Vampire skin and raspberry meringues

What to do in the school holidays on a day off from work? The 11-year-old son formerly known as Spider Boy was annoyed that he had to go to Vacation Care the next day, so I told him we could do whatever he wanted (within reason) today. He declined offers of ice-skating and movies; top of his list was to go to Lush, the bath products shop.

George’s love for Lush started one Sunday last year when we happened to be in the newish Monaro Mall beauty precinct at the Canberra Centre, and he spied Lush’s bright colours. “Oooh, let’s go in here!” We went in and he’s been hooked on the idea of bath bombs ever since.

That day we bought a bright blue, pink and gold dusted “galactic bath bomb” for $8.95. He enjoyed its fizz, bubbles and disintegration as it quickly coloured his bath water bright blue with little gold sparkles.

At $8.95 a pop on average, I suddenly became interested in seeing what we could make ourselves for less money. Lush’s selling point is that the bath products are fresh and handmade so surely I could whip up a few at home? And so our short-lived bath bomb making frenzy was born.

We watched You-tubers make bath bombs that looked like watermelon and Oreo cookies, stocked up on Citric acid and essential oils and food colouring and made bath bombs in ice-cube trays and plastic bauble toy containers from the supermarket. We came up with all kinds of names for our business, like “Bombs Away” and “Buttercream Bath”. But after about a month, our bath bomb business had become a bit of a fizzer quite frankly.

This holidays, George had fun choosing one out of 50 billion products there. He seemed disappointed that I wasn’t going to get anything for myself, but as his cost twice as much as I originally planned to spend, I thought I wouldn’t. But I did end up buying myself a soap.

We then popped into L’Occitane across the way. Our arms were a canvas for rose-scented hand cream and perfume testers.

“So many good smells here, so many good shops!” he said gleefully. I agreed, it was good for the senses and the soul.

Once back in the main thoroughfare of the beauty wing, we came across a makeup bar, specifically the section with body shimmer and other glittery products. This makeup was different to the heavy body glitters of the 90s that were part of my routine Saturday night look (Like hair gel for the skin). These body shimmers were so light and delicate they looked like they’d been harvested from fairies wings.

The friendly sales girl shrieked with excitement “They’re all testers!” as she invited us to dip our fingers into little delicate pots of rose gold and silver and shimmer up. Our inner arms smelled like roses and sparkled like a vampire’s skin in the late afternoon sunlight.

We capped off our shopping trip with some eye candy – by staring at the counter of Passiontree Velvet patisserie. It was the the hot pink cafe sign that caught my eye, followed by the delicate and beautiful cake art in the cabinet. The fluffy raspberry meringues looked like clouds at sunset. Actually, they didn’t look that different from what we’d just seen at Lush.

I had a realisation that buying bath and beauty products could be a very good substitute for the pleasure of buying cakes and chocolates. For me, part of the attraction of the cake shop is how the merchandise looks, the craftsmanship that goes into these sugary creations. It’s not JUST about the eating. I’ve realised delicious cosmetics and beauty products give me the same little burst of excitement and feeling of indulgence.

I thought of the time I walked past the old Jazz Apple cafe on Canberra’s City Walk when George was almost 2, he started pleading for an “ukcape, ukcape, ukcape”. Amazing, as I didn’t think he knew what a cupcake was.

We left the Monaro Mall beauty precinct talking about all the things we liked about it – George’s top thing was that it was uncrowded and no one seemed to know about it – well, it was 4pm on a weekday. The cashier at Passiontree Velvet said the same thing about the cake shop – not many people seem to go there while they’re beauty shopping. But to me it makes perfect sense to have the pretty soaps and the pretty cakes close by in one pretty sensory shopping destination.

Once we got home, George set up his own little mini-Lush bar in a corner of the bathroom.

David Jones, near the Monaro Mall beauty precinct, where the magic happens.


Autumn (?) flowers add to that fresh fragrant feeling.


A bath truly is one of life’s great pleasures.


The anticipation of a bath bomb hunt… like a jungle cat stalking it’s prey.

Like jewels on display…


A bizarre confectionery version of reef and beef? Surf and turf? I see starfish and shells and a rabbit.


Raspberry body butter bar from Lush, or meringue from Passiontree Velvet?


If it weren’t for the wrapping, you could mistake it for a Blue Hawaiian icecream bar. But no, it’s soap.


Review: Kurtosh House, where “gluttonous curiosity is to be explored”.

Señorita Margarita had told me there was a great bakery/cafe she wanted to share with me when I next trekked over to her neck of the woods. So last Sunday when Spider Boy had a birthday party to attend nearby, I dropped him off (after watching him ride a mechanical bull that looked like a giant guinea pig) and my mum, sister and I went to Kurtosh House (No.1), a cosy little bakery in Randwick (Kurtosh Houses 2, 3, 4, and 5 are in Surry Hills, Crows Nest, Darlinghurst and Wollongong respectively).

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The decor is very old-world rustic charm thanks to the pretty tiles, exposed brick walls, metal and wood chairs, soft lighting and a beautiful vintage-style coffee machine.

The cake display will make you say, “Oh wow!” Well, that’s what I said. There were sample plates along the top of the cabinets which looked like they were being regularly replenished.

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Clockwise from left: strawberry sponge, cookies and cream slice, lemon crumble cheesecake and choc-hazelnut torte.

There were huge slabs of cake, from fudgey chocolate, to sponge to cheesecake.  And the special thing is that cake is sold by weight (to satisfy your inner-glutton, according to the Kurtosh website). So you could ask them to slice 100 grams off a huge slab of chocolate, sugar and butter, and pay $4.50. So neither the indecisive nor those with a penchant for variety need to fret, their website statesWell, that’s a relief.

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They also sell chimney-shaped pastries called Kurtosh’s (also known as chimney cake), something I’d never seen or heard of before. These are cylinders of caramelised crispy flaky pastry dipped in a variety of coatings, such as cinnamon, coconut, pistachio, walnut, almond, caramelised hazelnut and chocolate hazelnut.

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Normally I go to bakeries for the combination of fat and sugar, but since it was lunchtime I ordered a quinoa and veggie pastry. I know, you’re practically blinded by my halo, right? It was so good, I couldn’t even taste the quinoa. But I could taste the curried veggies, which were not too spicy, not too bland, but just right. Does quinoa even have a taste? Or is it like tofu, the quinoa of the 90s?

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Kurtosh describes itself as being …what home feels like – comfortable, cozy, relaxing, flawed, unquestionably accepting, eclectic and sweet. I would say they pretty much nailed it. The only flaw I could see was that our veggie pastries weren’t quite hot enough, but when our waitress brought them over she said that may be the case and she happily obliged when we asked her to reheat them.

The coffee was great. And in case you’re wondering, yes, of course I took home a dessert for later. When I paid for my coffee and pastry and realised I didn’t have any cash, a staff member at the counter told me there was a $10 Eftpos minimum. Luckily there were plenty of slices to choose from that could bump up my spend. And bump up my blood sugar at the same time.

I chose the cookies and cream slice. The staff member helpfully reminded me I only needed $2.00 worth of cookies and cream slice to total $10. But that would mean less than 50 grams of sugar and fat. I can do better than that.

I told her I’d take the 100 grams slice for $4.50, thanks very much.

If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, then Kurtosh House No.1 would be Love Potion No.9. If the old cliche is true, here’s hoping for more baking successes from me, and less baking “disasters” (read about one of my baking disasters here).

By the way, if you have a penchant for pastry porn, I implore you to get onto the Kurtosh website now.

www.kurtosh.com.au

Kurtosh House No.1

20B – 20C St Paul’s Street, Randwick

Open Monday – Friday 7am – 10pm

Saturday – Sunday and public holidays 8am – 10pm

Ph 9399 8412

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.