Hi, how are you?

It’s hard to believe that it’s been six months since I last posted.  Time flies etc. I have occasionally checked in on stats and it’s nice to see I get the same amount of visitors when I don’t post for six months than when I post three times a week. No really it is nice.

I’ve decided to make a return appearance for a few reasons, some big, some little.

  • In 11 days we are off to Argentina and Chile for, what I hope will be, the trip of a lifetime.  We’re going hiking in Patagonia, wine drinking in Mendoza and architecture viewing in Buenos Aires.  Cannot wait.  As usual I’ll be blogging here.
  • This week Open Heart International posted a short film made by the incomparable Richard Bullock about our trip to Rwanda last year (you can read about that here, here, here and here. )  I really hope you’ll take the 12 minutes to watch it, it is confronting, but demonstrates the passion with which OHI volunteers operate (literally.)  I have a brief cameo in it, looking pretty average as it was a very tough day for me physically (broke my arm) and emotionally (watch the film to learn more.)
  • I’m tying up loose ends with my first year as a PhD candidate.  I’ve almost finished my marking for my year of teaching (which I have loved), I’ve presented my stage one assessment and written a draft paper, and I’ve learnt a hell of a lot.  It’s been a tough process, but a rewarding one.  I feel I’m in a good place for next year.
  • From personal development perspective I had a small revelation last week.  I have a new motto, when watching the behaviour of those around me, it is ‘but does it make them happy?’  When someone does something aggressive, or show pony like, I just ask myself ‘but does it make them happy?’ and you know what? Perspective unlocked.
  • At a higher degree research conference last week I got chatting to a colleague about health and diet.  She has been testing auto-immune paleo diets, so we shared stories.  As I spoke to her I realised that I had slid far from the paleo path (more like 20/80 than 80/20 – no longer predominantly paleo) and the ramifications of which were sleep problems, weight gain, yoga injuries, hay fever and general grumpiness.  Why was it so hard to remain committed to eating principles that made my life better? In some way I think giving up recipe development on this blog contributed, as I no longer had the impetus to continue (clearly my own well being was not enough.)  There was always an excuse – next week I’d get back on the wagon.  This week I said ‘no more’ and have begun the mojo-restoring journey. After two days I feel better (even with a slight paleo-flu headache.)  I have to keep reminding myself that keeping healthy is not a ‘nice to do’ it is a ‘must do.’

So does that mean the blog is back?  Maybe.  I’ve stopped posting so many food photos on social media, so maybe I need to re-energise this outlet? Maybe the odd recipe will return.

Until then, watch the video, follow our travels and I hope to ‘see’ you soon.

Taking a break

I love writing blogs.  I get so excited when I travel as I have ideas running through my head every day.  My PhD blog has helped me get through writers block and really make progress.  Blog’s are awesome.

But this one is feeling a bit like a chore right now.  I love cooking and sharing the recipes, but I am not a professional blogger. My photos are rubbish and my writing is not considered.  I’m never going to get invited to food blogger events (nor do I want to) and I don’t have the time to market myself. I don’t even share this on social media anymore.  My readership was going strong for a while, but is now reducing and I haven’t the time to work on it.

I’m also falling behind on my PhD, mainly because I took on a high teaching load in the latter half of the semester, and took off to China for a week. In addition I agreed, reluctantly, to get involved in a fundraising event which has ended exactly as I feared, that is not well.

Then, to issue me with another whack, I’ve been told I need at least one operation to repair the arm I broke last year. I didn’t really expect that I may be having surgery three times to repair the ‘multiple anomalies’ I have. This means another 6 weeks in a cast from July, and 6 months rehab. Again. Then more if I have the further work. My yoga practice is really in trouble, and as for typing…

Consequently I’m taking a blog break. Until I get back on track with my ‘real job’ I need to be 100% dedicated to it.  I’ll still share recipes on instagram and maybe I’ll come back in a month or two, the same or different.

Thanks for reading.


Fashion rules for 40

Capsule wardrobe over 40 style by Wardrobe Oxygen

Capsule wardrobe over 40 style by Wardrobe Oxygen

I love lists.  It is a blogger rule that list posts get more traffic.  Top 10 ways to improve your life/diet/husband/wardrobe will always garner interest.

I also love breaking rules.  So give me a list of things I’m not supposed to wear and I’m there. 

So I was interested to read this list by Allie from Wardrobe Oxygen. it was timely, coming a week from my 40th birthday.  Sure she’s writing about rules for your 30s, but 40 is the new 30 right? (at least in Surry Hills.)

There’s a lot I agree with, but don’t always do.  My hands, they are a disaster, one of my most enduring and horrible habits, that I have tried to break for 30 years, is the damage I do to my hands.  Enough said.  I agree that shoes, bags, hair cuts, bras, tailoring and cobblers are all important.  In many cases it just makes economic sense to invest in quality over shoddy (cost per wear.)  But quality does not always equal expensive.  A designer label does not mean longevity.  The best bag I ever purchased was made by a family stall in Pike Place Market, Seattle.  I use it every day and it still looks great after years.

The first item on the list hurt.  I LOVE statement necklaces, it has been my ‘thing’ for 10 years.  But in all honesty I can see the point.  I cleaned out my accessories drawer a few weeks ago and a lot of the cheaper pieces are now gone.  Let’s say I’m more judicious in my use than I was.

But I got thinking about what is on my list.  What are the essentials that I could not live without, and would recommend to others, whether they be 25 or 45.

1. A dress that makes you happy.

ASOSWiggleDressinBorderWallpaperFor me that is a version of the Asos wallpaper dress, as seen here. While I was thinking the classic black dress is a wardrobe staple, I currently don’t have one, and when I put on this dress I instantly feel happy.  That’s a nice feeling.  So ensure you have a mood lifting dress in your repertoire.

2. A classic coat.


I wanted a Burberry trench coat since I was a teenager.  Even when the brand was appropriated by the ‘chavs.’  The style, quality and universality of the piece kept it in my mind for decades.  I finally took the plunge on my 39th birthday and I know I will wear it for the rest of my life. Your version might be a camel coat, or cashmere.  It might be navy or bright red.  But a good coat is a must.

3. Quality shirts.


I am not sure how it happened but I iron more now I work from home than I did when I had an office job.  Why, because I think shirts are the best thing ever.  I recently scored this one from Elk, I live in my Gap and Uniqlo denim shirts and I love Liberty florals. You thought I’d add stripes in here didn’t you?  Not this time.

4. Jeans that fit.


Jeans are the staple of my wardrobe, and likely will be for the future.  While I support the cost per wear theory (spend more on what you wear most) I find that jeans are an exception. I’ve spent $200 on jeans, yet it’s the $50 Levis bold or demi curve straight jeans that are the best I’ve ever worn.

5. Black boots.


I’ve tried to be a heels person. Really.  But it is not going to happen. Personally I am not trained in the art of heels, and I also resent the chinese foot binding nature of the whole concept.  Give me a Chie Mihara solid heel or a black ballet flat any day. But boots, boots are my shoe holy grail.  I grew up wearing RM Williams, and still have a pair that is 20 years old. But the holy grail for me has always been the black, flat, knee high boot.  Being one with ample calves (tree trunk legs) this has been a challenge  I have my heart set on these.  Maybe one day.

6. Gorgeous scarves.


I can’t live without scarves.  In summer they are a hair necessity, and in winter they are adorned daily with blazers and coats.  Whether they be the lifetime investment of Hermes silk or the amazing vintage pieces from The Cook, His Wife and Her Shoes in Surry Hills I think scarves add so much to a wardrobe.

Six items. That’s all I need really. It makes me wonder what is taking up space in  my wardrobe right now.

What would be on your list?

Predominantly paleo – one year on



I thought it worthwhile to stop and reflect on the changes we’ve made to our diet over the past 12 months.  It seems like our time of croissant consumption in Paris was a long time ago.

We have my mother to thank for the inspiration to change.  A shift to a paleo, or as I prefer clean eating, way of life was driven by the success she had.  Though my mother, who it must be said is one of the most competitive people I know, spent a bit too much time focussing on the weight loss benefits of the approach (which for her has been considerable.)

For us the lifestyle and health aspects have been the most interesting.  From early on in the change, around two months in, our energy lifted and our bodies changed.  Coupled with my newfound love of yoga I was much stronger than I had been in years.  We looked better (a friend commented on how our eyes were brighter) and we felt much better.  Gone were my back problems, headaches and I was generally happier than I had been (some of that has to be attributed to yoga and my commencement of my PhD too.)

Weight wise, for the first 6 months there wasn’t a huge change for me.  But again I think some way a transference from fat to muscle. Until I left for Rwanda I maybe lost 5 kilos, and that included undertaking the juice cleanse.  I wasn’t overly happy with that, but as it wasn’t my primary goal I was still pleased. My time in Rwanda, a little more stressful than I’d planned, must have shaken things up a bit, and when I returned I had lost another 5 kilos.

In the six months since then things have remained relatively stable.  We are still predominantly paleo, I haven’t lost, or gained, any weight.  And despite the fact that I have trouble with lingering coughs and my arm may need to be re-broken and reset, I’m pretty healthy (for 40.)

The paleo concept comes under attack, as does the term clean eating (being seen as either a marketing fad or a class based attack on those who cannot afford organic food.)  I’ve written before I find the science behind paleo to be dubious to say the least, and for me the term clean eating is not about cost, or moral judgement, it is about a reduction in processed food and a focus on fresh, seasonal produce.  I don’t always buy organic, though I try, and I do not feel that we have increased our food expenditure since we made this shift.

We still eat pasta, just a bit less.  We still eat the odd burger, and a solid amount of Gelato Messina. This is not going to change.  But you will never find me eating margarine, or packet soup, or a ready made meal. (Mac n Cheese, however, will make an appearance.)  There’s less flour, less oats, less sugar and a lot less potatoes in our lives, and yet we don’t miss them.  For the record, my food rules are still based around Michael Pollan’s:

  1. Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
  2. Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.
  3. Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop on the perimeter of the store.
  4.  Don’t eat anything that won’t eventually rot.
  5. It is not just what you eat but how you eat. (Savour food and respect it.)
  6.  Enjoy meals with the people you love.
  7. Don’t buy food where you buy your petrol.

So that’s my story. Take from it what you will, but whatever you do spend the time thinking about food as more than a chore that is a daily requirement. It brings so much more to your life. And think about the impact of your consumption on the broader environment. Our food choices are a political, economic and environmental decision.

(Rant over.)

Citrus delicious pudding (paleo friendly)

Lemon pudding

When I was young my mother made the best lemon delicious pudding.  A wondering concoction that poured as a batter but separated into a light fluffy top and a tart lemon syrup after cooking.  It was a great winter comfort food.

In my online food journey I came across a paleo friendly version, and after a long week, with a supply of lemons and grapefruit to use, I thought why not? This is refined sugar, dairy and grain free.  But not taste free.

Citrus delicious – Recipe from Primally Inspired.

  • 4 eggs, whites and yolks separated
  • ¾ cup coconut cream
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (powder or extract)
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 grapefruit
  • pinch sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons coconut flour
  • Butter for greasing

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.  Whisk egg whites by hand or using mixer until soft peaks form. In a separate bowl or thermomix , mix together egg yolks, coconut milk, honey, vanilla, juice and zest, and sea salt.

Pour mixture into a well greased 1 litre ramekin or round baking dish. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the centre feels spongy when you gently poke it.  I baked mine for 45 and it could have been a bit less.  The flavour was lovely, but there wasn’t the syrup at the bottom as in non-paleo lemon delicious.

I’m not sure if baking for slightly less time will create this, as it may be the absorbency of coconut flour.  Either way, served with coconut yoghurt it is quite a treat.

Lemon pudding 2

11 (new) restaurants in 11 weeks

Taking up a casual teaching position in 2014 I decided to set Taxman and I the challenge of eating at 11 new (for us) restaurants in 11 weeks, one per class.  Here are the results.

Week One: Il Baretto, Surry Hills.

Verdict: A bit of a let down.  After being named the best BYO in Sydney in one of the good food guides I expected a much better quality of food.  Taxman had risotto, I had pasta, and neither were great (in our opinion.)  Service was lovely though, nice people.


Week Two: Pinbone, Woolhara.

Verdict: Awesome.  We had the ‘small chef’s selection’ which was the most amount of food I’ve eaten in one sitting in a very long time.  Fantastic quality, innovative and interesting.  And apart from dessert and one other dish (and we had about 10) they were paleo friendly. (Not on purpose of course, but it just worked out that way.)  Tofu and bacon  – a combination not often seen together but WOW.


Week Three: A technical miss – we saw Glen Hansard at the Opera House with friends and ate at Cafe Nice.  Which is good cheap and cheerful, but not a new restaurant for us.


Week Four: Izakaya Fujiyama, Surry Hills.

Verdict: Good.  Would be better if I had a husband who ate seafood and we could have shared sashimi, but what we had was lovely.  Great sake selection.  Give desserts a miss as underwhelming.


Week Five: Sort of cheat- we actually ate at home, but only because the restaurant we’d planned to go to we ended up at the night before after a gallery show.  So I’m still counting Love Supreme, Paddington.

Verdict: A great cheap and cheerful. Good pizza, crispy salad, scoffable wine. Quick and satisfying service.  Followed by Rivereno gelato.  What we’d call a good Wednesday.


Week Five (and a half): Ester, Chippendale. (We had this booked for a Saturday night, so slipping this in here.)

Verdict: Another big win. Like Pinbone we did the $65 small chef’s selection and, again like Pinbone, it proved chef’s can’t count – we got 11 dishes when they said it was 7.  Really excellent food though, local, sustainable bent with a lot cooked in a wood fired oven.  Even though we didn’t choose we got everything I wanted to try including the amazing bone marrow with XO and a terrific chicken with bread sauce.  And do try the salted caramel semifreddo with black sesame.  Amaze.


Week Six: Foley Lane, Surry Hills.

Verdict: This is the place that proves you can have a quick, inexpensive meal in Sydney without sacrificing quality. Lovely selection of tapas with good wines (and negroni) and the flan is, to quote my pal Russell, to die for. A perfect spot for a rainy night.


Week Seven:  Vincent, Woolhara

Verdict: Owned by the successful team behind Buzo (now gone) and Wine Library (still thriving) Vincent is a lovely classic french experience.  It was somehow fitting we ate there a year to the day from when we arrived in Paris.  The mains were excellent, particularly the poulet and bread sauce.  Desserts let us down a bit, but it’s hard to compare to the masters in Paris.  Great value and worth a look.


Week Eight: Nom, Darlinghurst

Verdict: A tiny Japanese hole in the wall run by three Japanese women who seem to cook everything in one pot.  Fantastic sake collection and a great little menu.  We sat at the bar and watched them cook, which meant we ordered everything that looked good. Which was a lot.  Great value and we will be back.


The format of the challenged changed at this point as I found myself teaching two classes in a row on Thursday nights, and therefore could not guarantee the time, or the stamina to go to dinner every Thursday eve.  But I was determined to complete the challenge…


Week Nine: Pasta Emilia, Surry Hills.

Verdict: I’ve been a regular pasta buyer here in pre-paleo days, but had never been a diner patron. We arrived late on a Friday and found it bustling. The menu is simple, the food rustic and the service prompt.  A weekday meal spot, unpretentious and satisfying.


Week Ten: La Mint, Darlinghurst.

Verdict: All our local friend had been here and all raved about it. Cheap, cheerful and good value.  We went prior to seeing a band and were really pleased, but not surprised, with how good it was.  A French/Vietnamese mash-up that features weird cheese wontons (good) and amazing chilli prawns.  On the regular list now.


Week Eleven: The Persian Room, Pyrmont

Verdict: We had planned to finish with Alpha in the city (which we are going to tonight) but we slipped in a large group booking at this family friendly Pyrmont place.  Chosen by our Iraqi friend as he heard it was good it didn’t disappoint in terms of quality or quantity. We just said “bring food” and bring food they did.  The dessert selection of persian fairy floss, turkish delight, nougat and a particularly refined version of baklava were standouts.  Stay away from arak, please.  And you can finish with arabic karaoke if you so please.

I’m pretty pleased we managed this challenge, especially given the last few months have thrown up more than a few challenges.  We have gained new favourites from this process, and more than a few I wish to return to.  Dining out is a balancing act, you want to support your local favourites to ensure they stay open (we still miss you The Falconer) but also explore the great cuisine the city has to offer.  In these 11 weeks we sampled Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Vietnamese, French, ‘modern Australian’ and Iranian food.  What a lucky place to be where you get all this almost on your doorstep?