Read this: The Great Global Bucket List by Robin Esrock

The Great Global Bucket List
by Robin Esrock

“For over a decade, renowned travel journalist, bestselling author and TV host Robin Esrock scoured the globe in search of one-of-a-kind, bucket list-worthy experiences. During his remarkable journey to over 100 countries on seven continents, Esrock uncovered unique adventures, fascinating histories, cultural spectacles and unforgettable characters – proving that modern travel is so much more than over-trafficked tourist attractions.”

When you’re anything like me and read an introduction like that and the lovely people at Affirm Press kindly offer to send you a copy, you get excited! Everything about that paragraph got to me, because it’s everything I’ve ever dreamed about. As long as I can remember, there have always been three things in life that I’ve wanted to do; learn as much as I can through reading (yes, major bookworm and nerd, I’m ok with it), travel the world, and write about it. This guy is doing just that. He’s seen the world and wrote a book about it. That was a book I needed to read.

Covering everywhere from place as far-flung as Nicaragua and Mongolia, to more common places like Italy and Thailand, he’s literally seen it all. The amount of things he’s seen and experienced is absolutely mind-blowing, and eye-opening. The bucket list items aren’t for everyone, being of the more adventurous nature. Experiences like biking down the “Death Road” in Bolivia, for example, are definitely not my jam… but hot air ballooning over Bagan in Burma or taking part in the world’s biggest food fight in Spain definitely are! Then there were things like Burning Man, which I’ve heard only bits about but now want to know more after reading what Robin had to say about it.

While parts of the book felt a bit forced and read as trying a bit too hard to be funny (“First stop is a treat of the ancient world, Chichén Itzá, not to be confused with chicken pizza, which happens to be delicious.”), it was fantastic to see a great deal of photos taken of and by Robin himself, because it made it so much more real. There is absolutely nothing more depressing than a travel book where all the photos look photo-shopped, because you just know that sort of an adventure is out of reach for us real people. Especially because adventure isn’t out of reach for any of us – especially not with a bit of inspiration like this.

You can pick up a copy (and inspiration for your next adventure) here, and in the mean time, you can check out Robin’s website for more information on all of his favourite bucket list items.

Oktoberfest V.3 – Cook this: Nussecken (German nut biscuits)

If this was our third annual Oktoberfest, does that mean it’s now officially a tradition? I really hope so, because a night of pretzels, meat and friends is a pretty good night!

And of course, dessert. My main department. For Oktoberfest 2014, I did black forest cookies. For Oktoberfest 2015, it was chocolate pretzels. I needed something different this year, and good old Google gave me a hand, fielding my “German desserts” queries. I finally came across Nussecken, a German biscuit that has a shortbready biscuit layer (yum), an apricot jam layer (my favourite jam, double yum), a hazelnut layer (yup), and finally dipped in dark chocolate (yes, please). It was the obvious choice.

It wasn’t as easy to find what looked like a good recipe for them, so more Google enquiries ensued, and The Frugal Chef came to the rescue with her recipe, which you can find right here. Don’t be scared by the multiple layers – it’s actually a pretty easy recipe to follow, and for this reason, I haven’t messed around with it like I usually would! I also didn’t want to bother copying and pasting the recipe I used, so I drew it up for you instead :)

I’ll also leave you with some photos of my Nussecken, and some of the other goodies we had…

Does anyone else do an annual Oktoberfest celebration with friends? Or any other annual party? You should, it’s really fun, especially when everyone gets dressed up and are happy to stuff themselves silly with food!

Cook this: iced animal cookies

Last weekend, we celebrated my delicious little niece’s first birthday! Which was totally depressing, because it made me feel so old… but also super exciting, because I love being able to celebrate with everyone :)

Because I’m pretty useless with kiddy stuff like games and what not, I got put on cookie duty (yay) and the order was brightly coloured animal cookies.

I’m gonna be honest – I probably had more fun making these than the kids had eating them. They’re actually incredibly easy to make; you just need a fairly steady hand, a bit of patience, and plenty of space to spread everything out in the kitchen… it gets a little messy…

Anyway, having seen how much some bakeries charge for these types of cookies, I thought I’d share how easy they actually are to make with you guys :) For the cookies themselves, something plain and basic like these tea cookies (you obviously don’t need to add the tea leaves in there – leave them out for a plain vanilla cookie) will work perfectly.

For the frosting, there are a few things you’ll need. The first is some writing icing tubes. I just use these from Queen, which are nothing fancy, and available for a few dollars at any supermarket. You may also want some decorations, like sprinkles, sparkles, flowers, etc. Again, all pretty easy to get your hands on in the baking aisle of your local supermarket.

Then, to make the coloured frosting, the easiest thing to do is just DIY royal icing! All you need to do is combine 1 egg white with around 200 – 250g powdered icing sugar. That’s it! With those two little ingredients, I made enough frosting to cover my 2 batches of cookies 2 or 3 times over, so a little goes a long way. Once you’ve made that base mixture, divide it between smaller bowls, which you can colour individually depending on what you need for your cookies. Stir in your coloured food dye, and mix them all in evenly.

Once that’s all done and set up, take a cookie and a tube of writing icing. Outline the cookie with the writing icing, which will act as a guard for the royal icing when you add it later. Let the writing icing dry a little before you move on – you may want to outline a few at a time to give them a chance to dry.

To fill the cookies with the coloured royal icing, add a few drops of water the the icing you’re using, and stir it in. You want the consistency to be runny enough to drip off the spoon, but not so watery it looses colour. Add a little of the icing to the centre of the cookie, and use a small spoon or knife to spread it out to the edges of the writing icing border. Decorate your cookies as you wish, and lay them out to dry for at least a few hours before packing them away to take to party central – the frosting will dry hard, so you’ll be able to carefully stack them up in a container if you need to.

That’s it! So easy! And if you need an excuse to practice, Halloween is just around the corner, so get those pumpkin and cat cookie cutters out :)

Eat here: Miss Ly Cafe 22, Hoi An, Vietnam (cao lau)

Miss Ly Cafe 22
22 Nguyen Hue St

Once we worked out half way through our stay in Hoi An that cao lau is a dish unique to the city, we ate as much of it as we could – at one stage, I believe we had three bowls in 24 hours, with one of our stops being at the beautiful Miss Ly’s restaurant.

Cao lau’s origins are shrouded in mystery. Some say it came from Chinese traders, others say it was the Japanese. Other legends claim that the unique flavour comes from the water used to make it, taken from a certain well of an undisclosed location. The noodles are traditionally made from the ash of firewood, with several different stories claiming as many different types of wood to be the proper one to use. And, of course, every family has their own recipe to make their broth. There’s no definitive answer for the one way to make it, but that doesn’t matter – we tried a half dozen different cao laus, and they were all delicious! And the basics, just so you know, are noodles, broth, pork and fresh herbs/greens, topped with deep fried pieces of noodle.

Miss Ly’s in Hoi An is a popular place to get good cao lau if you need a bit of an air conditioned break from the street vendors. And when it’s as hot as it was when we visited, you’re gonna need a break at some stage. Order a bowl of cao lau and an ice cold beer or green tea, and sit back and relax. People poured in and out non-stop while we were in there, and they were almost all ordering the same thing – for good reason. Soft, chewy noodles and a seriously flavourful broth make this one bowl of cao lau you should add to your “to eat” list in Hoi An! And when you get there, this is the shop front you’re looking for:

View from the top: EON 51 at Bitexco Financial Tower, Saigon, Vietnam

Cafe EON 51
Bitexco Financial Tower, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)


If there’s a better view in Saigon, I don’t know where you’d find it…

The day after we arrived in Saigon, we went out on a tour to see the Cu Chi Tunnel complex, and our tour guide was amazing. She was a young lady who spoke English particularly well, and as clearly very well educated. She told us so much, not only about the tunnels and the history of the area, but so much about life in Vietnam for the average citizen. One of the other things she told us about was the Bitexco Financial Tower, the big, shiny high rise in the middle of the city. She said it would give us an incredible view over the city, but not to bother paying to get up onto the observation deck; it was cheaper to just buy a drink each at the cafe on the level below!

While the drinks up there weren’t cheap (we paid around AUD$18.00 for a fresh coconut and a mango juice), it was still cheaper than the observation deck tickets (around AUD$12.00 per person), and gave us the advantage of being able to sit down in an air conditioned cafe and enjoy our drinks without rushing. And with the most spectacular view…



If you’re visiting Saigon, this is definitely something to add to your to-do list, because seeing such a big city from that high up is pretty amazing! They also do food, coffees, cocktails and desserts, so you’ll be well catered for any time you decide to drop in – I feel like sunset would be pretty incredible up there…