Monday, April 30, 2012

Hotel Realm - Canberra

I've managed to squeeze a weekend away to Canberra. It's autumn, the grapes in the vineyards are ripe for the picking and it's Harvest Festival time.
Good opportunity to try out some new digs that have hotted up the Canberra accommodation scene recently.

Hotel Realm is a new 5 star sprawling accommodation, spa and entertainment hub in the Canberra suburb of Barton just behind Parliament House.

Its cavernous entrance atrium certainly announces its cool, global vibe. And we receive a smooth, friendly and unobtrusive check-in. Full marks.

The atrium installation is several stories high...

We stayed in a one-bedroom apartment with a balcony overlooking a park and Parliament house in the distance. There are 186 rooms in total.

Really comfortable beds and linen -  although we did find the room temperature difficult to stablise - either a little too hot or too cold!

These apartments are going to be a hit with Canberra's itinerant public servants and long-stay guests - full size kitchen with all the gadgetry including sharp knives. There was also a washing machine and dryer.

A fruit plate on arrival....

Stylish and well laid-out bathroom..

...designed with woman in mind. A good make up mirror and plenty of space for toiletries..

a good-sized bath that sadly we didn't have time to sample..

The view from the balcony

and the fiery sky at sunset.

The Hotel Realm has three restaurants and a bar with a very uber-chic courtyard. It was hard to believe we were still in suburban Canberra.

For dinner we went for the wood-fired marguerita pizza..

... with a caprese salad. Excellently prepared with fresh ingredients. Highly recommend it.

The next morning -  less than 20 mins away -  the Lerida Estate and Lark Hill wineries beckoned...

chooks scratching amongst the vines for bugs
And a quartet playing some chilled jazz..

The Hotel Realm is going to really shake-up the Canberra scene not only for travellers but for locals who now have a very cool quarter that will put Canberra on the international map.

Saucy Onion stayed as a guest of the Hotel Realm.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Costa visits the Edible Balcony

Ok. I've almost stopped hyperventilating. Costa Georgiadis, the new host of Gardening Australia, visited the Edible Balcony this morning. And his verdict? He said he was inspired. My guru said he was 'inspired'!!! How to melt a girl's heart Costa!

Costa met my capsicums, San Marzano tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries, lemons and herbs. They were a little star struck but behaved themseleves.

Then it was time to sample my produce. Using the tomatoes and basil I whipped up a buffalo mozzarella salad. And yes maybe one day there may even be a buffalo on my balcony. Who knows?

The mozzarella was creamy and chewy, the balcony tomatoes were sweet and juicy and the pesto from balcony basil packed a bit of punch with some garlic.

It made Costa's eyes pop!

Even the TV crew enjoyed the balcony bounty!

Tune in to Gardening Australia at 6.30pm on Saturday June the 2nd to see the full story.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Big Feed

Keeping your plants healthy can seem
like a constant battle. Too much rain, not enough sun, pests undermining all your good work.

As a balcony gardener I've found that keeping your plants well-fed strengthens their root systems and defences so they are better able to tolerate fluctuating conditions.

This morning every pot got a good dose of Dynamic Lifter. This fertiliser comes in pellet form and needs to be well-watered in. It's a little pongy at first because it contains nutritious chicken manure, seaweed and fish emulsions - everything a hungry edible loves. But the smell disappears within a few minutes after application.
My plants are already glowing.

Worm Potpurri

I wish I had room on my balcony for a worm farm. But alas there is only so much you can do with 20 square metres!
The next best thing is to adopt some worms. My friend Aymeric has a colony of very happy worms on his balcony two floors above me. And all they need is lots of organic green waste - and that's something I have in bag-fulls.
So every week or so I deliver a bag of delicious worm 'potpurri' for Aymeric's worms and in return he gives me their worm juice to feed my plants. Worm juice is a wonderful nutrient-rich fertiliser that worms produce as a by-product of their metabolism. It's so much better than the synthetic fertilisers on the market.
So even in an apartment block we've managed to create our little own biodynamic cycle.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wayside Chapel roof garden blitz

There's nothing better than starting the day with a bit of gardening.

And to be able to do it in the middle of a skyscraper metropolis on a roof with the morning sun warming your face seems so surreal.

But that's what we did today. My garden blitz team of Alan, Aymeric, Paula and Neroli, in just one hour, were able to pull out the old summer veggies , top the pots with fertiliser and mulch and a good soaking of worm juice from the newly installed worm farm.

The plants loved it. And so did we.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Balcony Basil Bunch

The flush of balmy weather over Easter has sent my basil bush ga-ga.

A few quick snips and it was transformed into some garlicky pesto.
Recipe on page 47 of my book The Edible Balcony.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter - Growers Market Pyrmont

Easter is my favourite time of the year in Sydney. Everyone heads down the coast or to the country leaving the streets quiet and relaxing.

Many of the harboursiders who remain make the annual pilgrammage to the SMH Growers Market in Pyrmont.
The morning is already balmy with huge blue skies.

How pretty do the white canvas stalls look?
I'm stocking up on all my fresh organic veggies for tonight's dinner.

maybe some orchids as well...
And it's hard to go past daffodils this time of the year

 My mother-in-law Gwen is getting some of these chocolate filled easter eggs in real painted shells

ok... I'm getting some for me too!

If you missed them this month they'll be back again in May. I might bump into you.