Goals Update – May

Financial

$20k  $26k target by 22 DecOn target (increase of $1,829.61 this month)

Apr 2013: $14,522.79

May 2013: $16,352.40

Generosity target of at least $100 per week:  ahead of annual target

I have decided to just list whether I’ve achieved this for the month, and whether I’m behind or ahead of my annual budgetted ‘generosity’.

Health

Cook at home twice a weekachieved as much as I can remember (week 1 was hazy!)

I’ve started making a soup about weekly, to use leftovers for lunches at work.  This has settled my angst about vegetable intact and means I can be happier eating less balanced dinners which might be the preference of those I dine with 😉  Bolded items were cooked at home

week 1 –

(Mon)
(Tue)
(Wed)
Cheesy Garlic pizza (Thu)
GF pasta in Brisbane (Fri)
Steak out in Brisbane (Sat)
Nachos at Brisbane airport(Sun)

week 2 –
Rice crackers and brownies? (Mon)
Pumpkin & Lentil soup (Tue)
Pizza (Wed)
Leftovers? (Thu)
Spaghetti Carbonara (Fri)
Nachoes and Sliders out (Sat)
Quiche, waldorf salad & spaghetti marinana at parent’s house (Sun)

week 3 –
Vegetable soup (Mon)
Steak and chips – met the BF’s MUM!! (Tue)
Udon Noodles with miso (Wed)
Prawn & scallop pie out (Thu)
Stuffed peppers (Fri)
Ceaser Salad at BF’s (Sat)
Eurovision party (Sun)

week 4 –
Pumpkin Soup (Mon)
Dominos Pizzas (Tue)
Tuna bake (Wed)
Satay chicken and rice at BF’s (Thu)
(Fri)
Italian birthday dinner out (Sat)
Nachos at BF’s (Sun)

Weel 5-
Sweet Potato and Suede soup (Mon)
Chicken with rice noodles (Tue)
Miso with Udon noodles (Wed)

Limit Sugar – totally off this bandwagon

Train for polo – not playing the winter season

Cultural

– 2 films a month: achieved

I saw two DVDs as well as going out to the movies.  I really wanted to see Warm Bodies and so the BF obliged and took me.  I loved it, I loved the subtle humour.  Really pleased I went and saw it.  Whilst it seems a little like a chick flick, I think it’s got enough going for it that others can tolerate it.

I also saw two movies at home, Unthinkable wasn’t something I heard about, when it came out, or since.  It was an American who plants three nuclear bombs in the US.  Probably a little bit of a sensitive issue for Americans, but I enjoyed the film.  It was pretty graphic – they use all the torture methods that are and are not approved.  It certainly makes you ask questions of torture, but also the motivations of the tortured – perhaps they’ve resigned to their fate, and therefore no end of torture will cause them to reveal the information you’re seeking?  The second film was The Hunger Games which I haven’t read, but was interested to see nonetheless.  I think I was actually surprised how into it I got, and I really did want to see ‘what happened in the end’.

Saw Iron Man 3 at the movies, and I’ve not seen the first two, but I still followed what was going on and enjoyed it immensely – obviously enhanced by the La Premiere session, which involved food and alcohol service to your couples chairs, separated from the general public.

– 2 books a month: achieved

First up was Winter Garden which was a great balance between modern day USA and fairytale time (which becomes wartime Russia).  Really well told story, with lots of characters going on a little personal discovery.

Gosh it seems like it’s been a long month, and somehow I managed to get The Paradox of Choice read, though it took forever.  I wrote a very brief review too.

Social

Call/connect with an out of town friend – achieved
In May, I took a weekend back in my former home town, Brisbane, and had a great dinner with a school friend. The other night, I met up with a friend who I met at an overseas conference, who does a similar role to me for a company in Brisbane. I always have the best time catching up with her – we’re so in sync as nerds!

I also spoke to a friend originally from Perth but now in Melbourne – both for her B’day and again she rang me a week later to sort out coming to visit! The coincidence in all this was that I knew it was her birthday and whilst i was listening to a national radio program they read a text message she sent in! She lived in a pretty small town in Western Australia and when they mentioned that, and her name, well it couldn’t have been a bigger coincidence – I pulled over then and there to ring her for her birthday and exclaim her nationwide ‘fame’!

Career

– Certification – 60% done well, 40% still to improve

Of the 16 career episode reports, I’ve written something for every one. There are five that are too short (one, woefully so).  But I’m starting to see that I’m chipping away at this, and it will get done!  I’ve set an ‘end of the year’ target to complete this.  I also need to send three to my non work mentor to review.  I did consider sending the ‘worse’ ones, but then I don’t want to make a bad impression – but it’s best to get help where I most need it!

– Looking for next role – I’m working on it!

Whilst I’ve not actively sort a new role, in the last month I’ve met with my non-work mentor.  We talked about a career plan and he gave me some helpful tips. Mainly, he talked and I took a lot of notes (oh, of course I talked too… don’t worry).  As a result of that chat, I’ve sought out an internal mentor.  Someone in senior management, but not part of my direct reporting structure, which I think it helpful.  He’s also been overseas with our company sending him to NYC, which would be a dream come true for me.  So after going out on a limb with a ‘will you be my mentor’ email, not a day later I have a willing mentor and a date to meet in early June!  Yay!

Waste Wednesday update

Welcome to Wednesday’s waste update.  Here’s the damage:

Weighing in at Wed May 29th
Weighing in at Wed May 29th

**EDIT**
I’ve taken another photo, with the ‘recyclable’ bags removed, so the weight is down a little more!

Waste weigh in  with recyclable bags removed
Waste weigh in with recyclable bags removed

29 May: 112g 89g
22 May: 245g
15 May: 80g
8 May: 98g
1 May: 171g
24 Apr: 183g
17 Apr: 172g
4 Apr: 232g

Bedroom 340g on 1 May
Bathroom 626g on 22 May

Overall total = 2.259kg 2.236kg

This week, there was no McDonald’s missions, so that kept waste down (cause thankfully City of Sydney accept pizza boxes in recycling :D)

Plastics

  • Toilet paper bag: used as a ‘bin bag’ to collect and easily weight my waste.  I could move to paper wrapped loo paper from the co-op
  • Almond meal bag: something the co-op doesn’t sell in bulk.  Maybe I should look into making my own?
  • Noddle bag: again, rice noodles not a bulk item at my co-op.  Wonder where else might sell them bulk in Sydney?
  • Cookie bag: gift from a colleague – waxy paper with a plastic window
  • Command 3m hooks packaging + backing strips: Y’all know how much I love these things, and I needed to expand my spice ‘rack’
  • Jar seals: Why do glass jars with metal lids come with a plastic ‘seal’ over the lid? Is the ‘pop top’ not enough.  Grr!
  • Razor tray: yes I bought a large quantity of razors (a long while ago) and I just tidied the drawer they were in and removed the plastic ‘tray’ they came in.  I’d hoped buying 10 would lessen the overall impact of the packaging, though I’m dubious.
Here's what's inside the bag of trash for this week.
Here’s what’s inside the bag of trash for this week.

Non-plastics/or ‘I’m not sure *what* that is

  • Butter paper: someone suggested I could compost/bokashi these, but I’m not 100% sure?
  • Baking paper: Usually I’d reuse it, but this got a little brown and crispy
  • Foil-y bag: from a snack on site, which was protein balls.  Why didn’t I just get a banana?  Hindsight is 20/20
  • Sticker: from a yoghurt pot I’m reusing.  If the pot is recyclable, is the sticker?  Or is that something removed in the recycling process?  I wasn’t sure, so I trashed it
  • Blister packs: the last of the lozenges

Back on track after a ‘heavy’ week last week.  Whilst in some ways it’s seems like I’ve plateaued, I’m still turning things over in my head.  Looking at the choices I’m making, and what alternatives there are, which I’ve drafted a post on.  Things like, a metal handled razor, or even a razor with replaceable blades (rather than ‘disposable’ like I use now).  Toliet paper could be bought elsewhere. I could do away with some food stuffs that keep coming up with non recyclable packaging?  Seeing two are gluten free products, I’m loathed the limit my diet further!

Actually, I need to familiarise myself more with Coles’ supermarket’s plastic bag recycling policy, as pictured in this post, to see if some bags could head there for recycling.  Right! That’s on the to do list for the week. <– done this, see the edit above!

As always, alternatives and suggestions warmly welcomed.

What’s in the bag? (Handbag contents inventory)

I usuall carry a pretty large handbag, cause it fits my work files in it nicely. However, in my opinion, there’s not all that much IN the bag otherwise, and I can easily down size most of it for a night out and a smaller handbag. Here’s everything laid out:

Handbag contents
Handbag contents

Let’s look a little closer at ‘the bag of everything’

Plastic holder's contents
Plastic holder’s contents

And it all laid out in the open:

Everything out in the open
Everything out in the open

What I like about this collection is that I feel ‘confident’ I have ‘everything I need’. I can do my face up no matter where I am (cause I don’t wear make up at work, being that I’m in muddy holes and the like). I also keep some loose tissues and a pair of earplugs in a side pocket, should I find myself needing to sleep away from my stash at home. Two phones are sort of a requirement that I like, because smart phones die. Thankfully having the charger in the bag nowdays saves BIG dramas. And where would I be without my moleskin list book? Many a blog post idea (and work to do list) end up in that lovely book of cubed paper. Swoon.

How does your handbag compare?

Check out MOchimac’s at her blog, Save Spend Splurge

World’s best gluten free brownies

But they don’t have to be gluten free (they weren’t designed that way, but with so little of that glutenous demon it’s hardly noticeable when you substitute).

Remember my Easter gift to the BF?  I’ll remind you with some trademarked top quality live to list photos!

The best gluten free brownie I've ever made
The best gluten free brownie I’ve ever made

I’ll give you the true recipe, and my running commentary/changes:

Ingredients

125g (unsalted) butter – I put the salted butter in, cause I like it like that :p

250g caster sugar (about 1 cup)

2 eggs

30g cocoa powder (about 1/4 cup)

40g flour – I use gluten free pre-mixed flour here, but I’ve also substituted almond meal and everyone’s still been wow’ed

pinch of salt – see why do that? just use salted butter!

200g chocolate bits – itty bitty ones, not little coin shaped ones.  Black and Gold brand ones for the Aussies are the best in my experiementations

Method

1. Preheat that oven to 180 C and lightly spray your slice tin I use a 25cm square tin for a single mix, but a 32 x 22cm tin when I double it – which make a thicker brownie than a single mix.  I also hate to use greaseproof paper, but there are far less tears when I do.

2. Melt the butter and add caster sugar in a large mixing bowl . Why dirty up another thing? I melt the butter in a saucepan, then take it off the heat and add the sugar

3. Lightly whisk eggs in a separate bowl.  see above, I don’t like to dirty up stuff when I don’t have to! 

4. Add eggs to butter mixture and stir together. But don’t add eggs TOO soon to the hot butter, lest you end up with scrambled eggs

5. Sift in cocoa and flour and salt and mix together. OK I go rouge here, and need a bowl to weigh these two bad boys, so I add to the washing up there.  But the bowl comes out in the final act

6. Fold in chocolate bits See you had to weigh those suckers too didn’t you!

7. Pour into a prepared pan

8. Bake for 20-25 mins, leaving in a hot oven for a further 7-10 ins For the time stretched, 20 mins and whip them out in a single batch is certainly a-ok in my recent experience.  Too long in the cooling oven and you get a very chocolatey teething rusk!

9. Remove from oven to cool on rack

10. Slice when warmish otherwise there will be tears!

Foods I don’t like

Sorry to be Debbi Downer here, but hey, this is about my lists, and this is a list I actually have!  These ingredients are enough to make me skip over the dish containing it in a menu.  Or even find another recipe for that dish!

Now, the key to this is perhaps my readers inspiring me with recipes that might change my mind on these foods:

Savoury

Coriander or cilanto = no, parley = yes, shame they look so similar! source:www.succulentdelights.com.au
Coriander or cilanto = no, parley = yes, shame they look so similar!
source:www.succulentdelights.com.au
  • Coriander (o rcilanto) – absolutely positively NOT.  Tastes like stink bugs smell.  EWWW
  • Corn – I can manage it, but I will omit it from recipes.  but I eat polenta, and corn chips, so you know, I’m slipping it in there!
  • Chili – burns my mouth.  But, Economies of Kale’s Dosa recipe helped me try a little bit with chili flakes and I kinda liked it…
  • Mushrooms – soggy mess.  However I will add them to casseroles/stews etc where their taste is disguised.  But the texture is an issue too
  • Avocado – slimy yuck. Not enhanced by less than fresh sushi recently
Don't like fighting for my meat! source: hungerhunger.blogspot.com
Don’t like fighting for my meat!
source: hungerhunger.blogspot.com
  • Chunky chicken – so, this is for any meat really, that makes me work around bones and sinew.  You know, like a chicken all chopped up at Chinese? I love the breast, but wings, no way!
  • Cucumber – hmm, actually it’s ok, just, in small doses.  Like in raita.
  • Sausages – that mouth explosion is just scary.  But I will eat a good quality sausage occasionally
  • Beef stroganoff – boarding school made this look like dog food, so you read ‘beef stroganoff’ and I read ‘Pal’ (a leading dog food brand)
  • Tomato (by itself) – slimy, often tasteless… I don’t know what it is.  I’m ok with bruschetta and tomato-y sauces (not ketchup, but you know, on pasta)
  • Plastic cheese – need I say more?  It shouldn’t be shiny.  You should wonder if the wrapper is still on it.
Plastic cheese
Plastic cheese (but just check out my image’s source: www.gourmet.com

Sweet

  • Almond flavored stuff – I can manage almond, but almond flavouring makes me cringe, so I’ll just pass all that mazipan straight to mum.
  • Coconut – when it gets stuck in my throat.  I’m ok with coconut milk and cream, just not the dry desiccated stuff.
  • Cherry flavored stuff – love cherries, hate ‘fake’ cherries.  Why does it change so much?
Australian chocolate bar, which has both coconut AND cheery flavours! source:www.moolollybar.com.au
Australian chocolate bar, which has both coconut AND cheery flavours!
source:www.moolollybar.com.au
  • Paw paw – oh my, this just tastes and smells like vomit to me.  And sometimes, I put it in my mouth when I mistake it for mango in a fruit salad.
  • Rockmelon (cantaloupe melon) – I’m just not sure, the taste isn’t right.  And another 8 years of boarding school having it available every single night probably didn’t help

So as not to make the mood all bad and sad, on Monday I’ll post my perfectly awesome brownie recipe, and that should see everyone on the up and up.

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In other news

I read a number of personal finance blogs, because they interest me.  I’ve started interacting on a fairly regular level, and it’s landed me some mentions.  It’s the custom to acknowledge their links to you, and return the favour, so I thought I’d mention them back here! I hope you enjoy their content like I do.

Twice I’ve been a ‘top commenter’ on Kyle and Emily’s blog Evolving Personal Finance.  It’s nice to get mentioned and the link up for doing something I enjoy – commenting!

And, I’d just like to thank Pauline at Reach Financial Independence for including me in a Carnival of Financial Independance the other week, with my post discussing what to do with a payrise.

And in the not so personal finance sphere, some of my readers have shown me some love, mainly on my wardrobe inventory.  You should check out Kim’s count at Extra Organised and Fiona’s at Declutter

If I’ve missed mentioning you, I’m awfully sorry, send me a swift reminder via email or comments, and I can hastily rectify it for you!

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What foods don’t you like?  What will you use to help you ‘deselect’ menu choices or do you always chose on favourites? Or new and interesting flavour combinations?

Why I read your blog

So Carla, at My Daily 1/2 Dozen wrote a great post recently about why she reads someone’s blog.  I couldn’t agree with her more, and thought I might also list why I keep coming back to your blog (or not :p)  Naturally there’s some overlap with Carla’s list!

1. You post regularly.  Maybe not daily, but often enough to keep me hanging around.  Since I’ve mastered emails to my inbox for my favourite blogs, I can be sure I won’t miss a post, especially when you might only write irregularly.  And of course, it’s nice if it’s ‘easy’ to follow your blog!

2. I don’t feel like I’m a ‘customer’.  This is a tricky one.  If I feel like you’re only blogging for the AdSense dollars, or affiliate link money then I get my back up.  There’s some blogs that are on the border of being booted off my reading list for making me feel like I’m only a statistic to make them more money.  This also relates to all the Facebook/Pinterest etc love requests. I don’t need you on every stream (even though your advertisers would like to have me following you on every social media site that’s ever existed)

3. You show me in. I feel like you open up the door to some of your life to your reader.  There are some blogs I sometimes think ‘is there a real person writing this?’.  I’m happy with some sub par photos, it helps me  know there’s a ‘real’ life behind the blog life.  (Far be it for me to want *good* photos, we all know mine are atrocious!)

4. Your content interests me. I read about a lot of random ‘themes’ as my blog roll covers.  I like talking about money, house-y DIY, zero waste, family and managing life (even though I don’t have kids).  And any listing or tracking, wowzas, I’m right there like an eager puppy!  And maybe you write about none of these things, but I just like the way you do things and I can’t explain why!

5. Sometimes you even say hi.  I love a blogger who (even only occasionally  takes the time to reply to comments on their blog.  It’s nice to know you read what we write, and have a thought about it.  Now if only I could master checking back (easy for WordPress blogs and a few people’s who email me, but otherwise a bit tricky)

I wrote this post, not to echo Carla’s, but to shift some bad mojo I’ve been having lately.  I seriously considered ‘a week off’ last weekend, I was that worked up!  I’d drafted some less than positive posts, cause some of the posts I’ve been reading haven’t been fitting into the above criteria.  Hopefully this is a more positive spin on my ‘whinge’ posts… casue no one needs to read those!

So, what keeps you engaged in a blog?  And, how do you keep track of your comments and their replies?

How’s it hanging? (Art inventory)

As part of my house inventory, I have decided to document all the art that hangs in my house. All of it provides great memories of my travels. Some of it, you may have seen snippets of in other posts, but the best place to see where they live in my house would be to look at my House Tour

Bedroom:

Cuban lady beside wardrobe
Cuban lady beside wardrobe
Eiffel tower near wardrobes (I took that photo!)
Eiffel tower near wardrobes (I took that photo!)
Christmas gift from a friend in Heidelberg
Christmas gift from a friend in Heidelberg
Orchid water colour from Thailand - one of my first art aquisitions
Orchid water colour from Thailand – one of my first art acquisitions (horrible photo I’m sorry)
Two water colours of the most memorable parts of Rennes, Brittany, where I live in 2006
Two water colours of the most memorable parts of Rennes, Brittany, where I live in 2006
Three views of Rome from a trip in 2006
Three views of Rome from a trip in 2006
Cuban water colour car from my trip in 2010
Cuban water colour car from my trip in 2010

Living Room:

This scarf was a gift on my graduation, but I was never wearing them, so I decided to frame it (at GREAT cost), but I love it, and it works so well in my living room.
This scarf was a gift on my graduation, but I was never wearing them, so I decided to frame it (at GREAT cost), but I love it, and it works so well in my living room.

Hallway:

Cuban photos - these I purchased, but they hang on the other 'little wall' in the hallway
Cuban photos – these I purchased, but they hang on the other ‘little wall’ in the hallway
My souvenir purchase from Morocco last year
My souvenir purchase from Morocco last year
Dumpster find!  Yes, that's two Eiffel towers in my house.  This is at my entrance
Dumpster find! Yes, that’s two Eiffel towers in my house. This is at my entrance
THese photos were taken by yours truly when I lived in France in 2006 - with real black and white film - back when cameras had film and all!
THese photos were taken by yours truly when I lived in France in 2006 – with real black and white film – back when cameras had film and all!

Kitchen:

This artwork comes from Vanuatu, my parents bought it and when I moved out, my mother suggested it would suit my home.
This artwork comes from Vanuatu, my parents bought it and when I moved out, my mother suggested it would suit my home.

Waste Wednesday update

Would it be a Wednesday without a waste audit?  This is more about keeping me accountable and one day, zero waste, than entertaining you readers. However, I hope some people over time might pick up some of my quirks in their own life – and you might share some of your work arounds to make your household less ‘trashy’. (Oh i just love a lame pun!)

This week saw the bathroom bin long overdue for emptying:

Bathroom waste 22 May
Bathroom waste 22 May (626g)

Kitchen waste (in a parcel satchel):

Kitchen Waste on 22 May
Kitchen Waste on 22 May (245g)

For those playing at home, here’s this week’s weigh in and comparisons to past weeks:

22 May: 245g (0.54 Lbs)

15 May: 80g
8 May: 98g
1 May: 171g
24 Apr: 183g
17 Apr: 172g
4 Apr: 232g

Bedroom 340g on 1 May
Bathroom 626g on 22 May

Overall total = 2.147kg (4.7 pounds)

So a big week in the kitchen, which I’ll explain in my breakdown of what’s in my trash.  I’ll also look at what’s in the bathroom bin and look at where I can reduce!

Plastics

  • McDonald’s straws and cup tops: BF had McD’s twice this week (and I had it once).  One time can be accounted for by his power being out and him picking it up on his way to mine.  The other time was a treat for lunch (I never said I was classy!)
  • Choc chips packet – a future post will outline my alternatives to this packaging and my reasons for retaining this wasteful choice
  • Silicon – the bathroom bin’s not been emptied since I did the resiliconing in the bathroom
  • Rags with silicon on them – no hope washing that stuff off
  • Plastic bags – the key to removing silicon from your hands
  • Lollypop wrapper and stick – from after my flu jab 🙁
  • Cotton budszerowastehome says you should just do away with them.  I (re)use ear plugs every night, if I don’t remove some of the wax I’ll be churning through more earplugs, so…
  • Floss – is it plastic? In any case, I’m still working through the existing roll

Non-plastics

  • McDonald’s food soiled cardboard wrappers
  • Tissues – my Sunday/Monday sniffles were excessive.  I’m using the hankies, but my need is greater than the public can handle in homemade pink hankies, though I have been using them a lot at home/in the car etc
  • Blister packs – namely from my lozenges

Overall, I’m ok with the weigh in, even though it’s higher than other weeks. The silicon is a necessary evil (unfortunately).  Blister packs are also something I have no work around for – other than to make my own lozenges, but I just can’t imagine them keeping well, and I wouldn’t be thinking of making them when ill.  Perhaps I can use up my last few, and then not buy anymore, and settle for hot tea.  Tea’s great, except when I’m running to site for work.  Tissues are on a slow decline, though I expect some use to continue when I’m without enough hankies, or I’m not at my home and I fall ill.  McDonald’s, is well, slack! But I’m not trying to change the bf, and I’m not sending him home with rubbish.  I figure it’s just best to be honest and accountable here.  Luckily the unsoiled items did end up in recycling at least.

Sickly

I am pleased to report that a day in bed did result in the book I have taken WEEKS to finish being ready for review.  The reason it took me so long to read is less about it being uninteresting, it just wasn’t a page turner, even though I learnt a lot.  I was reading The Paradox of Choice: why more is less by Barry Schwartz.

The Paradox of Choice - why more is less, by Barry Schwartz source: www.bookdepository.co.uk
The Paradox of Choice – why more is less, by Barry Schwartz
source: www.bookdepository.co.uk

The lessons I’ll take away from this book are

  • be a satisficer, not a maximiser – don’t always try to find the perfect choice (I might also apply this to my work – near enough is good enough in so many situations, and not to beat myself up when I’m only ‘good enough’!)
  • use routines and limit choice where it suits – don’t endlessly peruse options.  Settle on less
  • don’t compare to others
  • realise that every experience/product is going to be amazing every time – familiarity breeds content.  But I won’t take it’s advice to enjoy the good things in life less, in case I get ‘used’ to them.  That’s just silly in my opinion!

In the style of Carla, of Half Dozen Daily, I’ll share the details of my illness and general life, rather than my usually themed posts.  Since Tuesday last week, I felt the start of a cold in my throat.   Sadly, I almost always have the sneezes, so that’s not a reliable enough indicator of imminent illness.  I suggested that I might take Wednesday off to sleep and fortify myself, and my mother reminded me how many sick days I’ve taken (in my opinion, not that many, but if she thought so, I figured colleagues might too).  So I continued to work last week, including getting the annual ‘flu vaccination on Thursday.  I had a rostered day off on Friday, which saw me up at the normal early hour of 6am to get to the flower markets to do the Pentecost arrangements at church.  I felt less than perfect, but chalked it up to an early start.

I’m pretty sure I got a nap in on Friday before dinner and some cocktails.  Then Saturday I spent a few hours at the coop learning how to be a volunteer (the idea was to draft a costs comparison post between the coop and my local IGA shops to publish on Monday, but alas I didn’t have the stamina on Saturday afternoon).  I was definitely feeling dry in the throat that morning, as I sipped bagged tea that the coop gets for free.  Sunday I woke very worse for wear – you know it’s worse than the usual allergies when the tissue box ends up in the handbag. (Yes, I have transitioned to hankies, but I was at the BF’s on Sat night, so I used what he had).  Anyhow, by Sunday night’s Eurovision party, I was blowing my nose every minute it would seem.  I purchased the pharmacist only Sudafed medicine, and after more than the recommended dose, I saw NO improvement.  Why, oh why, am I immune?

So I took Monday off work, which was a nightmare, as today’s work (Tuesday) needed me to be in three places at once, which isn’t possible.  Alas, the day off meant I saw the doctor, and she prescribed me a nasal spray (for $45!!).  I bought said nasal spray, opened the package, to find I had it already, in date, in my medicine drawer – grrr.  I’ve been seeing a new doctor since I moved into my own place, so that’s why she didn’t know.  I hate that sort of waste – financially, as much as the contents – I’ll never use two nasal sprays up esp when they are for a week’s use max, before taking a break.  The good news is…. it worked! I’m not 100% human – I still have a headache, and a weirdly dry mouth and nose, but it’s so much better than the minute by minute sneezes!

Anyhow, I hope all my readers are well.

Knife skills course- 12 in 2 list

On Saturday, I knocked off one of my ‘12 in 2 list‘ goals – do a knife skills course.  I went to the Chef’s Armoury in Rosebery, Sydney.  It was $89 for a 1.5 hour session – there were 6 people (though one didn’t turn up) to the one teacher in the specialist knife store – mainly Japanese knives, and some additional food items.  You were asked to bring a small and a large knife – which is smart, to learn how to use YOUR knife, rather than one of theirs.

First we started with carrots, and had our skills evaluated.  It is nerve racking having someone watch you do something you know you’re not that good at – that’s why I signed up for the course! Anyhow, no one was immediately eliminated, and despite threats that he’d shout ‘STOP EVERYTHING’ if he saw anything really dangerous, we all did pretty well.  Basically, the key learning was that you need to curve all your fingers around like you’re holding a stress ball, as you cut whatever item.  AS I said, we started with a LOT of carrots!  Practising our curled fingers we julienned carrots, and then finely diced them.  Then we moved onto leeks.

The non cutting hand should be shaped like it's around a stress ball.
The non cutting hand should be shaped like it’s around a stress ball.

The thing that I learnt about leeks was how to wash out that pesky dirt that is always near the tops of the white part.  Basically you cut the ‘head’ into quarters or eighths, making it like a brush.  Then you swish it around in a sink or bowl of water, and huzzah, no more dirt.  Really not rocket science, but something I’d never worked out on my own :s

Creating a leek 'brush' to clean out the dirt
Creating a leek ‘brush’ to clean out the dirt

So far, everyone had all their fingers.  Thought a few people had some knife to fingernail action, there was no blood or anything serious!  Next he really upped the ante, and whipped out the capsicum (bell peppers).  Seeing we’d mastered juliennes and dicing, we then were shown how to skin a capsicum with a knife.  Let me assume me, I do not think I’ve ever really thought ‘wow I need to skin this capsicum’ but as the instructor explained, the skin is bitter, and when you have a fine dice or similar, say for a bruschetta, you don’t want little bits of skin in your teeth.  I didn’t really master the finer skills in separating the capsicum skin from the flesh, but that’s ok, cause next up we went onto tomatoes).

Tomatoes are EASY in comparison!  I can skin a tomato, without boiling it, and then burning my fingers!  And then, just to keep up our skills, we finely diced the tomato as well.  We learnt that the fine dice was part of the beauty of cooking, the smaller pieces of carrot, leek, onion or tomato caramelise better due to the larger surface area.  So there you go, not something I’d ever considered, but of course is makes perfect sense.

Oh and back on the leeks – here’s a good way to dice them.  Cut into the core, and then lay it flat like a book.  Then julienne in line with the grain (ie cutting along the ‘long side’ rather than the ‘formerly round end’), then come back to dice them.

Lay the leek flat like a book
Lay the leek flat like a book

We leant two motions with the knife.  There was a pinch gripe, with a simple up and down motion.  This is where we started with the carrots.  Then we moved onto the locomotive grip, running in an elliptical motion.  This elliptical motion is crucial when cutting spring onion or shallots so that you don’t crush the circular structure.  It seems this is what I hadn’t mastered, as that’s what causes the shallots to no be cut right through (they sort of look like a potato hedgehog or something).  Definitely something I’ll need to practice some more as I didn’t reach perfection during the course.

Pinch grip on the knife (a lot further forward than where I usually was cutting from)
Pinch grip on the knife (a lot further forward than where I usually was cutting from)

Next up we learnt how to zest an orange (or any citrus fruit really).  Essentially it was just using the knife to finely peel the colour part from the pith.  Interestingly, whilst we were asked to bring a big and a small knife, we were encouraged to use the large knife for everything if we felt comfortable.  I also wasn’t the master of the zesting, but I got better as we were asked to peel the pith (without, obviously, removing too much of the lovely flesh!) Lastly we learnt how to cut out segments, leaving behind the nasty white niceness (cause white stuff is poisonous – like in the capsicum.  NO, no it’s not, but our teacher assures us every 5 year old will tell you it is!).  I didn’t take an action shot of this, but I’ll show you the mother’s day fruit salad I made on Sunday to test the skills

Mother's day fruit salad (my mother is a much stronger adherent to no sugar, so this was the PERFECT dessert for her)
Mother’s day fruit salad (my mother is a much stronger adherent to no sugar, so this was the PERFECT dessert for her)

Last, but by no means least, we learnt to cut onions.  Now, the teacher says the only way to not cry cutting them is to get someone else to cut them! The other participants said a mouthful of cider or beer will help – so I’m willing to try it.  Cause the matchstick between the teeth trick has come up bust with me lately.  Basically you keep the root on, and trim the head of the onion.  Then you cross the head of the onion, and use the knife to peel away the skin.  Tick and tick – well I wasn’t using a knife to peel away the skim previously, but otherwise I was following the method in my own cooking.  Then you halve the onion and cut wedges into it, keeping the root intact. There’s not need to do the whole ‘then cut horizontally through the onion’.  Then using the fingers around a ball technique, you dice the onion, with tears streaming down your face.  Tada, the sad end to the class!

Criss cross on the onion, to help peel it
Criss cross on the onion, to help peel it
Angled cut/slice back towards the root ball
Angled cut/slice back towards the root ball

I’m pleased I went, and in order to illustrate this post I tested all my skills in making a vegetable soup!  For the first six months he asks us to WATCH what we’re doing, but once we have finger placement down pat, the safety of it will mean we can cut and safely watch TV at the same time!  Wow, cool huh?

'Practice' complete - and a veggie soup so extensive I needed to do it in two batches as my saucepan is too small!
‘Practice’ complete – and a veggie soup so extensive I needed to do it in two batches as my saucepan is too small!

I did the course at The Chef’s Amoury on Botany Rd, Rosebery.  They were the most competitive course out there, with small class sizes.

Did I teach you anything new? Any cool tips you have, that I can add to my repertoire?