Friday, August 31, 2012

Fabulous Baker Boys

I have a new obsession. I've become addicted to an English show from BBC2, "The Great British Bake Off". It's a sort of Masterchef idea, however all of the cooking challenges are related to baking. It's not on tv here so I've been watching streamed on Tube+. (It does seem to come and go a bit, the other day the show disappeared from the site altogether, only to reappear.)

The format includes Technical Challenges, where they are all given a recipe and have to replicate it for a blind judging. It also includes Signature Bakes, where they present their own recipes on a given theme, and Show Stoppers which are spectacular set pieces. Baking is an exact science as well as an art, so the contestants are allowed to refer to their own recipes, and I gather they are vetted somehow to ensure they are not just cooking something from a book by Nigella.

This show is kind of adorable, and so well mannered. All the contestants are unique characters, and so terribly polite. This is not the cut and thrust of normal competitive reality tv. (One of the contestants is even a Vicar's wife!) The hosts Sue Perkins (of "Supersizers Go...") and Mel Giedroyc are both comedians and keep the show light and fun, while woofy 'silverback' chef Paul Hollywood and British baking legend Mary Berry bring lifetimes of technical nous.

But the boys. Oh the boys. I'm a total sucker for a sweet British lad, and this show has a trio of them.

James, tall Scottish cutie who plays double bass, loves a Fair Isle knitted vest, bakes like a man with the skills of someone twice his age (he's 21!), and blushes furiously whenever he is complimented. They slayed me when they showed him walking his two dogs along the Scottish seaside. If only he had a kilt on, then I would have fallen down dead. Completely.

Stuart. Oh Stuart, Stuart, Stuart. PE teacher, rugby player Stuart. I have several fantasies involving muddy rugby kit, a locker room and a beautifully made Treacle Tart for afters. Enough said.

John. Shy, tall, cutie John. John (and possibly James) might be the gays of the competition, but then I'm only speculating. John seems like a 'nice lad' as my mother would say. Self deprecating, a bit shy seeming, a bit serious, and very well mannered. Quite adorable really.

Sweet, sexy boys and cake. What's not to love?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Funk & Fabulousity

I have been a lifelong fan of all things aromatic. Fabulous fragrances. Pretty perfumes. Once upon a time (in a galaxy, well, you know) I even worked in the industry, as a Fragrance and Cosmetics Buyer for a retail chain. Yes, on the short list of Gayest Jobs Ever.

The combination of a bit of extra discretionary income recently, and some exciting and challenging times in the fragrance industry (the rise of exciting indie perfumers, and the tarnishing and cheapening of many classic old fragrances, in part due to drastic allergen rules being introduced, for a start) have stoked the smouldering incense embers of my old obsession. Also with the rise of internet shopping, a medium not conducive to the smell testing of fragrances, many retailers and manufacturers have introduced affordable sampling programs. For small cost you can sample a whol range of new and interesting 

I've also bought a whole bunch of fragrance ingredients recently, with a plan to playing around and making some of my own fragrances. If that works out, I might even try and sell them through, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Developing a fragrance is a long, complicated process.

So, I bow to present my new endeavour: You Smell MARVELLOUS. Come on over and let's get our stink on.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Manly Beach Clean Up

On Saturday, Martin and I joined a large number of fellow volunteers to help clean up Manly Beach, organised by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and the Two Hands Project. Rubbish from all of Sydney's beaches eventually finds its way into the water, and carried on the currents is dispersed into the ocean and can have a disastrous affect on marine life. 

Sorting the rubbish for recycling

It was a gorgeous warm early Spring day, sunny but not so hot that spending a few hours on the beach was unpleasant. At first glance the beach looked pretty clean, but we collected a surprisingly large amount of rubbish. Our main focus was plastics and other toxic forms of polluting rubbish, such as cigarette butts.

One of the Sea Shepherd team

Sydneysiders love their beaches, and use them a lot. While I was collecting rubbish on the beach it was really encouraging to have a number of people say "good on you" or "thanks". Clearly people care for their beach and are glad to see people taking care of it. There is no good excuse for littering any beach, especially the metropolitan beaches of Sydney which are very well supplied with rubbish bins.

Recyclables being separated

Hopefully one of the offshoots of any sort of action such as this is that next time any of the people who saw us cleaning up on that day use the beach, they might be more careful about not leaving any rubbish behind.

One of the Two Hands Project team

We were asked to collect for one hour, and then we returned with our buckets of rubbish to have them sorted into recyclables and general rubbish. There were some speeches made, and a substantial donation that had been collected through facebook was given to the crew from The Sea Shepherd.

Around half of the volunteer crew

Afterwards Martin and I joined a few of the other volunteers for a light lunch, before hopping back on a ferry and making our way back into the city. All in all a truly fantastic day!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pull Up to My Bumper Bay-bay!

I moved house back in March, and since then I've been on a mission to put a little style and utility into my new place. A little more storage. A couple of cool bedside lamps. So Marty and I set out on this cool, windy, Sunday morning to have a look at some furniture and lighting stores.

Long story short, I didn't really didn't really find anything I wanted to plonk down any cash on. We saw ugly cheap furniture. We saw ugly expensive furniture. We saw beautiful expensive furniture. Yup. Oh, and we also spotted about 40% of all the gay couples in Sydney who were also on the hunt.

After a couple of hours we decided to head home, and then...

Just a few minutes from home, and while we were waiting at the lights, we were rear ended in a 3 car pile-up. Fortunately everyone walked away unscathed. In fact Marty and I barely showed any affects all except for a nasty surprise. The single mum with 3 kids in the car who caused the accident was badly shaken, although she and the kids were fine. (The youngest slept right through everything, unbelievably.) Unfortunately she's uninsured, and the car is almost definitely a write-off. The lady driving the middle car was very badly shaken up and her car was pretty much totalled.

The tow truck drivers arrived in half the time of the police (doesn't that always happen?), and once the (handsome!!) police had asked Marty a few questions we were free to go. It looked like Marty's car escaped almost undamaged, but he messaged me a while back to say that the boot isn't closing smoothly, and it looks like a seam has parted where the roof meets the chassis. Worst case scenario is that the chassis has been bent, but Marty is going to wait until the police get back in contact with him with the details, and then he'll get it checked out properly.

So, car accident #4 for me. I'm just grateful that Marty is ok, and everyone else also.  It's not clear what insurance will cover and what it won't, so I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. But most importantly tonight I'm just giving thanks that everyone is ok.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

As Time Goes By

We've got some catching up to do, you and I. How have you been? Well, I hope. Happy. Fulfilled. Content.

Wait, hey have you lost weight?

So let me clear the air and say sorry for being gone so long. The past 9 months have been a bit of a rollercoaster. Scary at times, but thankfully more exhilarating than anything else. Lots of change, and lots of positive outcomes.

First off, Peter and I broke up. In fact we're still friends and he will always have a place in my heart. I saw him a few weeks back and he's doing well.

Then just a few weeks after we broke up (New Year's Eve, to be precise) I met a wonderful man, Martin. We met on a crowded dancefloor, but even though Martin didn't realise it at the time, it wasn't the first time we'd met. I'm friends with his older brother, and I also once chatted to him one drunken night at a pub. (I choose not to dwell on the fact that he doesn't remember, after all he was the drunken one that drunken night.) At the time we met I knew Martin was cute, funny, sweet and sexy... but what I didn't know was that he would steal my heart. Which he has, completely.

Martin and I, on a late night ghost tour.

In March I had to move out of the little cottage in Newtown that I'd lived in for 10 years, as the owners were returning to Australia and had decided to sell. (Which in the end, they didn't. But by then I had moved on anyway.) Cue a stressful search for somewhere else to live, populated with yucky houses, big rents, long queues of other prospective tenants and a very supportive boyfriend who was happy to drive me around, and listen to my kvetching and hand wringing. (I already told you he was sweet, right?)

After a chance conversation with a bunch of old photography buddies I hadn't seen for a while, I found out that one of them owned an apartment he was about to rent out. I was initially hesitant, it was a lot more than I was previously paying and a bit further out than my beloved Newtown. We took it, we moved, and it has been an absolute joy. Light. Spacious. Modern. Warm through the winter we are just finishing, and with a large balcony overlooking the city, and a large terrace on another side, it has enough outdoor space to make it feel less like a run of the mill apartment and more like a little penthouse. Spring is around the corner, and I can't wait to put the outdoors to full use.

Lastly, my work situation has changed for the better. I'm no longer contracting, but I'm now on a 12 month contract direct with the university I've been working at for the past 18 months. The plan is for it to be permanent, but for reasons to complicated to explain it was easiest to put me on a 12 month contract first. I still get all the leave and other entitlements that permanent staff get, and at the end of this year it will still count towards my long service leave etc. Oh, and a nice big chunk of change was added to my salary. Sick leave! Holiday pay! It's like a real grown-up job and everything.

That brings us up to the current day. Martin and I were away visiting my sisters a few weekends ago, and not only did we have a fabulous time but I now suspect they actually like him more than me. (Kidding!... mostly.) I've just gotten over a dose of bronchitis, the cold part of which Martin is now dealing with. But that's a minor annoyance.

I'm happy. I'm healthy (now). I'm in love, and loved in return. I have a nice roof over my head, and a few extra dollars in my pocket.

Actually, things are pretty great. :-)