I’ve been working on my fitness lately. After I ran a 14 km fun run in November last year, I let my running slip and over the holidays, even though I signed up for another race, my training got worse and worse. After this happened a couple of months ago, I took a few weeks to debrief and then began the long, slow process of running a little longer each week until I’m pushing myself, but not so much I feel like a limp noodle after a run. Well. A little like a limp noodle, maybe.
A big part of fitness is the fact that it’s a slow and sometimes painful process. In part because you get blisters and your muscles are working hard and maybe you get injured, and in part because it takes so long to feel like anything is happening at all. When I was first getting back into things, I felt like I could never run ten kilometres, let alone train for a half marathon – I couldn’t remember the person I was back in November. However, little by little, things have been getting easier and I am finally finding that sweet spot, somewhere in the middle of a comfortable distance when my mind goes blissfully blank and the kilometres seem to fly by. It’s a kind of peace, a stillness in the midst of movement. It doesn’t happen for long, but I’m working on it happening more often. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s the start of things! It’s the end of summer and the start of new beginnings. I’m excited. Are you excited?
I’m excited. I have a few tentative New Years resolutions. I don’t usually make them because I don’t like feeling guilty when they don’t work out. But I am putting out into the world some goals. Some things I would like to do this year, what I would like to happen in my life. At the same time, I’m going to be nice to myself if I don’t achieve my goals.
I know it’s almost February but now feels more like the time to be making goals and lists and plans. It’s the start of new things NOW. It’s almost the end of the holidays, the beginning of the academic year, the start of something new.
Every now and again, I get this urge to declutter. I have to get rid of my stuff and recently, it’s been gnawing at me a whole lot more. It’s not just the ‘oh, I have to tidy and I don’t really use that stuff anymore’; rather, I’m feeling like I need to live a lot simpler and enjoy life the way it was meant to be.
Plus, I have way too much stuff.
So recently, I’ve been sifting through the piles of stuff that I own and sorting them into piles. Stuff I want to keep, stuff I want to keep but don’t have room for at the moment, stuff I don’t want to keep, stuff I want to form into something else, stuff I’m using and stuff I’m not using. It’s a pretty big job and it doesn’t help that a lot of my stuff is still at my parents’ house. Yay, more stuff to go through.
My sister and I are planning to have a garage sale. We both have stuff to get rid of, but not enough for a sale each. (Although going through my stuff, I’m not so sure about that…:)
I come from a family of packrats. Hoarders. My Opa kept stuff in the back room, in his two garages and the tiny shed in the backyard, all over the back yard… my mum is queen of ‘we might use it later’ which is a mindset I’ve adopted. I’m also a collector, of sorts; I like pretty things, those free postcards, business cards, ribbons… I like to remember things.
I write things down and put them on my walls… I have a lot of paper related products lying around that need to go. Where, I’m not sure. They’ll probably end up in the recycling bin. Or possibly the fireplace, not sure yet.
With the help of Love and Trash, Courtney at be more with less, the bloggers at SuperForest and a whole bunch of other influences (including Jesus and some of his followers) I am on a journey to live simply so that others may simply live. On that note, let’s talk about cake.
This is a simple cake. It comes together in about ten minutes, takes about half an hour to bake and is simply delicious. It’s called a Swedish Visiting Cake and so in another, yet somehow related train of thought it immediately brings to mind not only visitors, but visiting – getting to know your neighbours, connecting with real people instead of a computer screen.
And yes, I’m aware that you’re reading this off a computer screen.
The point is that by learning to live without, others can live with. And you don’t even notice the difference, except that you’re happier, more content with yourself and with the world. Surprising, isn’t it?
So make the cake. Bring it to a neighbour’s house and share it over stories, stories that remind you that each person you encounter is the star of their own story, just as you are the star of your own.
Swedish Visiting Cake
Adapted from Baking: from my home to yours
zest of one lemon
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste/scrapings from one vanilla bean/two teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup plain flour*
125g butter, melted and cooled
Preheat oven to 180 degrees and butter your pan. Traditionally this is made in a cast-iron skillet. I don’t have one so I made it in a springform tin – I suggest using a nine-incher, as my ten-incher cake turned out a little thin. Not that I’m complaining…
Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips until incredibly lemony and you can just help yourself licking your fingers. Or not. Whisk in the eggs one at a time. Add the salt and vanilla and whisk until incorporated.
Fold in the flour, then the butter. Pour into your pan and sprinkle the almonds over the top. Bake about half an hour.
Share with strangers.
*The first time I made it, I made it with spelt flour and it was amazing. I think you could also do this with a mix of almond flour and perhaps another type of flour for the gluten-free among us. Just a thought.
It’s the last day! Whoohoo!
In other good news, I reached my fundraising goal (although if you’re still interested in fundraising, you are most welcome, and the link is here. Otherwise, you can donate to one or two of my friends who are also living below the line this week: Roberta or Miranda. Miranda’s going for two weeks on less than $2 a day AND no furniture. You go girl!)
Plus, Live Below the Line Australia raised over one million dollars in total for anti-poverty initiatives in East Timor, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia and in our very own country (since when were we the ones who needed help? More on that one later.)
Okay, so I think a recap of my week is in order. Here we go:
What I had to start out with:
750g pumpkin @ $1.98/kg = $1.48
Approx. 1.4kg potatoes = $1 at the fruit and veg market on the discounted table
Approx. 1.2kg tomatoes, approx 1/4 of which was mouldy by the time I got to it = $1, see potatoes
Approx. 1.4 kg of assorted nashis and I think they were royal gala apples = $1, see tomatoes
200 homebrand teabags = $1.99
500g large spiral pasta = $0.59
1 small head garlic = $0.49
1kg homebrand plain flour = $0.95
250g homebrand salted butter = $1.41
Total = $9.91
Stewed apples and pears = $0.20
2 cups tea $0.02
Pumpkin and potato soup with flatbread, x2 = $1.70
Total = $1.92
Woke up late-ish, made soup and flatbread to take to work. Worked five hours, then took my soup to a TEAR group meeting, where two other people were also living below the line. We had much discussion on war and poverty, and didn’t really get anywhere with the hard stuff, just that it’s hard and we have to keep thinking about it and working out better ways to live and work for a better world.
Stewed apples and pears = $0.20
2 cups tea = $0.02
Pumpkin and potato soup with flatbread = $0.85
Pasta with potato and pumpkin = $0.38
Total = $1.45
Woke up at 5.30 in the am to go to uni. Not recommended when you aren’t eating as much as you usually do, because I felt like crap pretty much the entire day. Not so much hungry as my stomach was getting used to having different things, and less than usual. Drank lots of water, because it helped wash the bile down that kept coming up. Not a great day overall.
Stewed apples and pears = $0.20
2 cups tea = $0.02
Pasta with potato and pumpkin = $0.38
Potato and pumpkin soup with flatbread = $.85
Flatbread, munched on during the day = $0.14
Total = $1.59
Went to uni again today. I actually felt much better today, got some fresh air on my walks to and from the train station. My friends kept offering to let me cheat, but I held my ground. Ah, hot chocolate. We meet again soon! Also had some really interesting conversations with my classmates. One of my friends was arguing that we should be grateful for our position in life and be thankful for what God’s given us. I said that it doesn’ t count as God’s gift if we took it from other people. God made us all to be equal and we’re not living that way.
Stewed apples and pears = $0.20
2 cups tea = $0.02
Tomato soup with flatbread, x2 = $1.28
Total = $1.50
Worked again today. Noticed much more than Monday my proximity to food. So glad that in two days, I get to drink coffee again. Also noticed I was more crotchety than usual. Either the lack of food/sugar or the constant reminders of my privilege were getting to me. gah! One day to go. Huge uplifting feeling when I saw that I’d reached my fundraising goal. Again, you guys are awesome!
Stewed apples and pears = $0.20
2 cups black tea = $0.02
Pasta with pumpkin and potato, x2 = $0.76
Total = $0.98
Woke up at 5.30am again. And again, not a good idea. I almost puked on the train, and I don’t even have that much to puke! I’m really, really glad that as of tomorrow I get to put sugar and milk back in my tea. Sorry, Mum, black tea just doesn’t do it for me. I’m studying now and kinda wanting a snack but you can do this erin, pull through, one more day. It’ll be interesting to see how I go tonight; I have a birthday party! It’ll be fun regardless of the food situation, though.
I have to say, I’m already thinking about next year, how I can go better, fundraise more, change my lifestyle so that it’s not just geared around one time a year where I remember the 1.4 billion people living below the extreme poverty line but that it’s a part of the direction of my life and my vision.
I want to thank each and every one of you, my readers, for sticking with me through this. I know a lot of you personally; I don’t know all of you but I really appreciate it. A special shout-out to everyone who donated. You guys are incredible!
One of the things that was really difficult for me this week was that in living below the line, I was doing probably as much harm as good. Sure, I’m raising money for ant-poverty initiatives, for education to help people get out of the cycle of poverty, something better than just throwing money at the problem and thinking that’s my bit done. This is a way to help change my outlook on life so that I think about my actions and how in every way I can do better, in every way I can act righteously (more on that later). It’s made me think and it’s made others think. I’ve had some really interesting discussions regarding whether people can buy me food (no) does this mean it’s ok for me to steal (no) does free food, such as from food vans, count (yes) can I use the veggies from my garden (unsure, but we’ll say no just in case) and it all basically revolves around the fact that I’m not just doing this because I have to, it’s a choice to raise awareness for myself and others.
These are all good things that happen because of this initiative. But to live on less than two dollars a day in Australia, I’m supporting organisations I don’t like or want to support. I’m buying unethical produce.
See, to afford enough food to feed myself for this week, I had to buy no-name brands. Flour, butter, pasta. Sure, I got my fresh food from the fruit and veggie market, but only because it was on special – in the discounted section. I was lucky in that way. But what home brands do, the brands like coles smart buy or Woolworths home brand or Black & Gold, they lower their prices, get monopoly over the market, then when it’s all theirs, they’ll jack up their prices so they get more and more money, while conning the producer out of what’s theirs.
And that’s just a part of it. So while I love what Live Below the Line are doing in terms of awareness and projects, it kinda sucks in this sense.
I don’t know what the answer is. We do what we can, and we let God take care of the rest. Although I have to say, what we can do is much more than we give ourselves credit for. We make so many excuses but we could be doing so much more for those less fortunate than ourselves.
I mentioned in my earlier post today about the fact that I have lots of food and everyone, while it’s lovely that they’re taking notice and caring about whether or not I’ll faint, doesn’t really get it. I feel like I’m cheating a little, because I really do have enough food. That said, it’s less than what I’m used to and I have to ask myself, how much of the time do I eat just because I feel like it and how much because I’m actually hungry? I’m not saying that eating is bad – I love food, and I love eating. I often eat too much just because it all tastes so good. But we complain (and by we I mean me) about the lack of this or the fact that we have to have our second-favourite flavour milkshake or whatever, and we’re just covering up the fact that we’re spoilt, western brats.
But we do what we can. And we’re all working on our personal issues and hang-ups. No one is perfect; we just strive to follow Jesus as closely as we can.
Adapted from Julie Goodwin’s LBL recipe
300g plain flour
Sift the flour in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Melt 20g of the butter and place in the well, and add water (not too much). Stir, adding more water if needed, until it’s shaggy and mostly stuck in clumps. Knead until it forms a smooth ball.
Melt the rest of the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Take a small piece of dough and stretch it out (you can roll in if you want it to end up a little prettier) until it’s fairly thin, and fry in the butter. Repeat with the rest of the dough (you can fry several flatbreads at a time).
Dip in your soup and imagine a better world. It can happen!
I dreamt about food last night. I think it was a sort of Masterchef type deal, where you had to make a meal out of what they had there. I don’t remember it much, except the food was delicious.
See, the funny thing is that everyone assumes that you just don’t eat much on Live Below the Line, but there really is enough food for five days. Most of it’s carbohydrates, yes, it’s not all nutritionally the best for you, but there’s plenty. There’s even taste in most of it, from the garlic, the natural sweetness of the fruit, the salted butter. Not much variety, but there isn’t often variety in many people’s food.
The problem here is, that the people who live below the extreme poverty line, those that actually live on $2 a day, day in, day out – they don’t get to spend it all on food. They have to spread it out between food, bills, transport, medicine, every little expenditure throughout the day.
How can we let this happen in our world? How can we make someone choose between feeding her whole family or allowing one child to live, sacrificing meals for medicine? Walking kilometres to get to a source of clean water that won’t make them all sick. Sharing a tap with 200 other people, eating the same food, day in, day out, and very little of it, too.
‘In order for evil to flourish, all that is required is for good men to do nothing.’ – Edward Burke
What I am doing is a small, small effort. But it is an effort. And I am continually striving to turn my life to God, and to people – to do better every day.
Please make an effort. Donate here.
And thank you to all who have already donated – it means so much to see that people care.
Pumpkin and Potato Pasta
This is another of my staple meals. As you can see, lots of carbs for energy, but not much protein. I think that spinach would make a good addition, pine nuts, salt and pepper and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. Take out some of the potato, perhaps. But it does smell good – all that garlic!
250g pumpkin, peeled, deseeded, cubed
500g potato, scrubbed, cubed
3 cloves garlic
250g pasta (I used large spirals)
Chop garlic finely. Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and fry the garlic, pumpkin and potato until crispy and tender (I think perhaps baking would work better, but this was fine for me).
Heat a large saucepan 2/3 full of water until boiling, and tip the pasta in. Cook approximately 7 minutes.
Add about a cup of starchy pasta water to the pumpkin and potatoes. Drain the pasta and combine the two. Eat immediately, while still hot, with thoughts of starving children on your mind.
I have been struggling recently with getting motivated to do stuff. I have wonderful aspirations all the time, but they only get set in motion some of the time, because I’m lazy and I leave things to the last minute.
However, I’m working on changing that, and I’m also working on being ok with that. It’s a bit oxymoronic (maybe just take out the oxy part of that word… : ) But, as Dan Parsons so eloquently puts it, it’s all up to you, firestarter. And I can start fires, I can do anything if I put my mind to it. It’s all up to me.
To journal. To contemplate. To cook. To garden. To be a better me, to write poems and make them live in other people’s lives, to create habits and to break habits, to do something. Anything.
I love love love to bake. So any occasion where I get to bake and not have massive amounts of leftovers (living, as I used to, pretty much by myself) is a happy occasion. Today, I had an incredible day where I heard many stories of everyday missionaries, people who live their lives for God just as they are. These people live in urban areas and just live life with people, reaching out to all different types of people, and making a worldwide community of hope. And I get to be part of that. Isn’t that awesome?
I brought cupcakes, in case you couldn’t tell by the title and/or first paragraph. One of the people I was spending the day with is allergic to gluten, so I made these amazing flourless chocolate cupcakes that I found on Smitten Kitchen, where Deb calls them chocolate soufflé cupcakes and tops them with mint white chocolate cream. I dislike the pairing of chocolate and mint (call me a heathen, call me a pagan, call me an idiot, it’s not going to change my mind. I’m sorry, I know it’s a classic, it just does nothing for me.) so I omitted the mint but I still got raves about them. They look awesome, too.
So. Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream. Made while listening to all released albums of The Cat Empire on shuffle.
For the cupcakes:
170g dark chocolate, broken up into pieces (I used a combination of 85% cocoa and 70% cocoa solids; I’m sure regular dark chocolate would be fine although I suspect milk could be overly sweet. Use your discretion.)
90g unsalted butter, cubed
1/4 tsp ground espresso coffee (apparently you could also use instant. I’m a snob so I don’t keep it in the house. It doesn’t add any coffee taste, just enhances the chocolateyness.)
3 eggs, separated
6tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line eighteen cupcake cups with paper pans – I managed twelve cupcakes and nine mini cupcakes, so I’m speculating as to the exact amount, because I was told there would be nine or twelve cupcakes. Maybe the Smitten Kitchen cupcakes are larger than these cupcakes. I wouldn’t make them any bigger, although the minis were well received.
Stir butter, chocolate and coffee in a small heavy bottomed saucepan over low heat until almost melted, then remove and whisk until fully melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
Beat yolks and 3tbsp of the sugar in a large bowl until thick and pale. Briefly beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla extract.
In a separate, clean, dry bowl, beat (with clean, dry beaters/whisk) egg whites until soft peaks form; add 3tbsp sugar and salt gradually and beat until glossy and stiffer. Fold into chocolate mix with a metal spoon in three batches.
Fill cupcake pans to about 3/4 full – if any fuller, they will overflow, I promise. 3/4 means they will puff up beautifully, almost like soufflés.Bake in preheated oven 15-20 mins. Mini cupcakes will take 10-15 mins. Keep an eye on them, though.
For the white chocolate cream:
60g white chocolate
200ml thickened cream
Heat cream in a small saucepan until simmering. Place white chocolate in a bowl and pour the hot cream over; stir constantly until chocolate is melted. Chill at least two hours in the fridge or overnight. Beat to soft peaks and scoop quenelles over cupcakes. Scatter with dark chocolate shards. Eat and enjoy.
I love lists. I make to do lists, things I have to buy lists, people to call lists. I have a list of music I would like to acquire, books I want to read, books I want to own. Movies I have to see. This here is a list of list topics.
What I would do if I won the lottery.
Cars I would like to own and/or drive.
Places I want to visit. Places I want to live.
I make lists of the pros and cons of almost every major decision I make. It doesn’t always determine the outcome, but it helps.
Annoying habits of customers (I’m a waitress/check-out chick. ‘Nuff said.)
Cafes I want to go to.
Things I want to cook. Gadgets/kitchen appliances/utensils I want.
Socks I love/want.
What I want to do with my life.
Who I want to be.
Habits I’d like to cultivate. Habits I’d like to kick.
Ways I want to make the world a better place.
Ways of worship in everyday life.
How to live with other people and not want to kill them (or have them want to kill you… anyone got any ideas? Because I’m terrified.)
Songs I would sing on Australian Idol if I could sing.
Reality TV shows it’d be fun to be on.
Guilty little pleasures (watching reality tv, anyone?)
Party ideas to bring people together.
Playlists I want to make/listen to.
Now the problem with all this is, I can’t just sit around making lists all my life. No matter how much fun it is to play around with stationary (stationary I’d love to play around with. People I want to write to. Reasons why snail mail is better than electronic) I have to actually do these things if I’m ever going to be that person I want to be, to have those habits, to listen to that music. And so.
I raise a toast to getting off your bum, out from in front of the computer screen, and into real life. Happy Monday.
It’s what you call flowers that hang over fences and reach over footpaths, begging you to take them home. (When I say you, I mean me. And when I mean me, I mean, I got the term from Brigid Lowry).
So you take a walk, refreshing yourself after work, perhaps; or maybe you can’t sleep; you want to lose weight; you like chasing butterflies… any or all of the above, or perhaps a new reason, one you thought up all on your own. There are as many reasons to take a walk as there are people; as many as there are walking paths, footpaths, roads, landmarks, trees, flowers, stars in the sky.
You see a flower hanging over the footpath. Maybe it’s so far over that you will run into it unless you duck or bob or weave. Maybe it’s just peeking over shyly, like you were at the club on Saturday night, wishing that cute boy would come over and ask you to dance. Maybe it’s on the nature strip, in a bed in a public garden, maybe it’s right in front of your feet.
Say hello. Whisper sweet nothings into its petals. Stroke its leaves and inhale its sweet fragrance. Take it home and place it in a glass, or a bud vase, or a kitsch retro teapot. Make friends with it and let it into your heart. When it dies, say goodbye and thank you for the ride, for making your day one with a flower in it.