It’s Tea-time…Again!

12 Sep

I don’t mean to make this blog about tea. But I felt the need to mention a new tea I’ve found at one of my local cafes (The Village Foodstore, if you’re ever in Heathmont I recommend it). So I tried something called Melbourne Breakfast.  I much prefer English Breakfast to Earl Grey. But this Melbourne Breakfast is even better. It helps if you like a slightly sweeter tea. It’s very refreshing for a mid afternoon pick me up.

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I’m ready for the rest of the day. Bring it on!

You Can’t Beat Real Chai

11 Sep

Over the years I’ve mentioned my love for Chai on and off. And continuing on from my previous post where I was in Queensland and unable to find a decent cup of chai I thought I would share how I make a cup of chai. I don’t profess to actually making the chai itself but I do consider myself a bit of a chai snob. Because I find there is something extremely satisfying, calming and rewarding in settling down with a pot of chai sipped in contemplation.

IMG_3357So after a disappointing two weeks in sunny Queenland with my favourite person in the world (who, btw, is not a chai lover!)… Let me clarify that. It wasn’t a disappointing two weeks because I was spending it with him. It was a disappointing two weeks because I didn’t have access to making my own chai and had to rely on cafe bought chai lattes, which I knew as soon as I tasted them they were of the powdered or syrup variety. You know that the situation is bad when you find yourself looking for a Gloria Jeans as the best option for a chai latte. Not that there’s anything wrong with their chai, it’s very popular, but it’s not real brewed chai which is my favourite. So even though we had an apartment (our indulgent holiday for 2013 and 2014, not having had a real holiday for two years) we had decided that we would buy food supplies for breakfast and lunch only and everything else we would go out for as it was too difficult to not over-buy ingredients and end up at the end of the fortnight with food left over. The other hindrance is that in a unit like this there are limited kitchen items. Just basic stuff like a dinner setting, glasses, cups, cutlery, a few frypans and saucepans, etc. But nothing extra…like a teapot! So it was out to cafes every time I wanted a chai. And considering the quality of the chai available in the area I wasn’t able to indulge my passion very often as the disappointment was too great.
So, I have come home and consumed a rather large quantity of chai now to make up for it. I use T2 Chai on a regular basis. Over the years I have found other brands which are extremely good as well, usually from specific tea shops rather than commercially made teas in the supermarkets. But I use T2 Chai as my fall back tea for everyday use. Not that I have one every day. I somehow manage to limit it to one or two days a week!
A chai blend is made up of black tea and spices such as cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom and black pepper. And different recipes may add even more spices such as star anise and fennel. And although I profess to being a chai snob I realise that I do take shortcuts by buying an already made up tea/spice blend and not actually brewing it in a saucepan. One day I will make my own blend and brew it on the stove top as per traditional methods but in the meantime I thought I would share how I currently make my tea because it is quick while still maintaining a real chai taste.
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I use a teapot with a wire basket to hold the tea blend as I find it the most convenient to clean afterwards. I then fill the wire basket in the teapot with 2 teaspoons of the chai blend, fill the teapot with boiling water, and allow to steep for 4-5 minutes. I then fill my cup, or more recently I have taken to using a tall double-walled tea glass, with milk and warm the milk. It’s important to get the ratio of milk to tea correct too – traditionally chai is a sweet, milky spiced tea so about two thirds milk to one third tea. Once the tea has steeped to the strength I like I pour it into the warmed milk, add honey, and it’s ready to go.
Mmmm, and that is my small piece of heaven for the day.

Coffee Count

21 Aug

Okay, strictly speaking this isn’t a coffee count so much as a chai count. But since it’s still universally accepted to say coffee when you mean any hot beverage, as in, do you want a coffee, having a coffee break, etc, im going with that.

I’m going to explain up front that I don’t do coffee (coffee). I love coffee but I’m allergic to it. Well to caffeine actually. I know it seems to be all the rage to say ‘oh I’m allergic to xxx’. But I really am. It caused severe episodes of ‘IBS’ (allergic reaction it turns out) and angry red welt like eczema patches on my face and body. I scratched. The welts got angrier. People stared. Oh, that can’t be right I said when they told me what I was allergic to after cytotoxic allergy tests. I love coffee. Oh, but it is they said. See this test result. HIGHLY allergic to caffeine. Sigh. I gave it up (along with all those other things… including wine, yes wine. NOOOO!) and my IBS and eczema went away.

So now I drink chai…in moderation. Store bought powdered crap, well that’s okay because there really isn’t much tea in that. But real honest to goodness chai made with leaves and brewed with a touch on honey…to die for. But I save that for once a week because tea still has caffeine in it. But when I’m out and about I enjoy having a chai break.

Which brings me back to the coffee (chai) count. My coffee (chai) count is a result of bad coffee (chai) service. So really it’s just about bad customer service. Today I ordered a large skinny chai latte. And out came a strong latte (coffee). Last week I ordered an extra large skinny chai latte. And out came a large. The week before I ordered an extra large skinny chai latte and out came a large. The week before that…you guessed it. Then there’s been one with no sweetener, one with so much sweetener it set my fillings on edge, and the one with the tea leaves and spices still floating in it (I’d like it without the twigs next time I said. I was a regular and they laughed and forever took my order as ‘chai without the twigs’ after that). Recently I’ve taken to pointing at the exact sized cup I want and enunciating slowly like they’re slightly deaf. I feel as imbecilic as I probably look. And still they get my order wrong.

I know, not exactly up there with international problems but when you can’t drink coffee you want the chai, even if it is fake chai, to bring a little pleasure to your day.

And so begins my coffee (chai) count. How many orders can be delivered wrong to my table. And now that its become amusing I’m almost hoping they dont get it right.

Books Worth Re-reading…

8 Jul

I saw a post on Facebook the other day asking people what their favourite book was from high school. Which got me to thinking about books that I have re-read over the years. It’s something that’s been on my mind recently as we’re cleaning out our bookshelves. As most of you know I used to work at Penguin Books. So I have a lot, and I mean a LOT of books. Six full length bookcases with every shelf double rowed, books stacked horizontaly on top of the rows and an additional three boxes of books stored in cupboards. Oh, and another stack in the ‘present’ cupboard.

So when we decided to rearrange the house the other day…obviously not the house itself because it’s, you know, immovable. But the contents of various rooms are being moved around and something had to give as we are running out of room. You can read that as ‘having too much junk’. So we concluded that we had to start with the humungous amount of books. We were able to arrive at that decision in a number of ways. My nostalgia and sentiments for books with a certain logo on them have changed and I feel it is quite cathartic to burn…I mean clean out some of those memories. We decided there are a good many books that whilst we enjoyed them we’ll never re-read them again. And we have set a challenge to whittle them down to just three bookcases, or one room’s worth rather than two.

So far we have discarded about 200 books and are only a quarter of the way there. I wasn’t surprised to find that a number of those were because I had multiple copies of the same book…A Day in the Life of Soltzenitskyn, Macbeth, Hamlet, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Frankenstein, Communist Manifesto, Bhagavad Gita (I dont really need four copies of that so its doen to one), Cloudstreet (I do need three copies but managed to remove one), Alice in Wonderland (and I’ve still never read it!), Oliver Twist, Gulliver’s Travels, A Christmas Carol, Pride and Prejudice, and Paradise Lost x 3, so lost two. Oh, and two complete sets of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings…but the original set is my childhood set, re-read and falling apart and something I can’t part with and another set in hardback republished with the original jacket artwork so I can’t part with those either.

So, as I went through the books…I’ve been through them now three times trying to cull more each time with a determined ruthlessness that quickly fades to sentiment each and every time, I came across a number of books that I know I WILL read again – not the only books I will re-read again but they are books that I love and think about often and are amongst the two to three hundred that I’m keeping. And I think it’s nearly time to open one up again…

So, here they are, books that have made it to my keep list because I know I’ll re-read them even though I’ve already read them multiple times:

The Epic of Gilgamesh
The Power and the Glory
Paradise Lost
Lord of the Flies

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And the Loser in all of this that somehow still gets a win is the one and only book that I can’t throw out but know I will never ever read again because just the thought of it fills me with despair…1984.

‘How can I hope to see but what is in front of my eyes. Two and two are four.’
‘Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.’

Hmm, maybe I will put it into the re-read pile after all…

Prickle Balls and Glute Activation – Running Rehab

3 Jun Featured Image -- 764

Originally posted on Running AbiRoad:

I’m currently in downtime from running. This is causing me all sorts of angst…it has severely hampered my half marathon and marathon training plans for the year which is incredibly disappointing, and it has contributed to my depression returning…not in and of itself, I can get through the layoff and start again that’s the easy patt, but because I used it as a way to control my anxiety. But more on that in another post as I think it is worth discussing as a topic on its own.

So after a two month layoff, and a knee issue that still isn’t quite right, but apparently not too serious either, I find myself both in rehab mode as well as starting my training from scratch. Because it’s the right thing to do. Because if I start again where I stopped two months ago, at 12km, I’m going to put pressure through…

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Sometimes things do happen for a reason…

7 Mar

Why is change so hard for so many of us? And I put myself squarely in that category. We hang on to things for longer than we probably should. And stay with them because its easy. Your job, your car, your possessions…like the first tape deck I bought as a little kid with my pocket money which I’ve only just removed from the back cupboard to a pile for the… Op shop? But that’s unfair because no one wants a tape deck so probably off to the rubbish tip. Like my car…

I’d had it for 15 years and even though it was in fantastic condition with only 74,000km on the clock, it had no safety features…one air bag, no abs brakes, bucket seats with no padding and a… tape deck. There seems to be a recurring theme here. It was time to go. But it took someone (well two cars actually) ramming into the back of me and the car being written off for me to finally part with it.

But change is hard. It’s easier to keep the car rather than the hassle of getting it road worthy and advertising it and having people test drive it. It’s easier to shove the tape deck in the back room and close the cupboard door on it telling yourself you can’t part with it because of the memories.

It’s easier to keep the job that you love, stay because of the friendships you’ve made, remain with the company you’ve become attached to. Even though if you really stop and think about it you’d rather not work 12 hours a day and on weekends, rather not have to deal with the office politics, or stress about what’s happening even when you’re on holidays. You can convince yourself that’s what you get paid to do and you stay because it’s easy. And I would have stayed until I retired because yes I loved it…and I hate change.

I have often wondered since the big redundancy whether being there for 17 years, and having accumulated too much on the budget line, was the sole reason for being included amongst the redundancies. For many months I obsessed over the reasons why I was one of the unlucky ones. Why I was a number instead of a human being. Then someone crashed into my car and that was unlucky too. But maybe it wasn’t, maybe they weren’t.

To go back 6 months though I underwent a whole range of emotions related to that change. Heartbreak at the severing of my ‘life’ that was my career, anger that it had happened to me, a sense of loss, fear that caused anxiety attacks, numbness…depression. And while I still feel angry and hurt there is growth from change. I did the same thing managing a design studio for 17 years. I was pushed and challenged and loved my job. And was stressed and worked incredibly long hours and paid for it with my health. But I wouldn’t have left of my own accord no matter how many negatives. Because the positives outweighed them…didn’t they? But in the end it didn’t matter because change was forced on me.

At the time many said to me ‘things happen for a reason’ and whilst I took it in the spirit it was intended, with kindness and love, I didn’t really believe it. But wind the clock forward again and I do believe it. Maybe change, forced or chosen, can be a good thing because it challenges you. My back injury is better than it has ever been due to active rehabilitation, I have run more kimometers than I ever imagined I could including as part of a 1000km relay team, I have qualified as a Cert 3 Fitness Instructor and will soon have my Cert 4 in Personal Training. I am fitter and stronger and healthier than I have ever been in my life and I am free to look at a new career. In an industry that I have always been passionate about but never had the courage to do anything about because I thought all my skills were in advertising and design. Change was forced upon me…and now I wish it had happened 10 years ago. Maybe things do happen for a reason after all.

Thank you KG for that chat all those months ago and your enthusiasm and belief that started me on that road to change.

Surprise Treasure

2 Jul

Last weekend as I was lazily cleaning up odd and ends around the house in my quest to keep the local op shops in business I came across a bag of old books that my mum had saved for me. Several years ago now, before my dad died, he gave to me a number of his old books. Most just have sentimental value as we enjoyed the same sort of reading… classics, poetry, philosophy, art. A few are of antique vintage I guess having been printed in the late 1800’s, bound in leather, and take pride of place on my bookshelves. But this bag of books I came across were books that had been dad’s but mum only found when she was moving recently. Rather than throw them out she gave them to me and I hadn’t gotten around to sorting through them. And when I opened the bag I wasn’t surprised to find that most of them were old cheap editions of poetry. Except one. It’s a large old volume of poetry – The Oxford Book of English Verse. There’s been many editions since and I think I even have a more recent paperback edition. This edition was printed in 1949 and given to my dad in 1952 by his ‘friend’. I know this because the book contained several items that are so much more valuable than any of the books that dad has given me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first was a docket, hand written, for a suit that dad must have bought in 1952. It was from John Peel Men’s & Boy’s Wear in Swanston Street, Melbourne, for the grand sum of £6/15sh for a 13 Striped N/X/X. Maybe it was a shirt, maybe it was a suit. For £6/15sh I hope it was a suit. But I’ll never know what is was he bought, except that I am sure it would have been the latest fashion.

The second was a hand written card and the words ‘…sincere wishes that 1952 makes my dreams your realities’. There’s more to the message than that but in respect of those involved (and no, mysteriously it wasn’t my mum) I’ll leave it at that. But it made me smile at the romance of it all. I have a picture of her, and I know their history, but those words made me wonder at what might have been and wonder what happened.

And lastly was my dad’s business card. Without having him to ask I assume it was his first business card. He would have been 26 years old and by then a fully qualified women’s fashion designer. The address is St Kilda Street. I’m not even sure if that’s what is now known as St Kilda Road but I assume it is. And I can only imagine how he felt with that business card. I’ve never seen it before and I didn’t even know he had one announcing his status as ‘fashion designer’ but I’m excited just looking at it and imagining how he felt. But that’s more about the title than any other information and perhaps I’m reflecting the pride I feel myself. Because he later changed his name to Peter John so eventually there would have been mixed feelings about it for him. He did keep it though as a bookmark all these years and I know that he had read this book more recently because some of the bookmarks were recent scraps of paper. So it leaves me wondering what he felt, or was it just a bookmark in the end to mark page 530? And which poem was he marking? ‘Will He No Come Back Again’? ‘Written at an Inn at Henley’ or ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’? I have read all the poems marked and frustratingly I can’t pick which it was that caught his interest on this page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s interesting what you find when you are least expecting it. For me, on the weekend, I was simply tidying up and I came across a treasure trove in that single volume of English poems that have set my imagination alight for what was and for what I will never know but for what kindles a small flame of curiosity, and strangely happiness, about my dad’s secrets.

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