Saturday, 8 June 2013

A rare sunrise

I'm definitely a night person. Combine that with the crazy shifts that I work it's rare that I get to witness a Melbourne sunrise. But when night shifts mess up your bodyclock in a good way, you gotta go with it, right?

It was chilly, but oh so pretty. Balloons and all!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Polenta chips

Am I the only person in the world that hasn't been eating polenta chips? (or polenta fries, depending on your hemisphere) In fact, until last week I was a near polenta virgin. I think I have eaten polenta mash as a side dish at a few restaurants, and always liked it, but never really understood how it was prepared or cooked, so it seemed a bit mysterious and fancy schmancy.

I've had a Tupperware container of polenta floating around in my cupboard for years, but have only ever used it for baking corn bread, corn muffins or yummy cakes containing corn meal. Given my love of corn (and let's face it carbohydrates in general), it's surprising I've never tried making my own polenta mash.

Last week when the lovely Mary was down in Melbourne to celebrate her birthday, I was introduced to the wonder of polenta chips at Barney Allens. Crisp on the outside, soft on the inside and with a yummy dipping sauce. An instant win!

Mere days after trying these chips, I've been keen to go back for more. Since that was unlikely to happen, the next best thing to do was to try making them myself. Thanks to the wonders of google I found several not-so-daunting sounding recipes, so went ahead with one from, with some slight variations, including baking instead of frying. Here's my version.

Baked polenta chips


  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup dry polenta
  • Small handful Parmesan cheese (next time I would add more
  • Chopped fresh parsley (grabbed from pot outside, unmeasured
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Other spices to taste - I added Chilli flakes and paprika


  1. In a large saucepan, combine milk, chicken stock, and butter; bring to rolling boil. Slowly whisk in polenta.
  2. Turn down heat to medium-low, and continue cooking and stirring until polenta pulls from edge of pan. (I know this sounds confusing, and I had no idea what "pulls from pan" means, but it REALLY DOES!)
  3. Mix in cheese, parsley, salt and pepper & whatever spices you are adding.
  4. Spread polenta evenly over a cookie sheet, and refrigerate until cold.
  5. Preheat oven
  6. Transfer polenta to cutting board and cut into sticks.
  7. Place on baking tray, spray with oil and bake in oven until crispy.
    Polenta chips
    I served this with a salad and a dipping sauce made of geek yoghurt and chilli jam. It was yum! As I mentioned above next time I'd add more cheese, as I couldn't taste it at all. And don't worry, there will be a next time soon!!
    Polenta chips

    Wednesday, 18 May 2011

    RIP blender

    The blender that I've been using for the last 10 or so years is truly a relic. It was given to my parents as a wedding present. They are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary this year.


    Ugly it may be, but for the last decade this blender has served me mighty fine smoothies, soups and cocktails. I've had no complaints.

    However all good things must eventually come to an end. Although the blades still rotate, not much blending has been happening lately. My smoothies have been far from smooth, so finally I have bitten the bullet and decided to farewell ye olde ugly blender.

    A parcel arrived on my doorstep not long ago.


    Inside, a shiny new blender. Of course its red.


    Now its no longer smoothie weather, but I've made 2 soups alone this week. Let's see if this one lasts 40 years. Somehow I doubt it!!

    Monday, 14 March 2011

    Rhubarb Jam

    Last weekend I went to the St Kilda Farmers' market. This groovy little market is only a hop, skip and a jump from our house, so I don't know why it took me well over 6 months of living here before I checked it out for the first time. It's only on once a month, so miss it and you miss out for another 4 weeks. Ouch! (Although I've just noticed there is an Albert Park market on the 3rd week of the month which is still nice and closeby. I might try and make it there this Saturday!)

    Even though I've only been about 4 times, I've already got myself a little routine. Must buy items are baby cos lettuce, tomatoes, blue cheese and a piece of brownie. Other items are negotiable, depending on what's in season.

    One of the suprise items this time was a lovely looking bunch of rhubarb. I made part of it into a galette, and the other 2/3 I used to make my first ever jam.

    I was going to say it was as easy as pie, but truthfully it's even easier. I adapted this recipe from to use part of the bunch of rhubarb, and a heap less sugar. I'm not really a jammy person, and would prefer mine on the tart, rather than the sweet side. I had no idea if these adjustments would effect the setting, but it didn't seem to make any difference. I love the way there are only 4 ingredients, and no fancy setting or gelling agents (is that normal for jam? I have no idea!)

    Rhubarb Jam

    Rhubarb Jam recipe

    Preparation Time

    10 minutes

    Cooking Time

    30 minutes


    • 2/3 bunch trimmed rhubarb, washed, coarsely chopped
    • 300g caster sugar (I used a combination of raw sugar and caster sugar, since I was running low)
    • Juice of 1/2-1 fresh lemon
    • 1 tsp vanilla essence


    1. Combine the rhubarb, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a large glass bowl. Cover and set aside to infuse for a few hours or overnight, depending on how patient you are.
    2. Transfer the rhubarb mixture to a large saucepan. Place over medium-high heat. Bring to the boil. Use a large metal spoon to skim any froth from the surface. Cook, stirring, for 25-30 minutes or until the jam jells when tested (see note).
    3. Spoon the hot jam mixture into clean, dry jars. Seal and invert for 2 minutes. Turn upright and set aside to cool.


    • To test if the jam is ready, place 1 teaspoon of the jam on a chilled saucer and place in the freezer for 1-2 minutes or until cooled to room temperature. Lightly push the jam with your finger. If the surface wrinkles, it's ready.
    • To sterilise glass jars, wash the jar and lid in warm soapy water and rinse. Transfer to a baking tray lined with baking paper and place in oven preheated to 100°C until dry. Use straight from the oven.
    Rhubarb Jam

    There you go, easy as!!! Next time I would try replacing the lemon juice with orange juice and reducing the sugar even more.

    Here's how I enjoyed my first tasting: for breakfast on pancakes with yoghurt and coffee. Mmmmmm.

    Rhubarb Jam

    I've never made scones before, but I'm tempted to learn just so I can taste this jam on a warm scone with cream. Yum!

    Monday, 7 March 2011

    43things: do a triathlon

    Unfortunately I’ve been without internet access for the last month (and yes I did feel like I was missing a limb). Life did not end, nor did it stand still. In fact for the last 6 weeks I’ve been training for a mini-triathlon and finally did it yesterday.

    And since I’m sitting here typing this, that means I lived to tell the tale. What’s more, I even enjoyed it!!

    Six weeks ago I made a big decision. Despite it nearing the end of summer and triathlon season, I wanted to achieve this goal. Its been on my list for over a year now, and if I ever wanted to make this happen, I just had to get in there and do it.

    There were 2 main things that helped my motivation. Getting back to the pool and swimming laps, and realising my other goal of swimming 1km without stopping. Sure I’m not fast, but I can swim and I do feel safe and confident in the water. Whilst I was at the pool doing laps one day, one lane was closed for a group called Tri-alliance. I picked up one of their brochures and that got the ball rolling…

    Another thing that helped move that ball along was a friend of mine talking about doing a triathlon as well. We live on opposite sides of the city, so couldn’t train together, but we decided to both sign up for a mini-triathlon – The Gatorade ActiveFeet race at Elwood Beach which involved a 300m swim, 10km cycle, 3km run.

    Just before Christmas we both made the decision to sign up for the March race, giving us adequate training time after Christmas and New Year’s festivities were over. It also gave me time to sign up for Tri-alliance’s Try the Tri 6 week program. Not having done anything more competeitive than the Sydney City 2 Surf (and that was many years ago now!), joining this program was one of the best decisions I ever made.

    It wasn’t all smooth sailing. I missed over 2 weeks of sessions due to illness, and couldn’t make every session due to work commitments. But I made enough to learn the basics of transitions, to improve my running (although I still have a long way to go), to experience open water swimming, and I even had fun in the process.

    Tri-alliance training

    After the first session I was a bit intimidated. We literally spent 1.5 hours learning how to get on and off a bike. It was hard! And I was sore for days afterwards. And I’m still not very good at it!

    I was suprised to discover that comparatively speaking, swimming was my strongest leg. I know it’s an indiviual sport, but I couldn’t help but noticing that whenever we practised transitions, or did running training, I was always dead last. By a long shot. Never the case swimming though. I have to admit that gave me a mental boost, for if I was consistently coming last in everything, I think my competitive side would find that difficult to cope with.

    But enough about the training, how about the race itself!!

    I was a bit panicked waking at at 5:30am yesterday and realising it was still pitch black. I had planned on carrying my gear in my bike basket and riding to the race, however I can’t attach both my basket and my light to my bike. A last minute repacking ensued, and I rode down to Elwood beach, still with plenty of time to spare.

    After checking in my bike and setting up for transition, I made my way to the Tri-alliance tent to wait there with the other people I’d been training with. It was lovely to be around other first-timers in the same boat along with more experienced athletes and coaches. At 6am it was a chilly 12 degrees. We had to leave our shoes in the transition area and I hadn't thought to bring a spare pair. As a result my feet were in agony from the icy grass.

    During Saturday’s training session I was dismayed to find that the water temperature had dropped signficantly. I am a wuss when it comes to cold water at the best of times. Also being one of the few people without a wetsuit, I was even more freaked out. Since we were only doing a small pre-race swim, I couldn’t even force myself to get in the water. I was worried that if it didn’t warm up overnight I’d be too wussy to do it for the actual race the next day! But luckily the water temperature had warmed up (and was warmer than the 12 degree air!).

    The race itself was amazing. The swim was both my favourite part, and the most stressfull. Being accidentally kicked and having people pulling and swarming around you can be stressfull. Luckily the ocean was flat as a tack, so currents and waves didn’t add to this stress.

    Image from

    As always my transition time was slow. I think I am the slowest person alive to put on shoes! It didn’t help that my feet were deadened by cold. In fact I didn’t get back full sensation in my feet until halfway through the run.

    The cycle leg was fine, I think I could have pushed it harder than I did though. I hadn’t done enough
    10km length cycles to properly gauge how long and how hard I had to work for. I was also conscious of saving my legs for what I knew would be my toughest leg: the run.

    I’m not a natural, nor a fast runner. But I can get myself into a slow rhythm and just plug away. And plug away I did. My legs sure felt it from the riding, but I was just happy not to have to stop and walk. Towards the end, I even got a comment from someone on the sidelines about how I was still smiling. With
    100m to go, my deadened legs made a final sprint for it. At the finish line, I didn’t even see the clock, so I had no idea what my time was.

    I got my results in the mail today, and here they are:
    • Swim – 08:55, 26/68 in my age category, 368/599 overall
    • Transition 102:23
    • Cycle – 23:25, 40/68 in my age category, 396/599 overall
    • Transition 201:15
    • Run – 18:04, 48/68 in my age category, 482/599 overall

    Overall stats: 54:01, 42/68 in my age category, 142/239 females, 428/599 overall competitors

    Not bad, but definite room for improvement!

    Things I would do differently next time:

    • Swim – Ideally wear a wetsuit. Yes this would involve buying one.
    • Transition 1 – need to be at least 1 minute faster. Shouldn’t have worried about socks (most of the sand had come off anyway). Do more training in shoes only to make sure this would work. Also shouldn’t have bothered putting on a dry singlet, it only got wet!
    • Cycle – could have pushed harder, especially the first half. Also getting a proper road racing bike might help too!
    • Transition 2 – don’t bother drinking my own water this time. Plently of water stations along the running route.
    • Run – faster faster. More practice!!

    Despite the room for improvements, I’m happy with my race, and more than happy that I got off my butt and did something I’d wanted to do for ages. It didn’t cost a lot of money, and the only new equipment that I bought were elasticated shoe laces ($10) and tri shorts ($30 from the 2XU factory outlet). Of course the gadget-geek in me is already plotting away at future purchase ideas - a wetsuit and maybe even a new bike too!

    Speaking of room for improvement, the St Kilda race is on in only 2 weeks. Whilst part of me wants time to recover, another part of me wants to give it another go. Another part of me is also afraid of how much colder the water will be in 2 weeks. Another part of me thinks that part of me is a wuss. Which part will win is yet to be determined!

    Regardless, my new goal is now to to a full-length Triathlon when the season starts again at the end of the year!

    Sunday, 30 January 2011

    43things: Swim 1km without stopping

    Image from

    I have to keep pinching myself in order to believe I actually achieved this goal. And so quickly too.

    Honestly I don’t know how it happened. I’ve been to the pool about
    1-2 times per week for the last few weeks. Prior to Tuesday, the most I had swum without a quick break at the end of a lap was 200m.

    Somehow on Tuesday it happened. I was aiming for
    300m (6 laps). I was still feeling good after 6, so thought I would be ambitious and aim for 10. By 10 I was still ok so aimed for 12, then 15…By the time I reached 16 I was determined to make the 20, so I did.

    It was more by accident than any specific traning or pre-planning. Maybe it had something to do with not having done any other exercise for
    48 hours beforehand, so my arms and shoulders were fresh.

    As exciting as that was, it’s a bit scary. I’ve raised the bar now.

    Today I’m a bit tired, a bit hungover, and a bit sore from a training session I had yesterday. However its
    35 degrees and I need to cool down. I’m about to head to the pool. I’m afraid I won’t be able to swim 6, let alone 20 laps without stopping, which will make me a fraud.

    But even if I do stop and take breaks, I know I’ll get to
    1km. I don’t always have to swim without stopping, just because I have before. Sometimes I’ll want to have a drink. Sometimes my goggles will leak or fog up. Sometimes I’ll be lazy and hungover.

    And while it’s not perfect, I have to remind myself it’s ok. Just making the effort and getting out there and doing it is a great thing!

    See more progress on: Swim 1km without stopping

    Thursday, 20 January 2011

    43things: Get a bike and start bike riding

    I'm finally marking this goal as done! I’ve had my bike for over a year now. I’m by no means an expert cyclist and in that time I wouldn’t say its gotten the biggest workout ever, but I am using it!

    New bike
    The day I bought my bike!

    In the last week alone I have ridden to:

    • Port Melbourneto meet friends for dinner & drinks
    • Step into Life class
    • Sandringham beach and back with friends for a swim

    I don’t know if I’ll ever be an everyday communter. That will probably depend more on proximity to work and shifts, but I’m enjoying what I’m doing for now. I already have dreams of other bikes I’d like to get – cruiser, racer, vintage road bike…..but that’s a story for another time and place!

    Bay ride

    Me on a recent ride taking a cheesy self-portrait