If You Always Do What You've Always Done...Then You'll Always Get What You Always Got

Monday, 30 April 2012

Tequila and Extra Musings

Sunday.  Sunday was a big day.  I finally returned home after 11pm and decided not to do a blog post.  This is still, I think, a good thing.  Posting anything on the internet when super tired, not to mention slightly tipsy, is not on my list of things to do.

I was really only vaguely tipsy.  One glass of wine, and tequila.  I had never had tequila before, so this was an unexpected New Thing.  It was very nice tequila, provided by an authentic Mexican.  We were having tacos so this just enhanced the Mexican experience. 

But this was the very end of Sunday.  Writing Saturday's post about Idiocracy, I meant to add something about the whole kids thing.  I thought I might just edit the original post, but then there was so much more.  I found out on Saturday evening about a Customs House concert on Sunday.  Not on my original plan for Sunday, I was hesitant to go along...but I knew I would appreciate it if I went, and regret it if I didn't.  I just made it in time after church, and I was very glad my brother had saved me a seat.  All 3 Shostakovich string sonatas.  I was familiar with the cello sonata (played brilliantly by Patrick Murphy and Liam Viney); it was my first hearing of the violin sonata (played by Graeme Jennings and Anna Grinberg) - if this had been my first exposure to Shostakovich I would have been put off, but I think I need more education in this work; and the viola sonata (played by Yoko Okayasu and Grinberg) - again unknown to me, but so beautiful.  I was close to tears near the end (and I wasn't the only one).  A 2 hour concert, so good for my soul, my brain.  Near the end of the viola sonata I had a quick look around the audience - this is one of my concert habits - and had an epiphany of sorts.  Each of us in that room, although mostly separate, were all a part of this experience.  No matter our individual stories and what had led us to that moment, we were all connected.

Now back to Idiocracy.  In Saturday's review, I felt I missed a fence-post moment.  The movie portrays a society in which less-educated people reproduce more (a lot more) than more educated people.  This is the movie - not me.  As the 3rd of 4 children, with intelligent and well-educated parents, that would be hypocritical as a start.  Just in the last 2 weeks I've found that 2 separate couples, already each with a young daughter, are expecting a second child, and this news thrills me.  Every time I've become an auntie I'm over the moon.  I love teaching, and believe that every child is a gift, special, unique.  When people have children, whether planned or by accident, because they love each other - I have no problem with that.  When people have children because they don't have anything better to do, or because they can get more money from the government - this I find problematic.  When a child is neglected in love or education or care - this saddens me greatly. 

After the concert (at which there were a few kids, some who enjoyed it, some who were bored), I was in the queue for the bathrooms in front of a friend I don't often see.  "Anna! I love your blog!  What's your inspiration?"  I often have this conversation.  I gave my standard answer - last year was boring, I did the same things every week, so this year I'm trying to be less predictable.  But an alternative answer could be, because of Idiocracy.  By doing all the same things, my brain shrivels, synapses slow, I become a less capable person in every respect.  Generations of boring people result in the society found in the movie.  Which makes me so much more determined to do different things and live less predictably.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Movie #13 - Idiocracy

I'll admit it - today was nothing new.  I woke up intending to run but it was bucketing, so I dozed.  I taught students, I voted and had a quick gym session, I taught more students, I had a mini panic about wedding music, I played for a wedding, I got soaked on the way home.  I wore boots for the first time this year and had Indian for dinner (actually the 2nd time this year, both occasions the breaking of a fairly long Indian-drought).  However, last Friday night I watched Idiocracy, so tonight is the review.

I wasn't sure I wanted to admit to having watched this movie.  It is a very blokey movie.  I'm not averse to blokey movies... but this was rather - ah - juvenile.  So if you're into something slightly more upper class, or something you can show to a prospective partner or in front of your parents, don't choose this movie!  That said, I laughed a lot...  Plus, my brother and several of his friends keep referring to it and I felt rather out of it.

Idiocracy starts in the present time, where the Average Joe is frozen (with the Average Jane), and circumstances unfold to leave them frozen for many centuries.  They unfreeze in a time a few thousand years in the future.  I found the situation a lot like Wall-E, seeing a future highly likely based upon today's reality and trends.  Wall-E has the human race fat, not knowing how to use legs, finding all information from technology.  Idiocracy finds the human race stupid, as the smart people of today (according to the movie - not saying this is true, necessarily) - tend not to have kids, or reproduce much later, but less smart people... well, they keep having kids.  And so the outlook is a future of less smart people. 

Which means the Average Joe of today has become the smartest person, by a long shot, in the future.  He, with his fantastic IQ, is seen as the saviour of their world, sent to alleviate the starvation brought about by crop failures etc.  Ooh, does this sound familiar?  How about, when his solution (let's water the crops with water, not with something akin to Gatorade) doesn't have immediate effects, he even says "I just wanted to help you.  I didn't say I was the smartest person on earth, you did.  I was trying to help you live in a better world"...?  And then they try to kill him.  Of course, the crops finally show some signs of growth just in time for him to be not killed so we don't have the total gospel parallel, but still.

I was also reminded of one of the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde, in which most of humanity is becoming stupider, more easily entertained, because our attention is being drained by the time travelers (it totally makes sense if you've read the books, honest).  And the Simpsons episode where Lisa has the 'dumbening', loses interest in higher matters and contemplates the easy, brainless, happy option.  These all have that idea of our intelligence, our interest in higher matters, being zapped.  And I know these are all fictional scenarios - but think about it.  How often do we read a book instead of watching tv?  Paint a picture instead of watching youtube videos?  Make music, or at least listen to music (real music), instead of playing inane games on our smart phones?  Are we actually turning ourselves into the Idiocracy of the future?

*Edited: also see the next post (April 30) for a bit more on this.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Mexican Baked Fish

This coming Thursday (May 3), Viola Man and I are performing in the cathedral.  We are playing some duets for violin and viola, and he's also playing some duets with a double bass player.  We had a play-through last week, and thought another rehearsal would probably be a good idea.  I also owed him dinner, so last night he came to my place, I cooked him dinner and we practiced our duets.

A few weeks ago I was flipping through some recipe books for inspiration and came across this dish - as yet uncooked by me.  As Viola Man is originally from Mexico, this dish seemed an obvious choice for dinner last night.  I halved the quantities so I wouldn't be eating this for a week, but the quantities below are the original, which serves 4, from Jill Dupleix's Good Cooking: the New Essentials.

Heat the oven to 200C.  Rub 4 thick, firm white fish fillets (180g each, skinned), with 1 tablespoon lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, and set aside.

Finely slice an onion into rings.  Cut a sweet red pepper into strips, discarding the core and seeds.  heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan and cook the onion for about 10 minutes until soft and pale.  Add 1 garlic clove, finely sliced and cook for a minute.

Add a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes, the red pepper, and 150mL water, stirring.  Add 10 pitted green olives, 1 tablespoon salted capers (rinsed), 1 tablespoon pickled jalapeno chillies, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and 1 bay leaf.  Cook gently for 10 - 15 minutes until the sweet red pepper is tender.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan and sear the fish fillets for a minute on each side, then transfer to an oiled baking pan.  Spoon the sauce on top and bake for 15 - 20 minutes until the fish is cooked through, depending on thickness.  Scatter with coriander leaves and serve with rice.

I forgot the coriander leaves for garnish and don't usually eat rice... and I forgot to turn off the oven (youch! expecting a massive power bill now).  But the flavour was good (although not as much kick as I expected), it's really easy, and we didn't need to resort to calling the local pizza place.  Phew.

For those Brisbane readers: free concert, Thursday May 3, 11:30 am, St John's Cathedral.  Duets by Halvorsen, Beethoven, Piazzola and more.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Outfit #26 - Black and White Again

 Today was our first cold day.  Well, the coldest April morning for 4 years - it was 10C when I woke up.  And I had a late wake up, for a school day - 6am.

Outfit details:
Top: Ambra.  Skirt:  Capture (op shop).  Shoes: Hot Options.  Necklace: from Jeannie.  Earrings: ??? from David Jones I think.

I was going to wear slightly more exciting shoes, but I was doing a short workout at home this morning and felt my left foot go all weird.  Not wanting to exacerbate it, I opted for flats... And on the train home I was really feeling that was a mistake.  Is it odd to feel better in heels than flats?  At least they're cute.

Maybe I'm imagining things, but I have a sneaky feeling one of my grade 4 girls is a shoe girl.  Her very first lesson, and both lessons this term, I haven't had any comments - but every single other lesson she's said to me "You look really pretty today".  Last week and this week I've had boring shoes.... Coincidence?  Might have to test this.

This is possibly the first time I've worn this necklace.  It's great for playing, almost.  After a while I did have to rotate it so it wasn't symmetrical as I was getting a buzz, but I can work with that.  The earrings look like silver snowflakes.  And yes, today I was teaching in a different room. 

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Out of Season Organisation

Weather is weird.  In the middle of March, I was feeling the need for some warmer clothes.  The fan left the living room just before Easter.  And then I lived in shorts and tees for a while because summer came back.  Tuesday was forecast for 28C.  Today has been wonderfully cool though, and the next few days (according to weather on the iPhone) will be similarly not hot.  For Brisbane standards.

This evening I finally put my summer clothes in storage.  There is usually a crossover period where I have the next season's clothing down from the attic but still have the ebbing season's clothes still in use, and for a couple of weeks I've had my winter clothes strewn about the place.  Barring any more emergencies, I have no house guests for at least 2 weeks so, until I work out the best way to organise the winter things in my newly revamped wardrobe, the warmer things are now on the spare room bed.

One thing I noticed this year as I was getting the winter things down was that I had to go digging through the bags to find what I was after.  Well, I'll be honest - it's always the pajamas I'm after first.  Thankfully they have a distinct texture, but I thought it might be more useful (and organised!) to label the bags.  Well, to sort the clothes first, then to label the bags.  So I actually sorted my summer clothes (instead of just piling them all into the bags randomly), and labeled the bags.  That is, separates, togs (and swimming-related things), and dresses and pajamas.  I have a lot of dresses.  Hopefully this will make the next crossover easier.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Outfit #25 - Ironing Helps

I think I can class today's outfit as a win.  Last week felt rather uninspired, but on Sunday I did my ironing.  Straight away, I started getting outfit ideas again.  Woohoo!  Shoes need a revamp though.

Outfit details:

Skirt: Temt (op shop).  Top: Ambra.  Cardigan: Portmans (op shop).  Shoes: Pulp.  Bracelet: from Eumundi markets.  Earrings: Oxfam.

I'm liking this skirt more and more.  The only thing is though, I seem to spill liquids on it every time.  Last time I wore this skirt, I rested my lunch bag on my lap on the train to work - by the time  I got to Central, some condensation had made a mark on the skirt.  This morning, I remembered that experience and the lunch bag stayed to my side.  But I unscrewed the cap on my drink bottle and a big drop of water sploshed onto my skirt.  Hmph.  Then, with 2 separate hot drinks during the day, splashes adorned my front.  Sigh.  At least they dried quickly and disappeared.

Today's forecast was for 28C and quite humid.  I'm not sure I felt the 28, but it was definitely quite humid and warm.  I had been planning to wear stockings but decided to risk going without - they weren't missed.  The cardigan almost didn't make it either, but I thought that might be more necessary.  It stayed on all day. 

I wonder if anyone can pick the expression in the lead photo?

Monday, 23 April 2012


Alternative title for this post: "I can see through time...." (that's Lisa Simpson). 

Non-school breakfasts include one coffee.  I think this is the law.  Mondays usually include a coffee post-workout, around 10:30 or 11.  This morning I was meeting someone about Fete de la Musique (coming up on June 21), and I met my brother in town for coffee.  We went to Pour Boy, on Wharf St.  Because I arrived first I ordered a coffee and, by the time everything else arrived I'd finished that... So I had another.  Pour Boy does great coffee.  And they have great service.  And their muffins - wow.  All the food is made in-house.  Near the end of that coffee, I confessed I had no idea what to do for a New Thing for today.  "There's a great coffee place the other side of Central Station", says my brother, "but that would be your 3rd in an hour".  Hm.  Let's do it.

We ended up on the corner of Wickham Tce and Upper Edward St.  In a building not unfamiliar to me...  A dear friend, now in Melbourne, was part of the team who redid the interior design of this art deco landmark, Wickham House.  Now, in the corridor is a coffee place, called Brother Espresso.

And the barrista wears a tshirt with an important message.  I loved it so much I took a photo (with his permission) - and, when we were done, I asked if I could put his photo up here.  (These are both new things - I don't know if it was the excess caffeine or if I'm just becoming my mother).

This was another great coffee place - and can you see how much chocolate is on top?!  Amazing.  Such a creamy taste.  So, I think I have another go-to place for caffeination.  Three in an hour was perhaps a little too much though - my legs, already sore from Trainer Dan, felt really odd, not so much jittery but like I was about to run a 10km race. 

I thought that would be my limit of coffee for the day.  Not so.  After lunch I was considering a nap (seriously sleep-deprived) - but with so much to do I kept going.  Before my last student, I had a snack and a coffee, hoping it would help me get through tonight's gig.  But even before that began, I knew I needed something more.  I resisted the urge for a cola drink and went with a coffee milk instead. 

Total coffee units for today: 5 plus a coffee milk.  Wow.  I wonder if I'll sleep tonight.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

To Dip or To Sip

I know when I was confirmed, I was taught to sip from the cup.  I even remember my grandmother telling me what her mother told her: "Only let the wine barely touch your lips.  No gulping!" (This was followed by an anecdote that I will keep in the family).  For as many years as I can remember, though, I have been an intinctor.  That is, instead of eating the bread and then sipping the wine, I dip the bread in the wine.

Today, though, I knew I had to change.

The archbishop - who also happens to be the Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, and (given that I attend the cathedral) partakes regularly in the same eucharist - issued an Ad Clerum recently regarding the practice of intinction.  For various reasons, both theological and hygienic, we are being asked to eradicate this practice.  I began this for hygienic reasons - you know when you have a cold and don't want to spread all those lovely germs around?  Hmm.  However, I have heard a number of stories of fingertips making it into the wine (shudder).  A number more reasons, and I had started thinking I should start to consider sipping instead.

I am on the cathedral council, and we were asked as a council to be good examples in this regard.  So I knew, today, I had to revert to sipping.  This was another example (like right-footed running) that I needed to rehearse first - just a little run-through in private - and throughout the service I had to remind myself to sip.  Eat the bread, then sip.  I remembered - woohoo! - and coordination was not a problem - another woohoo!  I had forgotten, though, how much wine you get in a sip as opposed to a bit of wafer dipped in wine.  Whoa.  But next time I will be prepared.  It will probably be quite a few more Sundays before I can stop reminding myself though.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Banana and Walnut Bread

I had 2 bananas that were overripe.  One was so overripe that it felt apart on the banana stand.  You know what that means...

 The recipe can be found here.  I only had a bit over 50g of walnuts, so I topped up the 100g with the pistachios I had leftover from Easter's dessert (chocolate, chilli and pistachio mousse).  As it only requires flour, egg, milk, banana, bicarb, sugar, bananas and nuts - all ingredients I had in stock - it feels vaguely healthy.  But that would be from the lack of butter and not needing too much sugar.  It is so moist that it doesn't need butter though so maybe this could be a win.  The only thing was it was really not even close to ready at the 45 minute mark, but another 5 minutes was all it needed. 
Of course, now the other problem is I have banana bread... Thankfully it freezes well!

Friday, 20 April 2012


I realised when I got to Brew that I had actually already been there before... But not on my own before, and it's changed a bit since my last visit.  So this counts, right?

Brew is one of those industrial sorts of coffee places - electrical cords for light fixtures, unfinished painted bits on the ceiling, astro-turf at the entry... It really feels like a garage that's been tizzed up a bit and had a coffee machine or 2 installed.  There is even a car parked near the first counter.

I went inside to sit down for my coffee - not nearly so hipster.  The inside is free of the astro-turf, thankfully, and has a range of seating options.  There were enough people there (11am on a Friday) that I didn't feel I was out of place, but not so many I had to scrounge around for a seat.  Following the fashion of quirky order numbers, Brew allocates playing cards.  The 9 of diamonds is ok, I guess.

Coffee would normally be enough for me, but I caved and ordered banana bread as well.  Unfortunately it came pre-buttered and sans knife.  I had gone for a run in the morning and felt hungry all through the morning until well after lunch.  If anyone can tell me why running in the evening has no effect whatsoever on my appetite (possibly even reduces it) but morning running increases my appetite, I'd love to know!

Anyway, service was good, food and coffee were relatively quick, and (best of all) the cappuccino had a good thick layer of chocolate on top.  Happy.  Brew is in Lower Burnett lane, technically off Albert St but just on the Adelaide St side of the Queen St Mall.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Outfit #24 - Guess What...

You're mad and I'm not... sorry.  Old habits die hard. 

From this term I'm at school on Thursdays as well.  The teacher who was taking the youngest string orchestra (children in grades 3 - 5) is on maternity leave for the rest of the year, and this way I get some conducting practice before next year's summer school.  Of course, these are really energetic kids.  And by energetic, I mean noisy, talkative, and in some cases, violent.  I think next week I'll push the desks further back so we can have a teensy bit more space.  Bows plus kids equals danger.

Outfit details:
Skirt: Miss Shop (op shop). Singlet: Ambra.  Top: David Lawrence.  Long sleeved top: Dotti.  Shoes: Hot Options.  Earrings: made by me.

I love wearing black.  I wouldn't normally wear all black to school though, unless I'm performing.  After conducting, I had a bit of spare time (hello coffee) and then a gig.  A great gig - corporate, a 90th birthday celebration for a company, they had speeches, they gave us drinks, they insisted we had food.  I love corporate gigs.

The skirt is one of my best buys.  It has had so many outings - I can't remember exactly how much it cost, but it was about $10-12, and with several, several gig wearings... it's definitely down to less than $1 per wear.  Woohoo! 

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Outfit #23 - Six 'P's

 Meh.  Today's outfit was not a winner.  On the upside, this has reminded me that Proper Preparation and Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

Singlet: Ice. Top, Earrings: Sportsgirl (op shop).  Pants: Portmans.  Shoes: Pulp.  Necklace: gift from Jeannie - she's one of these talented people who can buy a necklace in an op shop, then rework it into a new necklace.  This was even in her blog here

Normally, I plan my outfits on Monday, if not before.  But not this week.  So yesterday I had a bit of a plan for today, but not anything definite.  Eventually I thought this combination might work, and as I actually got a sleep-in this morning (thank you, school camp for grades 6 - 12!), I didn't stress about checking it beforehand.   Of course I ended up with not much time to change the plan, so I was stuck with this. 

Benefits:  it was quite cool - as this was a warmer day than I expected, and my train was not air-conditioned this morning (peak hour - ergh), I was relieved I'd decided on a summery top.  Also, the necklace is great!  I taught with it, but then also played duets and practiced, no problems.  Woohoo!

Drawbacks:  these pants are now too big.  Cue Big Sad Face.  They're not outrageously big - I can still get away with it, and in a couple of weeks when the weather is cooler and I can wear a vest it will be ok, but right now... No.  Plus when I'm used to them being quite fitted, having them this loose is just a bit uncomfortable.  And it means I absolutely must wear heels.  Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, of course.  Although this morning, I got all the way to the station (including at least 3 thoughts about shoes) and it was only on the platform, checking out the shoes of the woman in front of me, that I realised my heels were still at home.  Good thing I had left earlier than necessary for work!  The workmen in my street smirked at me on my return trip.  And, the shirt and singlet combination - again, a bit too loose and floppy, at least for teaching.

One friend effectively worked out yesterday's expression (almost Zoolander - actually just from a model shot, once I stopped giggling).  Any guesses for today's head shot expression?

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Outfit #22 - 2011 Flashback

School's back.  The last couple of days of holidays... Well, I spent them trying to avoid the thought of school.  Not entirely, but I wasn't organised enough to have an outfit sorted for today.  This is one of the standard outfits I wore last year, then.  With a necklace I haven't worn for a few years.

Outfit details:
Top: Ambra.  Skirt: Katies.  Leggings: ? Shoes: Pulp.  Green shell necklace: from Mombasa.  Earrings: made by me.
Yesterday, I said I was planning to pose with different facial expressions.  The plan was to add a picture of the original as well, but a friend suggested readers guess - I love this idea!  So see if you can work out the main outfit photo's origin (although, it's not very original).  Taking this photo - well, it took an effort for me to stop giggling/smirking in time to fix the expression before the timer took the photo. 

The necklace came off a few times, but it turned out to be a reasonable choice for playing.  And these earrings - well, I really like them.  The way they hang, they just tickle that place of my jaw.  Unfortunately, they do swing around a bit though, so the first...ah, many... photos have blurry earrings.  They are also part of a set of 3 - I also have these in blue and green.  When I wore the blue version (have no idea which outfit it was), a student asked if I was wearing earrings of the world.  Well, this morning in quartet (4 girls in grade 5, so 9-10 years old):
Me: let's go from bar 24.  Cellist: are they worlds? Me:ah... what?  Cellist: they look like worlds.  Me: do you mean the earrings?  (My teaching life has many conversations along these lines.  I love my job).

You may notice, the shoes are getting a bit old.  And worn.  And I think they're on the way out, they don't have that I Love Shoes feel to them anymore.  You may also notice I have bruises on my legs.  These are just 2 of many (from climbing Mt Warning, as well as deadlifts torture from Trainer Dan), so the plan for tomorrow's outfit has had to change so I don't shock the grade 3s tomorrow.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Term 2 Goals

I was hoping for a far more inventive title for this post.  Oh well.

Term 2 starts today, and I have a couple of goals.  One I was going to aim for last term...but here's to a new term. 

Goal #1: To clear away all teaching things at the end of each teaching day.  This photo is how I would like it to look - and (yay for me!) this is how it looked after I'd taught today's kids. 

Goal #2: Well, this needs a bit of background.  It has been mentioned by readers of this blog that I look taciturn in my outfit photos.  Yes, taciturn.  I have a feeling the word sought was something along the lines of 'not joyous', but it did make me think.  I mean, it takes many many photos to get one that is blog-worthy, and I have a greater understanding for models who look totally and utterly bored - after the first 3 or so my happy face has worn off and I just want to get a photo that is flattering and has my feet and head.  It's tougher than I anticipated.  The other part of this is that I know that I have pretty much 2 photo faces - smiling, and bored.  So, my Goal #2 is to have different facial expressions for my outfit photos.  And, to make it slightly more entertaining for me, I'm going to try to copy someone else's expression. 

Tomorrow's outfit photo, then...

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Fruit and Cinnamon Muffins

I totally had a different New Thing lined up for today.  As I had a mega sleep-in (I slept through my alarm and everything - I think that was a first, as my alarm tone is the old-fashioned car horn), I did not get to the place to do the New Thing... It will happen soon though.  It must.  Anyway, sporadically I need to cull my fruit.  I can't quite eat it at the same rate it is delivered, so when I know that some items have been there a while I have to find some way to use them up.  I had a pear, 2 kiwi fruit and 3 apples in the too-ripe-to-be-enjoyed pile.  Stewed fruit sprang to mind.  Also, on Wednesday I had bought a cookbook (very much on impulse) called Cooking from the Market: Fruit, and there's a recipe in there for Apple Cinnamon Muffins. 

New Thing #1 then, was to make my own fruit puree.  I didn't use sugar (I'm not a fan of sugar), and I didn't peel my fruit (nutrients, people).  I also decided to refrain from taking a post-puree photo - no-one wants to see something that looks like, well, vomit.

Then, the muffins.

Preheat oven to 200C, and lightly grease a 12-hole standard muffin tin or line the holes with paper cases.  Melt 150g unsalted butter.

Sift 310g (2 1/2 cups) self-raising flour and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon into a bowl and add 125g (2/3 cup) soft brown sugar.  Make a well in the centre.  Whisk together 350mL milk, 2 eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and pour into the well in the flour.  Add the melted butter.

Fold the mixture gently with a metal spoon until just combined.  Add 400g pureed cooked apple (or ready-made apple puree, or stewed fruit), and stir it through the mix.  Don't overmix, it will still be a bit lumpy.

Fill each muffin hole with the mixture - they will be quite full but they don't rise very much.  Sprinkle with 60g finely chopped walnuts.  Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, until golden.  Leave in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool.

They smell amazing and taste wonderful.  As a bonus, this is the first time I think that the muffins have all come cleanly out of the tin.  This is the first time in ages - like, years - that I've made muffins.  Win.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Movie #12 - Be Kind Rewind

Another DVD from Sam, this was one of those lighthearted choices.  It was a fairly formulaic take on the underdog/community-building genre but very funny.  I eventually (but still during the course of the movie - maybe my movie brain is improving...) worked out the title.  It's the same as the name of the video store in which it's set, and the video store is called that because all video stores want their customers to be kind and rewind the videos before returning them.  Of course, that's lost on the DVD generation.  I'm still trying to work out if there's a hidden meaning for the plot or an underlying theme or something, as the movie was released in 2008.

So, themes and good things about this movie:
I must admit, a lot of the time I was thinking of Marge Simpson: "This town is a part of us all.  A part of us all!"  And, when a lot of places are struggling with community, the lack of it, and the problems that follow from that, the ideas in this movie are good.  Fairly early on, Jerry (Jack Black) is asking Mike (Mos Def) why he doesn't get out, what's so good about this place, and Mike replies (like it should be so obvious), "The people".  It takes a whole movie to convince Jerry otherwise, of course.  But when they need the whole community to come together, they involve the whole community in this project, and make them feel a part of this neighbourhood. 

Which is also a part of the other side of this movie, the validation of self worth.  When Mike is left in charge, and he can take control and solve the (rather drastic) problems himself, he feels good about himself and his place there.  When Mr Fletcher (Danny Glover) returns and negates all the good work Mike has done, he feels worthless.  So, just like Winona Ryder's character in Girl, Interrupted, when we are appreciated and valued by others then we feel like worthy human beings.

Music - ah, music.  Much of the sub-plot is derived from Mr Fletcher's lies to Mike regarding Fats Waller (Mr Fletcher has told Mike that Fats was born in the building in which they live and work, so that Mike might feel more pride in where he lives).  If you're not familiar with Fats, find some on Youtube.  I grew up listening to Fats Waller, so the soundtrack was all old favourites.  Well, mostly.  Hearing Jerry singing his version of the Ghostbusters theme... different!  One huge surprise for me was hearing the young kids singing - when asked to sing, they broke into a version of the song Fuzzy Wuzzy.  I was surprised because this was one of the songs we had to learn for summer school, and I did not think of it in any context other than teaching!  (Good to know the songs we learn are not all obscure).

The blokes, with token female/love interest Alma (Melonie Diaz) make some really funny movies, and the whole thing highlights necessity being the mother of invention.  Not to mention, science being quite useful in the everyday world...  Although it was a great choice for me for last night (a bit brain dead), it might not get a second viewing.  Unless I need a great laugh, of course.

Friday, 13 April 2012


Technically speaking, this was not my first ever yoga experience.  It must have been about 5 years ago that I went to 2 or 3 sessions, at a yoga studio near Suncorp Stadium.  So, this is the first yoga experience this decade, and the first through my gym.

Many of my friends do yoga, and as I'm often feeling like I need to stretch I thought this would be a good thing to do.  Especially this week (killer workout from Trainer Dan on Tuesday, 13.5km run Wednesday evening, climbing Mt Warning yesterday).  The thing that has been holding me back from doing yoga again is the same thing that stopped me continuing 5 years ago - nearly 7 years ago I slipped down some steps and landed on my left wrist.  A "just in case we've missed something" cast for a week and physiotherapy hadn't helped and it still troubles me sometimes.  However, I know I am much stronger now so thought I'd take a deep breath and give it a go.  My original plan had been to go to my normal gym (a 10:30 class) but, knowing that I should let the instructor know I had a potential injury and should really be on time, I could see I wasn't going to make it.  The other very close gym has a class at 10:35 and I knew I could make that so off I went. 

Very.... calm... a lovely instructor, lighting candles and with very soft meditative music, advised me to not push myself, and to use my fingertips if necessary, instead of having my hands flat on the floor (this is a great tip!).  After my previous experience with yoga, I was expecting many different poses and a good physical workout.  There were some poses (but not as many), and it was not as intense as I was expecting.  We were all advised not to push ourselves, but to listen to our bodies, to observe without judging.  

The big plus for me with this class (so much so that I'll be trying to rearrange another appointment next week so I can make it) was the relaxation.  I feel like I've hardly slept for most of this year.  Although I would not have said I was very stressed or jangly, 20 seconds into this class and I was getting teary.  The advice to just be, to let myself have this hour to myself, was so fulfilling (for want of a better word).  If I tried that at home, I would be aware of my phone, of the noises of the neighbourhood, of all the things I feel I should be doing instead of taking some time out for myself.  When I left the class I was so calm and felt much more centred. 

I did realise one of the reasons I am not a group class person - listening to instructions.  Mostly it was fine, but occasionally there would be a long list of what to do with different bits of me and I had no idea.  However, this was not a class where I felt ridiculous (anyone tried body attack?  Zumba?) and I appreciated the non-competitive nature.  Surprisingly, there were quite a few men there (maybe 4 or 5 out of about 20).  I found I was quite flexible, definitely more so than 5 years ago, and more balanced than before also.  My wrist did complain a little this afternoon (maybe as a result of a little slip and bounce down some rocks yesterday) but I'm hoping it will sort itself out by tomorrow.  Although this will be rather beneficial for relaxation and me-time, I would like to find some more stretchy sort of yoga.  Or just keep up with weird and wonderful stretches at home.  That could work, too.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Mount Warning

Today was the first time I've climbed Mt Warning.  It's often been talked about as a possible holiday activity, but today it happened.  I went with my friend Michelle (it was her 7th time), and everyone who I told was so excited for me.  "It's tough - but the view is amazing" was said to me over and over. 

I'm really glad it was a cold morning, as it convinced me to wear 2 singlets, a tshirt, as well as a long-sleeved tee.  I also packed my raincoat, just in case.  Beautiful weather, blue skies, sunny with a few clouds here and there... until we got to the last bit of climb.  You can see how wonderful our view is.  A whole lot of cloud, which was so so cold.  This sign, proclaiming 'Glorious View' I didn't even read.  Past the trees, nothing but white.

 Now, I knew that it was a bit of a walk for most of the mountain, and then a chain to get you up the rocks at the end.  I was really nervous about this bit.  Probably if I'd seen photos of it beforehand, I would have said ummmm no thanks.  I imagined climbing up a cliff face, likely to lose my grip and go tumbling back down the mountain.  It was a bit like that, really, but more like rock-climbing (which I love, need to do that again...), especially the coming down bit.  Once over the first down bit - where I couldn't see over a bit of rock and was scared to lean back to find the next foothold, and having Michelle below me calling out the next one was a huge help - it was really fun.  I felt a bit like a kid who's been resisting the big slide who then wants to go again once they've tried it.  Also felt like a kid swinging off trees and getting my hands really dirty on rocks.

You can get an idea here of the steepness and climbing style of the chain bit.  Because it was so wet and windy, it was incredibly muddy.  Good thing I'm not a princess type as I was filthy.  The cold made our fingers numb too, so photos were less possible.

At the end of the Steep and Rugged bit, I was covered in mud, especially the hands from coming down that chain - although it's a bit hard to tell in the photo.
 Beautiful view (taunting us!) from the 3/4 mark.  After this, though, it really rained, bucketing down and totally soaking us so I, at least, could have passed as a drowned rat.

More clouds at 1/2 way - I love how the sun has just hit the white tree trunks.

The obligatory Toyota jump at the end.

Mount Warning as we drove towards the sea - still very cloudy and rainy...

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Super Healthy Pancakes

Holidays are wonderful.  Afternoon naps, spontaneous catch ups with friends, duets... And I can take as long as I like to eat breakfast.  I'm a slow eater.

Jeannie gave me this recipe for super healthy pancakes, which I tried out today.  Warning: it's really complicated.  Mix together an egg, a tablespoon of protein powder, a tablespoon of hazelnut or almond meal, and 2 tablespoons of water.  Cook as you would a normal pancake - but take care as they go crispy quite quickly.

I made 2 thin pancakes out of this recipe.  The first one - well, it wasn't very attractive.  When I figured it was time to flip, it refused to budge so ended up looking more like a scramble.  The second one, then, I put a lid on the pan and kept checking it every 10 seconds or so.  Success!  As the recipe only contains proteins and fats, I sliced a pear on top for the carbohydrate component.  I'm yet to work out a good coordination of making coffee, so more practice is required.  Maybe Friday mornings during term time...

These holidays have flown by - but I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's New Thing!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Spicy Fish Soup

Last night, I couldn't sleep again.  About midnight, with my brain very buzzy, I decided to find a new recipe to make today.  This Spicy Fish Soup in Tana Ramsey's Home Made was the only one to appeal enough for me to plan to make it.  Our weather recently has been decidedly summery (temperatures in the high 20s) and, even though we were forecast to have only mid-20s today, I thought that this wasn't too wintry a soup that I would cope.  Weather-wise, it was quite warm during the day but now (late afternoon) it has turned quite chilly and after I post this I'm getting warmer tops out of the attic!

Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan on low-medium heat, add 4 large onions (peeled and roughly chopped), 4 garlic cloves (peeled and finely chopped), and 2 red chillies (deseeded and finely chopped).  Cover and cook 8 - 10 minutes, until softened.  Add 3 each red and green capsicums, deseeded and chopped, and let them sweat until slightly softened.

Pour the contents of the pan into a food processor along with a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes, and blend until smooth.

Return the mixture to the pan and add 1.5 litres good quality fish stock, 2 tsp fresh or dried marjoram, and 1/2 - 1 tsp cayenne pepper.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add salt to taste, then stir in 700 g fresh cod or pollack (or barrumundi, in my case!), skinned and chopped into 4cm chunks, and 100g peeled raw prawns.  Cook gently for no more than 10 minutes - be careful not to overcook.  (I found this took more like 4 minutes).

Add 1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, and serve in warm bowls.  If you like it hotter, add Tabasco sauce to taste.  These quantities serve 6 - 8.

My experience of Tana Ramsey's recipes is that her quantities are massive.  I halved mine for this, and still - huge!  I also don't own a food processor, so I had to process the first part in batches.

I must admit, this was a pretty good choice for today.  My complaint though is that it felt it was missing something in the flavour department.  Admittedly, I couldn't find any parsley, but that didn't seem to be the missing bit.  Maybe a rasher of bacon, but I'd like it to stay as a recipe suitable for pescatarians.  After a (much-needed) nap though, I realised coriander would be a wonderful flavour to add to this, and next time I'll do a Jamie Oliver and chop up the stalks to include with the onions etc, then add the leaves at the end.  I think I am a genius.

Monday, 9 April 2012

The Go Between Bridge

And here we have another post on running.  I do love running.

For the last couple of months, my standard run has been to the Go Between bridge - an 8 km return run.  In the last couple of weeks, I've made myself run up the last hill leading to the bridge, which makes the descent feel wonderful.  After the legwork required to get up to the top, stretching out the legs and sprinting down to the bridge is such a wonderful feeling.  I probably have an insane grin on my face at the time.

Even though the Go Between has been up for about 2 years, I've never walked or run across it.  Today was the day.  It only adds about 500m to the length of the run, but I figure now I've done this I can run more along the other side of the river. 

The best bit about tonight was, as soon as I had run up the stairs to the bridge, there was lightning over Mt Coot-tha, and this continued for all the return run.  Now, I was pretty sure my brother had said there was a great water fountain on the other side.  There wasn't - it was just a dribble.  The great water fountain is on this side.

My actual run was not amazing - it felt like hard work, probably from the large number of alcohol units consumed over the last 2 days.  Now I can't wait though to run more around West End and South Bank.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Lenten Drawings

 I aimed this year to do something artistic each week.  Mostly on a Sunday, I did a drawing - this in itself is different for me, as normally my artistic side leans towards painting.  Drawing, I feel, takes more skill.  When I began this process, I had a number of occasions of "ugh, this is too hard, it looks terrible, I'm giving up" before forcing myself to keep practicing.  Drawing is just like anything, the more you do it the easier it is.  Here are my drawings from Lent (yes, I missed a week).

Week 1 - I had just been to the Matisse: Drawing Life  exhibition and was aiming for brevity.

Week 2 - still aiming for brevity, it didn't turn out as simple as I had hoped.  I'd also lost my eraser.  

Hands are difficult.  Really difficult.  This was the best of week 3, but there were several other attempts.

Week 4 - I did this one at school, from a photo I'd taken a few days beforehand.  I'd done many attempts but just couldn't get the lines right - yet at school it just worked and took only one quick attempt.

This is possibly my favourite.  I drew this on Good Friday.  I then began a painting of it but that isn't finished just yet...  This took many, many practices to get the angles and fingers right. 

Saturday, 7 April 2012

The Lenten Discipline in Review

Today is the last day of Lent.  On Ash Wednesday, I said that this year I would be giving up alcohol and peanut butter.  And try not to replace my peanut butter addiction with chocolate.  And try not to have quite so much to donate to a good cause as last year.

Last year, I started with a $1 penalty for each infringement.  After a couple of hours, I reduced the amount to 50c.  Total donation amount: about $55. 

This year, I knew it wouldn't be so hard to stick to my disciplines.  So, peanut butter cost me $2.50, and alcohol $5.

I'm just going to estimate the peanut butter at $10.  There was about 1/4 cup at the start of Lent, which all went in the first 10 days or so.
Alcohol.  Yes, well.
My brother's first gig with QSO called for a celebration.  2 glasses of wine = $10
March 15 we went to the movies (to see Safe House).  We had coffees beforehand.  We neglected to order decaf.  I had 2 gin and tonics after to (hopefully) help me sleep.  Rather unsuccessfully, for the record.  $10
I was very pleased that I didn't drink at the global music fiesta on March 16. 
March 23 was the staff party.  As soon as I sat down, someone put a glass in my hand and someone else had poured me some wine.  Tally for the night = 2 glasses = $10
March 24 was an 'Indian food and Bollywood string quartet' night.  Again, wine glass in my hand, started the evening filled with wine, ended the evening 2 drinks down... No more than that because then I can't play... $10
On Wednesday I went to a farewell dinner and, again, had 2 glasses of wine = $10
Grand total = $60

I was a little disappointed that there were so many instances in which I slipped.  And, when I did, I always had a second glass.  Thankfully, this is all going to a good cause.  Sam (of the DVD collection) is doing the Oxfam Trail Walk in June, and so all this money is going to his team.

Unfortunately, I did seem to replace the peanut butter with chocolate.  There is only so much avocado or almond I can eat in one day.  I am really, really trying to keep the alcohol to a minimum even after tomorrow.  I know it is better for me, both now and for my future me, to drink less rather than more.  I think I've broken the habit of cooking with a glass of wine, and I will aim to keep the drinking to social occasions only.  Meanwhile, bring on tomorrow...

Friday, 6 April 2012

Traditions Old and New

When I was growing up, there were some rules about Lent and Good Friday.  Hot cross buns were only to be eaten at 3pm on Good Friday, and not after Easter Saturday.  Between 12 and 3 on Good Friday, we weren't allowed to do much - it had to be quiet, no rowdy games, no music.

For the last 10 years or so, I have made my own hot cross buns on Good Friday.  My first time, I discovered this process takes about 3 hours - perfect.  I used to listen to a recording of Bach's St Matthew Passion while making hot cross buns - my recording is of Sir Georg Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, a 3 cd set on the Decca label.  It is a wonderful recording (which means, it sounds big and German - none of this 'authentic Baroque performance practice' - and the violin solos are so well played).  Bonus - it lasts for about 3 hours and 6 minutes.  Each time I hear it, I feel I find something new in it.  Bach was a genius.  However, a few years ago I discovered I was missing disc 1.  Agh!  Last year I tried listening to the 2nd cd twice (a bit weird), but since then all stereo systems in my house have died, and when I put the cds onto iTunes it went all weird.  So this year, I was trying to find a last-minute recording - although this was a bit nerve-wracking.  What if I didn't like it?  I didn't find one - not even excerpts - so I had to work out what to do.

My solution: a day free of music.  This was so hard.  I usually listen to the radio while eating breakfast - not today.  I usually have music on while I'm cooking - not today.  My brain, of course, filled in the blanks.  Some neighbours were playing 80s hits around 11am, but from about 11:30 - 3:30 it was very quiet in my neighbourhood.  There is always music in my head though.  So while I was making hot cross buns, my brain played some Uptown Girl (thanks, neighbours), the opening chorus and my favourite arias from the St Matthew Passion, and the Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia (the same one I played with Viola Man for our staff concert - although I wasn't quite as brilliant as Perlman). 

The hot cross buns themselves were my best yet.  Yay!  I will credit this with a few things. 

1 - I figured that I knew by now when dough was 'smooth', so didn't time the kneading, just went with the feel.  This meant, I think, that when it was actually ready to prove, it could just do its thing.  So, for the first time ever, it took just over an hour to double in size, instead of me getting impatient at 90 minutes and saying, that'll do.

2 - I used a slice tin, not just the baking tray.  I saw a few recipes last year that called for this method and at the time I thought, weird.  I don't know if it actually made a difference, but they were really good...

 I still need to improve the flour paste for the crosses on top.  This year I'm blaming this result on last year (the picture is from before they were cooked).  Last year, I was following the recipe for a dozen, and was doing a super job of halving all the ingredients.  Until I got to the water element of the flour paste, which I doubled.  That should just have been last year's problem, right?  Except this year I was following the fruit loaf recipe (which doesn't include flour paste, obviously), and just estimated the flour and water.  "That looks like last year's paste" I thought.  *Mistake*. 

Thursday, 5 April 2012

The Washing of the Feet

Today is Maundy Thursday, where Christians around the world remember the Last Supper and the Washing of the Feet.  When I was in high school I was in an environment in which it was pretty hard to avoid having your feet washed at this service, and as I don't recall going to every one I think the last time I actually had my feet washed was when I was about 15.  Very approximately, and very probably even earlier.

I have very unattractive feet.  So unattractive, in fact, that I went through a Leonardo da Vinci-style phase of drawing them (like his Ugly People, which I love).  I also don't like being touched.  Hugs are usually ok, massage very rarely (after a training session I appreciate it but that's pretty much it), but generally speaking, I value my personal space and the thought of someone touching me gives me the heeby-jeebies..  So the very thought of having someone else wash my feet is fairly horrifying.

Last night, when discussing tonight's service, I said I was just going to be there (not on duty for anything), and one friend asked, "So you're there to have your feet washed?" "No", I replied, "I don't do feet washing".  This evening when I arrived, I sat with a very dear friend, and my brother.  "I'm going to wash your feet" says this friend.  "No, I don't do feet washing" I replied.  "But I have to wash someone's feet, and I want it to be you". "So, how have you changed today?" prods my brother.  I already had something else lined up for a blog post, but the 2 of them stared me down.  It really was one of those out-of-the-comfort-zone times, I could feel my heart rate increasing and my face burning up... but this is a really good friend. 

The gospel, every time I hear this, makes me feel I should do this.  There is so much in that part that I could write a whole post on it (or relay several sermons).  After we had washed each others' feet though, Michelle pointed out the same sentence that had really struck me this evening: "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me."

Michelle is to be confirmed on Easter Sunday, and all in that position had their feet washed first, then moved on to washing the feet of another (me!) and then the cycle would continue with more people.  Feeling like an imposter, I sat and removed my shoes so my feet could be washed and dried.  The water was cool, and the towel at the ready was very welcome.  And, yes, it made me feel really connected.

Next, I took the place of the washer, and someone I hardly know came to be washed.  Interestingly, I felt much more comfortable in this position than the other.  I am not one of those people who knows instinctively what to do to help, but I am more at ease helping than being helped.  In fact, I really only ask for help if it's absolutely vital.  I imagine, though (based on not much expect instinct, assumptions, and the reactions of the disciples in the gospel), that most people feel this way.  We don't feel right having someone wash us, or do something so intimate for us, but performing an act of service is much more within our comfort zones and realm of 'normal'. 

Once we had done our foot-washing bit, we moved over to the side.  I felt so relieved it was done, but also much more fulfilled for having done something I feel I should do but haven't for many years.  After that initial reaction, though, I realised the choir was finishing singing.  I had not even heard them, but it was one of my absolute favourite choral works - Durufle's Ubi caritas.  I guess my brain was so taken up with the washing of the feet it didn't have any space left for music. 

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Soul Bistro

This evening I had dinner at Soul Bistro, Milton.  There are four of us who used to get together and have coffee after church, or watch a movie and discuss it afterwards, or just have a meal together.  One of us is about to move away, so tonight we had a farewell dinner.  Miraculously, we were all available for the same evening at a reasonable time.

Soul Bistro was a great choice.  Good location, and nice enough without being pretentious.  Hard to find places like that around there!  Our wait staff were attentive and informative without being clingy, splitting the bill was no problem, and good food.

Normally, I'm one of those eaters who will have a main, preferably entree size, and maybe think about dessert, depending on what my stomach and other diners are saying.  Tonight, all of us looked at the menu, flipped on our waiter's prompting to the 3-course special, and decided to have the special.  I think this is a first for me.  There were 2 choices for entree and dessert, and 3 for main.

I chose the soup (soup of the day was spinach and broccoli, which had a nice parsley kick to it), fish - snapper I think with sweet potato mash, and the orange panna cotta with chocolate sauce for dessert.  I can quite proudly say that this was a good choice.

No dish was so big I felt I couldn't finish it, and although it was probably a bit more than the eating plan I follow would recommend, a one-off excess (and not by too much, anyway) is nothing to worry about.  Plus I had a very sweaty workout beforehand.

Although there was a tinge of sadness to this farewell - nothing will be the same, even though she's moving not really all that far away, and this friend has been a wonderful, life-changing force - it was such a good night.   So much laughter, some so much I could hardly breathe, I thought my mascara must surely be running down my face, and I was clutching my stomach - as well as real talking about the issues all of us face.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The Concerned Resident

Recently, there was a major change to my environment.  It was almost worthy of a blog post, but I figured it was a change over which I had no control, and besides, other things kept happening.  The change was to traffic conditions and a bus stop - now, instead of jaywalking down the hill, I have to stay on the same side of the road, and either cross at the new lights, or turn left (not right) to go further outbound.  It took me a few weeks to remember to stay on the same side of the road, and I still have to say to myself at the roundabout, Stay on this side.  I think I've got it sorted now.

The only problem now is that there is still a bit missing a footpath.  And it's permanently mud.

When the council people took off and obviously had no plans to put in a footpath, I was a little peeved.  I would have to choose between walking through mud (these photos were taken after we've had a few rain-free days, and it's still slooshy), or walking on the road.  Neither option is great for heels.  More concerning (first world problems here) would be the temptation for other people to walk on the road.  This leads up to a school area, and a lot of kids are dropped in this street and then walk across to the school - so now there are many more pedestrians on the road.  Plus, as it's in a bend in the road, it's always a little scary when you step off onto the road and are not sure if a car is going to come speeding around the corner.

I kept thinking I should call the council and see if we would in fact be getting a footpath.  But, honestly, I don't like making phone calls.  Yesterday, though, there was a visually impaired man trying to make his way along this stretch of path.  By the tapping of his cane and the sudden way he stopped, it looked like he was thinking, I'm sure there was a path here before.... Where did it go?  Which is fair enough, as there isn't even a set of those raised ridges/dots they put along paths and at intersections.  So I advised him to walk on the road, and told him when there was a path again.

Today, then, I actually rang the council and asked for a footpath.  Travis was very nice, but while he was checking if there was a work order, he put me on hold with horrendous music.  Truly horrible, synthesised flute and percussion assault on my ears.  Shudder.  Thankfully I wasn't on hold for long.  I had to give my name, address, and phone number, but there should be someone 'inspecting' the area within a week.  Fingers crossed for my shoes!  Oh, and the safety of everyone who uses that bit of road, of course...