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Cover Recreation – April 2014

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Early again for this month’s cover – but only because there’s hot cross buns on the cover!! And we all know that you need to eat as many hot cross buns as you can while they’re around. These ones are Sour Cherry Hot Cross Buns – so yum!

I had some trouble setting up for this one – I didn’t have a rack big enough to put the round of buns on, so had to improvise and change it up a bit. They’re also not the best looking buns around (I think I got a bit sloppy with rolling the dough into balls) but they taste amazing and I made them myself which only makes them taste better. The recipe called for dried sour cherries, but I couldn’t find those anywhere, so I experimented a bit and bought a jar of morello cherries from the preserved fruit aisle at the supermarket, rinsed them under water to get most of the sweet syrup off them, dried them, put them on a tray covered in baking paper and put them in the oven which was preheated to the lowest temperature setting (whatever that is) and in this way I had my own dried cherries after about 3 hours! I could have let them go longer, but got impatient! As with last month, the recipe for this one isn’t available online, so if you want to make these ones specifically, you’ll have to head out and grab the magazine. Otherwise, they have this one here which looks pretty good too! Happy baking :-)

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The Lighthouse at Byron Bay

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Last weekend we were lucky enough to attend a beautiful wedding at the lovely Byron Bay. The wedding was Saturday afternoon, so my boyfriend and I decided to drive to Ballina to look for a black short for him to wear to the wedding, as he hadn’t packed his. So in the car we got and began driving towards Ballina, but we hadn’t even been in the car for 5 minutes when we drove past a sign that said “LIGHTHOUSE”. I’d not ever seen a lighthouse before so my lovely boyfriend agreed that we could go check it out.

It was lovely. Being situated on the most eastern point of Australia, it has some amazing views over the ocean and even back inland, looking over the town of Byron Bay. We spent nearly 45mins up there in total I think. There’s a great little cafe just down from the lighthouse that we had a great coffee from. They also sold ice-cream there – I couldn’t imagine anything better than sitting on a bench on a hot day, looking out over the ocean, and enjoying a cold ice-cream!

Anyway, here’s a few photos I took. I only had my iPhone on me, no big camera sadly, but I plan on going back very soon so hopefully I can get some better photos!

Semifreddo and sorbetto in watercolour
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Cover Recreation – March 2014

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I’m a bit early with this month’s cover, mostly because the recipe for these two amazing desserts isn’t available online, so if you want to try them for yourself, you’ll have to head out and pick up the Gourmet Traveller magazine. But you can see a photo of the cover here.

This month’s cover is graced by two delicious frozen desserts: the first is a chocolate-torrone semifreddo, and the second is passionfruit mint sorbetto. After my little photo shoot yesterday, my boyfriend and I had a flavour each, he the chocolate and I the passionfruit. It was quite warm here yesterday, so the sorbetto was lovely and refreshing and I have it on very good authority that the semifreddo is very rich and you could definitely just do with one scoop. So there you go. If you do decided to make at least the semi-freddo, torrone is an Italian nougat which can be soft and chewy or hard and brittle. I used the soft version in here and I bought it online from Enoteca Sileno (based in Melbourne), but I’m also told you can get it from Harris Farm Markets and in Sydney the Norton Street Grocer sells it. It’s quite expensive so you might be able to swap it for some regular nougat, just make sure you get a nice soft one as I think that’s best.

I had lots of fun with this one. I didn’t really have anything that as similar colouring to the cover so I went and bought a couple of bits and pieces. The lovely patterned saucer holding the sorbetto is part of a cup and saucer set I got from Myer and the small platter holding the semifreddo is also from there. It was white when it came home with me and I painted it gold, as well as the (plastic) teaspoon in the photo and the little ice cream cup holding the sorbetto. The cups I picked up from the party section of a cheap homewares shop. So this week I’v learnt that if ever I’m looking for a certain style of dish, or any tableware really, and I can’t find it, I should just find something similar and slap some paint on it!

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The finished product. I quite like this one, except for the sad ice cream cone in the back!

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February Book Review – The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

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I’ve been finding myself reading quite a few books lately that are set in or around the periods of the World Wars. What they have all had in common, is a great focus on how the war changed the people who took part in them. But what they didn’t really focus on, was the difficulty these people – particularly the men –  had interacting with those who were virtually untouched by the war once they were home. What could these men say to people who had not seen any of the horrors they had seen? How could they be expected to carry on with their everyday lives? This is especially true of the men who returned to Australia from the war. Being so far removed from the action, the most that the residents of Australia saw of the war were the men who came home with limbs missing, physical scarring and mental scarring.

Painted in Waterlogue

In The Light Between Oceans we are allowed into the life of a man returned from the First World War. Hailed as a hero, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia, to a country full of people who don’t really understand what it was like in Europe. He doesn’t view himself as a hero and is plagued by memories of the war – of death. The only peace he can find is as a lighthouse keeper and he is eventually posted at one of the most remote lighthouses there is, on Janus Rock off the coast of Western Australia. It is a life spent in solitude on a small island surrounded by the wild seas, with only the occasional trip to the closest settlement by boat, Point Partageuse. It is there he meets Isabel, young and carefree and aside from the deaths of her brothers in the war, virtually ignorant of the atrocities and hardships experienced in Europe. They are eventually married and Isabel joins Tom on Janus Rock where the population is now two. Life carries on, Tom and Isabel have their ups and downs but for the most part, little happens on the island and they have next to no knowledge of what happens across the ocean in the rest of the civilised world. But their quiet lives are changed the day a boat washes up on the island, bearing a dead man and a crying baby. Tom and Isabel have reached a turning point in their lives and the consequences of the decision they make on this day are not apparent until many years later, when they finally find out the true history of the baby they found on the beach.

Stedman does a fantastic job of getting into the mind of a man returned from war. The location of the novel may be fictitious, but the mental state of the man is not. Many men came home virtually unscathed of mind and body, but for every one who managed to get on with their lives, there were those that just could not get through a day without suffering through what they had experienced on the battlefield. For me, Tom Sherbourne was in the middle of these two extremes. He managed to function every day and get on with the job, but he still remembers friends lost and is unable to spend too much time around people that weren’t there. I think he feels the sense of pity from many and the idea that he is a hero appears almost repellant to him – a hero does not kill people and a hero would be able to save his friends. The fact that he takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on an island that is basically cut off from the rest of the world, speaks volumes about the sense of isolation he feels from the people around him. I suspect that this feeling was applicable for many of the men who were in the war. I think that it would be hard to feel part of a community after being changed so much by experiences that were beyond the comprehension of many others. I didn’t particularly like the character of Isabel very much. She grows rapidly from girl to woman in this book and experiences hardship which would change any woman, but she has little sense of right from wrong and really brings to life the phrase “beware a woman scorned”. Her treatment of her husband in the latter stages of the book is what really turned me against her. I sympathise with what she goes through, but I can’t understand the mentality of her actions towards Tom. It is hard to care for a character who can end up being so cruel.

All in all, this is a thoroughly enjoyable read. I wouldn’t say that it’s better than all the other books I have read that are based around the same time period, but it certainly focuses a little more on the return to society of many of these men. It’s all well and good to write about the war and tell of the hardships faced in the trenches, but it is enlightening and refreshing to read about what life was like after the war. For many, that’s when the battle really began. But this book is also about right and wrong and the line which can often be blurred between the two. It is a book about the decisions we make and the consequences they have. The smallest action have have the biggest consequences and often small decisions have a bigger role to play in the grand scheme of things. It is a book that tells us to choose our actions carefully.

RATING - 8 out of 10. An enjoyable debut novel from the author and I hope that her future novels are just as good.

WHO SHOULD READ IT - If you enjoy historical fiction by Fiona McIntosh (The Lavender Keeper, The French Promise) and Kate Morton (The Shifting Fog, The Secret Keeper), then you will definitely enjoy this one.

WHO YOU’LL LOVE - I can’t say that I found any of the characters particularly loveable, but I did find the character of Tom Sherbourne the most complex and interesting. I think that the lack of characters (due to the isolated setting) has worked in the authors favour, as she has been able to just focus and build on the two mains, making them as realistic as possible.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? 

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My Holiday In Watercolour

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I’m still not quite ready to let go of my holiday yet, so I want to do one more post about it. Just one. I promise.

I recently discovered this cool app called Waterlogue. I have it on my iPhone and iPad (not sure if it’s available on Android) and it gives photos a very realistic and very beautiful watercolour look. I bought a couple of watercolour paintings in Florence and I just love them, so I wanted to see what the rest of my holiday would look like if I had bought watercolours everywhere else.

So here are my favourite photos from my holiday, in watercolour. I’m so artistic!

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Paris! Part Deux.

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Croissant!

We woke up the next morning after our first wanderings through Paris feeling a bit tired but very excited about everything else we would be seeing that day. We arranged to meet Natat about 11am underneath the Eiffel Tower (how romantic) and I worked out it would take us about 45 minutes to walk there from our hotel (or an hour if we stopped to look at things, which we probably would!) but we still had plenty of time to take it easy this morning. We headed down to have some breakfast at about 9am. We got breakfast as part of a package at our hotel, so we decided to see what it was like and if it was no good, we’d eat out the next morning. But we needn’t have bothered even thinking about that – I had the most amazing croissant (ok I had three) I have ever had in my life and they had a great selection of little cheeses and meats to eat, along with some fresh fruit. Mum and I were both very happy. Nat told me that you can’t get a bad croissant in Paris, so don’t think you need to go out to a fancy little bakery to experience the best!

After stuffing ourselves for the day ahead, at about 10am we grabbed our bags and headed out onto the streets to navigate our way to the Eiffel Tower. We were very lucky where we were staying (in Saint Germain) as it is very central to most things and there was lots to look at as we walked. We walked past a couple of shoe stores that had some really beautiful leather boots in the window, but unfortunately the shop didn’t open until 10:30, so I missed out – but I would have need to visit a shoe shop by the the time this day was over, so it worked out in the end. After walking through some beautiful streets and park areas, we finally made it to the Tower and found Nat. Up close, the Eiffel Tower is exactly what you imagine it to be – completely impressive. I would have loved to have gone up and seen the city from the top, but we got there too late and the line was ridiculously long. If we’d have stood there to get in, we would have been there all day. But seeing it from the ground was enough and it’s just another excuse to go back to Paris!

From the Tower, we made our way to the Champs Elysees. We were going to meet up with one of Nat’s friends for a coffee which I was very excited about. I hadn’t had a coffee since I left Sydney almost two and a half weeks earlier. As I was so sick when I arrived in Italy, I didn’t much feel like milky products (although I managed to drink wine everyday – weird). That coffee is probably the best I’ve ever had in my life – I was missing it so much! But before we had that coffee, we stood marvelling at the Arc de Triomphe for a few minutes, taking copious amounts of photos and wondering how the cars whizzing around it didn’t crash into each other. After our coffee we went to a bakery and bought some food for lunch, which we were planning on eating in the Tuileries Gardens – thankfully the sky was a little clearer than it had been the day before, so we were hopeful that we wouldn’t get rained on while eating our lunch. From there, we did a little bit of shopping on the Champs Elysees, looking at beautiful shops and buildings. Naturally my love for macarons found me outside Laduree – although I didn’t go in as I was holding out to buy macarons from Pierre Herme, who is my macaron idol. I found a concession shop of Pierre Herme in one of the department stores on Champs Elysees and bought a dozen macarons to enjoy later. Then we got on a train to the Tuileries and sat in the sunshine eating our lunch looking at the beautiful gardens around us. I would pick that place again any day over eating in the fanciest restaurant in Paris. After lunch, we wandered through the gardens over the Louvre, which is just a short stroll away. Unfortunately as with the Tower, we didn’t get to go in as we only had the one full day to see things and therefore not enough time to walk through the Louvre. But the the building itself is a work of art and is certainly worth the time spent viewing it from the outside – if only to see people striking funny poses for photos with the famous glass pyramid in the background.

From the Louvre, we headed towards Palais Garnier, also known as Opéra de Paris – the famous Parisian opera house. Most people would be familiar with it as the setting for Gaston Leroux’s novel The Phantom of the Opera and subsequently, the setting of the musical adaptation of the same name by Andrew Lloyd Webber. This building also is very impressive and as it turns out, very expensive. I have just read that as of 1875, when building finished, the cost was 36,010,571 francs, which even by today’s standards is a lot of money. It is a very beautiful building though and I would say was worth every franc that was spent on it. Another beautiful piece of architecture to see in this area, is Galeries Lafayette, located on Boulevard Haussmann. It is a multilevel department store – similar to David Jones here in Australia – and houses some of the worlds most expensive brands, whatever you think of it is probably there. But we didn’t go in there for the shopping. Nat said that we had to go in just to see the ceiling of the building – a huge stand glass dome. Opulent doesn’t even begin to describe this amazing piece of work. You really have to see it in real life to appreciate how beautiful it is – photos do it no justice. If we didn’t have more of the city to see, I could have stood there all day looking up at it. We were feeling pretty tired and sore by this time and while the daylight hours were nearly over, the night ones were just beginning. We headed towards Boulevard de Clichy which is the location of the Red Mill – or Moulin Rouge if you’d like to be proper about it! When we got there it was just before sunset, so the lights were already on and while it looked pretty good, Nat said we should come back a bit later when it was dark and we could see the lights properly. So we decided to go rest our feet and enjoy a glass of wine while we waited. We had probably about 5:30pm by that time and we’d been walking around most of the day, so it was nice to sit for a little while and relax. But once we’d finished our wine and the sun was gone, we were on our feet again (I would have sat there all night if mum and Nat had let me) and headed back to the Moulin Rouge which was now shining in all it’s glory. If you can can can (see what I did there?), you should definitely make the time to see this in daylight and at night, you’ll appreciate it so much more!

I was about ready to call it a night by this point, but we soldiered on and make the walk up the hill to Montmartre. This is a place I would be happy to live in if I was to move to Paris. Lots of restaurants to choose from, cute little shops and once you reach the Sacre Coeur, the most amazing view over Paris you could imagine. It is a place where artists and creative-types have gathered and it has an artistic air about it that felt very different to me from the rest of the city. We walked through the Sacre Coeur and enjoyed it’s silence for a little while, then started on the walk back down hill to the Moulin Rouge, me stepping in what I thought was mud en route, but ended up being dog poo – a big one which thankfully didn’t smell as we sat in the taxi on the way back to our hotel. Then mum and I walked Nat to a bus stop right near the hotel which would take her home, making plans to catch up the following morning before we left for the airport. Then it was back to the hotel to try and clean the yuck off one of my shoes, which was the only pair I had brought to Paris with me. Thanks mum for trying to clean my shoe as I could not handle the smell! On closer inspection, it appeared I had worn my shoes out, as they were completely cracked right across the middle. After sticking my stinky shoe near an open window in the bathroom for the night, mum and I fell into our respective beds at about 11:30pm – according to my pedometer we had walked about 35km that day! No wonder we were sore and exhausted.

The next morning we enjoyed breakfast (including multiple croissants) in our hotel, packed our bags and checked out. We were heading to Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens) to meet with Nat before we headed to the airport. My shoe was still very smelly from last nights mishap, and I didn’t particularly feel like being stuck on a plane with it for two hours on the way back to Rome, so it was the perfect excuse to go visit one of those shoe shops I had spotted the day before and try on a pair of ankle boots which had caught my eye. A couple of hundred Euros later, I walked out in a pair of lovely new boots and dumped my $5 Target shoes in the bin out the front of the shop. Then we continued on the Jardin du Luxembourg, snacking on my Pierre Herme macarons as we went. We arrived at the gardens a short time later and spent about half an hour walking through there, admiring the beautiful Autumn foliage. There was one particular plant that looked like it was on fire, the leaves were so bright on it!

Then sadly it was time to leave the city. Nat walked us to a train station where we got on a train out to the airport. We said our goodbyes to her which was really sad, but I was glad to have seen her again even for such a short amount of time. I was sad to be leaving Paris as well – it is such a beautiful city and I felt strangely at home. But all good things must come to an end, as must all good holidays. After being away from home for nearly three weeks I was ready to have my feet back on Aussie soil – I particularly missed my boyfriend and my little bird (not necessarily in that order). After nearly twenty hours in the air from Paris to Rome to Dubai to Bangkok to Sydney, we finally made it home, our holiday was over and we were back to the real world.