Saturday, 31 January 2009

Stencil-along results... just a tad belated!

I've finally managed to get in my results of my stencil along, hosted by HoppoBumpo four months late! I had printer issues and for a while there couldn't afford some new printer cartridges - or rather, decided to prioritise fabric over ink cartridges. Melbourne's current weather isn't great for doing much right now, however it is awesome weather for stenciling, especially for people like me with a short attention span and who like instant gratification (wait, why am I doing a PhD again?). The hot weather dries the paint fast and I can peel back my stencil almost instantly to see results! I was originally going to do a robot, but he's a WIP right now as I'm still having a play with the islands, but here's an octopus I did. I'm quite pleased with the results.I used contact paper for the islands and just plain acrylic paint with fabric medium mixed in. I am so stoked with the quality of the freezer paper stencils: the crispness of the edges, how firmly they stay stuck down without bleeding underneath. Thank you HoppoBumpo!

During and after...

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Low priced legumes and the edible heart attack!

I was over at Dr Isis' blog reading about the discussions in the science blogging world on Obama's pledge to "restore science to it rightful place" and then right at the end she linked this article on how beans and rice are making a comeback (well, she said it in the context of science living on beans and corn). I've been saying for months now, after reading all of these articles on how to cook a "budget meal" in recipe magazines and in the paper: "Where are the legumes in all of this, people?!". Beans and rice is the cheapest and, done properly, one of heartiest, tastiest and versatile meal combinations ever! But you so rarely see any legume recipes! (with chickpeas being the exception, I think).

So, moving along, I then found myself clicking on and finally reading about The Bacon Explosion. I think this is the true definition of The Edible Heart Attack.

"He [Jason Day] bought about $20 worth of bacon and Italian sausage from a local meat market. As it lay on the counter, he thought of weaving strips of raw bacon into a mat. The two spackled the bacon mat with a layer of sausage, covered that with a crunchy layer of cooked bacon, and rolled it up tight.

They then stuck the roll — containing at least 5,000 calories and 500 grams of fat — in the Good-One Open Range backyard smoker..."

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Cakes: brains, hearts and squids

It's my friend's birthday coming up. The one who requested the axolotl cake. And she has requested a giant squid cake. She said she doesn't mind if it isn't 1:1 scale (I wasn't sure how I'd fit a 12 m long cake into my oven), so long as she can pretend that it's a giant squid. While doing some research, I did spot this seriously impressive squid cake:

That is a truly amazing cake. I hope I acquire skillz like one day that so I too can make such awesome cakes.

There is one stipulation on the squid cake: it is to be made with butter icing or similar (otherwise I'd happily use the mouldable icing the dude above used). Butter icing and I don't really get along. Butter icing and I have arguments and it gets messy, but I'm happy to work through our differences and one day perfect our relationship. I now have a new set of icing spatulas and piping tools, so hopefully that'll help the reconciliation process.

And while we are on the topic of cakes, you know how I just love anatomically correct art? Well there was a feature over at Cake Wrecks on organ-inspired cakes.

There was the brain, kidney and heart (complete with infarct!). It's reassuring that there are other people like me out there in the world that like these cakes!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Just a minute in January

Listening... to TV on the Radio, Quan... I cannot get enough of The Prodigy's 'Invader's must die' (for the past few weeks Gib and I have been randomly jumping about and shouting in our most ominous voices 'Invaders MUST DIE') or their other new track, 'Spitfire'. Familjen - Det snurrar i min skalle has also been a regular feature on the playlist - and the film clip is cool. Triple J has been playing some great stuff lately.

Geroge Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm. And a book that was given to me by both Gib and my grandpa: The brain that changes itself, by Norman Doige, MD (I was able to exchange one of them). It's about different case studies and research in brain plasticity, how it adapts and how you can teach it to "re-wire" itself. I'm completely hooked and much of it is very inspiring and both directly and indirectly relevant to my PhD.

Writing... my essay and presentation for my confirmation of PhD candidature. I'm still in a slight panic. Had a meeting with both of my supervisors today and feel like I've had a firecracker placed under my rear end (in a good way). I'd love to blog more about the work I'm doing, however it would severely compromise my semi-anonymity around here. Not because I'm famous or anything (give it time, this science is smoking hot!), but because my field of research is a bit specialised.

Enjoying... housesitting while Gib's parents were away in New Zealand for a month (they came back today), hosting a few parties, making the most of the BBQ before we started having total fire bans, snoozing with the rats while attempting to read on lazy Saturday afternoons.

Changing... the front garden layout (we're slowly moving back some of the mint and replacing it with some other things). It seems to be mostly surviving in the heat. Changing my fitness/martial arts routine to accommodate the shift in pace of my PhD and the current crazy weather. Changing my addiction to coffee... to being not-so-addicted to coffee.

Sewing... with my overlocker! Oh yes, I finally did it. You know what? It really wasn't that scary. What on earth have I been worried about? Threading it, while obviously more complex than my sewing machine, honestly wasn't that bad. Also because it was a 2nd hand one from eBay, all of the tension settings were already done for me and they were perfect. And it goes SO FAST. I love it. All of those stretchy and fraying fabrics I've been putting off sewing are now fair game. I also was also lucky enough to get a walking foot for my sewing machine Christmas, but I am yet to use it. Hopefully that will take less than a year for me to get the courage to use.

See? Threading the overlocker really wasn't so bad after all!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Eye spy... a taste of summer

I'm making time to catch up on some Eye Spy posts, hosted by Cindy.

Summer for me always means delicious summer fruits: nectarines, peaches, plums, pineapple, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and watermelon. My mouth is watering just thinking about them.

Over the weekend I whipped up a fruit slice of nectarine and strawberries. There were only a couple of friends visiting, but the slice was gone in no time. Unfortunately I can't find the cable for my phone and so can't download the photo (my camera was misplaced at the time). But just pretend that it looked very pretty! This is my version:

Beth's most awesome nectarine and strawberry slice
Adapted from this recipe here.


  • Spray oil or melted butter, for greasing the pan
  • 3 ripe nectaines, cut into 6 pieces. You can blance them and remove the skin, but I left skin on and they tasted fine, and added colour to it.
  • 1/2 punnet strawberries, tops removed and sliced in half.
  • 100g butter, cubed, at room temperature
  • 110g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs
  • 75g self-raising flour
  • 75g plain flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • Icing sugar, to serve


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush a 16.5 x 26cm slab pan with melted butter to lightly grease. Line the pan with non-stick baking paper to cover the base and extend over the long sides.
  2. Beat the butter, caster sugar and vanilla essence in a medium sized mixing bowl until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, until combined.
  3. Sift the self-raising and plain flours over the butter mixture. Add the ground almonds and use a large metal spoon to fold the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Spoon into prepared pan and smooth the surface. The mixture will be quite stiff so you must hold the paper in place.
  4. Arrange the nectarine and strawberry slices on top of the batter and press down gently so they are slightly embedded. Bake in oven for 35-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the slice comes out clean. Leave in the pan for 5 minutes before lifting out.
  5. Serve at room temperature as a slice, cut into 12-15 portions, depending on how much you're looking after your waistline. Or, cut into 8 portions and serve warm for dessert accompanied by cream or ice-cream, if you're ignoring your waistline. Dust with icing sugar just before serving.

A winning idea!

I sheepishly took a day off work last week, amid all the stress of PhD stuff, to make a submission to a competition to win 2 Big Day Out tickets. My big brother has been keen to go, and I decided to help him out in his endeavour to win tickets and submit an entry too. I don't normally enter competitions unless I have some control over my fate, like a competition to make something or come up with an idea or something like that. But I had a bit of a winning feeling with this one.

The competition was to redesign an album cover for a band to be featured at this year's Big Day Out. After a few hours of toying with different ideas, I decided to read a few blogs, look at my own blog and spotted my very own Terry the Tarantula tutorial. It was too easy from then on. I decided to work with Pendulum's 'Tarantula' and stretch the idea of an "album cover". Here's the result:

The base of the spider opens out to where the CD is contained , with album information on the inside. The base of the spider is fastened closed at one end with a button. I made a cardboard CD, with the spider print - inspired by Rorschach ink blots - made by blowing black ink around a piece of paper with a straw (I learned that trick from Play School when I was a child!).

Yesterday I got a call from the Herald Sun telling me that I'd not only won two Big Day Out tickets, but that I'd won the major prize, which includes a box of CDs as well. Far out, brussle sprout! Needless to say my brother was absolutely stoked!

Gib the Warrior sewer

Here's the finished product of Gib's amazing flame applique efforts. I should give you some background first though:

Gib does medieval sword fighting. Instead of swords, large sticks of rattan are used so combat can be full speed and full contact, but without risk of cutting off limbs or heads. He's enjoying the armed combat as a complement to his unarmed karate combat - there are many parallels.

He wanted a new tabard to go over his armour. The flames are the symbol of his "household" (the group of people who he fights with). I helped him with parts of it, like the neckline, but he did most of the work himself. The best part is, he has been inspired to sew more things.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Taste Sensation needs some translation

Gib and I were in our local asian grocer. It's a fairly new one to our area and the main reason why I like going there is because it's called "Glory Mart". For some reason that amuses me. Oh, and they are the only place I've found that sells edamame, which is a favourite of mine.

But they do stock an extensive range of delicious and interesting food (and some interesting but not so delicious food). We spotted this and had to buy it because it looked like a good Taste Sensation candidate, but then realised we have no idea how to make it. My Japanese skills ain't that good yet. I can read the words, but don't know what it means. I'm so used to Japanese food coming with awesome diagrams that I'm a little lost with this one. It looks like there are just 3 easy steps... 3 easy steps that I can't read. I'm assuming it is made with milk though. I'd even say 200ml of milk. I've sent a copy of it to my friend, Erika, who is Japanese. I'm betting she'll be able to help me with this one.

"Let's make dessert with milk!"

Mild panic! And some nerdy knitting...

While I know I promised I was back last week, a couple of days after that post I went into a mild panic once I realised it was a little over a month until the confirmation of my PhD candidature. I have to submit a 10,000 word essay (mostly there, just need to make it somewhat tighter and more coherent) and do a presentation on my topic. I'm ok with presentations, so long as I know my stuff. However when you're constantly dealing with things that you don't know, and most of the people in your field don't know either, you start to wonder whether you know anything at all with all of this unknown stuff around all of the time...

But then when I actually uncurl myself from the fetal position and take a few deep breaths, I realise that I can almost make a semi-sensible sounding presentation and the past 11 months of solid reading, reviewing and getting to know my participant group haven't been all a waste. However, I've got a bit of work to do over the next few weeks. I still promise all of the things I promised you last post, but the blogging might be a bit erratic over the next month and my usual post-every-2nd-day average might go out the window.

Oh yeah, and some batteries for my camera so I can download all of these exciting photos that I need to blog about might come in handy too.

So while I'm combining Science with my craft blogging, I may as well share with you these. As regular followers of this blog may know, I just love it when art and science combine, and I have particular respect for people who go out of their way to make their art anatomically accurate.

This one is particularly dear to my heart. From The Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art. Thank you very much, Kat, for the link! They did an MRI on it too (but, as they note, they didn't think it was worth attempting an fMRI, hehe).

And here is a frog and mouse dissection kit, by CraftyHedgehog

3 out of 4 biologists agree: Knitting in Biology 101 is the cutest biology project, ever! If you think so too, then this, my friend, is the art object for you.

Cute but creepy!

Monday, 12 January 2009

A happy New Year and a happy birthday to my blog!

I'm back. In fact, I hadn't actually gone anywhere. Nope, I just vegged out over Christmas and over the past week have been trying to get on top of my blog reading (only 370 posts to go!). That is, vegged out in my kind of way, with lots of cooking, sewing, gardening and having lots of barbeques and coffees with friends. (Actually I'm now addicted to caffeine again, and have been having some serious withdrawal symptoms!)

There's lots in store, such as some freezer paper stencils that I've been playing with (finally!), a follow up on the pants and some other nifty things. Today is also the 1 year anniversary of my blog, so when I get my act together of course there will be a giveaway. Hooray!

In the mean time, I'm going to share with you something seriously impressive:

This is Gib sewing. He wanted me to applique some flames onto fabric, and when I saw his design told him that instead I would show him how to do it and he could do it himself. And then there he is appliqueing the flames. He did a damn fine job too, so very neatly done. Not only that, but he now sees why I like sewing and the freedom it gives you. Awesome.