Edited highlights: Dating advice books, tornados and cake

This time next week, Christmas will be over. I can’t believe how quickly this year has passed. Soon all will be revealed about big changes happening at The Alexcellent Life, but for now, let’s see what’s happened in December.

My mid-life crisis was exacerbated by going to Retro nightclub…

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This particular visit came complete with a Rock Lobster neck injury (thanks for nothin’ B52s) and a try-hard bathroom selfie.

The Chris Noth/Matt Preston look-a-like lurking on the scene, who we dubbed “Fat Mr.Big,” seemed quite nice, but then Lulu said to him, “Has anyone ever told you you look like Mr.Big from Sex and the City, and Matt Preston.giggle.” And then he ran away. Just as well, because he was married. As was his whole pack of wolves he was running with that night. Fat Mr.Big does not appear in any of the above photos.

I discovered these great The Ladybird book of … books. Who remembers them from childhood?

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Mid-life advice

I use to love my Ladybird book of Beauty and the Beast – the classic fairytale, when I was a child. These books contain beasts of a different kind. I spotted these little gems in the bookstore Harry Hartog. Perhaps I should actually part with some cash and pick up The Ladybird book of Dating. God knows I could use some help.

I witnessed Christmas eye-candy of the cake kind at yet another local street fair…

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Shooting stars of pasty

I tried one of the gingerbread stars because they were FREE.

In other cake news, I went into one of my favourite bakeries, Dobinsons in Canberra, when I was there on very important business recently.

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Come to me, my precious (es)

I looked, but didn’t touch these goodies. I’m saving myself for all the mince pies I’m planning on eating at Christmas.

And just so you know sweet treats aren’t the only things that float my boat…

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My friend Deb and I went to our favourite Mexican restaurant, El Topo Bondi Junction, for a pre-Christmas catch up. I said no to my favourite bunuelos de chocolate and concentrated on the delectable savoury flavours of tacos and frijoles negros with bacon, spicy chorizo, capsicum and queso fresco. And watermelon salad (sweet but refreshing).

I’ve been walking home from work (part of the way) through Darlinghurst streets, making the most of the vibe before my big lifestyle change coming up in January (more on that later)…

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I’ve been appreciating amazing Sydney views and beach days…

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And marvelling at the not so beach days…

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Crazy Sydney weather. Apparently it was an actual tornado.

I will be reporting on Christmas festivities next week.

How’s your December been so far?

 

Edited highlights: Stolen sculptures, Mexican donuts and my mini vampire

So here we are nearly at the end of November.  I feel like I am hurtling towards the end of the year, exemplified by having Halloween and Christmas decorations in one post. Here’s some edited highlights.

Spider Boy decided to be a vampire for Halloween, which was easy as we already had a Harry Potter robe.

The local shops tried to put on a little Halloween spirit with a few stalls and displays on the footpath. But at 3.30 in the afternoon, no one else was trick-or-treating. And does anyone actually play tricks? More like treat-or-treating in our neighbourhood (once we waited till 5ish), before going home to watch Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride.

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Top: Spider Boy in his Halloween costume before makeup. After makeup wasn’t much different. That’s what happens when you buy your makeup from Hot Dollar. And it cost THREE dollars.

The next day, November 1, was the Day of the Dead, a yearly festival where people pray for and commemorate friends and family members who have died.

My sister, Señorita Margarita, a Mexican art aficionado, has introduced me to the tradition. I don’t actually set up an altar like she does, but I really love the concept.

Spider Boy and I met auntie/Senorita Margarita at El Topo in Bondi Junction, one of our favourite restaurants, for a Mexican lunch. Spider Boy actually ate a taco with real chicken in it – there was not a nugget or a chip to be seen. There were donuts though. But they were quality donuts with a delicate slightly spicy chocolate sauce.

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Tacos and donuts at El Topo. Auntie/Senorita Margarita and Spider Boy (with darkened Halloween brows) share the love.

Then we went to Senorita’s place to see her altar.

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Senorita Margarita’s altar included photos of our Grandmothers. Mum’s mother Philippa, top, and Dad’s mother Lois below.

One Monday after school, I dragged Spider Boy to Sculpture by the Sea, an annual exhibition on the Bondi to Tamarama coastal path. He actually wanted to head straight home and prepare his news for school, a poster about Water Safety. But it was the day after Sculptures officially closed so it was today or never. We stayed half an hour at Sculptures AND got the news poster done.

So here’s a tip: Sculpture by the Sea is really crowded on weekends (and much of the weekdays when it was actually on, it was cold and raining). The trick is to go the day AFTER it officially closes – because they haven’t taken down all of the sculptures yet – and it’s not crowded. Thanks to my friend Lulu for that idea.

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Sydney has had a lot of rain this month. These photos of Rose Bay were taken at 10 in the morning from under an umbrella.

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The friends I have known for the longest time (as opposed to my oldest friends) and I went out in Darlinghurst.  A night where a few realities hit. But more about that in another post.

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I was surprised by the joy of Christmas decorations at the Queen Victoria Building last weekend. Yes, they are stunning. Their presence also reminded me that time is running out to get a million and one things done!

 

Is time speeding up for you? I think that happens at the end of the year and it’s relative to our expectations of what we want to achieve.

Whatever you’re hoping to achieve by the end of the year, I hope it goes well for you.

 

Edited Highlights: Sugar, blossoms, cake and colouring-in

Time to catch up on the past month with a series of snapshots that seem to be mostly food and floral.

I snuck away from my desk last Friday (working from home means I’m just sneaking away from myself) and went to local whole foods store, About Life. I ate a raspberry and coconut muffin that was delicious even though it probably didn’t have refined white sugar in it. Oh well.

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But refined white sugar is kind of my thing… so when I saw this 50’s-style sugar canister (which disappointingly only contained air) at Spider Boy’s school art show, I had to steal a photo. Maybe sugar itself will be a relic from the past one day, just like this canister. Sigh.

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Spring jonquils at my dad’s place…

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I love the way my cousin’s wife styled her kid’s birthday party table… they turned 3 and 1, two weeks apart so a combined party was the order of the day.

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I made some apple pies…

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I needed the whipped cream to mask the heavy pastry texture. Not quite enough carbs, fat or sugar in these little morsels I’m afraid.

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On a lighter and brighter note, the blossoms have blessed our street!

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And obviously I’ve drunk lots of coffee (and muffins) this month… but Spider Boy just gets water. Oh alright, sometimes he gets a hot chocolate. And chips.

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Now I’m going to let you in on a little secret… colouring-in is really big right now. You know when you see a “Zen” colouring book as free gift with That’s Life magazine, that colouring-in is a thing. And the local Dymock’s has a wall of colouring books, as does the National Gallery gift shop in Canberra. But I’ve been colouring-in (as an adult) since 1997. But back then, Barbie colouring-in books were all I could find. Now there is so much choice! It is VERY relaxing.

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Speaking of the National Gallery gift shop, if I had the money I would buy all of the books…

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Since I know I’ll never really be Parisian, or Danish, and will never find the time for handmade projects for a cute Tokyo-inspired lifestyle, I could just go for the Mammoth Book of Losers to make me feel better about my epic failure and underachievement in NOT being Parisian or Danish, or achieving that cute Tokyo-inspired lifestyle. Sigh.

This post is coming to an end but there’s time for dessert before I go…

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This cake I made last Sunday was meant to be a lime syrup cake. I had all the ingredients, except limes. I had a bottle of lemon juice in the fridge, so I used a bit of that. But then after making the cake, I RAN OUT OF SUGAR. So had no sugar to make the lemon syrup.  So it wasn’t going to be a syrup cake at all, was it? So I defrosted some left-over cream-cheese icing from the Father’s Day carrot cake I’d made, and dolloped that on. Plus some hundreds and thousands just for fun and fancy.

It all worked out in the end.

What are you enjoying this week?

Edited Highlights: Silver white Winters that melt into Spring

It’s the last day of Winter today, but really, the past few weeks have been “Sprinter”; some days warm, some days chilly, while the season transitions.

I’m feeling a bit Sound of Music with this post. Everything is reminding me of the lyrics from My Favourite Things.

We may not have had raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, but the past few weeks of Winter we’ve had snowdrops on boys on toboggans and whiskers on Spider Boy. Instead of cream coloured ponies and crisp apple strudels we’ve seen cream coloured Labradors, and while we didn’t eat any deep-fried camembert balls, we’ve thought about them.

Winter is one of my favourite things and now it’s time to give it a big ol’ farewell.

During this season we hit the slopes – not the ski slopes, but a small toboggan run at Corin Forest just outside Canberra…IMG_7107

The new donut and coffee shack (on the slope) wasn’t open yet, but the cafe at the bottom of the hill was and we enjoyed the massive open fire where we toasted marshmallows that were practically pillow-sized. The wood fired pizza was very good, but this place gets crowded at lunchtime (being the only food place in the area) so we did have to wait rather a long time for it.

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The next day we all enjoyed the art at the National Gallery…

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Turning a blind eye: A kindly security guard ignores Spider Boy and the Magician.

After numerous warnings to the boys to be careful about not getting too close to the art, I managed to set off the alarm after getting to close to a Monet. I did the same thing on my last visit when I got too close to Blue Poles.

Back in Sydney I caught up with my friend Nadia who I’ve known since school days. We had a drink at the Green Park in Darlinghurst, then moved onto the pop-up bar “The Chalet” where the highlight for us was a random 80s ski movie playing mutely on a big screen. We recognised none of the actors… where was the king of 80s ski movies, John Cusack? (star of Better Off Dead, and the retro classic Hot Tub Time Machine)

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Despite promising ourselves a deep-fried camembert ball, we just had a drink and popped next door to Lil’ Darling for dinner, but it was so full of Hens parties, we were forced to flee to the nearest Thai place. We were told we could eat there as long as we were out by 10pm as they had to set up for a cooking class in the morning. So after our Pad Thai we just decided to call it a night and vowed we would return to “The Chalet”. We haven’t.

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The rest of Winter has passed in a haze of coffee (me), hot chocolate (Spider Boy) and cronuts (me) …

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The “Cave of Doom” at Ruby’s Diner in Queens Park leads to the bathroom, although the bit about “abandoning hope all ye who enter here” is perfectly apt for how I felt about my hopes for healthy eating that day once I spied the cronuts!

Winter beach visits…

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…where Spider Boy had plenty of room to practice his Ninja Turtle moves.

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Sprinter has graced us with her presence, as evidenced by the magnolias blooming outside our kitchen window.

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Spider Boy visited his old pre-school for a fundraiser (to raise money after the centre was disgustingly vandalised).

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We visited the Sydney Dog Lovers show for some puppy inspiration…

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See? A cream-coloured labrador. Almost as good as a pony.

And of course no event would be complete without the obligatory silly-photo board and face-painting!

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Bye Winter!

Here’s to the delights of a new season, wherever you are.

Edited Highlights: big icecreams, snowboarding and bucking broncos

During the past few days I have been googling and stumbling upon things for Spider Boy to do in the school holidays. There is so much choice, with price tags ranging from free to ridiculous. Thankfully, there is a lot of free and affordable fun to be had around town.

But before I post about school holiday fun, I can’t move forward until I look back, so here’s just a few Edited Highlights from the past few weeks.

In my most recent post, I wrote about my visit to the wonderful Hungarian bakery Kurtosh House. While I was fuelling up Eastern European style, my son was doing this…

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So how did I get the photos, you may ask, if I was eating baked goods a couple of kilometres away? I took them before I left the scene, secure in the knowledge that this is what he would be doing for the next hour. This “bucking bronco” at a birthday party Spider Boy attended at Kidsportz, may have looked like a giant guinea pig, but that certainly didn’t deter any wannabe cowboys.

There was the outing to Darling Harbour where Spider Boy and I caught up with some family. A Sunday here is a plethora of food options, colour and fun. The children’s playground is busy with lots of big structures to climb on, slide down and swing across, and for the cost of a gold coin or two, you can ride the carousel.

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And it’s not all running and jumping and spinning with the kids, there’s plenty of pleasant strolling opportunities with great perspectives of the city bathed in the burnished gold of late afternoon sun.

There was our stumbling upon Sydney’s Winter Festival last Saturday. The pop-up “Winter Garden” outside St.Mary’s Cathedral is a stone’s throw from Spider Boy’s swimming lesson, so naturally when you step out of the pool, you can jump onto a snowboard, or if you’re taller than 140cm (which SB is not) ride in a giant Lindt Ball.

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City outings are all very well, but sometimes you just want to climb a tree in your local park…

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…just as much fun for a spider boy. Cost: free. Relaxing in a tree in the late afternoon sun? Priceless.

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And so the sun sets on another Edited Highlights.

Until next time, enjoy the little things.

Edited Highlights: Month in review: baked goods, street art and 80s pop

It’s a cold and windy start to Winter today but at least the sun is out so the weekend washing is drying nicely outside.

Given that it’s the start of a new season I think it’s high time for some Edited Highlights from the past few weeks.

In May I enjoyed my Mother’s Day breakfast… IMG_4906

Mmmm… bacon. Even better when the bacon is on a waffle with maple syrup… IMG_4909

A good friend from Melbourne came over for dinner. I’m no domestic goddess so it’s not like he came all the way from Melbourne for my great cooking. He was in Sydney on business. I kept it simple with pasta, pesto sauce (from a jar), salad, a fresh loaf of sourdough and hummus. I had some fresh rosemary sprigs from my dad’s garden so stuck that in two glasses of water and voila – table centrepiece. Threw in a few lemons too to enhance the Tuscan vibe.IMG_5183_2

Spider Boy, Bat-Gran and I swung by one our favourite bakeries, Brasserie Bread at Banksmeadow on a recent Sunday drive. Spider Boy went there on a school excursion last year and learnt how to make a bread roll and a pizza. But on this day, we just looked at jam jars.

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At school, Spider Boy is learning about the differences between the past and present – the Year 2 children had to interview someone “from the olden days”. He chose his granddad (my dad) because as he told me, “He’s more olden-days than you, Mum.”

Here are some mid-20th Century snaps of my dad and family. Spider Boy couldn’t believe that the only electronic device around when his granddad was seven, was a radio.

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Bottom left: My dad at 7, the same age Spider Boy is now, with his younger brothers.

And from my 1940s Pop to 1980s pop, Lulu and I went to see the Absolutely 80s band perform at Souths Juniors Rugby League club at Kingsford last Friday night. Brian Mannix (Uncanny X-Men), Paul Gray (Wa Wa Nee), Scott Carne (Kids in the Kitchen), David Sterry (Real Life) and Dale Ryder (Boom Crash Opera) in one pop-tastic show singing all their own hits plus great covers of songs from the Models, INXS, and Dragon. Seeing these guys perform is always such a fun night out, and their voices haven’t changed since the days I used to watch them on Countdown.

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Clockwise from top left: Brian Mannix, Paul Gray, David Sterry and Scott Carne.

I indulged in the sweet tunes, but unfortunately NOT in the sweet treats I spied the next day in the Myer Food Court. I looked, but did not touch.

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Instead, I bought an expensive pastry down at the Sydney Writers’ Festival cafe… more about the Writers’ Festival in an upcoming post. Meanwhile, here’s a picture of the action down at SWF headquarters at Walsh Bay last week. IMG_5275

Before we began our trek down to Walsh Bay, we stumbled upon the Home Food and Design Weekend marquee in front of St.Mary’s Cathedral. We walked in (there was no admission charge), did a quick circuit with Spider Boy who was keen to get to  lunch after his swimming lesson, and emerged five minutes later with a goodie bag. Gotta love free stuff.

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Goodie bag booty.

We also spent some time at Circular Quay… IMG_5377

We found some street art at the entrance to Nurse’s Walk in the Rocks. It was a piece for Vivid, the light festival that is currently gracing the city until June 8. As it was 3pm, it wasn’t lit up yet. IMG_5361

Spider Boy found a sculpture outside a touristy/opal/jewellery store that he was strangely taken with. He wanted me to buy it. But it was a “No” from me. He clutched onto his little bunch of Autumn leaves instead, the last of the season. IMG_5451

Here’s to a new season, wherever you are.

Edited Highlights Easter 2015: Pretty eggs, bi-faith buns and a carb fest

Easter may seem like a distant memory, but I’ve just had two Easters one week after another so it is still front of mind for me – helped by the suspicious bits of shiny coloured foil wrapping I keep finding on the floor and the strange bunny eyes glaring at me from the recesses of the darkened pantry.

So here’s a recap: Good Friday was rainy; perfect for painting these ceramic Easter eggs from a kit I’d bought at Target the day before. So much fun for only $6! image

The kit contained a paint set and six eggs with a string loop on each (to hang on your egg-tree? Apparently they’re making a comeback). I had visions of pastel-hued eggs in a basket, but Spider Boy’s decorating aesthetic does not match my own… image

Never mind, at least it amused him for about 10 minutes. Later in the day during a rain break we went to the Grumpy Baker cafe near a cliff-top park where the lovely floral displays caught my eye… image

…as did their bi-faith bun supply. image

A walk in the nearby park followed our cafe visit. I wondered if Spider Boy thought the grass was greener on the other side. image

By Easter Sunday, fittingly the sun had come out… image

…Lucky! Wouldn’t have wanted the Easter Bunny’s egg delivery to get wet. Spider Boy got plenty of chocolate-attention from the big Bunny, and from Aunty Señorita Margarita too! image

On Easter Monday we went to see Lulu and her son the Magician. They showed us the Magician’s Easter Bonnet that he wore in his school’s annual Easter Hat parade. He’s in year 2 now and they just keep adding ornaments to the same hat each year. By the time he’s in year 6 it’s going to look like Carmen Miranda’s head-gear with a Copacabana twist. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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I love it. In fact, I think I’ll forget the ceramic egg craft next year and go straight to the Easter Bonnet! 2 Dollar shop, here we come!

A week later we experienced Greek Easter in Canberra with Spider Boy’s dad’s family friends. It was very aesthetically and gastronomically pleasing…

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It was great for the carbotarians amongst us what with the cheese pie, cheese and cream potatoes, pastries and bread. Oh and the lamb on the spit gets a special mention.

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After returning from Canberra, Spider Boy went to a new wordworking school for kids, Tool School, for a half-day workshop, where he learnt how to use a screw-driver, a manual drill and manual saw. And he made this awesome Foosball table! Thanks to Kerryn at Tool School for teaching him some great DIY skills! He now has a beautiful wooden toy he can keep forever.

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And we finished off the holidays with a visit to our local library to learn about other uses for toilet paper and ripped sheets…

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How was your Easter?

Edited highlights: Street fairs, sculpture and political cuteness

I found this draft from this time last year and thought I would share highlights from November 2014 with you now…

Sydney in November is a whirl of public art, street fairs and jacaranda petals. There was a local street fair…

Camels in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney is not something you see everyday…

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At another street fair (on a different day a few streets away), this llama did not look amused. Perhaps he was out of sorts because of all the toddlers and ducks running underfoot. Or maybe he just couldn’t see anything.

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The above photo of a Spiderman plaster ornament painted by my Spider Boy got a “Like” on Instagram from the real Spiderman! (Tobey Maguire thanks very much, not Andrew Garfield)

Sydney was awash with jacaranda petals…

and there was a night out with my oldest girlfriends (or the girlfriends I’ve know for the longest time).

There was Sculpture by the Sea…

These lips are made from lipstick cases. I love the placement of the “lip shine” with pale lipstick cases. It was priced at around $8000. Where would you hang a pair of lips like these? Bathroom, kitchen or hallway?

There was the Woollahra Council Small Sculpture Prize…

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Spider Boy was quite taken with this little creature, who was crafted from the pages of books and porcupine quills! (look at his “hands”).

And then there was my mother’s affair with the Dutch Prime Minister (in her head)…

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From the moment Mark Rutte (pronounced “Rooter”) stepped onto the tarmac on his first Australian tour, my mother was smitten.
“Oooh, he’s a little doll,” she cooed about the 185cm politician.

“He looks too young to be a Prime Minister. I wonder how old he is?”

I whipped out my Google machine and told her he was 47. Also, his birthday is Valentine’s Day.

“Oh. He’s probably got a nice wife at home,” said Mum wistfully.

I told her that Emma Alberici would be interviewing Mr.Rutte on Lateline that night and we must remember to watch.

“Oooh yeah,” said Mum, with the same enthusiasm usually reserved for caramel slices.

“Look Mum!” I said when Lateline began a few hours later.

“Shush!” she said, leaning forward in her seat, staring intently at the  TV, “I’m trying to watch.”

Shushed for the Dutch Prime Minister.

And that was November.

 

Edited Highlights: Sunshine, lollipops and Lady Gaga

Going to a Lady Gaga concert last week seemed like a great way to welcome Spring.  I’d never seen La Gaga perform before. I only knew three of her songs (I am stuck in the ’80s remember), but my friend Eva had free tickets so I gratefully accepted because I knew it would be one big party with the girls!

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Photo taken by Eva. Gaga looked right at Eva’s phone camera.  Lucky! Love the spring-themed undies.

The ARTPOP Ball 2014, ArtRAVE, was like a massive party.

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It was truly a spectacle with regular confetti drops of tiny paper shells, pink paper shoes and stars. If only life came with its own staged confetti drops at regular intervals. But I guess if you’re Gaga, it does!

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I have to say I was impressed with Lady Gaga. She is a consummate entertainer. Her many amazing costume changes, her interaction with the crowd and the production values of the show were all brilliant. And she can sing. Thanks for a great night Eva!

The next day was officially Spring and the local shops had their best outfits on.

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Looks like my local shop raided Gaga’s underwear drawer. As for the pastries, don’t worry, I walked on by.

Spider Boy lost a tooth, but I think I need to accept he is just not a fan of fairy dust (glitter) like his mum. I got the hint when he was fishing the coins out of the water and screamed in horror, “Aaaargh! I’ve got glitter on me!”

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Nor is Spider Boy a fan of stuffed animals, even if they are cute celebrity dogs

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I’m sure Lady Gaga would’ve loved this Boo dog.

 

And in other big news, I created a new breakfast. Chocolate brioche grilled with raspberries and served with a dollop of Greek yoghurt. Delish!

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Finally, all the sunshiny/rainy weather last week created this joy in an otherwise ordinary sky.

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How was the first week of the new season for you?

 

Edited Highlights: delightfully pink, playfully green. And trashy chocolate.

I should be posting Edited Highlights at the end of a week, not the beginning (and let’s face it, we’re rapidly sliding towards the middle of the week), but technical problems over the weekend has caused a delay to my “posting schedule”, which is admittedly haphazard – but I’m working on that.

The last week of winter was a mix of wet weather and sunny days but I thought I’d get into the spirit of Spring with this collection of pink(ish) things.

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Clockwise from top left we have the perfect after dinner “dessert” (yeah, that’s what I tell myself, wait till you see what I really had for dessert last week (not every day – have to maintain that 300 gram weight-loss after all).

I found this cute little set of measuring cups and spoons in Woolworths and I plan to make good use of them, measuring ingredients for baking AND for those two words diet gurus are so fond of, “portion control”.  Mmmm baking and portion control. That’s a potential stressful situation right there.

Unlock Your Style by Nikki Parkinson from Styling You was launched a few weeks ago and it is next on my reading list. Hoping to unlock my style this Spring.

And as I had used up my last drop of Chanel No.5 a little while ago, I thought it the perfect time to finally open this gift from my jet-setting Dad. I do love miniatures. That black lump on the lid is a tiny tiny fabric rose attached to a tiny tiny elastic band. Tres chic!

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Here is my neck line getting ready for Spring with rhinestones. I love a good bedazzling. This jumper comes from Topshop.  I like to wear it next to this Magnolia which is blooming like no tomorrow.

In other news, I have been a little annoyed by the negative reaction to Lena Dunham’s Emmy’s dress last week.

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According to the above poll on Hollywoodlife.com, 85.95% of respondents loathed it, and 14.05% loved it.

I am firmly in the love camp. I just love it. And I love her for wearing it. That is all.

Now to the serious business of garden greenery and park playtime.

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We have a few little strawberries growing in a tub in the courtyard. I love this patch of greenery. I don’t know what it’s called but the tiny flat leaves give the impression of a soft emerald carpet on the pavers. And Spider Boy found a caterpillar… that he enjoyed poking a bit with a stick. I know it seems awful but I didn’t want to deny SB’s natural curiosity. The caterpillar remained unscathed. Well maybe a little bit scathed, but still alive. I’m sure it bounced back. Unless a bird got it.

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Then it was time for some scooter riding in the park. Here’s Spider Boy in his Buzz Lightyear helmet carrying his scooter to the pathway.

And we finished the week with the king of desserts – chocolate brownies.

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Yeah, I thought a chocolate brownie from Domino’s Pizza wasn’t trashy enough. So I trashed it up a bit more. Double the fun.

Have you unleashed some new things for Spring – or Autumn?