Sunday, January 29, 2012

Smoky Baked Beans with Chorizo

Last year Slabs, Juniordwarf and I went out for breakfast after spending a night in Hobart, and I ordered a dish of baked beans with chorizo.

I loved it and wanted to find out how to make it myself, so I looked for something similar online. The recipe I found was this one from the website

I meant to cook it last time we went camping, but my laziness got the better of me. Every so often, Slabs would remind me that I wanted to cook baked beans, and I'd think about it and put it off a bit longer.

This weekend we went camping with Lil Sis and Mr Tall and while we were making the list of meals we'd need to bring food for, I somehow committed to doing the baked beans for breakfast today. So I no longer had an excuse.

Because the recipe uses dried beans, I needed to soak the beans on Wednesday night then cook them on Thursday so they'd be ready to take with us on Friday. After having done this, I strongly dispute the recipe's claim that you only need 20 minutes "hands on" to do it. But that might just be me - I normally need to take the time a recipe gives me, double it and add another half an hour to get an accurate time.

Anyway it was worth all the work. They were delicious!

Here is the recipe:

450 g dried Great Northern beans (I'm not sure what these are. I used haricot beans.)
1 cup diced dry-cured Spanish chorizo (The recipe says "be sure to use firm, dry-cured Spanish chorizo and not soft, raw Mexican chorizo".)  
4 cups chopped onion (I've never measured onions in 'cups' before, but it was about 8 small-medium onions.)
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 cups water
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (smoked paprika is brilliant - it makes the dish. I don't think there's a substitute. You must use it!)
1/2 tsp paprika
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp molasses
1/4 tsp crushed chilli (Don't be shy! Use more if you like chilli.)
2 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp chilli powder (See comment about crushed chilli above.)
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

What to do:

1. Sort and wash beans. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans. Cover; let stand 8 hours. Drain.

Beans pre-soaking

2. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add chorizo; cook 4 min or until fat begins to render. Add onion & garlic; sauté 10 min or until tender.

Onions, garlic & chorizo ready to go

Add beans, water, & next 7 ingredients (through bay leaves); bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 min or until beans are just tender.

Herbs & spices - look at the glorious colour of the smoked paprika!

3. Preheat oven to 180°C.

4. Stir brown sugar & the next 3 ingredients (through crushed chilli) into bean mixture. Bring to a simmer.

5. Transfer to oven dish; bake at 180° for 1 1/2 hours or until beans are very tender & sauce is thick. Remove from oven; stir in vinegar, black pepper, & chilli powder.

The final stages of cooking

Discard bay leaves; sprinkle with green onions & parsley.

Monday, January 23, 2012

stuck in a rut

I have a confession to make.

I’ve crashed and burned. 

It isn’t easy to commit this to writing, since last year I was so proud of myself about finally finding the spark I needed to get up and start exercising and having started to do the work I want to do to within myself.
When you make a public statement about what you’re doing, it’s supposed to make you more accountable and more likely to follow it through. This clearly hasn’t happened for me.

When I started running in December, I knew there was a risk that I wouldn’t stick with it over the Xmas break. I accepted that, and I told myself that I wasn’t going to beat myself up about slacking off for a couple of weeks. I still knew I wanted to do it and I was starting to feel better, even though I had a long way to go. I thought that would be enough to make the feeling last.

Only it didn’t. And it hasn’t been a couple of weeks any more. It’s been over a month. And now I am starting to feel down on myself about it.

It’s school holidays, so nothing is normal and my routines have been disrputed. Slabs had some time off after Xmas and I’d been going to work in my own time, leaving Slabs and Juniordwarf to do their own thing. Now Slabs and I are both back at work and Juniordwarf is shuffling between home days, grandmother days, daycare and vacation care. It’s starting to get complicated.

On the first day of vacation care I had to pack Juniordwarf’s lunch. It felt just like a school morning and all the stresses and anxieties of last year started to come back.

Up until then, despite falling off the wagon, I’d been feeling fairly relaxed. But that day, I could just feel myself sliding back into my old stressed ways.

I feel like I’m edging back towards the familiar.

Someone once described to me the process of change as being like trying to divert a river from its course. The water has forged its course over many years. The longer it has followed the path, the deeper and wider the course is, and the harder it is to make the water flow a different way.

I imagine it slightly differently. 

I see myself picking my way along a steep, deep, dry river course, where water hasn't flowed for a long time, with many loose rocks all the way up the embankment. When I try to make my way out of this channel, the challenge is to find a solid hand hold or a foot hold, rather than a loose rock.

And now, having made such great progress starting to scramble up that river bank, I find more loose rocks than firm hand holds. I feel my grip loosening and my footholds failing. 

Sometimes it seems like it would be easier just to let go and slide back down, in a mini-avalanche of rocks.

There is comfort in the familiar. 

I know that river’s course well. It’s safe and unchanging. There are no surprises and there’s nothing to fear there.

I’ll look back up at how far I got this time and wish I hadn’t let go, but part of me will be secretly relieved that I’m not still perilously clinging on in unfamiliar territory.

I’ll know that from lower down there are no more risks of falling, so I’ll be safe.

I’ll keep working my way along the riverbed, picking out the easy course. Sometimes I might stumble on the loose rocks, but that won’t be as bad as falling from a great height.

But where is the riverbed leading me? Nowhere new. To a place I don’t want to go to any more. Not upward and out of there. 

But upward is the way I want to want to go.

So why won’t I start climbing again? Is it that I’ll simply move along the river bed until I find a place that looks like it might be easier to climb up? Is that what the spark that I got last year was – an easier starting point?

Or will I have to tell myself that there isn’t going to be an easier starting point, and that here is as good a place as any to try again, and begin the climb all over again?

But . . . if I don’t let myself fall now, I won’t have to have that conversation. If I hang on to where I am now, and keep reaching out until I find the next hand hold, then maybe I can keep going.

I just need to find whatever it is that got me started to push me that little bit further so I can find the next thing I need; to stretch my arm out just a little more to grab hold of the next hand hold.

I hope I find it soon.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Another week in January

I feel a lot less structured now I'm not doing a post a day, so this is just another random 'what we did over the last week or so' post.

It feels weird to be doing it this way.

On Saturday we went out with my family for Slabs' birthday. On the way in to town, Slabs wanted to go and check out the Tassie rugby league. There are four teams in the competition and they play on Saturday afternoons at the Hobart Showgrounds, one game after the other. The game we saw part of was the Southern Rabbitohs vs the Hobart Tigers.

We went out for dinner at a sushi restaurant. Juniordwarf ate a little bit of sushi, some of the beef tataki and some of Nanna’s pork dish. He wouldn’t go near the sashimi, even though we told him it was salmon, which he absolutely loves - at least the smoked variety. Raw salmon was clearly a step too far for him.

He told Slabs he wanted a tie when they went shopping earlier in the week, and he picked one out and was very excited to wear it on Saturday night.

On Sunday we met our friend's Dad, who was in town for the day, and went up Mt Wellington.

Monday was Slabs' birthday. We had our version of an antipasto spread for dinner. Juniordwarf  loved it because we got to have dinner on his car mat on the lounge room floor, which he’d do every day if we’d let him.

Tuesday was unbelievably hot, and I spent most of the evening waiting for the storm to hit. It finally did, and it didn't disappoint.

Can you see the koala in the clouds?

On Thursday I was home with Juniordwarf. It was hot and we just wanted to stay inside. Juniordwarf played his Reading Eggs game (and I've now set up the clunky old eMac so he has his own account and can go straight into it). I got the chance to catch up on some scrapbooking.

And that's about it for our week. Tonight we went to the Two Metre Tall Farm Bar with some friends and I managed not to take a photo for the entire evening. Yes, some things can change!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday Selections - Mount Wellington

It's time for Sunday Selections with Kim at frogpondsrock.

The idea is to publish some previously unseen photos that have been sitting around on your computer forever, but I seem to spend so much time on my recent photos that I never have time to look through old ones.

That's the case this week. My photos are from Mount Wellington in Hobart. Our friend's father was in town for the day, so we took him for a drive up the Mountain. I think the last time I was there was with Slabs in 1996.

I was expecting a freezing, windy day where we'd get out of the car, take a couple of photos and get back in the car again before we froze. But the weather was quite pleasant and not windy at all.

Here are the photos.

This rock formation caught my eye.
Here I played around with the Clarity filter in Camera+

The same rock formation from a different angle.
Top: phone camrea. Bottom: camera.

Next time I'm going to look at this close-up.

Same view, this time from the Pinnacle lookout window

Juniordwarf climbing the rocks

Hobart from the Mountain

Similar view of Hobart

I love the rocks up here

How to deal with a child who won't have his photo taken.

Now I've been up there, this is another place I'm itching to go back to with my camera and explore more.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Project Life Pages December 2011

I've been trying to finish off my 2011 Project Life album, and have finally caught up to the end of the year. There are just a few little bits of journalling left to do, and about 12 actual scrapbook layouts that will slot in at the relevant months.

They're going to take a bit longer.

I'm not going to post all of the pages from December as there are a lot of them, but here are just a few.

These are my standard month title pages (using nine of my favourite pictures of the day - or photos that didn't need to be journalled about in any great detail - and Juniordwarf's Xmas photo because I forgot to leave a slot for it).

I started using the clear number stickers on some of the photos, so am going to go back over the previous months and do that with them too. Before this, I really hadn't used those stickers at all, so at least this way they get used up. Because they only go up to 10, I need to use two stickers for any date past the 10th, so the 1s and 2s are going to be used up a lot more quickly than the other numbers. That's why I'm not numbering all of the pictures.

The next layout is a double spread of Juniordwarf being arty - pictures of him making his wool picture, and then the picture itself (strategically done on a 12x12 piece of cardstock). Also some journalling and examples of how his drawing has improved this year.

And then a layout about our weekend at ours friends' place. I printed a title onto one of the photos and then printed it a bit smaller than normal, with a white border, and stuck it onto a 4x6 card I had cut from the cardstock that came with the kit (top left).

For the journalling, I used one of the bi-fold journal cards but didn't fold it (top right). I stuck a 4x3 photos on the card and journalled on the front and the back.

Next is a Farm Bar page, and this is an example of where I've printed several photos onto 4x6 canvasses.

Two Xmas layouts: First, lots of photos and then an A4 sheet protector with the letter that Santa left for Juniordwarf. On the other side of that is the wrapping paper Juniordwarf made to wrap his present to me that he made at school.

The final set is Juniodwarf and I spending an afternoon together. I put all the photos in the page protector and printed the journalling out onto an A5 sheet, which I included in an A5 sheet protector (both sides). In the other A5 sheet protector I included the brochure from the model railway and a postcard. On the other side of that, I put a brochure relating to the photos on the next page.

So that's it for December, and the 2011 album is almost complete. I just have to do the monthly overview photos (as explained midway through this post) and a couple more journalling spots I missed during the year, and then it's all done.

I'm pinning blog posts and photos that are inspiring me for my 2012 Project Life, so if you want to check out some wonderful albums, have a look on my Pinterest Project Life board.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sunday Selections - Russell Falls

A post for Frogpondsrock's Sunday Selections, where you get to post some of your unseen photos and look at everyone else's pictures.

Earlier this week, Slabs, Juniordwarf and I went to Russell Falls, which is located in the Mt Field National Park.

I'll admit that, although I'm a Tassie girl, I've never been there until now, so it's been a long time coming.

It is a beautiful place, and I can't believe it's taken me so long to finally get there. I'm glad we went, and it definitely won't be our last visit.

Juniordwarf and a really big tree

Juniordwarf and a really big tree



Creek (from Instagram)

The original of the creek shot

Another creek shot

Slabs & Juniordwarf mucking about in the creek

Juniordwarf took this picture of Slabs & me

Mossy tree trunks

Another mossy tree trunk

Russell Falls (Instagram)

Russell Falls

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Week in review

So I’m not doing a photo and a post a day, but I still need to keep track of what’s been happening so that I can keep up to date with my 2012 Project Life album and don’t get five months behind like I did in 2011. The main point of me doing that project is so I can remember what all the photos I take are of, and why I took them.

Having said that, one thing I want to do this year is put the camera away sometimes. I think know there have been times when I’ve been so focused on taking the perfect photo of something that I’ve missed out on fully experiencing the moment at the time.

That seems a little ridiculous – if the moment is that fantastic it will live on in my memory without a photo (or at least without the perfect photo, and certainly without 10 or 20 photos), and what point is the photo if I didn’t really experience the event?*

So . . . I need to give myself permission to not capture everything and to not feel guilty about not doing it. I don’t need a picture of every little thing Juniordwarf does, I don’t need to record everything I do. I need to do it.

The photo a day concept is great, and it provides a time capsule of what my life was like over a relatively short time, which I think will be cool to look back on in years to come. But it is incredibly time consuming – even with the simple approach in Project Life – and I don’t want to spend my whole life catching up on recording things, rather than actually doing things.

One of my friends suggested a weekly approach, rather than a daily approach, might work well for this year.

I’m going to give that a go and just do one post with highlights of the week. That doesn’t mean I won’t post at other times during the week on other things, like Project Life or my struggle to beat my demons (because we all know that you love reading that stuff), but for the stuff that caught my eye during the week, I’m going to try and stick to one post.

So, here’s a selection of photos for the week:

(Monday) We went to Russell Falls.

This will make good topic for Sunday Selections on Sunday. (I think Kim is still running it. I haven't done one of those posts for a while.)

(Tuesday) Juniordwarf made a person out of his salad – cucumber slices for the body and head, carrot sticks for the arms, legs and ears, and lettuce for the hair. He then ate the person piece by piece, from the bottom up, and every time he picked up a piece, he said ‘looking at the person now!’

I lied. There isn’t a photo for this moment.

(Wednesday) I went back to work. I was dreading it because the previous two days had been really hot and I don’t own any hot weather work clothing. Fortunately a cool change came through and I didn’t need it. There was a stunning rainbow over the mountain on my first day back.

(Thursday) The bus got stuck in roadworks at Granton. This is the scene from the window.

(Thursday) Juniordwarf had been asking for a Harry Potter book for ages and he was really expecting to get one for Xmas. I suggested it might be better to get it from the library so he could see if he really wanted it before he went out and bought it. It arrived at the library and he was so excited about it he couldn't wait until Slabs came back to the car to start reading it. 

Slabs and I started reading it to him but he didn’t want to hear it. When I put him to bed he said he’d read the book to his teddy after I turned out the light. It seems like he tried to do exactly that.

(Thursday) Slabs and Juniordwarf picked me up from the bus stop and we went down to the Esplanade so they could go fishing and we could have dinner outside. It’s a shame the weather wasn’t particularly pleasant (what a change earlier in the week), but still it was a lovely thought from Slabs for us to do something a bit different, and it was a really nice way to spend the rest of the afternoon.

(Today) We went for a drive on a road we’ve never been on before.

* This the point where the camera addict acknowledges that her husband has said this to her on more than one occasion.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Project Life Pages November 2011

I've spent the past few days trying to catch up with being several months behind with the journalling for my 2011 Project Life.

Last night I got to the end of November, so all I have to do is select the photos for December, print them, put them in the album and do the journalling. Oh, and finish all the scrapbooking layouts that I have planned to slot in throughout the album.

There's still a lot to do before I can even consider starting the 2012 album. I haven't decided on an approach for 2012, but I know it's going to be a lot simpler and more organised than 2011 was.

Here are the layouts for November 2011 that I finished last night. I've also started putting in different sized page protectors so I can include different things.

First up the two month summary pages, right and left (or front and back). These are where I put 10 of the 'photos of the day' that featured on my blog last year.

After these pages will come the one month calendar page, backed up with the month's "journal in a sentence" to explain the pictures. I haven't printed them yet, but each month will look like this:

Then we move onto some event-specific layouts. First "eleven", where I have used an A4 sheet protector for my journal of the day. It was too much to fit on a single card. (The other side of the A4 will have one of Juniordwarf's artworks.)

Next is the story of Slabs and my weekend away in Oatlands, and I did the same thing with the A4 sheet protector for the story (front and back) and an A5 sheet protector for the tourist brochure.

A page about Juniordwarf's arty pursuits.

Then we moved into the random picture layouts about Juniordwarf. As you can see from the second page, I've been printing titles onto the 3x4 blank journal cards for the 'Design B' page protectors, as the 6x4 title cards don't fit.  (They could probably do with some more embellishments, but I don't have time. I just want to get the pages done!) In the third page, I cut up one of the 12x12 cardstock sheets to make some extra filler cards.

Then another themed layout. Here I put a certificate I received in an A4 sheet protector and printed out my blog entry for the day and put that in the other side of the sheet protector.

And the last page (left hand side) to round the month off is "just some stuff".

And that's it for November. It wasn't a huge month of photos, but we certainly did a lot. Apart from the lack of embellishment on the 3x4 title cards, I'm content with it.