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ironman7

August 12th, 2018

This Has Been A Week

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Short summary: meltdown on Monday due to smoke alarms going off; panic attack on Tuesday due to social anxiety getting kicked good and hard; miseries, rampant brainweasels and depression on Wednesday and Thursday due to after-effects of Monday and Tuesday; further near-meltdown on Friday due to loud shouty encounter (not involving me, but clearly audible, and definitely something I Did Not Need at that point) in office of JobActive provider.

All of this after about three weeks of near-continuous rainy weather and cold temperatures in a house which as far as I can tell has NO insulation at all (built in approx 1920s, no serious upkeep or non-emergency maintenance since approx 1970s). Said house also has no under-cover drying facilities (in rainy weather, we dry our laundry on a rack in the main room of the house, and it takes about two to three days for things to dry out). Plus my depression has a seasonal component.

Plus of course the usual stresses of one class per day from Monday through Thursday (the tutorial on Thursdays is at 8am, which means I have to be out of the house by 7.30am in order to get there on time). Plus the additional fun this week of two appointments with various people at the JobActive provider's office on Friday, and dinner with the in-laws today. (This last would not be an imposition most weeks, but this week, it's definitely heading in that direction).

Thing is, none of these things on their own would be a problem. They became a series of problems because they were most definitely NOT on their own.

Basically, my brain has been throwing up "out of spoons" errors left, right and centre, and I am currently at the point where any kind of cooking more strenuous than making soup or putting something into the oven and letting it reheat is Entirely Too Much Work. Meanwhile the brainweasels all object to buying foodsicles from the shops (because " it's overpriced, you know how to cook that, you can't afford it, you should be able to do this" etc etc et bloody cetera) and throwing fits about me considering canned meals or packet mixes or whatever.

And for this weeks' fun anxiety-inducing thing, I also have two weeks worth of reading for university to do - the stuff I should have been doing over the past week, but haven't been able to due to brainweasels and out-of-spoons errors; and the stuff I have to do for next week, so I'm all caught up. Oh, and the weather turned cold (minimum yesterday was 2.7C) in the last couple of days.

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August 9th, 2018

Meg Reviews Recipes: Continental Rich Beef Casserole recipe base

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Another 40g sachet meal base. Again, got it from Coles (I prefer Coles to Woolworths in the grand battle of Australian supermarkets because firstly, Coles supermarkets seem to have a better range of products most of the time, and secondly, Coles has been the nearest supermarket to where I've been living in the past two rental properties. If I had to recommend supermarkets here, I'd suggest Coles first for range and price, IGA second for range, and Woolies a distant third after those two, because sometimes Woolies has products you can't get elsewhere. Aldi don't have a shop anywhere near me at present, so they're not being rated).

This one has the same problem as all other Continental recipe base sachets, namely that the instructions are apparently written in Flyspeck 3, and I need to pull out my reading glasses to be able to make sense of them. Which is annoying.

It's a pretty basic beef casserole recipe, where they ask you to add 500g of lean beef (I went with a couple of pieces of chuck steak, which isn't lean, but is cheap and good for casseroling), 2 sliced onions, 3 cups of halved mushrooms (I went with a 250g pack of sliced mushrooms instead), 2 sliced carrots, 1 1/4 cups of water, and two tablespoons of tomato paste to the recipe base. It's supposed to take about 1 1/2 hours to cook if you use rump or topside as your beef; I chose to do things in my "slow-cooked in the oven" fashion, where it's cooked on a high heat for an hour, then turned down and simmered for the rest of the afternoon. They do say the recipe can be cooked in a slow cooker (I suspect the answer there is basically "cut the water content down by half", because slow cookers are very good at retaining liquids). The advice is to serve it with mashed potato and broccoli - I'm going to be doing the mashed spud, but skipping the broccoli, because Himself won't eat it, and I therefore see no point in paying about $4 per kilo (current price at Coles) for the wretched stuff only to throw it in the bin. The recipe method is "put all the solid ingredients - beef, onion, mushrooms, carrot - into a casserole dish; combine the recipe base, water and tomato paste and pour over, then bake for 1 1/2 hours at 180C" - it is very hard to mess this one up.

Once it's cooked up, there is a lot of gravy. This may be the fault of me using sliced mushrooms rather than whole - I know mushrooms shed their juices like it's going out of style. So, provide lots of mashed spud, or crusty bread, or even rice or pasta, to soak up the excess. Next time I cook this, I might just try a single cup of water, rather than a cup and a quarter. The overall taste is good - it's nothing fancy, but it's a nice reliable beef casserole, and something easy enough to whip up in the morning when you're in need of a decent meal that evening. Himself quite liked it, in as much as I could get a coherent opinion out of him ("yum" doesn't really tell me much).

The cooking can be time-shifted either by doing the "slow cook in the oven" trick, the "straw box" trick (bring casserole to a boil early in the morning, take from oven, place entire casserole into a box tightly filled with insulating material - traditionally one used straw for this; I've had good results from using scrunched up newspaper - and leave, covered in insulating material, for the rest of the day, before bringing it out and reheating if necessary), or just using a slow cooker to cook things up. Or, conceivably, you could do all the prep in the morning, pop the whole thing into the bottom of the fridge for the course of a day, and bring it out to put into the oven as soon as you got home - it'd probably need a bit more cooking time than shown on the packet, maybe about 2 hours, but still do-able.

Skill Level: 0.5 out of 5. If your kid is old enough to be trusted with a sharp knife to chop up meat and vegetables, they could put this together as a very early effort at making dinner for the family.
Spoons/Fuss and Bother: 4 out of 5, mostly for the inconvenience of having to take off my seeing glasses and fetch my reading glasses in order to be able to render the instructions even vaguely legible. Seriously, Continental, a larger font would definitely help here. Australia does have that ageing population thing - larger print might expand your market!
Overall: 4 out of 5
Considerations: The package (once you put on your reading glasses or get out the magnifying glass) warns for wheat and soy, and also points out this is made on equipment which also processes products containing milk, peanut, egg, sesame, fish and crustaceans. If serving to vegans, perform protein substitutions as required. Don't serve this to people allergic to onions, mushrooms or tomatoes. Probably neither Kosher nor Halal - certainly I can't see any indications it might be - so if you're planning on serving something like this to a friend who keeps either of those dietary codes, check with them first.

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August 8th, 2018

All Bingo Fairytale challenge

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gifted item commoner lost/ abandoned needed travel wise/ learned person
rhyming commands speaking backwards cold iron natural disaster travel companion
guide made of wood FREE SPACE student/apprentice baked magic
urban setting strange visitor modern wilderness sweetest honey magician
mentor errand clay life law/ decree lost item



Let's see if I can get this done. >.> I have a new OTP of Kurosaki Ichigo/fem!Zack Fair. So be prepared for that.

August 5th, 2018

Reflections on Jobsearch

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I'm starting to think a police clearance (formal notice from the police department that I don't have a criminal record, and that there are no charges pending against me) is basically a component added to job ads for classist (and possibly racist) reasons first and foremost. When you're asking people to have a police clearance (which, the last time I applied for one, several years ago, cost about $60) which is current to within the last three months, what you're basically saying is "I don't want anyone to apply for this job who isn't able to throw away at least $60 every three months on a new piece of paper just to be able to eligible to apply for jobs". It's a way of filtering out the poors.

(To put this in perspective: something else that costs me $60 is two weeks worth of food for one person. So I'm expected to spend the equivalent of my fortnightly food budget every three months, just to obtain a piece of paper intended to show I'm acceptably middle-class).

In a country like Australia, where there is a lot of institutional prejudice against our Indigenous population, and where cultural clashes lead to a higher rate of arrest, charges and imprisonment for Indigenous people (particularly Indigenous men) asking for a clean police clearance (again, a maximum of three months old) is basically saying "no Indigenous need apply", despite whatever the "diversity" statement down the bottom of the ad might be proclaiming about the company welcoming applications from Indigenous people.

Now, I'm reasonably certain this didn't start out as a conscious thing - I've certainly started to notice it a lot more in the last five years - but rather as a way of filtering down the number of applications employers are receiving for every open position. I'm getting little statements from Seek every so often which are telling me "your application doesn't look like it's going to progress any further", and those mention how many applications the employer received via Seek alone - and I've not seen one with a number lower than 200 yet. I got to the interview stage at one employer recently, and they mentioned they'd picked me for interview out of about 200 applicants. There's a lot of these filtering tactics showing up these days - closing dates for applications which are incredibly close to the date of advertising (like, maybe a week); requesting 3 - 5 years of previous experience in the role or something similar; and so on.

Funny, really - I mean, the government trumpets how much they're doing for job creation and such... but there's still over 200 applicants for every position I'm trying for, and I'd suspect the bulk of them are people who are already in jobs, who are looking for a different job, or (since I'm applying primarily for part-time work) for a second job to make ends meet. Which means effectively a lot of the "job growth" in the past few years has instead been a case of musical chairs - people moving from one position to another, and employers only advertising positions when the music stops, so to speak.

(Or in other words, yeah, I've been doing my jobsearch. Again. Things really got a lot easier for me since I stopped expecting to actually get something out of this endless hoop-jumping other than more of the same again next week).

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August 2nd, 2018

Meg Reviews Recipes: Mulligatawny Soup

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Source: Australian Women's Weekly "Best Recipes from the Weekly" cookbook, p13. ISBN 1 949128 41 4; (c) ACP Publishing Pty Ltd 2000 (9th reprint).

It's winter here, so I've been looking into making soup. I decided to do this one, since I've made it before, and tried making it up in the slow cooker (which requires a small tweak or two to the recipe, but overall doesn't change things much). Mulligatawny is a soup which is basically the result of exasperated Indian cooks trying to deal with the requests of English Memsahibs for a proper English dinner, starting with a soup course, using the local materials - the name is basically a blend of the Tamil words for "pepper" and "water".

I tweaked the recipe slightly - I decided to poach the chicken thighs in some liquid chicken stock I had in the cupboard, and top up with water (I wound up with slightly more liquid than the recipe expects - 2L rather than 1.75L). Basically, this is one of those soup recipes which demands you start with the stock, and you can certainly skip that stage by just substituting pre-made soup stock, and already-cooked chicken. I did most of the work of preparing the recipe and getting everything cooking and simmering until the vegetables were tender on one day, then did the blending and pureeing of the vegetable, stock and lentil mix the next morning, before adding the reserved poached chicken and coconut milk (again, I overdid it here, mainly because the cans of coconut milk I have on hand are the standard size 440mL ones rather than the little 283mL ones).

Overall, it comes out pretty straightforwardly. I served it with crusty bread (Vienna loaf, chopped into slices and heated in the oven for about 20 minutes) and my partner seemed to enjoy it - he'll always sit down for soup and crusty bread as a main meal. The recipe says it serves six, although for more than about four, I'd be supplementing your soup, bread and such with some cold meat, cheese, and sandwich fixings (a regular Saturday or Sunday winter lunch when I was growing up).

Difficulty: About 2 out of 5.
Spoons/Fuss and Bother: 2 out of 5 - in this case, there's the whole business of the blending or sieving of the soup to consider - if, like me, you're sensitive to the noise of mechanical motors, you have about three to four minutes of intermittent racket to look forward to and save spoons to deal with; there's also the whole business of having to move the soup from one container to another in order to get the whole process done in batches (and if you're doing this with low arm or grip strength, it may be exhausting/impossible/incredibly difficult at the least). There's a certain amount of standing in the early stages, where you're cooking the onion and spices - maybe about 10 minutes all up.
Overall: 2.5 out of 5. This really doesn't strike me as a stand-out recipe, to be honest. Nice enough, but not really something I make all that often, mainly because the balance of "fuss & bother" vs "actual taste" isn't overwhelming.
Considerations: Not suitable for vegetarians or vegans; contains dairy (butter/ghee), gluten (flour), and whatever happens to be in the brand of either stock or stock cubes you use to make the recipe. Probably neither Kosher nor Halal, but check with an expert if you're not sure.

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