If you’re a regular reader you’d know that Melbourne is my favourite city in Australia. Sorry, Sydney – you’re flashy and all that, but just a little too obvious…if you know what I mean.

Melbourne though…I’ve (so far) set three books in this fabulous city, with another underway. All of that writing needs research – one weekend at a time.

Oh, and a warning…we mostly ate!

Where we stayed…

Up the Paris end of Collins Street at the Sofitel Hotel. It’s a gorgeous hotel in a fabulous location. There are absolutely cheaper places to stay, but the Sofitel is worth it if you feel like spoiling yourself.

Where we shopped…

St Collins Lane, Melbourne

Ok, I’ve talked a bit about Melbourne’s markets in previous posts, but this trip all we came back with was kitchenware and bras…yes, really.

The Chef’s Hat in South Melbourne is the most fabulous kitchenware emporium – there is no other word for it – that I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit. Oh my, did we spend up.  Even a paella pan found it’s way back into our luggage.

one of the floral arrangements on the counter at Debenhams

Melbourne now has a Debenhams – one of my fave British department stores – in St Collins Lane. Aside from having a great range of brands, and an amazing fragrance counter, their own brand bras are seriously the most comfy I’ve ever worn…just saying. Sadly I had a blow-out of the underwire kind on Sunday morning so had to make a mercy dash. There’s no truth to the rumour that I helped it – the wire, that is – on its way.

Street art…

South Melbourne Dimmies…

Ok, these are a Melbourne classic. First a lesson – a dim sim is not actually Chinese. It is instead a Chinese inspired snack and was probably invented in Australia in the late 1920s – the modern version can actually be traced back to Melbourne Chinatown…don’t say that you don’t learn anything from this blog. As an aside, dim sum refers to the dumplings and other small plates served at yum cha. Much like tapas refers to the small plates served, well, tapas style.

Anyways, now that I’ve cleared up that confusion, the dim sim, or dimmie for short, is almost like what would happen if a shumai hooked up with a chiko roll and was shaped like a cricket ball…or, as my friend put it, it’s like a Chinese sausage roll.

And the South Melbourne dimmie is the king of them all. In fact, they’ve been selling dimmies at South Melbourne markets since 1949.

Why am I telling you this? Because if you’re in South Melbourne markets you have to try one. That’s why.

Being Melbourne, though, if you’re after something a tad more substantial and, let’s face it, more tasty than a dimmie, there’s plenty of choices…like this paella…how good does this look?


It’s one thing I absolutely crave since moving to the Sunshine Coast – you just can’t get good dumplings…so we made up for that with these ones as a mid-afternoon snack on Friday

and these ones for lunch at Hutong on Saturday. Pan-fried and steamed soupy fabulousness.

Craving satisfied…for now…

More Street Art…

And if you’re wondering about the Saint Peter reference it’s a song from 1976 by an Aussie Band called Flash and The Pan. One of the band members, George Young died last year – hence the caption.

To start the day…

It was back to a couple of favourites. I go to Cumulus Inc – at the Spring Street end of Flinders Lane – just for their crumpets, house-made ricotta and rooftop honey. Of course, they have other things on the menu, but it’s the crumpets I want.

On Sunday morning we made the trek all the way down the other end of Flinders Lane to Grain Store. I tried their egg sundae – something that really messed with my head but in quite a pretty way.

Something French…

Because we’re going to France in a few weeks – I have mentioned that haven’t I? – we had to go to a French Bistro in Melbourne. And the one we chose is Chez Olivier in Prahran.

It’s everything a neighbourhood bistro should be – style without pretension…and great food.

Something Indian

Saturday night was at Tonka – modern Indian with a really cool ceiling display.

This restaurant is described as being “modern Indian”, but you’d be right in thinking that it doesn’t look like a curry you’d get at your local takeaway. This is Indian with a light and very up to date touch. The curries are still good, but it’s so much more than that.

And finally…some more street art…

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.

Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies

My daughter goes mad for these cookies and while I totally understand why she does, they’re such a palaver to make that I really need to be in the mood – and I’m not in that mood as often as she’d like me to be.

So why are they a palaver to make? It’s the whole waiting thing. You mix them, then you wait for the dough to be firm enough to work with, then you roll them into balls, then you wait some more, then you bake them. I can’t be doing with all of this waiting around.

Anyways, this is a seriously, sinfully, chocolatey, fudgey biscuit that answers every possible urge you may have around indulgences – if, of course, you’re inclined to an occasional indulgence or three. As such, they’re worth the waiting around for. Besides, sometimes it’s a good thing for gratification to be delayed…just a tad…

What you need:

235g dark chocolate (at least 55% cocoa solids), chopped roughly

150g plain flour

40g unsweetened cocoa powder

1 ½ teaspoons bicarb (baking) soda

½ teaspoon salt

100g unsalted butter

240g soft brown sugar

2 eggs

85g dried sour cherries or unsweetened cranberries

What you do with it:

  • Preheat the oven to 165C, and line some oven trays with baking paper
  • Melt the chocolate in the usual way (I do it in a stainless steel bowl over, but not touching, simmering water)
  • Sift flour, cocoa, bicarb and salt into a bowl
  • Cream butter and sugar in your mixer
  • Add eggs, one at a time, beating each in well
  • Add dry ingredients in 3 batches, beating well after each
  • Mix in the melted chocolate
  • Fold through the cherries or cranberries
  • Hand the mixer blade to the waiting “helper” for cleaning
  • This is a seriously sticky dough so you’ll need to pop the bowl in the fridge for 15 minutes or so – until it is firm enough to work with
  • Take large teaspoonfuls of the mix and roll into balls. Place on the tray, allowing room to spread and put the trays in the fridge for 30 mins, or until firm.
  • Hide the bowl so that the “helpers” who miraculously emerge don’t eat all the cookie dough.
  • Bake for 15-20 mins, or until risen and cracked on top. You’ll know they are done by the rich chocolatey smell.
  • Cool on the trays. They should be quite fudgey in the centre and are best eaten within a few days.


The Bucket List Update…

Ok, so it’s my birthday on Monday.

I joke that last year (my 50th) was spent on a Jetstar flight back to Sydney. I’d had a flying visit to Queensland to see my family (who had already moved up) and had to fly back to Sydney to continue to pack the house up and be in the office the following day.

Don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t a bad day, it just wasn’t the day that I’d planned. I don’t do parties, but I’d been planning my 50th party for years. I ended up giving it to one of my characters for her 60th instead – the theme was denim and the music was retro pop. You’ll read about it in I Want You Back – when I finally release that.

Despite being away from my family there were some lovely bright spots in the day – a breakfast with my family before I went to the airport, a surprise afternoon tea with my parents and sisters when I finally got home (there was trackwork on the airport line which meant I had to bus it), and dinner and lots of bubbly with my neighbour.

This year we were supposed to be in Sydney over the weekend for a friend’s 50th, but some other stuff has got in the way. So we have some other lovely last minute things planned, and if they happen they do, and if they don’t, I’m sure there will be something else lovely. The members birthday gift at the Surf Club is a vienetta log, so there’s nothing but old-school good from that!

Anyways, because it’s my birthday I’m doing an update on my bucket list – always a good thing to do on one’s birthday.  I get to cross things off that I’ve already done and have added a couple of new things to the list. If you’re interested, you’ll find my last update here.

Since my last update four items have been completed:

  • Speak at a writing conference
  • Go whale watching
  • Have pho in Vietnam
  • Cruise through Halong Bay

My list as it stands today is below*. The fine print is that I continue to reserve the right to add things as I see fit – I happen to think it’s karmicly (yes, that’s a made-up word) dangerous to have just a handful of things on a list. The fine fine print is that this doesn’t include all the places I want to go to – just the things I want to do…there’s a whole other list for travel!

  1. Make a proper living from writing (yes, there’s a $$ amount attached to this). I’m not sure if this is a bucket list item or a goal. Perhaps it’s both.
  2. See the cherry blossoms in Japan
  3. Ride a camel on the beach at Broome at sunset
  4. Swim with whale sharks somewhere
  5. Swim with sea turtles somewhere
  6. Snorkel in the Barrier Reef
  7. Attend an AFL Grand Final at the MCG. It would be a bonus if St Kilda or Richmond were playing. I’d consider the Anzac Day match a tick.
  8. Learn to cook a steak…to order… and get it right (hubby says there’s no need for me to learn how to do this because he does it so perfectly for me…)
  9. See the northern (or southern) aurora…lights, that is…and photograph them.
  10. Stay on a deserted (ok, not deserted- just not heavily populated but still with all the trimmings) island in the South Pacific.
  11. Get to my goal weight – and have a photo shoot to mark the occasion. Something tasteful and fun – on the beach.
  12. Learn another language and speak it in that country
  13. Spend three months living like a local in another country – I’ve always dreamed of Tuscany
  14. See a bluebell forest – like the one I wrote about in Wish You Were Here.
  15. Set a story around whisky in the Scottish Highlands or Shetland…
  16. Walk a very long way from pub to pub in either The Cotswolds or Cornwall
  17. A road trip through France in the Spring
  18. Do a cooking class in France
  19. Find one of those earnest writers style cafes in Paris to be earnest and literary in.
  20. Write some of my family history – or at least one of the stories.

*There are a couple of others that aren’t for public view…and no, I’m not telling!

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.

Sentence a day – February

St Collins Lane, Melbourne

Ok, I make no bones about the fact that February is my least favourite month of the year. There’s an astrological reason for that – it’s to do with the fact that February is the month before my birthday so you have that whole finishing the cycle wanting to rest and retreat thing, but we won’t go there. It’s also got something to do with the fact that it’s the most humid time of the year… it also usually coincides with a couple of big freelance jobs that I juggle my day job and my novel writing with.

Every year I vow not to over-commit – yet this February was no different. The fact that I haven’t blogged properly for a couple of weeks should tell you that – last week’s blog was written in advance in anticipation of the messy times ahead. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been busy, but it hasn’t been all bad – there’s been some play too. And, on the plus plus side, this time last year my family was in Queensland and I was packing up the house to move as well as doing the juggle above.

Anyways, enough of the whining, let’s close February off.

1.Rain (as an aside, it rained so much this month – more than 3 times the normal monthly average with almost twice the monthly average in one day – 21 Feb.)

2. Rain – heavier than yesterday, but managed 3000 words on the novel and astro blogs written and scheduled for most of February.

3. Rain. Again. Finished astro blogs for February, wrote horoscopes for March, cooked a seafood risotto and a cheesecake for dinner and procrastibaked apple and cinnamon scrolls.

4. Not quite as much rain. Brisbane for some shopping and lunch at Fat Noodle at Treasury.

5. Unravelled all of next week’s Adelaide travel. On the plus side, I’m not travelling next week.

6.  Walk. Work. Nothing more to say here.

7. Sarah to Sydney, coffee with a friend from my childhood in Bombala, and a catch-up at a seriously cool tea-house with another dear friend.

8. Long long day in the office.

9. Worked on the novel this morning at the Surf Club this morning, lunch with Grant at Saltwater, and published The Little Book of the Moon for my astro newsletter subscribers. Tick, tick and tick.

10. Sarah home today. Brain is exhausted so spent the afternoon watching period movies. Sense and Sensibility and Emma.

11.  A swim, lunch at the Post Office in Maroochydore, another swim, and spent the rest of the afternoon going through accommodation options for France.

12. Monday. Walk and work. That’s all.

13. Take yesterday and repeat.

14. Valentine’s Day – words, work, gremolata prawns and gnocchi.

15. Counted to ten a lot today.

16. Haircut, grey be gone and lunch with the delightful Min from Write of the Middle. So much sheet lightning tonight that the night sky was almost permanently lit.

View from lunch. We were having such a good chat we forgot the selfie.

17. Welcome to Sydney where the airport trains are closed for trackwork…on a weekend. Seriously? Who plans this stuff?

18. Dumplings and catch-ups – the perfect combination.

19. Lots of hellos – it’s actually good to be in the actual office…pity about the bus ride to get here.

20. Reimagined escalators – these York Street escalators were heritage listed, so the developers popped them on the ceiling as art. Love it.

21. Surprise catch-up with Mel Kettle, a copy of her new book, The Social Association, and drinkies after work.

22. More drinkies after work – this time with the Unisys tribe at Concord. Fab to catch-up.

23. Melbourne – and my feet are full of blisters…the two are not related. Dinner at Chez Olivier with mon amour. (See how I threw in some French?) As an aside, I will blog it separately…

24. Brekky at Cumulus, dimmies at South Melbourne, dumplings at Hutong, shopping at Debenhams, cocktails at QT and dinner at Tonka. A day well spent.

25. Heading home, but first an egg sundae at The Grainstore.

26. Back to work and my pooch beside me snoring – life as it should be.

27. Final pieces of the French accommodation puzzle fall into place. And work…of course….

28. Longest teleconference in history to finish off the month. Bring on March.

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.

Meditating on Meditation

As part of my healthy heart and healthy mind thing this year, I’m giving meditation a whirl.

It’s one of those things I’ve been meaning to do (or should that be talking about doing?) for longer than I care to admit.

I’ve sort of done it before – I did Kundalini yoga for a bit and there was quite a bit of chanting or active meditation in that – and it never failed to make me feel better. It wasn’t something I ever felt comfortable doing outside of a class though.

I’ve mentioned before that there are times when I feel so anxious or worried that my heart feels like it’s beating out of my chest. Sometimes it’s about work, but very often it’s to do with potential outcomes that are beyond my control or other people’s problems that I’ve somehow managed to make my own.

It’s worse at night when the monkey brain really takes over.

I can worry about anything – from what might happen to what people think of me, to creative self-doubt (that’s a huge one), to … well, you get the idea. The thing is, I need to let it go, I need to accept that there are things I can’t change and situations I can’t control, I need to learn to improve my focus, and I need to reduce stress.

And I don’t think that I’m alone in that.

Benefits of meditation…

According to pretty much everything I’ve read, meditation can:

  • reduce stress
  • improves concentration
  • increases happiness
  • increases self-awareness
  • increases acceptance
  • encourages a healthy lifestyle
  • slows aging
  • benefits heart health and immunity

If it can do all this, it has to be worth a go, right?

How to meditate…

I have no flipping idea. What I can tell you is how I’m doing it – or, rather, trying to do it.

I’m starting small – with just five minutes a day to begin to get me into the habit.

I’ve downloaded the app Calm. It plays relaxing birdsong and water trickling types of noises for as long as you need it to, but I’m finding that I’m using it more for the deep breathing and looking at the calming picture during the work day when I get the whole tummy dip thing. As I take ten deep breaths, I feel my shoulders relax almost immediately.

I’ve found a rock down at the beach that I sit on after my morning walks. I set the timer on my iPhone for five minutes, pop my sunglasses over my closed eyes and listen to nothing but the ocean until the timer goes off.

I’ve popped a playlist on my phone with some new-agey sort of music on it that I can use with the timer on my phone, although so far I haven’t managed to get a real habit happening at home.

the view from my rock

I’ve also downloaded the free version of Headspace, but the constant emails are already driving me spare re-upgrading to paid versions – so that won’t be lasting.

Am I feeling the benefits? Nope, not yet anyway. But I will perservere – so many people can’t be wrong…can they?

What about you? Do you meditate? If so, what works for you?

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.

Baked Lemon Cheesecake

mine wasn’t styled this nicely…

This baked lemon cheesecake appears in my next book – which, of course, means that it gets tried out on my family first, and you guys second. I can’t tell you who bakes it in the book as that would be a spoiler alert, but feature it does.

The recipe comes originally from Rick Stein’s French Odyssey, with, naturally a few tweaks here and there – not that Rick’s version wasn’t perfect to start with, just that when I was making it, I didn’t have quite enough of a few ingredients so had to improvise. The result was a slightly lighter texture which my husband said he preferred. As an aside, he’s a tough marker when it comes to cheesecake – he doesn’t like anything overly sweet and he doesn’t enjoy a coconutty base.

Likewise the berry compote. I’ll give you the recipe for it, but really I just used some fresh blueberries from the market and the remainder of a punnet of raspberries from the previous week. Later on in the week I melted down some good raspberry jam and drizzled on top – that’s what I’ve used in the photo below.

Anyways, here’s how you make it…

Before you start

  • Line the base of a 20cm springform tin – one of those ones with the clips on them that makes them spring open – with baking paper and grease or butter the tin lightly.
  • Preheat the oven to 150C.

For the base

  • 100g butter, melted
  • 200g plain biscuits. If you can get them plain digestives are good.
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar

Pop the biscuits into a large sandwich bag and smash them with a rolling pin – or a tin. You want them crushed, so feel free to bash away a bad week on them.

Once the biscuits are crumbs, mix through the sugar and the melted butter. Tip it into the tin and press firmly into the base. The back of a spoon does this job well.

For the cheesecake

  • 500g cream cheese – don’t even be tempted to consider low fat
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs, preferably at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons cornflour
  • 300ml crème fraiche. (I used 200ml crème fraiche and 100ml natural unsweetened yoghurt)
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon and 3 tablespoons lemon juice

Beat together the cream cheese and the sugar until its silky smooth. Add the eggs – one at a time – and beat well between each addition. Add the cornflour, crème fraiche (or crème fraiche and yoghurt), lemon zest and lemon juice and beat well.

Pour the mix into the tin and place into the oven. You’ll need to bake it for 50 minutes to an hour. The top will be set, but there should be a slight wobble still in the centre. Turn the oven off, but resist the urge to open the oven door too often. You want it to cool gently as the oven cools – it helps minimise the risk of the cheesecake splitting – but doesn’t guarantee that it won’t! If it does split, don’t worry too much – you can always cover it with berries…and yes, this is not the dessert that you make at the last minute!

For the berry compote

225g raspberries

50g caster sugar

Finely grated zest of ½ and orange

350g mixed berries

We usually have berries of all types in the freezer – I buy up big at the markets when they’re in season and freeze in little bags for Sarah’s smoothies during the week – and it’s ok to use frozen ones.

Put the raspberries, sugar and orange zest into a bowl and crush into a puree with the back of a fork. Push it through a sieve into a clean bowl and mix the other berries in. Chill until you’re ready to serve.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.

Let’s talk about love

Ok, I’ll admit it.

I don’t do Valentines Day.

There, I said it.

In fact, I happen to think it’s the least romantic day of the year. And I call myself a writer of happy endings!

And it’s not just because I’ve never received a card at Valentines – let alone anything else. Ever. Even before I decided I didn’t like the Hallmark sentimentality. I don’t think I’ve ever been that type of girl – the type of girl who is sent flowers or cards at Valentines – although when I was younger, I desperately wanted to be that type of girl. Cue sad violin music.

I remember clearly the Valentines Day before the man who would become my husband and I started dating. We were working together and he received flowers from a soon to be ex-girlfriend. He was mortified. I’m still not sure whether it was the surprise (he doesn’t like surprises), or the fact that she’d blown that much money, or that girls aren’t supposed to buy guys flowers. Whatever. He hated it and they split very soon after. I think they were probably already in the processes of splitting – hence the flowers.

By the time the next Valentines Day came about we’d been together for about 8 months. He asked whether I wanted to do anything, and copped the (first of many over the years) soapbox stance about how the food is worse on Valentines Day, the price of everything goes up, and how there’s no romance or spontaneity in being told that on this day you should show your partner that you love her/him.

To me, it’s like New Year’s Eve: when you’re told that you have to party and have a good time because it’s New Year’s Eve. I don’t like being told what to do, and when.

Now before you go and assume that I’m not romantic, that’s absolutely not the case. I absolutely believe in romance – I have to: I’m in the business of writing happy endings. Nor is it the case that hubby doesn’t do the occasional flower thing – usually though, it’s when I least expect it, and most need it. Like the time when I went in for some nasty girly surgery and he brought me two bunches of flowers: herbs for his wife, and daisies for his lover. Awwwww.

So when I say I don’t do Valentines Day, what I really mean is I don’t do all the card, flowers, expensive set menu brouhaha of it.

But, when you’ve been together for a while when domestic business, as usual, takes over, days like Valentines and anniversaries are little reminders that every so often your relationship needs to be put front and centre.

Sometimes in the whirl of work, bills, mortgages, homework, family stuff, you need a reminder about why you’re together. And Valentines is good for that.

To me, it’s about the sentiment, not the expenditure.

We won’t share cards. But we will share a joke – about the flowers he ordered from that florist in Canberra. It’s the same florist he’s ordered from each year for the last 28 years who never delivers. Somehow I think the delivery will go astray again this year.

10 reasons to exercise in the morning

I’m easing into the whole 2018 intentions thing. So far I’m doing well at:

  • The water thing
  • The workday walking thing
  • The twice a week at the gym thing (although I want to go on record as saying I still dislike it, but in the scale of dislike, I dislike it less this week than I did last week and much less than I did the week before.
  • I’ve also started adding some black-line swimming again

I haven’t yet addressed the portions and alcohol thing…that’s something for this month…maybe…

Although my brain is a steel trap where matters of my corporate gig are concerned, when it comes to personal goals, my focus is positively Dory-like. I truly forget what it is that I’m meant to be doing. For me, the key is getting things done in the morning. In general, if it doesn’t happen before I log into the partition job, it doesn’t happen.

So, before you hit the snooze button, here are my reasons why you should get your arse out of bed and into the gym, on the path, in the pool, whatever:

  • The sunrises. Even if you’re in Queensland and there’s no daylight saving, there’s something very special about starting a new day – it’s a physical and daily reminder that no matter what other chaos is happening, the world continues to turn and the sun comes up with all the promise that it brings with it.
  • You have to get up anyway and besides, are you really likely to go back to sleep? Be honest.
  • I’d put money on the fact that at least 80% (if not more) of the people already training when you get there would rather still be in bed too.
  • Early morning training is not about impressing anyone other than yourself. No one cares whether you are sporting the latest logo singlet or have a full face on – it’s too flipping early. Basic hygiene tasks only need to be completed before early morning training.
  • Maybe it’s just me, but early morning training gets my creative brain going in a way that lying in bed never would. I solve so many plot problems when I’m walking. Alternatively, stick some ear-plugs in and catch up on your favourite podcast. That’s what I call multi-tasking.
  • If you’re a gym-goer, you mightn’t need to queue for equipment in the mornings and can hog the cardio machines for longer.
  • Early morning training frees your mind for the rest of the day – the real hard work is done, so you don’t need to spend other precious hours thinking of all the very valid reasons why you should be blowing off that class/walk/session tonight.
  • The post-exercise high takes you through at least until your first coffee and sets up the brain as well as the body for the day ahead. And yes, doubters, even if all you are feeling is “thank flip that’s over,” it’s still a high of sorts.
  • No matter what sort of downhill slide your day takes, you started it having achieved something. That’s one box ticked.
  • If you make a deal with yourself that you will train after work, do so in the knowledge that there is dinner to be hunted down, homework to be nagged about and an open bottle of wine in the fridge. And you really think you’ll go back out once the heels are off, the bra is off and the wine poured? No, I didn’t think so either.

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.

Happy Ever After Week 10

One of the things that I’d decided to do this year was to try and work smarter. The key to that was batching – especially in regards to my astro site, the readers of which are hungry for new content.

What I’ve taken to doing is setting aside the first Friday afternoon in the month and getting all the content written for that month – short daily forecasts where there’s something interesting happening in the sky, and slightly longer do it yourself posts for sign changes, full moons, new moons etc.

So, that was last Friday. Then I remembered that I had a deadline on Monday for some (paid) daily forecasts that I’d committed to writing. So I sat down on Saturday and what should have taken me a couple of hours – 2.5 max – took me all day. Those 50-word forecasts were so painful to write this time! I know my stuff (she says without blushing) and these normally just flow, but not this weekend.

By the time I was done I felt as though I’d run the mental equivalent of a marathon. Why was it so hard? I have no idea. I suspect that it’s partly because I wanted to get back to the novel, partly because I’d had such a productive writing day the day before (3000+ words on the novel in the morning and a month worth of blog posts in the afternoon), partly because it had been a busy week in the partition job, partly because my back was killing me, and mostly because I just wasn’t in the mood.

That’s the thing with this gig though – you can’t just say ‘I’m sorry, I’m just not feeling it today’ and faff about. The bum has to be planted on the seat and the words have to be written by the date you said they’d be written – especially when you’re being paid to write them.

Anyways, I have half a day out of the partition job today, next week’s business trip has been cancelled, and both the novel and a guest post for a friend are on the agenda for this afternoon. First, though, it’s a run out to the airport – Ms T is off to Sydney to visit my parents and catch up with some friends.

Until next week…


Apple and Cinnamon Scrolls


I could almost call this little series of posts “What Kate Cooked,” but that’s a tad restrictive.

This recipe was made by Kate Spence, the protagonist in my current novel (working title) Happy Ever After. She baked a batch of these for an afternoon tea to celebrate the return of a friend who’d been travelling around Europe. More happens – of course, it does – but, you’d need to read the finished product for that.

Anyways, my husband, who loves his pastries – even though he shouldn’t be eating them…which means I shouldn’t be cooking them – gave this the seal of approval. They were perfect for a rainy Saturday afternoon tea.

Now, if you’re so inclined you can make your own rough puff pastry – after all, they do it all the time on Masterchef and make it look seriously easy. I’ve never tried and have no burning desire to do so. Life’s too short for complications like that – and my husband is usually too impatient for the end result.

So, assuming that you’re not going to be making your own fresh puff – rough or otherwise – here’s what you need:

  • 3 sheets frozen puff pastry
  • Cinnamon sugar made from mixing 2 tablespoons light brown sugar and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon together. Of course, you could just use the pre-mixed cinnamon sugar, but I like doing it this way.
  • 50g melted butter
  • 2 green apples – peeled, cored, and cubed into a tiny dice
  • 1 cup flaked almonds – I used a big handful of slivered almonds because I had some left over from the Christmas cake, but pecans or walnuts would also work well. Your call.

What you do with it

Before you start, hold out a tablespoon of cinnamon sugar. I always forget to do this, but you need this for the top. It’s probably a good idea to pre-heat your oven at this point – to 200C.

Brush one sheet of puff with butter – be generous, this is all about buttery flaky goodness. Scatter with one-third of (what’s left of) the cinnamon sugar.

Lay the next sheet on top of the first and do it all again…and then again with the third sheet.

Scatter the apple pieces and then the almonds over the top of the sugared third sheet of pastry and then roll it up tightly like a swiss roll. Don’t worry about the bits of apple and almond that come out the sides – you can scatter them over the top at the end.

Brush the long open end with some water to seal the pastry, and brush the log with egg wash (1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon milk).

Using a super sharp knife, carefully slice the log into slices about 2.5cm (an inch) thick and even more carefully transfer the slices to a baking tray that you’ve lined with baking paper.  You’ll be laying the spirals flat. Although it’s tempting to lay them against each other so they won’t open up, where they touch each other they won’t crisp up as well. You have been warned.

Brush the tops with more of the egg wash, and poke the leftover appley bits into the scrolls. Now pop the tray into the oven for about 40 minutes.

While they’re doing their thing in the oven, heat a few tablespoons of honey with a half teaspoon of vanilla extract in a small saucepan. Keep an eye on it though – you don’t want it to boil.

When the scrolls are crisply golden, brush them with the honey glaze and scatter over about a tablespoon of caster sugar. Pop them back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes – until the sugar is melted and it’s all quite golden and sticky.