Monday, December 31, 2007

All the bests

By Meredith

The best Christmas post I've read so far is at Eddy Currents. Justine is a beautiful writer, a swimming teacher, and a book seller from the South of London. Her blog deserves more readers so please go and have a look.

The best one year old boy I've been spending time with:

The best New Year's Eve resolution ever (because it's achievable so long as I don't lose my job): buy good quality, nice underwear, when I need it (ie don't wait until all the elastic is gone and bits of body are wandering free).

The best day on holidays so far: in the city of Melbourne with my mum, including lunch at Ca De Vin, one of the many Italian-inspired cafes that pop up in the laneways and arcades that web the CBD.

The best bargain: we had a wander through all the little shops in Degraves St where I got a HUGE bargain at Shag. Imagine finding a Chloe jacket that you love, and it fits you perfectly, and, because it's a sample, it's only $195.00, but then, for some crazy reason, it's reduced in the post-Christmas sale to $15.00!! The excitement was almost more than I could bear.

The best sales purchase overall though, is these gold shoes - they're for my dear friend Tracy's wedding where I'll be bridesmaid; I'll wear them with a long vintage apricot beaded dress (the bride is wearing tangerine).

The best plan to get Christmas cake:

lie quite still, pretending to be asleep, but crawl slowly towards the fruity, nutty goodness;

get excitingly close before you're discovered & told off. Oh well.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Santa's sack slipped & someone nicked the tips

By Meredith

I'm in Mebourne, having my usual Christmas / New Year break with family and old friends. On Christmas Day, after a beautiful lunch of mushroom and asparagus risotto, baked vegetables, salad, berry and passionfruit pavlova, Christmas pudding with custard, Christmas cake, and chocolates, I was assailed by this sight of sights:

On Boxing Day, wandering along Brunswick St, Fitzroy, I heard this conversation between a Koori couple sitting with lattes outside The Black Cat:

her: "A blackfella went in and stole their tips bowl."
him (groaning, head in hands): "You're kidding me."

Today, I'm going underwear shopping with my mother at David Jones. I suggested we meet on the Flinders St Station steps, but mother came up with a better idea - the Big Purse.

Friday, December 21, 2007

hols about to start

By Meredith

Oh my dears,
It hasn't been such a big bloggy year as last year was, but goodness me I've been busy with other things. I'm resolved to be a better blogger in 2009. So, updates!

The menagerie: Stryker the horse has a new friend; we're very relieved as he was such a loner and we were worried he was miserable. Horses are sociable creatures, and I read a while ago that there is a law in, I think, Sweden, that you're not allowed to keep only one horse - it always had to have at least one friend. The ratties are lovely critters with soft fur and twitching whiskers and dear little fingers... they continue to delight. The cat, Led, tells us each morning, loudly, how hard her life is. We sympathise. The pug dog, Sailor, is getting old and losing teeth but is still very fit. She's thin for a pug, thanks to the brutal diet regime I keep her on.

The daughter: she did brilliantly in the HSC - she probably wouldn't want me to put the actual mark here but let's just say that not many people in the state got a higher score and she was in the newspaper. We're so proud!

Work: The CV's "forthcoming" section is bulging with no less than seven new pieces of my writing coming out in 2008, which I'm pretty pleased about. They range from my book, to refereed journal articles, to more arty pieces, to encyclopaedia entries. I also finished this year, with my wonderful friend Cressida Heyes, an edited anthology of feminist responses to cosmetic surgery. That's off being reviewed by two publishing houses at the moment - fingers crossed for it, it was so much work! Teaching was invigorating and exhausting simultaneously, and as usual I have learned much from my students.

Christmas: I have had a very enjoyable time choosing presents for friends and family. People are getting things like Italian conversation classes, little original art works, jewellery, things purchased at Gallery Serpentine (you'll just have to guess what) and lots and lots of books. I don't buy everything at the last minute, rather I collect stuff through the year, not necessarily with anyone in mind, and put it in my "present cupboard" (this is a big bag in the spare room wardrobe). Then, as Christmas draws near, I get it all out to see what I've got - aha! that book about window dressing will do nicely for my ex sister in law who is a visual merchandiser; that gorgeous Italian cookbook will suit a hard-to-buy-for couple, and I even have someone in mind for the (good quality) knock-off white leather "Chanel" wallet.

Of course I have most fun buying for the kids. Most of them are getting books, stickers, packets of tattoos, etc, but my little five year old nephew will receive a doctor's kit. In a little red case came plastic syringes, a thermometer, ear-examining thingos and a stethoscope. I've added in bandaids, rolls of bandages, "pills" (tic tacs), a tube of aloe vera gel, and a bottle of "medicine" (decanted Ribena). I hope he will be able to cure me of all my ills on Christmas day.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Caketown @ Newtown

I’ve been mulling over this post for a few days now. The pressure of the first time I guess but also because of what can only be described as my conversation with a pastry artisan.

In the spirit of the blogosphere I thought I’d get some facts to pad out my post, make me sound like I know my shit! Don’t want to let my mate Meredith down with some lame post about some shop my waist line and I frequent. So as one thing leads to another and in true backyard journalistic style I found myself speaking with Paul. A somewhat intense, full throttle, occasionally dark, never fully satisfied creative genius. I’m not sure what I expected, but I should have known it could never have been mediocre – there’s nothing mediocre about Caketown.

Now I’ve lived in Newtown (King St south) and of course Marrickville for a decade now and I have watched shops come and go…mostly go. Still there’s one shop that has been around for 4-5 years now called Caketown. Paul (44) and wife Carmel are both chefs (hmmm, note the facts – good ah?) and have lived in the area for 15 years and also have a young son. Carmel, who used to run the kitchen at the Greenwood Hotel in Nth Sydney, does the savouries off site so the smell of the onions etc doesn’t affect the pastries.

“Pastry making is very demanding”, says Paul “you have to be accurate in what you do – everything is timed, measured and chilled very carefully.”

Paul starts his day at 4am and goes 100% all day. When I spoke with him at 8pm he was like a whirlwind. I realised quickly that the mind of a true artisan could be an amazing and colourful place.

“I use all natural ingredients – just butter, cream and eggs. No premix anything used – some others’ cakes are made with hardly anything natural and taste like soap! If I can’t put it in my mouth I won’t sell it. The chocolate is a blend of French and Belgium – no compound chocolate that has vegetable oil in it and it coats the tongue, I won’t use anything that masks the pallet!”

Trained by a French Chef for 7 years in Rosebay. Paul sees what he does as a craft as a journeyman trade. “This is our first business. Prior to 9/11 I was a product development officer, for a company making sweets and desserts for Ansett but was later retrenched. I started doing small wholesale from home but Carmel prompted me into opening up Caketown. Being quite reserved I resisted, but Carmel persisted!”

In all the years I’ve been going to Caketown I’ve only ever seen Carmel and occasionally other people behind the counter. Who is this person making all this amazing food? Yes of course, this is a post about food and a “shop of the week” no less. I once glimpsed the elusive Paul but too quick he was. “I’m a frustrated artist I guess, I like to let the work speak for itself. I hate showy chefs.”

I had to ask Paul about the hot cross buns. Apparently the fruit is macerated for 3 weeks prior to Easter in French Brandy and French Rum. Who does that now, I ask you? My mum does for one, maybe your mum too, but fewer and fewer these days.

With the rise of the franchise cake store (and coffee for that matter), locally made and locally run shops like Caketown are a rare find and should be celebrated.
My own blessed Mother soaks her xmas pudding fruit for 3-4 weeks in a special jar she has just for that purpose. She fills the jar with dried fruit and will turn it twice every day until is it ready. This amount of detail, love, and effort has real resonance with me. It’s more than just cooking its food alchemy.

When I told Paul this, he laughed, “Yep, all the love is done in the morning!”

Over the years I’ve sampled and can highly recommend the following:

• Almond croissants – yum
• Chocolate croissants – rich yet light
• Chocolate and almond croissants – for when you just cant decide
• Meat pies – for when you want actual meat in your pies
• Quiche – for real men ;)
• Xmas fruit mince pies – dare I say, almost as good as Mum’s
• Florentines – the best I’ve every tasted
• Fruit Danish – again with real fruit – nectarine Danish is the best
• Kougloff – a eastern European cake with chocolate inside
• Caramel tarts – superb
• “Throw downs” - mouthful size morsels of pure joys, the perfect treat as you’re walking home from work or on a Sunday afternoon with friends if you’re like me and can’t turn up empty handed.
• They also bake fresh a full range of breads and long fermented doughs – no yeast in the sour doughs here!

Caketown is located at 569 King Street Newtown and open Wed to Sun, but get in early on the weekends or you’ll be disappointed.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Glittering Lights of Marrickville

This house in Fraser St is famous - they go all out every year & even have a charity box.

There's nothing like a bit of sparkle around the palm tree at Christmas.

This house, in Petersham Rd, is one of my favourite Fedeterranean homes (I love the crazy-wall front fence & the iron work). See the sliver of moon?
A grand old home with its original gate.

Santa in car.

And even those without front gardens give it a go.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Guess who's coming to play?

I'm very pleased to announce that Marrickvillia is about to have a new contributor, my friend Grant. He's been an inner-westie forever (he won't cross College St) and now lives in North Marrickville, excitingly close to the Marrickville Metro. He promises a post on his favourite cake shop, and possibly something about musk sticks, too. He's a talented redheaded flirty but stern kind of fellow, if you can picture that. Please make him welcome everybody!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

this meme is doing the rounds

1. Are you dating the last person you kissed?
We're married, and we had a date last night. We went here and here.

2. Pretend you've had 10 beers. what you would be doing right now?
feeling intense regret

3. What do you want?
I want a quiet life, and I usually have one.

4. Who was the last person you shared a bed with?
Let's just say that some of our mutual friends call him "the God".

5. Do you talk to yourself?
Yes, but only when I'm by myself. I also pull faces at myself when I look in the mirror.

6. Do you drink milk straight from the carton?
I never drink milk, it's made me gag ever since I was forced to ingest some at four years of age by an evil kindergarten teacher.

7. Who knows the latest secret about you?
Only me.

8. How long is your hair?
Two hands' length from the crown

9. Do you like Batman?
not at all

10. Who was the last person who told you they loved you?

13. Do you like anyone now?
I like my family and my pets and my friends.

14. When was the last time you lied?
Oooh gee, it was late last week and it was a doosie.

16. Is your birthday on a holiday?

17. What instant messaging service do you use?
SMS and email

18.Last thing you cooked today?
toast with butter

19. Did you have a nap today?
no but I did sleep in and then finished a novel before I got up.

20. Who's house did you go to last?
whose, you mean ... my neighbours'

21. What do you wear more, jeans or sweats?
sweats? do you mean trackie dacs? Neither, but I wear yoga pants at least twice a week.

22. Why is the sky blue?
because it reflects the ocean?

23. Do you like green beans?
love them! Tossed with garlic and olive oil

24. Do you swear a lot?
oh for buggary's sake

25. Where did you get the shirt you're wearing?
Marrickville op shop

27. Do you use an alarm clock?
clock radio - Fran Kelly wakes me on weekdays

28. Where was your default MySpace picture taken?
n/a, but my facebook picture was taken in the Tate Modern - how about that?

29. Do you ever snort when you laugh?

30. Whats the first thing you notice on the opposite sex?
height & girth

31. Is cheating ever okay?
only rarely

32. Do you want someone you can't have?
Yes, I want Madonna to be my friend

34. Do you wear underwear?

35. Do you wear a bra?
How very dare you

36. What Size?
How very very dare you

37. Are you a social or an antisocial person?
very social, although I love time alone

39. Do you have a tan?
sometimes, unintentionally

45. Are you afraid of the dark?

47. Do you miss someone today?
My daughter, because she's in Byron Bay.

49. Do you still have pictures of you & your exs?
Sadly, yes, hundreds (of photos, not exs)

50. Who's always there for you no matter what?
My parents.