Thursday, December 31, 2009

Foodie in time for Friday – 5 Tasty Cocktails

I was originally going to post this for Foodie Friday, but then I realised that Friday was in fact New Years Day, and by then, you've probably drunk the cocktails and are probably suffering the usual NYD hangover. With that in mind, Dryad's Diatribe brings you Foodie Friday a day early, to help you ring in the New Year! Below are five of my favourite cocktails (Well, 4 and one mocktail). They are all simple to make, and you can change around amounts to suit your particular tastes. Rest assured, if I find myself in a position to be drinking cocktails on Thursday night, these will be the ones in hand! I can see it now, cocktails on the Geelong waterfront, listening to some sweet bands, welcoming the new year in style with The Muso.

Cosmopolitan – My all time favourite, light and refreshing!

2 measures vodka
Ice cubes
½ measure Cointreau
1 measure cranberry juice
1 measure fresh lime juice
Twists of lemon and lime to decorate

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker with the ice cubes. Strain into a martini glass and decorate with twists of lemon and lime rind.

Do NOT use cranberry drink or sweetened cranberry juice for this cocktail, I cannot emphasise this enough. It ruins the whole character of the cocktail! Substitute for cheap ingredients at your peril.
Edit: EPIC FAIL! I forgot the limes, and didn't realise until I was sitting in a bar last night trying to stomach one made with lemon juice. Sorry.

Daiquiri – The traditional and the best

2 measures white rum
¾ measure lime juice
½ teaspoon sugar syrup

Put the ice into a cocktail shaker and pour in the rum, lime juice and sugar syrup.
Shake the ingredients vigorously until a frost forms and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.


Juice of 1 passionfruit
½ measure Curacao
Crushed ice
Sparkling white wine, chilled
Slice of star fruit and twist of lemon peel

Scoop out the passionfruit flesh into a jug or shaker and shake with the Curacao and a little crushed ice until frosted.
Pour into the base of a champagne glass and top up with sparkling wine. Dress with a slice of star fruit and a twist of lemon peel.

Sunken Treasure

2 measure white rum
Orange Juice
Pineapple Juice
1 measure Blue Curacao
1 pineapple wedge

Three-quarter fill a hurricane glass with ice, add white rum, top up with equal parts orange and pineapple juice, and finish with the blue curacao. Garnish with a wedge of pineapple.
(Many thanks to the Ninja for teaching me this one, though due to the free-pouring at the time, these are only estimates!)

Now, NYE isn't just for the alcohol consumers, and even those of us that do occasionally need a break, so this is my favourite mocktail!

Virgin Raspberry Daiquiri

3 measures raspberry puree
2 measures pineapple juice
1/2 measure lime juice
1 tsp caster sugar
1/2 measure raspberry syrup

Blend briefly with half a glassful of crushed ice in a wine goblet. Garnish with raspberries or a lime wedge, and serve.

Other honourable mentions for our lovely summer weather are mojitos, pina coladas, margaritas (must have salt!), capricosas, frozen fruit tingles, fruit daiquiris (strawberry, mango, raspberry & lime, pineapple – get the fresh fruit in season and experiment!), anything cold and fruity!

What are your plans for New Years? Have you got any favourite cocktails to share?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What was important in 2009?

Coming to the close of 2009, and like so many others, I find myself considering the year that has passed, and what the future may hold. Back in March, I wrote a reflection on how much my life had changed (and it was a lot!), but even in the nine months since, things have continued to do so. So what things made my 2009?

Let's get the negative out of the way first. In 2008/2009 I made the huge mistake of moving into a rental with housemates. I'm not going to dwell long on this fact, but for 6 months, I was miserable. I hated being at home, and hated that I was stuck in my dark room. What could have, and should have been the positive experience of moving into a unit with friends quickly turned sour. The silver lining? I learnt a lot about myself, and it prompted me to reassess what was truly important to me. I quickly learnt who my real friends were, what my limits were when it came to boundaries and beliefs, and finally, pushed me into breaking my lease and moving back onto Res with the people that I loved and admired. As far as I'm concerned, losing my bond was money well spent in order to save my sanity.

I also really regret that I stopped going to the gym. My knee injury was much to blame for this initially, but at the same time, I think fear of further injury, and even a chord of laziness had just as much to do with it later on. My self-confidence took a major blow as I lost fitness, and knew I couldn't do a lot of the things I loved. The gym was one of those things (a look back to March is evidence of this). In 2010, I'm going to strive to get back into that positive mind-set, even though I know I'm going to be incredibly frustrated at the fact that I've lost all of the fitness I worked so hard for in 2008. I plan on feeling the burn, and working on regaining those killer legs!

As well as the setbacks, 2009 was filled with a lot of the amazing. My relationship with myself may have suffered slightly, but I also learnt plenty about myself, and continued to grow. The friendship that had developed with The Muso* grew into the great relationship we have now, and even with the differences we have, I trust him more than most, and usually more than myself. He introduced me to great music, the beauty of winter nights spent arguing over what movie to watch, and a side of myself that I never actually knew existed. <3

My resi friends put up with my many rants, and still decided I was worthy of their time and love, for which I am eternally grateful. They were the ones who kept me sane, who let me share in their amazing lives (even the bad bits), and occasionally let me share their mums when mine was half a country away. The big nights out, the dinners in, the advice, the rides to the super, it's all contributed to making this year awesome. I also want to thank the other guys at Porter Av. for giving me a haven away from my insane life, you guys are awesome. Also awesome is Jim, for coming over from the UK and visiting for a crazy few days mid-year, for prodding me to perform at my ninja writing best, and for still being my best friend despite months at a time not being able to talk to each other!

In 2009, my life revolved around pretty much one thing, and one thing only – The Honours Project. For 9 months, it dictated almost my every thought and action, hijacked almost every conversation, and took up almost every hour, waking or otherwise. For 9 months of quite literal blood, sweat and tears, especially the tears, my boyfriend, my family, and my friends were knocked back by the words "sorry, can't, project", and still stuck by me, letting me rant and rave, and the regular de-stess sessions were greatly appreciated.

However, given all that, when I handed it in on the 16th October, I had a huge feeling of achievement. The project was one of the most defining experiences of my life thus far, it pushed me to extremes, made me sick, made me question my ethics and beliefs, questioned my integrity as a researcher, and even as a human being. I may have looked upon the thing with some measure of loathing, but now, the thesis is a document I look at with a sense of pride. Since then, I had to find something else to do, after having the "now what" moment, and I was lucky enough to find a summer job that I love, with people I like, that pays ok, and is located right next to the beach. It's not where I want to stay, but it has let me take stock of my life, and assess where I want to go in the future.

And where do I want to go in the future? Glad you asked! Fingers crossed some form of scholarship funding will come through to allow me to return to university to start my PhD. Yes, 4 more years of being a lab rat. However, this time, research is not going to be allowed to take over my life, and I intend to continue being the happy, social person I've found this summer. This blog has been a fantastic outlet the last few weeks, and I have big plans for its future, big plans! I've missed writing for the love of it, rather than the necessity, and whether it's blogging, roleplaying, or the book, recreational writing is back on the agenda. If you've been reading for a week or so, you'll know a house by myself is on the cards, meaning plans to make a space my own (so exciting!). My family, and my friend are going to remain high on my agenda, and I have every intention of making time to go and catch up with the people who graduated this year, who have moved away, and those who are still around, as well as time spent with my amazing mum.

My life in 2009 was somewhat blessed. Whilst there was some bad, there was also an insane amount of the good and beautiful. I can't put a lot of it into words, which is bizarre for me, but true none-the-less. Everyone I met, spent time with and talked to, every blog and book read, every journal critiqued, movie watched, music appreciated, club danced in, every experience gave me something which shaped the year into the wonderful blur of memory it now is. 2010 is so full of promise, perhaps even more so than 2009 originally appeared, and if so, I can only imagine what wonders there are in store.

What about you, mes amis? Did you have a beautiful 2009? Do you have a memory or person who shaped your year? What are your resolutions for 2010?

*Ok, so I've been asked a couple of times why I've been concealing names of people, in particular my boyfriend. Basically, my blog has readers from all over, some I know, some I don't. Giving away my identity is one thing, but identifying others to strangers is another entirely. My boyfriend is known as The Muso because music seems to form such an important part of his identity, and it was one of the things that drew me to him originally. Mystery solved!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy Monday – 28/12/09

I hope everyone had a great festive season! Mine was quite eventful, spending a lot of time with the family and travelling huge distances in a very short space of time. So, the weekly wrap up of all things smile worthy and weekday improving!

Finding new blogs – the last week, I've spend hours and hours pouring over many blogs that I've stumbled upon, and I've found some that I just love, and can no longer live without. First is Apartment Therapy, who at the moment are doing their Best of 2009 series. Beautiful photos, great posts, and a treasure trove of ideas for small spaces! I found them through a link that Gala Darling @ iCiNG posted on Twitter earlier this week. I've also discovered Mermaid in a Manhole, who writes wonderful pieces, and gives fantastic anonymous advice to her readers. Last for this week is Figleaf's Real Adult Sex, a serious guy talking seriously about sex and sexuality. Thanks to Filament Magazine for posting a link to his blog via twitter!

My New iPod – The family bought me an iPod Nano for Christmas. I've never had an iPod before, they've always been other brands, so it took some getting used to, but it's got great sound quality, decent storage space, and doesn't weigh a ton, unlike my old 20GB Toshiba one! I haven't sorted out any playlists yet, so current circulation is a random selection of 8gb of the 19.5GB of music I apparently have on my computer.

Making Plans and Resolutions – Yes, New Year's is almost upon us, and I'm loving making plans! First is the fact that I'm going to New Years on the Waterfront in Geelong, courtesy of The Muso (<3)!!! First time in a long time I've looked forward to NYE. Add to that planning out the direction of my blog, planning how to set up a house which I have yet to find, resolving to write more in the New Year, and also to make the most positive energy filled 2010 possible! There's also the plans for hanging out with my Mum while she's on Long Service Leave, which I'm really looking forward to!

Avatar – There are so many good movies around at the moment, and I'm so glad that the one I chose to go see at the cinema was Avatar. It was amazing. Seriously, go see it. So far, everyone has only really commented on the amazing graphics (and they ARE stunning, really, the computer generated stuff looked as though it had been filmed!), but I was also a fan of the story, and the fact that it is a fantastic critique of our society, our treatment of the environment, corporate greed, and the folly of war. If you watched the news a lot during the 'War on Terror', you may recognise some of the terms and speeches used by the characters. It's at times disturbing, at others touching, and has a fair dose of action, something for everyone!

Honourable mentions – electric oil burners, prezzies wrapped in brown paper, anticipation of sleep-ins and hugs, ragdoll kittens, Revolver (the movie, not the gun), passionfruit crème brulee, anticipation of heavy traffic in Lorne disappearing at some point, hot flight attendants, catching up with the guys in the bar over a few cheeky bevvys, shopping with my mum, Christmas feasts, warm weather, post-surfing muscle soreness, having newbies take my NYE shift so I can party with my muso!

So folks, how was your Christmas/Yule/Litha/weekend? Have you got any favourite blogs you'd like to share, or plans for NYE? What is making you smile this Monday?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Foodie Friday - Raspberry & White Chocolate Muffins

Merry Christmas to all my readers! In honour of the family sharing that we have this time of year, I got my family to vote on which recipe I should post today, and this was the one that won! Aside from being yummy, they’re also red and white, perfect for Christmas! I discovered these muffins after I bought my mum one of Ainsley Harriott’s books for Christmas quite a few years ago. They are absolutely delicious, and extra raspberries and chocolate always end up finding their way into the mix, be it in the batter itself, or sprinkled on top right before cooking. The fresh raspberries can be substituted for frozen, just make sure you drain them well before use, and be aware that they will break up a lot more in the batter.

Raspberry & White Chocolate Muffins
Makes 12
• 300g plain flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 150g caster sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 225 ml milk
• 50 butter, melted
• 100g fresh raspberries
• 75g chopped white chocolate

Preheat the oven to 200oC. Line and grease a muffin tin.
Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and stir in the sugar. Crack the egg into a separate bowl and whisk in the vanilla extract, milk, and melted butter.
Stir the liquid into the dry ingredients with the raspberries and chocolate, taking care not to over-mix. Spoon the mixture into the cases, and bake for 30 minutes until well risen and just firm. Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then shake out onto a cake rack to finish cooling.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

We’re Going on a Lair Hunt

  • 18 email enquiries lodged to agents
  • 6 inspections
  • 2 application submitted & rejected
It's a very good thing that I don't need to move into a place right this very moment. A) There are barely any properties on the rental market in my price range, and B) those that are either get snapped up before inspection, or get applied for by people that don't have the word 'student' somewhere on their application. Still, hope remains! After a week of nothing, a new property came up, in an excellent location, within my financial limits. Now it's just a case of hoping that the inspection isn't before I get back from the interstate family trek!

And of course, now that I'm in house-hunting mode, I'm also in the mindset of planning how I'd like my lair to look and feel. Your home is your sanctuary, your escape from the cruel world beyond its walls. If you're anything like me, you want there to be very little related to your work or university work where it can be helped (obviously for a student, the massive stacks of textbooks, papers, etc is unavoidable, but I try to limit its encroachment on my space). So I've been sticking my head in homeware stores, reading random blogs on decorating, and generally trying to get a picture in my head of how I could lay out any place I end up getting. Thankfully, I already have a lot of furniture that fits with my personality – A beautiful wood and iron bed with a good quality mattress, a bookcase, desk and side-table all in white and cherry finish (from the Piedmont Collection from UBiz, how I'd love the rest of it!), a chest of drawers halfway through being stained the same as the Piedmont stuff, and two massive, second/third-hand dark green club chairs that are perfect for curling up in with a book. So, of course, everything is being planned around these pieces.

My style varies with my mood, so anything I have needs to be able to chop and change at a whim. For example, I have bright, jewel colours in a Byzantine colour scheme, or soft, natural greens for a more forested look. I find changing a quilt-cover is the fastest way to change the mood of your bedroom, and with that in mind, I have several sets of sheets in different colours. Recently though, I found this beautiful set in Adairs, and fell in love at once. I resisted temptation to blow my whole paycheck on the set, and instead put it on lay-by. Come mid-January, that set is all mine!! It perfectly matches a quilt I have been meaning to finish, and contains a blue that I absolutely love, so I can see myself decorating everything around them! Shame that landlords tend to frown upon painting murals all over their clean white walls…

Have you got a favourite room, a space where you retreat to? Did you decorate it yourself? Share your thoughts and photos!

(Picture from Linen House, pretty much my dream bedroom if only I had the money, room and climate!)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Belated Happy Monday – 21-22/12/09

And we’re back to Happy Monday! Unfortunately, due to some technical issues (namely my wireless internet not having reception at my grandparents place), it’s going to air a little later than initially planned. So, what was making my Monday bearable?

Funny Place Names – Nar Nar Goon, Garfield, Robin Hood, Bunyip, Labertouche. Yes, the road signs of the M1/A1 provided hours of entertainment on our roadtrip, with everyone pointing out a funny sounding name. There seems to be a high concentration of these just East of Melbourne. Repetition of street and creek names also came up, with at least three Cabbage Tree creeks, Reedy creeks, and First streets. Boundary Road took the cake, with at least one every second or third town!

Calves – They’re everywhere! Tiny bundles of Jersey, Frisian, assorted dairy cow cuteness! Every few kilometres heard the exclamation of “Look, baby moos!” from someone in the car. Every road trip there seems to be some sort of baby animal, last time we went across Gippsland it was lambing season! Update – Went to Mogo Zoo today, and there were new born deers, a newly dropped buffalo calf, and even a young gibbon giving it’s mum some trouble. Hours of “awwwww”.

New socks – When your boyfriend and his housemates start teasing you about your religious socks (yes, they were quite holey, to the point they were in fact more hole than sock), it’s time to buy some new ones! And the best bit? The first time you actually pull them on, and they’re all soft and new, with no holes or worn out bits. Yes, small things, but awesome!

Black Bull – A tapas restaurant on Moorabool St in Geelong, and pretty much my new favourite place to eat. Discovered it a few weeks ago between househunting and Christmas shopping, and have been a few times for lunch since, including once with the Muso. Everything is delicious (especially try the croquettes if you go, just yum!), and fairly well prices. The atmosphere is also great, with beautiful décor, and really cool staff.

Barefoot lawn bowls – Staff Christmas party was on Sunday, and after surfing for a few hours, we all went over to the lawn bowls club for a couple of games. Awesome fun, great to hang out with people, have a few drinks, and a whole lot of laughs. Even if I came last in every single end I played!

What about you, my loyal readers? What has been making you smile this week?

Monday, December 21, 2009

My Friend is Made of Fail - 21/12/09

The first monthly award for “My Friend is Made of Fail” goes to my good friend James. Now, don’t get me wrong, he is a very good friend, and nobody is more supportive of my writing than him, but really…

Nobody has more issues with getting into a tin than James.

First, it was those tins of corned beef, with the opener attached. Not only would the built-in opener not work, the lip of the tin was too high for a normal can opener to access. One bread knife and a few mouthfuls of metal filings later, there was some success. Nor was this an isolated event, as apparently he always has these issues with the corned beef tins. Epic fail.

Then, it was the pie tin. One bread knife, can opener, bottle opener, several minutes of wailing, and pair of steel clippers later, Jim was the winner! The fact he proceeded to pretend to stab me with the lid is forgiven as getting carried away in the glory of the moment. Apparently though, after all that effort, the steak was good, but the crust was soggy. This from James after consuming his hard-won dinner –
“It was indeed a pie encased in frustration, crusted with fail and filled with win, dotted with occasional unpleasant surprises.”
So James, for your inability to get to the tasty treat concealed inside a tin-can, you win this month’s “My Friend is Made of Fail”. A new can-spanner is heading your way after the Post-Christmas sales!

(Note that, if we had an award called “My Friend is Made of Win”, James would also win that, for coming up with the idea for “My Friend is Made of Fail”. <3)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Foodie Friday – Ginger biscuits

This is one of my all time favourite recipes, and it's always been hugely popular in our family (even the cat used to try to nick them!).They're also really cheap to make, and they get even better after a few days, when they start to go all gooey in the middle, if they last that long! I always add a bit more golden syrup than is called for, but that's just from years of varying the recipe and figuring out what works best for me! When I'm at home, I make these in my mum's old Kenwood Chef mixer, but using a wooden spoon or your hands works just as well.

Ginger Biscuits

Makes lots!

  •  ½ cup butter or margarine
  • 3 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 3 cups self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg

  • Melt margarine with golden syrup over low heat. Cool. (Try not to do this in the microwave, it causes the texture to change, and it isn't always pleasant!)
  • Sift flour, bicarb and ginger, and add sugar.
  • Beat the egg and stir it into the cool syrup mixture (If it's too hot, the egg will cook before making it into the dough).
  • Add to the dry ingredients and mix together well.
  • Roll into balls and place on a greased slide. Cook at 180oC for 20 minutes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hunting continued, and a new passion

  • 16 email enquiries lodged to agents
  • 5 inspections
  • 2 application submitted
Yes, I'm keeping track! Another house inspection yesterday, beautiful little unit, freshly painted and carpeted, lots of natural light, good location, and a tiny yard big enough for the clothes line and not much else (low maintenance! Put in an application on the spot, and as they checked my references yesterday, I'm hoping to hear back in the next day or two. *crosses fingers, toes, arms, eyes* Also got to drop in on the Porter Av. boys for a few hours, and have lunch with the muso, yay for people in the real world!

In the mean time, I've decided to start something of a new blogging project. After many months of reading my favourite blogs (links in My Inspirations -->), I've decided to start a regular segment aimed at new university students. Many a time my friends and I have sat talking about uni, wishing that someone had told us this or that when we started. As my own brother is starting uni in the new year, and I'm anticipating all sorts of questions from him, I figured why not share with everyone else too? So, every Wednesday from the 4th January, I will be attempting to blog something helpful for those living as students, be it academic advice, budgeting tips, or the best spot for a cheap beer! If you have any suggestions, or questions you'd like answered, feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line!

As well as the "Been There, Done That" Guide (I'm still working on a name =P), Friday is foodie day! I love cooking, and am rather languishing at the moment without a proper kitchen to play in. Figuring out what to do with the meagre pickings of a uni student's pantry has always been a challenge, and over the years, my friends and I came up with many ways to make your dollar go further. So I'll be blogging some of my favourite recipes, as well as those that got me through those months where I had stuff-all other than rice in my cupboard! Might also throw in a blog or two on good places to eat out, for those weeks when money magically remains in the bank account!

So, my readers! What would you like to see me blog about? Any burning questions you want answered?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Hunt Begins…

Today marks the end of my first week of hunting for the new lair for 2010. After the dramas of housemates in early 2009, and 3.5 years on residences, I've decided that it is time for me to have a bit of my own space, and so the search is on for a nice, cheap one or two bedroom unit in Geelong.

Anyone who has house hunted before recognises that this can be harder than it sounds. Unlike last time I was house hunting (in which I actually had very little say thanks to the other two housemates), I'm on a very tight budget, but I only have to be sure that one person is happy with the place. The other problem is that I'm not currently living in Geelong, meaning I have to catch the bus from Lorne every time there is an inspection I want to go to. The plus side is that I've managed to get most of my Christmas shopping done on these trips!
So far, there's been
    • 15 email enquiries lodged to agents
    • 5 properties leased prior to inspection
    • 4 inspections (3 by me, and one that I coaxed The Muso to go to for me <3)
    • 1 application submitted and subsequently rejected
Of the 6 other properties, I have 1 inspection tomorrow (another trip to G-Town!), and the other 5 were either out of my price range or I couldn't make the inspection time due to work. So why did I only apply for one out of four properties inspected?

The first inspection Matt did for me, and I probably would have applied for the place if, when I went past a few days later, I hadn't discovered that the neighbours were having a violent domestic. Yeah, I've lived next door to that in the past, and I'm not wanting to do it again anytime soon.

Inspection two was at an apartment block on Roslyn Road. It also might have been a chance, even though it was basically two bedrooms (the agent assured me one was the living room, but couldn't tell me which one), both with sliding doors onto the external hallway/balcony/stairs, a tiny bathroom, and an even smaller kitchen. Yes, I'd have submitted an application for an apartment that would fit in my mum's living room (or two downstairs Evatt's bedrooms, for those from res), but for the massively sagging, water-damaged ceiling in the kitchen that looked like it was about to disintegrate on my head, and the discovery that the landlord had no plan to fix it, ever. Fail.

Inspection three was the dream unit! One massive bedroom, open kitchen/living, hardwood floors, huge combined bathroom/laundry, fenced courtyard, lots of natural light, one block from High Street shops, 130 p/w. Application submitted and rejected within 24 hours. =(

Inspection four was in the same apartment block as inspection two, actually the unit next door, and I was sceptical going in, but pleasantly surprised. Newly renovated, big lounge, two decent bedrooms, bathroom with actual bath, nice kitchen. However, at $260 p/w, slightly above my price range, and given the location, size and lack of outdoor area, probably over priced by about $30-$60. Only really went to check it out because the agent rang and asked if I was interested in inspecting and failed to tell me the price before I rocked up.

So after a week of trawling real estate web pages, and the paper, and ringing/emailing agents, I've had little luck, but it's still an interesting experience. I won't say always fun, but interesting.