Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Big Dance at Sydney Dance Company … How I Learned To Dance

When you think of the prestigious Sydney Dance Company, you may think it’s only for professional dancers and it’s beyond your reach. I didn’t learn to dance when I was a child. I learnt to dance when I was an adult in my early 30s, an age where people say “that’s too late”. That’s probably true if you want to become a professional ballet or contemporary dancer. But is there truly no hope at all to become a reasonably good dancer? If you want to dance better than some night clubber, pick up choreography reasonably quickly so you can put on a good performance on stage, then you don’t need to start learning when you're straight out of your diapers. I started in my early 30s during a time when I finished most of my studies, and was reasonably established in my professional career. Before then, staying fit wasn’t at the forefront of my mind as I thought I still had time and I’ll make it up later. So it was just focussing on my work, progressing in my career and doing well in my postgraduate studies. It’s probably fair to say my life was fairly unbalanced back then. I had a wake up call one day after long hours and late nights got me pretty sick. I had never felt so sick in my life and I had to take a load of antibiotics until my health started to turn around. When I got my strength back I made a decision to change my lifestyle – exercise and a good diet in my life was a must in living a healthier and happier life. But I didn’t want to go to a gym, as that’s boring and I will never commit to it. I wanted something I could stick with because I was interested and engaged.

I was invited to a wedding one day, an Indian wedding to be precise and I recalled seeing dancers entertain the guests with a form of dance I wasn’t familiar with at the time…bollywood. I was drawn to these bollywood dancers – the energy, their sequined colourful costumes, and the intricacies of their hand movements were so beautiful.  Whilst I did not understand the lyrics of the Hindi songs, there was an immediate senses of happiness and joy in the music. I went home and googled to see whether there were classes in bollywood dance and I was in luck - there were. I joined a class and from thereon my obsession with bollywood dance and all forms of dance begun. I recall my first few classes. I felt like an idiot, so self-conscious that everyone was watching me, but braved it on stage as a beginner performer. In my mind I thought it was just an alternative way to boost self-confidence so I could get over the fear of standing up in front of a lot of people. I did have that fear back then. I didn’t like being in the limelight at all. After a few years of dance training, I don't mind it now. A few months became a few years and I worked my way up to bollywood intermediate classes. I remembered practising and memorising everyday and even on the train, I had my headphones on, marking the steps of the routines in my head. I thought I would never learn to do spot turns. I’m not perfect at it but I can do them now. Once I got the steps, you start watching You Tube clips of other really good dancers (some of whom are good friends now) on technique and style to improve the form of your movement so that it's not just moving, but its adding some character form to it. It’s a bit like taking a photo of an object versus taking a photo of the object that’s stylised. The stylised version is so much better as it's interesting to look at - it tells a story. When I travelled overseas, I also made an effort to try classes in New York, London, Dubai and Paris to learn different styles. Would you believe there is a bollywood dance schools in Paris?

Photography by See.Taste.Do
after the Big Dance rehearsals over the weekend at Sydney Dance Company

My confidence lifted from this training and determination to become an above average dancer and I went from bollywood to jazz classes at Sydney Dance Company for the challenge but also as a way to improve dance technique and precision of my steps. Initially, I found jazz hard, it’s unlike bollywood where you can get away with less precision in some steps, but with jazz it’s all technique. Hard is good as it’s challenging. I stuck with it and attended the jazz beginner class lead by Ramon Doringo, Studio Director of Sydney Dance Company on a regular basis. Eventually I started to get his style. If it’s your first time, you may feel like you want to cry but if you have the determination and stamina to stick with it every week it becomes easier. The second and third classes are much easier. It’s always hard at the beginning but the key is to just have fun, don’t take it too seriously and enjoy the challenge. It became easier for me to learn the steps in Ramon’s jazz class as he does break it down pretty well. And don’t be phased out by the people who are at the front of his class. We all started somewhere, and they just started a bit earlier and moved their way to the front of the class. The other thing I like about Ramon’s class is that he splits the class into 2 groups at the end so you have to perform the routine you learned in his class in front of each other. Daunting at first, but it is fun and inspiring to watch the other group. Everyone is in the same boat.

Chat with Ramon Doringo, Studio Director, Sydney Dance Company

Ramon Doringo’s jazz classes are one of the best classes in Sydney I've been to which is why keep coming back to Sydney Dance Company for the consistency, challenge and professionalism. I caught up with Ramon to find out a little about how dance started for him.

Ramon’s love of dance started in the Philippines when he was a small boy. He was drawn to folk dancing performances. “My parents didn’t have a lot of money” he said and anything that involved getting costumes was expensive and wasn’t affordable back then. Though that did not stop Ramon from pursuing a career in dance. It wasn’t until after school that Ramon started his dance training in the Philippines. It wasn’t the usual ballet or jazz training that we would normally think of for someone who starts out a career in dance, but folk dancing. His training started through a scholarship he had won. From then on he pursued his passion for folk dancing until one day a Sydney choreographer visited the Philippines and performed a contemporary dance style which Ramon was drawn to. Through new contacts in Australia, Ramon auditioned for dance roles in Australia and his professional work landed him roles in ensemble in one of his first musicals in Sydney called Chess. I recall that was the first musical I had ever watched in my teens and ever since then I love musicals. His professional work includes theatre, film, promotion and music videos. He is now one of Sydney’s highest profile commercial choreographers and dance instructors.

There are many benefits in getting yourself involved in dance. “Dance makes you look younger”, says Ramon and “It gives you confidence”. How true, all my dance friends are beauty queens regardless of their ages and without allowing the performance limelight get to their heads too much.

What’s Ramon’s advice to aspiring dancers? To have a successful career in dance, you need the ‘IT factor’ as opposed to the ‘X factor’, according to Ramon. The ‘IT factor’ is something personal you bring to the dance, that makes someone watch you when you perform. Also, if you want a successful career in dance, "don’t be intimidated, don’t think about it too much, and stop comparing yourself to others". You need to be persistent, put in the hardwork, be passionate about it and be able to collaborate and work with others. This is a critical element in the dance industry. If you can’t collaborate and only work silo then forget it - the dance industry is not for you. Importantly, keep fit, eat healthy and look after your body.

So all this dance training has now led me down the path of joining Big Dance, the largest celebration of dance in the world, coinciding with Sydney Dance Company’s 45th birthday. Initiated by the Mayor of London in 2006, this biennial event is the world’s biggest celebration of all types of dance. 2014 sees Australia take a leading role as Sydney Dance Company’s Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela has choreographed a new large-scale dance routine that will be performed by thousands in Sydney, London and Glasgow. I’ve rallied my friends I have met through my journey of dance through the years to join thousands of other dancers of all ages and abilities to rehearse for the free special event at the Sydney Opera House on Sunday, 13 July 2013. In Sydney, Big Dance will be held outside on the Sydney Opera House Northern Broadwalk on 13 July, with live video links to London and Glasgow via satellite.

Anyone can learn to dance; anyone can get up and learn to perform in front of a big crowd. You don't need to have started young, you can start now. Go on, give it a go!

For more information on Big Dance, go to Sydney Dance Company's website. For more information on class timetables, click here.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Embers Mezze Bar | Darlinghurst

I watched my final film at the Sydney Film Festival last weekend with a friend on Saturday and decided to get some dinner afterwards. As we had watched a film set in Brazil, Casa Grande (which I recommend by the way) we thought to end the night with some Brazilian food in Darlinghurst (Ovo Café apparently is well known amongst the Brazilian locals). However, when we got there it was closed (I’ll just have to review this one another time) and so we decided to try an establishment across the road instead. I absolutely love Lebanese food. It’s not only the generous portions, the heartiness, the meat and blend of spices, but also the hospitality of the people and families of the Middle Eastern culture generally. The people I got to know are very warm, welcoming and treat you as if you are a part of their family. I got a sense of the culture when I learned the Arabic language (reading and writing) and Lebanese dialect for about 12 months (MarHaba. Ki-fik lyo-m? – Hello, how are you today? (addressed to a female)). I learnt the Arabic alphabet by singing it (alef, be, te, the …etc) and once you know the alphabet like English, you can read and write it. If you want an insight into their culture, a book you will enjoy reading is Tea with Arwa, authored by Arwa El Masri. Through telling her story, Arwa demystifies the veil and shows the importance of belonging, how everyone is looking for the same thing, safety, love, family, a home, and a good meal, regardless of faith. I loved it and must read it again sometime.

Beautiful Beirut architecture. Beirut is known as
the 'Paris of the Middle East'

My Arabic calligraphy handwriting at a workshop in Dubai
Candle light at Embers Mezze Bar in Darlinghurst,
soft and romantic

This establishment is best described as modern Middle Eastern: just think of all the Middle Eastern food you are familiar with but done and presented with a modern twist using traditional flavours of the Middle East.

For those interstate and not visiting Sydney anytime soon, you may wish to try combining some familiar ingredients mentioned below when cooking to see how it tastes.

Location and Ambience

Embers Mezze Bar is located in the grand Rococo style building on 52 Oxford Street, in the heart of the hustle bustle of Darlinghurst in Sydney. There is an inviting warmth when you step into the dimly lit, rustic establishment with a touch of Rococo style elegance.

Look around and you will notice two giant quirky paintings of a man and a woman. Both pictures show a man and woman smoking with a beer hose in traditional Middle Eastern outfits, in contemporary style.



We weren’t overly hungry but could eat. These are the 3 dishes we had and I would definitely have again.

#1 Haloumi with honey and za’atar crumbs ($13)

If your tastebuds were asleep then this will wake them up. The salty rubbery texture of haloumi combined with the sweetness of honey and za’atar, which essentially is a generic name in Arabic for a family of related Middle Eastern herbs including thyme, sesame, and oregano, were delicious. Why didn't I think of that combination before when grilling haloumi?

Haloumi with honey and za’atar crumbs

#2 Cauliflower chickpea and pomegranate salad ($16)

This is a vegetarian dish comprising of chargrilled cauliflower, chickpeas, pine nuts, parsley and pomegranate molasses (or syrup). The smoky flavour of the cauliflower and the sweet and sour pomegranate molasses were a good combination. An appetising dish that make you feel like you want more when you get to the end.

Cauliflower chickpea and pomegranate salad

#3 Scallop nayeh with chilli baba ganoush and crisby Lebanese bread ($19)

Nayeh is the Arabic word for raw (a signature Lebanese cuisine is kibbeh nayeh, which is essentially is raw meat mixed in a range of spices if you are game to try it). So essentially we were eating raw scallops with the baba ganoush spiced with chilli. I never thought about frying Lebanese bread. It was something different from the usual soft flat bread I'm use to and it went well with the scallop and baba ganoush.


The quality of the food and presentation were excellent and the flavours simply amazing. All dishes are meant to be shared which ensures you the flexibility to try a bit of everything. All dishes use traditional ideas with a modern twist. A very enjoyable and creative menu. I loved everything about the establishment.


A picture I took when I travelled the Middle East

Where? 52 Oxford St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010
Phone: (02) 8354 1100

Embers Mezze Bar on Urbanspoon 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Paddington Station Coffee House | Brisbane

Would you believe until last week, I’ve never been to Brisbane. I’ve been to Queensland many times, mainly to The Whitsundays and Sunshine Coast, but never Brisbane. I was there for work for a day last week and thought I’d have to eat lunch at some point and thought where could I go? I heard about Paddington Station Coffee House in Rosalie Village through word of mouth of a friend who is almost a local there. Leaving Sydney on a frosty winter’s day for balmy Brisbane weather was a warm welcoming relief. It wasn’t too long in the day that I ended up carrying rather than wearing my Sydney overcoat.  

Location & Ambience

It seems Paddington Station Coffee House is a little establishment not even the locals are familiar with. I was in Brisbane CBD at the time and thought to cab it there thinking the cab driver should know the place or at least the street it was on. I thought wrong. The cabby dropped me at some place (corner of Petrie Terrace and Caxton Street) about 6 minutes away by car or another 30 minutes walk. There were cafes around the area I was dropped off and could have decided to go their for lunch instead. I resisted and took another cab to where I was suppose to be. So a journey that should have taken about 10 minutes from Brisbane CBD took about 20 minutes in total. Moral of the story is don't assume cabbies know where they are going and check Google maps before you get out of the cab!

When you reach Paddington and Rosalie in Brisbane, you will notice the rolling leafy hills, a contrast to the Paddington in Sydney which is known for its Victorian residential terraces. The area is speckled with quaint cottages, enticing shopfronts, and renovated Queenslander homes. It’s a pretty suburb. Visitors will love browsing for quirky keepsakes, vintage and designer fashion, antique and second-hand treasures, retro goods, homewares, and artwork. Rosalie Village is a pocket of streets tucked behind Paddington.

At 141 Baroona Road, Rosalie, Paddington Station Coffee House is a small casual establishment tucked inside a village complex. When you walk in, you will be captivated by the sophisticated vintage style décor that is aesthetically pleasing in this little space. Look around and you will notice the café is decorated in a 1920s London style, to replicate the feel as if you were on Paddington Station in London during that time. I had slight nostalgia when I went to this establishment as Paddington Station is not too far from the beautiful Marylebone in London West End, where I stayed in a little terrace apartment for a while whilst studying in London. Look up above the counter and there is a large Old Town clock and a departure and arrival board with the destination station names and platform numbers.

On racks against the brick wallpaper are dusty brown luggage bags stacked one on top of another, to give you the feel as if you are sitting in a train carriage. The walls are decorated with antique pictures, spoons and plates, probably to evoke the feeling that the train journey is one done in first class style. The centrepiece on the wall is a large mirror that looks like a late 19th century French Louis XV style, gilt pastille-work salon mirror, with its frame decorated with fine gilt pastille-work Rocaille motifs.

I was there around 1.45pm which is probably after the usual lunch hour rush and it was pleasantly not crowded. I ordered lunch at the counter from the friendly staff and took a seat at one of the old fashion arm chairs in beautiful neutral coloured fabric upholstery with the label 'child-free area'.

I was greeted by Les, the owner of Paddington Station Coffee House with his Scottish accent which is like music when he speaks. Brisbane is unlike Sydney and Melbourne, Les tells me. Whilst Sydney and Melbourne retains much of its historical features of their buildings, Brisbane is a more modern city. If you go to a café in Brisbane, more often than not a lot of them are contemporary in look and feel.  


Les and his wife, Jacqueline wanted to bring to Brisbane an establishment that retains that antique London feel of Paddington Station with “a touch of class” and delivering wholesome food made with the freshest ingredients locally sourced made the old fashion way - homebaking. All their food ingredients are of the highest quality and their menu offers a good range of mouth watering and healthy breakfast or lunch meals, ideal for people on gluten-free diets.

I had ‘The Victorian Salad’ ($16.90) for lunch which had turkey breast with cinnamon honey baked pumpkin, crumbled feta, cranberry dressing, chopped avocado, cherry tomatoes, red onion and baby spinach. The freshest ingredients used in this salad makes all the difference as well as the interesting combination taste of cinnamon, honey, feta and cranberry.

When I go to Brisbane again, I will try the other wholesome food on their lunch menu. These include:

BLT – Crispy short cut bacon, fresh tomato, mayonnaise and lettuce on Turkish toast ($12.50)

The Big Ben – Tender rib eye steak, with their own caramelised onion jam, BBQ sauce, tomato, beetroot and lettuce on Turkish toast ($14.90)

Honey baked pumpkin and crumbled Danish feta, with their own caramelised onion jam and baby spinach on Turkish bread ($13.90)

Also, their range of cakes and scones will ensure you need to do many trips back to try them all.

I didn’t see their breakfast menu, but a friend suggested I try their porridge too. Having porridge in the afternoon is a bit strange so I will save that one for next time.

Les gave me ‘Apple & Almond’ muffin to try, “For the flight home” he warmly says, “It’s got to be better than the plane food”. It doesn’t even compare. The aroma of homebaked muffin from Rosalie filled the cabin air in the Qantas plane later that evening travelling from Brisbane to Sydney. I ate that muffin with a hot cup of tea when I got back home to a frosty Sydney later that night, and even then it was soft and fluffy. A beautiful and tasty homebaked muffin – oh, if only they deliver to Sydney!


This is a lovely warm establishment in the heart of Brisbane’s Rosalie village with beautiful antique décor that will ensure you take the time to look at each vintage piece; homemade food that is seasonally fresh, healthy, delicious and with variety to ensure you keep coming back; friendly service that feels like you are welcomed into a friend’s home. Despite being dropped off the wrong place by the Brisbane cabby, I'm glad to have pushed on and had lunch at Paddington Station Coffee House. I'll definitely be back.


4/151 Baroona Rd Paddington QLD 4084

(07) 3161 8543
Paddington Station Coffee House on Urbanspoon

Bits & Pieces to Buy at The Grounds Markets | Sydney

I went to The Grounds Markets on the Queen's public holiday to help out with product photography for one of the market stalls, Lisa's wonderful Fragrant Flame Soy Candles (check out my earlier review, What soy candles tickle your senses). My home smells so good ever since I came across Lisa's candles. She has such a vast range of different smelling candles, each fragrance telling their own story.


I also collected the following goodies along the way:

 #1 Maya Sunny Honey 100% pure honeycomb

This is like a mini beehive in a jar. This is 100% pure honeycomb made with a lot of love from Mother Nature. It takes about 400-500 bees working for many weeks to sculpture this honeycomb. Eating honeycomb is a luxury and the only time I've tried honeycomb is at hotel buffets.  This 100% raw honey is handcrafted by Andrew Wyszynski and his busy hardworking bees. Andrew believes honey should be enjoyed in its purest form to get the most out of its nutritional properties. You can get their honeycomb jar from

Maya Sunny Honey 100% pure honeycomb

#2 The Grounds Breakfast Burger

I was there early on a public holiday morning and with a lot to choose from The Grounds breakfast menu I just asked the waitstaff what was their most popular breakfast. The lady said "Definitely The Grounds breakfast burger". It tasted like a cross between a bacon and egg muffin and a cheese burger. It was melt in your mouth delicious and relatively small in size so you don't have to worry about needing to go to the gym afterwards. Wash it down with The Grounds coffee and you're done for breakfast.

#3 The Ground’s freshly baked loaves of bread

There is a good range of freshly baked loaves of bread to choose from at The Grounds. I tried the persimmon fruit loaf which was good. It's a  dense fruit loaf but small in size.

#4 The Ground’s Mango & Coconut Muffin

You have just got to try this. You can't go wrong with freshly baked mango and coconut muffin.

#5 Recreational Studio Fine Jewellery

For a bit of indulgence, check our Recreational Studio's super fine rings. I got the Turquoise Whisper Gold super fine ring. I love the turquoise colour. It's made of silver but with a 18K coating around the ring. Emma Swann is the designer behind Recreational Studio, exquisitely producing intricate fine jewellery. I love the simplicity in her designs. Elegance doesn't have to be complicated.

You can also purchase Emma's fine jewellery online at

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Film: The Lunchbox | Around Australia from July 10

There were a lot of films that showcased at the Sydney Film Festival and The Lunchbox was one of the first films I chose to get tickets for. Why? Well, firstly I had a natural affinity to all things bollywood as I’ve been trained in that genre of dance – so much colour, liveliness and energy. It’s one of those things that makes me feel good every time I perform a Bollywood number. Secondly, the film contains food and romance. I love Indian food – the wonderful blend of spices and naan bread. And romance, well let’s just say the film contains enough ingredients to make you feel good.  Did you miss out seeing it at the Sydney Film Festival? Fear not. The Lunchbox will be screening in selected cinemas around Australia from 10 July.

If you are like me and check out the international reviews before seeing a film locally you would have noticed The Lunchbox received widespread critical acclaim. The Lunchbox is a clever crowd-pleaser from first-time director Ritesh Batra and starring Bollywood/Hollywood crossover star Irrfan Khan (Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire), Nimrat Kaur, an Indian film and stage actress, and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, an Indian film actor who has appeared in some of Bollywood's major films.

The story centres around 3 people: Saajan is a lonely accountant about to retire from his job. Ila is a young wife seeking her husband's attention, looking for ways to put romance back in her marriage, and tries to cook her way to her husband's heart. The story is inspired by Mumbai's remarkable dabba (lunchbox) delivery system, in which only one in four million home-cooked meals is ever incorrectly delivered. That one wayward lunch links Ila with Saajan. Meanwhile Saajan deals with a young employee, Shaikh, he is supposed to train to replace him when he retires.

You can taste the food in this film without eating it. The film illustrates how old fashion letters and the longer wait for replies can be more effective to make your heart flutter than emails received in an instant; how food can transform the unlikeliest of people; and the key quote in the film, ‘how the wrong train can sometimes lead you to the right platform’. There is no shortage of good humour which will have you chuckling along the way. My favourite scenes are when Shaikh chops vegetables on the train to save food preparation time when he gets home for dinner and the scenes with ‘the heard but never to be seen’ Auntie who shouts out advice from apartment above to Ila on cooking and marriage.

It was a full house at the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace in Cremorne when we watched The Lunchbox on a Sunday night, The Lunchbox did not disappoint and received an applause from the audience at the end of the film. Hats off to the director and the cast, The Lunchbox is a brilliant film, probably the best I have seen so far this year. It's fantastic the film is distributed again in selected cinemas around Australia. I would definitely watch it again.

A dabbawala is a person in India who is part of a
delivery system that collects hot food in lunch boxes

When? From July 10
Running Time? 123 minutes
Rating? PG Language: Hindi with English Subtitles
Cinemas locations?
- Palace Verona, Cremorne, Palace Norton St, Dendy Newtown, Dendy Opera Quays, Roseville, Randwick Ritz
VIC – Rivoli, Cinema Nova, Palace Como, Palace Brighton Bay, Yarraville, Kino, Balwyn, Classic Elsternwick
ACT - Palace Electric
SA - Palace Eastend
WA - Windsor WA, Luna SX
TAS - State Cinema Hobart
QLD - Palace Centro, Gold Coast Arts, Regal Graceville

Saturday, June 7, 2014

6 talented crafters I discovered at The Finders Keepers Markets

I went to The Finders Keepers Markets in Sydney today for the first time. What a great concept. Its purpose is to bring independent design to the forefront and encourage the Australian emerging art and design scene, creating a market scene that maintains the grass roots level but with high standards in both quality and innovative design. The Finders Keepers Markets are a bi-annual event that showcases the work of emerging designers and artists from all around Australia and even New Zealand. The first markets are held in Sydney and now they have the markets interstate in Brisbane and in Melbourne. There I got to know some of the crafters and picked up a few of their unique and high quality handcrafted bits and pieces. The good thing is that although the markets were only on this weekend in Sydney, those who missed out or live out of town can purchase some of these items online or at least get in touch with the crafters themselves via email. The only disappointment is that it’s a bi-annual event rather than a weekly event. I hope to see the Australian arts, craft and design scene flourish strongly one day, as they do in other major capital cities in the world. It’s important to support local businesses, rewarding them with the recognition they deserve for their creative talent, passion for creating beautiful items, business nous and a sense of sharing to create a more vibrant, distinctive and ethical community. The Finders Keepers Markets are a step in the right direction.

These are my 6 favourite items I picked up from The Finders Keepers Markets in Sydney.

Interesting stalls at The Finders Keepers markets

#1 Ambling Home. A beautiful vintage rose coloured rug or throw caught my eye today. When I picked it up, it said “This rug has been hand knitted from left over pieces of wool, it is a unique design”. Ambling Home’s craft are all unique designs made using recycled vintage fabric, bed linen, souvenir tea towels, buttons, handles, zippers, cushion inserts and coffee bean bags. Products made with a conscience and ensuring there is less landfill. How could I not purchase this beautiful rug, and by the way this little bag too? The bag has been made from reclaimed linen, vintage recycled bed sheet and vintage doily. The handles are made from upholstery jute. I love Ambling Home’s motto too: Taking the time to mosey along…It demonstrates that each item is made with a lot of patience, love and care. It was great to meet the mother and daughter team, Amanda and Emma today. Looks like they do sewing classes too, which I would love to try next, making all things vintage.

Vintage rose rug from Ambling Home

Ambling Home: Mother & Daughter team
Want to get in touch with the talented vintage crafter, Amanda Johnson?
Instagram: @ambling_home

#2 Angus & Celeste. “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Angus and Celeste combine simple materials with complicated processes to produce nothing less than pure objects of desire. The time and attention to detail involved is obvious when you look at this vase or water jug and the matching cups I bought today. I love the simplicity of the white and mint colours, complicated with a unique water overflow effect. If you pour hot tea into the cup, the water over flow feature allows you to hold the cup so the heat doesn’t burn your hands. It’s an alternative to having a handle. Angus & Celeste are a design partnership from Melbourne, Australia.

You can have a look at their beautiful homeware range at


#3 Black Pantry. Fragrant marshmallows handmade with quality ingredients is what Black Pantry specialises in. They are addictive because they are exquisitely soft, lightly powder-coated sugary treat and delicious. Black Pantry’s marshmallows come in Rosewater, Vanilla Bean and Orange Blossom. Eat it as is with a cup of tea (see below).

Want Black Pantry handmade marshmallows? Contact:

Black Pantry's handmade marshmallows

#4 DessertMakers. Merna is the backbone to DesssertMakers. Merna’s fig & ginger pudding poured with her handmade vanilla pouring custard is my favourite. Merna uses fresh Australian ginger and whole Turkish figs in this classic pudding. The stewed figs are added to our pudding mix which is made with the best quality ingredients including free range eggs and Pepe Saya Cultured Butter, then steamed in the oven. When the pudding is hot they pour over a toffee sauce which couples perfectly with the flavours of the fig and ginger.

Merna's cooking reflects her food philosophy; if you use the best quality ingredients, you get the best possible taste, and as Merna would say 'The proof is in the pudding'. DessertMakers products are sold frozen to ensure freshness. There are no artificial additives or preservatives in the crumbles or puddings.

Where to get DessertMakers awesome desserts?

#4 Griffin Jerky. The Srirachuan beef jerky is a great snack. ‘Srirachuan’ has the word ‘Sichuan’ and for those who know their Asian food, know that Sichuan food is hot and spicy, and I don’t mean mild curry hot. It’s bags of chilli in soup hot and I love it! A Griffin Jerky is handcrafted, naturally delicious, has no preservatives, gluten free and sustainably raised. A high quality jerky snack.

Where to get Griffin Jerky?

Available online through

Griffin Jerky
#6 Kettle Town. I’m a big fan of Kettle Town’s Zanzabari Chai tea, there’s no secret in that. It’s a Zanzibari inspired authentic chai with a rich ginger kick. See my review. I also like their white tea, Summer Rose, described as “a perfect summer companiion with subtle citrus notes and irresistible rose aroma”. People familiar with Kettle Town’s tea know they are designed to be paired with desserts.

I had my Summer Rose Tea with Black Pantry’s handmade marshmallows for afternoon tea which was devine. Eat the Srirachuan beef jerky before the marshmallow and then the tea to really tantalise your tastebuds. All three work well together. The tea would go well with DessertMakers' Fig and Ginger pudding too!

Kettle Town’s teas are available from

Friendly visitor with his (or her) stall owner at The Finders Keeper markets

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars | Palace Cinemas around Australia

I watched the trailer to the film, The Fault in Our Stars and it brought tears to my eyes in that short footage. I knew it was a film I had to watch. Two young adults who appear to be very sick trying to live life the best they can with the bodies they have been given with. In my younger days, I use to be hooked reading young adult fiction as there was always a character I wanted to be like. I wanted to be in their story. When libraries were the place to go to those days, I use to borrow volumes of them and finished reading them all within days. This one though, I think I’m happy to sit on the sideline and observe. I have grown up with people who have had chronic illnesses - some made it through, and some unfortunately did not, but who will forever remain in my heart and memories.

Fault in Our Stars is based on John Green's best-selling young adult novel and stars Divergent's Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. Teen cancer patient Hazel Grace Lancaster (Woodley) reluctantly attends a support group for the disease, where she meets handsome cancer survivor Augustus Waters (Elgort), who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous given that Hazel's other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they met and fell in love at a cancer support group.

I can’t wait to see it. I’ll update the post with my review of the film.

When does it start?Screening starts 4 June

Palace Norton Street in Sydney and selected Palace Cinemas around Australia

More information