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Cos I'm Working for the Dole, Working for the Do-hole...

As a dole-bludging layabout, perennial leaner who is failing/refusing to "have a go", and parasitical drainer of the Australian taxpayer, the time has come once again for me to perform public penance for the sin of being unemployed and (apparently) unemployable. I'm working for the dole again.

This time around, I'm cooking for the homeless. I did my first day of it on Thursday. I'm working in a commercial kitchen space for a charity group; the charity group are hiring the kitchen space from the Uniting Church, and there's apparently supposed to be about twenty-five of us in the group. On Thursday there were three of us, and we were still having to dodge each other a lot of the time - by the time they get up to twenty-five people into this rather small and not-air-conditioned space, in the middle of the Australian summer... well, let's just say it's going to be standing room only, and pass things from hand to hand, and we'd better be allowed to keep water bottles on hand so we don't all keel over from heat exhaustion.

On Thursday we basically did baking (Carrot Cake muffins from one person; ANZAC biscuits from me; and the bloke in the group was doing a spaghetti sauce, I think) which was frozen for future use, and we took inventory of what we had for cooking with. Everything is donated, which means we have some interesting oversupplies, and some interesting little blank spots. For example, the ANZAC biscuits were made without coconut, because we didn't have any - instead, we gave 'em extra rolled oats. The icing for the cupcakes was supposed to have cream cheese in, but because they didn't have any of that, the person making them threw in extra butter. It's an exercise in figuring out what can and what can't be done with what we have. Lots of substitutions. The take-away lesson I'm getting from this is if I'm going to donate to a service like this, I'm going to be giving money rather than goods (or at least looking for a shopping list or similar from them).

We had disposable plastic aprons to be wearing, which after about ten minutes tended to start sticking to my chest (perils of v-necked t-shirts in such a situation) from the amount of perspiration I was pouring out. I've dug out the two cloth aprons I have from home, and I'll be using those in future. At least with a cotton apron, I know it's not going to stick to me.

One of the little facets of this job that I wasn't strictly prepared for was it's all standing work. Now, the last time I had to stand for long periods as part of doing my job was back when I was working checkouts, in August 1996. After a twenty-two year break, my feet aren't happy with the whole business, and oh boy did they let me know about it. Fortunately, I remember the trick for dealing with sore feet from back in my checkout days - about ten to fifteen minutes of laying down with my feet higher than my head, which allows things to drain a bit, and drastically reduces the throbbiness of things. Also, lace shoes loosely, because tightly laced shoes cut off circulation toward the end of the day.

Another thing I've learned: apply sunscreen before leaving the building on the way home. Due to fun and games down on Albany Highway with pipes and things (the Water board are having so much fun down there) the buses aren't running their usual routes to and from town. Which means while I have about a 300m walk to the bus stop in the morning (8.30am start, which means I'm leaving home around 7.30am in order to get there on time in the morning), on the way home at night, I have something like a four block walk back from Albany Highway to where I'm living on the other side of Berwick Street (or it's a four block walk back down Berwick Street from Balmoral Street). I didn't realise this on Thursday, and got a little sunburned (hottest day in months, and we were sent home early due to lack of work to do).

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Current Mood: tired tired
I Aten't Dead...

... I'm just up to my ears in my final piece of assessment for this semester. Which is a 2000 word research project, and I've been busy doing all the reading in order to be able to write a passable literature review, as well as catching up on about two months worth of housework (the last time I seriously cleaned the house was back when we had our inspection in September - I am now getting caught up on long-overdue floor sweeping and mopping and bench cleaning and such. This happens every semester - I get so distracted by getting head-down bum-up in study and classes that I don't have the spare spoons for housework).

Anyway:

1) Yay to the voters in the USA for steering us away from the worst timeline.

2) Boo to the Liberal party for Scott Morrison and the amazing mystery parliamentary revival tour bus. But a small yay for managing to produce an interview which inadvertently sounds like it was written by the late John Clarke.

(https://twitter.com/overingtonc/status/1060281934348079104)

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Current Mood: busy busy
In Which Meg Is Helpful...

As part of my study for this semester, I've created a reference guide to searching on AO3. It can be found in google doc form at the following link:

How To Avoid Being Offended On The Internet: A Guide to Searching AO3

If you'd rather have a printable version, I have a Word docx version (417kB), a Libre Office document version (.odt, 459kB) or a PDF (420kB) available via email, and I can also see about transforming the document into other formats as needed - either drop a comment down the bottom of the page, or send me an email at megpie71 at yahoo dot com dot au.

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Current Mood: accomplished accomplished
New Work on AO3

First entry in about two weeks, and it's because I've finally written something short enough to be completed and posted on AO3. So, here it is, my first ever attempt at the notorious "Coffee Shop" AU.

Coffee Habit

What can I say? Uni has been kicking my backside something 'orrible.

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Current Mood: accomplished accomplished
Five Things Make A Post 04 OCT 2018

1) Potentially distressing content under the fold )

2) In my other class, we're studying Foucault (a quick introduction to Foucault, discourse, and so on), and one of our readings is bringing up examples of current events (current at the time of writing/publication for the reading ... which was published in 2000) in US politics. Things like the Anita Hill case, the Clinton impeachment and so on. I was reading this yesterday and thinking "damn it, Brett Kavanaugh can't stop getting into everything". I'm hoping the rest of my readings this week won't be so... inadvertently synchronisticly appropriate, damn it.

3) One of the things I was asked to listen to for a previous weeks readings for one of my classes was "Four Chord Song" by Axis of Awesome[1]. Which means I'm now hearing the chord structures and bass line of a lot of what I'm listening to these days, and thinking about the ways that various chord patterns are used and re-used to create music. There's the standard four chord song, the twelve-bar blues, the Romanesca (aka "that one in Pachelbel's Canon") and so on. So that gives me a bit of something to think about when I'm busy listening to music to block out the extraneous noise while I'm doing my uni readings.

4) As a side effect of stress, I am currently dealing with a complete lack of spoons for actual sensible cooking stuff. Which means I'm eating a lot of stuff which can be cooked by throwing it into the oven and reheating it. (Yes, I know this isn't healthy in the long term, but unless someone else is volunteering to come and cook for me for free, I suspect I'm going to be sticking with this for a while). One thing I have worked out is that it is cheaper for me to buy a $2.90 box of Coles plain brand frozen chicken nuggets, and re-heat them at home, than it is to get one of those "24 nuggets for $10" deals from KFC or Maccas - for $10 I can get three boxes of Coles nuggets, for a total of 66 of the little bastards, and all I have to supply is the oven to reheat them. Plus I can have my choice of dipping sauces (at present, the winner is Fountain Hot Chilli sauce) rather than being stuck with the options of watered down Sweet Chilli Sauce, or watered down Sweet and Sour Sauce or whatever. So, that can stand in for my reviews of recipes. I'll do more of them when I have the time and spoons to cook again.

5) Latest book up for the Farewell Re-read treatment is "The Ultimate Dracula" - a collection of short stories on a rather predictable theme, edited by Byron Preiss.


[1] In the words of Neil Innes: "I've suffered for my art; now it's your turn."

PS: I was serious about the Twitter thing. If you see me on Twitter any time before this whole thing has simmered down, remind me to get the fsck off there for the good of my blood pressure.

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Current Mood: stressed stressed
Five Things Make A Post 30 SEP 2018

1) While I am thoroughly unsurprised that the Republicans are not budging on the idea of getting Brett Kavanaugh assigned to the Supreme Court, I do think it might be a good idea if parents in the USA point out to their children (particularly their sons) the behaviour he demonstrated is not appropriate behaviour in a job interview. The only way you get a job out of that sort of nonsense is if you're a highly privileged white man applying for a job which is a political appointment which has been largely sewn up from the get-go. Anyone else who tried that kind of behaviour in a job interview would have been confronted with a highly unamused "thank you for your time; we'll let you know" in the first five minutes and been slung out by security so hard they would have bounced if they'd continued.

2) I pause to note that in one of my units we had an assessment item due this week which was (in part) "write a piece of fanfiction". I believe I may have mentioned I love my degree? Certainly I'm getting more written for uni than I am for most of my current projects, so yeah... if not for uni, I might well have just stopped writing altogether.

3) The weather here in Perth is starting to warm up again, although yesterday was a return to freezling cold and rainy (although I didn't have to go out in it, which was good).

4) I've made a few changes to my daily routine, mostly along the lines of dropping a few things which weren't really amusing me (and were starting to be a chore). One of these is dropping Villagers and Heroes (MMO game, free to play, fairly nice and placid, but also rather pushy about users logging in regularly). The last update (around a week or so back) did something weird to either the executable, or the path for it in Steam, and I decided since I wasn't actually playing all that much, I'd just let it drop. So I gained the time that took back into my day, and lost something off my list of things to do. I also dropped playing Candy Crush for half an hour before I go to bed, because a few weeks back it started crashing out regularly after about five or ten minutes, becoming more "Candy Crash" instead. So what I'm doing with that half-hour is using it to work through books from my "Farewell re-read" shelves.

The "Farewell re-read" process is one where I go through books from the various boxes I have stashed in the storeroom, and start deciding whether I want to keep them, or give them to charity. A lot of the time, it's a pretty clear decision, but there's a certain quantity/quality of book where I'm not sure whether I want to keep it or not. So I give it one more re-read and decide at the end of that whether it's something I'd read again, or whether it's something where I prefer the space the book occupies rather than the book itself.

So far I'm up to my third book from the shelves ("Fast Food Nation", by Eric Schlosser - I think that one is going to be a "bye-bye" book), and I've kept one of them ("Emma" by Jane Austen).

5) I have discovered that Kettle Chips Chilli chips (with Jalapenos and Hot Chilli) are quite nice. Very hot and spicy, and very more-ish.

So, what's happening for everyone else?

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Current Mood: mellow mellow
Sorry This Is So Delayed...

Let's just say things have been a bit chaotic over here at Chez Meg, and leave it at that. Instead, I give you the five things I have learned this week that I didn't previously know:

1) 26 hours worth of study commitments counts as sufficient to serve as a 25 hour work-for-the-dole commitment (well, I knew that one previously, but I hadn't been certain whether it was the case under the current system. After all, there's a whole bunch of new ministers in place, and you can never tell whether they're going to try and prove how tough they are by kicking the unemployed harder or not).

2) It costs almost as much to have two pairs of jeans altered so they're not dragging in the dirt when I wear them as it did to buy them in the first place ($47.80 vs $50).

3) I have lost my ability to view medical and surgical procedures on human beings without getting squicked.

4) A Brekky Hero Roll costs 5c more at the Hungry Jacks in Gosnells than it does at the Hungry Jacks in Ascot.

5) The Armadale-Kelmscott Memorial Hospital has free parking for 4 hours at a stretch, which is very useful if you have to take someone into Emergency there for a non-urgent procedure.

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Current Mood: tired tired
Unicorn Chasers

Because it's That Time Of The Year (the anniversary of The Day Everything Went Pear-Shaped Back In 2001) and a lot of people, whether they're aware of it or not, are probably feeling niggly, bad-tempered, and finding their brains are finding them a lot of things to get miserable about for some reason, I figure I'll do a short post of Unicorn Chasers - the sorts of things on the internet that can cheer you up.

My current one is the series Under The Wing of A Nibel Dragon by Gothams_Only_Wolf over on AO3. This is a gorgeous series which is set approximately 15 years before the start of standard Final Fantasy VII canon, where an 11 year old Sephiroth gets what is turning out to be the best fix-it in the history of the fandom. It contains a five-year-old Cloud Strife who is as cute as a button, a Vincent Valentine who wakes up fifteen years early, and a lot of other characters, some new, some recognisable.

Waiting for the Great Leap Forward is another thing I've been using to deal with my current case of the crankies. Mostly for the line about "Dr Robert Oppenheimer's optimism fell at the first hurdle" - this is a wonderful song about what it feels like to be down here at the sharp end of life, rather than up at the top where the decisions are made. Billy Bragg gets it, I think.

I will also recommend Scandinavia and the World which is a beautiful comic by Humon, full of mostly kind-hearted humour about the ways that various countries are perceived to behave, both internally and externally. Humon is a Dane, who has lived in England for a while, and a lot of the comics focus on the interplay between Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland, but there's also visits by a lot of other nations as well.

So, what does everyone else use as a unicorn chaser? Share some links in the comments!

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Current Mood: getting better getting better
Five Things Make A Post 09 SEP 2018

1) Today has been a very pleasant sunny interlude in the middle of two rather damp and soggy weeks. I've even managed to get the last of the laundry from last week dried. Which is good, because I'm going to need the rack again tomorrow, when it's due to rain again (100% chance of showers, according to the Bureau).

2) I was also able to use today's warmer, drier weather as an excuse to air out the house, which had been starting to get just a tad musty as a result of about three months straight of having all the doors and windows as shut as they can manage to try and keep the weather outside.

3) Still keeping up with my readings and such for university. This week's endeavour is going to be writing a 1000 word essay comparing two articles in terms of critique and evaluation for one of my units (due Friday midnight). The trick there, I think, will be writing down everything I can come up with, and then editing this down to 1000 words. Basically, it's four paragraphs. If that (surely they could have given us a bit more word count?).

4) I realise I am definitely betraying my mature-age-student-ness in the above point. I am also not ashamed.

5) I don't have anything to fit here.

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Current Mood: calm calm
Meg Reviews Recipes: Cornflake Honey Slice

Source: The Australian Women's Weekly Cakes and Slices Cookbook, ISBN 978-1-74245-497-9, (c) Bauer Media Limited 1987, Special Collectors Edition, reprinted 2014. p116.

This is a very easy slice to make. It consists of six ingredients - four dry ingredients which you measure into a bowl and combine, plus butter and honey. You melt the butter, mix in the honey, then pour the combined butter and honey mixture over the dry ingredients, stir to combine, drop the whole lot into a lamington tray (or other low-sided flat tray) and bake in a 180C oven for twenty minutes. Then leave it to sit for fifteen minutes before chopping it into slice-sized pieces, and letting it cool in the tin.

This is definitely a slice you could get young school-age kids to help cook - most of the work involved is in measuring the ingredients, and the recipe itself is a pretty forgiving one, so a few grams over or under isn't going to destroy anything. You'd have to supervise them with melting the butter, and possibly with stirring in the honey to the melted butter, as well as the business of getting things in and out of the oven, but other than that, you could pretty much get a five or six year old to do most of the work involved in this slice, and they'd have something they could say they cooked at the end of it. Which is always a good way of getting kids started with cooking.

The slice smells gorgeous while cooking (I'm drooling as I write this while it bakes...), and comes out a nice golden-brown. Chopping it up is fairly straightforward, although I think the next time I make this, I'm going to line my lamington tray with a bit of baking paper, since I foresee a slightly difficult time getting some bits away from the edges without breakages (the recipe says to grease the tray; I'm lazy and don't like scrubbing things, so I'll line it next time). The book gives a keeping time of one week, but I suspect this is the minimum keeping time in the Women's Weekly test kitchen, where they're all burned out on baked goods (in a household with small children or people with a bit of a sweet tooth, it probably won't last even that long!).

One thing to be aware of: if you don't line the tray, you're going to have to grease it very generously, or be willing to spend a bit of time levering the finished and cooled slice out of it (I wound up using a dinner knife rather than a spatula to lever things out, and had to re-cut a lot of it). This slice shatters easily, so I suspect even if you do line your tray and lift everything out easily, you're still going to be left with about a cup or so of crispy shattered remains when it comes to cutting things up. Mind you, those could possibly be used as a sort of praline topping on ice-cream or something like that, if you're fanatic about avoiding waste.

The finished product is crisp, crunchy, and sweet. There's a slight taste of honey, but mostly it's just sweetness and toasted cereal/coconut flavours to be had. Very pleasant overall, and as I said, easy to make, with the hardest bit being removing it from the tray at the end of proceedings (something which is probably easy to avoid with a bit of baking paper). I'll probably be making this one again, possibly with a few variants on the honey and the type of sugar (I'm interested to see what a variant made with golden syrup or brown sugar might turn out like).

Difficulty: 0.2 out of 5 - as above, this could largely be mixed up by a six-year-old with minor adult assistance.
Spoons/Fuss and Bother: 0.5 out of 5. Very little standing involved - just while the butter is melting; everything else can be done seated at the kitchen table if necessary. The mixture is very easy to mix up - all the ingredients are very light-weight, so arm and shoulder strength issues would only be of significance if you're having trouble with 200g - 500g weights. Some standing and arm strength issues might come into play with chopping up the slice, but I suspect those could mostly be overcome by cutting up the slice after giving it a shorter cooling time, and as mentioned above, lining the pan first.
Overall: 5 out of 5, mostly for ease of preparation and satisfactory final result.
Considerations: Contains butter and honey, so vegans won't be particularly keen on it (although if you substitute in a vegetable margarine and golden syrup, you'd have something vegans can consume). Main ingredients are cornflakes and rolled oats, which may or may not be suitable for people with gluten sensitivities depending on the brands you purchase; other major ingredients are coconut and sugar. Do not live solely on a diet of this, your dentist will hate you. Couldn't say how it would work out with regards to kosher or halal considerations, but I think it should be okay for those (if anyone wants to let me know otherwise, please, do feel free! I'm well aware I'm not fully up on the subtleties of either of these).

ETA 07 SEP 2018: I've been informed by the lovely [profile] princesskessie that rolled oats are NOT considered gluten free in Australia (see her comment below). She suggests quinona flakes, sorghum flakes, millet flakes or rice flakes as reasonable substitutes.

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Current Mood: awake awake
Five Things Make a Post 02 SEP 2018

1) I have caught up on all my assessments for Pleasure, Power and Popular Culture. Given the next one is due to come out tomorrow (weekly Pop Culture Consumption Challenges, which we are supposed to perform and blog about - the blog is one of our three pieces of assessment) this is not the massive reprieve it sounds like. But it's something I've achieved, and that I'm going to be pleased about.

2) The house is just about completely cleaned for the rental inspection happening on Tuesday morning. I just have to scrub the loo, sweep my bedroom floor, and sweep the front verandah, and it's all done. All of which are within my capability tomorrow morning.

3) It is somewhat annoying to discover the difference taking iron supplements for a week makes to my ability to brain and cope. All of a sudden I'm capable of a lot more than I previously was, and what's more, my Muse has apparently returned from a long hiatus and is giving me ideas for stories again. Seriously, the difference one blinkin' element can make to one's biology is slightly startling. And frustrating.

4) According to the calendar, it is Spring here in Perth. According to me, Spring isn't due to start until we hit the equinox, on around the 21st of this month.

5) This week's assessment load includes one forty-five minute "short answer" quiz for Making Meanings, and writing up an essay for Making Meanings which is due on the 14th. Because the fun never really ceases at university, it just insists on getting everything properly referenced. (Thank gods both of my units use the same referencing style - I only have to know APA 6th for this semester, which is a positive joy).

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Current Mood: busy busy
Meg Reviews Recipes: Tandaco One Pan Dinner Tomato Lasagne Meal Base

This one comes as a boxed pack of sauce mix and noodles, and tells you to "just add meat" (500g minced beef to feed 4 people, 750g to feed 6).

It's pretty easy to assemble, and promises to be cooked in twenty minutes (I think they're looking at the microwave times there), so it's excellent for those evenings when you suddenly realise you should have put dinner on about a half an hour ago but got distracted by the Internet (I admit to nothing...). All you need to do is brown the mince (with or without the addition of garlic and onion), add the sauce mix and water - 3 1/2 cups, which seems a lot, but then you're adding pasta as well. Stir everything together until it boils, then throw in the pasta, shove on a lid, and let it simmer for fifteen to twenty minutes. They suggest adding things like sliced or chopped capsicum, sliced mushrooms, or chopped zucchini to the mix in the last ten minutes of cooking time to fancy things up, and if you're trying to feed six people with this mixture, you'd probably be best off doing all of those, I suspect.

Once it's prepared, it's easy enough to serve up and eat with a fork, but it certainly isn't anything to write home about. This is incredibly bland. I added salt, and the only actual flavour I could taste was the salt I added. Even himself, who tends to have slightly more subtle taste-buds than I do, couldn't really notice anything distinctive about it. So if you have a friend who is a hyper-taster, they may actually be able to tolerate this.

Overall, I think I'll leave this one on the shelves at Coles in future. I can do up a more satisfying tomato noodle mince mix myself, and it actually tastes of something when I do.

Skill Level: 1 out of 5
Spoons/Fuss and Bother: 1 out of 5. If, like me, you're at the age where reading the phone book bare-eyed is no longer a possibility, you'll need to retrieve your reading glasses to be able to understand the directions. If you have upper body strength issues, you might have a bit of trouble with browning the mince. Standing time is about the length of time required to brown the mince, so maybe about five minutes all up.
Overall: 2 out of 5. It fills you up and warms you up, but that's about it.
Considerations: Contains pasta, hence gluten. The package warns for wheat and milk products, as well as being manufactured on equipment that also processes products containing barley, rye, egg, sesame seeds and soy products. Also contains tomato powder and onion powder. Probably neither kosher nor halal; check with anyone who keeps either of these practices before offering it to them. Not safe for vegans even with protein substitutions due to milk products in mix.

ETA: I had the leftovers of this sprinkled with Cajun seasoning, which actually made it vaguely palatable. So, if you're interested in a bit of spark in these things, throw in a teaspoon or so of Cajun seasoning while you're cooking it, and see how these things go.

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Current Mood: busy busy
I Could Not Brain This Past Week

I had teh dumb. I could not brain. Brain thinky-things were Too Hard. Even more so than normal, in fact. This has not been a help with uni this past week.

I think I've figured out where the problem lay, however. I finally decided to test out a hypothesis last night, and took an iron supplement, after spending all of yesterday feeling like a wrung-out dishcloth. Lo and behold, this morning I am feeling much better, with a bit more energy and a lot more ability to focus. So, problem was likely to have been low-level anaemia, and I'll keep on taking an iron supplement each night for a few days to get the red cell count up.

Of course, the fun thing about all of this is it's preventable through diet... provided I have enough energy to be cooking regular meals in the first place. Which I didn't have, because I was a bit anaemic, so I didn't cook, which meant I didn't eat a very balanced diet[1], which meant the anaemia didn't get fixed up, which meant I was tired, which meant I didn't cook, which meant we went through the whole cycle again and again and again.

This week coming up is a non-teaching week (thank gods) so I should technically be able to get caught up on my readings and get the majority of work done on an essay which is due in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, I've also received notice we're getting a rental inspection in the first week of September, which means my "copious free time" is probably going to need to go toward getting the house back into reasonable condition for that (I've been skiving off on housework for most of the past few weeks, because study commitments).

[1] It had all the standard student food groups: cheap stuff, stuff which could be reheated in the oven, stuff which could be reheated in the microwave, sugary stuff, and caffeine.

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Current Mood: awake awake
Meg Reviews Recipes: Potato Wedges with Sloppy Joe Topping

Source: Australia Women's Weekly Mince Favourites cookbook, p25; ISBN 186396490-8; (c) ACP Magazines Ltd 2006.

This one is another old favourite which I tend to pull out when I'm bored, when I'm just wanting something easy to cook, and when I'm wanting something sharp and sweet to eat.

The recipe basically tells you to make the wedges from scratch (chop a spud per person into eight wedges, grease with a bit of oil, and bake for about 30 - 40 minutes (or until done). You can cheat and substitute store-bought oven-bake potato wedges (follow the directions on the package), or you can substitute any other kind of carbohydrate substrate you fancy with the mince. I've tried rice on one occasion (with leftovers - worked out quite nice); served it up with garlic bread for my partner; and it would probably work quite nicely with some of the more chunky sorts of pasta, or even just plain old hot bread rolls.

Also, sprinkling a little cajun seasoning mix on the wedges turns out nice, although it did tend to get shouted down by the vinegar of the sloppy joe sauce.

The sauce itself can generally do with about half an hour of simmering time, just to make sure the flavours combine nicely. It's a pretty easy one to have the ingredients handy for - onion, garlic, celery, green capsicum, mince, a cup of tomato sauce (tomato ketchup, for my readers in the Americas), mild American mustard, cider vinegar, and some grated cheese to top it at the end (and that's pretty much optional, too).

If you have to pay attention to standing time, or you have upper arm issues, this recipe does require the fine chopping of the various vegetables (plus crushing of garlic), and it'll require a certain amount of standing and stirring while you're browning the vegetables and the mince. However, once you've added the tomato sauce, mustard and vinegar, and stirred everything together, it can be left to simmer on its own. It is possible to time-shift this recipe, by pre-making the sloppy joe sauce and re-heating it around dinner time, and cooking up the carbohydrate substrate at the point where you're re-heating things.

Difficulty: 1 out of 5
Spoons/Fuss and Bother: 1 - 3 out of 5. Really, this depends a lot on whether, like me, you're the type of person who tends to run through all their spoons in the morning, or if you're the type of person who has a bit of energy during the evening. If you're the first, then it's 3 out of 5, if only because it's one of those recipes where you either have to do some pre-cooking in order to have everything ready, or you have to reserve spoons for the evening. Otherwise, probably 1 out of 5, possibly 2 out of 5 if you're needing to consider standing times or chopping times.
Overall: 4 out of 5. This is a bit of a favourite in our household, because it's nice and easy, and it can be eaten with just about anything.
Considerations: Well, definitely don't feed this to a vegan unless you're replacing the beef mince with some other form of vegetable protein (in which case, hold the cheese on top as well). Check the ingredients on your mustard, tomato sauce and cider vinegar if you have allergies (not that you're not already doing this anyway), and choose substrate according to gluten tolerance specifications. Choose mince carefully to comply with Kosher and Halal standards, and for kosher, skip the cheese at the end.

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Current Mood: busy busy
This Has Been A Week

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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Current Mood: cold cold
Meg Reviews Recipes: Continental Rich Beef Casserole recipe base

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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Reflections on Jobsearch

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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Current Mood: cranky cranky
Meg Reviews Recipes: Mulligatawny Soup

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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Current Mood: busy busy
Gearing Up For Another Semester

It's that time of year again - I'm just about to head off to Semester 2 of my second year of First Year (I'm studying part time - it takes me twice as long to complete a "year" of study), and I've been running around like a chook with its head cut off trying to get everything organised again.

One of the key things I've had to do in the past week or so is basically get my poor unfortunate Uni machine (Elfadunk) back into working order. This involved re-downloading and re-installing the majority of the software I was using for university, as well as making sure an additional 32GB thumb drive was set up as the main location for everything to land, rather than Elfadunk's existing 32GB hard disk drive. (The hard disk is currently stuffed pretty much to the gills with Windows 10). Fortunately I have a couple of days up my sleeve there - I don't actually have to have her working until about Wednesday morning, when I have my first tutorial (2 lectures, one on Monday, one Tuesday, but I take a notebook to those and write my notes rather than type them).

I've also had to re-arrange my class schedule, because the tutorial I was expecting to be going to for one of my subjects (on a Wednesday afternoon) got cancelled out from under me, which meant I had to re-schedule it. The new tutorial time is at 8am on a Thursday morning, and I'm annoyed both because of the 8am start (means I have to dive out the door at about 7.30am at the latest) and because it stretches out my schedule over four days instead of three. But the other alternative was directly after the lecture on Tuesday afternoon, and would have required me to rush literally from one end of the campus to the other. No thanks, I had enough of that last semester.

But I'm pretty much set now. I've picked up the one textbook I had to buy, I've sorted out most of the software downloads I needed on Elfadunk (I'm just trying to install an anti-virus program on her at present), and I'm pretty much ready for the new semester to hit me full force. The freezer is newly-stocked with meat, the pantry is newly-stocked with a variety of short-cut meals for when I'm running low on spoons and organisation, the house is pretty much tidy, and I've replaced the laces in my sneakers. I'm good to go.

So, how has everyone else been?

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Current Mood: busy busy
Meg Reviews Recipes: Continental Devilled Sausages 40g recipe base sachet

I got this at Coles a while ago. It's a packet mix that you add the ingredients to, mix up in the prescribed manner, and bingo! You have dinner.

You will also find out whether you have any visual acuity problems at all. I had to walk away from the whole business in the middle of cooking to swap out my seeing glasses for my reading glasses so I could read how much water I was supposed to add.

The required ingredients for this one are 8 beef sausages (yup, Coles cheapies again); 1 onion; tomato sauce (ketchup); 1 large green apple. You fry up the sausages and remove them from the pan, cook the onion until it softens, then add your combined recipe base, water and tomato sauce to the pan with the peeled, cored and sliced apple, bring to the boil, add the sausages again, and simmer for 20 minutes. They suggest also throwing in 1/4 cup of sultanas with the apple, so I've done that. The suggested sides are a pumpkin and potato mash, and zucchini. I'm going to be doing spuds (boiled) with peas, corn and carrot mix, because that's what's easiest for me.

After the cooking (which doesn't need anywhere near as much supervision as you'd think, once everything is simmering away together) it turned out pretty good. The flavours are mild and largely sweet - there's some tang from the tomato sauce, and my partner found the sultanas to be texturally surprising, but overall it's pretty sweet and bland. Which surprised me, since in most recipes for devilled whatever, there's usually a touch of spice. Presumably they removed that in order to avoid frightening off those folks who are cautious around even the slightest hint of spice. Wonder what it would be like with a dash of cayenne pepper?

Overall, it's a nice recipe, and if I find the recipe base on special again, I'll probably grab it, just so I can have something like that in the back of the cupboard for future emergencies.

Skill Level: 2 out of 5, mostly for the scheduling considerations involved in cooking it.
Spoons/Fuss and Bother: 4 out of 5, mostly for the minuscule print on the package. Seriously, if you can't read the print on these things, you're not alone. It should not be necessary to keep a magnifying glass in the kitchen.
Overall: 3 out of 5.
Considerations: As always, swap protein sources at the very least, to something other than beef sausages, before trying to serve this to a vegan (and probably hand them the package and a magnifying glass before you start, just to be on the safe side). They mention the product contains wheat and soy, and that it's made on equipment which also processes products containing milk, peanut, egg, sesame, fish and crustacea (so it's probably neither kosher nor halal).

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