Thursday, March 27, 2008

To Be Continued...

Argh! This ad break is getting longer and longer. Or maybe it isn't an ad break. You might want to start cursing me since I've been behaving a lot like Channel Nine, moving things all around the schedule without any warning or thought for the viewers.

I'm stretching this TV analogy beyond its capacity aren't I?

Still, as in the world of television scheduling, things on this blog have been affected by the Easter Break. It's the non-ratings period and I went on holiday, so I've composed some more lifestyle filler for you. Moving on from infomercials, gardening and cooking, I thought I'd dabble in a bit of lifestyle travel programming.

I went with some friends up to Peregian Beach on the Sunshine Coast. We rented a house for 4 nights and made plans to visit a fancy restaurant or two, while taking time out to walk on the beach, swim in the townhouse complex's pool, and play some boardgames.

Day One: We left Brisbane on Good Friday expecting all businesses to be closed, so we prepared to be cut off from any opportunity to eat out or go grocery shopping for the first day. We packed enough food, wine and chocolate to get us through to Saturday. It turns out that a surprising number of businesses were open, but it made for a low-key and relaxing start to the holiday to be able to loll around the house only moving occasionally away from the spectacular view of the ocean to refill our glasses or nibble on a piece of chicken.

Before night fell on the first day we did go for a long walk along Peregian Beach, noting the terrible erosion that had recently taken place. There was a strange brown foam on the shore too. We speculated that it was a churned up mixture of dirt, sand and ocean, but really had no idea. It was slightly sticky and made the sand glue to the soles of our feet.

That night we played the David & Margaret At the Movies board game. Spirits were high and there was a hint of delirium in the air.

Day Two: We all piled into one of the cars and headed off to the Eumundi Markets. I enjoyed myself, but my companions were more affected by the crowds than me. It was crowded. I last visited these markets years ago when I'm sure they were only on once a month. Now they're on twice a week and so busy. They offer more than locally made wares too these days, which is not necessarily a good thing, but perhaps a necessary thing for people who make their living from touring markets.

I picked up an ironing board cover of the kind that have long been for sale at the Riverside Markets in Brisbane. Still, I've always wanted a good ironing board cover and I've never been in holiday mode enough before when I've come across them elsewhere. I also picked up an outrageously patterned cloth shower cap and, to satisfy the desire for local fare, some Noosa Chilli Sauce (hot!) and some Wasabi and Dill Mayonnaise.

After the markets, we met up with a friend who lived locally. Alas her water pump had broken so we couldn't visit her place unless we wanted to dig trenches for toilets and hike miles for water, which we did not. Altogether we trundled back to the town house for another walk on the beach, some more chicken and wine, and another round of oohing and aahing at the moon and its reflection on the water.

Day Three: Stoically undeterred by the mystery foam on the beach, one of my friends and I decided to take further advantage of living in a beach front townhouse and went for a morning walk. This time the tide was high and there wasn't much of a beach to walk on. We struggled valiantly for half an hour. The sea rushed at us and flicked foam up to our knees, before we decided to protect life and limb and walk back along the road. By the time we got back to the townhouse, had a shower and gussied ourselves up, it was time to leave for our lunch appointment at Sails Restaurant at the end of the board walk on Noosa Beach.

There were more crowds at Noosa and a good portion of them were semi-clad on the beach in front of Sails. Some people might be put off their food by a constant parade of the pale and droopy flesh of infrequent beach-goers, but I was too focussed on the beautiful weather and the menu choices to pay much heed.

I ate the most wonderful Autumn meal. It was Berkshire black pork with jus, served on a celeriac remoulade with a mixed selection of vegetables, including a variety of mushrooms, fresh peas and Brussel sprouts. For dessert I ordered a creme caramel which had flavours of orange, cardamom and saffron. It was topped with a kataifi pastry wrapped baked fig.

Afterwards we browsed the shops on Hastings Street where you can get everything from an imported French hair clip to the most terribly awful paintings. Yes, terrible, awfully.

Later, we tried to go for a walk in the Noosa National Park, something we've all done before and thoroughly enjoyed, but parking there was impossible. We ended up finding somewhere else to trek. The walk we took was secluded and we only encountered a few people on the track. It soon became apparent why there were fewer of the madding crowd at the beach we arrived at: it was a nudist beach!

There were only two nudists really, they were in the minority. One was modest, strolling along with a strategically place towel, but the other was sprawled, legs akimbo, in a manner that provoked a double take.

In an unrelated incident, it was on this beach that I managed to drown my mobile phone. I thought I'd take a photo--of the ocean, not the nudists!--only to discover my mobile was not reacting well to the water leaking into my bag from my water bottle. It buzzed and flashed and could not be consoled before it stopped working permanently.

Day Four: This was the day we went to the Spirit House at Yandina. On the way to the restaurant we stopped at the Buderim Ginger Factory to have a quick look around. We didn't really have time for the tour, so we had a look at a heritage cottage and learned about the agricultural history of the area through the years of ubiquitous timber felling to the establishment of crops of coffee and ginger. I didn't know that coffee was one of the first cultivated crops in the area so, of course, when it came to the gift shop I had to buy some Buderim coffee. And some crystallised ginger, and a ceramic ginger jar, and some ginger gummy bears.

One of my fellow holiday-makers purchased some ginger and mango cheese. It looked like it would be a kind of fruit cream cheese, but after tasting it we read the label more closely and saw that it was processed cheese. Bleh!

The Spirit House was magical from the beginning. After we were redirected from the cooking school, that is. We went down a path shadowed by rain forest and lined with alcoves containing various statues and shrines to Buddha. The cicadas were loud and the cool humidity of the air established a perfect atmosphere. We opted for the banquet because it was too hard to choose when you wanted to taste everything. The meal was just delicious. It was strange having Thai as haute cuisine when you're used to it being take-away. I fancied having lunch at the Spirit House was probably a little bit closer to the Royal origins of Thai food than serving it from plastic containers. Between four of us we ordered two dessert plates--one chocolate and the other seasonal--and it was spoons at high noon as we attempted to taste a morsel of everything.

I should mention the thing about the Spirit House that perplexed one of my friends a great deal, which was that when the tea she ordered was served it was a Lipton's tea bag. Now, I'm no tea aficionado, but some of my best friends are and they are quite vocal on the subject of the teabag. A teabag is like instant coffee, related to its leafy origins as much as that dry powdery dust is to the oily luscious bean. There's not really an excuse for it is there? So much detail is afforded every other aspect of the Spirit House, the tea bag was a curious and disappointing oversight.

After lunch, some of us went back to the town house to relax, while others went on a tour visiting the Mapleton Pub, Baroona Dam, and a windy drive to take in more spectacular views of the hinterland. I drank a local beer of the ginger and coconut variety, which I can recommend in small doses, hiked to look at the water fall created by the dam's spill-way, and warned the driver to avert her eyes from the view and keep her eyes on the road because getting distracted would probably be fatal.

Day Five: Each day of the holiday I was lucky enough to glimpse the sunrise from the comfort of my bed before going back to sleep for an hour or two. Before the sun got too high in the sky, I would go to the kitchen and make myself a coffee and sit back and watch the sun play another kind of light on the ocean. While the ocean had been golden earlier and would be blue and green later, in this in-between moment it was platinum, dazzling and burnished.

It was this view that we sat and enjoyed in the last moments of our tenancy at the beach-side townhouse.

We took a leisurely drive back, attempting to go to the National Park at Noosa again, but even when the long weekend was officially over it was crowded. We proceeded to the Buderim Forest Park instead, where we hiked along a path down to a waterfall, crossing the curved Serenity Bridge on the way.

I wanted to go to the Super Bee Honey Farm but a sign informed us that the site was closed and had been auctioned off a month earlier.

We stopped to buy some lemons and mandarins from a table on the side of the road, dropping some coins into the letter box as directed by a hand-scrawled sign.

Then we saw another sign that promised pottery from Middle-Earth, but it was better than that, and I came away with a blue-green glazed stem vase.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Iz a LOLCat

Sad Cookie Cat

65% Affectionate, 46% Excitable, 53% Hungry

You are the classic Shakespearian tragedy of the lolcat universe. The sad story of baking a cookie, succumbing to gluttony, and in turn consuming the very cookie that was to be offered. Bad grammar ensues.

To see all possible results, checka dis.

The Which Lolcat Are You? Test written by GumOtaku on OkCupid.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I was supposed to go sailing today. I was quite looking forward to it, but it's turned out to be too windy. Aah, the forces of nature.

Speaking of which, I thought I might use this unexpectedly free day to give you an update on my own little patch of nature, the herb-flower-maybe-a-vegetable-or-two garden that I'm trying to establish beneath the stairs outside.

(Let's consider this an ad break in the television six-pack series. The idea of the ad break is one I'd been toying with anyway. I've got a few cooking adventures to share that will fit in well amongst the television discussion if you think of them as reality lifestyle segments or, less charitably--I don't mind--as those infomercials in morning television that take you away from your interest of the main show).

Here's a snapshot of the garden in question:

It's not very impressive looking is it? Well, for someone who isn't much of a gardener, it hasn't exactly been smooth sailing (boom, boom! Hey, Basil Brush would be proud of that one.)

Let me explain. The chives in the strawberry pot pre-existed this dwelling. They've survived the noxious fumes of the Hale Street Bypass, so nothing will kill them, not even me.

I purchased the mint in the yellow planter from the Wednesday markets at work. When I bought it the man who sold them to me asked jokingly if the mint was going to a good home. At the time, I breezily said 'Yes!', thinking 'What can go wrong with mint? It's practically a weed, isn't it?' Well, who knew that all manner of creatures other than myself liked the taste of mint?

One thing I've noticed since moving to this new place is that the kinds of marauding critters here are different to those on the edge of Hale Street. There I thought I was inundated by the annual migration of hairy caterpillars and Bogan Moths, but now, on the edge of Ithaca Creek, those Hale Street critters seem remarkably benign. All sorts of bugs of the creeping, crawling, flying and hopping variety decided to drop by for breakfast, lunch, and tea in the small yellow planter I'd purchased for 50¢ at K-Mart.

I had to go back to K-Mart and get some pyrethrum spray.

I have investigated companion planting, and honestly, I thought that putting the mint near the basil would deter the critters from munching on the basil, and I guess it did, in a fashion, but only because they seemed to like the mint more, and I want to be able to eat the mint too. Where would tabouli be without it? Well, yes, at almost every kebab place--here in Brisbane anyway. (Why just the other week I ordered a kebab from a shopping centre food court and on the menu board they offered tahini as a sauce after which in brackets they had written 'yoghurt and cucumber'. I asked the person serving me to explain the confusing menu choice and he said that tahini was yoghurt and cucumber. I said that tahini was a sesame seed paste and yoghurt and cucumber was closer to tzatziki--still no mint, you'll notice--and his response was that he didn't write the menu. You can imagine what a great kebab that was).

So, the companion planting. That's what the deceptively empty pot on the right hand of the picture up there is an attempt at. There are some calendula seeds getting ready to germinate in there. When did marigolds aka 'stinkin' Rogers' become known as calendula?

I haven't had much luck with raising rocket and parsley seeds either. Here we get to the shameful extent of my lack of gardening ability. I'm trying to grow flat parsley because I like it more than curly parsley, so you can imagine that I was quite chuffed to learn that it's apparently easier to grow than the curly variety. Obviously the folk who make these kinds of pronouncements about things being fool-proof haven't encountered a fool quite like me.Of course, it's all my own fault. I started the garden during a period when we were getting rain almost every day, so I was lulled into a false sense of security about the wellbeing of the seedlings. Then there were a couple of days of excruciating hotness that zapped any life out of the delicate leaves of the parsley. The jury's out on my personal culpability for the demise of the rocket. I know I should have just put the seeds into the ground, but I'd bought these nifty little bio-degradable seedling containers that I wanted to use. I could have just buried the seedling container in the ground when it came to transplanting, but I thought it would be better to separate the plants out, so they had room to grow. Whether it was an effect of the transplanting or the fact that the patch I transplanted them to received perhaps a little too much sun for such delicate leaves, I don't know, but only one of the rocket plants has survived and not terribly well. I've enough rocket to garnish a water cracker, but that would be the end of the plant.

Anyway, I'm slightly deflated, but clearly not enough to be put off the whole enterprise. It seems the lure of fresh herbs and salad greens is too strong. I'll become a gardener by default, as a by product of being an enthusiastic home cook in search of good ingredients.

I've started again. I have new rocket shoots, this time in the ground. I'm waiting for the parsley to rear its delicate fronds. And I've gone one step further and sown some baby beetroot, already their deep pink stems have broken the surface.

I'm also working on creating good nutrient rich soil with the contents of the Bokashi All-food Composting bin. I've managed to mix up some of the liquid that drains off the bin into a fertiliser, and just yesterday, I emptied the bin for the first time since I began filling it and buried the contents which will break down into hummus--definitely not to be confused with hommus.

In closing , a few words about my Bokashi experience. First of all I was fairly concerned that since I knew I wasn't 'an average family' that I would take far longer than 3-4 weeks to fill the bin. In all, judging from the date of my post about setting up the bin, it 's been closer to 6-8 weeks that the bin has been sitting in my cupboard slowly filling. Just writing this now, I realise I could easily have buried the contents, whatever they were, at 4 weeks, but even after the extended period, the bin didn't stink in the way that plain garbage sitting for 6- 8 weeks would. Of course, there is a smell, but it's a sweet, pungent smell, a fermented smell, and it's not one that attracts flies to create their wriggly offspring. After 6-8 weeks, the bin is certainly 'sweeter' than it was at 3-4 weeks, but while it would have been ready to bury earlier, I 'm sure it's more than ready to be buried now. Plus it might turn into hummus a bit sooner. We'll see.

The whole burial process was fairly painless, although I suppose I should have warned you I was going to be showing you filthy pictures. Sorry if you were eating. Rest assured, I've now rinsed the bucket and set it up again. I'll see how I go with emptying it earlier next time.

Hmmm, I think that was an infomercial. They do tend to go on for longer than the main program, don't they?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Television: The Six Pack

I've been meaning to talk more about television, specifically television as it relates to my thesis.

It didn't escape my notice when I did that new year's post taking the first line from the first post of each month that there was no reference to the thesis whatsoever. Not that there has to be. In fact this is quite specifically not one of those dreary self-serving young academic careerist blogs, no, it's all about dreary domesticity and inappropriate expressions of angst here.

Still, since I often work at home, especially now, since I've joined the 21st century and connected to the internet via broadband, and succumbed to peer pressure and acquired a MacBook, you'd think domestic angst about the thesis would be a little more at the forefront of my outpourings. Well, I'd think it.

I'm seeking to rectify my lack of preoccupation with my thesis*.

As the title of this post suggests, I'm going to do a series of posts relating to television. In television terms it's likely to be more of a hybrid series-serial, since there will probably be an over-arching narrative of my angst about it all. And so any infrequent readers can drop by to read a single post without being left dissatisfied, each post will also probably be able to stand on its own.

I've chosen to go with the six-pack, because it seems to be the format of some good TV coming out of Australia at the moment: The Circuit, Remote Area Nurse, East West 101, to name some of my favourites. And as the folk at Televised Revolution say 'TV should be good'. Whether we mean the same thing by that will probably be discussed in at least one of these posts.

I decided not to go with the longer form cumulative narrative over multiple seasons that is the hallmark of 'quality' television as it is understood as an HBO brand, because, aside from the fact that I don't have the budget or the stamina, 'It's TV, it's not HBO'! **

Anyway, that's probably enough of an introduction. Hopefully you've got some idea of what the six pack will be about: television programs, a bit of a look at blogs about tv, and the thesis. I also hope to have reflect on other television related academic encounters such as teaching and a recap on the Charlotte Brunsdon Masterclass I attended, and somewhere in the weeks ahead Robert C. Allen will be visiting Brisbane too, so if there's anything to report, I'll do so.

Consider this post the first episode, and "stay tuned". "Don't touch that dial." This might not be HBO, but it could be "must see TV"! ***

* Did you notice the first sentence of this post? And the date too? That'll look impressive in the 2009 New Year's post, what?

** Heh, even though I'm a big fan of HBO dramas, I love this line, snapped by head writer Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) from 30 Rock.

*** I know, I know.