Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Just a minute in... November

I'm still catching up after my holiday, so I'm kind of a week behind on everything! But this is what I've been up to...

to Raindrops by Basement Jaxx. It's currently at the top of my 'most listened to' list.

Travelling...to Tassie. After The Engagement, I stayed on in Launceston for 7 days of karate training, while Gib went back home for work. It was great (the training that is, not Gib having to go back to work). Usually training twice a day. Being on holidays, and with a training regime like that meant I slipped into my natural rhythm of waking up early (training), having a nap in the afternoon, (more training) then going to bed late. I'd love to live in a country where they have siestas. I felt so refreshed and energised.

Organising... an engagement party. Christmas presents. The family Kris Kringle. Posting stuff. It's all go go go.

Re-organising... our living quaters. We've swapped our study and bedroom around. I now have an entire wardrobe to myself in the bedroom (which I can keep clean without all that boy mess) and Gib has another one all to himself in the study next door (where he can throw his clothes in, and if he loses his socks and undies, then it's not my problem)

Reading... Gourmet Traveller. 'The Waterbug Book'. Mostly non-fiction.

Preparing... for my first grading at the new karate dojo I'm now at. I'm a little nervous, not quite sure what I'm in for!

Cooking... some interesting dishes. New flavours from parts of the world I haven't tried before. Just generally having fun in the kitchen. I'm itching to do some baking, but haven't found the time in the past few weeks.

Loving... cherries, peaches, plums, nectarines... all of those delicious stone fruit that summer brings! They are my favourite fruit.

Writing... engagement party invites. Christmas cards. Christmas letters to friends overseas.

Sewing... little shoes for my friends new baby boy, an adorable star shaped bunting, some bibs... all sorts of other baby-related things. He's completely adorable. So tiny. This is my first friend from my age group to have a baby... I'm now officially in the whole 'engagements, weddings and babies' phase with my friends. I think it's time for my Christmas sewing to start too... perhaps I've left my run a bit late!

Growing... tomatoes. Lots of them. Too many in the one pot. I didn't quite expect them all to grow!

Hope you had a lovely November too! Check out what everyone else did last month over at August Street.

Amusing nursery find

Found at the nursery, side by side. Clearly I have a very primitive sense of humour...

Thursday, 3 December 2009

News flash!

I'm back and sewing again, mostly because I have a new purpose to do so. It's Christmas time, my friend has just given birth to a lovely baby boy... lots of things to sew! I've also been into the garden, and cooking a few exciting things too. Maybe I'll get some time to post some of what I've made?

But for now, I have some exciting news! A couple of weeks ago we headed over to Tasmania again. Gib only had a few days to spare because he's recently started a new job, so he only came for the weekend, but I stayed on afterwards in Launceston for some karete training. A couple of days before we left, we both came down with rotten colds. We arrived in Tassie and it was a lovely 10 degrees (we had just left Melbourne's heatwave! We're not summer people). We headed east to Binalong Bay, one of our favourite little spots. Our room where we were staying wasn't quite ready, so the guy at reception advised us to go for a drive or take a stroll along the beach.

Me, strolling along the beach. Look at those awesome storm clouds.

It was drizzling, we were sick and miserable, but having fun walking along the beach. It's one of our favourite spots. As we wandered, Gib just casually commented that we'd been together for 4 years now and wanted to know if I'd marry him? After I'd overcome the surprise and shock, I hugged him, said yes!! (there's nothing like saying yes to marrying your best friend!) and burst into tears (good tears). So now we're engaged!

He asked me right there!

Ahhh... the newly engaged couple.

Now, I'm not really one that is into jewellery. Mostly because the work I do, and the hobbies I enjoy, are not really conducive to wearing jewellery. I'm a practical, no fuss kind of gal. So we decided that I wouldn't have an engagement ring (we've decided to put it towards custom wedding rings) so instead we got an engagement painting:

The engagement painting: A lino print of a SCUBA diver swimming in kelp. Apologies for the poor photo quality.

It's a lino print by an artist, Craig Worby, who is a local at Binalong Bay. It was on the wall of the restaurant we went to, and we both liked it as soon as we spotted it. So they called him up and he popped by to wrap it up and sign it for us. It's different, but then again, we're not a typical couple.


About 5 minutes after Gib had asked the Big Question, we both spotted this dead chiton:

The dead chiton

We were pretty excited to find it. I love

Background information: Gib and I did zoology together at uni, and for our end of year exam we had to dissect sea snails. I hate snails. Nothing makes me shudder more: They are cold and slimy and gross (but I love chitons, which are close snail relatives. They are less gross and much prettier, and don't eat my strawberries). Specifically, we had to dissect the snails with bare hands, find the radula, which is the "tongue" of a snail. The radula is tiny, very thin, quite transparent and breaks easily (see photo below, you'll see how small it is). When I dissected my snail for my exam, I succesfully found my radula but then accidentally dropped it (but managed to find it again on the table, about 10 minutes before the end of the exam), and Gib had made a mess of his dissection, but managed to squish about blindly and find his by accident. Either way, we both have vivid memories of radulas.

So anyway... we were quite excited to find that this chiton must have been freshly eaten, because its radula, which is the two dark lines protruding at the lower end of the chiton with a blob of sand stickign to the the end, was still intact. We were excited enough about finding a chiton with its radula still there, we had to take a photo.

Perfect match: We get engaged, then 5 minutes later take photos of sea critters. It must be true love.

So Gib left for home, and I stayed on in Launceston for another week to do my training. The training was awesome, but I have no photos because the camera ran out of batteries and I had no way to recharge it. Oh well...!

And now we're organising the engagement party for late January and things like that. I'm currently having fun making the engagement party invites. It's going to be a while before the wedding due to the PhD and us saving for other things first. We're planning for the wedding to be some time in Autumn 2012.

Hope you're all doing well out there!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Just a minute... in September!

So there hasn't been much gardening, sewing or cooking around here. The garden is under threat (see below) and I've been sewing the same old things and cooking nothing particularly new or exciting. Except that it's spring now, and there are tons of new fruit and veg to eat. It's mostly been karate and my PhD studies, both of which are going well, but aren't really the topic of this blog. I've toyed with the idea of starting a karate and science blog (the two do have a surprising amount in common), but I haven't thought of a way of doing it without sounding arrogant and self obsessed (two things that shouldn't be in either karate or science).

So... here's how I spent September:

Fearing... walking down my street. It's magpie season, and we have a family that is doing an excellent job of defending it. They used to only swoop once, but now they're making multiple dives. And if you're watching one, while you're distracted, the other one will get you from behind. Even walking from the front door to the car in the drive way, or hanging out the
washing in the backyard, is enough to provoke our angry little maggies. They're even trying to work out how to attack us through the windows. The weather has been great for running, but I've changed my running path so I run around work, rather than around our block. Eeek!

Reading... the rest of Dune trilogy. The Princess Bride. Lables on the back of cereal packets while eating my breakfast.

Despairing... from Gib getting screwed over in his job (along with a few other of his work colleagues).

Celebrating... Gib getting a new job. A new, improved job. One that means he gets to wear a suit on a regular basis. I like that. I also like that one of his first sites that he'll be working on his directly opposite my work.

Recovering... from tendonitis, in both shoulders. The two week break from karate is killing me, while I have treatment, but I get to go back tonight with improved shoulder strength and flexibility! Hooray

Enjoying... asparagus. artichokes. broccoli. dutch carrots. all sorts of other delicious spring vegetables. Berries are cheap, and it's almost stone fruit season. This is definitely my favourite time of year for fresh produce! Artichokes are definitely my vegetable of choice at the moment, and I'm having a ball preparing them and eating them in all manner of different ways. And when they're so cheap (90 c each at our local grocer!) why not?

Loving... my PhD. Maybe I'll get tired of it soon. I've been saying that for about 18 months now, but no, I still love it. I'm testing participants, meeting all sorts of awesome people. My supervisor even told me that I was "on track" (I was gobsmacked: they are words that
every student dreams of). Science is still rocking my socks.

Wondering... what the hell I've signed myself up for. I'm heading to Tasmania to train again. This time by myself for a week (well, under guidance of the sensei there). I keep wondering why I've just decided to spend my annual leave in considerable physical and mental discomfort. I'm terrified, but at the same time it's exciting (or maybe just crazy) to put yourself outside your comfort zone... at least, that's what I keep trying to convince myself of anyway.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Progress report

The PhD is going through another hectic but very exciting stage as I start recruiting my first participants, set up some Brand Spanking New Test Equipment and get my experiment protocols in order.

Karate is also busy, but is keeping me sane. I've come to realise that I'm not really built for entirely office based work, so by the end of a long day in the office, I am busting to get to the dojo. Now that it's not so cold outside I have been running more, and going for a run really helps clear my head and approach problems with a fresh perspective.

But in amongst all that, Gib and I have been going for a few walks and tidying up the garden a bit.
Here's a picture of the backyard now. The bare-looking patch on the bottom right is what we cleared from the noxious, blue periwinkle. It has taken 2-3 rounds of weeding and I think it is finally gone in that area. It's horribly tenacious stuff, so I hope we've finally got rid of it. It has now been planted out with a Christmas bush (Ceratopetalum gummiferum), Darwinia citriodora and a Kangaroo Island spyridium (Spyridium coactilifolium), which should take up most of the space where the periwinkle was. I look forward to seeing how they over spring. Apparently we're not the only ones who hate weeding out blue periwinkle. It was mentioned on Gardening Australia on Saturday night that Greening Australia are clearing it from near the Maribyrnong River and "five and a half thousand were put in a couple of years ago to replace the weedy Blue Periwinkle".

We've found a patch in the front yard which kangaroo paws seem to love. So we're now trying our hand with a conostylis, a somewhat fussier relative of the kangaroo paw. The two conostylis that I got last year for my birthday are still going very well in pots at my parents' place, so we thought we'd try planting one.

My indestructible ptilotus spathulatus. We have two of them now, and I decided to move them from the pot to the ground. It was a smart move: they love it! I think we have a baby one popping up in the pot which the other one was in originally. We're letting it grow to see if it's a weed or the real thing.

So finally, here's the progression of our garden over the past 9 months. There's been some pretty radical changes. It's gone from being almost entirely mint, to not much at all thanks to the drought, and then finally having happy little ptilotus, asterolasia and kangaroo paws. The bare and scraggly looking area behind the kangaroo paws has been planted out with some correas, which will grow to about 1-1.5 m high and wide (they're about 10-15 cm tall at the moment). We're not trying to get rid of the mint altogether, but just keep it in a semi-controlled area.

Front yard: November 2008

Front yard: March 2009 (see the two tiny little kangaroo paws in front of the stump?)

Front yard: August 2009 (now look at the size of 'em!)

Monday, 17 August 2009

Bye to my first ever car...

Today I saw the first car I ever owned get towed away. It's going into the hands of two young guys who are dropping a new engine into it and using it as a drift car. I had mixed feeling about watching it go: that car was both an absolute joy and also a massive thorn in my side. At least it will go out on a high note now. These young guys will have fun with it. The bonnet and front guards were sold on to some other guys (which is why the car looks so sad) who smashed their car into a wall, so the love was spread around a bit.

The nail in the coffin wasn't all the water lines being replaced replaced, or even the engine and turbo dying... it was when we were in the process of replacing the engine and decided to re-spray the engine bay while we were waiting for the new engine, and found a weld in the chassis rail. Actually, I should have known from the start: its original number plate had three numbers followed by three letters: F I X. The time it was on the road was tons of fun. And I learned so much about cars and had a great time working on it. Now I own its bigger brother, a specimin that is in better condition and just as enjoyable to drive.

Byebye Silvia.

Plushy anatomy

Here are some wonderful Etsy finds!

A felted brain pendant... love it!

Saving the weirdest 'til last... the plush pelvis! I respect the detail and work that has gone into it (I hate whenever I have to sew holes in the middle).

Happy Monday, everyone! Hope your week is a good one.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Eye spy... something red!

Introducing... my new gumboots! I bought these at the mid-year sales, and I think they were supposed to be some fashion item? Gumboots as fashion isn't something I don't understand. Gumboots are practical for walking in mud and are great for being hosed down after walking in the mud, but aren't practical for walking through shopping malls or even simply walking in a co-ordinated way. I think most other people had the same idea as me, which is why they were so heavily discounted. However, they're cute and keep my feet clean and dry while weeding and planting out the garden. And there has been plenty of time spent in the garden recently!

Thank you to Ellieboo for this week's theme! (I've been wanting to show off my new gumboots for a while!). And also to Cindy, the lovely host of Eye Spy...!

Babar birthday cake

Oohh... time for another cake-related post!

It was Gib's mum's birthday recently, so I baked her a cake. She loves Babar, so it's a Babar themed cake. Decorated with just some ready-to-roll icing.

I modified this recipe and it was absolutely delicious. So I'm recording it here so I can make it the next time I have a gingery carrot cake craving:

A terrific tasting Carrot, Orange and Ginger cake! (dairy free)

2 ½ cups wholemeal flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons powdered ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
6 carrots, peeled and grated (about 3 cups)
1 ½ cups granulated sugar (I substituted for CSR Smart sugar)
½ cup packed light brown sugar (I used low GI cane sugar)
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 cup vegetable oil safflower oil, or canola oil
½ cup orange juice
½ cup finely chopped glace ginger

Preheat oven to 180 C. Spray and line a 25cm round pan with parchment, with a 5cm collar.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in large bowl; set aside.

3. In a food processor, combine granulated and brown sugars, eggs and the orange zest until frothy. Add oil gradually. Process until the mixture is light in color and well emulsified, about 20 seconds longer. Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl. Stir in the carrots, glace ginger, and the dry ingredients until incorporated and no streaks of flour remain.

4. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes (took 60-70 mins for me), rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. Cool the cake to room temperature in the pan (for a denser cake) on a wire rack, about 2 hours.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Taste Sensation! ... Vegetarian kidneys?

We have yet another new and exciting Asian grocer that has just opened up in our area. They are chocked full of exciting products that the other 5 Asian grocers in our area don't sell. Including this:

Can't tell you how it tastes. We're going to let that one remain a "potential" Taste Sensation! for a while longer.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Eye spy... a favourite children's party game

(Still catching up on Eye Spy's here...)

Growing up, my parents always threw amazing dress up parties for my brother and I at home. We'd go all out and decorate the house, have appropriately themed foods and mum would always make an awesome birthday cake. One year, Dad even dressed up as an astronaut, decked out in a bike helmet wrapped in silver foil and aluminum foil ducting pipes for his arms and legs. Even now, I still love dress up parties, birthday cakes and games. Can I be a child forever, please?

I think my favourite game was The Mummy Game, followed very closely by The Fish Game.

The Mummy Game is where children (or adults) pair up, and they decide which one of them will be "the mummy" and who will do the wrapping. Give the team two rolls of toilet paper.
Then the mummifier has to wrap the other child up in toilet paper, creating a mummy. We always used to play it so that a song or timer was on, and they had to wrap as quickly but accurately as possible, and the person with the most complete/best looking mummy at the end of the song/timer wins.

Photo from here

The Fish Game is where each child cuts a few fish out of newspaper, about 30 cm long. They are then given a rolled up newspaper and asked to stand at a starting line, with their fish placed on the starting line. At the "go" signal, they have to whack their newspaper roll just behind the fish, which creates a gust of air which propels the fish forward. They keep whack-whack-whaking and the first to get their fish over the finish line wins!

Head over Cindy's to see what other games people are playing!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Eye spy... a sign

I'm doing some catching up on some Eye Spy's. Better late than never, as they say! I spotted this on Brunswick St last night, at Aboh Shoes. Hehehe. I've lost my voice so writing blog posts a month after they were "due" is helping me cope. I don't do well if I can't talk. Hope you had a good weekend!

How to make a leafy sea dragon cake

I lie. It's not really a cake. It's a bunch of cookies glued together. And a word of warning for anyone else insane enough to attempt a leafy sea dragon cake: this project is not for the faint hearted. Many times I stopped and said to myself "Why the hell are you doing this, woman?!" and walked away shaking my head. It took several hours, and I nearly cried at one point.

I am not a pro cake maker, I've never attended any cake lessons. It all started when my mum made cool animal cakes for me as a child and I've carried on the tradition. So if there are any people out there thinking "oh, why did she do that/use that, there's a much better way!" you're probably right, but I don't know about it! I had fun anyway. Eventually.

Some background on Leafy Sea Dragons

Phycodurus eques is related to the sea horse, and found in the southern and western oceans of Australia. We tend to get the Weedy Sea Dragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus) on the east coast which are much less elaborate than the leafy. The appendages aren't actually used for swimming, which is what I first thought when I started investigating, but have little fins along their back and head that they use for that. The leafy appendages are just for camouflage. They grow up to 30-40 cm. I highly recommend watching this video of them. They are stunning to see in action. I've only ever seen them in an aquarium in Western Australia.

Some background on how I decided to make my Leafy Sea Dragons

I had quite a few ideas for how to make it, given the constraints of making a leafy sea dragon: the legs and leg joints would be fragile so the head and body either needed to be light or the joints made strong (or both!). I thought about using meringue because it is both strong and light, but my attempts at meringue failed horribly but I'd had in my mind "cookies!" the whole time so I decided to go with that. Meringues also take a long time to cook, and I am an instant gratification woman, so cookies it was. I think gingerbread would work too, but I know many of my friends hate gingerbread.

I experimented with the royal icing you use for gingerbread houses, which is very strong and sets like cement, but at the same time is exceptionally messy and there isn't much room for mistakes. If you muck up, it's set like that forever. However, if you'd prefer to use "gingerbread house glue" then my recipe is:

3 egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
3 - 3 1/2 cups icing sugar

Instead, for appendage glue, I decided to use white chocolate. It is strong but can be re-moulded. I used a good quality brand so it didn't go funny after heating and cooling.

I had made a small scale prototype the week before, using a variety of icings, cookie recipes and "glue". I went out for about half an hour, and Sylvester, our cat with strange food prefences, decided he wanted to have a taste. I came home to find the whole thing smashed on the floor and bits eaten. Another good lesson learned from my prototypes.

How to make a Leafy Sea Dragon


For the structure:

1 quantity of cookie dough
1 block of good quality white chocolate
Orchard ready-to-roll icing

For decoration:
Yellow food dye
Blue sour straps
1 block of good quality white chocolate
Cream (for the ganache)


I wanted to attempt to make my leafy 1:1 scale, so took this photo (inverted the colours to save on ink) and printed it A2 size (4 x A4 paper stuck together) and used it as a template for the cookies.

I cut out the head and body as one piece, and cut out each of the leafy appendages. I rolled out my cookie dough to 4mm thick, placed the template on the dough and traced around it with a knife. Most of the leafy appendages were baked for about 10-12 mins, but the body took 20 mins.

I rested the body in my potato masher, which placed on a small box to elevate it, because it was a convenient width to support the body vertically. I glued on the rear legs with a blob of white chocolate, then the middle legs.
I also stuck on some read to roll icing to fill out the cheeks, chest and body. The stark white is the icing, and the off-wihte stuff is the chocolate. You can see in the background the individual leafy cookies. I placed a shot glass under its body to help take some of the weight off the legs while it was drying. In the end I decided to keep the shot glass in there permanently because I didn't want the legs to break while I left him overnight. The glass under his nose is temporary.

The head actually snapped off at one point. One of those moments when you have a few heart palpitations. It actually worked out well because it meant I could attach the front legs more easily. The head I cemented back on with tooth picks, chocolate and icing.

I iced him all over with white chocolate ganache dyed yellow, starting from the rear and finishing with the head. I wanted to smooth him down more but I was terrified he would snap. I experimented with a few different icings in my prototype stages, but I love ganache so I rolled with that. I used blue sour straps for the details and his head piece nad whiskers. The eyes are just Orchard icing with a blue chocolate dot in the middle. I poke sour straps into the underneath of the body for the dangly, weedy bits.

I made sure to keep a washing basket over the top of the cake and to lock all doors to the kitchen to make sure Sylvester could not get his paws anywhere near the "cake". He's a rotter, that one. Every time he came into the kitchen while I was making the final version, he looked at me with adoring eyes, but I knew it was because he really wanted some chocolate covered cookies. He's cunning and mischeivous.

Then when Gib got home from work he told me that he was only joking when he said I should make him a leafy sea dragon cake. He said he didn't think I'd actually make it but thought it would be amusing to put the challenge to me. They do say pets take after their owners.

Here's the finished product:

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Gluten free failure

In my last post I mentioned that if I succeeded in my gluten free desserts, I'd post awesome photos and recipes etc etc... well, let's just say that I now hate baking with gluten free flours. The desserts looked fine, just like the regular, non-gluten free versions. I've certainly made better tasting things. I think we all know when someone has made something that is a bit below par, however that doesn't warrant ongoing gripes and complaints from the male diners about substandard desserts (except the ones with dietary requirements, who were just happy to have a choice other than 'fresh fruit' for dessert for a change), so it has been decided that they will be doing the cooking at the next get together we have. And they wont be allowed to get take away.

I also tried my hand at meringues that day. They failed too. They totally lacked fluff. They looked like little pink and yellow turds.

...but they weren't nearly as fluffy as the one above.

I think it's on those days you throw in the towel and head down to the store.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Dietary complications

Every couple of months I catch up with a bunch of friends I went to uni with in undergrad. We take turns at hosting dinner and everyone contributes something to the meal. We have a diabetic celiac, two vegetarians, one who is pregnant with borderline gestational diabetes, and another with egg and nut allergies, so our food has to cover all bases:
  • Gluten free
  • Low GI
  • Nut free
  • Egg free
  • Meat free
  • Alcohol free
  • Caffeine free
  • No deli meats or pre-made salads
  • No uncooked soft cheeses
We are all quite adventurous and I am astounded at the variety and tastiness of the food we all bring to the table. It's my turn to host tomorrow, and it's my turn to make dessert. I'll be making a gluten free chocolate and raspberry baked ricotta cake and a nut free and diabetic friendly version of this gluten free apple crumble. Hopefully I'll get some good photos, so I'll let you know how it goes!

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Crazy cakes and cake tins

It's heading up to "birthday season" in our household and while doing some research for my next cake creation, I found this amazing sculpture of a centipede made from recycled bundt tins. The whole process is shown here. This is my kind of art!

Gib and I are both July babies and are having a combined birthday party. After the fish, axolotl, wasp cake and giant squid, I'm about to embark on my craziest, most ambitious cake ever. I'm a bit nervous. Gib has decided he wants a leafy sea dragon cake. Bloody hell! Any suggestions are welcome.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

What does a scientist look like?

I have still been crafting away to myself. Part of that reason for my quietness is that I decided to cut down on blog reading while working, and have instead allocated blog-reading time in the evening. It means that I have about 300+ unread blog posts which I feel kind of bad about: you all do such fabulous things and I want to read it all! However, I have been really inspired to get some awesome science done, and sometimes some things need to take a back seat. I have thought maybe I should have a science and karate blog to run along side my more crafty blog, and then realised that it would probably eat away more of my time. I think a crafty/baking/gardening blog is far more entertaining for me to maintain anyway.

But on reflecting about crafting/baking and science, I realised recently that when I was a teenager thinking about "what I wanted to be when grew up", I didn't really think that the two could exist. I was invited by my old high school biology teacher to come and give a presentation to a group of Year 9 students and it got me thinking about when I was in Year 9 what I thought about "scientists". I always loved science, but I never thought I could be a "scientist" because:
  • Scientists are very serious people
  • Scientists are rarely female and must be tall. And old.
  • Science is only conducted in a laboratory. Chemists and biologists only look at little things, like chemicals, genes, cells or other microscopic things. Or alternatively, they study the behaviour of exotic animals, out in the middle of nowhere in extreme weather conditions. Physicists sound boring and is only for old, serious, grumpy, balding men.
  • All scientists only wear lab coats and gloves and dorky glasses.
  • All scientists must be super intelligent.
  • If I do science and creative things like baking and sewing, I can't be a serious scientist.
We went on some excursions that only confirmed my stereotypes: we went to a university to do a day course in genetics (at the time, one of my least favourite subjects - so dry!) in flies (boring!) lead by an intimidating old man with greying hair wearing a lab coat, gloves and glasses. He was very serious.

Gib and I being what scientists should be: super smart but boring, labcoat/glasses wearing dorks, who never, ever have any fun.

I finished high school loving science but being confused as to what I could be. All because my concept of what a scientist is was very skewed. I have since learned:
  • Scientists can have a sense of humour.
  • Scientists can be short, female and young.
  • Not all laboratories are stark white with bottles of strange liquids and pipettes everywhere.
  • Not all laboratories are designed for studying little things, but can for studying big, whole things too, and you don't always need to wear a lab coat and protective glasses.
  • Not all scientists are super intelligent.
  • Scientists can also bake, sew, fix cars, take part in contact sports, sky dive, make sculptures, knit, have children and still be scientists.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Cook up to save $$$

We've had to tighten our belts a bit around here, and one of the easiest ways for us to cut back on expenses is to not eat out to so much. I work in a place where there is only one cafe and they charge you $9 for pumpkin soup and a tiny piece of bread, so I always take lunch to work, usually leftovers (rarely sandwiches. 13 years of taking sandwiches to school kind of broke me). But Gib has now realised after several years of me persisting that buying lunch is expensive and he should take his own. So we did a big cook up of three dishes:
The thing I love about doing batch cook ups is that it actually takes less time overall: I can chop up all the onions for all three dishes at the same time, all the carrots, all broccoli... etc, and put them into their respective pots at about the same time, and there are fewer chopping boards to wash.

Total cost per serve - and they are big serves for my hard working man - was $2.42 each!

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Eye spy... my perfect invention

Before going on to list my perfect invention, I should mention that I was so excited when I read this week's topic. My dad is a bit of an inventor, and many of my favourite childhood memories are of helping dad with his wacky inventions. The word "invention" conjures up so many hilarious family memories for me. My dad would always make a grand announcement over dinner that he had just come up with a new, amazing invention... and then a few weeks after that we'd always discover that his inventions had already been invented... and usually 10x less elaborate than his. But that never stopped him. My dad was, I think, the only person who was completely in his element during the 1998 Esso Longford gas explosion: he spent the entire two weeks coming up with new ways to heat water for our showers (like buying 50 m of black piping and leaving it on the roof filled with water, for some real "solar hot water"). I was always the guinea pig for his new shower inventions... and it resulted in me having many cold showers!

My dad loves to modify things too and he loves a good bargain. Recently he was after a paper shredder, but didn't want to spend $45 on an electric paper shredder when he could spend just $15 on a manual, hand crank one. Within 15 minutes of him manually shredding paper he was tired of turning the handle and was coming up ways to make it go faster. He made an elaborate attachment so he could fit his power drill (set to ~200 RPM) onto the handle pulled the trigger. It worked great... for about 20 seconds. And then the shredder cracked. And he ended up having to buy the $45 electric shredder.

So... anyway... being my father's daughter, I do like a bit of inventing too. I guess that's how I ended up in science. I have no trouble coming up with hundreds of new, cool and exciting medical inventions. However today as I sit here, just having come back from a weekend long karate training event with a big full of stinky clothes and no motivation, the idea that comes to mind for my perfect invention is a bit closer to home. It involves a device where I could put all of my clothes:
  • It would automatically sorts between clean/'worn once but still ok' and dirty clothes (perhaps via some sort of chemical detection for armpit odours?)
  • It would sort between white/coloured/dark coloured clothes (colour detection)
  • It would puts them in the washing machine and selects the appropriate setting (cold for those clothes that shrink, like my karate uniform)
  • It would then dry them appropriately (again, cooler settings for shrink-prone clothes)
  • It would fold my clothes and place them neatly in a basket. Ultimately it would sort between the folded clothes into three piles: pants, tops and underwear.

This Whirlpool Ultimate Care washing machine is not ultimate enough!

Go visit Cindy to see who else is playing!

Friday, 12 June 2009

Nerd craft... awesome!

I spotted this over at Hoppo Bumpo, who was the lucky winner of a swine flu softie created by clutterpunk! I think this is awesome, with bonus points for accuracy.

While we're at it, I was also sent this by a friend: a free pattern for 'Baby's first DNA model'

I hope you are all flu-free!

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Overwhelmed with colour

When I go to a fruit and veg market, I always become overwhelmed with the amazing colour of the produce. The bright oranges and pinks and reds and purples and greens...! I even think my heart sometimes skips a little bit with all of the excitement. So how could I contain myself when I found this amazing bunch of Swiss chard: the bright oranges and reds of the stems with the green and purple leaves. I think the man at the stall thought I was a bit mad when I was saying to Gib "Just look at those colours!". There was also an amazing kohlrabe too, with purples so purple that it almost looked fake (my camera wouldn't do it justice though).

Monday, 8 June 2009

Almond biscotti!

Yesterday I had an itch to bake. I was tired and sleepy, but I really wanted to get into the kitchen. It was Gib's cousin's birthday, and there was a bit of a family gathering and there was an Italian food theme so I decided to try my hand at making biscotti. About half way through the process I realised it was kind of pointless, because right now me and crunchy food, especially seriously crunchy foodstuffs like biscotti, can't be friends. I think my hips and thighs might think it's a good thing though.

I used this biccotti recipe from Joy of Baking and it was actually surprisingly quick and easy to make. By quick I mean that the dough was quick to make, and cutting up the biscotti for the second baking was quick too. Baking time was a while, but if you're already hanging about the house doing other things then it's really not a problem. Dead easy. I thought biscotti would be an arduous task, but I was wrong. And they store so well, I think I might have to remember these again for Christmas time.

Biscotti: Dipped into a nice mug of coffee, it then becomes more edible for those who can't chew

Eye spy...

This week's theme is a challenge, even despite there being a choice of two! There's not much blooming in our garden, or nearby. Lots of green but no bloom. And while I could show you my new, recent scars, even I think they're totally gross and you wouldn't really like to see them either. I had my wisdom teeth out last Monday and the wounds are healing nicely. I am not a huge fan of lots of sweet things, so I was onto solids within a day or so. However there are still some aches and pains in my jaw, but the swelling has gone right down. I can't wait for them to finish with their healing though. Back at work tomorrow.

The only other scars I have are from when I had my tonsils out. Again, these are not photos you want to see. It's funny, but despite all my outdoor adventures and contact sports, I don't have any scars. All of my injuries have been internal ones (like when I fell off a trampoline and tore the muscles in my lower back), with no blood and gore (dislocated thumbs generally don't result in blood), or have healed so neatly I have nothing to show (like the times I've sliced my finger to the bone).

No more trampolines for me, please!

Go check out who else is playing over at Cindy's place!

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Recipe reviews!

I'm just doing some cataloging of some cool recipes I've tried over the past month, and using my blog as a bit of a scrap book for them all. Maybe you will like them too?

Roasted onions: from the Cook and the Chef. I think anything slow roasted is delicious. Reheats well.

Madhur Jaffrey's Swiss Chard, tomatoes and chickpeas. Made with fresh Swiss chard and amazingly sweet cherry tomatoes from the market, this tasted amazing. I really should have used freshly cooked chickpeas rather than tinned because they really let the rest of the meal down. It was so quick and tasty, but the simplicity of this dish means that the ingredients have to be super fresh.

Falafel: I have tried many falafel recipes, but this is without a doubt the best one I have found. Just like a bought one! It seems as though where I've been going wrong all this time has been using cooked beans instead of just soaked beans. I used parsley and mint instead of parsley and coriander, because Gib has a very strong aversion to coriander, even in minute quantities.

Best ever mudcake recipe: this is, in fact, the best ever mudcake recipe. I've had so many mixed results with mudcakes in the past, but this one is fantastic. I love how adaptable the recipe is too!

Eye spy... a morning ritual

I am a big fan of routine. It keeps me sane when there's so much going on in and so many things to fit in, and my mornings are particularly sacred. I have both a pre-work and work routine that goes something like this...

7:30am: wake up. I seem to wake up at 7:30am regardless of how early/late I went to bed or whether it's a weekday or weekend. Boot my computer.
7:35am: shower. I have now perfected the 4 minute shower. Check the weather on the bureau of meteorology. Get changed.
7:45am: breakfast. Porridge, or weetbix with a sprinkling of muesli with soy milk. Check whether the rats require breakfast as well, or if their water needs to be changed. Ignore the cat despite his pathetic pleas, because he is likely to have conned other members of the household into feeding him two breakfasts already.
7:50am: out the door for work!
8:00am: Arrive at work. Make a coffee. Spend the next 20-30 mins catching up on news, a few blogs and anything else that is exciting and non-work related.

Thankfully Yarra Valley Water gave us one of these cute electronic shower timers, and not one of the dodgy hour glass ones (I have often wondered how much water went into the manufacture of those dodgy ones!)

And then on the weekend...

7:30am: wake up. Laze in bed, looking out the window.
7:45am: shower. I have now perfected the 4 minute shower. Get changed
7:55am: breakfast. Porridge, or weetbix with a sprinkling of muesli with soy milk.
8:00am: Dawdle. Make a to-do list for the weekend (there's always something on the go). Read the news, a few blogs and anything else that is exciting and non-work related. Start some baking, or work on a sewing project, put on a load of washing, do general cleaning and tidying until Gib gets up. It's always easier to clean when he's not around.
10:00am: Coffee! at one of the local coffee shops.

Thanks Angie for this week's theme, and Cindy for hosting Eye Spy!

Just a minute... in May!

Things have been a little quiet around these parts. It's because, I have to admit... I haven't been doing all that much sewing, gardening or noteworthy cooking. The garden has been looking after itself, the sewing has been kind of non-existant (Gib has taken over my sewing space - grr!) and cooking has just been same old for the past month. So what have I been doing this past month?

Listening... to Max Tundra, a guy that only uses Commodore 64 sounds to create his music. Then there are the old favourites: Daft Punk, Flaming Lips... oh and then yesterday 'Heart go boom' by Apollo 440 jumped into my head randomly. I love that song!

Waiting... to get my wisdom teeth out. It's finally happening tomorrow!

Reading... ethics applications (so I can say that I'm not harming anyone/anything and they give me a big tick to start on my experiments), exciting research papers (at least I think they're exciting) and product information sheets for exciting new equipment I'll be purchasing for the lab.

Watching... Mary and Max, a claymation movie made by the same people who make Harvey Krumpet. Go and see it. You may need tissues. They sampled a beautiful song, Perpetuum Mobile, from one of my favourite groups, Penguin Cafe Orchestra.

to Queensland for the first time ever! It was the only Australian state that I hadn't visited. It was Gib's cousin's 21st birthday, and so there was a massive family reunion to celebrate. It was quite an amazing trip up to Hervey Bay: we were fog bound in Melbourne the morning we were supposed to leave, so our first plane was canceled, the replacement plane couldn't land, so eventually we had to go from Melbourne to Sydney, Sydney to Brisbane, and then a 3 hour bus trip to Hervey Bay. 14 hours after checking in at Melbourne airport, we finally reached our destination! When we finally arrived there I just couldn't get over how thick and green and carpet-like the grass was. I kept saying to Gib "Look how green it is!" and I kept feeling the need to touch the soft, spongy grass. We just don't get that down here any more. I got to meet members of the family I've never met before and spend a day on Fraser Island - heaps of fun!

Eating... porridge (I never get over eating porridge in winter). Fresh vegetables from the market. Discovering an amazing Thai restaurant just minutes walk from home. The satay sauce that goes with the roti is out of this world. Also, here is the best recipe I have found to date for making falafel from scratch, with a great video tutorial to go with it.

See who else is playing over at August Street!

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

A classic mother's day!

Sunday I went out with Gib and his family for the Mother's Day classic, which was fundraising for breast cancer research. Gib did the 4km run, I did the 8km, and then we joined up with his parents (his mum is a breast cancer survivor) for a "cool down" walking lap - they did the 4km walk. Unfortunately my mother couldn't join us. As much as she would have liked, unfortunately she has polymyalgia rheumatica which makes it difficult for her to walk up hills (she can walk for miles on flat ground, but up hills is bad). It was an amazing event though, so many people in such good spirits! For my friend who I did the run with, it was the first time she had ever run 8km! And she did it so easily too. We worked out that from all of our walking to and from the car park to the meeting point, and then to the start of the track... we probably would have walked/run about 16km for the whole day! No wonder by about 3pm I was ready for a nap.

From here

To date, the Mother's Day Classic has raised $4.1 million for breast cancer research.

For lunch, after the run, we went to an Indian restaurant and had a lovely combined mothers day feast with both our families. I hope all of you mothers out there had a lovely mothers day!

Friday, 8 May 2009

Recipe Box Swap: No theme month!

This month I baked macaroons!

Macaroons have terrified me for ages. I don't even know why. I think it has something to do with heating the egg whites and then fear of burning them in the oven. But now that I decided have a go I'm sitting here going "What was all the fuss about?!". They were easy, turned out perfectly, with a light crunchiness on the outside and soft, chewiness on the inside. So good with a cup of peppermint tea. This is my grandmother's recipe.

Beth's grandma's macroons

¾ cup blanched flaked almonds
3 egg whites
140g caster sugar
Pinch of cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 140°C fan-forced.

Toast almonds in a small, dry pan until golden brown (be careful to watch them, don't get distracted!!). Allow them to cool, then blend until finely ground.

Combine egg whites, sugar and tartaric acid in a medium bowl over a small saucepan of gently simmering water until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat.

Beat the egg mixture with an electric mixer or in a stand mixer until mixture has tripled in volume and has cooled. Gently fold in almond meal. Spoon mixture into a piping bag and pipe small rounds of mixture onto baking paper lined trays (looks cute with a star end too). Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until a golden colour. Remove from oven and allow to cool on trays for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

I have photos, but unfortunately my camera cable has gone missing. If I get organised (ha ha) they'll be coming later. But mine looked like this:

Courtesy of here

What did you make this month?
Why not post in on the Recipe box swap?

Just a minute in April

Umm... where did April go? And why did I have this post sitting in my 'drafts' folder and forget to post it? Here's what I did in April:

Sewing... or at least trying to. I picked up my overlocker from the serviceman the other day, so hopefully everything will be back and running smoothly.

Eating... mostly healthily during Easter! Amazing but true. It does help when you live with someone who is lactose intolerant and another who is diabetic. I am also thoroughly enjoying the new autumn fruits... mandarins, and the absolutely delicious, crunchy fuji apples (they are my favourites). The cold weather is kicking in and all of my favourite winter recipes are coming out... porridge, baked rhubarb, risottos, soups. Yum!

Enjoying... my local area! I'm training for the Mother's Day Classic and jogging around my neighbourhood. I love looking at people's gardens, the local parkland, seeing the other regular joggers as well. Oh, and I spotted these school kids in these awesome costumes, I suspect for some sort of school project. I didn't get a chance to compliment them as they hurried off in the other direction, so instead I'll give them credit on the internet. I hope they got A+. And there is a new Italian cafe that has recently opened too... brilliant coffee. I do love my community!

Reading... 'Irresistible Forces: Australian Women in Science', by Claire Hooker. It's actually listed on Google books but I picked mine up on sale for $5! So often I sit in my cosy office with my office buddy, a mature age student with two children, and is now doing her PhD. We have an office to ourselves and we both have fantastic supervisors who encourage us to have a good work/life balance and always want to hear the ideas and new findings we have. For women in Science, my situation is not the way it's always been, and still isn't for many women, and I enjoy reading about the women who helped pave the way so that I could do what I'm doing today.

Wanting... to find my routine again in May.

Feeling... the coziness of autumn and the approach of winter. This is definitely my favourite time of year.

Thanks to Jen at August Street for hosting Just a minute!