Australia’s annual conference run by food bloggers, for food bloggers rolled around again – this time in sunny Brisbane. I ate, I drank, I [micro] blogged… I even sketchnoted! After last year’s exceptional Eat Drink Blog in Perth, there was no way I was going to pass up a chance to go again, even it required flying across the country. Putting their own spin on the proceedings, Brisbane’s committee didn’t leave me disappointed.

Eating

I managed to miss most of the registration drinks at The Kitty, arriving just in time to down a glass of sparkling and rush off to dinner at the neighbouring Fat Noodle. Coming off of an all night flight doesn’t make me the best of company, but I managed to meet some lovely new people and not fall asleep head-first in my broken rice pork chop.

The next day the conference began at Wandering Cooks, a sort of incubator for food entrepreneurs, and a beautiful plant-filled venue for us 60 odd attendees. I managed to be late again, so grabbed a Flour & Chocolate danish and some Emma & Toms juice and took a seat at the back of the crowd. Being a food blogging conference, the food and drinks on offer were wonderful and very enthusiastically photographed. Highlights for me included coffee from Merlot Coffee, Passiontree Velvet cake, and Lick! ice-cream sandwiches.

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Drinking

We ended the day with drinks, canapés and the most ridiculous flaming (yes literally) dessert buffet at Bar 127.

Sketchnoting

Of course we weren’t there just to eat and drink (although as you can see there was a lot of that going on) – the day’s agenda included five talks and two panels, presented by bloggers, industry professionals, and chefs. This year I decided to try something different, so instead of attempting to photograph the speakers I decided to have a go at sketchnoting.

Sketchnoting has become common practice at tech industry conferences, and is a more refined form of something that I’ve done since childhood – doodling on paper whilst listening. Done properly, it’s not so much random doodles as a very visual form of note taking, and for many people is a better way of getting ideas down and remembering them than standard written notes. Plus, they look cool.

This was my first time sketchnoting anything so the results are extremely rough, but I did find it extremely useful and a good challenge for my handdrawn type skills! It’s certainly something I’d do again. For a more in-depth writeup of the speakers, I’d recommend heading over to Mimi Must Try who did a fantastic job of it.

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Keyonote with Nathanael Ho of Rubbish Eat Rubbish Grow

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ACCC Guidelines (may have missed a ‘C’ in my notes!) with Clare Davie of Melbourne Gastronome

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Inspire/Expire panel discussion with Tracy Gray of Eat See Meet, Angela Hirst of Wandering Cooks, Nathanael Ho of Rubbish Eat Rubbish Grow

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Chef vs. Blogger panel discussion with Brent Farrell of 85 Miskin St, Phillip Johnson of e’cco Bistro, Josh Okorn of Prive 249, Tony Percuoco of Tartufo

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The Evolving Media Landscape with Damien Condon of Lucid Media

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Ethical Food with Brenda Fawdon of Mondo Organic

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Blogging for Fun and Profit with Christina Soong of The Hungry Australian

Some thoughts

A few interesting conversations came up whilst speaking with the other attendees (in between all the eating), and I really enjoyed being able to disagree agreeably with people without it devolving into something messy!

Should Eat Drink Blog become a paid conference? This year’s committee had its share of problems, chief among them being unable to secure government funding. From speaking to last year’s committee members, a general lack of funds and over-reliance on corporate sponsorship can cause a lot of pressure, reduce options and make it difficult to keep the conference going on the spirit that it began with. Whilst the exposure is worth it for some sponsors, others (my guess is venues) are more difficult snag. In my opinion, charging a small ticket price is something that should maybe be explored and I’d be happy to pay it for the standard of event that it is. Of course, that brings with it other issues and won’t necessarily guarantee quality – something for next year’s committee to explore!

Where are all the male bloggers? I didn’t even notice until GourmetMale brought it up, but the vast majority of attendees were female! This seems to be the case across the ‘blogosphere’. I think that the general consensus was that perhaps this is because men are too lazy to blog, which seems more than a little unfair. I wonder if it’s because blogging involves so many ‘soft skills’ that are so encouraged in women, and less so in men?

DSLR Instagrams? Another blogger I spoke to (whose name I managed to forget after drinking too much wine…) told me she felt people posting non-phone images to Instagram was insincere. I used to be a phone-only purist, but now I have to admit that about a third of my Instagram posts are taken with a DSLR and edited in Lightroom. With the new Instagram advertising and greater opportunities for brands (including bloggers!) to promote themselves, I think we’ll be seeing more and more professional looking images and videos. Personally I no longer think it’s an issue, unless you’re misrepresenting your images as phone ones when they’re not.

Next up was my chosen Sunday activity – hanging out with bees! Coming in a separate post soon…

Something you may or may not have picked up about me from reading this blog: I am quite the nerd. So when a Hogwarts letter for me arrived in the mail (a very clever dinner invitation by food in literature blogger Bryton Taylor), my excitement was through the roof.

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Photo by Danica Zuks

I like to think I put effort into my dinner parties, but I have nothing on Bryt. Coming to the front gate, I could tell I had the right the house by the ‘Platform 9 3/4′ sign. The front verandah was decked out with broomsticks and Deatheater wanted posters. Inside, there were shelves and tables filled with spell books, jars of potions ingredients, candles, cauldrons and magical homework assignments. In the room decked out as the Great Hall, the ceiling had been decorated to look like the night sky, and candles strung up from the chandelier as if they were floating. The hallway had portraits of wizards past on the walls, and even the bathroom was decked out as the Herbology greenhouse, complete with a mandrake. I wasn’t the only one gazing around in wonder the entire time, wondering if I’d somehow made it to the real Hogwarts.

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Photo by Danica Zuks

As it was (wisely) decided to be a potluck dinner, each of the guests brought along a wizarding inspired dish (or one of the many very British dishes mentioned in the books). We feasted on chicken drumsticks, pies, and the best damn mashed potato I’ve ever tasted, along with Bryton’s butterbeer and Laura’s Polyjuice potion. Afterwards we had pumpkin pasties, cauldron cakes, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Jellybeans and Danica’s liquorish spiders, ghost nuts and Golden Snitch chocolate truffles.

With food bloggers and book bloggers (and all Harry Potter nerds) in attendance, there was a lot of conversation about nostalgia for old Young Adult novels, ‘shelfies’, how we go about reviewing things, fantasy tv series… Definitely my kind of crowd!

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Short on time but determined to make something vaguely wizard-y, I settled on the relatively simple treacle tart – the favourite dessert of Harry Potter.

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I followed this recipe from Adventures in Cooking with a few small changes, some good, some not so much! Here’s a few notes I’ve made for next time:

  • Try a different shortcrust pastry recipe – maybe I didn’t add enough butter and too much water, but I found this pastry got a bit tough, and in the large tart was almost impossible to put a knife through. This made it quite difficult for guests to serve themselves at the party! The shortcrust pastry I’ve used for tarts previously seemed to work much better.
  • I found rolling out the pastry much cleaner than spooning it into the tins as per the recipe.
  • Definitely a good call to skip the sugar in the pastry – the filling is more than sweet enough on its own.
  • It really does need the lemon juice – I tried to substitute with an orange I had on hand, but it isn’t acidic enough to cut through the sweetness from the golden syrup.
  • Treacle tart must definitely be served with cream and/or ice-cream – the flavour is quite intense, and the balancing it out with creaminess would make it just right.
  • The fact that golden syrup is difficult to get in the USA really surprised me – it’s something I’ve always taken for granted, and always have in my pantry.
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Besides the tart, I of course had to have a go at making a real feather quill (yes it really writes) and sewing up Hogwarts robes. I was slightly ambitious with the latter as I’ve never tried sewing a garment with lining or pockets before, but it turned out mostly alright, if a little short due to running out of fabric. I ran out of time to get any schoolgirl outfit pieces, so just went with a dress in Slytherin green under the robes. Almost everyone else came as Gryffindors! Oh well, it takes all sorts to make the world go around…

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Yes I decided to go ahead and make myself a prefect

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Me in Slytherin green – photo by Danica

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Photo by Danica

What an amazing night! Big thanks to Bryton for the invitation, Danica for the great photos and all the other guests for the fabulous feast.

I’ll be honest – August was not a great month for me! As I’ve mentioned previously it’s been punctuated mainly by injury, which is especially because it stops me from doing as many hobbies and side projects as I like to fill my time with. That said, there have been a few exciting things going on which I can’t wait to share more of over the next month! Here’s my recap for August.

“A monthly capture of my feelings and doings, in the raw.”

What I’ve been grateful for

Although I’m feeling a bit crappy right now, I’m very thankful for being able-bodied and pain-free most of the time. I know there are people out there who have to deal with chronic conditions that make life difficult, and experiencing some of that in short bursts always makes me feel grateful for how easy I have it the rest of the time. I really need to work harder to maintain and improve my health, because times like this show how important and taken for granted it is.

Everyone who has put up with me shuffling around like a zombie and generally being a bit useless. Especially The Boy who has had to take over all the cooking and cleaning whilst I’m being an invalid. I’m not sure that my patience and sympathy would last quite so long if the situations were reversed.

What I’ve been thinking about

After completing my letterpress printing short course (more on that later), I was a bit devastated that there isn’t anywhere available to keep improving my skills, so spent a good couple of weeks seriously considering buying a press and starting a little letterpress business. Unfortunately now that it’s so trendy, prices for these antique machines (they were built up until the 70’s) have shot up, and due to their weight, size and fragility it isn’t something you can easily send via Australia Post. After some thought and research I’ve decided that I’m mostly just interested in doing my own experiments and printing my own designs – doing it as a form of income would kill a bit of the fun for me, just like it would for calligraphy or illustration. I’m still keeping an eye out for a small press that I can pick up locally, if I can find one for a good price…

I’ve started working on a big project, which I was going to keep semi-secret until it’s a bit further along, but I hear it’s better to start generating buzz early so… along with a couple of friends, I’m starting a zine! For the uninitiated, zines are self-published works which can run the gamut from scrapbook style, photocopied punk affairs to rather polished publications that are basically indie magazines. We’re aiming to lean towards the latter end of the scale, with the focus on creative people and fun DIY projects. In addition to handling the digital and social components (which I’m woefully behind on), my contributions for our first issue will include a beginner’s calligraphy guide and maybe some simple recipes. More on this project and my co-conspirators soon, and hopefully I’ll actually have a website up by then!

In researching for the zine, I’ve seen the sentiment echoed amongst independent publishers – print is not dead, it’s just evolving. Maybe people are less interested in getting a daily printed newspaper or gossip magazine, preferring to get that kind of instant, disposable content from social media and blogs. But high quality, less profits-driven and beautifully written and crafted independent publications are on the rise, because in this world where there are so many things which are disposable or clickbait, having something solid and considered is a rarer and more valuable experience. With a lower barrier to entry than ever and online stores replacing the need for a traditional publisher, some really awesome stuff is surfacing, if you just know where to look.

What I’m excited for

I’m going to a Harry Potter themed party this weekend, and my (not so hidden) inner nerd is incredibly excited for it. I’ve gone all out making Hogwarts robes with Slytherin green lining, and need to go hunting for a good twig to fashion a wand out of. Expelliarmus!

Later this month I’ll be attending Eat Drink Blog, a conference for food bloggers, which is being held in Brisbane this year. I had an amazing time at last year’s conference in Perth, so have very high expectations! I’ll be flying over a day early, so plan to spend some time checking out GOMA and exploring the city. Also exciting (to me) is that this trip is mostly free – free conference with some meals, flights using up my points, accommodation with a hefty AirBnB discount. I’m no seasoned travel hacker, but I feel pretty proud of my efforts.

What I’ve been doing

A lot of lying still, napping and reading magazines. Normally this would be very enjoyable, but when you’re doing it because doing anything else is painful, it loses a bit of its shine. I hope to be doing this in a more intentional/recreational way this month rather than out of necessity.

Not exercising, again due to pain, which is especially problematic because one colleague keeps my workplace well-stocked with ice-cream, chocolates, lamingtons, pineapple tarts, biscuits and occasionally cake, and I get suckered in every time. Every day I resolve to not give in, but it hasn’t worked so far. Thankfully I’ll be back to exercising at least a bit again this week now I’m recovering, although I think I’ll need to do a lot more than that to cover ice-cream o’clock and those pineapple tarts.

Keeping my kitchen window greens (spinach, rocket and raddicchio) alive, with the occasional haircut. As the weather grows warmer they’re going through a growth spurt, and are probably ready to be culled back further. The seedlings that I transferred to an outside pot have surprisingly shot up after a shaky start, so I have high hopes for nice salad crops this spring.

What I’ve been reading

I’ve almost finished Walden! The descriptions of nature are lyrical but kind of tiresome, and they make up a good half of the book. But every time I feel like giving up it comes up with another brilliant nugget that keeps me going.

“This spending of the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it reminds me of the Englishman who went to India to make a fortune first, in order that he might return to England and live the life of a poet.”

Some recent indie magazine discoveries – Extra Curricular (excellent interviews with creative people), Peppermint (sustainable living), and Lucky Peach (food journal).

This article about the historical rivalry between Coles and Woolworths, and the effect it’s had on smaller grocery stores and suppliers, is fascinating if terrifying for the future of biodiversity and food security. A long read, but well worth it.

What I’ve been spending my money on

Pretty much just magazines, as listed above. I am however eyeing the Spring selection of short courses at CIT – maybe painting or pottery?

 


 

If you’d like to join us or see others’ posts in this monthly series, head on over to helario.us for the master list.

I’ve always been a bit of a stationery nerd – I still have a collection of unused notebooks and sketchbooks, waiting for ‘something special’ to fill them in. As a quiet and bookish kid, the present I was given most often was a diary, complete with little lock and key (which you could easily break open with a hairpin or hard knock). I don’t think I filled any of those diaries, and probably didn’t touch some of them at all.

These days I’ve stopped collecting different novelty notebooks and stay relatively true to a single kind that works for me. Even in this digital world, I think there’s a lot of value to physically hand writing plans, ideas and problems to solve the old fashioned way (and there is evidence to suggest that it can help with memory and grasping concepts). As a designer, about a third of my notebooks are filled with sketches, wireframes and diagrams which are less convenient to do in digital form. I’ve taken to carrying my notebook and a pen or pencil with me everywhere I go, in case a sudden idea or unexpected opportunity to write down something I’ve been mulling over arrives. I even managed to deboss ‘sketches & ideas 2014′ on the cover with a hot foil stamping machine in my letterpress class, which further makes it more special than any digital notes.

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I was a dedicated Moleskine fan for a few years, with a collection of filled medium red notebooks sitting on my shelf, but since falling into the world of calligraphy and fountain pens have made the switch to Rhodia. This French brand uses Clairfontaine paper intended for use with fountain pens, so works beautifully for calligraphy as well (Moleskine by contrast bleeds horribly with even a slightly inky pen). I’m also a complete convert to the dot grid as opposed to lines, grids or plain paper – I find it gives just the right amount of guidance for both sketches and for writing, although the latter was a little cramped until I adjusted the size of my writing to suit. The dots practically invite you to use the spaces in between, rather the rigid tyranny of lines or grids, or the completely unguided plain paper. I have a larger Rhodia dot grid sketchpad which I use for all my calligraphy and lettering practice and planning.

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I’m curious – do you use a paper notebook, or have you switched to a digital alternative? Is there a particular brand which you feel committed to?

P.S. Apologies for the extended absence – I’ve had a flareup of an old injury, something which usually subsides within a day or two but this time has managed to just keep getting progressively worse over the past three weeks. At this point the best I can manage is to get through the work day (or not, as the case was today) and then collapse, completely spent, at home immediately afterwards. Dealing with near-constant pain is both physically and mentally exhausting, mainly as every action needs to be strategised so it can be executed with as little pain as possible. I was going to write a full post on this, but decided that I don’t really want to invite sympathy or (sometimes worse) well-intended advice. I’m doing the best I can, but expect blog posts to be a little less frequent for a little while longer.

In case you were wondering about the fate of those roses from earlier this week – they’ve been dried and squirrelled away for sprinkling on baked goods for a bit of colour.

Drying rose petals is actually quite easy, even without a dehydrator or other fancy equipment. I just plucked the petals and arranged them in a single layer on a paper towel, then microwaved in 20 second intervals until they were dry and crisp. My microwave has lost a lot of its power over the years so it took a good several minutes in total, but your mileage may vary. Make sure that there aren’t any water droplets from rain or morning dew on the petals, as they will burn spots into the delicate petals when microwaved.

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The petals turn a darker colour when dried; mine went from a light pink to a magenta. I made the mistake of leaving my first batch from a week ago in a jar near a window, and they faded to a sad yellowish colour. These guys are going to be living in darkness until I’m ready for them. I’ve seen rose petals used as decoration on cakes in cafes which look really stunning, so I’m trying to think of how I can use these ones. Maybe a project for this weekend?

I’m tempted to go around my neighbourhood with a pair of scissors to collect more colours…