April 19, 2014

April 16, 2014

Sweet dreams

We've been wanting to replace our bed frame for a while - the old one had some manufacturing flaws (it was already replaced once when it was still under warranty) and was slowly dying. We particularly wanted something with built-in storage, as we don't have room for bedside tables. So when I found an inexpensive secondhand frame with a bookshelf for sale in our area, we were all over it.

This is what Ben brought home in the station wagon one evening:

Yes, that is what my garage looks like. Please ignore that fact. 

It's not exactly offensive looking, but I hated the mid-brown tone (it looks reddish here, but trust: it was baby poo brown) and wanted something lighter to tie in with the rest of the bedroom. It's not made of particularly fabulous wood, so I didn't feel bad about painting it - a trip to the hardware store yielded white and buff paint, and A Plan.

The very first thing we did was drill a couple of small holes in the back of the bookshelves (for power cord access, obviously):

Next up, lightly sanding the entire thing. 

Ugh. Why people refinish furniture for fun, I will never understand. Sanding is THE WORST. 

Then a coat of stain-blocking primer:

The instructions I was following stated to only use a single light coat of primer, and I think in most cases that would work just fine. However, I eventually came to wish I'd slapped on a second coat, since I was painting most of the bed white and the base kept very subtly showing through. 

Three coats of paint later, this is what we had:

Notice how the backs of the bookshelves aren't painted? Enter the buff paint:

Two coats gave plenty of coverage, which reinforced my theory that the light primer treatment was only ideal for tinted paint. Learn from my mistakes!

And finally, a week after the process started, we brought it into the bedroom:

Yeah, I know, our cover is wrinkled. I'm not dedicated enough to iron it just for this post, sorry. Points for keeping it real?
Also, any ideas on what to put on the top shelves of the bookcases?

I was a little bummed that the bookshelf backs didn't really show up in the bedroom light - the color contrast had been much stronger in the hardware store and our garage.

But it did match the linen backing to our duvet set, which was the original intention:

Overall, I'm really pleased with the final result (and pricetag)!

April 14, 2014

Racing in the capital

Last Saturday brought the Adidas 5k at the Australian Running Festival - my first Canberra race!

And also, as I realized the day before, my first solo event. Until now I've always had a running buddy or someone to cheer me on at my races, but this time I was running alone. This didn't worry me until I parked near the venue and realized that not only did my new running tights not have a zippered butt pocket, but I didn't have anyone to hold my chunky car key. Damn.

Why does my thumb look so huge in this photo?  

So I did what my Nana always recommended, and tucked it in my "lady's treasure chest" (read: bra). Classy, I know, but I didn't want to lace it to one of my shoes and feel it flailing around the entire race.

The parking situation for the event was a little confusing - I ended up further from the course than I thought I would, which meant I had to jog to make it to the start line just eight minutes before the gunshot.

But hey, eight minutes is enough time for a solo pre-race selfie and documenting race nails!


(When did that happen??)

The race was awesome, easily one of my favorites to date! A mostly flat, fast course with lots of cool stuff to look at along the way...which, sadly, I proved incredibly inept at photographing.

I swear Parliament House is in the background here:

And that blurry thing behind me is Old Parliament House:

In the end, I crossed the finish line with a shiny new medal AND a new personal best - nearly three minutes faster than my previous best!

I absolutely loved this race - I'll be doing it again next year for sure!

April 12, 2014

Roasted Cauliflower & Garlic Soup (half-assed version)

Winter is rapidly approaching Down Under, and earlier this week I was craving a warm, comforting soup -- something creamy and fragrant, but not too unhealthy. A little googling brought me this recipe for Roasted Cauliflower & Garlic Soup, which ticked all the boxes. Since I'm constitutionally incapable of following a recipe to the letter, I tweaked it a bit to use ingredients that I had on hand...

Preheat the oven to 400F/205C, then chop up 1.5 heads of cauliflower:

Slightly bruised heads, in my case. Slim pickings at the store this week.

No more icky bits. Much better.

Drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil and stir so all pieces are coated, then dump it on a tray for roasting.

Chop the top off the head of garlic:

Drizzle it in olive oil, wrap the head of garlic in foil, and place it in the oven with the tray of cauliflower.

Roast the cauliflower for about 20 minutes, and the garlic for approximately half an hour. Meanwhile, finely dice these guys:

And some carrot too. But I didn't have any. FAIL.

Your cauliflower should look more or less like this when done:

This is where I really deviated from the recipe. I didn't have the time or inclination to cook this on the stovetop, so I dumped all of the vegetables in my crockpot, along with salt, pepper, thyme, paprika and a bay leaf:

The original recipe calls for bacon, but I substituted a little cooked and crumbled Italian sausage instead:

By this time, the garlic was done. Can't you practically smell it? *drool*

Scoop out the garlic, roughly chop it, and throw that in the crockpot along with four cups of chicken broth.

Let it cook on low for about six hours, then blend the shit out of it.

"Blending the shit" is an industry term. Mmmhmm. Quality writing, that's what you come here for!

The final step brought my last substitution. The recipe called for half-and-half, and not only does Australia not use half-and-half, but I didn't have any cream on hand to thin with some milk. Instead I swapped in some Greek yogurt.

The end result? Well it's not that attractive. But it IS tasty, and exactly what I wanted on a rainy pre-winter day!

Roasted Cauliflower & Garlic Soup (half-assed version)
1 1/2 heads cauliflower
1 whole head garlic
4 1/2 teaspoons olive oil (divided into 1 tablespoon and 1.5 teaspoons)
1 1/2 stalks celery, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
4 cups chicken broth
1 dried bay leaf
1/2 cup half and half (or Greek yogurt)
5 ounces cooked and crumbled bacon or sausage

  1. Preheat oven to 400F/205C.
  2. Cut cauliflower into individual florets. Toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Transfer to a foil lined baking sheet. 
  3. Cut the top off of the head of garlic, drizzle with 1.5 teaspoons of olive oil and wrap in foil. 
  4. Roast the cauliflower and garlic for 20 minutes. Remove cauliflower and roast garlic for an additional 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, finely dice onion and celery, and cook and crumble bacon or sausage.
  6. Add all vegetables, bacon/sausage, spices and chicken broth to the crockpot.
  7. Scoop and roughly chop garlic, then add to crockpot and stir thoroughly. 
  8. Cook on low for approximately six hours.
  9. Remove the bay leaf and puree the soup in batches until smooth, then return to pot. 
  10. Stir though half and half. Serve immediately. Can top with fresh parsley or additional bacon/sausage. 

April 10, 2014

Airplane! (or not)

When I found out last week that the Canberra Airport was having their annual open day on the weekend, I immediately emailed Ben with, "OMG, the Pirates would love this!"

In addition to the usual fair-type stalls, the airport was opening a handful of passenger planes for exploration (read: you get to go in the cockpit), along with a fire truck and a bunch of smaller planes. Pretty exciting stuff for soon-to-be-4-year-olds!

But when we arrived about an hour before the event ended, we were told that they were no longer allowing plane tours. Whomp-whomp. I get that they needed time to get everyone who had already lined up through the planes, but it would have been nice if they'd mentioned in the advertising that the planes wouldn't be available the entire time.

This was as close as we got:

But in the end, the boys didn't care - they still had a blast on the jumping castles:

And in the petting zoo:

And - the big winner - climbing aboard a massive backhoe:

They succeeded in turning on the lights and were actively searching for the ignition before the supervising driver realized what was going on. Yup. Those are my construction-crazy kids! *sigh*

April 8, 2014

We all scream!

Today was that most hallowed of days: free cone day!

Ben & Jerry's has only recently started making inroads to the Australian market, which means it's still a bit hard to find and fairly pricey (a pint will set you back nearly $13 at a major grocery store), but we're lucky enough to have a scoop shop at our local mall.

When I checked their site this morning, the local shop didn't appear on the list of stores participating in Free Cone Day, and I looked like this:

But I heard later on the radio that they were handing out free cones until 9pm, and then I looked like this:

Apparently I'm in a Friends gif mood.

After picking up the boys from preschool, I told them we were stopping at the mall for a special snack. Mwahahaha.

They were pretty impressed with getting ice cream cones for an afternoon treat:

Will chose classic vanilla, Dash went wild (for a 3-year-old) with mango sorbet....and yours truly? Resisted the siren call of free ice cream. I'm getting a medal for that, right?

April 5, 2014

News of the day

Have you guys seen this?

Federal agents, art experts and museum curators descended on the home of a 91-year-old man in central Indiana on Wednesday to take control of a huge collection of artifacts from Native American, Russian, Chinese and other cultures.

The FBI didn't release item specifics at first, just stated that there were thousands of pieces, and their cultural value is "immeasurable". Obviously both my art aand librarian sides were dying of curiosity. DYING. They have since released a bit more information, and the whole thing is utterly fascinating. Go read it all!
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