Sunday, October 27, 2013

coffee for carnivorous plants

I recently added two new specimens to my 'collection' of tropical pitcher plants. They were bought on ebay following several weeks of unsuccessful bidding – until I worked out the sneaky tricks that ebay bidders use to win their bids (i.e. grossly overpaying in the last 10 secs before bidding ends).

Anyhow, I've had the two new plants for about a week and decided to give them a drink of coffee this morning. Yep, coffee. It seems that tropical pitcher plants are not only similar to humans in the need to eat, but they apparently also thrive when given an occasional hit of coffee.

Unfortunately, not any old coffee will do. They do not like instant coffee for instance. So...being a non-coffee drinker myself, I sent Nathan on a detour to pick me up a long black from Gloria Jeans when he was walking the dog yesterday. This morning I diluted the cold, day old coffee and gave each of the plants a drink. No notable changes yet...but give them a few weeks and evidently I can expect to see bigger leaves and traps.

pork bun postscript

Yum cha in Castlemaine wasn't too bad. The restaurant was tiny (the size of a small take-away shop). The pork buns were tasty (probably not 'the best in Australia', though still very good). But the best thing of all...all their dim sims were msg free which meant there were none of the post yum cha symptoms normally associated with an msg overload that come from dining in more conventional restaurants in the city.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Char sui bao in Castlemaine?

Am heading off to country Victoria again. This time, I'm going to Castlemaine with some friends from my PhD days (who have all ended up living and working in Melbourne). The plan is to catch the train in the mid morning and to get there by lunch. One of my friends has booked us into a restaurant that is suppose to have the best steamed pork buns (char sui bao) in Australia. Admittedly, I'm a bit sceptical. Not in country Victoria, surely? Will it be authentic or will it be "Aussie" char sui bao? I've been fooled before, most notably at the famous dim sim stall at the South Melbourne market... to me, the dim sims tasted like a sausage roll disguised in the shape of a dim sim and served with soy sauce. Let's see about the char sui bao...

Sunday, October 6, 2013

picnic, metal baskets and a good duck

We decided to to have a picnic yesterday at the Flagstaff Gardens. We walked to the Vic Markets with the dog to buy some bread, dips and tapas. The threat of showers in the mid morning nearly ruined our plans. As we were leaving the markets, we felt a few drops of rain and had pretty much given up hope but by the time we reached the Gardens, the gloomiest of the rain clouds appeared to have moved on so we enjoyed our picnic after all.

In the early afternoon, I left Nathan and the dog at home and headed over to Fitzroy to check out this exhibition. I had met the artist last week when they were busy putting the works together but the gallery was a mess so it was nice to go there again and see everything up on the walls (or suspended from the ceiling as was the case with some of the pieces).

We roasted a duck for dinner. I entrusted Nathan to figure out how to use the duck fat to roast the crispiest potatoes (as I had earlier seen on a Jamie Oliver cooking show). It worked a treat. I also cooked up some purple cabbage with vinegar, fish sauce and sugar. It went very well with the fatty duck. I wished I had asked Nathan to take a photo before we devoured everything – but we couldn't wait. Must be more patient next time.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Was back in Canberra over the weekend. I left on Friday and returned last night. I hadn't realised that Monday was actually a public holiday in the ACT: Family and Community Day.  What a wonderful excuse for a public holiday.

I went with my youngest sister to the Malaysian embassy on Saturday as they were having some sort of celebration/open day. After buying some traditional Malay desserts, we went for a walk around some of the other embassies and noticed that quite a few were open to the public that weekend. Here I am in front of the Finnish embassy.  

More generally, there seem to be a lot of activities going on in the nation's capital as part of its centenary celebrations. Though I missed it, Floriade this year was supposed to have had a centenary theme. The art gallery was also full of new pictures donated from various sources as part of its '100 works for 100 years' program.

I know Canberra is often described as sterile but I still have a soft spot for the place where I grew up.