Fancy Dinner – est

Recently, I was granted a surprising bonus from work.  I was keen to save it all, but the BF encouraged me to celebrate.  So I decided to go out for dinner at est, a two hatted restaurant.  Of course, on a 42C day!

Due to the heat, this was lunch:

Salad for lunch... Who am I? Where's Sarah?
Salad for lunch… Who am I? Where’s Sarah?
A joke made by someone else... but I appreciate it!
A joke made by someone else… but I appreciate it!
Hot hot hot
Gown selfie
Gown selfie
2015 Est 012
Simple beauty
Cut glass - retro cool
Cut glass – retro cool
Elderflower and lime cocktail - perfect for summer
Elderflower and lime cocktail – perfect for summer
Quirky cutlery
Quirky cutlery
Snapper salad with garlicy leaves
Snapper salad with garlicy leaves (sorry for the blur!)
Mr Mushroom consomme
Mr Mushroom consomme
Morteon Bay Bug with vegemite stripe - jokes.  Pretty ho hum on tast
Morteon Bay Bug with vegemite stripe – jokes. Pretty ho hum on tast
Pork that he rated the highest
Pork that he rated the highest
We picked the same mains - Wagyu.  YUM!
We picked the same mains – Wagyu. YUM!
Statement passionfruit souffle
Statement passionfruit souffle
Chocolately stuff.!?
Chocolately stuff.!?

There was some other sweeties to finish – a jelly square (tart), a macaron each with caramel between the layers and a log of chocolate.

The service was a little patchy.  Inconsistent wait staff, and busy.  We saw a few snafus too, bringing out dishes when people were AWOL, or our desserts came out, almost went to the wrong table, and then doubled back to the kitchen before coming to us.  est is part of the Meirvale chain of everything (bars, restaurants etc) and I think that’s probably their undoing.  Nothing was horrible, but it wasn’t top shelf either.  I sound so hoity toity, but I suppose I’ve come to expect the high prices as much for great food, as world class attentive service too.

Black white and gold

So a while ago, I think I mentioned I was planning a spectacular 60th for my mother.  I saw this inspiration picture on BetterAfter:

Pretty right? via
Pretty right?
via

With that in mind, my mum and I worked on a spectacular celebration with her friends and children. And we went literal, unlike Lindsay who went with an interpretation:

Lindsey's table
Lindsey’s table

So let me start with the hallway:

The were LED tea lights (about the ONLY time I'd tolerate single use plastic tea lights!)
The were LED tea lights (about the ONLY time I’d tolerate single use plastic tea lights!)
Some recent TV show inspired the vase of tulips (50!) and you see the gold on the door - it had a big gold bow on it!
Some recent TV show inspired the vase of tulips (50!) and you see the gold on the door – it had a big gold bow on it!

Now for THE table

Hand written menus for individual choices
Hand written menus for individual choices

Unlike the inspiration, we went for some flowers on the table:

Hand made by me
Hand made by me

How would people know where to sit? Solved that with a US purchase in Jan of a special little pen for writing on glass and porcelain:

Simon says sit here!
Simon says sit here!

Now all the rest of the shots I just wanna share for sharing’s sake:

Seems similar right?
Seems similar right?
Ready for a feast
Ready for a feast

Lastly, the cake (apologies for the fugitive-ly taken photo in the car, lest we have an accident and mum never see it!):

Yummy inside and out!
Yummy inside and out!

Overall, I LOVED planning for this – I hand sewed the white ribbon onto all the napkin rings, which was definitely the most intense part.  But I love hand sewing.  Everything was perfect, I’m told, and I was pretty happy with how things turned out. I realise the part of ‘entertaining’ I stress about is the food – everyone being happy and full and eating.  If that’s outsourced, I love the rest of it (Which isn’t to say I don’t like baking, but it’s like baking or event coordination, not both).

So I’m available for hire 😉 You pay bills (I covered the flowers in the end, mainly cause I wanted free reign – there was another HUGE bouquet in the kitchen you didn’t get a photo of cause I forget which was Birthday Girl’s request on our market trip).

Party planner instead of engineer? Maybe… just maybe!

Lists are my saviour

So, the last three days have been better.  And I attribute it to my list/check sheet.  Instead of buying a prettier product from a stationary store like Kikki K, I DIY’ed.

Lists are nice!
Lists are nice!

Basically, each morning, I want to exercise, meditate and (ideally) write down my day’s goals.  Then in the evening, I want to floss (and put my mouth-guard in for teeth grinding), take my tablets and apply cream to my head, balm to my cracked heels, write a few things I’m grateful for AND… pray.

I love ticking stuff off, so this is working pretty darn well for me! So even though I deferred this morning’s meditation to get to work earlier, my tick-traction meant as soon I was done with dinner, I sat for 15 minutes trying to visualise a prick of sunlight expand making the person happier and happier.  I was MUCH better at meditation pre-visualisation.  But meditation is a constant learning and improvement exercise.

I started the work routine on Sunday night, and got some stellar photos I’ll subject reader to:

Pretty Sunday walk
Pretty Sunday walk
Looking back
Looking back
Glittery lights on the water
Glittery lights on the water
End of the walk
End of the walk

And last week, it was the BF’s birthday. I completely dropped the ball. I didn’t plan a thing – a gift nor a dinner/experience. So on Friday night, after a day off with a killer headache, I merged his favourite desserts – lemon meringue pie and cheesecake. Can you see my attempt at a piped heart?

Someone had a birthday
Someone had a birthday

It was delicious, but interestingly, I’ve noticed my ‘sweet tooth’ cravings are mainly after lunch or in the afternoon. That’s work time, so this is safe in the fridge at home.  One square of dark mint chocolate is enough!  This realisation means I’m avoiding the fundraiser chocolates more often, and generally keeping my eating pretty healthy.  Weigh in tomorrow, but since our Phuket trip, I’ve dropped 4kg, and while I want to lose more, when the BF put it like that, I was pretty proud of myself!

Hope life’s treating you well too.  Do you like checking things off on a list? Does it keep you on track to achieving your goals?

The 30th Birthday Dinner Party

This was the party to end all parties.  It had every element I could hope for, and of course, nothing I wouldn’t want.  You might recall a teaser post here.

The flowers all delivered
The flowers all delivered

The morning was frantic. I got a fake tan. Then for the two hours waiting for it to set, I finished my jigsaw puzzle, cause I was not packing it up half done!

Table all set!
Table all set!

I needed two additional tables, and one (nail biting-ly) only arrived at 3pm, thanks to some wonderful friends up the road!  You’ll notice I made meters upon meters of bunting as you can see in the background.

Isn't it pretty
Isn’t it pretty

I also had three friends arriving from interstate. Sadly I could only fit one in to stay here, and she arrived at the same time as the last table. Another guest helped out with picking up the three cakes at 4pm and dropping them by.  Sadly I forgot to take photographs of the cake 🙁

One was nutty, another was maple and apple, another chocolate.
One was nutty, another was maple and apple, another chocolate.
Oh, so these were bios of all my guests... save for two
Oh, so these were bios of all my guests… save for two

I knew not all my friends had met one another, as two came from school days, another two from my trips to Paris, and others from university. With this in mind, and a desire to ‘give back’ to my wonderful friends, each person had a small bio/highlight reel written up for them. I thought the early guests could ‘busy’ themselves finding the bio that matched them, but in the mean time, find out about other guests. On the other side of the card was their name. Inside the card, was their seat number. I’ve never been a seating plan gal, but I didn’t want new friends to feel like they had nothing in common with those around them, so I tried to socially engineer 😉

Entree was ravioli mmm
Entree was ravioli mmm

Everyone loved the entree… I thought I had enough white crockery borrowed from my parents and a friend, but alas, I forgot about the side plates… and I similarly was under resourced with tumblers and cutlery. Thankfully the caterers had some in their van, and luckily avoided those costs!

The chicken main
The chicken main

The best thing about catering were the two waiters who cleared everything and kept all the glasses filled.

The beef main
The beef main

There is nothing I like more than a sparkler, and for $5 I got 80! That was enough for us all to enjoy countless!

Let's get this sparkle started
Let’s get this sparkle started
My dad, isn't he lovely
My dad, isn’t he lovely
We're friends cause we share the excitement about the same things!
We’re friends cause we share the excitement about the same things!

I invited 16 guests to join me for a sit down dinner party in my home.  I got the event fully catered, with three canapes (or two, after decorating resulted in me upturning the dish of arancini balls!), one entree and alternate mains.  Then I bought three different cakes from Adriano Zumbo, a celebrity patisserie.

The birthday pinata
The birthday pinata

You’ll remember (or know) I’m not keen on stuff. Well, my brother and his girlfriend MADE me a 3 and a 0 pinata and filled it with candy. That’s an activity/experience combined with a consumable I love!

I don't look scary here
I don’t look scary here

They filled the pinata SO full they couldn’t hang it without it breaking the string, so my daring brother held it! Much to the amusement of my guests AND the neighbours and their guests who were also having a dinner on their facing balcony!

Hold on tight!
Hold on tight!

No event of mine would be complete without some craft.  Or with flowers.  And sparklers.  Oh how I love sparklers.

The other surprise arranged for me was a video tribute.  My friend had contacted my facebook ‘friend’ list, and perhaps even some of you bloggers! She asked for a short video, and she stitched together with facebook photos.  I was totally surprised, and had Dar from An Exacting Life come to life.  Interestingly, she was mistaken by my family by another Canadian friend we have!  An Israeli friend dialled in (and then there were embarrassing photos of us with mud on us from when I visited her!).

It was a wonderful evening, and pretty stress free thanks to the amazing caterers and help from friends and family.  I feel honoured to have such wonderful people around me, and that extends to my readers, who were duly talked about too!

The real birthday

This will be a two part series (can it really be a series with two parts?).  The real day of my birthday.  And the day of my party!

The birthday selfie - streaming TV whilst awaiting a GP appointment
The birthday selfie – streaming TV whilst awaiting a GP appointment

So, the real birthday started with a horrible cold.  That’s what a 15 hour flight with a sick mother will do to you!  The BF (unbeknownst to me) had planned a surprise night for me, and none of it had a contingency plan for be staying home from work in bed all day! I reassured him that I would be ok in the evening, but that I most certainly wasn’t going to work.

The menu
The menu

He’d hoped to pack a bag when I was at work, and take it with him to work.  He also planned to lay out an outfit and a note that said a car was picking me up at 7.10pm.  In reality, the bag packing happened when he got home from work (and dispatched me to the sofa).  I realised something was amiss when I was putting on my make up – the toothbrushes weren’t in the holder!  I am a detective!

Battered chicken wing - neither of  us usually eat chicken wings, but agreed this was wonderful, and the garlic butter the perfect addition
Battered chicken wing – neither of us usually eat chicken wings, but agreed this was wonderful, and the garlic butter the perfect addition

Anyhow, he laid out my clothing, and a lovely black Audi picked us up, and whisked us to Rockpool, another three hatted restaurant like Aria and Quay where I’ve previously celebrated birthday dinners with family and friends.  Unrelated, Rockpool is one of my father’s clients.

Yum, but eclipsed by chicken wings served at the same time
Yum, but eclipsed by chicken wings served at the same time

There, we indulged in nine courses, which was one too many.  How?  Well, let’s just say the dessert wine made an appearance much later in the night… seems too many wines, plus cold and flu medication wasn’t ideal.

From memory, this is the dish I recall as the 'best'.  The edamame puree against the crunch of the disc... mmm
From memory, this is the dish I recall as the ‘best’. The edamame puree against the crunch of the disc… mmm

After dinner, Rich walked/propped me up, and took me to the Sofitel, a short walk from Rockpool.  In the room was a lovely bunch of flower from Rich’s parents.  His mother stays at the Sofitel when she comes to Sydney, so it all seemed very well orchestrated.  The BF has of course ensured there was a FULL buffet breakfast.  Knowing me oh so well! Seems a hangover dampens my spirits for a buffet, but I did have a hash brown, pancakes, fruit, bircher museli… so I did put in a good effort!

Zushi, or sashimi or something.
Zushi, or sashimi or something.

I feel I need to keep writing, as I have more food photos…

Something... crispy skinned salmon perhaps? (see why I take a menu photo now?)
Something… crispy skinned salmon perhaps? (see why I take a menu photo now?)
Nice, but forgettable
Nice, but forgettable
Bread and butter.  I know, I couldn't let it not get a photo!
Bread and butter. I know, I couldn’t let it not get a photo!
Silky chicken, which was black!
Silky chicken, which was black!
Again, cool but recollection hazy by this stage!
Again, cool but recollection hazy by this stage!
Mmmm, yummy stuff
Mmmm, yummy stuff
Salad... they evidently don't know us.  Wine, yes they do!
Salad… they evidently don’t know us. Wine, yes they do!
Oh yes, too much wine selfie
Oh yes, too much wine selfie
mmm dessert
mmm dessert
And another dessert - with sweet potato in it.  Pretty sure teh BF's was better
And another dessert – with sweet potato in it. Pretty sure teh BF’s was better
Food envy of the BF's chocolatey dessert
Food envy of the BF’s chocolatey dessert

The whole dinner was a complete surprise. We’d disagreed about spending some Christmas money on a ‘fancy dinner’ so I was touched that the BF would organise all this given he’s not as keen on fine dining. He even ate the seafood!

US 2015 027
Their famous fig tart

Any favourites?

You can buy this?

Surely these products don’t sell…

Well at least they make the healthy stuff look appealing
Well at least they make the healthy stuff look appealing
I didn't have any the first visit... the second visit, I wasn't so strong
I didn’t have any the first visit… the second visit, I wasn’t so strong
Who knew there were this many flavours.
Who knew there were this many flavours.
You can't buy crabs in our deli
You can’t buy crabs in our deli
This is what I did for Val Day last year!
This is what I did for Val Day last year!
Oh my, any wonder I made it back alive
Oh my, any wonder I made it back alive
Mmmm
Mmmm
Yes, I'd like those too
Yes, I’d like those too
US 2015 579
Never seen an ice cream version of these

 

WHAT THE?  But you know, I wanted to try them.
WHAT THE? But you know, I wanted to try them.
The choice!?!?
The choice!?!?
I want one - these are in grocery stores
I want one – these are in grocery stores
We seldom even find normal pretzels in Australia, but then all these choices!
We seldom even find normal pretzels in Australia, but then all these choices!
So little, so sweet
So little, so sweet
What the... it's a thing, I found out
What the… it’s a thing, I found out
I want these!
I want these!
Cute... though I believe out of season...
Cute… though I believe out of season…
Equal opportunities cake makers
Equal opportunities cake makers
This is obscene - and so not that practical as a catering item, as it was pitched
This is obscene – and so not that practical as a catering item, as it was pitched

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What is this...?
What is this…?
That is not for human consumption is it?
That is not for human consumption is it?
so much choice
so much choice
no no no
no no no

 

Sweet with savoury - this combo is too weird
Sweet with savoury – this combo is too weird
Wow... and so cheap
Wow… and so cheap
Wow, when powdered mash is just too hard
Wow, when powdered mash is just too hard
right...
right…

What’s the weirdest thing in this post for you, or the weirdest thing you’ve seen sold in a grocery store?

2014 goals review

Reviewing my 2014 goals:

Fun – 12 in 2 list

For 2014, I’ll do the following (some of which I did earmark to do in 2013, but it didn’t happen):

  1. Silent retreat -didn’t happen, but I did research options to do something in San Fran whilst on Holidays
  2. Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb I got a voucher as a birthday gift in January 2014!!!
  3. Go jet skiing (done over the Christmas holidays, thanks to the BF!)
  4. Learn to surf: 2015 thanks to a generous gift from my BF!
  5. Dinner at Aria: planned for early February
  6. Read the new testament bible Done in September
  7. Run a half marathon
  8. Plan and prepay my funeral – cough cough, not so fun, didn’t happen, but the cash is there?
  9. Zorbing (a weekend away at the Gold Coast)  The place went out of business…

The other 3?  Well my friend stopped living in NZ, so that was scraped.  One was a dinner at a fancy restaurant, which I did for my birthday in 2013. The third was a knife skills course which I did in 2013

Health – monthly challenges

These were a wash! I started out strong, but then it all went bust!

Jan: Stair challenge start, progress, end

Feb: Drink 3L water per day: start

Mar: Squats and abandoned 🙁
Apr: Push up challenge – increase the number everyday fail
May: Morning stretching/yoga fail – though some attempts made
Jun: Planking challenge fail
Jul: Mental health: daily act of kindness fail
Aug: Mental health: daily gratitude journal fail – though attempts made
Sept: 1 internet free day per week fail
Oct: Ocsober fail
Nov: Coffee free challenge fail
Dec: +1 walking fail

Interestingly, I did have a week or two when I woke to do yoga before work? So that was something.  But generally my coffee intake increased.

Financial goals

I prefer my fingernails bare, but this is amazing, and just like Aussie money source: http://www.morenailpolish.com/2013/01/aussie-nails-show-me-money.html
I prefer my fingernails bare, but this is amazing, and just like Aussie money
source: http://www.morenailpolish.com/2013/01/aussie-nails-show-me-money.html

This is one category I always kick a** at!  So, for 2014, I will:

1. Save $20,000 in my mortgage offset account (in addition to the starting balance) as of mid Septmber, met this, and by the end of the year exceeded it by $8k!

2. Save $200 a week in for holidays yep, it’s all automated, but now bundled into goal 1 so it’s all in one place

3. Save $10 $20 a week for my ‘one day’ dream of a first class holiday to Paris and NYC (First class flights and accommodation).  I plan to spend 20 years saving slowly for this one. $20 per week, cause why not!

4. Save $100 a week for ‘charity’ which I will also withdraw from when I do support fundraising etc. automated too my friend! But kept separate from the pot in goal 1. $20 automatically goes to Church, from this $100.

 

Social

Plan a dinner party or similar once a quarter. Passed

1. Started with a pizza night for water polo girls in Jan 🙂 Easy and fun.

2. Excess cheese? Informal wine and cheese Sunday arvo.

3. Another polo dinner of Nachoes.  

4. Halloween party hosted at a friends home but catered by both of us.

Inspiration for the zen I'll try to create source: www.sheknows.com
Inspiration for the zen I’ll try to create
source: www.sheknows.com

Email my brother at least weekly whilst he’s in South America (until Sept 2014) so so – not 100% success rate on the stated frequency, but we stayed in contact.

Career

Ekk, seeing I didn’t submit my 16 x 700 words long episode reports in 2013, this goal will role over.

I will also start to think more (again) about the next step in my career. Whilst I wasn’t thinking about it, someone was, and I’ve been acting in a promotion of a role for a few months.  And I’ll apply for the position when it’s advertised

Keeping it Creative

I’ve realised that I like to create things, like my gingerbread house, or the candy cane wreath.  I really enjoy mending clothes, or sewing.  I even made a map of the world with stamps!  So I’m going to try and do more of these sorts of things.  One crafty thing per month.  Pinterest and blogs will guide me, I hope.

I’ve covered my router with a hard cover book; made earphone holders out of old plastic cards; cross stitched a baby’s blanket.  Then for Christmas, I made another gingerbread house (and a trifle, but that’s less crafty!).  I also made bunting and decorated jars for my upcoming 30th and did another baby’s blanket!

Overall, I think I did well on most of my goals.  I really let myself down in the health department, despite doing a three month healthy eating and exercising plan which I paid for.  I lost and gained roughly the same amount of weight, which puts me back where I was.  Again, I’m trying to be healthier since Christmas day, and have cut out almost all sugar.  That being said, I’ve still had juice and soft drink and the occasional taste of sweet things.  But I have tried to eat less than I was in the later months of 2014.

How’d you go with your 2014 goals? Feel free to link to your posts!

Christmas photos

Christmas seems to be the time when ALL my creativity comes out!

I was inspired by Pinterest for the below, but of course I can’t find the reference. Anyhow, with the BF’s help, and countless clear 3M hooks, we made this:

50m of light can make anything look awesome
50m of light can make anything look awesome

Sadly the clear adhesive with 3M hooks isn’t as strong. Or the pressure on ceiling mounted hooks was too great. So our ceiling is bare again, but it will return to this festiveness, as I plan to have the hall of lights for my birthday party.

For my immediate family celebration of Christmas on Christmas Day, I tried something new:

Starting new Christmas traditions.  The younger generations aren't as into Christmas Cake, so I tried trifle.
Starting new Christmas traditions. The younger generations aren’t as into Christmas Cake, so I tried trifle.

I had wanted to make a trifle for a year or two, but last year I was in Perth with the BF’s family, so didn’t have a chance. Mum was going to make a sticky date pudding (well, she says she was, I’ve known her to say that, and turn up to see all the ingredients all laid out for ME to make!)

Late on Sunday night before Christmas, this sad picture graced my Facebook page 🙁

Guess who's not a structural engineer!
Guess who’s not a structural engineer!

The suggested solution was to make it the Dinosaur’s fault. In any case, my colleagues managed to pick the lollies off on day 1, and took the following day and a half (with SUBSTANTIAL help from me) to eat the gingerbread.

My friend with kids told me I needed to add a dinosaur.  I didn't have a toy, so I made do!
My friend with kids told me I needed to add a dinosaur. I didn’t have a toy, so I made do!

And in non-Christmas craft, I also cross stitched a baby blanket for my friend’s 10 week old baby 🙂

I spent Boxing day (the day after Christmas) without clothes on, in our air conditioned bedroom, doing UAT. User Acceptance Testing is the cool way of me saying I binge watched TV programs, for a clients of my boyfriends! I watched two new series I’d never known, and thoroughly enjoyed them. And I swore off sweets, at least til my holiday, save for a square of choc each night after dinner. So far, so good.

How was your Christmas? Do you have a traditional recipe or thing you cook/make?

Halloween Party

The night before we took a week’s holiday in New Caledonia, I co-hosted a Halloween party with a friend (a lovely lovely friend) who I play water polo with.  I feel absolutely horrible that I left the party at a very respectful time (not even 11pm) and didn’t at all help with clean up 🙁  Perhaps parties before morning international flights aren’t ideal.

Here’s the themes food we created:

New Cal etc 178
Ricotta cheesecake with lips and teeth
New Cal etc 177
Brownie square into spiders
New Cal etc 176
Cut pineapple ‘puking’ guacamole
New Cal etc 175
Pumpkin pie (the food that seeded the party) with leftover white choc!
New Cal etc 174
Dried fruit eye balls
New Cal etc 173
Mouths of apple, peanut butter and marshmellows
New Cal etc 172
Ghosts – strawberries and bananas
New Cal etc 180
Expertly carved pumpkin – all carvings by my friend
New Cal etc 179
Carved watermelon

I seem to have a real love for catering, and particularly themed catering! Thanks pinterest. What’s your favourite Halloween food?

Oscillate Wildly – Newtown

I use this blog as much as a photo album, so here’s another multi course dinner at Oscillate Wildly in Newtown, Sydney.  I avoided using the flash in this small restaurant, so apologies for the grainy footage – it’s mainly so I can remember the night 🙂

Sorta creepy tea light holder
Sorta creepy tea light holder
Butter and... some smoked fat of the pork mmm
Butter and… some smoked fat of the pork mmm
Starting course - some root vegetable I'd never come across with mushroom dust, and a sugarcane slither infused with gin & tonic
Starting course – some root vegetable I’d never come across with mushroom dust, and a sugarcane slither infused with gin & tonic
Very decorative... seafood. BF got grapefruit (sadface for him)
Very decorative… seafood. BF got grapefruit (sadface for him)
More yummy seafood... and kelp
More yummy seafood… and kelp
Some sorta seafood in broth mmmm (The BF got a gingery coconut broth with his non fish - so yum!)
Some sorta seafood in broth mmmm (The BF got a gingery coconut broth with his non fish – so yum!)
Fancy creamed corn
Fancy creamed corn
Beef playing hide and seek with a sesame leaf
Beef playing hide and seek with a sesame leaf
Beef - mmm yummy beef
Beef – mmm yummy beef
Optional cheese course - cheese with coffee stewed onion
Optional cheese course – cheese with coffee stewed onion

Oh no! I forgot to photograph the ‘custard apple’ course – with guava and cucumber. Deliciousness, I tell you – like and fluffy, crispy but sweet but neutralised by cucumber…

Strawberries and cream interpretation
Strawberries and cream interpretation

There were also some lovely truffles and jellies for having with coffees… mmm…

We went for matched wines – most of them were biodynamic or similarly untouched by chemicals and preservatives. Mostly whites, but still tasty!

This topped off one of the best days of my life – the day was my Harbour Bridge Climb:

Bridgeclimb selfie
Bridgeclimb selfie

To friends, and boyfriends, and expensive experiences.