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Last week was a great week. How often do you get to meet your literary and culinary heroes in the space of seven days?

On Sunday March 6 I finally met author Armistead Maupin, creator of the Tales of the City series. I own all of his books and have been lucky enough to interview him twice. Unfortunately I didn’t get to meet Armistead when he visited Perth in 2007 due to being overseas, so the chance to hear him speak at the Perth Writers Festival about his latest book Mary Ann in Autumn was not to be missed.

Nor was the chance to have a book (or two) signed – and a photo.

 

Meeting Armistead Maupin

 

I’m re-reading the original Tales of the City book for book club this month. It has been a long time  – close to 20 years, since I first became acquainted with Mary Ann Singleton, Michael Tolliver and the residents of 28 Barbary Lane, so I look forward to renewing their acquaintance.

In my dream world, I’d get to see the musical of version of Tales that opens in San Francisco in May.

On Saturday March 12, I got to meet Nigella Lawson, whose cooking I adore. While some may focus on the fluttering eyelashes, sultry looks and flicking of the hair, all I really care about is Nigella Lawson’s food.

How to be a Domestic Goddess is probably my most used cook book. Nigella’s blueberry muffins, jam doughnut muffins, Victoria sponge, dense chocolate loaf are all favourites that never fail to appeal and to impress friends, family, kids and colleagues. Simply delicious.

Although I may have been able to organise an interview with Nigella through her pay-TV connections, the weekend trip to see her Masterclass with the supremely funny muso turned celebrity chef Anna Gare was pure pleasure. A chance to head to Melbourne for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival and for a short while forget about TV.

 

Meeting the domestic goddess, Nigella Lawson

Meeting the domestic goddess, Nigella Lawson

 

My husband wasn’t entirely thrilled to be attending the Masterclass (tickets were hard to come by so when I managed to get through back in October I snapped up two) but he quite enjoyed himself.

He reckons he may even cook Anna’s Persian fillet of beef. I said I’d do the scallop ceviche, upside down potato salad and trip of tarts to go with it.

It has been a great month for foodies, with March featuring both #eatdrinkperth and #mfwf (I’m so used to those hashtags) and plenty of opportunities to eat.

I’ll soon, hopefully, get round to posting a few pix from the places we ate in Melbourne including Movida Next Door, Cumulus Inc, Bistro Vue and Circa The Prince. I may not have made it to many official #mfwf events but I did my best to eat in as many Age hatted restaurants as I could.  And we walked just about everywhere so that helped keep the extra kilos at bay!

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I can see a rainbow

I can see a rainbow

 
While backing up an SD card from last year I stumbled across this photo taken in July, the middle of winter in Australia.
 
It was actually a double rainbow but this is the only one I had of the whole rainbow.
 
I love rainbows. Not unicorns, though :-)
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sunset, Perth, Summer 2010

Sunset, Perth, Summer 2010

 
I also came across this photo taken as the sun set over the Indian Ocean on West Coast Drive, around North Beach. I’ve often tried to capture the sun setting on my iPhone while a passenger, usually with little success.
 
This time I actually pulled over and took the time to take some photos on my camera and enjoy the view.
 
It was a moment for quiet contemplation; my family had left for Tasmania for a week, my dog had just been dropped at my sister’s and I was , having only just recovered from bronchitis bordering on pneumonia, getting ready to head to Sydney to see Oprah.
 
My photographic skills are average, my eye for a photo and composition is ok and my camera is probably below average but I never leave home without it.

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There’s no point having a blog if you don’t update it regularly so on my recent track record, I should be thinking about closing this site down.

Working full-time, watching preview DVDs at night, doing interviews as early as 6am and raising a family leaves me with little time to update this but I am going to have another crack.

There’s also the issue of public versus private. How much do I reveal here now my face is in the paper most days of the week? Do I even need this as an outlet?

For starters I am going to post a few links to stories that have been in The West.

Last week I chatted to Dr Andrew Rochford for The 7pm Project’s special report on the state of mental health funding.

I also recently chatted to Bondi Vet and all round nice guy Dr Chris Brown

Chaser performer and writer Chris Taylor took time out from shooting to talk about The Chaser’s new series Yes We Canberra! although my byline seems to have fallen off this one.

All in all it has been a busy couple of months, with a flying set visit to Melbourne in June that allowed me the opportunity to squeeze in a meal at Grossi Florentino.

Over the coming months this blog is likely to become more food focussed as I leave my TV commentary to the newspaper and Twitter.

So, having just backed up my iPhone, let’s start with a few foodie pics.

Inspired by MasterChef and my sweet tooth I have been trying macarons from just about everywhere, though I am still hanging out to get to Sydney to visit Adriano Zumbo’s patisserie.

Here are some recent purchases, top to bottom, from Jean-Pierre Sancho in Perth and Cafe Vue in Melbourne. I can’t seem to find any photos of macarons from Choux so will add them later. And I was about to upload one of Rochelle Adonis’ chocolate macarons when it disappeared.

Photos backed up from my iPhone seem to be appearing in totally random order, not by date taken. Frustrating!

Macaron Madness - macarons from Jean Paul Sancho, Perth

Macaron Madness - macarons from Jean-Pierre Sancho, Perth

Macarons from Cafe Vue, Melbourne

Macarons from Cafe Vue, Melbourne

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Well I survived my first week back in full-time employment.

Things that have changed since I left The West in 2007.

*The side gate I used to use as a shortcut to the foyer is now locked. Padlocked and covered in cobwebs, in fact. I felt pretty daft marching around to use it, then marching right back again.

*There’s still next to nowhere to eat. Maybe I should buy a Jiffy food van?

*Sky News has a reporter in residence. I wondered who the pretty girl was who was talking to herself; then I realised when I stuck my head past the partition she was doing a piece to camera. It’s amazing the set-up she has and apparently it doesn’t pick up all of our noise.

*For a whole day I wondered why they had only hand sanitiser in the toilets, the stuff you don’t use with water. Then I realised the soap dispensers were built-in next to the tap. Like they had always been.

*It’s not a good idea to go to the loo around lunchtime. That’s when they are closed for cleaning.

*The editorial computer system is far more user-friendly (though some users found it hard to believe I’d said that) and the internal message system has gone.

*You need to dial 0 to get an outside line, not 9. Or you end up ringing random people in sport by mistake. I think.

*That it’s a good idea to tell switchboard you’ve returned to work, or they accidentally tell people you don’t work there anymore.

*Home -baked goods are embraced and encouraged – although I was a bit shocked to overhear one colleague saying my Chocolate Crackle Top cookies looked like dog poo circa when dogs ate bones. She thinks I didn’t hear her because I was on the phone several rows away. Ha!

*Travelling reporters can borrow a Dell netbook and wireless USB modem. Amazing! I’m testing one out tomorrow.

*I received mail from a movie company on my third day, before I had changed my address with them. I realised that mail had probably been coming in and going in the bin since 2007. I hadn’t realised because I also get their mailouts by email.

*I could spend several weeks explaining how long I was gone for and why I am back.

There’s nothing quite like a newsroom, especially when you started working in one aged 17. Only newspaper people really understand newspapers and newspaper people  - to this day I’ m pretty sure 75 per cent of my non-media friends have no idea what I actually do. Actually some media people probably don’t either, since my round is TV but I’m not on it :-)

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As promised, here’s an update on how my first online shopping experience went with Woolworths.  Unfortunately, not well.

Looking back at my order, it looks like I ordered about 52 items. Of those, one was out of stock and I got an email alert. No biggie. But there were about 10 other things that went wrong.

I got beans instead of bean sprouts. One can of tomatoes instead of two – but charged for both. Ice cream and sorbet that were both melted enough to be oozing out of their cartons (possibly because they were delivered about 9pm, the outer limit of the 7-9pm window I requested).

Let’s see what else? Caged eggs instead of free range, two small chickens instead of one, a small box of green tea instead of a large bog of chai tea.

Less bothersome were the bake at home bread rolls sent instead of bake at home baguettes and the three boxes of hash browns instead of the one kilo bag on sale.

So in some cases I was overcharged and in others, such as being charged for one free range chicken then getting two smaller ones at a higher price, I was under charged.

After unpacking and noting all the errors I called customer service and could not get through. At that time of night I suspected they weren’t actually there (there were conflicting hours on the website and the order confirmation email).

So I followed up with a polite and detailed email. When I got no response, I called late on Saturday afternoon and was told I could have the problem items re-delivered but not for a few days. Or I could get credit. I went with the latter for the four items that were the biggest mistakes – giving me a refund of about $14 (the order was about $174).

I had hoped for a reply to my email but a week on and I haven’t heard a word. The customer service representative I spoke to  said the service had been operating in my suburb for three weeks and would improve.  She didn’t sound terribly surprised by the mistakes nor terribly sorry.

Compare this with my first Coles delivery a year or so ago where I alerted them to the rather trivial matter of frozen spring onions. They credited my account without question and were pleased to have been notified.

What seems most strange about this whole situation is Woolworths is playing catch-up in a market Coles has had to itself for about a year.

Why haven’t they done some homework and tried out the Coles service? Coles has better delivery windows for starters, not to mention giving customers an estimated price to take into account the final and actual weight of items like meat, whole chickens and fruit and veg.

Part of the problem is Woolworths appears to be giving its personal shoppers’ a computerised list of items to tick off with pencil but the final results, weights and prices are not being taken into account in the way Coles does.

It surely can’t be good business sense to give me two approx 1.2kilo chickens worth about $17  instead of one 1.7kilo chicken for $13.60 or  to charge me $9.27 for 450g chicken breast that actually turned out to be $7.55.

Unable to secure a delivery window and not really having the time to take the risk with Woolworths, this week I went back to Coles. My delivery for 6-8pm arrived at 6.05pm with everything itemised and in their bags in good condition. As has become Coles’ habit, I also received some free samples.

Now that’s service. I think I’ll give it another few weeks or even months before I try Woolworths again.

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