Archive for the ‘A Day in Zaum’ Category

The Tale of a Seriously Big Zucchini

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Once upon a time, a lady called ‘My Mum’ grew some seriously big zucchinis. They were the length of my Dad’s arm and about the same width. They were the biggest zucchinis ever seen in this part of town.

A big zucchini

The big zucchini

One day, a girl called ‘I’ decided to make dinner with one of the seriously big zucchinis. I wasn’t sure how they would taste because surely a zucchini of that size would just be full of water and tasteless. How wrong I was. After cutting the seriously big zucchini into quarters, roasting and stuffing them with an amazing cous cous, tomato, feta and olive mixture, I made a seriously tasty dinner with the seriously big zucchini.

stuffed zucchini

That big zucchini has been stuffed.

Another seriously big zucchini is still in the fridge waiting to be eaten. All recipe suggestions for the seriously big and seriously tasty zucchini are welcome.

*For any British folk reading this, zucchini is Australian for courgette.

What You Sayin’?

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

The other day while bobbing around in the Indian Ocean, one of my fellow morning beach regulars said that I had gained a bit of a British accent. My “Gosh, do you really think so?” response probably didn’t help the situation. I have become very aware of how I speak, particularly my intonation and how I ask questions. A year ago, when I was in Croatia with my best friend for my birthday, I realised that I was saying, “Do you want some WARter?” (downward inflection) instead of the usual Aussie, “Do you want some warDA?” (through the nose and ending on an upward note.)

North cottesloe beach

The scene of the “You sound like a POM” crime.

I seem to be doing this a lot and while I have never had a strong Aussie twang, I don’t seem to end every sentence as a question anymore. The pattern and rhythm of my sentences has definitely taken on a British flow and I keep talking down, down, down. I still say that Princesses live in ‘CAR-sils’ and not ‘cass-els’ though.

I don’t think I sound British and don’t think I ever will, but over the last four years, I have been in many situations where people have struggled to pin-point my accent. I have been asked if I am South African a few times, to which I simply respond by walking away shaking my head.

I think having lived in Perth, Paris and Manchester, my accent has evolved into a fairly international hodgepodge of sayings, accents, tones and speeds. Living in Paris meant that I often spoke English to people who had learnt it as a second language. I would therefore change my sentence structure, speed and enunciation in order to help them understand what I was saying. I have to do similar things in Manchester – some of my Australianisms go in one ear and out the other with the Brits.

If ears could cringe, mine have been doing that a lot lately. I have always known that the true-blue Aussie accent isn’t the most pleasant sound in the world, but holy moly. Some people sound like they have pegs stuck on their noses and that they’re imitating the long, drawn out caws of the local magpies. So I’m kind of pleased that I sound a little bit like a snooty-Brit trying to impress the Queen with my rounded vowels. How now brown cow.

I’m Back.

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

This time one week ago, I was squished between a window and a fat woman with a beard on my flight back to Perth. Having just spent 11 hours in the foetal position avoiding any contact with the excess flab hanging over into my side of the arm rest, I was quite keen to get off the plane, collect my luggage, assure Australian customs that I wasn’t smuggling any dead animals into the country and give my mum a hug.

Since then I have spent my time re-adjusting to life in Australia and drinking a lot of ice coffees.

Jet lag.

I thought I had done so well. After arriving home on Saturday afternoon, I managed to stay away until 9.30pm before having 12 hours sleep and waking up feeling relatively adjusted. However, Sunday evening I lay staring at the ceiling until 4am when I finally felt tired enough to go to sleep. It is a strange feeling to lie in bed knowing that you’re supposed to be tired and that now is sleep time, however your body thinks it is still living on the other side of the world.

Anyway, my body clock is functioning properly now and I have even managed to get into the obscene Australian lifestyle of getting up before 6am to do exercise. Who does that? A lot of people around here it seems.

The weather.

I hear it is a bit chilly in England. My plane was delayed by over an hour when I left Manchester as they had to clear snow and ice from the runway. Apparently the canals have frozen and people are complaining about the cold.

manchester airport

From this…

It isn’t cold in Perth. This weekend we’re expecting 37 and 40 degree temperatures which is a little unnecessarily warm. I had forgotten what it feels like to sweat and I have managed to reach ‘beetroot’ level where people gawk at my red face and ask me if I am ok after my morning runs. I had also forgotten that everything melts and all of my lip balms, hand creams, chocolates and pots of Nutella are particularly runny.

Perth skyline

To this.

My family.

I have managed to catch up with a lot of my family since my return and have spent many hours sitting around chatting with my Dad. We have managed to come up with many great plans of things to build, books to publish, jobs to complete and adventures to have over the next 6 months that I may need to extend my stay.

And I am catching up on four years’ worth of Mum hugs.

Mum lasagna

She may not be Italian, but nothing beats my Mum’s lasagna.

The dog.

While I have been living overseas, my parents have replaced me with a dog. My tendency to sneeze in the presence of any furry creatures and the fact that I was terrified of dogs as a child has meant that I have never been much of a dog-person. However, Cali isn’t any old slobbery mutt – she is a guide dog in training and understands the word ‘sit’. She doesn’t jump, bark, slobber, lick (that much), smell or make a mess. She doesn’t even seem to molt which is particularly impressive. While I still dislike dogs, she has managed to convert me into a Cali-person.

Cali

Cali rests her head after a long day at Guide Dog training school.

The beach.

Oh, the beach. Glorious, glorious beach. Tuesday morning saw my return to the early-morning-swim-at-the-beach ritual as Mum, Dad, Cali and I headed to North Cottesloe for a 7am swim. It was nice to see the regular beach-goers again and for them to recognise me and welcome me back. There is nothing like the smell of ocean air and the feeling of being immersed in salty water. Those 15 minutes of bobbing around really kick start a day. Both Paris and Manchester are definitely lacking on that front.

So I am back. Physically, at least. I’m not sure where my head is living and I have no idea where ‘home’ is exactly. But it is nice to know that I have multiple places across the world where people will be happy to see me.

No Boundaries 2014 – York

Friday, February 28th, 2014

I spent the last two days networking, learning, discussing and eating at the No Boundaries conference in York. The conference was to be a discussion and debate about the role and development of the arts sector within the UK. It brought together a wide range of representatives from the arts industry – from important big-wigs to little artists with dreams. One of the unique selling points of the conference was that it was set in two different cities – York and Bristol – and simulcast live between the two venues. While sitting in the Guildhall in York, we watched presentations on wide screen as they were given in Bristol and vice versa. Plus the entire conference was streamed live over the internet for the entire world to watch. There was an active twitter discussion and regular blog updates with the aim to have no boundaries for people to access the discussion.

No Boundaries – York.

No Boundaries – York.

The majority of the talks were interesting and raised relevant points about the important role the arts play in communities, business,  politics and people’s personal lives. I sometimes felt a little on the outside being a non-UK resident and also someone who is still finding their feet within the arts sector. And my concept of ‘arts’ appears to stem beyond the norm as I was expecting more graphic designers, web designers and professional writers to be in attendance, however it seemed that the majority of the people in the room were somehow involved in theatre. I think it was a shame that there weren’t more people representing the graphic and digital industries as they would have been able to provide some significant insight on the direction of digital production.

There were a few presenters who touched on issues that I felt a strong connection with. Most of the audience was blown away by young 17 year old Sophie who advocated the role of social media and digital technology in our lives. It was refreshing to hear someone talk about digital media with a purely positive outlook and without any negative “Yes, it’s good, but…” attached. People appear to be afraid of the shift towards digital platforms and the use of phones, tablets and computers in our daily lives as providers of entertainment, information and social interaction. Twitter and YouTube are diseases taking over our systems and if we don’t watch out we might all turn into inferior life forms. Or maybe, as Sophie suggested, they are just new opportunities for growth, knowledge and progress.

There were plenty of success stories surrounding new arts developments such as Cast, an arts centre in Doncaster, that opened up a huge array of opportunities to the local community that they never knew existed. I won’t go into detail about each speaker other than to say that everyone offered a new perspective or story that stimulated ideas and thoughts about the arts sector. And all of that was great. The downside was that the preface for the conference suggested it would be a discussion and debate about the arts but the final event turned into more of a sit-down-and-be-spoken-to. There were plenty of breaks to meet other people and swap business cards, but unless you managed to accidentally stand next to the right person while getting your fifth cup of tea, you had no idea who at the conference of any relevance to you.

A few of the other attendees agreed and commented that they hadn’t been able to make any strong networks as they didn’t know who was attending the conference or what field they worked in. There were no group discussions and there was only one talk that involved questions from the audience. We were invited to go into external rooms and generate our own discussion topics, but once you left the main auditorium you missed out on hearing the speakers. Technology was blamed for the lack of audience participation – apparently the need to cross live between Bristol and York meant that having additional microphones roaming around the audience would cause too many technical difficulties. To be honest, I felt there was far too much emphasis on how ‘groundbreaking’ the technology was when really it wasn’t that inspiring. Yes, for a small conference it was perhaps a little bit different, but I don’t think television companies would have been all that amazed.

Amazing vegetarian curry from Manjit's Kitchen.

Amazing vegetarian curry from Manjit’s Kitchen.

I met some very interesting people, listened to some fascinating talks and ate some great food (the catering was fantastic!). My mind wasn’t blown but it has given me some new things to think about. A highlight for me was a printed book that we were given at the start of the second day that was a record of the talks from the day before. Created through a company called Book Kernel, it was quite remarkable to have a physical copy of the talks in our hands. The quality of the print was quite good, too. As everyone else sat judging the level of detail the poor guy who had been rapidly taking notes all day had managed to record, I just said, “Wow! The GSM in this book is actually decent and the layout doesn’t look too ugly!”

A second highlight was the building the conference was held in. While the folks in Bristol spent the two days stuck in what appeared to be a windowless auditorium, us in York sat on particularly uncomfortable fold-out chairs in a beautiful stain glass windowed building, originally constructed in the 15th century. The Guildhall has seen centuries of civil activity and has been the location for various royal banquettes. The sun was shining outside and spectacular rainbow coloured streams of light were cast across the room. I spent of lot of the time staring at the stained glass detailing and wood panelling on the ceiling. Very awesome.

Sunshine through stained glass windows… and a tiger.

Sunshine through stained glass windows… and a tiger.

Characters of The Classroom – Meet Shaan

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

Everyone, meet Shaan. Shaan is one of the intriguing folk that I interact with while working in the shared office space, the Classroom. Today Shaan hasn’t been in a working mood and has spent most of the afternoon purposefully distracting other people who are trying to get things done. He has just spent the last 15 minutes asking me to have a photograph with him and he has challenged me to write a blog post about him. So here it is.

Shaan’s work days usually start at 2pm as he wanders into the Classroom with a Caffe Nero coffee in one hand and a lever arch folder under his other arm. His headphones never leave his ears even while he attempts to engage other Classroom members in drawn out conversations that usually involve him telling them that they are wrong at some point. These headphones also come in handy for his loud and over-animated phone calls with clients where he talks about the weather and engages in idle chit-chat.

Shaan drinks protein shakes and some sort of concoction involving raw eggs and milk. Today he announced that he has been photographing the development of his arm muscle growth and that I wouldn’t believe how many selfies he has on his phone. I told him that I was fairly certain I would believe it.

Shaan likes wearing hats and today he is wearing a furry eared number that he offered to give me if I called one of his clients and pretended to be him. I declined the offer and Shaan donned the fur and made the phone call himself, announcing that it wasn’t so bad after all.

Shaan is planning on getting his ear pieced on his birthday and asked for my opinion. I don’t think he liked my answer.

Meet Shaan.

Meet Shaan.

There’s a Place Called King of Prussia?

Friday, January 10th, 2014

Sometimes procrastination and distractions are worth it and today Wikipedia delivered me a gem. I have spent part of my afternoon looking for writing opportunities and read about a copywriting position in “King of Prussia.” At first I presumed this was the name of a creative agency or some sort of weird and whacky company. However, a quick Google search and the all-knowing, always reliable source that is Wikipedia told me that King of Prussia is a census-recognised area in Pennsylvania with a population of 19,936 (2010.) It is also home to the largest mall in the United States (based on leasable retail space.)

It gets better – it is also the location of the headquarters of the American Baptist Churches USA, a building known as the Holy Doughnut. While on the doughnut theme, there is also a Dunkin’ Donuts at the King of Prussia Mall.

Thank you, Wikipedia. Now it’s back to work.

Marathon Training Run #2

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Another Saturday morning has passed and therefore another painful long-distance run in preparation for the marathon. The weather forecast said it was going to be rainy and so I told myself 10 kilometres would be a minimum, 15 would be good, 20 would be better. I figure there isn’t much point in getting myself sick while training and everyone likes telling me that running in the rain equals instant cold. I don’t actually believe this fact, however am willing to go along with it if it means I don’t have to run so far.

As I set off at 8.30am, it was cloudy, cool but not raining and the weather was fine for the entire morning. In fact, it was great running weather without too much wind. So good weather, new music on my iPod, feeling good and getting somewhat lost resulted in me running a total distance of 23 kilometres. That’s more than a half marathon! That’s more than half way! Sure, I suspect the second half is going to be significantly harder than the first, but I am still very, very happy that I can run that distance and not be intense pain at the end.

I think I need to work on relaxing my shoulders when I run, because one day later and my neck, shoulders and back are extremely sore. I also need to watch what I eat before and after as I spent the rest of Saturday in a very weary state and just wanted to keep eating, eating, eating. It wasn’t until after I had had lunch, multiple afternoon snacks and a very large ramen noodle soup and a fondant chocolat for dinner that I felt somewhat normal again.

But in case you missed my previous announcement, I RAN A HALF MARATHON! Go me.

She's going the distance. She's not going for speed. She's all alone (all alone), all alone in a time of need.

She’s going the distance. She’s not going for speed. She’s all alone (all alone), all alone in a time of need.

Oh wow. I just wrote the caption for that photograph and for those of you who don’t know, I stole the words from a band called Cake and their song “The Distance” and I have just realised that that song is now about me and I need a tshirt for the marathon that says “She’s going the distance” on the front and “Powered by Cake” on the back. Yes. Brilliant.

Not Disgusting At All

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Restaurants should really change the name “Degustation” because, in my limited but existing experience, they’re not disgusting at all. HA. Get it? Hilarious.

Anyway, moving on from that pun, while visiting the South-West last weekend, my parents demonstrated how much they love me by taking me to The Studio Bistro for a degustation. I think they REALLY love me. I have never had a degustation menu before but my ever growing love for food has made the idea of eating that many courses potentially the best possible thing to do. Ever. I was very excited.

The Studio is a relatively new establishment with an art gallery and restaurant under the same roof. At dinner time, they spread tables throughout the gallery so you sit amongst paintings and sculptures contemplating what you will purchase after you have had a few glasses of wine. What I really liked about The Studio was the lack of pretentiousness – while the food was of a high quality and there was a general feeling of elegance, I didn’t feel like I was under review or that I had to sit with my hands folded in my lap. This was potentially due to a couple of the wait staff who were clearly still learning the ropes of how to serve in fancy restaurants. Walk to table, place hand behind back, pour water from jug slowly into glasses…

Our dinner consisted of five main dishes, plus numerous little surprises in between. One of my favourite dishes was the amuse bouche – a slice of nectarine wrapped in cured ham. Very simple yet very yum. We had crab, hot smoked tasmanian salmon (an entire fillet – it was incredible), pork belly, fillet steak and then a chocolate mousse cake for dessert. The salmon was a highlight – it melted in your mouth and has a soft smokey flavour. I had never tried pork belly before as usually the idea of eating that much fat doesn’t sit well with my stomach or thighs, so I was keen to give it a go. WOW. Who knew fat could taste so good? Well… lots of people, probably. But as a regular remover-of-skin-and-fat-from-meat, it was news to me, and I am pleased to announce that I ate every last drop of artery clogging flab. Amazing.

By the time we had reached the fillet steak, my stomach was questioning whether or not I really needed to eat more food. Shut up, stomach, was my response. The steak was beautifully cooked and despite thinking I was full, I managed to move things around in order to fit it all in. Then came the dessert.

When I had first read the menu I became instantly excited by the description of the dessert – Caraway and chocolate mousse cake with compressed stone fruits and vanilla. Oh, yes please. Sadly, the description was better than the real thing. I was expecting a real kick from the caraway but sadly I could barely taste it at all. Plus the consistency of the mousse cake was very strange – they had created multiple layers of cake, mousse, cake, mousse, but as a result, the cake had spread out through the mousse layers, giving it a very sandy texture. Mousse needs to be smooth – it’s a fact of life.

Chocolate cake

Degustation Dessert

I am still trying to work out how the stone fruit was ‘compressed’. It just looked and tasted like a piece of peach to me. Plus it was under-ripe peach to make things worse – the consistency was like eating an apple. The plate had a drizzle of a peach and vanilla sauce which was probably the highlight of the dish – lovely and refreshing. The dessert wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t what I had imagined it to be.

I found that to be the case with many of the dishes in the meal – while the food was of a high quality, the ingredients were generally fresh and the presentation was nice (except for the steak that looked a bit like someone had thrown up on it), there was something lacking. Sometimes it felt that the chef was putting too many things on one plate, other times the combination of flavours didn’t quite work. There were also far too many dishes with carbohydrate-filled root vegetables so by the end of the meal you were feeling very heavy.

It has, however, sparked a new interest for me in long, multiple-coursed meals and I plan on trying some more. I suspect the French do it very well – it is their word, after all.

Nerd Attack

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Yesterday afternoon I unwillingly witnessed one of the strangest phenomenons that I have seen in quite some time. Having travelled the world and experienced many different cultures, I am very accepting of new and different ways of living, eating and being. However, yesterday I met a friend of mine at the Broadway Basement tavern for a catch up drink and found myself in a completely and utterly baffling situation that I didn’t know how to explain or accept.

Imagine this. A girl (me) walks into a bar and discovers that of the 60-odd people drinking there, she is the only female who isn’t a member of staff. This she can accept as it is happy hour and pints are $6, however it isn’t until she sits down and notices a very large screen that she sees something is different. Expecting to see a football, cricket or rugby game, imagine her surprise/shock/horror when she realises the images being telecast are not your average sporting match but televised coverage of a World of Warcraft style computer game (apparently it is called Starcraft.)

Starcraft

Intense. *Image taken from www.perth.barcraft.tv

I could not believe my eyes – the room steadily filled with boys (they ranged in age from 18 to 25ish but would definitely still be categorised as boys, not men) wearing Nintendo or Mortal Combat tshirts who grabbed pints of beer and a seat and placed themselves in the best possible location to sit and watch two players compete for computerised victory. What really threw me was that there were commentators on the screen providing us with the latest statistics on who had won that battle and who had managed to steal the other person’s camp. To be honest, I don’t really know what happens in Starcraft and I don’t really care, but it seemed that the entire Computer Science faculty from UWA was there watching the action.

I would put this experience in the same bucket as when I had to watch Tom perform at heavy metal concerts when he was in a band. The long-haired, black-clothed metal heads had a similar nerdish quality to pimply, glasses-wearing Starcrafters. While they are hardly a threatening bunch, I can’t say I felt like I blended in. But for those of you who are currently jumping out of your seats at the exciting combination of beer + computer games, head to the Basement on Broadway in Nedlands every Tuesday at 5pm.

Starcraft schedule

Don't miss the action!

Going South

Monday, February 20th, 2012

I appear to have reached a stage in my life where everyone is getting married or at least announcing their engagement, although I am trying to ignore this fact because I am definitely not old enough for this to be happening. Gosh no. I’m practically a teenager.

I spent this past weekend in Denmark, five-ish hours south of Perth, celebrating the marriage of my friends Danielle and Ryan. The weekend was lovely as I caught up with friends who I haven’t seen in a while, drank plenty of good wine (yes, Australian wine IS good, all of you French-wine-is-the-best-snobs), and ate lots of good food. I got a bit teary eyed watching my beautiful friend, Dan, walk down the aisle and become a Mrs. It appears Paris may have made me a romantic after all.

One of the highlights of the weekend was dinner with my friends Velia and Alex at Pepper & Salt, a restaurant attached to the Mathilda’s Estate winery. The food, while priced at your now average Perth prices (i.e. ridiculous), was absolutely delicious with locally sourced ingredients and an interesting mix of flavours. I had pink snapper that was lightly battered with a hint of lemon myrtle, homemade chips and a decent salad. This satisfied my craving for fish and chips while being light and not horribly greasy.

Fish and chips from Pepper & Salt

Fancy fish and chips.

The highlight of the meal was dessert (of course). You can imagine my extreme excitement when our lovely waiter described our dessert options and said the words “Flourless, dark chocolate torte with pepper and chilli”. HOLY MOLY. It was good. It was dark, rich and the pepper made the chocolate buzz. It was served with a piece of chocolate through which were crunchy chucks of pepper. The berries served on the side had been stewed in what I presumed was port and added another dimension to the dish. I was extremely satisfied and very happy to wash it down with a rich, bold Shiraz from the Mathilda’s vineyard.

Chocolate torte

Chocolate and spice

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