Monday, February 28, 2011

Chocolate Pasta - interesting!

We had Mr Mel's sister, her hubby & 2 girls up for the weekend, and as usual, all visitors regardless of how many times we've had them up, want to go to either Petersons Champagne House or the Hunter Valley Chocolate Shop, which by either divine intervention, or by the work of the devil, are housed side by side in Pokolbin.

We first went into Petersons but it was bulging at the seams, and the 2 little ones weren't enjoying the crowd, so we went next door the Chocolate Shop.

Mr Mel and I have been there probably 50 times, so we know just about all their stock inside out, however on this visit I spied a product I'd either not seen or not noticed before - Chocolate Pasta!

No not chocolate in pasta shapes, but pasta with coca mixed into it, the ingredients listed are wheat, cocoa, sugar and water (from memory).

Chocolate Pasta, made by The Professors Tasty Technology.

It was easy to cook, 1 litre of water bought to the boil, add a tablespoon of sugar, add pasta, boil for 5-7 minutes.  After 5 mins it was still quite tough, so I let it go until 8, probably 9 minutes.  No rinsing, just draining. Then scooped into bowls, and topped with vanilla icecream.

The taste wasn't overly chocolatey, more pasta with a hint of cocoa, similar to a chocolate sticky rice taste (yummo with mango, but I digress!).  The texture was still a bit tough, even with more than the listed time of cooking. Mr Mel, his sister and her hubby agreed, not something they could eat alot of, and seeings I had split the 250g bag between the 4 of us, it was probably a tall ask from the get go!

So while it was an interesting concept and something I'm glad we tried, I probably wouldn't buy it again, I might try another brand, but not in a big hurry!

Till next time,

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

VIC v NSW - on the word front

Since moving to NSW, and specifically since meeting Mr Mel (who is a born and bred Sydneysider), I keep running into a a growing list of words/names that seem to cause some controversy in our house.

Now I'm not sure if some of these words are peculiar to my hometown of Warrnambool or to Mr Mel's home suburb in the Hills district of Sydney, some probably are, but for now, and probably evermore, they will be ammunition in our ongoing VIC v NSW battle :)

VIC - Nibble Pies

NSW - Party Pies

VIC - Fruit Boxes
NSW - Poppers

VIC - Potato Cake
NSW - Scallop

VIC - Pot - beer
NSW - Schooner

VIC - Kabana
NSW - Cabanossi

VIC - Safeway
NSW - Woolworths

VIC - Patio (sounds like pat-e-o)
NSW - Patio (sounds like paich-e-o)

Vic - Pool (sounds like pool)
NSW - Pool (sounds look peuwl)
That's all I can think of for now, I was sure I had heaps when I started this entry, but they've slipped my mind!  No doubt I'll be back to add more!

Till next time,

Can We Do It Update - Feb 2011

Wow 22 Feb already, what's going on!  Time is flying by way too quickly. So I thought before I forget for another 8 weeks, I'd better do an update on our goals:

Wedding - The big update since my last post of this style is that we got engaged on Valentines Day (yay!). We're planning a big engagement party for July 2011, and will surprise our family with a wedding!  The plans are afoot, getting our heads around the budget is the first cab off the rank!  Oh and an engagement ring, we're meeting with a jeweller who is a friend of Mr Mel's father, so hopefully a lovely (and not to pricey) ring around the corner!

Mortgage - 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.
Update - We're on month 20 of our mortgage, and we're on track, we've got 58.27% equity in our home. 

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. Our aim is to have all of this debt paid off by mid 2015.
Update - Compared to when we started back in July 2009, we're sitting at approx 62.90% non mortgage debt gone, which is great. We have paid off the VISA, and are still happy with having our money in the offset against the mortgage, not sitting in the car, however are always reviewing. Looking like we'll have it paid off well before aim of mid 2015.

Weight - As per other updates, 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!!). 
Update - Have been on the warpath since early Feb, results have been slow, but looking at joining Curves for a 5 month attack leading into our wedding!!

Business - In Feb 2010 Mr Mel gave up his job in Sydney to have a go at turning his hobby into a business. 
Update - Mr Mel's business is growing steadily, we met with our accountant recently and he was happy with progress, which was good to hear.  Looking at another part to the business in early/mid 2011, we have registered the business name and websites, but will get stuck into that again after July.
Till next time,

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday On My Mind - 3

Gee Friday's are coming around quickly, not that I'm 100% complaining as it means another weekend is knocking on the door!

As per the past few Fridays, it's time to participate in the lovely Rhonda from the Down To Earth blog Friday Photo Feature - 'On My Mind....'

So what is on my mind this Friday?

Seeings as Mr Mel proposed on Monday, you would be correct in thinking that future wedding plans have been on our minds.

Tomorrow we are going engagement ring shopping, so On My Mind today, is engagement rings, how much to spend (or not spend), what sort, etc etc.

Mr Mel wants me to get one I love, I'm just hoping the one I love isn't too pricey!

Apparently there used to be a 'formula' for engagement rings, of 2 months of the future grooms salary.  But I just can't justify spending that sort of $ on a ring!

I was horrified when googling the question to see on some forums that $20,000-$30,000 is the norm!  Holy moley, that's a fair chunk of our mortgage!

The one we go with has to be practical to a point, I work with horses so don't want to have to take it off 5 times a day or be worried about it catching etc, so it needs to be relatively flat, if possible.

At least I delivered on my promise of no photos of horses this Friday :)

Till next time,

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mr Mel Proposed!!

What a memorable Valentine's Day, Mr Mel had booked dinner at one of our favourite restaurants Sanctuary, and on the drive there he asked if I wanted to stop quick at one of our favourite spots in the Valley, the Pokolbin Community Hall (where we had decided we would have our wedding, down the track, I know we did things out of order a bit didn't we!!)

I had been trying to remember the name of a caterer listed on the wall at the Hall to get a quote, so thought that's a great idea.

When we arrived there was a pilates group in the hall, so we wrote down the name of the caterer, and Mr Mel stood back and looking at the view, commented how perfect a spot it will be.  Then he gave me a Valentines Day card.

In the card he said some lovely stuff I won't list here (heehee), but ended the card with a PTO, on the back he'd written "I can't wait to have Valentines dinner tonight with my fiance', and I read it, looked at him and said no way!  He replied with 'Chickadee will you marry me'.  Of course I said yes  :)

Such a perfect spot to have done it, I'm so proud of him, for keeping it a secret and picking the spot of our future marriage to propose, makes me tear up thinking of it :)

So we headed off to Sanctuary newly engaged, and was greeted by a glass of champagne, and a delicious dinner, a night to remember forever!

So there you go, we're engaged!!  We're going ring shopping on Saturday!

For those interested, a link to our secret squirrel site is here  :)

Till next time,

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentines Day

Whether you do or don't believe in good old Saint Valentine from 496 AD, or whether you have or haven't been sucked in by the commercialism of the modern St Valentine's Day, personally I don't think that there is ever a bad excuse to say 'I Love You' to your special someone.

So today, on Feb 14, which you may or may not recognise as Valentine's Day, I wish you all a happy day, full of love, hugs, and all the rest.

I started Valentines Day waking up to some smooches and hugs from Mr Mel, never a bad way to wake up, regardless of the calendar date!

We're heading to one of our favourite restaurants for a 'V Day' special at Sanctuary Restuarant at Pokolbin. Shall report back soon.

Till next time,

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday On My Mind - 2

It's Friday again, which means the lovely Rhonda from the Down To Earth blog is having her Friday Photo Feature - 'On My Mind....'  I enjoyed tripping round blogs listed in the comments on Rhonda's blog, and have bookmarked quite a few to revisit.

So what's on  my mind this lovely Friday?

My dad trained racehorses when I was a kid, and I don't remember a time when I didn't have horses in my life, so it's no surprise really, that one of my favourite photos is of me, probably at 2 or 3 sitting on one of dads racehorses, apparently I would get very cranky if anyone tried to put a hand on me to make sure I was safe up high on their backs.

The horse I'm on was a 2yo filly, she held a track record at the Gold Coast at one stage, very fast filly, she was my favourite.

I promise next Friday's photo won't be horse related!!

Till next time,

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Grape Picking in 40c heat, what were we thinking!

On Sunday, Mr Mel and I ventured to a local vineyard, Ernest Hill Wines, to partake in their annual members pick.  We had received the invite about 10 days earlier, and accepted, before we knew that we were in for 10 days of 40c+ days.

So Saturday rolls around, and Mr Mel pops his already dodgy knee, and can hardly walk on it. We give it till 7am Sunday morning, he thinks he'll be ok, and I make him promise to let me know if it starts hurting more. He agrees, moreso because he doesn't want to let down the Ernest Hill guys by piking, when they'll think we're just pulling the pin because of the heat!

Off we head, for our 7.30am start, there's a crew of about 30 other members, armed with water, sunscreen, hats, secateurs and buckets, so we join the brigade.

By 8am we're half-way down our first vine, and loving it, feeling the weight of the warm grapes drop in your hand as you snip them off is very satisfying, and not long after my first bucket is full (see pic below), and a 'bucket boy' comes to swap full for empty.

Proof - my first bucket of grapes
By about 9am we've done 3 rows, and the seat is pouring out of us, it's very humid and warm, luckily Ross the vineyard owner comes round with waterbottles, saviour!!

We chugg through another few rows and before we know it, the whole block has been picked!  5 tonnes of late pick semillion that will be used in the deliciously decadent Lunar Spark by Ernest Hill.

Let the picking begin
Red faced, sweaty, sticky from grapejuice, we make our way up to the tent, and collapse onto seats, grab a beer, and have a chat with other pickers. One couple are wanting to move up here form Sydney, they pick our brains, and we rave about the lifestyle, we think we've converted them, wouldn't be surprised to see them round town soon!

Ross & Jason of Ernest Hill put on a great brunch, rolls with bacon & egg or sausage & egg, with drinks, and complementary bottles of vino.  We partake in all aspects, delicious.

Then Jason tells us he's setup a traditional stomping case, where a few buckets of grapes will be put in for us all to stomp, then he'll turn it into wine, the traditional way, and send us all a bottle.  Having done similar when they established the vineyard, he warned us it may not be drinkable, and after seeing some of the feet and much going with them into the case, I don't doubt it.  It will be a bottle that tells a story rather than gets drunk!

We shall call it Chateau de Feet
All in all, a terrific day, hard work, and we were absolutely knackered, but have already put our hand up to have another go in 2012.
On arrival at the kickoff point
Can't wait to try the 2011 Lunar Spark and our dodgy Chateau de Feet bottle in the coming months!
Luna Spark - the end result of our efforts
Till next time,

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday On My Mind

The lovely Rhonda, from the well worth a visit blog Down to Earth has a Friday Photo Feature called 'On My Mind...'  after reading through the comments, where visitors leave links to their blogs of what's on their mind, I thought I'd join in.

So what's on my mind, this lovely, if not stinking hot, Friday!

A racehorse working on the beach at sunrise - Warrnambool Vic
When I was a kid, I used to help my dad work and swim our racehorses on the beach at Warrnambool, I have dreams of one day getting back to living by the beach, and high on the list will be riding our horses at sunrise in the water.

Sure it was dangerous, we often saw sharks, but it was just bliss, you and the horse, bareback through the waves, we'd ride them on the sand, then swim them in the ocean behind a rowboat, I'd ride them out till they started to swim, then hold on around their neck floating behind them while they swam.

Nothing like it, and I'll do it again, one day!

Till next time,

Cape Bridgewater - VIC

After Christmas with Mr Mel's family in Sydney, we packed up the pug and hit the road to Warrnambool, to spend a week with my family.

After a couple of days catching up with friends and family, Mr Mel & I headed over to Cape Bridgewater for a drive, I hadn't been there since school trips back in the 80's, so it was great to visit again.

Cape Bridgewater is around 100km west of Warrnambool, around 20kms west of Portland.

The bay is actually an old extinct (please stay that way!) underwater volcano, which is why the bay is surrounded by high cliffs.  We didn't have time to do the walk, but you can walk around to a fur seal colony, we could spy quite a few tourists there clicking away with their cameras.
Cape Bridgewater beach
A short drive from the main beach is a petrified forest, freshwater springs, and a blowhole.
The Blowhole at Cape Bridgewater
The Cape can be very very windy, which makes it an ideal spot for a windfarm, and I was so happy to see that a local co-op had got together and funded the erection of around 30 wind turbines, merrily zipping themselves around.
Wind Turbines at Cape Bridgewater
Have to mention the lovely coffees we had at the cafe on Cape Bridgewater beach, while they were slow coming, they were worth the wait, a good barista there, woohoo.  Now if we could only get one here at home!

I've been a bit slack getting the rest of our trip photos online, it won't happen overnight but it will happen!

Till next time,

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cyclone Yasi - North Queensland

Thoughts to everyone in North Queensland, with reports now that impending Cyclone Yasi will probably be the most life threatening cyclone in Australia for generations, with expected winds of up to 320km per hour. Due to reach land around 1am Thursday, at Cairns. More than Cyclone Tracy where 65 people were killed, and close to Hurricane Katrina proportions where 1,833 people were lost in New Orleans, and where, almost 6 years later the city and her people have still not fully recovered.

30,000 people are being evacuated from Cairns, with a storm surge of up to 7 metres expected, much of Cairns could go underwater.

Some details below for people who could be effected, or who have family in the area:

For cyclone preparedness and safety advice, visit Queensland's Disaster Management Services at

For emergency assistance call the Queensland State Emergency Service (SES) on 132 500.

For those evacuating, they are asked to register their whereabouts by ringing 1300 993 191 or by visiting

Cyclone Yasi evacuation and relocation line - 1300 993 191

Stay safe everyone,
Till next time,

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bushfire Season

Yesterday at work around 1.30pm I was on the quadbike and noticed some weird shapes clouds above the trees, I went up on the hill and saw that there was a bushfire on the mountain behind the farm.

While I could see it was 'only' small, the awful sick feeling you get in the bottom of your stomach, which is probably the age old imprinted 'fight or flight' response showed up.

We called the Rural Fire Service, they had only just been advised, and trucks were on the way, so they didn't know how big or bad it was.

From the farm the fire was around 3kms as the crow flies, not very far on a windy day, but thankfully there was hardly a whisper of wind.

We got the pumps and firehoses out, and had a firedrill, pumping water from the top dam, after much swearing at the pump it finally kicked over and we felt a bit more at ease that we had water at hand.

As a precaution we placed the irrigation lines around the house & barn, and ran the sprinklers.  Then worked out what documents we'd need from the house & office if worst came to worse, and backed up the important files onto an external drive. We worked out where we'd move with the horses, and where the best evacuation route was for them.

By 5pm the RFS reported they were bringing the fire under control, they had revised the size from 50 hectares down to 30, and the fire was going up the mountain rather than down towards us.

They had 7 trucks and 2 choppers working on it, as the mountain is covered in dense bush, the access isn't good, so the choppers dumping water helped.

By late last night the RFS reported it was under control. Thankfully.

With the temp today to hit 40 again, and between 36 - 40 for the rest of the week, as Steve Liebman says, we'll be alert but not alarmed.

Just have to hope there are no firebugs around, the Valley is an absolute tinderbox at the moment.  But I won't get started on my view of firebugs, that's a tirade for another day.

Stay safe everyone, Australia's a hell of a place, floods, fires, cyclones, all within a few weeks, but you have to love her regardless.

Till next time,


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