#30daysofbiking

Now that I’m done recapping my holiday, I can get back to raving about Tasmania.

Late last year I started getting a hankering to get the Night Owl back on the road again. It had spent too long gathering dust in my dining room (look, you can’t keep a bike that beautiful outside in the elements!) because I’d a) started a full-time job and b) gotten a little gun-shy of riding because the last time I rode it, the seat wasn’t fixed on properly and I didn’t fall off but I put my back out trying to ride the rest of the way home on a poorly-fitted seat. Despite my bike technician friend Jarod coming around and fixing it for me, I remained gun-shy and avoidant.

But late last year the weather was warming up and I was giving the Night Owl the ol’ side-eye… and then I broke my ankle, so the dust continued to gather. But THEN! My ankle healed, and the weather stayed lovely, and yet I kept coming up with excuses.

Until, on the 31st of March, I stumbled across #30daysofbiking. A friend mentioned it on twitter and it was a bit like fate. Despite it being a bit late at night for me to be making rational decisions, I pledged, and that was it. I was in. I couldn’t go back on my pledge!

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Pretty pleased with myself.

So, I did it. Well—ok, I almost did it. I did it to the best of my ability, which ended up being 25 days out of 30. I wish I’d written down the exact reasons for the days I didn’t ride. I know for one of them, I had my grandparents visiting from interstate. At least one other day, maybe more, it rained all day. Excuses, excuses. Technically I sat on my bike inside my house and even wheeled it back and forward a little bit, for authenticity’s sake, but hey—after not riding at all for over a year, 25/30 ain’t too shabby.

I’ve seen a minor improvement in my fitness, too. See, Hobart is built on a series of hills. Riding into town from my place is a dream; I barely have to pedal at all. It’s all downhill! Gradual declines, but still declines the whole way. Coming home from the centre of town is the opposite—whatever blocks you choose to travel up, they’re exactly that. UP. At the start of the month there was always a block or two that I’d have to get off the bike and walk up. The Night Owl is pretty but she’s not built for hills. She’s not quite a fixie but in Hobart she may as well be! Three internal gears make things only slightly easier. Anyway, the moral of the story is that I can now ride almost the entire way home, and that’s having tried at least three different routes. I can ride up ’em all. Until I get to my street, that is, but that’s another challenge for another month.

Thanks, 30 Days of Biking. Thanks for getting the Night Owl to fly again, and thanks for getting me back in the saddle.

Sprung.

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Today was the first day of Spring, which means this blog totally missed Winter and most of Autumn even. I got a job, so the funtime percentage of my days reduced dramatically, and I kept overthinking blog posts to the point where I’d get a few paragraphs into a post and then get overwhelmed and walk away.

So here’s a very short blog post to say, welcome Spring, and welcome back to regular-ish posting.

Addendum: this post will seem confusing if you’re only just checking it out now, because I went back in and filled in a bunch of gaps with a whole bunch of posts and everything is lovely now.

Aurora storm.

So the night I pick up two of my best friends in the world up from Hobart International Airport also turns out the be the night of a crazy awesome aurora forecast. I run them back into town, we grab some dinner, and I hype them up for an aurora hunt.

I don’t explain to them the bit where it can be a little boring without an awesome DSLR to hide behind while taking a bunch of photos, or that it can be bitterly cold perched on the sand dunes for ages waiting for the right moment. They find those bits out themselves (I am so sorry). But Liz and me? We’re over the moon with this.

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Look at those spikes!

Red! So bright!

Red! So bright!

A lot of people on the Facebook aurora group aren’t super hyped about tonight because the moon’s pretty bright these days. But for me, that just means that this happens.

Betsey you look LOVELY!

Betsey you look LOVELY!

The boys hike back over the sand dunes to the warmth of the car while Liz and I keep snapping away, but finally we figure we need to call time. Things seem to be dying down. At about 12:30am we pack up our stuff and trudge back over the dunes ourselves, then when we’re starting to load things into the car we look up.

And gasp.

Because an aurora storm is dancing in the sky.

Only slightly better than our eyes saw.

Only slightly better than our eyes saw.

That’s our friend John up there on the dunes still, diligently capturing his own images because we somehow managed to give him really bad directions and he showed up way later than us.

But really, he arrived at the perfect time.

Because wow.

Because wow.

Living in a post-Ginuary world.

I didn’t have any time or energy to blog here last month because everything was funnelled into my favourite ridiculous project, Ginuary.This was the second year I’ve done the challenge to the best of my ability, and the challenge (as set by me) was to have gin a different way every day. I’ve had gin sixty different ways now. Most of them have been cocktails, most of which I’ve made at home, but I also used it as a good excuse this year to scope out some potential drinking venues in Hobart.

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Damnit, this post just got larger than I intended it to. I was just going to apologise for my absence in Ginuary and attach the finale photo above but now I’m going to mention all the places I drank in Hobart last month.

The Taste Festival

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Dude’s face, bottom right.

Hobart’s annual festival that takes over the waterfront for a week or so over the new year. Like a couple of other things in Hobart, it’s a little overexaggerated—the Taste is just a giant food hall. But if you’re prepared for that, it’s awesome. I had some issues sourcing gin, which was disheartening, but there was a happy ending to the story, so PHEW.

The Abbey Tavern & Preachers

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WALL OF COMICS

Preachers and the Abbey are awesome spots for beer and cider. Amazing selections, whether you’re looking for a Tassie beverage, or an Aussie one, or even some internationals. Unfortunately last month I was on a gin hunt, and these two places (owned and run by the same team) are not the places to go for spirits. Preachers only does basics, with a fairly heinous selection of brands (pretty much one of each spirit, nothing top shelf). The Abbey has a “cocktails” board, but it’s strongly influenced by the tragic cocktail lists of the 90s. So, the moral of the story is, definitely go to these places if you want to drink beer and/or cider.

Nant Whisky Cellar & Bar

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I feel like hunting some deer, Charles.

Cool small space, but not decked out as I’d expected at all. Very light and airy, with olive greens and golds… I suppose I was expecting more of a speakeasy vibe, darker and bedecked in crimson and dark wood. I’m still looking for that place. Nant is fairly classic if you like whisky. You can get whisky, whisky, or whisky cocktails, of which the list is full of old-school classics, so two thumbs up from me for that.

Grape Bar & Bottleshop / Grape Food & Wine

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Locals on tap!

I think Grape have either just recently decided to alter their name or they tried a while ago and it didn’t really stick. Anyone know? In any case, GRAPE (whatever the rest may be) is a buzzing hive in the middle of Salamanca Place. There’s definitely a strong focus on their wine cellar here, so get into a bottle or two. Grape’s bartender the evening I went in for Ginuary was a surprise delight, making up something on the spot for me, so I’ll definitely be back to Grape to test his cocktail skills out again!

Tavern 42 Degrees South (T42)

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Long bar is long.

I wasn’t keen on going to T42, for some reason. I think my brain associated it with 42Below Vodka, and I don’t really care for vodka, and last month was all about gin. Turns out there’s a gin fan behind the bar at T42 and they have a fairly awesome selection of gins on the shelves. There’s a short but sweet cocktail menu with enough of a tempting selection to make me want to go back again, and the design of the place is pretty cool. I want to go back again soon to spend some time in Tug Bar, just next door (part of T42 but with its own separate bar). It’s a specialist rum bar, so I think they’ve missed the boat there, but the decor is excellent.

The Mill on Morrison

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More of a restaurant.

It’s a pity that not more of the Mill’s space is given to the bar, because the current bar manager is pretty passionate about cocktails, running a fairly impressive menu and doing some really cool stuff with infused spirits. I felt pretty weird walking past all the restaurant-set tables just to get a drink at the bar. Was I sitting in the wrong area? Is there more to the Mill than the main restaurant section? I saw a hint of something looking vaguely courtyard-y as I was on my way out…

The Lark Distillery

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Good choice for a local.

The utter disappointment I felt when I first visited the Lark on a holiday to Tasmania in 2011 has stuck with me, but only in that every time I go to Lark these days I have to giggle. Similar to my feelings about Nant, after spending a bit of time gazing at Lark’s website prior to my trip I was expecting something lush and dark. Instead my friend and I walked in on a Friday night to a rollicking live country band, plastic-covered tables with stackable plastic chairs, and a very local feel. If you go in expecting that then Lark is bloody good stuff. Just don’t expect any fancy shit. Bonus: Lark goes off on a Friday night, go grab a burger from Stu.

Void Bar @ MONA

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The museum can really take it out of you.

It’s become tradition for me to hit up the Void Bar on the bottom floor of the Museum of Old and New Art for a strong cocktail before I face the antiquities on that floor. I love Void, and I love Void’s gorgeous cocktail menu, but twice now (in a row) the drink I’ve asked for (a different one each visit) has been unavailable due to one or more ingredients being unavailable. Sorry, but if you have a menu, at least make all the menu items a constant possibility. Otherwise try a different menu attack, okay? (The drinks I have had there were very nice, but I hate disappointment.)

The 21st Amendment @ MONA Market

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Best. Market stall. EVER.

I pretty much lost my mind with glee when I showed up to MONA’s first summer Saturday market to find that one of this summer’s stalls was a gin bar. Rose, the stall owner, and I are now on a first-name basis. I only wish the 21st Amendment was a permanent fixture in some classy little space in the city, but at this stage I’m just going to have to live for Saturdays at MONA. The market’s well worth a lunch visit, too.

IXL Long Bar

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Absolute class.

My Ginuary finale was held at this classy bar attached to the Henry Jones Art Hotel. I planned to finish the month here anyway, but the night before I rustled together a small crew of friends to join me in toasting the end of my second liver-bashing event. It’s not that literally long, to be honest, but on a Friday afternoon with the live pianist tinkering away and a delicious dry martini in hand, IXL Long Bar is my new high.
 
I may do another post in the future to cover more drinking holes like the New Sydney Hotel, the Pumphouse, and Sidecar… but I will forever chase a decent shaken-or-stirred. Is there anywhere else to get a classy cocktail in Hobart? I’m willing to listen!

Herbaceous babes are GO!

Help, it turns out I can grow herbs.

Top L-R: coriander, dill, basil. Bottom L-R: chives, parsley, mint.

I don’t really know how it happened. I’m kidding, of course I know. I bought some herbs and I put them in pots and continued to water them and they’re all doing okay (except for Basil, but he’s got a story). So I guess what I mean to say is, this is unexpected because I’ve never kept herbs alive before. I’ve never kept much alive. I even managed to kill one of those lucky bamboo stalks that a coworker gave me a few years ago. Bamboo’s meant to be really hardy, right? Well, I killed it. I didn’t kill it on purpose, it just happened, because these things always happen to me.

So I’m actually at a bit of a loss with what to do with these herbs now that they’re thriving. I’ve never gotten past the “yay they’re planted I can’t wait until they thrive” stage to the “yay they’re thriving” stage. How do I look after thriving herbs!? Look at that parsley! That parsley is a monster and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with it! Do I prune it back? Do I lop that enormous stalk off and re-pot it to make another parsley bush? Does that work? When I prune, do I prune it from the base? How do I identify older leaves vs newer leaves? SEE? THOSE ARE JUST MY QUESTIONS ABOUT PARSLEY, I STILL HAVE FIVE OTHER HERBS!

How it all began.

I didn’t start from seeds, of course. Anyone whose thumbs are on the opposite side of the colour wheel to green isn’t that stupid. I started a little big, particularly with the parsley, but that was the only parsley left and I wanted parsley. It’s a good garnish, I guess? My herb choices can all be classified under the heading “I GUESS?”. No, that’s not entirely true. Here’s what I chose, and why I chose it.

Parsley: good garnish, I guess? (I wasn’t lying about this one)
Mint: COCKTAILS! Ginuary is on the horizon, after all. STAY ALIVE UNTIL JANUARY, MINT!
Basil: THE GOD OF HERBS
Coriander: people either love you or hate you and BABY I LOVE YOU
Chives: Good soup topping, I guess?
Dill: Good with fish, right?

Those were literally the thoughts I had concerning those herbs when I bought them. Help. Help me. I can’t eat enough fish for all this dill. I don’t even know what to do with coriander. It smells amazing and tastes good in the Thai takeaway I have always procured but I am such a novice in the kitchen, help me. For the love of herbs, help me. I wasn’t even sure the coriander (I call her Corrie (I actually address my plant by a given name, yes)) was going to survive because the first week or so after I planted them it was very windy, and nowhere outside is safe. It got to the point where everything else seemed to be tolerating it but the coriander was horizontal.

AS YOU CAN SEE, THAT’S NO LONGER A PROBLEM.

HELP

The coriander is a monster. Some of the leaves are starting to look different? I think it’s growing seeds? Coriander seeds are a thing, right? WHO KNEW I COULD GROW CORIANDER THIS WELL? (LOOK AT THAT FREAKING PARSLEY, SERIOUSLY.)

Basil’s story (he comes with a given name!) is that the first basil plant I bought was kinda stalky (you can see it in the second photo group in this post). It continued being stalky, and just kept climbing up and up and then flowered (I’ve since learnt enough to know to pinch those pretties off to keep the plant focused on making tasty leaves). I got frustrated with its stalkiness and so two Sundays ago I bought a shrubbier seedling from the farm gate market and did some repotting. Stalky still exists, but he’s planted into the retaining wall, and I’m trying to encourage my new little friend Basil to take wing. Why is it that the herb I could do the most with is the one that is being so difficult?

I’ve used almost all of the herbs so far, but in very rudimentary ways. I’ve thrown basil and parsley through some pasta dishes, and I’ve used the dill with (you’re never gonna guess) some baked salmon. I’ve occasionally plucked a mint leaf and carried it around and smiled and dreamed of all the uses I’m going to have for it in January. I haven’t used the chives yet because I haven’t made any soup, and that’s the only link my brain has between chives and food. I haven’t used the coriander yet because I just don’t know.

I don’t even know how long these last for. I just googled for the definition of “perennial” because I know that’s a word people use for plants (IT MEANS FOREVER! FOREVER HERBS!). Of course, I paid zero attention to what any of the labels for these herbs said because I guess I expected to have killed them by now. Sorry, herbs.

Shrubby Basil, aka “Sweety Baz”.

Help me, dear readers. Please share with me any ideas, or even specific recipes, for herb uses. Maybe even some suggestions for what herbs I should branch out to next, seeing as I seem to be A HERB-GROWING WIZARD. If you have any killer tips for looking after thriving herbs, those would also be welcomed.