Monthly Archives: March 2015

Tasty Tuesday: Grain Free Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’m not having the best time at the moment (nothing drastic – just the same old boring head stuff) so I’m simply sharing a fabulous-looking recipe from the lovely Sarah at Fit Loose Health today. Given my oven issues I rarely bake cookies. My tiny toaster oven is the only one precise enough for an even bake but you have to make SO MANY batches to end up with a decent amount.

So, please make these grain free almond chocolate chip cookies and let me know how awesome and simple and tasty they are. Hopefully I’ll have the energy to do battle with my ovens and at least make a small batch soon…

The 8th Box

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Sadly, I didn’t end up winning the inaugural Thiel Grant for Online Writing. Not gonna lie, I’m a little bummed. That being said, I was Highly Commended and the winning project does look seriously awesome. If I was to be pipped at the post at least I was beaten by a pretty great idea.

Oh well.

Onward to the next box!

Box number 8 was really quite light (which was great since I had a little helper for this one).

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Talk about a random collection of stuff! A bunch of it was old mail and padding to protect the vase, which could all go straight in the recycling. I also had to throw out the baby shampoo and bath wash in that gift box that was a good four years past its “best before” date. Thankfully the bunny was still in good nick (and immediately snaffled by Miss 2).

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The non-rubbish ended up being mostly memorabilia: birthday cards; a scan and newborn baby photo of my oldest; DVDs burned for me by a friend; Rocky Horror stickers that I bought in Japan when I was 17; notes and pictures from myself, my kids, and others; a super cute sake set (that I can’t for the life of me remember where I got); a VIP pass for a music festival I was sent to when I briefly dabbled in music journalism with a street press magazine.

Also?

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$80 worth of gift cards. From 2010.

*cue intense shame response*

I am the worst when it comes to using up gift cards. Especially in a shop like JB Hi-Fi where I walk in and get completely overwhelmed by choice. I prefer ones I can use on food or clothing or other essentials – I don’t get so caught up in choosing “the best” way to spend them then.

I will be adding these to another expired gift card I forgot about and rediscovered sometime last year, and keeping them somewhere prominent to remind myself to stay more on top of things. So sick of wasting resources like this! All these thoughtful, caring friends basically donated money to the companies on my behalf. Not cool, Meg. Not cool.

The vase and sake set were stashed away in the kitchen, the bunny absorbed into the general toy collection, the DVDs piled near the TV. The rest of the memorabilia was culled again and then put in a drawer for now.

I think I’ve hit a point where I need to address my permanent storage needs before I can go through any more boxes. Shifting piles of junk from one place to another is only really delaying problems rather than fixing them.

Gah! Why can’t I just click my fingers and have everything done? Slogging through the hard stuff has never been my forte.

But then, that’s kind of the entire point of this blog, so…

*skirts up and gets on with it*

*right after this cuppa, I swear*

Tasty Tuesday: Slow Cooker Black Bean and Cauliflower Soup

I am not a slow cooker person.

We bought one some time ago, expecting it to make our lives easier in the evenings (like everyone keeps saying it will). Slight problem: we SUCK at mornings. By the time I’ve got my shit together enough to prep a crock pot it’s already lunchtime, meaning that the meal won’t be ready until well past bedtime. Meaning that we’re best off prepping the night before – taking us right back to square one by complicating our evenings again!

I made an extra special effort to try out this recipe though. I found it a little while ago and almost made it a few times but kept missing the morning window to set things off. It FINALLY happened yesterday though, and boy was it worth the wait.

I altered the recipe a bit to accommodate the herbs and spices I had on hand and use up some cauliflower I had going off in the fridge. The kids weren’t convinced at first but loved it as a corn chip dip once it cooled down. Our leftovers will not be going off before they’re eaten!

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Ingredients:

Serves 6-8

1lb (ca. 450g) dried black beans, rinsed
1 brown onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1/4 head cauliflower, diced
1 tin (400g) diced tomato
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp turmeric
Ground pepper to taste
5 1/2 cups water with 1 1/2 tbsp Herbamare (or 5 1/2 cups stock)

Method:

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– Combine everything in a slow cooker, stir well, and cook on high for at least 6 hours (or until beans are super soft).

– Blend with an immersion blender (or do batches in a processor once it has cooled enough), adding extra water if necessary.

This would be amazing with sour cream, but since that wasn’t an option for me I served mine up with a dollop of mashed avocado, a swirl of coriander paste and a sprinkling of diced tomato and olives.

I haven’t traveled much, but I have been to Mexico, and this closely resembles the flavours I remember from that trip. I’m totally going to pair some leftovers up with corn chips and vegan mozarella for nachos tomorrow! YAY!!

Update:

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DAIRY-FREE NACHOS, YOU GUYS!!

So good, I even grilled up a second serving. 😀 It’s been waaaaay too long…

buggrit

I have been seriously hit by the passing of Sir Terry Pratchett.

Like, I spent some time reading reports and tributes today and I just started bawling. I cried more than I did when my own grandfather died.

Probably because I felt like I knew him better.

It’s just so very shitty that his brain – of all brains – had to be hit by “the embuggerance” of Alzheimer’s. Such a talented, fascinating, amazing person.

I would estimate that a good 10-20% of my childhood was spent in the Discworld. At least. And I’ve read Good Omens more times than I could count. These stories and characters shaped and reflected so much of who I am – my sense of humour, my ethics, my interests.

He was such an inspiring person in the flesh too. I went to a talk of his at a writers’ festival many years back and we bonded over our shared love of Sheri S. Tepper at the signing afterward. He signed one of my favourite books – Small Gods – with “The Turtle Moves!” alongside his big swirly autograph. From everything I’ve been reading the last few days he made the effort to connect with people all the time.

I had to throw that copy of Small Gods out a little while ago.

It had been stashed in a box (of course) in the laundry and got wet and mouldy. The pages were all stuck together and it was stained and stinky. I don’t regret letting it go (from memory I have another signed book somewhere – most likely in a damn box!) but I am extra pissed off at myself for letting it get into that state in the first place.

I’ll always have the memory of it though. And I just need to open one of his books to feel connected again – not that I’ll be able to do that without crying for a while yet!

Grief is so weird.

I hope Death lived up to your expectations, Sir Pratchett. Please give Binky a cuddle for me.

2015/03/img_2235.png(Thanks, xkcd. Nailed it.)

The 7th Box

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“Books – Heavy”

Once again, hubby nailed it. Just like the 6th box, this was another heavy box full of books. These books, to be precise:

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There was a good mix of books from my childhood (including Pratchett, Kipling, and de Lint), scripts for stage plays, fun reference books, German and Italian dictionaries, and music reference books both from my time as an undergrad and as a Masters candidate.

Just check out these beauties:

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Technologies of Gender; Sexing the Groove; The Norton Anthology of Western Music (referred to as NAWM for convenience) – awwwww yeah!

Instant flashbacks to fun conferences about intertextuality and semiotics and gendered representations in popular culture. It makes me smile to see my trusty old friends, which quite frankly comes as a pleasant surprise. By the time I quit my postgraduate studies my relationship to music was pretty fraught with tumultuous emotions.

Perhaps there’s still a musicologist in me somewhere after all…

Two other treasures of note were hidden in this box.

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I came Second Dux of my primary school (was pipped at the post by my good friend who was a maths wiz – and was pretty grumpy about it since she’d only come to the school that year!). For my prize I was given a gift voucher for a local bookstore and asked to buy something for them to wrap and present to me at the final assembly.

I scoured the bookshelves for inspiration and happened upon the sci-fi/fantasy section (as I was wont to do). The cover and title for this book jumped out at me and the blurb was interesting so I thought “Eh! This’ll do.”

I wish I’d seen the faces of the admin staff when they saw it. Hopefully they just stuck the certificate on the inside cover and wrapped it without looking too closely because otherwise a report may have been made about my parents.

If you haven’t read any Charles de Lint let me just say that he’s not the most appropriate author for a 12 year old to be reading…

Needless to say I devoured the story a few times over that school holiday and promptly bought his next few books as they came out too. Really gripping supernatural fantasy with mythical elements, time-traveling and dimension-hopping thrown in for good measure. Good stuff!

(Meanwhile, the Dux of the school bought a few Babysitter’s Club books. I’m not saying that the school may have done well to reconsider their decision but… yeah, actually, I totally am.) (Not that I’m holding a 24-year-old grudge or anything.)

The other unexpected treasure?

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When I first moved out of home I went through my parents’ bookshelves and grabbed a bunch of old classics that I felt like I really “should” read sometime (which of course I never did). My mother studied Literature at uni and used to privately tutor speech and drama for aspiring public speakers so we had a bunch of dusty old tomes lying around the place, including this one.

I flipped through it, glancing at pencilled notes in the margins when one caught my eye. Wait, what?

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This didn’t originally belong to my mother – it belonged to my grandmother! I flipped to the front and right there was my Nana’s name, written in her flawless cursive handwriting, along with the name of the school in Kentucky she attended in 1944 – when she was 15 years old.

Around that beautiful inscription were random notes, clearly taken during her English class, scrawled in non-cursive writing not dissimilar to my own. Plus, written in the back cover is a bunch of random names – possibly of all her classmates?

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SO CUTE!! Thankfully my Nana is very much alive and well at a sprightly 86 years old so I can’t WAIT until she’s next in town (she lives on the Gold Coast these days). I’m sure she’ll get a real kick out of seeing this.

Such a beautiful piece of family history to pass on to my girls!

See? Hoarding can be AWESOME sometimes.

That being said, I still haven’t found a long-term storage solution for all these books. I think I need to bite the bullet and clear out and reorganise my main bookshelf. Ugh! Effort.

Still, the result of my box-clearing efforts so far? Check. It. Out.

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BOOYAH! There’s a piece of floor that hasn’t seen the light of day for a while. I gave it a good sweep and a run over with a microfibre mop. It now has a step-ladder stashed in it, opening out the rest of the room some more. YESS!

Seven boxes down, all this lot (plus a few more scattered around the rest of the house) to go…

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Thiel Grant shortlist

EEEEEEEEEE!! I MADE THE SHORTLIST, GUYS!!! I’m in pretty amazing company, though – glad I don’t have to choose who wins.

Teacher in the Rye

nominees

The inaugural Thiel Grant for Online Writing received over 170 applications covering the breadth of Australian writing for the internet. There was a remarkable diversity of topics and forms pitched by writers from a range of genders and cultural backgrounds. The judges were pleased that so many applications had a broadly political focus, and that most of the proposed concepts were highly suited to being sustained over fifty posts without sacrificing ambition.

After a difficult but delightful afternoon, I and my fellow judges are thrilled to be able to announce the shortlist for the Thiel Grant. The winner will be chosen from these eight proposals and announced here next week, on Wednesday 18th March.

Thanks to all who took the time to prepare an application, and congratulations to these eight outstanding online writers.

THE SHORTLIST

Mez Breeze
Digital/code poetry created in my unique online writing style termed “Mezangelle”.

P.S. Cottier
IT’S…

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Tasty Tuesday: Gluten Free, Vegan Banana and Pear Snack Muffins

I totally missed Tasty Tuesday last week (don’t think I didn’t notice!) so will make up for it with one of my all-time favourite recipes this week.

Why is it an all-time favourite?

Because it’s the first (and only) recipe I ever invented for baked treats.

To be fair, I used a recipe I already had to work out the initial ratios, but the amounts and flavours have been tweaked and tested over time and this is consistently dependable for me now.

It’s also free from cane sugar and soy and can easily be nut-free too.

I’ve made these plain or added blueberries, diced strawberries, or chocolate chips in the past but find diced pear my favourite addition in terms of flavour and especially texture. Also, feel free to substitute flours with stuff that’s available to you. You could even just use a “Gluten Free Flour” blend from the supermarket if you like, but I personally find them a bit of a cop-out (side note: it really bugs me when a recipe touts itself as gluten-free and then is simply a regular recipe with “gluten free plain flour” subbed in. I mean, really? I can just switch the flour and it’s now gluten-free?? WHY HAS NOBODY TOLD ME THIS BEFORE???). Plus they’re usually mostly rice flour and cornstarch so have little to no nutritional value. Blecch! Give me proteins and wholegrains and fibre with those carbs, thanks.

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Ingredients:

Makes 12 small muffins

Dry Stuff:
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1/4 cup almond meal (sub sorghum, millet or besan flour to be nut-free)
1 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp flaked quinoa
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Wet Stuff:
1 – 2 bananas, mashed (min. 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup coconut oil (olive or rice bran also works if you want it lighter)
2 tbsp desiccated coconut
1 tbsp maple syrup (optional)
1/4 cup water
Dash of vanilla extract

Heaping 1/3 cup diced pear

Method:

– Pre-heat your oven to 180°C and prep a muffin tray/set of moulds.

– Whisk together all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl until well combined and non-clumpy.

2015/03/img_2092.jpg(Eat your heart out, store-bought blends!)

– In another bowl or jug, roughly mash your banana/s with a fork and then add the other wet ingredients (minus the pear). Mix thoroughly – pro tip: little kids LOVE helping with this bit!

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– Make a well in the flour blend and slop the wet stuff in. Stir until only just combined (over-stirring will make them stodgy), then fold in the diced pear.

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– Spoon mixture into your moulds and bake for 20-25min, or until lightly browned on top (do a toothpick test to confirm). Allow to cool slightly before turning out onto a rack.

Best enjoyed warm and fresh but they will keep for a few days in an airtight container. You can also pre-mix the dry stuff in advance to have on hand for when the urge to bake hits. These are perfect for lunchboxes or breakfast on the go (take two!) or even a spot of afternoon tea.

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Cheers!

An 18-Minute Plan for Managing Your Day and Finding Focus

This actually seems somewhat doable.

TIME

We start every day knowing we’re not going to get it all done or fit it all in. How we spend our time is really a function of priorities. That’s why Peter Bregman argues in 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done that we need to plan ahead, “create a to-do list and an ignore list, and use our calendars.”

“The hardest attention to focus,” he writes, “is our own.”

***
The Ritual of Managing Our Day

We need ritual to manage our days, “clear enough to keep us focused on our priorities. Efficient enough not to get in the way.”

Bregman argues that ritual should take 18 minutes a day: Your Morning Minutes, Refocus, and Your Evening Minutes.

***
Step 1 (5 Minutes) : Your Morning Minutes

Echoing Tim Ferriss Bregman recommends planning ahead. Ferriss prefers the night before, Bregman prefers the morning.

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At the risk of jinxing things…

…I had a bit of a revelation today:

I feel like an adult.

Like, seriously. I don’t feel like a clueless woman-child pretending (and failing) to know what I’m doing anymore.

Wha..?

I’m not entirely sure what has changed, and I’m not entirely sure if it’s going to last, but it sure does feel good right now.

I think it’s at least partly because I kind of feel like I’ve found my calling:

I am a writer.

And even though I’ve yet to make any actual money out of it, I just, kind of, know that it’s going to work out.

And pretty much every time I’ve felt like this about something in the past, I’ve been correct. Not always – so I’m not going to be complacent or anything – but more often than not.

Anyway.

I’m mostly posting right now so I can share this photo:

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My parents came to town this weekend specially to babysit the kids yesterday while hubby and I had a long, leisurely date for our anniversary. We went to a lunchtime screening of “Jupiter Ascending” (such a fun movie! I finally get the Channing Tatum thing…), had some coffee, bought a new kettle and a second-hand PS3 (to replace an old one that died) and did a bunch more window shopping. We had long, fascinating conversations that WEREN’T constantly interrupted by little people and really got in touch with where we’re both at right now. We then went to our local pub for dinner (after double checking that the girls were ok – and learning that naughty Gran took them to the toyshop. So of course they were all having a ball!) and talked some more before heading home so my parents could head to their hotel with Miss 6, who was having a sleepover with them.

We cracked open a bottle of bubbly to share with my parents before they left and I got Miss 2 off to sleep in seconds flat after her big day with no nap. Then hubs and I finished off the bottle and ate chocolate while binge-watching The Big Bang Theory for a while (it’s my guilty pleasure!).

Then we shared a quiet spot of tea before bed, using the teapot set and candle holders I uncovered in the 5th box that were wedding presents all those years ago.

It was pretty magical (despite how tired we were by this point).

I just wanted to share this meaningful moment since it was only possible thanks to my hard work confronting my hoarding. Which is only possible thanks to the accountability provided by this blog. Which is only possible thanks to YOU guys.

So thanks for reading. Know that every favourite and follow and comment only drives me to keep going and improve things even more. You really make a difference to my life!

I can only hope that by sharing this stuff with you I inspire you to feel just as warm and fuzzy too. ❤

February In Review

Here we are five days in to March and I haven’t paused to reflect yet. That’s kind of appropriate though, given how far out of control February felt. Even now I don’t really feel like writing this post, but I’m forcing myself to anyway since it’s good practice for letting go of expectations and treating writing like a craft rather than simply an extension of myself.

This month was all about getting back into the swing of school – and we didn’t really succeed, to tell the truth. Between “mental health days” and physical sick days my oldest still hasn’t managed to attend a full Mon-Fri week yet. It’s been a rough transition from the fun of Kindergarten into the bigger emphasis on work and discipline in Year 1, and she’s struggling. Plus the school decided to separate her and her best friend when sorting out classes so she’s a little bereft when working out who to play with at break times. Add onto that my issues around punctuality and difficulty with waking up on time myself and it’s been rather hellish for all of us.

We’re going to persevere but in all honesty I’m starting to think the difficulties of homeschooling would be easier to work around for us at the moment. At least then I wouldn’t be fighting to get the kids out the door earlier than any of us can deal with. Ugh! So. Much. Stress. Is it really worth it? We’ll give it a term to see if my big Miss can find her joy again and reassess things then.

On the home front we’ve had some hits and misses. The box project is lagging a little behind schedule but otherwise going well and I’ve managed to hold on to some (but not all) of the clear spaces and order I created for the house inspection. Still not maintaining any regular cleaning habits though, and constantly playing catch-up with the dust and general grime of daily life.

I’d like to focus on routines a bit more this month and further develop my “cleanliness through pottering about” method. In a nutshell, I’ve found that if I set myself one main goal for the day but allow myself to be sidetracked and distracted by other things that come up in the process then I end up getting quite a decent amount of stuff done. It’s kind of a mix of multi-tasking and productive procrastination and seems to work quite well with where my head is at the moment.

My head is giving me more good days than bad, thanks to the meds kicking in properly, but I’m definitely more vague and lassez-faire than normal. Whether this is a good or bad thing is up for debate…

Thankfully the weather is starting to turn more Autumnal. I even had my first Fuji apple for the season the other day! So exciting. I always have more energy in cooler weather so am confident March will feel more productive and enjoyable than February was.

And considering we started the month off with a surprise dinner out at our favourite fancy-pants restaurant for our anniversary (thanks to hubby’s boss ordering him home early and an extension on his credit card limit coming through) I’m definitely feeling the love right now. March, I’m confident we will be the best of buds if this continues.