Monday, 31 December 2007

reviewing last year's resolutions.

2007 Resolutions
  1. Learn how to drive a manual. 0% achieved.
  2. Run. 70% achieved via this.
  3. Learn another language. 30% (as much as is realistic in one year).
  4. Remember people's birthdays. 60% (getting better).
  5. Become a morning person (get up when the alarm goes off). 0% achieved.
  6. Start a blog. 80% achieved. (Room for improvement though).
  7. Use my passport. 95% achieved. (0% technically, but close enough).
  8. Stop chewing my lip. 0% achieved.
  9. Take more photos (and put them in an album). 10% achieved.
  10. Be less judgemental. 15% achieved. Getting better slowly.
  11. Read new books, not reread old ones. 95% achieved.
  12. Learn to crochet from Nanna. 0% achieved. Hopefully before I go.
  13. Start/join a band. 0% achieved.
  14. Give blood regularly. 0% achieved.
  15. Start another degree or get a more fulfilling job. 5% achieved.
Average = 30% success rate. Not bad considering it's unweighted. 2007 has not been a resoundingly successful year for me, but some important steps have been made, and there's enough to be going on with. Tick.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

hanging in there.

So. I'm afraid this post isn't going to be very interesting, but life is throwing me a crazy jab cross combo, and it's all I can do to roll with the punches. However: it doesn't stop the boring rubbish that I feel compelled to write about piling up, nor this blog guilting me with it's taunting last post date. So. Bear with me.

I mentioned my upstream Secret Pal, Ayumi, but I forgot to mention my lovely downstream parner, Kat. The posts of the parcels I sent here are here, here and here, fyi. I've just finished (yet another) Carla beret with Ayumi's beautiful pink 'sublime' wool, and I think it's going to be perfect for France. The wool is very soft, and not at all itchy, and although it came out a little big (again), I'm going to thread a little elastic through the band which I think will actually make it the perfect size/fit. I'll try and post a photo when I can - my camera has been conveniently left at work for Christmas. If you're desperate (yeah, right), just look at this older Carla and imagine it in a fluffy pretty pink.

I've started running, using these podcasts following the Couch to 5k method (also available on iTunes). It's going pretty well, and I'd really recommend it to anyone who's a bit unfit, doesn't have much time, hates paying for the gym, feels inadequate in sporting teams, and needs structured motivation. The music's a bit meh unfortunately, but it's only for 8 weeks and then you can listen to whatever you want when you're running like the wind. 4 weeks down, 4 to go.

I've gotten a little out of date with my sidebar watching/listening/reading. The Shadow of the Wind is on hold, as I needed something a little less intellectually/emotionally taxing, so I went back to the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde.

'First Among Sequels' is ok. It doesn't have the same magic as the earlier books, and it seemed kind of internally inconsistent (if you can take that seriously as a criticism in a work of sci-fi) but it was enjoyable and in no way taxing which was pretty much all I wanted. I'd thoroughly recommend the first book 'The Eyre Affair', especially to literature nerds looking for some light reading, but this latest book was merely adequate. Don't rush out and get it, but if you've read the first four, you can pretty much predict what you're going to get, so you'll probably already know if you can be bothered or not. It's fine, it's just not as good as it could've been, and feels like Fforde just realised he was onto a good thing and decided to churn one more out. Oh well. It did its job.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

chowing down the carbs.

I made this potato salad yesterday. It was actually a Philip Johnson recipe (my favourite) and unsurpringly was very tasty and fresh. It was also super easy (especially since I happen to have lemons, chives and parsley all growing the the garden). Recommended.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

surprised!

Look what the postman just delivered! My final secret pal parcel, and much sooner than I'd expected. I opened it straight up, and look at all the wonderful goodies!

From top left:
  • 3 colour mix yarn (grey, pink, pale blue)
  • Make Make variegated raspberry yarn
  • Sublime merino/angora yarn (SO soft)
  • Singapore postcards
  • 60cm/5mm bamboo circ
  • Yellow drawstring bag with embroidered fish
  • Christmas Card and note
  • Monokuro boo pig charm
  • teeny scissors (hee!)
  • Cola and lemon gummy lollies (the wavy pack)
  • little white and dark chocolate puddings (the happy pack)
  • Melon Soda Hi-Chews
  • Apple gummies
  • Pucca pudding biscuit/chocolates (these smell just like Sticky Date pudding I swear!)
I'm such a lucky girl! It's all gorgeous, but I'm particularly excited by the beautful yarns, especially the Sublime which is so soft, and such a pretty colour (the photo left is more accurate). I think my knitting mojo may well be back with materials like these. =)

I also went (a little too?) nuts over this new flavour of Hi-Chews that I've never seen before. The range here is quite limited, so when I was in Japan I made a point of buying every flavour I found, but these are still new to me. They're a bit different from the usual ones because they have little crunchy bits in them. Excellent!

Thanks so much Ayumi, this has been a great swap for me - thanks for being such an excellent pal, and for sending me such awesome goodies!

PS. Ayumi's websites are here and here.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

getting it right, for once.

I just made this 101 Almond Curry, and it was so delicious! I always have trouble with Indian food, because it never turns out as good as I want it to, but this was definitely an exception. Yum-o!

I used only 750g of chopped breast meat (I hate bones) and left out the water, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly (although I ground the spices in mortar and pestle). This one's going straight to the pool room.

I also made a simple salad of grated carrot dressed with lime juice, s+p and a wee bit of coriander: it was very fresh and tasty and complemented the richness of the curry perfectly.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

feeling like a dungbeetle ear deep in meadow muffins.

Loot from Baldock's, the wrapping mecca:




















And from Nanna's
pantry: jackpot!

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

tempted.

Sprouts is gone, but Farina has grown in its place. The new modern Italian restaurant headed by chef (and Womad veteran) Matthew Goodlet looks cheerful if not cheap.

Monday, 19 November 2007

not the one with the green thumb or the tech head around here.

Someone in my house grew this - holy mackerel it's ay-mazing! The cactus itself is about as tall as my shin, and the flower is as large as my palm.

The last cactus I ever grew literally snapped in half - the top half fell off and yet someone else managed to resurrect it.

Unfortunately, you can't appreciate it in all its glory, because my mac refuses to save the re-orientation of any photo, but reverts to whatever the camera took it as. Usually I email my photos to work, re-orient and save them and then email them back again. But today I just can't be bothered.

Does anyone else have this problem?

Because seriously, my little white friend here is cruising for a bruising and, if I don't figure it out, will be more cactus than this picture.

Friday, 16 November 2007

realising her cooking schedule was a wee bit optimistic.

I'm afraid my weekend went horribly awry and the cooking didn't make it past Friday afternoon. In that time I managed to make the Pear and Custard pie from the dentist's magazine, and my first ever pav from the leftover eggwhites.

The pie was merely good, and left me feeling a bit sick, and I guess there's a reason why pear pies are not as famous as apple ones. The dentist and I are not quite even I'm afraid. However, it was worthwhile for two reasons: the pastry was excellent - the first I didn't have to do a patch up job on - and the custard was amazing. These parts of the recipe are worth keeping for other uses.

I randomly made the pav when I found I had 4 leftover eggwhites from the custard, which turns out to be just the right amount for a pav. I was a bit nervous because they're supposed to be a bit pernickety but it turned out freakin' awesome - the best pav I've ever had (although I must admit they're not my favourite dessert). I used the recipe from Stephanie Alexander's big stripey bible, so I should've known it would be perfect. I'm not giving the recipe here, because if you don't have that book a. I'm surprised you're still reading, and b. go and put it on your Christmas list NOW!



Vanilla Pastry
450g plain flour
120g icing sugar, sieved
225g cold butter, coarsely chopped
Seeds of one vanilla bean

Combine all ingredients with a pinch of salt until they resemble breadcrumbs. The recipe recommends a food processor, but not having one, I used my fingertips and handheld beaters. Add 3-4tbspns of cold water, pulse or mix until mixture just comes together. On a floured surface, form a disc, cover with gladwrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

When you're ready to use this, roll it out to 3mm thick and line a buttered pie pan. Fill it with pre-roasted fruit and bake at 180 for 20 minutes or until golden. It will make a fairly large pie with a lid.



Vanilla Custard
450ml regular cream
50ml Poire William or dessert wine
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
4 egg yoks
85g caster sugar

Combine cream, liquor and vanilla in a saucepan and bring just to the boil over meedium heat. Remove from heat, and let it cool for a while. Meanwhile, whisk yolks and sugar together until pale and then whisk into cream mixture. Return to heat and stir for 4-5 mins until thick enough to coat back of a spoon. If you're being fancy you could strain it here, but I didn't bother and I don't think it was necessary.

I used a random pear liquor we had in the cupboard (which has been decanted so I've no idea what it is). I couldn't taste it specifically in the finished custard (it wasn't alcohol-y or pear-flavoured), but I think it probably did help it taste warm and rich, so I wouldn't skip it.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

collecting recipes and cavities.

This morning I went to the dentist. I came out with a referal to a specialist who is going to charge me $185 for the consultation only, and a photocopy of a recipe for a pear and custart tart. If it works out to be a seriously excellent tart, I will consider myself even. (The specialist, however, had better have some damn good magazines and a strobe photocopier if he decides I need further treatment).

Here are some other recipes I've been meaning to try:

Hoppin' John
Japanese Eggplant with Miso (Nasu Dengaku)
Yuxiang Eggplant (hopefully just like the Post Deng Cafe's)
Quercyan Apple Cake (roll it like a log, then like a snail)
Thai Dessert Soup (vary with jasmine?)
Rhubarb Ginger and Berry Smoothie
The Soup Nazi's Mulligatawny (see also: imitation Big Mac)
Matzah Ball Soup
Easy pasta with sundried tomatoes and canellini beans
Corn Chowder
Veggie Burger Recipes
Orange Blossom Carrot Salad
Salted Butter Caramel Icecream (if this works, vary it by adding a sprig of rosemary?).

These three all come from the same website: if he's exaggerating I'll be cross.
The best way to cook a steak
The best icecream (Caramel chocolate pecan)
The best cookies of your life

Pizza perfection

retry the Sag Paneer
Try to replicate the Borscht from the Russian Piroshki

I'm also thinking about this Christmas tree ornament swap. Do I have time?

Monday, 5 November 2007

a little slack of late.

Everything and nothing is happening at Chez Emily at the moment.

Still, I managed to get to the Lebanese Bakery this weekend, so for your edification, here's yet another badly lit pastry shot.

The baklava-type sweets are still the best. These 'birdnests' (I think) are $1 apiece, just one of many options, and spectacularly good.

The other pastries tasted like what they look like - deep friedness drenched in sugar syrup. Good in theory but not actually very interesting.

By contrast though, the coloured nibbles were quite intriguing. They turned out to be sugar-coated chickpeas(!). Normally when I buy random things from differently-cultured (what is the pc term please?) markets one of two things happens:

1. I love them and eat them all straight away or
2. they languish on the kitchen table until someone else throws them away.

These chickpeas broke with tradition and were a (surprisingly) big hit - the whole gang's been nibbling on them since the weekend, and now they're nearly all gone. Must go back for more, and also check out the new Persian grocer that's opened across the road.

Friday, 19 October 2007

significantly less tense than 5 minutes ago.

Oh Yeah.

If this was available for my brother's Wii I'd never have to go to the chiro again.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

having fun at Kim Wang.

Still life: 'Asian greens with rotting fruit'.

This brilliant mound of Asian 'greens' were a buck for a giganto bunch. Unfortunately, they were quite bitter and stalky, so my excellent greens were somewhat less excellent than usual.

Fish-shaped icecream. Why? Because fish-flavoured icecream would not be as appealing.

Cone filled with vanilla icecream and a thin layer of red-bean (?). Quite tasty.

Monday, 15 October 2007

at the Creptre.

Went to see The Transatlantics on Friday night - big fun was had by everyone. It inspired me to get out my (poor, neglected) bass again, and illustrated a forgotten point: when Hannah recommends music, you should listen.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

out of sync.

It's been a little quiet around here of late - not much to report I'm afraid.

Here for posterity (ie. 'in case' I never finish it) is the Into The Woods scarf. Normally I time the project length with the musical run, but because of aforementioned rhinodrippage issues, I didn't get very far with this one.

I should probably get moving, because it wouldn't take much to get it done, and it's going to be spectacularly chunky. It's coming out all stocking stitch, which I wasn't expecting (duh!) because I'm just knitting round and round in circles. Still, the horizontal rows contrast nicely with the long lengthwise stripes.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

hungry.

Does anyone else remember during the Commonwealth games when Smith's came up with themed chips? There was Austalian 'sausage sizzle', Canadian poutine and English lamb and mint (they didn't really pull out the stops to cover the whole of the commonwealth there did they?). The former were not too good, but the lamb and mint ones were excellent - just like a Sunday roast only quicker and more fattening - but of course were a novelty and were discontinued. Probably because no one liked them...

but I did!

And I've just found out that it's a legitimate chip flavour in England. Awesome! Chunnel, here I come.

And they say the British have no culinary expertise...

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

in need of a new book. Suggestions?

'Almost French' by Sarah Turnbull is pretty much what you'd expect - an account of its Australian author's move to Paris. It's good I guess. There's funny anecdotes, but not laugh-out-loud funny, there's moving moments, but not cry-into-your-darjeeling moving.

I, as February draws nearer and nearer found it quite useful (I think). Now I know that they have special butchers for horsemeat (*avoid*), I shouldn't expect to make any French female friends (too competitive), and that baking your own cakes is considered cheap.

Unless you're moving to France sometime soon, I wouldn't rush out and buy this one. But if you happen to find it on your coffee table, by all means read it - you'll probably quite enjoy it. Meanwhile, I'm off to strike all colour from my wardrobe in order to blend in with Parisian chic.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

almost fully recovered.

No posts for a while - I've had the dreaded lurgy. It wasn't so bad. The arrival of a brand new LCD and Foxtel coincided with my cold so I channel surfed my way to television heaven. The Cosby Show, Northern Exposure, early 90s The Bill, Scrubs, Gilmore Girls, The Mary Whitehouse Experience, Flight of the Conchords - I heart you all.

Not to mention Sudafed. Thanks to my friendly local pharmacist I got my hands on the HARD stuff not this new-fangled phenylephrine rubbish they're pushing. And not a moment too soon - the first night of my musical (sans Sudafed, avec new formula Codral) I managed to miss the tissue and blow my nose all the way down the inside of my sleeve to my elbow. EWWW. And I'm not even kidding. That jumper? It's being incinerated. Along with my left arm.

Anyway, I'm feeling much better now. All institutions with which I'm affiliated (my bank, my doctor, my phone company, my insurance company) seem to be ganging up on me in an attempt to send me crawling back to the couch, defeated. But it's not going to work, not this time, not on your nelly. Why? Dum da da DA! Because I found jeans that make my bum look good. All is again right in the world.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

undecided.

This is a very grown-up book, and it turns out I don't read a lot of those. I read a lot of kids books, and hight-brow big-L Literature, but not a lot of contemporary fiction intelligently discussing normal adult issues.

The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver is constructed in a kind of Sliding Doors way whereby early on the in book the main character Irina, chooses whether to leave her husband for another man. The chapters then alternate between the continuing story of either scenario. A la Sliding Doors, it all comes back together at the end.

I'm still a bit undecided about this one. For the first while I was really disinterested in it - just didn't care. To start with it's all very grown up, and I am apparently not quite there yet. Also, I don't have a lot of sympathy for cheaters, and so I wasn't interested in what happened in one story. And the other story, well, it's only really interesting as a comparison, at first at least. Who wants to read about a woman who stays with her husband? Not exactly a riveting plotline.

But I stuck with it, and after a while I found it interesting. Eventually I developed a rapport with the characters, and there's a lot of metaphysical questions that are dealt with: 'is there one person for everybody, or do you have to simply make a choice and live with it?', 'will things work out a particular way no matter what you choose?', 'is it more important to choose someone you fancy like mad, or someone you can grow old with?' etc etc.

It's well written which makes life easier, and the characters are all interesting. It's not terribly fast paced, but relaxing and gentle without being dull. In the end it didn't knock my socks off, but it was good to read a book that considered larger issues, without smacking you over the head with how intelligent and important it is. At the start I was close to giving up, but having read the whole thing, I think I'd be happy to re-read it sometime down the track. And if I'd bought it rather than borrowed it, I think I'd consider the money well spent.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

agog.

Great Snakes! All I wanted was a black pen.

Ok, I wanted a nice freely-flowing-ink, make-my-handwriting-look-nicer, not-indent-making-in-the-paper rollerball.
But nothing too fancy.

I went to Unibooks, thinking it'd be cheap there.

$4.50!

$4.50 for a black Pilot rollerball?

What is the world coming to?

Friday, 14 September 2007

@ the opera.

I'm not big on opera, but last night I went to see the Con's performance of Cosi fan Tutte. It's a really small production (only 6 cast members and an onstage chamber orchestra), modernised (Emo maid), and in English (thank God!). The only criticism I had, was that not knowing the story I was waiting for another switcheroo, and it never materialised. But I guess that's really a criticisim of da Ponte (and who am I to judge) rather than this particular production. It was actually really good; one of the best student productions I've ever seen - and heck, one of the most enjoyable operas I've ever seen - and I would recommend it to anyone who has a hole in their schedule tonight or tomorrow. It's only $18 for adults, and is in the Little Theatre. Information about tickets is here.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

writing a letter.

Dear Nhill,

I love your public toilets. They were the nicest ones I've ever seen. Even nicer than the David Jones ones. I didn't really need to go, but I'm so glad I did. The cleanliness; the sweet-smell; the working soap dispenser, hand dryer and stall doors; the nice decor; and the classical music playing all made me extremely happy (I had, after all, been driving for 2 hours before the crack of dawn).

I will recommend your facilities as the premier pit-stop for anyone driving to Melbourne. They really made my day.

love,
Emily

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

there and back again.

Had a fun surprise weekend in the Melbuns: caught a ride over with the family footy-goers (or more accurately, they caught a ride with me, since I did most of the driving). We mostly lazed around, and did a little catching up with friends which was just what the doctor ordered. I also found a lovely dress which will be useful for some upcoming weddings, and some Cosby Show DVDs half price. Awesome!

Tom and I went to France-Soir for a posh dinner which was great. It was posh in the moderately pricey sense, but otherwise it was just a 'nice' bustling suburban restaurant. The food was excellent, but nothing fancy - good traditional food done well rather than novel but pretentious and dissatisfying stacks of tiny art. I had the Monday-only couscous which was heaped with different meats all cooked to perfection, with a vegetable broth to spoon over the lot, and French fries on the side. Beforehand we had agreed mains only (in an attempt to curtail the bill early) but of course I couldn't resist the Ile Flottante - a barely cooked meringe floating in custard. Yum. Unfortunately we didn't sample any grape juice - but the wine list is extensive and renowned. The OJ, however, was freshly squeezed, just like Mamma makes. I also enjoyed the smart-alec lady next to us showing off her French and ordering a 'cafe au lait' - I'm told 'cafe au lait' is a breakfast coffee only, and outside the home it's a 'cafe creme' that you order. Har har har.

To give myself a little more time, I flew back, and as we were taxi-ing into Adelaide airport, I looked out of the plane window and noticed that on the green banks of a runway traffic island, there was a teddy bear, all kitted up in ground-staff yellow safety vest sitting on a deck chair and fishing in the drain. How bizzare!

And finally, a trip to Ikea heralded good news and bad: they're now selling the Asker containers I've wanted for ages (mentioned and pictured here), but they were out of stock. They're getting more in tomorrow, but you can't order or hold them, so I guess I'll be heading back soon...

Friday, 7 September 2007

wine tasting.

I almost forgot to talk about this, but last Friday I went wine tasting in McLaren Vale with Cait and Paul and Paul. I'd never done it before, and had been meaning to for ages, so when Cait offered to drive, I was enthusiastically in.

We had a lovely lunch in the Coriole courtyard - a tasting platter piled with Woodside cheeses, olive-oil drizzled bread, kalamatas, chorizo, corned beef, chutney, roast beetroot and pumpkin, and some leaves. Alongside we drank their Chenin Blanc. After lunch we sampled their wines - my memory begins to get hazy, but I tried a red which tasted to me bizzarely like frozen peas, and I walked away with a bottle of sweet white - a Semillion - which I enjoyed as being not as sickly as a lot of stickys.

We followed this with a trip to Kay's, which had a beautiful view and a couple of friendly dogs. I tried almost all of what was on offer - about 6-8 wines, and my memory was getting very sloshy, but as someone who is quite picky about wine, I did really enjoy their wares - they were nice and rich and had interesting flavours. I liked the Viognier the best, but Cait and co went for the Frontignac, which was quite sweet and went well with our Thai dinner.

Lastly, we ended up at Samuel's Gorge, which was not on the map and a real giggle. This also had a beautiful aspect (overlooking the gorge I suppose...) and would be a great place for a picnic. The winemaker was young and Jamaican and a real character, and we'd caught them at their knock-off drinks, which they kindly let us join. The boys talked sport, while Cait and I enjoyed the view. They only make reds, and at $35 a pop it was a bit rich for my blood, but they were very nice.

Apologies for being vague, but by the end of the day, I was a little sozzled. Who knew they gave you such big helpings?!

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

spoiled!

My first Secret Pal package arrived today!

I received (clockwise from top right):
- some Japanese fruit flavoured boiled sweets
- Hello Kitty bandaids
- Black and white check earrings
- Singapore Postcards
- 3 balls of Hug lilac wool
- Itty bitty flower (sakura?) shaped Japanese rice crackers
- Peach and mango tea
- Bamboo knitting needles

Wow! What a lovely parcel! And now I know my Pal Ayumi is from Singapore (since she speaks French and German she had me guessing!).

The edibles are all gone already, the drinkables have been sampled (yum!) and I've put the bandaids in my purse - they'll be useful in case of shoe malfunctions.

This photo really doesn't do the wool justice - it looks kinda grey here, but it's actually a variegated lilac and cream. It's very pretty and lovely and soft.

I'm very excited by the bamboo needles too - I've never used (or owned for that matter) any before! They're nice big fat ones too - they'll be great for chunky winter scarves!

Thanks Ayumi!

Monday, 3 September 2007

baking with Stephanie.

I've had the big stripey Stephanie Alexander bible for ages, but somehow had never cooked anything from there (probably because I'm shallow and there's a distinct lack of pictures).














This weekend I tried the Sticky Date Pudding (actually called Sticky Toffee Pudding) which was sublime, but not photogenic, and the Simple Carrot Cake (pictured here) which was very good, but not the best carrot cake I've ever had, and therefore not quite good enough. Although it's tastier today - it seems carrot cake is one of the few cakes better refrigerated than straight out of the oven.

I decorated the cake with these autumn leaf shaped sprinkles that I picked up in Melbourne. I thought they were lovely, but I got asked 3 times if the reason I only did half the cake was that I'd run out. NO thankyou very much - I like my cakes the way I like my haircuts: asymmetrical and a wee bit pretentious. SO THERE.

Friday, 31 August 2007

satisfied but not satiated.

I think we've already established that I love laksa a little more than most foods, and perhaps a little more than is reasonable. So everytime I walked past the Brasserie's menu on Grote St I couldn't help but salivate over the mention of a vegetarian laksa. And at the bargain price of $25 a bowl, my brain went 'ooooh, it must be amazing' rather than a normal person's brain which would go 'twenty-five WHAT for glorified vegetable soup?'.

This weekend Tom was over and I talked him into accompanying me. I booked in advance and checked that they still had the mythical laksa but then when we got there, NO LAKSA.

Which I was quite disappointed about.

But still, we had a really nice meal. It turns out they have a focus on local produce, each dish featuring a different local ingredient. This makes sense considering the restaurant is located in the Hilton, and would serve a lot of international customers.

We started with a terracotta-pot baked bread leavened with Coopers Sparkling Ale yeast and served with olive oil, Coriole kalamatas, and pink Murray salt. I had a goat Massaman curry for mains and Tom had kangaroo with quince. We shared a side of asparagus topped with a poached egg and parmesan cheese, and we also had the recommended accompanying red wines. For dessert, Tom had a sticky fig pudding, and I had a local honey-flavoured creme brulee which came with vanilla granita and a candied basil leaf.

All in all it was really very good. The atmosphere was relaxed, the waiting staff were helpful and friendly, and the food was great, without being too boring or too poncey. At $45 each (with Entertainment Book discount) I guess it was a little pricey but it wasn't nearly as expensive as lesser meals I've had around the place, and I felt it was excellent value for the quality. All of it was great, but I was completely blown away by my dessert, which I'm tempted to try to replicate. Yum-o.

Now if they would just bring back that laksa...

Thursday, 30 August 2007

relieved!

You Should Learn French

C'est super! You appreciate the finer things in life... wine, art, cheese, love affairs.
You are definitely a Parisian at heart. You just need your tongue to catch up...


Phew! Thank goodness I didn't pick the wrong language. That would've been a real personal disaster...

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

marvelling at the technology.

Screenshot taken from my computer, of me live on the telly in Melbourne (where I am not).

If they can do this, surely world peace and self-cleaning bathrooms can't be too far off?

Monday, 27 August 2007

pondering the big questions.

Those crazy French, they don't use "quotation marks" to indicate speech, they use «guillemets».

I guess this means they can't use finger quotes, (join me in my happy dance, won't you?), but what do they use instead I wonder? Sideways double Vulcan salutes?

«Vivez longtemps et prospere!»

This would go a long way to explaining why the French are so much cooler than the English. It's built into their punctuation.

It could also clarify rapper hands. Maybe.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

in love with the jelly, in love with the jam.

Apparently, this is the best apricot jam in the world, or so the internet says.

What was I to do but try some? Unfortunatly it cost an arm and a leg to have it shipped from America, but for the best jam in the world, splashing out once is ok, right?

After ordering it though, I started having second thoughts. It's been hyped up, it can't possibly be that good, it's too expensive, it'll arrive and I'll be disappointed...

Well baby, I'm not. It arrived on Friday and I made scones to test the jam on, and guess what? It IS all it's cracked up to be. These were the best cotton-pickin' jam and cream scones I've ever tasted.

And better still, the nice boys at We Love Jam sent me an extra jar for free, for having enough faith to order a jar all the way across the Pacific, so there's still a little left.

We Love Jam? I love jam too.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

hanging out for the weekend.

I read this after reading Hannah's review. Annoyingly, she writes better than me (why did I bother with that Arts degree again?), so you should probably just go and read what she wrote. (Aside: I never knew she was a 'reader' too- it's quite odd in a nice way to find out that you have more in common with a good friend than you thought).

Anyway, suffice to say I didn't fall in love with Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm, but it was amusing and quaint, like a cross between Jane Austen and Evelyn Waugh, and I expect it will improve with re-reading. Also, I couldn't find it in Borders, so you may have to borrow it from a friend, like I did. There is a film with Kate Beckinsale & Ian McKellen which is apparently quite good, but I haven't watched it yet.

I was kind of miffed to find that one of my favourite teenage series has a fifth book and I didn't even know. But it turns out that this one is much more recent, first published in 2006, ten years after what I had assumed was the final in the series (it had an epilogue and everything!). I'm glad I wasn't that out of the loop, but it still doesn't fix the fact that this edition doesn't match all of the others. Oh well. Book and cover and all that jazz.

The series follows Pagan, a 'Christian Arab' in the 12th century, from signing up as a squire to get himself off the streets, to fighting in the crusades, to becoming a monk and so forth. Pagan's wry worldview is hilarious, and the books are a fun way to learn about the era. They're well written - easy enough to read for teenagers, but not so simplistic they're boring to adults.

Pagan's Daughter is set soon after Pagan's death, and follows his illegitimate daughter Babylonne in her escape from her strict Cathar family, and her relationship with Pagan's protege Isidore.

Unfortunatly, I didn't really enjoy this one as much as the others. It didn't really feel like the plot was going anywhere, and none of the characters were developed much, except for Babylonne herself who just felt like a poor-man's Pagan to me. There's still some funny moments, and it's a quick and enjoyable read, but it was just a bit of a disappointment compared to the earlier books.

I would highly recommend the series on the whole, but unfortunately this book felt like a bit of an afterthought.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

housekeeping.

I'm a little worried The Bill might be heading towards another big character shake-up. They've recently changed the title credits - not the music, just the pictures - and they've taken out any recognisable people shots.

I finally tracked down the Bead Hive only to find a big sign saying it's moving again. It's shifting back to Pulteney St. It'll be next to Ikeguchi.

I tried Sarah's on Leigh St again - no better I'm afraid. I had the $12 lunch salad, and it had too many ingredients, each with something different and fancy done to it. The end result was that it was too oily, and it felt like the chef couldn't see the forest for the trees. Sorry Sarah, but two strikes and you're out.

I realised last week why I've been SO cold at night: my bedroom window has been open. It's been banging away for years and I never thought to check it, I just thought it was the house 'settling'. What an idiot.

I noticed last week that my favourite honey icecream (you know, the one that used to come in a big salami-like packaging 20 years ago) is Golden North. This means you can't get it in Melbourne, let alone France. Quel dommage!

I finally understood a segment of the SBS French news. A story about Philippino prison exercises. Yes really. The YouTube video is here - absolutely hilarious.

And one more video: this guy was on Letterman playing music with rollerblades and water filled bottles. It's awesome.

Monday, 13 August 2007

starting, with trepidation.

I took this beautiful yarn mentioned here over to Mag's, because once I remembered I had it I really really wanted to use it, and I needed some advice.

I used her yarn winder to ball it up, and had a minor drama when it kept breaking. I think a moth had been chewing on it! Hence the million balls in the photo. But since there is nearly 1km of it, I think the larger balls should be enough to work with. (I'm also thinking I should re-consider my stash storage. Maybe zip-loc bags, or maybe I should investigate some kind of natural moth-repellent).

The guru's advice was to double the wool and do another so-called. I really wanted to do something lacy with it though, as a replacement for Mum's magenta lacy scarf which I will not be able to borrow in France. So I'm ignoring her at my peril. She thinks that it will drive me mad and I will give up, and she may yet be right. But sometimes it's good to find these things out for yourself.

I'm trying this Feather and Fan Stitch/Old Shale (which apparently my Nanna made me a cardi out of when I was a baby) on teeny weeny 2.25mm needles. The pattern's really pretty simple (and has built in wavy edges) so I'm hoping it will be ok:

Pattern:
Row 1: knit
Row 2: pearl
Row 3: 3(k2tog), 6(yo, k1), 3(k2tog)
Row 4: knit

(Excuse my random Year 10 maths logic pattern describing. Not to mention the gymnastics photo.)

This is the teeny swatch I knitted. I've since frogged it, and cast on again 6 repeats of the thing, which is turning out quite wide, but I think it will be ok since it's such light wool. If it works out, I was thinking of maybe just having some wide plain sections in between the fan pattern. If it really is goes well, I might try and put in some of the little diamond shapes from the magenta scarf too. We'll see though. I'm a bit concerned that it might disrupt the nice wavy effect of the ends.

Btw: the wool is from Fibreworks at Horsham: 2ply/100g/900m /Colour # 15. Their website is l-a-m-e, but it does give contact details.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

filling in the Secret Pal survey.

I signed up for Secret Pal 11 and I'm supposed to fill in this questionnaire and post it. I'm so excited to find out who my Secret Pal is and get planning!

1. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with? What fibers do you absolutely *not* like?

I prefer natural fibres. I figure, what's the point of making something with your own hands if it started in a lab? I covet chunky, organic, textured, handmade and variegated yarns, and I HATE feathers. Yuck!

2. What do you use to store your needles/hooks in?
Ha. Most of 'my' needles are actually my mum's (or possibly even my nanna's), and they live haphazardly in a long Nike box, that must've come from someone with big feet a long time ago. It lives at the top of the linen cupboard. The few that I've bought (mostly circulars) are either in there too, or they're randomly in with my yarn which lives in an old wicker picnic basket. Thank God for my needle gauge.

3. How long have you been knitting & how did you learn? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced?

It depends when you count 'starting' from. I remember learning how to knit with my Nanna when I was very little. It was just an activity then - I don't remember having the objective of actually 'making' anything. My first finished object (a scarf), was maybe 3 years ago, when I was bored playing in a musical pit, and wanted something to keep my hands busy, but nothing so taxing I'd forget to count the rests. Then I decided I liked it, and started knitting with the end result in mind. Margie helped me with a beret, and the rest, as they say, is history. I guess I would fall somewhere between beginner and intermediate. I like interesting lacey patterns, but I pretty much apply them to scarves.

4. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?
Mais oui! I'm not putting a link up to my amazon wish list though, because then the internet will know my full name, and I'm a little paranoid. If you already know my name you should be able to search for it. But here are my Etsy favourites as a consolation prize. I seem to have expensive taste though, and they're not very knitting related, so they're probably only useful for ideas anyway...

5. What's your favorite scent?
My favourite smell in the world is clothes freshly washed with apple Cuddly fabric softener. I love the smell of jasmine, freesias, Easter lillies and jonquils, but in terms of synthetic scents, I suppose I tend to like fruit flavours better. I wear DKNY Be Delicious (which is supposedly apple flavour, although I think it's more like watermelon) which is one of the few perfumes I've found that doesn't end up smelling too 'powdery' or acrid on my skin.

6. Do you have a sweet tooth? Favorite candy?
Just one sweet tooth? I have 28! I'm not really a fan of licquorice or marzipan, but other than that, bring it on! I especially like trying new sweets (and foods in general) from far away - local specialities that you can't get here. I suppose if I had to choose a favourite, it would be Cherry Ripes.

7. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do? Do you spin?
I've never spun, but I like making all sorts of things. Mostly I make jewellery (small earrings, big necklaces). I took a silver jewellery course a while ago, which was great, but mainly I make beaded earrings, because it's much more accessible and doesn't require expensive equipment. I also like making things out of beautiful paper - postcards, origami (mostly cranes, but branching out is on the to-do list). I randomly make other things when inspiration hits, but I don't know how to sew.

8. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)
Yes, I listen to most music on my iPod so MP3s are fine. I love music, but kind of got out of the loop when I did a classical music degree and listened to nothing but bassoon all day. I'm not fussy about style (although I'm not really into country, bubblegum pop or rap, though I'm a sucker for a funky groove); I mainly just like upbeat music that makes me happy (how lame does that sound?). Ben Folds is my fave. Lately I've been listening to Belle and Sebastian a lot, and I can't seem to get my thumb to stop pressing 'repeat' on Camille's 'Ta Douleur', and Free Design's 'Love You'. I just bought Louis Armstrong's 'Cool Yule' from iTunes - 5 months before Christmas! What a dork!

9. What's your favorite color(s)? Any colors you just can't stand?
In general I'm not fussy, but for clothes I like bold colours as pastels wash me out. I wear a lot of maroons and magentas, but I wouldn't consider myself a girly pink person. I also wear a lot of brown, and this year I'm loving pairing accessories in opposite-ish colours: pink & green, yellow & gray, orange & blue.

10. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?
I live with my family, but I'm (probably) moving to France later this year. I have one fluffy cat and two very tall brothers.

11. Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos?

I wear a LOT of scarves. I'm getting into hats, but they tend to look bad on me, so it's a bit dicey. Berets seem to be pretty safe, although I'm not sure whether that'll make me blend in or stand out in Paris? It rarely gets cold enough for mittens here, and I've never worn a poncho.

12. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?
Yes, I'm a scarves lady. I think you've probably guessed that already. I like being able to try out funky new patterns or stiches within a standard format. And also not having to worry about whether it will fit. I usually like plain patterns with funky yarn, or fancy patterns with plain yarn.

13. What are you knitting right now?
In the planning stage right now...deciding on my next project...it will be a scarf...

14. Do you like to receive handmade gifts?
Love them!

15. Do you prefer straight or circular needles? Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?

You know I have no idea! I've never had to buy enough needles to develop a preference (see question 2). I like circular needles because it feels like my knitting's less likely to fall off, but I guess it depends on the project. I get more of a sense of satisfaction from straight needles as you can see it growing better.

16. Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift?

Neither. I kinda don't mind doing it by hand though.

17. How old is your oldest UFO?
Oh, a couple of years? I started knitting a Port (a local football team) scarf for Tom. I should've known that wasn't going to work out (go the Crows!).

18. What is your favorite holiday?

I don't think I have a favourite holiday, but my favourite day of the year is the daylight savings day (can't remember if it's the beginning or the end, too tired to work it out) where you get an extra hour's sleep in. Bliss.

19. Is there anything that you collect?
I consciously collect postcards (both written on ones sent to me and blank ones). I kind of collect beads I guess, in small quantities to be used in earrings at a later date. Same with pretty papers. I seem to be developing quite the collection of little retro alarm clocks, but not intentionally. I've always thought I'd like to collect teapots, but haven't started yet. I suppose the thing I collect most of is rings: I love chunky bright rings. I've never really thought of it as collecting, because I just see ones I love and buy them, but I suppose that's what it is!

20. Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on? What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?
Not really - I tend to leap from project to project randomly, rather than plan it out. I don't have any subscriptions. Those crazy handspun chunky variegated yarns around on the internet with the random stuff woven in always catch my eye, but I've never ordered any. I can just imagine them as a colourful winter scarf.

21. Are there any new techniques you'd like to learn?
I've been meaning to learn to crochet from my Nanna for ages now...

22. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements?
Nope. Some things are better handmade, but for me, I'm not sure socks are one of them. Also, they seem kinda fiddly...

23. When is your birthday?
April 20. I'm in my mid-20s.

24. Are you on Ravelry? If so, what's your ID?
No.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

spoiled.

I used to think the book was always better than the movie; now I suspect I probably just prefer whichever I came across first, especially if I came across it when I was young and developed an attachment to it over the years.

That's how it was with 'The Princess Bride: I've known and loved the film for years, and I'd always wanted to read the book. When I realised that William Goldman was not just a one-hit wonder (as I'd assumed), but actually an incredibly respected author and scriptwriter (his most famous movie is still 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid'), I wanted to read it even more. Last Friday I came across it in Borders, and I read it on the weekend.

The story in the film stays very close to the book, although, like The Neverending Story, the book goes on a bit after the film ends. What's different about the book is that William Goldman says that he's not writing the story himself - only abridging S. Morgenstern's Guilderian classic down to the 'good bits', the way his father read it to him as a child. It's quite a clever idea, and I guess these days you've got to find a way to make a fairytale stand out, and it's a fun way of actually pretending that it's a true story (the author's name always undermines it otherwise). However, in the end, I found the annotations about the bits he'd 'skipped' distracting. I just wanted the story.

It's possible that my imagination has been too strongly coloured by the film - I couldn't imagine the characters any other way than they appear in the film, and as I read familiar scenes I imagined those from the movie. Perhaps the book is better than the film after all, and I'm just not in a position to judge. I did enjoy the bits where Goldman described the backstory of some of the characters - it made them come alive more, both in the film and the book.

It's a great book, but if you've already seen the movie, I'm not sure I'd recommend rushing for it. If, on the other hand, you haven't seen the film, read the book first, and then tell me which you prefer.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Monday, 6 August 2007

deciding what to knit knext.

I was thinking about doing a lengthwise-knit random-stripey Karin/Heidi chunky holey scarf next. I had these three wools in mind in my stash, but when I pulled them out I realised it is just not going to work.

The wool on the left I've decided is just a bit too Barbie colours for me, and doesn't quite match the others.

The one in the middle is my perfect colours - magenta and maroon shades, but not too girly - but it's 2ply, and I can't see that working with the others somehow.

The right-hand yarn is cool and bizzare - it's like a ladder of ribbon filled with (100% synthetic) roving.

Shall I take the ribbon-yarn into Lincraft and try and find some plain coloured wool that I can alternate with it? I could, but I'd kind of like another funky wool to alternate, as well as the plain, and the city shops have such lame wool these days.

What am I going to do with the lovely middle wool? I don't think I'll ever knit socks, and what else am I to do with it? Maybe a really skinny really long tube scarf for Summer? Maybe in some cool holey lacey pattern? Is that possible?

And the one on the left...well... I think it's just going to have to live in the stash for a while, until I find something un-Barbie-fy-ing to pair it with.

Maybe they'll all have to go back into the stash for a while... Maybe I will knit another Branching Out for my Ma like I've been promising myself for so long. It's just going to require some talking into, because it's certainly not what you'd call a relaxing knit. And I'd have to stop being indecisive and actually pick a colour. Or maybe I'll order some Manos del Uruguay and knit another So-Called scarf. (My Ma will need a replacement for when I take mine to Europe). That would also require some talking into, because that wool, it's not what you'd call cheap.

Decisions, decisions.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

happy and sad.

Happily: OMG the Hairy Bikers have my spice tin!!! I saw it on the telly last night! I'm, like, 1 Kevin Bacon step from SBS fame!

Sadly: My new teapot is not at all well. I guess all that crazy cracking was not such a good thing after all. I noticed yesterday that tea was seeping out through the cracks, making it look like a yellow bloodshot eyeball teapot. Gross.

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

researching.

I've been a little concerned about to what extent I'm infringing copyright by posting semi-tweaked recipes here. Not at all it turns out! It seems that copyright when applied to recipes does not cover lists of ingredients or even method, but only the creativity with which these are described. So, if you put it in your own words, you're ok! Of course, it's still good manners to acknowledge the source, and I don't want to rip anyone off, but I'm really glad about this, because this blog is turning out to be quite a useful resource (to me at least) : I keep coming back here when I want to remake a recipe (or I've lost it) because it's so helpful to refer to my own experiences of coooking something.

While looking all this up, I read an article where the author (a food writer) said that he'd always found restaurant chefs to be (on the whole) extraordinarily willing to share their recipes. I've got a few favourite dishes around the place that I LOVE and I've been dreading the thought of how much I'll miss them when I go overseas. Maybe this will give me the guts to try asking for the recipes...

Monday, 30 July 2007

making birthday earrings.

Over the weekend I made some earrings for my friend Sasha's birthday. She asked for brown ones, and I found it surprisingly difficult, especially considering I love brown as a colour.

The middle ones are a total Margie bunchie rip-off (thanks Mag!). I haven't made earrings for so long I had a hard time getting any inspiration. The ones on the right I made with the extra beads - I think I'll give Sash both.

I hope she likes them! (Update: She did like them! And they looked much better on which is good!)

The green ones I made to match my new spiky green ring (top)!

They are displayed on my new-to-me yellow teapot. It's SO cute. My neighbour gave it to me when she had to move into a nursing home. It's even pre-crazy cracked. Call me crazy, but I LOVE crazy cracking. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Friday, 27 July 2007

finished!

Dragged myself away from the French Grammar, and finished this one (11am-1am Saturday) before I had time to list it in the sidebar and take it down again. Here it is for archival purposes.

Very good (thank God!), but I'm not talking about it because 1. If you haven't read it yet, I don't want to spoil anything and 2. If you're interested, you'll probably read it yourself asap.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

talking out of her...um...

To skinny jeans or not to skinny jeans?

It is a complex problem; to wit, it is twofold:

1. I have been endowed with a derriere of reasonable largess, unhappily augmented by my love of milky taro tea, raspberry weiss bars, and broadly, icecream.

2. Although I'm not usually one to mindlessly follow trends, these skinny jeans have been around for a while now, and I'm beginning to feel positively frumpy in my fcuk bootcuts (which, by the way, continue to develop holes in unmentionable places).

Now I appreciate the sentiment that "fat bottomed girls make the rockin' world go 'round", but to start with, Freddie Mercury was gay, so can he really be considered the authority on this particular topic? Secondly, what if he's right, but the skinny jeans emphasise the negative rather than the positive, and I accidentally make the rockin' world spin the wrong way? Or could I affect the tides with my somewhat full moon? I'm not sure I'm ready to be responsible for these kinds of disasters.

The problems of our time, yes, they are large indeed.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

seriously considering buying a camera that focusses properly.


Proceeds of the weekend jaunt to Melbourne:























Melbourne or New York? Purple lit trees on Collins St.























Street Art/Graffito.

















One of these things is not like the others... pink birds, Collins St.

















My camera has inbuilt sparklers!

















Handmaking Langzhou noodles, Noodle Kindom, Russell St.

















$15 Cafe Vue Lunch Box. Value ticks for quality and presentation, if not quantity.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

hungry and no dinner for hours yet!

While I was in Melbourne, Tom's housemate made this Chicken Tikka Masala from Jamie Oliver's 'Jamie's Dinners' cookbook. It was very tasty, and I'm tempted to try it myself.

I mentioned how much I love the Broad Beans with Chinese Chutney from Ying Chow (and Silk), but I forgot to mention that there's a recipe for it here. The recipe's by Simon Bryant who, working down the street, should know what the original tastes like. The first time I made it I was a little disappointed that it didn't taste exactly like the Ying Chow version, but a week later I did a side by side taste-test (nerd!) and it turned out that the home-made one actually tasted better. I've read somewhere that the Ying Chow one has 2 types of soy sauce in it (Bryant's has none), so that might be worth experimenting with, and nb. that 'broad beans' here actually means soy beans - use frozen edamame. In Adelaide, the ingredients should be easy to find, but I had trouble finding Chinese pickled cabbage and the right spicy tofu in Melbourne, although you can substitute without too many dramas.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

outdone.

The other day my brother made the most amazing spaghetti bolognese. He seems to have taken something from the Emily school of cooking, because he shares my approach of 'chuck random stuff in until it tastes good'. In addition to the usual ingredients (onion, garlic, mince, tomato sauce), he added bacon, dried oregano, a little Beerenberg tomato sauce and a little Paul Newman pasta sauce, and a stubby of beer. It was really really good - possibly the best bolognese I've ever had.

Monday, 16 July 2007

a nosy neighbour.

I meant to scan it for y'all, but it beat me to the recycling.

Last week we got a little note through the letterbox informing us that our street now has its very own brothel. Yee-haw!

Should I be worried about this? I am a little I suppose, but I'm more worried by the pimps, drug dealers and politicians it is likely to attract. Oh and idiots:

The 'author' mis-spelled our street name, advised us to ring crimestoppers, and signed him/herself 'a concerned citizen'.

Yes, seriously.

The neighbourhood? It has apparently gone.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

making new rules.

I have been reading back over this blog, and a lot of the entries are long, wordy and dull.

New rules:
1. No gigantic posts about cooking going wrong. Bo-ring.
2. More pictures! Better pictures!
3. Less posts? (Try to create quality bottleneck).
4. WRITE LESS. Why is it that I struggled to get essays up to the required length, but can rabbit on about nothing for EVER? Like right now, for example?
5. Do more interesting stuff - ergo., better content.
6. Stop writing as if my nanna was reading.

Friday, 13 July 2007

reading English and listening French - bien sur!

Wow, these reviews are really demonstrating how slack I've gotten about listening to new music - I received So Frenchy So Chic for my birthday in April!

This double cd is the 'soundtrack' to the (Australian?) French film festival, but I'm not sure if the tracks come from the films, or if it's just a chance to capitalise on the momentum of French culture making an appearance in the media.

Even though I've been listening to this cd a lot, I can't really pick out and comment on the songs individually - everything is French (and by extension mostly in French), and therefore I don't know any of the artists, and can't pick out the song titles by ear.

Overall though I've really been enjoying it. Most of the songs are folky acoustic numbers, with perhaps a jazzy twist - is this really what French music all sounds like, or has the compilation been put together with our cliches in mind? Either way, they're on the whole very good. The fact that it's mostly in French has both its upsides and its downsides for me. I can't sing along as I usually do, but then I can't accidentally break into song on the bus either, and it makes good non-distracting background music. I think hearing the French accent is beneficial for my own tongue, and more and more frequently I hear a word or phrase that I recognise and I want to go and shout out the window "HE JUST SAID 'JE SUIS UN BON ACTEUR' . THAT MEANS 'I'M A GOOD ACTOR'. I UNDERSTAND! PLEASE GIVE ME A PAT ON THE BACK!". Ocassionally a song is in (or partly in) English, and then for a split second, the fact that I understand it all implicitly makes me think I've suddently become fluent in French, before I realise what's going on. But helpfully, most of the tracks are slow enough that the words are at least clearly distinguishable, even if I don't know what they mean.

As someone who's been learning French, I've been finding it quite worthwhile, to hear more of the language in an enjoyable way. It's also a nice relaxing, easy to listen to cd which would make great background music; however, if you like really energetic, engaging music that you can sing along to (and you don't speak French), this perhaps is not for you.


These little books are so cute, I can't believe I haven't bought more. This one has four separate pieces in it by George Orwell, all of which are quite different. The title piece, 'Why I Write' is also the first, and quite short. It's pretty much what it sounds like - a short discussion of what compelled George Orwell to write, from his earliest memories to why he continuted to make it his profession. He also makes a few more general comments about why he believes all writers write, which are quite interesting.

The second (and largest) piece 'The Lion and the Unicorn', written in 1939 I think, starts off as a description of why England is the way it is - warm beer, stiff upper lip, respect for the rules - and how that is different to other places and peoples. It is very interesting now to see what has changed and what has remained the same in the 60 odd years since he wrote it. The piece then morphs into an argument for why England must become a Socialist country if the Allies are to win the war! His argument is very compelling, but obviously the premise is false, so from an historical perspective, it's an interesting read.

The third (and shortest) piece is a description of the author (non-fiction, presumably) seeing a man hanged in Burma. The last piece, 'Politics and the English Langugage' is a critique of the downfall of the written word. I was worried at first, assuming it to be a diatribe against the 'watering down of the big-E English by everyday langugage' (the same arguments that are going around now about text speak etc), but instead I found it most fascinating. I was totally wrong about it - Orwell argues that political (and academic) writing is becoming too convolued, abstract and bland. He describes the style becoming popular (standard academic writing these days), and picks apart a number of examples he finds. He argues that writing in this style not only confuses the reader (a useful tool in politics), but is also lazy and easier than taking the time to clarify your thoughts and articuate them in a simple and elegant manner. He continues by giving 6 rules for improving one's writing - here are the five that I remember:

1. Never use a foreign or technical word when a simple everyday one will do
2. Use your own metaphors and turns of phrase - not those already in circulation
3. If you can cut out a word, cut it out
4. Use the active rather than the passive voice where possible
5. Never use a long word when a short one will do

I really liked this last piece, which rang very true for me, as I spend my days trying to understand convoluted academic writing, usually assuming that I'm the dumb one for having trouble with it. It was great to read Orwell's discussion, because I've experienced so much of what he writes about, and having it laid out so clearly will also hopefully help me improve my own writing. It is a worry, however, that things seem to have gotten worse since he wrote this in the 40s. It's a cliche, but I wish they'd make every first year read this article!

Overall, I found these short works really fascinating, even though they're non fiction (again!) which is usually not my thing. They're short, interesting topics, and unsurprisingly, Orwell's writing is clear and precise and enjoyable to read. Thank God!

Thursday, 12 July 2007

wearing new shoes!

My new shoes! Hurrah, because I really needed them too. My regular every day work shoes had really had it, and the big holes let in water.

I recently saw last season's version of these (exactly the same, without the side cutout) at the Camper shop in Melbourne, but they didn't have my size, and couldn't get it in. But hooray for technology, because they're still making a similar style this season, and I bought them online and had them sent via Elsie in America since Camper won't ship to Australia. Thanks Els!

I just love how beautiful and soft the leather is, and how the shape is slightly organic and interesting, but they're still plain enough for everyday, and how they're a bit feminine and delicate but strong enough for regular consistent use. And actual foot-shaped!

I have high hopes of them being really comfy too. They fit perfectly, and at the moment the only hurty bit is the top of the heel where the leather is reinforced and a bit stiffer. Hopefully it will soften up, but for the moment the tough strips seem to be doing their job.

All in all, I am extremely happy with them!

As excited as I am about this cross-ocean shipping system though, it did bring up a few questions. When I found that they shipped to America but not Australia, I assumed it was because they had a warehouse/distributor in the U.S. Not so - according to my tracking, my shoes were made in Morocco, and went via Spain, Belgium, and England before arriving in America. Why then, do Camper not ship directly to Australia? How much oil did it take to ship my shoes such a long way round? Why were they still cheaper (including shipping) than if I'd bought last season's shoes (the rest of the world's leftovers I assume) in Melbourne? Why were the shoes so expensive since they're being made cheaply in Morocco, rather than by craftsmen in Spain as I thought? Hmmm. I find it a bit frustrating when overseas companies give us a raw deal because we're relatively small and far away. It might've worked 10 years ago, but now that there's the internet, we can figure it out and it's kind of insulting to assume we won't!

Still - happy pretty shoes! I guess I'm just lucky I have the internet, and good friends in (latitudinally) high places!

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

happily compartmentalising.

My new spice tin - discovered at the Indian cooking class I went to on Sunday. The teacher had one just like this, and I found this one at the Indian grocer on Market St in the city for $22! In here I've got (clockwise from left) turmeric, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, curry powder, fennel seeds, mustard seeds and garam marsala in the centre. On the left is the tray that sits inside above the spices, itself sitting in the upside down lid to the whole container. On it I'm keeping cinnamon, cloves, cardamom pods and nutmeg. I think I will buy one more and hopefully that will be enough space to have done with the nightmare basket of spice bottles and packets in the pantry. Woohoo! So organised and happy!

The cooking class itself was quite a lot of fun! It was taken by Promila Gupta, an Indian nutritionist by training and ex-restaurant owner who seems to be grabbing life by the ears now that her kids are grown up - she's also the president of the Indian Association here and a whole heap else besides. Her approach kind of demonstrated the basic structure of a curry rather than giving exact recipes - I quite liked it because it seemed kind of controlled slap-dash which is how I prefer to cook (by feel rather than measurement), but within a clear set of constraints. And everything tasted great! She said most of the classes she takes are when people get together a group of 10 and then they can choose the dishes they'd like to learn. It sounds pretty tempting to me - I'm dying to know how to get that saag paneer right!

At the class, I learnt the secret to great raita: black salt (actually a mauve-ish colour). It really does make the raita taste more like the restaurant variety. Unfortunatly it's one of those ingredients that stinks on its own, and once you know what the undiluted stuff smells like, you may have trouble with the dish itself as well.

We learnt 10 different dishes, and last night I tried two - a Pea Pulao (Indian fried rice), and a chicken and mushroom curry. Here are the recipes, which are not exactly as we were given them, but rather how I made them, and they were yum-o!

Pea Pulao
1 cup of basmati rice
1 onion
1 -2ish cups of frozen peas
1 carrot, cut thinly into rounds
2 bay leaves,
1 inch cinnamon stick
6 green cardamom pods
6 cloves
1 teaspoon turmeric
1-2 teaspoons Bombay Biryani Marsala (in a box from the Indian grocer)
salt and garam marsala to taste

1. Chop the onion finely, and chop the carrot.
2. Fry the onion in a little oil until brown.
3. Add the cinnamon, bay leaves, cardamom and cloves, fry a minute more.
4. Add the rice and stir and fry for a minute, coating well with the oil already in the pan.
5. Add the peas, carrot, Bombay Biryani Marsala, turmeric, a little salt, and 2 cups of water. Stir well and bring to the boil.
6. When boiling, cover and gently cook until the water is absorbed.
7. When ready season with a little garam marsala if desired (1/2 a teaspoon at a time), and adjust the salt if necessary.

Notes: If you wanted to make more or less you could just adjust the rice and water amounts and nothing else. The water just needs to be double the amount of rice you use. (This is true to a point, I think you could double the rice before you'd need to adjust the other stuff). I'm not sure the turmeric was necessary - I think there's turmeric in the BBM so if you don't have it I think it would be ok, but it does make it a pretty yellow colour. Lest you be tempted - don't substitute the BBM for garam marsala. We tried this and it was a nasty brown failure. Track down the right stuff - it should be easy enough to find in the Indian grocer, and pretty cheap too.

Chicken and Mushroom Curry
2 chicken breasts, chopped into chunks
1 onion, chopped
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tub of tomato paste
1 small handful of finely chopped coriander
5-10 button mushrooms, cleaned and halved
2 tablespoons of natural yoghurt (approx)
garam marsala
salt
chilli powder

1. Fry the chicken and set aside.
2. Fry the onion and ginger until brown and add the cumin seeds and fry a little longer.
3. Add the tomato paste and most of the coriander leaves.
4. Add the chicken and mushroom and mix, and cook until the chicken is thoroughly reheated and the mushrooms are cooked. If the sauce is too 'dry' add the yoghurt - more or less depending.
5. Add in garam marsala to taste (1/2 teaspoon at a time), and salt and chilli powder. Garnish with the remaining coriander.

Notes: You could use a tin of tomatoes or fresh tomatoes instead of the tomato paste. As this will be 'wetter', you may need to simmer it for a while until it thickens before adding the chicken, and you may not need the yoghurt. Alternatively, you could use cream or coconut milk instead of the yoghurt. My teacher said that you can add almond or cashew meal and/or spinach if you'd like.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

remembering and cataloguing.

A few eateries I've frequented in the last few months and have forgotten to mention:

Post Deng Cafe, Little Bourke St, Melbourne
We went with Molly and Dave upon his recommendation, when we couldn't get into the place he recommended more. I loved it. They serve Szechuan food, which I don't really know anything about, but I can tell say that more of it tasted like stuff I ate in China than anywhere else I've tried. We had 4 dishes - a chicken, a beef, a tofu and an eggplant, plus an entree of dumplings and a cucumber dish. I can't remember what they were unfortunately, but I do remember that they were all good, and I especially liked the eggplant which was really soft and almost creamy and had a dressing that tasted a little like a balsamic reduction but probably was nothing of the sort. The beef was the 'Szechuan Beef' which apparently tasted nothing like Szechuan Beef should, but rather like Beef in Black Bean Sauce. I'm not sure if they mixed up our order or what, but it tasted good so it didn't really bother me. None of the dishes were overly oily, and the good selection of vegetable dishes didn't mean that I didn't leave feeling heavy and greasy. I seem to recall the bill came to about $20 each (no drinks), which I thought was pretty decent for the wide selection of great food, but considering slightly tacky and dated decor, I don't think they could charge more.

Melt Pizzeria, King William Rd, Hyde Park, Greater Adelaide
We went here for my birthday after I'd heard so much about it. I was a bit disappointed to be honest. It's pretty of cool inside, but quite cramped and dark, especially seeing as it appears to double as a bar for trendy Unley-ites having Friday night post-work drinks. Although the pizzas were gourmet and pretty good blah blah blah, they still seemed kind of pricey to me, possibly because Melt seems to be positioning itself as a kind of three course fine dining establishment, which I just find kind of weird when it's pizza. Although Melt has a bigger menu, I'd recommend to the Good Life instead, which has better pizzas cheaper, in as good a setting but without being as overtly trendy.

Kanteen,
South Yarra, Greater Melbourne
Tom wanted me to try this place because they serve their coffee a little cooler than usual so as not to scald the milk. Thank God for that - I just don't understand why people want their coffee hotter than they can drink it? That being said the coffees were good, but not spectacularly out of the ordinary. We went for breakfast, and I had a bowl of porridge, while Tom had some black sticky rice with coconut milk. Both were very nice, but I think I was craving the T-bar's porridge which mine didn't quite live up to. There were lots of other options on the menu that looked really appetizing too, which I'd like to try. It's a pretty cool place - it kind of seems like it's built in an old shed, but it's got some funky decor which makes it all work, and it caters to a wide range of people (there were lots of kids near us). The day that we went was really cold and windy, which meant that the location right by the river wasn't such a plus, but on a nice day I imagine it would be lovely. Reasonably priced. Oh and look, they have a website.

Maya, Market St, off Gouger St, Adelaide
This Indian place has been there for ages, but I'd never tried it before until I accidentally ended up there with a few vegetarian friends. I had the Saag Paneer, and I think it possibly topped Beyond India's which was hitherto my favourite. We also had naan, raita, rice, pappadums etc all of which were decent. Apparently Maya specialises in dosas (filled Indian flour pancakes) which I negelcted to try so maybe next time. The bill (including a soft drink each) came to somewhere between $20 and $25 each, which makes it not the cheapest Indian around, but still competitive. Maya also has an amazing 'deli' counter with a huge range of Indian sweets to take home, as well as a few things like paneer which are handy if you can't be bothered making it yourself.

Silk, Rundle St, Adelaide
This is apparently the new(ish) venture for the chefs of Adelaide favourites T-Chow and Ying Chow, which is not really that surpring since a lot of the menu is similar (or in some cases the same). The dishes are a little more refined, (and a little tamer), but the atmosphere is significantly nicer too. I always go for the broad beans with chinese chutney, which is a Ying Chow dish, and I should branch out I suppose but I do so like it. The 'fungus' (mushroom) dishes look awesome though and I don't think I've seen anyone not enjoy their meal. We went most recently for dinner, and for a main with a beer/wine each plus rice and tea, we paid between $20 and $25 each. Lunch is a bargain though, as they have a deal where you get a choice from a reduced range of mains with rice, plus a glass of house wine for $10. Silk always seems a little empty, which I find really sad considering it's significantly better than most of the places along Rundle St these days.

Burger It, O'Connell St, North Adelaide
This gourmet burger joint seems to have become my local by the disappearance of all other burger places nearby. Burger It makes great gourmet burgers with organic ingredients, MSA beef, free range chicken etc etc. It also uses lots trendy ingredients (eg. pear, sage tapenade), and makes its own sauces (aioli, plum, satay etc). They have a couple of good vegetarian options, and can make them vegan, as well as the traditional (and more trendy versions of) beef burgers, chicken burgers and a fish burger. I like the chicken one with the brie and pear the most, and they have good shakes, although I'm not in love with their skinny too salty chips. Because of all the gourmet and the trendy, it is kind of expensive (most burgers alone at around the $10 mark), but you do get what you pay for. I used to find the decor a little sterile, but it's much warmer now that they've changed the colour scheme from purple and blue to brown and mustard, although it still feels more suited to take-away than eating-in.

Thea, Gawler Place, Adelaide
I've been meaning to include this for so long, but it feels a little redundant since I've probably dragged everyone reading this blog there at some point. It's Taiwanese vegetarian food, which in this case is quite plain and wholesome. I like the curry rice the best by a mile though - root vegetables in a spicy, nutty sauce on a bed of rice, topped with lettuce and some 'crispy plum potato' - and it's the perfect dish for a cold wintry day like today. Want! They also have a small range of snacks (I like the Pandan Lotus Buns), but where they really excell is the drinks. If you want a non-alcoholic beverage, what can you get beyond a soft drink, or at best a freshly squeezed juice? Thea serves flavoured teas, which are better than they sound. The fruity ones taste like natural juices blended with tea (mango, grenadine, passionfruit) while the milk based ones are often more unusual flavours like taro, lavender and almond. They also have 'snow bubble' drinks which are more like a frothy fruit flavoured milkshake. They are served either hot or cold in tall glasses and you can choose to have bubble tea tapioca 'pearls' if you want. They're all good - I've never had a bad one, although the almond may not be for you if you don't like marzipan - but my favourites are the grenadine green tea, the milky taro tea, and the honey lemon drink which is often just what the doctor ordered. A curry rice and small tea will cost about $11, and they're only open for weekday lunch, excepting dinner on Fridays.