Thursday, 31 January 2013

A summery summary

Hello! No, this is not another case of blog neglect, even though it may look that way. I can assure you that there are several draft posts fermenting in the background that I’m hoping will see the light of day soon. There has been plenty going on lately, with most days resembling this picture, so here’s a quick round up:
  • Today's date is a palindrome (31/1/13). I think that's kind of cool.
  • Wellington is (un)officially enjoying the bestest summer ever. It’s even as good as the nostalgic summers of childhood. It’s not so much fun, though, when the heat keeps you awake during the night and right through the bleak ‘contemplating life’ hours between 12-3 am.
  • I’m on a long, slow path towards developing scone competency. The Baker Man’s and lemonade scone recipes may have moved me away from being scone challenged and my practice attempts are slowly improving. Yay!
  • I discovered by accident that mildmint striped toothpaste is not actually mint flavoured but instead tastes like bubble gum. It’s strangely fun and weird all at the same time.
  • I had a “can’t believe my eyes” moment this morning as I was walking down Victoria Street. A young guy in front of me was walking along with his top off. Fair enough; I guess he is entitled to and it’s very hot this week. However, his pants were halfway down his butt, exposing a good 5-6 inches of his striped boxers and leaving a muffin top. I was desperate to get close enough to take a photo but realised how dodgy that would look. Besides, I really didn’t want that pic in my Twitter stream!
  • Zeffer apple cider may have moved into top place in my cider rankings. It is a crisp, dry and incredibly refreshing summer drink.
  • My barista misses me when I’m not around … although he might be as confused as I am these days. He insisted I walked past the café yesterday and didn’t go in. I’m pretty sure I worked from home yesterday and made my own stovetop espresso, but it looks like I was snapped going to the dark side of the force on Tuesday when I met a friend for coffee elsewhere. Sorry – I won’t stray tomorrow!
  • Our air con is on the blink and has been for some time. It’s 26 degrees inside the office and there is no ventilation. My little desk fan is earning its keep this week! It’s bad enough for even the air con man to wait outside for a part to arrive instead of sweating it out with the rest of us.
  • Sevens weekend is about to kick off with the parade at lunch time and the party starting tomorrow. I am looking forward to Wellington’s waterfront turning into a colourful and crazy party zone, even if I won't be joining them this year.
  • The air con is still broken and can't be fixed today, or even tomorrow …
What's news with you?

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Lemonade scones

I think I might be breaking my scone challenged tradition! Following on from The Baker Man's scones, I had success today with a really easy recipe for lemonade scones from the Food in a Minute website. With just four or five ingredients and the same number of simple steps, even I could manage to make them work!

Lemonade scones

  • 4 cups self-raising flour, sifted
  • pinch of salt
  • 300 ml cream
  • 300 ml lemonade or soda water
  • 1/2 cup sultanas (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 220°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Sift flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well. Pour the cream and lemonade or soda water into the dry ingredients and mix together to form a soft dough.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured bench. Dust lightly with flour and gently roll out into a rectangle. Cup or shape into approximately 12 pieces and lift each onto the baking tray.
  4. Bake in a preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and cool inside a clean tea towel to help keep their freshness.
Lemonade scones
Serve with butter or jam and whipped cream.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Growing down

"When I grow up, I want to be a *insert job title/reputable profession here*."
Why do people want to grow up? And what happens once you get there? Surely a 'reputable career' isn't the only measure of being grown up? Apart from being able to drive, get money or do stuff independently, grown up responsibilities mean that it's not always what it's cracked up to be. I'm convinced that we live life in reverse. All too soon, the years rush by and we wake up lamenting that we haven't really lived, or have lived according to somebody else's master plan (society's, maybe?) instead of our own. Hmmm.

Years ago, my cousin realised she was heading towards being 50 before turning 30. She had been a step-parent to three teenagers while in a long term relationship for years, the manager of a large inner city hotel and more financially responsible than most people I know. A change in life circumstances in her early 30s led her to resolve that each year she would "grow down" a year instead of getting older. It has certainly worked for her and now, at 48, she can out-party even some of our 18-year-old cousins! Now, I'm not suggesting we all try to keep up with her (I certainly can't), but she learned how to action the saying, "work to live, not live to work". We can learn a lot from her.

A colleague has just announced that she plans to "grow old disgracefully". We eagerly await signs of what this is going to look like and think we might be in for a fun ride in the years to come.

A few months ago, we celebrated another colleague's 26th birthday with a chocolate indulgence ice cream cake. Now, he's still young by anyone's definition, but he was very excited to order this cake as he "used to have ice cream cakes when he was little". I mentioned it to a friend. She told me that her husband insists on that very ice cream cake every year (he's now in his late 30s) for the same reason! It's like the look I see on people's faces when I give them cupcakes. The reaction of pure delight is almost identical between that of a 4-year-old or a 64-year-old. Children find joy in the tiniest of things. So do most grown ups - but they're scared to show it openly or let themselves go with the flow. Why is that?

I guess the moral of the story is grow up if you must, but live every day with childish joy. Too simplistic/unrealistic to actually do? It shouldn't be. What do you think?

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Boil the Frog

I found a cool app via Mashable this morning. Boil the Frog creates a progression between two artists, a kind of musical evolution. It creates a playlist complete with album art that you can listen to online. The example given shows how Miley Cyrus can morph to Miles Davis in 18 songs and, surprisingly, it makes sense. It is incredibly addictive!

I tried it out by turning my iPhone onto shuffle and entering in the next two artists. It took 19 songs to get from Rosemary Clooney (don't ask) to Al Green. Wow!

Give it a try! Enter your favourite artists or the two most random ones you can think of. Don't just think about the difference in years between the artists; genre, instrumentation, country and so-called 'popularity' all produce varied results. I had some fun with these combinations:
  • Tom Petty --> Adele in 16 songs. (That surprised me.)
  • Chuck Berry --> Cyndi Lauper in 14 songs
  • The Who --> Sinead O'Connor in 9 songs
  • Patti Page --> Rammstein took a bit longer with 26 songs.
  • Prince --> The Hollies in 10 songs
  • Split Enz --> Diana Ross in 11 songs
  • The Pogues --> Fiona Apple in 11 songs
I forecast hours of geeky musical fun on the way!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Monkey tales

This conversation with a colleague was slightly too long to tweet:
"Talking to the ex-wife about finance is like talking to a chimpanzee: she looks like she's listening and understanding what I'm saying, but all she's thinking of is bananas."

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Scaredy cat

We have a scaredy cat. We sometimes call her our invisible cat, as most of our family and friends have never actually seen her and probably think we have made her up. We often call her our silly cat, as she is silly to think we'd let anyone hurt her. But mostly she is a scaredy cat, terrified of anyone other than us (and one or two others) - and we have no idea why.

Apart from being exceptionally cute, our feline is also rather demanding. She is vocal beyond belief and particularly astute at demanding affention (affection + attention) from her human mummy and daddy now! and like this! She loves to play and insists on chasing a piece of string on the end of a stick through her cat tunnel until well after we have tired of the game. You'd think that a cat like her would love having a wide, adoring audience where she could dominate the compliant humans and be the centre of attention, but there is nothing more further from the truth.

As a kitten, she was well socialised and came from a family with three kids, dogs and lots of other kittens. The family handled her carefully and regularly before handing her over to us at 2 months old. She started off tolerating others well at first, but then suddenly decided that everyone apart from us was cause for fear. She races out the door the moment she hears a vehicle pull up into the driveway and before the courier even makes it to the front door. The same is true of almost all our other visitors; one sound and she's gone. She eventually returns a few hours after they leave when she thinks it might be safe again, sulking all the way.

We have overseas guests staying with us for two months. They have been here for less than a week and have probably caught glimpses of her just a few times as she has crept into the house, spotted them, then made a hasty retreat. Our scaredy cat sneaks in late at night to sleep with us once she is certain they are safely in bed, but races outside again if she even hears their door open during the night. Eventually, we hear her meowing outside the front door, protesting at the unfairness of having strangers in her house and insisting we let in 'our' door. (That’s a habit we want to get her out of – she can use her own door, thank you very much!) We're hoping she will relax and get used to them (they’re both cat people!) but can’t see it happening anytime soon.

We really don't know what to do about our scaredy cat. Our home has been hers for two years now, ever since she was a tiny two month old kitten. We've tried everything short of locking her in a room with 'strangers' until she gets used to them, which we don't imagine would work too well. It doesn't matter if they are 'big people', 'little people', loud or quiet - she seems to have a blanket ban on anyone other than us.

Advice gratefully accepted ...

Monday, 7 January 2013

New year, new habits

First of all, happy new year, everyone!! I hope your year has got off to a great start. Mine has. :-)

2013. A fresh start! A clean slate! So, what shall we do with it? Well, this is the time of the year that most people go crazy setting themselves impossible New Years' resolutions, of which apparently 88% fail inevitably fail. Still, we continue to make (and break) them - but not me.

I decided years ago to focus on living every day instead of feeling pressured to set myself up for failure in a few weeks' time. I'm not saying that I don't strive or aim for anything, but I'd like to think I'm smarter about how I live my life now and more determined to appreciate the little things that happen every day. I find bucket lists incredibly annoying; why make death the focal point of a project, when life is for living every day? (My 101 in 1001 project was fantastic, as is my recipe for living.)

There are some things I'd like to start in 2013; they are more like good habits I would like to develop than unrealistic resolutions I'm unlikely to achieve. Popular myth has us believe that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, but apparently there is no magic number.

I have downloaded the free Lift app for setting and 'checking in' with new habits. You can choose to join a range of habits that others have already set or make up some of your own. I won't bore you with the tedium of how often I plan to floss my teeth, but there is one new habit that I am really keen to establish: Cook a meal to freeze each week. I am hoping that if I can get ahead by cooking a 'spare' healthy meal each weekend that it will help to alleviate some of the Friday night tiredness/cheap and cheerful temptation/got home late "I'm too tired to cook"/"What's in the freezer that we can cook quickly" syndrome. I've made a start and already have one meal frozen, which I cooked alongside dinner on Saturday night. So far, so good.

In addition, I'm using MapMyWalk to keep track of my training for Round the Bays and have a small habit based around filling an empty jar with good things that happen, although my jar is likely to be more metaphorical than physical.

So how's 2013 looking for you? What do you have planned for this bright, shiny new year?