Mar 30, 2020

Life This Week 30/3/2020: Chocolate

I don't think there's ever really a bad time for chocolate.

It heals and it goes with practically everything.  Including Jatz crackers and a cuppa.

It lends itself splendidly to dramatic chocolate fountains at ritzy buffets

and it can also express its artistic side as a medium for chocolate art.

Chocolate is enjoyed all over the world, these marzipan Mozart chocolates are one my of favourite food memories of Berlin.

It can also be enjoyed at altitude in the plane.  En route to even more countries where chocolate is adored.

Chocolate is an obvious ingredient with which to bake and frost.

It also serves as a simple yet effective way to make your homemade cake look a little bit special.

There's treat chocolate and there's everyday chocolate.  Merci chocolate fingers make it into my trolley every time I visit Aldi.

But my all-time favourite chocolate is Old Jamaica Rum'N'Raisin.

What's yours?

Mar 26, 2020

Lovin' Life 26/3/2020: Homemade Fried Rice.

This week, I'm loving homemade fried rice.

Usually, a dish made on autopilot from leftovers in the fridge and freezer plus a few fresh eggs and specially seasoned rice (I add enough soy sauce and sesame oil to give my rice glisten, a rich brownness and that intoxicating fragrance of sesame oil) - this week's batch served as barometer of the hoarding craziness that's hit our city in light of the pandemic.

And the barometer says that for groceries, at least, and for this week - the craziness has turned it down a couple of notches.

I was able to find....

rice (albeit organic and $6 for a 500g packet),

Image result for egg carton
via Wikipedia

eggs (I always fry up at least half a dozen per batch of fried rice (3 cups uncooked rice),

Image result for woolworths rotisserie chicken
via The Daily Mail
chicken (leftover rotisserie chicken is my favourite protein to add to fried rice),

Image result for frozen peas
via Google images
frozen peas

and lettuce all on the one trip to the supermarket.  To explain about the lettuce - it's for rolling up the fried rice to eat sang choy bow style.

Seeing all my ingredients lined up and ready to go gave me some insight into how it must have felt for those trying to survive during wars with rations and food shortages.

I whipped up my fried rice with a smile on my face and serving it for dinner made me feel that at least some things are still okay and right in this world.

Especially seeing as I was able to enjoy this batch of fried rice with lashings of some special Masterfoods blended ketchup and sriracha as well as a generous sprinkling of fried shallots.... 

It just all comes together on the plate.  Trust me.

Mar 23, 2020

Life This Week 23/3/2020: Out and About.

In this strange new world of ours, even the concept of being 'out and about' has been turned on its head.  The seemingly rare opportunities to experience the little things of our old, 'normal' world are moments to be celebrated.  'Normal' seems like decades, rather than weeks ago to me.

Without further ado...  a few little glimpses of normality afforded to me this week.

It's a thing of beauty, joy and wonder, isn't it?  A fully stocked minced meat section at the supermarket.  The date: Friday, March 20, 2020, the time: 1645.

I'm one of the lucky (depending on how you look at it) people who still gets to commute to my usual place of work each day.  While everyone else is now au fait with Zoom and Pexip, I've only just added them to my phone because I've spent the day doing normal work things like take part in the great 'remove or leave the staples before shredding' debate that gripped our team last week.  For the record, I always remove them.  It would not be a good look if my staple was the one that broke the shredder everyone on the ward has to use on a daily basis.  Not good at all.

Speaking of work.  In this brave new world of ours, infection control has become a priority beyond the workplace.  There's growing concern about the possibility of bringing the virus home with us at the end of each day.  One possible solution is for those of us who trot around in civilian clothes and shoes to switch to scrubs and washable shoes like Crocs.  Never one to shy away from the opportunity to investment dress for any occasion, I've ordered these steel grey scrubs and some black Crocs, the appropriately named 'On the Clock' style.


I might never return to civvies again if the scrubs and clogs are as comfy as they look.

Any opportunity to simply be outside and moving my body has been savoured.  

No matter how mundane the vista, keeping my connection to the physical world around me is a privilege I'm using as much as I can as rumours of suburban lockdowns swirl in the press.  Given the way we've treated Bondi Beach in recent days, I'm not surprised more restrictive interventions are being considered.  Will we ever take this seriously, I wonder?

Social distancing has now been increased to 4 square metres, which will effectively close many bars and restaurants.  Black crosses have appeared on the floor of my local Woolworths as visual prompts for us all to keep our distance.  

The internet is pretty much our portal to the outside world when we're not at work or school.  Homework gets uploaded to SeeSaw by Master SSG while I furiously google everything (including how to use Pic Collage) to help in my laptop.  God bless the NBN!

Authors, artists, actors and celebrities have reached out as their contribution to help make self isolation less traumatic for children (and their parents).  Mo Willems has started a series of videos inviting fans to draw and chat with him at lunchtime.  It's just delightful.

Image result for frozen star book reading josh gadd
via twitter
Josh Gad, famous for his voice in 'Frozen' has begun reading stories via Twitter each night.

Art. books and the human voice.  How humbling that it's taken us a pandemic to truly appreciate these feats of human civilization.

The world is as full of pleasant surprises and silver linings these days.  We just need to be still, breathe and seek them out.

Be well.

Mar 19, 2020

Lovin' Life 19/3/2020: Five Things

Things that have put a smile on my dial this week:

1.  Proper, actual, 'chapter books'.  I'm reading these with Master SSG.  They were favourites from my own childhood.

2.  The humble Milk Arrowroot thickly spread with butter and creamed honey.  So simple but so good.

3.  Rainbows. I hope they are a good omen for us all in the midst of this period of fear and anxiety.  Look, I even got a double rainbow in that first photo!

4.  Finding Children's Panadol at the chemist.  This epidemic of hoarding has a silver lining in that it has encouraged many of us to forgo the convenience of chain retailers and support local businesses more.  I found my Panadol at an independent pharmacy where I work.  Sensible information was displayed about the need to limit customer purchases and this request was being politely adhered to.

5. A delivery from Adore Beauty featuring favourites old and new.  The Tim Tam, the generous gifts with purchase, the tongue in cheek and eco-friendly packaging.  What's not to love?

PS - that Benefit 'Precisely, My Brow..' brow pencil is everything in the world of brows.  Easy to use, very natural results and with so many shades, there's one that's sure to be yours.

Mar 17, 2020

Keeping Up With .... COVID-19.

It's back, or more precisely (since it never really left) - it's gained a freakish momentum.  A life of its own.  It's so thick in the air you could cut it with that proverbial knife.  That sense of impending doom, that rim of anxiety that seems to edge practically every aspect of our daily lives as we try to keep on keeping on in the shadow of COVID-19.  

Image result for flatten the curve australia coronavirus financial tines
Via The World Economic Forum

Incidence rates are climbing rapidly in many countries across the world and passionate debates continue regarding what we can do to 'flatten the curve' to cushion the impact of the virus on our health systems and economies.  Frighteningly, some countries seem more intent on allowing their citizens to somehow, maybe develop herd immunity.  To a disease for which we have no vaccine and also not enough resources to care for all those who may suffer fatal forms of the virus.  

Image result for flatten the curve australia coronavirus financial tines
via The Financial Times

With more countries going into lockdown and the usually porous borders of the world being sealed tightly one nation at a time came the news of how life here in Australia would change immediately with hints of further restrictions in coming days and weeks.

Where is Australia headed?  I hope our leaders head the advice of the medical community, our public health and epidemiology specialists and our scientists rather than making decisions based on financial gain.

It's frankly, frightening and I've found the last week of uncertainty mentally exhausting.  I was fortunate (but unfortunate to have to be there in the first place) to have been tested late last week for COVID-19.  

Image result for blue line road
via google images

I went to the clinic in my area health service and it was like being in a disaster movie.  A fresh bright blue line was being painted on the driveway to how pedestrians the directions to the clinic.  I found its permanence (it is as thick as the normal lane markers on your average road) worrying.  How long will this go on if even the directions to the clinic are permanently painted into the road?

Despite the sunshine streaming through the windows, there was a bleak greyness to area where we waited to be tested.  Colleagues in head to toe personal protection gear issued me with a mask, I washed my hands and waited.  There was a tense silence in the waiting room.  I normally cringe when I see rooms full of people with their heads down over a screen waiting for something but that day, it felt normal and reassuring.  As people vacated seats, a staff member would approach the seat in full PPE and wipe it down liberally with bleach.  I looked back at the sea of phones for a calming reality check....

I am so grateful to everyone I encountered.  For their calm, compassion and professionalism as they assessed us all.  Staff who have been pulled from their usual duties to keep this horror show on the road.   I am fortunate that my test was negative.  I returned to my normal life after getting my result,  As normal as it could be in the midst of an unprecedented wave of news on social media offering advice, statistics, new developments in our national and state-based strategies to suppress the virus.  I don't think I've ever read as many work-related emails in such a short period of time.

What does normal even in this COVID-19 world?

Naturally, we responded as we have done all through the COVID-19 pandemic.  We hit the shops and panic shopped.  It hasn't been so good-humoured this time.  Brawls, the vulnerable being pushed aside... desperation and uncertainty has revealed ordinary people are capable of doing.  

Image result for woolworths special hours

Well played Coles and Woolworths, though, for offering special shopping hours for the more frail and vulnerable so that they now get access to vital groceries.

If nothing else COVID-19 has given us some of the best memes and 'fake news' articles (it's getting harder to spot the fakeness these days) of the year.

If not the century...

I've gotten out the door into my backyard and moved, done yoga and pilates at home, pottered around indoors and generally done all I can to keep my mind and body busy.  Those numbers on my Apple Watch have been a great motivator and distraction in the midst of all of this.

The one thing that this practice self-isolation did give me (as it took away so many little things I take for granted) is time.

Time to make pancakes and time to enjoy them with Master SSG.

By the way, pancake presses (gotta find the alliteration wherever you can in times like these) are the key to your sanity when faced with making your own pancakes at home.

I got mine at Woolies and it makes perfect, fuss-free pancakes every time.  It's easy to clean and relatively easy to store.  I have read that you can also make omelettes in them.  Watch this space.  

In between my kitchen adventures, I've been spending my time in the great indoors knitting (I've embarked on a knitted blanket project!!!!!) and playing Monopoly.

Lego is a no brainer.  Did you know that there's now remote-controlled Lego?  Neither did I but $20 worth of AAA batteries later, I agree that it's a lot of fun.

I really enjoyed this, to be honest.  I wonder which board game we should try next?  I think I have just enough AAA batteries for one more.

Back in the kitchen, I made an amazing Ultra Satisfying Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup.  Your eyes are not deceiving you, fish sauce really does give store-bought chicken stock a kick.

In with the fish sauce went a large handful of homegrown herbs, lots of vegetables, the chicken (of course) and butter.

The end result was a glistening golden soup that nourishes body and soul like nothing else.  Photos taken at dinner time at the dining table just can't do that golden shimmer justice.  Take my word for it, though, the glimmer was there!

I made some more slow cooker bread as our carb of choice over noodles as I was making the soup to freeze and pasta in soup just doesn't keep well.

As we face increasing changes and restrictions to the daily life take we took for granted (and occasionally whinged about), here are the three take-home messages keeping me sane and helping me gain some perspective:
1.  Find the humour and accept the reality.  Homeschooling will be a challenge for both us as parents and the children.  I'm going to return to the motto that kept me going through the newborn months 'Everyone's fed and no-one's dead'.

2.  Remember the sacrifices made by the generations before us and compare their bravery and love for their fellow citizens with what we are now being asked to do.

And last, but definitely note least...


Take it away, Gloria!


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