Work and Play: Personal Branding Fun

If you know me well, you will know that I don’t like having my photo taken. I always manage to pull a face, close my eyes, look away, pull a double chin, talk…the list goes on. I’m used to being behind the camera; it’s where I feel comfortable.

One of my New Years resolutions is to feel more comfortable in my skin and learn to laugh at myself more often. I’m nearly 49 years old…it’s time.

My good friend Edwina, from *Edwina Kate Photography, visited in early January to do my personal branding and well, visit. We had fun. We did some sightseeing, we ate a lot, we drank a lot and in between there was work; Edwina taking photos, me preparing food orders and Edwina helping me prepare my orders. It was a huge week!

By immersing herself in my work and play, Edwina was able to capture photos that represent me and most aspects of my life: wife, caterer, gardener, student, amateur photographer, blogger, farmer and adventurer.

As part of play, Mr D and I took Edwina up to Kiandra which is situated in the Snowy Mountains NSW. It’s an interesting place to visit even though not much of the town exists anymore. You will find information plaques and what remains of Kiandra along a designated track. Note: Please wear jeans and boots or joggers. The March flies did not leave me alone for most of the walk. And they bite.

While I was taking photos, so was Edwina. It’s hard not be self-conscious when you know someone has a camera pointed in your direction.

The sheep needed drenching and vaccinating while Edwina was here. It’s something I haven’t been able to capture properly as I am usually holding the drench or the vaccine.

Food takes up a lot of my time as a caterer. Cooking is something I’ve always enjoyed however I never really considered making a business out of it. My accounting and bookkeeping days were definitely over, so why not. My friend and neighbour, Narelle, who is also a caterer, gave me my first opportunity and I haven’t looked back. And just like the chores on the farm, work still happens when visitors are here. Edwina made a good prep cook, having had plenty of practice with her chef husband, Craig.

My poor garden has been neglected. I think it’s my worst year in the ten years we have lived on the farm. At the time I should have been planting seeds, I was flat out with work. AND we’d had no rain. Watering the garden becomes a luxury when you’re on tank water. Regardless, Edwina managed to find the upside through her lens…and I don’t mean me (looking very glamorous in an unkempt kind of way).

And because I believe in work life balance, here is a view to my crazy side. This was the eve of Edwina’s departure. We both had eyes hanging out of our heads as it had been a very long day however, the show had to go on.

This part of the personal branding I struggled with as the camera was really in my face. I like a wine, no question there, and if dutch courage is what was going to get me through, then dutch courage it was. We laughed a lot through this session. A LOT! Feel free to have a laugh at my expense.

And there you have it.

The Personal Branding experience has given you a glimpse into my life and the person I am. Much more than I would have offered up previously.

Thank you Edwina from Edwina Kate Photography.

Enjoy and laugh! Mrs D x

 

*The website is still under construction however you can look Edwina up on facebook.

The photos on this site are not to be used without the express permission of the author.

Monaco and Monte Carlo

The next part of our adventure took us to Monaco and Monte Carlo via Èze.

It was in Èze that we toured Parfumerie Fragonard – L’usine Laboratoire. This was a nice surprise as it was not on the itinerary. I LOVE perfume so I really enjoyed the experience. It was not everyone’s cup of tea though. Mr D and others in our tour group, found the perfume in the building very strong and had to head outside to get some air. It was free to enter so, nothing gained, nothing lost.

 

After our visit to Fragonard, we headed to Monaco, or more specifically, Monaco Ville or the old town. We made our way, on foot, up to the Prince’s Palace. There was a lot to see however not enough time.

The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco

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St Nicholas Cathedral

(Cathédrale Notre-Dame-Immaculée)

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Palais de Justice de Monaco

The Prince’s Palace

Mr D and me trying to master a selfie with the Bay of Monaco behind us.

Next stop was Monaco’s most famous quarter, Monte Carlo, which is home to the Casino Monte-Carlo and also plays host to the F1 Grand Prix which takes place on the Circuit de Monaco (the road we travelled). The casino is a magnificent structure however one can’t help but marvel at the cars (if that’s your thing) parked near the entrance. It certainly takes showing off to another level. Before you’ve entered, you know to bring your money with you.

The entrance and what I would call the reception hall, is very grand. At this stage, you can still take photos however, you will be asked to leave your camera with the concierge if you wish to enter the casino. This was something I was not prepared to do and so this concluded our visit.

I love a view, especially of the water. You won’t be disappointed with a trip through the French Riviera. It is a feast for your eyes.

I hope you’re enjoying my trip down memory lane. We are off to Italy next. First stop Genoa.

Enjoy! Mrs D

 

Nice

My last post from our trip to Europe in 2017 saw Mr D and me in Paris, so I have a lot of catching up to do.

On with the adventure!

The next morning, we were on a bus to the station where we caught the fast train to Marseille. Upon arrival, another bus was waiting to transport our tour group to Nice via Cannes, a seaside resort town and home to the Cannes film festival. We didn’t spend a lot of time here; enough time to stretch our legs and enjoy the glorious weather and vistas.

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Our next stop was Nice.

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At this stage of the trip, we’d started to realise how lucky were to be touring with this group of people. Forty eight people, the majority being from different parts of the east coast of Australia, thrown together for the purposes of a holiday. AND most of them got along. Add to that a couple of great tour guides, Eirini and Thanasis. Random chance or fate?

Life goes on in Nice, as with most touristy towns and cities. People watching and immersing oneself; this is the attraction of travel for me. Walking down the street and being able to buy fruit and veg off a street stall is so appealing. You don’t see it so often in Australia. Smaller sellers can no longer compete with supermarkets.

The Cours Saleya market was an interesting place to visit. It was also a good time to stop for a coffee break and, of course, make use of the facilities. The toilets, funnily enough, were upstairs, so a photo seemed appropriate while I waited.

Some touristy stuff. From top to bottom: Cathedrale Sainte Reparate, Apollo Statue in Place Massena, Le Palais de Justice and the Clock Tower in the Place de Palais.

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And, around every corner, food and wine. My idea of heaven.

Enjoy! Mrs D x

 

A couple of things:

Our tour group stayed in the Hotel Kyriad, Nice Port. Don’t do it! The reception was frosty and the room was falling apart. You couldn’t fault the location however there has to be a degree of comfort after a long day of touring. The little bar across the street, Caffe Italiano, made up for some our dissatisfaction.

Zippers slow down pick pockets. Do not leave things in pockets if there is no zip. Clothes, handbags and luggage. Carry your backpack at the front of your body or always have a travel buddy walking behind you. Don’t let your luggage out of your sight. Anything is fair game.

 

 

 

 

 

Take A Day Off! 4th December 2016 Edition

Here is another old and unpublished post. Mr D has had two birthdays since this post. I think my reason for not completing it was that the photos I took on Lake Burley Griffin were not great. The weather had turned inclement and the boat was a bit rocky. It was still a great day though so I’ve picked the best of the bad bunch and here it is. Enjoy!

4th December, 2016.

Every now and then, Mr D and I have to escape the place. We’d had a week of weed spraying (for Mr D) and whipper snipping (for me) so it was time to get out!

Anyway, last Sunday we headed to Canberra to have Yum Cha at Ginseng in the Hellenic Club, Woden, and after that, the rest of the day’s plan would be anyone’s guess. We decided to have an early celebration for Mr D’s birthday as he was going to be in Albury for work on the actual day.

It was our first time eating at Ginseng and we couldn’t fault the food or the service. We’ll be back. My advice is to book as the place was packed by the time we left.

Our next stop, as it turned out, was Old Parliament House. Can you believe I’ve never been to the old or the new Parliament house? Not even on a school excursion as a kid. Pretty sad!

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Our tour guide’s name was Rob and we were lucky to be the only ones on the tour at that time. Rob talked solidly for over an hour: so much information and so interesting. During the discussion, we found out that Rob works in the library of the now Parliament house and also worked in the library the Old Parliament house.

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King’s Hall and the statue of King George V who opened Parliament in Melbourne on the 9th May, 1901.

These photos show the House of Representatives. Something I should have taken a photo of was the carpet. It was green with a gum leaf design. I wouldn’t have noticed if Rob hadn’t pointed it out. I know…little things!

The Senate.

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The Prime Minister’s office. This is how it was left when Bob Hawke (the Prime Minister at the time) moved to the now Parliament house in 1988.

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The Cabinet Room. This is where all of the secret business took place….so they thought.

Old Parliament House, now known as the Museum of Australian Democracy, is well worth a visit. It’s a gold coin donation to enter and the tours are free.

To finish off our day, we took a boat ride around Lake Burley Griffin. The boat operator was very informative and, being the only two people on the tour, we learnt a lot about Canberra that afternoon. Here’s something I didn’t know. The Australians of the Year Walk, located on Commonwealth Avenue, has plaques engraved with information regarding each Australian of the year. Each plaque is on a plinth which has been situated on a musical stave embedded in the path. Each plinth position on the stave represents a note for our national anthem, Advance Australia Fair. I love that!

The cost of the boat ride around Lake Burley Griffin was $20 per head. Make sure you take cash. The tour lasted about an hour.

There is so much to see in Canberra. You don’t need an itinerary. Just go and do it.

Mrs D x

 

 

Christmas In July 2016: Pig On A Spit

This blog post has sat in my draft folder for 2 1/2 years. Where does the time go? We’ve been busy which means things like blog posts take a back seat. It is my New Years resolution to get back to the things I enjoy and while I’m at it, reminisce about the things I’ve enjoyed. Let’s start with this post.

The main aim of this post was to share what Mr D and I learned about doing a Pig on a Spit which was the star of the show for Christmas in July 2016 with family and friends. It never occurred to me how excited people would be about such a thing. I was excited despite being  way out of my cooking comfort zone.

To say this was an ambitious project would be an understatement. It had been months in the planning which included slaughtering one of our home grown pigs, researching the process and let’s not forget the preparation leading up to the day.

I’ll start at the beginning.

On the 21st May 2016, a local butcher came out to the farm and prepared 3 pigs and 2 lambs (our livestock) for the freezer. One of the pigs (the smallest which weighed 36 kgs dressed*) was kept whole for the purpose of putting on the spit. We invested in a 700 litre chest freezer for the occasion.

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The spit was purchased from Aldi for $199. Timely really, although you can buy them at Bunnings and Masters for a similar price (give or take $50). If time had allowed, we may have built our own. Their are some great designs, as I discovered, which were probably more effective than the prefab spit that we used.

Now for the research. I did a LOT of reading. You would be surprised to know that there is not a lot of information regarding spit roasting, certainly not spit roasting a 36 kg pig. A lot of forums or posts were related to each other so I found myself reading the same material over and over. One forum started off to be quite interesting and informative however quickly turned into a slanging match between the forum participants. I did manage to gather enough information from various sources and the rest we were going to learn the hard way.

The first decision was whether to use charcoal or wood. Most advice was to use charcoal. Charcoal may have been a safe option however it was going to add over $100 to the cost of the event and as we have wood everywhere, it made sense to use wood.

Building coals is important and takes time and practice. Allow at least two hours on the day (a good day with no wind and/ or rain) and plan to have a separate fire pit so that you have two lots of coals. Placing cold wood on your spit coals will affect the heat and could be detrimental to the cooking time of the meat.

Allow 48 hours defrosting time. I’m glad we did. After 24 hours, our pig was still frozen underneath. It took both of us to flip it over. I’m pretty on top of food safety and the importance of defrosting meat in the fridge however our pig would not have fit, even with everything removed. We placed the pig on a towel on top of the freezer which is in a cooler part of the house (and it was Winter). The second day, I placed ice pads and bricks on and around the pig and covered it with a wet towel that had spent time in the freezer. This practice would not work in the summer and would be dangerous to your guests with regards to food poisoning.

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Cooking times vary and even though I allowed 8 hours (based on recommended cooking times) for a 36 kg dressed pig, it took over 10 hours. AND we had perfect weather on the day. Plan to start early and be flexible with your serving time. I set the fires the night before and had them started by 5.30 am.

Have a practice run. Mr D and I cooked a smaller piece of roast pork the Saturday before the big event. I wanted to see how long the coals would take to build in the base of the spit roaster, how long the roast pork would take to cook and discover anything else that might go wrong or could be done better. It was well worth the exercise.

Stuffing. I’m not a fan of stuffing (especially the bread crumb variety) however I recognise it’s purpose. The problem with a traditional stuffing is that it would have added to the cooking time which is something I didn’t want. You do, however, want to retain moisture and add flavour to the meat from the inside. I decided we would fill our pig with a mixture of apples, fennel, garlic, onion and leek.

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Allow time to prepare the pig for the spit. It took Mr D and I about 2 hours the night before to stuff and truss the pig. I can’t stress enough to you the importance of trussing the pig. You don’t want all that time and effort dropping into the fire. The spit pole needs to run along the underside of the spine and be wired all the way along. We used a mild steel wire, and a lot of it, which was very effective. This wire needs a wash however is safe to use with food and it’s not expensive. Don’t be afraid to overdo it!

Have muscles available on the morning to place the pig on the spit. 36 kgs of pig, plus the pole, wire and vegetable filling left me really struggling with the weight when it came time for Mr D and I to put it on the spit.

Place the coals under the thickest parts of the meat to start. The middle of the pig will cook more quickly than the butt and head ends.

Make a pig on a spit an all day event. Our Christmas in July didn’t start until 3 pm however we really needed to have friends taking turns watching the spit and the coals over the course of the day (just so other necessary stuff could be done). You may need to provide lunch by way of a sausage sizzle or something similar. This is not a set and forget activity as some forums may have you believe and this is something we learned the hard way. By the time lunch time had come around, Mr D had grabbed a beer and just resigned himself to being the spit custodian.

Don’t plan on crackling. Like all things cooked over an open flame, they turn black. The skin and the layer of fat underneath it are important though for preventing the meat drying out.

Basting was highlighted as being important when spit roasting. It was not necessary for the pig. Something like lamb though, basting would be very important.

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Have a meat thermometer on hand. Our aim was to cook the pig to a medium rare which is about 63 to 65 degrees celsius. I bought a leave in thermometer which was a waste of time and money. A couple of flare ups, caused by the fat dripping into the fire, blackened and ultimately cracked the glass on the thermometer. Just place the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat when it’s coming to the end of it’s cooking time (what you perceive to be the end that is).

Plan for flare ups. Our pig had quite a layer of fat which turned out to be a headache when it started to drip into the fire. Fat and fire equal a towering inferno. Even the cattle crush that we used as a shelter had caught on fire. I would have a photo of this if Mr D and I weren’t in such a panic trying to quell the fire before the meat was completely ruined. Hosing is dangerous. Small amounts of dirt were effective. Sand would probably have worked as well. The plan was to stem the flames without putting the fire out which would be a disaster.

Have a plan for carving. Mr D, with the help of a friend, carved the pig while it was still on the spit. This proved the most effective way given the size and weight of the pig and saved anyone from being burnt trying to remove it from the spit.

Don’t stress! That’s hilarious coming from me. Stressing was a waste of my energy as once the day began, regardless of my over the top planning, things went wrong. At the end of the night, our friends had full bellies, were merry and they had all enjoyed the spectacle that is a pig on a spit.

I think, as far as the pig goes, I have imparted all of my words of wisdom.

As for the rest…..

 

it was a very merry Christmas in July. Were you there? Leave a message.

Mrs D x

 

*Dressed..Head, trotters, tail and innards removed.

Photo of me taken by Liz.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ds In The City Of Love

We arrived quite late in Paris so, while being transferred from the airport to the motel, Paris looked like any other city. To be honest, we could have been in Sydney. The time we spent, which was not nearly enough, in the City of Love quickly set me straight.

On the morning of our first full day, Mr D and I went for a wander after breakfast. Don’t be afraid to stray but make sure you can find your way back. Our stroll was the beginning of our ‘magical mystery tour’. This became Mr D’s nickname for our holiday as he had not seen the itinerary.

Next on the agenda was a visit to the Eiffel Tower. It’s hard to believe that this structure, completed in 1889 and standing at 324 meters tall, was not intended to be permanent. It’s purpose was to serve as the entrance way to the 1889 World Fair and then be demolished.

Seeing the Eiffel Tower took my breath away. As a kid growing up, and as an adult, I could only imagine what it might look like in real life. After seeing it, I realised that books and movies have not done it justice. The size and grandeur can only be appreciated with your own eyes.

Having taken in the magnificence of this structure, we were then given a choice between entering the Eiffel Tower or taking a cruise on the Seine. It would have been nice to see the view from within the tower however standing in the queue, which was very long, was not appealing. The decision to cruise on the Seine was a good one, and I would highly recommend it as something to do if you’re lucky enough to get to Paris. When short on time, as we were, it was a great way to see a lot of the sights.

The next sight on our tour was the Arc de Triomphe. This amazing structure was built to honour those who fought for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Again, best seen with your own eyes.

We had a bit of free time after this and the first challenge was to find a toilet. I will only dwell on this topic once (fingers crossed behind my back), I promise. I’m going to tell you, if you don’t already know, that finding toilets, and free ones at that, in Europe can be compared with finding a needle in a haystack. After doing laps of the block looking for one, and me refusing to go any further, we decided to go into the next restaurant we passed (which happened to be Cafe du Pont-Neuf), eat lunch, indulge in an alcoholic beverage or two and, of course, use the dunny….gratis! This was pretty much how we handled the toilet dilemma for the rest of our stay in Europe.

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Last but not least, our tour group visited the Notre-Dame de Paris. Another feast for your eyes.

In the evening, Mr D and I attended the Le Lido Cabaret. We caught the metro (a funny story for another day), which was across the road from our accommodation, Hotel Median, to George V station. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed once the girls appeared on stage however, it was a spectacular show.

(Le Lido was something I booked as an extra activity outside of our tour. The cost for the two of us was $265 AUD and included a glass of bubbles).

There you have it. A very long day taking in some of the magnificence of the City of Love. Hopefully we can go back one day and take in the rest.

The next leg of our magical mystery tour involved a fast train to Marseille, a scenic bus drive and an afternoon spent in Cannes. Watch this space!

Mrs D x

P.S In the event you can’t find a free toilet, or a restaurant or cafe you like the look of so you can use theirs, please make sure you always have change in the form of €0.5 or €1. One toilet we found had a turnstile that only took €0.5. That’s all I will say about our toilet adventures, maybe…

 

The Ds in Dubai

On our trip to Paris, we elected to break in Dubai for 2 nights, and what a good idea that was! We discovered that Dubai is definitely a place Mr D and I would like to spend more time. Our two night stopover was clearly not long enough.

Our first adventure was Dubai by Night and it was organised by the driver who transferred us from the airport to our motel, Grand Millennium. The Dubai by Night tour took us to the Dubai Mall and Dubai Marina and the cost was $50 AUD each or 150 AED each (Arab Emirates Dirham).

The Dubai Mall is nothing like any mall I’ve been to in Australia. It has over 1200 shops, an aquarium, a video screen 50 meters wide and 14 meters high and a light show, just to name a few of it’s attractions. It is said to be the largest shopping centre in the world, and it was crowded!

The light show was spectacular and certainly drew quite a crowd.

Another stop on our night tour was The Dubai Marina. Despite the heat and humidity, which kept fogging up the lens on my camera, I managed to take a few photos.

The Grand Millennium, our accommodation for the duration of our stay in Dubai, was stunning. Our room was as big as a small house, the breakfast buffet, which was included in the price, was outstanding and everything was so clean.

Day two included a trip to The Mall of Emirates in the morning, followed by lunch and a swim in the pool at the motel, and then a 4×4 safari in the afternoon/ evening. The motel provided a free shuttle bus so, to kill some time before the safari, we decided to investigate The Mall of Emirates which boasted it’s own ski park. Yes, that’s right, in 45 degree (celsius) heat you could don your ski gear and hit the slopes and, afterwards, enjoy a hot chocolate by the fire.

When in Dubai, you must do a four wheel drive safari. Dubai was built in the middle of the desert however, in the more heavily populated areas, you wouldn’t know. It’s certainly a place of contrast. The city areas screamed opulence, however, as we drove further into the desert, it became clear that not everyone enjoys that enviable lifestyle.

The adventure began with our driver, John, picking us up from our motel. John didn’t have much to say at first but it wasn’t long before his wicked sense of humour emerged. John had a song that, when it started to play, you knew that the driving was about to get extreme. The whole experience was rough however it was thoroughly enjoyable.

There were stops before and after our desert bashing experience. Dinner and a show was provided afterwards in one of the many camps that are dotted around the desert. The experience would not have been complete without taking a camel ride. At a cost of $50 AUD each, the four wheel drive safari was definitely great value.

 

So that was what we managed to squeeze into our brief stopover in Dubai. It’s definitely a place worth visiting if you ever have the chance. We flew with Emirates and the flight took fourteen hours from Sydney. The next leg of our trip was the flight to Paris. Watch this space!

Mrs D x