Friday, December 21
In other news I did a test run on the roast pork that we're coking for Christmas tonight...The crackle was perfectly crispy and the meat was good, basted overnight in garlic and thyme. I cooked it on a bed of red onion and pear...tasty! But enough food talk because I'm full! Happy Christmas lead up and such!
Wednesday, December 19
Does give us another hour or so to attempt to tidy the Christmas explosion that is our apartment at the moment!
Tuesday, December 18
Nearly finished wrapping presents, yay! Must be time for one of those aforementioned beverages :D
Monday, December 17
Anyhow, I am writing this nonfocussed rant for the simple purpose of posting pics of our typically unorthodox Christmas tree, complete with dragons, chilies and a Croatian bread heart. This year we also have a real Christmas wreath which smells divine! We couldn't bear to put it on the outside of the door (ok, so the door turned out to be so thick that we physically couldn't fit the hook over it...) but it makes the house smell all foresty and sweet when you first walk in so our miscalculation turned into a bonus :D
We've had quite a few Christmas parties lately, mostly work related but we did have a couple of the girls over for an early vegetarian Christmas dinner because our vego friend was heading home for the holidays. Pretty tough to cook something suitable and tasty when one guest is vego and another doesn't eat mushrooms! But we came up with a pretty tasty layered vegi bake that was a cross between moussaka and lasagna, with plenty of eggplant, zucchini, fennel and heaps of other yummies. We've also had a few interesting "present exchanges" lately that have been a bit of an eye opener for us Aussies! The first was at an all girls party where we all brought gifts for the exchange then spent quite a lot of time working out the best way to randomly distribute them...from complex algorithms to a 'pin the tail on the donkey' style blindfolded snatch and grab (and probably crash and fall). Eventually we settled on drawing a number out of a hat (to determine your turn order) then setting up the presents in a circle and playing 'spin the bottle' to pick one! As untoppable as I thought that one was, the exchange at the lab BBQ yesterday was something else entirely! No idea what they call it but it seems to be some kind of American tradition for these exchanges, where you either select a present from under the tree (if you touch it you have to take it), then open it in front of the entire group. Then the next person who goes has the choice of either picking one from the tree or stealing yours! Chaos! We managed to score a beautiful (real) tree...about a meter tall, only to have it stolen and replace by a jar of blue cheese in oil >_< Luckily the person who stole it from us lost it again to the 10 year old with no tree at his house. Fun times :)
More updates soon. Our friend Kate arrives tomorrow! We're looking forward to having a house guess to share the 'holiday season' with.
Saturday, December 8
So our final destination was a place called The Salt Lick, which turned out to be a ranch sized BBQ place. It was a drizzly cold early winter day, probably 10 degrees but misty and wet with a nasty pervasive wind the got under every layer of clothing, so walking in the door of the Salt Lick was like walking into heaven! The BBQ pit was inside this HUGE shed, like a shearing shed, but filled with tables and noise and heat and people. The BBQ smelt incredible and I was basically drooling before we even sat down! While we were waiting for our table we got to watch them at the BBQ chopping up the ribs and smoking the sausages...mmm
Once seated at a rough wooden table in the veranda section of the shed (covered in but we got to watch the rain) we quickly ran through the menu, but opted for 'family style' which turned out to be all you can eat bits of just about everything! Our waiter turned up with plates of brisket, sausage and the best BEST sticky pork ribs I have EVER tasted in my entire life...they were fall of the bone soft and tough and crunch all at once, with this amazing dark sticky sauce - they put any other rib I've had here to absolute shame. We also had potato salad (not a creamy one...hard to describe but gooood), beans, pickles, coleslaw that wasn't creamy but had a lemony sesame dressing and fluffy white bread. It also came with their signature BBQ sauce and a habenero (spicy) version that cut through the smokyness of the brisket and sausages just so perfectly. The Salt Lick was BYO in the true sense, so we had our esky at one end of the table and thems who like beer drank beer and we cracked open an old vine Californian zin that seemed to be made for the day (Gnarly Head) - sweet and spicy with a good solid kick.
And once again nothing but a food post! But with food this good, how can I not!
Friday, November 30
And just in case the last day is less than perfect, one more youtube clip to cheer you :) Cake or Death! (er, cake please)
We're up to our ears in turkey and chicken stock post Thanksgiving yummyness, and the other night we cooked a boned leg of Australian lamb (!!) on the rotisserie. It was gorgeous! I rubbed it in garlic, olive oil, pepper and preserved lemon and stuffed it with rosemary, leek and garlic...mmmm Sadly no pics because the hungry Australian masses snapped it up almost as soon as it hit the plate. We had cooked the same cut in the oven a month or so ago but this method was much juicier. Only problem with the rotisserie is it took me nearly an hour to get the pre-seared and marinated hunk of meat onto the spit, strung up and all evenly distributed. Oh well, totally worth it.
Today's youtube moment is not suitible or safe for work, and if you're offended by swearing don't watch it. But it is funny - an Eddie Izzard skit about the death star canteen animated lego style.
Monday, November 26
The day started with me sticking my herb-buttered hand inside the body cavity of a dead bird and got better from there.
The plan was to eat at around 3.30, so we didn't have to get up crazily early to get things going. We ended up with 10 adults and 2 kids, so a great size to cook for really. I was in charge of the turkey (a 19 pound organic beauty), two chickens of the same ilk (cooked on the BBQ rotisserie), the potato bake, vegetarian stuffing and gravy. We also had roast vegies, green bean casserole (a weird American tradition made with tinned mushroom soup and crispy onions), mashed red potatoes, oyster stuffing, baked ham and a tofurky for the vego. Ooh, and we had aussie style prawns on the barbie as an appetizer! And lets not forget the desserts...There was apple pie (classic), lemon meringue pie (yummy!!) and pumpkin pie (eek) with cool whip...a synthetic cream substitute that Americans can't seem to get enough of!
Even the temperature was perfect - The day before thanksgiving it had been about 30 degrees, until a cold front swept through in the afternoon and dropped it to single digits, where it has stayed ever since! All in all it was a brilliant day. I'm finally beginning to realise that there's something amazing about preparing food and sharing it with people you care about. I got asked what I wanted for Christmas the other day and the only think I could think of that I really wanted was ingredients to cook that person dinner! We really should instigate thanksgiving in Australia and you know what...November 24th is an excellent date for it ;)
Saturday, November 24
Thursday, November 22
Jo is feelin better. I took her to the doctor yesterday and she has a chest infection, but the drugs seem to be helping and speedily too.
And just to keep you occupied while I'm away, here's a true YouTube classic which you have probably all see but it's always worth seeing again! OK Go!
Monday, November 19
And for today's YouTube clip, something clever and not animated in any way. Stick with it because it takes a while to warm up. It's Daft Punk sung by a hand (well, two hands). Trust me...I'm a doctor ;)
And yes, I admit that I've been getting into music made by robots lately...sometimes the geekiness scares even me.
Sunday, November 18
And for today's YouTube clip... This one was first shown to me by Wills and Imogen and has since become a cult phenomonon in many online communities. "The Mysterious Ticking Noise"
Friday, November 16
Today's YouTube clip blows me away every time I see it. More stop motion of a very different kind, this one animates the construction of the Lego Millennium Falcon. My friend Matt (Lego freak + star wars freak) recently bought this one and it is HUGE. 5000+ pieces, just less than a meter long, with an instruction manual that looks more like a thesis!
Thursday, November 15
Jo is recovering but still has a nasty cough. It seems some of our other colleagues silly enough to subject themselves to being stabbed and pumped full of dead viral material in the hope of protecting themselves against two or three flu strains have also come down sick! My case grows stronger...
This weekend and next week are looking busy, with a party on Saturday night (and 60 people to BBQ for, Aussie style - beetroot and all) then Thanksgiving on Thursday! So stay tuned for more food blogging (I know you wait with baited breath, right??)
Oh, and I've been watching a lot of random YouTube stuff lately so I'm going to be progressively linking some of the most incredible, hilarious, clever or just odd things I've found. Things that other people really should see! So for the first, here's a (soundless) stop motion wall animation...This one is powerful, strangely chilling (and safe for work)
However, I'm blogging this because not only is the book a wonderful read but it is also a very worthy cause. Proceeds from the book sales (and online donations) go to the Hamlin Fistula Hospitals in Ethiopia.
To find out more about the book, the project or to get sucked in by reading the first few chapters go to www.smithysbook.com or read the related blog http://smithysbook.blogspot.com/
Alan, I really like the changes you made, the ending still made me cry and I couldn't put the bloody thing down until I finished it! More... please more! And congratulations ^_^
Tuesday, November 13
And as a side note, or perhaps the whole point of this post, I was digging through the pics I took while I was in Australia and thought I'd blog a little about the amazing day I had with Kath, Andrew and their little Angus (boy not cow) while I was staying with them in South Australia. Lucky for them (and me) McLaren Vale is just a hop, skip and 20 or so minute drive from their house! We didn't do the wine circuit but we did manage an olive oil tasting! They had discovered a place called The Olive Grove that produces excellent olive oils, so while they topped up their supplies I dipped and ate my way through most of the selection. The lemon infused oil (seasonal) was amazing as was the kalamata EVOO (as the Americans would call it - lazy!), but my favorite by far was the kalamata mustard that had a fantastic amount of bite to it! They have online sales and I enjoyed the tasting so much that I'm happy to give them a plug.
The other incredible place that we went was a bustling little cafe called Blessed Cheese. My stomach has just started rumbling at the thought of it! This place was brilliant, great wine list and just the most incredible food. Now you have to remember that I'd been in the US for a year and a half at least by this point, so the idea of good antipasto was becoming a myth! Sure, we can get stuff that looks like antipasto, but it might as well be playdoh in comparison to the real thing. I will allow the pictures to speak for me but the platter that we ordered was heaven on a, well, platter.
What you can't really see in the picture is the cheese...they have a huge selection from all over (you pick 3) and the pate (behind the salami) that was good enough to rival the one made fresh at the nichols farm in Tassie! Oh boy, if you get a chance, hit McLaren Vale...gogogo
Friday, November 9
Time has passed during which:
- Jac went to Australia for a conference/vacation, hit 4 states in 3 weeks, had an incredible time and almost ate her yearly quota of roast lamb!
- Our friends Clare and Hamish came to visit from Oz via most of the rest of the world and we explored some of the more edible parts of san antonio (plus they went fishing!)
- Jo went to Australia for vacation and hit 2 states in 2 weeks and ate only slightly less lamb
- Our friend Kath came to visit and we spent most of her two days here eating :D
- Jac then went to San Diego for another conference while most of the outlying areas were on fire and the city was full of smoke
I'll probably fill in some of those details later, especially since most of them relate to food in some way ^_^
For now though, everything here is good. It has suddenly become very cool and very dry. While the temp is still pushing 30 at the peak of the day, it is now dropping down to 15 or so at night which is a big shock after months and month of nights over 25! The wind has a bite and long pants are almost a must. I think if we both hadn't recently spent some chilly time in Tassie the cool would be a welcome change, but we had a very mild summer this year with lots of rain so I don't think either of us are ready to say goodbye to the heat yet! Nevermind the fact that our friends John and Jo have just bought a McMansion that includes a glorious blue pool and hot tub!
Speaking of the new house, I spend the last few weekends putting together a truckload (literally) of outdoor furniture, buying and building the king of all BBQs, and cooking for many, many people...brilliant! My recent triumph involved cooking 9 enormous filet mignon steaks to a variety of specified cookednesses while also grilling huge mushies, asparagus, chicken and some nasty tofu riblet thing for the vego...an managing to get it right and all done at the same time! I'll try to get a few snaps of the house and pool soon.
For now though, so that I don't leave this post bare, here are some great and random signs that found in the Adelaide market carpark!
Thursday, August 16
I've been so flat out with work and stuff that I haven't had a chance to really get excited about this yet, but I'm coming home for a brief visit in a few weeks! I'm giving a paper at a conference in Brisbane, then hitting Adelaide, Melb and Tassie. Tour dates are below. I'll do my best to see everyone! My US mobile number will work but since it will also cost me both kidneys I'll do my best to get an aussie sim as soon as I arrive, so if you want to get in touch please EMAIL. I will try to be online as much as possible during the trip.
Arrive Brisbane 7am Wednesday 29th of August
Attend conference for 3 days and attempt to de-lag since the conference starts the day I arrive!
Arrive Adelaide 3.30pm on Fri 31st August
Hang out with Kath and Andrew
Arrive Melbourne 5.20pm on Mon 3rd September
No clear plans for Melb yet. Catch up with friends/family + some work
Arrive Tassie! 3.35pm on Thurs 6th September
Again, not many concrete plans yet. Going to Launceston to see my folks Sunday night/Monday
Head back to LA via Melb at 6am on Sun 16th.
I'm starting to really look forward to it! Hope to catch some of you soon!
Friday, August 3
Outside of the Colosseum. You can see all the holes from where the lead was stolen. This place was amazing, so well preserved given it's age! The interp was pretty spartan (heh) but the notes in our guidebook were not too bad so we did learn something.
Side of the Colosseum where it's been reinforced (the damage from an earthquake I think, but probably the least of it's woes over the years!).
The inside of the Colosseum. They're recreating the floor on one section so you get more of a sense of what it would have looked like. The underneath sections were so complex! With trapdoors and pulleyed flooring.
It was amazing how it was layered so you got little glimpses of the way it was all held together.
There was many an opportunistic faux-centurion outside the Colosseum. I had to snap his back because if he'd seen me with my camera out he would have asked for money!
Entering the Palatine Hill area. I think this is the Arch of Titus. The Palatine Hill/Forum area was just insane...like a jumble of ruins on top of ruins. You were able to wander freely through most of it, rather than being kept to walkways or compounds. The signage was dreadful, so working out what was what was almost impossible, but I guess that's why you pay a fortune for a guide. We just had the best time anyway, wandering clueless!
More of the view from Palatine Hill.
Ruins of the Hippodrome at Palatine Hill. This was probably my favorite bit! There seemed to be some controversy about whether it was a stadium for fights and foot races (the ruins of a private booth dominate the left hand side) or a glamorous private walking track built to look like a mini-stadium!
Every new and then you'd come across some random bit of sculpture or embellishment that'd been reattached to some other bit of ruin. I don't think there were re-creations as much as just somewhere to put the pretty things!
Monday, June 18
This post is horribly delayed for many reasons, including a general level of slackness and the fact that I have been poked and prodded for a few weeks by specialists, ending in minor surgery last Thursday to remove a breast lump. Looks like it's all ok but I get the results sometime this week so I'll keep you posted.
The other news is that Jo's parents are winding up their world tour with a stint here with us in San Antonio. They were supposed to arrive on Wednesday night after flying from the UK, but their flight out of Chicago (the last one) was cancelled! Leaving them bagless in a "Super 8" motel with red walls and far too many mirrors... The eventually arrived in San Antonio late Thursday, again bagless! Anyhow, all is well now and their bags have finally joined the party, and the rest if fodder for another blog entry!
However, back to Italy and the promised update on Rome. This is a tricky entry to write because we managed to pack so much into our six days there, so I'm going to be led more by the photos than anything else.
In short we spent the first 4 nights in a very mod but swanky hotel with a stunning rooftop pool but very odd rooms. You can check them out online - it was like living in an Ikea catalogue. The room came equipped with a huge lawn-green shagpile rug, a lamp contained within a big white balloon that blew up to a huge ball on the wall when you switched it on and fruity bathroom products in shotglasses...
We managed to get to the Trevi fountain at night, the Spanish Steps just before sunset, a full day at the Coliseum and Palatine Hill (my favorite) just wandering through all the ruins and a day at the Vatican. We had wonderful dinners (fortuitous timing for asparagus and porchini mushroom season!), lovely local wine and even some great cheese, olives and other deli delights from markets and corner stores. I had some wonderful coffee and even learnt (the hard way) how to order one at a proper Roman bar. We didn't get to the Pantheon (it was closed) but we did hit a great modern art gallery where we got to see a range of wonderful surprises including 'the wounded angel' (and some wonderful bronze sculpture which I never dreamed I would like!)
But I know that all you guys are really interested in are the pics so here we go...
We hit the Spanish Steps on a public holiday, destroying our plans of handbag shopping, but we had fun just wandering. Sadly the holiday meant the pantheon was also closed, but there was plenty of other stuff to look at!
A tiny Roman street in Trastevere on a lazy Sunday afternoon...
We had a great pocket guidebook, which is incredibly daggy and touristy of us perhaps, but it came in handy on more than one occasion!
We found this scene in a tiny back street while walking from A to B.
The photos of the Coliseum and Palatine Hill might have to wait for Rome part 2 or this will end up being my most epic post yet!!
Monday, June 11
Anyhow, onto the trip! We left the US from Chicago and flew into Frankfurt in serious cattle class on an American Airlines plane. Don't fly with them. They've taken everything bad about flying and concentrated it into one high definition experience. Blergh. Frankfurt was my first ever experience of Europe and consisted of a spunky elfin boy at the check in telling me I wasn't on the flight to Turin and security guards barking commands at me in German then pulling me out for a full on body search in which they attempted (vainly) to find my bra and after giving up proceeded to stick a very cold metal detector down the back of my jeans 0_o When we made it to the gate we discovered that the flight was overbooked (leaving me off the list) but thanks to Jo's magical people charming skills I not only ended up on the flight to Turin, but in first class! So my entry to Italy was with champagne in hand, prawns in my belly and a stunning lemon panna cotta for dessert (while poor Jo got water and a tiny toblerone).
Turin was gorgeous. It took us a while to realise that the Winter Olympics were there last year (slow I know) but that meant the city was all spanky and cleaned up still. My boss quickly moved us from our nursing home style conference hotel to stay with him at the stunning Principi de Piermonte that was opened the same day as the games! It felt like rags to riches, but there was surprisingly little difference in price between the two...and a whole lot of difference in quality. The conference hotel had camp beds and a shower the size of a coffin! The best moment was when Jo opened the curtains and let out a little involuntary scream!
I won't go on about it too much, but the hotel was a big player in making out time in Turin so wonderful. The room was gorgeous and so lovely to come home to after spending all day at the conference (which was held in some industrial hotel on top of a hill on the edge of the city so you were trapped there) and had the most incredible bath.
The other brilliant thing about the Principi was the barman, Flavio, who not only made incredible drinks and great conversation (like the time he visited Australia and ended up in the middle of Mardi Gras) but he also had excellent food recommendations. Flavio got us in to a couple of different restaurants that specialise in local cuisine and we had some wonderful meals as a result. The highlight for me was a dinner we had with some friends we'd made at the conference, great girls from Norway and Finland who were so much fun to hang out with, as well as my boss John and his partner Jo. We went to a little restaurant called La Campannia where the owner, a little old Italian man, took charge of us and planned our menu for us. We started with an incredible raw sausage (yep, raw, but amazingly well spiced), followed by a range of meat based antipasto that I wish I'd taken pics of but I was too busy devouring, followed by multiple pasta bliss then a dessert trolly that made my eyes bulge! Throughout we had wonderful local wines and we, of course, ended with homemade grappa and lemoncello. Every meal we had in Turin was good! IF anyone is heading to Europe and wants to sidetrack for a little R&R and some great eating, I'd highly recommend hitting Turin and the Principi for a few day and let Flavio be your guide (he also makes a wonderful aperol and champagne cocktail). Although every time he recommended a restaurant to us he sent us there with a little blue envelope addressed to the owner and we still have no idea what they said!
Believe it or not, this one was the lowest on our list of good meals we had in Turin!
The other place he sent us to was the Museo Nationale Del Cinema (National Cinema Museum) which was just wonderful! It's housed in a wonderful old building (the Mole Antonelliana) that is one of the icons of the city. The museum is basically a mass collection of installations that progress you from the earlier forms of moving image (shadow puppetry, magic lanterns...) through to dedications to modern film genres and mechanics. There's a lot of interactive stuff including a bike you can ride that bluescreens you into ET along with the other flying kids! We were pretty over stimulated by the time we got to the end, but it was a great experience.
On our second day in Turin we had an amazing moment where the skies, that had been gloomy and overcast since we arrived, slowly cleared to reveal the snow capped Alps all around us!
Anyhow, that's probably enough about Torino for now! The conference well, my talk was ok and we had a wonderful and relaxing time (I guess that could have been enough of an entry right there!) I'll leave you with the usual mug shot :) More Italy coming soon so stay tuned!