Practical assistance, accommodation
Early detection and prevention programs

As I said, it’s a wonderful and worthwhile cause!


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The Colour of Air Pollution

19 April 2015

Early on Sunday evening, I was in the kitchen making dinner for my family, when I noticed a strange light fill the room.

I looked over to my pantry door, to where my white linen apron was hanging.

My apron was glowing with an orange light.

It was a rich, luminescent orange that was out of this world!

I grabbed my camera to capture it.

Red Sun Light

Amazing! My apron is supposed to look white!

I called my kids over and we all oohed and ahhed over the bizarre colour.

We placed different objects in the beam of light (including our faces) and watched the colours change before our eyes.

We discovered that there had been controlled fires burning off north of the city that day, creating a huge plume of smoke that changed the colour of the setting sun.

We put on our shoes and headed straight to the park to check out the sunset.

Red Sun

It was eerie and abnormal.

I was torn between being astonished and being displeased – after all, we were admiring the effects of “necessary” air pollution.

So while I weighed my internal reaction towards the world’s global carbon emissions, my kids decided that the sun looked like a Star Wars planet.


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Fish and Chips by the Beach

11 April 2015

Fish and Chips at Cottesloe

We love having fish and chips for dinner by the beach!

Our kids think it’s such a super-duper, special, sacred family tradition – similar to Christmas haha.

But really, everyone does it. It’s a very Australian thing.

And it’s possibly a bit more special for us West Australians, because we can actually watch the sun set over the Indian Ocean.

Cottesloe at Sunset, March 2015

Life is amazing here!

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!

xxx


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Fragipanis

4 April 2015

My husband is a sweetheart. But sometimes he’s a bit crazy, in a daggy, sweetheart kind of way.

Years ago he decided that he wanted our backyard to be full of frangipani plants, and in each colour available.

It was a long term project. He had to buy some plants in different colours, he knocked on people’s door asking for cuttings, we may have stolen a few cuttings. Then we had to grow the cuttings, wait for them to flower – which sometimes took years!

Finally, we have 4 colours which we are really happy with!

Frangipani White
White. This is the most common variety. They are hardy and so easy to grow; just stick a branch cutting in a bucket of sand, and water it every now and then!

Even though you see these white  fragipanis everywhere, I still adore how fresh and happy they look!

Frangipani Pink

So many people ask for a cutting of our pink fragipani tree, and we happy to give them. But they are really difficult to grow and sometimes it takes 3 years to flower, and most of the time they look like a dead stick in a pot.

Frangipani Orange

Vibrant orange/pink/yellow. Crazy mixture of colours, I don’t know if they are orange or yellow sometimes.

Frangipani Dark Red

Oh these are my favourite! Deep, dark pink. They look so moody.

We still have an orangey-red one which we are hoping to flower soon!


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Dictation

26 March 2015

The other day I was waiting to pick up my kids from school, sitting in my parked car, when I realised that my head was about to explode, because I had all this shit (stories, half sentences, ideas and thoughts – did you see that? I made an acronym!) swirling around in my head, and if I didn’t write it down, I knew I would forget them.

So I fiddled around with my smart phone and I decided that the quickest way to do this… was to use the dictation function to “write down” some of my sentences.

I’ve never dictated my writings before. I’ve always found it awkward and unnatural.

The idea of dictating my raw, unedited thoughts to another human being… just terrifies me haha!

Anyway, so I pressed RECORD and suddenly… I was speechless.

“Uuuh. Uuuumm. Yeah. Hello? Ok. Right. I shall start: I was going to say… hang on. Is this recording? Yup. OK, as I was trying to say….”

(So awkward right?)

After a while, I got the hang of it.

I spoke, and my smart phone took my speech, turned it into words and automatically typed it out.

It was quite fun! The actual dictation software wasn’t very good though. I’m guessing my Australian accent got lost in some of the translations?

I did a lot of self editing too.

“…blah blah blah. Ugh, no, I didn’t want to say that! What I meant to say was… Blah blah blah. Hang on, back up a bit. Scratch that last thing. Oh my god I sound like an idiot! That was a terrible sentence! Do I even speak English? You know what I mean, don’t you? OK what was I saying again?”

For someone who has spent the last 15 years writing stories online with a personal and casual voice, I didn’t expect to be so terrible at dictating them out loud!

I guess, with everything, it just takes a little practice!


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Two wrongs don’t make a right!

23 March 2015

Nike Sneakers

I needed to buy my boys some new running shoes. So what did I do?

I took ALL THREE KIDS out to the shops with me, of course – what on earth was I thinking?!?!

The result?

Two Right Feet

When we got home, I realised that I had grabbed TWO RIGHT SHOES for Child 1.

For Child 2, we couldn’t find the exact brand/style/colour/size shoe of his liking, so he came away empty handed.

And for Child 3, I had grabbed a box with Size 11 shoes, but inside had Size 10 shoes?

Ugh.

Parent fail. Shopping fail. Whole day wasted.

(Shoes from RebelSport)


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Ravioli Parcels

17 March 2015

Ravioli Parcels

As a result of his outrageous, online book shopping habit, my husband received a few books in the mail.

The delivery guy handed them to me, I plonked them onto the kitchen counter… and I noticed that they looked like very large ravioli!

Ha ha! I crack myself up sometimes!


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Flatlay Food Art

10 March 2015

Flatlay Breakfast

If you follow me on Instagram (@karenlycheng) you might have seen a few of my food flatlays.

This birds-eye view photographic style on a white background works for me, because it’s so simple and quick for me to do!

When I cook, I already have all this stuff cluttering my benchtop, my pantry and my cooktop… so I just plonk my white board onto the floor (right at the foot of my kitchen counter), arrange all the bits and pieces around and take a snap.

It’s like painting on a canvas! I make a huge mess! It’s so much fun!

Flatlay Crumb Chicken

This was my lunch one afternoon. Crumbed chicken breast with some salad and almonds.

Flatlay Crumb Chicken

And this is what the mess looked like from a wider angle! Open packets, containers, lids… all over the floor!

Flatlay Anzac Slice

I recently shared an Anzac Slice Recipe for School Lunchboxes on my blog… and this is the slice, 10 minutes fresh from the oven.

I also arranged other bits and pieces that I was about to pack into my children’s lunchboxes. It was 7am and my kids thought I was quite weird.

They said stuff like, “Are you putting all that food on the floor? Then you’re going to put it in our lunchbox??” But I just ignored them because I was having fun and I was in my creative zone yo.

Flatlay Plum Crumble

And this is the Maple Plum Crumble that I made the other week.

It was early in the evening and there was a slight shadow on the left side of the photo, so I grabbed another white board and propped it against a chair to bounce a bit more light onto the objects.

This may not be “true painting” but it certainly satisfies my spontaneous creative itch – which makes me insanely happy!

Do follow me at @karenlycheng to see some of my other recent food art ;)

xxx


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PJ Sundays at the Cott & Co Fish Bar

8 March 2015

PJ Sundays at Cott & Co Fish Bar

The Cott & Co Fish Bar, overlooking Perth’s Cottesloe Beach, welcomes a new and stylish kind of Sunday session, called PJ Sundays.

When I received the invite to the launch, I was slightly confused. Huh? I have to wear my PJs? Pyjamas and champagne – that’s an interesting combination?

Oh right! It took me a few seconds to realise they were talking about the famous French Champagne Perrier-Jouët – ooo how fancy!

PJ Sundays at Cott & Co Fish Bar

Oh my. This is me, sipping champagne, eating oysters and watching the glorious sun set over the Indian Ocean.

I’m not a big drinker, but I can say – hands down – that this was definitely a bit magical.

Thankfully I was smart enough NOT to wear my pyjamas.

PJ Sundays at Cott & Co Fish Bar

I wore my new Keepsake ‘To The End’ Mini Marble Dress from Universal Store, bangle from Wanderlust + Co, Alexander Wang heels from Forward by Elyse Walker , and Marc Jacobs Bag from Yesstyle.

Thank you to Cott & Co for the invite!

 


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Wednesday Afternoon Catch Up

4 March 2015

Soooo, what been happening in my life? I’ll tell you what’s happening. ANTS!

1.
We’ve been BATTLING ants in our kitchen for the last 4 months. To keep them under control, we have had to keep the kitchen spotless. And I mean SPOT-LESS. I’ve had to clean up every scrap, every crumb, every drip, every bit of used cutlery in the kitchen, three, four, five times a day. And then scream at the kids to clean up after themselves, four, five times a day. It’s been driving me insane!

OK. Yes. Our kitchen looks freaking amazing, but OH MAN it’s been hard work.

So we recently spent the weekend, pulling apart our kitchen cabinets (oh joy!), removing our oven (ah!), our cooktop (huh!), and our fridge (sigh!); turning our kitchen upside down and inside out, to hunt down the ant’s nest. So thrilling, I know. Turns out they are living INSIDE our brick walls.

After a few drops of ant poison, we may have won this battle. Our kitchen however, looks messy again.

2.
Holy crap it’s March already! We have my second boy’s birthday, my third son’s birthday and my husband’s birthday coming up this month. I’m planning lots of kid’s parties, dinner parties, sleepovers, outings and get-togethers. I can’t wait! I’m in the mood for some partying!

3.
I have been drinking almond milk in my tea and coffee for 2 years now. No, I don’t make my own. I just buy long-life cartons from the supermarket.

Everyone keeps saying I should buy a Thermomix so I can make my own almond milk; It’s healthier, they say! It’s fresher! It doesn’t have any additives or other stuff! Yes, yes I know… but no thanks. I prefer the convenience of always having a zillion cartons stored in my pantry, so you know, if there’s ever a global shortage of food, I’ll have enough almond milk to last me years!

Anyway, getting to the real point of this list item… I recently bought a carton of Almond & Coconut Milk blend (link) and omg it tastes amazing. So creamy and delicious that I want to drink my body weight of it each day. Not sponsored. Just happy to share my latest loooves!

4.
I dropped my little compact camera the other day. It slipped out of my handbag, slid off a bench top and crashed onto the concrete floor. It still works, but it’s a bit temperamental and traumatised by the fall.

I went into a camera shop to begin my search for a replacement camera, but the lady who spoke to me was having a bad day. She was gruff, impatient and sighed a lot. She treated me like such a dumbass, unworthy of her sales knowledge. I probably should have felt horrible and angry about the whole situation, but I found my inner zen and managed to maintain my happy, easy-going, friendliness.

I was thinking that maybe I should speak up, to her, or her superior, to let them know that I felt belittled by the way she spoke to me? OK I didn’t, but she was speaking to me in a belittling kind of way.

Possibly in my younger days, I would have gotten really worked up about it; I would have felt compelled to inform her manager, lodge a complaint, try to change the world, try to make the world a better place…

But in the end I just let the small things slide. I wasn’t going to let her bad day bring me down. I just felt a bit embarrassed and sorry for her. On my way out, I chirped, “I think I’ll look online and see what they recommend there! Thanks for your help anyway and hope you have a wonderful weekend!”

Like water off a duck’s back.

Don’t let the shit stick.

5.
I’ve been running again! 5k here. 3k there. It just feels so good to do short distances. And it feels particularly good to run without the pressure of trying to top my personal best record. Run for fun. Who would have thought?

I’ve also been on my bike too! It’s been a few months since my last cycle. Now, a gentle 2km-3km ride is enough to make my leg, bum and thigh muscles feel a bit sore. But it’s a GOOD feeling of soreness. The ache lingers for days and feels more like a tightening and toning of my body. I like it. Perky bum, here I come!

I’m still walking, still lifting weights, still doing strength exercises and still being active every day.

I’m loving life, loving movement and loving what my body can do!

 


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Snap Crackle Pop!

28 February 2015

Chinese New  Year 2015

Chinese New Year celebrations run for 15 days… and we’ve been totally overwhelmed with food, family, festivities and fireworks!

I love this time of year!


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3 Seconds of Weightlessness

26 February 2015

Jetty Jumping

I tried NOT to think about it.

I knew if I actually stopped and considered my situation, I would find myself overcome with fear.

I took two fast steps towards the edge of the wooden jetty and leaped high into the air. In the 3 seconds before my feet touched the water, my senses exploded and I was suddenly so aware of the moment. As they say, it was as if time had frozen.

3 seconds is not very long. But curiously, it was long enough for me to have a conversation with myself, in my head.

Stay upright. Don’t do anything silly. This will be over in a sec. You want to be alive at the end. Just hit the water with your feet. Don’t land on your back or head. Mother Karen has spoken.

I’m weightlessness. I’m floating. I’m flying. I’m suspended in air. This feels unnatural.

My hair is going to get wet. Thank you stating the obvious.

I’m falling. Like in my dreams. This is a bit freaky. My stomach is going wobbly. I want to throw up. Oh god why am I taking so long to hit the water? I don’t like falling. I tense my body.

As I hit the water, it swallowed me up.

Cold fingers of water slid up my legs in an instant; up my stomach, up my chest, up my neck. It snaked around my ears, across my face, up over my head, like urgent hands pawing through my hair.

The sky disappeared. The world turned blue. A white ceiling appeared above my head. The blue squeezes my chest and grips my face.

It’s over. I’m cold. And I can’t breathe.

Would I do it again?

I’m not so sure.

Maybe I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I had just screamed, WAAAHHHOOOOOOOOOOO!!

 


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Happy Chinese New Year!

19 February 2015

Chinese New Year 2015

Wishing everyone a Happy Chinese New Year of the Goat!

May your next few weeks be filled with food comas, fat angpows, annoying Chinese New Year music, Asian snacks that you don’t know the name of, and fruit the size of your head!

Love and happiness to you all!


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Monday Morning Catch Ups

16 February 2015

Life has been zooming by so quickly! Suddenly it’s almost March!

I’ve been feeling a strong urge to sit down and take a moment to catch up with everything. So I’m going to try something a little different today. Let’s pretend that we’re at a cafe, having coffee and we’re having a bit of a catch up…

1.
The other morning I had a meeting in the city, but one of my boys turned out to be sick (he was dizzy and nauseous) and he had a strange, sharp pain in his lower abdomen. I had to cancel the meeting, take him to the doctor and keep an eye on him all day – while he stayed in bed, flopped himself around the house and complained how dizzy he was.

I actually thought his appendix ruptured?! But it turned out that he just “might have pulled something” while he was sprinting around the park like crazy, reckless, testosterone-filled boy with his brothers the evening before.

2.
Also last week, my other boy crashed his bike, injured his wrist (slightly), grazed his face (lightly) and broke his adult, front tooth! ARGH! I had to rush him to an emergency, after-hours dental clinic to get x-rays and fix his tooth.

Sure I was worried about the accident, a possible head injury and possible broken bones… but above all, I was extremely grumpy about the dental bills and that he was so careless and reckless!

3.
My two big boys, aged 11 and 9, have shared a room for the last 5 years and I believe it’s because of this that they have formed a really strong, brotherly bond. It’s been the best thing for them. But a few weeks ago, we decided that they needed a bit of space for themselves and we moved my oldest boy into his own room, that is, into the room that I have been using for my office. This obviously meant that I had to move my office/work things OUT of that room.

So for the last 4 weeks, I have been on an almighty clean-up and organisation frenzy of our entire house! I’ve been trying to do about 1-2 hours of cleaning, sorting, throwing and organising per day. I’m almost done!

4.
I received a sample of Organic Chamomile Flower Tea, and have been totally obsessed with it. It’s floral, but gorgeously smooth and earthy. Nothing like the stuff from the supermarket! It comes in a loose leaf form, which really makes it look like a bag of dried-up garden clippings. In fact it looks exactly like the daggy bowl of potpourri in my mother’s toilet window sill.

5.
My husband has been super busy at work lately. He usually gets home *just* in time for dinner, after which we all take a sunset walk in the park. It’s so nice to get out of the house during that time; we all chit chat about our day and have a kind of family news-telling session. My husband and I quickly work out what each child needs for the rest of the evening: to work quietly on a school project, to finish homework on the computer, do some research on an interesting topic, to chill out and watch a bit of TV, or to RUN around and use up some of their youthful energy… then my husband and I will split up the tasks so we can have one-on-one time with each of them. It’s hard work, tiring but… fulfilling!

6.
In terms of exercise, I haven’t been running or cycling lately. I have just been doing full-body workout routines at home, at night, after the kids go to bed. I work up a sweat with my floor exercises and dumbbells and I can feel all my muscles (and ass) getting bigger, tighter and rounder! Way hey!

7.
Oh and netball! I play netball once a week. I still love it. My team mates and I have been playing so well lately. The other night we were against a team, that we had previously lost to. But we were on fire, we totally smashed the game and we won! It was a sweet victory for us. It’s such a buzz to win!

8.
A friend of mine is currently going through a family crisis, which has collided with their home renovation plans. So another friend of mine has helped them out by organising a backyard busy bee for them. About 30-50 people (including kids!) from our school community turned up to help; each person doing a little bit of mowing, weeding, moving sand, cleaning walls, window washing, cutting trees, digging out stumps, moving rocks, shifting bricks, demolishing a shed. 7-8 hours of work on a 40C day! What an amazing little community I live in! What an amazing bunch of people I know!

9.
I’m really looking forward to the Chinese Lunar New Year (on the 19th February)! Can’t wait to hang out with my aunties, uncles and cousins again. All my clean eating, healthy salads, raw smoothies will be going out the window. I’m going to get stuck into some roast pork, roast duck and peanut cookies!

10.
Ahh, March is party month for us. My husband’s birthday, our wedding anniversary, my 2nd son’s birthday, my 3rd son’s birthday fall in March. I can’t wait to organise some kick-arse parties!

Bring on March!

 


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Regular, Super or Super Slim?

6 February 2015

So my husband asked me to pop into the “car parts shop” to buy a light bulb for our car’s rear brake light.

Say what?

You want me to go where? To buy what?

Looking for a light bulb

[Stares blankly at a wall full of car lights bulbs...]

I NOW understand the *brainmelt* that occurs when I ask my husband to buy tampons :P


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May Street Larder, East Fremantle

3 February 2015

May Street Larder

I was invited to the launch of May Street Larder, a brand new cafe in East Fremantle, by the same people who founded the beachside restaurant Bib & Tucker : Eamon Sullivan (the Olympic swimmer) and chef Scott Bridger.

The cafe is focused on clean, healthy eating – right up my alley! Think raw, vegan, organic, paleo dishes with lots of salads and superfoods – but with a few kitchen favourites like slow cooked pork, slow cooked lamb and house smoked salmon. Yum!

They make everything from scratch (or sourced locally) using old-style cooking techniques, like fermenting, pickling and preserving, but with a modern twist. I saw homemade pickles, jams, breads, tomato sauces, sweets, sodas, honey, cured meats and smoked fish.

May Street Larder

I turned up to the event early and managed to snap a few photos of the interior before the guests arrived.

The cafe was lovely and spacious! There were lots of tables and seating, and even a little lounge area with a cute couch and lounge chairs for maximum chillaxing.

May Street Larder

There was tonnes of natural light streaming in from the big windows, bouncing off the subdue colour palatte and casting a modern freshness into the space.

May Street Larder

I loved the eclectic mix of antique collectables, natural surfaces, and random kitchen objects with old-world details.

May Street Larder

During the launch, the kitchen offered us a special kind of menu sampler, where we could mix and match various proteins and salads. They had all the food lined up at the counter, we could select what we wanted and it would be piled onto our plate – mess hall style! This is not the usual menu and eating format though.

When it was my turn to choose my food, I apologised FIRST to the waitstaff (which is never a good sign for them, I’m sure)… then I asked them *ever so* politely if I could have TWO plates and if they could arrange TWO meals nicely, so I could photograph them. Or maybe I could arrange it myself? With a spare fork? Could you please get a spare fork for me? Can you put that piece of trout just off the centre of the plate? Can I have THAT potato instead of this one, because that one looks nicer? Oh you put too much green on the plate, it looks off-balanced, could you take some off?

I’m sure she was thinking – CURSE THESE BLOODY FOOD BLOGGERS!

Thankfully Scott, the head chef, realised what I was trying to do, so he cut in and worked his cheffy magic. He plated it up beautifully! Thanks Scott! The dish looked great – balanced, not too fussy, neat but still with an accidental cool to it, haha!

I chose the house smoked trout and some kind of kale salad and root vegetable… Not sure exactly what I had, but it tasted really good! So fresh, tender and “clean”.

May Street Larder

This was my second plate.  The slow cooked pork and CRACKLING was amazing!!

The roasted veggies were lovely too.

May Street Larder

May Street Larder is the first and only place in Perth to offer CocoWhip. It’s made from natural coconut water and a coconut probiotic (that’s it!), and churned into a creamy, silky, smooth, cold, kind of soft serve. It tastes a bit like a mild coconut sorbet, but much lighter, smoother, and with significantly less sugar than any sorbet I’ve ever tasted.

It’s sugar free, 99% fat free, gluten free, dairy free and lactose free. It’s also served with goji berries, cacao nibs and a lupin granola.

It’s the hippest little vegan soft serve I’ve ever seen!

May Street Larder

Big thanks to Eamon and Scott for the invite.

I’ll definitely be bringing my girlfriends back for brunch!

May Street Larder
155 Canning Hwy (Corner of Canning Hwy and May Street)
East Fremantle
Open for breakfast and lunch.

You can find them on May Street Larder Facebook


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Our Big, Wobbly, Blue Thing

28 January 2015

When we bought our house (many years ago), there was a swimming pool in the backyard.

While it’s quite common to find pools in suburban backyards in Australia, this pool was really old (and ugly) and it was not very well looked after by the previous owners. So we would have needed to spend something like $7,000 – $10,000 to refurbish and fix it.

The pool was also right smack bang in the middle of the backyard; it was all fenced up and it pretty much took up the WHOLE backyard. There was no where for our kids to run around or play.

Added to that, both my husband and I have lived in homes with swimming pools and we knew the time and cost associated with keeping a pool. AND for 7-8 months of the year in Perth, the weather gets a little too cold for swimming, which means we have to look after the pool even though we’re not swimming in it for most of the year.

So basically, after long deliberation… my husband and I decided to get rid of the pool.

Fast forward to the present… boy do we we regret that decision!

Ok we don’t REGRET-regret it. We just feel a little annoyed every time we have to pay $22.40 for our whole family to visit the local swimming pool.

I suppose swimming at the beach and river is FREE. But trips to the beach or river is usually a 3-4 hour day trip, plus money spent on lunch/coffee/ice creams. Which is fine, really. If we want to save money, we just have to be more organised to pack a healthy lunch and snacks. However, it’s a little trickier to organise a QUICK swim at the beach during the school term. And it’s a bit annoying when you make all that effort to go to the beach and the kids only spend 30 minutes in the water.

Oh my god! Listen to me whinge and complain about my first world problems!

I should have just started this post with – LOOK AT OUR NEW POOL!

Paddel Pool

We got an above ground pool, which is about 5m x 5m round! It’s huge!

My husband and I – having grown up with REAL swimming pools – did not think very highly of above ground pools. (Because ahem, they looked like oversized paddle pools for toddlers!)

Nonetheless, we set it up under our patio (in the shade), filled it to a depth of 60cm, and we put a special pool cover over it so we can get the temperature to stay at a gorgeous 28C – 30C.

IT IS AMAAAZING! The kids are in and out of the pool 3 or 4 times a day. They can invite their friends over and they ALL play happily for hours. They are so happy. I AM SO HAPPY.

My 5 year old, who, before Christmas was terrified of putting his head underwater and used to wrap his arms around my neck like a scared koala whenever he was in water, is now a confident swimmer who happily duck dives for coins off the bottom of the pool! He made ALL that progress in 2 weeks!

Paddle Pool

And of course I had to take a selfie of myself in the pool! Wayhey!

Yes I’m still wearing my day makeup and earrings, and everything looks very nice and peaceful in the setting sun. But I should have turned the camera around and taken a photo of my kids… who were standing on the other side of the camera aiming their water pistols at me!!

I made a deal with them; if they let me take a few photos, and I put the camera away safely without getting it wet, then they could make a whirlpool and squirt me with their water guns :P


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Beachin’ and Loving Life

22 January 2015

Karen and Liam at Coogee Beach, WA

Life has been pretty damn good lately!

We’ve been hanging out at the beach a lot. We usually organise to go with 5 or 6 families from school.

Happy kids, of all ages. Laughter, smiling and playing wonderfully. Beach cricket. Beach soccer. Body boards. Sandcastles. Watermelon. Berries. Sandy beach towels. Chips and dips.

I’m a big believer that a simple life, family and friends, and a sense of community… is the answer to happiness, gratefulness, contentment and success.

I love that all this is around me and I’m living some of the happiest days of my life!

Wishing you all an amazing day!

 


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The Water Diviner (and a dream of Istanbul)

5 January 2015

The Water Diviner

My husband and I recently went to watch the movie, The Water Diviner – a story about an Australian father who travels to Turkey in 1919, to find his three missing sons who fought in the Battle of Gallipoli.

While I don’t usually talk about the movies I watch, I was very struck by this one.

It is a cinematic drama with adventure, romance and a touching storyline; it’s about loss and hope, and it has a certain lightness to it, despite dealing with some pretty heavy issues. It is quite different to all the other war movies that fill our cinemas these days. I really liked it.

Blue Mosque, Istanbul

I also really enjoyed the beautiful cinematography and amazing locations!

One of my aspirations is to visit Turkey and Istanbul one day and visit the mosques, palaces and museums. Seeing bits and pieces of the landscape and interiors in the movie only amplified my desire to travel!

Photo credits: thewaterdivinermovie.com.au


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My Zombie Christmas Ham Gets A Makeover

26 December 2014

In the last few years, we have hosted a large family celebration on Christmas Eve at our house.

For us, this is our “official Christmas dinner” with the turkey, ham, roast vegetables and all the trimmings. Everyone gets dressed up a bit, we sit down for a proper sit-down meal with nice silverware, tablecloth, napkins, decorations and a Christmas centerpiece etc.

I do most of the cooking – which I love to do. I’m pretty organised too. I keep all my recipes in a special Christmas file. I take photos to keep a record of what I did each year, the photos help me keep track of which decorations I used and what my colour theme was. I also make notes on how to improve next year, and place everything into my little file.

So yup, I think I’m pretty awesome… EXCEPT SOMETHING WENT WRONG THIS YEAR!!

Christmas Food 2014

After roasting for 4 hours, I took my ham out of the oven… and it fell apart! It looked soooo baaaad! I was horrified! I was so embarrassed! I wanted to throw it into the bin and start again!

I’m not entirely sure what I did wrong. I swore I followed the recipe to the letter.

Usually I’m a rock star at roasting ham! Usually my hams are a thing of beauty! Usually I get a round of applause when people taste the lush juiciness, the deep sweetness and the complex spices infused in my hams!

This? This one looked like a zombie ham from a horror movie, and that a dog ate half of it!

Sigh.

The ham was falling off the bone. It tasted great, but it just looked AWFUL.

So after some painstaking reconstruction and a some makeover cooking hacks, I managed to pretty it up, slice it up and present it like this:

Christmas Food 2014

Looked OK right?

Thank goodness the Christmas ham was saved!

Christmas Food 2014

To compensate for my ham failure, I managed to make the best looking  and best tasting Yorkshire puddings in my life!

They were the last dish to be cooked before the meal started, and I timed the puddings perfectly, so everyone ate them piping hot from the oven drizzled with gravy. Yuuum!!

I used this recipe, but I used butter and a bit of turkey dripping, instead of sunflower oil.

Christmas Food 2014

This was some of the spread on our dinner table.

Christmas Food 2014

For dessert, my father in law and my 5 year old son made a traditional Christmas pudding. It’s a recipe that has been in the family for decades and basically consists of steaming dried fruit and suet (animal fat) for 8 hours.

The kids fell over themselves (in the dark) to gather around to see the “lighting of the pudding” which is always good fun. Burning brandy is hypnotic!

We served the pudding with hot custard, and while it didn’t look very appealing, it tasted wickedly delicious.

I had 2 bowls and didn’t regret it.

Christmas Food 2014

And speaking of wickedly delicious, you can’t go wrong with a good old Christmas pavlova.

I had 2 slices and I didn’t regret it either!