Monday, February 28, 2011

Oscars day!

Yes, I spent a decent chunk of my day hitting F5 on The Age's live blog of the Oscars. What of it? After Avatar (which I still haven't seen and have no plans TO see) was nominated for everything ever last year, it was nice to see some movies with actual plots nominated for a change.

But let's be honest. Mostly I just wanted to say COLIN FIRTH WON AN OSCAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And he totally deserved it - he was absolutely brilliant in The King's Speech. Having said that, let's all reminisce about the days when he looked like this:

Source

Source

Source

Source

*sigh* Wait. Maybe not that last one...

;)

K xx

Friday, February 25, 2011

Meme time!

I've seen this one around the bloggy traps for a while now, but given that it's a tagging people thing, I haven't gotten to participate until now. And it's all thanks to Amy over at Life's Journey with a Smile for tagging EVERYONE when she did it the other day. Thanks Amy!

So, here's the deal - answer the questions, and post a photo of your handwritten answers so that everyone can see what your handwriting looks like! Kind of random, but fun all the same. Here are the questions:

Questions:
1. What's your name/blogger name?
2. What's your blog's URL?
3. Write "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog."
4. Favorite quote?
5. Favorite song?
6. Favorite band/singers?
7. Anything else...?
8. Tag 3-5 other peeps (and no, I did not write the 'peeps' part. The original said that!)

And here's my answers:
 
I actually wrote this on Wednesday, and meant to post it then, but I started watching Fringe and got distracted by Joshua Jackson the plot. So the story at number 7 is a couple of days out of date, but it's still nasty...
 
So there you have it - my first meme, and a sneak peek at my handwriting :) Feel free to play along even if you haven't been tagged!
 
K xx

PS. I just read in a trashy magazines that my future husband, Jake Gyllenhaal, is dating Jennifer Aniston AGAIN. Oh, Jake. When WILL you learn? (Also, get your arse to Canberra already...) ;)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Challenge recipe 5: Tom kha gai

I first tried tom kha gai when we were at our little cooking class in Thailand last year holy shit you guys, it was in 2009! o.O Anyway, it was totally delicious, and there's a recipe for it in the cookbook we got as part of the class, so I had every intention of making it when I got home. Only then I got home and couldn't find a key ingredient - galangal. I've been searching for it (to be fair, pretty half heartedly) since November 2009 without success. Until last week - I had a day off work to make cupcakes for Em's hen's weekend and needed to go to the supermarket for a few things. So I took the opportunity to trawl through the Asian supermarkets in search of galangal. And, after THREE supermarkets didn't have it (although one did have something scary called "Instant Jellyfish"...), the fourth had the pickled kind. Which meant I could FIIIIIINALLY make tom kha gai #hellsyeah

Anywho. Here's the book:

And here's what you'll need. It may look complicated, but it's actually surprisingly easy:

Oh, and I should mention, this makes one serve... Start by removing the outer leaves from a stalk of lemongrass, and slicing up about half of it:

Then chop the tops off two small red chillis. Remove the seeds if you don't want it to be as spicy:

Next, peel and slice up the shallot (technically it should be a Thai shallot, but I figure French shallots are basically the same!):

Then break out the galangal - it's a relative of ginger, only different. It's less...intense...than ginger, but looks much the same. You'll need about 5cm:

I rinsed it in some cold water to get rid of some of the saltiness, and then sliced it:

Then slice up a handful of chicken breast. Yes, the recipe actually says a handful. No, I have no idea how much that is either. I used 2/3 of a chicken breast:

Dump coconut milk and water into a saucepan. You need a total of 270mL. The recipe calls for 70mL coconut milk and 200mL water. But if you like it richer, you can reverse the proportions, or use any combination of proportions in between - I did half and half (Oh, also? Apologies for the photos. I only realised last night that the reason I had to use the flash is because I had my ISO set on 200. #fail):

Heat it to a boil, then reduce the temperature to a simmer and add the chicken:

While the chicken's cooking (which should only take a couple of minutes), place a tablespoon of caster sugar in a small bowl:

Add in 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce (the recipe actually calls for fish sauce, but ew):

And 1 tablespoon of lime juice. I love lime juice, so I just made it 1 lime worth of juice. Mix it all together:

Then add the sauce, lemongrass, chillis, shallot and galangal to the saucepan, along with two kaffir lime leaves:

Return to the boil, then pour the whole lot into a bowl, and serve with rice and steamed veggies:

The verdict? I've ordered tom kha gai in restaurants a couple of times seeing as I couldn't find galangal, and it's always contained mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, which just seems kind of weird to me. So to FINALLY be able to make it the way we learnt in Thailand was both ridiculously exciting, and slightly terrifying that it wouldn't live up to my ridiculously high expectations. But it did. It's creamy and spicy and filled with flavour. And it's pretty simple, once you've chopped up all the herbs/spices - I think it only took about 20 minutes to have the whole thing on the table.

To be perfectly honest, it was a bit too spicy for my liking, so I'd probably only use one chilli in the future. But apart from that, it's a magnificent dish and definitely my favourite of the challenge so far. Oh, and the recipe says that you can replace the chicken with a handful of vegetables, so even vegetarians can give it a whirl! Sure, tracking down the galangal might be a bit of a pain, but once you've got it (and I got an enormous jar of the stuff for $2.95!), you can make Thai food to your heart's content!

Give it a go, and let me know what you think :)

K xx

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Je suis un failcake...

So I had grand plans for posting another challenge recipe tonight. But I'm not really firing on all cylinders today in the brain department - I was staring out the window of the bus on the way home, and spent two minutes wondering who would bother designing arks for carp before I realised that the sign said "CARPARK". To be fair, it was across two windows and the break was between the P and the A, so it did look a little like CARP ARK, but basically I iz speshul.

As evidenced by the fact that I sat down to dinner, tasted it, and realised I'd forgotten to add half the ingredients......... Thankfully, I was able to dump it back in the pot and add the missing ingredients without any issues, but still. It's not exactly a stumper of a recipe!

So anywho, between the being special and the fact that the Blogger photo uploader is generally being a bitch and uploading all my photos in Portrait orientation (meaning I have to go in and individually edit them into Landscape orientation), it's 10.50 and I'm still fucking about. Here's hoping that tomorrow, I'm less of a failcake and can actually get this damned recipe posted. Cos it's totally worth it, even if one of the ingredients requires a total treasure hunt to locate!

K xx

Monday, February 21, 2011

Whoops...

So you know how I started my cookbook challenge partly to stop myself from buying new recipe books? And how I said I wasn't allowed to buy any more until I'd finished making the 28 recipes? Yeah... Apparently Borders had other ideas. It's very rude of them to go into administration when I had a $100 gift card in my wallet. And even ruder of them to insist that you spend the same amount in cash as the voucher is worth. I usually have problems finding novels at Borders - for some reason, the one up here only never seems to stock book 1 of a series, which drives me insane. But cookbooks? I have no problems finding those.

So when I knew I had to spend $100 above the value of the voucher, I figured it was a good chance to buy something I've been considering for a while but have always deemed far too expensive. This:

Annoyingly, you can get it from Borders online for $90, because they're having a "spend over $50, get a discount" thing online at the moment. But in store, it was $143, which made me a bit cranky. But there's not a lot I could do about that, because they're not honouring gift cards online any more. Sigh...

Aaaaaaaaaanyway, it's 1,126 pages of hints and ideas, all sorted by ingredient. Sure, there's some seriously nasty chapters on tripe and liver and brains and *shudder* trotters, but just off a quick flip through, I came up with 75 recipes that I'd really like to try. So while I may have broken my "no buying cookbooks until the challenge is over" rule, it is - as the back cover says - the book for a lifetime of cooking.

And yes, I'll be including a couple of recipes in the challenge. The BIGGER challenge will be working out which two it should be!

K xx

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Things I'm grateful for

For some reason, I'm feeling spectacularly reflective this evening. So, without further ado, here we have a short list of things I'm grateful for:
  • That the weather is cool enough this week to have soup for dinner.
  • That, despite all the crap going on at work, I have managers who support me and are willing to help me work through all the options
  • That the redback spider my housemate D noticed yesterday is OUTSIDE the house, not inside
  • Reaper. It makes me laugh
  • My parents. They may drive me completely batshit crazy on a regular basis, but I know that they'll support me whatever I do. And the fact that if I ring my Dad and say "Can you collect 20L of Yarra water for us?", he'll say "Sure! How do I get it to Canberra?" rather than "Will I get danger money?" like a normal person.
  • Kat. Not only for our mutual misery society, but for our (in the very early stage of planning) forthcoming trip to the US - woop woop!!!!
  • Two Guys and a Girl. Ryan Reynolds and Nathan Fillion in one show? Hells yes.
  • Chocolate. Nothing more need be said.
  • The Registration, Conservation and Mount Making teams. For the most part, Curatorial don't understand my epic nerdiness. But the others? The number of conversations we've had about Firefly, Dr. Horrible, Buffy, True Blood, and Star Wars are rather astonishing.
  • 20SB. It's nice to know that there are other people out there who are equally neurotic/nerdy/obsessed with baking!
  • The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board for coming up with this. My arteries are hardening already. Yum!
Well, I think that probably does it for now. Your regular snark/sarcasm/complaining shall recommence shortly ;)

K xx

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mmmmm, deep fried goodness...

This weekend marks one of the few highlights of living in Canberra - the annual Multicultural Festival. It usually falls on either the hottest day of the year, or the stormiest day of the year. This year, thankfully, it was slightly humid and pretty overcast, but not too hot and not actually raining. Miracle!

The photos are a bit crap because I didn't want to carry my SLR around while pushing through crowds, so I took my point and shoot. I now remember why I bought my SLR...

Anyway, there's usually a whole group of people from work heading in, but this year for whatever reason, there wasn't. I headed in quite early to try and avoid the worst of the crowds. My first priority was this:
Inca Kola, soft drink of the gods. Or, as Jamie referred to it this morning, nuclear cola. It's rather appropriate, given its fluorescence, don't you think?

Anyway, the past two years, I've been able to find Ecuadorian/Salvadorian/some other kind of South American food stall selling Inca Kola. This year? NOTHING. I got momentarily excited when I came across a Peruvian stall. But they sold nothing but orange juice. ORANGE JUICE!!! *sigh* I was more than a little upset by the lack of Inca Kola. Although the blow was lessened by the existence of a Peruvian chicken shop 10 minutes up the road in Belconnen that sells Inca Kola, it's been the highlight of the Multicultural Festival the past two years. I settled for bottled water instead. Not nearly as much fun...

Oh, and I saw these tiny kids (they were probably between 6 and 8, I think) doing something that looked like the Haka, only Polynesian. They clearly took their performance very seriously, and whenever one of them would do something wrong, he'd freak out and make extra fierce faces to cover up his mistake.

And apparently my camera thought I wanted photos of the people in front of me's heads... Awesome. Shortly after this, I came across a bagpiper in full Scottish regalia playing Scotland the Brave outside the ATO. It struck me as remarkably entertaining for some reason. But then he moved onto playing Waltzing Matilda, which should DEFINITELY not be played on the bagpipes, and I had to run away.

Anyway, after wandering around for 45 minutes fruitlessly searching for soft drink dyed with highlighters and watching tiny children dance like warriors, I gave up and decided it was time to hit the food stalls. I started out with a vegetarian quesadilla from a Mexican stall.

It seemed to have some kind of spinach and potato concoction in it, along with the obligatory quesadilla cheese and red salsa. It was pretty damned good, although I managed to cover myself in salsa by neglecting to pick up napkins...

Then I met up with Leah, and we wandered off in search of more food. She tried some Ethiopian samosas (the vegetarian ones contained lentils instead of potato, but I'm still not sure how samosas are a traditional Ethiopian food...), and then we queued up for these:

Czech potato pancakes. And they were really good, although they could have done with a squeeze of lemon juice on the top to add a little zing. They reminded me quite a lot of latkes, only bigger and crispier. Which reminds me - there was an Israeli food stand there, but it appeared to sell Turkish/Lebanese food. It was all hummus and felafels and tabbouleh. Very perplexing...

Anyway, then we had a wander around some of the stalls and came across this display of folk dancing. I have no idea where it was from, but they appeared to be having a good time!
Lots of jumping and twirling in circles, accompanied by some *very* special socks...

Eventually, we decided it was time to give up on savoury food and move onto dessert. And there was only one thing that we both wanted: churros.


I love churros. These were crispier than most that I've had, but DAMN, they were good. And filling. I'd been planning on indulging in a Polish doughnut (I'm still disappointed that they ran out last year) and some cannoli from the Sicilian stall as well, but by the time I finished the churros (and yes, I drank the leftover chocolate. Stop judging me...), I thought it best to stop before someone (me) had a heart attack.

So this year's Multicultural Festival wasn't *quite* the eating marathon that I thought it would be. Despite that, I still think I consumed an entire month's worth of calories in one sitting!! And it was worth every single one of them. Although I'm somewhat regretting not getting some curry or some noodles. But that definitely would have been overkill!

K xx

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Little help?

I've been thinking for a while now about applying to do my PhD. And within the past week or so, I've been thinking about it more seriously. But if I *do* end up applying, I'll have a range of decisions to make.

First of all, there's which universities to apply to. But more importantly, I have three choices in terms of subject matter:

1. Museum studies.
2. Archaeology.
3. History.

I don't think I could cope with museum studies - three years of studying museum theory? No, thank you. I had to do a semester of archaeological theory in my Honours year, and it nearly killed me. Museum theory isn't much better. Which leaves archaeology and history. With archaeology, I could probably go back to my undergrad university and continue the research I did for my Honours degree.

And with history, I could either make the research from my Honours degree more of a straight history study, rather than including the archaeological implications in it. Or I could do something on early colonial Melbourne. And I could probably include museum objects in there so that my PhD had *some* museum connection.

So there's THAT decision. Plus, there's the whole "Can I live on a PhD scholarship ($22,000 a year) for three years?" thing to consider. I had thought that maybe I could get some part time work to top up the scholarship. But at least one of the universities I'm looking at specifies that to be eligible for a scholarship, you can't work more than 8 hours a week... I *can* always move back in with my parents. But do I *really* want to be living with my parents until I'm *shudder* 31?? :S

Apparently, in the long run, a PhD is a very smart career move. And it makes sense to do it now rather than when I'm older and don't have the moving back home thing to fall back on. But there are FAR too many decisions involved for me to do this on my own.

Basically, I suck at making my own decisions, and I'd like some opinions on both the "should I do it?" front AND the archaeology vs history front. Please???

K xx

Monday, February 7, 2011

Challenge recipe 4: Muffins that taste like doughnuts

Yes, you read the title right. They're pretty quick and easy, and totally worth trying!

Let's start with the book:

This is my handwritten recipe book, filled with stuff I've stolen from my mum, from friends, and copied out of newspapers and magazines. So obviously, I've made this recipe before. But I haven't made it *here* before, and that's ultimately what matters!

Anyway, here's what you'll need. Oh, plus some butter for the topping that I apparently forgot to put in the shot. Whoops!

Start by sifting 1.75 cups of plain flour into a bowl:

Then add 1.5 teaspoons of baking powder...

...1/2 teaspoon of salt...

...1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg...

...and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon.

Mix it all together. Then, in a separate bowl, take 1/3 cup oil...

...3/4 cup of white sugar (I used castor - same difference, really!)...

...an egg...

...and 3/4 cup of milk.

Whisk it all together. Looks tasty, huh?

Then add it to the dry ingredients, and mix until just combined.

Dump it all into a greased (with spray oil, of course. I'm lazy like that!) muffin tray. I once again used a 1/4 cup measure to make sure it was divided evenly:

And bake at 180 degrees for 20-25 minutes. I'd err on the 20 minutes side, personally. While they're in the oven, mix together 3/4 cup of white sugar (again, I used castor) and a teaspoon of cinnamon:

And melt 1/2 cup of butter. (Sorry about the craptastic, out of focus photo. The oven timer was going off, and my camera couldn't auto find a focal point, so I had to use manual focus. And I'm not very good at it!)

When the muffins come out of the oven, test them with a toothpick, then immediately tip them onto a cooling rack.While they're still hot, dip the tops into the melted butter, and then into the cinnamon sugar:

If you really felt the need to, I'm sure you could coat the entire muffin in butter and sugar. But that's far too much like hard work as far as I'm concerned! Oh, also? It saves on the clean up if you stick a piece of baking paper under the cooling rack.

The verdict? Well, I already knew what the verdict was on these, even though I haven't made them since before I moved to Canberra almost (argh) three years ago. They're awesome. They really do taste like cinnamon doughnuts, only without the whole deep frying part. Sure, you dip them in melted butter, but I'm still willing to bet they're better for you than an actual doughnut!! Oh, and for the record? Eat them warm. And if it's not warm from the oven, 20 seconds in the microwave will more than do the trick. A cold muffin is a sad muffin.

Give them a go sometimes - the Canadians really know what they're talking about when it comes to both muffins and doughnuts (oh, wait. I forgot to mention - this recipe was originally from that infamous book, Muffin Mania!)

K xx

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Twitter - I has it

Yes, that's right, folks. I've joined the 21st century, and now have Twitter! Who knew it was so useful for stalking celebrities networking with other bloggers and finding out what's new with cultural institutions around the world?!

I must now confess that the first person I followed was Nathan Fillion. Not only do I adore him and love everything I've seen him in (speaking of which, I'm rewatching Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place at the moment. Aaaaaaaah, 1998...), but he's hilarious on Twitter.

Anywhosit, if you want, you can follow me - @melbsonmymind. (Apparently melbourneonmymind is a whopping TWO CHARACTERS too long for Twitter to cope with. *Sigh*)

K xx

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Excitement plus!

So you know how the past couple of weeks I've been all "This week was a suckfest" and "Wah, poor me" and "Pity party, table for one"? Yeah. I'm sick of that shit. Because I realised today I have a whole lot of stuff coming up in the next couple of months that's exciting, and I should just ignore all the crap that's going on at work, and focus on the good stuff instead.

So what's the good stuff? Well, there's:
  • The Canberra Multicultural Festival next weekend. I'm pretty much not going to eat for the whole of next week so I can stuff myself with delicious food
  • The fact that Grey's Anatomy is FINALLY back in about a minute. Woohoo!!
  • The fact that Farmer Wants a Wife starts back next Wednesday. I'm frighteningly excited about it
  • The fact that I'm not a teacher. Mum told me a story today about how she and another teacher had to look after the preschoolers during naptime, and one of the kids peed her pants. The other teacher picked up the kid's sleeping bag, and a river of pee poured out of it onto the other teacher's feet. Eeeeeeeeeeeeuw...
  • My work buddy I's roller derby debut at the end of the month. GO FEMAELSTROM!!
  • Em's hen's weekend.
  • Install. Finally, after almost two years of me working on this project (and that's WAY less time than some people have been working on it!), we're starting to install the gallery, which makes the whole thing seem real. Plus, the nerd factor with the registration and conservation staff? Way higher than curatorial. They actually understand my Firefly/Pride and Prejudice and Zombies/Star Wars references!!
  • Em and Matt's wedding in March
  • The fact that when my niece, Little Miss A, started Prep on Monday morning, the only thing she was concerned about was the fact that she had to wear socks. He he he. Hilarity!
  • My little cooking challenge, which is proceeding nicely.
  • Being back at the gym four hours a week.
I think that's probably enough to be getting on with. Oh, and did I mention the Multicultural Festival? I did? Well, I'm mentioning it again. It's totally the highlight of living in Canberra, even if it does seem to always fall on the hottest day of the year!!

K xx

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Challenge recipe 3: Chocolate mousse

Given the forecast hot weather (which has presented itself in fine form - it's been 38 degrees two days running now, and we're heading for "a cooler 34 degrees" tomorrow, according to the news), I felt that a cold dessert was in order to go along with the stupidly healthy salad that I posted yesterday. I had two cold desserts on my list - this, and berry and mint sorbet. But the sorbet is from the Biggest Loser cookbook, and that was just far too much healthiness for one meal! So I went with this calorie-laden naughtiness instead.

Let's start with the book, as usual:

And here's what you'll need:

Pretty simple stuff, huh? Start by breaking off a row of the chocolate (you need 200g of dark chocolate, btw), and putting it in the fridge to use for chocolate shavings later. Break up the rest of the chocolate, and put it in a bowl:

Then add half the cream - just over half a cup:

Place the bowl (oh yeah - you need to make sure it's heat proof!) over a saucepan of boiling water...

...and stir until all the chocolate has melted:

Try not to eat the whole lot with a spoon. It'll actually taste better once you've turned it into mousse. Surprising, I know! Leave it to cool for at least five minutes.

Meanwhile, separate three eggs:

Eeeeeeeeeuw... Kinda grody, no? When the chocolate mixture has cooled, add the egg yolks one at a time, and stir them in. And apparently I neglected to take a photo of this part. But frankly, I think you can handle mixing egg yolks into chocolate!

Meanwhile, put the three egg whites into a large bowl, and attack them with your handy dandy beater:

When they've formed soft peaks, add in two tablespoons of castor sugar, one teaspoon at a time.

Mix in between additions of sugar until dissolved. By the end of it, you've effectively got meringue:

But don't chuck it in the oven and make a pavlova. Instead, dump it into the chocolate mixture in two chunks:

Fold it through until it's smooth. Don't stir it - that'll knock all the air out of the egg white, and you'll just end up with some kind of weird-arse chocolate soup... And that would be bad...

Pour it into ramekins. The recipe claims that it makes four 2/3 cup servings. But I divided it between six containers, and that much was tons as far as I'm concerned!

Cover the ramekins in Glad Wrap, and put them in the fridge for at least three hours, ideally longer. When you're ready to serve the mousse, pour the rest of the cream into a small bowl and beat the crap out of it. But not too much, or you'll end up with butter. And that would be bad...

Place a dollop of cream on top of the mousse, then grab that remaining bit of chocolate and go at it with a vegetable peeler. Et voila - chocolate mousse!

The verdict? Okay, this is the FREAKING BOMB. It's light and fluffy, and deliciously rich. It's got a slight note of bitterness from the dark chocolate, and apparently you can add orange zest or a dash of liqueur to the recipe for some extra tang. It's insanely bad for you (if you make four servings as per the recipe, each serving contains over 600 calories...), but GodDAMN, it's worth every single hour of torture at the gym it'll take to work it off.

And best of all? It's a cinch to make, and is bound to impress. Give it a go - and if you try the orange zest/liqueur approach, let me know how it turns out!

Enjoy!! (No, seriously. This one is actually worth trying at home...)

K xx
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