Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fieldwork lessons

Yes, I've been on fieldwork for the past couple of days. Thankfully, it was a different kind of fieldwork to what I was used to in my archaeology days - that tended to involve dirt and spiders and knee pain. This version was FAR preferable. In this case, the fieldwork involved accompanying a photographer from work around the Lachlan Valley taking shots to be used in the gallery. And I learnt a couple of things (for the record, there were numerous farmers involved, not just one):

1. Watch where you're walking. That particularly lush patch of grass up ahead may just contain the decaying remnants of a sheep...
2. Sitting between the seats in a two seater ute while going up a stupidly steep 4WD track is a recipe for being left with a seatbelt clicker mark on your arse. And it may result in the farmer who's driving having to make slightly inappropriate movements to change gears/take off the hand brake...
3. $25,000 worth of camera gear is much heavier than $700 worth of camera gear.
4. When you change your camera to shutter speed mode, make sure you actually CHECK the shutter speed before taking a crapload of photos in full sunlight on the top of the mountain you just drove up in a ute. You may discover two days later that the shutter speed was 1/60 and you're left with a ton of overexposed photos. Awesome... *sigh*
5. Gates are rusty. Don't wipe your hands on your jeans after closing them.
6. Don't assume roads join up like they seem to in the map book of New South Wales. You'll direct the photographer down a road that requires a difficult u-turn and the discovery that if you'd gone 200m further down the FIRST road, you would have found the turn off...
7. If you don't play an organised sport, make one up. Otherwise you'll get a lecture from a well-meaning farmer about how "you should have a sport, my girl!", and then spend the afternoon wondering if he was implying you're fat...
8. If a farmer pulls up in a ute with four sheep herding dogs on the tray/running around the wheels, and refers to them as "a pack of bastards", don't squeal and go "OMG, PUPPY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" when the next generation of bastard sticks its floppy earred head out the window of the ute. You'll get an eye roll from said farmer.
9. Never even mention politics around a farmer. You'll think you've stepped back in time. Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Fraser, Robert Menzies and Bob Hawke are discussed as if they were running the country yesterday...
10. Attempting to provide bridesmaid dress measurements with the cable of a phone charger and a sheet of A4 paper will give you a result of "waist = 3.25 x width A4". This is not helpful to anyone... Especially the bride.
11. Completely unrelated to fieldwork, head over to The Frocked Engineer. My BFF Kat is going to be wearing a dress or a skirt for every day in October, raising money for ovarian cancer research. It's a great cause, so please dig deep and give what you can!!

I'll share some photos from fieldwork once I've finished editing them. But for now, I have to go and pack again - off to Melbourne first thing in the morning for the second long weekend in a row. WOOHOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :D

K xx

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A family tradition

It's the last Saturday in September, and as a Melbournian, that means just one thing - Grand Final Day. My beloved Geelong lost in rather spectacular form last weekend, so I have no particular vested interest in this year's grand final. Other than hoping (along with most of the rest of the nation!) that Collingwood lose to St. Kilda. No particular reason, other than that Collingwood are the team everyone loves to hate.

Anyway, I'm watching the grand final regardless of the teams, because I've seen every grand final since we moved back from England in 1995. Well, except 2002 when I was at uni in Leicester and didn't want to get up at 4am and go to the local Walkabout to see it... And, every year since 1995, our family has had a tradition. It's pretty weird, as traditions go. But most of our family traditions seem to be a bit that way. Especially the food related ones - candy cane ice cream for dessert at Christmas, Yorkshire pudding and roast veggies on Good Friday etc. It's hardly usual.

This tradition was created by the fact that on the day of the 1995 grand final, we arrived home from a holiday to Fiji. We only got home about half an hour before the footy started, and there was no food in the house. When we complained that we were hungry, Mum gave us $10, pointed us in the direction of the supermarket (which is 3 blocks away), and told us to buy a packet of Pringles each. And then she tortured us, and told us we were only allowed to open them after the first bounce...

The following year, we successfully argued a precedent, and Pringles have been associated with Grand Final day ever since. Although part of me suspects that I'm the only one who actually participates any more... Eh. You know what? I'm okay with that!  

K xx

Monday, September 20, 2010

Old lady FTW!

Today I got a phone call from an 86 year old Dutch woman, asking for information about an object she thought might be in our collection. And she was totally awesome.

First of all, she called me "schveetie", repeatedly. Which was pretty funny, I have to say. And then she gave me some completely unsolicited advice that was nonetheless hilarious and kind of valid. She started talking about the difference between Australian museums and 700 year old museums in Europe. Which led to a tangent about how she'd been to the Hermitage last year.

Then she said "My granddaughters all said to me 'What are you doing, Oma? What are you thinking of, travelling overseas alone at your age!' And I said to them 'Well, I'm old. No one will want to rape me!' So, schveetie, you should save all your travelling until you're old. Because it's one less thing to worry about!"

Old lady = genius! I'm choosing to think of her as the Dutch version of Betty White. Okay, so it's kind of a random thing to say to a total stranger, but you can't fault her logic. It pretty much made my week...

K xx

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Misery rant - read at your own risk...

My least favourite thing about Canberra? The periodic bouts of loneliness and homesickness that I seem to get since I moved up here. I've lived a lot of places in my twenty seven years, but there's always been a support network to fall back on. Up here? Not so much. Sure, I have friends up here. But for the most part, they're people I work with. And me in one of these bouts is not something I want to force on anyone who's only known me for a year.

Every couple of months, I seem to get hit by a wave of it. I end up feeling like I could disappear and no one would even notice I was gone. Like I'm going through the motions. Like I'm a spectator in my own life. Like everyone else knows what the hell is going on, and I'm still messing about in the shallow end of the pool with my floaties on. Like there's a tiny marionette Kim Jong-Il in my head singing "I'm Ronery" (ironically, Team America is on TV tonight...). Like the only thing that will help is getting on a plane to Melbourne and never coming back. And then suddenly, inexplicably, I'll be fine again. For a while, at least.

This time? I think it's partly exhaustion. Work has been crazy lately. And I've been having bizarre, disturbing dreams, which generally result in waking up feeling like I've run a marathon. I'm also blaming the weather. Canberra is sunny. All. The. Time. I'm a Melbourne girl. This much sunshine isn't natural... And the hayfever. Oh, God, the hayfever... (I only get hayfever in Canberra. And it just about kills me every year...)

This time though? I've made a decision, which I may or may not stick to. But at this stage, my decision is this - when the project is over next year? Yeah, I'm getting the hell out of Dodge and moving back to Melbourne. Because I don't think I can stand it any longer than that...

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to watch the 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' literal video again. Because if anything can make me suck it up and stop being a miserable whiner, it's that.

K xx

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Questionable lyrics...

Last night was dreaded Step class time again. The instructor decided to launch part of the latest release, which - in Australia at least - features nothing but cover songs. They were all appallingly bad - no one needs to listen to a cover version of Ice Ice Baby - but one in particular took the cake.

After the first chorus, we were going "Urm, what??". After the second chorus, it was "Did that REALLY say what I think it said?". And after the third, we (well, I was, at least) were in fits of hysterical laughter. After a bit of research this morning, I discovered that it's an awful cover (I assume - the other covers certainly had nothing to recommend them!) of a Beyonce song.

And the lyrics in question went like this:
"It's too big (big)
It's too wide (wide)
It's too strong (strong)
It won't fit (fit)
It's too much (much)
It's too tough (tough)
He talk like this 'cause he can back it up
He got a big ego
Such a huge ego
But, I love his big ego
It's too much
He walk like this 'cause he can back it up"
Yeah.................... :S I'm pretty sure that once our usual instructor is back - an incredibly sweaty young man (seriously, it's like Niagara Falls) who wears ridiculously tiny running shorts *shudder* - none of us will be able to keep a straight face during that track.
Great. Now I'm going to dread going to Step classes even more than I already do... *sigh*
 
K xx

Monday, September 13, 2010

Roller derby!

On Saturday night, I trekked down to Tuggeranong. And you KNOW that if I was going all the way down there to Bogan Land, it was for something pretty damned special. And it was - roller derby. All I have to say is one thing: derby girls are FREAKING INSANE!!! In a good way, obviously. But insane nonetheless. Let's start with the fact that derby includes lots of falling down. If it were me, I'd fall down twice, and then go off to sulk and nurse my bruises. These girls fall on their arses time and time again over the course of two hours. As you can see from the signage on the way into the stadium:


It's a disturbingly complicated sport - there's a billion hand signals from the referees, and every time I thought I had the scoring system worked out, a score would come up that was completely contradictory to what I thought it would be. But that didn't take any of the fun out of it.


In the end, the Brindabelters put up an epic fight, but were pipped at the post by the Black and Blue Belles.


I'm already looking forward to the bout between the Surley Griffins and the Red Bellied Black Hearts in a month or so. Although I'll be taking a cushion (bleachers = not comfortable for two and a half hours), and planning ahead in regards to dinner - a Lean Cuisine (because I had no food in the house and couldn't be bothered cooking) at 10pm really didn't cut it!!

Oh, and next time? I'll be taking the SLR. Because while the point and shoot was way easier to carry, it produced some epically sucky photos... *sigh* Sports mode = FAIL...

K xx

Friday, September 10, 2010

A change of pace

Some of you may have noticed that I'm kind of fussy when it comes to food. Okay, that's an understatement. I'm stupidly fussy. But it's clearly genetic because half of my family is the same. And I'm by NO means the fussiest one in the family! Anyway, when it comes to dinners, I'm not much of a meat and vegetables kind of a girl. I tend to stick to a meal that doesn't require a knife and that can be eaten from a bowl. Don't ask me why, I have no idea. Probably because it's easier to eat on the sofa, which is where I eat 90% of my meals...

Anyway, last weekend when I was planning out my meals for the week, I decided I was going to try something different. Something that required a knife and more than one pan. I wound up with this:

And I'm glad I did. I had no idea what I was doing with the meatballs - I just mixed some beef mince with an egg, some herbs, and some breadcrumbs - but they turned out incredibly well. I fried them in a little olive oil, then added a tin of crushed tomatoes, a sachet of tomato paste, a teaspoon of sugar to cut through the acidity, and a teaspoon of garlic. Then I let it all simmer for about 20 minutes.

When it comes to baked potatoes, I usually take the easy option - throwing them in the microwave for 6 minutes wrapped in a piece of kitchen paper. But last night, I had a little extra time, so after I'd microwaved it, I threw it in the oven while the meatballs simmered. It made the skin crispy and the centre light and fluffy. It was like eating mashed potatoes, only not... The grated carrot was steamed with a little bit of margarine for flavour, and the peas and corn were just boiled.

The overall result was pretty impressive for something I wasn't sure would actually work. The meatballs were juicy, slightly spicy from getting overzealous with the pepper, and tasted kind of like meatloaf, but less dry. I might try putting them with rice or pasta in the future, rather than a baked potato. Possibly some risoni - it's the best of both worlds, really!

I'm not saying I'm going to change my habits overnight, and start cooking a multitude of knife requiring dishes. But I'm not going to automatically declare it too much work. Because this really was a cinch to make, despite my apprehensions!

K xx

PS. Having looked at the photo again, I've just realised that the potato looks rather a lot like a bread roll. It's really not... I'd just mashed up the inside with a fork and mixed a little margarine through it...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Versatility

I know it's kind of boring, but when I find a recipe that works for me, I tend to stick with it. Which is why I was rather thrilled to discover that my usual chocolate fudge cake recipe is way more versatile than I'd originally thought. This recipe was a hand-me-down from Mum, who in turn got it from a friend of hers. I've been making it for years, and it's never failed me.

And when a year or so ago, I had some unfortunate encounters with chocolate cupcake recipes (the batter was so thick it climbed the beaters and I spent an hour cleaning out my mixer with Q-tips... Thanks, AWW - triple tested, my arse!), I figured it was time to break out the trusty chocolate cake recipe and see if it would stand up to alterations.

Since then, I've subjected the recipe to a LOT. I've turned it into cupcakes. I've replaced the vanilla with peppermint extract, coconut extract, and orange zest. I've replaced the flour with gluten free flour. And, last weekend, I replaced the milk with orange juice to make it dairy free. It's performed admirably every single time, and it's never failed to get compliments.

I've got some other plans for it, like adding pureed raspberries or white chocolate chips. I'm actually kind of curious to see just how much it takes to turn it into a total failure! I guess I'll just have to keep playing, and see what happens...

K xx

PS. The choc-orange dairy free version was the BOMB. The icing was butter cream made with Nuttelex instead of butter. You need to add a little more sugar than usual to account for the softness of the Nuttelex, and I added orange juice and orange zest to it for flavour. The overall effect was pretty damned awesome, even if I do say so myself!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Confusion...

This arrived in the post for me at work on Friday: 

Awesome. I've been wanting an official Cats scarf for ages, but they're a total rip off at the games, and the sports stores up here don't even bother stocking AFL merchandise *sigh* So last week, I caved and bought one online through the Cats' website (and even with the shipping, it worked out cheaper than buying it at a game). But in addition to receiving just the scarf in the post, I got a great deal of amusement.

Let's start with the care information on the back of the cardboard thingy that lets them be hung on rack in store:

Turn inside out?????? Can anyone explain to me HOW you turn a scarf inside out? Especially when it's got tassels hanging off the ends... I also like the 'cool iron' and 'do not dry clean' lines - God forbid you turn up at Kardinia Park with a creased scarf!!

Then I checked the care label on the scarf itself, assuming that the hangy thing might be used for more than just scarves. It too says to turn it inside out before washing, but that's not what I particularly enjoyed.



No, my favourite part here was the last line (well, the last line besides the distribution information): One size fits most. Seriously? MOST??? It's over a metre long!! Find me the person with a neck circumference of over a metre, and I'll give you...oh, I don't know, a dollar? (Hey, I got my tax return during the week, and I'm classified as a low income earner by the government - a dollar is about all I can spare! Okay, I'm exaggerating. But still. All you're getting is a dollar, dammit!!)

Oh, and I've just remembered that I forgot to take a photo of the "with compliments" slip that came with the scarf. At the bottom of it was a disclaimer - "We only sell Half Cats, not real cats" (Half Cat is the name of the Geelong mascot). The idea of someone turning up at Kardinia Park trying to BUY an actual cat is remarkably entertaining to me. I really need to get out more................

K xx
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