TABLE TALK: Jace Blunden, Quint Cafe

NCH – WEEKENDER – Jace Blunden. Chef at Quint Cafe. Photo by Marina Neil – 20th March 2014.Your signature or favourite dish?
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One of my main roles at The Essential Ingredient is to showcase, and experiment with, the products that are available on the shelves of the store – hence why I work with a small but focused menu and a large selection of daily specials. With new grains, spices, cheeses and other wonders arriving daily from all over the world it’s impossible to stand still long enough to have a signature or favourite dish, but with Newcastle’s best food store at my disposal it’s an enviable position to be in. However, I do worry that if there are no quiches or carrot and haloumi fritters on the specials menu my regulars might chase me down Darby Street with pitchforks and torches.

Where do you like to eat when you’re not working?

Newcastle is really spoilt for choice at the moment. Breakfast with Ben at Three Bean has always been magnificent and Alice at Baked Uprising seems capable of culinary alchemy. I’ve always had great experiences with Raul at Bocados and with local legend Mark Hosie at Rustica. Anything Tom and Jacqueline Brown have their hand in is always high quality, from Sprout Dining and Canteen at Honeysuckle to Taco Place on Darby – and I’ll always eat anywhere Lesley Taylor is cooking. If I’m out for a drink the Reserve Wine Bar is simply stunning and the cocktails at Moneypenny are works of art.

For a big occasion I’ll let Suzie and Beau at Subo or Chris at Restaurant Mason spoil me rotten any day – always a difficult choice! And lastly a trip to the Valley presents you with the impossible choice of deciding between Muse Restaurant or Kitchen, Margan Estate, Bistro Molines or Roberts – although you would be hard-pressed to choose anyone over Roberts if you can wrangle a garden tour with George and his chickens!

What’s on the menu when you cook at home?

With anything from zero to five kids to feed at any one time meals at my house can swing from a lovingly crafted romantic dinner for two to whatever I can cook quickly, and in bulk, to feed a small army! When all the kids are about I will favour homemade pizzas, heaping bowls of spaghetti or even a few roast chickens torn apart and jammed into flat breads with lashings of chipotle mayo. For dinners that have less of a mess hall vibe I might do a risotto, a nice piece of fish with some seasonal vegetables or some grilled chicken – lathered in a spice mix from The Essential Ingredient, of course, with a nice, nutty salad. I also like to take my work home, so there is generally a few bags of interesting ingredients from the store that I am lucky enough to play with before they appear on the shelves or the menu.

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My School site should be altered to prevent misleading league tables: Senate committee

The My School website should be overhauled so the performance of schools cannot be easily converted into league tables, according to a cross-party Senate committee into the controversial NAPLAN tests.
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While the committee accepted that NAPLAN data is useful for students, schools and parents, it argues there are “significant disbenefits” to publishing the results in a way that allows for a direct comparison of schools.

The core rankings and comparative functions should be stripped from the site to “limit the disingenuous use of data to rank schools”, the committee said in its report.

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said publishing NAPLAN results was a marketing tool for schools. “I support efforts to use NAPLAN results as a diagnostic tool for students and to improve the quality of teaching and learning rather than having them used to prepare league tables,” he said.

The NAPLAN tests are used to assess students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 across Australia but the tests have become ”high stakes” because results are made public.

The committee’s key recommendation is there needs to be a quicker turnaround between testing and the delivery of results to schools. The committee – dominated by the Coalition when it did the bulk of its work last year – became Labor-dominated after the federal election.

The Australian Literacy Educators’ Association told the committee it takes five months for NAPLAN results to arrive at schools – too long for them to be used as a tool to identify problems in the classroom and devise solutions.

According to a survey by the Australian Education Union, 58 per cent of teachers do not think NAPLAN is a good diagnostic tool.

“The school year moves at a rapid pace and the turnaround of many months does not allow for meaningful intervention to ensure students across the spectrum of development are given the appropriate support they require,” the committee said. It also says the tests should be adapted to better take into account the needs of students with disabilities and from non-English language backgrounds.

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne said last year the Coalition would consider banning the publication of NAPLAN results because they were “skewing the way people teach”. But he has dramatically softened his rhetoric since the federal election.

On Thursday he said: “The government committed to review NAPLAN and the My School website to ensure it is meeting the needs of our students. We agree that assessments should be available earlier for diagnostic purposes and we are working to ensure a faster turnaround time for results.”

A spokeswoman for the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), which administers the NAPLAN tests and My School website, said: ”We believe that the vast majority of people use NAPLAN results for the right purpose. ACARA does not endorse the creation of league tables and My School has never presented league tables.”

AEU deputy federal secretary Correna Haythorpe said: “We agree that results should be returned sooner, so that they can be used to help students, and that there should be a shift to online testing from next year.”

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Nude yoga: the naked truth

Bringing back the birthday suit: yoga, stripped bare. Photo: Image SourceLook, any excuse to get our kit off in public, right?
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To name but a bare few, there’s the Sydney Skinny swim, rudie nudie rowers and rugby players as well as an “undies run” where your strip down, run a few ks and give your clothes to the Salvos. You can canyon nude in the Blue Mountains, if you’re going to streak at the cricket you won’t be taken seriously unless you’re nude and there are various venues around the country dedicated to going au naturel.

There are nudist dating sites, ad campaigns dedicated to how awesome we all are starkers and there’s even a naturist federation to protect our nudist needs.

Just about every celebrity alive has gotten nude “in the name of charity”.

Whatever.

The point is that it’s surprising, given how much we all clearly love to disrobe given the chance, that we still titter so much at a bit of bottom or boob.

Seriously, the internet seems like a teenager having an apoplectic fit every time someone strips down and does something crazy like a downward dog displaying skywards the bits of themselves where the sun don’t usually shine.

And this is exactly what has had people tee-heeing to themselves in the past week.

In recent years various yoga studios around the world have taken a truly revolutionary (ahem) approach and “yoked” traditional practice with avant-garde approaches. Hence the birth of gimmicky breeds of yoga like “doga”, food yoga and twerking yoga, which inevitably generate plenty of publicity and leave many of us scratching our heads. But, really who cares? If they’re happy, we’re happy.

Same goes for nude yoga, which is just another offering from the slightly whacky school of modern yoga.

I once had the pleasure of being behind a man, in downward-dog, who was wearing ill-fitting turquoise Speedoes. It was a heated, overcrowded yoga room, so his sweaty nether regions and my head were way too close for comfort. The vision was burnt permanently into my memory, so I can see the potential issues with doing the same thing sans-Speedoes. But, that aside, I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

Yoga is all about “union” with yourself and letting go of attachment to things, so what better way to do that than naked as we came?

It’s not a particularly new concept. In fact, Naked Yoga was an Academy Award nominee in the Best Short Documentary category in 1975.

More recently, the sprouting of nude yoga classes around the place was given a good dose of media coverage about four years ago.

It’s now been exposed again thanks to a Daily Mail article about nude yoga in New York (it’s also available in various studios around Australia).

“While many equate being naked with sex, this couldn’t be further from the truth in a naked yoga class. It’s about being comfortable in your own skin and the amazing confidence that comes with it,” the featured yoga studio says on their website.

“Practicing yoga naked frees you from negative feelings about your body and allows [you] to be more accepting and deeper connected with yourself and the world around you.”

Certainly, it makes sense that doing pretzel-like, hip-opening (and leg and bottom-opening) poses, naked, in a room full of strangers would heighten your awareness of your physicality. I just dare someone to do it for a first date.

A set of sexy nude yoga shots posted on Reddit last week have also undressed the underground nude yoga scene. The original article accompanying the shots is pretty hilarious, earnestly explaining: “For those who aren’t experienced yoga buffs, it’s often hard to see the muscles being affected by the poses, especially when the instructor is fully clothed.”

Of course.

The reason people are looking at pictures of an attractive, naked young woman is so they can better understand which muscles are affected in which pose.

The fact is, the shots are fascinating; the human body is fascinating. Why do we need to snicker about it in all its glory or cover up our curiosity with pseudo-intellectual justifications?

Whether it’s yoga or running or even, these days, on the red carpet, it’s almost more surprising when people aren’t trying to get naked.

Is it really all that shocking or is it time to loosen our ties a little and take a good hard look at why we’re all getting our knickers in a twist over a little nudity?

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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GPT buys Northland mall stake for $496m

The Northland Mall in Preston.GPT Group has expanded its wholesale mall business with the $496 million acquisition of a half share in the Northland Shopping Centre in Melbourne’s north from the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB).
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The sale, to the GPT Wholesale Shopping Centre Fund (GWSCF), was part of the agreement struck between GPT and the DEXUS/CPPIB consortium, in the complicated takeover of the Commonwealth Property Office Fund.

Under the arrangement, GPT Group, will also buy five office assets once the consortium integrates the rest of the CPA assets.

Northland is a ”super regional” centre, being more than 20,000 square metres and its co-owned by CPA’s former stablemate, CFS Retail Property Trust. It is 11 kilometres north of Melbourne’s CBD, and has the 6th highest moving annual turnover among retail centres in Melbourne.

It is expected interests in more high profile shopping centres will be put on the market for sale as part of the restructure of the Westfield Group into the Scentre Group and the internalisation of the CFS trust.

GPT’s chief executive Michael Cameron said the acquisition was an ”excellent outcome’ for GWSCF, representing a rare opportunity to acquire an interest in a Super Regional asset in an off-market process”.

“We are pleased to be able to secure a significant stake in a dominant shopping centre in the north of Melbourne, which enhances the already high quality of our funds management platform,” said Mr Cameron said.

In a statement, GWSCF’s fund manager Michelle Tierney, said that the addition of Northland delivered a number of benefits to the fund and is consistent with the strategy to own a diverse portfolio of dynamic retail assets that can continue to connect, evolve and grow with their communities.

It was sold through Lachlan MacGillivray, national director of retail investment services at Colliers International, who said the deal highlighted the growing demand for ‘fortress style’ assets”.

“There is limited opportunity to purchase assets of the size and quality of Northland, and we estimate that there is in excess of $10 billion of available capital, both domestically and internationally, chasing major retail centres in Australia,” Mr MacGillivray.

”This year promises to be another strong year for shopping centre sales following a record year of transactions in 2013 with over $7 billion of sales, with the availability of assets, rather than a lack of capital, being the biggest market challenge.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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NRL boss stands firm on Keary stoush

Rules are rules, NRL boss Dave Smith stands has said of Luke Keary’s doomed request to play for Queensland instead of New South Wales. Photo: Brendan EspositoUltimate League: It’s not too late to sign up for our Fantasy NRL game 
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NRL chief executive Dave Smith has stood firm on the Origin eligibility rules, even if it means South Sydney prospect Luke Keary misses out on playing for his preferred state of Queensland.

Keary, the talented Rabbitohs playmaker currently sidelined, is some years off being considered for Origin, but made it clear he was aligned to the men in maroon should selectors come calling.

Under the new criteria, Keary ticks four of the five boxes for the Blues, despite being born in Ipswich and living in Queensland until he was 10. The changes were made to prevent a repeat of the Greg Inglis scenario, but in Keary’s case has only served to create more discontent.

Smith was refusing to budge as he launched an Origin promotional campaign in Brisbane, saying the criteria was put in place before he started in 2012 and there needed to be firm guidelines around the Origin selection framework.

“I haven’t personally heard from Luke. The rules around eligibility were re-established before my time back in 2012. Some very learned people sat down at a table and established those rules,” Smith said.

“We’ve applied those rules. Clearly that’s going to lead to disappointment for some people but the rules are the rules.”

The QRL believe Keary’s case has exposed a loophole in the laws and there should be a second look. Queensland great Gorden Tallis has backed that stance, saying no player should be forced to play for a state they have no desire to represent.

Keary has approached the Rugby League Players’ Association for guidance on the matter, and RLPA chief executive David Garnsey said Keary had a ”compelling case” to be considered a Queenslander.

“The revised State of Origin eligibility criteria announced by the [Australian Rugby League Commission] in March 2012 are designed to eliminate the possibility of unfair or incongruous outcomes but, as with anything like this, there are always bound to be individuals who feel their circumstances merit special consideration,” Garnsey said.This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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