Friday, 29 February 2008

Whinging Dog

This is my dog. She doesn't like to do things she doesn't want to do. And she lets you know it.

Mmmmm.... wine

So, those who read my previous post would know that I got suckered into joining a wine club at Melbourne Airport on my way back to Adelaide. I like wine. A lot. As most of you reading this will know. So I was very excited to receive my delivery of a case of the Wine Selectors selection. I had opted for 6 bottles white and 6 bottles red, despite the fact that I prefer reds, but I'm sure I could change my mind later anyway. The wines come from all over Australia, with many wine regions being featured.

Included is:

Allanmere Verdelho 2006
Grant Burge Barossa Vines Riesling 2004
Shottesbrooke Chardonnay 2007
Brokenwood The Bentley's Boot Chardonnay 2006
Rex Watson Three Sons Sauvignon Blanc 2005
Willow Bridge Estate Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2007

Barwick Estates Cabernet Shiraz Merlot 2005
Oatley Wines Wild Oats Cabernet Merlot 2005
Chrismont Shiraz 2005
Chateau Tanunda The Chateau Shiraz 2005
McWilliiam's Regional Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
Sam Miranda Snow Road Merlot 2006

All these wines have apparently been selected by an expert 'Tasting Panel', and I must say, I don't have a quibble with their selection so far! Will update you all on which is the best! Accompanying the case was a glossy mag with gossip, tourism, articles by actors, wine, food etc. In this edition was Vietnamese food, which is a particular favourite of mine, and a 'Sweet Tooth' section with recipes for Clafoutis (Raspberry and Grappa) and Berries in Bubbles, featuring Champagne. (Note the obligatory alcoholic touches here!)

I also came across a recipe for Chilli Jam. Quite a coincidence, because last week I tried Louise's recipe for Chili Jam. I don't think it turned out as well as Louise's, which was sensational. Maybe I need to add some lemon juice/rind to make it set, or reduce it more? Anyway, it tastes good, if a bit runny. This other recipe is quite different. Maybe I should compare and contrast, like a good little scientist? There is also an intriguing article called 'Why the French Hate Us', which I haven't read yet. Hmm.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

The trip back to the land of Oz

My long trip back to Oz was broken up by a few days visiting my brother and sister-in-law, Ben and Ruby, in Denver, Colorado. The trip over was quite good actually. Despite the three hour delay in London, when BA had engineers fiddling with the engines, then eventually decided we needed a 'new' plane. The flight was direct to Denver, so I eventually arrived in the evening without getting to see any of the scenery. Denver had had an unexpected amount of snow just before we landed, but my brother had managed to avoid all the cars strewn across the freeway to pick me up.

The next couple of days, I spent finding the best yarn store in Denver (The Lamb Shoppe). Unfortunately, I didn't get any pics of my own, but it looks exactly like on their website! Everyone was really lovely. Denver people in general are really friendly actually. I sat in their comfy arm chairs for the entire Thursday and Friday mornings, knitting a Clapotis scarf and drinking their great cafe lattes. I did buy a couple of things, despite my worry that I wouldn't know how to fit it into my suitcase. Initially I bought some lovely lace weight Alpaca With A Twist 'Fino', which is 70% alpaca and 30% silk. Two skeins at 875 yards each should be enough for a decent lace shawl (I hope: it wasn't exactly cheap). I haven't settled on a pattern yet. A trawl through Ravelry should fix that though!
I went back and bought one skein of Misti Alpaca Chunky (100% baby alpaca) in a lovely red colour, along with a pattern to make a rolled brim beanie. This was with a view to having a hat to wear when we went show-shoeing on the weekend, but as you can see, I didn't quite get it finished! It will be done eventually, but the Australian summer is putting me off for the moment!

Saturday was a fairly lazy day, where we went out to one of these massive outlet malls that Americans seem to have, and Ben and Ruby bought watches. I saw lots of stuff I liked, but unfortunately my UK cards weren't cooperating and I was pretty skint after my yarn buying. Plus: no more room in my suitcase! Saturday night we went out for proper American BBQ, which seems to actually mean BBQ ribs. Ben and Ruby happen to know the owners of one of the franchises, so we got great service! The portions are immense, so we were all fixed for Sunday dinner as well!

Sunday was snow-shoeing day, and Ben and Ruby had scraped together clothing and shoes for me (since all my stuff was in shipping boxes, presumably still in Scotland), and we had hired snow shoes. It was about a 1.5 hour drive up into the Rocky Mountain National Park. From there, Ruby, Ben, Carmel and I went on about a 5-6 mile trek through some alpine forest, visiting Nymph Lake, Bear Lake and Bierstadt Lake on the way.

I was to leave the next day, so spent the morning trying to repack everything (+ yarn) and finally decided I would have two cabin bags, which doesn't seem to be a problem for the American authorities (as opposed to the British, who are a bit uptight about it). Ben dropped me off at the airport during his lunch break, so I had about three hours to kill before my short flight to LAX. I amused myself by buying books to read and taking photos of an airport under snow. This was also my first experience with de-icing a plane right before take-off. Since I was sitting right in the tail, I got the full experience!

At LAX, I finally boarded the plane to Melbourne near midnight, but after supper, managed to sleep for much of the 15 hour flight time, waking up with only 4.5 hours to go. Unfortunately, I celebrated too soon. Melbourne was fogged in, and with a maximum weight Boeing 747-400, we didn't have enough fuel to circle Melbourne while the weather cleared. So off the Sydney we went to re-fuel! We sat on the tarmac for about an hour while they refueled. I felt sorry for those people who had subsequent flights from Melbourne to Sydney and weren't allowed to get off the plane! At least I was going in the right direction. By this time the weather in Melbourne had cleared and we landed anyway, but I had missed my connecting flight to Adelaide and the next one. I managed to get a flight for a couple of hours later. By this time I really needed a drink, so off to the bar I went for a G&T. I kind of got distracted by free wine tastings and eventually got suckered into joining a wine club. So, I get a case of wine delivered next week! Yay. All to myself too, since mum and dad will be in New Zealand!

Anyway, that's my trip home. I'm just about over jetlag, which isn't nearly so bad as last year when I came home. The weather is sunny and warm, unlike cold, rainy, dark Dundee. Not had a chance to jump in the pool yet, but I'll let you all know when I do!

Monday, 11 February 2008

Leaving Dundee: the Sunday Lamb Lunch

So, Louise has blogged on this already, but I thought I should, since the farewell lunch was for, er, me! This involved quite a lot of planning and stocking, since we were expecting about 20 people for lunch. Twenty pounds of Scottish lamb shoulder was ordered from the butchers. A week before, Jamie Oliver had done lamb shoulder for his 'jamie at home' TV series, and (handily) which book I had happened to get as part of my leaving present. So, the night before, Louise and I went on a covert operation to acquire a large amount of rosemary from the huge bush in front of a neighbour's house, and we prepared the lamb for cooking.

Sunday morning was surprisingly un-stressful, but once people started arriving, it was all go with getting drinks and finishing off veg. Louise and Diane had made starters, which I ate too many of. We made the hot mint and caper sauce for the lamb which is part of the Jamie recipe, and which I'm definitely going to make again, it was delicious. Accompanying was pots and pots of smashed veg: potato, carrot and swede, along with peas. The lamb turned out absolutely perfect after 4 hours in the oven. Tasty and falling off the bone.
Various lovely people brought desserts (thanks Jean, Laurence and Iva) and I stuffed myself. With the abundant lovely wine, port and whisky, it was a lovely day and I couldn't have asked for anything better for my last event on Dundee. Thanks to all who came and special thanks to Louise and Barry.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Big Wool Forever 'Green' Tank

I wanted a quick knitting project to do, and this pattern by Sarah Hatton, which she called Forever Green. I obviously didn't use the green Rowan Big Wool, I used the Smoky colour instead (#07). This was a really great quick project to do, since the Big Wool is exactly that: a bulky wool knitted on 9 and 10mm needles. I love not having to do sleeves! This really only took two days to knit, but another two days to finish off the sewing up. I forgot to take a pic before I washed it. I really want to avoid handwashing (like most people I'm sure), so I just shoved it in the washing machine within a pillowcase on the delicates cycle. I think it shrunk a little, and has a slightly felted appearance, but it actually fits a bit better now! I'm really going to have to invest in a proper 'delicates' washing bag. I'm quite happy with it, am wearing it right now in fact. It's nice and cosy in the winter weather, and is great for fitting under winter coats.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Happy Hogmanay!

For those who don't know, Hogmanay is the Scottish term for the New Year's Eve. It's origins are probably back in the pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. Here in Scotland, a lot of tourists go to the famous Edinburgh Hogmanay, but for the second time during my time here, I went to the (almost) as famous Stonehaven Fireballs Festival. Also pagan in origin, there has been a recent revival in the ceremony, which involves residents of the town of Stonehaven swinging flaming poi. These poi are not the same as you would see in performances by the Maori. These things are massive, hung by chains and swung in a wide arc around the body. The crowd can get very close to the swinging fireballs, such that you can feel the singeing of your eyebrows. We saw one of the police officers in front of us get a small hole burnt in his uniform trousers from the flaming bits of debris!

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Christmas Dinner.

I found myself still in Dundee over Christmas. Since Louise went down to her parents, it was quiet up here, but Barry and myself managed a lovely meaty Christmas dinner. A colleague of Barry's gave him a pheasant (to be found everywhere around here, although often as roadkill!). So for starters, Barry slathered the pheasant in butter and smoked streaky bacon (apparently this game can be quite dry, so you add lots of fat!), seasoned, and roasted in the oven. With it we had wholegrain mustard mashed potatoes (gorgeously creamy), and made a red wine gravy with the lovely sticky bits in the roasting tin. Barry also cooked the obligatory brussell sprouts, although I must admit that I didn't partake. Not a traditional xmas veg for me I'm afraid!

While this was happening, I prepared a half leg of lamb for roasting, making holes in the flesh and poking in slices of garlic and sprigs of fresh rosemary. After roasting, we made another gravy with the lamb bits from the tray. I also made roast carrots and red onions (in with the lamb) and goose-fat roasted potatoes... heaven! We were kind of stuffed by then, but after watching the Dr. Who christmas special (Kylie Minogue guest starring), we were ready for pud. I'm afraid it wasn't homemade christmas pudding, but it was very nice all the same (Tesco's Finest) and fresh egg custard to go with. After that, well, we didn't move from the couch, except to get another glass of good Scottish whisky.