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

Friday, 29 June 2012

Banana and Chocolate Loaf, Anna-Style

Step 1: For a few days, look with concern at banana supply.  Note how many there are, and how many will be eaten before they get to the very ripe stage.  Realise that there will be a couple too ripe to eat, unless consumption increases to more than one a day.  (Unlikely).

Step 2:  Google kiwi fruit recipes (there being a bag of about 6 kiwi fruit in the fridge).  There are only 11 recipes listed on taste.com.au.  Type 'banana' into the search box.  24 pages come up.  After a few recipe readings, decide that this one looks like a winner.  Start playing a suitable album (in my case, The Resistance by Muse).

Step 3:  Assemble ingredients on bench-top, left to right.  Find that there's really not much self raising flour left, so bring out the plain flour and baking powder as well.  Find that there's really not much brown sugar left either, so bring out the caster sugar as well.  Of course, don't worry about lightly beating the eggs just yet.

Step 4:  Actually read the method listed in the recipe.  Read it again to work out which lot of ingredients really needs a large bowl, and which can get by with a regular mixing bowl.  Preheat oven to 170C; grease and line a 10x20cm loaf tin.

Step 5:  Set up sieve over large mixing bowl.  Carefully measure out a cup of self raising flour, transfer to sieve.  Really carefully, fill the 1/2 cup measure with self raising flour, transfer to sieve.  Do a little happy dance because you have exactly the right amount of flour.  Remember that you are a messy baker and don an apron.  Sift flour into bowl.  Measure 1/3 cup brown sugar, add to flour.  Measure remainder of brown sugar (not really 1/3 cup, more like 1/6 cup) and top up with raw caster sugar, add to flour.  Ponder the differences in squishability between the 2 sugar types. Add 1/4 teaspoon mixed spice and 1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda to flour.  Mix it all together using the 1/2 teaspoon measure, knowing it's not the most efficient method but it's in your hand.  Make a well in the centre.

Step 6:  Crack eggs into medium mixing bowl and give them a little whisk with a fork.  Pour in 1/2 cup milk and 1/3 cup olive oil, checking several times that you have the right measuring cup and the right amount according to the recipe.  Give it a bit more of a whisk.

Step 7:  Peel the first banana, break it into large chunks in the 1 cup measure.  Note that it doesn't come to much.  Peel the second banana, break it into large chunks in the 1 cup measure.  Note that, together, they don't come to much, definitely not the 3/4 cup listed in the recipe, more like 1/2 cup if you're feeling generous.  Mash with a fork but don't be too diligent.  Add banana, what there is of it, to egg mix.

Step 8:  Resist taste-testing any of the dark chocolate melts.  Break them into smaller bits (my new favourite method - stack a few at a time the same way between fingers, press with thumbs).  Reminisce on a lovely former student who brought you choc chip cookies, freshly baked from food tech, with these larger choc bits.  Fill 1 cup with dark chocolate, add to egg mix.  Go to pantry.  Contemplate using some Lindt 85%.  Reconsider.  Spy the Cadbury baking white chocolate.  Decide it's a better option than using the super good stuff.  After opening the packet and breaking off a chunk, discover it's much harder to break into chunks than the dark melts.  Find a board and a knife and start chopping.  Don't resist taste-testing.  Eat a few pieces to ensure no tainted bit is put into the mix.  Once full rows have been chopped, find you have about 3/4 cup white chocolate, add it to egg mix (if you must, justify the extra chocolate with the reduced banana quantity, even though you know it's more a texture thing than a solid amount thing).  Mix a bit with fork, trying belatedly to reduce the size of banana bits.

Step 9:  Pour banana mix into flour mix, folding gently until just combined.  Spoon into prepared loaf tin, mixing the last bit of flour at the bottom that you always miss when the method says 'until just combined'.  Put tin into oven, bake for 45 minutes.  Refer to loaf as Chocolate (with banana) Loaf.  Test with a skewer and find chocolatey batter at point.  Put tin back into oven, lick chocolatey batter from skewer, bake for another 5 minutes.  Remove from oven, test successfully with skewer, turn off oven, leave loaf to cool in tin for about 5-10 minutes.

Step 10:  Slice loaf, note the softness of the loaf and the amount of chocolate that appears on the knife.  Hmm.  Cut another slice.  Take some photos, until the steam fogs up the camera lens.  Place slices on plates, enjoy.  Plan to maybe have a slice tomorrow, then slice the remainder and freeze so you don't pig out over the next couple of days.  You know what you're like.  After writing the above, download photos and find none really suitable.  Slice a few more, take some more photos - fog-free! - and find one you like.  Upload to blog.

Ponder what to do with the freshly cut slices.  As it's fish and chips for dinner tonight, be good!

Today's daily photo:

Our first sunny day in ages.  Having had a run this morning, I put on a load of washing.  Back in pajamas, lounging on the sofa, I heard the washing machine finish.  First-world problem:  I wanted to put my washing on the line outside, but I didn't want to get out of my pajamas.  Stuff the neighbours.  I put the washing on the outside line while still in pajamas.  As soon as I pulled up the line, my eyes were dazzled by an array of glistening drops.  I have many photos with water features.  One thing I like about droplet photos (and even, the droplets themselves when you look at them closely) - inverted worlds, in miniature.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Avant Garde Patisserie and Invitations

Yes, it's holidays.  Some friends I only see when each of us is on school holidays.  This morning, I sent a text to Di (who has a blog too - find it here), asking if she'd have time for coffee today.  I must admit here, I'm a fairly slack friend.  I very rarely take the initiative in catching up with friends, and I'm very fortunate in having friends who will suggest things to do.  So the fact that I made the first move today is (in my head, anyway) a step forward.  I have a mental list of other friends who'll need a connection soon.

The weather today was a bonus too, as it wasn't raining the entire time.  I even had a rain-free run this morning!  However, considering the possibility of rain and parking, we opted for Baroona Rd, Milton.  Well, it was an interesting parking experience, but we had no dash through the rain so I'll consider that a win.  Neither of us had been to Avant Garde Patisserie before.  Very tempting treats - neither of us was very disciplined.... I had the Choc Date Pistachio slice.  I was expecting a mega chocolate indulgence, but it was quite light and chewy.  Dusted with cocoa and icing sugar resulted in me making quite a mess!  Nothing too embarrassing though.

There was nowhere really warm to sit which was disappointing, so I spent most of the time chilly.  And the seats were not superbly comfortable either.  Coffee was in the middle of the bell curve - not bad, but not something to write home about (or recommend to coffee aficionados - aficionadi?). 

Today's photo:
The sun came out for just long enough for me to grab my camera and take 4 photos before my battery died and the clouds hid the sun again.  It was so exciting seeing the water droplets sparkling in the sunlight!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Apple and Barley Baked Pudding

The last time I bought pearl barley, I noticed there was a recipe on the packet for this pudding.  As I had not conceived of using pearl barley for anything other than soups and casseroles, I found this intriguing.  I needed the right weather (cold and rainy - check) and a few spare apples (thank you mum and dad) to bring it on.  So yesterday, it happened.  Warning: this is the healthiest version of a dessert I think I've come across (short of fruit salad).  It needs ice cream to make it less virtuous.

225g pearl barley
3 medium apples, peeled, cored and finely sliced
60g raw caster sugar (about 1/3 cup)
1 lemon, juiced
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon margarine spread (or butter or whatever - I use Dairy Soft)

Prepare pearl barley: I used the quick method, by putting the barley into a saucepan, covering with water, bringing to the boil and simmering for about 30 minutes.  I kept topping up water as required - once tender, drain any excess liquid.
Preheat oven to 175C; lightly grease a 5 cup capacity ovenproof dish.
Add apples, sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon to the barley.  Pour into dish, dot with the butter, cover with foil (or a lid), and bake for an hour.  Serve with cream or ice cream.

It's tasty and (without ice cream) practically guilt-free.  It's not, however, a dessert I would serve to most blokes.  Unless I drowned it in custard and cream and ice cream and maybe lied about some of the ingredients.  So you never know!

Today's daily photo:

This morning, I indulged in the chocolate and marmalade porridge I tried a few weeks ago.  Not all the chocolate made it into the saucepan - some landed on the stove, some had to be quality-tested, and some was left over for the top of my coffee.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Daily Photos Catch Up

Since promising to take a photo a day, I have been very slack in posting a photo a day.  I've still been taking them, I just forget to upload...  So here are the last 8.  Yikes!

Monday, June 18.  This agave plant is one of many on a nearby street.  I have thought about photographing them on several occasions, so I'm glad I had an excuse.

Tuesday, June 19.  A street near the school at which I teach.  Seeing this tree change over the year is a great joy.

Wednesday, June 20.  These fluff-balls are right by the footpath at home.

Thursday, June 21.  Fete de la Musique, and I was the contact for St John's cathedral.  Most people don't see the wonderful light show that happens in the cathedral - between about 11 and 3 the stained glass produces these wonders.  I hadn't seen this kaleidoscope effect before.

Friday, June 22.  Sunlight in the courtyard catching this new aloe vera flower.

Saturday, June 23.  This is a great guard dog.  Seriously.  When I returned from my run on Saturday, Gracie was mostly inside but with her head outside, keeping tabs on the goings-on outside.

Sunday, June 24.  I had less than an hour at home during the day, in which I ate lunch.  After calling Gracie back from barking at a passing neighbourhood dog - and she came, too - I gave her a little treat.  She stayed for more.  I caved.

Monday, June 25.  After running a practice half marathon on Monday, the weather was quite cool and overcast.  Perfect practice weather.  Standing under the light, the light and shadow visible through the f-holes was striking.

Tuesday, June 26.  A sneak peek of tomorrow's post...  Growing up, my favourite food was green apples.  Apples, generally, but I remember a few bad experiences with red apples so I preferred green for a long time.  Whenever my mum was cooking with apples, I'd hang around for the peel.  An all-in-one peel was a bonus.  When visiting my grandparents, my grandfather (who was born in Scotland) told me that, if you peeled an apple or orange with an unbroken peel, you should throw it with your right hand over your left shoulder (preferably with your back to the fireplace), and the letter it most closely resembled would be the initial of the person you would marry.  (Not surprisingly, 'S' was a common result).  Similarly, twist an apple stalk going through the alphabet and the initial on which it breaks off is the initial of your future spouse.  This is a habit I still have.  Anyway, tonight I managed two unbroken apple peels.

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Practice Run

I've been having weird dreams lately.  I know the upcoming Gold Coast Half Marathon is the flattest course in Australia, but my subconscious is putting in stairs, buildings, wine and cheese tastings, and sand.  I also know that when I run my familiar route my brain is happier (that drinking fountain is just around this corner and along a bit so go for it - that sort of thing).  So I thought it would be a good idea to do a practice run of Sunday's track.  This term being what it was, though, meant that today was the first opportunity.  Viola Man came with me which made it a much more entertaining run than normal.

I have heard that it is not a good idea to do what I did, that it's better to run only about 3/4 of the distance before the event.  But I know my brain, and I know how it interacts with my body, so I have no regrets.  But I would like to hear from others on this matter - do you make sure you can run the distance beforehand?

My subconscious can now relax.  It really is quite a flat route.  21.1 km on this route was less strenuous than 18 km of my normal run.  Knowing that I am a slow runner meant I could run down the other side of the gentle rises, and the last 500 m felt more like running than it does at home.  Getting to the turnaround point was a tiny surprise.  I did have to walk a little on the return (sore knees) but the knees didn't bother me nearly as much as they would have normally.  That has been my biggest concern, as running along the river (including the hills between where I live and the river, and the lovely hill at the end of the Riverside precinct) results in the need to stretch every couple of kilometres once I've covered about 6.5.

The benefit of doing this practice run now is that they were beginning to set up everything for the weekend.  We could see the road closure signs dotted along the way, and there were marquees and barriers going up around the start point.  Which all means I could get this photo:

As you can see, the weather was fairly overcast.  The weather was coolish - so when we weren't running and the wind was blowing, it was a good reason to start moving again!  You might have to peer, but I promise this is the Gold Coast Airport Marathon sign.

We came back to Brisbane for a lunch of Mexican - great post-run food, except I ate about half my bodyweight.  Nevermind.  I also tried a different coconut water - this time it was Cocobella in pineapple flavour.  This was much more drinkable than the other sorts I've tried so far, but I'm not keen on added sugar.  I have something different to try tomorrow - I'm determined to find one that works!  (Still getting the occasional cramp though).

And now, I think, it's bath time.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Flowers of the World

3 in a row!  New coffee places Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Just quietly drinking my way around Brisbane...

Today I had coffee with Jeannie for the first time in ages.  Both of us have had crazy terms and had hardly had a chance to breathe, let alone catch up.  But today (holidays! woohoo!) we met up at South Bank.  Our first choice was super busy, so we wandered down to Flowers of the World (Little Stanley St, not too far from the Suncorp Piazza).

This is one of those arty organic wholesome places.  I loved it.  For starters, the flower vibe was not so great that I was fighting sneezes.  It was a little heavy on the affirmations in the form of booklets and cards etc, but there was enough other goodness to ward off any vomit vibes.  We chose upstairs - check out some of the artwork:

Sofas and crocheted chairs and recycled settings.  Eco products.  All organic produce - so I didn't feel overly guilty about my indulgences.

Unfortunately the service was a little slow.  It took a while to order, and while it was busy (ie lots of people around) there didn't seem to be a rush in the service department, nor was there an apology for the wait in taking our orders.  Coffee took a while, and the cake was so much later that I'd actually gone to the register (for another really long wait) to see if it had been forgotten.  Good thing we had bonus gingernuts on the side.  By the time the orange and almond cake actually arrived I was so hungry I practically inhaled it (or maybe it's just that it was amazingly delicious).

I was glad we opted for inside and upstairs.  It was not only much quieter, but so much warmer.  I really want a return trip so I can try a much healthier treat of a Gaia ball - the chocolate variety of course.  Good thing it's now holidays.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Mariachi and French Twist

Yesterday, Viola Man asked if I'd be interested in being one of two violins for a mariachi gig coming up soon.  Well, why not?  Rehearsal this morning (thankfully!) was a great start to my holidays. 

Obviously, this was my first time.  It turned out to be the singer's first time also, and things weren't going superbly well until the bass and lead guitarists turned up.  Then, all these charts started to work properly.  Some of the music I found familiar(ish), some was totally new - but after playing the few songs we rehearsed several times, they are now on repeat in my head.  It was also like a Spanish immersion experience, about half the language spoken was Spanish and then it would switch suddenly to English.  I was surprised how much I could understand, although by the end my brain was a little slow.  Note: in a music rehearsal, numbers are important.

Having a morning rehearsal (what self-respecting muso does that, really?!) meant I was desperately in need of a coffee by about halfway through, and amazingly hungry by the end.  We went to the sushi place at the Barracks for lunch, then French Twist for a (much-needed!) coffee.  I've often walked past French Twist heading towards Libertini's, or back to the Palace Cinemas or fab, but never walked in.  I really like the French vibe - dark wood floors, display cases (with many yummy goodies), shelves with bottles and tea sets and things.  We had to go to 2 registers before we got to the one that would take our order, but once we'd ordered there wasn't a huge wait.  Having coffee in a gold-rimmed cup is lovely!  Coffee itself was average but (as you might have realised) the chocolate topping is important, and as that was good, it passes the test.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Place of Stones

Today, I finally visited my closest coffee place.  It's really a cafe/bistro type thing, but I just had coffee - this time.  It used to be that when explaining where I lived, I'd say just up the hill from this particular pizza place.  But then it became not that pizza place.  Place of Stones has been there a little while now, and my brother and his cohort often visit (so much so that the staff know them), but this was my first time.

The first thing I noticed was the well-stocked wall of shelves.  All sorts of books, plus some of those little boxes of cards.  Once we'd ordered, I asked Pat if he'd played the Ultimate Sports Trivia Quiz.  He hadn't, so my brother pulled down the box and we tried the quiz.  These boys are really into their sports so I was amazed (we all were really) when I got the first few answers, and more throughout the quiz.  Possibly due to my age...

Coffees here are good, and when the hot chocolate arrived I almost wished I'd ordered that instead.  Thankfully my cappuccino had a healthy dose of chocolate on top.

Future visits will have to include breakfast and dessert (maybe not in the one go) - the specials board lists Chocolate Crumble as one of the desserts and I'm so tempted.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Muesli Fixings

For at least a year now, I've made my own muesli.  Oats, psyllium husks, goji berries, and nuts.  It's the nut mix that makes each batch different, but today I went really different.  Not just a roast nut mix (depending on if I go to Woolworths or Coles this might be just nuts or it might have dried cranberries or sultanas as well), but I added roast nibble mix as well.  The thing with the mixed nuts is the size of nut - for something like muesli I prefer them all smallish, almonds being at the larger end of the spectrum.  However, this mix has brazil nuts and walnuts as well which are a little bigger.  Anyway, the seedy addition not only has seeds (which I sometimes add myself) but extra roast almonds as well.  I love roast almonds.

So, my muesli recipe - today is the first time I came close to measuring the quantities so I hope you all feel special now - all amounts are approximate though:

3 cups rolled oats (the organic variety are nice and soft)
1/3 cup each psyllium husks and goji berries
1/3 roasted nibble mix
2/3 cup roasted mixed nuts

Stir lots. 

My breakfast (if I'm having muesli) is 1/3 cup muesli, 1/2 cup natural/Greek yoghurt, a tablespoon protein powder, and a generous sprinkling of cardamom and cinnamon, or cinnamon and nutmeg.  And coffee of course, or Vitality Tea if it's a school morning.

And, just because my parents are staying... A doggie photo.  I wouldn't say she is more enthusiastic about being photographed this time - more, I was baking this morning.  Unless something else really exciting was happening, she was sitting either on my left and staring longingly up at me, or right in front of the oven and staring longingly at the oven or at me.  I couldn't get a photo with the tail-wag though.  Every time she rejoined me from another activity, she did a little skid on the cork tiles. 

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Outfit #48 - Post-Run Stockings

Outfit details:
Dress: Country Road (op shop).  Top: Dotti.  Stockings: ? Boots: Sandler.  Earrings: Mombasa

Last night, I did a really long run (18km).  I knew today would need some comfiness in the lower region, but I didn't want to do the same outfit I did after my last super long run (which looked like this).  It looks like these are my post-run stockings though!

The same grade 2 girl who like them last time commented on them again today.  Not the greatest photo of the earrings here, but you can get an idea of the detail on the dress.

Today was also the first grade 3 string concert - a very exciting occasion.  They did really well, and I must admit this is the quietest I've ever seen them.  We need to have their parents there every week I think.  There were some younger siblings around as well, some who sat as close as they could to watch, and one who came and cuddled her brother...then her brother's friend...  Every parent had a phone out taking photos, and their class teachers came down to take photos too.  Not to mention a surprise appearance (in that, the strings teacher and I weren't expecting it) of the head of the junior school.  Maybe that's why the children were so well-behaved.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Outfit #47 - Late Trains and Leopard Legs

Outfit details:
Skirt: Portmans.  Top: Dotti.  Stockings and shoes: Target.  Earrings: made by me.  Scarf: gift.  Jacket: Sportsgirl (from Jeannie).

I was thinking tonight I would have plenty of time for daylight photos.  Wrong.  I missed a train, then didn't run for the connection, which was the last before train cancellations...  Combined with the super short daylight hours due to the upcoming solstice, it was almost dark by the time I got home.

I hoped the replaced light bulbs would make a difference.  It feels now like I have floodlights on in my living area, but you wouldn't know it from the photo light.

I've been waiting 3 weeks to break out these leopard stockings.  When I put them on today though, I got the impression my legs looked diseased. 

Earrings were a random choice this morning.  With so much dark I wanted something not silver - so blue works, right?

Monday, 18 June 2012

Movie #17 - Life As A House

I was given the impression from one person that this was a totally cringe-worthy chick flick, but obviously the person who loaned it to me thought it was a worthwhile watch.  So I began not really knowing what to expect.  Seeing the 'R' rating gave me a little shock, but it was nothing overly outrageous.  Some pill-popping and teenagers being teenagers. 

This movie made me cry buckets.  'Sweaty eye syndrome' was suggested, but this was more along the lines of 'sweaty because I've just run a marathon barefoot over gravel' syndrome, so I'll just admit I bawled.  More than I have in a long, long time.  But in the middle of a teary part, something would happen to make me laugh, so I think I could watch it again and enjoy it.  (There are some really funny lines).

There was so much in this movie.  How to make something of your life, even with only a few months to live.  What makes us happy.  How to make our kids happy and productive people.  How do you know who you are?  How we relate to our parents, how we see them and judge them and react to them.  Even though the movie was made about 10 years ago, it is so pertinent to today.  More on that soon.

The family situation reminds me a bit of the 2 movies I've seen in the last year about school killings.  A house which is more magazine than home, and a father who is more absent than involved.  And a lack of hugs.  Not so apparent in the other movies (Beautiful Boy and We Need to Talk About Kevin), I only really noticed it here because the youngest child is so free with giving hugs.  When he gives an unsolicited hug to his dad, the dad finds something that the boy needs to fix (wash hands or do homework or something like that).  On the subject of physical contact, one scene really struck me.  In the earlier part, the main character, George, is in hospital and his nurse touches his forehead.  He comments that he hasn't been touched in a while and the nurse is surprised.  "Everyone is touched by someone who loves them", she says.  That is taking so much for granted.  There have been times in my life where I've been without physical contact for weeks and weeks, and only when a student has given a spontaneous hug that the drought has been broken.

This movie also highlighted the connectedness of our lives.  We see a family extended through divorce and remarriage.  As the house gets going, neighbours start to chip in and by the end there are about 20 people at work.  The Problem Neighbour is persuaded not to stop progress of the house as he is unfortunately connected to Sam (the 16-yr-old son of George).  Another neighbour - actually, if I say there are decades of neighbourly interaction I think that will be enough.

Rules, boundaries and risks.  Such a fine balance that is needed.  Children need boundaries, guidelines for what is ok and not.  But when does a boundary become a box?  George had been restricted by his father's ideas for his whole life and only when he has merely months to live does he pull down those walls (literally and figuratively) and make his life his own.  Although his death is terribly sad and so frustrating now that he's making good connections with his son, how wonderful that he had this forewarning that he didn't have long, and the courage to do what he needed to do with his life.  Not all of us get this chance, or the vision to see past the walls put up around us by ourselves and by others.  We need boundaries, but we also need to take risks.  If we don't take risks we don't grow and are again restricted in our lives (just like me ice skating yesterday), plus we don't develop the resilience needed when life deals us a surprise blow.  As I said, just as pertinent now as 10 years ago, if not more so.  Navigating what's ok and what's not, believing in our kids and protecting them from the horrors in the world but giving them the skills to deal with life on their own - I'm sometimes amazed that people manage to turn out well-adjusted at all.

How do we know who we are?  As a creative person, this question has plagued me for many years (closely twinned with Does my life have purpose?).  Sam says, "I am what I say I am", and this is in some ways such a true statement, but in other ways such an unhelpful statement.  I am what I say I am (provided my actions correspond), but how do I know what to say?  I can say whatever I want, but how do I know which version of me is true, and how do I stay true to myself?  How can I build my life to be as Me as I can?  And how can I still be happy?  It seems the key to happiness is to do what we love - which seems like such an obvious statement, but how many of us ignore this and do what we think others want us to do, or do what will make others happy instead of ourselves?  When Sam finally starts to help with the house (against his wishes, but a useful task) he finally finds some self-worth.  Partly because his dad didn't give up on him, but made him stay there for the summer to do something useful with his life instead of wasting those months with a friend.  And how blokey, for them to bond over pulling down a building (it reminded me of the episode of The Simpsons where Lisa thinks she's losing her smarts, and Homer and Bart are delighted by a tv show of buildings being torn down).  Even more, by the end Sam has grown as a person so much that his last act is so selfless, so mature, so right, correcting his grandfather's misdeed. 

So now I need to ask myself: am I happy?  am I doing what I really love?  am I building a house (metaphorically) that I love and is me, or am I building four walls around me that are restricting my life?

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Iceworld and Coconut Water

Hmmm... Possibly my oddest post title yet.

Today, I went ice skating at Iceworld.  Although I have been skating before, this is my first time in Brisbane - and I have lived in Brisbane for many, many years.  Skating experiences in my life: as a kid, I remember going once in a rink set up in the local shopping centre; and twice at the skating rink with friends.  The second time is one of my favourite memories of that time, my 3 best friends and me all linked up and stopping by colliding with the barrier.  Good times.  Not such a good time: one of my brothers went skating with a girlfriend who skated over his thumb when he fell over.  The next time for me to skate was April 2003.  A first date which should have blared warning bells - I'm obviously not a skater, and that guy was obviously quite comfortable on the ice.  Instead of helping me, he took off and left me clutching the rail.  He insisted on getting a photo of me in the middle, and when I finally made it across and he'd taken a photo I promptly fell over, initiating a whole lot of laughter from him.  Hmph.

So on Wednesday, when a friend suggested I come ice skating with him and his kids today, I was a mixture of excited and nervous and anxious.  After a couple of hours, I can proudly say I didn't fall over once, and I didn't clutch the rail the whole time.  I also realised (isn't getting older wonderful? I keep learning stuff about myself) how much of a perfectionist I am, and how much this has an effect on my life.  The thought of falling was large in my consciousness, and whenever I saw someone fall it effected my own balance.  At the start of the 2nd round, one end of the rink was closed off for a private party and so there was no choice but to skate, rail-free, across to the other side.  I was still a little shaky, but could do it.  This friend was actually a really good skating buddy - he used to be a speed skater so is quite confident on the ice.  He was still looking after his kids of course, but made sure I wasn't suffering too much either.  He also gave me the first piece of useful advice anyone has ever given me for skating.  Instead of "just try to glide" (really useless, if you're thinking about suggesting that to a nervous skater), he suggested the 'L' shape (ha - appropriate) to get the gliding feel, or the 'V' shape, with the skates coming together at the start of each stroke - now, these are useful tips.  As I said, I made it a few times from one side to the other, and didn't stack it at all (although I admit to some side crunches and I now have a mysteriously bruised knee).  There were so many young people skating - thankfully no kids from school though.  But seeing all these kids, holding hands and colliding with barriers, made me so nostalgic. 

I have to laugh with this photo.  There are about 5 photos, all with me in exactly the same position, and when photo time was over, I had to take a deep breath and work out how to move again without stacking it.  Success!  Now, if I can make another skating trip sooner than the next decade (ideally within the next couple of months) I might start to feel like not a dolt on the ice.

After a bit of playtime in a park near my house, then a bit of practice (I've had a hankering for Beethoven sonatas this weekend), I went for a 16km run.  A slightly new route and I nearly ran into the river a couple of times, but when I got home (and showered, obviously), I tried coconut water for the first time.  I've been getting leg and foot cramps regularly this year, and coconut water has been suggested to help combat this.  I bought some the other day and drank my first tonight.  A little odd - the first half was fine, but after that...well I'm not so sure.  Maybe just a half serve next time.  Tonight I tried plain but I also have mango.  I was planning on buying a brand that is really well-known and sold in my gym.  But this brand was stacked on the shelf above, was cheaper, and (more importantly) Fair Trade.  Win.

Today's photo:

I do like candles.  This one is a beeswax candle which produces an aroma like honey.  The holder I bought in Sydney a couple of years ago, with a frosty green outside and reflective silver inside.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

More Kitchen Rearranging

A little while ago, I rearranged my kitchen appliances.  This required a few tries to find a workable solution, but I think I'm going to stick with the new setup of toaster and kettle to the right of the sink, coffee grinder and machine to the left of the stove.  However, all my teas were stored on the ledge dividing the kitchen from the living room, so today I moved them all.  This also meant moving the toaster and kettle perpendicular to its previous orientation.  Exciting stuff.

It has been really interesting since the original move to see what my arms do before my eyes see what they should be doing.  The number of times I've almost turned on the grinder when I'm intending to boil the kettle, or my brain just gets confused and I stand in front of the stove with a mug in my hand, having forgotten where to go for the tea or the kettle - I'm sure my nosy neighbours must get such a giggle.

I also rearranged my whole living room today.  I had a little concert for some students - thankfully it was really little as we wouldn't have been able to fit in any more! - so now the lovely space is evident.  I'll see how much I like teaching in this layout before deciding if it stays this way or not.

Today's photo:

Another Brisbane winter wonder.  After the concert (which was late morning, and very brief), we had coffee and fruit toast.  I voted for the courtyard as it was beautifully sunny outside but rather chilly inside. 

Friday, 15 June 2012

Sinus-clearing Soup

I've been feeling like I'm fighting a cold all week.  This is not a good feeling, especially with a to-do list as long as mine.  At lunch today, I was contemplating my options with that stuffed-up feeling in my sinuses.  I had half a tin of tomatoes sitting in the fridge, so I thought I'd improvise a soup.  Then I noticed the chilli sitting there, and decided to try a spicy soup and clear those sinuses.  The last time I tried to make a spicy fish soup I was rather underwhelmed with its spiciness, but I went all out here.  It worked a treat - after 2 spoonfuls I was reaching for the tissues, and felt much more clear-headed afterwards.  And thankfully knocked a few more things off my to-do list.

Approximate recipe for the Sinus-clearing Soup:

A chopped onion
Green capsicum
Red chilli, sliced
1/2 tin diced tomatoes
A tablespoon or so of tomato puree
About 1/4 cup drained jalapenos
About 300g prawns (or something with protein)

Heat some olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat, add the onions and fry until soft.  Add the chilli and capsicum, fry until softened, then add the tomatoes, tomato puree, and jalapenos.  Also add some water - I used about 1/4 cup but it depends how sloppy you want your soup.  Bring it to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for a bit (10 minutes maybe).  Add the prawns, increase the heat and cook until prawns are cooked through.  Serves 2.

Today's photo:

Brisbane knows how to put on good weather in winter.  We have a week of sun ahead of us.  When I was emptying the water from the coffee machine, I saw the shadow of this flower was so crisp against the fence.  Plus I like that it's no longer straight up, but leaning over (mostly thanks to the washing line).  I've lived here for many years, but it was only in the last few that this aloe vera plant has actually produced flowers as we were in drought for so long.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Outfit #46 - Folky

Outfit details:

Skirt: Sinerji (swap).  White top: Ambra bamboo.  Red top: Grab denim (from Jeannie).  Stockings: Target.  Shoes: Hot Options.  Earrings: handmade ceramic from the Salamanca Markets, Hobart.

I couldn't get the lighting right today, so we have a flash version and a non-flash version.  I think the colours are more accurate in the non-flash version, but the light has done some weird reflective thing for the top.  So you get both versions. 

This outfit was the result of several tries.  First I was going to wear plain stockings, but then I discovered a hole (they'd just come off the line so hadn't been sorted yet).  This outfit - maybe.  These stockings with a different skirt.  No.  Original stockings with pants - ugh.  Plus all my pants are too long right now and I didn't like the choice of dragging hems around or wearing heels.  So here we are: choice 2 for the second time.  Not quite as weird as I would have expected. 

The Salamanca Markets are fabulous.  I try to plan my Hobart trips so I have a full Saturday morning free to wander and, you know, support the local economy.  And that's why I really love them - they really are local and not a heap of imported stuff that you can buy in all the shopping centres.  Meeting the actual person who made the ceramics, or turned the wood, or wrote the book - it gives it something special.  Surprisingly, I think this is the first wearing of these earrings this year - they definitely had to be worn in such a folk sort of outfit.  They are slightly bathroom-tile-ish, but the first cello in the school ensemble leaned up to me and, with very big eyes, whispered she really likes them. 

Striped stockings weren't going to really cut it with this skirt - at least, not yet.  My last student saw them and actually came over and touched them, thinking at first they were boots, and then to check if they were actually knitted.  She's 10.

Today's photo:

I had an idea what today's photo might be, but I spotted this bright orange hedge on the way from the station to school and had to snap it.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Outfit #45 - State of Origin 2

Outfit details:

Skirt: Table Eight (op shop).  Top: Tokito.  Stockings: Ambra.  Shoes: Pulp.  Earrings: made by me.

As I write this, the 2nd State of Origin game has just begun.  As a Queenslander, I feel I have a duty to wear maroon (or at least red or burgundy) on State of Origin days.  On Friday I went a bit nuts with stocktake sales, so this top was new and just begging to be worn. 

The skirt is also new (yes, I'm already over my June budget by a huge amount).  But it is an op shop find - one of those gems with the tags still attached, so I had a $144 discount.  I'm pretty happy with that.  It is quite bulky though, so I'm not in love with the obvious waist-line.  More experimentation required.

Since digging out these earrings a couple of weeks ago, they've been sitting around, staring at me.  Because they're little, they don't photograph well when I'm actually wearing them, and they lack that wow factor of larger or longer earrings.  But I'm liking them more and more so they're being worn a lot. 

You can get a bit of an idea about the skirt from this photo - it's very thick and woolly.  I feel I should be in the Scottish Highlands, with foggy surroundings and bracing air.

Today's photo:

Another day when I got to dinner and went, Oh Yeah.  Oops.  But, I love these salt and pepper shakers.  I bought them in Tasmania when on tour with QYO in 2000.  I hardly use salt and pepper when cooking.  However, I have been suffering from leg and foot cramps this year and it's only getting worse.  Everything I read points to a lack of sodium and potassium, and as I have a fairly unprocessed diet as well as a lot of exercise, I thought maybe I should start having salt occasionally.  I also used the macro setting with flash, which produced a much better effect than just super macro.