A new (blogging) home

Howdy all… Do things look a little different to you?  Me too – I’ve moved house in the virtual sense too!

So the BF bought me a domain (isn’t he a romantic) and now that I live with him in captivity, we ‘moved house’ in the virtual sense too.  So instead of being livetolist.wordpress.com, I’ve dropped a pesky nine letters and a colon, and said goodbye to the free-ness of WordPress. Now I am THE www.livetolist.com  So, if like me, you love a great bookmark, I’d suggest updating it.  But rest assured, if you don’t, I’ll still magically turn up, cause I have a funky redirection in place.

I’m not sure what this means for now, but I’m assured it gives me far greater visuals on statistics, which I quite like.  Otherwise, from the back end, it looks the same but with more bells and whistles.

Anyhow, if you’re having any issues, please let me know, so I can iron out the kinks.

Now for some snapshots of my new place:

The kitchen and the open shelves
The kitchen and the open shelves
I love my blue glasses - the smokey candle, not so much!
I love my blue glasses – the smokey candle, not so much!
A bathroom ledge is so useful, loving it!
A bathroom ledge is so useful, loving it!
Wine rack - I feel like a grown up with a whole dozen in there!
Wine rack – I feel like a grown up with a whole dozen in there!

 

Finally a way to display my Venetian mask!
Finally a way to display my Venetian mask!

I did try to take it easy this weekend, focusing on my ‘top 3’ tasks per day – many weren’t DIY or house related, but meals out for a birthday and the church’s patron saint’s festival’s lunch. I’ve been a little stressed out, so I really did take it easier on myself with respect to the house (and the blogging). I feel much better for it too!

Smile for you close up!

Wow… This was meant to publish last week (Thu 25 July), but it seems all the other changes, I failed to get it to publish! Thanks to everything else going on in my life, I’ve not been meticulously planning content, and preparing photos.  That’s not to say photos haven’t been taken of my new place though ūüėÄ

Moving plans

Here’s how things are tracking

  • My place has had it’s professional photos taken (so it’s even more perfect that how you usually see it… No tea towels!  No hand towels! No soap by the sink!)
Kitchen
Kitchen
Living room
Living room
  • The ad will go up today last Thursday (so excited to see it!)
  • My open time is booked in (10am last Saturday)
Bathroom (evidently not cleaned :s)
Bathroom (evidently not cleaned :s)
  • I’ll pick up the spare keys from my parents Wednesday afternoon (as I’m out that way for a meeting today) & drop them to the agent
  • My friends are hiring a van (in the GoGet car share system here in Sydney) and will help the BF and I move his few possessions (this past Saturday!)
Dining area
Dining area
  • My strata manager has approved us to store the BF’s stuff in the ‘games’ room in my building (essentially a storage place/meeting room) for the week between him moving in, and us getting keys for our new place
  • I’ve done my change of address almost everywhere I can think of, the majority were online, so super quick and easy
Bedroom, missing on bedside box from Ikea
Bedroom, missing on bedside box from Ikea

I was getting all frazzled about the ‘hurry hurry wait’ situation, but I’ve now resolved I will commence next Saturday – in the afternoon, after the showing.  With that decision, I’m much calmer.  I think I can realistically get everything packed in 1.5 days, with moving on Monday. Of course, if my place hasn’t yet got a lease, I’ll move ‘half’ my stuff – the stuff I can take away from my apartment, but still give people an idea of space and furniture options.  Mostly everything in the cupboard and occasional storage like side tables and ottomans. Naturally, I have a prioritised list of what to move: from move now, to move last.

Career

In non moving news, I’ve also been told I start my new role on Monday today.  Just what a girl needs :p I’ll be working under (another) new boss.  Everything’s in flux in my office’s management, and I’ve liked my temporary new boss.  The new new boss, well, I’m not sure we gel just yet.  But it’s a learning experience.  I’ll certainly have a much larger amount of work to output (many more smaller jobs, whereas now I have a few large jobs… When I say ‘few’ I mean about 25, of which 5-10 are active at any one time ;))

Along with a new type of work, and output, I will also oversee the work of one person in my office, and a collection of people in another office.  The other office people won’t be working on my portfolio full time, but will help out to raise output.

Needless to say, I’ll have a few plates in the air in the next this week, between starting a new role, having my house open for inspection, and hopefully getting it leased, and packing and moving from my place to our new place.

I’ve always said I’d rather be busy than bored though!

View from the entryway
View from the entryway

Oh I am SO excited to have had my place photographed by a pro, if you couldn’t tell! And here I was thinking (and hoping) I was modest… I’m not, I love my baby(house).

Maybe tomorrow I can share the ‘disaster’ photos of how it looks after absorbing some of the BF’s stuff.  It really isn’t that much of a disaster!

Friday – fun or not?

This is another ‘memory’ post, in line with my board school food memories. Now days, Friday seems to be almost the best day of the week – it’s the last day before two days of weekend. ¬†Days of freedom for most, to spend doing what they please. ¬†Only in the last few years have I come to see Friday as the fun day others have always been thanking goodness for!

When I was at boarding school, there were two types of Fridays. ¬†Those preceding an ‘in’ weekend, and those preceding an ‘out’ weekend. ¬†When I started at StM in 1995, the in and out weekends were dictated on a calendar. ¬†This made staff management easier – the school knew when it would be empty, and when it would be full. ¬†I gather the older students hated it! ¬†They had to find somewhere on random weekends, but on other weekends, when they might want to be ‘out’ (to attend a party or similar) they may not be allowed to go.

In 1997 (I think) they moved to a more flexible system, where each student was permitted 4 weekends out a term. ¬†How it worked was that you could take both Friday and Saturday night. ¬†Or just one of those nights. ¬†But you were only allowed four instances, up until Year 11, where you got some additional privileges, such as party leave – which was essentially ‘day’ leave so long as you were back by curfew.

Also, in the later years, maybe 1997 too, they added a Friday afternoon activity of shopping at the local mall. ¬†This required a hired coach to take all those that were interested. ¬†It was a boon to have this easy access to grocery stores, clothing stores, hairdressers etc. ¬†As I was only 11/12, I didn’t have such a long list of needs and wants, but I can imagine for 16 and 17 years olds, the addition of this weekly pilgrimage was warmly welcomed.

So, Friday – fun or not? ¬†Well, it was ALWAYS fun to go to Toomba’s (Toombul, in Aussie school girl slang, is a suburb in which the shopping mall was). ¬†We slouched our way around in our full uniform, complete with panama hat, slurping soft drinks, and scoffing McDonald’s fries, or Wizz Fizz sherbet, or even sucking on baby bottles. ¬†We had all sorts of ‘trends’. ¬†Sometimes we bought pet fish. ¬†Or CDs.

We were spirited back to school in time for dinner (5/5.30pm). ¬†It was usually deep fried fish and chips. ¬†Or a BBQ, during summer. ¬†The return to dinner and the thoughts of the predictable meals, particularly weekend meals, to this day make my stomach and heart sink. ¬†Imagining this Friday dinner, and it’s start of a long and boring weekend, usually gave me a dull ache for a more interesting life. ¬†Something more ‘fun’.

What’s even more interesting about these memories of 7 years of my life, was that after a few years ‘out of the system’ I put myself back IN the system, by being a boarding house supervisor. ¬†For almost two years, I worked weekends at boarding schools. ¬†I rejoined the predictable, bland Friday meal, with nothing exciting on the horizon, til everyone’s return on Sunday night. ¬†And like my school, other schools feed you with a routine menu. ¬†Different to the last place, but the same every week!

Nowadays, I think about Friday as a night I can stay up. ¬†I don’t play sport on a Saturday morning, as I did all through school. ¬†I don’t even work on a Saturday now I’m in my career job, and if I do, it’s on overtime rates. ¬†Fridays mean I can drink some wine, maybe even outside the house! I can go out for a meal! I can sleep over with friends (if we have too much wine!). ¬†I can go wherever and do whatever. ¬†I’m not ‘locked’ in. ¬†At any time, I can make or change plans, without a form, without a leave balance to consider, without needing my host to ring in by Thursday 9pm to verify they are in fact an adult and will care for me for the times I indicated on the said form.

When I look back on boarding school, I was incredibly fond on it on the whole.  I loved the order.  I loved the noise and bustle.  I loved the convenience (which I have largely emulated in my own home by living on top of shops!).  But I did not relish weekends. I did not look forward to Friday dinner, which marked the start of a barren expanse of time and loneliness.

I interrupt regular broadcasting…

… to bring you breaking news!

I’ll soon have one more person living in my place ūüėÄ

The BF’s lease is up in two short weeks (sort of caught him by surprise), so he plans to move to my place to buy us some time while we hunt for the ideal rental. ¬†We both think it’d be best to have ‘our’ place, rather than ‘my’ place, cause let’s face it, I know I can be a little particular! ¬†There’s so much to organise, in the next two weeks, and then looking forward from there, I thought I’d share my list with y’all

The next two weeks

  1. Get spare cardboard boxes from work/fruit & vege shop for the BF to pack
  2. Make space in my wardrobe for his clothing
  3. List all BF’s bigger ‘stuff’ (furniture etc) with measurements
  4. Make space in my house for his furniture (and a plan for what’ll be at mine in the short-term)
  5. Speak to my parents about temporarily storing some of the BF’s furniture
  6. Go to open for inspections – see the places, but review the leasing agents…
  7. Make inquiries with agents about renting my place, and the likely rent
  8. Make a budget – rent I’ll receive, bills for my house, bills for a new place, rent I can pay out, savings goals
  9. Work out suitable rent/cost sharing between me and BF in the interim period Half of what my neighbours pay
  10. Speak to my cousin about borrowing his trailer for move day 1 Find a car with a toe bar first!
  11. Collect details on utilities etc for BF to cancel/change his address
  12. Book cleaner to do ‘final clean’ at BF’s place (then I’ll likely want to stay there!) Saturday/move out day
  13. Book in accountant (for tax) and discuss best $ options with house/loan etc
  14. Bore readers with inventory posts ūüôā
  15. Share my new rental ‘wish list’ with readers, and my ‘what I (inadvertently) love about my current place’

After finding a new place

  1. Procure even more boxes
  2. Start packing up my house
  3. Patch holes and paint (ie Lack hanging shelves, maybe hanging birdcages?)
  4. Switch-a-roo washing machines (? Leave bf’s at my place, and take mine to new place, perhaps)
  5. Set up new utilities
  6. Advise all of change of address (yikes, but I’m good at it now!)

I’m sure there’s more for this list – so suggest away! And ask questions too, cause that’ll prompt my brain!

Random Round Up

TGIF! Wow, for someone who only works every second Friday, my body was shocked and dismayed to have to work this Friday! And usually, on a super tired morning, I’d stop for a mocha on the way to work. ¬†But a mocha has both sugar in it (which I’m trying to trim down on til the end of July) and it’s ‘buying takeway’ which I’m also not doing in July. ¬†Thankfully, there’s a coffee machine at work, and I got a hit the minute I got in!

In today’s random Friday wrap up, I’ll just collect my thoughts, and receipts, and look at how the week, and the month so far have been, in Carla’s of Daily Half Dozen’s¬†relaxed style (I know we share some readers, sadly I won’t be as concise as she is!).

Money

Yikes, what a week! Last week, I got a double pay, thanks to back pay, overtime and on call pay. ¬†So I quickly siphoned that off to my savings goal of $26k by 22 Dec for my mortgage. ¬†I even paid two weeks of my mortgage last week. ¬†It was all going so well…

This week I got paid my new normal weekly pay. ¬†And then I proceeded to spend $1400 on a two day course! ¬†To regular readers, this is part of getting my chartered professional engineer status – I need 150 hours of continuing professional development. ¬†75 of these hours can be ‘anything’ – which cover all the internal courses we do more or less annually. ¬†But the remaining 75 hours are divided into specific ‘skill sets’ and I was woefully under subscribed in ‘area of practice’ courses. ¬†So I found a course in August, but with two days until the ‘early bird’ rate of 10% off ended, I signed up straight away. ¬†In the past, these courses have been paid for by my employer. ¬†Sadly, with the current climate, I am not at all confident I’ll be reimbursed this time. ¬†Nonetheless, I’ve found some paperwork, and commenced my case with my (new) boss. ¬†He’s on board, and willing to watch me fight ūüôā

After paying for the course, other enjoyable hits to the budget included

  • ¬†finally fixing the ikea kitchen lights (that’s a post in itself!) for $160. ¬†This will be reimbursed by Ikea
  • I helped crowd fund a great book from a blog I love 52Suburbs¬†– you won’t be disappointed if you like photography and diptychs
  • I got all my nails done in preparation for the wedding, which set me back¬†$85. ¬†You know how I feel about the cost of being vain, so this was a hit!
Right after getting them done
Right after getting them done
  • accommodation¬†for the wedding was $180.¬†Most places in Orange are minimum two night stay, so it severely limits the competition if you’re looking to stay one night. ¬†It was well worth it though!
  • thanks to An Exacting Life, I went and found concert tickets! I’m due to see Rudimental in September (which I initially thought had sold out), and then also bought two tickets at the same venue for theatresports next weekend. ¬†I’m sure I’ll enjoy both, but that was another $140
  • for the first time in months, I had acupuncture AND physio (which I was having weekly for a long while). ¬†Combined, my out of pocket was $90, better than the $120 it could have been
  • I’ve signed up for a 9km bridge run ($57)! I can reimburse myself from the 12 in 2 adventure fund though. ¬†Sadly the 5km color run I was going to do with my family sold out quick sticks, so we’ll volunteer instead, to still be involved. ¬†Whilst on 12 in 2 goals, I’ve also found an accountability partner for running (Pauline for Make Money Your Way) and for the bible reading I have Brian from¬†Done by Forty¬†who I met through comments at Jen’s blog The Happy Homeowner¬†– yay to have encouragement!

That’s about all, til I spoke to the physio about my running and shin pain. ¬†She suggested I needed new running shoes – I’d like to get some for the ~$100 mark, but in Australia, it’s more likely to be ~$200. ¬†I’m almost tempted to take that US trip I’m dreaming of, to save me the $100 dollars.

And I’ve decided I’d like to try skinny jeans after a great wardrobe post by Into Mind, though I did wander around, and now I’ve decided I need to at least TRY skinny jeans whilst I’m this side of retirement… I mean seriously, why have I never owned a pair? ¬†I just think they might be the silhouette update I’ve been looking for. (yes I think of what I’m wearing in terms of the shape, and I’ve been a little less than impressed with a lot of my winter wardrobe of late). ¬†So that’ll likely be another $100.

I’m not game to add this all up – but let’s just saw, I’m sad to see a lot of last week’s gains be lost this week or so. ¬†Hopefully some reimbursements will settle it out, otherwise I’ll just have to be ok with achieving my savings target slower.

Stuff

I’m getting so hung up on ‘stuff’. ¬†The price of stuff vs the quality. ¬†Thinking about the conditions of who made it. ¬†The wage they were paid. ¬†Should everyone earn what an Australian ‘minimum’ wage is? ¬†It’s all getting to me – and came up last night with my parents who’ve just enjoyed 2.5 weeks in Asia, where a watch was $2.90. ¬†How do you work out a fair price?

This thought process was probably kickstarted by a radio segment where I heard the found of Slavery Footprint¬†speak about the way they are trying to change industries (rather than companies) to address slavery. ¬†You can input your ‘stuff’ to work out how many slaves you had. ¬†Best part of the interview was when he mentioned that his people emailed Steve Jobs – to which he off handedly suggested ’email the Queen too’. ¬†His staff explained that Jobs always replied to emails. ¬†And he did! He said ‘thanks for bringing this to my attention, I’ll look into it’. ¬†And since then, Apple’s gone form being a secret company, to disclosing their suppliers and the conditions and what Apple is doing to improve things. ¬†Certainly heartening.

Screen capture from http://slaveryfootprint.org/
Screen capture from http://slaveryfootprint.org/

The radio presenter had 34 slaves. ¬†I got 44. ¬†You should try it – it’s a cute interface if you have 5-10 mins to spare! ¬†You can fine tune every step by pressing the cog on the left (shown above), which I did for food, technology & clothing (using my wizz bang inventory, and it was still hard!) <- actually I went back and tried to fine tuned them all, til they cleared my old clothing tally!

I think that’s all that’s on my mind. ¬†I have the fancy birthday dinner this Saturday (my one eating out exception that I planned at the start of my ‘no eating out’ July Challenge). ¬†It’ll be great – I believe it’s 5 courses of south american food, with the option to match wines (sorry Lucinda, it’s not a dry July for me!). ¬†It’s also another cost, but hey, I knew this one was coming.

Let me know how your slavery footprint goes when you get a chance – I’d love to talk about that more!

Food memories from boarding school

I spent 7 years in boarding school, when I was 10-13, and again from 14-17 (so I had a year off in between). ¬†My parents started by moving to Vanuatu, a small pacific island, and my dad’s employer paid for my schooling. ¬†When my parents returned to Brisbane, I was devastated to be a¬†day girl¬† ¬†So when they moved to Wollongong (a town 1 hr from Sydney), I was asked if I wanted to stay in Brisbane, or go to school in Wollongong or Sydney. ¬†Wollongong didn’t offer an Anglican all girls school, so it’s likely I would have had to go to a school in Sydney. ¬†A 2 hr daily commute is rough on a teenager, so it’s possible I may have been a boarder in Sydney. ¬†But sometimes the devil you know is better than anything! ¬†So I went back into boarding school in Brisbane, and was there til graduation!

Boarding school wasn’t a punishment, for me or almost all the other 180 girls. ¬†We loved the¬†camaraderie, and the opportunities – you can play so many sports, and there’s no car pooling in most cases. ¬†That being said, some boarding school stereotypes are definitely true! The food was… not ideal! ¬†In the 7 years I was in the boarding house, they had a few moments of ‘tarting up’ the food – it was all laid out like it was a photo shoot. ¬†For Melbourne Cup (a horse race that stops the nation) they put out a spread with non alcoholic wine, even. ¬†It was stolen. ¬†It was a coup. ¬†Anyhow, these times of improved conditions seldom lasted.

What has pervaded are these memories:

–¬†White bread + butter + sugar at the dinner table

– Orange halves + sugar (you think they’d learn to not put sugar on the tables, right?)

Photo shoot with readers in mind (or... making OJ for a sick BF) Oh the synergies
Photo shoot with readers in mind (or… making OJ for a sick BF) Oh the synergies

РThe best dessert ever: caramel tarts.  And running to afternoon tea the following day in the hope of leftovers

They looked *just* like this! source: marquetteturner.com
They looked *just* like this!
source: marquetteturner.com

– Icecream bars, wrapped in papery/plastic on Fridays

– Blueberry muffins for breakfast

– Crumpets, English Muffins and raisin toast added to weekend breakfasts

Oh the added toasting variety!
Oh the added toasting variety!

– Bacon and eggs on chapel mornings (Thursday and Sunday)

– Beef stronganoff looking like dog food, namely PAL (remember I mentioned this in my food dislikes list?)

– Creamed rice always resulting in rumours of maggots (especially after numerous repeat servings!)

– Milo (chocolate malt milk powder) stuck to benchtops

– Never having access to a microwave

It’s always interesting to speak to other who went to boarding school. ¬†One friend has struggled with eggs ever since. ¬†What about you? ¬†What are your food memories – particularly institutionalised food!

How I became an engineer

Settle in, this is a long one!  The end of month summary will be next week, when all the interest is in.  Feels silly to post before the ‘dust has settled’.  This post was inspired by comments to this post

When I was nine, I had a very serious conversation with my mother on her bed, during afternoon nap time in our big Queendlander in Brisbane.  I needed to decide, right then and there, my future career. I didn’t want to leave it to chance. Make the wrong decision. Close doors inadvertently. And I haven’t changed a bit – I still have absolutely no patience!

Childhood home
Childhood home

Mum and I discussed what I liked in life. I loved travelling – I was lucky that my parents saved and took us overseas. In 1992 I was taken to the US to visit my aunt who was doing a PhD there. We flew JAL via Tokyo, and on every leg this cutie asked for an upgrade. Would you believe it, we got one from Tokyo to Cairns! In 1993, my whole family upped and moved to the south of France for 15 weeks, which my parents had their long service leave. So in 1994, when we had this discussion, I already had a taste for travel.

Mum directed me that I’d be best to be a pilot or diplomat.

Image search on diplomats is pretty paltry! Could this be a nine year old pilot though? source: yosiftrayanov.wordpress.com
Image search on diplomats is pretty paltry! Could this be a nine year old pilot though?
source: yosiftrayanov.wordpress.com

Both those are admirable careers, but I struggled with the ‘how to become a diplomat’ question.  It’s not that simple, you might get a law degree, and then get into it, but you just as likely might not.  And I don’t like those odds! So pilot it was.  I dreamed of joining wherever I wanted, and once I got there, enjoying it, unlike the passengers who might have the scurry off to business meetings.  I thought, wow, I can just up and leave husband and kids and take a break and call it work! Cheeky, wasn’t I?

In 2001, my penultimate year of school, I decided I needed to know more about becoming a pilot.  I knew I had essentially two options: self funded, or government funded through the defense forces.  Whilst my parents travelled, they aren’t in the world of wealth that finances a pilot’s licence with private lessons.  So, it was pretty clear to me, at 16, with no real earning opportunities being a boarder, that I would need to go the route of the air force.

I made an appointment with the recruitment office (which is now the Red Cross Blood Bank in Brisbane), and did my hair in the tightest, neatest bun ever.  I knew that whilst this was an ‘information’ interview, I needed to look the part.  I spoke to a someone – I say ‘someone’ for effect – he told me I’d need to learn all the ranks and all the high ranking official in the Air Force.  And all the aircraft.  And all the depots/bases.  And once I’d learnt all that, I’d have a medical examination too.  I’m not the sort of smart that memorises things.  I never really have been.  Certainly not dry military information.  Then, to be told that the medical exam would require me to waddle, in a squatted pose, across the room, to see if I had hip joint issues, I started to think ‘is this all really worth it, and necessary?’  Neither of those reasons are ‘enough’ to not continue, but I wondered if I could endure the 7 years studying, and the further 8 years ‘payback’ obligation in the service.  I loved the idea of being paid to learn, and pretty much living a financially easy life, on the government’s dime.  But could I commit to 15 years with them (or suffer the repayments if I left early?).

There were too many things that I wasn’t comfortable with.  And I decided to listen to that uncertainty, and explore additional career opportunities.  As an Aussie, it pains me to big note myself, but I knew I was academically talented enough to study for almost any career I might be interested in.  But what did I want to study, and make my career and future?  That’s such a hard question to answer at 16, with no experience of Monday to Friday 9-5 pm sorts of hours.  All you know is study, with some sport and music thrown in.

I read the course manuals, and attended open days.  In the end, I decided I would do Bachelor of Forensic Science in Applied Chemistry with a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies.  My other ‘options’, well I wasn’t really sure.  There was some industrial design.  And there was some engineering.  My mother suggested that pilots are engineers. This is not factually true, but hey, what mother hasn’t told a furfy?  And really, I can’t blame her, I’m pretty pleased with where I am in life today!!  My mother, being a teacher, spoke to her school’s career’s counselor  and I met with her in the school holidays.  (My mother and I lived in different states, and I planned to study in the state my mother was in). The counselor offered me a number of scholarship application brochures for various engineering courses.  Her advise was for the cost of a stamp and some time, you could be handsomely rewarded. She was right, it wasn’t that hard to church out some scholarship applications on the long and boring days of school holidays (when the rest of my family was at work and school).

Much to my surprise, most universities rejected me.  I remember the long, bare footed walk to the letterbox at that house.  I got an offer, but the letter wasn’t addressed to my name, but another name at my address (imagine what might have gone wrong there!!).  But, the University of Technology, Sydney did want to interview me!  Thankfully, not during my planned ‘schoolies’ week – the celebratory booze up that students illegally enjoy!

I arrived at the interview holding room, and thankfully put my foot in it there (rather than later, say, in the real interview) with a lady who’d become my boss for all my years at uni.  I said ‘oh yeah, I’d like to do aeronautical engineering’ to which she replied ‘our university doesn’t offer than specialty   We don’t offer it because there’s only 2 jobs per year, and the other two ‘big’ universities both graduate 30 students each per year in that specialty’.  Wow!  Talk about back to reality.  Thank you Betty! You saved my bacon, because, of course, I did get offered a scholarship, if I put engineering at this particular university, first on my preferences. (University admission is centralised, it’s all a bit cloak and dagger, and not very well understood).

The scholarship was perfect for my commitment phobic self.  It was for one year, it was for $10k and it required a credit average in my first year, and my re-enrolment in second year.  As I saw it, I could come away with $5k if I didn’t like engineering, and didn’t sign up for second year.  That would have covered my tuition at the very least. Needless to say, almost every year  (and it took me six years with the Bachelor of International Studies, and failing only one subject four times) I contemplated changing – to law, to forensic chemistry.  Just quitting and becoming a flight attendant and travelling.  Eventually, I’d done more than I had left, so I stuck it out, and man did it take *every single once* of willpower on some days.  Engineering is not easy but it is rewarding!

There’s so much more I could write, but at more than 1200 words, I’ll save it!  Questions warmly welcomed!

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 Рitty 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 Рwhich 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!

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?

Boyfriend review

Tuesday is review day. Usually books. Sometimes a film. Today, is a special day for someone in my life. So, today I shall share a little about someone known as ‘the bf’.

This is what my boyfriend's FLATMATE looks like (or so he likes to think). I don't have a celeb look alike for the bf source: www.people.com
This is what my boyfriend’s FLATMATE looks like (or so he likes to think). I don’t have a celeb look alike for the bf
source: www.people.com

The BF and I have been together a little over 6 months, and today marks his birthday. He’s pretty awesome as far as a blogger’s bf could go, cause he’s work in search engine wizardry (not that I actually understand any of it!). So he’s constantly enlightening me on the greater intricacies of the world wild (opps, wide!) web. And there’s nothing I can teach him either, it would seem!

So, as this blog is about my listing, I shall list the great things about my bf!

  • he is a nerd monster (which is just awesome when you make a Facebook account for your blog and it’s a ‘person’ instead of a ‘page’!)
  • he makes the bed (cause he’s ALWAYS out of bed after me, sometimes by HOURS!)
  • he drives the nicest car (and! let’s me drive it too)
  • he’s uber uber into cuddling
  • he’s always warm, which is particularly good for this cold cat as the temperatures drop here in Australia
  • he curbed his ice cream addiction whilst I knuckled down for a no sugar commitment in Lent
  • he helps me with that bottle of red wine
  • he taught me how to copy and paste of my HTC phone…. here I was thinking it wasn’t possible
  • he’s mastered toilet seat down, next stop the lid right?
  • he doesn’t often say ‘yes’ when I ask ‘should I stop talking’ late in the night
  • he can tell in the middle of the night if something’s not right (like I’m unwell), from when I’m fine
  • he’ll let me order a SECOND cheese and garlic pizza, and that be dinner ūüėÄ
  • he can untangle necklaces like a demon
  • he’s got big muscles (seriously, not just man muscles, but buff, breaking out of his t shirt style), and can open those tightly shut lids
  • he’ll try anything I cook/bake – basically my thinly veiled attempts to get us both to eat more vegetables!
  • he has an awesome sense of humour, well… some of it is very well worn humour!
  • he comes along to weddings and the like; for people he’s never even met, just so I have company
  • he knows that when I say no to a drink or food, that what I really mean is ‘no, but I’ll have some of yours’
  • after only a few weeks dating, I shaved my head, and he stuck around (but does wish it’d grow a little faster, as do I!)
  • he pretty darn communicative (for a boy) which means anything can be talked out
  • he knows my current favourite song, and will leave it on the radio (as his eyes may or may not start to bleed!)

We also have some nice similarities

  • he has the same size feet as me (this helps HIM know his size in womens, mens, and European!)
  • same sort of upbringing – socially, educationally etc
  • both have the similar attitudes to money (ie he vetoes the idea of a $36,000 wrapping room EVER!)

Now a review usually comes with a recommendation, so I would highly recommend my boyfriend, however, there’s only one of him.  Oh and any good review should balance the good with the bad, but there’s no point in raining on this little parade of birthday love! Overall, I’d like to say, he’s pretty awesome :p