Sunday, November 29, 2009

Playing with new toys

So I got some new and exciting toys last weekend. Early Christmas presents from the parentals - an incredibly shiny nine piece Mundial knife block set:

This one's my favourite - the 30-odd centimetre long chef's knife:

I also got this - a Microplane zester. It's pretty much the greatest thing ever:

Let's take a closer look at its magical grate-y things, shall we?:

Anyway, I figured this weekend was the perfect time to play with my delightful new toys. And seeing as I had a zester, I figured I'd make an orange cake. To start, you need some softened butter. Unless you're me and you put the butter on top of the dishwasher while it was running, in which case you have some overly softened butter...

Then grab that magic Microplane zester and attack an orange. This was the result of 1 minute of work. Rather than five million minutes of work if I'd used a normal grater:

Then chuck the zest in with the too soft butter:

Then add some caster sugar:

A couple of eggs:

Some self-raising flour:

And some milk:

Then get out your trusty electric mixer, and go for it:

Then spread it into a greased and lined pan:

Mmm, zesty!!

And bake it for 40 minutes:

Once the cake's cooled, it's time to make a nice glaze. Attack it with that delightful, shiny chef's knife, just cos you can:

And juice it. Check out that nekkid orange!!

Then mix the juice with some icing sugar to make a nice glaze:

And put said glaze on the cake:

Check out the little orange segments in the glaze!! They have a technical name, but I can't be bothered finding out what it is...
Once the glaze has set, you can cut that baby!!

Check out the little chunks of rind in the cake:

Mmmmmmmm, deliciousness. Now to go off and ponder what to zest next!!!!! ;)
K xx

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Text writing and why it's painful...

Since getting back from Thailand, I've been spending my days writing text for the Hobart showcases. For those non-museum initiates, text means writing all the object labels, story panels, and introductory panels. You know, those little things in the showcase that say "This pot dates to 2500BCE, and demonstrates post-modernist and cubist tendencies" (Yes, I did actually see an object label that said that. It was in Peru, and it still makes me laugh - that potter must have had some hell of an ability to see the future...).

Anyway, text writing is painful for a range of reasons. When you've come into the development of a gallery this late, in some cases it's not particularly clear why certain objects were selected. And all the research about them is in ten different people's brains. So you basically have to start from scratch and hope you haven't missed a major point... And the problem then is that you have all this research stuck in your brain, and you want to use all of it. So you spend an hour constructing a 350 word slab of text describing the history of the object and the person who used it. And then you remember that the word limit for object labels is between 50 and 75 words, and you can't decide whether to scream or cry...

And sometimes...sometimes you really hope that you'll find implausible things in the course of doing that research. Like this week, when I was researching the conduct record for a convict named William Turner. I was desperately hoping that I'd find that he was transported for piracy. Or that he had a partner in crime named Jack Sparrow. Or that he married a girl named Elizabeth Swann. Not so much because I'm a giant nerd who loves Pirates of the Caribbean (which, let's face it, is true...), but because I desperately wanted to have an object label that read "This record contains details of the conduct of William Turner, who was transported to Van Diemen's Land for piracy. He was accompanied by his wife, Elizabeth Swann, and his associate, Jack Sparrow.". Okay, it was because I'm a giant nerd. Shut up.

Anyway, I got ridiculously excited during my research, because I found a newspaper article relating to his trial. And in it, I came across a sentence that read "The accused was tried for forging a cheque against the bank of Messrs. Sparrow & Co". I started jumping up and down in my chair, because I finally had a legitimate reason to include the name Sparrow in the object label. Unfortunately, when I read the article more carefully, I realised that it was the guy AFTER William Turner who was tried for forging a cheque against Messrs. Sparrow & Co. My guy? Convicted for life for forging a fiver against the Bank of England *sigh* So dull in comparison...

So unfortunately, Jack Sparrow will not be getting a mention in the Hobart showcases. But this week, I'll be finishing up Hobart and moving on to Melbourne. So maybe instead I can include a reference to some bloke named Robin while talking about John Batman... I'm also secretly hoping that John Batman had a servant named Alfred ;) Keep your fingers crossed for me!!

K xx

Thursday, November 12, 2009

An ode to trams

So I have this theory. It goes like this: "There is nothing wrong with Canberra that trams wouldn't fix." Okay, so perhaps it should be amended to "There's nothing wrong with Canberra that trams, regular AFL matches, less rugby and warmer winters wouldn't fix", but that's not my point. Today I'm all about the trams.

I love trams. I think it's because all the other major cities in Australia got rid of them and are now regretting it. Melbournians love to feel superior (seriously. We judge people based on what newspaper they read). That and the constant background hum of the electrics. And the bell that the drivers use to tell off cars when they don't give way. And the smug feeling you get on Victoria Parade when you see the traffic jams and you're on a tram speeding down the median strip. And the rattling noise that you get when they speed up going down hills. And the way they confuse tourists by creating the need for hook turns *sigh*.

All Canberra has is buses. Buses are far less fun than trams. For starters, they belch black smoke into the atmosphere (okay, so trams are powered by electricity, which in Victoria comes from brown coal. Again, not the point). And they're constantly stuck in traffic jams. And occasionally the drivers alter the routes slightly to keep themselves amused (seriously - I've been on a bus up here where the driver reversed 200m up the street because he missed the turn... Surely turning around or doing a blockie would have made more sense??). Basically, buses are far less fun than trams.

My theory about Canberra and trams was developed when I realised that a) Canberra's only form of public transport is buses, and b) all the major streets are ridiculously wide and have median strips wide enough for trams. Plus, Canberra people always look at me funny when I'm able to walk down the aisle of a moving bus carrying two massive bags of groceries without the need to hold on to the poles. See? Catching trams teaches you important life skills!!!

So I guess what I'm saying is this: I miss trams. I get excited when I see them on the news (I know, how sad is that??). So ACT Legislative Assembly, if you could bring trams to Canberra, I'd be eternally grateful. Please??????

K xx

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Thailand - the long version

Okay, for those of you with a lot of stamina, here goes. I won't hold it against you if you quit reading half way through...

Tuesday: Work all day, catch the bus to Canberra airport with my giant suitcase. Check in, then stop by the bookstore to buy the new Matthew Reilly book and a packet of Clinkers. Sit around the lounge reading until boarding. Have an uneventful flight and read all the way to Melbourne. Have the crap scared out of by my mother, who runs up behind me at the baggage carousel and sticks her hands over my eyes. Remind her that it's probably best not to do the same to Ness. Excitement when Ness arrives and we realise that we haven't, in fact, bought the same suitcase. Head upstairs to international check-in, and wait for Kat to arrive. Stand in line for an eternity because check-in hasn't actually opened yet. Finally get rid of our luggage and head in search of food (by this point, it was after 10.00, and what Pioneer Woman calls 'Low Blood Sugar Cranky Butt Disorder' was kicking in BIG TIME). Have something to eat and then head through emigration and security. Check out the prices at the duty free store to compare to the prices in KL. Sit around at the gate until the flight finally boards at 12.15. Realise I've left my eye mask and ear plugs in Canberra. Sulk. Snigger at the guy sitting a couple of rows in front of us who has waxed his eyebrows. Realise he's part of a sports team who insist on yelling across the plane at each other. Spend chunks of the flight trying to work out where they're from. Somehow manage to sleep most of the way to Jakarta.

Wednesday: (Okay, so half of the last bit was Wednesday too. Whatever) Read through the two hours from Jakarta to KL. Finally arrive in KL, and find the gate for our flight to Phuket. Realise that none of us have cleared out our camera memory cards, and spend the time sniggering over the ridiculous and random photos housed therein. Am pleased to discover a drinking fountain outside the bathroom, and fill water bottle. Get water bottle confiscated because KL have a secondary security check at the gate. Sulk. Become intrigued by the fact that the Thai immigration card asks you your gender on both the entry and exit portions, just in case it's changed. Board the plane to Phuket only to have my eyes burnt out by the electric colours of the seats. Suspect rubbish air conditioning on plane is serving as acclimatisation. Finally arrive in Phuket, and get through customs and immigration without any issues. Find an ATM, and rather like seeing that my account contains 35,000 baht. Follow the instructions on our airport transfer thing only to have the guy say "But this is for yesterday..." Realise that the travel agent has booked our flights for October 21 and 29, but our accommodation and transfers for October 20 and 28... The transfer guy takes us anyway. The hotel seems unconcerned about the dates, and changes our check out to the 29th without any questions. Spend the rest of the day feeling like a backpacker who'd wandered into a 4 star hotel and is waiting to be called a fraud and kicked out. Also spend the rest of the day by/in the pool. Go for a wander around in search of bottled water, and realise that the hotel charges triple the price for most things. Have dinner on the hotel rooftop. Resolve to go somewhere with cheaper, better, more authentic food in future. Collapse into bed.

Thursday: Eat our body weight in food at the buffet breakfast. Find a store selling hats, and am forced to buy an incredibly ugly one due to the fact that my head is massive and most of them don't fit. Head down to Patong Beach. Rent banana lounges for the three of us for the day - $5. Get harrassed by people wanting to sell us dresses, sarongs, wooden motorbikes, spring rolls, scented candles, coconut oil and aloe vera. Snigger at the Aussie guy who thought white rugby shorts were a suitable replacement for boardshorts. Become intrigued by the number of old white men walking on the beach with Thai girls. Subsequently realise all the girls are wearing the same shirt. Based on the logo, the girls work for a hand holding service... Realise that the Thai guys taking people up parasailing aren't wearing harnesses. Say "Holy shit!" numerous times. Decide that budgie smugglers should be outlawed, and that string bikinis should not be worn by anyone over the age of 25. Have Häagen-Dazs for lunch, which costs about $20. Get caught in the rain on the way back to the hotel and hide out in a bar. Wander around the market stalls a bit, and become slightly horrified when all the people put on outrageously ocker accents and say things like "Come and have a squiz, mate!! Cheaper than Best and Less..." Have dinner at Oasis, which is next door to the hotel. Good food, reasonable prices and free internet - how can you go wrong?? Hit the Family Mart between Oasis and the hotel, and buy more chocolate than is good for us. Also check out the random flavours of Pringles, which is something of a hobby of mine overseas - grilled shrimp, cheesy cheese, and seaweed here. Collapse into bed.

Friday: Eat slightly less than our body weight at breakfast, having felt sick for a large part of yesterday. Then spend most of the day by the pool. Have an early dinner at 'The Best Restaurant'. It lied. Their food is pretty craptacular. Head back to the hotel, get dressed up, and head to the Simon Cabaret. Marvel at the lady-boys and the ability of Thai plastic surgeons to make men into convincing women. Get the opening song stuck in my head for the next week and a half, along with Nobody, a song by a South Korean girl group called Wonder Girls. Other acts include ‘Beyonce’, ‘Tina Turner’, and ‘Gloria Gaynor’. Decide to rewatch Priscilla when back in Canberra. Wonder if they ever do the Pussycat Dolls...

Saturday: Have a lazy morning, and get picked up at lunchtime in an old Land Rover to go elephant trekking. Notice that the tachometer has gone right around, and the Land Rover has apparently done 495 kilometres in its life... Become slightly terrified when I realise that elephants are freaking enormous and that there are no fences between me and it. Come to the conclusion that I much prefer zoos. Go on elephant ride where Ness laughs at my inability to relax (it's very high and the elephant kept walking very close to trees - could you relax under those circumstances???), and we discover that it's very very hard to take in focus photos when on a moving elephant... Have photo taken next to elephant at the end of the ride, and later discover I look more than a little panicky. Go to baby elephant show, where young elephants have been trained to paint, play soccer, kiss their keepers hello, and play the harmonica. Find this much more enjoyable than elephant ride, despite mosquitoes the size of albatrosses. Then to a rubber tapping demonstration where we discover that Ness could make her fortune in rubber simply because she can reach an extra three feet of the tree. Next to a curry paste making demonstration, which end in a serve of chicken and pineapple curry. Make notes about curry paste ingredients and the need to buy a mortar and pestle when I get home. Then comes a demonstration of shelling coconuts and making coconut oil. Discover that coconut juice is mostly tasteless. Next up is a demonstration of how monkeys are trained to pick coconuts. Monkey appears to be all cute and innocent, but manage to get a photo showing its true and evil nature. Am rather amused by evil monkey photo. Finally, we ride in a cart pulled by a water buffalo. Am distracted when the buffalo starts moving and nearly fall off the seat. Then back in the Land Rover, and back to the hotel. Get changed and head out for a night on Bangla Road. Dodge numerous touts trying to persuade us to go to ping pong shows (*shudder*), and end up at the Butterfly Bar, which sells cocktails in glasses shaped like naked ladies. Bar also provides entertainment in the form of Jenga, Connect Four, and a game where you take turns hitting a nail into a piece of wood with a bizarrely shaped hammer. Eventually exhaust the list of bizarrely named cocktails, and head home to bed.

Sunday: Spend the morning in our room due to torrential rain. Once the rain eases up a little, head out in search of a tuk tuk to Phuket Town on the other side of the island. Despite being a 40 minute trip, it only costs us $15 – really wish taxis here were that cheap!! The rain has cleared by the time we arrive, but as a result it was stinking hot. Head in the direction of one of the attractions listed in the Lonely Planet guide – a Chinese temple. Turns out to be one of Lonely Planet’s less inspired choices... Then head up the main street of Phuket Town, to find that the street is packed with stalls for the Vegetarian Festival. Wander around there for a good long while before finding the bus back to Patong Beach. Hit the markets for a while, then spend the rest of the day in the pool.

Monday: Spend the day on a trip out to Phi Phi Island. First stop is Ma Ya Bay, where The Beach was filmed. While sailing there, it starts pouring with rain. Amusingly, you could tell the Australians because they’re the ones who strip down to their bathers rather than hiding under towels or pulling out plastic ponchos... From there, it’s snorkelling aplenty. Find Nemo, and see some angel fish, giant clams, parrot fish and sea cucumbers. Also have a brief stop on Phi Phi Don to feed peanuts and bits of banana to monkeys. These monkeys were equally evil – a couple of them tried to attack people. Lunch is a buffet at a resort, which includes mysterious gelatinous substances for dessert. The afternoon is spent on a slightly bizarre tiny island that basically consists of sand, deck chairs, a bar, and hundreds of tourists... Suspect the tour guides get a commission from the bar, because we’re stuck there for an hour and a half... My ugly hat, sadly, gets wet and then squished under someone’s bag, and is beyond rescuing. Damn...

Tuesday: Spend most of the morning shopping at the markets and at the shopping mall. Very tempted to buy a new pair of Cons, because they’re only $30, but it’s entirely too hot to contemplate trying on Cons. Downstairs at the mall, we discover a bunch of massage places. Ness and Kat decide that they need to try a thing where you stick your legs in a fish tank and little fish eat the dead skin off your feet. Apparently it tickles. A lot. And Ness ends up cranky, because the fish eat her tan... Also try mango with coconut rice at lunch, which is pretty freaking awesome. There’s another tropical downpour while we’re wandering back to the hotel through the markets, so we hide out in a bar hoping it will stop. Amusingly, the girls working at the bar are dancing to the song by the Wonder Girls that we heard at the Cabaret. So of course it winds up stuck in my head AGAIN... Eventually give up waiting for the rain to stop and get completely drenched walking back to the hotel. After we dry out, we head out to our Thai cooking class. It starts with teaching us to make green curry paste. Then we use the curry paste to make green chicken curry, which is really good, but a bit too spicy for my liking. Then it’s Tom Kha Gai – chicken in coconut milk soup, which is completely delicious, and cooks in about 5 minutes flat. Finally, everyone but me makes Tom Yum Goong – Thai hot and sour prawn soup. We also get a little cookbook with all the recipes that they teach at the school. And provided I can find fresh galangal in the nation’s backwater (aka Canberra), I’ll definitely be making a bunch of them!! After the cooking class, we head out for another night on Bangla Road. This time we wind up at a much seedier bar, and spend most of the night playing Connect Four or Jenga against the bar tender. The whole bar games thing seems like a great way to avoid bar fights – distract the drunks with Jenga blocks!

Wednesday: Phang Nga Bay. The day starts out with an hour and a half’s drive to Phang Nga province, on the mainland. First stop is another rubber tapping demonstration. Then it’s on to Suwankuha Temple. For most people, the appeal of this was feeding evil monkeys. For me? It’s the giant golden Buddha statue that’s inside a cave. From there, we board long tailed boats, and head out onto the Bay. After lunch at a restaurant on Koh Pan-yi, we visit James Bond Island, which apparently featured in Man with the Golden Gun... *shrugs* The highlight of that is that there are a whole bunch of Japanese couples wearing head to toe matching outfits. Including a couple wearing shirts that say ‘Soul’ and ‘Mate’ respectively. And their shorts match too... *shudders at the schmaltziness of it all* After James Bond Island, there’s a trip around the Tum Talu sea caves by inflatable canoe. Thankfully we don’t have to do the paddling – we have a slightly creepy and incredibly annoying canoeist who keeps referring to Ness as “Beautiful Wanessa the Cowboy” (because of her hat), and insists on taking photos for us way more frequently than is necessary. The evening consists of packing and doing some last minute shopping. Thrilling, no??

Thursday: Head to the airport, and fly to KL. Once again, the air conditioning is less than brilliant. At least it was only a short flight... In KL we have nine hours to kill, which we did wandering the duty free stores and then in a $42 lounge, which gives us food, drinks, showers, internet and much comfier chairs than we would have had in the gate lounge. Oh, Kat and I also have an interesting moment while Ness is off buying perfume. There’s suddenly a massive stream of people walking past, and they’re all in very orderly lines. Suddenly we realise they’re in orderly lines because they’re flexi-cuffed together. The women running the perfume place notice us looking at the flexi-cuffed people, and tell us that they’re being deported from Malaysia. So there’s something you don’t see every day!! Finally it’s time to board the flight to Melbourne. The leg to Jakarta is uneventful. But our hour long stopover in Jakarta turns into a three hour long stopover. At the end of the first hour, an announcement is made that they’re going to be repairing the starboard engine on the plane, so we’ll all have to disembark. But of course, we can’t enter Indonesia, so we’re stuck in an airport lounge for nearly two hours. Which means that if we want to go to the bathroom, we have to take our passport with us, surrender our boarding pass and get a five minute transit pass, then speed-walk through the airport to the bathrooms... And then to make up for the delay, the airline serves breakfast as soon as we take off. Except that all three of us are asleep by the time they do so. Which means that we don’t get any food from about an hour outside of KL until we get Dad to stop at the Macca’s outside Melbourne Airport... Awesome... And that’s about the extent of our shenanigans in Phuket. If you’ve made it to the end, I commend you. I’ve written post graduate essays shorter than this... ;)

K xx

Thailand - the short version

Well, I'm back in the 'berra again after two weeks away. Thailand was great fun, and I managed to stay awake while waiting for the plane. I also managed to read the three books I took with me within two days, and then had to move on to all the books that Kat and Ness had taken with them... Anyway, the short version of the trip went a little like this:

Tuesday: Work all day, fly to Melbourne, fly to KL via Jakarta

Wednesday: Fly from KL to Phuket, check into hotel, sit by the pool

Thursday: Go to the beach, do some shopping

Friday: Sit by the pool all day, go to the lady-boy cabaret

Saturday: Elephant trekking, including baby elephant show, monkey demonstration, and a ride in a water buffalo tuk tuk; night on the town

Sunday: Phuket town, sit by the pool

Monday: Phi Phi Island trip

Tuesday: Shopping, Ness and Kat get their feet eaten by fish, Thai cooking class, night on the town

Wednesday: Phang Nga Bay trip, saw numerous Japanese couples in matching head to toe outfits...

Thursday: Fly to KL, kill nine hours, see a bunch of people being deported, fly to Melbourne via Jakarta, with an extra two hours in Jakarta while they fixed the starboard engine...

But if you want the long version, and have a lot of stamina, read on to the next post!!

K xx
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