101 in 1001

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Task #7 of my 101 Things in 1001 Days project is: Complete my Diploma of Management

If you have the misfortune to be following me on Twitter or Instagram (@elzxbth) you are probably sick to death of hearing about my dumb diploma.  One of the nasty side-effects of this study has been my slow transformation into that boring old uncle who tells the same stories at every family get-together and has no idea that there is spinach stuck in his teeth.  You know that guy – he’s always invited due to family guilt, but one by one all the guests leave to go “help in the kitchen” until the only one left listening is your cousin’s super-polite girlfriend.

Yeah, that was me.

I guess this is my way of saying I’m sorry, Twitter.  I’m so sorry, Instagram.  I have been a bore.  I have been your online Uncle Walter.  I have dragged you into weeks and weeks of study-rage, snark and forced you to witness a complete catalogue of my poor nutritional decisions.  I am so sorry for giving you diabetes.

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I wrote a post last week about why this whole experience has been shitty.  Ordinarily a diploma is no big deal, but then most people don’t try to cram the whole thing into 11 weeks.  Most people actually meet their trainer prior to their final assessment.  And I guess I can’t speak for everyone here, but I’m going to go ahead and assume that most people don’t have to deal with the same poorly-written course material that I found myself wading through. My “trainer” even acknowledged by that some of the questions I was trying to answer didn’t make sense because part of the questions were straight-up missing.

But hey, I’m writing this because I got through it.  Last Friday I sat my final exam, and my trainer spent a couple of hours with me while we went through all the work I had done.  39,000 words, 270 pages (about half a ream of paper), 10 projects and a fully budgeted and researched $500,000 marketing campaign for the RSPCA.  I learned some stuff about continuous improvement and OHS that I didn’t already know, and I got to flex my photoshop muscles to make a bunch of ads for tram stops, buses and magazines.

It had its moments.

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This weekend I began recovering from the PTSD caused by sitting at my dining table for 12 hour stretches.  I’ve had a weekend of sleep-ins, catching up on laundry and losing myself in Animal Crossing.  And also?  Possibly the funniest impulse purchase ever; it absolutely deserves its own post.

I’m so freaking happy to be crossing this off my list.  For all my bitching over the past couple of months, it’s actually pretty great to know that this piece of paper is on its way to me.  It might even mean an extra $20,000 when I next job-hunt, so it was worth the short-term pain to just get it done.

And it’s DONE!

I promise I’ll shut up about it now.

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I’m tackling a project to complete 101 Things in 1001 Days.  #59 on the list is Get some new glasses with bright frames.

Before I tell you about my rad new glasses, I’d like to make it super clear that this isn’t a sponsored post.  I know how frustrating it can be to read somebody’s blog and discover at the end of a post that they were paid to write it, or that they got stuff for free.  If you ever see sponsored content here on Scarlet Words (which is pretty unlikely, by the way) I will tell you before making you read through it.  I think that’s good blogging etiquette – and you know, just good manners.

So just to recap: This post isn’t sponsored.  Oscar Wylee has never heard of me or my blog.  I paid for my glasses, and I love them so much that I’m planning on buying a second pair.  I’m writing about them here because I am so happy with my purchase, and I was blown away by the price.

Oh, blogging!

Let’s move on.

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Last February I had my eyes checked by my brand new eyeballologist, who updated my prescription and took photos of the backs of my eyes.  While I was there I chose a hot pair of Bvlgari frames with more bling than I knew what to do with and I’ve been enjoying the sparkle ever since.  They’re perfect for work because of the classic wayfarer shape, and the diamantes make them feel polished.  They definitely get attention when I wear them.

However, I knew that with all that sparkle I was going to feel a bit too noice, maybe a little too Kath & Kim if I wore them around the house with my sweatpants.  I wanted to find a pair that was casual and fun, and maybe a bit more adventurous than my usual black frames.  After trying on hundreds of glasses at my local optometrist stores I decided to take the search online.

A quick Google search told me that there are heaps of online stores selling prescription glasses.  We have a few in Australia, but most of the ones I found looked dodgy and the pictures were too small.  There were plenty of overseas sites that would ship internationally for a pretty reasonable price – in fact, some of the prices were so cheap that I wondered whether they would even last, and whether they’d get my prescription right.  Were they going to use the best materials for my lenses?  Would they get scratched after a week in my purse?  I started to get nervous about spending money on something I couldn’t see for myself.

I’d heard a lot about BonLook and Warby Parker from American bloggers that I follow (my glasses crush is Keiko Lynn), and trusted the reviews enough to know that the quality would be good.  But I still hesitated because I couldn’t try them on myself.

That’s when I discovered a new Australian-based company called Oscar Wylee, and their awesome free 5-day trial.

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It works like this:

Start by browsing through the frames on their site, including all the different colour options for each style.  When you see something you like you can click the ‘Add to Home Trial’ button.  You can choose five different frames (or just five different colours of the one style!) for your free trial.

The trial really is completely free.  You will be asked for your credit card details during the checkout process and charged $1, which is refunded immediately once verified.  After this your credit card will not be charged again unless you fail to return the frames.

Aside from the fact that I really love their glasses, it was the packaging and no-nonsense delivery arrangements that impressed me most about Oscar Wylee’s home trial.  My glasses arrived in a beautiful fabric-covered box with individual compartments for the glasses I chose.  Inside, the glasses were packaged in individual plastic pouches and arrived with non-prescription lenses already installed, with none of those annoying stickers that you have to put up with at the optometrist.  You’re encouraged to wear them to work, out to dinner, and to get everybody’s opinion before it’s time to send them back.

The box also included a information about how to order, how to return, and a pre-paid label to attached to the parcel when it was time to send them home.  There was even a lollipop in the box to sweeten the deal!

I wore my glasses around constantly for the next five days, and it’s funny how much my mind changed during that time.  The glasses that I loved on Day 1 felt a bit boring by Day 3, and others were eventually dismissed as being too ‘out there’ for everyday wear.  I spent the last two days of my trial being completely obsessed with the frames in the photo below: Xander in Sapphire Tortoise.  Once I stopped being intimidated by their size I realised that they really were the best of the bunch.  Go big, or go home – right?

 

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Xander in Sapphire Tortoise – how pretty are those little flecks of blue?  The colour is definitely less intense without all the backlighting of a professional studio, but they’re much more interesting than your average tortoiseshell glasses.

On Day 5 I sadly sent my box of glasses back to their home in Sydney, which was just a matter of popping them back in their box and sticking on the label provided.  To console myself I jumped on to their website and placed my order, using the prescription I had obtained from my optometrist.  I had expected that the price would increase when I entered my prescription and was kind of stunned when I realised that the lenses were included in the price.

The final cost: $98.  Shipping was free, once again.

And look, I’m getting a bit gushy here but there are some other cool things to know about this brand.  I’m getting a bit long-winded so let’s just dot-point them, yes?

  • If you don’t need a prescription, you can still order glasses with UV-proof, anti-reflective, anti-scratch lenses.
  • They have a big range of prescription sunglasses too, for both men and women.  This is next on my agenda, and if I’m honest I might even be choosing the same frames again for my sunnies.
  • They work with your health care provider to provide the usual rebates that you would expect for your prescription.
  • Although they only ship to Australian addresses right now, international shipping is on the horizon.
  • This one is important: They have a One for One scheme partnering with non-profit organisations around the world to help ensure that many people in poverty-stricken countries will be able to obtain the fundamental human need of sight.  Hooray for global awareness and social good!

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Summary: Great company, beautiful glasses and the quality (and the price!) is excellent.  The prescription is, as far as I can tell, identical to the expensive glasses I purchased through my optometrist and I’ve had a couple of months to really test them out and be sure.

It’s not every day that I’m so thoroughly impressed with a purchase, so I guess I just wanted to spread the word!

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nutella-cupcakes2The Hummingbird Bakery is one of those legendary places that I’m yet to experience in person.

Tarek Malouf created the American-style bakery in London after spending a Thanksgiving in North Carolina.  While he was there he sampled the local banana cream and apple pies, and realised that nobody else in London was making this stuff.  In 2004 he found a spot on Portobello Road in Notting Hill, and the bakery quickly became known for its cakes, pies, brownies and cookies.  These days they have a bunch of locations in the UK and their cupcakes fly off the shelves faster than they can make them.  Seriously – 22,000 cupcakes each week!

I bought the cookbook a couple of years ago, and every couple of months I’d flip through the pages and drool.  It took us way too long to actually make something from its pages, but when decided to host brunch for our friends we turned to this book for inspiration.  After much deliberation we chose the hazelnut and chocolate cupcakes which heavily featured my favourite food group: Nutella.

The best thing about this recipe is that once you’ve made the cupcakes you scoop out the insides, fill it with Nutella, and then the next thing you know there are choirs of angels and this one guy is suddenly playing a harp.

Here’s the recipe.

Hazelnut and chocolate cupcakes
 
Sometimes chocolate alone just won't do, which is why we've added irresistible hazelnut chocolate spread to these cupcakes. Decorate with hazelnuts for extra crunch.
Author:
Serves: 12
Ingredients
CUPCAKES
  • 100g plain flour
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 40g butter, room temperature
  • 120mL whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • 120g hazelnut and chocolate spread (such as Nutella)
  • 36 whole, shelled hazelnuts
FROSTING
  • 250g icing sugar, sifted
  • 80g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 25mL whole milk
  • 80g hazelnut and chocolate spread (such as Nutella)
Method
CUPCAKES
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F). Line a 12-hole cupcake tray with paper cases.
  2. Put the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutter in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.
  3. Slowly pour the milk into the flour mixture, beating well until all the ingredients are well mixed. Add the egg and beat well (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula).
  4. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until the sponge bounces back when touched. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
  5. When the cupcakes are cold, hollow out a small section in the centre of each one and fill with a dollop of hazelnut and chocolate spread.
HAZELNUT AND CHOCOLATE FROSTING
  1. Beat the icing sugar and butter together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. TUrn the mixer down to a slower speed. Slowly pour in the milk, then when it is all incorporated turn the mixed up to high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes.
  2. Stir in the hazelnut and chocolate spread by hand until evenly mixed into the frosting. When the cupcakes are cold, spoon the frosting on top and finish with about 3 hazelnuts per cupcake.

 

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I recommend serving them with macarons from La Belle Miette because diabetes isn’t going to just make itself, is it?

This is also part of Task #71 of my 101 Things in 1001 Days project: Cook something new from ten different cook books.  

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This is me, age 33.

by Elizabeth on March 19, 2013 · 3 comments

in 101 in 1001, Life

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Last Sunday was my birthday.  It was a pretty quiet affair this year; a lazy day of breakfast in bed, thoughtful presents, lots of phonecalls, and a couple of hours with my doona and an excellent book.  Outside the weather was rainy and cold which was exactly what we needed after our record-breaking heatwave.  Tim took me to Nobu for dinner and we had an incredible night together, dressed to the nines.  I even busted out the false lashes.

I was completely ready for thirty-two to be behind me, for reasons I’m not entirely able to explain.  When I look back at my last year I have so much to be grateful for: an incredible holiday to the USA (and much longed-for quality time with Tim’s family), hitting new strides in my job, happy milestones for the people I love.  It was a year of blessings.

But for me it was also a year for restlessness and sadness.  There were some long stretches of time when I felt pretty low – not depressed, just lacking my usual resilience to the world.  I felt the disappointments and unkindnesses more deeply during the past year, and found that it lowered my expectations of the people around me.  I hurt my foot and quit my running, I stopped painting because I couldn’t remember how to do it.

So I’ve been feeling kind of lost.  I’ve been treading water, waking up each day to go through the motions.  I haven’t been nurturing the parts of me that are most important: my health and my passions.

Thirty-three feels like a chance to get my old self back.

If I need more from the people around me I am going to ask for it.  I am going to ask more of myself and make sure that I finish each week better than I found it.  There will be more time for friends and drawing and being outside – even if my foot won’t let me run.  Food will be fuel, not feelings.

One thing I know about myself is that this blog is still a healthy, enriching thing for me.  My blog doesn’t overwhelm or dictate my offline life, but the interactions I have here do so much to enhance it.  I guess what I’m saying is that I love youuuse guyyys.

So tell me, what’s your secret for pulling yourself out of a slump?  I could use a bit of a boost.

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Task #46 of my 101 Things in 1001 Days project: See the Red Sox play at Fenway Park

My initiation into The Cult of Red Sox began about 7 years ago when I visited Tim’s dad for the first time in upstate New York.  It was January, the snow was piled up high outside, and so we rugged up for a few days at their house and hung out.  Some of my happiest memories from that time were doing the New York Times crossword together, hanging out with Tim’s little stepbrother by the piano, and the 2004 World Series DVD box set.

Tim’s dad was very quick to ascertain the baseball status of the Aussie in his house as soon as I arrived.  He discovered that she didn’t have a team, she didn’t know the rules, and he had a couple of days to make a difference in the life of a foreigner.  I remember there being quite a lot of wine, attempted comparisons to cricket (from my highly-amused interpreter, Tim) and a couple of small interventions from the other members of the household when they believed I had reached saturation point.  

But his passion for the game, and for this team, was so infectious that I sat there for hours listening to him talk and watching the game highlights that he could fast-forward to from memory.

For Tim’s birthday last year his dad bought us both tickets to a game at Fenway Park for September, and the rest of our USA trip was pretty much planned around that date.

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I found Fenway Park itself absolutely fascinating.  It’s the oldest MLB stadium in the country that’s still in use, and due to the dense neighbourhood surrounding the park there have been some pretty creative extensions in its lifetime.  It’s one of only a few MLB stadiums that cannot seat 40,000 spectators, although its capacity has grown by a couple of thousand seats since it was built.

I was so lucky to be there with people who really loved and knew about the history of the park.  Without them I wouldn’t have known about The Lone Red Seat, which represents the longest home run ever hit at Fenway.  I may not have noticed that the scoreboard is still operated by hand, or that the scorekeeper occasionally sticks his head out his window to watch the game.  It was funny to see him chatting away to players from time to time.

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We won’t discuss the result of the game that day, or their performance throughout the entire season!  I’d rather remember people-watching the spectators, my spectacular hotdog and my very first pack of crackerjacks.  And I think I finally know my way around most of the rules.

PS: Good news for Elvis fans – I found him at Fenway Park.  He’s taller than I had expected.

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More photos of beautiful Boston over here.

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#86 – Build something from wood

by Elizabeth on March 4, 2013 · 47 comments

in 101 in 1001, DIY, iPhone

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Task #86 of my 101 Things in 1001 Days project: build something from wood.

When I added this task to my 101 Things project I assumed it would involve hammering one piece of wood onto another.  I didn’t really have an idea in mind, but I was pretty sure that during the course of this 1001 days I’d dream up something simple.  Simplicity was key because we don’t have much in the way of tools – just a handsaw, hammer, an electric sander, a drill and some nails and screws.  And plus, I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time.

My phone contract expired last month and I used it as an opportunity to leave my terrible phone provider and sign up with a new one.  I decided to sign up for a plan that included an iPhone 5 and every day since then I’ve quietly congratulated myself.  It’s such an elegant little device and the camera alone is a great reason to upgrade.

My only complaint is that the lightning cable for the iPhone 5 renders my two old iphone docks completely useless.  It was during my online search for a replacement that I discovered a bunch of beautiful wooden iphone docks, and thought to myself I wonder if I could do that?

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Tim and I found an old section of tree trunk a couple of weeks ago on the side of the road, and it wasn’t much to look at.  The bark had already begun to rot away and a few spiders had taken up residence.  I had a feeling that underneath the muck there was going to be a beautiful piece of wood inside, and I was right!  I don’t know what sort of wood it is (some sort of Australian hardwood I guess), but it’s pretty.

I improvised like crazy to build this iphone dock, so it didn’t make sense to take step-by-step photos.  But if you came here to learn how to make a wooden iphone dock these tips might help.

WHAT I USED:

  • A piece of wood
  • Lightning cable
  • Dremel or rotary hand tool (mine was $40)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Drill
  • Cabinet makers’ wax
  • Thick, self-adhesive felt base (this is what I used)

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HOW I DID IT:

  • I chose a section of wood that looked interesting, and used my hand saw to cut off the slice I needed.  This would have been much easier with a circular saw!
  • I sanded both sides of the wood slice, starting with a course 40-grit sandpaper and then using progressively finer grits (up to 120-grit).  If you like a mirror finish you might want to choose something even finer to finish it off.  I opted for a more natural look to suit the rough edges and those beautiful deep cracks.
  • The rotary tool (or dremel) that I chose came with all the accessories I needed, and I switched between attachments pretty regularly.  I found that I mostly wanted to use the stone grinding shanks that came in my kit (here are some similar ones) even though I don’t think they’re intended for wood.  If your wood is softer you might be able to use something more gentle.

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  • I started to carve out the recess for the phone by eyeballing it, and as I got closer to the finish line I drew some pencil guidelines to make sure that it was even.  My asymmetrical slice of wood was very forgiving and meant that I didn’t have to do any measuring.  I chose to carve a generous recess to allow for different phone cases in the future.  And really, the recess is a cosmetic feature rather than a practical one – my dock doesn’t provide any support to the phone except via the strength of the lightning cable head.
  • I spent quite a lot of time smoothing the groove and buffing the wood with the cabinet makers’ wax at this point – including the beautiful, rough edges.  Then I went to bed and had nightmares about ruining my project with the drilling step.

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  • The next day I drilled a hole in the centre of the recessed groove, and gave it a slight lean so that the phone would sit at a bit of an angle for ease of viewing.  I used a 9/32″ drill bit for the hole, which was perfect for the head of the lightning cable to fit through.  It worked!
  • The next step was to use the dremel to carve out a path for the rest of the cable on the underside of the dock.  I knew that this was going to be covered with a layer of felt so I didn’t worry about making it beautiful.  I carved a deep groove that would allow the dock to sit perfectly flat.
  • Then it was time to heat up the hot glue gun.  I spent some time deciding how much of the lightning cable I wanted poking out of the dock and testing it thoroughly with my phone.  I also came up with a strategy for setting the cable in place, since I knew I would only have a few seconds to place it once I’d added glue.  Spend some time making sure that the head faces forward perfectly, and also that it doesn’t lean left or right.  Then go – and don’t burn your fingers!
  • Fill the remaining gaps in the hole with hot glue, and when it’s cool flip it over and do the same at the bottom.
  • My last step was to apply a layer of thick, self-adhesive wool felt on the base.  It’s designed to protect the surface that your dock will sit on, but also serves to hide messy cables and keep your dock perfectly flat.

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You know, I think I might have been too intimidated to begin this project if I’d seen all of these steps spelled out for me at the start.  So let me try that again:

Carve a spot for your phone to sit in.  Smooth, polish or stain your wood to your heart’s content.  Drill a hole for the cable, and glue it in place so that it won’t budge.  Flatten the base somehow.  Add the pretty wooden bunny from Japan that your mum found for you last year.  Enjoy!

{ 47 comments }

#40 – Complete a jigsaw puzzle

by Elizabeth on February 25, 2013 · 6 comments

in 101 in 1001, Cool stuff, Videos

Jigsaw puzzle on Vimeo.
Music: Puzzle Pieces by Saint Motel

 

This ridiculous task is part of my mission to complete 101 Things in 1001 Days.

Some of the major regrets in my life:

  • Begging to have my hair permed when I was 12, and succeeding
  • The time I was hit by a bus on my way to a funeral
  • That month-long period in Year 10 when the boy I had a crush on flirted with me like crazy, and I just thought he was being a weirdo
  • Navigating LAX with three small children; and
  • Wasting 3 weeks of my life on this effing jigsaw puzzle.

I think the lowest point during this project was when I grabbed the scissors from the kitchen drawer, intending to re-shape a puzzle piece that I believed with ALL MY HEART should have fit in a particular spot.  There was a lot of Tim Talking Liz Down From the Ledge and Sure, Chocolate Can Be Dinner and Liz? Maybe You Should Go To Bed Now during the course of these 56.5 hours.  Also swearing and crying and flipping the bird at objects that could only be described as inanimate.

But maybe, maybe there were also some good moments.  Like the sort of conversations that only happen when you’re trapped in a room together and the TV is off.  And maybe it wasn’t entirely terrible to listen to Richard Mercer’s Love Song Dedications on the radio, even if my boyfriend made it clear that he will never publicly glorify our love with a Whitney Houston power ballad.

The thing is, we did it and nobody died.  We agreed that Tim wouldn’t touch the puzzle unless I was working on it (in order to satisfy the vague criteria of my list) and whenever we were puzzling, we were filming too.

Thank God we were able to capture all of our poor nutritional decisions on camera.

{ 6 comments }

Banana & coconut bread

by Elizabeth on January 5, 2013 · 2 comments

in 101 in 1001, Food, Recipes

My list of 101 Things in 1001 Days is going pretty strong so far, so much so that I’ve found myself falling behind in terms of writing about my progress here on the blog.  There are some overdue posts about my completed tasks that I’ll be sharing over the next week.  12 months into the project and I have 30 items completed, with 16 in progress.  I need to get the words down so that I can properly sink my teeth into my next 30!

So this is just a quick update about one of my ‘in progress’ items: #71 – Cook something new from 10 different cook books.

coconutbreadMarie Claire Kitchen by Michele Cranston is one of my favourite cookbooks, and is just a gorgeous book to flick through when you feel like some inspiration.  I love that there are pages devoted to basic skills like working with pastry and how to pick the perfect potato for a specific purpose.  It’s a great all-rounder.

A couple of days ago I noticed that I had a couple of overripe bananas, so went hunting for a banana bread recipe.  This book had the one I wanted, although it did cause me a bit of a problem.  The banana bread recipe was on the same page as the coconut bread recipe, and once my brain connected the two I really needed some combination of the two.

So I followed the recipe below, but also added 2 1/2 cups of shredded coconut, 200mL milk and a lot of nutmeg.  Because if you don’t have nutmeg with your banana bread you are a crazy person.

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Banana bread
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
This is the original recipe from one of my favourite cookbooks, Marie Claire Kitchen by Michele Cranston.
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Serves: 1 loaf
Ingredients
  • 90g butter, softened
  • 115g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp natural vanilla extract
  • 250g (2 cups) plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 large ripe bananas
  • 1 orange, grated zest only
Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F/Gas 4).
  2. Put butter, caster sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, flour, baking powder, bananas and orange zest into a food processor. Process to a smooth batter.
  3. Spoon into a greased and lined 8x16cm loaf tin. Bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  4. Serve in warm slices or toasted with butter and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup

The end result was pretty much perfect.  Oh, and don’t worry if you don’t have a food processor – I mixed mine by hand and it turned out beautifully.

I’m trying out a new WordPress plugin called EasyRecipe to format posts like these, and I’d love to hear your feedback.  I may need to mess around with the stylesheet to make it a little prettier, but I love that it generates a simple printable version for you to keep.  Try it out and let me know what you think!

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I’ve set myself a challenge to complete 101 Things in 1001 Days, from 1 January 2012 to 28 September 2014.  #78 on my list is to take 101 photos with my Fujifilm instax mini 25 camera.

I’ve had this fun little camera for a while now, and we seem to go through phases with each other.  There are months on end where it sits neglected in a drawer, and there are days where I go through 3 packs of film before lunch.  It’s a great little toy when I remember it’s there.

I decided to call this task “done” when I had taken 101 photos that were good enough to share.  Some of them turned out as expected, others are happy accidents probably look like mistakes to the average person!  I’m sure I could have presented an entirely different set of 101 photos if I kept this open until the end of my 1001 Days but it’s time for me to start concentrating on the other items on my list.

Enjoy the little video above, and try not to notice the terrible nailpolish!  We all do things we regret on New Years Eve.

Photojojo Fuji Instax Camera

Image from photojojo.com, which is one of my favourite places for photo gadgets.

The Fujifilm Instax Mini 25 takes instant photographs, much like a polaroid camera.  The photos are about the size of a credit card and there are enthusiasts out there who use them in journals and other crafty projects.  Lots of people are making albums that are sized for these photos and there are stacks of accessories on etsy and ebay.  I think people who love this camera really love this camera.

This camera isn’t for everybody, although most people would enjoy the novelty factor of instant film.

Through trial and error I’ve learned a bit about which lighting situations will work for this camera, and which ones won’t.  One of the  main frustrations that people have with the instax mini is that there’s no way to manually control the flash or shutter speed, so there’s an element of risk each time you take a shot.  Most indoor shots will cause the flash to fire and that can cause annoying glare on reflective surfaces.  If you’re photographing people indoors the flash does a great job and gives a fun 80’s feel.

The photos I liked best were taken in full sunlight, or in places with HEAPS of bright ambient light.

 

TIPS AND TRICKS FOR USING THE FUJIFILM INSTAX MINI 25

The page where I have been posting my instax photos has been attracting a lot of google traffic throughout the year, and I’ve noticed that most of the search terms are related to problems that people have with using the camera.  I thought it might be helpful to share some of the things I’ve learned, especially since the manual that comes with the camera is pretty useless!

I’m not an expert (I’m not even happy with all 101 shots) but I did get better at it over time.

FILM

  • You should expect to waste a few packets of film when you first get your camera.  Film isn’t cheap, but in my experience the only way to learn is to keep shooting.  Photograph the same object multiple times, adjusting your distance or light source, until you figure out what works and what doesn’t.
  • I always buy my film through eBay now because it can be much cheaper than the usual places.  I usually get a good deal when I buy them in packs of a couple of hundred.  Whether you’re buying film online or in a store always check the expiry date.  Sometimes the price is too good to be true, and a seller who doesn’t disclose this information in their product description is probably shady.  My last few purchases have been made through cameragirl and they’ve been great.
  • Once you have your film don’t let it sit around collecting dust, and remember that it expires.  If you’re too precious with your camera or your film you’ll never learn to use it to its full potential.  Be ready to pay about $1 per photo, and don’t be too mad about the ones that end up in the trash.

LIGHTING

  • Taking a photo in full, bright sunlight will give vivid colours and a low-risk shot.
  • Some of my favourite photos were taken directly into to the sun, like the bird feeder and tomato plant above.  The brightest spots in the photo will be overexposed and you may end up with a black or green dot in your image.  That’s the film telling you that your scene was too bright, but I love it.
  • If you’d prefer to avoid this shoot your subject in direct sunlight but put the light source behind you.  The brightest spots may still be over exposed but you shouldn’t experience any burn.  The two photos of my dog above were shot this way, and while the detail of his white fur is lost to overexposure overall there’s more control in those shots.
  • The other four photos above (mug & lemons, baseball game, ivy & vases) were shot in areas with heaps and heaps of ambient light.  The instax needs a LOT of light, so it’s pretty quick to fire its flash if the scene isn’t perfectly lit.
  • The flash is brilliant for photographing people at night and in low light.

OTHER STUFF

  • Don’t forget that what you see through the viewfinder is just a guide.  As the viewfinder doesn’t sit directly over the lens there will be some differences in the framing of the final product.  It’s not easy to line up a perfectly symmetrical shot with this camera, so embrace imperfection!
  • The camera comes with a closeup lens, but it’s not a macro lens.  You’ll still need be a good arms length away from your subject to get it in focus, and I wasted a lot of film figuring out that sweet spot!  I also kept forgetting to remove it for landscape scenes which is why some of them are blurry.  I found I’m more tolerant of these sorts of mistakes with my instax than I ever could be with my SLR or DSLR.
  • Don’t buy this camera if you’re a control freak, or you will be miserable.  Embrace imperfection and you will love it.

If you have one of these cameras I would love to hear your tips in the comments!

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drivein

I’ve set myself a challenge to complete 101 Things in 1001 Days, from 1 January 2012 to 28 September 2014.  #48 on my list is to see a movie at the drive-in.

I put this on my list purely for the novelty factor, because I don’t remember ever seeing a movie at the drive-in before.  I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when we decided to go last weekend so I googled some reviews and we chose the one at Coburg.  There’s another one at Dandenong that looks great too but they didn’t have the movie we wanted.

We decided to go with something light (as opposed to The Hobbit!) because we weren’t all that sure what we were signing up for! Pitch Perfect was ended up being an excellent choice.  We arrived super early to make sure that we got a good spot and that meant we had about an hour to kill before the movie.

The wait didn’t matter; that hour went past in a flash.  There’s a cool little diner on the grounds serving up seriously good burgers and plenty of other food that’s terrible for you.  There are some arcade games inside and an outdoor playground.  People showed up in their jeans or their pajamas and it was a really fun vibe.

Better still, you can order your food by SMS and have it delivered to your car during the movie.  We maybe indulged in that service too, once we discovered that hot jam donuts were on offer.  I can neither confirm nor deny that there was also a milkshake.

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We came armed with some supplies.  It was pretty cold that night (thank you Melbourne for delaying Summer!) so we had a blanket and some pillows, and I remembered to bring my comfiest pinkest socks.  We also snuck in some of our own snacks although the diner menu was so tempting that we barely put a dent in our own stash.  The prices are a bit expensive but the food made the experience more fun.

Overall I was surprised at how great it was to watch a movie from my car seat, and listen via the radio tuner.  I thought the picture quality was excellent, it was great to set the volume to the level we wanted, and to be able to talk during the movie without bothering anybody else.

Melburnians, definitely do this!

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gingerbread5

Task #57 on my list of 101 Things in 1001 Days is ‘Build a gingerbread house’.

Build a gingerbread house, they said.
It will be fun, they said…

They must have been from the Northern Hemisphere, making their gingerbread houses in the chill of a frosty winter.  In winter royal icing hardens quickly and acts like glue, allowing you to build incredible sculptures without fear of gravity or satan or kardashians.

I did not build my gingerbread house in winter.  I was not rugged up in a Christmas sweater, there was no egg-nog and I didn’t once contemplate the beauty of the snowflakes falling outside my window.  There was no wood popping in the fireplace because there was no fire.

And that’s because I made my gingerbread house in Austrayyylia mate, g’day!, in the middle of December, in the middle of summer, on a day that turned out to be the first 40C/104F day of the year.

Crikey dingo.  I was a bloody idiot.

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I chose that day to build my gingerbread house because it was on my list, and because I was running out of time to do it before Christmas.  I had grand plans of doing the entire thing from scratch, but when I ran my recipe past a workmate of mine (in her spare time, a gingerbread house master) she told me to STOP RIGHT THERE and PUT THE RECIPE DOWN and hey also, ARE YOU INSANE?

Because apparently making gingerbread in summer – much like making royal icing in summer – is a really dumb move.  She explained to me how gingerbread will sag in the middle if it’s not cooked properly, and then your house will come crashing down taking with it all of your hopes and dreams.  She reminded me that my house was not airconditioned, that I’m constantly complaining about the uneven heat in my oven, and that I have a crippling slight issue in the overachievement department.

She made me promise with my hand over my heart that I would go and buy a kit and just have fun decorating it.  Promise me, Elizabeth.  Swear to me that you will not overachieve.  LOOK ME IN THE EYE.

I looked her in the eye. I bought a kit.

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I considered buying two kits! Because, you see, then I could use the second kit to build a second floor! And there would be a little verandah and a carport and maybe a treehouse with a ladder.  And later, when I found myself wondering how to build a simple circuit to power a tiny gingerbread chandelier, I agreed that my friend was maybe pretty insightful after all.

So, just the one then.

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It would be fair to say that during the construction of this gingerbread house I said a number of things that I’m not entirely proud of.  There are all sorts of ways to soundproof a room these days if you want to protect the people you love from your violent outbursts, but that’s a whole other blog post.

Here are some things I learned.

  • Buy a kit.  For the love of God, buy a kit.
  • Add a bunch of extra powdered sugar to your usual royal icing recipe or all that shit will slide off your house.  It should be thick like toothpaste, even on a 40C day.
  • Go ahead and build a fence out of pretzel sticks, but not before kissing the rest of your day goodbye.
  • If you find a miniature sugar Christmas tree and snowman at a supermarket go ahead and buy them and stick them down.  Later, when your family asks how you made them just shrug and offer to show them someday.  Then change your name and move to another city.
  • I built the shingles on the roof from wafer biscuits, splitting the layers and then breaking them into thirds.  You definitely want to do this before gluing your roof in place because otherwise?  Crying.
  • Ask yourself whether your house really needs a fence.  However, if your gingerbread family has a gingerbread dog you should be a responsible pet owner and build a secure yard.
  • There will come a point during the construction of your house when you realise that for every piece of candy on your creation, there are another fifteen in your belly.  Ensure that you have plenty of salty snacks on hand to counter the sugar you have eaten because that was the secret to my dietary success last weekend.
  • You may think that you want to build a teeny tiny wreath for your front door but that’s just your diabetes destroying the brain cells in your frontal lobe.

I also learned that there are other ways to have fun at Christmas, like for instance not building gingerbread houses.

I was so relieved when it survived the 45 minute drive to my cousin’s house on Christmas Day, perched precariously on my lap.  I made Tim take every corner carefully and cushioned every bump in the road.

I needn’t have worried, because later in the day when I armed my little cousin with a meat tenderizer and asked her to smash it it turned out to be stronger than a piñata.  My cousin’s struggle against my gingerbread house was more horrifying than that scene in Breaking Bad with the ATM and I’m not even kidding.

It tasted really good.

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Task #12 on my list of 101 Things in 1001 Days was Visit 3 new states in the USA.

 

See more photos from Maine:

Marshall Point lighthouse
Penobscot Bay
Sunrise at Port Clyde
McLoon’s Lobster Shack

 

 

 

 

 

More photos from Vermont: 

Vermont Fall foliage
Ben & Jerry’s factory tour
Lake Champlain 

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#70 – Make macarons

by Elizabeth on November 25, 2012 · 7 comments

in 101 in 1001, Food

Task #70 of my 101 Things in 1001 Days project was to make macarons.

 

I seem to go through stages with my 101/1001 list.  There are times when I want to tackle each task perfectly and do them to the best of my ability, taking no shortcuts.  I feel that if I don’t cheat the result will be more rewarding, more credible.

But sometimes progress is more important than perfection, and that’s why I took the easy way out with #70.

Make macarons.  Not perfectly, not necessarily from scratch.  When I saw the Adriano Zumbo macaron kit on my supermarket shelf I decided to embrace my 2012 mantra and help myself to put a dent in my list.

Done is better than perfect!

This isn’t a sponsored post, just a small word of thanks to an awesome patissier and his clever new range.  The kit was perfectly designed to include piping bags and circle template, and the QR code on the box led to a bunch of handy videos in case you needed a quick demonstration.  A lot of thought has gone into the design and packaging of the kit and it all worked brilliantly.

Now that I’ve had a run-through with the kit I’d like to try a simple four-ingredient macaron recipe.  It might be a good idea to hold off until I have an oven that can hold a constant temperature, because some of these babies ended up being a little flat and hollow.  I have to fight with my oven whenever I want to make something delicate like meringue or souffle so I wasn’t surprised.  I don’t blame the kit for that.

It’s almost December and I have 27/101 items crossed off my list.  That puts me a little bit behind schedule so I need to try and get some more points on the scoreboard before Christmas.  If you can spot something on my list that you can help with please give me a shout – even if it’s just a proverbial buttkicking!

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Part of my 101 Things in 1001 Days project.

Tim started telling me about lobster rolls about two years before our trip to Maine. so I had a long time to get excited about the idea.  They’re such a simple concept – a bun that’s sliced along the top, fresh lobster and just enough mayonnaise and seasoning to tie it all together.

The recipe doesn’t vary much from region to region, but Maine does it best by keeping it really basic.

My first lobster roll (pictured above) was from a trendy waterfront restaurant, and it was delicious. I was pretty confident that I’d had the best lobster roll there was until a couple of days later when I went to McLoon’s Lobster Shack in South Thomaston, ME.

It may not look like much, but damn.  It was the perfect balance of fresh lobster to tangy mayo and the bun was perfectly toasted.

Since coming home to Australia I have had dreams about the lobster roll in the photo above.  Delicious, filthy dreams that would make you blush.

I’ll be seeing you again someday, McLoons.  You and your beautiful sunset.

 

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Part of my 101 Things in 1001 Days project. 

I woke up really early on our last morning in Maine to catch the sun rising over the water.  I’d set my alarm not really knowing what time the sun would come up, and when I woke it was so dark that I ended up having time for a long shower before the sky show.

The place where we stayed is right on the water, just a few steps from the ocean.  I found a spot on the rocks and snapped away as the sun crawled up the sky and finally broke through the clouds.

There’s something so beautiful about sitting still, and watching quietly as the world wakes up.

After a while Tim’s stepdad Dr Bob joined me with his own camera.  He’s an oil painter, and wherever we go he’s always talking about the beauty he sees in nature and the way that the light hits “just right”.  He takes a lot of reference photos for his paintings and turns them into incredible landscapes.

Since I’ve started learning how to paint he’s kind of taken me under his wing.  He speaks about art with a passion that’s infectious, and he has a way of explaining concepts gradually, over many days and conversations.  It’s like he knows that I’ll  need a day to digest what we’ve discussed before handing me the next piece of the puzzle, and there were many aha! moments for me during the weeks we chatted.

I think the rest of his family gets a bit bored with his observations of the world but I could listen to him all day.  I learned so much from him while I was there, and I think he liked having a fresh set of ears to talk to.

 

Liz, would you look. at. that!

I’ll forever be reminded of Dr Bob whenever I look at these photos.

This place.  Those people.  I miss them all so much.

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