Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fun new stuff

I was in Melbourne this past weekend. And it worked out pretty damned well for me - I was able to get two things I've been hunting for for quite a while now. First off, I was able to get these boots:

They're awesome. I first saw them when I was in Hobart for work a couple of weeks ago. But I didn't have the time to try them on or the capacity to actually get them back to Canberra, given that I only had hand luggage with me. So I went searching for them in Canberra. Only to discover that they didn't have them in my size - only in a half a size too small. Which made me sad...... So on Saturday, I dragged my mum out to Donny Shoppoland (also known as Westfield Doncaster) where I was thrilled to find that Myer had a pair in my size. And a sale offering 30% off boots. So not only was I able to get my boots, but I saved myself $60. Score!!!

Then, on the way back to the car, we passed the L'Occitane shop. And I figured I'd go in and see if I could find the best lip gloss I've ever had. It's their cherry blossom lip gloss, and it's completely awesome:

Again, I've been searching for it for a while. Mine has nearly run out, so I was somewhat devastated when the Canberra store told me that not only did they not have any, but that they weren't getting any more in. So when I was at Melbourne Airport on the way home from Hobart, I tried the L'Occitane store at the airport. They didn't have any either. And then I checked the L'Occitane website to see if I could get any there. And it didn't exist. So I'd pretty much given up hope by Saturday. But the store at good old Donny Shoppoland? They had a ton of them.

So I bought three. Just to make sure that I don't have to repeat the search any time in the foreseeable future..............

And then I got back to Canberra today to find this waiting in the mailbox for me - a belated birthday present from Cas:

For those who aren't aware, Dr Horrible is a character created by the total genius Joss Whedon during the writers' strike a couple of years ago in the series Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, which was released on the Internet. It stars two of my favourites - Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Horrible, and Nathan Fillion as Captain Hammer. So the knowledge that they've made a comic book makes me ridiculously happy.

Especially when it finishes with images like this:

I love that the comic version still looks like Nathan Fillion. Just like how the characters in the Buffy season 8 comics and the Firefly comics still look like the original actors who played them. It gives a nice sense of continuity. Now to head to the Dark Horse website and investigate whether there are any other Dr. Horrible comics in the pipeworks!! Thanks Cas!!!!!! :D

Yes. I'm a nerd. I know. But trust me - if you haven't already, check out Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. It's genius!!

K :) xx

Two years ago...

Two years ago today, I was in Peru having what remains the worst experience of my life to date. It was in Cusco, and Nessa and I had just finished the Inca Trail the day before. Celebrating ensued, and when Nessa was feeling seedy the next day, I assumed she was just hung over. Turns out, not so much........ A good dose of trauma on my part later (and Ness's, obviously!), not to mention a trip to the travel clinic, an ambulance ride to the emergency room, and being flown to Lima by the Peruvian Air Force, the diagnosis of Long QT Syndrome was established, and an medical evacuation to Melbourne arranged for Ness. And so, two years on, I feel that thanks is appropriate.

Let's start with the obvious - Nessa. Thanks for not dying. That would have sucked even worse. And thanks for giving me 45 lessons in how to pack your pack. They came in handy. And thanks for only laughing a little when I cried in the ambulance - be glad you couldn't see the state of the traffic like I could....... Love ya more'n my luggage!!

To the travel clinic doctors - thanks for getting out the instruction manual when you got out the heart rate monitor. That was really reassuring... :S But you knew when to give up and call an ambulance, so thanks for that too!

To the ambulance driver - I swear to God, it was like riding the Knight Bus from Harry Potter. Thanks for not killing us all.

To our tour leader, Aldo - thanks for coming to get me from the hospital when I had no idea where I was or what the hotel was called or how to say anything other than "No habla Espanol". You're a champion.

To Jose, the tour company representative - thanks for liaising with the doctors and the airlines and the hotels and telling me 20 times a day that everything would be fine.

To the Peruvian Air Force guys - you may have laughed at me when I came running onto the tarmac holding up my jeans with one hand because I hadn't had time to put my belt back on after security, but you all looked like Maverick and Goose from Top Gun, and that was oddly reassuring. Plus, you made sure there was room on the plane for me, even though it meant one of you had to spend 2 hours crouching in the stairwell of a Lear Jet. That was pretty awesome. So thanks.

To Nicole at the Australian Consulate - you may have laughed at me (is anyone sensing a theme here??) when you answered the phone in Spanish and I said "Habla Espanol? No. Shit. Crap. Bugger. Dammit. Do you speak English???", but you liaised with the hospital and the insurance company, and were the only one who told me how serious the situation was. Let this be a lesson to you all - ALWAYS contact your consulate/embassy in an emergency...

To the overworked doctor at the hospital in Lima - thanks for telling me how far away from the hospital Miraflores was when the nurse called you over to say that I had a medical question to ask............

To Matt - thanks for letting me rack up millions of dollars of international calls from Cusco to Melbourne on your mobile... And thanks for looking after Nessa's pack for however many days it was.

To Dad - thanks for not freaking out when I rang from Peru, burst into tears, said that Ness was in intensive care, and asked you to call her mum. Who you'd never met before...

To Mum - thanks for keeping me posted on Ness's progress. And for telling me to keep going without her. And for scaring a room full of small children by bursting into tears when I finally spoke to you on the phone - it's always fun to traumatise small children!! :)

To the insurance company - you guys rocked. Not only did you call the hospital in Peru every two hours for an update, but you organised a million things we didn't expect, like a hotel room for me in Lima right near the hospital. I didn't need it, but that's not the point. I've never been so glad to talk to a bogan in my life as I was when the receptionist at the hospital in Lima told me I had a phone call, and the voice on the other end said in an incredibly nasal, ocker Aussie accent "Yeah, hi. It's Chris from Covermore in Sydney, how's ya goin'?"

To Daina - thanks for knowing more Spanish than "Quisiera una daiquiri fresa, por favor", and attempting to get the taxi driver to understand that we needed to go to the cargo terminal rather than the passenger terminal of the airport.

To Jamie - thanks for talking me off five million ledges over the past two years. And for carrying Ness's pack half way around Lima...

To Belynda, our travel agent - thanks for rearranging all our plans and sending me a whole load more tour brochures unexpectedly, and booking stuff at the last minute!

To Cat - thanks for being there in Quito and the Galapagos. And for putting Bruce the Wombat in entertaining situations. Hopefully he's recovered from nearly being attacked by a marine iguana by now ;)

And finally, thanks to everyone who sent their support throughout the whole saga. It helped more than you know.

Right. I think that's quite enough depressing dwelling on the past for one week. Watch this space for dark chocolate and mixed berry sourdough bread and butter pudding - a far more cheerful subject, don't you think??!!

K :) xx

Disappointment...

So I just finished watching the series finale of Ashes to Ashes. Sara introduced me to Ashes back in March, and it's been rapidly climbing the list of my favourite TV shows since then. But tonight? Tonight was the night I decided that for me the show ends after two seasons, not three. Because in tonight's episode, the writers and creators basically went "You know what? We have no idea what's going on. Let's just make something up, and stick in some bits to placate the fans".

I don't think I've been so annoyed and disappointed with an ending since Joss Whedon killed off Wash in Serenity... Or since the suckfest that was Pirates of the Caribbean 3. I spent half of it yelling "Whaaaaaat???!!!" at the screen and the other half going "But why did they have to kill the Quattro?????" and "Well, that just doesn't make sense" and "I'm so confused.........."

*sigh* It's only a television show. I should probably stop devoting so much energy to it, huh?? ;)

K :) xx

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

As you may have noticed, I've switched things up a little. Six months into this blogging experiment, I was sick of the white, minimalist thing. So I've changed it for something a bit more interesting. I'm not sure about some of the colours - it's still a work in progress...

Secondly, I was contemplating doing another post a la The Trouble with Blogging post I did back in January. But then I worked out I could put a handy-dandy box in the sidebar that would show them all for me. So watch that space for periodic updates to what I'm reading and sniggering about!!

Any thoughts on the new format??

K xx :)

UPDATED!!
I've FINALLY worked out how to use the template designer, meaning the layout is now far more exciting. Or nauseating, depending on how you feel about the design... Let me know what you think about this new, improved, less grey version!

Monday, May 3, 2010

So. Much. Cake.

I had my Canberra birthday celebrations at the weekend. At the time when I sent out the invitation, it seemed like a genius idea to say that I'd provide some baked goods, and that everyone should bring a plate. But most people seemed to be fairly enamoured with my original idea of going to a cupcake shop (axed courtesy of them charging $25 a head and not providing champagne...), and hence brought cupcakes. And this is what we wound up with:

FAR too much cake for ten people...

We had earl grey cupcakes with lemon icing and sugared violets:

Macadamia cupcakes with cute little fruit jubes on the top:

Dairy free cupcakes:

And Jaffa cupcakes. I think I might need to request the recipe for these. They're seriously good...

And then there was cheese and crackers, bags of crisps, and bags of lollies. And that's not including what I made...

For now I'll just say that my reputation for overcatering continues relentlessly - I had five Tupperware containers of leftovers, even after persuading everyone to take stuff home. Needless to say, it went to work with me yesterday!!!

More on what I made later...

K :) xx

Experimental cupcakes!

In addition to the gingerbread cake from a couple of posts ago, I made cheesecake brownies (which I blogged about last year), and cupcakes for my shindig last weekend. The cupcakes were an experiment - I was trying to replicate something I'd had at a cupcake shop for a mere $4.50, but which tasted like (and I suspect WAS) packet mix cake. So I thought I'd try to do the same without the instant taste.

What I had was a strawberry and white chocolate cupcake, which basically consisted of strawberry flavoured cake, a mountain of icing, and white chocolate drizzles across the top. Mine took a slight detour through buying regular white chocolate instead of white COOKING chocolate, but I think they turned out better for it.

Now, I'll provide the recipe details, but I wouldn't really recommend it. It's from the AWW, and they usually know their stuff. But I've made this recipe twice now, and it's been a pain both times. Plus, I suspect there's too much flour in it - they turn out almost like scones... But until Mum's kitchen is back in order (it's being painted) and she can find her recipe for me, it's what I'm stuck with *sigh*

Anyway, here's what you'll need for strawberry cupcakes!

Stick cake pans into a muffin tin:

Then throw 125g of softened butter into a bowl:

Then add a teaspoon of strawberry essence. It looks and smells pretty toxic, but the end result works. And that's all that matters!!

Mmmm, looks delicious, doesn't it?? Not...

Next, take 3/4 cup of caster sugar. And yes, I know this is a 1/4 cup measure. I used it three times. Cos these measuring cups are cool and my other ones were dirty.

See? Told you I used 3/4 cup of caster sugar!

Then add three eggs:

Next, take two cups of self-raising flour.

And sift it into the bowl:

Finally, add 1/4 cup of milk:


Then attack it with the electric beaters. This is where the trouble starts for me. The recipe says to pulse the beaters until the ingredients are combined, and then to beat it for 3 minutes on medium. But the resulting batter is so thick that it just climbs the beaters, as you can see here:

This is after I added another 1/4 cup or so of milk and had attacked it with the beaters for the recommended three minutes. The extra milk helps a lot. I really think the AWW wasn't paying attention to their proportions when they wrote that recipe. You could probably cut the flour back to 1 1/2 cups instead, because the resulting cupcakes taste quite floury to me...

Dump the cupcake mixture into the prepared pan. But try not to use as much as I did - I had some seriously mutant cupcakes... Like that one third from the left in the middle row.........

And then throw them into a 180 degree oven for about 20 minutes. I think I had them in for about 18 minutes in the end.

There's the mutant cupcake that's on steroids!

I probably could have used about half the quantity of batter in each that I did and still had decent cupcakes. Oh well...

Once you've checked them with a toothpick (insert rant about the benefits of toothpicks versus metal skewers here) to make sure they're done, take them out of the tin and stick them on a cooling rack:

Once they're cooled, ice them! Pretend there's a whole lot of photos in here where I blend 2/3 block of cream cheese with 1 1/2 cups of icing sugar and a teaspoon of strawberry essence. Cos I realised I'd forgotten to take photos as I was icing the cupcakes. Whoops...
Anyway, if you need details, chop the cream cheese, and blend it until smooth. Then gradually add half the icing sugar. Then add the strawberry essence. Then gradually add the rest of the icing sugar. Then try not to eat it all before it's on the cupcakes. The end. Simple, huh??
You can decorate the top any way you wish. The one I had from the cupcake store had white chocolate decorations and a candy strawberry on the top. But I think the end result here worked out pretty well.
Mmmm, strawberries...

What do you think? Should I throw in this curatorial jaunt and open a cupcake shop??? (Once I get a decent recipe, obviously!!) ;)
Enjoy!!
K :) xx

Gingerbread cake

This cake is awesome. I got sooooooooooooo many compliments about it at the weekend that it's quite tempting to start a bakery just selling gingerbread cake... It was even deemed a breakfast food by several people!!

Let's get to it - here's what you need:

Start with setting the oven to 160 degrees fan forced, and greasing and lining a 23cm square tin.
Take 125g of butter:

Chop it, and chuck it in a medium saucepan:


Oh, here are the awesome measuring cups I mentioned in my post about my Melbourne birthday. How cool are they?????? (Thanks Char!!! xx)

There's a 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup and 1 cup measure.

Take the 1 cup measure (or any 1 cup measure, really!!), and fill it with golden syrup...

Yuuuuuuuum. How good does this look????? (Or is it just me that thinks that?!)

Dump the golden syrup in with the butter:

Stick them on the stove, and stir until melted:


Once the butter and golden syrup are melted, take them off the heat. Then take a cup of caster sugar:

And dump it in with the melted butter and golden syrup:

Next, take two cups of plain flour and chuck them into a sifter:

Sift the flour into the saucepan:

Stir it all together and try not to drool:

Then dump in a teaspoon of baking soda:

Two teaspoons of ground ginger:

Half a teaspoon of cinnamon:

Half a teaspoon of mixed spice:

And a quarter of a teaspoon of ground cloves:

Mix the spices through, then add two eggs. If the mixture is still hot, the eggs will cook, so you might want to let it sit for a while when you first take it off the stove:

And finally, add three quarters of a cup of milk:

Aaaaaand mix it all through:

And pour it all into the pan:

And stick it in the oven for an hour:

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm, cake:

After an hour in the oven, stab it a couple of times with a toothpick to make sure it's cooked:

After 5 minutes or so, haul it out of the tin and cool on a wire rack. When it's cooled, peel the baking paper off and stick it on a plate:

And it's time to get icing!! Here's what you need for the vienna cream frosting:

Start with 125g butter. Chop it and stick it in a small mixing bowl:

Beat the butter until it's as white as possible:
Then take 3/4 cup of icing sugar:
And beat it into the butter:
Then take a washed lemon and your trusty Microplane zester. Or, you know, a grater. Either way:

And go crazy!:

Mmmmm, zesty...

Take a teaspoon of the zest and dump it into the bowl:

And two tablespoons of lemon juice:

And give it a quick pulse with the beaters. It'll look a bit curdled, but don't worry - all will be well in the end!:

Then take another 3/4 cup of icing sugar, and gradually beat that in too:

Once it's all mixed together, dump it onto the cake:

Spread the icing across the cake. It'll probably end up thicker in the middle where the cake has a tendency to sink slightly:

Then lightly dust the top of the cake with ground cinnamon:

Then sit back and marvel at how purdy it is:

Check out the lemon zest in the icing!!!

And when you've finished marvelling at it, get a knife, cut it into chunks and try to stop at just one piece!!!
Enjoy!
K xx :)
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