Sunday, 26 April 2009

Eye spy... a work in progress

My current work in progress is my work-life-everything balance. It's been knocked askew. Exciting things are happening but they're also causing considerable stress.

Gib and I do lots of stuff together. We have many overlapping hobbies, but enjoy different aspects of the same interest, but we can still function independently, do our own thing. Since going back to karate a few weeks ago and with my PhD workload shifting for preparation for recruitment of participants and running experiments, and also Gib starting an awesome new role at his work with ridiculously early starts and some long hours (I'm a morning person, but 5:30am is a rude time to be awake) it's been a struggle to keep up. Gib and I used to head to karate together, but with his new work hours it's just not possible, as he needs to be in bed at the time I'm getting home from training. Our house cleaning routine and cooking routine, where we cook meals together and thus have time to catch up on each other's news and discuss cool things, is out of kilter too (although strangely, the house is tidier and more organised than it's ever been).

The multiple changes to our routine and more time apart than usual is making our little abode a mad house. We're tired, stressed and cranky. But on the plus side, neither of us have any struggles discussing anything, so despite our crankiness we've been nutting out battle plans to overcome and work around these new and exciting times. I honestly don't know how people do it all with kids too. How do you people do it?!

Yes, sometimes it does feel like I'm balanced precariously and I really have to keep my s*** together or I'll be falling down that sheer drop below. Photo from here.

Thanks Michelle for this week's theme! I love seeing what everyone else is up to. And to our host, Cindy, for organising Eye spy!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Eye Spy... a magic elixir

When your nose is blocked and you can't taste a damn thing, Vegemite on toast is where it's at. I swear it cures colds (or at least makes them more tolerable)

Courtesy of bababooie

For a general all purpose item though, my favourite is toothpaste! (the non-gel, non-whitening kind)
  • Clean CDs/DVDs
  • Cleaning pencil marks and crayon off walls
  • As an antacid - only use a small amount! (the peppermint, calcite and sodium bicarbonate help neutralise acid late at night when you've had too many nachos and your local supermarket has closed)
  • Cleaning silver
  • Cleaning grime off your sneakers
  • Removing water stains from wood
Thanks Amy for this week's theme, and to Cindy, our lovely Eye Spy host!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

T-shirt making adventures

I have decided to delve into the world of making my own tshirts. It all started when one of my most worn singlets finally started to wear through and I was concerned that one day the stitching would give way at work when I was least expecting. Also, being a not-so-financially-flush student, I can't always afford the new and trendy clothes that I want all the time. So I decided to make my own.

I cut apart my singlet top and used it as the pattern. It fits so well, so I thought I may as well use it. I found some great quality stretch knit fabric for cheaps at a vintage fabric sale at the Camberwell Market. I will also freezer paper stencil a design on the front. In all, my tshirt is going to cost about $2 in materials to make.

However, it's going to cost me more...

As I have previously mentioned, I am completely enamored with my overlocker. It doesn't do cover stitch, but I have my overlocker and sewing machine set up side by side so I can lock the edges with the overlocker, and sew them flat with straight stitch on my machine. It was all working fine.

I overlocked the edges for the neck and arm holes, then made the binding for them. Sewing the binding on the neckline and armholes was a b****. Attempting to make my own tshirt has made me realise the effort that goes into making the humble tee. They are an essential part of daily life and we want them cheap. It makes me wonder what the hidden costs are.

However, when it came to sewing the two sides together, the tension wasn't so great. The stitching was pulling apart. It looks as though there's something amiss with the left needle as the right left stitch isn't catching. Maybe the timing is out. Time to take it for a service...

So my $2 tshirt is now going to cost me >$70! Oh well, I guess that's all a part of home sewing...! This machine hasn't cost me much so far, so I don't mind. Although, without my overlocker on hand, sewing just seems less appealing. It's hard going back now I've had a taste of what it can do.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Marvellous meatballs!

On top of spaghetti,
All covered with cheese,
I lost my poor meatball,
When somebody sneezed.

It rolled off the table,
And on to the floor,
And then my poor meatball,
Rolled out of the door.

It rolled in the garden,
And under a bush,
And then my poor meatball,
Was nothing but mush.

Hehehe oohhh my childhood! I remember there was a little video clip that used to be played on the ABC, but alas YouTube doesn't have it. Anyway... you've probably gathered if you've checked out my profile, or have been hanging out at this blog for any period of time, I'm a vegetarian. However, just because I don't eat meat myself doesn't mean I'm not prepared to cook it for my friends when they come to visit. I used to cook these meatballs up all the time before I became vegetarian, and are something I can cook without needing to taste. I think this will be the first meaty recipe post ever for this blog! These are great for starters, served with some fresh pita, hommus and tzaziki.


500 g rump steak mince
1 egg
1 slice fresh bread, crumbled finely
1/2 cup chopped bacon (optional)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
Pinch nutmeg

Sage, basil, rosemary
1/2 cup stock
60 ml orange juice

Place mince, bacon, bread, garlic, spices and S&P in a food processor
Form the mixture into small balls, about the size of a ping pong ball
Roll in flour and reserved spices
Fry in oil with herbs. When browned, add the stock and orange juice
Simmer until liquid is absorbed (or place them in a pan in the oven). Serve hot.

My other favourite way of making meatballs is to boil them up first (they're done when they float to the surface) which cooks some of the fat out of them, and then bake them to crisp them up. Very light tasting but flavoursome meatballs.

Because it's hard to get a good photo of meatballs to make them look appetising, I used a photo from here

Friday, 17 April 2009

Anti-Theft Lunch Bag‏

A while ago a friend gave me some awesome plastic storage containers to deter workplace lunch thieves. She received the following in an email and forwarded it to me, so of course I had to share. The quick and easy anti-theft lunch bag. A nifty trick indeed!


Eye spy... a surprise

Hmm, it's now Friday, and this was supposed to be posted Sunday! To make up for it I'll kick this post off with a Lolcat, one of mah faves...

I thought I'd include that because, well, I'm going to discuss some not-so-girly things now... hold tight or click on past!

Surprise #1:
Two weekends ago while doing the final preparations before we spray the engine bay of my car (literally, we'd even ordered the paint) when we discovered *surprise!* a large weld in the chassis rail! This car was just giving no love back at all! While some people might think that a weld in the chassis rail is OK and are willing to keep forging on, given the other dodgy mechanical and repairs found on this car, I wasn't prepared to trust the quality of their welding work. Especially given that it was on the driver's side. Death or paraplegia isn't the price I ultimately want to pay for trying to save time and money now. Thankfully the guy at the paint shop hadn't started making up our paint yet so now the car is being stripped, parted out and the pieces sold. Bye bye car.

Surprise #2:
As a result of Surprise #1, I spent a large part of last week trawling car sale sites, car forums etc. Most of the cars we inspected were crap, but we did find one little gem. (I have to say, if you're looking to buy cars 2nd hand cars right now, it's definitely the time to buy! So cheap!). Gib and I looked over it, we sent my dad down to look over it, took our friend who's a mechanical engineer to look over it. Brilliant. So we snapped it up and took it home Wednesday. Definitely weren't expecting to pick anything up so fast. So, Hello new car!

An artist (my brother)'s rendition of the rear end of a similar model to my car: Nissan Skyline R34 (mine is a 32).
You can even buy this as a

Surprise #3:
I started at a new karate dojo last night. It was a surprise - I wasn't expecting to find a dojo so soon. It felt good to be back in my "white pyjamas". Even though I have trained for a considerable period of time in a similar school, I was nervous about all sorts of things: How I'd fit in, my technique, my attitude, their expectations, my expectations (and trying to remove my expectations a.ka. emptying my cup), how I'd fit in the new knowledge around old knowledge. I think the movie, Karate Kid, has some good reminders on matters like that though:

Miyagi, from Karate Kid:
In Okinawa, belt mean no need rope to hold up pants.
[taps his head] Karate here.
[taps his heart] Karate here.
[points to his belt] Karate never here. Understand?
First day back after no proper class for 6 months. I think I need a massage.

Thanks Miss Muggins for this week's surprising theme! And to Cindy for being a fantabulous host of Eye spy!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Make your own cheese!

I decided to make my own cheese. Well, kind of cheese. Labne.

I couldn't believe how ridiculously easy this was to make.
  1. Take a 1kg tub of Greek yoghurt. Take a large piece of muslin, or, alternatively cheese cloth (makes sense, doesn't it?). Up end tub of yoghurt onto your cheese cloth.
  2. Draw up the edges of cloth around the yoghurt. Drain as much of the fluid as you can initially then tie a string around it so it's a tight ball. Suspend the ball over a bowl (suggestions from here): tie the ball to a wooden spoon, then rest the spoon on the top of a bowl (or jug!), allowing the ball to hang down. I thought I'd be able to do it with some bamboo skewers, but they couldn't take the weight, even when I used 3-4 skewers. Wooden spoon is definitely the way to go.
  3. Leave to drain in the fridge for 5 days. You can leave it for less time, but it just tastes like thickened yoghurt. 5-6 days mean it's starting to mature slightly.
Spoon it out. Roll in spices or herbs (dukkah, paprika, parsley etc). Mix in dried fruit, like apricot. Serve with bread, marinated vegetables, with roasted mushrooms, on anything really! It's creamy and slightly tangy... and too good because I can't stop eating it. It keeps for up to a week.

Cheese made using cheese cloth. Who'd have ever thought?

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

When art and science meet...

When art and science combine. You know I love this stuff. Avert your eyes if you're a little bit shy when it comes to anatomy and things.

I've just stumbled onto this blog: Street Anatomy. I love it.

The site was featured on Boing Boing with a photo of this awesome plaster cast:

Cool hey??

Also on Cake Wrecks a while ago was this weird cake made in a restaurant in Latvia. It's a restaurant with a hospital theme, where all of the cutlery are surgical instruments, and you dine in operating theatres. Creepy. Even too creepy for my tastes.

But the one that cracked me up was this other feature on Cake Wrecks:

"1946. Admiral and Mrs. Blandy celebrate operation crossroads with an atomic cake. This frequently reproduced photograph captures an uncanny resemblance between Mrs. Blandy's hat and the mushroom cloud." From here.

Hahaha! Anyway, hope you're having a good week and settling back into the work routine ok after the Easter break.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Easter baking

I hope you all had a good Easter! The weather in Melbourne this Easter has been terrific.

This year we decided not to buy Easter eggs or hot cross buns and it the home made way. Mum made hot cross buns, and on Easter Sunday I decided to make Tsoureki, Greek Easter bread. I know I'm a week early for Greek Easter, but... oh well. I grew up near one of the biggest Greek communities in Melbourne, and love the Greek Easter treats! I prefer caraway in mine, so I used this recipe and added 1/2 tsp caraway seeds to the dough. I didn't have enough eggs, so unfortunately no bright red eggs in the middle either. Although the recipe said it made two large loaves, it only made one. I took a look at some other recipes on the web, and there was definitely half the quantity of flour than the two loaf recipes.

I've never done much work with yeast and bread and all of those things, but I kind of had a theoretical understanding of what's supposed to happen and why, so I was quite please with how the thing rose and came out! Yummo!

Monday, 13 April 2009

Blindingly beautiful beetroot risotto

For those of you out there who love beetroot, this recipe is definitely for you! However if you're trying to convince someone that beetroot is an awesomely delicious food, perhaps this isn't the best recipe to start with. It's exceptionally beetrooty. This risotto turns out vividly pink/red, so is visually stunning (or startling?). I made my risotto with 2/3 barley, 1/3 arborio rice to lower the GI for a diabetic member of the household, and the slightly nutty flavour of the barley blended well with the walnuts and the earthiness of the beetroot. The flavour and appearance is offset with goats cheese or fetta and finally topped with roquette, or if you have a fresh bunch of beets you can use the beet leaves.

I made this a week or so ago. I don't make it very often but it's definitely a fun meal. I think people would get a bit put off if I cooked them blindingly bright pink food on a regular basis. If I take leftovers to work it always gets a (positive) reaction over lunch from my colleagues.

Beetroot barley risotto

1 large bunch of baby beet
600 ml vegetable stock
150 ml red wine
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
160 g barley
85 g arborio rice
2-3 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
75 g walnuts, roughly chopped
125 g soft goats cheese or feta cheese
Fresh roquette or lightly wilted beet greens to serve on top

Thoroughly wash the beetroot. Trim the leaves leaving about 1-2 cm near the root, and leave the tails. If you trim them too far they will ooze pink juice everywhere (which is a real pain). Cook the beetroot using your preferred method: steaming, microwave or boiling. Remove the skins. Dice into 1cm cubes and set aside. This can be done while waiting for the rest of the risotto to cook.

Fry the garlic in the olive oil for 1 minute. Add the onion, saute for 5 minutes or until it's just soft.

Add rice, barley and thyme, stir and coat in the oil.

Add the red wine, cooking until the red wine is absorbed.

Add the stock mixture, about 1/4 at a time, adding the next part when the liquid is mostly absorbed, stirring regularly. Cook for 30-40 mins or until the barley is al dante.

Add the cubed beets and 2/3 walnuts and continue to stir to distribute the pinkness throughout the risotto. That's the best bit. You made need to add a dash of extra stock at this point (I usually do).

Distributing the colour evenly throughout the risotto: Aii!!

If you're cooking up the beet greens, just wash them down and steam them for about 2 mins. Otherwise, bowl out your risotto, sprinkle crumbled cheese over the risotto, and top with the remaining walnuts, some S&P, and roquette or wilted beet greens.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Too cute

I found this adorable bias binding in Kim Anh fabrics. The cuteness of stuff like this makes my heart skip a beat and go weak at the knees. The little duckies are definitely my favourite.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Nectarine and strawberry slice

Oh, here's yet another photo of food taken on my phone! This recipe was delicious too. All pieces gone within minutes. Unfortunately strawberries and nectarines are just going out of season here, but hopefully for our friends in other parts of the world they'll be able to make it soon. Or just substituted for tinned peaches and frozen fruits. I had some nectarines that were a little soft, and some strawberries that were threatening to go fuzzy, so I found a recipe for peach and almond slice and adapted it appropriately.

Beth's nectarine and strawberry slice that is guaranteed to make you awesomely popular*

Melted butter or spray oil for greasing the pan
1 punnet strawberries, washed, drained, cut in half
3 nectarines, cut into 6 pieces each. (I could have blanched them and peeled them, but I couldn't be bothered. The baked skin was soft and didn't affect the overall taste or texture.)
100g butter, cubed, at room temperature
110g caster sugar (or substitute artificial sugar. CSR Smart sugar is my preferred brand)
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs
75g self-raising flour
75g plain flour
100g ground almonds
Icing sugar to sprinkle on top

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush a 16.5 x 26cm (base measurement) slab pan with melted butter or lightly grease with spray oil. Line the pan with non-stick baking paper to cover the base and extend over the long sides.
  2. Use electric beaters to 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 batter. Add the ground almonds and use a large metal spoon or metal spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Spoon into prepared pan and smooth the surface. The mixture is quite stiff so you must hold the paper in place.
  4. Arrange the nectarine pieces and strawberry halves in an alternating pattern on top of the batter and press down gently so they are slightly embedded. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes (mine took 30 mins) 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 portions. Or, cut into 8 portions and serve warm for dessert accompanied by cream or ice-cream. Dust with icing sugar just before serving. Best eaten on the same day.

* Guaranteed only if you are a nice person to start out with.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Tension headache

I've become a bit ambitious in my sewing endeavours. I'm attempting to sew knit fabric with my overlocker. Things are getting a little heated around here. It was all going well with just locking the edges of a single piece of fabric, but now I'm trying to sew two bits together it's becoming a bit of a nightmare. I have been carefully and methodically playing with the tension according to the instruction manual but I can't get it right. It's time to walk away before I do anything rash...

I think maybe it's time to enrol in some lessons?

Bulgarian Red Pepper Stew

While going through all of the old photos on my phone I found a photo I took at work (hence poor lighting). This is one of my favourite stew recipes. It's so hearty and tasty and nutritious and the red capsicums are absolutely delicious. I know the photo is ugly. It really doesn't do it justice: the red peppers are really red! Just focus on the ingredients instead.

I originally found the recipe in Sundays in Moosewood Restaurant, but there have since found other versions of the recipe online. Here's my version below, with notes of the variations I've made. This is definitely a stew that takes time, so I have it ticking away on a Sunday afternoon while I'm sewing and doing other things. But sometimes I get a hankering for it on a cool Sunday afternoon and haven't had the foresight to put the lentils on to soak the night before, so I do substitute for tinned but they don't hold their shape or texture nearly as well.

Bulgarian Red Pepper Stew

½ cup dried lentils (or 1 tin brown lentils, drained)
½ cup dried navy pea beans/great northern/borlotti beans (or 1 tin borlotti beans)
2 larges onions, chopped
6 mediums red capsicums, de-seeded and chopped. I quater my capsicums and just slice them on a mandolin. (I have also made this recipe with tinned tomatoes substituted for some of the red capsicums: 4 capsicums and 400 g tinned or fresh tomatoes)
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried marjoram
¼ tsp dried thyme (I've also used fresh herbs and increased the quantity and they taste great)
¼ tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 tsp paprika
Salt and pepper to taste (I looove pepper, so I put in loads of the stuff)
750 ml vegetable stock (although sometimes I've needed up to 1 L)
60l dry red wine (optional)
2 tbsp dry sherry (optional)
¼ cup tomato paste
Fresh parsley and Greek/natural yoghurt to serve

Soak legumes overnight, drain. In a fresh pot of water, bring to the boil then simmer until just tender. Drain, set aside. I prefer to cook mine beforehand and add later in the cooking, because I find that the salt from the stock makes the beans a bit tough.

In a large, heavy based pot, saute onions in olive oil until soft. Stir in bell pepper and saute for 5-10 mins more. Add paprika and cayenne, stir through for 1 more minute.

Pour in stock, wine and sherry. Add herbs and legumes. Bring to the boil, lower heat to a simmer and leave for 1 1/2-2 hours uncovered or partially covered, stirring occasionally. Mix in tomato paste and S&P to taste. Simmer for a further 5-10 mins, adding a little extra stock or water if the stew is too thick.

Serve with a good dollop of yogurt and chopped parsley sprinkled on top. Goes very well with a good, crusty cob bread.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Just a minute in... March

Better late than never, eh? I'm hoping I'll scrape in for the March one, given that we're less than a week into April!

Reading... magazines this month. Food magazines. Martial arts magazines. Medical/science magazines. Good for making time fly.

Loving... watching the garden recover in all of this wonderful rain. I'll have to update the photos of my herb garden. Everything has taken off again since the heat. The near-dead thyme is now going bonkers! This is what I love to see:

Rainfall Totals

Lamenting... the dire state my car is in, but having an absolute freaking ball with it at the same time. I've always thought cars are pretty cool beasties, I guess growing up with a family who are all petrol heads. But now I appreciate them on a whole new level. I really am a how-stuff-works kind of gal.

Mmm. Rust.

Creating... girly things. I like doing girly things as much as boy things, really I do (I even managed to work a sewing project into working on cars!). I'm working on an idea for a tshirt, based on a tshirt that's falling apart. Also there's the hoodie scarf idea I've been working on. And arm warmers. So many ideas and half finished projects. They are getting together though.

Learning... to swim. I did learn way back when I was in primary school, but I was always in the group for the really uncoordinated people. The face under the water thing always freaked me out. My friend has started teaching me with a snorkel and mask, which has made things so much easier!

Soon this will be me!

Finishing... the first year of my PhD. I'm no longer on probation. Ethics submissions are now in. Hooray!

Getting back into...
running! I'm all booked in for the Mother's Day Classic. For ages I hated running, but now I love it. I can't stand treadmills though - I'd rather poke myself in the eye with a red hot poker than run on a treadmill - but I love running outdoors. I managed 5km the other day, after a period of inconsistent training, so I was quite pleased with myself. I need new shoes though, because I can feel the curse of tendonitis creeping back.

The Story of Stuff

It's worth spending 20 mins of your spare time watching this. Or maybe 4 x 5 minutes of your spare time.
"From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever."
Definitely interesting. Opens your eyes up a bit in a friendly and non-confrontational way.

Why I love Melbourne...

I've temporarily misplaced my cord to download photos from my camera, but instead found the cord for my phone which I had lost for some time. I found this little gem in amongst the collection on my phone, taken on Napier St (I think?) in North Fitzroy. I thought he was pretty damn cool.

I love Melbourne!