On your bike

It’s Spring, so it must be time for the Sydney Rides Festival!

In addition to the annual events we’ve come to know and love (the Spring Cycle, the Bicycle Film Festival and Ride to Work Day), there are some fabulous workshops coming up this weekend to help you get your bike road-safe and looking sweet:


CBD chocolate crawl


It seemed like a good idea in the morning, before we embarked on our crawl of the chocolate cafés and boutique chocolate shops of Sydney’s CBD. By mid afternoon, groaning and threatening to lapse en masse into a hypoglycaemic coma, we weren’t so sure anymore. However, looking back on it now, with a few days of fruit & vegies behind me, it really was day of sublime chocolatey goodness. Let me share it with you…

We started at the Guylian café in the Rocks. Between the five of us, we had chocolate fondue (above), chocolate tart, a pain au chocolat and a few heart-starting mochas. One hell of a breakfast.

From there we sought out the city store for Adora chocolates, and found it tucked away in a little arcade off Bligh street. I’d been to the main store in Earlwood before, but had no idea there was an outlet in central Sydney. We chose one bite-sized treat each – some truffles (chai, ginger and something called a Ben Hur), chocolate-dipped candied orange, and the most sublime white cinnamon-chili chocolate. They didn’t stay in the box (below) for long.


Next was Max Brenner in the Metcentre – just down from Wynyard. The teenage lovebirds shared a gorgeous tasting plate of six hand-picked chocolates. The rest of us went thirds in a chocolate souffle that oozed molten chocolate as soon the fork went in.


We hadn’t thought it would be possible, but we were starting to reach our collective chocolate limit. We decided to pick up some little bits to take home from our next two stops: Haigh’s in the Strand Arcade and Bon Bon Fine Chocolates in the QVB. The new mango truffles at Haigh’s were irresistible and didn’t make it home after all. And look at those cute little goldfish all stacked up in the window of Bon Bon (below) – ridiculously cute!

Haighs and Bon Bon

Thank goodness it was a fair walk from there to our next stops – both in Darling Harbour. In Harbourside, we tracked down the St Moritz Chocolate Café. The website promised churros, but we couldn’t see any on the blackboard menu. There didn’t seem to be much chocolate at all, really, but we did find a small display case near the door, and bought a chocolate strawberry to take away.

A short walk around Darling Harbour led us to our final destination – the Lindt Chocolat Café in Cockle Bay Wharf. I started the day with a mocha, and finished with another. And then rolled all the way home.


Guylian Belgian Chocolate Café
91 George Street
The Rocks, Sydney

2 Blight Street

Max Brenner
Shop MG 24, Metcentre
273 George Street, Sydney

Haigh’s Chocolates
Shop 1, The Strand Arcade,
412 – 414 George Street, Sydney

Bon Bon Fine Chocolates
Level G, QVB
455 George St, Sydney

St. Moritz Chocolate Café
Shop 109, 2-10 Darling Drive
Darling Harbour, Sydney

Lindt Chocolat Café
104-105 Cockle Bay Wharf
Darling Harbour, Sydney

Jurassic Lounging

I found out about Jurassic Lounge several weeks before it opened, and started marking the days off on my calendar until opening night. Then a never-ending series of work and home commitments chewed up my entire February, and I thought that I’d missed my chance with the end of Summer. How happy I was to discover that I was wrong, and that I had until 19th April. Winning!

Finally this Tuesday night came around, and with it my chance to get along to Jurassic Lounge.

I was determined to see and do as much as I could in the one evening, but what first? Drink! With a glass of smooth Innocent Bystander white in hand, I started with a tarot card reading from Diana up in the Chapman Mineral Gallery (atmosphere courtesy of VJ Jerronimo). My cards – Focus, Communication and Abundance – set the tone for my evening.

From there it was off to the Skeletons for a bit of hip-hop from Billy B. It’s here, with the music pumping and the coloured lights swimming across the walls that that I really came to grips with the fact that this wasn’t any ordinary visit to the museum. Instead of hushed voices and quiet contemplation, here we were lounging on floor cushions eating beef and rice (scrummy!). Inspired by the chance to see familiar things from unfamiliar angles, I was off again in search of more adventures…

Heading upstairs, we grabbed a torch at the entry and headed into the Surviving Australia gallery. The taxidermied animals seem to almost come to life when seen by torchlight. More than once, I jumped when spying something out of the corner of my eye – you could swear the Museum was really coming to life.

Jurassic Lounge

One of the helpers swapped our torches and empty glasses for headphones as we headed into the Dinosaurs. Silent disco time! DJ PIRI’s lounge-y grooves made it difficult to move on to explore further (especially with the promise of glowsticks for the best dancers), but I could see a bearded nun projected on the wall at the other end of the Dinosaur hall and had to investigate. After swapping one set of headphones for another, I caught a couple of Kino Sydney’s shorts. McKillop (yes, Australia’s only saint as a bearded detective) was fabulously irreverent and laugh-out-loud funny.

Downstairs in the cavernous main foyer we discovered Creon working his magic with paint and board (not to mention hair dryer), as well as some live reptilian friends for a bit of a cold-blooded cuddle.

It being International Women’s Day, I wanted to be sure to catch the short documentary Eight Ladies by Dena Curtis. It provided a wonderfully still, quiet moment in the midst of so much colour and movement.

The highlight of the evening for me was the Twitter-based #FINDIT treasure hunt. The Jlounge team tweeted a cryptic picture of one of the Museum’s exhibits, and then it was up to us to find it and reply with the correct name. I was lucky (or determined) enough to find the first one – Weedy Sea Dragon! – winning a movie ticket into the bargain.

It was great to see so many people there last night. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this means Jurassic Lounge is here to stay (at least in the Daylight Savings months). It’s a unique and altogether wonderful addition to Sydney’s nightlife – I can’t wait to come back soon with a horde of friends. You hurry in too – only six more weeks left to this season!

Jurassic Lounge
5:30pm – 9:30pm Tuesday nights until 19th April
Australian Museum
6 College Street, Sydney

Sydney fireworks


Nothing beats the New Year’s Eve fireworks on Sydney harbour. But that’s a long time between bangs. (*snort*)

If you fancy a more frequent fireworks fix, the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority puts on a show at Darling Harbour every couple of weeks. Mostly on a Saturday night, but sometimes Sunday or Monday – always from 9pm. The schedule until mid-2011 is below. Keep an eye on the Darling Harbour website for further dates.

  • Saturday 5th March
  • Saturday 19th March
  • Saturday 2nd April
  • Saturday 9th April
  • Saturday 16th April
  • Saturday 23rd April
  • Saturday 30th April
  • Saturday 7th May
  • Saturday 14th May
  • Sunday 21st May
  • Saturday 28th May
  • Sunday 12th June
  • Monday 13th June
  • Saturday 18th June

Watching the Oscars

2011 Oscars

The 2011 Oscars are taking place on Monday. From 12:30pm to (around about) 5pm Sydney time.

If you care about the Oscars at all (like we do), you have a few choices… You can avoid the media all day (including Facebook, Twitter and annoying bosses who yell out “Oh yeah! I knew Natalie Portman would win!”), and then enjoy the delayed telecast on Monday night. You can resign yourself to the fact that you will know the major winners by dinner time, and enjoy the coverage for the frocks and corny speeches. Or you can throw yourself into it completely – take the day off work and watch the telecast live at home or, even better, on the big screen.

To help you decide, here are the nitty-gritty details from a Sydney perspective.

The fingers-in-the-ears “la-la-la not listening” option

Turn off the internet. Turn off the radio and the TV. Listen only to music on your iPod. (Extra points if your playlist for the day consists solely of songs from movie soundtracks.)

When you get home, the Channel 9 coverage (with all that frock-y goodness) starts at  9:40pm. You’ll be up late.

The no surprises option

If you’re going to hear the winners throughout the day anyway, you may as well go all-out and make sure you’re getting the news as it happens. My choices are:

The red carpet will get going at about midday, with the ceremony itself kicking off at 12:30pm. You’ll still be wanting to watch the delayed broadcast at home later (details above), but you may want to make yourself some kick-ass popcorn to distract yourself from the fact that you already know what’s in the envelope. May I recommend Jamie Oliver’s Christmas popcorn recipe as the kick-assiest there is.

The Oscars long weekend option

So you’re taking Monday off work to make sure you see the whole thing live to air? I admire your commitment. If you’re staying at home, you can watch the coverage on either free-to-air or pay TV:

  • Channel 9 has the red carpet at midday, and the telecast at 12:30pm
  • Starpics has even more red carpet coverage from 10am and the telecast at 12:30pm

But why stay in? The following Event Cinemas locations will be showing the whole show live, all starting at 11am and finishing around 5pm:

  • Bondi Junction
  • Campbelltown
  • Castle Hill
  • George Street
  • Macquarie
  • Top Ryde

Tickets for Gold Class at all locations are $65 per person, including a glass of bubbles. Vmax at Top Ryde is $30 per person, also including the bubbly.

Whatever your Oscars option of choice, I hope the Academy gives awards to your favourites. (As long as Colin Firth gets the best actor gong.)

All Greek to me

Hornsby Greek Festival

The first ever Hornsby Greek Festival went “opa!” last weekend at Greenway Park, Cherrybrook. It was a hot, humid day, but the park was crowded with families enjoying fabulous Greek music and food.

We sat under the trees at the edge of the park, in earshot of the kids squealing on the dodgem cars, and ate our souvlaki and baby octopus while we watched the camels (Greek camels?) lollop around the perimeter of the oval. We took home a box of fresh almond shortbread (Kourabiethes) thinking it might last us a week, but they were so yummy they were all gone by Monday night!

I hope this becomes a hugely successful annual event – I’ll be keeping an eye out for it same time next year.

In praise of farmers’ markets

Thornleigh Farm Market

We were hoping for a sleep in on Sunday morning. No such luck. Our youngest needed to be at Scouts at 8am, so we were up and about at normal-school-day time. A terrible disappointment, until we realised that it was the morning of our local monthly farm market. We stopped by to discover that the joint was already jumping (the “joint” being the McDonalds overflow carpark – there’a a deep irony there). We picked up enormous ripe figs, end-of-season yellow nectarines, fresh turkish bread, two kilos of frozen sirloin steak and a pack of whiting rissoles to take home. Not only that – we also enjoyed a market brekkie of coffee and pain au chocolat, and still made it home before the teenagers had emerged from bed. (We did manage to tempt them out with the hot chocolate and chai we brought back.)

Our local market (Thornleigh Farm Market) is run by the local Rotary club, and has an ever-increasing variety of goods to buy, including flowering gum trees like the one in the photo above. We have a few things that are pantry (and freezer) necessities each month, but part of the joy of the market is the seasonal produce that you don’t usually see in the local supermarket – the zucchini flowers, the yellow and purple carrots, the sweetest little sugarplums… mmm-mmm.

I’ve listed some of our must-visit farm and organic markets below. What are your favourites? And what do you simply have to buy at every visit?

Thornleigh Farm Market
8am – 12pm, 3rd Sunday of the month
Phyllis Ave, Thornleigh

Eveleigh Farmers’ Market
8am – 1pm every Saturday
243 Wilson Street, Darlington

Castle Hill Farmers & Fine Food Market
8am – 12pm, 2nd Saturday of the month
Castle Hill Showground (enter via Carrington Road)

Hornsby Organic Food Market
8am – 4pm every Thursday
Hornsby Mall (by the clock fountain)

For a list of many of the other organic and farmers’ markets in Sydney and regional NSW, see the Australian Farmers’ Markets Association website.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010

(Not me, obviously!)

After a scrummy lunch with friends at Sailors Thai in the Rocks, we toddled up to College Street to see the annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Australian Museum. It’s always great to see these extraordinary photos. I love the ones that remind me of the old Curiosity Show segment “here’s a familiar object seen from an unfamiliar angle”, but the shots that really amaze me are from the young photographers (10 years and under, 11-14 years and 15-17 years).

This year, the Museum has very cleverly included a hands-on component called “My Photo Studio”. It’s great for engaging the younger visitors, but as you can see from the picture above, the grown-ups got to have a play as well.

There’s just over two weeks left. (Don’t forget that the over-18s can also visit the Wildlife Photographer exhibition on Tuesday evenings with a Jurassic Lounge ticket.)

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010
14th December 2010 – 13th March 2011
Australian Museum
6 College Street, Sydney

Shakespeare by the Sea

Shakespeare by the Sea - Comedy of Errors

This is the 25th season of Shakespeare by the Sea at the Balmoral Beach Rotunda. For the last quarter of a century, David Finlayson MacSwan and his troupe of actors have put on two Shakespeare plays each Summer.

I went to the first season, and several after that, but haven’t been for many years. And then this year a number of things pointed me to the fact that I was overdue for another visit. Firstly, I read that it was the 25th and final season. Then my teenage daughter’s English teacher told her to go see one of this year’s plays. And then – so sad – I heard that Dr Finlayson McSwan had passed away suddenly as the season was due to start.

The company bravely decided to go ahead as planned, and to dedicate the final season to the memory of their director, producer and friend. And what a fitting tribute it is.

We went down to the beach tonight to see A Comedy of Errors. They had moved the play to 1984, and populated it with a band of big-haired, Wham-loving, sharp-suit-wearing smooth operators. What fun! We laughed out loud all the way through, and even our eleven year old kept up with the twists and turns in the plot.

There are a few weeks left in this farewell season, so do yourself a favour and head to Balmoral to see either Comedy of Errors or A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s your last chance to experience this uniquely-Sydney event: Shakespeare with a soundtrack of lapping waves and chattering flying-foxes. Take a picnic, a bottle of bubbles and a bunch of friends.

Shakespeare By The Sea
8pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights until 6th March
The Rotunda, Balmoral Beach
By donation (at least $20 each recommended)


ArtExpress, the exhibition of selected major works from HSC Visual Arts students, has been around for years. It was an annual affair even before I finished high school, which is a Very Long Time Ago Indeed. Since then it’s grown into a series of local and regional shows, across eleven venues.

In Sydney this year, you can visit ArtExpress at:

The small sampling that’s available online looks amazing. Every year I’m blown away with the level of maturity in these works.