Stay at Home Date #1 - Sushi Night!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


With all this rain that's been around lately - it's hard to think of endless summer starlit nights - or getting dressed up just to be drenched down 5 minutes later. Solution? At-home-date-night. Now I'm not a dinner and obligatory candles kind of girl (okay, okay - I like dinner. I like candles. But I want morrrrrre. So much more than pasta stir-through and tapers and re-runs of Glee on Channel 10 - wait...that was last night!). Shall I get to the point? Okay. Why not try a SUSHI NIGHT!

Sorry - we're just going to have to wait for a moment until the non-seaweed, non-raw-fish, non weird-food-eaters leave the room. Um, the whole: sushi = raw fish thing is soooo 1980's darling. 
Sushi is awesome because you can make it together (heaps of fun!) or you can spend a few hours preparing it yourself and setting the scene ready-to-impress. Either way, it's a win-win. Also - you can combine a whole host of ingredients, so it suits people who don't eat this or don't eat that. Hell, you can even omit the seaweed if you like (Hey, why was the sand wet? Because the sea weed...) (My apologies, I couldn't resist. Blame it on being the mother of a 10 year old!)
Not sure if it's your proverbial cup of green-tea? 

Check this site out: http://sushifan.com/eat_sushi.php - be educated!
In a nutshell, you'll need the following: sushi rice, sushi mat, soy sauce, pickled ginger, seaweed (nori) sheets, wasabi paste, and rice vinegar. You can get kits that include most of this stuff - and you can even buy handy-dandy sushi-makers nowadays (I'm a bit of a purist, but hell, whatever floats your boat - http://www.sushimagic.com/ - if you're interested).
What do you fill it with? You can use any combination of prawns, crab, tuna or salmon (canned or fresh - ensure if you're getting raw tuna or salmon that it's sashimi-grade), hell even chicken works well. Combine that with cucumber, avocado, other vegetables - the sky's the limit - it's your sushi after all! Don't OVERdo it - pick a few ingredients and run with it - especially if you're a first-timer.




Setting the mood.
Light some Japanese style lanterns or candles around your room and lay some cushions or pillows out on the floor so you can both eat from the coffee table - maybe while watching a few Japanese action films (not into those? Lost in Translation or Memoirs of a Geisha works well for me!) 

Serve your sushi on square plates - don't forget chopsticks, and little dishes of soy, wasabi, and ginger! If you're a master of chopsticks (or even if you're not)- you could feed each other!
Feeling really adventurous? Buy some sake from your local liquor barn (please PLEASE avoid Go-Shu. Beer we can make in Australia. Hell, a decent Semillon we can make in Australia. Sake we make not.) It's up to you if you serve it room temperature or slightly warm (check the bottle for how your particular sake should be served). I'm a fan of warm sake - but hell, I'm just a fan of sake in general. It's all good. Serve it in traditional sake cups (Earthborn had these on sale before Christmas for about $20 - I'm kicking myself for not getting them!)
Maybe for the ultimate mood setter, a robe? You don't have to go all out - but there's something very very sexy about handing your partner a robe and the two of you sitting on cushions, in robes, drinking sake and eating sushi and watching Scarlett Johannson in Lost in Translation.....STEPHEN! STOP TAKING OVER MY POST!
Hmmm....maybe those Japanese action films would be a better choice after all?
P.S If you're planning the whollllllllle night (and you know what I mean) - The Body Shop have the most amazing Cherry Blossom body-butter and Body-Puree, which makes for highly scent-ual massages. 

Enjoy!


The Power of Touch

Monday, December 28, 2009


I have a confession to make. I'm one of these touchy-feely people. I need the reassurance of a hug, or a kiss on the forehead, or my hand being held out in public. Unfortunately it has been lack of reciprocal touch that has caused many a relationship downfall for me and many other women who have dated or been in relationships with men who have not realised the importance of touch. Of course this can work both ways - I know of several women who have not been particularly touch-oriented. It's not for everyone. But until you're absolutely sure your partner doesn't appreciate subtle touching - don't rule it out. A touch can say anything from "I'm here" to "I'm so, so sorry" to "I love everything that you are". It is one of the most beautiful ways to communicate - and one of the ways we forget about as time goes on and we get older.

Touching, hugging, snuggling - whatever you want to call it - can be done in a myriad of ways. Of course there is the obvious - in bed, on the couch, in the bath, when you greet or say goodbye. But there are so many other opportunities to show that you're still there, and that they have your full attention. Great places and times for sneaky hugs include:
  • when one of you is on the phone
  • in the grocery line 
  • in the kitchen preparing dinner (my favourite kind of hugs!)
  • in bookshops
  • on a cold winter night (BLANKET HUGS!)
  • while one of you is sitting at the computer
  • passing by a mirror
Oh it doesn't have to be a crash-tackle hug every time! Just a wrap-your-arms-around-I-adore-you hug. Or even a hand running down their back. Or a kiss on the shoulder. 


Destroying the Negative Inner-Monologue.
I won't speak for all women here - but I know that many of us have these continuous inner dialogues that keep churning and churning (you might know the "Oh god, am I fat? monologue - it's an old favourite. "Am I fat? I shouldn't have worn these pants today. Maybe if I wore my new heels, they make my legs look longer and I won't look so frumpy. Should I get changed? I'm going to get changed. But changed into what? I knew I shouldn't have eaten that pasta for dinner last night. I'm definitely going to the gym. As soon as the new year starts. And I pay for my car to be fixed and then there's the kids tuition...right. I don't need a gym. I can do this myself. I'll start walking every day. And cutting out carbs. And I'm going to throw out all that chocolate. Except for those liqueur chocolates I got for Christmas..that would just be rude. I'm going to eat those and then I'll start. Right...")

Many of us have this inner monologue about everything. A lot of the time it's about our appearance. If you're in the room, I can guarantee that you'll be the main topic.

"I wonder what he meant by what he said before. I know it could be taken two ways - I have to be careful I don't over-react. Right. I'm going to read his body language - that's how I'll know. I've walked by the couch three times now. He's just staring at the TV. Maybe he's avoiding me. Maybe it's true. I mean, if it was the other explanation, surely he'd be looking at me differently or showing me otherwise? He's falling out of love with me. I probably talk too much. Or.....oh god, I know what it is. It's the weight I've put on. I KNEW I shouldn't have eaten that pasta for dinner last night...."
(see dialogue #1 for the remainder of THAT conversation). 

I know that many of my inner monologues have been disrupted by my hand being taken as I walk past, or a warm hug or a touch at the base of my spine. I actually attribute this to the reason my current relationship works. He knows me well enough to know that my thoughts spiral off into overdrive sometimes. One heartfelt touch destroys the power of the negativity inside my head and immediately I am warm, I am loved and I am reassured once more.

Try it. It may not come naturally to you right away - but give it time, it will be worth the effort. 


Back in Brissie!

Well it finally happened - we moved back to Brisbane. It's been a hectic few weeks - uprooting one's life and relocating was never bound to be easy - but we made it. It was a triumphant day today - when I threw out close to 250kg of my life - papers, old cassette tapes, cards - and the remnants of my previous two marriages.
I guess it's time to come clean - I, the writer of Project Romance, have been married twice in my 30 years of being on this earth. Will I get married again? Probably. Eventually. Most people I know haven't even been married once. It's fairly accepted by society to be married a second time - usually you know what you're doing by then. Well...it's a nice theory. So what is a self-professed serial-bride doing writing a blog about romance? Well, actually I think that makes me somewhat of an expert. See, in my years of chasing the perfect relationship and the perfect marriage - I have learned a lot about the cornerstones of romance. Everyone's different of course, and you'll get out of this blog what you will. Of course I'm still learning. And of course no relationship IS perfect.  I've been lucky enough to be loved by some amazing men. And equally unlucky to see those relationships die before my eyes for various reasons that possibly could have been avoided before walking down the aisle-slash-rose-petal-bridge.
I am especially blessed now to be with a wonderful man who satisfies every criteria and ticks every box in the relationship satisfaction survey. A man who believes in romance as much as I do and lives to make me happy as much as I live to do the same.  I look forward to sharing our journey with you - and inspiring you to go forth and think outside the big box of the ordinary and the familiar.


Setting Hearts a-Flame in Montville!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I promise I'll start posting about Brisbane soon - but as it so happens, I'm still living on the Sunshine Coast for the next few weeks - so I'm going to squeeze every drop out of this romantic's paradise as I humanly can. :)


So this morning I found myself craving a really great bottle of wine and a nice shady place to drink it in - possibly with some great food - to share of course, but without ants and sand and the sun searing into my already sunburned shoulders. Driving up to the gate, I realised that my beloved "Settler's Rise" winery had been renamed, and rebranded as "Flame Hill" winery. Didn't bother me!


Flame Hill is about 5 minutes from the heart of Montville in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. It's nestled away in a small vineyard overlooking the rolling green hills - and on a clear day you can see right out to the beautiful Sunshine Coast beaches.


For $5 you can taste Flame Hill's premium wine range, or you can proceed directly to their restaurant - which has a real homely feel to it, with wide sweeping verandas overlooking the vines. Flame Hill have a full a la carte menu - or for Settler's Rise veterans - the tasting plate is still available - although the food has definitely changed (and for the better! Oh my!) We chose the "Picnic on a Plate" - which came with assorted antipasto bits and pieces - cold meets, cheeses, pickled eggs (don't knock them until you try them!), olives and enough homemade bread to feed an army. A bottle of Flame Hill's own Verdehlo went very nicely with the meal - and it was lovely to sit back, let the breezes just wash over us, and take our time.

Picnic on a plate (chicken, pickled eggs and goats cheese and so...so much more)


 
...and also - lovely homemade bread!

Of course we had to be very naughty and order dessert - but who could resist dishes like "Frozen Sabayon with Fresh Mango" or "Frangipani Apple Tarte?". We couldn't - although in the end we went with the Catalone Cream with Orange Blossom, Honey and Saffron as well as the Frozen Sabayon. What can I say? After a bottle of wine, your cares are a very very long way away.


 
Seriously. Who could say no?


Frozen Sabayon with Mango (oh my god)

Catalone with Orange Blossom, Saffron and Honey. Seriously amazing.


Yes - that is actual fairy floss on top! Okay, okay...spun sugar...

Tip:  Picnic on a Plate (for 2), Flame Hill Verdhelo. ANY of their decadent desserts (although I would recommend sharing one in hindsight!)

Summary: Flame Hill is just that kind of gorgeous getaway that can give you an unparalleled afternoon of togetherness, true Queensland style. Stay as long as you like, the staff are friendly and happy to assist you in any way they can.
  • Where: Flame Hill Winery – 249 Western Avenue, Montville
  • When: Thursday-Monday: 10:30am-5:30pm.
  • Cost: Picnic on a Plate - $39.50. Cheese Platter - $28. A la carte dining from $12-$26.
  • Website: http://www.flamehill.com.au
  • Perfect For: Long drives in the country, romantic lunches, wine and cheese tasting, relaxation.
  • Downsides: Not open for dinner. Alas!

Picnic Dates - The Essentials

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

One of the most inexpensive ways to spend time over good food and a great bottle of wine, is the classic romantic picnic. However don’t go popping the champagne just yet – picnics may look simple, but the key to a successful blanket-date (that's of the picnic-kind, get your mind out of the gutter!) is preparation. You need to carefully consider your location, time of day and weather conditions – even the most perfectly prepared picnic can be rudely interrupted by rain, ants, mosquitoes, passers-by (particularly in the evening) – the list goes on. You will also need to make sure that you have all of the picnic essentials – you can never be over-prepared! You don’t want your date ruined because you forgot to bring the corkscrew, or glasses, or a sharp knife – or you didn’t check the weather forecast beforehand. It doesn’t matter how long you have been slaving over individual salmon quiches or Chinese tea-eggs – you forget the essentials, and you invite embarrassment, backpedalling and over-thinking – which can be dangerous on a date! Do I sound like I am speaking from experience? *cough* Um…


It’s easy really – keep all of your picnic essentials in a basket – in the back of your car, if the need arises for a little spontaneity. What are these magical, mystical essentials?


Glad you asked!




PICNIC ESSENTIALS 101

  1. Picnic Basket – a simple and romantic way to keep all of your goodies hidden from view – and of course and easy way to carry everything at once.  You didn’t see Little Red Riding Hood juggling the biscuits and a hot thermos of chocolate for her grandmother in several old Coles bags did you? Tip: Basketworld have a very nice selection of picnic baskets – anything from the basic to the fancy-schmancy-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink ones.  Failing that, try Myer and Target for a fairly decent range with prices to match almost every budget.

  2. Picnic Blanket – I know size isn’t supposed to matter in this day and age – but when it comes to picnic blankets – it does. You need to have ample room for two people plus your basket – and potential for “stretching out” later in the date.  (I said stretching out – what were you thinking?) Leaning back onto an ants nest, whilst makes the date unforgettable – does so in the wrong way. Tip: Break of Day have some great picnic rugs – check out the ones that conveniently roll up and buckle-shut! Sweet! You also may want to consider a rug with a waterproof underlayer – especially if you’re picnicking after the rain, or at the beach.

  3. Candles – An absolute essential for a night-time picnic! Not venturing out past dark? So you think! You’re going on a lunch-picnic. You have a lovely meal prepared, a few glasses of wine, and you get talking. Suddenly it’s 5:30 in the afternoon and the sun’s about to go down.  Never mind- you have candles, and of course wind-shielding candle holders. Don’t forget the matches! Tip: Ikea are more than a quirky and ergonomic furniture store – they also have some practical and inexpensive candle-holders. The Candle Nut have some beautiful tealight holders too – and you can shop online! The deeper the better – there’s nothing more annoying than constantly re-lighting candles! If you’re looking for something a bit more ornate or fancy – you can try Dusk - but be wary of the expense! Tea-light lanterns may also be a cute and inexpensive way to go!

  4. Glasses – of course everyone drinks wine from the bottle at some stage in their life – but on a romantic picnic? I think not. Have some sturdy glasses in your basket at all times – not the frail, thin crystal ones that your mum keeps in the front cabinet. Avoid plastic glasses too. They may be convenient – but there is nothing classy about tupperware.  What size or shape is up to you – but I don’t think the specific white wine/red wine glasses apply to picnics. Unless of course of course these things are important to you…

  5. Plates – Again, no need to break out the good china for this – and yes plastic IS allowed here – but for a date – try to go for the more good-quality plates. A lot of picnic baskets nowadays come with these, which is a bonus.

  6. Cutlery – Get a set of sturdy picnic cutlery. Make sure you also have a sharp knife – you never realise you need it until you don’t have one! While I’m on the topic – don’t forget the corkscrew! Much of today’s wine production is in bottles with screw-top lids, but there will always be that one occasion when your bottle will have a cork – and no matter what your knife-wielding skills are like – there’s only one way that baby is coming out…

  7. Insulated cooler-bag – specifically one that can keep drinks cool. Regardless if you’re heading out with an ice-cold bottle of home-made lemonade, or a bottle of Hunter Valley 2006  Semillon – lukewarm drinks are a definite date-killer. Tip: Check out the “T-Chill” bags – very affordable way of chilling drinks portably. The only downside is that you need ice to keep it cold. But for a portable ice-bucket – it does the trick!
Do yourself a favour and look at combining some of these essentials in the one purchase. Not only will you save money – but you would have invested in your romantic future too. Check out the Picnic & Cappuccino section on this website – some really snazzy and clever storage for your “Picnic Essentials”.
What else? I know it’s usually the last thing we think of – but when one ventures out into the great outdoors, things well…happen. Sunburns, mosquito bites to name a few. Keep a small travel pack of sunscreen and insect repellent in your bag…just in case. A portable music player with speakers is also a novel idea if you’re tired of the nearby screaming children or traffic noise. If you have an MP3 player – Officeworks have some portable speakers for around $20 – or maybe a portable radio would do the trick – depending on what you’re looking for. Of course – background noise is part and parcel of the picnic experience – so unless music is playing a key part in your date – don’t go rushing out for iPod speakers. :)

That’s about it for now – I’ll be updating soon with a list of fantastic, tried and true romantic picnic spots in the beautiful South-East, and some other tips to make your romantic picnic unforgettable.



Cozying up in Buderim…

Thursday, September 24, 2009

One of the great things about living on the Sunshine Coast, is the amount of little cafes and restaurants that you ordinarily have to “stumble” across on daytrips or holidays!

Backofen at Buderim is a sweet little Austrian-inspired bakery, fronting onto (but elevated over) the main street. Two things make Backofen legendary – it’s food and it’s customer service. Whether you are there for lunch with the in-laws or cozying up with your significant other – the staff are attentive and respectful of your needs.

Now whilst Backhofen have a unique (and filling!) breakfast and lunch menu – what makes this perfect for a mid-afternoon rendezvous, are the stunning array of cakes and desserts. You might balk a little at the prices – especially if you’re used to the $3 slab of day-old mudcake from the local carvery, but I can assure you,  the servings are massive and worth every cent.

So massive in fact…that they’re worth…sharing. *wink*

Tip
: Apple & Ginger strudel (with cream and icecream of course). Get a slice of this (it’s HUGE) with two spoons (or one!) and a couple of Chai Latte’s (PERFECT with the strudel!). Steal yourself a spot at one of the corner tables and you have yourself the setting for a gorgeous, romantic afternoon tea.

Summary
: A little slice (or rather a large one!) of romantic Vienna.
  • Where: Backofen – 65 Burnett St, Buderim
  • When: Mon-Sun 6am-late afternoon.
  • Cost: Upmarket cafe prices – but sharing is allowed and encouraged.
  • Website: http://www.backofen.com.au
  • Perfect For: Romantic breakfasts, lazy lunches, cozy afternoon and high-teas.
  • Downsides: Not open for dinner/late night coffee, unfortunately. Parking at Woolworths can be tricky at certain times of the day. That strudel is worth a walk if you park up the other end of Burnett St though!

Spanish. Chocolate. Seduction. Need I say more?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Looking for an intimate but interesting twist on “just dessert” or “just coffee”? Look no further! San Churro’s website tag states that “Chocolate and Churros shall be your salvation” – and they couldn’t be closer to the truth! San Churro is a little Spanish cafe on the boardwalk at Sunshine Plaza, Maroochydore. They specialise in – you got it – churros and chocolate – but make absolutely divine coffee too.

What’s a ‘churro’? Glad you asked. It’s a type of Spanish doughnut – served long and hot (no puns please, I’m part-British), with a pot of melted chocolate. Legend has it that the Spanish have these for breakfast – but I believe that as much as Americans think that kangaroos exist in our backyards (actually they do populate the local university here – but I digress).

San Churro do much more than churros and melted chocolate – they also specialise in all sorts of yummy chocolate tapas, fondues, sundaes and cakes. Their beverages  are also the perfect companion – choose from a variety of Spanish Coffees and Hot Chocolate concoctions – not to mention their milkshakes! Oh my.




I recommend
: Churros for two (two sauces – Dulce de leche and Dark Chocolate  -and yes, once you dip churros in both of these babies at the same time – you won’t go back), and Madrid Mocha (no cream, but definitely marshmallows).

Tip
: Find a cosy corner couch inside the dimly lit cafe, and you have a perfect recipe for romance!

Summary
: In a nutshell? Utter chocolate seduction.
  • Where: San Churro – Sunshine Plaza, Maroochydore
  • When: Mon-Sun 9am-10pm
  • Cost: Upmarket cafe prices ($5.50 for coffee, $13 for Churros for 2. $7 for 1)
  • Website: http://www.sanchurro.com.au
  • Perfect for: Late-night chocolate cravings, after-movie coffee, or something a little different.
  • Downsides: Only one of its kind in QLD (sorry Brisbane residents!), can get a little noisy on Friday/Saturday nights, given that it’s so close to the cinemas, restaurants and pubs at the plaza. Can also get very busy during peak times.
Coffee & Churros - made for each other!