Friday, November 30, 2012

Kitchen Fails: People Lie

Kitchen Fails: Never listen to people who cook when they casually tell you an easy recipe, they are lying

Yes, that title sounds like a bold statement, but hear me out. I don't think they are lying On Purpose. I don't think they are maliciously looking at you and telling you recipes missing key ingredients and then cackling to themselves. At least, none of my people are doing that. If the people giving you recipes are doing that they are jerks and should just tell you that they don't want to share. Also, you should stop asking them for recipes.

Nono, people who cook will tell you recipes in shorthand and blithely neglect the fact that you will Follow Their Directions but probably not know to also do x, y and z which they know to do but which you don't because Kitchen is hard.

This happens to me. This happened to me RECENTLY.

I bought this awesome ginger-orange sauce mix thing from a guy at a booth at a local fair. It smelled great. The sample tasted great. The recipe the seller at the booth gave me sounded wonderful and easy.

Take fish. Rub mix on fish. Put fish on couscous in a foil packet in oven, fish juices will cook couscous and VOILA. FOOD!

I already knew that Cooking People Lie, so I looked up the recipe online as well. This jived with what Selling/Cooking Guy At Booth told me. I also added some cherry tomatoes and some spring onions because they looked good and I am not actually BAD at kitchen.

Guys, I do not know what type of magical couscous and/or fish these people were talking about, but couscous does NOT cook itself in the oven in fish juices. It stays hard. And a little crunchy. This recipe only works if a) you cook the couscous first by following the directions on the box (remember to read those! See third post. They don't usually lie to you, although you can modify them later. I'm impatient, see all my kitchen posts, so I just add some hot water, and it is usually enough. ) or b) you know what the hell magic steps that guy was leaving out. Maybe there's a really juicy fish? I dunno. It is also possible that he did not think I would try this with uncooked couscous because that would be crazy and I misunderstood?

So yes, don't trust those cooking folk! Unless they've taken into consideration the fact that you need some extra steps spelled out, in which case thank them because remembering to tell people steps you take for granted is hard.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Kitchen Fails: Read the $&%@)& Instructions Right

Kitchen Fails: When you should really pay more attention to the cooking instructions

I like making muffins. It is one of my favourite things to make. So when my friend made these great Bran Muffins, and I discovered it was actually from the instructions ON THE BRAN BOX, I was in heaven. It had molasses! I love molasses. It had raisins. I love raisins! It did not and should never have chocolate chips, which I learned from experience by trying it, but that was an honest mistake and not the point of this post and really who would have expected chocolate chips to go poorly in a muffin? Not me!

So I mixed up the muffin batter, remembering what my mother told me to not overwork it and popped it in the oven. The box said 200 degrees C (390 F), so I put the oven at 200 and carried merrily on. And the muffins did not rise. They looked... sad. And not fluffy. And at 18 minutes I realized that my oven was in F and that I had put them on at 200 degrees F and that I had THOUGHT that seemed low but had just reasoned that bran muffins were weird and not bothered to read the instructions properly because come on, how hard was it to get the heat right on the oven?

Too hard for me that evening.

Luckily when I casually left the muffins in the oven at a higher heat for a bit longer they rallied and were totally tolerable. And the next batch was awesome (or possibly a little bit burnt, muffins are tricky. But also pretty hardy, thank goodness. They are like the aloe plants of the baking world).

Friday, September 28, 2012

Kitchen Fails: Yeast is a living organism

I love to bake bread. My dad's been making homemade bread for as long as I can remember, and one of my favourite things in the world is to happily feast on think trenchers of fluffy white bread covered in butter. Fresh bread doesn't last very long near me.

I have a healthy scorn of bread machines, but the prospect of only bought bread, no matter how lovely, was too tragic to face. So I was pleasantly surprised when I moved out on my own and realized that I'd watched my dad make bread enough times that I could do it too. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, loads of time, some therapeutic kneading and voila, fantastic bread. 

True, there was the time that I made it entirely out of wheat flour and it turned out like bricks. Or the time that I left in the middle of the rising period because I hadn't left enough time and it ... actually, wait, that may have been the same wheat bread brick fiasco. Anyway, needless to say there were problems, but that's what happens when you don't stop baking bread after your first success. 

But guys, Australia has been a DISASTER in terms of my bread making adventures. 

One of the reasons is simply because I've started making DIFFERENT bread. I have a sweetie to try it out on and enough time to experiment, but I am still the person that would just delete a half-cup of cocoa from a cookie recipe and things can go ....wrong.

I decided to try making the bread in the cook book. My dad always told me that my bread recipe was based off the white bread in the Joy of Cooking, with maybe a cup of bran or wheat flour thrown in for health and texture. Guys, this is not true. The Joy of Cooking asks you to do all sorts of things that I never bother doing, and sometimes it doesn't even want an egg. Madness!

But it is the ancestor, no matter how distant, of my recipe, so I decided to try it. I scalded the milk. I dissolved the butter and lard and then I ... poured the hot mixture directly into the bowl with my yeast. 

The bread did not rise. The moment I noticed it wasn't rising like normal, I knew that I had killed it with my stupid scalded milk. I had killed all my beautiful little yeast monsters with milk that was too hot. I felt like a monster. So I promptly primed some more yeast and added it in. Because of course adding more yeast most of the way through the first rising would fix it. >.<

The bread still not rise particularly well, and was dense like a block of bread dough which does not rise. Literally. I may have stormed resignedly out of the kitchen, muttering darkly. The happy ending is that it made the Most Amazing bread pizza base ever, but it was not exactly a triumph (actually, it kind of was, those bread pizzas were DELICIOUS). 

I decided to go back to my original recipe. Similar, but not quite as drastic, rising bread problems. I did it AGAIN, but primed my yeast for longer (this is where you dissolve the yeast in water with a bit of sugar first). This time it turned out almost right. 

By this point I had begun to suspect that my yeast was perhaps not the one I was used to, and that the package didn't tell me to prime it because Maybe I Wasn't Supposed To. Priming yeast is one of my favourite steps, and I had figured that even if Dried Yeast wasn't the same as Active yeast, or some such that it would still benefit from a bit of activating time with water and sugar, but after the failed batch of pizza dough (it should still be fine, if maybe a bit denser once again) of tonight, I think I will try not priming it at all. 

Australian ingredients being Almost but Not Quite what I am used to keeps tripping me up. I shudder to think what is going to happen when I make pie crust from baking lard as opposed to Tenderflake. Everyone wish me luck! 

(Also, to those Canadians moving to Australia [Americans, I have not checked for your Crisco, you crazy people, that stuff is gross], they totally have baking lard, but keep it in the chilled area with the butter instead of near the baking stuff. There, two hours in the grocery store saved!)

Friday, September 21, 2012

WOA: Book Adventures

As a side quest in my World of Australia adventuring, I've started a book blog with a friend.

Yes, that is a different blogging platform, but that is what happens when you don't want to be the one setting it up and your friend does wordpress. We'll all survive somehow.

So if you want to know what I'm reading, and more importantly, what I thought of it, and follow some interesting adventures in SciFi reading (which is what my partner in crime is up to), feel free to wander on over there. Or click the link thing to the right. I've included it so that you can wander over WHENEVER YOU LIKE and not just when I mention it. Because I care.

And seriously, it is just whatever the hell we're reading and what we think. Which means I'm even going to talk about the more embarrassing young adult stuff I read. Which is Awesome.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

WOA: Dialing Internationally

WOA: Dialing Internationally (or just because you can jump in real life doesn't mean you can get across a tiny stream in game)

Things I have learnt about Internatinonal Calling while in Australia
(where I not only have to do it myself, but need to coach other people on how to call me. When I can't call myself. It is tricky.)

First off, making international phone calls from/to countries that have completely different number systems is totally hard. Usually, when travelling, you try to use your phone as little as possible. When you've moved, that's not what's happening. Here's what six months living in Australia has taught me.

"1" is the North American country code, not a magic number that lets you call long distance.

You need to dial an exit code when calling beyond North America, which we Canadians have trouble remembering because we can dial internationally to the US like normal long distance whenever we want.

In Australia, that exit code is 0011, which means that when I dial N.A. I actually have to put in 00111 (area) (7digitnumber) which looks ridiculous, what with the three 1s all in a row, but is correct. Having one as an area code seems all fine and dandy until you have to actually use it.

Sending a text message to an international mobile number will bizarrely not follow these rules and numbers you can call will not be textable.

Various permutations of these rules will not work.

Scouring the internet will reveal that most people give up and just reply to the Canadian number and save it.

It actually turns out that if you put a  (+) sign in front of the normal 1 + (area code) + (7digitnumber) in your phone, the mobile recognizes that symbol and will just automatically apply the correct exit code when you dial/text.

Seriously? How did I not know this? We use phones all the flipping time and this is the first mention I've seen tha the little plus sign actually does something useful and isn't shorthand for something. My iphone would save numbers with it All The Time and I just thought it was being pretentious.

So yes, dialing a phone, yet another thing you have to relearn when you move to another country. Pretty sure I just figured out the international texting thing today. >.<

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

WOA: Blue Mountains

World Of Australia
New Location Discovered: THE BLUE MOUNTAINS

The Blue Mountains are just outside of Sydney and glorious. They are especially lovely for a beloved's birthday weekend when they are also hosting IRONFEST, where steampunkers, blacksmiths and military re-enactors run amok for a weekend. It reminded me of the Norman, Oklahoma Medieval Festivals much more than the SCA events I've been to recently, and I had a glorious time.

The theme of the event was Apocalypse and of course I made sure to have an outfit.

One of the things I love about Steampunk is that people wander up to, and ask you about it because it turns out it is exactly the type of thing they've always loved but that they never knew had a name or a following. Since that's how I felt about Steampunk when I first discovered it, I think these people are Awesome.

The Battle of Lithgow and the Napoleonic re-enactment camp were just great. The Battle is a fictional re-enactment of what might have happened if the French had fought Britain for control of the colony, and it had cannons. I enjoyed the cannons, and also, by that point in the afternoon, the sitting down.

They also had a bunker with circus acts, and a damn good contact juggler. The fallout theme actually made my partner-in-crime sad, as we'd left his Fallout costume in Ottawa to follow us later, under the evidently mistaken assumption that we wouldn't need it for at least six months. Silly us.

The circus reminded me of another quest.

Quest: Learn Aerial Dance -ONGOING
     Turns out it is called silks/tissue
     Pole dancing studies often do it (huh. Didn't see that one coming)
     Circus Avalon in Newcastle MAY teach workshops
     Pole dancing studios MIGHT be getting some courses in soon (no e-mail reply yet, the bastards)

We also saw The Three Sisters rock formation, which was FILLED with tourists, and the equally beautiful and much calmer look-out by the Leura Falls (note, the trickle you see is the falls. There is evidently not a lot of inland water in the Oz land. I may have made an unimpressed noise, but since it was following the very impressed noises I was making at the mountain views no one seemed to notice).

Plus I got to see more of my favourite Australia tree, The Bone Trees. (hmm, can't seem to find my photo of them. You shall have to wait.)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Kitchen Fails: Cocoa is a Dry Ingredient

You know how there are a billion gazillion food blogs on the internet? And how most of them seem to say things like "ohmygosh, it is so easy to make your own prosciutto/tea biscuits/glazed fizzywigs/whatever" and then there is a really simple looking list of instructions and some very lovely photographs of some very attractive food and then the comments all say things like "Wow! This was so easy! I can't believe I've been buying this all these years, and also my children/husband/greataunt'sghost all really love it!"?

Yes, of course you know, because the internet is FILLED with these things. And they drive me a little nuts, because I tend to screwup in the kitchen pretty regularly. This is because I am impatient. And often trying to cook while hungry. Which makes me EVEN MORE IMPATIENT. That, and I only vaguely know what I am doing, so there aren't many super useful cooking instincts for me to fall back on. So, because I am an oversharer and because I think we all feel better when the internet isn't insistently telling us that everyone else is super perfect and interesting and confident while we are trying to not burst into tears about losing our toothbrushes AGAIN (please note, this is just a random example. I actually know where my toothbrush is at the moment), I give you

KITCHEN FAILS: Cocoa is a dry ingredient

I wanted cookies. My old roommate used to make the most awesome cookie explosions, so I tried a recipe at her suggestion: Dark Chocolate Chip Comfort Cookies

The problem here is that I didn't have a half-cup of cocoa. I didn't even really want the double chocolate, so I said, hey, no worries, I have all the other ingredients, including awesome peanut butter, and carried merrily along.

Somewhere, in the back of my mind, a tiny red flag went up about the fact that just deleting a random ingredient probably wasn't going to end well, but I. Wanted. Cookies., and just kept going.

Well, the batter tasted great, and I plunked them in the oven. Where they started to spread. And spread. And SPREAD. Please note that my cookie tray also doesn't fit in our apartment oven, a fact I discovered while trying to bake these, so I had them on an improvised tin foil sheet over the oven rack (I say this like I have since then replaced the cookie sheet, but I have not.). And these cookies were still spreading.

Now, the moment they had started spreading, my brain finally acknowledged the little red flag which finally got a chance to say "you know, a half cup of cocoa is actually a lot of dry ingredient" and "maybe you should substitute that with something, and not just delete it?" and "Don't do this. It never works when you muck with backing recipes" but by then it was too late. It was also too late to put them in a baking dish and make cookie bars. It was basically Just Too Late.

So they came out in sort of a strange film of mostly cooked cookie dough, and were delicious, but also a total fucking disaster. Which I then compounded by just sort of throwing the whole, not quite cooled, cookiesque mass into a bowl where they promptly adhered to each other into a big blob.  Which I sort of carved pieces off occasionally and ate in a rebelliously desultory way. Stupid cocoa.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

WOA: Stromblo Steampunk Telescope

While reading about Canberra, I stumbled upon a charming sidequest:
Canberra Steampunk Telescope

Steampunk continues to be one of my Grand Passions, and I'm in the midst of being an Admin for the Newcastle Steampunk Enthusiasts group, and constantly on the look-out for Australian Steampunk Adventures. Going to go see a telescope which just happened to be in the city I was in was perfect. Go Steampunk!

The Stromblo Observatory went through a brutal bushfire in 2003, and this was a commissioned telescope to replace the one that was lost. I couldn't find much information on it, and my guidebook was from 2004, which means that the Observatory basically got a Tragic Story box which was less than useful. But Adventure! Determination! Misty morning walks!

So off we go, up the mountain. The drive was easy enough, and so was finding the husk of the burnt out observatory, as well as a lovely restaurant, but there was no sign of anything resembling a telescope, steampunk or otherwise.

By this point, I had become stubborn. There is no guarantee I would ever be in Canberra again (there's also no guarantee I won't be there every year, but big moves make you very aware of change), and we'd come up this mountain SPECIFICALLY to find this thing. Trying to prod my phone's internet into providing some type of useful location/information was spectacularly unsuccessful, and the staff at the restaurant just shrugged at our question in confusion and told us that it didn't exist (I knew they were wrong. Maybe it was a conspiracy?). So we wandered into the university compound nearby, which does the actual observatory work now, and forlornly tried doors and peered in windows.

There were a couple of displays we could see through some big glass doors, but I wasn't really sure we were supposed to be wandering around, nothing was open and it was getting a little chilly, so we sadly gave up and then cheerfully continued our drive.

Once I got home, I began to prod the internet much more efficiently than on my maddeningly rubbish little phone (I miss my Canadian iphone so much. I seriously need to get around to finding a way to get it unlocked). And imagine my surprise when I realized that my partner and I had, in actuality, stared RIGHT AT the damn thing and not realized it was steampunk.

It turned out that the telescope was the exact thing we had peered at through the glass doors at the academic observatory and then unanimously and categorically dismissed. And that's because we had been expecting to find something like this:

and had found instead this:

I think you can see how we got confused. Interestingly, those two pieces are done by the same sculptor, and you can read about their creation here.

So yes, maybe it is more impressive when you can get closer to it? Anyone been?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

WOA: Canberra

World Of Australia
Quest: Post those backlogged adventures DING!
New Location Discovered: CANBERRA

First off, because I am the type of person to admit to horribly stupid stuff that I have done, I didn't know Canberra was the capital of Australia until I decided to move here. Much like Ottawa, they picked a location between their two heavy hitters (Sydney and Melbourne) and turned it into a capital city.

It has a the reputation for being a bit dull, which has been echoed by both my lovely travel book In A Sunburnt Country by Bill Bryson (So funny, and bizarrely entitled On Australia here. I find non-translated but totally different book titles very interesting) and by the various people I have met. I figured that, much like Ottawa, it was awesome when you got to know it, but didn't make finding the cool stuff easy.

The drive there was AMAZING. Not only did I get to see The Big Merino (yes, that is a giant sheep. Yes, I hugged it. Yes, there are MANY MORE giant things in Australia. And yes, you should come visit me)

but the landscape in Australia continues to be breathtaking and driving along the Australian countryside in our little convertible in the shadows of the mountains, surrounded by unfamiliar trees and SUPER WEIRD birdcalls (I kept insisting the car was falling apart. He kept telling me that it was a bird.) is a glorious glorious thing. Also,

Highway Driving Quest

My ability to drive along Australia highways is totally getting better, especially since I am no longer frantically checking my lefthand mirror to figure out where in the lane I am. I forgot how much I enjoy country driving with the music blaring. Also, I have found all my old mix cds from highschool/undergrad, so the drives are particularly epic; Tenacious D is now stuck in my head.

We bummed around Canberra, played 500 (which is the Australian beloved card game equivalent to Eucher) until two am and FROZE. Dear lord, it gets down to freezing but they have no insulation and no centralized heating. WE WERE WEARING COATS INSIDE. I SLEPT IN SOCKS. I .. yes, I don't approve of this. Of course, back in Newcastle, I just went swimming at the beach in late Autumn, so my complaints sort of lose their weight, but still! I get cold when I sleep. /sulk

We also went to the Roller Derby game, because a)roller derby is AWESOME, b)they were playing our Newcastle team and one of our friends is on it (Her name is Beaver Destruction. As a Canadian, I try not to take offense. ;) ) and c) one of our 500 partners is sometimes a ref. Yes, the further I get from the Roller Derby Heartland of Texas, USA the more I see of it. Canberra's Vice City Rollers PULVERIZED our Dockyard Dames (seriously, I LOVE the names in Derby), and they should be very proud of how hard their blockers hit, but it was an awesome game none the less and the DJ was genuinely good.

We checked out the Tower thing, wandered the Museum of Australia (which told me things I did not know), I hung out in the Rainforest Gully of the Botanical Gardens (I was horribly allergic to Something/Everything in Canberra, but the Gully cleared my lungs right up. Also, Australian rainforest makes you think that you are about to get eaten by a dinosaur. The weird birds reinforce this), and we accidentally ate at Samy's Chinese BBQ, which it turns out is an institution. I have a knack for randomly picking iconic restaurants ( Chili in Washington D.C., Five Guys in an airport), for which I am extremely grateful.

So Canberra was grand, but I will tell you this now: it is not a walking city. There is way more road than anyone should ever need, and it tends to just spit you out in strange places, all the while you are surrounded by park which is surrounding suburbs and you are just trying to figure out where the city is. Plus, many of the pubs were closed at noon on a Sunday, which is just mean. So good times, but I prefer my beach.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Orchid Paintings

World of Australia Long-term/On-going/Very Big Quest
OIL PAINTING - Enough for a Cafe Show/ Fair Booth

Orchid Painting -Medium size - DING!

I've actually had some pretty good traction on this quest, so I figured I would share. I'm taking progress shots after each painting session, and it is very satisfying to see how it changes as I get the colours onto the canvas.

First I wanted to have the silhouettes down.

The start of the flowers, and deciding on the colours.

Almost finished. This is the stage when I'm nearly done and decide I hate it. It took me a few weeks to go back in, redefine my whites, muck about with the darks and sign it.

Finished. Rather enjoy it now.
Of course, photography of oil paintings is notoriously unreliable, and I am still of the school of point and click and maybe fiddle with the flash, so this is more of a gesture towards what the painting looks like, but still, a pleasant start.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hair experiements

My hair is much longer than usual. This is probably because I have yet to call and schedule a hair appointment here in Australia (New Quest! Get Hair Cut). I figure I'm still in mourning for my wonderful hair stylist at Sublime Hair Studio, but I am also beginning to have difficulty seeing through my increasingly emo bangs. Anyway, this means I have enough hair to muck about with, and after a discussion about potential hair steampunk hair styles with a friend, it got me thinking.

Her hair goes down to her waist and there are a number of interesting vintage and regency do's available to play with, although admittedly sometimes her hair is actually TOO long for the look. Mine is  right under my ears, so most of the things we looked at won't really work. (For those of you with longer locks, Torrin Paige has lovely long hair tutorials on youtube. Plus, she is not annoying to watch on video, which turns out to be the exception not the rule for youtube hair tutorials)

I wandered over to Steam Ingenious which was talking about steampunk hair, but I'm not really anxious to go for wigs yet. I like my hair. Up to now, I've just thrown some hair gunk in (the good stuff. Like Thrill or Gooch), scrunched it around a bit and gone. Sometimes I've even used hair spray. I don't own a curling iron or hair blower, and I'd rather keep it that way, but with the extra length I find myself wanting to do things with a bit more drama. And if you want to try new things, ten minutes before you walk out the door is probably not the best time selection.

So now... now we experiment!

Experiment 1: BRAIDS

Wavy hair from putting my hair in braids (lots of them) when it is wet and leaving it until it is dry/I get impatient. I pinned them up using leftover bobby pins from when I was in ballet (yes, from when I was EIGHT). 

Tada! Wavy poofier hair. Add some hair gunk to make it stay, and this could be a fun base for hairstyle. I was worried about having too many kinks, but my hair is super fine and short, and also I suck at braids,  so I think I could get away with leaving it in braids for much longer.

Next time... The Gibson Girl? Or really, I may just try more braids. Also, blog photography takes effort. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Baking Bread

So, I like to bake bread. My father always made bread and it is something I am actually good at (unlike say, cookies. I have a tragic cookie failure to tell you about later).

The bread I usually make is just the normal white bread recipe from my ancient Joy of Cooking, modified as I see fit, because it is a dough that I understand (except for that time I used all wheat flour and ran out on it while it was rising and maybe ended up with bricks. But whatevs! Usually it goes well. Unlike the cookies.).

But Australia, as you may have gathered, is hot. Not super hot, because evidently this is the Worst Summer Ever (hah! It is to laugh.), but warm to the point that they don't have furnaces (I know, my head exploded too. My mom was all "Would you like the quest CLEAN THE VENTS as an add-on to your vacuuming skill" and I realized that I did not have the pre-requisite item vents. It was odd. As is the way vacuuming is spelt. Better not type it again, it will just get weirder.) So I am waiting to break out the All Day Bake That Bread Event, but I do get very testy when I am recipe surfing and all the meal plans involve weird ingredients and kitchen implements I don't own and probably some type of eldritch knowledge because it shouldn't turn out wobbly, but the bread recipes have things like "Easy! Quick! No kneading!" What the hell internet? This is the one thing I would like to take at the Advanced Level. Or at least Intermediate (because yes, usually it is just me and the white bread hanging out. Why get fancy when it is so good and warm and yummy?) But I LIKE kneading bread.

ANYWAY, I figured I'd do a couple of lower level BREAD QUESTS to keep from going stale (hah! I am so funny.) and I came across a recipe for Beer Bread that involves Self-rising flour, which was the only flour in the house at the time (also I had no yeast. Setting up a kitchen = hard).

It turned out AWESOME.

RECIPE: Beer Bread

3 cups self-rising flour
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 beer

Mix. Put it in a loaf pan. Bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees.

If you don't have self-rising flour (because seriously, who has that? Why do we have that? Being in a couple is weird) you can do it the way Farmgirl Fare does it:

3 cups organic all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder 
1 teaspoon salt

Personally, I like it with the little extra sugar. The best part? Trying it with different beers. I think my favourite so far is Corona with feta and rosemary, but the Guiness beer was interesting (and tragically popular with the ants, damn their eyes! Eye stalks? Visual Sensors!)

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Victoria Day Picnic & Hat

Guys, I trimmed a hat! (like forever ago, but it seems I've been a bit busy moving to Australia, so you are getting this post a touch delayed)

I picked up this riding helmet at a flea market (because why not?) and actually got around to adding some ribbon to it for our Victoria Day Picnic on Victoria Island with the Ottawa Steampunks (we were kindly invited along by the Ottawa Goth Syndicate). You will notice I also added a brooch which I bought for I believe 50cents at either a garage sale or one of those work jewellery charity things. 

Add some goggles (Dear Girl Genius, thank you for your lovely goggles, they can jazz up almost anything [please note that I don't think they are for sale anymore, which is a shame]) and voila!

Okay, so I added a couple of extra elements, but really I am just pleased that I finally started in on the DIY part of Steampunk. Much as I love delving into my costume wardrobe and putting together random outfits out of pieces I've acquired over the years, it is also very satisfying to actually do something requiring a needle and thread. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

World of Australia: Where driving is hard

So I think I might be tackling quests slightly above my level.

I accepted DRIVE TO SYDNEY because I am an adult and can drive a car and this way my boyfriend can do some remote laptop work while we drive and BAM double productivity. However, let's take a look at my stats.

Level 5 Pedestrian
Never owned a car of her own
"Walk through winter bus strike" badge
Metro experience - Toronto, New York, London, Montreal
Excellent bus map ability
Feats in "find ride" and "navigation/excellent company"
Disadvantage: Carsick

Five years worth of experience points have gone directly into pedestrian stats. Now let's take a look at the quest I accepted.

Highways with speed limits in Kilometers (I'm used to it in miles)
Roundabouts (Look at the cars to the right! But not to the left! FOCUS! DON'T DIE!)
Driving on the left (Don't go in the wrong lane. Don't go in the wrong lane. Oh god, how far right in the lane am I supposed to be? It feels like I am driving too far to the right, but it turns out I am too far to the left and I am now obsessively checking my mirrors)
Hills (Watch your speed! In Kilometers!)
and that convertible we got? Yeah, it is a manual.

Now yes, I wouldn't have been able to accept the quest if I didn't already know how to drive a stick-shift. But here's the thing: I learnt to drive manual in my dad's Fiat Spider for Prom. And since my ten year high school reunion is coming up this year (I would say this summer, but I'm now in Australian Autumn and it makes talking about the seasons like they are a sensible time mark very confusing. Also, no, I'm not going back to the states for it. ) that makes it a solid decade since I regularly had to change gears. And there are hill starts here. A lot of hill starts. Which means there is a lot of cursing on my part. And stalls.

I successfully got us to Sydney, but seriously? Why do I manage to pick the absolute hardest way to do a thing? Roundabouts in an unfamiliar manual car on the lefthand side of the road as my reintroduction to driving?  >.<

Thursday, March 15, 2012

World of Australia (WOA!)

Moving to another country makes life feel remarkably like an elaborate MMORPG (which seriously, always sounds ridiculous when people say it. mehmorphg. Acronyms, why they gotta be that way?).

First there's the training grounds while you are trying to work you way up to level 10.

Choose your destination location - DING!
Inform landlord of departure - DING!
Give notice of leave to work
         Tell supervisor
         Tell big boss
         Fill-out Paperwork
         DING! Level UP!
Pack all material possessions
         Find group
         Pack all the things
         DING! Shared exp AND give prizes to group members because you have too much loot to carry
Sell couch - DING!
Move piano - DING!
Pack remaining items and get on plane - Yes, you totally rock at this game, look at you and your bad self, those rats did NOT see you coming.

Optional SIDE QUEST - LAS VEGAS - You will also rock at this side quest, where everything is pretty and awesome and seriously, you are just happy to not be dealing with that same tiny town hall anymore and there's a Combination Starbucks/Margaritaville and this game is AWESOME.

Now you have to try and get to the city. You're a big kid now, and suddenly that nice, totally at your level, training ground is gone and you have NO IDEA where you are or where you are supposed to be going. Also, the chat line is completely baffling or WORSE the damn FIJI airline PA system doesn't work so you don't know what time it is or why there are no soft drinks, and if you get the Ginger ale, be warned that it turns out it is more like ginger beer and will not do the nice hydrating job you were hoping it would. Be confused and also tired. Also, have no idea what time it is and be unable to find a clock. Maybe it is two am? How long have you been playing this anyway? Is it supposed to take this long, or have you frozen on the back of a flying thing?

So now the quests are trickier. The first one, your big introductory quest, the one you know you have to finish to open up all the other quests, is

Somewhere in this region is an apartment you want. Go and try to find it.
         Inspect apartments - Yes, totally killed attended 5 apartment inspections. Hmm, pretty minimal exp.
         Find the RIGHT apartments - Okay, so I killed inspected some apartments which were not the right ones, but look, some of them actually dropped the item I am looking for. YES, TOTALLY BEAT THIS QUEST.
        Get apartment - NO! You've brought the item back and had it appraised and it turns out that this is NOT the item that the quest guy wants, or you are not the person they wanted to bring it or something stupid.
         Go inspect more apartments - Really? More of them? I mean, okay, but pretty sure you looked at a lot of them already.
         More dropped items - Not as many as you'd like, honestly, what is with that, but okay fine, you will now run around this new area trying to match up the items with the person who is asking for it, because they are all different and want different applications and arcane rituals to even see if you get to complete this quest.
        Get apartment! -- NO!! More inspections and item running. By this point, the inspections aren't really getting you ANY exp and you are super worried that the item you are looking for just straight up doesn't exist. Also you aren't getting exp for discovering new areas because you were here LAST week and also getting discouraged because the chat lines are all filled with the same people competing with you for that lovely dropped item who are also getting discouraged and DEAR LORD YOU ARE GOING TO BE HOMELESS AND NEVER GET TO PLAY THE REST OF THE GAME SWEET JESUS WHAT HAVE YOU DONE??
       Get apartment - Ding!

wait what? oh, thank the lord, we actually have a place to live.

Begin awesome game playing... no wait, now you get to move in.

Okay, that's okay, this was part of the game you were looking forward to and dreaming of while running around doing inspections this will be fine. Unfortunately, you aren't at the health levels you were hoping for because a) this quest took WAY LONGER THAN IT SHOULD HAVE and b)

You have an annoying illness! Have fun with this, sometimes you will be miserable and uncomfortable! Everything will be harder! That's fun, right?
        See if it will just go away on its own. Things have a time limit, right? No.
        Be glad you got that health insurance but still wait for it to kick in. Health level damage begins to also eat into your emotional mana bar thing. This is worrisome.
        Find doctor. -DING!
        Get antibiotics. -DING!
        Get antibiotics. - DING!
        Leech damage returns!
        This quest is still ongoing. Maybe I need to find some type of scroll? :(

        Move boxes into apartment - Ding!
        Get bed - Ding!
        Buy awesome vanity table from garage sale - Ding! Also, emotional bonus of being referred to as "the young couple". Make sappy faces.
Take ongoing emotional damage from unpacked/crazy mess.

SIDE-QUEST - Australian Customs be Crazy
You successfully completed "Pack all the things". You selected "Pack imitation firearm" (guys, it is an old costume flintlock pistol.)
         Realize you totally should not have selected "pack imitation firearm" because Australia Customs be Crazy and you have to fill out a form.
         Too late now - Fill out form. DING!
         Get to Australia, be contacted by customs.
         Fill out another form. - Ding!
         Deliver form. - Ding!
         Deliver other form - Ding!
         Go back to that other person with another form who totally could have told you to do that in the first place and also seriously, you don't think you should need a firearm importation license from the police for you firearm but okay, fine, here, it is now three months later, take it- Ding!
         Go to the docks IN SYDNEY and get item. No, you don't get anything else. Just your item. Which was yours in the first place. Quest complete! The only bonus here is that you can now clear that goddamn thing out of your quest log, which was frankly getting a little crowded, because you also have

        You have an apartment, now you can get the good internet! Yes! No....
        Get rare drop of NO LANDLINE. Apartment should have landline. Agent said there was a landline. What the hell? Also should have a working oven, but it turns out that quest was super easy and was just because you didn't notice that the item to complete that quest was there the whole time and really you are a little embarrassed that you had to ask for help on that one, but look, you didn't know that you needed to turn on THE TIMER as well as two other knobs to make it work. Right, back to the internet.
         Call internet.
         Find out no landline. Find out that possibly there is no AVAILABLE landline to you unit and you are doomed. But maybe not?
         Have guy come out to look at landline. Gonna get this quest done, booyeah, or at least find out what is wrong.
         Missing item, can not complete quest without key to phone box thing. Oh sweet little fishies, seriously?        
         Complain to agent/landlord.
         Told to contact property manager.
         Property manager needs agent to organize.
         Call agent.
         Follow-up with property manager.
         Go to pick up key and wait for landline guy.
         IS WRONG KEY!!!
         Call the goddamn locksmith.
         Get landline. DING!
         Call internet - told to wait.
         Call internet and fix problem in system.
         Restart waiting period.
         INTERNET! DING!! (yesterday guys, it showed up YESTERDAY)
         Try to get locksmith reimbursement. (I don't even want to LOOK at this quest yet.)

Ongoing health damage from massive amounts of dust
         Learn skill - obsessive vacuuming.

Outdoor sitting area - DING!
Outside plants/herbs - DING!
Hang pictures - DING!
Make buddy with whom to study japanese - DING!

Accept quest to organize Newcastle Steampunk Society
Accept quest to find out more about ZigZag Steam train trip awesomesauce thing.

Attend St. Vincent concert in Sydney - DING! Inspiration boost!

Live by Ocean - DING! Receive general stat bonus of awesomeness
       buy new swimsuit - EPIC DING! On sale, adorable, meets ability to not fall off in massive wave requirements, good quality
       Accept Plans to Go Surfing

Accepted - Plans to walk along coast in mornings so that you don't just lounge in bed until eleven.
         Woke up and walked at 7AM- DING
         DID IT AGAIN! - Ding.

So things are finally moving along. The graphics in Australia are fantastic, and the worldbuilding awesome (possum! On my fence! Last night! And evidently there are marsupial rats??). Wish me luck that I don't get another horrible quest until I've managed to replenish all my health bars.