Monday, January 29, 2007

The Tropical Vegan gets crafty

I moved house two weeks ago. I went from a 7 bedroom shared house, with majorly sucky housemates (well, half of them were), and furniture to a 2 bedroom unfurnished unit. It's just Andy and I; we have nobody else to try and share space with. I must say, it is SO NICE to have our own space. It's a small unit, but it's big enough for the two of us. We've got a little private courtyard where we've already planted a bush, and we're going to plant some herbs and veggies when they get big enough. The only downside to moving out of our old place was that we didn't have any furniture. Seriously, we had a mattress (but no bed), one desk, 2 desk/dining chairs (snavelled from the old house), one comfy-ish chair, and nothing else. We also had some plates and bowls and stuff like that, but no pots and pans. Unfortunately, however, we are broke. My scholarship payments don't start for a few more weeks, and anyways, new furniture seems like a waste. First of all, most of them are very yuppy-ish. Secondly, who needs a new couch? It's just going to get shit spilled on it anyways.

The first thing we got was a second-hand (but repaired and warrantied) fridge, and then a wok, frying pan, and two saucepans. Some used, some new, but all pretty good quality (we think). Then we spent a week going to what seemed like every single second-hand shop in the greater Townsville area. We looked at couches, tables, bookshelves, desks, chairs, and everything else they had around. After we'd made a day of looking around, we decided on a couch from the first shop we'd gone into. Of course, by the time we got back, it had been sold. Bugger.

We ended up buying most of our stuff from garage sales, and spent less than $100 on a couch, a dining table, a nice bookshelf, a beanbag, and a fishtank. Thanks to freecycle and stuff sitting on the side of the road, we got another desk and 3 more desk/dining chairs. Now our place is fully furnished and quite comfy. The only problem was that the couch and the desk chairs from the side of the road were quite scratchy. Since we're often in shorts, and Andy doesn't usually even have a shirt on, that was sort of a big deal. So we got some fabric, and a needle and thread, and I set to the task of making slip covers. I haven't sewed much since 9th grade "fashion design" class, and that was all on a machine, but I gave it a fair shot. Although the stitching isn't the straightest in some parts, the couch is much more comfy (and colorful!) than it was before.

This is the couch before. A little bit boring, and scratchy, although comfy. It lets you slouch, but it's a supported slouch, so your back doesn't hurt afterwards. Not a bad buy, for $15. But, since everything in the unit, from the floor to the ceiling, is white or beige, we needed some color.

This is the couch after I was done with it. I used some extra fabric to make sleeves for the arms, since they were a bit rusty, and then I made triangle pillows stuffed with the extra beanbag beans. In the background you can vaguely see the dining chair with the same slipcover over the back.

Now onto the next task of brightening up the walls!

Thursday, January 25, 2007


The other day Andy and I decided to go for a swim, but first we were going to take a walk along the beach at the mouth of the Ross River. (You can't swim there because there are crocs and stingers. To swim, you can go to the stinger nets at the beach, or pools around town.) Andy wanted to look for driftwood for a fishtank, and I just like going to the beach, especially at low-tide.

Even though I'm 22, I'm like a little kid when I see snails and things. I never want to touch them, because I think about how annoying and scary it would be if I were in their shoes (shells?). But I squat down next to them and just watch. I spent 5 minutes watching a snail chase prey. It wasn't exactly high-speed action or anything, but the snail was making loops and curls and leaving beautiful trails in the wet sand.

We watched some birds splashing and swooping around, and then started to walk back to the car at the high-tide mark. Where the river meets the ocean, there are a fair few mangroves, and in the intertidal zones there are soldier crabs. I saw one or two burying themselves in the sand, so I got worried that I would step on them and crush them (note: I don't think that's possible. They have very strong shells.) and started walking around on my tip-toes. Then Andy pointed out an army of them. Literally hundreds of tiny bluish-white crabs were running together across the mucky sand. They saw us coming and started to run every which way to avoid us, some buring themselves and others trying to outrun us. The clicking of all the shells when they moved sounded like really loud champagne, or like rain on a tin roof. It was amazing. I wish I had a camera, although I'm sure it wouldn't do it justice. We came across four or five other groups like that; all told, there were probably more than a thousand little crabs on a tiny stretch of mangrove/beach. I feel lucky that I got to see it!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


As per Bazu's request, photos of our mangos. They're not the best photos, since they were taken with an underwater camera, but they show the massiveness of the R2E2s.
Don't mind my silly face. The big one is the R2E2, and the smaller one (still big, mind you) is the Bowen, a very sweet and juicy variety grown an hour south of here.

And here's Andrew with the R2E2. Apparently they were selectively bred by the CSIRO (an Australian research thingie) to be big and not so stringy, and the plot they were grown on was the junction between row R and row E--hence the very creative name.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Mango Season

Here in Townsville, it's mango season for another month or so. Andy and I both love mangos, and we're already dreading the time that they become expensive again.

Since we've been back in Townsville, we've been rearranging our weekly trip to the farmer's market around the mangos. There are a few markets here--one of them has good veggies and exotic fruits, one has much cheaper mangos and more potted plants. So we've been forsaking the selection of veggies to buy the mangos. This past week, we saw one lady selling trays of Bowen Mangos (small, sweet, juicy) for AU$10. When we counted them up, there were about 25, all at varying stages of ripeness. We paid for that, and then walked around some more. At the other side of the market was a man selling R2E2 Mangos (the size of a baby's head, and not as stringy as most mangos) for AU$0.50 each. He had two trailers and a truck bed, all completely full of these massive fruits. We bought ten.

What could we possibly do with 35 mangos? Well, as soon as we got home we picked out the ripest ones, peeled them, cut them up, and then stuck them in the freezer. We've got about 5 or 6 mangos frozen so far, and we'll probably do at least that many again. When mango season ends, we can snack on frozen mango, or make it into sorbets or smoothies or cocktails. Aside from freezing them, we've already had tofu marinated in mango chili sauce, mango oatmeal, and 2 or 3 mangos a day just for snacks. The R2E2s aren't ripe yet, but when they are, I think we won't have room for anything but mango!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Holiday photos

I've posted pictures from my journey south here. Be warned: there are a proverbial fuck-ton. I didnt' realize how many I took until I was loading them, but I couldn't bring myself to delete any. It was such a beautiful area. The Eden Christmas folder is a bit of Asling's Beach, the main beach in Eden, but mostly it's from the Ben Boyd State Park, specifically the Pinnacles and Long Beach. We did both the Pinnacles loop and a stroll along the beach, so there are photos from the top and the bottom. Then in Sydney, we did our first day in the city--all the photos up until the ferris wheel ones. The second day, we did a backpacker-style harbour cruise (aka the commuter ferry) and went across to Manly, where we hiked and lazed a bit. Those are the rest of the photos. And here are a few of my favorites:
This is the view from the pinnacles walk.

More view, this time of the pinnacles themselves. As far as I know, those smaller white bits in front are the actual pinnacles, and the red/white cliffs behind are just... cliffs.

At long beach, there was one bit of rock that had heaps of little cave and this little tunnel. This side of the tunnel was way above my head, so I stretched as far as I could and just held the camera above my head. This was the result.

Here's Andy at the water's edge.

And there's me. The water was frigid, so that's as far as we went.
Here's Andy at Darling Harbour in Sydney, where we ate peanut butter and jam sandwiches near the water. I like this photo because you can see me in his sunnies.

The bridge from the southern side, aka the main city center area.
And here's the bridge (or at least the northern pylons) from just outside Luna Park. And the opera house peeking out from below.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Finally back for real

Woah, I feel like I've dropped off the face of the planet for the past three months. After 2 months in PNG, we were in Townsville for a week before we headed south for xmas. We stayed a night in Sydney, walked around all day to the opera house, the botanical gardens, and the Rocks. Then we caught the bus down to Eden. From 3 pm to 12:30 am, we sat on this bus--except for 1/2 hour when we stopped at McDonald's for dinner. Well, even if McDonald's did have something I could eat, there was no way I was going inside that slaughterhouse. Andy and I walked across the street in the rain to a grocery store and bought some potato chips. Not a very healthy dinner but it was something.

We then spent two weeks in Eden, which is about 30 minutes from the New South Wales border with Victoria. Despite being so far south, it is summer here, so it should have been warm. For some reason, though, they had unseasonably cold and rainy weather for the entire time we were there. We got two mildly nice days the entire time, so spent most of the trip inside or in a car. We did get to see some cool stuff, though. The Sapphire Coast, as it's known, is a gorgeous area, albeit a bit on the touristy side--scratch that, it was mega-fuckin-touristy. I've taken photos and I'll put a link to them in the next day or so.

The holidays went better than I expected. Andy's family was really nice, welcoming, and completely catered to my veganism. They checked the back of every bottle of wine to see if it was vegan or not, and made sure there was always some chilled that I could drink. Andy's mum tried a few recipes that she hadn't before, and everyone (except Andy's dad) tried the dishes that we made, including tofu. We got a cookbook from Andy's brother called "The Vegan Gourmet", and already we've tried a few of the recipes. The appetiser's are so yum that we made an entire meal out of a few different ones. I'm looking forward to trying out some more of those recipes. The other wonderful gift was a little food processor. I'm so excited that I can make my own hummus and bread crumbs now!

Before we flew out, we spent another 2 days in Sydney, this time staying with Andy's oldest brother. He and his wife have a 2 bedroom unit near where the Olympics were held. We spent one day doing the normal stuff--Darling Harbor, National Maritime Museum, an IMAX movie (Deep Sea 3D), a walk across the bridge, and a ride on the ferris wheel in Luna Park. Then we had dinner at Bodhi, a vegan restaurant that is in the middle of Cook and Phillip Park. The food was really yummy, although I almost didn't know what to do with an entire menu! I'm so used to ordering from one tiny section, or trying to figure out which dish will be the easiest for them to veganise. We got spring rolls and dumplings, soba noodles with avocado chutney, and peking 'duck'. For dessert we had a near-orgasmic coconut sorbet and a jasmine tea. It was relatively cheap, too, considering that we were in Sydney. Two enthusiastic thumbs up. The next morning Andy's brother took the day off work and we took the ferry over to Manly, on North Head. We had lunch by the water, lazed by the beach, hiked a little, and then had gourmet pizza at a restaurant near his apartment when we got back.

We flew out at 6:40 in the morning, meaning a wake-up at 4:15. That sucked, but now that we've recovered from our holiday, we're looking for a new place to live. A 2 bedroom unit or house, specifically. We should have someplace in a week or so.

Most importantly, however, I will be starting a PhD! I got the scholarship I applied for, and it came with an additional stipend than I expected. I'm so freaking excited. I'm going in tomorrow to talk with one of my advisors and get a bit of a headstart before the semester kicks off in the end of February. Eee!