27.2.14

Sweet potato and pumpkin bake with coconut cream

Not so healthy but goddamn tasty, I love making a good bake. Minimal effort for a couple of days' feed is my kind of cooking style. Usually I stick to my staples: potato bake heavy in sour cream, or various chicken and spinach or tuna pasta bakes. Last week I decided to have a crack with some different ingredients, substituting my potato for sweet potato and throwing in coconut cream, mainly because I'm an ethnic who likes that kind of tasting thing. I messed around roughly with the other ingredients but it was basically:

2 medium- to large-sized sweet potatoes, sliced thinly
1/4 japanese pumpkin, skin removed and sliced similarly to potato
1 onion, sliced into rings
1 carrot, sliced thinly
1 can coconut cream
300mL cream
1 cup of grated cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Mix the coconut cream and cream together in a large bowl with a spoon (does not have to be done vigorously, just enough so they're blended together). Drizzle two spoonfuls of this around the bottom of a medium sized baking tray. Then, evenly layer the sliced vegetables on top of each other before evenly pouring the cream mixture over the lot. Pop into the oven for 45 minutes.

Remove from oven, reduce oven temperature to 150 degrees, and evenly cover the top of the dish with grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper before popping back into the oven for 25 minutes. Don't forget to let your dish cool!

The finished product:


Obviously my plating skills are awful enough to make the Masterchef judges weep, and I do need to find some other coloured food (it's so... ORANGE) to serve with it next time but it is quite delicious for something I knocked up from scratch.




17.2.14

Starting my health kick: Curried Quinoa with Roasted Cauliflower

It's finally begun to happen - my days of teenage bliss eating whatever I wanted without any change to my weight are fading away. I've gone up two sizes in the last couple of months, which is a scary prospect for a have-my-cake-and-exercise-later kind of person like me. So one of my big New Year's resolutions will be to get in better shape this year. 

I'm going to start by going for a walk every night, doing some exercises with my new gym ball in front of the telly and starting to make some changes to my diet. My housemate Chris has changed to a more vegetarian-style diet so he's been a great help so far with putting me on to exotic things like quinoa.

I whipped this up last week, with the recipe sourced from here at Fashercise (with much prettier results & pictures!). Curried quinoa with roasted cauliflower, it doesn't get much healthier around my place than this...and it's surprisingly yum!

10.2.14

Mt Ngungun, Glass House Mountains

As any person bread and buttered in the humid suburbs of Brisbane will tell you, there's not a great deal to do in the city itself, and compared to Sydney and Melbourne it can seem a bit of a cultural wasteland. However, if you venture just a few minutes' drive outside town the landscape is littered with natural sights and things to do; bushwalks, beaches and swimming holes just to name a few.

The Glass House Mountains are about an hour's drive out of Brisbane on the way up to the Sunshine Coast. They were named by Captain Cook, who was obviously long overdue for a Specsavers appointment as they don't really resemble any glass house I've ever seen (#dem1770seyes). Formed by the erosion and exposure of rhyolitic plugs, they are a pretty dramatic feature of South East Queensland's landscape and vary widely in climbing difficulty.

Begrudgingly admitting we weren't expert climbers, we tackled Mt Ngungan, one of the smaller peaks standing at 220m. Low cloud cover meant the walk was a little less comfortable than I'd imagined in the humidity, but easy enough along the well tracked path that meanders up the mountain. There were a fair few other people at the summit when we arrived, but not an annoying amount, and the panoramic views were really impressive and worth the sweaty walk.


5.2.14

Travel Catchups: A day in Cardiff, land of handsome men


The UK has the most boss train network (yes that's a technical term), something that Australia fails massively at. Here, even the track gauges between states are different. I just found out last week that we even have a train service that runs to Toowoomba (a city 2 hours' drive west) but it runs twice a week and takes four hours. No thanks.

So as an Australian, the fact that I could get a high-speed train at almost any time of the day not only to a different state but a different country was a rather awesome novelty. Which is what we did when we had some time to kill on Christmas Eve in Bristol, by getting a train across the border into Wales and hanging around Cardiff for a couple of hours.

Probably it was because it was Christmas Eve there wasn't much going on, but we had a nice day walking around, seeing the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff Castle, wandering down to Cardiff Bay and laughing at the ridiculously long Welsh translations on things. I have every respect for the Welsh language, and think it's totally cool the country is officially bi-lingual, but there is a certain hilarity to words like "Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch" (a place on Anglesey we saw on a sign). 

As an interesting aside, we also noted that Cardiff had the highest number of good looking, dark haired young men we saw on our entire trip. 

That didn't help us much when we went to get the train back home though, when some poorly given directions and the Christmas Eve/flood chaos meant we ended up nearly halfway across the country in Swindon and had to risk a sneaky free ride back to Bristol. DAMN YOU SWINDON!!

But yeah. Cardiff was nice.



3.2.14

Travel Catchups: Bath & Bristol

Any sadness we felt leaving London was replaced with frustration and boredom when, on the Saturday morning we were due to catch a bus to Salisbury at 7am, we missed the bus by a couple of minutes and were forced to wait 4 hours for the next service in uncomfortable Victoria Coach Station. One thing is to be said for National Express though, their service was amazing - when I was completely dismayed and asked one of the assistants checking people onto the buses what to do he directed me to their office across the station where a gruff employee was able to book us onto the next available seats free of charge. I'm pretty sure here at home you'd be made to pay for another ticket!

After much listless conversation and observation of the unusually high number of crippled, legless pigeons that hobble around Victoria station we were finally on the bus and on the motorway to Salisbury. The original plan had been to spend a couple of hours there and visit Stonehenge before our afternoon train to Bath but it was a miserable rainy day and our time was severely limited so we sat in the train station for a few hours instead.

With that pretty unsuccessful day behind us, it was a huge relief when we FINALLY arrived in Bath in the evening and found our couchsurfing hosts' house. Jez and Fernanda were amazing hosts and staying in their home with delicious food, a comfortable bed and their adorable Boston terrier Nigel felt like heaven after a week in the hostel in London. We spent our days wandering around town, visiting the Roman baths (of course) and the Royal Crescent, which I was so excited about after seeing it in various period dramas on TV. We even got to attend the local Christmas service with our hosts, which ticked off the 'have a Songs of Praise-esque experience' on my mental checklist. 




It was then onto Bristol, which I didn't know much about beforehand other than it was the filming location of Skins, but I had a brilliant time there and met a few new friends in the process. The city obviously isn't anywhere near the size of London so everything was within a nice walking distance. The shopping precinct in the centre of town is large with everything I needed/wanted (hello Primark...), there are plenty of art galleries and other trendy sights to see, and the street art is better than anywhere else I've been. This is, after all, the home of Banksy. 

My friend Tom left on Boxing Day and flew off to Ireland for a week so I spent my last couple of days walking around town, including up to the Clifton Suspension Bridge where the views are stunning.


31.1.14

I have gone DIY mad

With still a month to go before uni goes back, and working only 3 full days a week (Centrelink issues...ya feel me) I have a lot of spare time on my hands which has gone into the following creations about the house:


DIY Canopy

The easiest way ever to spruce up your bedroom, all you need is a large stick (we found mine in a nearby park), some spray paint (to spruce up said stick - I used silver metallic for some extra pizazz), and about 4 metres of fabric to drape (I used tulle from Lincraft at $3.50/m). Weave whatever decorations you like through it - in my case the fairy lights I had strung up outside - pop it on a wall hook, et voila! 



Fabric Letters

Super simple - buy some papier mache letters from your local craft store, choose a fabric you like (I bought about a quarter of a metre of pink plaid) and glue, or even staple, away to your hearts content! Pictured is my friend/design partner Tom's creation - as you can see his turned out a lot better and neater. Es are hard. I'll probably pop mine on my desk somewhere, once it gets a good tidy!


Fused Plastic Clutch

Really a spur of the moment thing, I was reading about fusing plastic and thought this would be a nice way to keep the Game of Thrones plastic bag they gave out free at Supanova this year. So I cut the bag into half and trimmed the half I was using into a square. I took a couple of plain plastic bags and cut them to fit the shape before ironing the pieces of plastic layered together (the GoT printed on top) between two pieces of baking paper. The iron was set on a fairly low temperature setting to prevent melting. 

Once I knew they were fused (rub the piece between two fingers and if it makes a crinkling noise it's not ready!) I folded the plastic into 3 pieces, ensuring that the third I intended to use as the closing flap was smaller than the other two thirds. I pinned the sides together, and pinned the corners of the top third into the middle of it to make it look like a clutch. Then it was time to whip out my primary school sewing skillz, and I chain stitched around the edges with pink yarn to make it look a little more interesting. The corners that were folded inside the top third I lopped off with scissors - as I'm not giving this anyone I really didn't care about inside finishes. 

So there you have it, I have both an interesting piece I can take out with me and I saved a neat bag I probably would've ended up chucking out otherwise.


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Stay tuned for more DIY adventures, as I have a heap in my head and my Pinterest activity has skyrocketed in the last couple of weeks...

22.1.14

Travel catchups: London town


My whole life I've pined to travel to one place in the world more than anywhere else: the UK. Perhaps it was due to being raised on a tv diet of gritty British police dramas (notwithstanding The Bill post-2004), or the allure of seeing iconic buildings several times older than 'Australia' itself, or even just because I like all the different accents. In December I finally realised the dream, survived a gruelling 26-hour plane trip that took me through Taiwan and Thailand and found myself inhabiting a little hostel in Shepherds Bush for a week. 

I'm not one to shy away from exploring new places but looking at the tube map in my first few minutes after arriving at Heathrow I felt a little daunted by the spider's web of train lines criss-crossing one another, but it took no time before I'd figured it out, got to Hammersmith, changed lines to get to Shepherd's Bush Market, and got my first red double-decker bus to the hostel. 

Exploring the city was tiring work but we squeezed a lot into what felt like a very short week - even seeing the Queen returning with her corgis to Buckingham Palace on our first afternoon! And I'd like to think I began to look like a local, after being asked directions several times by English people around town (and having the gall to direct one lady on the tube to Westminster - successfully!!).

London was everything I'd imagined - rainy, enormous, fashionable, multicultural - I could go on. I absolutely loved my time there and my ten year plan is definitely going to include a stint as a resident!