Here I am, eating my taro mochi (dericious), after making my own (frozen) dumplings in my new steamer basket with my finally found rooster chilli sauce that I discovered in China in 2009, though still recovering from the feast of yum cha yesterday. Quite oriental of me, I feel.

I went with the civil engineers from America and mechanical engineer-turned-financer that I met last Friday at a young professionals meetup for dinner and a movie (American Pie Reunion), and a chemical engineer friend of the Americans (also from meetup). Last week there were five of us at a smaller table in a large group, and four of us turned out to be engineers- how cool. They’ve just moved to St Kilda from California – not for any particular reason, just for a change!! I wonder if I’ll be like that after my masters course.. and they invited me! Yayyyy I have friends 😀

Did some gift shopping for Mum afterwards, and was so full when I got home I don’t think I had dinner. Brunch the next morning with a meetup in Brunswick which I rode my bike to – it’s getting a bit cold now though, I had to wear ear muffs and gloves! Nice food and a really nice host – no long-lasting friends though I feel.

Can’t remember much else of what happened that weekend/week because it’s been a while since it happened!


Macaron drive

Today I gave macarons to strangers for donations to Teagan’s Live Below the Line campaign (we’re going to live on $2 a day for a week in May, but she’s raised heaps and is close to winning a volunteer trip overseas, so I’m focusing on her).

Even on the tram ride in, because I had some signs on the trays, I received two donations of $6.50 and $5, one not even for the macaron. Off to a good start!

It was a perfect setting on the lawn – by the time I’d made one round, the high turnover rate meant I had a whole new group of people to sell my spiel to.

One lady I spoke to when I was half way through talking she said ‘Oh, I’m not giving money to any children’.. what?! I should have asked her reasons.. seems like such a strange thing to say.

As far as I can remember, the donation on the tram was the most I had- most people stuck to the $5, but it was definitely the most common number. Quite a few were happy to just donate and not get anything in return, but I think if there hadn’t have been anything offered, it could have been a different story. And once that number was in their head, it seemed to stick.

Incredibly, in two hours I was able to pool $163 from strangers – not bad!

Overall the day was quite good – I’m glad I did it; Teagan appreciated the donation (though for a while I was torn between giving it to her (she was second but by like $2k) or putting it on my account so I could go into the draw for an ipad.. I figure she’ll need it eventually), and noone was rude to me for interrupting their reading etc.

Given that I came home and ate a ‘few’ of the leftovers, I’m not sure how I’ll go without much by way of snacks during LBL week….


Feeling quite strange at the moment.. a strange mix of emotions.

On one hand, my macarons certainly turned out much better than they did last week (overmixed, therefore fragile and cracked and translucent), and I was able to fix the chocolate penutbutter mixture that had turned into a brick with a bit of milk. I also went to the Finders Keepers market and bought a few things.. some prints to be gifts for Mumsies, a set of earrings, and a big necklace that can let me tick ‘collar necklace’ off my list even though it’s actually a butterfly.

On the other hand, my macarons behaved quite strangely. They look beautiful, but even though they were cooked for ages longer than the recipe (and back at the correct temperature this time- not sure what I was thinking last week!) their guts still fell out but in a strange way. You could take the shell off them as if they weren’t even connected.. in fact I believe this to be the case, with the exception of the edge of the bottom near the feet. At least the feet came with the shell, so after I scooped their guts back in they kinda look the same.. at least some of them worked well (a few even perfectly), but I got pretty frustrated with the trays of scoopable ones.

This probably has something to do with the part where making them in the first place was a waste of time.. you see, I was doing it to help Teagan who was coming fourth in a fundraising competition for Live Below the Line, where she can win a volunteering trip overseas.. perfect for her! I asked all of my friends to donate to her (she had already raise $2k by herself and wasn’t too far off the leader), and I was going to get the help of strangers by enticing them to donate with macarons. Perhaps a hundred dollars would help her get the trip of her dreams. But, she told me that when they did today’s update, the leader had received another two $1000 donations so was kinda flogging us.. Add to this that I ruined the butter filling by adding over-softened (ie melted) butter to the eggs (WHY.. I knew that it would wreck it!!!!), and I’m a bit over it.

Back on the first hand, I bought myself a Stephen K Amos ticket for tonight.. one of the benefits of going alone is that I can find single tickets to an otherwise sold out event.

Makes me feel like there isn’t really that much to complain about 🙂

But, back on the second hand, I forgot to mention that I suspect I have heart failure. Awesome. I’m so afraid of what this means.. all I know is that I have mild pitting edema in my legs, a high heart rate and some strange fluttering sometimes, and that I should probably stay away from the internet because it terrifies me with its talk of transplants and mortality. Luckily for me I’ve been approved to go to Europe on scholarship, but that terrifies me too. What if my heart stop me from going? What if it turns into one of those bucketlist trips? this wasn’t supposed to happen tome.. but stress and lack of free time come at a price.

Good thing I bought comedy tickets.

Baking and Comedy

The past week I have been, as the title suggests, going to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and doing some baking.

Dave Thornton on discount tickets for being a ‘preview’ session.. a good hour! It had a long-running story of how he was to give an inspirational talk at a school, but had no idea what to say. Quite intimate-feeling, as it was just in a narrow hall with some seats set up. I laughed most at the improvised things that he said when talking with audience members.

Charlie Pickering, though I probably should have picked someone that IknewI would like, instead of a guess. Most of his jokes I saw coming, and his personality can be a bit annoying.. plus the whole theme of the thing was about why haven’t we kept caring about traveling to the moon. It’s not like he’s training to be an astronaut either!

The maths of dying was pretty funny, but you learn things as well eg only 10% of Australian population dies before 60-something. More people die each year falling out of bed than falling off a ladder.. but there wasn’t too much technical stuff, but a few jokes thrown in for good measure (‘if that line wasn’t funny, you ruined it by observing it’.. and something about a particular mathematician being able to check into Hotel Infinity because you can always find infinity+1 or something..

The science comedy (Peer Revue) was mostly the same: I learnt a few things, like about Hawking radiation, the mimic octopus, Russian countries becoming sub-colonies within sub-colonies are alike to babushka dolls.. I enjoyed most seeing Simon Pampena, the maths comedian I’ve seen during national science week for the past 4 years. The other day I was feeling disappointed that I might not be in the country to see him again, and then this popped up! I was worried that he would recycle jokes, but only the intro song was reused (I’m a brainiac on the floor..). Since he normally performs at the universities, he can usually throw in some pretty mathsy jokes, but he’s not allowed to swear. At this show, he opened by getting everyone who liked maths to yell swearwords (breaking stereotypes), but then used venn diagrams as the mathsiest thing.. and not even in an appropriate way! But I enjoyed it, but it was over much too soon, I would have happily paid more for him to go for longer, even if it was jokes which I’d heard before.. it’s not the same as rehearing normal comedian’s jokes. I want to be able to remember these, so I can tell them myself! But I always forget too quickly.

So, baking…!

Chocolate theme at the baking club for easter. As soon as I heard that I knew it was a bad idea.. but everyone likes a good chocolate overdose. I read through a list of someone’s top 50 chocolate recipes, but only found one inspiring one (I try not to do typical things). Then I realised that I have a pile of cookbooks in the corner, which might actually come to good use. In particular, the Adriano Zumbo one which I know also does NOT do boring. However, the recipes are normally comprised of at least 4 other recipes, and require weird ingredients…

Enter the japanese mayonnaise cake. No weird ingredients.. in fact, fewer ingredients than a normal cake recipe! jackpot! But, it’s the mirror glaze recipe (and consequently clear glaze recipe) that gets you with the weird ingredients. Normal glaze should be fine, just some condensed milk, chocolate, gelatine (new for me!), glucose syrup.. sounds healthy hey!! turned out a bit like jelly. you could easily set it in a pan and cut it into cubes for decorating different things.. I have way too much left over and am not quite sure what to do with it (the condensed milk too!).

The cake turned out quite nicely.. it’s quite moist and while you can taste the mayonnaise, you can’t identify it.. too much sweetness for anyone to be freaked out by it. Oh, there are raspberries too. But next time I won’t use frozen raspberries for decorating.. they’re not too pretty (they went moldy too!) And perhaps as they melted overnight, that was what caused the moisture ontop of the cake…. oh well!

It went pretty well at baking club but by getting there at 1230 so that I could be there for when the 1pm people arrived, the 12pm people were already full! It took some prompting to get people to eat more, and some volunteers to take chunks home, but most of it was taken care of.. leaving only the muffins and heart-tarts in the house.

The next day I had nothing planned and decided to try out one of the macarons recipes. One which didn’t require any weird ingredients.. Salted butter popcorn was my choice, but the task was to find some almondmeal.. not many stores are open on Good Friday! I took my bike for a zip around the suburb and eventually came across a shop.. charging $40/kg for almondmeal!!! The things I do for.. myself? The recipe is the same as what I’m used to (Italian version, but that’s easy now), but with different proportions. As he’s an Australian chef, I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to make my own adjustments to the amount of almondmeal like before which I believe was due to humidity factors or something.. perhaps almondmeal is just different overseas.

Anyway, it worked like a charm! had to bake the second tray for longer than indicated, as the first ones lost their guts. Also, the recipe says 130 degrees which I find quite low, but in a video of Adriano he refers to 150.. so I might try that next time? their feet weren’t amazing, which I think had to do with the temperature.

I was really impressed with the filling.. partly because it let me use up the leftover egg yolks! but also because it tasted like popcorn!! well, the butter part anyway- that’s for sure. I found that the more salt I added the less it amazed me as popcorny, but my housemates recommended it. Hopefully they will last until french on Tuesday- we’re having a bit of a party since it’s our last session for the term (ridiculous!!!!!!)

Can’t wait to try out the other fillings!! Maybe even some fancy cakes!

Free stuff!

Last Thursday I went to baking club (emptyhanded): free ‘special diet’ goods, including a chocolate tofu pie and vegan brownies. I think I’ll make some friends from that, including the guy with the purple hair, and the american Mercedes.

I then went to the fortnightly science society bbq where I made friends with the physics postgrads in front of me in the line: free delicious sausage in bread with cheese and bbq sauce.. win!

In the evening there was an international student clubs’ Night Market, where you have to pay for the food….. but it was pretty cheap! I wandered around and eventually got sucked into the Korean stand by the dumplings, though the sticky rice skewers with red sauce were nicer. Ran into at least five (groups of) people that I knew/recognised – I’m on my way to having what I had at QUT! Including my Sri Lankan friends, and two more friends of theirs.

I hung out with them for the rest of the night, although the group did split at one point due to different food preferences. I met a new girl, Dhinu, and we got our photos taken at the photobooth which I’d read about, for $5: split between us, practically free.

Natasha and Dhinu

We were considering going in again with some of the venetian masks, but then they were calling people over to the next stall for a competition with movie tickets to be won. As I found out with Alex, movie tickets can be ridiculously expensive here. It turned out to be a knockout version of Minute to Win It.

Natasha and I got into the second lot of the first round, which was to keep three balloons off the ground.. everybody failed, in all lots, and we were walking away and Dhinu was heading home. The organisers came back to us and said that we could be in the next round (presumably since everyone failed etc).. which was to pick up 6 pasta tube pieces with a piece of dry spaghetti in our mouth. Blitzed it! 5 others got through eventually, and we were told that there were 3 movie tickets to win. I thought that meant we have a 50% chance at that point!

Instead, one person wins all three… and we have to go through a few more rounds to decide who wins. One of which was placing oreos on our foreheads and moving them using our facial muscles to our mouths.. blitzed it! There was also an m&m sorting round.. came last. Putting a cereal box jigsaw puzzle together.. owned it. Blowing plastic cups off the table with balloon air.. owned it enough to win the whole thing! Bam! Free movie tickets.

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