October 30, 2014

Films and farewells

With only two days left in Matt's visit, I had a special activity planned for just the two of us: The Tale of Studio Ghibli Showcase.

We're both big fans of the animation house's films (and thankfully, reports of it's demise are greatly exaggerated), so we leaped at the opportunity to see four Studio Ghibli features and two documentaries on the big screen.

With only one day free to dedicate to the event, we knew we couldn't cram in all six films (plus the cinema was offering a deal for a four-film pass) so we sat down and began strategizing.

We knew we particularly wanted to see one feature from each director (Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata) plus the documentaries and ended up with the following:

1) The Wind Rises (Hayao Miyazaki)

2) Isao Takahata and his Tale of the Princess Kaguya (documentary)
A fascinating and insightful behind-the-scenes glimpse at the creation of Isao Takahata’s THE TALE OF THE PRINCESS KAGUYA. With complete access to the film’s production, we are privileged to witness Takahata as he uncovers the process by which he came to take on the project, the recording of the character voices, the establishment of ‘Ghibli Studio 7’ (a facility set up to meet the demands of a new type of animation that does not fit easily into the traditional Ghibli animation process), the recording of the music with legendary composer Joe Hisaishi, and even a rare meeting between Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki during the production of THE WIND RISES.
[stolen from here]

3) The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Isao Takahata)

4) The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (documentary)
With near-unfettered access inside Studio Ghibli, award-wining director Mami Sunada follows the key personnel at Ghibli – Academy Award®-winning director Hayao Miyazaki, producer Toshio Suzuki and the elusive Isao Takahata – over the course of approximately one year as the studio rushes to complete their two highly anticipated new films, Miyazaki’s THE WIND RISES and Takahata’s THE TALE OF THE PRINCESS KAGUYA. The result is a rare glimpse into the inner workings of one of the most celebrated animation studios in the world, and a portrait of their dreams, passion and dedication that borders on madness.
[stolen from here]

Oh my god, you guys.

NINE HOURS of Studio Ghibli, with no more than a 15 minute break between each film. We survived on snacks we smuggled into the theater (flame away, but I wasn't buying $10 buckets of popcorn all day), got sugar rush shakes, and I think my ass will never be the same after being parked for so long in the same seats.

Obviously, it was awesome.

And then...just over a day later, it was time for us to say goodbye to this big kid:

In a panic, I suddenly realized that because I'm always the person behind the camera, I had no photos of us together. So I handed my phone to Ben, and this happened:

Those are probably the least flattering, most goober-ish photos of me ever. And I love them anyway.

We miss you, little brother.

October 28, 2014

Eat all the things

With only a couple days of Matt's visit left, we decided to take advantage of a child-free day to try out a restaurant I'd been dying to visit since we moved to Canberra.

Grazing is located in the tiny country town of Gundaroo, about half an hour outside the capital. They specialize in upscale rural food, fresh veggies from their kitchen garden, and local wine pairing.

We killed time with a few photos while waiting for our appetizers to arrive:

We also got a visit from this total sweetheart who had escaped from a neighboring home and meandered over to the restaurant to ask for tummy rubs and tasty samples. Hey, it's outdoor dining in a country town - these things happen!

And then - THE FOOD.

Oh my god, you guys.

First there was:

Ash rolled and roasted duck breast with duck ham shavings, sweetcorn and pepita 

Rare olive oil poached Yellowfin tuna with crisp octopus, chorizo custard and cauliflower

Venison carpaccio with nettle mayonnaise, pork lardo, apple & cider dressing

And then:

 Ox cheek braised in Pedro Ximenez sherry served on parsnip mash with glazed heirloom carrots and horseradish

Free range chicken breast, truffled foie gras, celeriac crumble, savoy and shiitake

Slow cooked lamb with cauliflower, lentil and Brussels sprouts


 Chef’s selection of three boutique cheeses, served with house baked fruit bread, apple and stewed garden fruit compote

Frozen caramel and salted hazelnut custard with chocolate parfait, chocolate aero and crumbs

White-chocolate and strawberry ice cream with Goat’s cheese and mascarpone panna cotta, rhubarb and white balsamic jellies

Everything was delicious, but if I had to pick the winners it would be the tuna and the chicken (both my selections, although Matt's ox cheek was outrageously tasty in an ultimate comfort food kind of way), and perhaps the cheese platter that Matt ordered for dessert.

Who's going to come visit me so I have an excuse to go there again?!

October 26, 2014

Hands on science!

With Matt's visit beginning to draw to a close, we decided to head out to another of Canberra's big attractions: Questacon. You know - for the kids. Not because we adults wanted to screw around with fun science stuff all day or anything. *cough*

I'll let the photos speak for themselves:

Even though we've been in Canberra for a year, we hadn't taken the Pirates to Questacon before since they're a little on the young side for a lot of the exhibitions - but at the end of this visit, they were already asking to return to the "science experiment playground". SUCCESS!

October 24, 2014

Lest we forget

Since Matt is a fan of military history, we knew we had to take him to the Australian War Memorial during his visit.

Part commemorative site, part museum, and part research center, it's a major Canberra attraction and displays a ton of artifacts from Australia's military history.

My inner art nerd is endlessly fascinated by wartime propaganda posters, and I was happy to find quite a few pieces scattered around the museum:

The Memorial is also home to a sweet statue of Private Simpson and his donkey, who are a legendary part of Anzac WWI history. For those who don't know the story:
"Simpson landed on the shores of the Gallipoli Peninsula on 25 April 1915 as part of the ANZAC forces. In the early hours of the following day, as he was bearing a wounded comrade on his shoulders, he spotted a donkey and quickly began making use of it to carry his fellow soldiers. He would sing and whistle, seeming to ignore the bullets flying through the air.....They worked all day and night throughout the whole period since the landing, and the help rendered to the wounded was invaluable." 
[stolen from here]

Before we left, we paid a visit to the commemorative area, pausing at the Roll of Honour where visitors can place poppies by the names of servicemen and women in remembrance of their sacrifice.

We thank you for your service.

October 22, 2014

Beer me

The recap of my brother's visit to Australia continues!

As an Oregonian, Matt loves a good micro-brew, so we took him to Canberra's newest brewery: BentSpoke Brewing. It's a cool place, with a good selection of boutique beers on tap and a nifty bike-brew theme (Canberrians love them some bicycles).

Yup, he's in his happy place!

We had lunch while we were there, which I'm sorry to say didn't taste nearly as good as it looked - it wasn't bad exactly, but it was all a bit bland. Like, that's a tomato-based sauce on the buffalo wings, not a chili-based sauce:

But that was okay, because what we were really there for was the beer:

Clockwise from top left: 
Cluster 8 Imperial IPA, Braddon Bitter, 
Nugget lager, and Barley Griffin ale.

Of special interest to the guys was the Hopinator - each day, a different beer is hooked up to this bad boy and run directly through hops before it hits your glass:

The day we were there, it was the Crankshaft IPA - and check out the sediment at the bottom of their glasses:

Since I'm not a beer aficionado I'd volunteered to drive the guys home that day, but I did try a glass of Adam's Cider:

And people - this stuff is good. Seriously, even the guys said it was probably their favorite drink of the day. Very, very tasty.

In fact, it was so good that we bought one of BentSpoke's growlers (a new concept in Australia) and took home a couple of liters to drink over the next few days.


October 20, 2014

Feast Day

My brother is a foodie.

Not the kind of foodie that only eats fancy shit - the Real, Bona Fide Food kind that loves everything delicious. He also particularly enjoys barbecuing, and knew from my Tales of Australian Cuisine that it was something I missed about the USA*, so during his visit he offered to pull out our smoker and cook up some kickass grub for a BBQ Feast Day.

*Note: Aussies will argue this point, but don't be taken in by the whole "throw another shrimp on the barbie" line - generally speaking, they do not BBQ. Grill, yes. BBQ, no.

A trip to Costco yielded a couple racks of pork ribs...

...and since he'd never had roo, we marinated a few steaks as well...

...plus prepped a chicken for the Pirates (they're not big red meat eaters):

While the ribs slow cooked...

...the Pirates and I snuck indoors to whip up a special surprise.

My brother's birthday was a couple of weeks before his trip, and when the boys found out they promptly insisted that we make him a birthday cake. After some debate, they settled on a rainbow pirate theme:

Anyone want to hire a couple of 4-year-olds to decorate your next cake?

Meanwhile, as the ribs neared completion, the guys busted out the grill to cook the roo steak and a few veggies so we could pretend we were eating healthily:

Our new house came with a very friendly magpie who enjoys being handfed tidbits while we're cooking outdoors:

And finally - it was Feast Time!

Once we were all stuffed to the gills with meat, it was time to slap on the party hats and make room for cake:

Happy birthday, little brother!
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