Monday, November 24, 2008

Accidents. Well, Near-Misses Anyway

I was walking through the CBD on my way to work this morning and saw a lady in front of me narrowly miss being collected by a cyclist.

He had come whizzing down the hill at an incredible pace, and obviously didn't feel like stopping for the red light (or maybe he couldn't? But then why ride in such a fashion that you can't stop in time for red lights?). Cue the little green man for the lady and I to start crossing the road and WHOOPS, he came within half a metre of her as he swerved around (which was part of the evasive manoeuvre he took to avoid someone crossing on the other side of the intersection). The poor lady got a nasty shock.

Lucky for the cyclist that the cars who got the green were a little slow off the mark today, hm? He could have ended up quite messily.

I have no problems with people riding their bicycles on the road (good luck to 'em). But hell, if you're going to do that obey the rules, and watch out for other people.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Music in my life

Let's get a bit personal for a minute.

There has always been music in my life, courtesy of my parents. And if I've swayed more to the rock more than I have to the country and western, I still have favourites that stray into nearly every genre.

I'm home resting today and decided to see how much of my download allowance I could blow on youtube. Not difficult. One of my favourite pasttimes is to look up singers, groups and songs that I love. I thought I'd share a few long-time favourites with you.

I became a big fan of Prince and Dr Hook, to name a couple, when I was little. These two have a lot to answer for - it seems many of my ideas about love and romance and, uh, various other things, might have come from their songs. At first glance Dr Hook may not have much in common with Prince, but they do have certain similarities:

1) Both have a range of incredibly cheeky songs about men, women, and uh, the way they interact. I can't remember who is credited with the quote, but it was said of Prince when he first hit the world that he "sings the unmentionable with the voice of an angel". I have about 95% of his earliest work released, and I can sure as hell attest to that (Soft and Wet, anyone?)! One of the Dr Hook frontmen Dennis Locorriere might not have had the voice of an angel (and often seemed to be stoned off his nut, but it was such a sweet voice to listen to nevertheless), but with songs like "You Make My Pants Want To Get Up And Dance", they sure knew how to have fun.

2) They were both able to turn out a truly beautiful song , even if at times they are just talking about getting laid! and

3) Some bloody good musicians involved. Prince of course is a freakin' master - I think he can play in excess of about 17 instruments. And listen to the guitar work from Dr Hook.

So let me share a couple of choice classics with you.

This one still gives me shivers. I've never felt about anyone the way this song says, but it would be fantastic.

And this one. I'm sure many people chose this as a wedding song.

And some fun ones to finish. I love this song. The story behind it makes me laugh no-end.

With this one... this is the album version, with someone's powerpoint slide for the graphics... but the only other version I found of this song was just too scary to watch!!

Choosing which clips to put up here was so difficult... I mean, how could I not include Up On The Mountain, or Jungle To The Zoo, or I Don't Want To Be Alone Tonight, or If Not You, or Storms Never Last, or Only Sixteen, or , or... well, you get the picture

It's hard to find clips of Prince music anywhere on the www these days... the few I did find on youtube had no sound :-( Although I did find a clip for Batdance... it showcases all that was NOT good about the 80s! Although I have to admit the B-side for this song, 200 Balloons, was cool: similar to the Batdance song, but better. That first Batman with Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton is still my favourite in the Batman series.

Belluci's Woden

4 Irving Street
Woden ACT 2606
P: 02 6282 1700

I remember, back in 1999-2000 when I worked up in Watson on the Federal Highway Duplication, the boss would send me out to get pizza's for the team every now and then. And I'd go to Belluci's in Dickson for them. They always did do damned nice pizza.

When you go to somewhere like Belluci's for dinner you expect a good dining experience. When the total bill is nearly $90 for two mains, two desserts, a glass of house white and a soft drink, you expect something (excuse me) FKN good. Well, I do. As it was handy to N's place we went to the Belluci's in Woden.

N has always loved this pizza: the Belluci Special. I can't for the life of me remember what's on it, but yes, you do spy avocado. We had planned for me to try a piece, but she cleared the lot herself (we're both still amazed). This was a pretty decent sized pizza too! Imagine a "large" Dominoes kind of size. Check out the base - looks good.

In my quest to fully embrace seafood I decided on the cod with a Russian salad of potatoes and peas with herbs in an anchovy mayonnaise. Shame it was on the specials board and I didn't see the cost. I have no complaints about the serving size. And it was quite tasty. I especially loved the salad (mmm potatoes). Sadly the cod was a little overdone in one place, and a trifle underdone in another. How is that possible?! The bits that were perfectly cooked were nice, but... Unfortunately it cemented the opinion, in my mind, that you can not get decent seafood in Canberra. Even at $30 for a small/mid-sized fillet. Hope the boss will sign off that particular expense...

As we'd quite deliberately avoided entrées hoping to leave room for desserts, we figured we should follow through on the idea. Can you believe N has never had crème brulée?! No, I couldn't believe it either. Thankfully she ordered this one, which came out with chips of almond biscotti. I heard the satisfying CRACK when she broke through the toffee surface, and it was apparently great. Glad to hear it :-)

Since the brulée was taken care of I thought I'd branch out and ordered the apple and rhubarb crumble. It came out with vanilla bean ice cream. This was seriously fabulous, although I burnt my tongue :-(

The service was great. The food was very good... except for the disappointing fish. Even so, I'm not sure I'd go back again. Unless it was a special occasion. And I'd probably steer clear of seafood... Or have I just been spoilt by the superior dining experiences I've had here in Melbourne? An intersting point to ponder...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I lived in Canberra for nearly eight years. By the end of that I was positively screaming to leave. To this day, more than three years later, I'm very grateful for whatever made me take the plunge and leave, and to work for letting me make the move to Melbourne and keep my job while I'm at it - it took a large weight off my mind! And until this year any trip back to Canberra for work was usually greeted (by me) with a long-suffering sigh and much rolling of the eyes. But earlier this year that all changed.

For one thing, a good friend of mine moved back there. And then she had her son. Now I have two really, really big reasons to look forward to any trip to Canberra. This week was one of those times and, with N's permission, I'd like to introduce you to them.

This is N and her son D. On N's request I've blanked out D's face, and I made the offer knowing she would agree. But if you could just see the big grin on his face in this pic...

And in this one too! Yep, there's Aunty Anna, doing the soppy holding-the-baby thing. I've never been big on babies, really. They've always kinda scared me - I'm scared I'll drop 'em, or hold 'em too tight, or they'll cry... I'm still scared! But holding D and watching him is just amazing. He hadn't seen me since he was four days old, so to start with he wasn't sure if he liked the look of me or not. But once I made the knitted blue whale toy I'd brought him put little whale kisses all over his face and hands (and he'd had a feed...) he warmed up :-) I got drooled on, and I didn't even mind (well, not much...). I can't wait to see him grow and the person he'll continue to develop into.

And this is all good practice for me for when I my brother has his first, due next year. But D will always be my favourite little man :-)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Woodend Market

So what do you do on a lazy sunny Sunday when you have to take it easy? I know! You hitch a lift with the oldies along leafy shaded roads to the Woodend Market!

Of course, it being a Sunday, it was about lunch time by the time we got there and, as we meandered through town I spied Bourkies Bakehouse on the corner opposite the markets. They were quite proudly advertising that that they were Vanilla Slice Champions. That's a pretty damn big claim. And I figure I'm fairly well qualified to offer an opinion. Besides, there's something about warm flaky pastry, meaty filling, and tomato sauce that just gets me salivating, so it seemed like a logical choice for lunch.

Here you can see a few different types of vanilla slice, as well as custard tarts, apple slice, apple pie, and some jam-and-cream buns.

Please excuse the worse-than-usual quality of the pictures - I was stuck with my phone and the camera in it ain't so great... hard to believe the model I was using a few years ago took pictures that far surpass the last two phones I've had... but I digress. This is a "charming" and "quaint" little moving display in the corner of the bakehouse... some things are just a little too cutesy for me...

We ordered, clockwise from front-right, vanilla slice, regular sausage roll, steak and onion pie, curry steak pie, mini apple pies, and a plain steak pie. D had already eaten his large sausage roll by the time I got to the table, so I'm not sure how it stacks up in size to the regular. I loved the sausage roll - perfectly flaky pastry (which was repeated in all the pies), not an overly greasy filling, great flavours. The steak and onion pie was delicious, with big chunks of onion sitting on top of hearty gravy-and-meaty filling sitting just under the pastry top. The steak and curry pie was apparently almost like someone had made a beef curry on rice, then cooked it in a pie case. The plain steak was reported to also be pretty good. D and D-W thoroughly enjoyed their apple pies.

And the vanilla slice? Hm, it was pretty damn good. But a "champion" vanilla slice? I'm not sure, I think the one I had in Sorrento (someone help me out - would that have been at the Sorrento Village Bakehouse?) topped this one. But it's a VERY close call. Take a trip to Woodend on the 3rd Sunday of the month and decide for yourself :-)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Caramel and Coconut Jam Slices

I was frantically searching through every box in my house (and that's a whole other saga) and stumbled across a book that I had completely forgotten about... gee I hope I haven't borrowed it off someone and forgotten... Anyway, it's called "Basics to Brilliance Slices Recipes" from the Family Circle test kitchen.

With a little family day happening today to, in part, celebrate me no longer working Sundays, I decided to make a couple to dish up as afternoon tea/dessert. Aside from my mother's chocolate slice (of which there is a version in this book too), there are two slices that rate right up there on my favourites list - caramel slice, and coconut slice. And they were in the book! Yay!

Caramel Slice

1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup self-raising flour
1 cup dessicated coconut
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
100g butter

30g butter
2tbl golden syrup
400g can condensed milk

125g dark chocolate, chopped
30g butter

Preheat oven to 180C. Line base and sides of a shallow 28x18cm tin with aluminium foil.
Sift flours into a medium bowl; add coconut and make a well in the centre. Combine sugar and butter in a small pan and stir over a medium heat until butter has melted and sugar dissolved.
Add butter mixture to flours and stir until well combined. Press over base of prepared tin, using the back of a spoon. Bake for 10 minutes; leave to cool.
To make filling, combine butter, syrup and condensed milk in a small pan. Stir constantly over a low heat for about 10 minutes until mixture boils and lightly browns (and careful if the bubbles spit at you!). Pour over pastry base and bake for 20 minutes. Set aside until completely cold.
To make topping, combine chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl. Stand bowl over a pan of simmering water until chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Spread over caramel filling. Leave to set. Using foil, lift slice from tin; cut into squares to serve.
This can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Cos of the weather I kept it in the fridge.

Coconut Jam Slice

1/2 cups plain flour
150g butter
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/3 cup strawberry jam (I used raspberry)

1/3 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
2 cups dessicated coconut, toasted (I couldn't be bothered toasting it)

Preheat oven to 180C. Line base of slice tin with baking paper, extending over two sides.
Place flour, butter and icing sugar in a food processor. Using the pulse action, process for 30 seconds until mixture comes together. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and press together until smooth. Press dough into prepared tin; refrigerate 10 minutes. Bake for 15 minutes, or until just set; leave to cool. Spread jam over cooled base.
To make topping, place sugar and eggs in a medium mixing bowl and whisk until combined. Stir in coconut.(cos I'm greedy I made 1.5 times the recipe amount... don't recommend it)
Spread topping over jam, pressing with the back of a spoon. Bake 20 minutes, until lightly golden. Cut when cold.
This can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Again, because of the weather I kept this in the fridge.

Both slices seemed popular. But gee, I think I need some practice on them. I might need to make them again......


Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Prince &.... Someone

The slices are made, the kebabs are prepared, the food is ready for tomorrow, and I find myself, at the end of this rather busy, emotional Saturday, sprawled in front of the TV with several glasses of wine, watching Julia Stiles in The Prince & Me.

Between you and me, I can admit that I have a somewhat soft and squidgy spot in my heart for romantic comedies and dramas. It's incredibly female, but that's just the way it is. And they brought to Ms Stiles to my attention. I admire Julia's acting abilities. She's tried her hand at a few different genres, and I really can't wait to see how her career continues to develop. Fingers crossed she goes a long way.

But now to look back at the TV for the tear-jerker final scenes... haha.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Tomato, Beans, and Calabresi

It's amazing what kind of meals can be born of desperation. Stuck with the contents of my pantry for dinner, I figured I'd make a tomato-based pasta sauce with a can of 4-bean mix and see what vegies I had in the freezer to add to it. But on my rummage through the fridge I unearthed an as-yet untouched stick of calabresi salami. Oooooh. This might have some potential.

I sliced about half the salami stick (so about 125g) into thin diagonal pieces, then cut these in half, cos it's all about aesthetics, y'know ;-) I may have nibbled a few pieces too... mmm spicy. I gave these a light fry in a dry pan then turned them out onto some paper towel and used some more paper towel to wipe the pan to get rid of most of the oil.

After that I threw a 400g can of diced tomatoes in with a handful of dried herbs and set it over a low heat. I drained a can of four-bean mix and tossed those into the tomatoes. Then I thought "hm, wonder if this'll thicken up...." so I mixed a bit of cornflour with a little water in the tomato tin and added that too. I let this simmer and thicken while the pasta cooked, and added the salami for the last 5 minutes.

Once I'd drained the pasta I added the sauce and mixed it all together. The sauce clung to the pasta very nicely, if I do say so myself. There was a nice tinge of spice through the dish, and I can't wait to have the leftovers tomorrow. This dish can stand a bit of refinement, but for a first try I'll call it a winner. It might not look the best, but dang, the flavour was spot on. And the average cost per serve? Damn cheap. Perfect for those times when you're out of dosh, and it's not quite pay-day.