Dinner club – a year in review

My friend Juanita has a highly successful dinner club. For the best part of nine years, her and a small group have friends have got together every second Wednesday night.  They go to different restaurants each time, taking it in turns choosing the venue. They also try not to spend more than $15 or $20 each. It’s quite an exclusive club with no new members in nine years. Only the people who started the club + their partners are involved.

When Juaneets used to talk about dinner club to Mel and I, we would nod, listen and feel tremendously jealous that we weren’t part of it.

So in 2010, we started our own. It’s just Jay, Mel, E and I. We don’t really have any rules except that we do it monthly, take it in turns picking and we try not to go somewhere where three of us have been before. Quite by accident we realised that we got through the whole year without ever going somewhere with the same cuisine.

These are the twelve places we visited in 2010:

January – Bistro Ortolan was Ian’s choice and it was a good start to the year. I myself am not a fan of French food really but the others loved it. And even if you don’t love French fare, you can hardly sneeze at a two hated restaurant. It was a gorgeous venue with impeccable service and I got to try bombe alaska for the first time.  It was the bomb indeed!

February – I picked African Feeling in Newtown. I LOVE African food and get a craving for it at least once a year. I hoped the others would love it too but Melly found the dishes a bit oily.

March – This was Jay’s month and I gotta say, this was possibly the worst dinner club experience of the year for me. In fact it was possibly even the worst food experience of my life. We went to an Austrian Schnitzelhaus which was a Hamish and Andy inspired decision. Jay and Ian entered a schnitzel eating challenge which neither of them could finish. The smell of the deep fried everything overwhelmed me as we walked in and I felt sick watching the boys try to consume a kilo of schnitzel plus chips. Hideous.

April – This was one of my favourites of the year. Mel picked a’tavola which I’d wanted to go to for ages. You know anything in Crown Street will be good and oh it was. The pasta was freshly made and tasted completely divine. We also had a highly entertaining time eaves dropping on a family feud happening at the table next to us.

May – Ian’s turn again and he took us to Satang Thai, a busy restaurant near his work. The food was good and we got to hear all about The William’s Fiji trip. A great night!

June – I picked a delicious Polish restaurant in Glebe called Na Zdrowie. This was another one of my favourites for the year. Juanita and Tim had taken us there before and it was even better than I remembered. We had seriously divine food, especially the cabbage rolls and I have been wanting to go back again ever since.

July – Jay promised to redeem himself after the schnitzel house experience. And redeem himself he did. We went to South in Neutral Bay. They claim to have the best Southern American food in Sydney and they aren’t wrong. Think crab cakes, pulled pork, pumpkin pie, and pecan pie. It was bliss! And we had our first dinner club guest, James joined us for this one.  I want to go back there too!

August – Mel picked a local Japanese restaurant in Glebe called Teriyaki. They had the best complimentary condiments EVER, especially the dried sushi. We washed our bento boxes down with cider and beers and had a great night.

September – Ian’s turn again and this was a bit of fail really. We went to Zaaffran at Darling Harbour for a random Indian BBQ and it was as average as can be. E was a total lazy ass and did no research for his turn. He just googled ‘good restaurants in Sydney’ and of course the first place to come up was a restaurant that does paid advertising. To me, if a restaurant has to rely on more than word of mouth, they ain’t that great. Zaaffran is a case in point.

October – I picked El Manara in Lakemba. Again, this was a place Ian and I had been before with Juanita & Tim but there seemed to be less on the menu this time. It was probably the cheapest dinner club ever. We spent less than $15 a head. Melly can’t say we didn’t give her a real slap up meal for her birthday! The Lebanese cakes from the shop across the road were yuuuummm.

November – Jay took us to Braza Churrascaria in Leichardt. I’m quite a fan of the Brazillian BBQ thing so I liked this place. We also had awesome gelato from the Forum afterwards.

December – Mel picked the venue for our end of year celebration and we went to Wildfire at Circular Quay. We had the best seats in the house, fabulous cocktails and the dumbest waiteress ever – it was a fabulous night! We all agreed though that it too expensive and while we wouldn’t go back, it was a good experience. I think we’ve been spoilt by dining at Cafe Sydney and that’s our benchmark for special dinners!

And now we start again. Hope we’re still doing monthly dinner clubs when we’re 80 years old!

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

2010 was a funny old year. There were some definite highlights but also some crapola lowlights. Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly from my little life over the past year:

The good

  • Getting wonderfully spoilt by Leigh and David with a weekend away at The Drawing Rooms in Berry for my 30th. What a gorgeous place to stay and what could be nicer than getting to spend one on one time with my lovely sister?
  • Starting a dinner with club with Mr & Mrs Williams
  • Seeing friends and family get married/have babies/fall pregnant
  • Starting a blog which has been kind of fun. I’m not the best blogger – I didn’t write a single thing in November. But while I was neglecting my blog I was taking great pleasure enjoying others’
  • Three trips to Melbourne to visit Donna Kebabs. The last trip with the Sheelster was particularly enjoyable!
  • A road trip to the South Coast with E. Was exactly what the doctor ordered and I think we relaxed for the first time all year
  • Being a bridesmaid for what I think will be the last time (phew and boo) Side note – I’ve been a flower girl twice, a junior bridesmaid once, a bridesmaid twice, a maid of honour once and a matron of honour twice. Time to hang that dress up me thinks! But I digress…
  • An Italian Food Safari with Mum. Ian’s parents gifted us this fabulous experience for Christmas in ’09 and poor E ended up having to pull out at the last minute due to work drama so Mum came along instead. It rocked!
  • Cooking one new recipe a week, every week from one of Bill Granger’s cook books.  I loved it

The bad

  • Pulling my neck out of place while trying to escape from a spider and then having to deal with neck pain all freaking year
  • Having Chostochondritis flair up every couple of months (new year’s resolution, stop lifting heavy things!)
  • Constant restructuring at work that’s lasted more than a year and is still going on. Sort it out FFS
  • Not liking my job but not knowing what I want to do with my life
  • Cooking one new recipe a week, every week from one of Bill Granger’s cook books.  I hated it

The ugly

  • Getting really down for about a month in the middle of the year. I think it’s the most miserable I’ve ever been. Was a bit of a combo of working really long hours, not seeing sunshine in months (how grey was winter?) and feeling like working in an office building all day was the most unnourishing experience anyone could ever have. Artificial lights, having to swipe yourself into the bathroom and realising your job is not meaningful in anyway = misery.

So now we head into 2011 and I feel rested, positive and excited. Resolutions for 2011:

  • Don’t buy any books until I’ve read all the ones I own
  • Don’t lift heavy things
  • Externalise compliments rather than keeping nice comments/feedback in my head
  • Have lots of little goals + a few big long terms ones.

You may not have heard it, but 2011 is my year :)

the notebook doodles

I am besotted with the notebook doodles. It’s seriously the most delightful blog and one of the first I look for when I open my google reader. If there’s an update from her then I have a happy day :)

The writer is obsessed with nail polish, has the most gorgeous handwriting in the world and always writes sweet, inspiring things that make me smile.

Here’s a few of my favourite pics from the last month or so, but go and check out her site. It’s tres cute! http://www.thenotebookdoodles.com/

Books that speak to you

Not long after I did the ‘7 habits of highly effective people’ course, I read ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’. It was perfect timing because I was totally in the zone of simplifying then enriching my life.

And that’s what the book is all about. Investing less in material things and investing more in relationships and experiences.

The book is a true story about Morrie Schwartz, an inspirational teacher and mentor who touched the lives of all his students. In particular he had a big impact on Mitch Albom. But then they lost touch. Mitch became a well known sports journalist and a pretty materialistic person. Sixteen years later, Mitch heard through the grapevine that Morrie had Lou Gehrig’s disease (Motor Neurone Disease). He went back to visit Morrie and was reminded how witty and wise his professor was. He was also impressed with the joy Morrie took in living. One Tuesday turned into another and Mitch started to record their conversations, which became the basis for the book.

I took two key things out of the story.

First, Morrie reminded Mitch that life is too short to spend time doing things you don’t want to do or to be with people who don’t bring you joy. He said “”You have to find what’s good and true and beautiful in your life as it is now.” That message reiterated what I’d just learnt when I did the 7 habits course too. And it lead me to end two relationships that were not bringing me any joy. One was with someone who’d been in my life since I was a kid and the other was with a girl at work.

Both friendships seemed really one sided. It was always about the other person and neither of those girls were really positive people. I would often come away from time with each of them feeling drained. In particular, my child hood friend never seemed to care about what I was up to and I realised at one point that she had only asked me one question about my life in a 12 month period. I was just an ear for her to talk into. So I basically stopped contacting her and the same with the girl at work too.

Now I have more time to spend with people who are filled with positive energy and who bring something good to my life. It’s refreshing to be with people who fill your soul up each and every time you see them.

The second lesson for me was a reminder that physical objects and materialism brings you fleeting happiness. Morrie said to Mitch “Don’t cling to things, because everything is impermanent. You can’t substitute material things for love or for gentleness or for tenderness or for a sense of comradeship”.

I’m the first to admit that I like nice things (not necessarily expensive things, just nice things).  But really, I just want to live a simple life. I don’t want a lot of stuff. Not just because it’s unnecessary, but because it’s bad for the environment and adds clutter to your life too.

When I’m 80 and I look back at my life the way Morrie did, I hope I can say it was filled with fabulous times, not fabulous things.

So lovely friends, what book has really spoken to you?

Here are some of my favourite quotes from the book that Mitch attributed to Morrie

“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”

“The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it.”

“The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.”

“…there are a few rules I know to be true about love and marriage: If you don’t respect the other person, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. If you don’t know how to compromise, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. If you can’t talk openly about what goes on between you, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. And if you don’t have a common set of values in life, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. Your values must be alike.”

“In the beginning of life, when we were infants, we need others to survive, right? And at the end of life, when you get like me, you need others to survive, right? But here’s the secret: in between, we need others as well.”


I don’t think I’ve mentioned how much I love Pinterest. It’s an online pinboard where people post pictures of things they’ve cooked, things they’ve crafted, photos they’ve taken, and quotes they like. It’s a visual delight!

Sheela discovered this little gem and I think it’s one of my favourite places in all the internets.

It has the beautiful:

The interesting:

The hideous:

The delicious:

The craft:

The cute:

The funnies:

And the so trues: