Macaroning and the invention of verbs

A few weekends ago, while all the cool kids in Brisbane were off harvesting, I was at home macaroning and keeping a storm-stressed dog company. This was only my second attempt at macarons, but instead of making these from scratch, these were a sneaky cheat version by Adriano Zumbo. But even though they are made from a packet, they are still a fussy kind of food to work with. Such is my love of all things salted caramel that I am willing to throw myself once more unto the macaron breach.

Salted caramel macarons

They didn’t turn out perfectly, but I’m blaming all the horrid humidity in the air rather than any skill lacking on my part. The taste is the thing anyway, and they were rich with caramel and salt. So that’s a big tick from me.

While I was macaroning I got to thinking about how much I enjoy making up verbs. For instance, one of my favourites is to do a spot of ‘fassbending’ … this means to watch a film which features the wonderful Michael Fassbender.

The main trouble with making up your own verbs is remembering not to use them in conversations beyond your own home, because people will generally have no idea what you’re talking about, or consider you quite mad. That’s Ok though, it’s simply the price happily paid by those who enjoy a little fassbending.

Am I the only one who makes up her own verbs?

November happenings

These past few weeks have flown by so quickly, I still can’t quite believe that it’s so close to the end of the year. With nothing very profound to say at the moment, I thought I’d simply share a little of what’s been happening in my world …

A night with Radiohead

:: The land of 9 to 5 is a struggle, but earning money for grand plans is pretty neat.

:: Thom Yorke recently reminded me that I will never be as cool as him.

:: My car was written off, with a nice new car since taking up residence in the garage.

:: There hasn’t been much writing happening, but a few lovely projects are ticking over.

:: The Mr and I have become Saturday morning breakfast regulars at a great local cafe.

:: I’m back into my boxing class routine.

:: Dark chocolate-covered cherries are rather delicious.

:: Inspiration arrives in the most surprising of places.

On that last point, take for instance the (fantastic) tv show Louie. Its freeform approach to plot and character arcs often makes for interesting and unexpected moments of insight. I recently watched the episode which features Joan Rivers talking about the up-and-down career path which most comedians (and many people in creative professions) experience. What she said really got me thinking:

‘Listen. I wish I could tell you it gets better. But it doesn’t get better. You get better. You think it’s been easy? I’ve gone up, I’ve gone down. I’ve been bankrupt. I’ve been broke. But you do it. And you do it because…because we love it more than anything else. That’s why you’re doing it.

You want a real job, honey, there’s a million things you can do. But what we do is not a job…it sounds so stupid…but what we do…is a calling, my dear.’

‘…it doesn’t get better. You get better…’ Love it. And so very, very true.

Trying to find a new balance

A recent return to a full-time working week, has reminded me that I’m extraordinarily bad at finding balance. You could say that I’m always swinging perilously close to one extreme or another.

“I either feel 100% in control or not at all, and while an all or nothing approach can work in some circumstances, I just don’t think it suits a writing lifestyle.”

I get frustrated when I’m not able to dedicate as much time as I’d like to my writing, and perhaps that feeling is intensified right now because up until recently my weeks were ALL about the writing.

My owl has better balance than me.

The main trouble with getting frustrated at my lack of writing time, is that I often don’t make the best use of what time I actually do have available. I tend to get caught within a frustration bubble, where I’m always wanting more and not just making do. I’m trusting that as I settle into a new work routine, that I’ll eventually accept and adopt a more flexible writing rhythm that squeezes itself into the space between my other commitments.

For now though, I’m doing my best to just go with the flow and stay positive. Every day I try to do at least one thing that will progress my writing – whether that’s to start a story, write a blog post, send off a pitch, book in for a course, clean up my portfolio, or join a writing community – whatever it is, big or small, it makes me feel that I’m at least achieving something.

I’m reminded of Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments of Writing & Daily Creative Routine, all of which are great but one in particular has been of real help:

“When you can’t create, you can work.”

Word up, Mr Miller. Incidentally, if you’re not already a regular reader of ‘Brain Pickings‘, you really should be. However be warned…you’ll probably end up adding lots and lots of books to your already lengthy wishlist (I know I have).

So until some sort of manageable balance miraculously appears in my life, I’ll be applying the simple philosophy of ‘doing something is better than doing nothing’. Unless you have any tips for walking the tightrope of life without losing your balance? All I can say is, thank goodness for safety nets.

Knowing isn’t everything

So I know this person who always wants me to tell her how things end. If she hears that I’ve seen a particular movie or read a certain book, she isn’t interested in knowing whether I thought it was any good or if I’d recommend it. Instead she wants a full account of the plot and to know if I’d describe the story as ‘nice’.

I’ve never understood her logic, and as someone who enjoys the experience of watching a movie or reading a book without necessarily knowing the storyline, well I find her whole attitude bewildering. What’s the point in knowing precisely how everything unfolds and how it’s all going to end BEFORE you decide to watch a film or read a book? Personally I think that having a complete (or even partially complete … GRRR spoilers) prior knowledge can detract from the entire experience, and therefore has the potential to make it less enjoyable.

Knowing the end isn't everything

The other thing that makes no sense to me is her decision to only watch or read things that are ‘nice’. From what I’ve been able to determine, her definition of nice basically means the story needs to have a happy ending with no loose ends, that no characters should die, and that things should never get too real, too sad, or too gritty. That seems more than a little restrictive to me.

I can’t imagine a life without surprises or exposure to a full range of emotions, and that’s the same when it comes to books, movies, TV shows … and pretty much everything. Sure, not knowing everything may sometimes be uncomfortable or challenging, but taking a journey into the unknown or into the realm of the not so ‘nice’, can also be exhilarating and you know … maybe just a little bit fun. Isn’t life too short to know all the answers before you even begin?

Does having less make you care more?

The older I get (and perhaps the wiser I become), the less I care about brands, big designers, and what’s currently considered to be ‘in season’ or ‘on trend’. But I am more interested in actively seeking out products that are independently and ethically produced, that haven’t been tested on animals or made from animal products, which avoid the use of harmful chemicals, and are as environmentally friendly as possible. I guess as much as possible I try to do my own thing … even if that can result in a bit of trial and error.

Sure this shopping philosophy of mine is partly due to the fact that I quite enjoy being contrary, and rather like eschewing the kinds of things that I’m supposed to aspire to own, wear, or use. But most of all, my purchasing decisions are based on doing research and being as informed as possible.

Recent purchases that did pass my fussy shopping criteria.

I wonder whether I would have arrived at the same point if I’d always had the luxury of lots and lots of money? I would hope so … but by having less, perhaps I’ve had the opportunity to care more about how, why and where I spend my money? Maybe too much money can kind of get in the way of concerning yourself with the finer details of your personal purchasing power?

Given that I’ve never had an overabundance of money, I don’t really know. Even though I do sometimes catch myself wishing for more funds to feed my cash-hungry to do list and realise my wildest of dreams, I do know that I wouldn’t trade caring for anything.

How not to look for happiness (and have it find you)

Hello. How are you? I’ve been meaning to write to you for such a long time, but I haven’t been too sure what to say. Actually that’s not exactly true… there’s been plenty to tell you but I haven’t quite known how to go about saying it.

Most of the things that have been happening since we last spoke are messy, boring, day-to-day sorts of things … the kind of challenges and successes that seem huge to me, but are really just teeny-tiny pieces in the great jigsaw of the world.

But pushing all that stuff to one side, there is one piece of news that I do think is kind of big … I’m happy.

A lovely gift

Funnily enough, I didn’t find happiness, but it sure found me.
The poor thing was huffing, puffing and straining for breath by the time it caught up with me. For whatever reason, I always thought the chase would be the other way around.

In the end, happiness wasn’t hiding under the bed, behind the couch, or on the top shelf of the pantry. One day it was just there.

New stools (yellow of course!)

It was in the green grass, the cloudy sky, and the gentle rain. It was there in the wagging of tails, the laughter shared over pets, and the brewing of a huge mug of hot tea. It was browsing bookshelves, slicing into homemade orange cake, and planning the next stage of my writing adventure.

Blue jeans, black shoes

Now I can see how all the little bits of happiness have never been all that far away. It just took me a while to slow down and notice what had always been right behind me.

It’s amazing what can be found when you’re not really looking. Don’t you think?

The ‘flat bread’ theory

We’ve all heard about the flat earth theory, but have you come across the ‘flat bread’ theory before? Of course you may be excused if you’re not familiar with this particular hypothesis, mainly because it’s just some mad notion I came up with myself. But I am sure there is some sense to it.

The Mr and I have this flatbread recipe that we probably make with dinner at least twice a week. It’s super easy (using only four ingredients), it’s pretty quick (you just need your muscles to roll the individual breads out), and it works really well with a lot of our favourite mid-week meals (like smokey lentil soup, and spiced chickpeas).

We’ve been making it now for a few months, and it only recently occurred to me that there is something pretty special about this recipe (and it’s not just because it makes amazing bread). I realised that while the recipe has always been successful, it’s only in the last few weeks that the batches have become incredible. Now I know that the more you make something the more familiar you get with the recipe and the techniques involved, but I think there’s actually more to it than that.

The most delicious flatbread

As with any successful partnership, I think it takes time for you and a recipe to get to know each other, and it’s a relationship that goes beyond merely making sure the ingredients are measured correctly, or ensuring that everything is blended together in the right way. It’s like the recipe needs to know that you’re really serious about perfecting it.

Rather than it being a recipe that you make once and move on from, a truly great recipe is one which works with you time and time again, until one day the end result goes from being something great to something amazing. Cooking therefore becomes a form of creative collaboration between maker and recipe, with the partnership only revealing its full potential after a certain passage of time.

Of course, this ‘flat bread’ theory could be extended and applied to any recipe, and perhaps more broadly to many interactions between ourselves and another. Perhaps this theory could underpin a new life philosophy, gathering followers near and far? Or maybe we should just take this analysis as a sign that we should all start eating more of this delicious flat bread?

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Before I leave you to wonder about the various joys of flatbread or to speculate on whether I’ve gone completely mad, I have a few other bits and pieces to share with you:

:: My latest submission to Sparkapolooza can be found here. The brief this fortnight was ‘all wrapped up’, and I decided to write about bogans! You can find all the wonderful submissions here.

:: I’ll be joining Jo, Laura and lots of other lovely bloggers in a challenge throughout March. It’s the ‘Do Something Different Everyday’ challenge and should be lots of fun. You can find all the details over here, so hopefully you’ll decide to take part too.

:: My lovely friend Sofia is having an incredible clearance sale in her store, with everything currently 70% off! I’ve already done some shopping, but don’t worry … I left plenty for you!

And so the end of February is almost here … are you going to do something special with the extra day this year? I’m working on a few ideas myself. I do believe February 29th deserves some attention given that we don’t see it all that often.

It’s been eleven years …

… since the Mr and I got ourselves ‘hitched’. Gosh, time flies when you’re having fun.

We shall celebrate in the very finest of traditions with a sumptuous feast of homemade Halloumi burgers, followed by gourmet tubs of Maggie Beer ice-cream (Burnt Fig, Honeycomb & Caramel for me, and Strawberries & Cream for the Mr).

It's my eleven year wedding anniversary!

Oh, and eating giant chocolate No. 1 freckles of course … Have yourself a great weekend lovelies! I hope there’s tasty chocolate, great food and wonderful times in store for you too. xx