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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Adventures In The Rocks, Sydney

Earlier this month I went to Sydney for a few days with the trip I won with Electrolux ..... If you follow my Instagram or Facebook you would've seen some of photo feed but I can't help myself I have some fun stories and adventures to share from the trip so here is a little more.
The trip we won included flights, 1 night's accommodation, dinner at Quay Restaurant and hotel transfers. We extended the trip by 2 nights so we could venture around Sydney a bit more while we were there.

Packed and ready to go!

We were picked up by a chauffeur at the airport and feeling very much like rock stars climbed into the car and were whisked off to our Hotel.

We stayed at the Four Seasons in The Rocks which was a stunning hotel, very fancy with a separate bath and shower which I love. There was a roof top swimming pool that we ventured up to every day and a hot tub which we had a dip in while enjoying an afternoon drink or two!

The prize included airport transfers to/from the hotel/airport

Four Seasons bathroom ... a bath and a shower such a treat!

We went out for lazy brunches in the morning and to fancy dinners in the evening trying some of the places I had looked up on Urbanspoon before we left home and they did not disappoint. Being an organising queen I had our itinerary of where to eat/drink/play and it meant we could fit a lot more into our day and not be wandering around clueless, I think we fit in pretty much like we were locals!

Breakfast pastries at La Renaissance
Lunch at The Fine Food Store
There were weekend markets on Argyle Street which were fantastic to browse through and I bought myself a few treasures to bring back home.

The food markets

My Supertrooper Studio market find was this artsy tea towel

This Jackie Cooper photo block that I've already added to my dining room gallery wall

A 40 minute ferry ride took us to Manly for the day, it was the perfect place to walk around the beach in the sunshine. We spend a few hours chilling at the Yardarm Taphouse which overlooks the beach, had fish and chips and a few pints of the locally brewed ciders and beers. We also found a micro brewery 4 Pines that we had a sneaky tasting at before we jumped on the next ferry heading back to the City.

The view from the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly

Arriving at Manly Wharf

Walking around the beaches of Manly, it was such a perfect hot summers day

Lunch and drinks at Yardarm Taphouse with a stunning view overlooking the beach

Tastings at 4 pines, a must visit micro brewery not far from the wharf
The reason for our trip was to dine at Quay Restaurant and the view and service did not disappoint. Once seated, behind me was the Harbour Bridge and in front was the Opera House, there were amazing views as the restaurant is all glass windows and we arrived at dusk and watched the sunset and then the night time lights came on and it was like a fairy tale scene. Absolutely beautiful.

This is the view from the front of the restaurant during the day,
just a stones throw from Sydney Harbour Bridge
As for the food, we chose the 9 course tasting menu with matching wines and the stand out of the menu was the snow egg, even after all the hype and such high expectations it impressed us both. I wouldn't say this was my favourite degustation restaurant as the menu itself didn't really take us on a specific journey the way that other degustations do. Also the staff didn't tell us about each course other than to read off the menu, which again was a let down as part of the adventure of a degustation is to tell us all the effort and detail that goes into the little dish placed in front of you.

It was still an amazing experience and if I were to recommend it to my readers I'd say go for the view and experience and for a very special occassion as it was pretty expensive - the bill for the 2 of us was $700, but thankfully because of our prize we were only out of pocket $50 for our pre dinner drinks.

Ready to be wined and dined!

Our tasting menu ... the food and wine just kept on coming!

The famous snow egg
We also did a walking pub tour of The Rocks area on our last night which I highly recommend you do on your first few days here because it will give you ideas of places to visit, drink and eat for the rest of your stay. The cost was $54 per person, which is great value.

This tour is a perfect thing to do as a single, couples, or a few friends. It's a small group with a fun friendly tour leader who will take you all around The Rocks area, tell you about the history and when you're feeling a bit parched you'll be led into 3 different pubs to order whatever drink you like. We even got to go down into the cellar of this old pub in the photo which was a lot of fun if a little spooky!

Our tour group at one of 3 old pubs we stopped at for a drink
This was my favourite as we got to go underneath into the dark and scary cellar!

Larrikin gangs, the rum rebellion, were just a few of the stories we heard about

What to do when the plague is found in The Rocks?
They destroyed and knocked down all the buildings so it wouldn't spread!

How cool is this backpackers with The Rocks ruins underneath
They just build new buildings around and over the top of the ruins to preserve them

On our fourth and final day in Sydney we enjoyed breakfast with a view of Circular Quay, watching the ferry's go to and fro and an uninterrupted view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and all the happenings on the water front. Such a great way to end our few days here.

A morning stroll around Circular Quay
Finding a water side cafe for breakfast with a view

Our  chauffeur then collected us from the Hotel and took us to the Airport.

We had complimentary passes to the airport Business Lounge because our TVs didn't work on the way over ... it was so much fun going into the lounge with it's open bar and top shelf beverages (they even had Little Creatures cider!) and food and snacks set up. I asked about their joining fees but at $800+ for the first year and about $400 each year thereafter it was a little too expensive for me and I think you'd need to fly at least every month to get your moneys worth.
Our complimentary passes to the business lounge
Feeling very relaxed sipping on my cider enjoying the lounge

So that was our whirlwind fun and adventures trip to Sydney!

Staying in The Rocks area was fantastic, close to everything, and with a historical twist to it as well.

I'd really recommend checking out this area if you are ever in Sydney.

[All images my own, group photo via Peek Tours Sydney]
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Monday, February 24, 2014

Book Club Book Review: Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

The February Book Club read was Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
I read this book cover to cover in just a few days, partly because I had to get it finished by our Book Club meet up this week and partly because it was just so good I didn't want to put it down!
Half Broke Horses is a true life story about the author's grandmother but it's written in first person to make you connect more with the story.
This is the life story of Lilly, a young girl growing up on a ranch in country America with her family. She goes to school, goes on to become a teacher, spends time in both the City and Country as she travels across Texas trying to create a life for herself.
Lilly is a hard working women who has a real drive for life, she is adventurous, and will do good no matter what obstacles she is faced with. She throws in these life lessons and comments all the way through the book, she had a sense of humour too which made her all the more likable!
I really enjoyed reading about ranch life, breaking in horses, driving cattle and the cowboys. The differences between city life with electricity and all it's people, compared to the laid back but hard working country life on the land.
I would recommend this book to everyone young and old. It will give you an insight into how life on the land was for the Americans in the early/mid 1900s and proves that if you work hard, you can make a life for yourself, no matter what life throws at you.
I give this book 5 stars of our 5.
Jarrah Jungle's Star Rating:
1 Bad - I'd rather eat brussel sprouts topped with anchovies than read this again
2 Not Good - I'd rather watch re-runs of Neighbours than read this again
3 Ok - I'm sitting on the fence - its not great but not terrible either
4 Good - I'd pass up a pack of tim tams for this read
5 Great - I'd pass up a date with Johnny Depp for this read
[Image via Dymocks]
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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Spaghetti Side Table For The Living Room

I'm so excited to show off my new furniture piece that I had on order from Freedom weeks ago and pretty much squealed like a school girl when I got the call to say it was in store ready for me to collect!
This spaghetti side table is $159 but I got it on sale for $110 - Freedom always seem to be having a sale so if I see something I like I just wait until they announce their sales and go back and get it then .... I don't believe in paying full price for anything there's always a deal to be found!
It has a bit of a retro vibe with the spaghetti legs and I really like the bronze colour, you don't see many bronze pieces of furniture. Well not that I've ever seen anyways and I like that it's a bit unusual.
They come in a few different colours, this year it's all about fluro, last year they had a gold range that I loved but thought it would be a bit too blingy for my Living Room. When I saw the bronze one I knew it would be a much better fit with our Living Room decor.

So here it is right at home in the Living Room beside the couch. A place to put my books and things on. It's the perfect height to put a drink on too, I find some side tables are too low but this is just right.

What do you think of the bronze colour?

[Image 1 via Freedom, all other images my own]
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Friday, February 21, 2014

Gallery Wall Art - Additions

My gallery wall of art and clocks in the dining room is probably my favourite thing in our house. I think it's an unexpected pop of colour when you're in the kitchen and it's become a real talking point whenever friends come over and I love that I created it from all the things that are special to me!
But it's an evolving gallery wall, nothing needs to be set in stone and permanent so I've added a few new treasures to it lately ...
Firstly, my rhino hook needed something to hang from it and for this I came across this gold LOVE ornament from Typo for $1. It's probably meant for the Christmas Tree but with that kind of bling why not have it hanging all year round I say!
The other art additions I picked up from my trip to Sydney last week. This ferris wheel photo block art I bought from The Rocks Markets by local artist Jackie Cooper. It is a perfect memento from our Sydney trip!
I also found this free art postcard when out having dinner in The Rocks which is promoting the upcoming movie The Wolf Of Wall Street. I grabbed it because the saying caught my eye and it's yellow and black the colours of my gallery wall!
I framed the post card over the top of the patterned page that I tore from a magazine, I thought that was freebie art and now with the post card I like it much better.
Putting the frame back on the wall and it looks like it was made to fit the space ... Party like a rockstar live like a king!
So with my recent additions, this is how the wall looks now. If I had to pick a favourite, I'd say it's the DIY rockstar postcard, you can't complain about a freebie!
What do you think of my new wall art additions?

[All images my own]
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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Recipe: Julie Goodwin's Not-Very-Authentic Fried Rice

I'm sharing my favourite fried rice recipe from Julie Goodwin Australia's first Masterchef, from the Our Family Table recipe book and as you can see from the marks on the pages I have cooked this recipe many times! It's my go to mid week dinner when I have leftovers from a Sunday roast, I add in beef, pork or chicken and it's a meal in itself with plenty leftover for lunches the next day.

Not-Very-Authentic Fried Rice
Julie Goodwin, Our Family Table
Serves 4

2 cups jasmine rice
4 rashers bacon, sliced thinly
1/4 cup peanut oil
1 brown onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbs grated ginger
2 eggs
salt and white pepper
1 cup frozen peas
1 tsp Chinese five spice
2/3 cup soy sauce
6-8 spring onions, thinly sliced diagonally
Leftover roast beef, chicken or pork, thinly sliced
1. Cook rice. When cooked, transfer the rice to a large wide bowl and fluff the grains with a fork. (This step is a must as it airs out the rice and makes it all fluffy instead of gluggy!)
2. Meanwhile, heat a wok or large pan and cook the bacon for 2-3 minutes. Add 1 tbs oil, along with the onion, garlic, ginger and your leftover roast (if using). Fry gently until the onion is soft and fragrant, but not brown, then remove them from the wok.
3. Heat 1 tbs oil in the wok and add one lightly beaten egg. Swirl the egg around to create a thin omelette and season with salt and white pepper. When the egg has set, remove the omelette from the wok, roll it up and slice it very thinly. Repeat with more oil and the other egg. While you're waiting for the egg to set, cook the peas according to the directions on the packet.
4. Put the remaining oil in the wok over high heat. Add the rice and stir fry it in the oil, then stir through the Chinese five spice and soy sauce. When all the rice is well coated with soy and has a fairly dry consistency, add the egg, bacon, onion and roast mixture and peas, and then toss to combine before removing the wok from the heat. Just before serving, stir through two thirds of the shallots.
5. Serve the rice topped with the remaining shallots.

This dish is so quick and easy to make and can be varied in any number of ways depending on what is in the fridge or cupboard.

Do you have a recipe for using leftover roast meat?

Linking up with:
Savvy Southern Style
The Dedicated House

[All images my own]

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Laundry Renovation - Picking Tiles

Since our first wet area renovation the bathroom we are much more organised and aware of how the renovation process works and what we need to decide on and pick out first so that we don't hold up the project. So that is why we have already picked out our floor, kick and splash back tiles for the laundry and powder room renovation!
We were going to be thrifty and use the leftover tiles from our bathroom renovation and buy just a few more to do the job. The white wall tiles we were going to cut in half to use as kick tiles and the floor tiles we needed to buy a few more boxes for ... this is what it would have looked like.

But unfortunately the cost and bad customer service turned us off this idea.
The floor tiles RRP at $95 pm2 and we paid $49 pm2 last time on sale were now $71 pm2 and the sales lady was not going to budge on the price. She was extremely unhelpful and I swear actually rolled her eyes at me at one point when I was asking about kick tiles. Bear in mind we are returning customers and had bought all our floor and wall tiles for our bathroom renovation from there AND we were the only people in the store so it's not like she was under pressure to help other people! No wonder the store was empty with that kind of customer service we didn't want to give our money to a place with that kind of attitude. Which is sad as I know it's a family business and the male owner is lovely who we dealt with the previous time .... I actually contemplated letting him know how unhelpful his other staff are but didn't want to cause trouble!
So moving on ... there went the idea of reusing our bathroom floor and kick tiles so we went on some tile hunting trips over the next few weekends, took sample tiles home of the ones we liked (if you ask they will give you a tile for free), it's amazing how different a tile can look once it's in a room under different light and at different times of the day.
It's really important to take a sample tile home before buying ... trust me on this!
Here's a great example of why, I loved this tile it looked like the exposed aggregate that we wanted to have for our new driveway if we had the budget! But when we got the tile home and put it in the room it was way too dark without the fluro shop lights highlighting it and just made the laundry look dark and small, you would need to turn the light on even in the daytime which isn't ideal.
Not to be disheartened we visited our favourite tile warehouse which is the place to find the diamond in the rough there's a huge variety of tiles in boxes to hunt through if you don't mind getting your hands a little dusty and they also have a show room at the front of the store if you prefer your tiles laid out pretty. The prices are very reasonable if not the cheapest we have found around Osborne Park. Cheap does not mean less quality as there are a heap of Italian tiles (which are known to be the better quality tile) as opposed to made in China tiles which are the more popular tile because they are cheaper and more affordable.
We found a grey floor tile we liked and took it home to see how it would look in different lights at different times of the day ... and it was a winner! It kind of looks like concrete and the light colour is going to work really well in such a small room. This tile is Italian made and the Grigio brand the same as our RRP $95 pm2 bathroom floor tile. Our tile was priced at $33 pm2 but we actually got it for $28 pm2 .... The Bargain Queen strikes again!
We also got our grout from there, grey for the floor and white for the kick tile and splash back tile. They have so many different colours to chose from and this sample wheel made it really easy to pick the right grout colour match.
As I  mentioned the floor tiles were marked as $33 pm2 but we were charged $28 pm2 and it was one of those start the car moments! When you get such a good deal you keep thinking they are going to realise they made a mistake and take the goods off you! Too late, they're loaded up and we are out of here!

So this is how the tiles look back home in the laundry. The grey tile is 30 x 60 and the white kick tiles are 15 x 60 so they will match the joint lines of the floor tiles perfectly, the white tile we got for $24 pm2. I love that we found a large tile for the kick tile and we needed just 2 more from a box which they gave to us instead of making us buy the entire box ... Once again that is what I call customer service!

For the splash back tile along the wall behind the laundry sink and in the powder room behind the basin we are going to use our leftover white tiles from the bathroom, they are a 30 x 60 gloss white tile. As a feature in the splash back behind the laundry sink I want to add a stripe of the leftover metallic mosaic tiles along the entire wall which I think will go perfectly with the grey/white colour combination in the room and add just enough personality to stop me from feeling like I'm being a boring designer!
This is how the white tile and mosaics looked in the bathroom (part way through the tiling job!) and after.

So that is all the tiling decisions made for the laundry and powder room.
Now we can move onto the next task of picking out our throne (the toilet!), powder room basin, laundry sink and tap wear.

What do you think of our tile choices?

For updates as I go on the Laundry/Toilet Renovation follow me on Facebook or Instagram and you'll never miss a thing!

[All images my own]

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