I've been posting on Instagram a lot lately. Thought I'd share my feed here…
Last December we travelled to San Francisco. The decision to go on a family holiday was very last minute. Within a month of travelling, we booked onto one of QANTAS's new direct flights to San Francisco, booked our accommodation with Air BnB and packed out bags. We stayed about 12 days in San Francisco, so we had plenty of time to wander the streets and see the sights.
Here's a list of some of the touristy things we did whilst in the city.
Golden Gate Bridge
There are several places to get a great view of the bridge.
Wander around Crissy Field, a large parkland near the Bridge....
From the ferry, passing Alcatraz Island in the afternoon....
Another perspective of the bridge is to ride across on a bike. There are companies along the wharf areas that hire bikes. You ride over the Golden Gate Bridge and down to Sausalito. You can either ride back over the bridge to San Francisco or catch a ferry back to the wharf areas (with your bike).
Book this early as the tours to the island book out, this was the one activity we booked before leaving home. The island is a short ferry ride from the wharf area of SFO, you enjoy pretty views of the Bay and Golden Gate bridges and back to the city during the ride over to the island. (Book the tour to the island HERE)
When you arrive at the island you wander up the hill from the wharf to the prison. One of the first landmarks on the island you see is the water tower with reminders of the American Indian occupation of the island from the late 1960's.
The Alcatraz cell house was really interesting. You wander around with the audio tour which guides you around the prison, while listening to stories told by former prisoners, wardens and family of prisoners.
The kitchen and dining hall...
One of the stories talked about the prisoners amusing themselves in their cells by crocheting blankets.
The Cable Cars
We jumped on one cable car, and wound up riding them for the rest of the afternoon criss crossing the city.
The drivers and conductors provide the entertainment, they are really funny, from singing to directing traffic (yes if cars are in the way, they jump off the cable car and tell the drivers where to go). There are three main cable car routes across San Francisco. The turntable areas can get busy, my tip is to wander up to the street to the next stop and jump on the car there. And buy a ticket before you get on board.
This was very pretty at Christmas time. The big Christmas tree and the ice skating rink made it very festive. Many well known shops are in this area of town with Macy's taking up prime real estate over looking the square.
Fantastic views of the city, the whole bay area and in the other direction out to the ocean. The road to the top winds around the hills until you reach the top of the peaks.
There is a great system of wharves on the bay side of San Francisco from the Bay Bridge round to Fisherman's Wharf. One favourite was the Ferry Building Marketplace. Great farmers markets, food hall (many of the foodie and coffee places of San Francisco have stalls/stores in this area) and restaurants.
As you're wandering along the wharf system, pop into Pier 39 and see the SFO bay resident seals.
The Painted Ladies
San Francisco is full of beautiful old style houses, but this little strip of houses looks very impressive with the city skyline as their backdrop. If you're in the area, visit Alamo Square to see this row of Victorian homes.
That's the first part of our San Francisco trip. I'll be back with my favourite part of our holiday, seeking out the best bakeries and coffee in San Francisco.
Thanks for visiting.
[Story 5 / 50 stories for 50 years]
Easter is a great time to get a little creative with baking. This year's creations included a cake and a tart, based on the caramel filled easter eggs that are a long time favourite in our house.
The cake is a chocolate cake with a caramel mouse filling, covered with swiss meringue buttercream and chocolate ganache.
My Easter Egg tart has a caramel filling, covered with chocolate ganache and salted caramel swirls.
A few little tarts were made as well, with a little left over caramel mousse...
And lastly, a favourite baking treat I've been making for years, the Easter Egg cupcakes... pop a small solid chocolate egg into the batter of cupcakes, bake and you'll have a little chocolatey surprise inside. If you'd like to see more about these cupcakes, I wrote a post several years ago which you can read HERE.
Hope you have a happy Easter!
Thanks for visiting.
[Story 4 / 50 stories for 50 years]
This morning I stood on my front verandah and waved goodbye to Phoebe as she drove off to her LAST first day back to school.
Today's the day I have sort of been looking forward to, but also not.
We've had 16 first days in the family. Emily started Kindergarten at our local primary school back in 2001. Phoebe followed her three years later. There were some tears and some excitement (that was from me, not the girls) when they both started school. They seemed so grown up to be starting school... looking now at the kids starting kindergarten, they seem sooo tiny. And I remember thinking that 13 years of schooling for each of them was going to take FOREVER. But of course, it didn't take forever, it has actually flew by, and here we are in 'our' last school year.
Of course, being the dutiful mother, I have documented most of these very important first days back to school with the 'first day back to school' photos. And while there have been some years that Emily and Phoebe groaned when I've wanted to take a photo of them returning to school, I persisted. Not all photos have shown happy smiley kids returning to school. Some showed their true feelings of leaving their long summer holidays of freedom behind them!
But there were many photos where my girls obliged, smiling for the camera, either sitting on our front steps or standing in the garden. I have watched as school dresses have gotten shorter (or my girls have gotten taller), school hats floppier, hair styles have changed and braces have been put on the teeth and then taken off.
And then, of course, I sometimes think back to my own first day of school. Well, I can't remember anything of it, to be honest. But I do have a precious photo taken by my dad on the morning of my first day. It was 1971 and I was 4 1/2 years old, heading off to Burnside Public School in North Parramatta. Green was not a favourite colour and yet I wore it for six years!
I may not remember my first day of school, but here's a few random things that make me smile when I look at this photo:
- I loved the old brown school cases we had back then, wish I still had this one.
- I love the fact that my socks probably covered more of my legs than the uniform did.
- My hair was always embellished with big ribbon bows.
- The nerves were apparent in this photo, I'm twitching the hem of my uniform with my hands (maybe that's why the hem was short, to give me something to hold onto).
- Shiney school shoes and bright white socks, always make me think of new beginnings!
- I can pretty much guarantee there was a vegemite sandwich on soft white bread in my school case. This was my school lunch of choice for most of my 13 years of schooling (occasionally changed to a soft white bread roll as I got older). There would have also been a little plastic bottle of cordial (probably frozen to stay cool until lunch time) as well... and a couple of iced vovos for my recess snack.
And I'm so glad I persisted taking those photos of my girls. They may not remember that much from all their school days in years to come but the photos I've taken may just bring back some little fond memories, just as my dad's photo of me has done.
There is something about the first day back to school for the new year. It brings the idea of new beginnings, new learnings and more responsibilities within the school community. But this year it's also bringing in the end of an era in the Carter household. Our last year (or really, only 3 terms) of school has just begun!
Thanks for visiting.
[Story 3 / 50 stories for 50 years]
Lamingtons... a classic little Australian cake enjoyed all over the country! We seem to see more of these delicious little cakes around Australia Day these days, they've almost become a national dish for our day of celebration... along with Aussie lamb, of course!
My first exposure to making lamingtons was in the late 1970's. One of our neighbours, who was in her early 20's at the time, had entered into the old Queen of Hearts competition. Back then it was a fundraising competition for, I believe, the Heart Foundation. Young women who entered the competition raised money for the foundation, and who ever raised the most money was crowded the Queen of Hearts for that year.
Anyway, this neighbour organised a lamington drive as one of her fundraising activities. She sold lamingtons in the hundreds, and then gathered as many people from the neighbourhood to help her make the lamingtons to fulfil the orders. I was only about 13 or 14 years old at the time. I remember vividly walking into her house and seeing the sheer scale of the lamington production line in her kitchen and dining room. I sat round their dining room table dunking squares of cake into the giant vat of chocolate icing, then putting the chocolate dripping cake cubes into a huge tray of coconut. It was the next person in the production line's job to ensure the lamingtons were coconut coated perfectly.
When ever I make lamingtons, I think back to this evening. It was one evening a long time ago, one little memory... it was the first time I was exposed to 'cooking' on such a scale. I loved it, loved sitting round the table chatting to our neighbours, loved being busy and loved being part of the lamington production 'team'.
I've been making lamingtons this week.
I altered the usual formula of sponge cake with a runny chocolate icing. My lamingtons were made from a vanilla cake which was lightly flavoured with orange. I then soaked the slab cake with a fresh coconut milk panna cotta (inspired by Flour and Stone, who use a vanilla panna cotta with their delicious lamingtons). I then coated the cake squares in a dark chocolate ganache before coating them in the coconut.
I also decided to take the humble little lamington to another level this year by creating a lamington cake.
In between two layers of vanilla cake is a raspberry and white chocolate mousse. The cake was then coated with a milk chocolate ganache, coconut and dark chocolate ganache drips.
The origins of the lamington are a little uncertain, but it seems as through the chef of Lord Lamington (Governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901) created these little cakes. There are a few stories, however, the story I favour is that they were created by accident. The chef dropped some sponge cake into chocolate and sprinkled coconut over them to try and make this 'disaster' more appealing.
One of the best disasters in history, in my opinion!
Thanks for visiting!
[Story 2 / 50 stories for 50 years]
It's going to be a year to celebrate this year. By the end of this year.... I'll be 50. Yes, 2016 is the year I turn the big 5-0!
This year is one year I've been anticipating for a while now, not only for the 5-0 thing happening, but by the end of this year our family dynamics will, once again, change. You see, this year my daughter will finish high school, I will no longer have a school-aged child. She will be 18, and my other gorgeous girl will be 21 and almost finished her university studies. Both girls are planning exciting things once they have finished their studies. For the last 15 years we've been involved in school-parent activities, and by the end of this year, that will have finished.
I've been reflecting about my blog for a few months now.... I started this blog over 10 years ago, back in June 2005. At the time I'd just returned from a holiday in the US. I was working as a Creative Editor for Scrapbooking Memories magazine and used my blog to chat about my crafts, scrapbooking, cooking and my family.
Over the few years that followed, I started my business, Ribbons Galore, life got busy. My girls got older, and there came a time when I didn't want to share so much about them on my blog. I needed to respect their privacy as they moved through high school. My blogging slowed...
Then five years ago I was involved in a car accident, and that really stopped me for a while! A driver who didn’t stop at a stop sign hit me. She drove into the driver’s side of my car. I had no broken bones, thankfully, but I was left to rebuild my aching body over the next few years. The headaches, neck aches and short term memory loss was painful. I functioned, just enough, to keep my business running, but even that was hard. During that time I vowed if I were ever to get better (as in not having throbbing headaches which lasted for days, for example), I would grab opportunities as they came by (and sometimes ever run after them), to try new things, learn new skills, go to new places.
So I've been thinking of a way to "celebrate" 2016, turning 50 and how life changes as different stages start and finish. I'm going to attempt to write 50 stories in my 50th year, here on my little old blog. There'll be stories about anything I feel like sharing... personal stories, tales of our travels, maybe even a recipe or two from my latest baking experiments. Earlier this month we returned from a lovely family holiday in San Francisco, I might start with a few stories from that wonderful city.
That's the plan, anyway...
Wish me luck!
Because I think a blog post should have a photo or two, here's a couple of photos of me with my gorgeous girls, at the start of my blogging days (June 2005) and now (December 2015).
[Story 1 / 50 stories for 50 years]
The house is quite, everyone's returned to school, uni and work today. I'm back to work too, I'll be packing Ribbons Galore orders today.
But just before I get back into work, just wanted to share a little story.
My gorgeous 17 year old, who had a lovely few days in Byron Bay with friends last week, went to the Three Blue Ducks for lunch and, knowing how I love a photo of good food, sent me a beautiful image of her lunch. It looked so delicious, it made me want to jump in the car and drive to Byron to have lunch!! (see below, pork, crackling, apple… I was dissecting the photo when she sent it through)
The school holidays are almost finished which means back to school... back to making some snacks for the lunch/morning/afternoon teas. I've just realised that I have just over one year left of school lunches/snacks, with my baby getting towards the end of her high school days. I'm sure I'll still be making muffins long after our family's school days have finished, though!
Muffins are quick to make, easy to mix, and as long as you don't over mix the mixture, are delicious, moist, tasty and tender. You can pack them with different flavourings as well. A favourite in our house is the classic muffin flavour combination of raspberry and white chocolate. I've been trying to make a lot of new bakery goodies lately, and this is a newish muffin recipe which I've been experimenting with.
A couple of weeks back I returned to Cook Republic HQ for another workshop with Sneh Roy. This time it was a practical food styling and photography workshop directed by Sneh. (You can read about my first Cook Republic workshop HERE).
We started the morning constructing our own morning refreshment. We were presented with table of delicious fruits, nuts, granola and yoghurts that we styled and then photographed.
Sneh discussed several food styling methods and we were encouraged to style and photograph each one. Styling with only one prop was interesting…
Last week I attended a food writing and food photography/styling workshop taught by two very talented ladies, Katrina Meynink and Sneh Roy.
Before we started workshopping, writing, styling and photographing we were treated to a delicious morning tea prepared by Sneh.
Katrina lead the food writing discussion, giving us insights into the different food writing styles. Sneh chatted about food styling, lighting and photography before giving us full access to her kitchen and props.
This lead to our first assignment…. styling a scene with the focus on tomatoes. I used both my DSLR and iPhone to take the photos.
I've made a few crocheted granny square blankets over the last few months, which I'm now selling. I've listed them in the Quite Contrary Handmade store at Ribbons Galore, or you can contact me directly if you are interested.
Each blanket is made from beautifully soft cotton yarn, which is machine washable.
If you are interested in a blanket made with your choice of colours, please email me. I have a large selection of coloured yarn which can be used to create a custom designed blanket.
The first blanket I've made is my rainbow blanket.
This blanket is finished with a white edging.
Rainbow granny square blanket is approximately 71cm (28") square.
The next blanket is the peach and teal granny square blanket.
The peach and teal granny square blanket is approximately 70cm (27.5") square.
My third granny square is a blue, red and grey blanket.
This granny square blanket is approximately 72cm (28.5") square.
These blankets are a perfect size for babies and toddlers, or as a throw or lap rug.
Visit Quite Contrary at Ribbons Galore for more details.
Thanks for visiting...
Would you like to receive my blog updates by email. Please add your email below.
I look forward to hearing from you. Fiona