It’s getting hot in here

For those of you lucky enough to be blissfully unaware, for the second time this month Melbourne is in the throes of another heatwave, with temperatures set to soar above 40 several times this week.

I didn’t cope well in the heat 2 weeks ago. I live in a ground floor apartment by by beach, that normally stays nice and cool till the afternoon sun streams in, then quickly cools down again at night time. However lately it hasn’t been cooling down at all – we’ve either got no breeze at night, or just warm gusty winds. Not pleasant. Especially when you don’t even own a fan, let alone an air-conditioner.

Last time the weather was like this I was working from 2pm to midnight, and actually kind of looked forward to going to work, just to get some air con time. This time I’m on holidays for the week, so no such luck. Tomorrow I do plan on going to buy a fan, however I fear most shops are going to be sold out, with everyone having the same thing on their mind.

At least the shops will be air-conditioned!

In the meantime, my blender has been getting a workout, making endless smoothies and soups. Soups in summer? Gazpacho is the ultimate summer soup – its like a smoothie in a bowl.

Does anyone else associate Gazpacho Soup with Red Dwarf? For many years this was my only knowledge of the soup. One hot day I tried making it myself, and I was hooked. Visiting Spain I had the chance to try it there a few times, and loved every version I tried.

Rimmer

My version is adapted from Jamie Oliver’s recipe, which you can find here. It’s ridiculously easy to make. I like it best served with parmesan cheese and sliced avocado. It’s close to being a bloody mary, without the vodka!

Gazpacho soup

Gazpacho soup

Gazpacho Soup recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 or 5 ripe tomatoes
  • ¼ loaf of yesterdays bread (crust off)
  • small cucumber (peeled & rough chopped)
  • 1 red capsicum (deseeded & rough chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic, (peeled)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sherry or red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method

  • Prick each tomato with a knife, cover with boiling water for about 30 seconds. Take out and peel.
  • Slice bread and place in a bowl.
  • Pour over 100ml of water to soak
  • Place cucumber, red capsicum, garlic and peeled tomatoes into blender. Blend them together.
  • Add the soaked bread, a good glut of olive oil and a small splash of vinegar and tabasco. Blend again.
  • Taste soup, season with salt and pepper, and a good splash of water to loosen the mixture.
  • Retaste and re-season if necessary.
  • Pour into a jug, and keep in the fridge to chill – the longer the better!

DIY #3: Bedside table for verandah

It’s been a long time between DIY posts, hasn’t it? Actually it’s been a long time since I’ve been posting with any regularity, but let’s ignore that (for about the 10th time on this blog) and move along to the good stuff, shall we?

This DIY is a carry-on from number 1, where I found a chair on the side of the road and moved it up onto my verandah.

Having a chair there is great, and now that the weather has warmed up, its lovely to sit out there in the warm evenings after the harsh afternoon sun has passed, and enjoy a drink (or two!).

You know how it’s scary when you realise you’re turning into your mother? Well it’s even scarier when you realise you’re turning into your grandmother. My babushka has a deep love for her vernadah and will happily sit out there for hours watching life go past.

Christmas in the Gong

Clearly she recognises a good thing!

For a while I’ve been wanting to find a bit of furniture to place beside the chair that serves 2 purposes: 1) acting as a table which to rest my drink on, and 2) acting as a shoe storage so I don’t have to sit there staring at my sneakers, and so they don’t get wet every time it rains.

I decided a bedside table with a door opening rather than drawers would be perfect. I’ve kept an eye out on roadsides for close to 6 months now with no luck. I’ve even set up ebay searches and visited a few vintage/2nd hand shops. It seems the items in good condition are too expensive for something that’s just going to sit outside my verandah. The cheaper options are either so old that there are major structural problems or the drawers/door don’t open very easily. I was even willing to buy a brown/badly painted one and attempt painting it myself, but that wasn’t to be.

Till now, my temporary solution has been an Ikea Skubb box I had lying around to house my shoes, and a smaller little plastic table (that I did find on the side of the road) to rest my drink on. Kept the shoes nicely out of the way, but the table was definitely too low.

New bedside table

Deciding I needed a solution for this before the end of summer when it was no longer nice enough to sit outside, I decided I needed to hit Ikea and see what options they had. I ended up walking away with this Musken bedside table, which is exactly what I had in mind design and size-wise. It’s made out of particleboard rather than solid timber, so I have no idea how it’s going to hold up over time, but given that it’s mostly covered, and for $50 I thought it was worth risking.

New bedside table

And now, I’m all set! I even sat there yesterday afternoon and did a bit of study. Will wonders never cease?

New bedside table

African resolutions

I didn’t make any specific New Years resolutions this year. Perhaps because I was working New Years Eve and New Years Day. Also because I believe any time is a good time to start new habits/try to break old ones.

Having said that, in my recent time off there are a few resolution-type things I have deliberately been tackling:

  • Gardening – I love the ways gardens are a never-ending work in progress since they are always growing, flourishing and dying (sometimes more of the latter). My latest gardening project is a renewed attempt at edible gardening. Apart from my herbs, I’ve recently planted lettuce, spinach, rhubarb and rocket.
  • Decluttering – this also feels like a never-ending work in progress. I know I’ve got a lot of unused clutter in my house. Most of it isn’t on show, but is hidden away in drawers, boxes and cupboards. Instead of buying new storage to arrange this stuff more effectively, I really need to purge things I don’t use. Since this is by no means a small task, I’m tackling one small area at a time, piece by piece. So far I’ve done behind my bedroom door. That alone has resulted in 4 bags worth of charity donation. Feels good.

Whilst I was tidying up some papers in the kitchen today, I came across a sheet of paper I produced in Africa. At the end of our volunteering experience we were asked to write a list of things we wanted to change when we left Africa to go home.

  • Things to keep doing
  • Things to stop doing/change/do less of
  • New things to do

I figure now is as good a time as any to check in on how I’ve gone with my list.

Things to keep doing

  • Yoga – whilst in Africa I managed to do at least 15 minutes of yoga every single day. I really think it helped prevent the aches and pains that can accompany travelling, especially when backpacking and sleeping on non 4 star beds. I have not been very consistent about this at all since coming home. No good reason why; I can’t honestly say I don’t have just 15 minutes spare in my day. This is something I need to deliberately refocus on.
  • Greeting people/being more open – I don’t have a problem saying hello or greeting strangers, especially when there is some kind of opening like someone smiling at my dog. Making prolonged small talk or a more sustained conversation isn’t something I’m especially good at though.
  • Learning new things – the fact that I’m struggling to think of anything new I’ve learnt suggests this one isn’t going too well, doesn’t it?

Things to stop doing/change/do less of

  • Not being attached to technology all the time – very hard to do when you have electricity and a 3 or 4G reception everywhere. Fail!
  • Drink less alcohol – the 2 weeks where I didn’t have any alcohol there were easy at the time. Doing the same thing at home would be much harder, especially at this festive time of year. For now I’m telling myself every night that I’m tempted but don’t have a glass of wine that gives me $10 spending money to buy something frivolous with. In the short time I’ve been doing this I’ve “saved” enough to buy a stripy sweater dress I had my eye on online. Score!

New things to do

  • Make chapati/mandazi – 2 things I learnt to do in Africa. Have not attempted either since coming home. Only way to fix this is by doing it. Here’s an online Mandazi recipe that looks completely do-able, but am a little scared about the fact it required deep-frying.

It will be interesting to see how these goals pan out over the next few weeks. Having them written down will hopefully help me keep more focused on what I am actually wanting to achieve.

Rain, rain, go away

Well I made it back from Africa in one piece. A gratuitous animal picture post to follow.

In the meantime, I thought I was going to be returning back to a balmy Melbourne summer. Instead I’ve got the heater and blanket on when I’m lazing on the couch. I’m still cooking soups and stews instead of salads and dreaming of BBQs.

The only upside? All this rain totally justifies my purchase of purple gumboots.

Purple Gumboots

Last meal

So it seems that what it takes to prompt me to recommence this blog is a 4 hour layover in Dubai airport. I’ve caught up on emails, caught up on Facebook and checked in with family and friends so that they know I’m alive.

Despite sleeping 10 of the 14 hours of the past flight leg, I still don’t feel like I’ve caught up on sleep, but that’s what doing a night shift and not sleeping for 30 hours straight will do to you.

Now I’ve parked myself at a coffeeshop in Dubai airport. I’ve drunk their coffee, used their wifi and eaten their fruit salad.  For the last month I’ve been trying to follow the I Quit Sugar Program (although I have to admit I’ve fallen off the bandwagon in the last week). That makes the cappuchino and fruit salad I had *very* indulgent. I figure that heading to Kenya I’m going to be very unlikely to be eating fresh fruit or many processed foods in the next month, so I wanted to take advantage of available fruit while I can.

"Last meal"

Still much less indulgent that visiting Haagen Daaz and parking myself there isn’t it? Although I do still have 3 hours to kill, so let’s not congratulate myself too soon!

And now, please stay tuned for updates from Africa. Hopefully all good ones!

A rare sunrise

Sunrise

I’m definitely a night person. Combine that with the crazy shifts that I work it’s rare that I get to witness a Melbourne sunrise. But when night shifts mess up your bodyclock in a good way, you gotta go with it, right?

It was chilly, but oh so pretty. Balloons and all!

Sunrise

Desexed

One of the hardest things I’ve had to do lately is get my dog desexed. I had no doubts it needed to be done, but I think I’d been putting this off for the last few months simply because I didn’t want to think about it. Possibly the same reason why I *still* haven’t done my tax…sigh!

Not without some apprehension, I finally got around to making the appointment.  Let’s face it, for female dogs this is a big operation. It’s not just a nip and tuck, its a full hysterectomy, ovaries and all.

I’d made the appointment for a day where I was able to drop her off at the vet by 8am, and then pick her up by 5pm – basically a day off. She was fine as I dropped her off, but I had to stop myself from shedding a tear or two. Luckily I had to go into work for a few hours that afternoon, so it took my mind off things. When I called up at 3pm they said the operation went fine, she was still recovering from the anaesthetic but would be ready by 5pm.

When I got there I could hear her crying out the back. Hearing a dog cry (when it’s not just because they want attention or to be let out) is a heartbreaking thing.

She was doped up but still in pain most of last night. Every time she tried to lie down she let out a bit of a yelp, so sat up most of the night and was definitely not her normal little tail-wagging self.

This morning the tail is wagging, but she’s still letting out the odd little yelp. She’s also started trying to lick her wound, which had me concerned. The vet had given me an Elizabethan collar to put on if she did that, but it wasn’t working too well. She couldn’t walk properly, kept banging into the side of furniture and just looked unhappy. I couldn’t imagine living with that on for 10 days.

Indy desexed Indy desexed

To try and protect her tummy I’ve devised a little jacket made out of one of my old singlets. So far she doesn’t seem to mind it too much, and it seems to have stopped the licking.

Indy desexed
Indy desexed

Dare I say it also looks kinda cute? Does that mean I’m going to become one of those people that dress their dog up in a jacket in winter? Stay tuned!