How to make Christmas Crack

New Zealand Christmas Tree

New Zealand Christmas Tree

Ok, I need to say at the outset that this really is the name of the recipe. Christmas Crack. My friend made some for her builders and wondered whether she could therefore legitimately call it Builder’s Crack? Hmmm….you’re probably going to need to be an Aussie or a Kiwi to understand that one.

Anyways, this is a relatively easy little recipe that is festive enough for this time of the year. After all, how could you possibly go wrong with caramel, chocolate and salada biscuits? Am I right or am I right?

As for the crack part of the Christmas Crack recipe? Some say it’s the sound as you break the biscuits, others could say that it’s because of the addictive nature of the salty caramel and chocolate combo. I’ll leave that one up to you.

As per usual, the ingredients and quantities are a tad loose. From this recipe we got 2 trays of crack (that really does sound so wrong).

What you need

  • Salada biscuits – or some other salted cracker e.g. premiums or saltines – enough to line the tray/s
  • Dark chocolate – we used Whittaker’s because I was in New Zealand and because this is an amazing chocolate…just saying. Anyways, you’ll need 300-340g…or thereabouts.
  • 220g dark brown sugar
  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Maldon salt or other salt flakes
  • Pohutukawa blossoms to style the finished result are an optional but oh so perfect finishing touch. Just saying. These ones were acquired from an obliging tree in Petone.

What you do with it

  • Preheat your oven to about 200C
  • Line a cookie tray with alfoil. Spray it lightly with olive oil or cooking spray.
  • Line your lined tray (yes, that did come out loud) with your saladas

  • Make your caramel. For this caramel you need to stir – and keep stirring – but it’s worth it. Pop the sugar, butter and maldon salt – into a saucepan. Re the amount of salt you use, ¼ of teaspoon for a regular caramel, a tad more for salted. Your call. Anyways, cook it over a medium heat, stirring until the butter melts, then stir some more – for another 5 minutes or so – until it boils and darkens in colour. Don’t get too precious about the colour. Add the vanilla extract and stir that in.
  • Pour the caramel over the biscuits to make a relatively thin, even coat, and pop it into the oven for 5 minutes. the caramel should bubble away happily.

  • Now you can melt your chocolate. The easiest way is in the microwave in 30sec stages. Cook for 30secs, then stir…and repeat until melted.
  • As long as the caramel has stopped bubbling, pour over the caramel in a thin layer. As a little extra, sparkle over some extra malden salt, or maybe some coconut or even red and green M&Ms for that festive look.
  • Allow to cool on the tray and then transfer to the fridge for an overnight rest.
  • Once it’s cold, take it out of the pan and remove the foil. Now you get to crack the biscuits. Of course, you could make score lines down the natural break marks of the crackers to get a neat square, but where would be the fun in that?


  • Transfer your Christmas Crack to an appropriately photogenic plate and pop some pohutukawa on top. Then move it around the house until you find the perfect light and background to photograph your ummm crack.

Note: The pohutukawa is the New Zealand Christmas tree – so called because it blooms very dramatically during December. You probably won’t find it anywhere else in the world…but once you’ve seen one you won’t forget it.



I’m writing this sitting at Brisbane Airport waiting for a flight out to Wellington for a long weekend. It’s one of those spur of the minute things that happened when I was messaging my bestie a couple of weekends ago. I’m more excited that I probably should be for a four day break.

I didn’t think I’d have time to get a post up today, but on the way to the airport this morning (at 5am thank you very much) my timehop app reminded me that this time two years ago we’d checked into our B&B in Burford, in The Cotswolds, for the first few nights of our seven week UK road trip. And I figured I might as well revisit that trip – as a way of transferring the posts to here…sort of… Then I read Debbish’s post about how she was contemplating a visit to the area and I figured it was meant to be…

Anyways, we ended up coming back to the Cotswolds for another week – a stay which gave me the inspiration for my book Wish You Were Here – but those first few days around Burford were all we could hope for.

Where we stayed in Burford

A B&B called Star Cottage, a 10 minute walk from town. I wrote about it here. It was everything an English B&B should be – complete with a spaniel that did circles.

Star Cottage, Burford

Out and about in Burford


I showed you around Burford in this post. It’s everything you want in a quintessentially English country town and more. There’s the old church and cemetery, the history, the oh so cute shopfronts, and the pubs. Oh the pubs.

Plus a river running through it and plenty of country walks. As I said, everything you’d expect it to be.

Out and about from Burford

From here we re-traced steps from our last trip – 20years previously – and went out to Bibury, Upper and Lower Slaughter, Bourton On The Water…and more.

For more pics and road trip ideas, check out this post.

Because it’s Thursday, I’m linking up with the LovinLife Ladies. Check out the happy in the links below.

Nanowrimo: Week 2 Update



Week 2 of Nanowrimo has just ended and the words are still pouring out. I know that there’s a wall approaching – I can see it in the distance, but every time that I get close to it, it retreats…thankfully.

So, to the word count. It’s growing and, as I write this late on Tuesday afternoon, has just passed the 28000 word mark. I’m well ahead of the nanowrimo graph – which is a grand thing indeed, especially given that I’m off to New Zealand to visit a friend this weekend.

Nanowrimo Word Count – Week 2

Day 8              2178

Day 9              1268

Day 10            2025

Day 11             2780

Day 12             2061

Day 13             3013

Day 14             2094

How am I finding time to write?

Yes, I’m still working my corporate gig, and yes, I’m still fulfilling my social responsibilities. How am I doing it? The story I’m telling me has a grip on me and I’m making use of every single spare moment. I suspect that if I wasn’t enjoying the story as much as I am, the words would not be coming as easily as they have done. It’s still feeling as though it’s writing itself.

Thankfully we’ve finished binging on Season 1 of Designated Survivor, and we’re not going to start Season 2 until December. Even more thankfully, the next season of The Crown isn’t coming to Netflix until December. I don’t think that I could have resisted that sort of temptation.

I’m not adding any new content to the astro site for now, and I’m going a tad easy on myself regarding blogging in general. I’m also not walking as much as I usually do.

I’m writing at the beginning and end of the day and I’m sneaking in a quick thirty minutes at lunchtime when I can. It’s enough to keep the word count ticking over. In short, I’m pretty much writing and working….or working and writing…you get the idea.

Oh, and the herb garden needs weeding and mulching…badly.

And the story?

It continues to change from my original premise. I’m about to do something pretty dreadful to my characters, and because I like them so much I’m having second thoughts about it – and delaying writing that particular scene. I figure though, that if I like them and hate myself for what I’m about to do, my readers will also feel the same – and that, I hope, is a good thing. Besides, this one scene will take this novel from a romance more into the realm of general fiction. Unusually for me, I have absolutely no idea at this point about how it’s going to end.

Although I have a better idea of the motivations of my protagonists than I usually do at this point, I haven’t yet got a great sense of place. This story is set mostly in Sydney – on the North Shore – and partially in New Zealand. The NZ part is easy, but my Sydney chapters definitely need…more…something? More traffic perhaps? Seriously though, much of that depth will come through in the second draft. For now I’m concentrating on getting the words out.

What else?

On Sunday (day 12) I spent all day at a workshop about writing food into your story with the fabulous Josephine Moon. We didn’t just learn about food, we learnt about how food, flavour and fragrance – and the words we use to describe these things – can add layers to the story. That, and reading the current edition of Salt (a locally produced free magazine) gave me some light-bulb moments – including a possible career choice for my protagonist, Kate. Again, that’s the sort of colour that really comes through after the first draft is done – and provides a truly valid reason for disappearing down the rabbit hole of pinterest.

As the story progresses, so too does the playlist. To the early Midnight Oil and Goanna I’ve added some Vance Joy, Gotye, Ed Sheeran, and a little Adele.

What about you? If you’re also doing nanowrimo, how are you going with it? Will you have more words at the end of November than you did at the beginning of the month?

What pelicans know about cycles

Pelicans complete the same cycle each night
The pelican squadron

The hubster and I have gotten into a habit of walking on the beach at least a few afternoons a week. I’m still doing the beach boardwalk most weekday mornings – although it has been raining an awful lot up here over the last few weeks – but this is different.

We both work remotely back to corporate jobs in Sydney, so this is our way of finishing the day, putting a fullstop under it. And trust me, it’s a much more enjoyable way to end the day then the commute ever used to be.

It’s also one of the things I’m enjoying about not having daylight savings up here – and I never thought that I’d say that. With all my work and colleagues based in Sydney daylight savings raises a whole lot of issues. For the days that I work, I’m on Sydney time. Instead of logging on at 8.30, I’m on at 7.30. That means that at 5pm when the George St office is clearing out to head to buses and trains, it’s only 4pm here. On work days our house is full of conversations like:

‘What time’s your meeting?’


‘Is that Sydney time?’


‘So 2.30 ours.’


You should have seen us try and coordinate airport drop-offs with meetings and their time and our time the last time I had to be in Sydney. It wasn’t pretty.

We each run our work computers on Sydney time so the calendars don’t get confused, but man, it sometimes does my head in. But at the end of the day is a beach walk.

There are a lot of jokes urban myths reasons why Queensland has never complied with the other Eastern states and gone to daylight savings. It’s about the chooks, some say – they’ll go off the lay. Others say it’s about the cows and how it disrupts the milking cycle. Then there are the ones who think that the curtains will fade. Personally, I think it’s obstinacy, but after living up here, despite the hassles with timezone changes – especially when working or travelling to Sydney and Melbourne – I’m loving how not having daylight savings allows us to continue to tune into the cycles of the sun.

I’m a cycles girl from way back – hello, I’m an astrologer as well as a whatever else it is that I do. Since moving up here we shop seasonally at the markets, we eat locally, we cook according to what’s fresh.

We’ve also become more in tune with the tidal patterns, know the direction that our bad weather comes from, and tend to wake at first light.

I’ve become aware of the changes in the beach – from storms, onshore winds, tidal patterns. There are the cycles that bring seaweed into shore, and the ones that bring little jellies in on the tide. There are days when the beach appears to have a cliff in the sand, and then it’s gone. Some days the sand is so wet so far up the beach that it’s almost as though the tide changed it’s mind and retreated super fast.

On Monday afternoon we watched a pelican fly over – as it does at that time of the day every day – or rather at that time of the sun’s cycle every day. Then, a little further down the beach we saw the squadron – three pelicans that, you guessed it, fly over at the same time every day. They float up there in the sky until a fourth joins them – the way they do every day, and then at some point over the top of The Loo With A View, the first joins their little group and they head off together towards wherever it is they go each night.

It’s a pattern that repeats itself each day.

The pelicans don’t know about daylight saving, my dog doesn’t know about daylight saving when she starts asking for her dinner at the same time each night, the birds that start at 4.15am don’t know that it should be daylight saving.

As for me? I’m with the pelicans. There’s comfort in rituals, and there’s comfort in following the cycles – that, however doesn’t mean that I don’t wish from time to time that we could all be on the same time zone.

Because it’s Thursday, it’s also time to get our happy on with the Lovin’Life linky.

To join in the Lovin’ Life Linky, all you’ve got to do is: Link one post about what you’re currently lovin’ in life. Read two or three posts from other Lovin’ Life Linkers and leave a comment so they know you’ve dropped by. Spread the Lovin’ Life word and feel free to link back.

The Lovin’ Life team includes:

50 Shades of Age | Seize the Day Project | Debbish | Write of the Middle | Deep Fried Fruit.

The linky goes live at 7.30am every Thursday and finishes at 7.30am of a Monday (Australian Eastern Time). Click on the link below to join in…

Nanowrimo: Week 1 Update



Week one of Nanowrimo is now officially done. After a slow start I’m well and truly back on track.

My daily word count for the first week of nanowrimo looks like this:

Day 1  0

Day 2  0

Day 3  2211

Day 4  2818

Day 5  3225

Day 6  2252

Day 7  2548

More importantly, my nanowrimo graph looks like this.

Apart from the slow start – I was in Sydney for work and staying with my parents, neither of which is conducive for creative work – the words have been flying from my fingers.

Already, though, it’s a completely different story from the one I envisaged. That’s probably not that surprising.

This story, working title After The Happy Ever After, is a grown up book and my grown up protagonists have grown up kids and grown-up problems.

Is it a romance? You know, I’m not sure. It’s definitely got romantic elements, and there’s a bit of a second chance at love sort of theme. The idea I’m loosely working towards, though, is more one of reinvention – specifically the sort of reinvention that has a habit of being sprung on you in middle age as a result of life events. As John Lennon said, Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. That sort of thing.

I still don’t know how it will end, but I do have a beginning and a middle in my head.

There’s a little bit of me in every one of my books and for this one I’m giving Kate Spence, my protagonist, a some of my history – from the things you didn’t know about me file.

Kate and Neil Spence meet after a Hiroshima Day rally in August 1985. Kate is in her first year at university and is loosely involved in the Nuclear Disarmament Party – and pretty much any other cause that comes her way. She’s marching to make a difference – and because she’d heard rumours that Midnight Oil would be playing at the Quay afterwards.

Neil has not really heard of Hiroshima Day, but he’s at the Quay because he heard a rumour that The Oils would be playing. He’s also one of the lucky ticket winners who got to see them play Goat Island in January 1985. I gave him that because there was no way my parents would have let me go – even if I did win tickets.

(As an aside, does anyone else remember watching that on ABC or listening on the Js? Or is it just me? Yes, I really am that old.)

Anyways, I attended that Hiroshima Day rally – partly because I supported the cause, and partly because I’d also heard the rumours about The Oils and was a massive fan. In fact, I’ve often wondered whether it was some elaborate urban myth designed to help get the rally numbers up. Thanks to the power of the internet geekdom, in the process of researching this book over the weekend I found out that they were touring the US at the time so couldn’t have been doing an impromptu concert at the Quay. There’s one mystery solved. You can thank me later.

What else? I also gave Kate the story about how I quoted Midnight Oil in an economics essay:

The rich get richer, the poor get the picture
The bombs never hit you when you’re down so low 

And yes, I passed.

Finally, I sent Kate and Neil to the Wilderness Society benefit concert in December 1985. I can’t remember whether we were fighting for the Daintree or Kakadu, but I remember Redgum, Midnight Oil, and the Warumpi Band.

In short? I’m loving writing this book. Possibly as much as I enjoyed writing Big Girls Don’t Cry – that was another that almost wrote itself.

Having said that, it could be a very different story by next week’s update.

That’s a Wrap…

Jacarandas in Eumundi

I have to be honest – I struggled a tad with this week.

Partly I think it was because I was in Sydney for work (and didn’t want to be), and partly because I’m at that point where I just want to not log on for a few days. And yes, I know that only I work my corporate gig for 3 ½ – 4 days a week, but I’m really tired. The thing is, I effectively work two jobs – when you count the writing, which I absolutely do count.

I had a break in April – but that came straight after packing and moving house. Prior to that my last proper break was a week in November last year when I did the Milford Track.

I think I need a proper holiday, but I really don’t blame people for laughing when I say that. I live in flipping paradise.  I no longer need a break from my life and where I live, but I do need a break from work. And yes, I’m aware that there are so many of us who do – and I’m fortunate in that I can…take a break, that is.

Anyways, without further ado, let’s wrap this week…

What I booked…

A long weekend in Wellington with my bestie. This will tide me over until those few days at Christmas – and until my proper holiday in April.

What I’m loving…

Not used to having to wear a face (or shoes) on a daily basis, I left my lipstick at home in Queensland – which meant I had to visit the Bobbi Brown counter in the city and I had to buy a couple of the new crushed lip colours. Oh my! These are my type of lipsticks – apply it lightly and you get almost a stained lip. Build it up for something more formal. Just perfect.

What I bought…

Christmas ornaments. We buy a new ornament for our (mismatched) tree each year. This year will be the first Christmas since we’ve been married where we’ll be hosting and catering Christmas for friends – and we’re beyond excited.

These ornaments I found in DJs city store were perfect for our first Queensland Christmas.

What I didn’t know…

That Jett’s fitness clubs started life in Mooloolaba and the founder, a Sunshine Coast man, is now on the rich list.

Weird Coincidences…

On the plane last Saturday I was approached by someone I’d worked with many years ago – in late 2011 to be exact. I recognised her once she told me her first name – Ros. Anyways, on Monday morning while waiting for my BMF and coffee, I had an almost identical conversation with someone else who I hadn’t seen since late 2011.

His name came to me many hours later – Rod. His surname? Exactly the same as the woman I met on the plane on Saturday. Ros and Rod, same surname, no relation, both last seen in November 2011. Weird, hey?

What we celebrated…

My father’s 79th birthday, Happy birthday, Ronnie…

What blew me away…

The development in Castle Hill since I left.

What is seriously almost Melbourne cool…

The installation down at Barangaroo.

What frightened me a little bit…

Weird spiky pain in my right eyebrow upon descent into both Sydney and Maroochydore. It’s happened once before a few years ago, but was really quite nasty this time. I suspect it has something to do with sinuses. Best not to dwell on that one.

What made me giggle…

The headlines in Sunshine Coast Daily that come up in my notifications. I’m thinking that they’re trying super hard to match with NT Times, but can never match the sheer brilliance of “if you’re walking on the reef and you feel some sharp teeth, that’s a moray”, or the classic “why I put a cracker up my clacker.”

An assortment from this week includes:

  • Man viciously attacked by mystery snake – authorities on high alert
  • Supercells predicted as storms strike coast (as an aside, we don’t have thunderstorms here, we have super cells)
  • Predators on move – get shark smart

and my personal favourite…

  • Gunshots? Loud bangs spark alarms in Coast suburbs (the noises were later confirmed to be fireworks)

Something I heard at the markets…

‘You’ll need to carry the donuts – I have to carry all the kombucha…”

Where we lunched…

Bohemian Bungalow at Edmundi. Oh how I loved his place. You can read all about it here.

What I’m reading…

A Deadly Kerfuffle, by Tony Martin. I bought it for my return flight the other day and it’s flipping hilarious.

How was your week?





Sentence a day – October…

October. It was a month of family birthdays, of more rain than I’ve seen in a long time, of bad days in the office, and a lot of miles – both air mails and road miles. Aside from getting through a mountain of stuff in the day job, I finished my copy edit for my new novel, agreed the cover, and signed off on a new logo and  social media banner.

Anyways, here’s the month that was October.

1. Marvellous Melbourne – catch-up with an authorly friend, lots of steps and dumplings. 2. Home again – and some much needed rain.

3. More rain – and some planting in the rain.

4. Belly dancing starts back – shimmy shimmy.

5. End of month reporting in the corporate gig and a late afternoon coffee with a friend.

6. Haircut and Guru Life for lunch – there’s no connection between the two. 7. Markets, housework, and an afternoon cooking – including a spiced ginger cake from my new Darren Purchese cookbook. The recipe is here. 8. Checked out Rick’s Garage at Palmwoods for lunch and a late afternoon visit from a Sydney colleague. 9. Morning walk, evening walk, gym in my lunch hour – and a full day in the office.

10. Whales off the beach this morning – what a great start to the day. Followed by a talk on the health of the reefs around the Sunshine Coast with Reef Check Australia.

11. Best whale off the beach sighting yet this season.

12. Awful long, long, long, day in the office – my head hurts.

13. Lunch at Chances – fabulous mussels in laksa broth. 14. Maryborough and Bundaberg, Mary Poppins and rum…and rain, lots of rain. 15. Bargara and a drive past Hervey Bay – and more rain.

16. More rain – in fact we’ve had 3 times the October average rainfall in just 3 days – with more on the way.

17. More rain, flight to Sydney delayed. 18. Sydney, for work…enough said.

19. In the office office and a catch-up with one of my besties for dinner.

20. Home – to the sun.

21. Guess what, it’s raining again – a great day to whip up an Indonesian feast: chicken satays, beef rendang and coconut ice cream all from scratch.

22. Bar snacks and cocktails at Hong Sa at The Spirit House – an early birthday lunch for hubby. 23. Long and awful day in the office. This is becoming a habit.

24. Take yesterday and repeat – but with sun.

25. Belly dancing – I’ve missed the last 2 weeks due to work. We did things with sticks.

26. Happy birthday to my wonderful hubby. Dinner at Bella Venezia at Mooloolaba to celebrate.

27. Nailed my copy edit.

28. Sydney. That’s all.

29. Shopping in the city, Christmas ornaments, and a family catch-up to celebrate my Dad’s birthday.

30. Man, it’s hot! Up to 36C today with a southerly this evening. I have a headache.

31. Still in Sydney, still have a headache. I want to go home.


Ten tips to a great Bali holiday

Rice fields at Wapa di Ume in Ubud

So you’ve booked your trip to Bali – and seriously, why wouldn’t you? It really is the Island of the Gods. To help you get the most and the best out of your trip, I’ve put together a tip or ten…


Yeah, don’t worry about it – it will slide right off your face the minute you step off the tarmac.

I remember one trip we watched a (obviously) newly wed couple at breakfast at the Padma in Legian. She’d obviously bought a “resort wear wardrobe” to wear on her honeymoon and was immaculately decked out each morning – from her freshly straightened hair to her fully made-up face. I reckon it lasted 3 days.

2. Hair

Speaking of which, bring your straightening iron if you wish, but with that level of humidity your chances of keeping your hair straight are as good as those of me ever running again. Actually, they’re probably a bit better than that.

Besides, do you want to be the one sitting beside the pool/beach because you don’t want to get your hair wet?

3. Pack a sarong

You’ll need it for temples. Don’t worry too much if you do forget – you can hire them from most temples.

While I’m at it, pack lightly – and preferably no man-made fibres.

4. Helmets and motorbikes

Ever heard Redgum’s ‘I’ve Been To Bali Too?’ Remember that line ‘as a motorcycle hero I guess I’m a failure?’ No? I wrote a whole post on motorbikes in Bali a few years ago. The link is here.

Anyways, my message is, just because you can doesn’t mean that you should. If you don’t ride a bike at home, it’s probably not super smart to learn in Bali. And if you do, don’t do it bare-headed in shorts and thongs.

While there’s no flash public transport, the Bluebird taxis are cheap, plentiful and, more importantly, metred.

If you’re getting out and about for the day – and you absolutely should – consider hiring a driver and an air-conditioned car. It will set you back about $80, but it’s safe, comfortable, and convenient.

5. Water

Don’t drink it. I even clean my teeth in bottled water. Just saying.

6. Bali Belly

Touch wood, I’ve never had it – and I eat local. I do follow some simple rules – such as looking for places with good turnover – and tend to avoid Western food. Why? Because the way we store and handle food is different.

Oh, and I carry a hand sanitiser, don’t eat pre-peeled fruit, and drink only from bottles that have been sealed. The usual stuff, really.

7. Beaches

As famous as they are, unless you’re looking for the elusive perfect break, the beaches mightn’t be as good as you have at home. Especially if you’re from the Sunshine Coast…just saying…but  don’t listen to me, I’m biased.

8. Haggling

Expect to haggle – especially in Kuta, Legian and in the ‘art’ markets or the stalls that are the Balinese equivalent to gift shops outside most major temples and other attractions.

If you want your shopping without a side serve of bartering, head to the boutiques in Canggu, Ubud, Seminyak and even parts of Legian. It’s in these places that you’ll find your designers, homewares, silver jewellery etc. Just don’t expect a bargain.

9. The name thing

Ok, this one can take a bit of getting your head around, but all Balinese share the same four names. Depending on their birth order, they’ll be either Wayan, Made, Nyoman or Ketut. And if there are more than four children? The cycle is repeated. It’s why most Balinese have a nickname.

10. Choosing your place

I have a belief that there’s a Bali for everyone:

  • If you have fond memories of schoolies, by all means hang out in Kuta. Actually, there’s now a great shopping mall on the beach down there that’s absolutely worth visiting – both for the High St brands and the food options.
  • If you’re more into beach clubs and boutiques, Seminyak might be for you. The restaurant scene up there is great too. Villas are very popular accommodation options in Seminyak.
  • Sanur is where many expats settle and has a much quieter pace. The beach is protected by reefs, so it’s preferred by many families with younger and older members.
  • Nusa Dua is known for its fabulous resorts and is also great for families. There are fewer touts too.
  • Ubud is in the mountains, has seriously good restaurants, great (but not cheap) shopping, and a laid back arts, yoga and new-age scene. Coffee is good and there are plenty of vegan and organic options.
  • Ulu Watu has two types of visitors – those who come for the surf breaks, and those who want to stay at the fantabulously sleek and stylish cliff top resorts.
  • Canggu is getting a following these days too – both for villas and laid back surfer accommodation.
  • As for Legian? There’s an adage that the people who went to Kuta when they were younger go to Legian when their families and their waists start to grow. I’m not so sure about that, but if you find the right place to stay here it’s a happy mix a little of the chaos of Kuta, and a little less of the polish of Seminyak.

Of course, these aren’t the only regions. Don’t overlook the East Coast, or the area west near Tanah Lot and Echo Beach. Then you need to choose between hotel, resort, guest house, or villa. Decisions.

Where do we stay?

We usually spend a week up in Ubud to unwind, and then come down to Legian – although find ourselves in a taxi most nights to Seminyak for dinner.

Sometimes we leave the resort and feel as though we’re running the gauntlet of touts, but at other times, it can be fun to banter with them. It’s a balancing act.

My husband’s worst nightmare would be a secluded romantic getaway, a gated resort, or even a villa. He likes the people watching aspect of a resort, and for me, when it comes to pools, size really does matter – as does a swim up bar.

Because we always eat outside the hotel, we need to be able to get out and about easily, so tend to avoid resorts in the middle of nowhere without a regular shuttle service.

But that’s us. Where should you stay in Bali? When deciding where best would suit you, don’t just ask your friends – everyone will have an opinion. Instead ask those who are into the same type of holiday as you – and at a similar price point.

If you’ve holidayed in Bali before, where do you stay – and why?

Because it’s Thursday, it’s also time to get our happy on with the Lovin’Life linky.

To join in the Lovin’ Life Linky, all you’ve got to do is: Link one post about what you’re currently lovin’ in life. Read two or three posts from other Lovin’ Life Linkers and leave a comment so they know you’ve dropped by. Spread the Lovin’ Life word and feel free to link back.

The Lovin’ Life team includes:

50 Shades of Age | Seize the Day Project | Debbish | Write of the Middle | Deep Fried Fruit.

The linky goes live at 7.30am every Thursday and finishes at 7.30am of a Monday (Australian Eastern Time). Click on the link below to join in…

Babi Guling – how to make a cheat’s version at home


babi guling at Ibu Oka

If you google it, there’s a lot of posts about where the best babi guling – Balinese roasted suckling pig – is in Bali. There’s apparently an unmarked doorway in a village called Buduk north of  Canggu somewhere thats open between 4am and 9am. There’s another listed in Sanur, and yet another in Seminyak that is supposed to be the best.

The best known, however, has to be Ibu Oka in Ubud. Is it the best there? I have no idea, but it’s absolutely certainly worth a visit. If I were to be pressed, hard, I’d say the one I had at Gianyar Markets might have been better, but let’s face it, a good babi guling is really not worth arguing about. It’s best just savoured. With a beer.

Ok, let’s be honest, there’s nothing that really replicates the taste of babi guling – Balinese suckling pig – that can be replicated at home in a commercial kitchen. For a start, in Bali it’s about a whole suckling pig. Without getting too much into the squeamish details, the base gede, or spice mix, is stuffed into the belly which is then stitched back up. The pig is then placed over a fire on a spit – which is hand turned…hence the name, turning pig.

Anyways, this recipe comes pretty close – especially if it’s been 18 months since you were last in Bali and dreaming and scheming about going back. The recipe comes from Adam Liaw’s After Work.

To get the best flavour out of it, you’ll need to start the day before.

For the pork

  • 2kg piece pork belly, skin on
  • 2 tbsp cooking salt

Basa Gede

  • 3 large red or golden shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 thumb sized knob of ginger, peeled
  • 1 large stalk of lemongrass (the white part), roughly chopped
  • 1 coriander root and the stalks (use the leaves for garnish)
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric (I prefer to use peeled fresh turmeric – a bit less than the ginger)
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp caster sugar
  • ¼ tsp white pepper
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp fish sauce

Throw the lot into a food processor until to make a rough paste.


  • 3 large red or golden shallots, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 large red chillies, finely diced
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
  • 1 large stalk of lemongrass (the white part) finely sliced
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • ½ tsp caster sugar
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp peanut (or other vegetable) oil
  • Mix it all together and let it sit to get t know each other for about 30 mins.

Cooking the babi guling

Score the pork skin with a sharp knife and spread the spice paste onto the meat side. Rub salt liberally into the skin and place on a rack (on a tray) uncovered, overnight in the fridge.

Remove the pork from the fridge an hour before you want to cook it. Heat the oven (fan forced to 190C and roast the pork on a rack for 30 mins.

Reduce the heat to 160C and roast for another 30 mins or so – until it is cooked through.

For good crackling, turn the grill setting on for the last 10 mins and wedge the oven door open slightly with a wooden spoon. This allows the steam to escape and helps the crackle, well, crackle.

Serve with the sambal, some steamed or stir-fried greens, and rice. Then book your next trip to taste the real thing!



That’s a wrap…


I’ve been in Sydney (for work) for most of this week, so not a huge amount to report. We’ve had rain – buckets of it, gallons even. Ok, perhaps I’m exaggerating a tad, but we did get about 300mm over 3 days – more than 3 times the usual October average. The tanks are full, the lawns are green, and things are all still a tad soggy. We needed it but.

What I’ve been reading…


The Word is Murder, by Anthony Horowitz. You know how much I love Midsomer Murders, well, Anthony Horowitz was the one who adapted the series from the books by Caroline Graham. he’s also responsible for Foyle’s War – which I also love. Why wouldn’t I be into his books?

I picked up The Word Is Murder at the airport the other day and was unusually grateful for the inevitable delay that rain brings to Jetstar flights out of Sunshine Coast airport. As an aside this is because there are no air bridges and people seem incapable of walking in rain in a purposeful manner. Seriously, what’s the worst that can happen? Your hair gets curly?

Anyways, this is essentially the story of a reluctant author named Anthony who happens to have written Foyle’s War and Alex Rider, and some Sherlock Holmes, who gets dragged into a murder mystery with an unlikeable detective he met on the set of another of his creations Injustice.

It was all so realistic I found myself googling the names of the murder victims. Aside from the story – which is very cozy crime, something else I adore – I loved how he laughed at himself and the life of the successful writer throughout. Without giving any spoiler alerts, there’s a particularly farcical scene involving a script meeting with Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. The reviews I read haven’t been great, but what do they know? I thoroughly enjoyed it.

What I’ve blogged…

I’m updating some of my older Bali posts from and anyways for this website. So far I’ve posted why I’m so hooked on Bali and a recipe for Bumbu Bali. I also posted a training plan for nanowrimo and managed to get a newsletter out. If you want the recipe for Dragon Wings with Avocado Dip that I included in the newsletter, you’ll find it here.

Over on the Sunny Coast site I popped up posts on the new kid on the Mooloolaba block, Central Beach Club, and something on a seriously luxe bar under the Spirit House wing, Hong Sa.

What I wrote…

Not much, I’m in copy edit mode!

What I scheduled…

Baby, It’s You and Wish You Were Here will be available on iBooks from October 25. I’ll pop the links in next weeks wrap. Of course, all 3 books are already available on Amazon… If you’re interested, and of course you are, you’ll find the links in the top menu bar.

What I decided on…

My cover for I Want You Back, and some new logo designs. Below is a screenshot of the cover – I’m yet to receive the jpeg, but you get the idea.

What I started planning…

And I’m using the word planning extremely loosely…my novel for nanowrimo. I have an idea that I’d like to take 30 days and 50,000 words to explore. It’s about grown-up issues with grown-up characters and is sort of what happens after the happy ever after – what happens after bin night, I guess.  I have no idea whether it has legs yet, but if it doesn’t, I’ll have only wasted a month.

A photo of a flower…just because…

I’m loving jacaranda season and am thrilled there’s one in my front yard, but this lovely lilly that I saw at The Ginger Factory today was screaming out to be photographed…

Ok, that was my week…how was yours?