Saturday 31 March 2018

Confetti salad with lentils and rice and random moments

It is a while since I made this salad for Sylvia's birthday lunch at my mum's but it is a good recipe to post on the Easter weekend for anyone looking for an easy and healthy dish for entertaining.

I wanted a simple salad but sometimes it is hard to find on the web so I turned to my cookbooks.  Alison Holst is an old favourite and I was able to adapt her recipe to what I had in my kitchen.  My parsley is just hanging in there so I didn't have quite as much as I would have liked but it was good to have some there.

While it is not as impressive as the brown rice salad I made earlier in the year, it comes together quickly and was enjoyed by everyone.  Though I was glad there was a little leftover to eat with vegetarian sausage rolls for dinner that night.

I hope you have a nice Easter weekend if you are celebrating.  And if you are lucky enough to work somewhere like me where we have a 5 day weekend for Easter, then you might have some extra time for reading.  So I leave you with some random moments:
  • On Thursday, a colleague had come for a meeting at our office and I invited her to stay afterwards for drinks.  When she arrived at reception, we had an institute morning tea was just finishing, so I asked her to put some easter eggs in her handbag so we could have some food for our drinks.  I would have done it myself but did not have any bag to take them in.
  • A month or two ago.  I stubbed my toenail really badly on a stray brick in the backyard (it was holding down some astroturf that was being blown about).  It stung and bled and bruised and I was sure it would come off bu it seemed to heal and I forgot it.  Then I went to cut my toenail and instead of trimming it, the whole toenail came away and a new one had grown underneath.  It was very surprising.
  • Recently I heard of a town called Boomanoomana near the Murray River, which is in an area where my parents like to holiday.  When I asked the said they had not heard of it.  Then last weekend they went on holiday and came back saying they stayed at Boomanoomana and my mum had discovered that her grandfather had lived there!
  • I heard government spokesperson on ABC 774 radio saying that more people are taking up home solar power because it is good for environment but even more important because it makes good economic sense .  What sort of world do we live where financial decisions are better than  the greater good!

We are spending Easter with my family.  Thank goodness our oven is finally fixed so I will have some Easter baking to celebrate with you soon.

More rice salads on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Asparagus, artichoke and wild rice salad (gf, v)
Bill’s broccoli rice salad (gf, v)
Brown rice salad (gf, v)
Brown rice salad with legumes and almonds
Mexican rice salad (gf, v)
Sushi rice salad (gf, v) 

Confetti salad with lentils and rice
Adapted from Alison Holst's Meals without Meat
Serves 4

400g tin of brown lentils, rinsed and drained (or 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 spring onion, finely sliced
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 red capsicum (or stalk celery), finely chopped
handful parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
black pepper

Mix all ingredients together.  Leave to sit for 30-60 minutes and then check and adjust seasonings

On the stereo:
Die Dritte Generation Fassbinder the Third Generation Soundtrack - Peer Rabin

Tuesday 27 March 2018

Watermelon poke salad bowl with pickled radishes

A couple of weeks ago I ate out at the Green Man's Arms in Carlton.  I enjoyed my meal but I was fascinated by the watermelon poke bowl on the menu.  The watermelon was marinated in ponzu.  I bought some ponzu late last year and was fascinated by it in stirfries and dipping sauce.  Then recently I found an older bottle of Japanese sauce in the back of the pantry and found on the small print that it was ponzu.  It seemed I had a ponzu surplus and a wedge of watermelon was about to solve it.

Now let me stop here to confess I have never been a big fan of watermelon.  Melon was never my sort of fruit.  So as an adult I learnt to eat it but not love it.  I did not attempt watermelon "tuna" because of any desire for watermelon.  No.  It was more a matter of finding a way to use up watermelon.  If I want watermelon, I usually don't want much and it comes in such huge wedges.  So perhaps it was also a case of the ponzu surplus solving my problem of a wedge of watermelon.

And I didn't feel compelled to try watermelon "tuna" because I am a vegetarian who misses fish.  In fact I never was a big fan of seafood and am quite delighted at the thought that I will never eat it again. 

What really fascinates me is dishes that imitate meat with real food.  I don't like all that mock meat stuff at restaurants but I am drawn to simple ideas like carrot hot dogs and tofu bacon.  How amazing that someone looked at a watermelon and saw the marbling effect that looks like meat.  Amazing and a little disturbing.

Yet if you think this might be too like the real thing, when E sat down to eat this dinner, Sylvia tried to trick him into thinking he was being served tuna.  Perhaps it would be more convincing if I had ever had any desire to cook seafood. Being totally unfamiliar with seafood and traditional poke bowls I am not sure if the watermelon did really look like tuna but it did look meaty to my vegetarian eyes.

One last fun bit of experimenting with the meal was pickling the radishes.  Radishes are even further down my radar than watermelon.  I suspect the last time I did anything with radishes in a kitchen was making radish flowers at home economics classes at school.  The pickled radishes were surprisingly good.  Maybe it will not be decades until the next time I have a radish in my kitchen.  And it confirmed my suspicion that I would quite like to made rapid pickled vegetables at home.

I will also mention my glaring omission.  I did not have any avocado.  Most of the poke bowls I looked at online had avocado.  I resent how often avocados are used in vegetarian dishes.  They are expensive and I struggle to make sure they are the right ripeness when I want them.  And I don't like the way they stop young people buying houses (that is a joke before you take umbrage)!

So it was a lot of fun and challenge to make this poke bowl.  But how did it taste?  Pretty good!  Yep.  Not amazing-best-meal-I-have-ever-eaten-I-want-to-eat-this-for-the-rest-of-my-life.  But it was healthy and interesting.  I wasn't wowed by the watermelon because I never am wowed by watermelon.  But I was fascinated by it.  It pains me to say that I think the bowl would have been improved by avocado which would have given it a bit of creamy satisfaction and textural contrast.  But I am glad I tried it. I don't see myself eating lots of poke bowls because it was a bit of work but I think the pickled vegetables are now calling my name.

I am sending this bowl to Eat Your Greens and Souper Sundays.

More watermelon recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Fruit salad (gf, v) 
Rainbow fruit kebabs (gf, v)
Watermelon, banana, strawberry, peach juice (gf, v)
Watermelon curry (gf, v)
Watermelon, mint and feta salad (gf)
Watermelon monster (gf, v)  

Watermelon poke salad bowl with pickled radishes
Serves 3-4

Watermelon "tuna":
800g watermelon, trimmed and cubed
3 tbsp ponzu sauce

Pickled radished:
[adapted from Feed Me Phoebe]
6-8 radishes, trimmed and finely sliced
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
3/4 tsp salt
1 garlic clove, crushed

To serve:
brown rice
purple cabbage, finely sliced
carrot, spiralised or grated
snow peas, finely sliced
cucumber, sliced

To garnish:
black sesame seeds
baby leeks, finely chopped

Also good to serve would be avocado, alfalfa sprouts, chives, spring onions, pickled ginger, pomegranate arils, spinach, rocket, seaweed

To make the watermelon "tuna" marinate watermelon chunks in ponzu sauce for about 15 minutes.  Cook in ponzu on stovetop for about 5-10 minutes until watermelon is softened on the edges.  Return to bowl with sauce and sit until ready to use.  You could make a quick ponzu sauce or bake the watermelon.  Set aside.

To make the pickled radishes, mix the radish slices with the vinegar, salt and garlic.  Set aside for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

To serve, spoon some rice into a shallow bowl, arrange drained watermelon, radishes, and other vegies on the bowl.  Garnish with sesame seeds and baby leeks (or chives or spring onions).  Spoon the remaining ponzu sauce from the watermelon over the bowl.

On the stereo:
The Colour of White: Missy Higgins

Sunday 25 March 2018

Chocolate Muesli Slice and a Quandong Hazelnut Strawberry Muesli

When your kid's at school camp, the oven is not working and your cupboards harbour lingering ingredients, it seems like a perfect time to make an no-bake slice like this Chocolate Muesli Slice.  Until there is some expert on the radio talking about the poor dental health.  Sigh!  Well at least when they were talking about only 50% of adults in Australia brushing their teeth twice a day I was on the right side of those statistics.

The slice used up some chocolate melts, condensed milk and muesli.  The first two were only a month or so old but the muesli had been there for many months.  I am not sure why.  It was a lovely muesli with hazelnuts, dried strawberries and quandong dessert sauce for added flavour.  I ate it for breakfast for a while.  And then I didn't.  Mixing it into the chocolate and condensed milk mixture was a brilliant way to rescue it. 

I really loved this slice and so did E.  It was great comfort food in a busy week.  Sylvia was not keen but that is why I made it when she was at camp and I had plenty of time to enjoy myself.  This was like my perfect muesli slice - full of chocolate and really quick and easy to make.  No doubt the fact I had made the muesli full of my faovurite things helped.

I wish I had better photos but have not had the time nor energy.  So you will just have to look at my photos that are quite like lots of slices I have made and believe me when I say this slice is far more chocolatey and gooey than most of my slices and I would like to eat it three meals a day.

I am sending this slice to Choclette for We Should Cocoa.

More no bake chocolate slices on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Balieys biscuit fudge
Chocolate almond rice bubble slice (gf, v)
Chocolate lime energy slice (v)
Glo bars (gf, v)
Hedgehog - with condensed milk
Mars bar slice
Nutella rice bubble slice

Chocolate muesli slice
Inspired by Just a Mum

395g can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup or 150g dark chocolate melts
100g butter
3 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp cocoa
3 3/4 cups of toasted muesli
1/2 cup desiccated coconut

Chocolate Topping:
1 1/2 cups or 225g dark chocolate melts
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Melt chocolate and butter with the condensed milk.  This is easier in the microwave but can also be done on the stovetop.  Mix in tahini and cocoa, then add muesli and coconut.  Stir well until combined and scrape into a lined 23cm square cake tin.  Smooth down.  (This seemed impossible at first but it did spread out to fit the tin eventually.)  Refridgerate for 30 minutes.  Melt chocolate topping ingredients together and spread on the top of the slice.  Return to the fridge until set (I think 4-6 hours did it but overnight is best.)

You could use other dark chocolate but I used melts as I wanted to use up some open packets.  The vegetable oil in the chocolate topping is supposedly to stop it cracking but mine still cracked when I cut it.  I used the below muesli for the recipe but your favourite toasted muesli or granola would do.  The amount I added was what I had but you could use more or less depending on your available muesli.

Quandong Hazelnuts and Strawberry Muesli

4 cups oats
1 cup seeds
1 cup hazelnuts
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup quandong dessert sauce
1/4 cup maple
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup oil
1/2 to 1 cup dried strawberries

Mix everything (except strawberries) together and bake in a lined roasting tin for 20 minutes at 180 C, mixing halfway through.  Mix in strawberries once toasted.  Cool and store in an airtight container.

NOTES: The quandong dessert sauce could be replaced with a jam of choice.  If you wanted a more Aussie muesli (quandong being a native fruit) you could use macadamia nuts instead of hazelnuts and dried mango instead of strawberries.

On the Stereo:
Bellavista Terrace: Best of the Go Betweens

Thursday 22 March 2018

Gigi's Pizzeria, Newtown, Sydney, with street art

On our recent trip to Sydney, I finally got to visit the famous Gigi's Pizzeria and taste how amazing their vegan pizza can be.  We turned up at 5.45pm, hoping for an early dinner, only to find that the restaurant did not open til 6pm and there was already a decent amount of people.  I first heard of Gigi's Pizzeria when they decided to make the restaurant 100% vegan in 2015. It is amazing that 2 and a half years on, there still quite a buzz about the place.

Did I mention that they don't take bookings?  I think this adds to the buzz of people queuing on the street.  We felt quite special to get a table considering that there were a lot of people waiting.  However we felt less special inside.  We had a table at the back, it took a long time to be served and it was really noisy and dim.  It was too noisy to chat the waiters and they did not hang around long because it was so busy.

It was not my finest restaurant experience.  We were given peanuts in shells on the table but this did not help make the wait easier as Sylvia was a bit nervous about them, given her allergy, so I took them back to the counter.  My friends ordered a salad each but an extra salad was brought out that we needed to take back.  They enjoyed the salad though Martin needed more seasoning on his.  As well it being very noisy for chatting, the meals were all brought out in stages.  First the salads.  Then my pizza.  Finally Sylvia's pizza.  And as if to emphasise that no exceptions were made for kids, we had one strange moment when two soft drinks had been served and the waiter stood with a soft drink and a wine looking from 9 year old Sylvia to Martin as if unsure who had what.

I wonder if we got a bad night or Gigi's gets away with such service because the pizzas are so good.  Sylvia had the Marinara Tradizionale ($17) which had a fairly saucy topping of tomato, garlic, fresh oregano and extra virgin olive oil.  Sylvia scrapped off most of the sauce.  I was not a fan but I suspect it might appeal to those who like a tomato sandwich.  The base was very good, though.

I swithered over which pizza to try.  There were lots that appealed.  Finally I chose the Cavolo ($22) with cauliflower puree, artichokes, pinenuts, capers, currants, garlic, parsley and extra virgin olive oil (photo at top of page).  It was magnificent.  It would be enough to convince me to go without cheese on pizzas, as the flavour was just lovely and the toppings were just right.  The base like Sylvia's was lovely.  Very thin in the middle and puffy and slightly charred on the edge.  This pizza showed me why the place was so very busy.  I would have loved to have tasted more pizzas but it could be some time until I am there again.

While we waited outside at the start of the night more people came and started queuing around the side of the building.  When Sylvia and I came out, our friends having rushed off to catch their bus (that was replacing the train), we walked around the corner and looked at the street art.  Newtown is the sort of place for street art.  Lots of cafes and bustle and happening.  Here is a sample of the art on the wall of Gigi's.

Read more about my recent Sydney visit.

Gigi Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Gigi's Pizzeria
379 King Street
Newtown NSW 2042
Phone: 02 9557 2224
Operning: 6pm-10.30pm Mon-Sun

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Bourke Street Bakery, Surry Hills, Sydney

Ever since I received a copy of the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook many years ago, I have dreamed of visiting the bakery.  On our recent trip to Sydney, I found that many of the places we wanted to visit on a Sunday opened at 10am but the Bourke Street Bakery opened at 7am.  It seemed the perfect way to spend an early Sunday morning.

We took the bus to Bourke Street in Surry Hills to visit the original bakery, though there are now quite a lot of Bourke Street Bakeries around Sydney in various locations.  The bakery is surprisingly small with a few small tables inside and more tables outside.  The array of tempting breads, savoury pastries and sweet treats is huge.  Fortunately when we walked in, there was no queue and a table inside.

It didn't take me long to choose.  I loved sausage rolls before going vegetarian and now I love trying vegetarian versions.  The Bourke Street Bakery offered a vegetarian Eggplant, chickpea, feta and spinach sausage roll for a reasonable $5.  Tomato sauce was 20c extra but it was home made and generous.

Compared to most other brunch options, this was most satisfying and good value for money.  It is a sausage roll filling that I would never have thought of but it was really substantial and delicious with a wonderful flaky pastry.  The bakery offered a few other options such as spinach and mushroom quiche and spicy spinach and eggplant turnovers. I didn't find out what the sandwich options and vegetable salad was but I would be willing to give them a go too.

Sylvia chose a pain au chocolat.  I had a taste and it was excellent.  We also ordered an old school lemonade which was quite tart and very refreshing.

When we arrived and there was no queue I thought I would take photos later but then the queues started and filled the store for most of the rest of our visit.  When we decided to take away some bakes, I had to join the queue to purchase them.  But by then we were well sated and the queue moved steadily.  And the ambiance and service were really lovely too.

Sylvia chose a Italian meringue raspberry cream tart that was very good.  I only got a small mouthful but I really liked the fruity raspberry filling.  She was pretty happy eating it as soon as she could sit down, even though it was for later.

I had a chocolate and sour cherry cookie.  It sat in my bag for hours in a paper bag and by the time I ate it, the cookie was a bit dry.  I was really sad because I have admired this cookie in the cookbook for so long.  I like to think it would be much nicer if I had eaten it sooner.  Especially as everything else we tasted was amazing.

Lastly I bought a Semi-Sour Baguette.  This was an excellent choice to see us through the day.  It stuck out of my bag and I found Sylvia behind me nibbling the end of it quite a few times.  A satisfying breakfast and some good bread was enough to see us through a lot of the day without having to sit down for lunch.

Later I found there was a Bourke Street Bakery quite near the Aquarium which was our next stop.  However I was pleased to have visited the Surry Hills bakery, not just because it was the original but also to enjoy walking through the leafy streets of terrace houses and reflect just how many changes this suburb must have seen since Ruth Park wrote her classic Sydney novel, A Harp in the South. While it is easy to moan about gentrification and rising real estate prices in such inner suburbs, gems like the Bourke Street Bakery ease the pain.

Read more about my recent Sydney visit.

Bourke Street Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bourke Street Bakery
633 Bourket Street
Surry Hills, Sydney
+61 2 9699 1011

Sunday 18 March 2018

Chinese Garden of Friendship and Tea House, Sydney

The Chinese Garden of Friendship in Sydney was a fitting place to catch up with an old friend and her husband.  I visited there many years ago with E and loved it, though I remember it being busy.  This visit it seemed less busy but every bit as peaceful.  It was a great place to wander around with friends and chat in a relaxed surrounding.  It is all the more oasis of calm for the constant reminder in the surrounding skyscrapers that we were in the midst of a busy city.

The gardens have many areas and I read you can't see all of the gardens from any one point.  Here is the bonsai garden that greeted us upon entering.  It was good to have a map to find where we were and what paths we could follow.

There were lots of interesting views through windows into the garden.

When I saw a couple dressed in Chinese robes I thought they must be part of a Chinese organisation.  But no.  They had just hired the robes to wander around in.  It was quite amusing seeing groups wearing Chinese dress.

The waterfall was really lovely.  It was a very popular spot for photographs.

The Clear View Pavillion was clearly visible from afar and a great place to view a lot of the gardens.

This gorgeous little statue was tucked away behind the Clear View Pavillion.  Can you see two little mice on the statue?

We spotted a lot of water dragons as we wandered around.  They are very ugly but fascinating to see.  Sylvia didn't like them at all.  There were also lots of large koi carp in the lake.

The Peace Boat Pavillion was one of my favourite buildings.  I also loved the weeping willows.  I am very fond of them because we had a weeping willow in my backyard when I was young and particularly loved it because we had an Andy Pandy book where he made a house in his weeping willow.  But I digress!

Here is a little of the intricate detail in the Peace Boat Pavillion.  And here is Sylvia being very intent on her Emperors Quest map.

The Emperor's Quest was a kid's activity where they had a map and clues to find the 12 signs of the Chinese Zodiac.  Each zodiac animal was a little red metal statues like this monkey here.  It was a fantastic way to keep Sylvia's interest throughout the garden walk.

Finally we got to the Tea House at the end of the journey.  It had large open archways with spectacular views of the gardens.

I was quite peckish, having only had very little at lunch at a vegetarian-unfriendly restaurant.  I was tempted by the vegetarian dumplings and the scones but went for the spinach quiche and salad.  It was good basic food.  The quiche was nicely warmed and the salad was as substantial as a green salad can be without dressing.  It was good to have a light meal this late in the afternoon as we were planning to go out for tea.  Sylvia had a milkshake and a strawberry cupcake.  Clare enjoyed a traditional tea.

By the time we finished, we hadn't enough time for the Powerhouse Museum but I think the Chinese Garden of Friendship was a better option.  It was nice for Sylvia to run around outside and a garden is far more relaxing than a museum when catching up with friends.   I look forward to the next time I have the opportunity to visit these gardens.

Read more about my recent Sydney visit.

Chinese Garden Teahouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chinese Garden of Friendship
Corner of Day Street and Pier Street
Darling Harbour, NSW, 2000
(02) 9240 8888
Emperor's Quest (kids activity)

Friday 16 March 2018

Sydney visit: Aquarium, Harbour Bridge, Opera House etc

On the weekend, I flew to Sydney with Sylvia to visit a friend whom I worked with many years ago in Scotland.  It was a whirlwind trip but we managed to see a few icons, spend a lot of time by the water (sadly no swimming) and eat at a few places I've dreamt about visiting.  Here are lots of photos and reflections on the trip.

We stayed a night at the Capital Square Hotel.  It was pretty basic.  And by that, I meant that when it said "free toiletries" that meant a shower cap and some soap dispensers on the wall of the bathroom!  But it is was clean and comfortable and close to Central Station.  It would have been a nicer location if they weren't digging up the road for a new light rail system on the Capital Square.  But roadworks and scaffolding seem to be part of a big city!

We stayed on the edge of Sydney's Chinatown.  It seemed much bigger than the one in Melbourne.  Trying to find lunch there was a tyranny of choice.  We ended up walking into a place where they said yes there was vegetarian food but (after some miscommunication about spring rolls) it was just a tofu dish that was too spicy for me.  So Sylvia and I ate rice and drank soft drinks while my friends ate with a higher tolerance for spice.

Then we went to the Chinese Garden of Friendship.  This was possibly my favourite place and I have written a separate post on it.  We had intended to go the Powerhouse Museum afterwards but it was too late to go there or explore Paddy's Market by the time we finished at the garden.

Instead Sylvia played in the little fountains in front of the International Convention Centre.  It doesn't take much to tempt her to get her shoes off and her clothes wet.  I stood by and enjoyed the wonky reflections of the city skyline on the building.  We then hurried off to eat dinner at Gigi's Pizzeria (which I will write about in a separate post).

On the train home from dinner I decided to detour via Circular Quay to see the Harbour at night (left is the Harbour Bridge and right is the Opera House).  It is such a great view to have from a train station.  I really loved the trains in Sydney.  Sylvia was very excited that they were double decker and the seats could be changed to face either way.  I loved that we could get a train to the city in 10 minutes from the airport and that the underground stations have a fine history that is reflected in their decor.  And the city circle train is a great way to get around the city.

The next morning, once I had got over my drama of my camera battery dying and my phone charger being left at home (thank goodness on the second request, the hotel found a spare one in lost property), Sylvia and I took a bus to Bourke Street Bakery (another post coming on this).  Then we headed to the Sea Life Aquarium.

The Aquarium has one path that you have to follow to the end - no detours.  It has lots of really interesting information as well as lots of little windows with different sea creatures in the first section.  We really loved the above board which had names of fairy penguins and descriptions of them (such as "over dramatic, a good mum, loyal" or "good homemaker, keeps to himself but can cause trouble").  Kids could look a specimens wearing a lab coat or play a game to educate them about too much plastic in the sea.

One of my favourite parts of the exhibition was the jellyfish.  I could have stood for hours watching them moving about so gracefully.

I had expected that the tunnels would be my favourite part.  Last time I visited the aquarium I was mesmerised by the light infused perspex tunnels that allow punters to walk through the ocean seeing larger sea creatures such as dugongs and stingrays swim beside and over them.  But there were lots of little kids screaming and crying, which echoed around the tunnels.  It was so unpleasant that Sylvia just wanted to rush through the tunnels and get out.

She was not at all impressed by the stingray floating over her.  The dugong did not interest her at all.  I felt a bit the same about the dugong.  Then we went upstairs after seeing it and we were quite interested when we read about it.  Unfortunately there was no going back, we just had to keep going.  To the shark tank.  Sylvia had enough of the tunnels but now but we had to go forward.

By then she wasn't that impressed by the fish that looked just like they came out of Finding Nemo.  Nor was she impressed by fighting the crowd to see the penguins in the snow.  We hurried along the rest of the path, which seemed long by then, and were relieved to finally get to the gift shop.

As we walked out of the aquarium, we were both thirsty.  After reading all the damage that plastic does to our oceans, I was disappointed to see them selling plastic bottles in the aquarium cafe.  Sylvia begged for a drink from the fridge but I insisted that we walk on and drink from the reusable bottle in my bag.

So no ice cold drink but we did have a Rivareno Gelato each.  Sylvia chose the raspberry one first and I was exercising great self control until I tasted it.  Then I had to have one too.  They were lovely to eat while watching the ferries glide past on the Harbour.

One of my favourite things to do in Sydney is to take the local ferry service from Darling Harbour to Circular Quay.  It is a quick and cheap way to see Sydney from the water, to take in the iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House, without having to fork out for a long expensive tour.  Above is one of the traditional green ferries.  Ours was not the traditional type.  But it was called the Shane Gould which pleased me as she was a great Aussie Olympic swimmer.

Our ferry was pretty crowded so I did not have the best view but I did insist upon being outside despite the sea spray in our face, which did not please Sylvia.  We got a great view of the city skyline.  When I see Sydney Tower I still remember my first visit to Sydney with my family when I was 14.  Who could ever forget a roadtrip from Melbourne with seven kids in a station wagon!  I think that might be the only time I went to the top of Sydney Tower.

I am also very fond of the old warehouses on the wharves between Millers Point and Dawes Point.  I went to a building heritage conference in one of these old buildings, many years ago.  In the above photo they are dwarfed by the bridge.  I especially wanted to be outside on the ferry just so we could look up in awe at how huge the bridge is when we went under it.  The Coathanger is wonderful to behold in the flesh.

Sydney Opera House is also quite special to see.  Sylvia had seen the postcards of it lit up with rainbow colours.  She looked at it musingly and said, I would love to see it lit up.  Bemused, I responded, but you did last night.  It turns out I had assumed too much and she had only noticed the Harbour Bridge lit up.

When we alighted at Circular Quay, I chose not to walk towards the Opera House (as we had when we took Sylvia to Sydney when she was one).  For this trip I had decided I would like to visit the Rocks.

It is a fascinating area with a colourful heritage of slum dwellings and unions imposing green bans to stop the buildings being demolished in the early 1970s.  These days the area is far more gentrified but I still am grateful to the unions for their stance in saving the historic buildings.

I had intended to walk around the Rocks to look at the old buildings that huddle at the foot of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  However we did not have much time and Sylvia still had to buy some souvenirs.  So we mostly spent money in the Rocks.

We were still thirsty so I bought this Roogenic Native Strawberry Iced Tea.  It was quite sweet but had a really nice flavour.  (And it came in a glass bottle.)  So refreshing on a hot day when we had been walking around a lot.

Finally it was time to collect our case from the hotel, hop back on the train to the airport and watch a few planes before we flew home.  I took a photo of our dinner.  It was quite surprising to have just one hot dish.  Mostly airplane meals seem to have lots of little dishes.  The pasta with olives, vegies and cheese was nicer than many airline meals I have had.

It was a bit of a comedown as we had flown business class on the way there in quite fancy seats.  The chairs could be moved in all manner of ways and had a massage function.  The screen was big and the headphones were more comfortable.  The food was nice and the service was prompt and friendly.  However they were so fancy they had big screens between the seats.  Not so great when your neighbour is your 9 year old daughter.

Coming back it was nice to not have to lean forward and crane my neck around the partition to see her.  The plane was really quiet so there was plenty of room for her latest cuddly companion to have his own seat!