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

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Easter 2013

This year, Easter was mostly traditional for me.  There were a few twists though.
Hot Cross Buns.  I realised on Tuesday that I had to make my hot cross buns on Wednesday night - this is the earliest I've ever made them.  They weren't my best (not as fluffy as I like) but not bad.  On the plus side, my flour paste was the best yet.  I dispensed with any idea of this much flour to this much water, and just mixed some flour and water until the consistency was fairly thick.  Success!

Good Friday service.  I made a rookie mistake at the servers' meeting 2 weeks ago and sat opposite the head server and roster man.  So, I was directly in their lines of sight when they needed a server MC for the Good Friday midday eucharist.  I couldn't escape.  It turned out to be simpler than normal (plus) but there was a TV camera trained on me for a good portion of it (negative).  After the service I spent a few minutes alone in the pews, and decided that next year I would do the stations of the cross.
Good Friday evening.  Normally this is fairly quiet, but it was a friend's birthday so a night of dinner and Balderdash and Sequence turned it Not Quiet.  At all.
Saturday.  Seriously sleep-deprived, I still did my washing, gym, grocery shopping, had coffee, bought some household things like light bulbs and pillows at Kmart, some tidying, and did my first hill running session.  It was painful.  Nuff said.
Sunday.  Not able to make it to the dawn service, I woke up early to see the sun rise.  Then - yay!  No more penalised chocolate or alcohol consumption.  I went to church first though before lunch (with wine) and dessert (chilli chocolate and pistachio mousse) then seeing a friend (chocolate).  Once I've finished this post I'm going to eat an Easter egg.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Outfit #123 - Happy Easter

It's been a while since I've been at school on the last day of term.  So much excitement!  I wore green to celebrate.
Dress (as skirt): Jeanswest (op shop).  Top: Jacqui E (op shop).  Shoes: Target.  Earrings: Cose Belle.
I was so excited, I had to do a happy jump.
 It had been ages since I'd worn these earrings.  I nearly went with a green bracelet too but thought that might be a bit much.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Outfit #122 - Secondary Theme

If you've been paying attention, you may have noticed that last week was all florals.  I had a plan for a theme for this week (which is still on, kinda), but a secondary theme appears to be happening: last minute changes.  Yesterday I didn't wear the shirt as planned.  Today, I just couldn't face the thought of long pants and high heels.  Mostly due to the high heels.  So I wore my softest flat shoes, and a skirt.
Top: Regatta.  Skirt: Temt (op shop).  Ribbon: from a Katies skirt.  Shoes: Target.  Necklace: Kinki Gerlinki.  Earrings (not visible, but they're on!): good question. 
I seem to be lacking my personal space bubble right now.  I get the end-of-term hugs, that's okay.  But people touching my hair because it's got a new cut - really?  And a grade 3 just started fiddling with the bow around my waist because it's pretty - a bit unnerving.  On the upside, this was the first day I felt my hair behaved as I wanted.  Win.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Outfit #121 - The Bob

I had a haircut.  Most people have been complimentary.  The day after, though, my nearly-5-yr-old nephew told me I needed a haircut.  Admittedly, it was slightly the worse for wear that day: after the haircut, I'd had a PT session, then a few other things, quartet rehearsal, mariachi gig, very little sleep...  Today was the first day (that is, since about 10:30am Friday), that I felt the hair was doing what I hoped it might.
Dress: Kinki Gerlinki.  Shoes: Target.  Earrings: Kinki Gerlinki (from Jeannie).  Bracelet: made by me.  Sunglasses (below): Kinki Gerlinki.
It was a Kinki Gerlinki kinda day.  I was originally going to wear a shirt over the dress, but not having tried it on first, I discovered it would look weird.  Which was a blessing, really, as it's been rather warm and humid all day.
I really had to work it to get the earrings to be visible. 
Not normally one to show the sunglasses, but as they're Kinki Gerlinki too, I thought I might as well!  I'm not sure I'll ever have a totally Kinki Gerlinki outfit (shoes - expensive) but I'm working on it.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Sausages with Beans and Peppers

Last week, my dad was here for a couple of nights.  Flipping through Nigelissima, I realised it had been quite some time since I'd cooked something new (that wasn't a healthy treat).  I gave dad a choice of two dinner options - he chose this one as he's not allowed sausages at home.  Sorry for outing you, dad... [Insert eyelid flutter here].  I'll give here what I actually did, which differed a tiny bit from Nigella's ingredients but not by much.  (Italian sausages?  Tinned cherry tomatoes? Garlic oil?  Red vermouth? Nope).

1 x 15mL tablespoon olive oil (okay, I just estimated this one)
450g sausages
1/4 cup red wine leftover from the night before
2 x 400g cans butterbeans, drained
1 x 290g jar roasted peppers, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 x 400g can diced tomatoes
3 bay leaves
salt and pepper, to taste (I think I may have forgotten these...)

Heat the oil in a shallow, flameproof casserole or heavy-based saucepan that comes with a lid (I used my large frying pan which is heavy based but lidless), and brown the sausages.
Take the pan off the heat for a moment, and pour in the wine, then put it back on the heat and let the wine bubble up a bit.  Add the drained beans, the chopped peppers, and the tomatoes.
Half-fill the empty tomato tin with water, then throw this in, too, before adding the bay leaves (and salt and pepper, if you remember).
Bring to a bubble, then turn the heat down to low, clamp on a lid (if you have one) and let it simmer for 15 minutes until the sausages are cooked through. 
Remove the lid, turn up the heat a bit and simmer robustly for a further 5 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly.
Take off the heat altogether, then - using tongs, for ease - remove the sausages to a chopping board and cut them into thick slices, on a gentle diagonal if possible (looks classier that way).  You can leave them whole, but they go further sliced.  Return the sausage slices to the pan and dish out from there, or ladle the beans into shallow bowls, adding the sliced sausages on top (first option for me).  Either way, serve with hunks of bread for people to fare la scarpetta - dunk - as they eat.  (All right, I didn't read the recipe in full before getting the groceries - or indeed, getting to the very last step.  At least it was just minus dunking bread and not something really important, like 'marinade overnight').
Just for aesthetics, next time I would garnish with some herbs - parsley or basil would go well, I think.  Especially for a week-night dinner, this was a fabulous option.  So easy, so quick, so substitutable (that's actually a word).  I need to buy more roasted peppers...

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Movie #33 - Star Wars Episode V

Unlike those poor folk a few decades ago, I didn't have to wait 3 years between movie releases.  After watching Star Wars (Episode IV), I only had to wait about 10 days before Episode V.  There are benefits of being the last person in the world to watch a series.

Again, I'm assuming everyone who might read this has either seen the movie, or at least knows the basics thanks to pop culture references.  I was a little underwhelmed with the big revelation of this episode.  Not the revelation itself (although it wasn't a surprise - thank you, The Simpsons), but its delivery.  Something so huge delivered so simply.  Although I guess it could have been totally overblown and then lost its import, so knowing hardly anything about making movies, I guess I'll leave that one alone.  There were quite a few questions after Episode IV.  These included things like, when are we going to find out all those things I already know but have to pretend I don't already know?  And when are we going to meet those characters I'm pretty sure are Star Wars characters but haven't appeared just yet? 

The plot had that good old adventure theme, with a spot of damsel-in-distress - which sounds like it could be so outdated, but so not.  Who doesn't like a good adventure?!  Good versus bad.  Personal journey.  Looking past your past and living your own life regardless of expectations.  All those universal themes, really, it's just that they happen to be set in an alternate, space-y universe.

The stand-out feature of this movie, though, was the music.  Amazing.  From the beginning it hit me - this is stunning!  Not just ripping themes, but used operatically.  Sometimes movie music is so subtle you can't notice it - and sometimes that's what you want, a soundtrack that doesn't overpower the movie.  Sometimes the music is so annoying it detracts from everything else, or is so derivative that I spend my time thinking "oh that's from movie X... ooh quote from movie Y" etc.  So satisfying here, though, that I had thoughts like "Oh, nice leitmotif usage there... BASS!!"  Even better - having the urge to listen to Prokofiev symphonies a couple of days later, and thinking for a moment that I was listening to the Star Wars soundtrack (about 12 minutes into the 1st movement of Symphony 2, if you're interested). 

Having to wait a bit for Episode VI...  I'm so impatient!  But now I just want to get them all seen, have the series complete.  Yeah, you know what I'm like.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Outfit #120 - Newspaper

I've been saving this bad joke for ages.  You know - what's black and white and red all over.  A newspaper.  Haha.
Dress (as a shirt): Sunny Girl (from Jeannie).  Skirt: Hot Options.  Singlet: Ambra.  Cardigan: Jeanswest.  Shoes: Target. Earrings: from Kuranda Markets, FNQ.
This was really a swapped-out outfit.  Originally, my plan was to wear the necklace I actually wore on Tuesday.  But I didn't remember to pick it up before I left.  I was also going to wear a new pair of earrings, but I felt the red was more appropriate. 
I was going to wear heels, but the thought of wearing them all around the school for junior kids... Just, no.  And I expected to have a cardigan on for a little bit, but not the whole day.  The camera caught me by surprise for the non-cardigan shot and I laughed when I saw it.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Outfit #119 - Opinions

Several people commented on how I looked today.  All with a different opinion.

Dress: Caroline Morgan.  Tank (probably not too visible, but it's a layer): Ambra.  Shoes: Target.  Earrings: The Silver Shop (I think).  Bracelets: made by me.  Necklace: from Jeannie, I think.

When I got to school, I still had my hair out.  One teacher complimented me and asked to take photos as she's wanting something different for her own hair.  I got to grade 3, and one kid asked as I was tuning his violin, "Why is your hair so messy?".  I tied it back. 

Later in grade 3, one piped up with "I love your necklace".  "I love her bracelet".  "No, I love the pink one." "My favourite is the green one, it's so pretty!".   Feeling the love.

I am pleased to report I did another before-work gym session this morning.  That, combined with the rather windy conditions of today, resulted in the windswept/messy situation.  I get to go back to school this evening for a music festival, and I'm foreseeing an extra layer of long sleeves - it's getting chilly out there.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Outfit #118 - Roses Are Red

I went all-out with the roses today.  Red roses on the dress; red rose earrings; and a necklace with red beads and a red rose.  Only one student noticed though.
Dress (worn as skirt): no label (from Jeannie). Shirt: Crossroads  (from op shop). Belt: ? Shoes: Target.  Earrings and necklace: gifts.
My original plan was to wear this necklace on Thursday, but when getting dressed this morning I realised it just had to be worn today. 

I have waited so long to wear this dress to school.  It's a halter neck and just a bit too big for me on the top half (so, not respectable at all) but I adore the colours and the pattern, not to mention the feel of it.  I love swishy skirts - and this one behaved itself on the notorious Marilyn stairs.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

More Healthy Fudge

On Monday, I did a post on healthy chocolate fudge.  I had a mega chocolate craving on Friday evening, and I was all out of the raw brownies.  No sugar for Lent (and a general goal of no packet chocolate this year if at all possible) meant I would be stuck just imagining chocolate.  Then, I remembered a) I had yoghurt and cocoa, so there was a quick fix, and b) the healthy chocolate fudge recipe suggested some substitutions, one of them being just normal butter instead of coconut oil.  Hmmm.  I figured, if you could substitute regular butter, surely you could use peanut butter?

I have to be very careful when giving up chocolate that I don't compensate with peanut butter.  And vice versa.  I was getting rather tired of eating nuts and avocado for my good fat portions, and so I tried a 'just nuts' peanut butter.  The price is enough to make me good and not eat huge quantities all at once.  Having been really good, I then looked further, and found a tub (!) of organic 100% nuts peanut butter.  I have to admit that I am still rather generous in portion size.  However, this was perfect for a peanut butter substitution in fudge!  So, this week's fudge:

In a mini chopper, blend 1/2 cup 100% nuts peanut butter, 1/2 cup cacao, 1/3 cup honey, and about a 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.  Line a loaf tin with baking paper, transfer the fudge (it formed a ball of dough quite quickly), fold the sides of baking paper over the fudge, and squish until you have a fairly consistent 1/2 inch thickness.  Transfer to fridge or freezer until set. 

Normally, I wouldn't have posted another food item so soon, especially not one so similar, but this is too good not to share!  Just a small amount (2 x 1.5cm squares) is really satisfying, super chocolate-y, just sweet enough, and so fudge-y it's delightful.  Plus, this batch was way more successful than the last lot.  Thanks to the baking paper tip, I don't have to pick small bits of plastic out before I eat.  And I think using the quite thick consistency of peanut butter instead of the rather liquid coconut oil made all the difference in the general ease of making this batch - it formed a dough quickly, it was far less messy to transfer, and it doesn't attach itself to anything and everything.  Reducing the amount of honey was handy, too - the last batch was ridiculously sweet, but I don't feel I'm about to succumb to a sugar coma with this.  It was also amazingly quick to make.  It took longer to assemble the ingredients and measure them than it did to blend and transfer and squish.  Big win, especially late on a Friday night. 

Saturday, 16 March 2013


I seem to be doing a lot of drinking for someone who has given up alcohol for Lent.  Today, I had my first ever Guinness in honor of St Patrick.  Note that St Patrick's Day now seems to be officially 3 days.

Apart from occasionally donning something green, I don't remember really celebrating this feast day.  I know I look Irish, but I'm not, it's just a trick of genetics.  Plus, the thought of being with a whole lot of rowdy drunk green-clad mostly-not-Irish-either people is just not appealing.  But an actually Irish friend took me to a fairly quiet (in some parts) bar where we waited for the manager to come and pour us a Guinness each, properly.

The main reason I've never tried Guinness before now is that I don't like beer, and I didn't see any reason why I would like Guinness.  I was warned that it's not a pleasant taste, and I predicted I would get about halfway.  I was right - well, I got a bit further than halfway, but not by much.  It was much more drinkable that I imagined it would be.  I can actually see myself drinking this again, which is really saying something!  Plus, you have to appreciate getting some B vitamins and iron with your alcoholic beverage.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Fig Tree Pocket

Knowing what my schedule is like for the rest of March, I knew that either today or tomorrow would have to be my day to visit a New Place in Brisbane.  On my way home from rehearsal last night, I had the light bulb moment of "duh - go somewhere new for breakfast".  I did my Google Maps pan around thing again, saw a whole lot of green next to the river in Fig Tree Pocket, and felt that I would check it out.  No eating establishments showed themselves on the map, so I had breakfast at home then headed out.

Like the visit to the Toowong Cemetery, it seemed incredible that I had lived so close to this place and neglected to visit a whole suburb.  It was like visiting the country, very quiet, and green, complete with paddocks and horses.
My original thought had been to visit Mandalay Park, which looked like it ran along the river in a strip.  Maps can be deceptive.  I could have continued to walk along the grassy bit, through some trees, ignoring the yapping dog of the next house...and the one after that... and no doubt the one after that... But I'm not a fan of walking through what feels like other people's gardens.  So after appreciating the serenity for a bit, resisting the urge to play on the play equipment (there were other people around), I walked down a nearby street and got to a larger park, Biambi Yambi Park. 
This would have been more fun if I was aged under 10 and wearing appropriate shoes - great big grassy spaces, play equipment, and climbable trees. 
There was a butterfly catcher at work by some long grass that bordered a lagoon, and many water birds swimming and flying and trying to walk on water.  Another lovely serene spot.
This was such a nice start to my Friday.  Getting close to nature, listening to the birds, and just being.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Outfit #117 - Not A Theme

If you were paying attention last week, you may have noticed I was wearing stripes every day.  This is the closest I've come to a theme in my outfits.  This week it might have looked like I was going for a theme, with neutral skirts and blue tops.  But today I changed it up.  Ha.
Skirt: Sinerji (swap).  Shirt: Lily White (op shop).  Shoes: Target.  Earrings: from Salamanca Market.
I don't count this as a successful outfit.  Most of the time (that is, until I just gave up), my shirt was behaving like that of a rebellious schoolboy.  Half-untucked and slouchy.
The Salamanca Markets are fabulous for finds like these earrings, handmade by the stall-holder, ceramic and each one unique.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Outfit #116 - Smug

This morning, I went to the gym before work.  And after teaching at home, I went to the dentist.  I had that smug feeling all day.  Does it show?

Skirt: Spicysugar (from Jeannie).  Shirt: Max & Co. (op shop).  Singlet: Jeanswest.  Shoes: Lipstik Design (op shop).  Earrings: from Myer I think.  Bracelet and pendant: gifts.

I'm hoping this is the first week of a new habit.  The last two weeks were full-on - so full-on that I hardly exercised at all.  My sanity really suffered.  This week I was looking forward to a fairly normal week, then realised I wouldn't have an opportunity to exercise for 3 days.  Unless I get up at 4:45 to run... Or get up at 5:30 on Wednesdays and go to the gym. 
I had everything sorted last night for this morning, including a berry smoothie for breakfast sitting in the fridge.  I even had time for a coffee on the way to work, and 10 minutes to spare when I got there. 
Having more exercise makes such a difference in my life.   Exercise, and playing Bach. 

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Outfit #115 - Horsin' Around

Technically, I made it out of the house in this outfit.  I stepped out the front door, and realised I would appreciate my cardigan.  It stayed on for the rest of the day, so you get 2 photos.
Top: Hot Options.  Skirt: Temt (op shop).  Shoes: Girl Xpress.  Earrings: from Jeannie.  Necklace: gift.
It was 2pm before a child said "ooh I love your earrin- oh wow!!! They're like little horse shoes, and your top has horses on it!  Cool!"
The shoes also received thumbs up from the discerning small people in my life.  I rather like the shoes, but realised they might be compared to carpet, or old-lady slippers.  Not so, though.  Some girls even bent down to touch them.
Non-outfit-related New Thing for today - kiwi berries.  I'm running low on fruit this week, so I bought some blueberries and kiwi berries yesterday.  I've never had kiwi berries before - yum!  Like a cross between kiwi fruit and blueberries. 
They made morning tea rather decadent!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Healthy Chocolate Fudge

I only just realised I had neglected to post this.  Getting into the whole healthy chocolate thing (you know - chocolate, but guilt-free - SCORE!!!), a friend suggested chocolate fudge.  I browsed for recipes and found plenty, then picked this one from Better Nutrition - find the recipe here.

I must stress (as if it wasn't obvious) that my fudge looked nothing like their fudge.  So different, in fact, that I had to read it carefully to check it was actually the same recipe.  My version, then:

1/2 cup coconut oil (this had already turned liquid so I could skip the official step 1)
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup honey (I would reduce the amount for next time, it was super sweet)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Because I could skip step 1, it seemed a bit superfluous to use a food processor-type thing.  So I combined all the ingredients in a bowl, and mixed until combined.
I lined my loaf pan with plastic wrap (mistake!), scraped the fudge into the tin (very messy), folded the top of the plastic wrap over the fudge, and gently pressed down to even the thickness.  Aiming for thickness of about a half inch, mine covered about 2/3 of the base of the tin. 
Into the freezer until set (about 30 minutes).  Cut into squares to serve.

Technically, between the last 2 sentences should be another: carefully remove the plastic wrap from the bits of fudge that froze around it.  This took a long time, and I got too impatient.  Such a painstaking process (including melting fudge), so I admitted I would probably find slivers of plastic wrap while I was eating.  Not ideal, but I could deal with it.

The friend who recommended fudge then recommended a different recipe, and (more importantly) using baking paper instead of plastic wrap or foil.  I predict another fudge-making experience soon - stay tuned.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Rouj Modern Lebanese Restaurant

Last night I went to Rouj Modern Lebanese restaurant in Rosalie, for a birthday celebration for a friend.  When I left, I could feel my skirt and stomach had become best friends. 

Instead of ordering the banquet (I couldn't imagine eating anywhere near 4 courses, especially when I'd seen a photo of the birthday cake), we ordered 2 trios of dips for starters.  Really good pita bread, with dishes of hommus, babaganoush, and ... something else yummy.  Pretty vegetables sat alongside the dishes - slices of tomato and cucumber, gherkin, olives, pickled chilli, and something pink, which turned out to be pickled turnip.  The verdict from those who tasted it was that it was prettier than it was yummy. 

I ordered an eggplant kebab for a main, which came with my choice of salad (tabbouleh) and fries.  Really good fries. 

Birthday cake.  Mm, birthday cake.  At the appointed time, all the lights in the restaurant went out, and out came the cake-bearer as a modern rendition (with birthday girl's name) of Happy Birthday was played.  Sparklers, and a bonus baklava (with sparkler, too) made it rather exciting.  About 15 minutes after our cake, the scene was repeated for the table next to ours.

The decor was, I guess, upmarket cafe.  Nice light fixtures (if a bit low - every time we got up for something we had to hold one out of the way); a nice wall tapestry; comfy bench along a wall; tiled tables.  Apart from the quantity of food listed in the banquet, we could not as a group see how it would fit (even one course at a time) on the small tables.  We were a largish group, so space was a tad limited - my elbows kept knocking those of the friend next to me, until we decided to be traditional and use our hands...  Service was really good - knowledgeable staff, and although it was a busy night (full, as far as I could tell) they were on hand at the merest suggestion of a question.  My glass was filled whenever it was dipping below half-full, so they get my tick.  And even though it was a Saturday night in a swanky area and we were a large group, there was no problem in splitting the bill as some people (myself included) had to leave a little earlier than the rest.