Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Things to do in 2010

Posted by lea at 12:57 PM 4 comments Links to this post
Learn to use my SLR camera better to take great photos (which I will post to show my improvement).

Get a tattoo. I'm planning either a firefly or a real image of a star (a ball of gas rather than the pointy edged ones). What do you think of these:

PS - a new layout for a new year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Leanne the Brave

Posted by lea at 11:13 AM 0 comments Links to this post
When I was younger, one of my favourite series was about Ramona Quimby - a girl with spunk. Now that we're just days away from a new year and a new set of resolutions, I'm reminded of Ramona as I prepare to make mine.

Suspecting that this year will be no different from the previous ones if I just continue to recycle the usual suspects of unaccomplished resolutions (waking up earlier and exercising regularly), I'm just going to hinge everything on one big resolution:

- the year of knocking down boundaries and taking on challenges and not procrastinating and being proactive and trying new things and not worrying about conventions or opinions or expectations.

For my birthday this year I was given the book Conversations with God and one of the things it said that made sense was that everything in this world is either motivated by fear or love. So this year I'm going to try my hardest not to do things from fear, but from love.

Practically, part of living fearlessly will mean:
  • I'll dance when I want to, even though I'm so crap at it (I've been practicing the robot and it's not a pretty sight);
  • I'm going to wear skirts and not feel self-conscious (yes legs, you will be seen and finally tanned);
  • I'll be brave and try new experiences when the opportunity comes up, and not shy away from things.
As we get older, I think the potential to become more stuffy and controlled and rigid about our patterns and preferences increases. We're not as adventurous as we used to be in our teens when we were pushing our boundaries and discovering our likes and dislikes. But I'm not a child anymore, so instead of trying to 'discover myself', I'm going to create the world I want. (Also from the book, the idea that life is not about discovery, but about creation. We speak things into reality and create our world with vision - that's faith.)

So that's going to be my 2010. Watch out world - you've been warned.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas celebrations round #3: girlfriends

Posted by lea at 4:45 PM 0 comments Links to this post
On Sunday night we had a 10 year reunion with a group of girlfriends we had Christmassed with in 1999. Changes between 1999 to 2009:
  • 4 out of 6 of us are now married
  • one of us currently lives in Geneva although the rest are still in Sydney
  • we all have our own bedrooms now (10 years ago, only one of us did)
  • we all have full-time jobs (actually it was probably only Jenny and myself who lived like hobos back then, but we can't say we didn't have fun!)
On the menu:

Beer can chicken (with roast vegetables)

Quick directions for the beer can chicken: buy a good sized fresh whole chicken (organic if you can). Take the entire lid off a can of beer and drink half (you'll need it to steady your nerves for what comes ahead), or alternatively, transfer half a can or bottle of beer into a mason jar (or clean ex-tomato paste or other glass jar).

Throw a bunch of herbs and spices into the remaining beer, like rosemary, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, Moroccan spice mix (love this stuff), chilli, cayenne pepper and cloves. Separately, create a spice rub using the same spices mixed with 2 tbs olive oil and 2 tbs softened butter. Lay your chicken down and rub the spice mix all over the skin and get your fingers right under the skin to also rub the spices into the flesh. Tip: don't apologise to the chicken. Personifying it will only make it harder. Just grit your teeth and remember that if you cook it right, it won't have died in vain.

Pick up the chicken and impale it onto the can or jar of beer, standing upright on a baking tray. Pop it into a pre-heated oven or BBQ at 180 deg C for 60min. It comes out delicious - 360 degrees of crispy spiced skin and juicy flesh flavoured from the internal workings of the beer.

Moroccan cous cous with roast veg and rocket leaves

Chop pumpkin and sweet potatoes into 1cm cubes and roast in the oven until slightly browned. While they're in the oven, add 1 cup of cous cous to 1 cup of hot vegetable stock, add some Moroccan spice, mix with a fork and cover. Wash some rocket leaves and chop a handful of mint and parsley leaves. Fork through the fattened couscous grains until they separate, then add the baked vegetables, rocket and herbs. It's ready to serve and a delicious accompaniment to any meal.

A side of garlic asparagus

A really simple but delicious side dish is garlic asparagus. Chop off the woody ends, wash and dry the asparagus. Heat a pan, add some olive oil and when it's nice and hot, throw in around 2-3 cloves of chopped garlic for each bunch of asparagus. When the garlic is slightly brown, throw in the asparagus. Toss until it starts becoming a nice bright green, then grind some salt over the top and serve. Easy.

The evening did have a purpose other than eating though... ten years ago we'd written down a list of 10 things we wanted to do before we died and placed it in a very fitting time capsule: a VHS case. After dinner, we sat around with some delicious French pastries and read aloud our lists one at a time. They were hilarious!

The points that had been accomplished included:
  • travelling (for most of us)
  • Mia owning her own studio
  • Glenda meeting the man of her dreams
  • I woke up before 6.30am at least once in my life (probably never again after the first time)
  • Glenda and Ron watching a live grand slam tennis match
  • Jenny conversing with her biological mother
The points we laughed over:
  • both Ron and Andie wanted their own rooms (at the time they were sharing)
  • Jenny wanted to do something fearless like acting in a movie or interviewing strangers
  • I wanted to 'write a best seller.. or at least a pretty decent book... or at least something that gets published'
I can't remember all the points, but afterwards we wrote a list of 5 things we'd like to do, be or have in five years time, along with a snapshot of our lives now. My 5 things:
  1. To potentially have another Bloom Training Centre set up, either somewhere else in Cambodia or in another country.
  2. To have happy, well-adjusted kid(s) - either our own or adopted - and a great family.
  3. To have my own business with freedom and flexibility.
  4. To have a good wardrobe I can wear anything from and look good (hey, I'm a girl!)
  5. ... can't remember the fifth one. Guess I'll find out in 2014!

Christmas celebrations round #2: friends

Posted by lea at 3:33 PM 0 comments Links to this post
So after the mostly successful Parkside Family Christmas Lunch on Saturday, we followed it up with our Kris Kringle Friends' Christmas Dinner. Most are married young couples now and there are two kids in the group - one a gorgeous one year old Korindian and the other a terrible-two year old Eurasian. We're a mixed bunch.

The menu was pot luck, and the dishes I brought to the table were:
Mussels in white wine, garlic and chilli for starters.

Quick directions: buy 2kg fresh mussels (local ones are best) and pull off beards just before cooking. In a large pot, heat up some oil and add around 6 cloves of chopped garlic and 3-4 small red chillis (less if you can't handle the heat). When it starts to get fragrant and a little brown, add the mussels into the pot. Pour a can of chopped tomatoes and a cup of white wine over the top. Stir and put the lid on. When the mussels start to open, add a good handful of chopped continental parsley, a little salt (not too much) and stir again. Replace the lid. When all the mussels have opened, served in a nice big bowl with plenty of broth. It's delicious and a surefire way to get the party started.

Turkish Lamb Pizza

Quick directions: fry up one chopped onion, 3 green chillis and a dash of cumin and paprika in a little oil. Remove from the pan and cook 500g lamb mince until brown, and drain the juice. Add the fried onions and chilli to the minced lamb and add 2tb of tomato paste.

Spread the resulting lamb mince mix thinly onto any base you like: pre-bought or home-made pizza base, Lebanese bread or Greek pita bread. Chuck it into a pre-heated oven at around 160 deg C for around 10-15min until the edges are browned. Serve with wedges of lemon. Yum!!

Also on the table were really delicious and naturally sweet prawns with a lemon dipping sauce, marinated chicken, a complicated but beautiful Chinese chicken salad, fresh sashimi salad with a yummy sesame-base dressing, and for dessert, tiramisu and black forest cherry cake.

It was a good night on the whole and fun for everyone - especially when the kris kringle gifts came out - but some lessons learnt:
  1. Ambience is important. Consider lighting, music and mood beforehand to set the scene and make it feel 'Christmassy'. Break out the candles and when desperate, pull out Mariah Carey's Christmas CD.
  2. Punctuality makes a difference. There were some stragglers and it just kind of deflated the mood that night. One or two coming unavoidably late is ok, but when most of the party is late... it's just a bit lame. Answer: don't serve dinner too soon - start with drinks and a few snacks and go as long as it takes until everyone's arrived.
  3. Large groups need something to hold it together. If it's a massive party then it's totally cool when people break off into smaller groups to chat, but when it's a cosy one, try to keep the group together. Board games or charades or something that keeps everyone laughing together work great, even if it takes a little persuading to get everyone involved.

Christmas celebrations, round #1: family

Posted by lea at 2:54 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Christmas celebrations started off on Saturday 19th December with our Parkside Family Christmas lunch (my sister Glenda is now a Chang and I'm a Gomez, but we can't forget our Park roots). Attendees: my parents (who squeezed it in between a funeral and a wedding - they're so popular), Simon and Liz (brother and sis-in-law), Glenda and Juan (sister and bro-in-law), nephews Christian (15) and Reuben (13) and niece Hannah (3), Nathaniel, myself and Elena (sis-in-law).

On the menu:
Seafood platter

The traffic going to and from the Sydney Fish Markets was CRAZY but the resulting seafood platter was worth it. By the way, the platter pictured is a representation of my intended presentation rather than the actual presentation, which was much better but I hate to boast. Not. On the platter: fresh salmon sashimi, Sydney rock oysters, and delicious grilled prawns.

Quick directions for delicious grilled prawns: 30min before cooking, take prawns out of the fridge and marinate with chopped garlic, chopped continental parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Let it sit before grilling on a BBQ or hot plate. Yum.

Sirloin roast with gravy spread

Quick directions: Buy a good cut of beef (mine was a 2kg sirloin which cost freakin' $80!! More than any of the presents I'd bought for my family! Tip: ask your butcher how much per kilo before asking for 'the best cut for roast' and blithely agreeing like you know something.

Take the meat out of the fridge around 1.5-2hrs before you plan to roast to bring it down to room temperature. Rub spices all over it (I used a Moroccan spice mix, paprika, cumin and whatever was in the cupboard), sear in a hot pan (or better still, in the baking tray) and place in a pre-heated oven at 220 deg C for 30min. Lower to 160 deg C and if you can manage, ladle the pan juices over the roast, then back to the oven for another 15min per 500g.

Brief directions for gravy spread: Make the gravy as per usual while the roast rests, using 2 tbs of the meat juices, 1 tbs flour, 1 cup of beef stock and salt and pepper. Then let your husband take over the cooking while you go upstairs to do your make up. By the time you come down, he'll have added another tablespoon of flour thinking you read the recipe wrong, and voila: gravy spread. Seriously, you couldn't even shake it out of the gravy boat (which is really a milk jug but who really knows the difference, right?).

I also served my famous ('famous') Thai-influenced marinated chicken skewers, with recipe to come.

A platter of summer fruit
There's nothing better than summer fruit like watermelon, mangoes, strawberries and cherries. Yum!

Everything was eaten in fast forward because everyone came late and my parents had to rush off to a wedding in an hour and we all wanted to get to the gifts.

So when we were done, my parents took their new GPS and personalised calendar chocka block full of pictures of their kids and grandkids and toddled off to their wedding. Christian wouldn't take off his new sneakers and Country Road bag. Reuben insisted on 'testing out' his new iPod speakers so we had Blasting Benjamin or My Chemical Romance or whatever blaring over the top of the Christmas music. Hannah immediately put on her inflatable floatie and hugged the in-built palm tree (to provide shade) and wouldn't take it off despite the fact that it squished her sideways on the beanbag. Then she and Glenda had a deep and meaningful conversation:

Hannah: Hannah doesn't have a penis. Isaac has a penis.
(Isaac is Hannah's friend, also aged 3)
Glenda: Where is Hannah's penis?
Hannah: (thinks for a while) It's at home.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Laugh out loud Monday: Empire State of Mind ft Stephen Colbert

Posted by lea at 11:56 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Enjoy this piece of hilarity - he dances almost as well as I do! Alicia Keys performs beautifully as usual.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Alicia Keys - Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorEconomy

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Give us this day our daily blog

Posted by lea at 3:56 PM 0 comments Links to this post
I love how people now share so much of their lives with anonymous others - it's like peeking into their windows and seeing the cool stuff that they get up to. These are some of my favourite blogs that I like to peek into:

A Beautiful Mess
I'm always inspired by this blog even though I know I'll never actually do or make anything on it - like learning to crochet. It's the personal blog of Elsie Flannigan, who runs online store Red Velvet Art and is always coming up with cool lists of things she loves (I plan to steal this idea). Her excitement is infectious.

There's always a laugh to be had on this blog... usually at someone else's expense, which is how I like my laughs to come.

Another funny blog - as an ex-English tutor, bad engrish always make me laugh.

Mamamia is the personal blog of Mia Freedman, former Cosmo editor. Everyday she posts on current topics, particularly relevant for women, and her army of faithful readers have even created their own community via her comments section.

Bits and Pieces
This is the cool blog of designer Cathy Zielske that breaks down the elements of design for dummies like me and offers free tutorials on how to make layouts look good. Not (as you can see) that I ever use her advice.

Are there any other cool blogs that I should be checking out? My exposure is limited and I'm wide open here folks...

Monday, December 14, 2009


Posted by lea at 11:12 AM 2 comments Links to this post
Well I've been sitting on around 5 new reviews for books read recently and umming and ahing about whether to write/post them or not, but I've made a blog-changing decision. One that will affect all 4 people who read my blog. I'm not writing reviews anymore.

The purpose of leathinksaloud was to keep a personal record of the books I read because I often found myself halfway through books only to think, 'this sounds so familiar, haven't I read this before?' Also I was curious to know how many books I actually read (turns out it's approximately 80-100 a year, give or take a few).

But in 2010, I think I'll take a different tack. My posts will still occasionally but no longer exclusively be related to books and movies, and even then, only those I feel strongly about. Let's see where this takes us.

Anyone who actually tuned in for the book reviews can get more of them here:
withextrapulp - lots of off-the-beaten-path-books reviewed by the talented Elena G
geekreads - less frequent book and movie reviews with a touch of cynicism and a healthy dose of cerebralism by Caesar, geeklord

Happy Christmas and see you next post!

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