Thursday, 18 September 2014

Sample Food Festival 2014 & Swell Sculpture Festival

Wow what a great weekend we had down in beautiful northern NSW.  Mr Pickings and I headed down for a 3 day weekend to check out a couple of festivals- the Swell Sculpture Festival on the Gold Coast and the Sample Food Festival at Bangalow.  I had entered a food competition that Sample was holding, and wanted to go check out the winner (sadly not me).  It was one of those magical weekends away when everything just clicks, and all is right with the world.  Well, how could it not be when it involved all my fave things?- hubby and me (or is that I?) on a break, food, festivals, art and the most gorgeous scenery around.  Oh and we even spotted a Hollywood star!  And don't forget the occasional whale sighting, plus scarlet wrens, curlews, dragons, goslings -so cute, sea eagles, cup runneth over with delight. (have I mentioned before that I am a secret twitcher?  that is bird watcher for the uninitiated).  So off we went in our little yellow car (her name is Buttercup) tootling down the highway, filled with anticipation for the weekend ahead.
Swell is a marvellous festival held every September on Currumbin Beach.  There are usually about 50 sculptures, literally sitting on the sand, where visitors can wander around, touch them (naughty) and get up close and personal.  There are artists' talks, twilight walks, night time lights, and workshops for kids and adults.  If you have any interest in art/sculpture, this really is a must-do.  This year was the 12th annual Festival; here's hoping there are many more.  I find it a really magical and marvellous event, and wouldn't miss it for the world.

glorious artworks at Swell

We wended our way down the highway into deepest, darkest NSW, heading for our motel in Pottsville.  We were pleasantly surprised by this little gem of a town, and by the motel which was comparatively inexpensive, clean and modern after a refurbishment this year.  The sea is just a couple of hundred metres behind the motel, and is glorious (I keep saying that word) and very serene; and best of all, we were virtually the only people on it!

A white yacht was sailing off into the distance; and yes this shell was very long!      
There were many, many mangrove seeds along the beach as  you can see                 

Next day we headed out to Bangalow, trying to get there early enough to avoid the big crowds.  Even by 9.40am, the crowds were starting to swell, and people were drinking champagne already!  Apparently there was a record crowd this year, so I guess it can only get bigger next year.  We wandered around the food stalls, and bought local sparkling water from a lovely young girl who leapt out from the stall in hot pursuit of actor Chris Hemsworth who was trying but perhaps not succeeding in being incognito.  I suppose it didn't help when I walked by him and yelped- "oh look that's Chris Hemsworth" to my clueless spouse (even tho he likes that movie Thor).  Bangalow Showgrounds are seemingly endless, with lovely trees and plenty of parking- well at that time of day anyway.  We sat and watched the winner cook up his successful dish using local macadamia products- macadamia coconut chicken satay.  It was really delicious and spicy; not surprising since the winner owns the Byron Bay Chilli Co.

the day was sunny and the crowds were happy and hungry

the winner of the macadamia comp.with chef Alex Herbert;  lovely ladies selling Bangalow Banquet cookbook  
delish pork bun from 100miletable;  actor Chris Hemsworth giving some local lads a big thrill!                                 

coffee truck; Zest Byron Bay spice pastes and blends; tasty chicken satay

 the cutest, blue-est car parked in downtown Bangalow
local sparkling water from nearby Mt Warning              
lovely CWA ladies being storefront mannequins;          
                           stunning purple tibouchina flowers outside the local school                    

The CWA ladies were a real hoot.  They took turns sitting in the front window of the store, knitting and laughing and having a ball.  I peeked inside the store and there was another (young) lady dressed in fifties gear and dancing up a storm in the doorway.  There was such a wonderful atmosphere in the town, and everyone seemed to be having heaps of fun.  I bought the Bangalow Banquet cookbook from the lovely ladies at the Festival stall, and I will be posting up a recipe or 2 down the track.
More to come from our northern NSW trip in the next post!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Brisbane Open House 2014-October 11/12

Brisbane, like other big cities around the world such as London, New York and Rome opens up its buildings both historic and modern to viewers once a year during the Open House weekend.  If you have a love of architecture and history, this is the event for you!  You will find that it broadens your knowledge, and increases your awareness of the wonderful built environment that surrounds us in beautiful Brisbane.  Mr Pickings is a building designer, so I can very proudly say that his influence on the buildings of Brisbane in its own small way is profound, and reflects his love of design.  This love for the built environment of course has rubbed off on me over the years!
Last year I was one of the 500 volunteers who helped to support this event, and this year will see me once again giving my time to this worthwhile and fascinating free-of-charge, annual experience.  You can check out the details of the weekend here.  Make sure you allow yourself lots of time, and plan out your day as there is a lot to see!  Hope to see you there.

Very popular ABC Brisbane Centre at Southbank

Spring Hill Baths

Eco-Sciences Precinct

QUT Science & Engineering Centre

Translational Research Institute

       (Permission by Open House Brisbane to use these images in this post)

(This post is in line with my advertorial policy.  I have not been paid to write this article.  I was asked to consider putting up a post, and I have done so as I am a keen fan of this scheme!)

Monday, 15 September 2014

Freezing Fruit

Well, I can't possibly pretend even for a nano-second that this is my idea, but it is very useful especially in a time of glut. The strawberry season starts early in Queensland and we start getting local beauties in shops and markets in August. There is even a local festival day which includes a World Famous Strawberry Eating Competition!   Mr Pickings and I were going away for a long weekend and there were not 1 but 2 large punnets of strawbs in the fridge.  What to do? what to do?  Freeze them of course!  So here is a great little tip for keeping that beautiful fruit around for a bit longer.  And no, I didn't hull them.  You could do if you wish, but when it gets whizzed up you won't even notice them.

place the fruit in a single layer on a lined tray and put in freezer for an hour

toss them into a freezer bag for later use

throw them into a blender to make a fruity smoothie

add yoghurt, coconut sugar, almond milk, oats etc for a healthy breakfast

I often have one of these drinks for my breakfast or lunch; really tasty and pretty darn good for you.

picking strawberries in a field in British Columbia (image held in the British Library)

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Orange Curd

I do love a good lemon curd especially when it is really tangy and zesty.  Then again, I really love coconut curd.  I guess I just love curds!  I was flicking through some old recipes recently and saw one for orange curd made in the microwave. Honestly, it sounded like twice as much work and twice the time of a normal one made on the stove top.  You had to feed the butter in bit by bit and stir it, then whack it in the microwave and stop it and stir each minute for 10 minutes. Crikey!  I could scale Mt Everest in that time.
So I decided to use the lemon curd recipe I have used before but replace it with orange juice.  So here is my latest curd/butter recipe flavoured with orange and a bit of lemon, adapted from a recipe on Allrecipes.


160 mls orange juice - from real oranges please!
40 mls lemon juice-  ditto
zest of 2 oranges
3 large eggs
185g of sugar
125g cold and cubed butter


First sterilise a couple of small jars- it makes about 350 mls of curd
Place all the ingredients into a medium saucepan
Whisk together and keep whisking for about 10-12 minutes at a low to medium heat
Once the mixture is bubbling at the edges and has slightly thickened- stop!
Cool slightly and pour into sterilised jars; place in the fridge where it will thicken up a bit when cold
You can keep them in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks at least
Enjoy on toast, in icecream or tarts.

Ok here is where I have to confess.  I had to strain it 'cos it went kind of grainy.  Not my fault-honest!  The kookaburras came down to the deck demanding food just as I had put the saucepan on the stove top, so I had to rush out there with their lumps of steak and feed them.  I put the mixture through a strainer a couple of times, and it came out pretty well.

a youngster (stock image)

I have taken several photos of the 2 gorgeous fellas that come to our deck, but they are not the best quality as the deck faces the east- so too much light.  Hence the stock image.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Dog biscuits-home made

Mr Pickings and I have always had pets- cats and dogs, then just a dog till she passed away last year.  Now we are pet-less but we do have a niece with a lovely dachsund who comes over for a visit now and again. Willow is a beautiful and very long girl; our niece works for the RSPCA and originally brought her home as a foster dog (she was rescued from a puppy farm) but couldn't bear to give her up, so she joined her cat and other foster animals that she takes in.  I used to make home-made treats for our dog as she had skin allergies, and I had to be sure that she wasn't getting the bad stuff that is in a lot of commercial biscuits.  Here is a recipe from Dr Harry's old TV show; they are cheap and easy and dogs love them.

Willow waiting for her treat to cool down


1 ¾ cups wholemeal flour
1/2 cup cornflour
1/2 cup grated carrot (you can use other vegies like zucchini or potato, or apple)
4 tbs vegetable oil
2 stock cubes or 2 tsp of stock powder dissolved in 1/2 cup of water


Place the flours in a large mixing bowl
Add the carrot, the oil and the half cup of stock into the bowl
Mix it into a dough- you may need to add a bit more water if it is very dry
Bang it out onto a floured board or bench
Grab your rolling pin and roll it out to a half cm thick rectangle (but don't fuss; just remember this is for dogs- they don't care what it looks like)
Then either cut out shapes with a cookie cutter or just divide it with a knife into squares
Put into a 170C oven for at least 30 mins, but I suggest closer to an hour to get it really hard
Let them cool down, then give one to your happy dog!

See that last photo?  It has peanut butter on top.   The niece said her dog loves PB, so if you buy a natural one, I think a little won't do any harm for an extra treat!  And see that lovely bracelet; that is on the niece's wrist as she was the one doing all the hard work :)
Please check out her blog: if you have a dog especially a dachsund!

don't you love the swirliness of PB! (stock image)

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Buzz Bistro at Tennyson-restaurant review

Mr Pickings had had an appointment cancelled so he had a bit of extra time for lunch and much to my surprise, he suggested we go out to lunch.  I was stunned to say the least as it is virtually impossible to drag him away from his computer and his work, especially midweek.  So I jumped up with alacrity, grabbed my coat and was out the door before he could change his mind.  I suggested we go to Buzz as I had been there recently with a friend for lunch, and was wanting to go again with Mr Pickings so we could check out the old powerhouse site, which is now full of apartments, and of course the tennis stadium.
It was a beautiful sunny day, with the sunlight sparkling on the river and brilliant blue skies.  You have to love Brisbane in the winter time!
The first time I went there, we had wonderful service, with efficient and friendly staff, although they did stick us on a tiny table near the door even though there seemed to be plenty of room at the front where the view is.  This time, there was a different waiter who was not a happy camper that day.  But paradoxically, he gave us a table with a view at the front.  The bistro was fairly full, but service was efficient, and we didn't have to wait too long to get our drinks and meals.
On my first visit, I used all my will-power, denying myself wine, and went instead with a Health Blast full of vitamins and goodness for your innards.  On this second visit, I did indulge and started with a glass of Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc which was delicious.  I have fairly much sworn off the demon drink in the last 6 weeks, (and my liver thanks me) so this was a wonderful treat.  Mr Pickings had his usual milkshake and was delighted to see they had malt at 50 cents extra.  I had a sip as a good old malted milk reminds me of my childhood when all milkshakes at the milk bar came with malt.  It was pleasant enough though it could have been colder- the secret of a perfect shake.  And the Health Blast was tangy with the ginger- it felt like it was doing me good all the way down.

vanilla malted milkshake-$6.50 

Health Blast-beetroot carrot apple celery ginger

Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc $14

confit duck salad with black cherry vinaigrette $20

pumpkin ravioli with sage and nut butter $27

fat chips and aioli $7

chicken on couscous salad with mint yoghurt dressing $21

smoked salmon w/- brioche caper mayo and rocket salad $19

I really enjoyed the duck salad on my first visit; it was a generous duck leg with a tasty dressing.  I am a big duck fan so was pleased to see the leg rather than the sad little shreds of duck you often get in a so-called "duck" salad.  This was a winner for me.   My friend had the smoked salmon;  he didn't say much but he ate it all up with gusto so I assume it was good.  First visit with friend-no chips or wine; second visit with hubby- wine AND chips.  Blame it on him I say!  The chips were chipply (I think I just made up a new word) - well what can you say about chips and the ubiquitous aioli?  Mr Pickings did mention that the potatoes must be "special" as they had a very distinct taste in a really good way.  We both enjoyed them.  Mr Pickings attacked his organic pumpkin ravioli with a hearty appetite.  He said- and I quote- "it was what I expected." He ate every bit so once again, I assume it was edible and pleasant, but not stunning.  The chicken salad I had this time was enjoyable, but not quite as wonderful as the duck salad.  There was a lot of couscous which meant that the dressing was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer quantity and got a bit lost.  I wanted more tang!  I had coffee to finish, then Mr Pickings and I went for a stroll around the grounds to walk off our large lunch in the beautiful sunshine.

coffee was Di Bella

This is a very pleasant place to have lunch, especially if you can get a table overlooking the river.  Service obviously can be a bit different each time you go, but I guess that is the same anywhere.  The perfunctory service we got this time did not detract from the tasty dishes and relaxed ambience of the bistro.

interior and looking out to the river

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