Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Day 1001

Today's the day! It is 1001 days since I started my 101 in 1001 project. What a ride it has been!

In June 2008, I came across the Day Zero website and browsed a few blogs that people had linked to. "What an ambitious project!" I thought, never seriously considering taking part myself. I was interested to see that people had set themselves big goals and small ones, one-off and ongoing. I began toying with the idea of starting the project myself but quickly discounted it. I didn't think I could come up with 101 activities for a list like this. Jeepers, how short sighted was I?

I sat down and started brainstorming. About 60 activity ideas 'fell' out of my head within the first half hour. The list kept forming but I thought I'd make it a private project. Why? Probably fear of failure - it's hard to admit things might not have gone right when you're a perfectionist. I quickly abandoned that idea, started rearranging my blog to incorporate the project and went public. Best decision I made!

My 'official' tally shows 80 activities completed. According to #100, that leaves me with $800 saved to spend how I please. I toyed with the idea of using this money to buy the art prints on my list (#24 - a Michael McCormack painting/print of Island Bay, #98 - Vettriano’s The Singing Butler and #99 - Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night) but thought it sounded a bit like cheating. I've been eyeing up some more kitchen goodies, namely a breadmaker, a food processor and a good set of knives. It might be a while before I actually get around to buying them but they're on my wishlist.

Would I do it again? Absolutely - just not for a while. There is still some unfinished business from this list that I want to attend to first, some of which I already have definite plans for and others which I'll make happen in time. I'm not going to lament over the activities I didn't complete during this time. Instead, I want to celebrate all the things I did achieve and manage to do for myself. I'll keep rolling over the remaining activities and continue to blog about them as I tick another off my list.

For everyone who has come along for the journey, or even worked on their own list, thank you for your support, comments, encouragement and questions. Being part of an online project like this has been an amazing way to get to know bloggers from around the globe and the Twitterverse. Woo hoo - it's time to celebrate!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Heaven food

Years ago, I read The Lovely Bones, a novel by Alice Sebold. In it, the main character, Susie, is raped and murdered and watches over her family from heaven. The great thing about heaven in this novel is that it is entirely created by the imagination and dreams of the person who has died. Actually, it turns out that Susie is in limbo, but that's not the point. (That's not a spoiler, either; it sets the scene for the movie.) The movie of the same name didn't quite capture what I imagined Susie's heaven (or limbo) to look like, but there were elements that worked out fine.

Anyway, shortly after reading the novel, some friends and I were discussing 'our' heavens. The conversation turned to food. What food would you eat in your heaven, continuously and for all of eternity? (Don't worry about the side effects or calories - this is heaven. You'll be fine.) My heaven food list looked like this:
  • chocolate (you can also drink this - clever isn't it?)
  • cheese
  • cashew nuts.
Many years on, my list remains in tact. You see, I've been pretty smart. Some of my heaven foods come in various different forms, which means I'd still have variety. However, from time to time I think about what else I might include in my heaven food list. If I were to extend it, here's what I'd add:
  • strawberries
  • coffee (made by my favourite barista)
  • home grown Italian tomatoes
  • hot cross buns
  • raspberry cream buns (but without the jam - my guilty pleasure, although it's been years since I last had one)
  • tiramisu (or any Southern/Central Italian creme-based dessert).
How about you? What food (or drinks) would make it to your heaven food list? Be prepared to eat it continuously for all of eternity ...

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Fascinating Aida

A colleague emailed a link around our team earlier this week; you know how it goes. I saw that it was a video and left it for later when I had more time. Within a minute or so, fits of laughter erupted from several desks - obviously others had decided to view it straight away. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

Fascinating Aida is a British satirical comedy singing group that has been around since 1983 and their work speaks (or sings) for itself. For anyone who has ever been lured by the temptation of cheap flights, the ladies have got some words of warning. I especially love the verse that begins at 2:30 - so very appropriate on St Paddy's Day.

If you're hooked (I was!), firmly plug in your headphones and listen to this one:


Sunday, 13 March 2011

Book worshipping

I was sitting in the sun outside Cafe Reka today, enjoying a cappuccino and reading the Sunday Star-Times - the perfect lazy Sunday morning. I came across an article by Grant Smithies called Treasure in the margins. The title appealed to the bibliophile in me. However, what followed was truly distressing for a book lover like me. It began with the following admission:
"My name is Grant. I am a book abuser." 

Of course, I always knew there were book abusers out in the wide world but, much like confessing to being a grown-up and still getting a kick out of pulling the wings off flies, I didn't think it was something anyone would want to be caught doing, let alone openly admitting to!

As a lifelong book worshipper, I see books as objects of beauty, worthy of treasuring and in need of fierce protection. As a child, I was the one who pointed out to librarians that certain books needed some TLC, putting them in a pile to be lovingly repaired with magical librarians' Sellotape (the type that doesn't turn yellow as it gets older).

You can guarantee that after I've read a brand new book, its condition will be immaculate enough for resale without anyone knowing it has already been read by someone. No broken spines, grubby marks or dog ears for me. Heck, I get annoyed when people don't refold a newspaper neatly! I don't like authors (or gift givers) writing messy inscriptions inside the cover and, if I absolutely must label a book with my name, it is hesitantly whispered in pencil.

This somewhat OTT tendency to mollycoddle books means that I am reluctant to lend books to certain people lest they return in less than impeccable condition. (I'm expecting them to return; for those that don't, that's another blog post.) For example, I have a friend who says she likes to see all of the two pages she is reading laid out flat in front of her. "But what about the spine?" I once asked her in a slightly alarmed tone. "What about it?" she replied, clearly bemused. I have mentally crossed her off my 'so-and-so might like to read this book after me' list.

Apparently there is something called marginalia, where scribbles and comments are legitimately left in the margins of books. Sylvia Plath did it. So did Sir Walter Raleigh, among others. If you find a book that has been graffitied by a famous dead person, said book can become incredibly valuable. But surely that still doesn't make it right!

How about you? Are you a book abuser or a book worshipper?  How tolerant are you of the 'other' kind of readers in this world?

Monday, 7 March 2011

Sorting out resources

OK, we're getting down to the nitty gritty. Two 101 in 1001 activities I have attempted on several occasions (and this one, too) have been hanging over my head for far too long. #44: Sort out/purge my teaching resources and #45 Sort out/organise my MEd resources aren't as easy as they sound. Part of these tasks have also been psychological; I know I'm no longer a teacher in the traditional sense (and don't wish to be) but I still possess the magpie instinct that many (or most) teachers have. "This might come in handy one day."

This weekend, I was at the stage of re-sorting the stuff I'd already sorted and put away in boxes on previous occasions. I'd kept too much stuff 'just in case' and needed to purge it for once and for all. In among all my notes and resources, I came across this quote:
"In order to move forward, we need to leave something behind."
Michael Pohl
So very true! With renewed vigour, I extracted copious amounts of by-products of trees which are now destined for recycling. Some things made it to the bin; others went in my 'take to work' pile - and only things that I know I will actually use or refer to. My nephew was thrilled with the collection of fancy stickers. gel pens and colourful note paper that he acquired.

  • I still couldn't quite bring myself to throw out my curriculum documents. I know they're (almost) obsolete with a new curriculum, but I'll wait until I can say the first half of this sentence without the word in brackets before disposing of them altogether.
  • A few poetry books and thinking resources are still in my boxes. Just because.
  • Because I can access the majority of my research resources digitally if I need them (they're well-referenced), most of the paper copies of readings are now headed for the recycling bin. However, I couldn't get rid of my course books of readings yet, 'just in case' I'm ever silly enough to start the PhD that is lurking at the very back of my mind.
  • I have been looking for my gun stapler for a looooong time. I'd been told that you're not a teacher if you don't have a gun stapler. There is nothing that a gun stapler (or a glue gun) cannot do! Although I'm no longer a teacher, I still really, really wanted my gun stapler. I found it in the final box of stuff I was sorting. I am now ready to take on the world!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Recipe book

Like most cooks and bakers, I have built up quite a collection of recipes over the years. While I am not the type who is attracted to buying massive tomes featuring glossy images of perfect meals that I'll never realistically cook for myself, I have still managed to collect a number of recipe books and screeds of loose leaf recipes from endless sources. I have been looking for free online recipe organisers which allow me to submit my own recipes to a private collection, then sort by meal type, ingredients, time etc ... a bit like the awesome Dinner Spinner but entirely personalised. Doesn't that sound useful? Turns out that such a tool doesn't exist (or perhaps I just haven't found it yet?).

Plan B was to type all of my recipes into a master Word file, hit 'print' and then collate them into a ubiquitous ring binder with dividers for each meal type. Not quite as sexy but incredibly functional. Even though it took far, far longer than I ever imagined it would, my recipes are now finally sorted into a master folder of sorts and my recipe books are neatly arranged on one shelf. How long they stay that ordered is another matter ...

I'm slowly ticking off the remaining 101 in 1001 activities on my list: #46 - Organise recipes.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Ongoing goals

The end of my Project 101 in 1001 is near! I have already conceded that I won't complete all the activities on my list before my official finishing date of 29 March 2011. That's ok, as I will keep working towards them - they are still things I want to do.

In nearing the end, it's time to evaluate some of the ongoing goals and activities that I set for the whole duration of the project. Here's a roundup of those activities.

#1: Read at least one book per month
This has been a most enjoyable goal. Although it seems like a relatively simple goal, some months have seen me left with very little time to read for pleasure.

#7: Blog at least three times per week
I have managed to do this across all three of my blogs (including Project 365) and will aim to continue for the foreseeable future.

#12: Play the piano at least once a month
I long for the day when I can retrieve my piano from my parents' music studio and have space for it in my own home. In the meantime, I have made do by playing for short stints when I visit for family dinners.

#48: Find something to be happy and thankful for each day
OK, so it's not yet the end of the month and I still have some days to go, but I think on balance I have achieved this goal, even when times have been tough. Given recent events, I have soooooo much to be happy and thankful for.

#100: Put aside $10 for each goal achieved
This money has built up. Although I haven't finished the whole project yet, I have managed to transfer $10 for each activity completed into my savings account - the total currently sits at $750 and growing. Now, what to spend it on to reward myself ...?

Friday, 4 March 2011

Mystery recipe

Last night, as we were having a tidy up at home, my partner handed me a small piece of paper with a handwritten recipe on it. "Do you need this?" he asked. The handwriting was mine - very neat, too - and it seemed to be complete except for one thing: the title. I have no idea what the recipe is for or when I would have written it down!

To all you bakers out there, I am asking for help in identifying my mystery recipe. I thought about baking it and seeing what turns out but have no idea what kind of tin to use. The inclusion of cocoa rules out it being my sister-in-law's sponge recipe. Given the relatively short cooking time, and the quantity of ingredients, I'm guessing it might be for brownies, cookies or a slice. Google hasn't really helped. (It's unlikely to be cake, right?)

Mystery recipe

  • 115 g butter
  • 115 g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 115 g self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Beat butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time.
  3. Sift over flour.
  4. Stir in milk and cocoa.
  5. Bake for 17 minutes.
Bakers, any ideas?

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Purple Cake Day

Today is Purple Cake Day, a wonderful event held annually on 1 March to celebrate the children in our lives while empowering those in need around the world. I love purple , I love cake and I love children - this is the perfect event for someone like me!

We organised an afternoon tea for our team at work and arranged for a few of us bakers to get cooking. I got busy making vanilla cupcakes with purple frosting. We purpled up the office and invited staff to bring a cuppa and a donation to join us. A very creative staff member and her nine-year-old son made some beautiful handmade cards which were 'sold' for a minimum donation. Here is our purple spread:
Vanilla cupcakes with purple frosting
Purple lemon slice made by one of the lads
Stunning handmade cards for sale
Banana cake made by another of the boys
In light of last week's earthquake in Christchurch, we were keen to expand our event and be able to donate to both the Kenbe La Foundation as well as contributing directly to New Zealand Red Cross. The response from colleagues was excellent and we managed to raise a fair bit of money for both charities. It was also a great way to bring our staff together and focus on something positive. I'm very keen to take part in Purple Cake Day each year and support this wonderful cause.