Archive for August, 2011

On family and Mexican

Collection of stuff in Oli's room which perfectly sums up the weekend, football and Mexican.

On any night in our family when the question ‘what would you like for dinner’ is aired, there is a 50% chance that the response will be Mexican. If Oliver is in the room, there is a 95% chance that the response will be Mexican. This Sunday night we decided to do something a bit special with our Mexican because we had had a fairly special weekend of football and family. We lucked out on a combination of recipes that were simple and fantastic.

Our weekend has been a reminder of what is really important for us, my sister spent the weekend with us and it was lovely to feel like a slightly bigger family for the last few days. She is a constant reminder of what is important in life. We also spent Saturday with Trevor and Jan, who are members of our chosen extended family  and as such, can give our children advice on everything from haircuts to careers and it is well received (a little bit too well in Oli’s case from someone who spent a large part of his career with a pony tail- Trevor)

Oli's hairstyle experimentation

My sister, my daughter, my niece and I

We are rich in friendship with our chosen family and this weekend has been a reminder that through bad times and good the more time you spend with the people who you love the better your life. The start of our weekend, Friday night dinner with Nicola’s closest high school friend and her family was still another reminder of keeping connections, at this dinner we shared laughs, greek culture and learned an important lesson that chosing the sparkling mineral water can end up costing you $100 at the end of the night as they continue to fill you up- note to self for future, tap water is free!

Nic and Nat in their highschool days

Here is our Mole recipe, pieces pulled from all over the internet, super simplified, we popped it in the oven and went and saw The Help, came home to a Mexican feast!

Chicken Mole

2kg chicken pieces

3 onions (chopped)

1 cup orange juice

3 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/3 cup sultanas

4 cloves of garlic (crushed)

2 medium red chillis, seeded and chopped.

100gms dark chocolate, chopped (70% cocoa or more)

1 tbsp orange zest

2 tsp cocoa powder

4tsp cumin seeds

4tsp corriander seeds

1.5 tsp dried oregano

peanut oil

Brown chicken pieces in 2 tbsp peanut oil with a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.

In another pan, fry onions in 1tbsp oil with spices (cocoa, cumin, corriander, oregano) . Add chillis, sultanas, almonds and orange zest, and fry until onions are soft.

Transfer chicken, onion mixture and chocolate pieces, orange juice and stock into an ovenproof caserole dish with a lid. Stir.

Cook on 170 celsius for two hours (covered)  and watch the magical transformation into a thick, rich, mole.

We served this with a range of supporting characters; 

mexican rice, tomato salsa, guacamole, tortillas, Cholula hot sauce, refried beans

Then for dessert, the world’s best hot chocolate made with this

Fitting end to a jam packed, family weekend.


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Anguilla is paradise.

June/July is their low season so we experienced all the benefits of this warm, tropical island at very reasonable prices with very few other tourists! Apparently the only months to avoid are August and September which are their Hurricane prone season. We had moments of tropical rain (which came and went inside half an hour), but generally clear blue skies, and beautiful sunshine.





















The water is such a beautiful clear aqua that for the first couple of days you are constantly surprised by how beautiful it is. The water temperature was around 30 (celsius) which really suited two sooks from Melbourne used to swimming on the freezing surf coast (and coming out with teeth chattering even in the middle of summer) There are 34 beautiful beaches and 100 restaurants in Anguilla, and its only business is tourism. It seems it has been a quiet haven for wealthy Americans for quite some time before we discovered it. Consequently, it has attracted some high quality restaurants in addition to the local cafes and beach shacks where you can buy a lobster lunch for $16.

There is plenty of accommodation on the island, and it is very reasonable in low season. Nicola found us a beautiful, small bed and breakfast calledAmbia. Again we had plenty of space, a beautiful pool with a great view, and it was small enough to still feel like you were in the West Indies. There are also a couple of very up-market resorts with manicured lawns, magnificent pools and great service, but once you’re inside you could be anywhere in the world, and for that reason we preferred to be somewhere a little bit smaller.

The West Indian people are warm and welcoming, and very friendly. The West Indian men have a great appreciation of women. And although I’m sure there are one or two faithful and monogamous men on Anguilla, we didn’t meet many, and the girlfriends we spoke to said that relationships are very much on the mens’ terms over there! Typical of the male confidence in Anguilla was the 14 year old who fancied his chances with Nicola, who he thought may have been around 16, in spite of the fact that he was about a foot shorter than her.

Nicki and 'Little Ray'

The food was beautiful. It helps to like seafood! We sampled everything from creole barbeque to up-market lobster dishes and didn’t have a meal we didn’t enjoy. As an unexpected bonus, there seems to be a telephone system in Anguilla which allows all accommodation to provide free landline phone calls to any international destination. It was nice to sit sipping a drink watching the sun set and chatting to our loved ones back home here in winter.

Anguilla is a very long way to go for us in Australia who are pretty spoilt for beautiful food and beaches. However, if you happen to be in the Northern Hemisphere, you couldn’t find a better destination for a beach holiday.

The Happy Travelers!

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Nicki and I have just returned from a 2 week mother and daughter holiday which exceeded my expectations in many ways. Even though I’ve had some wonderful holidays they usually include some aspect of feeling a bit disappointed that what we were expecting didn’t quite eventuate. It could be the accommodation or the weather or the ability to feel truly relaxed or everyone being happy with everyone else’s company. For some reason everything worked on this holiday, so I’ll share a few of the details, to anyone else who is planning on going to Manhattan or Anguilla around June and July, or any mother and daughter brave enough to spend two weeks together and leave their respective loved ones at home!

Nicola and I shared the planning, I booked accommodation and flights for Manhattan and Nic took charge of our week at the beach, which I had imagined would be somewhere around Cape Cod. She assured me ‘if we’re on that side of the world, we can do better than that’ and I was able to trust her to take charge.

What worked in New York:

– Great accomodation (at the Benjamin which we booked through this website ) with plenty of room. This was very important!! I had a bedroom to myself, and Nicki had a queen sized pull out sofa bed in a large sitting room. We also had a kitchen and a study area. Being able to sleep in separate bedrooms was key as it meant we had enough of our own space, particularly at night and in the morning.

– Pre-booking the only tourist thing we did (Statue of Liberty) there are so many tourists in NY over summer, that if you don’t book this you may miss out on getting the pedestal (let alone the crown, which we were even too late in booking for) and also pre-booking enables you to skip a huge portion of the lines.

– With the exception of our one day at Lady Liberty. not being too structured.

– The Book of Mormon, as good as all of its reviews, this coming from someone who doesn’t really like musicals. It was sold out but if you go to the theatre first thing in the morning and line up, they sell the cancelled seats for that day’s performance. Standing in line, drinking coffee and eating doughnuts and chatting to people in line was a pleasant way to pass a couple of hours. We were rewarded with great seats at a great price.

– Food. We loved Empellon (very noisy though), The Dutch (also very noisy, I’m showing my age here), Rosa Mexicano (great guacamole, not quite so cool, not quite so noisy), Joe’s Shanghai in Chinatown (noisy) and as on previous trips Pret A Manger is our favourite ‘grab a lunch’ spot.

– Department store sales. There is a certain feeling of satisfaction in buying a dress for under $200 which has been marked down by $1000.

– The Subway. Staying in East Midtown was a great choice because we could walk to Broadway and had a short subway ride the days we went to Soho, Harlem, Upper West Side, Greenwich Village etc.

* Something worth noting, if, like me, you want to go up to Harlem on a Sunday to experience the full Baptist Church Service and Choir, you might want to steer clear of the organised tours and just find a church to go into, there is something a bit off-putting about busloads of people sitting in a separate area of the church observing what is happening downstairs. *

On the Statue of Liberty Pedestal, with the city behind us.

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