Sunday, 31 October 2010

Inspired By...The Optimal Optimist

In meandering around Seeded Buzz this afternoon, I came across the headline 'Why Leader Are Leaders'.  Part of me wanted to dive behind the comfortable couch and hide from yet another platitude about the mysteries of leadership but my curiosity got the better of me and I read on to experience this:

The irreducible essence of leadership is that leaders are people who live their deepest personal values without compromise, and they use those values to make life better for others- this is why people become leaders and why people follow leaders. -Stan Slap in "Bury My Heart in Conference Room B"
Wow!  I thought, I wonder where this came from (besides some dude in Conference Room B)?  And with a simple click I arrived at the blog of the Optimal Optimist, a twenty-something girl in Philadelphia out to make a difference.  And being up for a bit of difference-making myself, I read on to be reminded that:

"Smooth seas do not make for a skillful sailor." (African Proverb)

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

and my favourite:

"Life isn't about finding yourself. It's about creating yourself." (George Bernard Shaw)

So I'm going to take my 'deepest personal values', follow this one for a while and see where it takes me...

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Halloween Shmalloween...Missing A Trick

We've reached that time of the year when it really does seem that I missed something in choosing to up-sticks and plonk myself here in Ol' Blighty almost 7 years ago.

Back then, I was inspired by rich history, diverse and opinionated discussions with the locals (granted these were over a pint - them - and a few vinos - me), and being immersed in a centre-of-the-world economy and in-your-face multi-culturalism (would you believe that the catalyst for said move did actually say to me on our second meeting that Australians were really racist because he never saw any black people?  He lives...just!) 

And I am still charmed by that unique mix of inspiring and dispiriting weather in my new home - who can resist the joyful outdoorsy-ness of the English in celebration of any appearance of the sun or the crisp whiteness of an early morning, untrodden snowfall?  And I love being all tucked up inside feel snug and cosy on those grey drizzly days and wrapping myself up against the elements if I really must venture outdoors. But I digress...
Halloween icon

This weekend is Halloween.

Two years ago, we were graced with two batches of little monsters and being completely unprepared for this, were just lucky that the adults in attendance prevented any treat-less consequences being foisted upon us.

Last year I was prepared for the onslaught of local mini-ghouls, thinking that the trek up the hill on little legs would be nothing in the face of prospective treats - only to have no-one show up, forcing me to eat a whole bag of mini-Malteser packs and bemoan my ensuing nausea and mild chocolate headache.

So this year, I'm taking a stand. I have prepared nothing and tonight, shall keep my door firmly closed to all ghostly comers whilst I stay safely inside, watching telly on the couch and eating naughty snacks to appease my guilty conscience.

Mainly because I forgot.

However, my little Christmas countdown widget-thingy has reliably informed me that there are only 56 sleeps to go (just in case you were wondering). So I promise to be better prepared for that... 

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Universe Provides...Adding A Blog Page...

I have been racking my brains (and surfing the net like mad) trying to work out how to add more pages to my blog.  You see, I found out that you could add a menu bar across the top (which I did quite easily) and then thought to myself 'adding of a page must be a cinch!'

Well not really...I searched through what I thought were all the logical places, and then turned my attention to the not so logical places, followed by a menu by menu trawl through my 'blogger dashboard' and then finally a google no avail.

But the power of the internet showed its stuff and thanks to fellow blogger Kate (Marmite and Fluff), I have today added my first extra page - The Great Bake-Off, where I promise to share all of the highs and lows of my baking journey.

ps...for those of you who want to check it out, visit my blog - and click on the The Great Bake-Off tab at the top - or you can just click here.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Promises, Promises...The Great Bake-Off

Every year on my birthday, apart from celebrating all that is fabulous (and modest, of course) about me, I am always inspired to embark on something new.  This might be a new experience, a new adventure or simply a new 'education' but there always seems to be a plethora of things I'd like to conquer - or at the very least have a crack at. 

So when I turned 41 back at the start of August (and realised that, yes I had left my thirties well and truly behind me), I made a little promise to myself that this year I would overcome my trepidation in an area that everyone else makes look effortlessly simple - baking.

I'm not talking about the type of baking to do with vegetables, burritos, fish or lasagne (although having never made one of these before, I might just sneak one in this year).  It's proper baking I mean to master - cakes, pies, tarts, muffins, loaves, biscuits - all that lovely old-fashioned, apron-clad cleverness that's absolutely meant for sharing (vs one-pot meals for one or two).

So this week, with a few days off and having been given 4 tins of pineapple pieces (a whole other story!), I decided that I would kill two birds with one stone and try a cake recipe that used canned pineapple...and after a small amount of fossicking on-line (Google, how I love thee!), I embarked on my first venture - Pineapple and Banana Loaf.

After much mashing, measuring, mixing and mulling over the batter-spotted recipe sheet, I got that beast into the oven and just over an hour later was rewarded with this:

There was a still-warm slice each for me 'n' J for dessert on Wednesday night and then my Ladies Who Lunch visitor, and baking friend extraordinaire, A polished off another couple of slices on Thursday, whilst making all the 'right' noises.  And the rest is going next door tonight to face the ultimate test - a couple of teenagers! 

But the reviews are good...and I have to say, I'm a little bit chuffed with myself!!

However timing will be of the essence in my future baking forays - after all, I cannot be expected to polish off 32 serves on my own - late at night, watching Mad Men, Desperate Housewives, Hells Kitchen or The Apprentice.  Otherwise next year's promise will be a cinch to select...mastering the discipline of Low Fat Diet & Exercise!

Friday, 8 October 2010

Sleeps To Go...

Just a quick update for all you planners and list makers out there:
  • There are only 78 sleeps to go until Christmas Day;
  • There are only 27 sleeps to go til we see S in Fawlty Towers on board the Hispaniola;
  • There are only 11 sleeps to go on the Lil Chicky Birthday Countdown; and
  • There are only 3 sleeps to go until I go back to work...
So I'm off to spend the afternoon with a good book in my favourite little reading spot...

View of my reading spot from my window
In the afternoon this gets a glorious couple of hours of gorgeous fingers crossed that the weather holds out!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Midlife...The Journey Continues...

Those of you who read Gidday from the UK on a fairly regular basis will know that I was recently inspired by an excerpt from freebie mag Stylist to invest my little Amazon birthday voucher in The Midlife Manual.

It's not a cover to cover read (like my commuting choices) but I'm dipping in and reading a few choice morsels every few nights before I go to sleep.  And I'm inspired to share a LOL moment with you.

There's a section on a Midlifer's 'Obsession With Lists Of Things To Do Before You Die'.  I have been an on-and-off list person so could relate to some of the 'most common' - make a will (oops!), have tea at the Ritz (done), write a novel (uuummmm!) and take a trip in a hot-air balloon (done - for birthday number 33).

But this was the LOL moment.  They mentioned that the author of '100 Things To Do Before You Die' (Dave Freeman if you must know) died at the age of 47.  Quite young you might say and having only visited about half the places on his own list. You'd think he would have departed this world in some grand adventuring fashion, skydiving over Everest or swimming the Amazon. But in actual fact he fell over at home - and hit his head!

I wonder which place on his list he was visiting?

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Frisson Folly...

I finished a rather cracking read during my commuting odyssey this week - Boyd Morrison's The Noah's Ark Quest.  It was full of all my favourite things in an unputdownable read - history, adventure, subterfuge and a will-they-or-won't-they-make-it race against time. Excellent material for absorbing oneself completely in a world divorced from the sopping brollies and damp humanity on the train this week.

And then it was spoiled.

Not completely but the brilliance of the ride was tarnished slightly by that most insidious of plot spoilers.

Romance, or for want of a better word, Chemistry...between the protagonists.

I'm not against a bit of frisson in my reading material.  In fact far from it.  But I like my frisson to be relevant to the plot whether it be those all time frisson classics, Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice or a bit of chick-lit by the likes of Sophie Kinsella or Tasmina Perry.  And when I choose to read books like these, I'm choosing the chemistry, romance, and lust that they promise.

It seems to me that modern adventuring tales follow a 'formula' which features a 'ruggedly handsome' fella and a strong/intelligent (sometimes both) and  'beautiful' woman who spend most of the story either pretending there's no chemistry or avoiding acting on the it (as it would not be wise to distract themselves from the mission at hand).  Only to fall prey to each others charms after some near death incident...

Bo-o-o-o-oring. Bored bored bored bored bored!  Leave my action-packed thrillers alone guys!  If I want the rollercoaster excitement of Space Mountain, I don't want to be treated to an It's a Small World boat ride in the middle!

So I deducted half a star from my 5-star rating on WeRead for The Noah's Ark Quest...

Rant over...for now.

ps...only 17 sleeps to go on the Lil Chicky Birthday Countdown...