Friday, 19 June 2015

People you see on the morning commute

I’m starting to love my morning commute on the train more and more every day, there’s always so much to look at.

In my carriage this morning there are four young schoolgirls sitting in front of me.  They are quite young, probably only in their very early teens and they are sitting together and giggling quietly (it is the quiet carriage) and passing their smart phones back and forth while they look at websites. It must be sports day because they are all wearing sporty clothes and school caps instead of hats.

Across the aisle, two friends are comparing makeup products while they put their makeup on for the day.  I am impressed with the amount of kit that they have in their bags. I usually just have some pressed powder and lipstick for emergencies, but they have full bags of material and mirrors to boot.

Further down, a guy dozes against the window – he obviously hasn’t had his morning coffee yet.  Behind him, another guy fits a big pair of headphones over his green beanie (how can he hear the music through them?) and plugs into his phone.  A guy across the aisle has a laptop balanced on his knees and is tapping away with impressive energy for this hour of the morning.

Sitting next to the door is an older gent all dressed up for a day in the city. He’s in neatly pressed jeans, a checked shirt, jacket and an Akubra with a small feather stuck into the band. He looks like a country bloke.  Across from him, another guy is sitting slumped against the side of the chair and looking like he’s had a rough night.  His hair could do with a comb and I think the older gent has clocked this too.

A professional couple are sitting behind me talking about work and training courses. I watched them get on at my station. The woman must have spent at least an hour getting ready for the day as she has styled hair, full makeup and a smart suit.  It seems a bit excessive for a Friday when most people are dressed down in jeans or more casual gear. Maybe she's a lawyer or is making a presentation today.

A young woman gets on the train a few stops from the city and stands next to the door. She’s wearing a short grey dress, long black cardigan that almost reaches her knees, black opaque tights and thick clumpy lace up shoes with three inch soles and five inch heels.  I admire the look but know I’ll never be able to emulate it.  As the train speeds along she pulls a box of almonds from her bag and starts munching – is this breakfast?

With a squeal of breaks and rush of wind, we arrive in the city and stream out the door and up the escalators to start the last working day of the week. Have a great day everyone!

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Back in the big smoke

Gosh, how did all that time pass?   So much for vowing to keep up the weekly posting.  But in my defence, I have been a little bit busy lately because you see, I’ve started a new job.

King George Square from above
After nine years working out in the suburbs, I’ve moved right into the centre of the city and the first week or so was a little bit bewildering as I grappled with unfamiliar public transport, a new job and blustery winter winds all at once. But once things settled, I was able to look around and realise how much things have changed since I last worked in the city.

The first thing that struck me was the increase in traffic. I live less than 10km from the city and on the first day it took me nearly an hour to travel that far by bus – and almost as long to come home again! I’ve since shifted to the train system and it’s much quicker and easier, although I do struggle with the fact that I have to be there at the right time for the train or I miss it. I was so used to jumping in my car whenever I was ready that I’ve had to come up with a whole morning schedule to make sure I get out the door on time. I’m constantly looking at my watch and reminding myself that my hair brushing and makeup slot is coming out and that I better get going if I don’t want to leave the house barefaced and fuzzy haired (although it’s happened once or twice due to lack of time).  I’d get up earlier but it’s just too dark and cold right now. Maybe in summer.

The other thing I can’t get over is how many people spend any spare second they have GLUED to their smart phones. I got on the train yesterday and there were about 30 people in the carriage and there were only about three people in the whole carriage who weren’t head down, finger scrolling their way through some kind of content.  It does make people watching quite entertaining because no one pays attention to you, but I can’t help feeling like we are all missing out on something.

I’ve been enjoying my travelling time by jumping onto my kindle and continuing on with whatever book I’m reading at the moment. That has proved a little bit problematic though, because I’d forgotten that when you are sitting in the ‘quiet’ carriage on the train and you read something funny and you laugh, people notice (except when they are plugged into their smart phones). I’ve been chuckling away at a fabulous book called ‘The year of living Danishly’ by Helen Russell who upped sticks and moved to Billund in Denmark with her husband when he got a job for Lego (did you know that Lego was Danish? I didn’t). She spends the year using her journalistic skills to interview Danes and find out why they have been dubbed the world’s happiest country.  It lists a few too many stats and figures, but there are definitely some laughs to be had and insights into why the Danish way of life produces such happy people.

My last observation is that there still seem to be a lot of smokers in the world and they obviously all work in the city and walk the streets, trailing a wafting stink of smoke in their wake. I mean honestly people, come on! If you are going to inhale the equivalent cost of a cup of coffee into your lungs, can’t you at least go sit down somewhere nice (and far out of the way) and do it? It’s been nearly a decade since I had to be anywhere near smokers and absence hasn’t made my heart grow fonder.

But on the plus side, I’d forgotten what it was like to be able to make a lunchtime run to David Jones and to have to decide which of the dozen sushi shops in the vicinity I’m going to give my patronage to.  The advent of online shopping has filled the hole that an absence of bookshops left, but I do love having so many shoe shops close by! Stay tuned for updates.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Friends that last the distance

One upon a time (well, last July actually) five strangers from across Australia gathered in France to take an Intrepid Highlights of France tour. There were nine people on that tour, and while everyone got on really well, those five girls bonded over a love of French food, wine, people, scenery, shopping - and pretty much everything else you can think of - and became friends. 

Hellooooo Melbourne!
It's common to make friends on holiday when all you have to do is enjoy the sights and sounds of a foreign location. But while you all pledge to keep in touch, removing yourself from the leisurely enjoyment of holidays coupled with the glare of real life means that most acquaintances wither and die within a few weeks.

But not with these gals.

In the last nine months, we've had some riotous chats on Facebook where the crazy in-jokes you make on holiday seem to have grown and spawned a life of their own.  We've texted on birthdays and big events, and called to say hi and have a chat. 

And we've just returned from our second reunion trip!

Last October, four of us met in Sydney for a weekend of feasting and fun, walking the sights and stopping for tapas.

And over the Anzac Day weekend, the whole gang caught up in Melbourne and spent a few days catching up on the news while jumping on and off trams all over the city. The weekend was wet and windy, but the conversation was lively and warm.  We walked the streets of Brunswick, Carlton, and Southbank and journeyed around the city centre. We ate pastries at Brunetti and cheese platters at Milk the Cow.  We talked non stop about all kinds of topics and generally ate and drank our way around the city.  It was a fabulous weekend and there is no better way to see a city than under the guidance of a local.

I don't think that any of us foresaw that a friendship would grow from that first day that we took the Metro to Montmartre for lunch, but I know I'm not the only one who is glad it did.

Each person in the group is different, but I treasure them all for their wit and wisdom - and of course their love of travel, good wine and cheese! 

With Sydney and Melbourne complete, we're planning a big Brisbane get-together later in the year and a wild Perth break early in 2016.  While most of us won't be able to get to Europe this summer, we're lucky to be able to relive the memories of a wonderful holiday and make new memories in our own country.

Have you made a holiday friendship that has lasted the distance?

Friday, 17 April 2015

20 things about me

This post is inspired by '20 things about me' from the Fat Mum Slim blog. I find Chantelle's blog
endlessly interesting and refreshing and when I read this post I thought it might be time to step up a bit - so here goes......

1.  I'm not very good at talking about me.  Now if you know me you are probably laughing to read this, but it's true. I'll chat forever about the weather or the news or a meeting I had, or people I've met, but I don't give away too much about myself until I know you well.

2. I'm trying to learn how to draw at the moment.  I'm really interested in both illustration and watercolours so every night I sit in front of the TV with my sketchbook. I've got a huge folder of inspirational ideas on Pinterest and I get books out of the library all the time. It's fun trying something new.

3. The iPad is the greatest invention ever.  I love that I can laze in bed on a Sunday morning and read the paper, talk with friends all over the world, catch-up on the latest episode of Downton Abbey and reply to work emails - all without lifting my head off the pillow or brushing my hair - not that I ever do that! I also love that it means I don't have to take a heavy laptop when I go overseas.

4. I'm blessed to have an amazing circle of friends.  I have friends from so many different phases of my life and I treasure each and every one of them.  They are fun to spend time with, interesting, inspiring and I know they have my back. I hope to always be there to give them the love and support they have given me during the difficult times.

5. Watching a travel show or a program set in France (or anywhere in Europe for that matter) makes me want to get on a plane RIGHT NOW.  If I could, I'd travel for at least half the year and spend the other half planning my next adventure.  There are so many fabulous places in the world to explore and so many that I want to go back to that I never regret driving an old car and living in a smaller house, because I'd rather buy my next plane ticket and just go.

6. I love to cook - sometimes.  Of course there are nights when I grab something quick or have fish fingers on toast (totally yummy by the way), but I enjoy trying new recipes and creating something delicious.  In the last few years I've learned that you can make a simple dish truly fabulous when you cook with intent and mindfulness. The dishes I create when I'm happy and at peace in my kitchen, singing along to the radio always taste the best.

7. I hate any letter or email that starts with the phrase: "As you may know". Believe me, if I knew, I wouldn't be reading it. Just get to the point straight away please!

8. Learning to travel alone has been one of my greatest accomplishments.  The first time I headed overseas by myself I was literally shaking in my shoes.  There were so many 'what if's' running around my brain that I couldn't function and I didn't believe any of the friends who had told me that I would love it were right.  But you know what? They were!  I discovered that I can find my way when I don't know where I am and that I can communicate when I don't know the language. I've met the most amazing people along the way.

9. A simple, old-style, 70's- type lemon cheesecake is the best dessert in all the world.

10. I'm constantly battling to feel as though I'm 'enough'.  I was bought up to strive to achieve and to be successful - however there isn't a yardstick about what that means so you never know when you have reached it.  I feel as though I 'fail' all the time and it can be a crushing feeling.  But I'm also getting better at reminding myself that I'm doing the best I can, that I'm still learning every day and that we're all struggling with the same feelings.  Luckily it gets easier as you get older to remember this.

11. I almost never eat tomato - never have.  Asian food is my friend because it almost never has it as an ingredient.

12. I don't like text messages unless they are a confirmation about where to meet or to advise I'm running late.  I know they are popular but I think too many people run their relationships by text message and the fact is, you don't get enough information from a text to really know what someone means or is thinking - and too many people make big decisions based on text rather than conversation.

13. There is nothing so glorious as lavender fields in bloom.

14. I love learning about photography.  It's been my hobby since before digital SLRs were a thing. I have a long, long, way to go to be a decent amateur - but that's ok.  I love that I have a hobby that I'll be doing until I'm 90 and that I will slowly grow and evolve with.  My photos from this year are better than last year's - and hopefully next year's will be better again.

15. I've had the same pair of RM Williams boots for 17 years - and I never plan to replace them. Of all the things I've ever bought, I think they are the most long lasting.  They still look great and when they finally do get a bit worn, I'll just get them resoled.

16. Hair straighteners have saved my sanity. Ask anyone with curly, frizzy hair and they will agree.

17. I try to keep up to date with current affairs and the news but I don't always dig as deep as I would like.  Sometimes I don't feel that I should have an opinion about something because I haven't read enough balanced material.

18. House of Cards is a truly brilliant TV series. I love the way the characters have layers like onions and show themselves one thin piece at a time.  I love that even the worst of people have redeeming qualities and that no one is infallible. One day I hope I can write as well as that.

19. One day I hope to write a book - not sure what it will be about yet but I have lots of paragraphs and ideas floating around my head.

20. I try to practice gratitude every day.  Happiness is a very elusive goal and so I aim for gratitude instead.  Every day I try to think of the things that I'm grateful for - a cool breeze, great cup of coffee, phone call from a friend, deadline met, people who read my blog who aren't just my friends!  The more you look for things to be grateful about, the more you'll find.  Somehow, learning the practice of gratitude gave me happiness.

So what about you - share some things about you - even if it's only one!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Spring in Paris

Here in Queensland we have been sweltering through the warmest Autumn for many years.  The days are still hot and humid and it feels more like February than April. Thankfully the nights are cooler or I think I would cry! 

But while we dream of cooler temperatures, jeans, shirts with sleeves and actually being able to enjoy a hot cup of tea, it's SPRING in Europe.  Lately I've been spending lots of time lying under the fan and browsing my favourite photographers on Instagram and dreaming of springtime in Paris where the flowers are in bloom.

If I was in Paris right now, this is what I would be doing:

Taking the escalators to the roof of the Galleries Lafayette to have a glass of wine at the bar and look out at the chimney tops of Paris.  I'm sure it's not fun to live with chimneys that have to be cleaned, but I romanticise them just the same.  If I was lucky enough to be there in July, I might also be able to pick up a bargain in Galleries Lafayette's annual sale.

Panting my way up the 280 stairs to the top of the Arch du Triomphe to look down onto the Champs Elysees. The climb is brutal (although it's fun to stop and take a photo of the endlessly winding staircase below you) but the view is so worth it.  The whole of Paris is there before you.

Walking along the banks of the Seine towards Notre Dame.  As the morning lengthens, the booksellers open their riverside stalls.  There is always so much happening along the river that there is lots to look at.

After a morning of walking, the best thing you can do is stop off in a charming café for a reviving Noisette (the French version of a Macchiato). It costs a little more to sit outside, but it's the best place to rest tired feet and watch the world go by.

And it wouldn't be a visit to Paris if I didn't wander past the city's most famous landmark, surrounded by blooms of spring.

There are so many things I love about this city that this just doesn't scratch the surface, but the beauty of this place is that you find something new every time you visit. Hopefully next spring will see me packing my bags for another adventure.
Paris, I love you!

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Be bold, be brave, be happy

I've been thinking a lot lately about a friend who's going through a bit of a tough time.

It's part of life to have a few bumps in the road, but I hate to see the people I love struggling - especially when I can't do anything to help except lend a friendly ear or a shoulder to lean on.

There are three things that have always given me strength through tough times.

"Be bold. Be brave. Be happy."

Be bold.  What is it that you really want?  Sometimes we spend so much time worrying about what might happen, or what others will think that we forget to fix the picture clearly in our heads about what we really want - not just what we think we can get.  Being bold helps us find balance between wild, crazy dreams and keeping one foot on the ground.

Be brave.  Being brave isn't just about saving someone from a burning building. It's having the difficult conversation, facing up to the facts or taking action even though you are scared to move.  Sometimes I tell myself "I'm being brave" and the statement gives me courage even though I am shaking in my shoes.

Be happy.  Because life is just too short to be anything but happy.  Be grateful and count your blessings every day and the happiness in your life will expand exponentially. 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

My secret addiction

It's time to fess up and come clean. 

My name is Pita and I'm addicted to Pinterest.  Yes, really.

If you are uninitiated to this delightful site, you might want to look away now because once I tell you that it's the most amazing place to find, collect and store links to all the things you are interested in, you might decide to go and have a look. And then when I tell you that you can arrange all your collections onto handy little boards for anything that takes your fancy, you might want to try it.  And it's all downhill from there.

At first it was just a place to collect a few recipes.  I didn't have any more yellowing pieces of paper floating around the house from recipes that were torn out of newspapers and magazines. Then I started collecting ideas for hairstyles, cute cats, ladybugs, great quotes, writing tips, crafty projects and the colour blue.  The next thing I knew I was scouring the net for inspiring photos, blogs I love, black and white images, drawing tutorials and even - gulp - a tips for organising and decluttering your life.  More than 2.5k pins later, I have a thriving collection of material that I add to on a daily basis and return to regularly to gloat over like some crazy hoarder of old tin cans.

Just a few of my Pinterest boards.
I found this great image on Flickr and bizarrely it has been
my post popular pin - shared 135 times.
In my defence I do try new recipes quite a bit and I've got more than a few hairstyles that I've learned from the site.  It also keeps the clutter around the house down because I don't have any of the aforementioned paper clippings sitting in drawers as they are all online.

The site has a devoted following of 'Pinners' and unlike Facebook, it doesn't work on a friendship basis.  You don't have to know anyone to follow them, you just wander through material that interests you and its easy to run off on tangents of related material, finding ever new photos, tutorials, videos and tips about fun things. It even has its own language - pins that people have tried that worked out are called 'pin wins' and those that don't are called 'pinstrosities'. There is even a hugely popular blog called Pinstrosity, where people share their hilarious failures and successes - such as the cookie bowl mayhem.

So there you have it.  Crazy, time sucking and possibly pointless? Sure. But also a fabulous reference site and place to collect photos, articles and information about anything in the world you could possibly be interested in. And oh, sooooooo much fun and - dare I say it - addicting.  If you are a fellow Pinterest fan, you can find me here.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Sending love to the West

Hellooo and happy Valentine's Day (if you are into that kind of thing).   This year I decided to spread a little love of the non romantic kind and participate in Baked Relief's Love to the West drive. 

Baked Relief is the amazing brain child of Danielle Crismani and began during the 2011 floods; bringing baked goods to volunteers helping with the clean-up and those affected by the floods. Now she is working with an army of volunteers to provide support to Queensland families whenever it's needed in the form of home baked goodies.  What a fabulous cause!

To put together my smoko kit, I bought a box from the post office and then I did a little shopping to buy a mug, a tea towel, some cheesy dipping biscuits, teabags, and fruit sticks.

Of course there had to be some home baked goods, so I made some Anzac biscuits because they are yummy and they will last during their long journey out west.

I even made a cute little card to pop in with everything.

So now my little parcel is winging its way to a rural family who will hopefully enjoy a few little treats, baked with love and given in honour of a day when we show that we care.

Find out more about Baked Relief at their website.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Six choc bits and a teaspoon

After a fabulous wine filled evening with friends I staggered into the kitchen the following morning, following my nose to the smell of fresh coffee and sizzling bacon.

My host handed me a coffee and then started posing a plethora of breakfast questions - hard egg or soft egg?  Bacon crispy or juicy? Should items be placed on the toast or beside it? I was touched that he was an obliging chef, but was so happy to have someone cook me breakfast that I'd have eaten it any way at all - as long as I didn't have to do it!

But as I chowed down on my delicious meal I had a sudden memory of breakfast time as a child where my sister wouldn't eat her toast unless Dad gave her Vegemite "with holes" - polka dotted spots of spread. And that got me thinking about some of the quirky rituals our family developed over the years.

Family breakfasts always took place around the table in the kitchen.  Mum cooked something nourishing and there was usually lots of chatter and laughter as we began our day.  Dad would often start the day in high spirits, flinging out cheeky comments over the tea pot while Mum deepened her frowns across the table as he continued to bait her.  After a certain level of frustration had been reached, she'd throw her teaspoon down the table at him and he'd either catch it nimbly or feign pain and agony if he got hit.  This was always a cue for great merriment from his daughters and our not-so-subtle hints in the mornings often encouraged him to start another round of the 'tea-spoon battle'.

At night, my parents would end the day with a small cup of brutally strong coffee and six choc bits each.  Do you know a choc bit? They are tiny little dots of chocolate used for cooking - probably just under a centimetre wide. Six choc bits isn't much, but it was enough to bypass Mum's 'no dessert other than fruit' rule. I can still see her dolling out each person's allocation from the jar she kept them in.

These family food rituals were a precious part of our childhood and something that still makes me smile today.  So I wonder, what are (or were) your family rituals? 

Friday, 30 January 2015

Marsala - the colour and taste of 2015

The colour gods at Pantone have declared that the colour of the year for 2015 is Marsala.  They describe it as a "naturally robust and earthy wine red, Marsala enriches our minds, bodies and souls."  I'd like to add that it also tastes delicious, so I'm going to accord it flavour of the year.

Dad and I regularly visit his local bowls club for a weekend lunch and one of their most delicious lunch staples (in addition to Oysters Kilpatrick which we almost always share) is Veal Marsala.  After several delicious lunches I started to get intrigued by the taste and did a little digging into its origins.

Marsala is a fortified wine, originally from the city of Marsala in Sicily.  It's in the same family as port and sherry and was traditionally served between the first and second courses of a meal - but its real power comes when you use it to make a sauce that has the most amazing depth and flavour punch.

I came home from a lunch one day with the flavour on my mind and opened up my blog reader to see that Smitten Kitchen - one of my favourite cooking blogs - had posted a recipe for mushroom marsala pasta bake.  Obviously it was meant to be and I went out and bought a bottle straight away!

Since then I've tried a couple of different sauces and the most successful has been a creamy version that I served with a roasted chicken dinner. It was a popular change from the usual gravy and was even better the next day when drizzled over the leftovers.

Here's how I made it:

Cut up a mountain of mushrooms of different varieties (I used Swiss brown and button but you can use whatever is at hand) and a leek and toss them into a big pan with two crushed garlic cloves and a good glug of olive oil. 

Once they are par cooked and the pan is nice and hot, stir in half a cup of Marsala and let it simmer and reduce, infusing the mushrooms with its heavenly flavours.  When the liquid has reduced, slowly stir in about half a cup of chicken stock and again let the flavours develop while the liquid reduces.  I throw in a good grind of black pepper and a small pinch of salt too.

To finish, add a glug of cream (not too much, you don't want to diminish the flavour) and warm through. You can thicken with some cornflower if you like.  Drench over some chicken, baked potato and steamed broccoli and enjoy.  Delicious!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Starting over in the right place

The school year in Queensland starts again next week and when it does, it will mark the anniversary of an event which changed my life completely.

From my first day in high school, it was pretty obvious to me and to my family that I wasn't really in the right place for me.  I didn't really 'fit' in the school and while I eventually found a way to make it work, it was never really me.  I was quiet and withdrawn and never had a lot of confidence. The school didn't offer subjects that I was interested in and I never really found my stride.

Over the years I learned to accept that this was how school was meant to be and would probably have drifted along until the end of my school days except for the fact that a nasty group of girls decided that it might be fun to give me a hard time and things spiralled down to the point where I was again pretty unhappy on a daily basis.  

Things finally came to a head one day when one of the group suggested that I leave and not come back and I obliged by going home and declaring that I was done with school and wasn't going back.  That was a big claim for a pretty quiet and usually well behaved daughter. But to their credit, my parents realised that things had reached the point of no return and agreed that leaving the school was the best option for me. They talked me into going back for the last few weeks of the year but once it was done, I was free to leave.

A few weeks later they approached me and asked if I would consider trying a new school. I wasn't at all keen, but after some discussion, I agreed to a two week trial where I would have permission to leave completely if it didn't work out after that. 

The first day of school was a completely terrifying experience. I'd moved from a smallish private girls school to a big, co-ed public school and I didn't know anyone.  I sat quietly through the orientation and opening assembly and kept telling myself, "two weeks, just do this for two weeks."

But then two amazing things happened.  I got taken to my first form class which was Art. This was something I had always wanted to learn but hadn't been able to do at my old school - and it was fun.  And the second thing that happened was that I made my first school friend in that class.  This girl was warm and friendly and welcoming and we just clicked.  At lunchtime, she took me off to meet all the other people in her group of friends.  And they were all warm and friendly and welcoming too! 

In the days and weeks that passed, they welcomed me into their group and I slowly adjusted to the rhythm of a big group of people.  Their energy and craziness and laughter was infectious and I came out of my shell and found my own personality.  I'm sure that they sometimes thought I was a bit weird  because I just wasn't used to the dynamics of a crowd, but they were pretty patient and eventually I found my place in the group. I hadn't really known I was an extravert until I found the right place for me.

The last few years of high school were a completely different experience for me. Music, friendship, laughter, travel. So many new experiences and so much fun to be had - and believe me, I enjoyed it all!

Looking back today, those early years don't feature at all in my thoughts because so many better things have taken them over.  While they were a difficult experience, they taught me so much about the type of person I want to be, how to treat people, and the importance of true friendship.

Thirty years later, that girl from my art class is still my best friend.  No matter how long passes between conversations, we just pick right up where we left off and I love that I have a small place in the family she had built.  Suzy, thank you for taking me under your wing that day, you have no idea how you changed my world and I will always treasure you and your family.

But the blessings didn't stop there because I still see so many of that wonderful crowd of friends from school.  We catch up at least once or twice a year for lunch and over the years through marriage, jobs, children and change, we have managed to build on the 'school friend' connection and develop something stronger.  We always have things to talk about and everyone is genuinely interested in everyone else.  I treasure each and every one of them and love that all the kids have grown up knowing one another and even as adults they still choose to join us for lunch sometimes!

Sorry for the length of this post, but there seemed to be a lot to say.  This is probably more personal than anything I would normally blog about but somehow this forthcoming anniversary of beautiful friendships seems significant and I wanted to mark it.  

I wish you all the joy of true friendship. x 

Friday, 9 January 2015

The tale of the butter dish

A few months ago I stopped using blended 'spreadable' butter and switched to pure butter after reading about the not-so-great benefits of some oils used in products like this.  I was happy with the switch but absolutely did not enjoy struggling with trying to get slivers of rock hard butter onto my toast without ripping it to shreds or leaving chunks of unmelted butter sitting forlornly on top.

I decided to go all old-school and buy a butter dish so I could safely keep the butter out of the fridge and slather it easily onto piping hot toast in the mornings - but I never imagined how difficult this task would be.

The first stop was Kmart and Target - no go.  It seems that everyone prefers spreadable butter these days and a butter dish isn't part of the usual stock. Then I started looking in kitchenware and homeware shops.  Occasionally I'd find one, but they were all so ugly that I couldn't bring myself to buy one. They were also all glass - and knowing how clumsy I am, I didn't think that a glass butter dish and me without the benefit of coffee would be a good match.

Finally I found something I thought would do the job nicely - an Anna Gare ceramic butter dish.  Cream, tastefully decorated with a homey decoration in pale colours, I thought it would do the job nicely and despite the fact that it was a bit expensive, I decided to look on it as an investment and bought it.

I put a moderate amount of butter into the dish and set it in a cool corner of my kitchen.  For the first day or so, it worked a treat. The butter was very soft (it is summer after all) but it kept well and spread beautifully. However my butter problems were only just beginning.

After a few days of lifting the lid, I noticed that some butter was getting caught around the edge and had seeped into the bottom of the lid. I cleaned it all up and put a smaller amount of butter in the dish, but the next day it spread again and as soon as it touched the lid, it seeped into the lid again and stained the whole bottom of the lid.  Ceramic - it seems - is only water and stain proof if you actually glaze it and the base of the lid.  In this case, the bottom of the lid - the bit that actually rests on the dish - was not glazed.  Aggggghhhhhh!

I tried everything to get rid of the stain but it didn't come out (Anna, if you are reading this, why would you make a butter dish in cream and not glaze the entire thing???). I gave it up as a bad job and went back to cold butter but the whole thing kept niggling away at me.

Isn't it pretty?

A few days before Christmas I was shopping in a cute little boutique and I found a dinky little butter dish with a built in little bowl on the plate to keep the butter from spreading along the base and a lovely dome cover that protected the whole thing.  It was pretty, it was hand painted in Poland (obviously they know their butter in Poland). It was perfect - but it was verrrrrrrry expensive.  I went back twice to look at it and finally bought it the day before Christmas, had it gift wrapped and got my father to give it to me for Christmas. Thanks Dad!

The moral of the story is that the road to purity is not simple - and you need to do a lot of research if you want to add something like a butter dish to your kitchen equipment.  I share this story in the hopes that it saves someone else from a similar trauma.  ;-)

No mess!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Cheers to a great 2015

It's the new year!  Don't you love the feeling of a fresh new year? All shiny and new with no mistakes and lots of dreams and plans?  I know our year doesn't always work out the way it plays in our heads, but I love the idea of starting out the first few days thinking about what's important to me, where I'd like to be and the many, many things I'm grateful for in my life.

In years past I used to write up some notes about what I wanted to do in a notebook.  Not resolutions exactly, but lists of things I want to do (like learn PhotoShop, replace the curtains in my bedroom or cut back to one coffee a day). Looking back, it was surprising how often I ended the year with most of the things on my list complete.

But over the past few years I let the habit slide. I still thought about things, but didn't commit them to paper. I know that progress on life's goals was probably still made, but I had no marker to measure against and plans were airy and disjointed.  But no more! This year I'm getting back into a bit of personal planning with a vengeance.

The internet has kindly provided lots of lovely ideas about things to consider and I've been reading posts about how to make resolutions that stick, ceremonies to mark the end of a period in your life and practial goals to aim for over a five year period.  All good things and I've drawn from them in my simple planning.

Then this morning a dear friend posted a list of five simple questions on her Facebook feed from the Abundant Mamma blog
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