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Week 6: An undomestic goddess

On week 6 I had planned to try a new sport. The open day for beginners for the said new sport was to be held on the last day of the week in which I could do my weekly challenge. I never thought about timing. Rookie mistake! I woke up at 530am to a deluge of rain. Damn. No new sport for me. And double damn, I now needed to come up with a challenge that I could complete that day.

Drinking my morning coffee and searching for inspiration, I came across a discarded ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ magazine. It wasn’t mine I hazard to point out. I have been known to buy a celebrity magazine or two, but anything to do with home, gardens or craft…no thank you. Not that there is anything wrong with such magazines. It’s just that I am, as some may say, quite the undomestic goddess. Ok, well they might leave out the goddess part but you get the drift.  

I guessed I would be able to find many a new thing in the magazine with which to challenge myself. After ruling out all things gardening (too hot, not my garden), and all things involving building furniture (no tools, no need for new furniture, not enough time), I decided upon a cooking challenge.  A two-course meal to be exact – chorizo and pumpkin risotto followed by watermelon ice-cream; things I had never attempted to cook / make in my life. Some might argue that this sounds like an easy challenge. I refer all nay-sayers back to my previous comment on undomesticity. My dinner staples consist of cereal, toast, salad and chicken – things that ensure I am in and out of the kitchen in 10 minutes or less. I just don’t enjoy cooking. I enjoy eating immensely, but cooking has never been for me. Not my bag. No sir. No thank you. So this really was going to be a challenge. And just to make it a tad more challenging I decided to invite the family over for the meal, so it had to be edible. And they were going to score me in the tradition of “Come Dine with Me”; no pressure then.

After a quick grocery shop I headed home to start on the ice-cream as the preparation time stated in the recipe was 3 and half hours. 3 and a half hours – help me Rhonda! At this point in the story I should point out that I didn’t actually make the ice-cream. The recipe noted I could use shop-bought vanilla ice-cream. The key wasn’t to make the ice-cream itself; it was to create ice-cream to look like a slice of watermelon. So it was more ice-cream sculpture; ice-cream art if you will.

First step was to create the outside green layer of the watermelon by adding colour and flavour, shaping it in a bowl, then placing another bowl inside to keep the shape and putting it back in the freezer to set. That was pretty easy. Maybe this was going to be a walk in the park after all. After an hour I got out the newly set ice-cream and stumbled across problem number one. How to get the inside bowl out as it had frozen to the ice-cream. The recipe said try some hot water in the inside bowl and then gently remove. Disaster. The ice-cream started caving in as soon as I removed the inside bowl. Instead of a shell of a watermelon I had a sea of green goo. Back to step one – re-freezing – and another hour wait. My second attempt went much better so I could move onto step two – adding a thin layer of vanilla ice-cream over the top of the green without mixing the two, then placing the bowl back inside to set followed by another hour wait. I then had to do the same for the red layer. I get bored just retelling the story – why do people find this fun and relaxing?!  

By this time it was getting close to dinner o’clock, so I thought I better set the risotto in motion. I poured myself a wine and cranked up the iPod, got out the ingredients and started slicing and dicing. For the onions I decided to try to channel Jamie Oliver and his fancy pants dicing technique. This was working quite well and I was feeling pretty proud of my finely diced onions and then it happened – I sliced my finger. “Argggghhhhhh” went my cry. “What happened?” came the response. “Finger, blood,  not good” I believe was my reply. And it wasn’t good. You see, I don’t deal well with blood. Or cuts. I get quite woozy. Luckily for me Florence Nightingale was nearby in the shape of my 10-year-old niece. “I’ll fix it Aunty Bec” she said as I started to turn a ghostly white. “Come with me”. Bless her little socks. I sat on the bathroom floor while she tended to my wound. The damage was not too substantial – no stitches required. A rinse and a few plasters and I was good to go.

Finger tended to I got back to work on the risotto, albeit now with a throbbing finger (I am such a hero). The rest of the story would make for quite a boring read (as boring as it was to stand in the kitchen stirring the risotto) so to make a long story short, I managed to finish the risotto with a minimum of fuss. Challenge complete.

Final scores for the evening:

My very first risotto

My very first risotto

– 7 out of 10 for the risotto

Ice-cream art

Ice-cream art

– 9 out of 10 for the ice-cream sculpture

– 7 out of 10 for ambience

(I think the finger cutting drama may have lowered my score somewhat for ambience!)

 

Weekly learnings

  So what did I learn this week?

  • I learnt it is always helpful to have a back-up plan
  • I learnt the importance of learning to walk before you run (aka don’t try and be smart when using sharp objects)
  • I learnt that all set-backs can be overcome with determination and a little patience
  • I learnt that cooking risotto isn’t actually as hard as it first seems (but you won’t find me in the kitchen cooking it again any time soon)
  • I confirmed that, despite my success, I still find cooking boring, and no amount of wine while cooking seems to help

Most importantly of all, this week I learnt that you can always find new things to do; you just have to look. Big or small, difficult or easy, expensive or free, wherever you may find yourself in the world, there are always new things to see and do (even in small towns – who knew?!). You just have to be willing, open your eyes, and look.  

Until next time

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are” –  Theodore Roosevelt

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Week 5: Mumford and monsters and wigs, oh my

This week saw me heading to Cairns to visit one of my favourite people for an extra long weekend. Yay! I wasn’t sure how I was going to fulfil my commitment to doing a new thing this week, but I knew that something would come along.  And so it did. First cab off the rank – a Mumford and Sons gig at the Kuranda Amphitheatre. Whoop – I love Mumford and Sons and had never seen them live in concert. Nor had I been to the Kuranda Amphitheatre. I could claim two new things in one outing – bargain!

One slight hurdle; I didn’t have a ticket and the concert was sold out. Not one to be deterred, a quick search of the Gumtree website showed a single ticket for sale (and at face value no less). Yes! I called the number and made contact with a rather harassed-sounding man (I learned later that he had just missed his flight to Cairns and was trying to source another flight – oops). He informed me that he had had a number of offers for the ticket via text, but I was the first to actually call. Based on that fact he declared that I would henceforth be the rightful owner of the ticket. We arranged to meet (once he finally made it to Cairns) and he kept his end of the bargain. I now had my very own Mumford and Sons ticket – woo hoo.

I was close to tears when I heard the lovely English accents of the Mumford men. I could almost imagine myself back in the UK attending one of the fantastic English summer music festivals that take place every year; something that I greatly missed since returning to Australia.  But there were no tears when it came to the venue – set in rainforest gardens with grass terraces which can hold an audience of up to 3,500, the Kuranda Amphitheatre  is a stunning, tranquil and intimate place to attend a concert (well that sounds a bit like an ad right there doesn’t it?! Maybe I should look for jobs writing advertising copy?!). It was wonderful to have my UK summer festival partner in crime with me once again to dance and sing the evening away with a fantastic band and in such a stunning venue. The only blight on the night was the fact it was the first time I had attended a concert where I hadn’t called my dad so he could play a little part in the evening. It had always been a ritual, and this was a painful first that I wish with all my heart wasn’t a first that I had to experience.Mumford and Sons

My five-night stay in Cairns ended up bringing two more firsts: monster cupcake making and wig-wearing (not at the same time). Now when I say monster cupcake making, I don’t mean ridiculously large cupcakes. I mean cupcakes with monster faces on them. I should probably note that the cupcakes were for a Halloween party. I don’t just go around making monster cupcakes for fun. In fact, as those who know me will attest, I don’t go around cooking or baking full stop. I am not, as some might say, “domestic”. So when my friend asked if I could help her out by making some cupcakes for her upcoming Halloween party, I laughed out loud. “Um, you have met me right?” I recall saying. “You know that kitchens and I don’t really mix, unless the kitchen activity involves pouring wine or socialising at parties”.  But it seems she was serious, and she provided me with a packet mix and the fanciest mixer I have ever seen to prove her point; and then promptly walked out of the door and left me to it. Shit (sorry, hope you aren’t offended by swearing, but I really couldn’t think of another word that summed up how I felt right at that moment. Oh my deary me really didn’t cut the mustard).

Ok, packet mix, no one can go wrong with packet mix right? Being home alone, I cranked up the iPod and danced and sang my way around the kitchen whilst gathering and pouring ingredients into the fancy bowl, ready for the fancy mixer. So far, so good. I then turned on the fancy mixer –my goodness that was a treat. It was indeed a very fancy mixer and I was oddly fascinated by watching it work its magic. I felt like Nigella Lawson, all buxom and baking. I took it upon myself to pretend that I was indeed Nigella, mincing around the kitchen, explaining what I was doing, and pouting at the ‘camera’. When the mixing was done I even tasted the batter, ensuring as I did that I copied Nigella’s ‘sexy finger in the mouth’ move. TV can teach you things! And yes, I was still home alone at the time!

The cupcakes turned out quite well (i.e. they were edible) and I thought my job was now done. No, no, silly me, that was the easy Monster cupcakespart! My lovely friend then advised me that we were to ice the cupcakes, and make monster faces on top of them using marshmallows and chocolate dots. Dear god, would the torture end? I armed myself with the ingredients and plonked myself in front of the TV with a glass of wine and settled in for what would end up being about one and a half hours of monster cupcake decorating. Man I am such a good friend! In the end, the monsters turned out looking more like little Pac-Men, but hey, they were cute and tasty and they were all scoffed at the party, so I deemed the adventure a success!

Speaking of the party, given that it was in aid of celebrating All Hallow’s Eve, the request was made that we all dress up accordingly. Argh, dress-ups – what would I wear? All I had in my arsenal was a red dress and a black cape. Oh and a devil wig I had picked up at the last minute. Ok, so with a bit of dramatic make-up, some fishnets, heels and pitchfork I could make it work. And work it I did! Best of all, I had never worn a super long hair wig before so I could claim it as a first.

Rumination time

So what did I learn from my firsts this week? 

I learnt that sometimes you can just be in the right place at the right time (aka be in Cairns at the same time as Mumford and Sons are playing a gig nearby). There is no rhyme or reason to such things, and when presented with such opportunities, one should make the most of them.

I also learnt the power of a phone call versus a text message. In this day and age we often send texts as our main means of communication. We justify this by saying that it is easier, less time-consuming, and less emotionally stressful than indulging in an actual conversation, even if that conversation is with a loved one (as opposed to someone we do not know well). We have, perhaps, forgotten the pleasure of receiving a call, of talking to someone, of being able to understand the emotion of the conversation without having to second-guess or make (often wrong) assumptions regarding the emotion being portrayed via text (hands up who hasn’t misinterpreted the intent of a text message and gotten themselves into a spot of bother / debate / argument  / bit of a tizzy as a result – I am guessing there are not many hands waving in the air right now).

When you think about it, in some cases it is actually quicker to make a call to sort out things – like making arrangements to meet someone – than it is to text back and forth ironing out the details.

In this case, my phone call elicited a favourable response and I got exactly what it was that I wanted, despite others having made similar offers via text. Why? Maybe it was the personal angle. I cared so much about something that I made the effort to call someone who I didn’t know in the hope that I would be successful in obtaining that something which I didn’t have but that I wanted. I made an effort; I stepped out of my comfort zone and I was rewarded. (I was also very friendly and positive which of course probably made a difference as well – not sure the same response would have been received should a more sullen person have called…).

I also believed in my heart that I would be able to purchase a ticket for the concert.  I didn’t know how, but I felt that a ticket would be forthcoming. A lot of people believe in the power of positive thinking, and that truly believing you have something you don’t currently have will bring about you having that something. More and more I have seen this work in practice. Coincidence or something more? Why not try it and decide for yourself?

Other lessons I have learnt this week:

  • When pushed, I can actually do a bit of cooking with moderate success (as long as the cooking is easy and comes with a complete set of instructions). I am sure the same could be said for any number of tasks and activities. We all just need a good push now and then (and good friends who believe that we can do it if only we try).
  • I am a good friend, willing to do things outside of my comfort zone in order to help a friend. That is the marker of a good friend. If your friend’s aren’t willing to do that for you, then maybe it is time to rethink the friendship.
  • Music is good for the soul. It can soothe wounds and elevate your mood. Find your happy music space and indulge whenever you feel the need (I also find a good 30 second dance break every now and then is very helpful in kicking bad moods – go on, put some boppy music on and dance like there is no one watching for a full 30 seconds and feel the difference in your mood).
  • Attending gigs in the great outdoors is one of life’s pure pleasures. I recommend everyone try to do this as often as possible in their lifetime.
  • Wigs are itchy.

Until next time, remember

Opportunities do not wait” – Greek proverbJust because it was so cute