Lessons in kale

Over the past few months I’ve been paying a bit more attention to my diet.

It’s so easy to get into a food rut and whilst swimming has proved to be an excellent exercise rut and remains in the well-being kitty, I’ve been wanting to create a few more good habits especially since I need to keep myself in good mental shape for my ‘what comes next’.

I’ve been keeping a food and exercise diary since the end of August. The idea has been to become more aware of exactly what I’m eating and, rather than adopting some diet or other, to understand how to balance calories, nutrients and exercise better. Recording this each day has certainly made me more mindful about food choices and also about really enjoying what I choose. Let’s face it – catering to every whim is not particularly healthy but when I do indulge, boy do I make sure it’s worth it.

One of the areas I’m particularly conscious about is getting enough iron in my diet. Many years ago I restructured my eating habits (alongside some other lifestyle choices) and one of the consequences is that I don’t eat red meat. While I get enough protein from other things like poultry and eggs, iron in a form that can be absorbed by the body – like in dark green, leafy vegetables – has not featured in recent times.

I’d rather eat fresh where I can versus taking supplements but I’m no rabbit so I want something more appealing than leaves on a plate. Every so often I’ll add a bit of spinach or rainbow chard to something or munch on some mixed nuts but I know it’s not enough.

In an inspired moment during my bi-weekly shopping order, I decided to add some kale and ordered the smallest size bag available – 500g.

Do you have any idea how much kale this is? (Peeps, this is not the time to be funny and say 500g, okay?) I gasped – and may have actually sworn in shock – when I pulled that big green pack out of the delivery bag. To use that much kale before it became limp and un-usable seemed like an insurmountable challenge.

But as with all challenges, it seems this one has taught me a thing or two three.

Lesson 1: Out of the bag

I was bemoaning my mountain of kale at work when one of my lunch pals gave me a great storage tip. Line a large plastic container with paper towel and store the kale in that versus keeping it in the bag. This blew my mind (I know, it’s the small things peeps). It kept the kale dry for almost a month which, luckily enough, is how long it took me to use it. And it works for spinach too. All of a sudden leafy greens have become workable rather than wasteful in the Gidday kitchen.

Lesson 2: More than a handful

As with most green leafy veg, once kale wilts down there’s not a lot of it so after adding a first miserly handful to my normal stir fried vegetables, I got a whole lot more generous when next I stir fried…

thai-fish-cake-with-veg-stir-fry

Thai Sweet Chilli Fishcake with Kale (and other Vegetables)

I have also thrown some leaves into my Quorn sausage and vegetable stew with fabulous results.

Lesson 3: Hey pesto!

Within half an hour of getting that enormous leaf-filled bag I desperately googled “recipes using kale” and was particularly inspired by a Walnut and Kale Pesto recipe from The Food Network for a number of reasons:

  • It had a four and a half star rating and was marked as easy.
  • Pasta is one of my go-to mid week meals, especially after swimming.
  • It would use up half the bag of kale.

So I chopped, toasted, grated and pulsed away to make my very first pesto…

The ice cube tray was another gem from a different work pal – that’s fourteen meals right there in the freezer. No need to defrost, just stir a cube into the hot pasta!

This pesto has turned out to be an absolute winner – one cube is tasty enough with a portion of plain pasta but I’ve also tried adding sun-dried tomatoes and black olives and in the version below, turkey bacon and red pepper.

turkey-bacon-tomato-spaghetti-with-kale-walnut-pesto

Gluten-free Spaghetti with Turkey Bacon, Red Pepper and Kale Pesto

I cannot believe I waited so long to make pesto. Seriously peeps, what have I been doing with my life?

So kale has made its way into my culinary pantheon (much to my surprise and delight) and whilst its superfood status may be under scrutiny, adding this green leafy habit into my kitchen is definitely a big tick in the box for me.

PS…If you made it all the way to the end of this random post about kale, well done you. You definitely deserve a pat on the back. And while you’re at it, if you know any other handy ways with kale, please don’t be shy about letting me know. I’d be very grateful.

Much ado in July & August

The advent of the August Bank Holiday in the UK heralds many things. Holiday-makers return home sporting skin ranging from gently flushed to glowing bronze to fire-engine red. School starts again albeit in fits and starts depending on where you are and how much you pay. And the British Summer ends, folding its wings away to let September take flight.

I missed my July out and about update, overtaken as I was by my birthday-ing in Geneva at the start of August. As sharing July’s gadding about is well overdue, this post will bring you a double dose.

Let’s start with a Gidday First.

I had my first open air theatre experience at Morden Hall Park seeing a performance of Much Ado About Nothing. A beautiful summer day had segued into a lovely evening as we shared a picnic supper, made our way through a bottle of wine and watched a full male cast give their multiple roles and catchy ditties a hefty dose of ribald fun. It was full of hilarious moments and I felt that this was how Shakespeare was meant to be performed, to an appreciative audience in the open air without all the smoke and mirrors of modern theatre. I absolutely loved it.

Staying with the Bard, I also saw a live screening of Kenneth Branagh’s staging of Romeo and Juliet starring Lily James (you may remember her as Lady Rose from Downton Abbey). It was my first experience of the stage version versus reading the play/story or seeing it on film – interestingly Branagh’s interpretation had a black and white cinematic quality (nothing to do with being a live screening!) lending the story a 1950s feel. Lily James was an extraordinary Juliet and simply outshone the rest of the cast but for all that, I was reminded why the play, with all of its melodrama and outpourings of eternal love, was never my favourite.

Speaking of favourites, the return of the fabulous Paco Pena to Sadlers Wells with Patrias was quite different from the high energy flamenco shows I’d seen before. His tribute to the impact of the Civil War in Spain was reflective and haunting and I left the theatre incredibly moved by the beautiful music and poignant story-telling.

I returned to Sadlers Wells a few weeks later to see Vamos Cuba!  I was looking forward to being energised by sexy Cuban rhythms but instead of a slick high-octane show, it was bland and limp and actually felt a bit under-rehearsed. I was bored through most of it and struggled to stay engaged – unusual for me. It was very disappointing.

I had a musical foray of a completely different kind with the Sacconi Quartet, a chamber music group who manage to pierce my heart and capture my imagination every time they play. They were as brilliant as always, playing with their usual passion and intensity. However, they had a male soloist join them after intermission and I felt like that got in the way of the music. I experienced the same reaction earlier this year with another quartet I like so I suspect it’s more to do with my preference for ‘unaccompanied’ chamber music rather than the quality of the singing.

I do like a great female protagonist so I took myself off to see the movie Maggie’s Plan starring two fabulous women – newcomer Greta Gerwig and Oscar winner Julianne Moore – and the rather fabulous-looking Ethan Hawke (forgive my objectification peeps but really…*sigh*). Gerwig plays Maggie, the woman with the plan, as adorably gauche while some of the film’s most hilarious moments come from Moore’s world-weary Georgette. The movie wasn’t on wide (or long) release but it’s an absolute delight so if you get the chance, I’d recommend you see it.

I was also thrilled to snap up a Bank Holiday deal to see Sheridan Smith in the musical Funny Girl (see my reaction  here). It was extraordinary and wonderful and all of those great things.

And last but certainly not least, I discovered Divergent. After a run of average-to-good reads over last few months, I was overdue to be blown away and I fairly inhaled Veronica Roth‘s dystopian tale of rebellion and belonging. It follows a similar plot to The Hunger Games but I liked Divergent more, particularly the use of the factions – Amity, Abnegation, Candor, Dauntless and Erudite – and the underlying thread that a little bit of each is the key to humanity. I’ve heard mixed reports about the movie but I’m much more interested in seeing if the second book, Insurgent, is as unputdownable as the first.

So that was July and August and as we leave the heady ‘hot’ days of British summertime behind, September beckons with promises of coloured leaves, cooler mornings and the hope of an Indian Summer. I’ve got a few interesting things booked but like always I’ll be working hard to make the most of whatever opportunities appear…and keeping my fingers crossed for a deal or two.

Have yourselves a fabulous September.

Boudicca

Real-life female protagonist Boudicca overlooks the River Thames from her chariot (in the shadow of the tower of Big Ben).

A dinkum daughter

My name is Kym Hamer, I am 46 years old and I have just cooked my first BBQ.

Yes yes I know. As a dinkum Aussie sheila, I ought to be ashamed of myself for not mastering this patriotic part of my culinary repertoire before now.

It’s not that I’ve been blind to the art of BBQ – I have actually been around BBQs most of my life but it has always been someone else pricking the snags and flipping the burgers.

23KYM

My introduction to BBQ-ed vittels started early in life – but Opa (back middle) was in charge of the cooking.

And quite frankly these BBQ bastions have been happy for me to do my part by plonking a few salad leaves artfully in a bowl and scattering a few condiments around, so who am I to argue (with glass of wine in hand)?

But the weather was looking good…

Phone temp

…my outdoor setting had been re-oiled after a long and rather exposed Winter…

IMAG4771 (360x640)

…so Aussie-K came over for a barbie.

Of sorts…

IMAG4775 (360x640)

To be honest, my turkey and chilli burgers stuck a little and would probably have been better served by a hotplate…

IMAG4773 (640x360)

…but they tasted delicious alongside the lime and chilli mayo, salad and warm ciabatta straight from the oven. And wine of course.

(I would not want you to think I was some sort of kitchen maestro or anything so I must confess again, this time to not making the ciabatta myself.)

And we topped it all off with a slice of shop-bought (just keepin’ it real here peeps) lemon tart, fresh berries and cream.

So on this Mother’s Day, with our respective Mums on the other side of the world, chatting in the sunshine and eating good food together was a perfect way to spend the afternoon.

As was ticking my long overdue BBQ baptism off the list.

Mum would be so proud…5KYM

Happy Mother’s Day Mum from your fair dinkum Aussie daughter.

Spring shoots

Today is the May Day Bank Holiday in the UK and after a basking in some long overdue Spring sunshine yesterday, it’s time for me to keep my word and share my last two months of gadding about (which, with Mum’s 3-week visit smack-bang in the middle, pretty much disappeared before I knew it).

There have been a few highlights of the stage-and-screen variety since February starting with a ‘goosebumps all-over’ moment as Glenn Close filled the London Coliseum with her performance of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. The BBC ran a gripping six-part adaption of John le Carre’s The Night Manager that starred Hugh Laurie – in fine and menacing form – and Tom Hiddleston which had me transfixed on Sunday nights. (For those of you who don’t know Hugh, think House and Black Adder.)

And I saw a couple of really great movies – Spotlight and Eye in the Sky, the latter being a charity screening at my local cinema, The Phoenix. In his pre-film talk, director Gavin Hood explained that the technology featured in Eye in the Sky is real and out there as we speak. Mind-blowing stuff.

There were also some things I expected to love more than I did. The Maids at Trafalgar Studios was edgy and well-acted but a little too crazy for me and Immortal Tango contained patches of thrilling Argentine Tango but was brought low by too much tinkering with the quintessential drama and passion of the dance. Based on how much I loved The Night Manager, I had another stab at reading le Carre’s novel only to remember how convoluted and unwieldy I find his writing. And reading Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None was spoiled by knowing ‘who dunnit’, having seen it on TV earlier this year (another brilliant adaption from the Beeb).

There have been some firsts as well.

I attended my first political debate on the EU referendum at the London Palladium. It was chockers with people and points of view and while it didn’t really help me to make a more informed decision, I did leave with my view of politics and politicians intact – grandstanding and emotive argument just don’t do it for me.

However what did do it for me was Painting the Modern Garden, an exhibition featuring artists from Monet to Matisse (and many in between) on my first sortie to the Royal Academy.

royal academy (640x361)

I also visited Poole, site of the second largest natural deep-water harbour in the world (after Sydney).

sunny poole

Dorset Quay, Poole

Last but not least, April alone has meant birthdays galore. It started with my two favourite little dudes turning 3 with Mum, Seattle-A celebrating a week later. And on the 30th, my good friend of more than 15 years, Swiss-S, finally turned 40 on the same day that high school friend, Aussie-J, marked her slightly more advanced passage through life (although she’s still younger than yours truly).

And the great Bard himself, Shakespeare celebrated his birthday on April 23rd, the same day as he popped his clogs 52 years later. There’s been much ado about this and for my part, this Bard-themed week has been book-ended by  Shakespeare Live! last weekend and a Shakespeare’s London walking tour on Saturday just gone with the Museum of London.

shakespeare (360x640)

Memorial to John Heminge and Henry Condell, the two actors who published Shakespeare’s First Folio in 1623 in St Mary Aldermanbury’s Garden.

In other news, I was very excited by the Monopoly-themed loos at Marylebone Station…

monopoly loos

I had to wait for everyone to leave the loos before taking these pics so no-one thought I was being weird or creepy (she says, posting them for all the world to see.)

…my fabulous new shoes…

shoes (640x640)

…and that fact that Spring finally ‘sprang’…

spring flowers (640x360)

Delicate Spring flowers  lined my street for about two weeks before they dropped to leave leafy green boughs behind them.

And I think that’ll do. Just as well that the month ended with a 3-day weekend…but the batteries are recharged and I’m ready to go again…

…come what May.

(Geddit? I just couldn’t resist a play on words.)

February: Firsts, facts and fine things

I know. It’s almost a week into March but I promised in January to review each month’s gadding about and February has been every bit as jam-packed as January. So hold on tight and here we go…

There have been a few firsts this month. I’ve already posted about my first filling and my first visit to the British Library. I also attended my first Monash University Alumni event. It’s only taken 24 years and a move across the world to do this and I did turn up wondering what this Global Leaders Network was all about. I had a great evening hearing about the university’s plans for alumni engagement around the world and sharing expat stories with like-minded Australians. How nice it was to enjoy some straight-talking Aussie banter, the room humming with that laconic Aussie twang.

Speaking of university, I have a psychology degree from Monash so I’m really interested in the mindfulness conversation that’s happening at the moment. I saw Ruby Wax interviewed on Sunday Brunch and so went to see her show, Sane New World. Not only is she a comedian but is qualified in psychotherapy and has recently completed a Masters in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy at Oxford. Her show was a frank and funny look at our pace of life, mental illness and how our bodies – and in particular our hormones – are trying to cope. I really admire her philosophy in getting ‘off your a**e and doing the work’ – she’s set up free mental health walk-in sessions throughout the run of her shows with the aim of creating a network of walk-in centres across the UK.

February has also been a month for some of the finer things in life.

I attended a talk at the V&A Museum where Francesca Cartier Brickell, granddaughter of Jean-Jacques Cartier, took us on an enthralling journey through the Cartier family history introducing us to the three brothers – Louis, Pierre and Jacq – who started it all and their commitment to innovating whilst maintaining the essence of Cartier design. She also shared many personal anecdotes, one of these about finding the Cartier history in an old suitcase full of letters in her grandfather’s wine cellar. The many family moments she shared made this talk more intimate – less like a lecture and more like a lovely conversation albeit with more than a hundred of us in the room.

It also inspired me to visit The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery at the museum. We were herded briskly through this collection of stunning jewellery on the way to the auditorium and a couple of weeks later, I turned up early for a V&A book club evening to have a wander through. However, it transpired that the gallery was only open during the day so I killed the time I had by visiting the delightful stained glass gallery nearby and also enjoyed a meander through the just re-opened Europe galleries once book club was finished.

VA

The V&A Museum on a drizzly winter evening; killing time in stained glass

I also attended a book launch at the Institute of Directors. Peter Frankopan is director of the Centre for Byzantine Research at Oxford and over coffee and croissants he talked about his new book, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World. His contention is that we are taught about history through the lens of a very small number of countries and believes that we have a lot to learn through the stories of other cultures and regions, particularly Russia and Iran, the latter having been the wellspring for language and religion more than a thousand years ago. I left unsure as to what these regions could offer but it did make me realise how uneducated I am about these areas of the world. I’m now waiting for the paperback version of the book to come out (ever tried to read a hardback on the tube?) so that I can broaden my historic horizons.

And speaking of fine things, I also saw Ralph Fiennes in Henrik Ibsen‘s The Master Builder at The Old Vic. Being able to see actors that I’ve loved on screen performing on stage is one of the absolute joys of living in London and despite being in the vertiginous cheap seats, the power of the performance still remained. It’s the second Ibsen play I’ve seen – the first being A Doll’s House which I studied at high school – and there is something fascinating about the way he explores the roles of women and how they use their personal power in a male-dominated society.

IMAG4300 (640x360)

The view from the cheap seats at the fabulously refurbished Old Vic theatre in London

Personal power also underpinned the speaker themes at the opening session of the TED2016 conference which was live-streamed into cinemas on February 16th. Whether it was 10-year-old Ishita Katyal’s opening talk, the performance from musical phenomenon AR Rahman or Riccardo Sabatini‘s vision for personalised medicine (my favourite talk of the night), it was an inspiring and thought-provoking evening and all for the price of a cinema ticket.

February also had me moved by music. My annual pilgrimage to the Flamenco Festival at Sadler’s Wells was a testosterone-fuelled performance by brothers Farraquito and Farruco which had me on my feet at its conclusion. Over at Kings Place, the Brodsky Quartet’s performance of George Gershwin’s little-known Lullaby for Strings was exquisite.

And with all of that going on, I found some time to imbibe in a well-deserved drink

watering holes

A couple of new watering holes near Holborn Station to add to my ‘let’s meet up’ list. L: The Princess Louise  R: The Ship Tavern

So that was February, filled to the brim with firsts, facts and fine things.

Phew!

Now for March…

Finding Wonderland

It was wet and grey in London yesterday and if it hadn’t been for some existing plans I would have been perfectly happy to curl up at Gidday HQ on the comfy couch. But the British Library beckoned and so just after lunch, friend Aussie-K and I stepped out for some literary loitering.

IMAG4268 (640x360)

It was our first visit to the library. Yours truly has been here twelve years and until yesterday, had only managed a passing acquaintance last year by way of a talk at the conference centre next door. Given how much I love literature and reading, I am delighted to have ticked this visit off my London bucket list and to have moved from ‘I must’ to ‘I have’ at long last.

And what, I hear you ask, made me get off my backside and go?

Well, Wonderland of course!

2015 was the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. It’s a story that’s been told in a myriad of formats and iterations over the years, its other-worldly characters and trippy plot making it the subject of much interpretation and debate. I saw Robert Douglas-Fairhurst interviewed about his biography on Carroll – The Story of Alice – last year (which I am currently reading) and the Library has been running a temporary free exhibition which closes in April. So we entered the fray and hustled – with what felt like hundreds of half-term families – along the cabinets and displays.

IMAG4270 (640x360)

The front part of the exhibit was taken up with a series of twelve (or was it thirteen?) decorated mirrors featuring quotes from Alice in Wonderland whilst in a rather cramped section at the rear, there was an opportunity to learn about the author himself, his real-life Alice (who happened to be a brunette rather than the blonde we’ve come to know and love) and see the ways in which this famous story has been communicated over the last 150 years. It was interesting – however the area was poorly-lit with little opportunity to linger and I found it difficult to read all of the information and look at the details of the books and manuscripts on display. I’m not sorry that I spent the time to shuffle through and see it but it’s just as well it was free otherwise I might have been a little put out!

It seemed a shame to leave after such a short visit and as it was still raining outside, we meandered across to the Library’s permanent exhibition, Treasures of the British Library.

Now THIS was my Wonderland and I spent quite some time poring over…

…drawings & notes from Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo…

…musical scores from as early as 1050 and from geniuses like Mozart, Debussy, Chopin, Beethoven, Bach (just to name a few) as well as a page of Puccini’s scribbled stage directions for his opera Madame Butterfly and a touch from the modern era, a burst of scrawled lyrics for The Beatles’ hit ‘Help’…

…pages and pages of penmanship from literary giants: 16th century greats like Shakespeare, Marlowe and Jonson, acknowledged classics like Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby and Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles and even a little something from Ian Fleming, the man behind James Bond – who you could argue is one of the 20th century’s most iconic literary creations – and his short story, The Living Daylights…

…sacred texts, beautifully illustrated, from as early as the 4th century and from a  variety of religions including Judaism, Hinduism, Islam and Buddism…

…and one of the four Magna Carta documents dating back to 1215 which was sitting right alongside the original papal bull that annulled it just 10 weeks later.

It was absolutely awesome – in the true sense of the word – and these were just the highlights.

And after such a deluge of inspirational history, it was time to venture back out into the real weather, make a damp and concerted dash past St Pancras Station…

IMAG4277 (640x360)

…and around to the YumChaa Cafe in Granary Square for a warming hot chocolate and a slice of apple and apricot loaf…

IMAG4280 (360x640)

All in all, it turned out to be the perfect way to spend an inclement February afternoon in London.

The hole truth

 

My name is Kym Hamer, I am 46 years old and I have just had my first filling.

Yes it’s true. I have just returned from the dentist numb-cheeked after said filling (plus a fluoride treatment on two other culprits) and am under strict instructions not to eat or drink for the next two hours.

So I thought I’d fill the time by telling you all about it. Hooray I hear you say…not. Nevertheless here goes…

I’d never been to Smile Cliniq until a couple of weeks ago…and it had been two years since my last checkup elsewhere so you can probably appreciate there was quite a bit of scraping and polishing to do. And then there was the unwelcome news of a cavity in my lower right molar and early signs of decay in two other teeth so my lapse is likely to be the cause of today’s drill ‘n’ fill session.

But Chet (the dentist) was great, explaining everything clearly beforehand and checking in throughout that I was okay. He warned of ‘a little scratch’ before the injection which I did not feel and aside from my inability to rinse without dribbling at the end (making me giggle…which made things worse), I emerged relatively unscathed in under 30 minutes.

Chet’s really passionate about his profession and we got chatting today about a seven year study carried out in Sydney to prove the benefits of adding fluoride to the water system. The lack of dental fillings at my age has often been referred to as a result of being part of the fluoride generation and Chet mentioned today that in Birmingham, early tests around adding fluoride to the water have yielded further evidence of its benefits, particularly in preventing tooth decay in children.

Even better in my book is the application of fluoride treatments on signs of early decay which may actually mean a future devoid of fillings. Imagine that in only a generation or two from now, the concept of have a filling may be as alien as walking on the Moon was to us a century ago.

In any case, my drill ‘n’ fill was nowhere near as traumatic as I had envisaged but I am in no hurry to have another. So I will continue my twice-daily brush, floss and (mouth)wash and be more vigilant in heading back for some professional attention every 6 months. Being a week into February, it’s a little late for a New Year resolution but given the literal hole I made for myself by waiting so long, I’m off to add a checkup reminder in my calendar for August. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this reminder from English poet Pam Ayres as to the moral of my story:

Look after your teeth peeps!

———————————

Oh I wish I’d looked after me teeth

Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth,

And spotted the dangers beneath

All the toffees I chewed,

And the sweet sticky food.

Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth.

I wish I’d been that much more willin’

When I had more tooth there than fillin’

To give up gobstoppers,

From respect to me choppers,

And to buy something else with me shillin’.

When I think of the lollies I licked

And the liquorice allsorts I picked,

Sherbet dabs, big and little,

All that hard peanut brittle,

My conscience gets horribly pricked.

My mother, she told me no end,

‘If you got a tooth, you got a friend.’

I was young then, and careless,

My toothbrush was hairless,

I never had much time to spend.

Oh I showed them the toothpaste all right,

I flashed it about late at night,

But up-and-down brushin’

And pokin’ and fussin’

Didn’t seem worth the time – I could bite!

If I’d known I was paving the way

To cavities, caps and decay,

The murder of fillin’s,

Injections and drillin’s,

I’d have thrown all me sherbet away.

So I lie in the old dentist’s chair,

And I gaze up his nose in despair,

And his drill it do whine

In these molars of mine.

‘Two amalgam,’ he’ll say, ‘for in there.’

How I laughed at my mother’s false teeth,

As they foamed in the waters beneath.

But now comes the reckonin’

It’s methey are beckonin’

Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth.

Source: www.pamayres.com

Under The Bonnet…

I’ve noticed a bit of a boost in the number of you popping in to Gidday From The UK recently. January’s witterings prompted an all time high of 6,241 page views and some time over the last couple of months I passed the 50,000 views milestone. 

So I’ve taken it upon myself to have a little rummage around under the bonnet here at Gidday to see what the deal is. Here’s what I found.

For a long time, coffee held a seemingly unassailable lead at Gidday with my post on the art of latte in July 2010 in first place. But it would appear that while I wasn’t looking, a fair few of you became enamoured of my first time as a guest blogger in February 2011 (yes, two years ago – I can still remember the excitement) and it now holds the top spot. My observations on mid-life, duly recorded in September last year, have also shimmied up the ranks to a respectable third, pushing both Christmas and Australian fashion down the ladder.

Indications from views of the Gidday! (512) and Book Nook (490) tabs also suggest that there are many new visitors to Gidday curious to meet the (t)wit behind the (t)wittering and a multitude of bookish types who like to keep abreast of Audrey’s latest Commuting Gems.

Unsurprisingly the most frequent searches leading to visits are latte/latte art (over 1200!) but strangely enough the number 42 ranks next, leading neophyte Giddayers to a little birthday poetry. (If you like a rhyme or two you might like to catch my crime series in two parts – yes that’s one, two.)

Gidday would not be where it is today without my lovely fellow bloggers who are generous in both visiting and featuring Gidday From The UK on their blogrolls. Many thanks to those of you who do this – a special nod goes to fellow Aussie The Vegemite Wife who, in the face of many advertised and agreggated expat blogs, is the the number 5 provider of visits to Gidday. Thanks mate!

And finally I had a squiz at where my ‘readership’ has hailed from. Sites like Seen The Elephant and The Displaced Nation have lifted Gidday’s profile in the USA (and since Seattle-A moved stateside, she maybe doing her bit as well). And being a blog about an Australian living in the UK, you’d expect the 2nd and 3rd places to be held by the UK and Australia (respectively). But who do you think has crept into 4th place?


Who knew that Ruskies liked a little irreverent Aussie banter in their digital mashup.

Oh those Russians!

From The Cheap Seats…

It would appear that my first 43 years on the planet have been so bereft of cultural pursuits that, as I am wont to do after a birthday, last weekend found me looking around for a new thing(s) to experience. Two years ago it was baking, last year it was polo (the pony kind).  And this year it’s opera.

Opera has been one of the few ‘Arts’ that I have not readily subscribed too. I love classical music but the combination of singing I don’t understand and high prices has been a particular deterrent. That’s where a bit of community clever-ness came in from my lovely local The Phoenix Cinema.

Being an independent arthouse cinema, The Phoenix doesn’t need to subscribe to the wants and desires of a head office and experiments with its schedule to inspire the local community. In partnership with Glyndebourne 2012’s Opera Season, it’s running two live screenings of the performances there this weekend. Tomorrow is a double bill of two 1 Act operas from Ravel. The other – Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro – was screened last night and that’s where I was.

As cinema lights dimmed, the camera lit on the empty stage with its ‘Moorish Palace’ backdrop, the familiar strains of the overture began and soon the space was filled with hustle and bustle, music and colour…and a vintage red and cream Austin Healey.

Glyndebourne’s re-telling of this famous tale is set in the Seville of the swinging 60s. If you don’t know the story, it follows the trials and tribulations of Figaro and his lady love Susanna as they plan their wedding. There’s lots of hi-jinx and trickery, cross and double-cross in the tale (a bit like a Shakespearean comedy such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream or Twelfth Night) and with the aid of English subtitles, the familiarity of the music (I love Mozart’s music and it wasn’t until I sat through this that I realised how much of his musical bounty I had actually heard before) and the captivating performances, it made the whole experience a really enjoyable one – although as an opera neophyte, I could not tell you one aria from the other.

So in short, I loved it. And I paid £13.00 and was home 20 minutes after I’d left the auditorium.

I am sure that experiencing opera live, and especially in the gorgeous surrounds at Glyndebourne, is fantastic. But for someone who wasn’t sure it would all be worth it, getting a taste from the cheap seats was a perfect way to dip my proverbial toe into the water.

The other thing to say is this: I really admire Glyndebourne (and some of the other companies that will feature over the coming months) in their vision of bringing opera to the masses. While I’m a known champion of the written word (and quite frankly anything that promotes it), having access to art in all of its myriad expressions is such a wonderful opportunity and one of the things I love about living in London and more specifically, the ecclectic and fabulous Finchley.

The Marriage of Figaro actually follows on from the story in another Mozart opera, The Barber of Seville – the protagonists have grown older by the time we see them in 60s Seville and rather than lead, form backdrops (and a few barriers) to Susanna and Figaro’s impending nuptials – so you can guess what I’ll be keeping an eye out for in order to dip my other toe.

And as ever, I’m hopeful that my search will all turn out in the end – just like the marriage of Figaro and Susanna – with a joyful celebration and me drifting off into the warm and hazy night, humming a little Mozart to myself on the way home.

Gidday Soiree…A Hat Trick Of Birthdays

The inaugural Gidday soiree is done. My guests have left replete with good food, an indiscriminate amount of wine and feisty yet flowing conversation.

Le outdoor setting (or patio furniture as my American compatriate at work calls it) did me proud and the skies, while not exactly blue and sunshine-y, kept to themselves with not a drop of rain falling. That’s a minor miracle in itself given the past few weeks.

(Although as I woke this morning after yesterday’s intermittent and torrential rain, I do believe I closed my eyes and whispered ‘oh please just let it be dry!’ Maybe someone was listening.)

It has inspired me to do more of this. I have to say that I rather enjoyed having visitors to fuss over, deliberating over the menu during the week prior to strike the balance of both the ‘right’ quantity and trying out some new things.

(There was a chilli, cheese and corn loaf and some savoury rolls – basically a soft cheese mixture and some other ingredients wrapped in pita bread, chilled overnight and sliced – which were both newcomers to the party.)

It was also an opportunity to use my ‘stuff’. You know the stuff I mean. You have some of this yourself. For me it was my Oma’s crockery, my Mum’s tea set (for the coffee) and, being a cup short, even a lone Royal Doulton cup and saucer for the fifth of our party.

Having the room at the new Gidday HQ for all of this to have been unpacked from the boxes that were their home for 6 and a half years is absolutely brilliant. Now it’s all just an arms reach away on the top shelf of the kitchen cupboard.

I’m extremely proud to say that the only thing not Gidday-Made was the chocolate cake, collected from the local Polish store round the corner this morning, to celebrate our three birthdays.

Which brings me neatly to a reminder that there are only 17 sleeps to go until my big day. Celebrations may have started today at Gidday HQ but this doesn’t mean you’re off the hook peeps.

Not by a long shot!