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

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The Not-So-New Year Resolutions

I'm not one for the whole "and this year, I'm going to get fit" New Year resolution thing.  Usually what happens is, at about sundown on New Year's Eve, I'll start thinking about things I'd like to do differently in the coming year.  I'll keep thinking about this for a few days, and then write down a list somewhere.  This blog was a product of last year's 'get-out-of-the-rut' necessity. 

It doesn't usually take me so long to work out what's going on.  But it did this year.  I won't share all of them with you here, but some of them are: to run 40km a week (so far unsuccessfully - thanks, weather); dress nicely (unless exercising or cleaning); read more and play phone games less; and visit a new place in Brisbane once a month (suggestions welcome).

And now, for some storm damage photos.... I took a few photos yesterday that just looked like chaotic greenery.  And then I got to a nearby park.  A massive tree was down - the houses across the street are really lucky! 
Later I found out that a resident of one of those houses was on the balcony at 4:30am and saw a twister strike the park. 
Which explains the debris strewn all over the park.  Incredible.  It's about half my height across where it fell, and was quite tall. 

Another park, which was a lake in the 2011 floods, was still a bit watery, and feeding time for the water birds.  This was where the first PT in the park session was held. 

Yeah, where all that water is.  I saw a photo of the new place, which has a tree fallen in the middle of all the equipment. 

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Poached Eggs and Extreme Weather

Brisbane is in emergency, again.  Most of Queensland, it seems, and New South Wales as well.  Thanks to Cyclone Oswald, we've had torrential rain and howling winds.  Never has my house shaken so much.  Trainer Dan was confident it would be fine to train yesterday morning, but as I'd hurt my foot on Sunday I asked for a different day.  Glad I did, too, as Monday morning was scarier than Sunday.  This meant that I had all the time in the world on Monday morning.  I also had more eggs than normal in my fridge.  I nearly chickened out (ooh, sorry for that), but I made poached eggs.  For the first time ever.  I am pleased to report success.

A friend had shown me recently how to poach eggs, without saucers or swirling water.  I had a quick check on the internet, just in case, and figured I'd just give it a go.  I had plenty of eggs, just in case, but I got it right on the first try.  Slightly nervous about it, and having to coordinate differently with coffee and toast, I cooked them just a smidge longer than I'd like, but I still had a nice ooze from the second egg.

Other things that have been happening due to Extreme Weather: I've been beading - so far, I've mended a bracelet, made another bracelet, made a necklace that will most likely be worn as a bracelet, and made a 9-strand necklace. 

For the last weather emergency (the 2011 floods) power went out about lunchtime on the first day, and stayed off for 5 days.  Although it was a little tough not being able to see what was happening, I now appreciate the silence.  Yesterday I channel-surfed for most of the morning, and I watched the news in the evening, and by the end of it all I was over-newsed.  And unsatisfied, as there was little to no coverage of the places I really wanted to see (where my parents live, for example).

I also resorted to comfort food.  I baked my white chocolate, date and cardamom cookies (not so successfully, but they still taste good); I made corn fritters (first time); and I made pumpkin soup which I guess I'll be eating for a while. 

Friday, 25 January 2013

The Speakers

This was almost going to be a different post, but that one requires a bit more thought and clarity.  So this is one pending from (cough) about a month ago... 

Background: I used to have Not My Stereo in the living room.  It started being precious about CDs.  I returned it to its rightful owner (not because of the CD problem, honest).  After it had started being precious, I started using iTunes more and more for listening to music downstairs.  And then upstairs too, as my stereo upstairs started doing the same thing. 

During a recent quartet night dinner, as usual some music was playing.  Through iTunes.  Reasonably good sound quality, and about the same as what I would get from the Not My Stereo (unless I cranked the volume, which I wouldn't).  Later, I was at the other violinist's place, enjoying their surround-sound stereo, and they asked if I ever used speakers.  Um, no...  I had been contemplating the idea of an iPod dock, but hadn't got very far in contemplation.  Would I like their old speakers?  Um, yes please...?  So now I have speakers.  Amazing difference in sound.  There are bits of pieces and songs previously unheard, and other bits I remembered but didn't have to imagine anymore, and the bass - wow!  I don't use them all the time (location, for one thing), but when I do it is so good

Monday, 21 January 2013

Jamie's Shortbread

The actual title of this recipe is "The best shortbread in the world".  Modest, huh?  One of my students gave me some shortbread (and a really touching card), and then I had to have more.  How could I go past this, in one of my new cookbooks - Cook with Jamie ?  Although there are variations listed, I started out with the basic version.  Ridiculously easy.

250g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
125g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
250g plain flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
125g semolina or cornflour (I used cornflour.  I checked the use-by date on my previous packet - last decade sometime.  New packet bought).

Preheat the oven to 150C.  Butter a 22cm square tin.  Cream butter and sugar together with a whisk or wooden spoon until pale, light and fluffy.  Add the plain flour and cornflour.  Mix very lightly with a wooden spoon and then your hands until you have a smooth dough.

Transfer your dough to a floured surface and roll it out until it's an even 2cm/1 inch thick all over.  Press the rolled-out dough into your tin, poking it into the corners with your fingers - don't worry about it having to look perfect.  Prick the dough all over with a fork, then pop it in the preheated oven for 50 minutes* until lightly golden.

While it's still warm, sprinkle with a generous dusting of caster sugar.  Allow the shortbread to cool slightly, then cut into 12 chunky finger-sized pieces.

For this baking experience, I don't agree with the 'best in the world' classification.   Mostly due to the thickness - for something that thick, it's actually really hard to eat, much less dunk in a cup of tea (as suggested).  Next time I will use a slightly larger tin so it's a bit thinner - and will hopefully bake in the stated time, at the stated temperature.

*Yeah, that's what it said.  50 minutes and it hardly looked any different from when it went in.  After another 15 minutes, it still wasn't done, so I upped the temperature to 180C and baked the shortbread for a further 10 minutes, then turned off the oven and left it in for another 5 minutes. 

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Melbourne Trip #4, Part 2

Thursday morning (after I had rather a lovely sleep-in), Jeannie asked me what I wanted to do that day.  'Not get hot' was my reply.  Forecast high of 36, or 37, or 39, depending on your source.  I knew it wouldn't be the same as high 30s in Brisbane, but I was still keen for as little exertion as possible. 

We headed into town, and after getting to Federation Square without any real plan, Jeannie mentioned Koko Black.  Chocolate.  As if I could resist.  Oh my, what a chocolate shop.  Think Chocolat meets Paris.  Beautiful.  I didn't get a good photo of the interior, though - possibly because my brain was in pleasure overload.

While choosing some morsels for consumption with coffee, we were offered free samples (score!).  Best cappuccino ever - it came with a little pot of shaved chocolate on the side.  Which meant it ended with a hit of melted chocolate.  Bliss.  Couldn't resist buying some more to take away.

Despite this being my 3rd trip in 5 months, I was yet to experience a famous Melbourne laneway.  We went to Degraves Place for lunch in a cafe, which just happened to be opposite Kinki Gerlinki.  More shopping. 

We then headed over to South Bank and the National Gallery of Victoria.  Its cascade entrance was such a relief - it was 37C on the iPhone app at this stage.  We finally found the famous stained glass ceiling (we'd searched on a previous visit) - wow!  Then spent the next few hours wandering the gallery. 

Coffee at a place on South Bank, then we headed over to ACMI in time for Laurence Anyways - and even had time to watch a bit of the tennis on the big screen in Fed Square.  The movie was really interesting, and I keep thinking of new aspects and elements. 

Friday.  My last day - so I was a bit down all day.  Jeannie and I went to a nearby cafe, Porgie and Mr Jones, then stopped off at the local Vinnies (excellent idea!).  With Matt, we then headed over to Collingwood, to the People's Market (on Stanley St).  Not as market-y as I was anticipating - mostly food, with a couple of non-food containers.  I like the concept, but more tangibles and people required.  We then wandered down Smith St, and had lunch at the eco-friendly pub, Grumpy's.  Really good food - sustainable, local produce - with friendly service and did I mention sofas?  Cool sofas.  I wish I'd taken my camera with me to the bathroom - the walls were papered with old sewing patterns.  On the wall by the window (complete with window seat) was a sign reading 'If you sit here you are super cool' - so of course we had to have photos there. 

We also checked out the homewares stores and lost and found market.  The market reminded me of a certain Simpsons episode... 

And that was it.  I then had to head back, fit everything into my suitcase (success!), say final goodbyes, and get back to the airport.  Although quite cool in Melbourne, it was another record-breaker for much of the country.  Bush fires were numerous, and I've never flown over such a hazy country.  The photo doesn't really do it justice.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Melbourne Trip #3, Part 1

I know - it seems like the whole New Thing thing is involving many trips to the same city.  But what am I to do, when my bestie has moved???  With more than a weekend free, and a spare room in which to crash, I went from Tuesday to Friday.  Including checked luggage.

Tuesday: I was fairly dopey from lack of sleep (more than a week of heat-induced insomnia), but before I had a little snooze Jeannie asked which of these clothes I'd like.  After my little nap we went for a quick run around the neighbourhood (really nice area, near the river) and then we (Jeannie, her man Matt, and me) headed to Prahran.  Dinner at Yellow Bird, which was doing Mexican Tuesdays, and then we headed to Revolver for their Tuesday Night Trivia.  So. Much. Fun.  We came last... which was a bonus, as we won the dud prize - a much-coveted dream catcher. 

We admired the groovy, retro outfitting (sofas reminiscent of beach holidays in my childhood - ie, furniture from a couple of decades prior...) and fabulous light shades. 

Dessert cocktails - I had an affogato which included a shot of Kahlua as well as the requisite ice cream and coffee and extra coffee beans.  Total decadence.  Trivia was free, and friendly, and did I mention buckets of fun?  Starts 7:30pm every Tuesday so if you're in Melbourne on a Tuesday, do it.

Wednesday: The goal was to have breakfast then head into ACMI for a showing of Laurence Anyways.  Slight stove malfunction meant slightly higher stress levels, but Jeannie and I still made it in time.  Except Everguide has misled us and it wasn't showing until the afternoon.  So we went to the screen images exhibition.  Some very cool things (I won't put in any spoilers) - my favourite bit though was the snapshot of Australian accents.  A heap of clips from shows like Roy & HG, The Comedy Company, Summer Heights High, The Castle, and more.  Gold.

As I had a whole suitcase and 23kg, we then went shopping.  Bridge Rd, Richmond.  Matt met us part-way through, and we had lunch, more shopping, coffee... I didn't actually buy all that much, but it was really fun trying on clothes quite different from what Brisbane has on offer.  And finding all the stores which sell online with free shipping...

I then made my way (on my own!) to South Yarra, to meet a friend I know from Brisbane.  It's been a few years since I've seen her and it was lovely to catch up over a cup of tea.  Carolyn had just been sent a fabulous swimming cap:

Jeannie and Matt were off to the tennis Wednesday evening, so I wandered around South Yarra for a bit after seeing Carolyn, then caught a train to Richmond, wandered along Swan St in search of something tempting for dinner, then headed back home.  I was still in the 'whoa - daylight savings a long way from the equator' wonder - this photo was taken about 7:20 (slightly enhanced thanks to Instagram, but the sky was really that blue).
Although I was rather tired by this stage, I couldn't resist an evening walk.  It was 8:20 when I left and still quite light, and only just dark when I returned at about 9.

I actually took heaps of photos of plants, too, but I'll spare you the 'ooh that's not a tropical flower' pictures.  Apart from seeing my bestie, though, the greatest bit of this trip was actually sleeping.  Bliss.

Monday, 14 January 2013

The Sewing Trip

Last Christmas, my mum gave me her old sewing machine.  It's been in the spare room all this time, unused and unloved.  Last week, I took a deep breath and visited the fabric store in my local shopping centre.  And I realised I would need help.  I felt like someone non-musical trying to buy a violin.  Luckily, one of my friends is a home economics teacher.  So far this has mostly been wonderful in the food area of my life (totally yummy), but I asked her for assistance in the whole sewing thing.  She was more than happy to help out, and we had a sewing trip this morning.

My nearest sewing store is massive - and if I hadn't had a guide, I would have wimped out.  I admit it.  But Di knew where to find the patterns, how to actually get the patterns (behind the counter), and then how to interpret the back to find everything we needed.  And then came the really exciting bit (before actually making the thing - no doubt a future blog post...) - choosing fabric!  There is so much cool fabric out there.  I was sorely tempted to make a skirt out of postage stamp-patterned material, or purple animal-camo, or any variety of other patterns, but I went with this rather joyful apple pattern.  Which, just looking at it now, still makes me smile.  Fingers crossed it will once the skirt is made, too.  Next step - extras.  And not just the extras listed on the pattern, but things like pins that won't melt, and a tape measure, and a suitable marking implement. 

I'm so looking forward to making this skirt - and finding suitable things for the top half, too.  Yay for creativity - and a big thank you to Di :)

Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Free Weekend (Part 2)

Another day off today, and I decided to visit Wynnum.  Not my first time in Wynnum, but my first time under my own steam, and not with the goal of running around for a couple of hours (see the relevant post here).

Knowing how expensive a breakfast can be, I ate at home (bonus - Sunday is large coffee day), then headed out.  Eventually, after a brief snooze on the train (thanks to the heat I've not slept more than 6 hours any night, and usually rather broken sleep at that), I woke with a start at Wynnum station and jumped out.  Then realised that I was actually after Wynnum Central, so I had a bonus 10 minute walk.  Yay.

Getting to Wynnum Central, I had flashbacks to running around lots.  And lots.  I bought a coffee at Olive, a place I expected to be just like any other seaside cafe - but it had legitimate-looking Lebanese sweets.  Score!  I resisted, but was sorely tempted to return and purchase some (didn't, but now I know they're there...).  Down to the sea, and I walked along the path to Manly and back, stopping here and there for photos and extra sunscreen (although I still got rather burned - sad face).

Now, before this I knew that there was beach-like stuff in the Wynnum area.  I hadn't realised just how beach-like it was though, so when I need a beach hit next, this is it.  On this jaunt I far preferred Wynnum over Manly.  Once I got to Manly, I figured the train station was up the hill, so I walked back to Wynnum, had a coffee, then went home (which is only an hour on the train).

There were so many jellyfish in the water - really, loads of them.  And not the deceptive possibly-plastic-bag type, but the sort you see in pictures.  Yes, they look better when they're in the water, but they're also so much harder to photograph well then, so you're stuck with a beached jellyfish photo.

There's not much shade around.  There was lots of seaweed, though, and as I was heading back to Wynnum the tide was coming in so my feet got wet.  Bliss. 

I did enjoy seeing the seagulls, and sparkly water, and feeling a warm salty breeze on my face.  Now I'm trying to figure out how I can work this into my not-on-holidays life...

Saturday, 12 January 2013

The Free Weekend (Part 1)

A bit of back story, first.  This time last year, I did summer school.  A semester of work in 2 weeks.  Intense.  Fabulous.  Was looking forward to the next installment all year.  But not enough people were doing my particular course, so it was cancelled.  Really disappointed.  However, before it was cancelled I anticipated the intensity, and begged out of all my normal commitments for the second weekend in January.  Without summer school, I found myself with nothing to do.  During the week, I was longing for a trip to Sydney.  One gym session, I mapped out everything I wanted to do while there.  However, I also realised that trip would be rather indulgent.  And from Wednesday evening I've been traveling free thanks to gocard.  That would often result in a trip to the coast, but then I had other thoughts.  And a surprise message.  So this is how my Saturday panned out.

Woke early, ish, walked rather briskly to the nearest ferry terminal (the Regatta), and caught a Citycat, just.  Took this to Bulimba, and had breakfast at the Jetty.  Lovely service - despite it being a busy Saturday morning - good coffee, good food.  I felt a tiny bit out of place (more as a curiosity rather than a glaring neon sign) as I wasn't there with a partner or children.  But I had a view of the river, and the birds, while I ate.  After breakfast I had a tiny walk around - this was my first ever time at Bulimba.  Very trendy.

Caught another Citycat to Teneriffe, and had a short walk along the river (short as in less than 100m) to see this sculpture.

Bought a much-needed 2nd coffee, and caught a bus to the Valley.  Made a couple of notes for future photographs - like a sign at the front of a cafe/bar saying "First to mention the weather shouts the bar" - ha!  I was in the Valley for the only fixed thing on my agenda, a result of an unexpected message Friday morning.  A friend (through QYO and gigs) asked if I was interested in going rock climbing.  Ah, yes.  It's been a few years, and I was really keen.  I'm pleased to report that I was much better at it this time.  Much more aware of my core, and more trusting of the safety equipment, I did much better than I ever remember - and my arms aren't aching.  I do have a couple of extra bruises on my knees, though, as well as a future challenge to conquer.  Loads of fun, although not air conditioned in any way.  I sweated buckets. 

Caught a bus into the city, had yum cha with a friend at Beijing House, off the mall.  Needed a refreshing drink, so bought my first juice from the stall at the entrance to the Myer Centre - apple and strawberry.  Had to choose between staying in air conditioning, or being outdoors and in the heat.  Chose the outdoor option, and enjoyed some live music.  I had been deciding whether or not to go home and change, or just stay out.  In keeping with the "I'm on holiday" theme, I stayed out, and caught a train to Sandgate.  Admired the fabulous deep blue sky surrounding the Sandgate Town Hall.

Still really hot and humid and sweaty but mitigated somewhat by the brisk sea breeze, I walked along the upper part before heading down to the beach.  Really breezy, and there were a heap of kites being flown along the flats.  As well as happy kids and frolicking dogs.  (Really hard to capture all the kites in a photo - trust me, I tried!).

After walking north a bit, returned and walked to the Shorncliffe pier and Moora park. 

Decided I was now tired enough to head home, where I promptly ran a bath (also in keeping with the "I'm on holidays" theme - my preferred hotels have baths...).  Now I need to clean up my fingernails and feet, and make a plan for tomorrow.  I love holidays.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Ice Blocks

It's hot.  If you're reading this from somewhere else in the world, Australia is in a bit of a heatwave right now.  And we're looking at another next week.  I like summer, but... For starters, bushfires are scary, and we are seeing so much of the country affected.  People seem to act with less thought.  Anything useful has to be done at either end of the day, and just remembering to keep up the fluid intake is an effort.  Honestly, I've done hardly anything useful the last couple of days.  (Some things, and I'm about to tackle a Task, but added up it doesn't seem like much). 

On Tuesday evening, there were warnings for Queensland that Wednesday would be a scorcher.  I decided I would make ice blocks.  Not that it ended up being that hot - in fact, today feels hotter - but it's nice to know that if I need to freeze my brain, I have that option.

Admittedly, this is not my first time making ice blocks.  I bought the ice block mould a couple of summers ago, and made yoghurt and berry frozen things then.  Once.  Unsuccessfully.  Although I didn't think you could stuff up something so simple, I guess I was impatient and the removal of the ice blocks was just too much effort.  I was determined to do a proper job this time, and actually boil water, place in a smallish receptacle, and sit the ice block inside until ready to come out.

I also decided to make different flavours.  This came about because I was thinking about flavours, and realised the bag of kiwi fruit would do beautifully, and wouldn't lemonade be a great addition?  Then a friend said you have to have banana (3 squishy bananas available), and I found some pureed berries in the freezer.  So, I have 4 flavours of ice block: yoghurt and berry, lemonade and kiwi fruit, lemonade and berry, and yoghurt and banana.

None were consumed yesterday (thanks to an air conditioned friend - oops - friend with air conditioning... and a mariachi meeting/rehearsal), but today I had one at lunch.  Yoghurt and berry - which could do with a touch of honey in the mix.  The lemonade mixes had done what I thought might possibly happen, and expanded a bit more than the holders allowed.  Thankfully not exploding all over the freezer, though.

And I was really good, boiled some water, used the metal milk jug from the coffee machine, and stuck the ice block in there for a little bit. 

Longer than I wanted, but I was determined. 

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

The Short Pajamas

I was going to call this post simply "Pajamas" but then thought that might be misunderstood.  I assure you, I've been wearing pjs for a while.  However, it's been a really, really long time since I've worn short pjs.  In high school I remember having a dark green pair, but since then it's been long pants all the way.  My summer long pj pants are super lightweight and incredibly cool, but I started to notice that I was waking up with the hems around my knees.  On a whim, I looked for a shorter option.  I found bucket loads of 3/4 pants (tried, and same result as long pants), and eventually, tucked away discreetly, a couple of short options.  Actually, many short options in heavier materials, but what's the point of that?  Eventually, I found 2 pairs of light cotton boxers in my size.  Achievement.

And they are so lovely to wear.  I still wear the long pants occasionally, if the weather isn't too hot... Which means, on New Year's Eve when it was after midnight before I got to bed, and there might have been a night in late December, but it's been so hot lately!  For the first time ever, I've had my ceiling fan on medium during the night. 

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Crunchy Raw Beetroot Salad

I received two recipe books for Christmas: Nigelissima and Cook with Jamie.  The first Jamie recipe I made was this Crunchy Raw Beetroot Salad with feta and pear.  Partly because it looks so summery and Christmas-y, and partly because I had 2 beetroots to hand.  I made half quantities, but I'll give the full quantities here, just in case.

4 good-sized beetroots, 'lovely different colours if possible', scrubbed, peeled, and cut into matchsticks
3 ripe pears (or apples - I used Pink Lady apples), peeled, cored and cut into matchsticks
1 x lemon oil dressing (3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 10 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper - all shaken up in a jar)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g feta cheese
small bunch of fresh mint, smallest leaves picked
optional: a large handful of sunflower seeds

Dress the beetroot and pear matchsticks in a little of the lemon oil dressing and season with some salt and pepper.  Taste to check that the flavours are balanced and lovely, and add a little more lemon juice to check the sweetness of the pears and beetroots if you need to.
Divide the salad between four plates or put it on a big platter, crumble over the creamy white feta and sprinkle over the baby mint leaves and sunflower seeds if you're using them.  'Simple, but it's a treat and a half'.  Serves 4.  Apparently.

So... I only had 2 beetroots, so I did a half quantity.  On my 4th day in a row of beetroot salad for lunch - still with 3 serves (or so) to go - I decided that was it.  I couldn't face any more beetroot salad after that.  Actually, I don't think the salad itself could have lasted another day, so I didn't feel too bad.  I was tempted to make some weird beetroot bhaji concoction but decided against it, this time.  I imagine this quantity (as in, half - just 2 beetroots) would serve 4-6 as a side dish.

This also took forever.  Forever, as in, an hour.  I can't imagine turning 4 beetroots and 3 pears into matchsticks, at least not if I'm doing it the old-school way with a knife.

I was really glad I used a large ceramic salad bowl.  I anticipated the beetroots filling maybe a third - I was wrong.  At least two thirds full, before the apples made it in.  This photo doesn't show it, nor does it show the shock and worry on my face.  Yes, I washed my hands thoroughly, and I wore an apron.  Go me.

For all that, though - Jamie totally gets the flavours right.  Sweet, salty, crisp, crumbly - everything balances beautifully.  Which means that I am turning this over in my brain, looking for another, less long-lasting, less-time consuming, method of getting these flavours together again.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Outdoor Training

A couple of weeks ago, Trainer Dan asked how I felt about training outside of the gym.  He was investigating the option of no longer training at the gym, and I was happy to give this whole outdoors thing a go.  Today was the first time.  Several pros, and a few cons.

So public.  So, so public.  When running, I kept seeing if the passersby were people I knew (I don't think any were, but this isn't to be ruled out in the future).  Not to mention the off-leash dog and countless birds.
Although I'm not a huge fan of treadmill running, it does force the legs to move at a certain pace.  Left to my own devices, I can run a whole lot slower.
I was really dirty when I got home.  Bits of tree, dirt, grass - amazing.
Must remember to slather on the sunscreen.  Yes, I can deal with this.

So close!  For a 7:30 session, I left at 7:28 (admittedly, I had to run... but still).  Home by 8:20 - but that hill.  Ouch.  Normally my legs have had a bit of recovery time, but they had maybe 200m to think about life before a rather nasty ascent.
Although treadmill running forces a particular pace, it's so much more interesting running in the real world.
I know that outdoor training is better for you - something about oxygen intake and calories burnt...  I was definitely super sweaty by the time I got home.
Although quite public, there was no-one close, nothing like the space issues at the gym, or waiting for equipment. 
I hardly needed to take anything.  For a gym trip, I'll take my top and sports bra (to change), towel, water bottle, purse, phone, make up, comb, and face spray.  For a park trip, I took towel, phone, and water bottle, wearing a cap. 

No doubt, there will be other pros in future, but this was a pretty good start.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Pasta with Courgettes

Even though I made the Eggs in Purgatory on New Year's Day, that was not my first Nigella recipe.  My first was this, the Pasta with Courgettes, that I made a few days after Christmas.  I had exactly the right amount of zucchini.  And, for me, it will be zucchini... Nigella says she would feel self-conscious calling them zucchini outside of North America or Italy, but they've always been that to me here Down Under.  She also warns that this is a recipe for the palate, not for a photo.  I agree...  Meanwhile, I found this wine and couldn't not buy it - how cool is this label?!  (Yes, I go for label more than anything else).

200g casarecce pasta (or penne or farfalle)
salt for pasta water, to taste
2x15mL tablespoons garlic oil
4 spring onions, finely sliced
500g zucchini (preferably organic), finely diced
60mL dry white wine or vermouth
small bunch fresh parsley, chopped (I saw how much was needed and picked accordingly from the garden)
3x15mL tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus more (optional - but as if you wouldn't) for sprinkling
salt and pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons unsalted butter

Put a pan of water on for the pasta, salting generously (or to taste) when it comes to the boil, then add the casarecce - cooking as per packet instructions, though tasting a couple of minutes before they're meant to be ready - and get on with the sauce.
Put the garlic oil and chopped spring onions in a heavy-based pan (that comes with a lid) on medium heat and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Add the diced zucchini and cook for 5 minutes, stirring every now and again.
Add the wine or vermouth, letting it bubble up, followed by 2 tablespoons of the chopped parsley, salt to taste, then lower the heat, cover with the lid and cook for a further 5 minutes, by which time the zucchini should be gorgeously tender.
Tip the drained pasta back into its pan, add the braised zucchini, or add the pasta to the pan of zucchini, along with 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan and 4 tablespoons of pasta-cooking liquid.  Combine thoroughly and taste to see if you wish to add more cheese or salt or pepper or, indeed, cooking liquid, then stir in the butter and most of the remaining parsley and divide between 2 warmed bowls, sprinkling with the rest of the parsley, and more Parmesan if wished, on serving.
 I added some poached chicken (my new favourite method) so that there was some protein involved.  Now, this is listed as serving 2.  Admittedly, I add a protein serving each time.  So far, I've had it with chicken, and with feta, and with roo, and with cheese, and I still have probably 2 serves to go.  This makes a lot.  Yummy though.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Movie #30 - Muriel's Wedding

That's right - this was the first time I'd seen this movie.  Incredible.  I saw it on the shelves at some friends' place and they were as shocked as I that I hadn't seen it.  They promptly loaned me this movie and season 2 of Downton Abbey.  I totally forgot I'd borrowed it though, until having coffee with one of them and they reminded me.  I watched it as soon as I could!  That was actually about a month ago, now...  This has been a surprisingly hard response to write -  here are a few aspects I found important.

1.  I like Australian movies.  With all the movies I've watched in the last year (far more than normal), the Australian movies are the winners.  They, like French movies (something I noticed this year), include the normal stuff, without being boring.  Plus, the idioms, the idiosyncrasies of behaviour, the settings, even the light - all so familiar and normal.    Okay, now for the movie.

2. Our perception of ourself is so influenced by what we hear from others.  The dad in this is such an interesting character.  He does everything for his kids, but then doesn't understand why they don't know how to do anything.  He blames others for his lack of success, and it's only at the end, when Muriel has managed to get away for long enough to develop some self esteem and then tells him what to do, that he is forced to live in his life.

3.  Weddings.  Ah, weddings.  I appreciate them - I earn money from them.  I also recognise that some people can stay married to the same person until the end of their life, and that some people really believe that they will stay married to this person for the rest of their life.  However, I also realise that some people want the day, regardless of the person they marry.  These are the people that scare me.  Really, what are they thinking???  There are so many other reasons to have a party and get dressed up, most of which don't involve legal commitments for the rest of your life.  Yet people still get married, with the above reasons.

4.  I admit, when I was growing up, I expected to get married in my early 20s - I had very few models that didn't involve this.  Yet, there are so many other ways to live your life.  And Muriel discovers this, eventually.  Being a person who is of use is the best way to build your self esteem, and to find that there is so much more to life than being a half of a couple.    I saw this represented wonderfully well a few years ago: think of your life as a grid, with things like family, friends, work, sport, creativity etc each with their own box.  For men, when they are in a relationship, it's just another box.  For women, The Relationship can take up a box that can swamp all the others, so anything that's not The Relationship is squished along the edges.  But a happy person (or, if you prefer, a well-rounded, or emotionally stable, or sane, person) will have enough boxes that they cover all their physical and emotional and spiritual needs, and more evenly-sized boxes so that aspects of their life receive enough care and attention.  Ignoring the non-relationship boxes is so dangerous for our Self.  And the other part of this, in this movie, is finding friends who are 'on your own level'.  So, friends who are actually nice people, and who 'get' you, and won't sleep with your new husband on your wedding day... You know, the little things.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Pistachio Cookies

Some of my friends and family are lactose-intolerant or chocolate-intolerant.  Hard as it is to imagine a world without these things, it did inspire me to make these pistachio cookies as part of Christmas presents.  Like the truffles, these are from coffee & bites by Susie Theodorou.

150g (1 cup) shelled unsalted pistachios
175g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
3 tablespoons finely grated orange rind
50g (1/2 cup) plain flour
3 large egg whites
2 tablespoons icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C (160-170C fan-forced).  Line 2 baking sheets with greased parchment paper.  Put 3/4 of the pistachios in a food processor and finely grind (don't stress over the occasional large piece).  Transfer the pistachios to a bowl and stir in 115g (1/2 cup) of the caster sugar and all the orange rind, then sift in the flour.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Gradually whisk in the remaining caster sugar - the mixture should become glossy and stiff.  (Yes!  I didn't get lazy, but actually kept at it until I could tip the bowl and have nothing fall out).

Fold the egg whites into the pistachio mixture with a plastic spatula.  I discovered I don't own a spatula, plastic or otherwise.

Place heaped tablespoons of the cookie mixture, in oval shapes, onto the prepared baking sheets, making sure to space them well apart.  Shave the remaining pistachios over the cookies using either a small truffle shaver or vegetable peeler or just chop thinly (guess which method I used?!).  Bake for 12 minutes until quite puffy, just browned and set on the base.  Dust with icing sugar and leave to cool for 10 minutes before removing with a palette knife onto a cake rack to cool.  Serve cold.
Makes 30.

Because of the meringue, the biscuits didn't spread while baking.  You can freeze these for up to 2 months - not that mine had any cause to be frozen, but just in case!  And it seems I didn't get a photo of the baked cookies - not much different from these, just a bit less glossy and a bit more baked.