Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Progress report

The PhD is going through another hectic but very exciting stage as I start recruiting my first participants, set up some Brand Spanking New Test Equipment and get my experiment protocols in order.

Karate is also busy, but is keeping me sane. I've come to realise that I'm not really built for entirely office based work, so by the end of a long day in the office, I am busting to get to the dojo. Now that it's not so cold outside I have been running more, and going for a run really helps clear my head and approach problems with a fresh perspective.

But in amongst all that, Gib and I have been going for a few walks and tidying up the garden a bit.
Here's a picture of the backyard now. The bare-looking patch on the bottom right is what we cleared from the noxious, blue periwinkle. It has taken 2-3 rounds of weeding and I think it is finally gone in that area. It's horribly tenacious stuff, so I hope we've finally got rid of it. It has now been planted out with a Christmas bush (Ceratopetalum gummiferum), Darwinia citriodora and a Kangaroo Island spyridium (Spyridium coactilifolium), which should take up most of the space where the periwinkle was. I look forward to seeing how they over spring. Apparently we're not the only ones who hate weeding out blue periwinkle. It was mentioned on Gardening Australia on Saturday night that Greening Australia are clearing it from near the Maribyrnong River and "five and a half thousand were put in a couple of years ago to replace the weedy Blue Periwinkle".

We've found a patch in the front yard which kangaroo paws seem to love. So we're now trying our hand with a conostylis, a somewhat fussier relative of the kangaroo paw. The two conostylis that I got last year for my birthday are still going very well in pots at my parents' place, so we thought we'd try planting one.

My indestructible ptilotus spathulatus. We have two of them now, and I decided to move them from the pot to the ground. It was a smart move: they love it! I think we have a baby one popping up in the pot which the other one was in originally. We're letting it grow to see if it's a weed or the real thing.

So finally, here's the progression of our garden over the past 9 months. There's been some pretty radical changes. It's gone from being almost entirely mint, to not much at all thanks to the drought, and then finally having happy little ptilotus, asterolasia and kangaroo paws. The bare and scraggly looking area behind the kangaroo paws has been planted out with some correas, which will grow to about 1-1.5 m high and wide (they're about 10-15 cm tall at the moment). We're not trying to get rid of the mint altogether, but just keep it in a semi-controlled area.

Front yard: November 2008

Front yard: March 2009 (see the two tiny little kangaroo paws in front of the stump?)

Front yard: August 2009 (now look at the size of 'em!)

Monday, 17 August 2009

Bye to my first ever car...

Today I saw the first car I ever owned get towed away. It's going into the hands of two young guys who are dropping a new engine into it and using it as a drift car. I had mixed feeling about watching it go: that car was both an absolute joy and also a massive thorn in my side. At least it will go out on a high note now. These young guys will have fun with it. The bonnet and front guards were sold on to some other guys (which is why the car looks so sad) who smashed their car into a wall, so the love was spread around a bit.

The nail in the coffin wasn't all the water lines being replaced replaced, or even the engine and turbo dying... it was when we were in the process of replacing the engine and decided to re-spray the engine bay while we were waiting for the new engine, and found a weld in the chassis rail. Actually, I should have known from the start: its original number plate had three numbers followed by three letters: F I X. The time it was on the road was tons of fun. And I learned so much about cars and had a great time working on it. Now I own its bigger brother, a specimin that is in better condition and just as enjoyable to drive.

Byebye Silvia.

Plushy anatomy

Here are some wonderful Etsy finds!

A felted brain pendant... love it!

Saving the weirdest 'til last... the plush pelvis! I respect the detail and work that has gone into it (I hate whenever I have to sew holes in the middle).

Happy Monday, everyone! Hope your week is a good one.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Eye spy... something red!

Introducing... my new gumboots! I bought these at the mid-year sales, and I think they were supposed to be some fashion item? Gumboots as fashion isn't something I don't understand. Gumboots are practical for walking in mud and are great for being hosed down after walking in the mud, but aren't practical for walking through shopping malls or even simply walking in a co-ordinated way. I think most other people had the same idea as me, which is why they were so heavily discounted. However, they're cute and keep my feet clean and dry while weeding and planting out the garden. And there has been plenty of time spent in the garden recently!

Thank you to Ellieboo for this week's theme! (I've been wanting to show off my new gumboots for a while!). And also to Cindy, the lovely host of Eye Spy...!

Babar birthday cake

Oohh... time for another cake-related post!

It was Gib's mum's birthday recently, so I baked her a cake. She loves Babar, so it's a Babar themed cake. Decorated with just some ready-to-roll icing.

I modified this recipe and it was absolutely delicious. So I'm recording it here so I can make it the next time I have a gingery carrot cake craving:

A terrific tasting Carrot, Orange and Ginger cake! (dairy free)

2 ½ cups wholemeal flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons powdered ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
6 carrots, peeled and grated (about 3 cups)
1 ½ cups granulated sugar (I substituted for CSR Smart sugar)
½ cup packed light brown sugar (I used low GI cane sugar)
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 cup vegetable oil safflower oil, or canola oil
½ cup orange juice
½ cup finely chopped glace ginger

Preheat oven to 180 C. Spray and line a 25cm round pan with parchment, with a 5cm collar.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in large bowl; set aside.

3. In a food processor, combine granulated and brown sugars, eggs and the orange zest until frothy. Add oil gradually. Process until the mixture is light in color and well emulsified, about 20 seconds longer. Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl. Stir in the carrots, glace ginger, and the dry ingredients until incorporated and no streaks of flour remain.

4. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes (took 60-70 mins for me), rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. Cool the cake to room temperature in the pan (for a denser cake) on a wire rack, about 2 hours.