2003-02 (FEBRUARY, 2003)

My Birthday - Sydney, Australia

Andy organised not one, but three evenings of entertainment to celebrate my birthday this year! She's very good to me (god knows why).

On Thursday evening I got taken out for a romantic meal for two at L'Unico, an Italian restaurant near where we live that we had been meaning to go to for ages. It was very good - great pasta, and great desserts.

On Friday evening Andy accompanied me to see 'Blue Crush' at the Moonlight Cinema (an outdoor cinema that is set up in the Royal Botanic Gardens each summer). We got some great seats despite arriving a wee bit late and I enjoyed the movie very much (Andy wasn't so sure - I think the "hitting the rocks with your head" scene had her in two minds about whether she would ever give surfing a go).

On Saturday I was taken out to my favourite Mexican restaurant and was pleasantly surprised to find more than one or two familiar faces in the place when I arrived. Dave, Jenny, Paul B, Paul C, Marketa, Robin, Maureen, Jude, Jan, Katherine & Craig had all been persuaded to come out for the evening. We had an excellent meal and drank some good wine. Dave, Jenny, Robin, Maureen, Jude, Jan & myself continued on to a pub afterwards where many, many beers were sunk - until only Dave & I were left. The pub closed at 02:00 so we had to move on. Our next choice closed at 03:00 so we decided to head into Kings Cross. To our great surprise the old faithful 'Kings Cross Hotel' was not open, and on a Saturday night too! We wandered the streets for a while before settling for the 'Sports Bar' - nasty, but open. We batted on until after 04:30 and I was home, and in bed (I think), by 04:59.

Needless to say the Sunday was a bit quiet.

Lebanese Cookery Course - Sydney, Australia

One of my birthday presents from Andy this year was a day learning to cook Lebanese food at the Strathfield community college.

I arrived a little early and as such was called upon by our tutor, Georgette, to help her prepare for the upcoming class. I set out the chairs, laid out the ingredients we were going to use, called an ambulance for a man having an epileptic fit in the classroom next door and collected the tea & coffee from the office. By the time I had finished my chores the rest of my classmates had arrived - nine of us in total. And so we began.

We began with Tabouleh salad to get us warmed up and then moved swiftly on to a huge batch of hommus. Next up was one of my favourites, Falafel, which we made from scratch. To complete our lunch preparations we were shown a secret recipe for Tahina sauce. Lunch was served to a ravenous audience and ten minutes of silence ensued while we gorged on the scrumptious fare.

As the morning had been entirely vegetarian, the afternoon was dedicated to the carnivores. We began with my other favourite, Kibbeh, a lamb mince dish that can be made in a number of different ways. We were shown two - a meatball-inside-a-meatball style and a meatloaf/lasagne style - both absolutely fabulous. Vine leaf rolls were up next, and it was here that we truly appreciated having ten people on the job instead of just one. Our final dish of the day was Kofta kebabs, most of which we got to take home for dinner. Yum!

I went home very full and very happy.