Things I’ve loved about December

December is hands down my favourite month of the year. There are festivities aplenty, generally resulting in me seeing everyone I love within the 31 day period.

Here is my big, fat, long list of all the fun times I’ve had this month:

– Dinner at Balla with the Williams plus a sleep over. Mel made green smoothies for breakfast. Noms.

– A play date at Juanita & Tims’s house. Mabel and Milly are SO.MUCH.FUN to hang out with!

– A trip to the Olive Tree markets in Newcastle with my sister and niece. We listened to the African drumming band that play there every month and delighted in the gorgeous artisan wares. There was also a saunter down Darby Street and some purchases in Essential Ingredient.

– A day of shopping in the City combined with two different catch ups with people named Andrew.

– Alissa’s birthday dinner at Bistro Papillion.

– Multiple dinner and Dexter sessions with Kys and Sheels

– Work Christmas party at The Fern where we did a cocktail making course and laughed A LOT!

– Christmas shopping with the Mothership and Sistership.

– Dinner with Danielle and Clairey. I love those girls an awful lot.

– Christmases! Christmas with my fam, Christmas with Ian’s fam. Christmas, Christmas, Christmas.

– Spring cleaning. Yep. This is one of my fav things to do. Before heading off on holidays I cleaned out every single cupboard in my house and scrubbed every inch of our house to within an inch of its life. Total satisfaction.

– BYRON BAY! We’re here for New Years with Mel and Jay and it’s been blissfully relaxing. A week away with friends was just what the doctor ordered. The perfect way to end the year really.Their gorgeous doggy Harley makes everything just that little bit more fun.

– Visiting with Aunty Bee. She was down our way at the beginning of the month and then yesterday I drove from Byron to the Gold Coast to visit her. We do a lot of laughing together – it’s like therapy!

– I got a new phone! I love you dear iphone 5. And man I love being back with Telstra. My two year dalliance with androids and Optus is a period I’m glad to have ended.

– Babies. My sister and cousins are having them soon, Kat, Donna and Mandy have had them recently. There is cuteness surrounding me!

I love this time of year. Love!

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Recently in numbers

Two photos: The Christmas sack I’ve had since I was about 2. It’s a bit retro now and possibly even a little vintage :) Also, a cute pic of Lis from our train trip the other day. We were trying to take a selfie but I couldn’t seem to actually get myself in the pic.
Lis and I

Three good books: Ape house by Sara Gruen, Tatiana’s table by Paulina Simmonds, Memories of my melancholy whores by Gabriel García Márquez.

Four tasty things: Traditional beef stroganoff with spaetzle + chilled dark chocolate soup with coconut ice cream and hazelnuts. Both from Bistro Papillon. Also, heirloom tomato & mozarella salad (foreground) + duck ragu with pappardelle (background), both from Balla.

Bistro Papillion

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Also going on – baking, gum trees shedding bark, sunny weather, ice-blocks, reading, the usual.

You?

Dinner club 2012

2012 was our third year of dinner club with the Williams and it remains one of my favourite parts of each month. I like having something regular locked in because it means that regardless of what else happens in the month, you know there is definitely at least one catch up on the cards!

Here’s where we went this year:

Dinner club one – Phu Quoc in Cabramatta
Mel took us off to Sydney’s best suburb for authentic Vietnamese food. Everything tasted amazingly fresh however we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. We ended up with far, far too much food and were incapable of wrapping our own rice paper rolls without the waitress helping us. Jay quietly sat eating his pho while E, Mel and I tried to perfect the art of roll making. We got the hang of it in the end and enjoyed getting the glorious flavours going. Well worth the big drive!

Dinner club two – Monkey Maya in Darlinghurst was Jay’s pick. It’s sort of a Spanish, Mexican, Cuban fusion. We had ribs and chicken wings and chicken nachos. The food was tasty but there was one waiter covering the whole restaurant so the experience was kind of let down by poor service.

Dinner club three – Al Aseel in Greenacre. Our dinner club are big lovers of Lebanese food so I took the gang out to Greenacre to a place my Lebanese relatives love. You can buy a whole lot of really authentic food here for next to nothing. At their sister restaurant in Surry Hills it’s twice the price for any of these dishes. Greenacre, you’ve got it good!

Dinner club four – Monkey Magic in Surry Hills. Not be confused with Monkey Maya where we went in Feb, Ian picked this Japanese fusion spot. It’s a gorgeous looking, warehouse style venue. I quite liked the industrial decor but the food here was so so. When you go to a fusion style restaurant, you expect interesting flavours that do indeed, ‘fuse’ well. This was not that place.

Dinner club five – Pizza Mario, Surry Hills. Mel’s always on a mission to find good pizza and this place certainly had that. Pizza Mario is the only place in Australia to be an accredited member of the Neapolitan Pizza Board. Yep, it’s a thing. They pledge to serve traditional authentic pizza the way it’s supposed to be. They do. We loved it. Go!

Dinner club six – El Loco, Surry Hills. Ok so I really love this place and was as pleased as punch when Jay picked it. The thing is, although El Loco is touted to sell some of the best Mexican food in Sydney, I’ve never been able to go past their hotdogs. Every time I eat there I get the same thing which is kind of silly. It’s like going to a seafood restaurant and ordering beef.

While I totes recommend their hot dogs, just beware that they have a lot of overhang. It can be a bit off putting. Just saying.  Also, you need to know that this place is located within the Excelsior pub and it’s near impossible to get a seat.

Dinner club seven & eight – So things got a bit crazy in the middle of the year. We moved house, went skiing and got swamped with visitors. Mel had to email us a gazillion times to chase up where and when Ian and I wanted to do our dinner clubs. Time passed and eventually when we got it together, our choices were’t the best.

E wanted to do a dinner club local to our new place but there ended up being a kerfuffle with bookings so we went to a pub where the food was pret-ty bad. He refused to count it as his pick. Then we realised it was meant to be my turn anyway. I chose an Afghani restaurant to try but on the day we were meant to go, Mel and I had spent the entire day driving through traffic and just weren’t in the mood. We got take away from Made in Italy Pizza and ate at the Williams house instead.

E & I then jointly picked Toko in Surry Hills. I’d been there with work friends a while ago but we’d recently been with Leigh and David and loved it. The thing about Toko is that while the food is fantastic, you’re paying a pretty big chunk of change for sushi. I love really good Japanese food but hefty bills? Not so much. However if you are more vego than sushi inclined, it’s really good value. Their BBQ’d rice skewers, cabbage rolls and sweet potatoes are to die for. Why spend a fortune on raw fish when you can pay $8.20 for ecstasy on a skewer? Ok, I’m exaggerating a little here. They also have a venue in Paddington.

Dinner club nine – Love Grub, Redfern More sushi this month and I wasn’t complaining. Since moving, Japanese restaurants are one of the things that E & I have missed the most. There’s not a nori roll to be found on this god forsaken mountain!  At Love Grub, we (maybe possibly) ordered more than we actually needed. Oops….but oh how I love a good sushi extravaganza. I mean it’s the most humble of ingredients isn’t it? Just fish, rice and soy sauce. But such a winning combination!  

Dinner club ten – Moo Burgers, Newtown. Jay kept changing our location right up until we met and I’m glad he did. These were the burgers of all burgers. Some burger joints claim to have healthy, low cal options. This was not that kind of burger joint.  There was cheese, there was bacon, there were cheese fries. It was a night of smashing grease with friends and it rocked.

Dinner club eleven – Rice Paper, Newtown. I was hankering for some Vietnamese food but didn’t want to figure out the logistics of getting back to Cabramatta so I researched other places. Newtown has a swathe of Vietnamese places – if you’re planning to go, I’ve done the desktop research – Rice Paper is meant to be the best. We obviously had to have rice paper rolls and then we ordered steaming bowls of pho. All yummers!

Dinner club twelve – Balla at The Star. The final pick of the year was left to Ian. We had originally tried to get into Black By Ezard but as they didn’t respond to any of my three of my emails we booked Balla instead. Thank you Mr Manifredi for the lovely dinner. I loved your knowledgeable waiters and their cute navy and white uniforms. I loved ordering drinks from an ipad and I loved the food, possibly more than any other food I’ve had this year. If Balla itself was a pasta, it would most certainly be al dente. Fab, fab, fab!

 

And that’s it till next year folks. Signed J Jackson, the girl who in 2012, ate too much.

The meaning of life, according to Regina

I’m a lover of quotes. I didn’t used to be, back when I was a bit younger, but as I’ve got older, I find so many that resonate. My pinterest boards are full of them!

Last week I went to Regina Spektor’s concert (squeee!!!) and since then, I have been listening to her music on high rotation. I realised tonight that her song, On the radio is really the quote of all quotes.

She’s basically saying that life is what it is and there’s nothing you can do about it, all you can do is to live it. Sometimes it’s happy and sometimes it’s sad. You just take what you get, do your best and go with it.

It’s also about loving yourself, then sharing that love with someone else and hoping that they learn to love the same way you did. But even if they don’t, you’ll still keep loving and passing on that love.

“This is how it works
You’re young until you’re not
You love until you don’t
You try until you can’t
You laugh until you cry
You cry until you laugh
And everyone must breathe
Until their dying breath

No, this is how it works
You peer inside yourself
You take the things you like
And try to love the things you took
And then you take that love you made
And stick it into some
Someone else’s heart
Pumping someone else’s blood
And walking arm in arm
You hope it don’t get harmed
But even if it does
You’ll just do it all again

By jove, I think she’s got it.
Regina Spektor