Monday, September 24, 2007

You can't be blue in this City

John Mayer and Buddy Guy at "Legends"
Originally uploaded by Contrails.

On Friday night, I had suggested to a few friends who were looking for a good live music venue that we go to "Buddy Guy's Legends Bar". I'd been a few times before and I've always had a good time there.

And as if the fates were smiling on us, Buddy Guy himself took the stage and jammed with the band, stopping a few times to take a shot brought to him by the buxom young bartenders. Whatever, it's all part of the performance.

I have decided that even though blues basically just trucks out the same 12 bars over and over, I find it more enjoyable to experience than jazz. I'm sure the style of Buddy Guy and the talented guest performers that his bar attracts have helped me reach this conclusion. They all seem to have such fun up there, and the audience has an amazing time.

My cab driver even told me that Buddy Guy takes the stage every night of the week during January so I will definitely have to keep going back for that.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

If you can carry it, you can have it

satin bowerbird
Originally uploaded by omnia.

Biggsy has long since appointed himself my big brother and though I don't write about him often on this site, today he warrants a special mention. Because today, Biggsy outdid himself.

For whatever reason, there exists an Aladdin's Cave of treasures known as Biggsy's Basement and I went 'shopping' there after work. All on his own, Biggsy dug out for me a fully-functional microwave, a gorgeous dark wood coffee table, and a perfect television. So my new apartment just keeps getting better and better. Not only did Biggsy give me these delights free of charge, he carried them to his car, drove me to my place, and put them into my apartment.

And while his only response to my repeated cries of thanks was a nonchalant "too easy", I know that I am going to have to cook my most special roast chicken and potatoes just for him.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

You could be a bit more subtle, you know?

Cleaning Lady
Originally uploaded by bulent_yusuf.

Ever since I did Weight Watchers a few years ago (yes, very briefly), I learned that it's possible to earn back good points by cleaning. You could eat a half tub of double-chocolate ice cream, as long as you cleaned the bathroom and mopped the floor afterwards. My kind of system!

And in any case, I fit somewhere between 'neat freak' and 'germophobe' on the whole cleanliness scale - so my immediate living space is never really in complete disarray.

But I've come home to my beautiful apartment today and the floor is crunchy.

Somebody nearby decided to do extensive road works or construction or something, and their activity has coated my apartment in a fine layer of cruncy dust. The bench tops, my dining room chairs, my sofa - it all bore the brunt of it.

And so I swept. And I spritzed. And I mopped. And then I closed the windows. And then I opened the windows because all the spritzing had nearly gassed me.

But my apartment floor is now looking much better, and it's true what it says on the side of my mop cleaner: the floor really IS so clean, I can walk around in white socks and not get them dirty.

Memo to me: close windows before going to work tomorrow.
Memo to me #2: Buy chocolate ice-cream.

Monday, September 17, 2007

You're cash-strapped AND an idiot

I hope that after I die, people will say of me: ``That guy sure owed me a lot of money.''
Originally uploaded by kiss kiss bang bang.

I'm trying so hard to be frugal with my new apartment, which isn't as hard as it sounds - because I hardly have any money to begin with. I'm living well within my means though, so no need to run a bake sale just yet.

Still, Sunday morning heralded the delivery of the bumper edition of the newspaper, and the finger-twitching excitement of the store catalogues bursting at the seams with cash-saving coupons.

I'm not much of a coupon-clipper, I'll tell you that right now. But I am trying really hard to give it a go, and cut out the coupons for the things I really need, or could at least really use in the immediate future.

So on Sunday morning I neatly snipped coupons for soap, toothpaste, and tissues. And today I wandered around the store, smiling smugly to myself for my thriftiness. Arriving at the register and proudly handing over my coupons, the cashier looks at me sadly and informs me that I have grabbed several products that LOOK like the ones on special, but are subtly different to their discount-giving cousins.

A small line had begun to form behind me.

Feeling myself blush from the tips of my fingers to the top of my head, I shifted uncomfortably and wondered how I could have got it so wrong. 1 item out of 3 was correct. That's a terrible percentage. I suck at coupon shopping. The woman immediately behind me smiled gently and offered, "well dear, it's better than not getting any discount at all...?" Yeah, cheers.

So I was so embarassed I took my meagre discounted item, and paid full price for the other two, and scurried out before anyone could see where I went.

It's times like this that I wish I had mastered an American accent. It's one thing to be hopeless at bargain hunting, but it's quite another to be the stupid Aussie who can't get it right. DOH.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

She should be seen and not heard

I had a fantastic time at the hair salon today; I always seem to when I go in there. I do not enjoy massages or facials or mani-pedis, or any of those 'typically' girly pamperings. Instead, I hit the hair salon for my rest & relaxation.

I don't know why, but I find the smell of hair bleach intoxicating, the application of post-colouring toner slapped onto my head a positive delight. And I thoroughly enjoy catching up on the trashiest of trashy journalism as I plough through the salon's magazine rack.

But today, the "Us" magazine scared the crap out of me. They had interviewed one of my ex boyfriends, Jason Priestly. I could never work out why the girls of Beverly Hills didn't immediately warm to Brandon Walsh's down-home Midwestern charms. The fact that he then befriended the equally yummy Dylan was to his eternal benefit. I would have settled for befriending Dylan's Porsche, but I am veering off point.

The magazine interviewed the real-life Jason Priestly and his new bride, and profiled their new baby. And do you want to know what made me vomit a little in my mouth? The following was the first quote ascribed to the new Mrs Priestly:

"The first time I saw Jason, my womb ached. I knew this was the father of my child."

Ahem, I'm sorry? Your womb just ached? If you want to talk involuntary bodily reactions, how about the upchuck reflex I'm struggling to supress?!

So I am vowing here and now, to never EVER say that sentence aloud to anyone, male or female. Let's keep my little literary discovery to ourselves, shall we? All I will say is that aching wombs should be symptoms of cramps, gas, or bad chilli. And no magazine journalist, however trashy, should ever presume that there might be other more misty-eyed motivations.

Friday, September 14, 2007

How sweet it is

Tokay - Tokaji 5 puttonyĆ³s
Originally uploaded by rayparnova.

For a while now I have been a member of a wine club at my friend's store, Just Grapes. The particular club that I have joined means that every month, I receive one red wine and one white wine produced from grape varietals that are not particularly well-known. I don't know much about wine anyway, but I figured this club was one way I could learn some more interesting facts that would make me devastatingly attractive at dinner parties.

To thank me for my patronage, the store owners gave me 2 tickets to a wine class that they conducted last night that introduced me to a wine region I'd never ever heard of. It's called TOKAJI which is pronounced "tow-kai" and is the wine region in the north-eastern corner of Hungary.

The wines from that part of the world are terribly sweet and I'm not usually a fan of dessert wines. But I was so intrigued by the fact I knew nothing about the region or the wines, that I had to go along. So I dragged my friend P with me (who is fortunately still talking to me after helping me move apartments). We had a wonderful time.

One of the fun facts to know about Tokaji is that its sweetness comes from dried berries called aszu that are infected by botrytis. So unlike other dessert wines, whose sweetness is determined by fermentation or the length of time that the grapes are allowed to rot, Tokaji is sweetened through the addition of berries into white wine grapes. There are no delay tactics involved. The aszu berries are put into wooden barrels called putonyos that the pickers wear on their backs as they walk through the vineyards. The sweetness of each vintage is determined by the number of putonyos of aszu berries that are put into each barrel, from 1 (less sweet) up to 6 (so sweet your teeth nearly fall out).

I found the class to be so interesting, that I really want to go to Hungary now and just sit under a tree and enjoy a couple of glasses of the caramelly, syrupy goodness. The instructor shared another interesting fact with us, namely that it is illegal to put Tokaji into bottles any bigger than 500ml. So apparently it's possible to drink a full bottle in under 20 minutes - or at least that's what the teacher said!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A fishy situation

Originally uploaded by chi liu.

Tonight was my first dinner party and granted, Dr G was my only guest, but there was not a spare seat in the house. I really must get more dining chairs.

But Dr G is also vegetarian, which always seems to fill me with dread. Not the fact that she doesn't eat meat, but the idea of catering for vegetarians always makes me nervous. I think it's because I never cook fish for myself. The only fish I will prepare for myself is tuna, and that's never more complicated than opening a can.

So tonight I was resolved to cook a recipe with halibut that I'd seen on The Food Network. Halibut is a terribly British fish as far as I'm concerned, having risen to prominence (in my own estimations anyway) from books and TV in Scotland. If they weren't cooking with halibut, it was salted cod. Needless to say, halibut seemed much less complicated.

So I went to my fishmonger tonight to get 2 halibut filets and I proudly brought them home, along with all the other ingredients, and took off the parchment paper and what, lo? SKIN. One side of each filet had skin on it. My recipe didn't call for skin. Oh man. First hurdle.

Yes friends, I took my handy Kitchen-Aid knife block set and dirtied every single knife until I found one suitable for removing the very very stubborn skin from my halibut filets. Granted I pulled the fish into several pieces while doing it, and counted at least 40 "F" words in the process but, in the end, it was a job well done.

Dinner was delicious and even my roast potatoes worked a treat. I made what was quite possibly the world's most boring side salad, but perhaps we could see a silver lining and call it "rustic" instead. The bowl I put it in was pretty anyway.

Dessert was lemon sorbet and vanilla gelato - straight out of their respective tubs, as well as little bars of Hershey's dark chocolate and really strong Italian coffee to wash it all down.

Dr G didn't contract mercury poisoning (at least not immediately), so I feel confident that I did a good job. I'm not sure I'll be in a screaming hurry to cook fish for myself again, or at least next time I'll make doubly sure that my fishmonger cleans the filets completely for me - I am no samurai when it comes to operating my knife set, though I am indeed typing this with all my digts in tact. Phew!

That's one successful dinner party down, and hopefully many more to follow.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Take a load off, IT super-genius

The new sofa bed
Originally uploaded by Miss Gab.

Not only did my spectacular new sofa bed get delivered today, but I also hooked up my wireless internet all by myself. IT super genius, me.

Well I think that 'wireless' is a bit of a misnomer, because I seem to have spaghetti central hanging out from behind my computer right now. I really want to be able to sit on the aforementioned sofa and surf the internet to my heart's content and I'm not yet quite sure how to do it. The how-to manual is only 4 pages long and I've read it three times already - clueless.

And so I'm all hooked into the great cyberspace environment which I am currently surfing in a optimal carefree manner, from the lotus position on my living room floor. In the dark.

That reminds me. I need to buy lamps.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The home that Gab built

Originally uploaded by nori238.

Little by little, I am helping this apartment take shape. Fresh flowers help, even though they are probably an expense I do not need to go to on a regular basis. But the place is getting there.

I bought a sofa bed on Friday night, ignoring my personal objections to second-hand bedding, for reasons of health and hygiene. I fairly rigorously interviewed the previous owner of MY sofa, and left her apartment fairly confident that nothing unsavoury had ever be done on, in, or near my new baby.

My new sofa bed is actually white, which will no doubt come as a shock to anyone that knows me. However, I am happy to own a white sofa because it is from IKEA and the white cotton slip cover is entirely machine-washable and in the event of a stubborn staining, the slip cover is cheap to replace. Splendid.

Have not yet 'shopped' in Biggsy's basement to procure a television, though this will come. Am rather preoccupied with mastering the mysteries of the "wireless router" to ensure an uninterrupted stream of internet connection. Cable TV is next on the list and can, therefore, wait.

I did my bit for the US penal system today by purchasing some deliciously soft bath towels by Martha Stewart. There is something amazingly comforting about bath sheets, don't you think? Each one wraps around me twice and I just love that.

I used my oven for the first time yesterday too. I baked Hooters buffalo wings. In her own way, I'm sure that Martha Stewart is doubly delighted for me.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Taking on the utilities

Electric Company
Originally uploaded by My name is Saffanna.

Over the past 2 days in my new apartment, I've been hacking into wireless internet service provided by some kind-hearted (and hopefully oblivious) neighbour. The only problem with that is, whenever he/she logs off, my connection shuts down too - no matter what I'm in the middle of doing at the time.

But given that I'm no thief, and that I want to dictate my own internet usage in future thanksverymuch, I decided today to get my own internet service. And so drawing on everything I knew about utilities (thanks to Monopoly), I called the phone company to commence negotiations.

What followed was an exhaustive discussion about who I am, where I live, where I've come from, what ID I do and don't have, and what kind of complicated per-month plan I want to get. And despite all the technical jargon and financial mumbo-jumbo, I kept up. And I settled on a plan and made my decision.

Naturally I have to fax off everything except a dental impression over to the phone company so they can verify my information and credit history (of which I have none). Ownership was never this complicated on the Monopoly board. But with any luck, I'll be wired for light and sound within 24 hours all on my own terms. And that sounds good to me.

And naturally I will protect my wireless connection with security so that no free-loading neighbours of mine can hack in. Bwahahaha.

Oh man I just realised something. When I finally get a TV, I'll have to go through all this again with the cable company. Oh joy and rapture! Bring it.

Monday, September 03, 2007

I carried a watermelon?!

Danger of electrocution
Originally uploaded by Leo Reynolds.

For the benefit of the men in the room, the title of today's post comes from "Dirty Dancing", in a scene where our heroine, Baby (who nobody puts in a corner) literally carries a watermelon to a dance party. Yes, the movie has a girl, a boy, some fruit, some dancing...kinda makes you want to go out and rent it, eh?!

I mention this line from the movie because the last two days have seen me using muscles I never knew I had (but can now feel intimately), trying to get my new place set up as best I can.

I got all my shoes unpacked and, channelling Imelda Marcos in a way that surprised even me, the shoes take up closet space in not one, but two rooms! Genius.

And yesterday I hosted a couple of friends who came to check out the place (and they were bearing gifts too, so they can come back any old time).

But today was all about picking up the essential items that I wanted to get from Linens N Things, a store that has everything you could ever need to deck out a place. At each entrance they even have a little checklist for college students to give them an idea of what they might need to fit out a dorm room - I tell you, they have thought of everything.

But I was on a mission today and I knew exactly what I needed. So I took my shopping cart/dodgem car and bashed into everything on the ends of every aisle - it was great. But I wormed my way around and found a bunch of kitchen stuff, plus a fun shower curtain and shower caddy. Yes friends, I even had the shop assistant search the basement for exactly the shower curtain I had to have. A matching set of rings later and I was on my way.

And because it didn't involve power tools or raw wires, I set up my bathroom all by myself when I got home. And I didn't fall off the edge of the bath once. And I only swore twice.

Standing back to survey the results, I nodded proudly to myself at my small but important contribution to the apartment. The shower curtain was my watermelon. And I will tell anyone who asks that it's all my own handiwork.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The bachelorette pad

Packing In A Tutu
Originally uploaded by ambrosialove.

I did it!

I have moved into my first one-bedroom apartment, all on my own - my very first bachelorette pad and it's all mine.

Naturally the move wasn't without its dramas but fortunately I had my friend P there to take much of the heat for me (her choice, as she figured I was stressed enough).

Not to bore you with the details, but one of my other neighbours was also moving out yesterday and both of our moving vans arrived at pretty much the same time. Well one of the other neighbours didn't like that much, and got annoyed that the vans were effectively occupying the resident parking spaces. MInd you, he was not going anywhere in his car, so he didn't need access to the driveway anyway, but it didn't stop him from getting irritated - and calling the cops!

So the policeman shows up, my movers stop working (but keep charging me), and P stepped in to assess the situation. The cop didn't even get out of his car, because he realised the neighbour was a complete ass, particularly given that he had, by now, moved his own car to diagonally park across the driveway and block the movers entirely!

My old landlord was absolutely no help whatsoever, and when I asked whether he could contact one of the other tenants and ask her to move her car forward a little (so my movers could get their truck in), he read me the Bill of Rights. "They are not required to move their cars, they pay for those parking spaces," says he. Well by this stage I was severly annoyed and I reminded my landlord that I was not looking to trample on anyone's constitutional rights to parking spaces; rather I was just looking for some courtesy for the one hour or so that my movers needed access to the spot. He responded with a grossly unhelpful reminder that the residents are under no obligation to be courteous and I agreed that it was a lesson I was learning very quickly and thanked him for being no help to me whatsoever.

It was a lesson in US politics, and I say that principally because I am confident that no such situation would ever occur in Australia. In fact, I feel fairly certain that if I was moving out of the place in Australia, my neighbours would help - if not moving boxes, then at least moving cars out the way for the very short duration that my movers required access to the site. No such favours here.

So I was feeling a little disappointed in humankind by this stage, but my faith was restored with every trip that me, P, and my 2 movers made, up and down my back stairs, lugging my belongings around the obstacle course of resident cars and out to the truck.

And in 3 hours, all the boxes were in my new place, and the task of unpacking began. Me and P were going to just leave stuff for me to unpack steadily over this long weekend (US Labor Day - seems an appopriate weekend for such a task, now that I think about it). But we got our 2nd winds and just battled through. The next thing I knew, all the boxes were unpacked (save for my shoes), my kitchen was all set up, my bookcase was full, and my bedroom was pristine - clean sheets, color-coded wardrobe, the whole lot.

And let me tell you, coming home after a few beers to celebrate the move, to a nice clean house and warm bed, was the best feeling in the world. No wait, waking up this morning and surveying MY new place, now THAT was the best feeling in the world.

It can only get better from here.