Mandy Wrangles_2_tnNEW YORK & HAWAII

Well, we’ve been back home in Australia for a couple of weeks now, and it’s taken me that long to find my blogging feet again. All up, we spent four weeks in America, stayed in seven cities, caught ten flights (including the teeny-tiny plane to the Grand Canyon), too many buses, cabs and shuttles to count. It was, without doubt, the most incredible trip of a lifetime. Our kids are now pretty seasoned travellers, and already asking where the next holiday will be to!

NYOur last stop in mainland USA was New York – a very long way from sunny California! Two of my foodie ambitions was to check out a fair-dinkum NYC hot dog, and of course the pizza. Believe me, we had plenty if both! There are, of course, hot dog stands on every corner, but this one struck me as typical New York City; about a block from the Twin Towers Memorial site, on our way to walk along the Hudson River and wave to the Statue of Liberty. I got to have my New York Hot Dog, served with the lot. It was delish! (Until I grubbed ketchup all the way down the front of me…)

NY-1On our walk back to our hotel, we stopped into a pretty grubby-looking cafe on the edge of a construction zone for our kids to use the restroom. Being the polite kind of people we are, we decided to stay for hot chips and a milkshake. It was only once we were seated that we noticed the temporary wooden sign spray painted with the words ‘Medi Centre’, and the photographs and hand-written RIP messages pinned to the walls showing the horror and chaos of September 11, when that very cafe we were sitting in was turned into an emergency medical facility. A very emotional experience for all of us.

On a lighter note – PIZZA! My all time favourite food! We ate A LOT of it in New York. A lot. A few doors down from our hotel was a take-away pizza shop selling slices for 99 cents each, or $10 for a whole ‘pie’. Now I’m not talking average sized slices, either. These were the massive-one-slice-will-fill-you kind. We could easily feed our whole family of five for $10, with leftovers for the fridge. Win! We went back more than once.


Hawaii 1On our way home to Australia, we stopped over in Hawaii for three nights. Bliss, bliss and more bliss! What a contrast to the crazy-busy city of New York. We stayed at the simply amazing Hilton on Waikiki Beach, and it was there that I finally got what I’d been craving for weeks – fruit. Check out my seasonal breakfast platter, served with a gluten-free ‘bread’ (more like a sweet cupcake, but hey, I wasn’t complaining!) Banana, melon, star fruit, berries, pineapple and dragon fruit. I ordered the same thing every morning, with a side of bacon. Because protein. And really, no one does bacon like Americans. Or pizza, or hot dogs, or cheeseburgers, or waffles, pancakes, clam chowder or super-sized buffets…yeah, you get the picture.

Thanks, USA. We had a blast!



Triple Chocolate Tim Tam Cake Pops


TTcake popsFor our first Cook Club, Bel was hoping I’d go a little easy on you all (but mostly her, I suspect!) with something simple. So, wish granted – it doesn’t get much easier than my no-bake Tim Tam Cake Pops. I use this recipe HEAPS, it’s so quick and flexible, there’s minimal mess (always a good thing in my kitchen. I’m allergic to washing dishes…) and you can make the pops as simple – or as complicated – as your imagination will allow.


1 packet of Milk Chocolate Tim Tams. For those of you not in Australia and therefore unable to get hold of the world’s yummiest treat – use Oreos.

80 grams of chilled cream cheese, such as Philly.

1 packet of dark chocolate melts.

Chocolate sprinkles for decoration (or, you could GO FOR IT and try coloured sprinkles or drizzled white chocolate or crushed M&Ms)

Cake Pop sticks. These are basically lollipop sticks, available for your local cake supplies shop or $2 Shop.


TT cake pops 2HOW IT’S DONE

Using a food processor or blender, give your whole pack of Tim Tams a quick blitz for about 20 seconds, just to break them up a little. Then add the cream cheese and blitz until the mixture all comes together in a ball. Note – if your kitchen is hot, or it’s a particularly warm day, you might find the mix gets a bit sticky to work with. If this is the case, just pop it in the fridge for ten minutes.

Take rounded-teaspoon sized scoops of the mixture, and roll into a ball. You should get about12 – 16 from the mix. Place on a plate or tray lined with baking paper, and chill for around half an hour.

Take a coffee cup, and fill it half way with chocolate melts. Using the microwave, melt chocolate in 10 second bursts, stirring in between. It’s really easy to ‘seize’ or burn chocolate if it’s over-heated, or you get any moisture into it (keep the water WAY away!), so be careful at this point. Once melted, dip one end of your Cake Pop stick into the chocolate – about 1cm – and push into your chilled chocolate ball, then back into the fridge to allow them to set.

Prepare a small dish or bowl by filling it with your chocolate sprinkles. Then, using the same microwave method, melt more chocolate. This time you need to almost fill the coffee mug. Dip each cake pop into the melted chocolate, giving it a tap on the side of the mug to help remove the drips (probably the trickiest part!), then dip the top if your coated pop into your sprinkles. Use a glass or mug to stand your completed cake pops in while the chocolate sets.

And that’s it! All you need to do now is taste test them. Have a look and see what my tribe of chocoholic boys have to say… (Hint – not much, their mouths are too full of cake pops to speak!)

Enjoy, Bel and gang. I’m sure you’ll do just fine!

Ps – if anyone has any questions, feel free to ask me in the comments section below. I’ll be keeping my eye out and will be here to answer.


 Belinda’s Chocolate Cake Pops!


Belinda_kisses_tnCook club is coming to the Escape Club, so why don’t you join us! Mandy is a fantabulous cook, as we all know by her mouth-watering recipes. I, on the other hand, suck at cooking.


bad cookI failed Home Economics in high school. To some extent, flunking wasn’t entirely my fault. I’ve tried to remake the recipes in that lovely, photocopied and stapled together cook book, 20 years later and I am convinced it wasn’t me, it was the recipes.  They were not good, whichever way you cut it.

Who the heck eats carrot salad with sultanas in it anyway…? Eww.

I’d love to not be a failure in the kitchen, and if anyone’s recipes are worth testing its Mandy’s. So let’s see if I can manage to not screw up everything I touch in the Cook Club.

I’m sure some of the other staffers will want to get in on the fun, and hopefully I won’t be the only one giving stuff a go. Maybe they’ll post pics of their efforts, or impress us with youtube clips of their own.

I’m hoping Mandy will go easy on us for the first one. And if I should fail, at least it will be fun… I hope.


Mandy Wrangles_2_tnCook club is coming to the Escape Club, so why don’t you join us!

First off we’ll be making Tim Tam cake pops!



So we’re on the cusp of Halloween again, the perfect time to curl up in bed with a spooky book. Last year we compiled a list of our favourite scary stories – this year let’s explore some of my favourite ghostly reads.

 Mediator Series – Meg Cabot

When Suze moves to sunny California the last thing she needs is a hot boy ghost haunting her bedroom. Especially one who has no intention of moving on. Now, on top of settling in to a new house, family and school, she has to juggle her duties as a teenage mediator, and not all of the ghosts are friendly. The Mediator series is not really spooky, but it’s sweet, romantic and entertaining.

Doll Bones – Holly Black

Because what list would be complete without a Holly Black novel, right? Doll Bones is a little more middle-school than the rest of the books on this list, but a haunted doll called The Queen is creep-tastic enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine.

A Coming Evil – Vivian Vande Velde

An oldie, but still one I return to regularly. During WWII Lisette is sent to stay in the French countryside with an aunt who is harbouring Jewish children. When their safety is threatened, the only thing that might save them is a ghost that Lisette met on a lonely hillside.

 Glass Houses – Rachel Caine

Technically not a ghost story, this book still manages to fit in a pretty compelling haunting sub-plot. Also the books are being made into a TV series so now is definitely the right time to be picking the Morganville Vampire series up.



Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

This one will always, always be on my scary books list. Best. Vampire. Story. Ever.

Madigan Mine by Kirstyn Mc Dermott

Because wow.

 Pet Sematary by Stephen King

Do I need a because for this one?

 The Tommyknockers by Stephen King

The first book of King’s I ever read (many, many years ago) so I’m not sure if it’s really that terrifying, but I’m happy to let it sit in my memory as just that.

 Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill

There were moments with this book I had to put it down, walk away and catch my breath. Phew. Suspense to err, die for. Joe Hill gives just as good horror as his Daddy (Mr King himself).






Mandy Wrangles_2_tnSan Francisco is famous for many things. The Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Gay Pride, the Painted Ladies, Lombard street – the twistiest street in the world…the list goes on and on. And then – there’s the clam chowder.



USA-cc3One of my foodie ambitions was to try the famous San Franciscian chowder in a sourdough bread bowl while we were in town, and I wasn’t disappointed. Different versions are available from every second street vendor, but we got lucky on our very first purchase.

We stayed right on Fisherman’s Wharf, almost directly across the road from the world-renowned Boudin’s Sourdough Bakery – also the oldest bakery in the city. After a long day bus-touring around town, my beloved popped out to grab takeaway for the kids, and returned with this to our hotel: The original clam chowder in a bowl. You can see below how excited I was:


It was so omg delicious that we returned the next day for more, this time eating in at the downstairs cafe-style outdoor dining room. By the way, chowder goes to down really well with beer….

And finally, on our last night in San Francisco, we returned again to Boudin’s with our entire party of 16. This time we ate upstairs, which is more of a fine-dining experience. While I skipped the chowder this time around (for lobster), my 10yr old ordered it from the kid’s menu. Check out the turtle bread that it was served in!

So clam chowder achievement was unlocked. And it lived up to all expectations!




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