Wednesday, January 14, 2015

WELL….HERE WE ARE AGAIN!






Entrance to Marks & Gardner-Secret Garden Restaurant
Rear Verandah...cafe area of Secret Garden
View from rear verandah of Secret Garden Cafe




Delicious Lychees

Only 345 days to go until Christmas Day and 351 days until 2016 (as at writing)!  Am I moving too fast?  Okay! I’ll put the brakes on and rein myself in.  Sorry to scare you that way!

We’ve yet to get past the tennis - here in the land Down Under, anyway.  So far in January we’ve had the Hopman Cup in Perth; the Brisbane International – in Brisbane, naturally; and presently this week the Apia International is being played in Sydney, and the Kooyong Classic in Melbourne. On Monday 19th January, the Australian Open commences – so you see what I mean.  January is “Tennis Month” for me.

I love watching the tennis; you’ll get no complaints from me about the amount of tennis viewing on TV at present.  It's too hot and muggy to do much other than watch the players play...they can do all the sweating for me. Or should I be a lady and say "perspiring"?  No, forget it...I can still be a lady and say "sweating"!  See, I just did and am!

But back to what I was talking about before I rudely interrupted myself….once we get past the tennis, there is still St. Valentine’s Day and Easter to get through; and I’ve yet to finish off my Christmas cake and all the rest of the decadent goodies still hanging around before all of the above occurs; before the Silly Season makes another appearance - sometimes I think it's always Silly Season...or is it that I'm always silly?

Hmmmm....I'll have to ponder that one for a while!

Oh! And there’s the Ekka, of course and Riverfire!  We mustn’t forget them!

“The Ekka” for the uneducated and uninformed is the annual Royal Queensland Show held in Brisbane every August. The first one was held in 1876.  It’s Queensland’s annual agricultural show, and lasts for 10 days. It was originally called the Brisbane Exhibition…affectionately and familiarly shortened to “The Ekka”.  The Ekka showcases Queensland’s culture, produce, resources etc; along with sideshow alley, showbags and numerous food outlets including Dagwood Dogs (Corn Dogs), Fairy Floss (Cotton Candy), Tasmanian Potato Chips (French Fries), Strawberry ice cream (strawberry ice cream)…all those foods that are terrible for us, but taste terribly good! Nightly firework displays cause the spectators to “ooooh!” and “Ahhhhhh!” and the ring events hold everyone in awe, or are a good excuse to rest up a while, so you catch your breath before hitting the Ferris Wheel and Dodge ‘Em Cars again, for the tenth time!

And, Riverfire, I’ve mentioned previously.  Riverfire is the finale to the annual Brisbane Festival held every September.  The Festival culminates in a cacophony of sounds and fireworks that light up the night sky as hordes of people line the banks of the Brisbane River, and all other suitable vantage points, floating and otherwise, to watch the grand display (while others, like me, watch the colourful explosions via our televisions in the comfort of home).

Don’t panic! No need to rush out and buy your turkey and ham, or start making your fruit mince pies just yet.  I’m only giving you a heads-up!  It will happen! Christmas will be poking its nose around the corner again, and faster than we can say Rachel Hunter, too, if the speed by which 2014 disappeared is an indicator. 

Again for those not in the know, model and ex-wife of Rod Stewart (one of them) famously starred in the 1992 Pantene shampoo commercial - yes, I know…it just seems like yesterday - wherein Rachel Hunter uttered the tagline that soon became a much-quoted catchphrase, and remains so in some quarters to this day:  “It won’t happen over night, but it will happen”.
 
On the eve of Christmas Eve a good mate visiting from the North escorted me to lunch at Secret Garden, a small café come art gallery and bookshop up here on the hill.  It was wonderful to catch up with David as it always is; as it always is with those who matter. David used to be one of my chef at the resort on Hinchinbrook Island.  We’ve remained friends since those crazy, wonderful days.  Birds of a feather flock together, you know!

Sadly, it’s no secret, Marks & Gardner-Secret Garden Restaurant closed down on 14th January, 2015; this past Wednesday just past. It didn't close its doors from lack of business, more so from too much business! 

The two women who operated the business originally opened the café/gallery to be more of a hobby - a pastime as such - than a busy operation, but it soon grew in popularity and in population. Interested diners, art, ceramic and book lovers flowed through its doors; spread the word and returned again and again.  Mary, the older of the two women lives in the home to which the café and gallery are attached  The time had come for the doors to the public to be shut; and the doors of her home to be opened to her and her family for them to live in privacy and in peace. 

Another friend took me to lunch at Secret Garden for my birthday back in November.  I’d kept my birthday pretty much a secret. I had no streamers, balloons, bells and whistles and no male stripper leaping out of a cake. Actually, I didn't even have a cake!  The café, now private home, is situated amongst a piece of paradise.  Money can’t buy the hypnotic ambience of the place.

The week before Christmas Day, joined by other usual suspects I mingle with only once a year, I enjoyed myself at my landlord’s annual Christmas gathering.  It’s always a fun, relaxed evening at Derek and Denise’s Christmas parties; and then, on New Year’s Eve I again joined the Double Ds (no…it’s not a cattle ranch) and a lesser cast of players for a condensed replay; and what a happy farewell to 2014 it was!  

However, they were in for an early night, not planning to remain awake until midnight.

After a 5.30 pm early start to the evening, which we spent out on their verandah with wine and tasty nibbles to wet our whistles and whet our appetites, and with rain falling upon the roof, I returned home to my cabin between 9.30-10 pm.

My friends may not have been in party mode to see 2105 in, but I was (I always see the New Year in regardless, whether in a party mood or not.  Although I’m really not one for New Year’s Eve parties as such.  I find them too forced…people believe “they have to have fun” – and nothing is spontaneous; and I prefer spontaneous).   But that’s by the by….

Not having to give anyone an excuse or apology for being in a light-hearted, happy mood, I bid adieu to one year, and the welcomed the beginning of another in good spirits; although no spirits passed these lips, only a couple of cold beers and a few glasses of red wine.

A number of enjoyable phone conversations later…some received and others made by me, I eventually got to bed at 3 am on the first day of 2015…a fitting beginning, in my opinion; particularly when I awoke I was just a little weary, but had no hangover effects to suffer through.

Too many evil deeds perpetrated by evil doers occurred during 2014.  I think that is why I wanted to end 2014 with a blast of my own. 

To paraphrase the words of Nellie Forbush from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical, “South Pacific” I was in the mood on New Year’s Eve to “wash that year right outa my hair”; and so I did, taking no prisoners; and I felt all the better for achieving my goal.

May every day be “Good News Day”!  Who am I trying to kid??  "Hopefully Hopeful-Lee" they call me!

Capsicum-Mint Salad: Preheat oven, 200C. Cut 8 red and 8 yellow capsicums into chunks; place in a large roasting pan; toss with 1/2c olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper; cook on centre shelf, 50mins; toss frequently. Remove from oven; cool. Place in serving bowl with some pitted black or green olives. Pour over some balsamic vinegar to taste; toss with 2 chopped bunches fresh mint; season to taste; crumble feta or goat cheese over top..  

Spiced Fish & Noodle Salad: Whisk together 1/2c soy sauce, 1tbs fish sauce, 4tbs sweet chilli sauce, 1/2c chopped coriander, 1/2tsp fresh ground ginger, 3 drops lime oil, zest and juice of 1 lemon and 2tbs teriyaki sauce; then divide in half. Marinate 300g white flesh fish fillets in half of the marinade; chill 30mins. Toss 250g cooked egg noodle or angel hair pasta in other half of marinade. Sear fish in oiled pan; transfer to rack over baking tray; cook in preheated 180C oven, 10mins; cool. Break up fish with your hands; toss 100g cooked, peeled, chopped prawns, 1 red and 1 yellow capsicum, finely chopped, 6 leaves Vietnamese mint and ½ bunch roughly chopped coriander leaves with the fish. Serve noodles in bowls topped with fish mixture.  

Lychee Sticky Muffins: In bowl combine 2c plain flour, 1tbs baking powder, 1tsp cinnamon and 1/4tsp salt. In another bowl, beat 2 eggs, 1c milk, 1/4c vegetable oil, packed ½ cup brown sugar and 1tsp vanilla until smooth. Stir into dry ingredients until just moistened.  Into each greased muffin cup (12 cup), spoon 1tsp melted butter, 1tsp brown sugar and 1 heaped tablespoon chopped fresh lychees. Top with 1/4c of the batter; bake in190C oven, 25-30mins. Invert onto foil; stand 2mins (you can be seated); remove from pan; serve warm. 

Dagwood Dogs: Preheat the fryer to 175C. To make the batter, whisk to combine 3/4c yellow cornmeal, 3/4c plain flour, 1-1/2tsp baking powder, 1/2tsp baking soda, 1tsp sugar, 1/2tsp salt and 1/8 tsp nutmeg. In another small bowl, whisk to combine 3/4c buttermilk and 2 eggs; mix this into the dry ingredients until there are no more streaks of flour, but be sure to leave lumps in the batter (do not stir those out; do not over-mix). Transfer the batter to a tall glass. Skewer 4 saveloys/frankfurts/hot dog sausagess onto wooden sticks. Roll each in enough flour to coat, then shake the excess off. Dip the floured “dogs” into the tall cup of batter; and then put them straight into the fryer for about 3 minutes, but be sure not to overcrowd your fryer. Depending on size, you might need to make two or three batches. The Dagwood Dogs are ready when the exterior is golden brown. Serve with tomato sauce/ketchup or mustard.

Rocket, Spinach Cashew Pesto: Place 2 large garlic cloves and 1 small red chilli in processor; pulse until evenly chopped; scrape down sides; add 2c roughly chopped rocket, 1c roughly chopped spinach in batches until processed; add 100g raw cashews and seasonings; process until consistency of almond meal. Add a little x-virgin olive oil, if too dry; add 100g grated parmesan, 60ml x-virgin olive oil and a splash of lemon juice: process. When well combined scrape into a bowl. Place 100g raw cashews into processor; pulse lightly; keep nuts coarse for texture; add cashews to bowl with 65g x-virgin olive oil; mix until combined; check seasonings; place into glass jars; top with a little oil; store in fridge; use as needed. Substitute toasted walnuts, if preferred.  

Spinach Balls: Preheat oven 175C. Cook enough spinach leaves to make 300g (well drained) or use 300g frozen spinach, thawed and drained.  Mix spinach with 2c Italian-style seasoned breadcrumbs, 1c grated Parmesan, 1/2c melted butter, 4 shallots, finely chopped, 4 lightly beaten eggs, salt and pepper Shape into 1-inch balls. Arrange in single layer on baking sheet; bake 20mins until lightly browned.  

Spinach Omelette: Beat 2 eggs until foamy. Thinly slice spinach, about 1/3c. Steam spinach about 1 min; drain; set aside. Add 1tbs butter to pan; melt; pour in egg; swirl to cover pan; set slightly; sprinkle spinach and 1tbs shredded Jarlsberg over egg; cook until barely dry; flip onto plate.

39 comments:

  1. Here's to a better year. And I refuse to even consider Valentines Day, Easter or any of the rest of it.
    There is still Christmas cake, and Christmas books. While they are present - so is Christmas.

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  2. Hahaha! I just had some pea and ham soup...defrosted it from my freezer. I've still a load of it in there...made from the remnants of my leg of ham! And now I'm sweating like a pig. Who has hot pea and ham soup on a day like today? Yes! Me...the idiot!

    Thanks for coming by, EC. :)

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  3. We're on a diet here. Have to lose weight for the coming wedding and I put on a couple of the kilos that I had lost ! Buggar !! All the Christmas goodies that were not finished went in the bin... you know who would have eaten them otherwise !
    Yes, here's to a good year though it hasn't begun very well has it?

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  4. I know the feeling, Helsie. A few things ended up in my bin, too!

    2015 certainly hasn't gotten off to a good start, unfortunately. Humans will never learn, will they? To waste time and one's life hating; by honouring evil and killing... ...beats me. To my thinking, it sure isn't a way to live. I will never understand such hate; such greed; living without dignity...I don't ever want to understand it.

    Thanks for coming by...I think this heat will just melt off our extra kilos gained over Christmas/New Year! :)

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  5. too much business, now there's a twist

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    1. Hi Linda...well, I guess after 10 years running the business; catering for book launches, art shows, weddings, wakes, memorial events. etc., and just the regular day to day duties of attending to the needs of the dining customers/public, as well, the partners, Mary Marks and Janene Gardner felt the time had come to do other things.

      Mary, like me, is no longer a spring chicken; and I think after many years in business (both were involved in art galleries elsewhere, long before joining together in this venture) she felt the time had come to reclaim her home and her life.

      Janene is much younger and she has teenage children and will probably do something in the arts area, which is her forte.

      They're well-liked here on the mountain and I'm sure Mary felt it was time for her to retire. The only reason they closed and didn't sell the business is because, as I said, it's Mary's home.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  6. 15th January Lee ~ good to see you have recovered enough from New Years Eve to tell the tale. Sad about the cafe closing. I was wondering if you were tempted to jump in and roll your sleeves up again to keep it open?

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  7. Hi there, Carol.....no, I'm too old now to do that sort of thing. Those days are long gone for me. As I said in my response above to Linda's comment, Mary probably is around my age...and there comes a time when we all have to be put out to pasture! :)

    Plus, it's Mary's home...and she wants to reclaim it and the peace. I don't blame her!

    Thanks for coming in...it's always nice to see you. :)

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    1. And Carol...I did also post a tale, Chapter Five of my cat tales on 6th January, nine days before this one - so I had recovered fully from my New Year's Eve celebrations quite a while back! lol

      This post actually is just a fill-in until I complete Chapter Six of what is growing into a rather lengthy story...I think it's turning into another "Gone With the Wind"...it'll be that long by the time I do finally complete it! :)

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  8. You are right about time - time stops for no one does it??? And I forget you are having summer while we are in winter. That Secret Garden looks like a nice restaurant. And I didn't know you liked tennis so much - it is big here in GA.

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    1. Hey Sandie...I think tennis a great game and although I was hopeless at playing it, I love watching the game.

      My bedside clock did stop the other day...perhaps I could've stopped time and not replaced the battery! Thanks for coming by. :)

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  9. I will not whine at your entrance to this post but will say only you would do this to their reader and then push in the knife to other holidays. So I will say SILLY SAYS AS SILLY DOES. Actually, I feel you wrote this in a cat's body with the fur brushed the wrong way. As for the entrance of 2015, this ole Kitty slept right through it. I faced the new year with a good nights rest to watch the games on TV. Never have understood the watching of Tennis nor Golf but then I am a glisten southern lady in summer. Thanks for translating the terms for us on this side of the world. Peace

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  10. Lady Di...it appears I rubbed Miss Kitty's fur up the wrong way...sorry...I wrote it with humour in mind and tongue in cheek. :)

    There are some games I can't understand why people watch on TV, too, but tennis and golf are not two of them. I enjoy watching both...both are games of skill.

    You're a glistening southern lady in summer up your way in the South....and I'm a glistening silly one in summer down this way in the Southern Hemisphere. 'Tis very warm down this way at present.

    Thanks for popping in :)

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    1. Fur is in the correct place. I too was writing with my rare humor that my sister said can often be misunderstood. LOL

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    2. All is fine, Miss Kitty! I think the heat is boiling my brain! lol

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  11. Tennis? Tennis? How can anyone waste a life watching tennis...?

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    1. Funny you should say that, Adullamite....you echo what I say about people who waste their lives watching football! But you knew I'd say that, didn't you? ;)

      Thanks for putting your tuppence worth in. :)

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  12. oooh! payback! only xxx days to Christmas...

    I love the look of that Secret Garden Restaurant, what a shame it had to close. I understand why, of course, but still, it's a shame.
    Now what's this I hear about you still having Christmas goodies?? It's the middle of January already! Eat,Eat! Mangia! Mangia! Essen! Essen! Manger! Manger!
    Just kidding.

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    1. Okay! Okay! River! Ouch! Your rap over my knuckles hurt! I feel duly reprimanded! I will spend all of today eating all the leftover Christmas goodies until there are no more! Oh! Dear! I'd better run out and get myself a supply of Quick-Eze antacids!!! Gulp! :)

      Have a great weekend...stay cool. Thanks for coming by. :)

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  14. Still haven't had time to relax here from the Christmas holidays as we're in the midst of planning a wedding shower for my son's fiance. That's tomorrow. Once that's done, then we can relax and take a breath.

    That is too bad about that cafe. I've heard that such places that require a great deal of effort to run are going out of business at least partly because the 'younger generation' don't have the same time and energy. At least that seems so here in the states. Not sure if it's true there as well.

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    1. Hey there Dave....I'm sure the wedding shower went off well and everyone had a great time. Now...the next thing is the wedding to look forward to.

      No...that wasn't the reason the cafe closed....although much effort was expended into the operation of same as it is in such businesses...the time had come, as I said...for Mary to retire. From a guess, I'd say she's in her early 70s...and she wanted her home back to being a home after 10 years of the major part of it being open to the public.

      Any business, no matter what it is, if the effort isn't put in, constantly, they will go out of business...go broke; but that wasn't the case here.

      Good to see you...thanks for coming in. :)

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  15. Tasmanian Potato Chips? Definitely adding that to my daily vocabulary. Hope you have a great 2015!

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    1. Yes, Tasmanian potato chips....hot chips/fries made from Tasmanian-grown potatoes...and they are, or were, wonderful. I've not been to The Ekka for years and years...so haven't had any for years and years.

      All the best for you and St. Pauli Girl for 2015, too, Dexter. Thanks for coming by. :)

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  16. Hi Lee, its nice to see there are still true blue Bloggers in this crazy world, I've said it before and now once again, blogging beats FaceBook hands down, but it requires more effort so lots of us drift into the easy lane. Your comment on holtieshouse is appreciated but the return to there with the back button is only temporary sad to say.

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  17. Hey Peter...good to see you. Yes, I still write my blog...usually one post a week; sometimes when I get a little spare time to spare and further inspiration I lash out with perhaps two a week...but the former is the more prevalent.

    Are you saying after your present post in your blog that you won't be posting another one until this time next year? Tsk! Tsk! Me lad...what is the world coming to?

    Thanks for coming by. :)

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  18. Considering how much Adullamite loves Christmas, he must be thrilled with this piece.

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  19. I aim to please, Jerry! :)

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  20. I'm still finishing the christmas leftovers! (Cake, chocolate and other sweet goodies!)

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  21. Hey AJ....so I'm not the only one. Also I have a couple of packets of sliced ham in the freezer, along with the pea and ham soup that I made. Christmas is a gift that keeps on giving!

    Thanks for popping in. :)

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  22. That restaurant looked lovely - I'm glad you got to go there as much as you did before they closed. Any place called The Secret Garden sounds lovely.

    That was a good idea - washing that year right out of your hair! This one hasn't started out so well either, but I'm glad we have each other, in the blog world, to remind ourselves there are wonderful, decent, nice (and fun) people like you!

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    1. Hey there Lynn. Unfortunately, it is true...this year hasn't gotten off to a good start; and yes, I, too, am grateful for my blogger "family". When we were kids and there were no computers, internet etc., we had pen pals...now our blogging pals are our pen pals. :)

      Thanks for coming in, Lynn...'tis always a pleasure "seeing" you. :)

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  23. Maybe they'll find a new buyer and reopen?

    I wish it was warm enough here for tennis! Fast forward a few months maybe.

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  24. Hi RK....they're aren't/weren't looking to sell. The property belongs to Mary...it's her home...and after 10 years open to the public operating as a gallery/bookshop/cafe she's reverted it back to her private home. The time had come for Mary to retire. She is probably in her early 70s.

    The property and business were never on the market to sell...that wasn't the intention. Reclaiming privacy was the intention. Janene, the other partner in the business, lives elsewhere here in in Mount Tamborine with her family. She is keen to delve solely back into the art side of things once she's enjoyed a bit of a break.

    The tennis is great, but the heat has been horrendous! Storms cooled it down somewhat late yesterday...but the temps will rise again in the next couple of days. Well...it is summer, I guess!

    Thanks for coming by. :)

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  25. That restaurant looks like a real Gem....! Too bad it is closed. It really looks magical! Such a Beautiful location......Is that a Jacaranda Tree? We have them here and those blooms are my very favorite color......Lavender! GORGEOUS!

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  26. G'day Naomi...yes, that is a jacaranda tree in the background. We have a lot of them growing here where I live. I love them and have done ever since I was a kid. They're a beautiful tree...and beautiful blooms.

    It's so nice to "see" you...I hope you're doing well. Thanks for popping in. Take good care of yourself. :)

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  27. Hi Lee!! Wow I haven't ridden in bumper cars in forever. Memories! Sad to hear about the cafe :(

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  28. Hi OE....I've not ridden in a bumper car for ages, too...I probably wouldn't be able to get into one nowadays...let alone get out again! My stupid arthritic right hip wouldn't allow it! lol

    Thanks for dropping by. :)

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  29. I've just installed iStripper, and now I can watch the best virtual strippers on my desktop.

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