Sorry for the absence

Hi all!

Sorry I’ve been MIA, I’m going to be getting back to everything once I’m actually spending more time on my computer again – I seem to just forget about posting when I’m not always on my computer. I’ve literally been going 3-4 days at a time without even turning it on! And then when I do turn it on, I don’t really seem to have anything interesting to write about.

Just about the most exciting thing that happened in the last few weeks was that I got a new vacuum for Christmas! You know you’ve achieved “Adult Status” when a new vacuum cleaner is the height of Christmas excitement lol… However, it is quite a fancy one – I haven’t used it yet, because I’m not home yet, but I can’t wait to try it out! Our old one did the job for the cat hair for the last 6 years, but the spinning head broke about 12months ago, and since then it just hasn’t been up to the job of getting the fur off the carpet. SO I AM SOOOOOO EXCITED ABOUT THE NEW VACUUM!!!!!

I’m also getting a new bike, because I’m intending to ride to uni instead of driving or getting public transport most days. I’ve got to sort that out once I get back from house/pet-sitting though, because I want to check out the seats before I choose – the last bike I had (a cheap-as-chips one from K-Mart) had the most uncomfortable seat in the universe, and I ended up not using the bike because it was too unpleasant to ride. I’m going to be getting one of those vintage-style bikes with the seats that are pretty much a tractor seat though, so either way it’s going to be 1000 times more comfortable than that old bike.

My sister B got me a textbook reading stand (which will also do double-duty as a recipe book stand in the kitchen) and Mum got me a pretty silver bracelet for my fitbit (rather than the plain rubber/silicon ones that they normally come with). Both of those are still waiting on slow eBay postage though, so they should arrive soon 🙂

I’m going to be finished with house/pet-sitting in a week, and then I’ll be able to start sorting myself out for the new year and getting used to a routine ready for the start of semester. Hopefully, if I’m set in a routine already it will be easier to stay on top of everything once I start back studying. I find out where I’ve gotten in around mid-January.

~K

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Christmas presents!

I finished my Christmas shopping for the whole family today (including Hubby’s family)!
I have actually been organised this year, and it’s 4 days out from Christmas and I’m done! Now I’ve just got to wrap everything.
To get myself in the wrapping mood, I’m watching The Muppets Christmas Carol, which ties for favourite Christmas movie with Love Actually 🙂
I love Christmas time!
~K

Beef Stroganoff

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This is an easy one to make, and it contains heaps of veges 🙂 This is a favourite in our house!

Serves: 8 (If you have big eaters, you may only get 5-6 serves. Neither myself or Hubby are big eaters)

Ingredients:

  • 500g beef strips
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 450g jar roasted capsicum, sliced (or 2 fresh red ones)
  • 200g mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup beef stock
  • 400g tin tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2/3 cup sour cream

Method:

  1. Toss beef with flour and paprika to coat. Allow to sit while prepping other ingredients.
  2. Heat fry pan over med-high heat, and cook beef until just browned. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and set aside.
  3. Cook onion and garlic until softened, then add other veges. Cook until mushrooms are softened.*
  4. Return beef to pan and add stock, tomatoes, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Add sour cream and stir through, then remove from heat.

*If you are using fresh capsicum, add them when you add the onion.

This can be served with just about anything – I usually do it with pasta, but you can also use potatoes, rice, quinoa, couscous, just about ANYTHING that vaguely resembles a white carbohydrate!

Make sure that you do follow the directions as they are – if you don’t brown the beef then set it aside to rest, it can get VERY tough and chewy, particularly if you are saving money and getting the cheaper cuts of meat.

This freezes well, but the sauce can sometimes separate a little during the defrosting process (this is due to the sour cream).

~K

New Year, New Life

I’m going to be doing the New Year, New Life challenge/series that Kirsten over at Organized Charm did at the start of 2014!

I feel like 2015 is very much going to be a “new life” for me, because there’s going to be several big changes – I’m starting my new degree, I’m turning 26 and therefore will be booted from Rovers, Hubby has a new job, and we’ve recently moved into a smaller house on the opposite side of town to where we both grew up.

Hopefully, by doing the challenge I’ll be able to make a few positive changes and help myself get sorted for the new year 🙂

If anyone else also wants to do it with me, this is the link to the series page on Kirsten’s blog.

Here’s to a good 2015!

~K

Chicken Lasagne

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This was the first time I’d made lasagne myself – and as much as the recipe said to use a 2L dish, I think I will be using a larger one next time – this is a 2L dish, and it BARELY fitted!

Very yummy recipe, not a quick cook, but reasonably easy. If you don’t feel up to personally making the white sauce, buy a bottle of Béchamel from the supermarket and use that.

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 500g chicken mince
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 400g tin diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
  • 3 medium zucchini, sliced thinly
  • 400g mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 1 packet of lasagne sheets (fresh or instant – whatever you prefer)

White Sauce

  • 60g butter
  • 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 2 1/4 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup (25g) finely grated parmesan, with extra to top lasagne

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F)
  2. Heat a little oil in a largish pan, and cook onion and garlic until onion is softened. Add chicken and cook until browned. Add tomato paste, tinned tomatoes, and sugar, then bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer (uncovered) for 5mins. Stir in basil, then pour into a heatproof bowl and set aside.
  3. Cook mushrooms and zucchini in the pan until softened. While you’re doing this, start the white sauce.
  4. White Sauce: Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and gradually stir in milk. Return to heat and cook, stirring, until mixture boils and thickens. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 mins, still stirring. Season to taste. Remove from heat and stir in cheese.
  5. Line base of ovenproof dish with lasagne sheets, trimmed to fit (as much as possible). Top with 1/3 of chicken mixture, half the vege mix, and 1/2 the white sauce. Put down another layer of lasagne sheets, top with half the remaining chicken mix, then the remainder of the vege mix. Put down a final layer of lasagne sheets, remainder of the chicken and as much white sauce as it takes to thickly cover the lasagne without overflowing the pan. Top with additional parmesan.
  6. Put ovenproof dish on a cookie sheet before placing in oven.* Cover dish with foil, and bake for 20mins, then uncover and bake for a further 30mins (or until lightly browned). Stand for 10mins before serving.

*This will catch any over-spill that might happen during cooking, and it’s much easier to clean a tray than it is to clean the bottom of the oven.

As is typical of lasagne, it is almost impossible to serve it up nicely while it is hot. This is what happened to my serve:

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Can anyone say lasagne splook?

If you let it cool in the fridge overnight, it serves very nicely!

This also freezes well (both cooked and uncooked). Freeze it uncooked if you’re pre-cooking for a large family, and freeze after cooking and portioning if there’s only a couple of you. Or, split it into multiple smaller dishes! (e.g. 3x 1L dishes for 2-serve lasagnes, or make baby ones in 500ml ramekins!)

~K

And… Down again…

My positive feelings from my improved GPA are officially gone again now.

Hubby just called me to ask if he could use the $40 in the savings account for petrol. No, sorry, that money is there so that we can afford to pay the direct debit insurance payments at the end of the month. If we use it, I’ll have to take that money out of next week’s budget. Which is already being stretched to the limit, because we’re apparently in arrears (HOW?!?!?!? I still don’t understand how it happened) on his car payments, so we have to pay extra on that for the next two weeks.

I just had a total meltdown while I was on the phone, I just couldn’t stop crying and apologising. In a way, this isn’t my fault – I made sure all the bills were paid, I made sure he had food for while I was away. I spent only $50 to feed myself for this week and part of next week. I ASKED HIM how much he needed for fuel this week, after explaining that we didn’t have a lot of money left after paying the bills (we had $70 total for food and fuel, because we had to pay extra for ANOTHER bill this week – the changeover from monthly to weekly pay has not been at all pleasant). He said that he didn’t need fuel, so I allocated $50 for me to get food for myself and $20 for him to get the “extras” he’d need over the week (bread, milk, cat food).

And now I get a call from him asking if he can put $40 in for fuel. I told him that if he wasn’t planning on coming over this side of town on Tuesday already, not to worry about it. But he came anyway. YES I miss him, YES it was great to see him, but now this is happening and it feels like it wasn’t worth it. Now he is using the $20 that was supposed to be for HIS food for fuel, and apparently “That should be just enough”. If you thought you’d need $20 for fuel this week, you should have said. I would have just gotten veges and beans, rather than getting fish and chicken as well. I DON’T MIND EATING VEGETARIAN FOR A WEEK. The friends I’m house/pet-sitting for have chickens, so I’ve got free eggs. I could have gotten by on less for food, but I though it would be OK for me to have meat, since he said he didn’t need fuel.

My mum gave me $40 cash on Tuesday night, because I was out of fuel myself and she needs me to drive her to the airport on Friday and pick her up when she gets back. I COULD HAVE GIVEN HIM $20 OF THAT ON TUESDAY! I only put $20 in my car to start with, because it’s not like I’m driving anywhere except the airport on Friday, and I might need money for public transport or something. Because even though Hubby hadn’t used that $20, I’d allocated that for HIM so I wasn’t going to use it because it’s not what it was planned to be used for. He didn’t say on Tuesday that he might need fuel, so I thought he was still OK. So I didn’t offer, because I thought it was all sorted. I’d talked to him about how much we’d paid for everything, and why certain amounts were “just sitting” in certain accounts, so that he knew WHY we only had $70 this week. I thought he understood that we can’t USE that money that’s sitting in those accounts, otherwise we’ll be in an even worse situation at the end of the month when the direct debits come out.

And somehow, in my head, this all leads to me feeling guilty because I spent $50 on food this week. I feel guilty about BUYING MEAT. If I’d just decided to go with beans and rice, I could have fed myself on half as much. But I thought we could afford the $50, so I spent that. (I’ll point out here that $50 a week for food is pretty low in Australia. It’s not like I was buying anything but the basics.) AND I FEEL GUILTY FOR BUYING MEAT. For some reason, I feel like buying meat for myself is not justifiable. There is a little rational corner of my mind that tells me I’m being an idiot. I know it’s silly to feel that way, I spent very little and got a very healthy menu for the week. But the rest of my brain is freaking out, because I feel guilty for spending Hubby’s hard-earned money. Because I’m not working ATM. We decided as a couple that there was no point me trying to get a summer job, because I would be spending half the time on the opposite side of town (no matter where I got the job), and I would be spending most of the extra money I earned getting to and from the job. We decided we could manage. So I feel guilty because somehow, my brain has connected this joint decision with it being my fault that money is tight. I feel guilty because I have a $20 note sitting in my purse, and I can’t get that cash to him, and he’s the one who needs it. I don’t, I still have about $5 in silver rolling around in my car, which I can use if I need bread or milk before next pay day. I don’t need the cash. But he does, and I can’t get it to him, and this makes me feel even worse about the whole situation.

I always tell people I went into psychology to understand how other people’s brains worked, but really it was to try and work out how my own works. Because the rational part of my mind can’t make any sense of the spiky wave of anxiety that takes over sometimes, and the anxiety won’t listen to the rational part.

I know it’s not my fault. I know I shouldn’t feel guilty. I know I have no reason to apologise. BUT FOR SOME REASON, I do feel this way. I think Hubby gets frustrated by it at times, and I totally get that. I’m there having a meltdown, and apologising for everything, and he CAN’T DO ANYTHING TO MAKE IT BETTER. They’re panic/anxiety attacks. The only thing I can do is wait and let them run down. Which makes me feel guilty about having a lack of control over my emotions and reactions. Vicious cycle, much?

Stupid brain.

~K

On the up!

I got a 5 for the unit I did over the June/July break!!!!

I am sooooo happy, my GPA is improving! Now I’ve got my results back, I’m feeling so much better than I was last week. I still have all the CFS symptoms that have been popping up over the last month, but I’m feeling a little better mentally and emotionally.

I’m definitely feeling a lot more positive about the future 🙂

~K

Facts about Coffee (and some tips)

Making a good cup of coffee can be a remarkably difficult thing to do sometimes, because people just don’t get taught how to do it properly. Even a lot of baristas working at coffee shops don’t know how to make a proper cup of coffee.

I have formal barista training, as well as being a coffee drinker, so I know a good coffee when I taste/smell one.

Coffee Fact 1:
No matter what sort of coffee you’re making, the water should NEVER actually be at boiling point (100°C). This will burn the coffee, and give it that horrible sour aftertaste. To make the ideal coffee, the water should be between 88 and 94°C. This is hot enough for the coffee to release its flavours quickly, but not hot enough to burn it. A good way to make sure of this at home is to let the kettle cool for a couple of minutes before you pour the water into your coffee cup.

Coffee Fact 2:
You know that creamy, light brown layer that ends up on top of a well-made shot of coffee from an espresso machine? That’s called the crema. It’s formed from the oils in the coffee beans. Something most people don’t know – even instant coffee gets it. If your coffee (instant or otherwise) does not end up with crema on top, the water is too hot and the coffee has been burnt. The crema is what gives all the complex flavours to the coffee.

Coffee Fact 3:
Soy milk is very difficult to get the proper creamy foam required for a good latte, as it does not contain the fat and proteins that help it hold. If your soy latte looks exactly the same as your friend’s full-cream one, you have a good barista. If it doesn’t, don’t complain – very few baristas (particularly at commercial coffee chains) are able to do a good job of soy milk. It also quickly crosses from “nice” to “burnt”, so avoid asking for your soy coffee “extra hot”, unless you know the barista is familiar with the ins and outs of soy milk.

Coffee Fact 4:
A latte should be served in a glass (not a ceramic cup). If it’s served in ceramic, technically it’s a flat white. The whole point of a latte is to get a 3-layer look. You should have a slightly lighter bit at the bottom, then the large “coffee” section, then a strip at the top that is made up of the cream. The top strip should be about one finger width at the most. This is what you should see when you look at the glass:

The 3 layers are clearly visible

 

Coffee Fact 5:
Use the correct grind! If you use the wrong grind for the wrong thing, you will not end up with a nice cup of coffee. If the grind is too fine, the coffee will be over-developed and very bitter. If the grind it to coarse, the coffee will be very bland and under-developed, and will not have released the full flavour profile. Here’s an infographic about what grind to use for each preparation method:

Coffee Fact 6:
As also shown above, the amount of time works with the grind to give the best cup of coffee. If the grind is correct, but the coffee is allowed to brew/draw for too long, the coffee will still be bitter and awful. Too short a time, and it will be bland.

Coffee Fact 7:
Coffee should be kept cool and in an airtight container or it will go rancid. Whole coffee beans keep much better (and longer) than pre-ground, so if you have a grinder, grind only what you will use within 24-48hrs and toss it after this time. If you don’t own a grinder, buy only what you will use in the next week and keep it in the freezer. This isn’t GREAT for the coffee grounds, and can dry out the oils, but it still tastes better than letting them go rancid. I’d really suggest getting a grinder if you are making coffee at home with a machine or contraption. If you live in a particularly hot climate (like me), keep your beans in an airtight container in the fridge and use them within a month of opening the bag you bought them in.

~K

I hate my skin right now

2 months ago, my skin decided that it was going to go full “pizza face”. This is no exaggeration – I would not look out of place in a high school yearbook. Pretty much since the end of September, it has been red, angry, sore, and itchy. It’s the sort of acne that doesn’t really get a head, so there’s just heaps of red, angry lumps all over my face. I’m so sick of it, but I’ve got a slight problem – 3 things happened at the same time as this all started, and I honestly don’t have a clue which one might actually be causing this!

First: I ran out of antihistamines. The ones that I’d found previously to work best are expensive ($1 per tablet, approximately), and we haven’t had the spare money to get any more since I ran out. I do suffer from hay fever, and I’m also sensitive to MDF (contact to raw MDF makes me come out in hives. Decidedly unpleasant). Does anyone know if acne can be a histamine reaction?

Second: I ran out of my ‘normal’ face wash, toner, and moisturiser that I’ve been using for the last 4 years. It is also rather expensive, and I’d gotten a “all natural” facial cleanser, toner, and moisturiser pack from Mum for my birthday. So I started using that instead, because I didn’t have to pay anything for it. As soon as we have the money, I’m going to go get the other stuff again. Mum bought me the “all natural” stuff because that’s what her and my sister B use, and it doesn’t irritate their skin – but they sit on the absolute OPPOSITE end of the skin scale to me. My skin gets so oily I could honestly use it to grease something with, where as both of them have insane trouble with dry skin. I need to go and get the stuff that worked, and just give what I’ve got left of this “all natural” back to Mum.

Third: They changed the look of the box and packaging of my Pill. And I have NO IDEA whether this means they also subtly changed the formula, or whether they just went with a new look, because I’d already gotten rid of the OLD box. I’ve been on the same pill for about 5 years, and I’d been through 6 or 7 different ones before I found one that actually worked for my skin and my cramps. The cramps have gradually been coming back over the last 12 months or so (which the doctor says is just something that happens for about 10% of women, and there’s not much you can do about it, other than going with a contraceptive that completely stops your periods), and now THIS. I really don’t want to go through the whole faffing around with different pills again, but if the other two things don’t fix my skin I may not have a choice.

It’s not my diet, or the washing detergent, or anything else, because the only things that changed around when it happened were the three I listed. It is quite possible that it’s actually all three that are contributing, and that’s what’s making it so bad.

AAAAARGH it’s so annoying and I feel like an ugly lump at the moment because of it. Hubby doesn’t get it, he says “I don’t know what the problem is, you still look beautiful” but he’s sort of REQUIRED to say that, it’s part of the job description… Maybe it’s not as bad as I think it is, but it doesn’t really matter – I can FEEL the pimples, without even touching my face. They are annoying the crap out of me, and I just want to go back to my semi-reasonable skin standard. I haven’t even bothered trying to do makeup since this all started, because I’d just look lumpy and bumpy without the redness. Not really an improvement.

~K