Monday, August 30, 2010

A Pampered Weekend, With A Difference

I know most people, fellow women mainly, will think a weekend of pampering would include massages, champagne, chocolates, spa treatments, shopping, etc.

Well I do agree, however this weekend just past was a tad different.

On Saturday we headed to Coolmore Australia at Jerry's Plains & Darley Australia at Aberdeen for the industry stallion parades. On Sunday we went to Widden Stud in the Widden Valley for their parade.

The farms put on a terrific day, at Coolmore we had morning tea in a marquee (the most delish chicken & pistachio sandwiches), followed by a parade of their stallions, along with a colourful commentary from one of the Coolmore boys.

At Darley the parade is first, very slick & professional, commentated by leading racecaller David Raphael, following the parade is a glamorous lunch, they set up several marquees with different themes, and cuisines, along with a bar, waiters etc.

At Widden it's more of a family affair, the farm has been in the Thompson family for over 140 years, and it shows, there were no professional wait staff, the Widden farm staff provided excellent and personal service.  Before a lovely lunch on the lawn at the homestead there was a parade of the Widden stallions and the foals of their new lads, a good touch the other farms don't do.

I decided to not take my camera this year, as I found in previous years I was more worried about getting good shots than enjoying the day and socialising with friends, clients & associates. Mr Mel & I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

So yes my weekend included all the usual pamper weekend items:

Champagne - I somehow got suckered into being designated driver, but I still had a glass of bubbles both days

Chocolates - dessert on Sunday was a delish bitter chocolate tart with berries, and there was chocolate nibblies on Saturday
Massages - not entirely included, but definitely requested after a day in heeled boots walking across paddocks!
Shopping - indeed, inspecting the stallions is akin to shopping, sure the prices ranging from $8,000 to $165,000 are a tad steeper than usual!
Spa treatments - I had a lovely face full of foal hair after a particularly friendly foal decided I needed to rub noses with him, perhaps a new fad for spas?  yeah probably not!

Some photos from previous parades.


Till next time,

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Life really is good if you let it be good!

I'd like to think I'm a pretty grounded sort of person, grateful for the life I live, and aware of the blessings I've been given and earnt along the way.

I find it really annoying & frustrating that some people can't or won't appreciate what they've got.

Having a chat on the weekend with a friend (let's call her F1), and a mutual friend (F2) came up in conversation. F1 said that F2 had said to her recently that F2's hubby had asked her why she was so nasty about people who she's meant to love, ie friends & family, and F2's reply was that she's jealous.

I blurted out 'No Shit Sherlock' to F1, and she agreed, we were both amazed that F2 had actually realised that it was jealousy driving her at times, not very nice, behaviour to others.

F2 has a great hubby, 3 healthy & lovely kids, a nice house in a location they love, lots of friends and family who are always there for them. Yet F2 thinks she's so hard done by, everyone else is lucky or get's it easy.

I feel like saying to her to and spend a day in a kids cancer ward, or at a homeless shelter, and see how hard done by you are.

Reality check needed.  If she would just take a step back, appreciate what she's got, she would realise that life really is good.......................:-)

Off my soapbox for now.

Till next time,

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lamb Shoulder (slow cooked).........delicious

My parents (Qld) and sister (VIC) arrived yesterday, for a weeks visit.  So Mr Mel & I thought we'd cook up a bit of a storm for a welcome dinner, especially since my darling mother still seems to think I'm cooking challenged!

We wanted something we could sort early, as we had to run around doing last minute cleanup/organising before they arrived mid arvo, and didn't want to be slaving in the kitchen after they arrived.

We went with a lamb shoulder & 3 shanks, in the slow cooker.

We had tried a couple of recipes, and while we love them (lemon & garlic one is delish), my parents, especially my dad, are country folk, so we wanted something hearty and not too fancy.

The recipe ended up being:

1 lamb shoulder, 3 lamb shanks (battled for a good 10 mins to remove the shank attached to the shoulder!)

6 carrots, peeled & chopped into 1cm chunks
4 stalks celery, chopped into 4cm chunks
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed/minced
5 tablespoons passata
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
5 bay leaves
5 peppercorns, whole
about 3 litres of vegetable stock (enough to cover everything)

We put the carrots & celery in the slow cooker, on high.
Then sealed the shoulder & shanks for a few minutes, seasoning them with salt & pepper. 

Put the lamb ontop of the carrots & celery.
In same fry pan as lamb, sweated the onions and garlic till onion translucent.
Add the onion and garlic to slow cooker.
Then added the passata, worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, peppercorns, and covered with vegie stock.
Cooked on High for 4 hours, then Low for 3 hours.
We had to use a slotted spoon to lift the meat out, it was literally falling off the bone.

I made a gravy with gravox, water, and a few tablespoons of the stock from the slow cooker.

We served with mashed potatoes, beans (with honey stirred through once cooked & drained), and the carrots & celery from the slow cooker.

Dinner was a huge success, Mum was raving, and Dad who is a hard judge, was very happy, and everyone left a clean plate, with a few finger slide marks in the remnants of the gravy.

The bonus is we've all got a lamb roll for lunch :)

Unfortunately no photos, but will be cooking it again, will try for photos then!

Till next time,

Monday, August 16, 2010

Foals of 2010 - 1

We had the first foal of the season arrive last week, the mare who was having her first foal was very considerate and had her foal at midday, the usually wait until nightfall, but it made things alot easier when we didn't have to have a torch shining on proceedings.

All went well, a healthy filly and mare, after a quick delivery.

We're foaling 17 mares this year, another 16 to go!
Welcome to the world little Missy

Till next time,

Can We Do It - Update 4

Time sure is flying, I can't believe it's mid August, that's just crazy!  This is the fourth of my monthly updates on our 'Can We Do It' goals/challenges:

We bought our home in July 2009, We're aiming to have our mortgage paid off in 7 years from starting out, which would make it July 2016.

With our 1st year of mortgage done, we are allowed 1 'renegotiation' of our mortgage (allowed every year), so we locked away the redraw, and transferred a lump sum from our savings/offset, to get our minimum payment recalculated. It's gone from $310 p/week to $244 p/week.  

This has a couple of benefits, each week we're paying an extra $66 off the principal, plus our minimum is now alot lower, if we needed to we could more easily manage the minimum repayment off one wage (fingers crossed for next 12 months this happens!).

Start of mortgage - 13 July 2009
As at today (16 August 2010) - mortgage reduced by $112,682
% of home owned - 53.13%

We're making good progress on our aim of being mortgage free in under 7 years, let's hope we can keep on keeping on!

Other debt
Our total non mortgage debt includes a car loan (as part of mortgage package, at same interest rate), and a VISA we've since closed.

Start of car loan - 10 May 2010
As at today (16 Aug 2010) - reduced by $932.54
% of car owned - 5.61%

Start of VISA - 1 Dec 2009
As at today (16 Aug 2010) - reduced by $3,983
% of VISA paid - 80.95%

Total non mortgage debt (May 2010) - $15,633
As at today (16 Aug 2010) - reduced by $4,915.54
% of debt paid - 31.44%

My weight covers a few areas, getting healthy & fit, getting my body in the right place to conceive (and fit in a near 'normal' wedding dress!!). I am easily distracted from weightloss, so hoping this blog can keep me on the straight & narrow!! We've been talking wedding options over the past few weeks (even though Mr Mel hasn't proposed yet!!!! don't get me started!), so have to keep on keeping on!!

Not much change, up and down month, laziness, work & a bit of stress to blame, but mostly laziness! Slack slack slack.

A new goal is Xmas, Mr Mel & I are venturing to my old hometown for the first time since I 
moved to Melbourne (1992) and I want to move some pudge before heading home.  So the timeframe is set!!

My goal is:

Lose 15kg by 20th December, that gives me 18 weeks, that SHOULD be do-able, the only thing stopping me, is me!!  C'mon me!

Things have picked up over the past 6 weeks, Mr Mel's contacts are handballing more and more work to him, which is great, probably creeping up to .7 of a 'normal' wage now. All good, main thing Mr Mel is happy doing it :)

Till next time,

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dreams Are Free

I've always been a dreamer, since I can remember, my parents have said I'd always come up with these fantastic plans for what I was going to do that afternoon, next weekend, or when I was a big girl.

Well now in my 30's I'm still a dreamer, well more a planner & a dreamer I guess.

Over the past 3 years I've made some big changes, moved interstate, away from all family & friends, to start a new job, met Mr Mel, bought a house with him and now living with him.

I guess it's the natural progression, instinct perhaps, but over the past 6 months or so, I've been daydreaming alot, I'm talking a real lot, about Mr Mel & I living on a farm with our kids.

I don't just dream in broad strokes either, I'm a detail dreamer!

My dream is :

live on a small farm, say 20 acres, maybe 50, not far from the beach

have 2 or 3 kids
grow as much of our own food, fruit, vegies, meat, milk, cheese, as possible
have ponies for the kids
have family come and visit at the farm, maybe a 2nd house or a barn conversion
run a profitable business from home, be it connected to the farm or otherwise
breeding a couple of broodmares each year
be actively involved in the community and in charity work

I grew up in the country, so I guess that's where alot of it comes from, Mr Mel is a Sydney boy through and through, but is growing to love living in the country, and can see himself running a small farm too now.

I know we'll get there in some shape or form, eventually!!

Till next time,

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Built In Camera Required For My Car

Every day I drive 20kms each way to work and back, about 3kms of that is in town, the rest are through bushland.

Since we moved into town last year when we bought our home, I've enjoyed the trip to and from work, 15 mins each way to sing along to (what Mr Mel would call very ordinary) music, and basically relax before entering the lions den of work, or destress before I get home to Mr Mel & the pug.

Over the past couple of weeks I've been amazed at the variety of animals I've literally crossed paths with.

During foalwatch last year when I was driving to work at 3am, through fog, I had a couple of near misses with kangaroos, so since then I've been ultra aware of driving down certain stretches of road at dusk/dawn.

Over the past say month 'my' menagerie of animals that have crossed the road just before I've arrived, or who have pulled up just in time on the side of the road, and waited for me to pass (at around 2km p/h!) includes:

around 50 kangaroos

3 wombats
2 echidnas
1 enormous goanna
a family of 5 goats, 2 adults, 3 kids
2 steers who escaped from a paddock (yes I went and told the owner :) )
1 dive bombing kookaburra
at least 10 galahs who must be attracted to my car, the near misses have been very near

and yesterday, a deer, a big male deer with 1 stub of an antler and one large antler, he was going to cross the road, heard/saw me, turned on a dime and trotted back into the scrub.

So that will be on my shopping list for my next car, a built in camera, that takes a photo automatically or when the driver squeals :)

Till next time,

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Masterchef - Claire's Masterstock Chicken

Mr Mel & I are avid Masterchef fans, never miss an episode, and have tried several of the recipes from the show, incl Mushroom Risotto, Julie's Cheesy Lasagne, Pumpkin Risotto, Gary's Pork Ribs with BBQ Sauce.  On the weekend we decided to attempt Claire's Fried Masterstock Chicken with Chilli Caramel & Orange Salt.

Let's just say there is a reason why there are no other photos on this story.............................!!

I put together the shopping list, most things we either had or were easily sourced at stupormarket, except for the Sake.  Who would've known that none of the pubs in this small town (there's 7) would stock Sake!!  I tried all the pubs, BW&S, Coles Liquor, Woollies Liquor, and then finally found a very dusty bottle at IGA liquor.

Once I get everything home, we started getting organised, pulled out our biggest saucepan, and realised that it probably wasn't going to be big enough for all the liquid (600ml soy, 1/2 bottle sake, 4.5L water, oops!

So Mr Mel and I are standing there with the soy, sake, spices and 2L of water in our saucepan, thinking what are we going to do. Then I think how big is the slow cooker? Mr Mel gets it, and it's a 6L one, woohoo we think.

Reading the recipe it says bring the liquid to the boil, so we put the slow cooker on high, after an hour it's not even bubbling, so I ladle the liquid into 2 saucepans and bring it to the boil there, then pour it back into the slow cooker.

The recipe says keep it on a simmer, the slow cooker struggled to simmer all that liquid, but we put in the chook and gave it a little longer than the recipe.

We got the oil ready to fry the chicken, cut the chook in half, reading the recipe it doesn't say how long to fry it for, or what side to start on, just till golden brown, not overly helpful if never done it before.

So we put one half in skin down, one skin up, after 5 minutes of frying & basting (and my tshirt ruined from splattering oil), they're both going golden, we give them an extra minute, then take them out.

Mr Mel starts chopping up the first half, goes to chop the leg off and there's blood & pinkness!!  So back in the oil they go, another 5 minutes, they're very very golden, but no blood, thankfully!

We whipped up the caramel, salt (smelt lovely), bok choy & broccolini and after starting at 6pm, aiming for a 7pm dinner, we sat down to dinner at 9.30pm.  But luckily the wait was worth it, the chicken was delish, the caramel so sticky and yummy, and the salt very different, but moreish.

So I guess the moral to the story is, don't just check ingredients when cooking something new, check utensils also!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Till next time,

PS am thinking of contacting Masterchef re their recipes, not the first time the instructions have been quite vague and confusing, they asked for 1/2 bottle of sake, how big a bottle are they talking? Ours was 720ml but you can get bigger and smaller. And the instructions on frying the chicken were a bit vague, and made the process a bit scary having not done it before.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Time for a change?

When do you know it's time for a job change?

I love (well loved) my job, however the stress of the situation I work in has been getting to me over the past 18 months, it's getting to the point now that most days I leave either feeling a bit jaded, or with a headache. I work hard, 10-11 hours a day, 5 days a week, plus some weekends every couple of months.  It's not the hard work thats the issue, I absolutely love being busy, and working hard. It's the stress of working for people who aren't happy, and it seems can't stand anyone being happy, that's really taking a toll.

Mrs Boss is extremely high strung and blows up very easily.  I'm fairly laid back, and it takes a fair bit to get me wound up, but gee she's doing a very good job at it.  The relationship between Mr & Mrs Boss is one I'd never hope for, and I find being around it quite toxic.

I've always been one to value a job much more than the pay, I can cop alot of crapola if I love the job, and I've been doing that for the past couple of years. But it's getting to the stage where I spend alot of time wondering if it's worth it.

Surely life's too short to be miserable at work?

Mr Mel and I want to get married and have kids in the next year, I'm tossing up whether I make a move now, or wait to see if we fall pregnant, then look at a part time career change.

Some more thinking to be done........................

Till next time,


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