A Tasty Month

I can’t believe April is almost over. It’s been such a hectic month, and it’s just flown by. But it’s been an enjoyable busyness, and I certainly preferred it over the languishing nothingness that seemed to define March.

One of the things I most enjoyed about this month was eating out in my home city. I love the ever expanding food scene in Perth. There are new places opening up all the time, which makes it nigh on impossible to get through all the cafes I’ve got on my ‘to-eat-at’ list. Add to this, it was school holidays, plus the weather has been absolutely glorious!

Seriously, autumn has been better than summer this year, with endless days of clear, blue skies and sunny afternoons. Daytime temperatures have been warmer than usual, while the mornings and evenings are crisp enough for cosy jumpers, but not bitingly cold. It’s simply divine, and the perfect weather for exploring and being outdoors.

In the lead-up to Easter, I cut out eating biscuits, chocolate, cakes and ice-cream, so I was definitely craving some sweet treats.  Consequently, I think I consumed more sugar in the week following Easter than I did in the month preceding it.

One meal which stands out from my recent foodie forays is the apple pie French toast which I ordered for breakfast at Jack & Jill, which is located in Kalamunda, a suburb in Perth’s hills. It was absolutely heavenly. The brioche toast was lathered with the most divine creme patisserie I’ve ever tasted- it felt like eating a cloud. (Or what I imagine eating a cloud would feel like!) The dish was complemented by apple and brandy butter, while a sprinkling of oat crumble provided some crunch, and pieces of rhubarb gave a touch of tang to this delectable dessert-style breakfast.

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I also had a decadent breakfast with my friend, Suz, at Little h. When we were in Kangaroo Island for our hike earlier in the month, I told Suz that this newly opened cafe was serving up red velvet pancakes, which led to many indulgent daydreams while eating yet another packet of beef jerky for dinner.

It was an exciting moment when we entered the sleek, modern cafe in Duncraig last Sunday and the waiter confirmed the pancakes were still available. The order was placed and before long, a plate of three ruby red pancakes with thick swirls of cream cheese frosting was placed in front of both of us. A dream was finally realised, though the pancakes were so rich that we almost felt as though we had to go on another hike to burn off the calories!

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As well as these delicious breakfasts, I’ve also enjoyed two outings to the family-and-furbaby friendly cafe, Slate; used up an $80 gift voucher at Shadow Wine Bar in Northbridge; tucked into a delightful pear and gorgonzola pizza at Comet Pizza, before polishing off a classic taiyaki ice-cream at neighbouring Whisk; eaten the most scrumptious choc-orange doughnuts for ‘lunch’ at my favourite restaurant, The Hummus Club (and got their amazing brownie to take away); celebrated a friend’s 30th with a high tea at Madhatter’s on Milston and chilled out with friends at Mandoon Estate on Anzac Day.

My sweet tooth has definitely been indulged this month, but there’s room for one more treat before April is out. Tomorrow, my brother and I are heading to Cafe 2TwentyFour in Belmont to try their brand new Raffaello milkshake. I can’t wait!

Rainbow in a Bowl

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My favourite meal to go out for is breakfast, which has come as a bit of a surprise given that I spent many, many years skipping it. There’s a couple of reasons why I finally started giving this meal the love it deserves. When I cut back from full time teaching to relief work, I had a lot more time on my hands. Suddenly, I could take my time with preparing and cooking breakfast. Most of all, though, I could now enjoy breakfast. When I worked full time, I was too preoccupied about making sure I was organised for all my lessons that day, meaning breakfast was a rushed affair, if, indeed, I ate anything at all- more often than not, an extra twenty minutes of sleep would win out.

The other reason for my newfound appreciation is the transformation that breakfast dishes started experiencing in cafes around Perth a couple of years ago. All of a sudden, there were a lot more options for the first meal of the day than toast, or bacon and eggs. Not that I have anything against traditional breakfast fare, but it was so interesting to see cafes getting creative with the flavour combinations they used to wake up your palate. Plates were now popping with fresh and colourful ingredients, presented so prettily that you’d feel slightly guilty about ruining a piece of (edible) art. Instagram was suddenly brimming with tantalising images of the best new breakfasts, which allowed you to feast with your eyes before having to make the difficult decision of which one to try first.

I’m not a morning person, but I found myself becoming strangely motivated to wake up early, and driving to suburbs which I would never usually be bothered venturing out to for a meal. Not only did some of the breakfasts inspire my own cooking at home, they got my day off to a great start because I felt like I was fuelling my body with nutritious food. Well, except for the cinnamon churros cup with bacon brittle shards. And the salted caramel pancakes with bananas, pecans and marscarpone. One time, breakfast may even have consisted of a Golden Gaytime milkshake, with the whole ice-cream in the glass. Ok, so maybe I don’t always go for the healthy options, but they’re satisfying all the same.

The reinvention of the breakfast game in Perth is showing no signs of slowing down, but in recent times, I’ve been on a stricter budget and have had to cut back on my a.m. outings. (If there’s one thing to note, these fancy breakfasts don’t come cheap!) However, when one of my uni friends suggested we catch up for breakfast today, as she was on mid-term break from school, I happily agreed. She suggested we catch up at a Northbridge cafe called Flora & Fauna, which suited me just fine as I’d been meaning to try it for ages.

My memories of Northbridge are mostly from my early 20s, when it used to be the place to go out clubbing with friends. Walking down Aberdeen Street at 9am on a Friday, the area looked very different from what I remembered, not to mention all the clubs I used to frequent were now sporting names I did not recognise. A sure sign that I’m getting old! It was the nicest surprise to turn down a lane and find the chic, vintage themed space from which Flora & Fauna operates. The kitchen itself is tiny, so tables are scattered outdoors in a courtyard.

The vibe of the cafe space is in complete contrast to the club that’s just around the corner. It instantly felt like the perfect place to get creative. As I waited for my friend and perused what food was on offer, I realised I could very easily spend the whole day here, working my way through the menu, because every single item sounded scrumptious. I settled upon the goji berry muesli, which came with seasonal fruits and yoghurt, while my friend eventually opted for smashed pumpkin on sourdough.

My stomach did a happy dance as a bountiful bowl of goodness was placed before me. In it was every colour of the rainbow, represented by a carefully arranged display of strawberries, watermelon, oranges, rockmelon, apples, kiwifruit, blueberries, passionfruit, and more. All the fruit was fresh and juicy, and the perfect accompaniment to crunchy muesli and creamy yoghurt. It took me ages to finish the generous serve, but no way was I leaving anything uneaten. This was a satiating breakfast to be savoured.

Nutritious and delicious- you can’t ask for a better way to start your day than that!

An Electrifying Evening

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Hello, my name is Julie. I enjoy sitting on the driveway in the middle of the night, camera in hand, waiting for the perfect lightning strike while silently praying it doesn’t choose to strike me. I also have a tendency to get in the car at 11pm to go searching for the perfect location for taking photos of the aforementioned perfect lightning strike. (I may or may not entertain thoughts of becoming a professional storm chaser as I drive.) My biggest talent undoubtedly lies in being distracted almost every time there is a perfect lightning strike, which means the number of perfect lightning strikes I have managed to photograph is pretty much zero. Though I’m satisfied with the photo above.

Seriously though, I waited the whole of summer for a good storm, and there was nothing. First day of autumn, and BOOM! As I write this, a gentle rain is falling, and the air is full of that dry earth smell, which the ground always seems to emit after it’s been thirsty for a prolonged period of time. There’s still the occasional flash of lightning, and rolls of thunder are rumbling along steadily. This is my favourite type of weather in the world.

The Return of Summer

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Sunsets are one of my favourite things to photograph, and I am lucky to live in a city which is blessed with some spectacular ones. The 2015/16 season was full of rainbow skies and striking cloud formations.

At the end of November 2016, with only a few days to go until the official start of summer, there was an evening that blazed with a flaming orange sky. I got super excited, thinking this was a teaser for what was in store for the hot months ahead.

It wasn’t.

Two months went by, and there was nothing. Each night, the skies have been calm and clear. I don’t know whether it’s because we haven’t had as many days of sustained high temperatures as usual, but there simply haven’t been any dramatic endings to the day.

And then, finally, finally, this happened.

I have been waiting for an epic sunset like this all summer. I love the simple sunsets, don’t get me wrong. But there is something utterly thrilling about witnessing such a lively sky, full of vibrance and energy. It is as if a grand masterpiece is being painted before your eyes, simultaneously revealing the past, present and future of a moment in time.

These are the skies that tell a thousand stories and weave them into an epic saga about a fleeting empire of castles built in the air; an empire that is falling into ruins even as it is being built. These are the skies that sing bold proclamations to the heavens, rejoicing in life but all the while preparing for their voice to be extinguished. These are the skies that define majesty and magic, and spark the imagination with a light that reflects the secrets of some other world.

But most of all, these are the skies that remind all who view them just how small and inconsequential we are in their presence. And that is why I love them.

Sweet Simplicity

I headed down to the beach this evening, in the hope of catching a nice sunset. It’s my favourite time of day, and sunsets by the beach in summer can be absolute magic. Sadly, my camera has not had much of a beachside workout this summer, as Perth has been seriously lacking in dramatic evening skyscapes.

I had a bit of time to spare when I arrived at Hillarys, my go-to beach destination, so I decided to get some food first. Ice-cream is totally acceptable for dinner, right? Well, this ice-cream bowl definitely lived up to its promise of delivering a serve of sweet berry blissfulness. There’s no denying that strawberries and summertime were totally made for each other.

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When I made it down to the beach, the day had already quietly faded. This is what the majority of our sunsets have looked like this summer. Where in previous years there have been rainbow clouds marching boldly across the heavens to announce the day’s end, this year, the days seem to be disappearing with no fuss or fanfare. Just a final flicker of light before a faint glow illuminates the hazy horizon, until, that too, vanishes from view.

I love my grand sunsets but I also appreciate the quiet ones. They’re much like our everyday lives- seemingly unremarkable from one day to the next, but always unique, and full of beauty if we care to look. A gentle reminder of the beauty in simplicity.

I also find that quiet sunsets have a sense of timelessness about them. All the colourful sunsets I have photographed stand out resolutely in my memory and take me back to a specific time. Quiet sunsets, so oft repeated over the years, are nothing more than vague recollections in comparison, like a blurred memory of a forgotten dream, or a word that’s on the tip of your tongue. You can’t recall the details but you can feel their lingering presence.

And sometimes, this feeling is all we need. The details are irrelevant. I don’t want to remember the specifics of being 17, but to be reminded of the freedom that I felt all those summers ago, when driving down to the beach first became an expression of finally being an adult, young and carefree, well, that is a gift to be treasured indeed. It’s for this reason, this link to days long surrendered to the passing of time, that I am grateful for the quiet sunsets, and look forward to many more in the summers still to come.

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A Lure of Light

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Today marks exactly two years since this photo was taken. I had just arrived back in Perth, after having spent 19 days travelling across the Arctic regions of Scandinavia in search of the magical Northern Lights. I was home, but my mind was still halfway across the world, reliving an epic journey that had spanned 39,608km.

I had been lucky enough to see the Northern Lights twice, in Ivalo, but bad weather had prevented me from seeing any auroras in Tromso or Kiruna. My sojourns in those two places were characterised by clouds, rain and snow, so that the only colours I saw in the sky were varying shades of white and grey.

Whenever I took to the skies above these places and left the clutches of coldness behind, I was reminded that, although winter had shrouded the heavens in a thick blanket, at any given time only a few kilometres above our heads, there is always some sort of light shining steadfast in the sky. Whether it be from the sun, or the moon and the stars, or the dancing auroras of the polar circles, even if we cannot see them, they are there. Constants of the cosmos.

Once home, I did not have to worry about obscured skies anymore. I had returned smack bang in the middle of summer and was now guaranteed to see the sun each day, and a lot of it. In Europe, I’d missed the sun, but here it was no longer a pale golden orb that shone a fragile light over the snow (if, indeed, it surfaced at all). No, in Australia, in the middle of summer, the sun is a burning ball of fire that is best avoided in the peak of day. It is not until the late evening, when it begins its descent below the horizon, and a balmy sea breeze begins to blow from the coast, that it becomes pleasant to be outdoors. And on the evening of January 19, 2015, I was in for a real treat.

I had just gone outside to hang up some post holiday washing when the sight of this sky made me drop the washing and run inside to get my camera instead. Somehow, I had been transported back to the Arctic, because it felt like I was gazing not at a summer sunset, but at an alluring aurora. The way that vibrant pink haze spread across the violet sky, glowing brightly in the centre and wisping around the edges, before fading quietly into the night, was pure magic. I could even picture it dancing. It was a reminder that there is wonder and beauty all around us, and sometimes, we do not even have to travel beyond our own backyard to see it.

Hummus Me Up!

dscn2353Let me introduce you to some divine dishes of goodness from The Hummus Club, a recent addition to the restaurant scene in my home city of Perth devoted to serving up delicious Middle Eastern cuisine.

Tonight marked my third visit in a month so it’s safe to say I’m quite a fan. I was all ready to order when the waitress came around to ask if my mum and I needed help with the menu. Might as well get straight to business!

One of the things that won me over on my first visit was the cocktail I had. I am not a gin drinker at all but the combination of gin, almond, ginger beer and orange blossom which constituted ‘A Day in Beirut’ piqued my interest enough to try it. Didn’t that turn out to be the best decision I ever made! It’s the most textured cocktail I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking- an enthralling mix of smoky sweetness which keeps me coming back for more.

There are four hummus dishes you can choose from- plain hummus or hummus with beef, chicken or mushroom, all served with pita. I’d tried the beef and the chicken on my previous visits, and chose the beef again this time. An accompaniment of crunchy pita crisps and popping pomegranates add another layer of enjoyment to an already delectable dish.

The rest of the menu is made up of a range of share plates. Previously, I’ve tried the zaatar fried chicken, lamb kefta, beef kibbeh and batata. Having the batata again was a given- I mean, who can go past crunchy potatoes- but this time I opted to try the falafels, which were zhuzhed up with tahini, pickles and coriander.

All in all, it was a top-notch meal that left both Mum and I feeling as though we may need to be escorted out of the restaurant in a wheelbarrow. Sadly, there was no room for dessert but I’m consoled with the knowledge that I’ll be visiting a fourth time to try the brownie and doughnuts.

There was definitely need for a walk though. We decided to go down to the Esplanade and take a sunset stroll along the Swan River. We kept walking until we hit Elizabeth Quay, a development project undertaken by the West Australian government at the start of the decade in a bid to spice up the Perth waterfront. Despite the quay officially being opened at the end of January last year, I had not ventured out to visit it until today.

It was a very pleasant walk which not only eased our sensation of being seriously stuffed but also reminded me that there’s a lot to explore in my own city. I look forward to returning to photograph Elizabeth Quay- after another serve of hummus, of course!

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