Monday, March 28, 2011

Creamy pumpkin soup

Suitable for Melbourne's very un-Summery weather.

1kg butternut squash (or other kind of sweet pumpkin), peeled and cut into chunks
1 clove garlic, finely sliced
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
olive oil
tarragon (fresh if possible)
375ml low fat milk
750ml low veggie stock
low fat sour cream

Toss the pumpkin in olive oil with salt and pepper, then roast at 200 for 20 minutes or until tender.

tip the pumpkin, chilli and garlic into a saucepan with the stock and milk and bring to the boil (don't panic if it separates). Reduce heat and simmer for 8 minutes.

Cool a little then whiz with a blender until smooth.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a few pinches of tarragon.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ikea and me

I moved in to my new flat on Saturday. A little one bedder in Richmond, grimy (not to mention cat-smelly) from the previous tenant. But finally, living on my own "like a grown up" in the words of a dear friend. I spent a day or two scrubbing it from top to bottom, calling out the plumber when it transpired that the toilet leaked when flushed, and the locksmith when I couldn't get back in. I spent my first night sleeping on the thermarest in the bare bedroom, marvelling at how quiet it was for an inner city pad and imagining burgulars making off with all my worldly goods my mac while I slept.

Since then I have spent several days racing through the local Ikea store, mostly backwards (which is by far the easiest way to do Ikea, trust me), back and forth and in and out as I kept thinking of more things that the flat could do with. Once by car, with my mum, once by foot, once by bike and once by tram. All modes of transport explored.

I know people love to hate Ikea, and moan about what a hellish way to spend a precious Saturday it is, what with the shlepping around endless mazes of showrooms, trying to locate the right brown box in an enormous warehouse full of brown boxes, topped off with the nightmare of having to assemble it yourself when you finally get home, allen keys and anonymous bits of plank strewn around the place as you tear your hair out etc. etc.

Well, I have a confession to make.

I actually like putting together Ikea stuff. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I love it. I love the challenge. I love that it's a few-hours-long-project that has a useful and beautiful outcome. I love puzzling over the universal instructions and the moment of "aha!" when you realise the bit you were trying to attach to the bob was upside down. I love they way everything lines up perfectly - so Swedish! - and that there is the exact amount of screws/doohickeys needed for the job, so that you can watch the packet empty as you near completion. It's very rewarding; mentally consuming as well as physically demanding - the perfect antidote to worrying too much about whether living on my own is really a good idea.

I have had lots of Ikea furniture over the years, but I've outdone myself this time: I'm now the proud owner (and assembler) of a MICKE desk with LAVER chair, ENGAN bed, half-price EKTORP couch, KILBY bookcase, and the one I've had my eye on forever, the coma-inducing POÄNG armchair. Just so it's not totally generic, there are a few of my own pieces around - namely a pretty cane chair that belonged to my Nan and a couple of funky retro stools from a good mate who also supplied me with a fridge and various kitchen implements.

I'm thinking about going back tomorrow to get some sheer curtains for the living room (which looks straight into my neighbours tightly venetianed windows), and to check out a bedside table I spotted in the bargain corner today. And I could use a better reading lamp in the bedroom.

I guess the only problem I have with Ikea is knowing when to say "when".

* * * * *

I am all too aware that this post goes against all the anti-consumerist stuff I've been writing about recently. My priority at the moment is to make myself a comfortable home, as cheaply as possible, without a car, and Ikea provided the perfect solution to that. Also, I'm hoping that these will be some long-lasting pieces of furniture - especially the armchair, which I hope to be rocking in my old age (literally).

Friday, March 04, 2011

The madness that is my life right now

Gosh. To think that only a matter of months ago, I was drifting around Victoria, flitting around the great outdoors and having plenty of time to ponder and write and enjoy the squeaky green-ness of Spring.

My life could not be any more different right now!

Fast forward a few months and I've got so much going on, I feel like a robot spooling a constant reel of times, dates, names, appointments, interviews, invoices, login codes and timesheets. I am temping for 2 different agencies, freelancing, applying for jobs, squeezing in interviews and second interviews for various full-time roles, and hunting for a flat. Of all of these things, the most stressful has been - surprisingly - the flat hunting. Normally I quite like getting to peek at other people's spaces (by which I mean, judging their taste in art and soft furnishings), but flat hunting in Melbourne - as compared to flat hunting in London - is a b*tch. I mean, I know London is the capital of convenience (to wit: a convenience store on every single corner, those lazy poms) - but I think I got used to being spoilt for choice in the UK.

Problemo 1: Melbourne is experiencing a shortage of rental properties right now - which means that by the time you book a spot in your diary to see a place, it's probably already gone. By the time you've finished reading the ad, it's probably gone. I've booked in to see nine places already, and guess how many of those I actually got to see? Two. 

Problemo 2: The above situation fosters a tribal-like competive atmosphere where you have to bid against other potential renters, and it's common to offer more than the advertised rental rate.

Problemo 3: A typical viewing time for a flat will be - for example - from 2.05pm to 2.20pm (truly). On a weekday. Hello real estates agents! Some of us have jobs? In order to be able to pay to rent a flat? Why only fifteen minutes, real estate agents?!

So I've had to cut down on those luxuries like "sleep" and "toilet breaks", but apart from that, I think I'm coping. I'm doing my best to be a world-class juggler. Is this what it's like to run a family? Because I have seriously reached my threshold of number-of-things-in-the-air-without-dropping-one-or-all-of-them. 

It's not all bad though - I have had a few promising interviews (after diary-loads of ordinary ones) and I have committed my weekend to some military-style flat-stalking. Wish me luck. And Zzz'z.
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