Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The tank!

A hard day's work
Originally uploaded by Mistress B

Finally, after two years of trying to get quotes or even passing interest from tradesmen, we have managed to get our water tank installed. It's a 12,000L tank - the smallest we could get that could also be installed on the site rather than trying to get a prefabricated tank up the drive and up the stairs.
Plumbing is yet to go in but fingers crossed that's happening in Jan. Phil then predicts we'll see another 5 year drought in the mountains.
Special mention goes to Phil's herculanean efforts in first digging and levelling out the area for the tank, which as anyone who has seen the steepness of our block will know, was quite a task. Secondly, he had to lug two tonnes of sand up the steps to lay the base for the tank, and thirdly, had to lug half a tonne of crushed rock to lay around the edge to stop the sand being eroded.
And he still managed to get out of bed each morning, albeit with some serious groaning.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What's a girl home alone to do?

I'm normally fine to deal with small spiders and rescue them with the tried and true glass-and-cardboard method, but this hairy monster is a little outside my weight category - about 10cms wide.
And of course, spider-wrangling hubby is away until tonight, so it's a bit of a Mexican stand-off between me and Harry (the hairy one). He's on the far wall of my office, which is fine as long as he remains there. I don't fancy doing my live-to-air radio interviews with him creeping towards me.
Could make for interesting radio though...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Bianca and Sprout in Nikko

Bianca is pregnant!

Check out the sprout bump!

Ernest Cafe - Best coffee in Nikko

Ernest Cafe -Best coffee in Nikko

At the end of a big walk around temples you need a good coffee and like an oasis in a coffee desert we saw Ernest’s mobile cafe alongside the road. The van was immaculate with a beautiful chromed front. He converted it to a cafe himself.

‘Twas very good coffee and Ernest was a lovely gentleman. He took our picture and put it on his blog (did I mention he is a marketing guru) and then took our picture outside his van AND THEN gave us free homemade caramel on a stick. BTW you should have a look at his latte art as it's cool. Go Ernest!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Train ride from Nikko

We are just back from a great day in Nikko. It's 2 hours from Tokyo on the slow train but it was a lovely journey through rural Japan.

I tried to get the whole journey captured on my little camera taking shots every 5 seconds but my camera only lasted 1 hour after a week of use =( so 700 shots later here is a 45 second video of the first half of the trip. I was hoping to get more people on the train but it didn't get busy until the battey ran out (typical). You get the sunset anyway so stop complaining and watch the video.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Temple town

After three days of riding Tokyo's modern metropolis buzz, it was time for a little change of pace, so we took an hour-long train ride to the seaside retreat of Kamakura, famed for its Zen Buddhist temples. The train ride was interesting enough - the train seats are heated, and almost uncomfortably so. After having read about the damage heated car seats can do to a man's fertility, it did prompt us to wonder about the potential effects on Japan's population growth.
Despite the hoards of tourists, the temples were surprisingly peaceful, contemplative places, full of beautiful trees and lovely, simple wooden buildings.
(and here's the food bit ...) And we managed to get a meal at a traditional Zen Buddhist eatery -called shojin ryori. We had another incredible culinary adventure - multiple courses of tiny, beautifully-arranged dishes including a spinachy green flavoured with wasabi, a rich stew and a sort of tofu burger that tastes far better than it sounds!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Kamakura - most photographed place on earth...

Flowers at zen temple

Today we went to Kamakura which is beautiful zen temples meets blackpool highstreet (yes including blackpool rock).

The first temple that we went to was Engakuji which I think is the most photographed place on the earth. Lots of people had tripods and VERY big lens. The tiniest detail was photographed all over the temple. I think I may have got something unique due to my different taller perspective ;) The photograph above was my fave of the day taken with my little Ricoh :D

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tokyo Tofu Restaurant

This was vegetarian heaven ... in fact, it was non-vegetarian heaven too. We have just returned, groaning and several kilos heavier, from the most amazing eight-course tofu-based banquet at the Kyo Tofu Fujino restaurant in Tokyo's Marunochi building.

We ordered a set banquet but unfortunately didn't hang on to the menu, so the following description is from memory, and therefore a fair amount of guesswork going on!

We started with a three-dish sampler that I couldn't even begin to describe, then chargrilled tofu, a glutinous mushroom and tofu concoction, a delicious salad of lotus root and tofu chips with a fabulous sesame oil-based dressing, a tofu steak and three veg, a selection of rice, soup and pickled veg, then the dessert - soy ice-cream with petits fours. The whole thing ended with a gustatorial bang - a green tea concoction that was intensely powerful and practically napalmed the palate clean. It was just amazing food ... a vegetarian Tetsuya-style experience and definitely one of the best meals I've had in a long time, both vego AND non-vego (GASP! What an admission!)

Tokyo Tofu Restaurant Tokyo Tofu Restaurant Tokyo Tofu Restaurant Tokyo Tofu Restaurant Tokyo Tofu Restaurant Tokyo Tofu Restaurant Tokyo Tofu Restaurant Tokyo Tofu Restaurant

Tokyo fish market

Sushi bar counter

I thought I was a seafood-eating fiend, but the Japanese put me to shame. Anything even remotely edible and marine-dwelling seemed to be on sale at the famous Tokyo fish markets, aka Tsukiji. I was really cursing my pregnancy (for the first time, I should point out), as I jealously eyed the busy counters of sushi and sashimi bars, some with large, patient queues outside them.

There were so many things I couldn't even begin to identify, yet still wanted to eat. It was probably a good thing that Phil stayed at the hotel, as even for a fish-coveting vegetarian, I think all that fishy death would have been a bit much.

Weird fish

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Would you like a jet of water up the arse with that?

I had heard so much about Japanese toilets - the heated seats, the electronically-generated flushing noises for those who suffer from shy bladders, the water jet - but didn't believe it until I sat on one.
I was freaked enough by the perpetually-warm seat, which makes you feel like you've sat down just after someone has been spending some serious 'quality time' on the same seat. It's also a bit disturbing to have all these industrious electronic noises coming from the general direction of your bottom.
But I defiantly drew the line at the water jet. Frankly, I'd be happy to go through the rest of my life without having a machine blast a jet of water at my nether regions.
That was, until I was sabotaged by my 'dear husband', who ambushed me as I sat, peacefully enjoying a quiet wee, by pushing the water jet button. Unfortunately, I wasn't even in the right position, so the water missed its target by a couple of inches and shot up my buttock cleavage. Probably didn't help that I clenched up like a reluctant clam.
But to add insult to injury, Phil failed to tell me that you need to push the 'stop' button to make it stop, so I sat there, paralysed with laughter, clenched like I have never clenched before, and powerless to do a thing about it.
I'm forever traumatised...

Sprouting my Japanese pillow?

Does anyone know what Marco Beans are? I can’t find out. I am worried about sprouting my hotel pillow...

Anyone that knows me well knows that I dribble when I sleep. That has been ok ‘till now as long as you don’t have long hair. Thing is the pillow in the hotel has a layer of Marco Beans in it and I am worried about my pillow sprouting. I have read the pillow instructions that I have included but they don’t answer my concerns. If anyone knows what they are and whether I am in danger of pillow growth please let me know.

Hotel Pillow instructions

Japan - Got here

Well we got to Tokyo safe and sound although very tired. We have a good view of the city from the hotel room and woke up to the sun rising. Now Bianca gets to try a buffet breakfast in a new country!


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Trimmed new beard

Had a haircut the other day because as the hairdresser said "you look like a bear" hair was VERY long and my beard was unruly.
She even trimmed/styled my beard.
Dont know if I am gonna keep the beard but it will be fun for our trip to Tokyo.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Sprout at 19 weeks

Sprout has had its second photoshoot, and is looking good. The obstetrician pointed all the important bits (except the REALLY important bits, as we've decided to leave that as a surprise), such as kidneys, heart, brain, eyes, legs, feet and hands.
We also got some of the measurements, and I'm relieved to discover that despite its dad's rather impressively-sized cranium, Sprout has a slightly below-average head circumference. However it does have slightly longer than average legs and arms ... we may yet strike it lucky with the tall genes!
It is also a very active little thing and is really making its presence felt with regular kicks. It might have got Phil's tall genes, but I'm starting to suspect a bit of my hyperactivity might have snuck in there. As long as it gets Phil's sleeping genes as well, that's just fine by us!

Friday, October 31, 2008

A flower for Debbie

This beautiful waratah - the only one that flowers in our garden but has done so every year - is for Debbie, even though she's on the other side of the planet.
She has lost someone so precious to her that there are no words or wails that can express the grief and pain of it.
I can't imagine what she's going through, and I don't want to. But it's enough to send that jolt through you to remind you that nothing is forever, everything changes, and every single minute with those you love is precious.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Weird weather

I know it's the height of ordinariness to blog about the weather, but the last two days have delivered firstly some seriously whopping hailstones (thankfully only a few and the car wasn't here to get dented) yesterday, and then this morning, we had a good hour of snow. And not the wet hail that I normally get excited about and Phil dismisses as not being real snow, but big fat flakes that actually stuck around for a bit.
These were delivered by a thunderstorm, which is a combination I don't think I have ever encountered before and just added to the excitement of it all.
Some of my pics of the snow even made it onto the Sydney Morning Herald online photo gallery (not that that's much of a claim to fame, but I'll take it).
And of course, now it's bright and sunny outside and temperatures are forecast to get back into the 20s on the weekend.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

New vegipatch...waiting...

rhubarb first growth
Bianca and I keep watching the new vegi patch...
Currently it has rhubarb, raspberries, gooseberries and black currents planted (my choice) which a friend pointed out sounded like bear food...Bianca thought that was apt.
There is some asparagus (bears don’t like asparagus) but we won’t be able to harvest that until we leave it for a year.
Bianca has LOTS of seedlings waiting to be bedded in a couple of weeks. Lots of multicoloured heritage varieties from Diggers Club like five colour silver beet and ten colour tomatoes. Call me old fashioned but I like my silver beet green and my tomatoes red!! We will have purple, yellow, black, green, pink, striped etc...
Included a picture of the newly grown rhubarb

New garden wall in progress

treefern growing back

When it rains it really rains up here in the Blue Mountains. The hill that the house is sat on is mainly sandstone with shelves of ironstone so it seems that weeks after the rains the back of the house is a quagmire.
Solution: build a wall with an agricultural drain behind it!
We had to move the large tree fern that Bianca looks at from her office window and we were worried about it not surviving the move but as you can see it is growing back with lush new growth.
It will be good to have a play area at the back of the house.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Meet The Sprout

It's an alien!
Originally uploaded by Mistress B
It's finally official - Hairy Mountain Folk are brewing up a tiny pair of hairy mountain feet! After having our first ultrasound this Tuesday, we got our first glimpse of The Sprout, who kindly gave us a little wriggle on the screen just so we knew it was alive and kicking.
It's all rather exciting/surreal/freaky/wonderful ... I'm sure like all new parents, we're not going to know what's hit us, but for the moment we're enjoying blissful ignorance!
Phil has very nobly suffered through two months of me whingeing on a daily basis about how sick I feel and how I simply MUST have Indian food today and 'don't you dare come near me with those porcini mushrooms'. Yep, all-day hangover is about the kindest description I can come up with. Even more upsetting is I have gone off porridge and oranges - my previous desert-island-foods.
Haven't gone off chocolate though ... heh heh heh.
As a woman who likes to keep herself looking presentable (and that covers spending all day in a dressing gown and ugg boots), I was relieved to discover that 'maternity wear' does not mean 'muu-muu', and have actually managed to deck myself out in some decent stretch-waisted outfits. In fact, they're so comfortable I could quite happily see myself spending the rest of my life wearing stretch-waisted outfits.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Spring cleaning

A combination of warm weather, sunshine and a fervent desire to put off doing any serious work has led to The Spring Clean - long overdue and both fascinating and painful.
I have discovered old personal diaries from school days, whose contents have led me to believe I was psychotic for a large part of my teenage years.
I have discovered a collection of poems I wrote when I was an earnest, nerdy primary school student (and what's changed except age, I wonder?).
I also thoroughly enjoyed re-reading my impressive collection of job rejection letters, which reads like a Who's Who of science, medicine and publishing: The Age, the ABC (twice), New Scientist (twice), The Lancet, Australian Geographic, the CRC for Genes and Human Diseases, Current Medical Literature, Nature (twice), the World Health Organisation and Australian Doctor (for a job I subsequently got four years later).
It's the jobs Bianca gets rejected from that make Bianca the best (apologies to John West for mangling their tag line).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why I love working from home

Here's what I love about working from home:
- I can get up at 8am, have tea (or get it in bed if I play my cards right) and breakfast, then go back to bed for a digestive nap until I'm ready to start my brain up.
- I can spend the entire day in ugg boots and a warm, snuggly dressing gown if the mood takes me.
- I can talk live to air on radio stations around the country while wearing ugg boots and a dressing gown.
- I can cook chicken soup from scratch for lunch and eat it sitting in a bean bag while watching an episode of The West Wing.
- I can take the time to go for a walk to the shops while it's still light to get fresh stuff for dinner each day.
- I can watch fairy wrens playing chasies in the tree fern outside my office window.
- I can listen to Carmina Burana at bone-shattering volume while I work and no one complains.
- and I can do all this and still earn as much money as I used to make working 8 hours a day in an office.
Don't hate me...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Nerd Alert: RAID array

OK you dont have to read this...
BUT I have just finished setting up my RAID array for my desktop at home!
It's been sat around for 6 months and because I took the cheap route with the backplane (the box on the top) it took a lot of messing around.
It has 5 SCSI hard drives in it but acts like 1 drive for your computer so it is very fast and if one of the hard drives fizzle it just carries on, you just replace the dead drive. So I have got ½ terabyte of fast disk.
'So what am I going to use it for?' I hear you ask...
Well the first database I have loaded is the whole of the english wikipedia which I have loaded into SQL Server. In a raw version it is 25 gigabytes.
Next I need to get my spider crawling =)
Well I did warn you and it was up to you to carry on reading! :P

Who needs a gym membership...

I have had many doubters about getting this stump out of the ground. It has taken a lot of digging, sawing and gritting of teeth but I've got it out!!
Its an old hardwood tree stump that has been there since the house was built I guess but it was in the way of the water tank we want fitted.
So before you say (I have had many commentators):
  1. a stump grinder is a very big bit of machinery and we would not have been able to get it up to the stump
  2. the little chainsaw I have got cuts in 2cms and then just smokes
  3. burn it out? nah after 1 day of hot coals I reduced it by 1mm on one side =(
  4. chain around car/motorbike? After hearing 'Darwin awards' stories of various deaths by 'car and chain...' i didn't think it was worth it.
  5. how are you going to get it out of the hole? Luckily we had two strapping lads staying with us who needed to test their manhood and help out an old fella.
So next thing is to prepare the ground for the 12000 litre water tank :D

Thursday, July 17, 2008

They're baaaaack!

Bush rat?
Originally uploaded by Mistress B
Having been so rudely evicted from their comfy home in the basement, our rodent house guests are back - this time they've taken up residence in the roof and have been making regular, brazen forays around the house.
But I'm revising my first claim that these are bush rats - I now think they're antechinus, which is kinda cute except for the whole 'eating electrical cable' thing.
However, as cute, native and precious as these little critters are, their eating habits do not lend themselves to happy coexistence in our house, so I'm looking into trapping and releasing them elsewhere.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Meet the family

Meet the family
Originally uploaded by Mistress B
These are my newly-discovered third (or fourth?) cousins from Hungary - Mate and Balazs, who are visiting Australia. Lucy met these guys when she visited Hungary years ago but she was the first to make contact. It's quite amazing to meet an entirely new branch of The Family ... just when you thought it was safe to come out of hiding, there are MORE Nogradys! Except, they spell it Nogradi - just to confuse you.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Vege garden-to-be

Vege garden-to-be
Originally uploaded by Mistress B
It might not look like much, but this mess of mud, wood and shredded plant bits is the product of some serious labour on Phil and my part over the past few weeks.We've weeded, hacked out tree stumps, dug out weeds, dug out more weeds, chopped down weeds and basically done nothing much more than weed. I have developed a profound and passionate loathing for the following plants: cotoneaster, montbretia, holly, honeysuckle, radiata pine and English ivy.
With the help of some bush rock and major earthmoving, this scene of carnage will soon be a nicely terraced vegetable garden.
For those who've ventured up the back garden, this photo was taken standing behind the compost bins looking back up the hill.

Nan and Pa

Nan and Pa
Originally uploaded by Mistress B
Nan always loved the Blue Mountains, and she and Pa had their honeymoon up here more than half a century ago. So we, their descendants, felt it was very appropriate that their final resting place be in the mountains, and even more so that it be surrounded by ferns, grevilleas and banksias in one of their grandkid's gardens (namely ours).
It's quite comforting pottering around the garden knowing they're there - I say hello occasionally and maybe it's just my imagination, but I feel them there. And with Nan's incredible green thumb, I can't help but think the plants in the area are going to flourish!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Boring betties

Yes, haven't we been a bit dull of late. Not a single exciting blog post in one month! Possibly because we haven't been at Treetops much, and instead have been spending more time in the Big Smoke, which has its ups and downs.
Phil is burning his brain at both ends, which is exciting and exhausting, both for him and me. Bianca swings randomly between periods of intense creativity, frustrating boredom, interspersed with a nagging feeling she should be working harder.
That's all folks. Just thought I'd better break the blog monotony a tad.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Nan and Bianca
Originally uploaded by sideboarddave
A truly wonderful, beautiful, spirited and dignified woman died last night - my Nan. Some of you hopefully met her at the wedding, but for those of you who weren't lucky enough to meet this amazing person, here's a snapshot:
She was cheeky, brave, strong, funny, warm, understanding, compassionate, stoic, self-sacrificing, wise, honest and just the best grandmother a girl could hope to have, and the best role model a woman could hope to have.
She could play the clown, be a carer, accept change, offer an ear, shoulder and hanky, and cope with anything life threw at her. Fate didn't deliver her the kindest ending of life, but even as she fought against it, she kept her dignity, spirit and humour throughout her journey.
I will miss you so much Nan, but I'm glad you're free.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Podcasting, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Sound Of My Own Voice

After faffing for more than a year, I have finally worked out how to podcast. I'm afraid all I have loaded up for the moment is a test but it is the start of a new era. Not content merely with dominating the radio waves of Australia and NZ, I am now spreading my tentacles across the internet ... MWAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mushroom feast

After having enjoyed some of these mushrooms around this time last year, courtesy of our favourite vege cafe Niche Nosh, we decided to venture into the mysterious state forests near Oberon/Jenolan Caves to pick some for ourselves.
The area is famous for these mushrooms - called Saffron Milk Caps, or Pine Mushrooms - which look disturbingly toxic but are in fact safe and delicious. After some very helpful advice from Oberon's tourist info centre, we set off armed with wellies and lots of enthusiasm.
It hadn't rained for a while so it took a bit of time to collect enough for lunch, and in our intial enthusiasm we nearly got lost. Note to file: when ploughing determinedly into a dark forest in search of mushies, be sure to remember where you parked the car.
But all was well and these beauties delivered a fabulous fry-up lunch, which tasted all the better for the fact that it was a working day and we both really should have been doing something productive.

Monday, April 07, 2008

How d'ya like them apples?

Loganbrae Orchard is a Blackheath institution, so I'm not quite sure why it has taken us so long to visit, but I'm very glad we did. Those at the wedding might remember the apple juice, but now we've graduated to some of their incredible apples.
Buying these was a real mountain experience. A chat about cooking, the weather, the merits of different apples ... a sample apple given ... conversation veers to the apparent lack of good baking apples in Australia, at which point the owner charges out into his orchard and comes back with a handful of HUGE cooking apples which he dumps on us for free!
soooo yummy.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tyrannosaurus Phil

It may seem that this photo has little in common with birds, but was in fact taken at Singapore's Jurong Bird Park shop, after Phil had patiently lasted an entire day being dragged around Bird Nerd Central. So many incredible birds ... so few recipes.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Unrepentant carnivore in Singapore

Originally uploaded by Mistress B
In typical style, the first blog of our one week holiday in Singapore is about food. It's appropriate, as Singaporeans really do love their nosh, and appear to eat anything that crawls, trots, scuttles, swims and even hops. Having said that, so far we have found plenty of vegetarian restaurants, both Indian and Chinese, so Phil has eaten very well so far. I'm mentally drooling over the prospect of Hainanese chicken rice and Singaporean chilli crab, which I'll hopefully get to enjoy sometime in our remaining few days here.
Singapore reminds me of the town of Duloc in the movie Shrek, especially the Singaporean leisure island of Sentosa. Everything is clean, artificial and delightfully tacky, even down to the chirpy "Singapore, Singapore!" song that plays at the monorail stations.
Government health, safety, anti-terrorism, anti-anti-social behaviour etc etc ads far outweigh any other advertising. It feels like Singaporeans can't even scratch their own behinds without government sanction.
The shopping is mental. Talk about a temple to consumerism - only Hong Kong beats it on the luxury front. Needless to say, Phil has already got a new toy - his buyer's guilt lasted a good half an hour after he bought it, so that should give you some indication as to its price.
We are staying in an incredible hotel. Each room is decorated by a different artist and the lobby is full of designer chairs. The swimming pool is directly above the restaurant and there are glass portholes in the floor of the pool so restaurant patrons can get an eyeful of tog-clad bodies. I have already tried blowing blowfish on the glass while in the pool, but couldn't see if there was anyone in the restaurant, so I think my efforts may have been wasted.
Anywway, we are having a very relaxing time with lots of walking and eating, and enjoying not thinking about work (or in Phil's case, thinking about work a lot less!) for a while.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Bianca Makes Fetta!!

Bianca has been planning this for a couple of weeks now but she has finally done it. She has made cheese! No not between toes but real life cheese! Fetta to be exact.
I just had some on some crackers and it was divine. It was achieved with great help from James...thanks James!
Halloumi next...yum.

Sydney View from our apartment

Sydney View from our appartment
Here is sunset from our rented apartment in Sydney. Best thing about the apartment is the view. We prefer our Blackheath home though ;)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Heaven is ...

Heaven is ...
Originally uploaded by Mistress B
... a new Xbox and a man-sized bean bag.
I know I'm a glutton for punishment, given Phil's fondness for computer games, but I just couldn't resist shocking the pants off him by getting him an Xbox for Christmas. After he recovered, he said it was like giving an alcoholic a bottle of rum, but I figure he'll be so ridiculously busy with work this year he'll hardly have time to scratch, let alone play on it.
The bean bag was a Woodford purchase, and it is soooo comfy.

Dancing in the Woodford mud

Dancing in the mud
Originally uploaded by Mistress B
Woodford ... rainy one day, quagmire the next, but a bloody good time nonetheless!
After my first Woodford experience in 05/06 being one of scorching temperatures and stifling humidity, this year's Woodford Folk Festival was almost washed off the side of the mountain courtesy of a low pressure system sulking off the Queensland coast for much of the time. It rained, and rained, then rained some more, turning the festival grounds into an active river system interspersed with mud pits.
But it was still an unbelievably awesome time, with great music, incredible food, intoxicating atmosphere and challenging talks. Highlights for us were Wild Marmalade, Pejvaak, Kate Fagan, S Sorensen, the Byron Bay Organic Doughnuts (again!), Common Ground and of course, the company of Dean and Lisa.
Lots more photos on my Flickr site although due to the weather, I focused on pictures of muddy feet and shoes... strange, but it tickled my fancy. This particular photo was taken INSIDE a music tent, where dancing feet like these had squelched everything into a sodden mess. But it was so much fun.