Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Melbourne cake - the verdict

Well, the cake turned out to be a success. Not only was everyone at work very impressed, but I got praise from a random bus company employee in the city on my way to work who particularly liked the ship. So that was nice, if slightly bizarre and unexpected!

I think the key sign of success, though, is that by this afternoon, there was only one piece of cake left. Which, of course, was when the Boss Man decided to do one of his periodic walk-through-and-chat-with-employees things. The conversation went something like this:

Boss Man: Hello! How's it going? Oooooh, cake. Is it someone's birthday?
Me and Colleague: Melbourne's!
Boss Man: Um... What?
Me: Yesterday was the 175th anniversary of the founding of Melbourne.
Boss Man: Oh. And who made the cake?
Me: That would be me.
Boss Man: Were the colours [the remaining piece had part blue, part green icing] representative of anything?
Me: Well, the cake was a map of Victoria, Tasmania and Bass Strait with the boat in Bass Strait representing John Pascoe Fawkner's trip from Launceston to what became Melbourne!
Boss Man: Well. That's quite some...dedication??...to Australian history... *slightly terrified expression*
Colleague: Sooooo... *quickly changes the topic*
Me: *sits in my corner and shuts the hell up*
[After Boss Man has left]
Me: I just became the crazy girl who represents history in cake, didn't I?
Colleague: Yes. Yes, you did... Sorry dude...
Me: Crud...

I may have paraphrased or reworded a few bits of that, but the overall gist remains accurate. In hindsight, I should have given him the last piece of cake. Then the sugar high from the icing would have made me seem less weird... ;)

K xx

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Melbourne cake!

Tomorrow marks the 175th anniversary of the settlement of Melbourne. In 1835, John Pascoe Fawkner found out that John Batman and the Port Phillip Association had signed a treaty with the elders of the Kulin nation. He promptly loaded a ship with people and supplies and sailed across Bass Strait. On 30th August 1835, Fawkner's party sailed up the Yarra River, unloaded their supplies, and began to build a settlement on the place that would become Melbourne.

Right. History lesson done with. I figured that seeing as I'm curating the Melbourne exhibit in the gallery, I should commemorate this historic event in some way (doubly so considering I forgot about the 175th anniversary of the Batman Treaty in June...). And I figured I may as well do it with cake!

So I started with my standard fudge cake, baked in a 22cm square tin.

I printed out a line map from the interweb, and scaled it appropriately.

Then I traced it onto baking paper, and realised that while the template was wide enough, it wasn't high enough. So I made up about an inch of Tasmania's coastline on each side. I think I did vaguely okay!

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a ridiculous amount of money ($45) on this food colouring. My mum had a similar set when I was a kid, and our birthday cakes were always awesome colours as a result. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to give them a test run!

I cut out the baking paper template, and pinned it to the cake.

Okay, technically I needled it to the cake. Because apparently I've managed to leave my pins in Melbourne...

Then I made a crapload of buttercream icing:

I divided it between two bowls, and started with the blue:

This is the amount of Wilton colouring you'd usually need. But considering I had about three times as much icing as usual, it took way more than this. But I forgot to take photos... Also, the icing wasn't really that yellow...

Then it was onto the green:

Aaaaaand I apparently neglected to take photos of the bowls of icing once it had been coloured. Oh well...
Anyway, I iced the sides of the cake, and Bass Strait.

Then I un-needled (de-needled??) the baking paper template, and got out the piping bag. After a bit of piping to mark the edges of the green bits, I went back to the palette knife and filled in the gaps:

Then I got this stuff out of the cupboard. It's a bit scary, and I sure as hell wouldn't use it as the ONLY icing on a cake (it smells positively toxic!), but it's handy for decorating:

Then it was out with the red food colouring:

And these, which I bought at the same time as the food colouring:

I hacked off a chunk of ready-made icing, and kneaded it on icing sugar as directed.

Then it was what felt like an hour of mixing in the red food colouring. I gave up once it got to this shade, even though I wanted it to be much redder:

And cut out a couple of stars to mark the locations of Launceston (where Fawkner's party left from), and Melbourne.

The Melbourne one was bigger. It seemed important, somehow...

Then I grabbed the black food colouring and some more fondant to make a boat representative of the Enterprize (and no, that's not a spelling mistake).

I made a sail out of a a toothpick and some baking paper. The boat's a wee bit out of proportion, but frankly, if it were in proportion, it would be the size of a hundred and thousand, if not smaller. So if it has to be out of proportion, it may as well be dramatic!

And the final touch was the little white blob of fondant in the boat, which is Fawkner. I thought about making a little man out of fondant, but my hands were dyed black and red from the food colouring, so I gave up and made a blob instead.

So there you have it. A very happy 175th birthday to my beloved Melbourne in cake form!! Here's hoping it makes it to work in one piece, and that it tastes as good as it looks...
K xx
PS. The spellchecker just told me that Launceston isn't a word, but Landsteiner is. WTF??

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Well, crap...

So apparently the Gods of Exercise are punishing me for being all excited about the dreaded Step being cancelled on Monday night. Because after doing Pump and Combat back to back last night, I'm a total cripple today...

Seriously, I'm walking like I'm a hundred (my hamstrings are NOT happy with me), and I can't really lift my arms without wanting to cry - my shoulders didn't really appreciate a stupidly hard shoulder track at Pump, followed by an hour of throwing punches, doing push ups, and doing a stupid ab exercise called the Komodo Dragon, which basically consists of kneeling in push up position and lifting one leg at a time to your elbow. Which, it seems, has done very little for my abs and has instead resulted in much agony for my shoulders.

And the best part is that it's Pump day AGAIN tomorrow. Doooooooooooooooooooom... I'm really not looking forward to it....................

K xx

PS. I have something quite epic planned on the baking front for this weekend, so watch this space! It'll either be a masterpiece or a total disaster...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Seriously??????

Yesterday, I came across this: http://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/people/robert-pattinson-named-the-worlds-sexiest-20100820-12xrk.html

Oh. Dear. God. Are these people serious???? Not only are four out of the top five from the appalling shite that is Twilight (including Robert Pattinson, who is pretty much the greasiest, most disgusting man on the planet), but JUSTIN BIEBER MADE THE LIST????? He's FOUR!!!!!!!

Oh well. At least my future husband, Jake Gyllenhaal, made the top 20... ;)

K xx

Monday, August 23, 2010

There is a God

Ever have one of those days where you have an appointment after work that you're totally dreading? I have one of those every Monday. Monday night is Step class night at the gym. And I HATE Step class. And yet, I keep going every week. Mostly because I know that I need the cardio workout, and because I have two friends to go with.

Tonight? Not so much. S is still on her way back from Queensland, and R conveniently found a giant hole in her gym pants and went home. Leaving me to do Step by myself. I contemplated leaving, but I figured I was already AT the gym, so I may as well hang around, despite the fact that I reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally didn't want to do Step by myself.

Class was due to start at 5.30. By 5.35, we were all starting to wonder where the instructor was. By 5.40, someone had caved and phoned reception to ask what the deal was. To which the response was "Ummmmmmmmmm, we don't know?" By 5.45, we all gave up, put our steps away and buggered off.

There's nothing quite like the feeling when the appointment you've been dreading all day gets suddenly cancelled and you get to go home 45 minutes earlier than anticipated........... :D

K xx

Friday, August 20, 2010

Clown shoes (which in no way relates to actual clowns...)

I got home from the airport last night and, in typical fashion, bypassed my family members in favour of my dog. And my first reaction on seeing him was "Duuuuuuuuude... You need a haircut..."

Seriously. He bears a striking resemblance to an old man who doesn't know when to trim his eyebrow and ear hair (*cough* John Howard! *cough*). Or someone who's had a close encounter with an electric fence. He's like a cross between Doc Brown from Back to the Future, and Timmy from Jurassic Park...


Okay, so the first one might not have looked too bad, but check out the layer of fuzz here:


And yes, Domino DOES have a stuffed toy koala that he uses as a pillow...

How about a closer shot of the fuzz with a nice contrasting wall behind it?


Ridonkulous. And to make it worse, he has so much fur on his feet that he looks like he's walking around in GIANT CLOWN SHOES.


I swear his feet look about double the size they actually are. He walks like someone in flippers...

Part of me is tempted to steal Dad's beard clipper and go to town. But that would be wrong, I suppose... Maybe I'll just settle for leaving the dog groomer's number in strategic locations around the house instead...
Off to play with my clown dog,
K xx

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Getting out of Canberra

Yes, that's right kiddies - I'm outta here!! Okay, it's just to Melbourne for a long weekend, but at this point of winter, ANY time away from Canberra is a good thing!!

I love flying Qantas - the flights are on time with far more frequency than the other alternative, especially at this time of day. And this trip is costing me a grand total of $26.01, courtesy of frequent flyer points and an airline credit. Bargain!!

I can't wait until the upgrade of Canberra Airport is finished - it really is like flying out of some little podunk town. There's a grand total of one shop, and your food options are pretty much a muffin or a bag of crisps, which is why I'm having Starburst Party Mix as some kind of dinner substitute. (I wouldn't bother, just FYI)

In typical fashion, I also spent far too much money buying a book and a trashy magazine. I did resist buying a copy of "Henry VIII, Wolf Man" to go with my copies of "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" and "Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter". So, you know, that's some kind of progress at least!!

Anywho, I'm pretty psyched about this weekend. Not only is it my first trip home in a good long while, but I get to go to the footy and see my beloved Catters playing (and hopefully winning...); I get to catch up with some friends from the Peru trip a couple of years ago; I get to pretend that my vote is actually going to make a difference in the electorate I live in (it won't - it's been a safe seat since Bob Menzies was friends with Moses); and I get to go to Mum's 60th birthday party on election night and make sneaky political comments in the hopes that my parents won't notice that I'm shit stirring!!!!

Rock on... ;)

K xx

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Random ramblings

It's been rainy and miserable since about 3pm today, and I've spent the past day and a half doing fairly mindless yet necessary admin tasks in the catalogue. So I felt the need to periodically scribble down random thoughts to entertain myself. Here we have the thrilling workings of my brain:
  • Why is my office so damned cold?? Wearing two pairs of socks and a coat inside shouldn't be required in a building that has both central heating and back-up heaters that apparently kick in when the temperature INSIDE is between 6 degrees and 15 degrees...
  • Why do the IT guys keep bringing fundraising Freddos to work? Don't they know I have no self-control when it comes to strawberry Freddo frogs?? *sigh*
  • I'm digging a bunch of very un-me songs at the moment. Including, but not limited to, Hey Soul Sister by Train, The Cave by Mumford & Sons, Fill My Little World by Feeling, Nine in the Afternoon by Panic at the Disco, This Ain't a Love Song by Scouting for Girls, and I'm Not That Girl from the soundtrack of Wicked. All of which my iPod played during the admin-y boredom - for once, the iPod Gods have been on my side!!
  • I'm disturbed that at Trivia last night I could identify Lyin' Eyes by the Eagles within two beats. More disturbed that I knew Stand By Your Man is a Tammy Wynette song. And most disturbed of all that I could identify Spandau Ballet's Gold when I've only heard the actual song once before...
  • Series 3 of Ashes to Ashes may have been a total suckfest in my opinion, but thanks to it, Billy Joel's Uptown Girl will never fail to make my laugh hysterically...
  • How did this list end up being so music-centric??
  • The only thing that's going to get me through two hours at the gym tonight is the knowledge that it'll be Farmer Wants a Wife time when I get home. Woohoo!! Finally, Channel 9 has stopped screening reruns of tripe like Two and a Half Men and made a decent show!!
  • It was so cold on my way to work this morning that in the 10 minutes it took me to walk the kilometre from my house to the bus stop, my entire face went numb. And no, I'm not exaggerating. There was ice on the perpetual puddles on my street...
  • Screw this winter bullshit. Roll on Fake Spring!! [Canberra has a Fake Spring every year. It lulls you into a false sense of security with a spell of warm weather, and then hits you with a couple of extra weeks of arctic blasts and freezing temperatures...]
  • I may have used my index finger as a knife to spread hummus on a rice cracker... It was easier than going to the kitchen and getting an actual knife. And I couldn't get the cracker into the corners of the container. No judging allowed...
  • Why the hell is it dark at 4.50???? This. Is. Not. Cool.
And post-gym musings:
  • Why did I just see an ad on TV encouraging people to drink chlorophyll for its toxin cleansing abilities?? That's just freaking weird...
  • Why did I just see an ad on TV for a new fast-food breakfast wrap that used the word 'tortilla' pronounced tor-tiller???? Ew.
  • Two weeks away from the Pump/Combat double was two weeks too many. It huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurts...
  • This list is freaking boring, and if anyone actually reads this far, I shall be incredibly surprised.
  • I should really go and pack, seeing as I'm going straight to the airport from work tomorrow night. And yet I'm sat here channel surfing now that Farmer Wants a Wife has finished.
  • This is pretty much the funniest thing I've ever seen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj-x9ygQEGA
Oh, look. A reward for getting to the end of my spiel of nonsense!! ;)
K xx

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Home alone

My housemate, D, left last night for two weeks in New Zealand. This is both good and bad. Good because I don't feel guilty about taking up the entire fridge or hogging the washing machine or subjecting her to watching Rush, solely because it's based in Melbourne and I get homesick for trams. Bad because I have an overactive imagination when I'm home alone overnight.

I think it started in about year 9 when I was home by myself doing homework in my room during winter. From memory, it was only about 6.30, but because it was dark, when I heard a noise, I automatically started freaking out. It sounded like someone was downstairs in the kitchen banging dishes in the dishwasher. I assumed that Mum or Dad had gotten home, but when I got to the top of the stairs, all the lights downstairs were out. So I grabbed my hockey stick (God knows what I thought I was going to do with it...), and crept downstairs.

And when I got to the bottom of the stairs, I screamed bloody murder and swung my hockey stick at a face in the darkness. Which turned out to be a noh mask that my brother had brought home from a choir tour earlier in the year, and which had been hung at head height on the hall stand... I did manage to avoid hitting it, which I was quite impressed with. And of course, there was no one in the kitchen or in the house, and the noise like banging dishes turned out to be the dog SNORING. Don't ask me how it sounded like the dishwasher being unloaded very loudly, I still have no idea.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaanyway, this unfortunate incident has been replicated numerous times over the years, although not quite in such spectacular fashion. I seem to have developed an unfortunate habit of watching things I shouldn't watch right before bedtime, and then realising that I'm going to be alone in the house overnight.

Last year, my old housemate went home for a month to do her teaching rounds. I watched Se7en at 10.30pm and then freaked out that Kevin Spacey was going to chop my head off and put it in a box. I actually built a barricade in front of my bedroom door to stop him from getting in.

Last night? I watched a Reaver heavy episode of Firefly, followed by the first half hour of The Exorcist. Champion work... Tonight, I have plans for pulling all the G-rated stuff out of my DVD collection - surely there's nothing in there to freak me out??? Dammit. I've just jinxed myself. I now have no doubt that I'll switch off the DVD player and the TV will flick over to a report on Tony Abbott running a triathlon, including stock footage of him in his budgie smugglers...

Screw it. I'm off to build another barricade.....................................

K xx

Friday, August 13, 2010

1993 called, it wants its stuff back...

I went shopping a couple of weekends ago. The intention of this shopping expedition, given that it was the weekend after I moved house, was to buy a whole lot of homewares stuff that my housemate and I had realised we no longer had, because it had all belonged to our respective former housemates *sigh*

I had the best intentions, really I did. I bought things like cereal bowls, and cutlery, and glasses with cherry blossom patterns on them, and all manner of kitchen utensils unrelated to baking. But after that, I decided I'd spent quite enough time being an adult and wandered off in search of more exciting things to spend money on.

Which came in the form of some awesome black satin peep toe heels for my mum's birthday party next weekend, and $42 worth of food colouring. Unfortunately, the latter is NOT a joke. I really did spend that much on food colouring...

Anyway, I was wandering through the clothing section of Target, and doing my usual mocking of hideous things when I realised that everything looked vaguely familiar. And not just because I spend far too much time in the clothing section of Target (which I do, I should add...). After racking my brains for a couple of minutes, it finally hit me.

It was 1993, Redux. There were racks of leggings. Shelves of fuzzy pastel cardigans. A mountain of floral print skirts and tops of Laura Ashley-esque patterns. But the most horrifying of all came in the form of denim. Denim shirts, to be precise. With pearly press studs in place of buttons.

It was these that finally made me realise why the clothes looked familiar. On my tenth birthday, I wore jeans with a light denim shirt that had pearly press studs in place of buttons, and which also featured some spectacular embroidery down the front. And I had a pair of appallingly ugly light blue leggings with giant pink flowers all over them. It really was the most delightful fashion statement of the decade...

Anyway, my point is this. Once you've realised that the fashions of your childhood have come around again, there's no going back. You can't convince yourself that the clothes are appealing or flattering or anything other than a horrifying memory that should have stayed in the past. So I don't think I'll be buying much this season.

Here's hoping the summer fashions replicate a less memorable and traumatic year for fashion. 1982, for example. My hair's so frizzy from the dry winter air that a perm really wouldn't make that much of a difference!!!

K xx

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Maple syrup muffins

Alright. I think I've been pretty good at posting un-baking related stuff of late, so I don't think I'm breaking any of my self-imposed rules here! I made these a couple of weeks ago. The recipe is from a muffin book that Mum bought when we were living in Toronto a hundred million years ago. I can't remember what it's called (because I wrote the recipes out by hand when I moved to Canberra), but it had some incredible recipes in there, including chocolate cheesecake muffins, muffins that taste like donuts, and pina colada muffins.

I figured I'd make these because I've had a bottle of maple syrup languishing in the back of the fridge since the start of the year. And that's just not right. So, let's make some muffins. Here's what you'll need:


Start with 1/4 cup of margarine. Yes, margarine. Mine is olive oil based, and it didn't cause any problems in the flavour of the end product, so I figure pretty much any margarine will work fine!

Take 1/2 cup white sugar. I used caster sugar, cos that's all I had!

Then add 1 teaspoon of salt. I think I'd probably reduce this the next time I make them - they had a bit of a salty aftertaste...


Cream it all together with an electric mixer.

Sift in 1.25 cups plain flour:

Add 2 teaspoons baking powder:

And, according to the recipe, you should now blend the flour into the margarine/sugar mixture with a pastry cutter. But I didn't read it properly. Of course... So I added the 3/4 cup of rolled oats a wee bit early.

It really didn't matter. I guess if you had a pastry cutter, it might chop up the oats a bit. But all I had was two forks, and they didn't do much damage to the uncooked oats!

Next, place 1/2 cup milk...

...and 1/2 cup maple syrup (the REAL stuff, not that horrible maple flavoured corn syrup stuff)...

...into a small bowl, and mix to combine. Looks like white coffee, but tastes SO much better!

Pour the milk and syrup mixture over the dry ingredients:

And stir until just combined:

Grease a muffin tin (I took the lazy option and used spray oil):

Divide the mixture evenly between the 12 cups:

And bake at 180 degrees for 20 minutes.

After about 5 minutes, turn the muffins onto a cooling rack. While they're cooling, make the glaze. Here's what you'll need:

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a small bowl:

Add 1 tablespoon maple syrup to the melted butter:



Then take 1/2 cup of icing sugar:

And mix to combine:

Mmmmm, delicious...

Then spread the glaze over the muffins while they're still warm:
According to the book that I've forgotten the name of, you should never serve a cold muffin. Apparently it's a crime... So stick them in the microwave for 20 seconds or so before you serve them!

Oops. Sorry. Couldn't resist!

Enjoy!!
K xx
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