day three – LBTL

I dreamt about food last night. I think it was a sort of Masterchef type deal, where you had to make a meal out of what they had there. I don’t remember it much, except the food was delicious.

See, the funny thing is that everyone assumes that you just don’t eat much on Live Below the Line, but there really is enough food for five days. Most of it’s carbohydrates, yes, it’s not all nutritionally the best for you, but there’s plenty. There’s even taste in most of it, from the garlic, the natural sweetness of the fruit, the salted butter. Not much variety, but there isn’t often variety in many people’s food.

The problem here is, that the people who live below the extreme poverty line, those that actually live on $2 a day, day in, day out – they don’t get to spend it all on food. They have to spread it out between food, bills, transport, medicine, every little expenditure throughout the day.

How can we let this happen in our world? How can we make someone choose between feeding her whole family or allowing one child to live, sacrificing meals for medicine? Walking kilometres to get to a source of clean water that won’t make them all sick. Sharing a tap with 200 other people, eating the same food, day in, day out, and very little of it, too.

‘In order for evil to flourish, all that is required is for good men to do nothing.’ – Edward Burke

What I am doing is a small, small effort. But it is an effort. And I am continually striving to turn my life to God, and to people – to do better every day.

Please make an effort. Donate here.

And thank you to all who have already donated – it means so much to see that people care.

Pumpkin and Potato Pasta

This is another of my staple meals. As you can see, lots of carbs for energy, but not much protein. I think that spinach would make a good addition, pine nuts, salt and pepper and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. Take out some of the potato, perhaps. But it does smell good – all that garlic!

250g pumpkin, peeled, deseeded, cubed

500g potato, scrubbed, cubed

30g butter

3 cloves garlic

250g pasta (I used large spirals)

Chop garlic finely. Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and fry the garlic, pumpkin and potato until crispy and tender (I think perhaps baking would work better, but this was fine for me).

Heat a large saucepan 2/3 full of water until boiling, and tip the pasta in. Cook approximately 7 minutes.

Add about a cup of starchy pasta water to the pumpkin and potatoes. Drain the pasta and combine the two. Eat immediately, while still hot, with thoughts of starving children on your mind.

day one – LBTL

Day one of living below the line of extreme poverty.

Feeling in stomach – surprisingly full

Feeling in mind – weird

Feeling in soul – quirky.

So, day one. I got up at about nine because I had to make soup for lunch and dinner before I went to work. For starters, I don’t generally bring lunch to work, because I get to eat there for free. Also, I find it odd making soup at nine in the morning.

Anyway. So I made my soup, I made my flatbread, I ate my previously stewed apples and pears – I stewed them last night because I knew I’d need them for my breakfast – and I drank my black tea.

It’s a surreal experience, working around food but not getting to eat any of it. I mean, I don’t usually eat much of it, but I am allowed coffee when I want it, and I get to make my lunch out of pretty much anything I’d like in the fridges and freezers. The thing I think I’m most missing at the moment are sweets – I couldn’t afford sugar and I am so looking forward to breakfast because it means apples and pears, and the natural sugars in them. Hooray!

What I’m not looking forward to is breakfast at six in the morning and being hungry again four hours later. I’ve had to factor in a flatbread snack so I don’t faint. Or something.

Tonight I was at a TEAR young adults action group meeting and we were talking about just war. I’m not going to get into the whole discussion at the moment, because it would take up the whole post (and then some) but we got to talking about how the small things matter too: in peacetime, when the authorities take everything they can from those they rule over, just because they can. How my food choices, my lifestyle choices, are the direct or indirect result of violence, and how violence needs to be reversed not just in war-torn countries but in our country, in our cities, our communities, our lives and our mindsets. We need to think differently than we do now, or nothing will change. Thanks to campaigns like Live Below the Line, to organisations like the Oaktree foundation and Avaaz, we can. We can try to change our minds, and then we might see changes in the wider sphere, and maybe even our world one day.

So my mind is whirling through all these things, but my feeling is a little blank. My soul. I don’t know if by doing this I’m doing anything – I know that I’m raising awareness and money and all that but I don’t feel changed by this experience. I suppose this is the result of my instant gratification culture, the way I’ve been accustomed to getting what I want, when I want. I have to be patient and remember that it’s not about me. It’s about the people in Papua New Guinea who don’t have the luxuries I do. Like microwaves, ovens, lights, kettles. Maybe they do, I don’t know enough about their situations, but I was thinking as I made my tea this morning, maybe this is too easy.

Thoughts to ponder, for sure, but for now, I am grateful for a full belly and the promise of another tomorrow. And thankful for a lovely soup which I didn’t expect to be as satisfying as it was.

Please donate, once again! It goes to education initiatives in Papua New Guinea, to help the people help themselves out of poverty. It’s a long road, but it’s worth it.

Roast Pumpkin and Potato Soup

500g pumpkin, deseeded, peeled, cubed

250g potato, washed, cubed (skin on)

2 cloves garlic

20g butter, melted

Toss the cubed pumpkin and potato in the butter and place on a baking tray, in one layer, with the peeled garlic cloves. Roast at about 220ºC for about twenty minutes. Take out and place in a pot (I melted the butter in a pot, tossed the pumpkin and potato in it and then returned the roasted vegies to the same pot). Cover with water and blend with a stick blender. Serve with flatbread.

it’s all up to you

I have been struggling recently with getting motivated to do stuff. I have wonderful aspirations all the time, but they only get set in motion some of the time, because I’m lazy and I leave things to the last minute.

However, I’m working on changing that, and I’m also working on being ok with that. It’s a bit oxymoronic (maybe just take out the oxy part of that word… : ) But, as Dan Parsons so eloquently puts it, it’s all up to you, firestarter. And I can start fires, I can do anything if I put my mind to it. It’s all up to me.

To journal. To contemplate. To cook. To garden. To be a better me, to write poems and make them live in other people’s lives, to create habits and to break habits, to do something. Anything.

flourless chocolate cupcakes

I love love love to bake. So any occasion where I get to bake and not have massive amounts of leftovers (living, as I used to, pretty much by myself) is  a happy occasion. Today, I had an incredible day where I heard many stories of everyday missionaries, people who live their lives for God just as they are. These people live in urban areas and just live life with people, reaching out to all different types of people, and making a worldwide community of hope. And I get to be part of that. Isn’t that awesome?

I brought cupcakes, in case you couldn’t tell by the title and/or first paragraph. One of the people I was spending the day with is allergic to gluten, so I made these amazing flourless chocolate cupcakes that I found on Smitten Kitchen, where Deb calls them chocolate soufflé cupcakes and tops them with mint white chocolate cream. I dislike the pairing of chocolate and mint (call me a heathen, call me a pagan, call me an idiot, it’s not going to change my mind. I’m sorry, I know it’s a classic, it just does nothing for me.) so I omitted the mint but I still got raves about them. They look awesome, too.

So. Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream. Made while listening to all released albums of The Cat Empire on shuffle.

For the cupcakes:

170g dark chocolate, broken up into pieces (I used a combination of 85% cocoa and 70% cocoa solids; I’m sure regular dark chocolate would be fine although I suspect milk could be overly sweet. Use your discretion.)

90g unsalted butter, cubed

1/4 tsp ground espresso coffee (apparently you could also use instant. I’m a snob so I don’t keep it in the house. It doesn’t add any coffee taste, just enhances the chocolateyness.)

3 eggs, separated

6tbsp caster sugar

1/4tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line eighteen cupcake cups with paper pans – I managed twelve cupcakes and nine mini cupcakes, so I’m speculating as to the exact amount, because I was told there would be nine or twelve cupcakes. Maybe the Smitten Kitchen cupcakes are larger than these cupcakes. I wouldn’t make them any bigger, although the minis were  well received.

Stir butter, chocolate and coffee in a small heavy bottomed saucepan over low heat until almost melted, then remove and whisk until fully melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

Beat yolks and 3tbsp of the sugar in a large bowl until thick and pale. Briefly beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla extract.

In a separate, clean, dry bowl, beat (with clean, dry beaters/whisk) egg whites until soft peaks form; add 3tbsp sugar and salt gradually and beat until glossy and stiffer. Fold into chocolate mix with a metal spoon in three batches.

Fill cupcake pans to about 3/4 full – if any fuller, they will overflow, I promise. 3/4 means they will puff up beautifully, almost like soufflés.Bake in preheated oven 15-20 mins. Mini cupcakes will take 10-15 mins. Keep an eye on them, though.

For the white chocolate cream:

60g white chocolate

200ml thickened cream

Heat cream in a small saucepan until simmering. Place white chocolate in a bowl and pour the hot cream over; stir constantly until chocolate is melted. Chill at least two hours in the fridge or overnight. Beat to soft peaks and scoop quenelles over cupcakes. Scatter with dark chocolate shards. Eat and enjoy.

of lists and things

I love lists. I make to do lists, things I have to buy lists, people to call lists. I have a list of music I would like to acquire, books I want to read, books I want to own. Movies I have to see. This here is a list of list topics.

What I would do if I won the lottery.

Cars I would like to own and/or drive.

Places I want to visit. Places I want to live.

I make lists of the pros and cons of almost every major decision I make. It doesn’t always determine the outcome, but it helps.

Annoying habits of customers (I’m a waitress/check-out chick. ‘Nuff said.)

Cafes I want to go to.

Breakfast places.

Things I want to cook. Gadgets/kitchen appliances/utensils I want.

Socks I love/want.

What I want to do with my life.

Who I want to be.

Habits I’d like to cultivate. Habits I’d like to kick.

Ways I want to make the world a better place.

Ways of worship in everyday life.

How to live with other people and not want to kill them (or have them want to kill you… anyone got any ideas? Because I’m terrified.)

Songs I would sing on Australian Idol if I could sing.

Reality TV shows it’d be fun to be on.

Guilty little pleasures (watching reality tv, anyone?)

Painting projects.

Party ideas to bring people together.

Playlists I want to make/listen to.

Now the problem with all this is, I can’t just sit around making lists all my life. No matter how much fun it is to play around with stationary (stationary I’d love to play around with. People I want to write to. Reasons why snail mail is better than electronic) I have to actually do these things if I’m ever going to be that person I want to be, to have those habits, to listen to that music. And so.

I raise a toast to getting off your bum, out from in front of the computer screen, and into real life. Happy Monday.

it can wait

It’s official: the best way to break in a new pair of shoes is to dance in them.

And so, the cleaning, the tidying, washing, packing, cooking, calling, REALITY of LIFE can WAIT because I got new shoes today and they’re pretty and I’m listening to some awesome music and it’s sunny out and I am having a pretty awesome day.

It’s so weird how a mood can swing, up and down, from really crappy to really happy. But you know, you can make it happen yourself. Listening to great music, calling up a good friend, chatting away, curling up in bed with a good book and a hot chocolate until you feel ready to face the world again. It’s ok to figure things though at your own pace.

But the happier you are, the more happy energy you send out into the world, I believe, and I think that it’s a good thing to do. I don’t believe in karma or in a God who rewards those who do well and punishes those who don’t. I do believe that if you send out happy energy into the world, it makes the world a better place and it makes you a better person.

Because, you see, what you practise eventually becomes muscle memory, right? So if you are constantly asking yourself if it’s the right thing to do, if you’re constantly sending out happy energy, if you’re constantly trying to make the world a better place, then it’ll eventually just become second nature to you.

So clap your hands.

Don’t let go of the people that matter.

Kickstart the love.

Cut loose.

And just have fun, because everything else can wait.

you can do better than me

I was thinking today about what I should post – because I made this commitment, see, and it’s called post a day 2011. So every day I have to find new things to talk about. If you knew me, you’d laugh, because I notoriously never shut up, but as I pointed out last night, I usually get to a point somewhere- you just have to sift through (and sit through) a lot of B.S. first. And also that I digress often and often for no apparent reason. I have a short attention span.

So anyway, it’s four days into the new year and I still haven’t mentioned my New Year’s Resolutions yet. It’s possibly the fact that I have so many things I want to do this year, or possibly that I haven’t actually written them all down yet and they’re all just ideas in my head at the moment I think, however, that it’s because I still have a block in my mind about the whole idea of New Year’s resolutions – I don’t know where it came from but in my head there’s a stigma attached. Maybe I feel like I should be a good enough person that I don’t need resolutions to be better.

In any case, I’ve decided to limit my New Year’s resolutions to two, because everything else I can think of comes under these categories. I also don’t want to find myself beating up on myself because I feel like I failed in some respect. That’s stupid. It’s also, now that I think of it, another reason NOT to make New Year’s resolutions, and why I haven’t made them in the past. I am terrible at committing to these things. (so we’ll see how long this post a day thing goes, hey.)

However.

New Year’s resolutions.

1. Just Be Better

2. Just Do Something