Saturday, 7 March 2015

Cocktail Party!


A few weeks ago I had a great night in with girlfriends having a cocktail party. For some reason, one of my friends had a huge array of spirits left over form various events, so combined with a few mixers and bits and pieces we brought, we could almost make any coktails we fancied... 

We started out the evening photographing and 'reviewing' each drink we made, but that didn't last all that long... :) but here are a few thoughts and a couple of pics of our concoctions.

We started the evening with an old favourite, a Cosmopolitan. Everyone liked that one, and it was described as 'refreshing' and 'zesty'. It was nice to start with something not too sweet.

Next up, I tried my hand at cocktail invention. Much to my (and probably everyone else's ) surprise, it ended up being one of the favourites of the night. We named it Suz's Surprise, and it contained Gin, Vanilla Galliano, Rasberry Cordial, Pomegranate Juise and Lemonade (and the secret ingredient was a cocktail shaker half filled with peas, but that's another story......). Suz's Surprise was described as 'smooth', 'fresh', 'sweet', 'tangy', an 'island drink' (definitely need a little umbrella! ) and 'easy to drink'.
 
Next up was Jen's spin on the Blue Illusion. It was a beautiful teal colour, and thoughts included 'Phwoar!' (It was gorgeous), 'visually stunning', 'packs a punch'.

Next we tried a French Martini, with less success. It wasn't universally liked (a few went down the sink!). Made with Chambord, Vodka and Pineapple Juice, it was quite sweet, wi a slight metallic aftertaste that I didn't find pleasant. And there was a 'distinct lack of garnish!'.

The last drink to be recorded was a good old Midori Splice. I'm not a fan of creamy cocktails, so I stuck to my favourite Midori and Pineapple Juice, while the others joined me in the tropics with Midori, Cream, Vodka, Pineapple Juice, and Coconut Essence (since the was no Malibu). 

I think later in the night (earlier in the morning...) they moved onto Margherita's, but I was heading home then. A fun night had by all, not too worse for wear the next morning and Cocktails are so pretty, aren't they? :) 

Monday, 15 December 2014

Bombshells

A few months ago I wrote a review for Theatrepeople.com.au that for some reason dropped off the site.  Since I am trying to keep links to all my reviews accessible online, I am posting it here, so I can link back to this post.

Bombshells

‘Bombshells’ by prominent Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith is a fast paced, witty series of monologues from six different females characters, ranging from frantic stay at home mum, to confident teen, and aging widow. The characters of Meryl, Tiggy, Mary, Theresa, Winsome and Zoe, were all played by Christen O’Leary. As often seems to be the case in this kind of show, the character’s lives all interact at some stage, albeit briefly in some cases.
‘Bombshells’ showcases O’Leary’s stunning versatility. Not simply through the addition of singing and dance to the spoken monologues, but through her characterisations, from accents to body language. Each character was distinctly different, brought to life by O’Leary’s significant talent. Some of the characters were more ‘real’ and allowed the audience to really empathise and connect with the performance, however. ‘Meryl’, for example, presented a non-stop, almost hysterical internal voice monologue of the thought processes of a stressed and anxious suburban mother. O’Leary barely took a breath during this entire scene, and her performance captured the nature of the sometimes irrational and cruel inner voice that we have all experienced in times of stress. ‘Tiggy’s’ presentation that highlighted the unlikely similarities between raising cacti, and relationships, was heartbreakingly intense and ‘Winsome’s’ monologue, in contrast to the others, was calm and dignified, while dealing with concepts of loss and loneliness, and joy in the unexpected. The characters of ‘Mary’, ‘Theresa’ and ‘Zoe’ were more stylised and less ‘real’ – it was harder to get lost in their story, particularly Zoe, where her stage persona and subsequent vocal performances were somewhat distracting from the individuals actual story. This was definitely more about how the characters were written than O’Leary’s portrayal however, which was consistently impressive.
Some aspects of the set design and staging were a little confusing. The set was relatively simple, consisting of a small dressing room-like area, with a traditional theatre lit mirror and a rack for costumes on stage right, a photographic seamless white backdrop in the centre and an armchair on stage left. Several photographic studio lights were also placed around the stage.  The show began with O’Leary seated in the armchair and appearing to be learning her lines, reading a script and running over and over (and forgetting) what turned out to be the first few lines of the first monologue, before drifting off to sleep. Once the first character monologue began, I kept expecting that the relevance of that opening would be explained, but the concept was never touched upon again. The appearance of the set as a photographic studio was also not explained, other than that each monologue ended with a flash, and a photograph of that character would appear on the backdrop. It was unclear why ‘Meryl’ had a series of ‘photos’ taken throughout her monologue – that didn’t happen again with the other characters. Having not seen a performance of ‘Bombshells’ before, I would be curious to know how much of this staging related to the script, and how much was David Bell’s directorial input. This staging appeared to draw attention to the artificiality of the theme – to highlight the ‘performance’ aspect, rather than allow the subtle connections between the characters to drive the story. The ‘dressing room’ effect did provide an ideal location for O’Leary to create each character, with minor costume, makeup and accessory changes. A single item of clothing for each scene was used successfully to create a distinct character.
Sound and lighting was minimal, but used to good effect. As well as the photographic flash effects, the lighting was used to create an interesting shadow effect during ‘Mary’s’ dance scene and to highlight ‘Zoes’ cabaret style performance, and sound was used to accompany several musical components of the monologues, and to provide additional characters, such as the teacher announcing ‘Mary’s’ talent show.
The script itself was highly entertaining, with lots of laughs, particularly during the ‘Mary’, ‘Tiggy’ and ‘Winsome’ monologues.  This may have related as much to the stronger relationship the audience felt with those characters, as it did to the actual comedic content of those scenes.

‘Bombshells’ was both amusing and thought provoking, and the energy and commitment that Christen O’Leary brought to each character was amazing. A very worthwhile way to spend an evening – playing at The Malthouse Theatre until the 28th.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

New beads...

Thought I would just post a few pics of latest things I've been working on. A lot of them have already sold, which is a bit exciting! :)












Cider tasting - Reviews

Last night I had the privilege of spending a relaxing, enjoyable evening with some lovely ladies, some of whom I don't get to see all that often. Our theme for the evening was cider tasting - inspired by the wealth of flavoured ciders now available on the market, with wild and wonderful flavour combinations, most of which we had never tried. Everyone brought a few bottles of unusual cider, and we started working our way through them. It ended up being a night of very responsible drinking, as we only made it through 6 small bottles for the 4 of us in about 5 hours, but it was a great night. We decided we should document our cider tasting adventures - there is bound to be a sequel post in the not to distant future, as there are several bottles left in the fridge, or taken home by the girls - maybe I should get them in as 'guest bloggers' to tell us about the ones they took....?



So, on to our reviews.  First we tried the Old Mout Passionfruit Cider. We found it very easy to drink, "a good starter". The passionfruit flavour wasn't as strong as we expected, and we weren't sure if that was due to other flavours competing (we were eating cheese, dip, kabana etc) or the cider itself.  It wasn't overly sweet, but went down very easily.  The labeling is also not very enticing - doesn't scream 'pick me, pick me!'

Next up we tried the Koppaberg Blueberry and Lime Cider. It immediately became the favourite and remained so for the next few bottles. Again, not overly sweet, very smooth, with a good flavour balance - the sweet balanced nicely by the slight tartness of the lime. A really lovely drink! Some of the girls thought the label design was a bit masculine - they might not have picked it off the shelf on impulse.

Moving on, we tried the Sidra del Verano Apple, Blackcurrant and Cranberry. This was also a very pleasant drop.  The cranberry flavour was dominant (even one of our number who doesn't like Blackcurrant at all enjoyed this). Again, not overly sweet (which can be an issue with flavoured ciders) - and we thought the packaging was 'classy'.

Next up was the Cheeky Raskal Apple and Guava. This was very different - quite bitter, this is not a flavour for the sweet tooth. We found it necessary to make sure we 'cleansed the palette' before and after this drink - the bitterness tended to linger.  We were divided on this one - 2 of us enjoyed it, and 2 found it much too bitter and the aftertaste unpleasant. By this stage we all agreed the Blueberry and Lime was still our favourite.

We eventually moved on to the Herrljunga Strawberry and Vanilla. This was bumped to first place for most of us, 2nd for others. very sweet, but not cloying, the Vanilla flavour was "a delightful addition". The flavour lingered pleasantly on the palette.

Finally we departed from the cider, and tried Strawberry Hard Ice Tea. Drinkable for non tea drinkers, but with a discernible tea flavour. Similar in flavour to the strawberry and vanilla cider, but without the crisp bite you get with cider, and a little less sweet overall. We all found it immensely improved with the addition of a slice or squeeze of lemon.

We ended the night by individually ranking the flavours...



It was a fun night trying all the new flavours, relaxing, eating good food in good company - thanks ladies!


Friday, 2 May 2014

A Fresh Start

The last few weeks have seen a resurgence for me on the creative front. For the first time in a couple of years, I have been making beads regularly, and enjoying the process. I made 65 beads over the school holidays (probably a day or two's work for my full time beadmaking friends, but a big deal for someone who has made 10 in 2 years). I torched almost every day the second week of the holidays. I usually get about 2 hours in before my joints start to seize up or I get bored or frustrated, so as soon as it wasn't fun anymore, I stopped.  This has allowed me to make several full sets as well as experiment with new designs, so now I am preparing for an online 'trunk' sale in a couple of Facebook groups.  I have also had a couple of individual sales on FB, although I admit I am struggling to get comfortable with pricing regarding postage, bead style and complexity, quantity etc.  A lot of beads are being sold in those groups, and I still can't work out why something will sell and something else wont. I've been told for years that I under price my work, but when I added to the price to subsidise the $14 postage from Oz, sets don't sell.  I'm thinking maybe really large sets would help solve that issue.... so postage is a fraction of the worth. The advantage of FB as a sales venue is no fees for relisting, so there is much less stress involved in the process.  If I sell a handful of piece in my trunk sale, I'll be a happy camper!

So, I've finally said goodbye to this set this week - they were on the cover of a beading magazine here in Australia several years ago.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Return to Paradise...

This week we are back in Port Douglas after around 10 years, maybe a bit less. It is one of our favourite Australian holiday destinations. It was always fairly low key and relaxed, with a bit of a Seaside village feel. It has definitely grown, but is not too much more built up, which is lovely, and so many of the same businesses are here - such as the apartments we are staying in and our favourite company for snorkeling on the reef, Wavelength. http://www.wavelength.com.au . Friday was our 8th trip out with them, we estimate, and we head out again tomorrow. Fantastic service, lovely staff, great snorkel sites, yummy lunch - what more could you ask for?  











Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year! And bring on the sun!

Since I only seem to find the motivation and time to blog when I am traveling or working on a new project, I will probably be posting a few times over the next couple of weeks. I am off to Port Douglas in Far North Queensland. It is one of my husband and I's favourite holiday destinations, but we haven't been in close to a decade, so we are really looking forward to it. We also have a friend traveling with us, and I love sharing a place I love with people who haven't been, so that will be a lot of fun. Taking someone snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef for the first time is wonderful!  So, back in a few days with lots of photos!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Theatrepeople Update - All my reviews/articles so far...

I know I haven't posted for an incredibly long time.  Life isn't lending itself to having the time or inclination for blogging at the moment....  And I'm afraid this won't really break that drought - I'm merely updating an earlier post that lists all my Theatrepeople articles and Reviews, so I have them all in one spot....
MLOC is Dreaming of a White Christmas, Nov 2009
S By Circa May 2014
Grounded June 2014
Best of the Fest June 2014
Unpack This June 2014
Sunglasses at Night June 2014
Les Femmes July 2014
Bombshells Sept 2014
The Misadventures of Miss Boozy Rouge Nov 2014
Close To The Bone Dec 2014
Carribean Pirates at the Polly Woodside Jan 2015
Michael Griffith's Adolescent Jan 2015
Dirty Dancing March 2015
Talk Show April 2015
The Lady Sings Better April 2015

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A Great Read

A few years ago, one of my beadmaking friends, the lovely Deanna Chase, who makes beautiful beads, started talking about writing a book.  I think she started off with the annual challenge to write a novel in 40 days that a lot of people participate in online.  I have known a number of people who express interest in writing a book, but not everyone has the talent, the drive and the creative edge to make it happen. 

I was very fortunate to be able to participate in the process as Deanna worked towards her goal. I was one of a lucky group of people who got sneak updates, as I helped with proofreading and general 'Beta' reading for her, and it was great fun and very exciting to see her talent and realise that this could really be happening for her - she might very well be published! 

I was so excited to see her first book Haunted on Bourbon Street come out - I had to buy it in both paperback and for Kindle, (so I could read it while waiting for my international parcel to arrive) but it would have been well worth the wait. Its a great book, not a genre that I had previously read (paranormal romance), but entertaining and with great characters and an intriguing story. And it was fun to read about a character who was a beadmaker also. I was also so touched and honoured to be mentioned in the acknowledgements.

In less than a year, Deanna then went on to complete the 2nd book, Witches of Bourbon Street and she is currently having an amazing sale, offerring both these books together in a set for only $1.99 Barnes & Noble and Amazon for a limited time.  At that price, you couldn't possibly go wrong!!

Congratulations Deanna!!!

Monday, 26 March 2012

Portuguese Pork and Darphin Potatoes

A few years ago, when I first read Julie & Julia, I thought "what a great idea - wish I'd thought of that!". And I discounted anything similar as jumping on the bandwagon.  But its been months since I blogged - when I'm travelling seems to be the only time I think of it, and I have a huge collection of cookbooks that don't really get used all that much lately. Partly because I tend to use them as inspiration these days, rather than actually following a recipe, partly because I don't entertain as much as I used to, and also because my husband has been doing most of the cooking for the last few years, while he hasn't been working full time.

So, without any rigorous schedule like Julie used, and without aiming at any specific cookbook, I'm going to aim to cook a new recipe of some kind, from one of my books, at least once a week.

Last night I started the ball rolling with a recipe from my Slow Cooking cookbook. I bought some very lean diced pork at the Asian grocers this week, so I went looking for a recipe to use it.  I settled on Portuguese Pork with Cumin  and to accompany it, I made Darphin Potatoes  from a new book The Original Masterclass: Le Cordon Bleu: Potatoes.

The pork was nice, but I was disappointed the sauce didn't thicken. I don't think it was supposed to, and if I'd been cooking in my usual way (ie making it up as I go along) I would have stirred through some sour cream, or thickened the gravy with cornflour. Instead, I turned it up and left the lid off for the last 30 min of the 4 1/2 hr cooking time, and I think I may have overcooked the pork, as it was a little drier than I expected.  Nice subtle flavours though.  The potatoes were tasty - seasoned only with salt and pepper, they were a great accompaniment to the pork.

Portuguese Pork with Cumin

3 Cloves Garlic, crushed
I tsp Ground Cumin
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
2 Tsp Dijon Mustard
1/2 Cup dry white wine
1/4 cup fresh coriander
750g Pork fillet
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, sliced
3/4 cup chicken stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
coriander leaves to garnish

1. Mix together the first 7 ingredients in a bowl and marinate the pork - coat well.
2. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a large frying pan over medium to high heat. Remove pork from marinade with a slotted spoon, reserving the liquid. Fry in batches till golden. Heat remaining oil and cook onions until soft.
3. Place Pork and Onion in the slow cooker, set on low, with marinade and chicken stock.. Cover and simmer for 4 1/2 hrs. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with coriander leaves. Serve with Lemon wedges and fried potatoes.


There is a saying in my family that we are incapable of following a recipe without replacing various ingredients until it barely resembles the original.... While I was intending to follow this recipe, it wasn't planned, so I did have to leave out or substitute a few things. I used french mustard instead of Dijon, because that's what I had on hand. I didn't have any fresh coriander, so I used ground, and left off the garnish. I didn't have any chicken stock, so I used vegetable... and I've just realised I forgot to add the salt and pepper - I don't use a lot of salt, except in potato dishes (no danger I'd forget to season the Darphin Potatoes!).


Darphin Potatoes

4 medium Potatoes
Oil or clarified butter


1. Peel the potatoes and place in cold water. heat a heavy based frying pan over medium to lo heat.
2. Grate the potatoes to a straw-like thickness. Work quickly to prevent discolouration, but do not rinse, as the starch will help the cake hold together.
3. Add 2 Tbsp of oil or ghee to the pan. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper and squeeze out excess moisture. Place all the potatoes in the pan and press down into an even layer. Reduce heat to low, give the pan a good shake to loosen. If it sticks, add a bit more oil around the edges and shake again.
4. When the edges begin to colour, turn the cake over and press down again. Give the pan a good shake. Cook until nicely browned. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels before serving.