Spring brights: Cobalt

It’s midwinter here in Canberra, which of course has me longing for spring brights. Since spotting (and buying) a fabulous bright blue work skirt (with pockets) on sale from Veronika Maine, I’ve been seeing cobalt everywhere. Here are a few of my current faves:

David Lawrence, AUD $449

Jigsaw, AUD $199 (I love the feel & look of this one, but the neckline just doesn’t work on yours truly. Shame – it would be outstanding with the pants & skirts that follow!)

Cropped Jean

Trenery, AUD $99

Image 1 of ASOS Laptop Case With Metal Bar

ASOS, AUD$22.83

David Lawrence, AUD $119

Image 1 of Coast Pleat Bandeau Dress

Coast at ASOS, AUD $189.20

Image 1 of Hybrid Plunge Neck Peplum Pencil Dress

Hybrid at ASOS, AUD $138.64


Betts, AUD $39.99

Isn’t this colour delightfully fresh?

I’m very much in love with my cobalt skirt, as it really brightens a cold winters’ day. I’m currently styling it with a black linen blazer (similar to this one) and crisp white shirt (and patterned black stockings), but the blazer and shirt combo would look equally clean with the more relaxed cobalt jeans.

Food for thought!

Orange and star anise duck on roast beetroot & shallots

Last week I mentioned my dislike of Canberra cold to a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) aficionado. This gentleman kindly infomed me that I should eat more beetroot to warm my blood. As I rather like beetroot, and haven’t eaten any for a while, I thought it worth a shot. If nothing else, I’d get a good dose of antioxidants and delicious beetroot-y goodness!

My favourite beetroot recipes are roast beetroot, orange, walnut and feta salads, usually with some flat-leaf parsley. But to mix it up tonight, I wanted something heartier and warmer… and settled on orange and star anise duck on a bed of roast beetroot and shallots.


Recipe via SBS Food, substituting duck marylands with duck breast and adding shallots to the roasting pan when adding the duck. Delicious! Next time, I’ll add green beans with flaked almond for a pop of green on the plate.

Lessons in breadmaking – part two, yeast fix results

In yesterday’s post, after fixing the failed yeast, the bread had risen to about halfway up the bowl (from under 1/3 in the first place). Within a few hours, the bowl was full. And it’s not exactly a small bowl!


In accordance with the recipe, once the bread had risen it was time to pop it in the fridge. I baked a few lovely bread rolls this evening, and this was the result (two eaten before I had the chance to take the picture):


Rye, caraway and delicious.

Lessons in breadmaking

About a month ago,  via Steamy Kitchen, I (belatedly) discovered the fabulous peasant bread from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  No knead bread so easy a four-year-old can make it? Sign me up!

After experimenting with a few versions, due to my love of rye I made the Pete Bakes! version my go-to, and bought the book online. (It’s still in the mail, but should be here any day for more delicious bready goodness.) Delicious bread was had.

Until today! I was in a hurry this afternoon, wanting to get the dough made before the sun escaped from the sky. With Canberra’s cold weather (and water), I knew I’d need a bit of warmth in the water and so boiled a little while I was mixing the flours. To make it lukewarm instead of boiling, I topped up the rest of the jug with cold water, but didn’t think to test it first. Alas, dear reader, the water was still reasonably hot!  To make things worse, I’d thought I’d save time by adding the salt to the water with the yeast. Two major mistakes. The result, that I’m sure keen bakers will have picked up already, is that my poor yeast did not survive. The bread steadfastly refused to rise, even when placed in a warm room.

I now had a large volume of less-than-ideal bread dough, and a diagnosis (courtesy of WikiHow): overheated, salted yeast. I could continue winging it, or I could do the sensible thing: ask the internet for help. Instinct said I should add another dose of yeast dissolved in water, with some flour in proportion to the water. But instinct hadn’t quite worked out earlier. Since the internet had provided me with the recipe, surely it could provide a solution.

eHow advised me that while the instinct of adding more yeast, water and flour was correct, I should also add sugar to help things along. This time I followed instructions, ensured that the yeast was active by waiting for a foam to rise on the water/sugar/yeast mix, then let things run their course.  The bread dough went to rest in my lovely warm lounge room, and puffed up right away. Success!


Don’t be fooled, it’s a giant bowl!

Of course, the proof of the pudding (or bread, in this case) is in the eating, so I’ll have to bake & eat it to truly be successful. Photos to come!

Fancy fitness

Admission: I’m a fitness amateur. I dabble, particularly in fun things like bellydance, rowing, fencing, yoga and (casual) runs around the lake, but haven’t felt the need to stay with one thing for any particular length of time.

However, no matter the activity, I’m always a sucker for the stylish and comfortable offerings of Lorna Jane and Lululemon.

Lorna Jane is a Queensland brand, and perfect for excercising in the warmth & humidity of Brisbane. Fabrics are lightweight, breathable and preshrunk, often brightly coloured, and always comfy. Many of the items come with encouraging messages, too, which can make a difference when you’re feeling uninspired!

In the current collection I’m loving the Team Spirit Excel Tank in Jewel (AUD$59.99), and the Syndicate Bra (AUD$62.99) – just can’t go past stripes, can I? If you’re shopping online, you can even search by colour. (A feature I always love.)

Lululemon athletica is Canadian, if I recall correctly, and it’s perhaps for this reason that I find it suits chilly Canberra so well. Their garments are choc-full of thoughtful little details that really make my day. Things like slightly longer backs to the tops, extra-long cuffs with thumb holes/foldover mittens, spare hairties attached to the zips… beautiful. My favourites are the Define Jacket (AUD $129), which features all of the little touches mentioned above. I have it in black, but am since lusting after it in “concord grape”, a rich shade of almost-plum. For a warmer alternative to the Define, I’m currently loving the Scuba Hoodie (AUD$139-$149), though I’m jealous of our US friends who can get it in a fabulous emerald green! My grey version is currently warming me through Canberra’s winter, and I’m most keen to see how it goes camping once the weather warms up a touch. Halfway between the two, and another contender for my affection, is the In Stride Jacket (AUD$129) in deep indigo. The inky colour is to die for, and I’m a sucker for all those extra little features like the spare hairtie!

Footloose & recipe-free: winging it with dinner

Following recipes can be quite hard for me at times – I always want to experiment & mix things up. (I’d make a terrible patissier!) Chocolate cakes become choc-raspberry, mocha, or chocolate/gingerbread; breads acquire rosemary or caraway. Sometimes it fails (and I end up with salted caramel sauce instead of salted caramel sweets); other times it works rather well.

Tonight’s dinner is the perfect example. We had some delicious-looking Tasmanian salmon in the fridge, along with a random selection of vegetables. My partner, who I shall call Phoenix (for reasons unrelated to this post), was keen to BBQ.  Despite the Canberra winter, because he’s hardcore like that. So we deemed it appropriate to combine a few of my favourite things and get our grill on.

The inspiration (& core ingredients):

  • Tasmanian salmon
  • Japanese-style mashed potato
  • dill (possibly my favourite herb)
  • lemon-infused Cobram Estate olive oil (anyone who doesn’t love it is a liar)
  • Brussels sprouts & bacon

The result:

For those wanting a recipe, here it is Pia-style:

Lemon-dill potato smash: Roughly chop potato, leaving the skin on. (Here, I used Royal Blue, which leaves a pinky-purple skin for texture.) Parboil in the microwave, covered, until soft.  Drain, add dill (preferably fresh) and a generous glop of mayonnaise for the Japanese mashed potato taste. Drizzle with lemon-infused olive oil, then mash, stirring occasionally.

Brussels sprouts & bacon (a staple since being introduced to it via a dear friend, Emma): Coarsely chop 2 rashers of middle bacon. Chop the ends off the sprouts and halve (if small) or quarter them. Rinse the sprouts, then parboil until soft. Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a semi-deep pan until almost crispy. Drain sprouts & finish cooking with the bacon.

Barbequed salmon (per Phoenix): Take the tasty Tasmanian salmon and drizzle the shizzle out of it with the lemon infused olive oil. Coat with the dill and on a hot BBQ, cook it for 2 minutes each side. Use the grill bit for this. Only losers don’t cross hatch their meat. Pay respect to your Adonis ancestors and eat the winning flavour.

The finishing step? Throw it on a plate and enjoy.  Dear reader, it was delicious.


The nautical look has always been a summer staple, but those stripes are hard to resist for me all year round. Navy & white, red & white, black & white, it’s all good. If I had the colouring, I’d even wear yellow and white, such a crisp clean combination!

Which is why these pieces from Jigsaw & Portmans recently caught my eye:

Jigsaw, $199 AUD

Portmans, $49.95

However, with a wardrobe already full of stripes, I think I may need to restrain myself for now. (Although, that skirt does look very tempting…)