Imagine my surprise at learning that you were in my hospital last week. You actually got on the train from Paris to come here to Liège! It’s a pity you didn’t call me ahead of the visit – we could have had a cup of coffee. Or you could have beeped me to say hi once you got here. But I guess that actually being face to face with someone is not your style. Come to think of it, it never really has been, has it? You did fire me via email!
Imagine my surprise to learn that despite having heard nothing from you or your boss since being fired, YOU ACTUALLY CAME TO MY HOSPITAL BECAUSE OF ME. You made an appointment with the Dean of my medical faculty, to speak about me. Then travelled 2 1/2 hours . . . for me. I’d be flattered if…
Yes! Penpals. Remember them? I love letters. I love getting them and I love writing to people I hope like getting them too. Social media makes keeping in touch easy, but that contact can be reactive, quick and non-committal. It can also be a bit depressing really. I want more.
I want to write a ‘decent’ letter – you know, one that someone will pour over for a while and hopefully not find boring. Pages and pages of news and tidbits that the recipient will read over a good strong brew, they’ll smile and exclaim at what’s been going on and they’ll want to write back a reply. That’s the type of letter I want to get! Yes I could call, text or email but a letter! with a stamp and everything – now that’s magic.
Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong century. I watch period movies where people keep letters tied with a luscious ribbon and keep the parcel safe and cherished for years in an ornate box. They read and reread until parts are complete in memory. I have a lovely box I keep all my correspondence in – birthday and Christmas cards, the odd postcard, but I don’t have many letters. That makes me a little sad.
The PDF document linked below is what I’ve created for anyone to print. I use a type of planner called an ARC. It’s a discbound system and I’ve set up an A5 ARC (similar size to USA junior size) as my gift/Christmas and penpal organiser.
The document pages are set up on an A4 page so it prints 2 to a page and should print back to back with a margin big enough to be punched to fit discbound/rings or whatever type of organiser you use.
At Bibliothèque Méjanes in Aix-en-Provence, France you will find an 894-page book from 1692 dedicated entirely to color. One A. Boogert is credited as the author to this fascinating manual written in Dutch. According to Erik Kwakkel, Boogert describes how to make watercolor paints; explaining how to mix colors and change their tone by…
Two blocks of good quality eating white chocolate. Half a can of condensed milk (a whole can will work but it makes it a very soft fudge). One teaspoon of butter and one tablespoon of vanilla essence. All into a saucepan on medium-low heat and stir continuously until all melted together and starting to ‘dry out’ and get a skin on top. Take off the heat and stir through a big handful of chopped cranberries (as much as you like really – the mixture is too sweet without them). Pour the lot into a lined square cake tray. Cover the top with chopped pistachios and push them into the top of the fudge. Refrigerate until set.
Let me take you back nine years. To that lovely summer of cricket. The reclaiming of the Ashes after 18 and a half years of ritual humiliation. To the last test match played on terrestrial TV. Do you remember, as I do, being in an office and knowing when a wicket fell when somewhere across the open plan someone had a quicker internet connection. We had a TV room, and plenty of us sneaked out for 10 or 15 minutes to watch what was happening. As each wicket fell people were working out that equation of runs v time. How much did we need to make the game safe? How many would the Aussies be able to chase in 50 overs, 40 overs, 30 overs? Were you like me and saying “bloody Australia, why can’t they lay down and die? We NEED this!!!”
Then remember the aftermath. Remember the Freddie…
I was given a slow cooker so I am trying out as many different types of dishes I can to get a handle on what it does well and what it doesn’t. This is my first try doing fudge in the slow cooker, because you know…fudge.
Experts tell me, you put two blocks of chocolate, one can of condensed milk, a knob of butter (optional) and “flavourings” into the slow cooker. Leaving the lid off, put on high for 2 hours and stir every 15 mins…
That last bit kinda defeats the purpose of a set and forget slow cooker, don’t it? Oh well, put on a good movie you love and know all the words to and get cracking.
I used a block of dark chocolate and one of milk. I used the knob of butter because I forgot to spray the cooker pot with canola oil…oops. I added about 6 mini mars bars and let it rip.
By the 45 minute mark, the mixture was melting well together. By the 1:30hr mark, it was getting a skin on top that mixed back in when stirred but I bailed at that point fearing it would get gritty and gross. I poured the fudge into a lined slice tray to cool and chill in the fridge.
Today I sliced it up. It was set solid but still a little tacky. The flavour is not too sweet and the consistency is quite treacly-if that makes sense.
I don’t think I’ll do slow cooker fudge again. I like the hard icy type fudge, the sort you used to get at school fetes. Nowadays fudge seems to be more creamy and smooth and this recipe ended up similar to that.
It seems there’s a small window of opportunity to wind down to sleep…and I keep missing it. I’m tired. I’m not wired and my mind isn’t racing. I’ve done my journal today so all possible angst is out on the page. I’m sure I can fall asleep once my head hits the pillow and yet, I find myself poodling around the house doing I-don’t-recall-what and it’s past 2am. A third wind takes me, if you will. Why do I keep stuffing up my body clock?! Mondays hurt all the more for it. I haven’t been dreaming of late, so it can’t be fear of that. Weird. Anyway- G’Night.
I love articles like these. They jog my head out of the status quo and back into thinking proactively.
It’s said that you are most affected by and mirror the 5 people you spend the most time with. If those 5 people are happy to chug along without driving or striving, then it’s up to the individual to break their own mold.
I suffer from anxiety: I do not hide from it and I am honest about it. That does not make it any easier to live with! Of late, I will concede, I have on occasion let my anxiety get the better of me. I forgot the very simple strategy to dealing with anxiety that I have been using for the last 3 and a half years and was letting my anxiety, for want of a better term, win.
I did not even realise it was happening. That is a the scariest thing. After a couple of weeks feeling off I sat back and reflected on what I was doing differently and then discovered that I had not been going through my anxiety minimisation ritual / strategy. Now that I am back using this ritual I thought I would share it.
So, here is my strategy for dealing with anxiety or an…
I’ve been realising how little I actually speak to other people when it’s up to me. Today I spoke small talk to two shop assistants – pleasant enough. But when I think about it, that’s the first time I’ve said anything to anyone since Saturday. Four days without speaking. I’ve communicated a heap – on twitter, farcebook, instagram, texting etc. I’ve written two long letters – yes, with pen and paper! – full of love and longing, but I haven’t spoken out aloud with or to someone else. I have sung a little, but that’s just me normally around the house and I never sing around other people. Is that weird?
Wicked vans are your cheapie rentals for backpackers to self drive around Australia. They pride themselves on being outrageous and edgy with their graffiti like paint jobs. More and more, the slogans they are painted with are misogynistic and offensive. One couple decided to repaint their van…And it’s brilliant.
Last night saw the end of the 2014 Super Rugby season for the Queensland Reds. In a season where the membership of the Reds hit 55,000 (obviously this number includes single / three game memberships) it is strange to be writing a post about improving the fan’s experience. However, having attended all but one home game this year: the matters I intend to raise are things that have been floating through my mind all year.
Whilst the Reds are to be applauded for their obviously excellent membership drive this year, in the context of a poorly coached and under performing team going onto the field, here are 5 things they or the QRU must improve on to improve the fan’s experience AND keep all those members coming through the door:
1. Stop playing music / chants in the middle of play
I have never experienced this at any other Australian…
The biggest sporting event in Australia today is not a game a soccer or rugby: it is the Ipswich Cup. The jewel of the winter carnival coming from the Ipswich Race Course just a stones throw from my childhood home, this is one of the greatest days on the sporting calendar.
I have been to many an excellent day of racing at Ipswich on Cup day and whilst it is always a difficult day for the punter there is always, also, some value to be found.
My brother-in-law has a theory when it comes to races on Ipswich Cup Day: just back any horse with Jim Byrne on its back. Normally I laugh off this theory but, as you will see from my tips, I have a feeling it is going to be a big day for Byrne at Ipswich.
It’s been a while since I wrote anything, either on here or in my journal. Which is a bit nuts. My journal let’s me mull things over and get it all out of my head until it makes some sense, so to stop that goes to show how muddled I’m feeling. I’ve had an early stage skin cancer removed from my lower leg and it’s not healing at all well. So now I’m house bound and going nuts with doubts and worries. I’m concerned about using up all my sick leave (whilst acknowledging how lucky I am to have a job that lets me ‘earn’ sick leave entitlements). I worry that I’ll need it for something really serious in the unforeseeable future. I am mentally bashing myself up for not ‘doing more’ while I have my leg in the air. Not writing. Not reading. Not improving. Not earning. Not cleaning. Not learning. Not working. Not. Not. Not. I actually sat here today kicking myself along with rewards – if I sit still for two hours, I can surely water the plants. While I sit for a few more hours, I can compare home and content insurance to see if I can make a saving somewhere. I got $50 off. So that’s a win, right? It’s a little bit scary how consumed by the negative and how foggy I’m getting. I thought I’d have more resilience than this. Doing nothing is not my forte. I have to have a plan. I have to have something to do. As the great man says…
Forgot to write this one up – it’s not as sweet tasting as you’d think – but then a little goes a long way :)
Dry ingredients are: 2 cups of rice bubbles, a packet of smashed up arrowroot biscuits, 1 cup of halved maltesers.
Wet ingredients are: 125g butter, a can of sweetened condensed milk, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder.
Put the wet ingredients in a saucepan and melt over medium heat until they start to bubble. Mix stirring for a minute and add to the dry ingredients. Note: mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl before you add the wet stuff – it’s easier.
Press the base mix into a lined slice pan. Use the largest one you’ve got to spread it thin – once cool, the thicker this slice is, the harder it is to cut.
Melt a packet of white chocolate melts in the microwave and drizzle over the top – add more halved maltesers and pop the lot in the fridge to set.
Nearly forgot I made this for a caramel loving friends birthday. Gird your loins and don’t make it on a hot day – it takes a half an hour of constant stirring. Make it the day before you need it to give it time in the fridge.
Prepare a 20cm square slice pan greased and lined with baking paper.
In a saucepan, put a 400g can of condensed milk (I use the 99% fat free/skim one), a cup of brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of liquid glucose, 1/4 cup of golden syrup, and 125g chopped up butter.
Let the stirring begin.
Warm this over low heat until the sugar dissolves so you don’t get a gritty fudge. Don’t let it boil – but keep it stirring for about 10 minutes.
Then ramp up the temperature a bit to a low medium heat/simmer stirring all the time. On my electric stove it took another 8 minutes to get to a soft bubble.
Now keep stirring like a mad person while it’s bubbling for another 8 or so minutes. You’re looking for the mixture to thicken and darken a little. Watch the heat on the bottom of the pan though – I had to lift the saucepan off a few times to moderate the temp.
Take the pan off the heat and drop in the white chocolate (200g) in small pieces and …you guessed it, stir til it’s melted through.
Pour your fudge into the slice pan. Mine ended up about 2cm thick all around. While it’s warm, sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of good quality salt flakes over the fudge. I used pink Himalayan salt.
Leave the fudge to cool for an hour and then cover with glad wrap and put into the fridge.
Lunches for the week are now sorted. Homemade hommus to have with sweet potato chips. I baked extra sweet potato to add into some Harissa cous cous and spinach. I baked some mini mushroom and feta tarts to have with salad and a few to go into the freezer for an easy late dinner after a long day at work.
I find it tough to stay positive through the drudge of my real-life workday. Staying mindful of what I want that would be better for me gets a little lost in the knee-jerk required to fix the perpetual drama of the day. And none of which adds to me achieving my goal for a more inspired life.
So this morning, I began with deciding on one small step I can do today that keeps my mind out of the humdrum and reminds me of my bigger picture. I plan to do it at lunchtime so it’s scheduled and is something I’m now looking forward to. Usually any break I take out of the office involves crossing off a chore on the to do list.
What’s your one step on the road to what you really truly want? Big dreams come true one little piece at a time. Chip away at it.
You know that little freckle on your lower inside calf? On the part of your leg visible when you sit cross-legged on the ground? The bit you hardly ever put sunscreen on because you wear long skirts and work in an office and are really only out in the sun when you’re walking to and from public transport on your weekday commute? Yeah, let’s talk about that one.
When you go to your yearly skin cancer clinic scan (and you DO GO TO A YEARLY SCAN, RIGHT?) and you strip down to your undies and get gawped over by a specialist – make sure they look at it if they don’t catch it themselves. My Doc caught it. And it came off that very same visit. A local anaesthetic needle and a few minutes razoring off a piece of me for biopsy and come back in a week for the results.
What you probably won’t expect is a phone call the very next afternoon rescheduling your follow up to a “surgery timeslot because it’s obviously cancer”. Faaaaarrrrk. Don’t do that, Receptionists. Don’t say that.
So you excuse yourself from your open plan desk and rush to an empty meeting room to ask for more info as you madly text your go-to friend who texts back saying find out more info. Then leave your workplace. Just leave. Talk to your doctor on the commute home and be assured if it was seriously bad cancer, he’d have you back in that day to cut it out.
Spend your week staying calm. Rely on the doctor. Heal your biopsy site and journal your heart out.
Go to your surgery, driven by your go-to friend who knows to talk to keep your mind off things. Stay cool while you get needled, carved and stitched. Make small talk about the embroidery skills of the Doc you’re trusting. Limp out. Keep your leg up for a few days. Look after yourself and know that whatever the next results say, that if further action is required, KNOW that you’ll do it. Whatever it takes.
It’s better to know, ladies and gentlemen. It’s better to be checked, have some news and deal with it, than it is to have a nagging worry in the back of your mind and avoid it. Living with your head up your butt isn’t living.
I just made these lovely little snack pieces. The original recipe was posted here by Not Quite Nigella.
Plump up 1/2 cup of sultanas in some hot water. I also rehydrated some cranberries. Mash up two ripe bananas in a bowl and add in 3/4 cup oats, 1/2 cup desiccated coconut, 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and about 3 teaspoons of agave syrup (for sweetness). Mix in the sultanas with this to get a wet mix. Roll into balls and roll these in more oats and coconut. Voila – healthy snacks for the working week.
Another summer of homegrown goodness, and it’s all come to its inevitable end. No more mangoes. All gone. The last few have been chopped up for one last day of snacking but the rest must be frozen for posterity. Cryogenic mango will save the day in the months to come. – the trick is to use them wisely.
Epic morning of de-hedging around the shed today, with the help of two friends. The weather was kind with an overcast sky and some light rain. The chooks over the back were clucking. There was one rather large toad which startled us a bit.
And then…just when we could see the fence through the massive bougainvillaea, we noticed Gucci. All tucked up and sleeping peacefully, right where one friend had been snipping branches. None of our sawing, clipping or heaving had disturbed his slumber…until his cover was nearly all gone of course. Then he started moving. And so did we!
It’s been a big week – spending hours battling the annoying with an especially high volume of stupid, so today I’m making it all about me.
As reward for surviving this week without putting anyone in a headlock – and in preparation for a weekend of hard yakka in the yard, today I am:
- buying a coffee and avocado toast for late brekkie – this is a luxury!
– spending my lunch hour in an art store, then buying something lovely for lunch – double luxury
– shopping after work for some nice foods for the long weekend (which besides gardening, will be spent bbqing, cricketing and sleeping ‘cos Australia Day)
What a rebel. Does everyone else live a life that includes little rewards all the time and it’s just me being mean to me? I don’t seem to do the nice things often. I don’t spend money wantonly ‘cos need it for a rainy day – don’t waste a lunch hour wandering ‘cos errands to run etc. I think most people have a list of “needs to do” and we never set it aside to do the nice things. I know for me it’s a case of “I’ll do the nice things when I’ve finished the “. And that sucks. When I was a kid I thought being a grown up meant I could do what I want when I want. And it is, but I still don’t do it. Maybe I’m the stupid one, but not today.
I scored a bag of homegrown mangos from my sis-in-law last week and when a few of them ripen at the same time, what do you do? Chop them up into bite size pieces and freeze them. Add in any other fruit you have around to make up smoothie shortcut bags you can throw into the blender at a moments notice. Make them about 1/2 to 1 cups worth and you have enough to add to a cup of liquid, add a shot of protein powder and some ice if you are sharing with another and blitz away. Easy.
I love Christmas time – it’s rum, rum and more rum! This is a soft fudge and very sweet.
Put 1/2 cup of raisins (which count as a fruit really) into a small saucepan with 1/2 cup of rum – Bundaberg rum of course! – and warm through to get the raisins nice and boozy. Cool them down.
In a bigger saucepan, stir a can of sweetened condensed milk, a firmly packed cup of brown sugar with 120 grams of chopped up butter until the sugar dissolves. I didn’t use glucose syrup because I like grainy fudge, but if you want it smoother and creamier, add into this saucepan 2 tablespoons of glucose syrup. Once the sugar is dissolved, raise the heat to medium and stir for 10 minutes until it’s a light golden colour.
Take the large saucepan off the heat and add in 200grams of chopped up milk eating chocolate – you could do dark if you wanted. Stir the chocolate in until it’s melted in. Add in the boozy raisins (and rum!) and when it’s all combined, pour it into a lined square tin. Let it cool and set – put in the fridge if you’re in a hurry. When it’s set, slice and dice it into little pieces and enjoy.
Is it called a truffle if there’s no truffle in them? I wonder to myself. Oh well, these taste lovely anyway :)
In a saucepan, put 1/2 cup of coconut cream, 360grams of white eating chocolate and as much grated zest of limes and lemons that you can handle zesting. The recipe suggests 2 tablespoons of each, but keep going til you can do no more! Stir over a low heat until the chocolate melts then pour into a bowl, cover and get into the fridge to cool and solidify. You need to be careful with the amount of coconut cream – too much and the mixture won’t set (tip for young players :). Leave the mixture to cool for as long as possible – overnight is great.
When set – get a bowl of some kind of coconut (moist/shredded – even desiccated). Take a teaspoon of the mixture and roll into a ball – cover with the coconut and put on a lined tray to put back into the fridge until ready to eat.
These dark chocolate balls are chockers with raisins and cranberries soaked in port. Delish!
In a bowl, put 1/4 cup of raisins and 1/4 cup of chopped dried cranberries to soak in 1/2 cup of your favourite port. In a saucepan, melt a large block (200gram+) of dark eating chocolate with 1/4 cup of thickened cream. When melted, take off the heat and add in the raisin/cranberry bowl of goodies. Put in a bowl and refrigerate until set. I left overnight and had a glass of port myself :).
When the mixture is set, take a teaspoon sized amount, roll into a ball and place on a lined tray. When you’ve rolled all the balls, melt another 200gram block of milk eating chocolate in a saucepan. You can either drizzle the milk chocolate over the balls or dip them in – it’s entirely up to you. Refrigerate until you’re ready for the eating part.
This is a family tradition – probably more for Boxing Day nibbles while watching the cricket, but they are always there somewhere.
NB: You need a deep frypan (that can get up to a high heat) or an electric frypan you can control the temps on.
Put one cup of water in the heating pan with 2 cups (1 lb) of sugar. Colour with cochineal/red food dye. Stir to dissolve the sugar and then bring it to the boil (200C – or 375F in the old scale). When boiling add 2 cups (1 lb) of raw peanuts and lower the temp down to around 120C (260F) and put on the lid. Leave it to bubble away for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and take the lid off. Start stirring it all until the sugar crystallises…which can take a few minutes. Allow to cool and voila.
27 April 1997 – South Africa’s Freedom Day – and 3 years since Mandela had won the Presidency. A small group of us travelling overland through Africa took the day trip out to Robben Island. A bus met us at the jetty and we drove around the island first. We went to the quarry where the prisoners dug a schoolroom and taught each other to read. A quick stop at the old car painted with a welcome message to the All Blacks rugby team. Past the house Robert Subukwe was kept in by an act of parliament – 6 years longer than his sentence.
And then to the prison to get out and walk. The island had been handed over to the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology and they had invited back prisoners to work as guides. Our group was guided around by Lionel – who had served 7 years here as a prisoner.
In flicking through my journal from that day, he had so many stories to tell us. About their punishments for “offences”, having to pay for study, receiving one censored letter every 6 months and so on. He took us to Mandela’s cell – and we all took turns looking into the smallest of spaces – trying to imagine it holding for so long the man who was now President.
The one thing that stays strongest with me from that day was the last building we stopped in inside the prison complex.
One room where the prisoners spent their time talking. This is the place Lionel got emotional. He said the wardens had made a mistake by allowing them to be together – that the government should have split them up.
He said that it was in this room where they put their ideals into practice. In D Section – with prisoners from different backgrounds/political ideologies/races/education levels and so on – was where they learnt tolerance and their humanity could shine through. In this room they lived a micro-version of what they all hoped and dreamed for outside the prison walls.
Strange, isn’t it? The place the government sent Mandela to punish and break him, was the place where he triumphed.
You know that feeling of something missing in your life/an emptiness of real purpose that the day to day chore-fest doesn’t seem to answer? I’ve never heard it explained like this before and it makes sense.
Everyone is busy, and there never seems to be enough time in the day to do what you want to do, let alone need to do. Still most people I know spread themselves thinner to put some time and energy into “their Calcutta” – and some even spread themselves across a few causes. This is why.
Is there anything as good as potato and ham fritters with lashings of tomato sauce? Those were a Sunday evening favourite for my family – particularly during winter. Via twitter I was gifted the recipe for an holumi and zucchini version, which is way better for me, I’m sure. (Hat tip to Richard Chirgwin). But as good as they are – and they are very good – I’m not sure they eclipse the humble spud variety as our family tradition.
In a bowl grate 4-5 zucchini
1 packet of holumi cut into small squares
1 onion – diced
1 cup of breadcrumbs (I used panko crumbs)
Half cup of plain flour to bind it all together.
(If the mix is too dry – add another egg).
Shallow fry in oil (rIce bran oil has a high smoke point).
Dry ingredients in a bowl
5 cups of oats
1/4 cup of dark cocoa
Add the wet(ish) ingredients
8 shots of espresso
2 tbls of grated palm sugar
The seeds from 2 vanilla beans
1/3 cup of vegetable oil
1 cup of orange juice
2 tbls honey
Mix it all together so it’s all a bit moist.
Spread out on a tray and add almonds and some coconut on top. Into a low oven (80 degrees) for 2 hours. Turn off the oven and let the tray cool completely in the oven before putting in a container lined with baking paper.
It’s supposed to make up to 10 breakfasts but it lasts me longer. It’s delish with soy milk.
This is the link to the streamed lecture Mr Suzuki gave last month in Sydney. Brilliant. The people I know listen to this man, debate what he says and tend to rate his opinion highly. The POLITICIANS DON’T. Idiots.
Don’t get me wrong ‘cos I like a dance track as much as the next girl BUT…I’m scared this table gives the modern music industry’s recipe for chart success. And re: the two examples I’ve chosen – let’s not get into lyrical quality, social commentary and marketing to leverage audience drivers.
What I need is a retreat, fully catered, in a 5-star resort complete with free bar and complimentary massages, that is designed to support me in ripping out recipes from all my cooking magazines.
I need emotional encouragement to tear out pages and choose which side of the page to display. I need professional advice on whether to scan and print, or keep everything electronic. And what about indexes/contents pages? What about them!?!?
I need examples of organisation systems – display folders sorted by season, by magazine title, by ingredient… I need counselling through all these life-impacting decisions. Because they’ll live with me for the rest of my life.
Basically, I need someone else to do all this for me – is there a consultant I can buy for a week?
I distinctly remember parking the car this morning, putting my hair up, taking off my rings to put on some handcream, putting on my sunnies, then grabbing my bags, locking the car and heading off to work.
Nothing felt ‘wrong’ to me throughout the day – which goes to show I’m mental/tired/distracted/dim/getting old/only human…
Got back to my car at 6pm – and there on the floor next to the driver’s door are my two rings. I spent the drive home repeating “I cannot believe that…I CANNOT believe that”. I’m very grateful they were still there. And I’ll never forget them like that again*.