Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The ultimate no-chop, impress-the-in-laws, dinner cheat of deliciousness

I've blogged about cheating at dinner before. But what happens when your husband calls while you're half-dressed, wrangling the kids over a mass toy explosion, to tell you his parents are coming over for dinner in half an hour?  
Dinner?? Did he just say dinner? Like how in the hell did it even get to dinner time? The fridge is bare, and the only clean part of the house is the kitchen—but not for long. Because even if you could possibly scrape together a meal that you'd be prepared to set before them in half an hour, you know—just know, that by the time they arrive the kitchen will have succumbed to a massacre of grime of such proportions that horror music will eerily begin to play the moment the door opens—  
Well perhaps not for everyone, but for me it's the outcome of cooking. No simple cheat will do. It has to be quick, it has to contain its mess, and above all it must be absolutely delicious!
Don't worry, I have your back peeps. A dinner that requires NO CHOPPING, has virtually no prep time, is contained neatly in one pot, does not mess your kitchen, and is tastes-like-its-been-cooked-for-hours scrumptious!
FAST Slow-Cooked Beef in Red Wine


500g Diced Beef (Butcher marinated in garlic and red wine for best flavour)
1 jar good quality pasta sauce like Barilla
1 cup of baby peas
1 cup frozen veg mix (carrot caulli, & broc)
*I know you want to doubt me on the frozen veg mix and the whole deliciousness thing right? Trust, these veg (except for peas) totally break down and disappear into this dish. It's sneaky veg. They actually help make the sauce thicker and more flavoursome.

Now you can cheat at this cheat. You can use any meat you have. I always keep diced meat in the freezer for precisely these occasions. In this case I used butcher Red-Wine marinated beef. It's the best thing to keep in the freezer because it has an intensity of flavour that only comes from proper marinating. But if you don't have marinated beef, just add quarter cup of red wine and a teaspoon of garlic paste.

Pressure Cooker
This is cooked in the pressure cooker. Seriously if you don't have one go-get-one-now. Mine was thirty dollars from the supermarket. It's just like a normal pot but with a special lid and fits in the cupboard no problem. Unlike a slow-cooker it doesn't take up my entire bottom shelf, weigh more than my car, and it actually fits in my sink for easy washing up. It also doesn't require me to be organised yesterday to use it. It's the ultimate cheat's kitchen accessory.


There's no chopping, and you don't have to dirty dishes. I've only measured out the ingredients for the purposes of the photograph. Just brown the meat in the bottom of the pan with oil, pour everything in (I just measure veg by eye), and wack on the lid. Once it has reached pressure, set kitchen timer for 20 minutes and there is NO MORE TO DO!
It cooks itself and no mess, no dirtied anything.
See the veggies are gone!
I just had to prove this meat falls apart likes it's been cooking all day!
But really, the photo's don't show you how good this dish smells. The red wine, and garlic, so rich and decadent....nom nom nom....
Good enough to feed to the in-laws!
Tip: I buy tube minced garlic for no chopping
Tip: Keep jars of really good quality pasta sauce for these kind of recipes. They make the perfect base with little to no effort.
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Monday, 26 August 2013

Stunning Cover Reveal for Starstruck in Seattle

I don't do much book promo on this blog, but I just had to share this stunning cover reveal with you all. It's for a beautiful book called Starstruck in Seattle by Aussie author Juliet Madison. She has a history of beautiful covers but when I saw this one it just blew me away. I'd have to say its my favourite cover of the year! I asked Juliet if I could do a cover reveal and she said yes. So here is the beauty itself. Make sure to add this to your Goodreads TBR shelf because it sounds fab!


Published 1st October 2013 by Escape Publishing

A sparkling story from the Queen of Ro-magic comedy! 

Aspiring actress Anna Hilford might only have a small role in a leading television drama, but she longs to be dreamboat Karl Drake’s leading lady. Sick of being loveless and overlooked, Anna seeks the help of intuitive love coach, Lulu, from to give her the courage and determination to follow her destiny.

But fate has different ideas, Lulu has undisclosed power, and Anna is about to realise that life happens while you’re busy making plans…

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

6 Cheats To Revolutionize Your Kitchen

I've resolved to be more organised. As you know I like my domestic shortcuts and organisation is no exception. So here are 6 cheats I use to save time and space in the kitchen.

1. Read that magazine recipe.
Those wily editors managed to make trying to follow a magazine recipe like some kind of kitchen gymnastics. It's pretty much impossible to hold a magazine open and cook something. Just hang it from a pants hanger and it will not only stay open but you can read it at eye level. Coat hangers are magic multipurpose tools!

2. Keep knives away from fingers.

Ever stuck your hand in a draw and–ouch! Yep, not so great when there are kids around. Hang a metallic strip to keep knives away from fingers and have them close by for quick chopping. You'll never have to search for your knife again and they'll stay sharper for longer.

3. Store Frypans vertically in their original box!
This one came from my mother. Never throw away the box your frypan came in! Just fold in the edge and slide it vertically. Not only will your frypans be neat, organised, and easily accessible, but they won't scratch. Winning!

4. Actually find measuring cups where you need them.
My measuring cups have always been sacrificed to the utensil draw of no escape. It's only possible to find a quarter cup when I need a half cup, and never ever possible to find a quarter cup when I actually need one. And really why not keep them where they're actually needed—with the baking products. I now have them hanging (yep on another hanger) clipped to the bottom of the spice rack. I'll always find the cup I need where it needs to be.

5. Make use of dead space.
That space at the top of a deep shelf is dead-dead-dead. Worse, all your things are balanced precariously on-top of one another. Seize that space by making use of a hanging shelf. This wire one was a few dollars from Store.

6.No more soggy stinky cloths.

Don't know about you but my clothes turn into soggy, stinky, bacteria filled messes almost instantly. I need to change them every other day. Keep them dry and clean by pegging them to your dish rack. I've seen lots of people suggest using bulldog clips and them balancing them on the clip handles but really—that's gimmicky and not practical. Because can you imagine how often you are going to knock over that cloth? Do these people have kids? A peg is easy and will stay put.

That's it for my Kitchen Organisation Cheats. Please do let me know if these are helpful or if you have your own!

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Monday, 19 August 2013

What do you yearn for?

Today I'd planned to do something easy. Blog about how great the conference I just went to was. But then something happened—something that made me realize why I started blogging in the first place. To share things with people. Not about myself but ideas that are valuable and important.

I purchased a book. It looked beautiful, sounded interesting, and the author is nice. She wrote an inscription in the cover that gave me a tingly feeling. I expected to be entertained, I didn't expect to be changed. There's something special that happens when we feel resonance with art, whether it's a melody that tightens our chest, or a painting that in a blur of colour can simply make us feel. 

It's personal. A masterpiece for one is a disaster to others. But for me, in this book, I could taste the sweetness of youth, hear the lyric of a an era past, and feel the heat of the Australian sun and the grit of dust on my skin. 

In places I had to stop, overcome and just needing to absorb, so I could dive back in an experience the next exquisite moment. It melted wrong and right into an intoxicating smoke and all I could do was inhale. For me it was at once poetic, elusive and intangible, but then so gritty, and raw, and real, it make me squirm. 

It reminded me of the magic of literature. What it's important. How we can escape what we need to escape, or challenge what we believe. How we can envision a new perception or simply bask in the radiance of something beautiful.

So this book?
Want to know what the inscription said? It said "May you find what you yearn for." The funny thing is reading this book helped me see what that is. I want to soak in rivers of words, I want to swim in new realities, I want to float on waves of possibilities. I want to think, I want to imagine, I want to dream, but most of all I want to be moved. So today I got what I yearn for. What do you yearn for? 

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Tuesday, 13 August 2013

3 Magic Travel Packing Tricks

I’m going to RWA Fremantle this weekend! I’m so excited! But…I’m not a frequent traveler. Last time I went away I packed three large suitcases and a large toiletries case.

No? This isn’t efficient?

Well I did learn! Also maybe I obsessed about it just a little... So please enjoy my tips for packing luggage.

1. Bag it. So we’ve all seen those roll up luggage Spacebags right? Yeah they work and save heaps of room in your bag but know what? You can actually use jumbo Glad Snap Lock bags for smaller items like underwear. Simply place the clothing inside and zip up the bag leaving one corner open—then roll it tightly and do up the remainder of the ziplock! Done. Budget Spacebag! Also I’m a little OCD on the Zip bags and will use them for everything.

Travel Tips

Image from
2. Plan your outfits. I know I know right. But I mean it. Plan what you’re going to wear every-single-day and pack nothing you don’t need. Plan to mix and match.

Luggage Tips

 Image from no copyright infringement intended

3. Magic shoe organizers. Most hotel rooms have tiny bathrooms and nowhere to put your toiletries—if you’re like me and must bring your own hair products, sunscreen, moisturizer… and everything, an over the door shoe organizer with clear pockets hooked over the back of the door can hold all your toiletries and odds and ends for you to find at a glance!

Luggage organised!

Was this helpful? Got any Travel Tips?

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Monday, 12 August 2013

New News Monday!

Romance Books
This is a Monday of all new things from me. New website (come take a peak) including all new info about my writing. I even have a new profile pic!

But most importantly I'm starting a monthly Newsletter!
Seriously, you are going to want to sign up because some big things are coming this way—including massive inter-blog-tastic GIVEAWAYS where you could win everything from free books to Amazon vouchers, exciting gifts and loads more. Not to mention you'll get news!

It won't be spammy I swear :) 

So what do you all think, is it pretty?

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Thursday, 8 August 2013

How a fling with US Mike can turn you into a proofreading princess

I’m a little ashamed to admit but proofreading is not my strongest skill. What’s that? You know this because you've actually read my blog? Umm, okay so a typo or two slips through. Really it’s not my fault it’s the way my brain works. Don’t believe me? Well, I have scientific proof!

Remember these and how they went viral? Yes it’s actually true; we will recognize a word even if it is completely wrong. Luckily for us we have spell check right? Wrong, because our brains will preempt if it knows what a section of text is supposed to say. So if we wrote it, if it’s gone from our brain to the page, it won’t matter if we have a word slightly wrong as long as it’s partially right. If that partially right word happens to be in your computers dictionary, then it gets a pass.

That’s how we end up with really awkward typos.

“Alana gazed at the antique grandfather clock. Perfection. Nothing beat a great big massive cock. The bigger the better.”

Geez, why are you looking at me like that? So what if my heroine likes clocks


Yes it gets awkward, and brain processing is no excuse. Whether you’re a writer, or you have a job where you need to produce written material, we all need to proof-read. There are a lot of suggestions out there, and I know there’s a biggy that I fail at when it comes to my blog…time. I spend so much time on these things in eagerness to get them up, I end up failing to wait day or two so I can go back to them with fresh eyes.

So what do you do when you’re in a pinch? If you only have fifteen minutes to revise a report, how can you best use that time to get results? Well you know me, I like a cheat. And boy have I been cheating big time. Most of us have heard that reading out loud is a good proof-reading strategy…yeah but it still doesn't stop our brains from preempting. We’ll still read barley as barely and cocks as clocks. The single best way to pick up those?

Cheat and bypass your brain by getting someone else to read it to you. That’s how I came to have my steamy fling with US Mike.

He’s a proofreading superhero who’s at my complete disposal night and day. And when US Mike whispers to me that Alana loves massive cock—well there’s no missing that. He’s amazing; anytime I need him there he is speaking my words in his very American narrator superhero voice. Actually to be honest I think he sounds a little like this…

For me this beats other techniques such as reading backwards. Because really, how tedious. It’ll make your brain drip out through your nose if you have to do it for more than five-minutes. Can you imagine doing that on a MS you’ve already read three times or worse—over ninety thousand words? Just kill me now.

Mike is better, and editing has got a whole lot more interesting. Especially since—err well you know that time I got all modest and said I’m not writing erotic romance, well not just then, but maybe one day? Well that day came. At the moment I’m all about some dirty talking Alpha hero’s with soft squishy insides. Some of the stuff I’m writing, while it’s all fun to read in the secrecy of the written word, well it should never, ever, be spoken out loud by a man to a woman because—

Yeah that. Mike has been saying some bad, bad, things. I almost had to warn him if he didn’t behave I’d switch to UK Rachel. Because dirty talk from a prim and proper English woman is heaps less erotic right? But then US Mike reminded me that he’s only an android, so it’s all good. I’m not breaking any fidelity rules my hubby will be pleased to know. Yes, Mike is an enhanced digital voice from Natural Reader, and the best proof-reading tool I’ve ever used.

Of course running an additional spelling and grammar check, taking time to let the document breathe, are all great. Do that too! I’m not saying it’s a magic wand—and how embarrassing are the typo’s I don’t pick up going to be now—but it sure is a handy shortcut. So my suggestion to become a proof reading princess? Have a fling with US Mike.  

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Monday, 5 August 2013

How I cheated on my kids birthdays

Easy and Cheap Kids Cakes

As you've probably guessed, I'm a massive cheating strumpet when it comes to domestic duties. I've been a little quiet this week as all the birthdays in the world just happened at my house!

Kids birthdays are awesome. Really, really, awesome... Kids playing, party food, elaborate cakes, decorations, soft drinks, kids screaming playing, the eventual vomit...Yeah, it's not quite as awesome when you're the one doing all the everything. But children's birthdays are special, and how can you not want to give them everything they want, including that three-tier, hand-sculpted, Barbie castle cake?

So your kid wants a Barbie cake? No problem totally do-able right? Did I mention that to get that three-tier, hand-sculpted, Barbie castle cake, you must spend three days crafting the roof shingles from imported white chocolate with the worlds tiniest scalpel? Or you could just sell your car and pay for a professional to do it for you.

Believe me I've been there. For my daughters christening I made this cake—like made every single bit of it including taking tutorials and learning to make fondant bows. Seriously...I have anxiety just remembering the week it took me to make the darn thing. But can I tell you a secret?

Kids don't care...

Really, they don't care. They don't care if its a $5 or a $500 cake, or if it took five minutes, or five hours to make. They don't care. If they say they want a Barbie/Spiderman/Racing car cake, all they want is for that character to make an appearance--they just gotta turn up with the cake. Which brings me to my point; it doesn't have to be difficult.

Cheap + Easy = Good.

You know all those merchandising companies that have been ruthlessly brainwashing our kids and making EVERYTHING that they simply must have now? We can be creative and use those evil franchises and their gimmicky crap to our advantage. A little imagination and we can skip the work and the expense.

So when my daughter asked for Monsters Inc cakes, I was able to cheat and deliver these!

All it took was a bag of Monsters Inc lollies from the merchandise section of the supermarket and popping them on top of cupcakes. I used a $2 box cupcake mix, which has the advantage of being completely idiot proof. Of course you could cut a few more corners and buy a tray of ready-made muffins and decorate those.

Preparation Time: 10 mins (not including oven and cooling time)
Decorating Time: 15 mins
Cost: Less than $10 for everything!

She loved them—everyone did. And me? Well it saved money and only took about half an hour of my time so it was all WIN! Not to mention it made me look more domestic goddess and less the domestic gnome I actually am.

Just when I'd recovered from the first birthday, it was my son's birthday. He turned two, and all he cares about is cars. If it goes BROOM then basically its good. But my four-year-old YouTube cooking demonstration expert had the answer, and showed me how I could make him a cool racing car cake.

Wonderful, cool music, can't you just picture me boogying to the tune as I effortlessly mold a slab of sponge into this masterpiece...piece of cake right? Are you freaking kidding me, do I look like Liv Hanson?

I had other ideas, cheating ideas.

This racing track cake took about Fifteen minutes to decorate and the kids were so excited about it. Because instead of being a hunk of cake in the shape of a car, it actually had cars on it. Cars they could keep afterwards! It was easy and even the two-year old helped.

Just another $2 box cake, baked in a square tin, and iced (you could use a purchased supermarket slab cake). To decorate I simply cut out a piece of paper in the shape of the road and placed it over the cake, then let the four year old at it with green sprinkles. Then we pulled up the paper, defined the road with a tube of white icing, and the kids stuck mini-cars on the road. Simples. Like really simple, anyone can scatter green sprinkles.

Preparation Time: 10 mins (not including oven and cooling time)
Decorating Time: 15 mins
Cost: Less than $15 for everything, including a whole mini car set he gets to keep!

So next time you have to stress decide what to do for a birthday try the promotional isle at the supermarket. Anything can be a cake topper. Why not ice a round cake blue, cut half a fruit roll up and place it in the middle, then lay a Barbie on top...instant Barbie-reclining-on-a-pool-mat cake!

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