Mid year Performance Appraisal (Karate New Years Resolutions).

Some time back in January, one of my Sensei suggested we think about Karate New Year resolutions. We are now half way through the year (tonight is financial new year’s eve!!…..ugh…..) so I thought it was probably time for a mid year review. So here goes…..This was what I wrote 6 months ago:

To always move forward,

To never look back.

To never give up in a fight.

To always ask questions.

To never show fear.

To know my left hand from my right!

To stand with a readiness,

To balance with steadiness,

To improve my techniques and my speed.

To maintain flexibility,

Improve strength and stability.

Give my body the rest it does need.

To learn from my Sensei.

To learn from my partners.

To learn when I get black and blue.

To try to be patient

And not be frustrated.

To respect what my body can do.

To let me be me

At the best I can be!

To train harder than I think I can.

To keep my mind open.

To nurture some seeds.

To never give up on my plan.

So, overall I feel I am on track for most things. I need to work harder on the resting my body one and be more patient with myself. Knowing my left hand from my right is still difficult sometimes but I am getting there……strangely it is easier to think about it using Japanese terms (hidari and migi) go figure!!

Mandarin cake with chocolate mandarin ganashe

Family enjoyed some of the cake for dessert!

One of the many perks of our new home is the garden, which, among other things, contains a massive and highly productive mandarin tree. When I say highly productive, I mean highly productive. Everyone I see has been presented with several. In the last few days I must have picked over 200 and I have probably picked at least double or more than that over the last month or more….and yet the tree is still loaded and still has green fruits and buds.

There are only so many mandarins one can eat in a day so today I took the plunge and juiced a stack of them and made cake. Given the interruptions to the baking process I am kind of surprised it worked out, but, vegan, gluten free baking seems somewhat more forgiving to these sorts of things.

CAKE INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup mandarin juice (about 12 mandarins but it will depend how big and juicy they are – ours are on the small side)
  • 1 cup dates (soaked for at least an hour in the mandarin juice)
  • 3 cups almond pulp (ie the remains of 2 cups of soaked almonds turned into almond milk or use approximately 3 cups almond meal)
  • 4 teaspoons flax meal
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/3 cup each of besan (chickpea), potato and buckwheat flour
  • 2/3 cup milk

ICING INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup dates soaked in 1/2 cup mandarin juice (about 4 mandarins worth)
  • 2/3 cup dessicated coconut
  • 3 heaped teaspoons cocoa powder
  • about 1/2 cup water to thin to desired consistency as needed.

METHOD

Preheat oven to about 170 degrees celcius (for my current oven this was 150!!)….incidentally I chose a new oven for my new kitchen today YAY!!!!!

Line a 20cm round tin with baking paper.

In a small food processor / mill, blend the dates and juice until pureed

In a large bowl combine all other ingredients and add in the puree.

Mix until well combined.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until skewer comes out clean (in my case it got baked for 10 left in a turned off oven while I did kindy and school pick up and picked up a parcel from the post office and then taken out while the oven was heated again and then baked for another 10 minutes…..yep I am really surprised the cake actually worked!!!)

While cake is baking make the icing by putting the coconut in a small blender / mill / food processor and blitzing until it is starting to turn to butter (depending if you like consistency of dessicated coconut or not), add in cocoa and dates / juice and blend until smooth / thick and creamy, use water to thin as needed.

Put icing in fridge to firm up a little.

Cool cake on a rack.

Cut into two layers (when completely cool works best although I waited until it was warm not hot as I had no time…..again it must have been my lucky day!!)

Ice with a layer of icing between and on top.

Serve to plenty of adoring fans (serves about 12).

Gekisai on repeat (with apologies to Fidlar)

I travel a lot to get to some of my classes. My mp3 player has given up the ghost and I can’t listen to Audio books. Normally I listen to classical (with a lower case C) music but I prefer to choose my own. As a result I have resorted to listening to non commercial radio station triple J, who play music that post dates Mozart and Bach…..lol. They play lots of stuff over and over and it gets stuck in my head. This particular song (which is one of said ear-worms) came to me when walking home after a fairly solid Kata class this morning (at my local dojo)…..I couldn’t help myself but change the lyrics just a little bit to relate it to my class.
PS: Just in case anyone thinks I am having a go at myself or anyone else, I really am not. I thought it was a great class….although I kind of lost count on how many “repeats” I did!!! My kata (and my coordination / memory / ability to incorporate changes) are all improving and I am actually really happy with the progress I have made (today and in the last 6 months)…..but there is always room for more improvement……I wrote a page of notes after class of stuff to work on.

I wish I had a team of “bus drivers” (for team kata) but sadly not to be this year 😦

GEKISAI ON REPEAT (AN ODE TO A 90 MINUTE KATA CLASS!)

I don’t know why it’s so difficult for me,
Showin’ you a kata I ought to know.
Well I’ve tried to get it right about a thousand times.
In my head, you just always say “no”.
  

And I don’t care a bit, I’ll watch Karate Kid.
It’ll make me who I really wanna be.
But I’m that kind of special person that thinks too much

And nobody understands me!

Everybody can train their body, everybody but me!

 Why can’t anybody just show me how to train my body?

I’m gonna lock myself inside my room
And just do Gekisai on repeat!

I thought if I could neaten up my stance,
It’d help me start and finish up the whole thing right,
But I hate to say I didn’t really stand a chance;
Now the strikes and blocks are out and my shoulders are too tight!

But I am hell bent, I’m in the tournament,

And I sure as hell don’t want to mess up!

So I’ll kiai and shout, and it’ll all work out.

And if it don’t I won’t let on and I will not fess up! 

Because you coordinate your body, just like everybody but me
Why can’t anybody just help me to train my body?
Everybody can train their body; everybody but me.
Why can’t anybody just show me how to move my body?
 

I’m gonna lock myself inside my room, and do Gekisai on repeat!! 

Because one day I will move my body, like everybody I see!
So that anybody watching me will see I’m somebody.
Because one day I will move my body, like everybody I see!
So that anybody watching me will see I’m somebody.
  

I’m gonna lock myself inside the dojo, doing Geki Sai on repeat!!!

The best pancakes in the world (according to my kids).

Felt in control this morning and managed to whip these up for the kids before heading off to training. They declared they were the best pancakes in the world. I managed to sneak one before they scoffed the lot….and actually they were pretty good. So before I forget what I put in them, I thought I should record it here. Sadly there was no time fore photos – they went almost quicker than I could make them but they just looked like regular pancakes. This recipe made about 12 pancakes which were about 15-20 cm diameter and yes that means my kids had at least 5 each!!!

INGREDIENTS:

2 large ripe bananas

1/3 cup each of buckwheat flour, besan (chickpea) flour and potato flour

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp baking powder

1 cup (approximately) soy or almond milk

METHOD

Place all ingredients into tall stick blender jug or in blender and blend until smooth.

Heat pan (medium) and spray with canola or coconut oil or other cooking spray of choice

place about 1/3 cup-fulls into fry pan and wait until bubbles form and edges start to look cooked.

Flip and cook briefly on the other side.

I ate mine plain and it was really nice and sweet. The kids had a little maple syrup on some and jam on some and others plain.

Muddy Puddle Porridge

This has become a post karate or post night walk snack / dessert for me of late and a favourite breakfast for Ms 4 (who gave the dish its name!). I haven’t posted a picture even though I just ate a bowl as it really does look like a muddy puddle!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/3 cup quick cooking oats
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2-3 tsp cocoa
  • 1 tsp peanut butter
  • 1 ripe banana
  • milk of choice to serve
  • optional add ins – tablespoon of sultanas or raisins, teaspoon of cinnamon, tablespoon of crushed peanuts or buckwheat groats.

METHOD

  • Put oats and water in a large bowl and microwave on high for 2 minutes (in our microwave which is 1100W I think).
  • Add in peanut butter and melt in, add in cocoa and banana and mash in roughly
  • Add optionals and milk to desired consistency.

Chick pea and vegetable curry

Once upon a time, before we had kids and when the garden was productive, my husband made me dinner. The stipulations were that it had to use up some of the tomato and basil. He went to “Chef Google” to ask for advice and found a recipe called gaeng kari tua. We both really liked it and started making it a fair bit.

We discovered it turned out to be number one child’s favourite meal once he started eating real food (as opposed to getting second hand curry from me 😉 ) and consequently almost every Monday this is on the menu in our house! I have significantly modified it. It is a hugely flexible recipe and I basically change up the veges to what I have and leave out what I don’t. I prefer to make this in a big batch in the slow cooker which makes about enough for 6 meals for our family when served with brown rice, cucumber / raita, fresh tomato, onion, coriander and mango chutney and of course “pakadums” (papadums).

INGREDIENTS

(This is what went into today’s batch)

  • 2/3 cup whole red lentils (split work fine) uncooked
  • 4 cups cooked chickpeas (canned are fine – use 4 cans)
  • 4 cloves crushed garlic
  • bunch of coriander stems and roots (finely chopped)
  • bunch parsley stalks (optional – I just didn’t want to waste them)
  • 4 heaped tablespoons curry powder (can use more if you like)
  • 8 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari (for GF) – or more or less to taste
  • 1 can coconut cream (if you like it creamier you can use 2 cans and reduce water by 1 cup or so)
  • 3 cups water (I used water I had boiled mushrooms in)
  • 5 carrots (in large dice)
  • 6 potatoes (in large dice)
  • about 4 cups celery leaves / tops roughly chopped
  • 8 tomatoes cut in wedges (about eighths is fine)

METHOD

Put everything in the stock pot (mine is a large oval one which I think is 5 litres)

Stir a bit.

Set on Auto and go to choir for a few hours. Sing nice songs and forget about the curry.

Come back and take the lid off to thicken sauce (on high) for 20 minutes if needed.

It’s ready now! This makes about 20-24 serves (if you are having things with it).

St Clement’s Cake

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Here is another childhood literary favourite. I wonder how many kids today know this song or if any actually know what it means. I actually made a point of visiting all these places on my travels.

Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement’s.

You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin’s.

When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.

When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.

When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.

I do not know,
Says the great bell of Bow.

Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!

Last night my yoga teacher gave me a bag of lovely oranges from her daughter’s tree and Orange you glad she did?

I am glad she did as it gave me inspiration for this cake (which is a variation of the lemon almond tea cake I posted earlier)……since I still have lemons too.

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Fancied it up with orange and lemon rind to top things off…..

PS The little cookies in the background are a variation of Bianca’s recipe from her blog wholefood simply. I made the original version here:  mix and make peanut butter cookies last time but this batch I used dates to sweeten the cookies and the filling and added cocoa to the filling……they are awesome, a little reminiscent of Kingstons…..and if you like peanut butter….I did a fudge recipe based on her peanut butter cups……my husband has had trouble restraining himself and the kids….well lets just say those heart shaped babies are on rationing!!!!

CAKE INGREDIENTS

  • 2 lots of almond pulp – ie 2 cups soaked almonds worth after making almond milk (or about 3 cups almond meal).
  • 1 1/3 cup pitted dates soaked for about an hour or longer in the zest and juice 3.5 large ripe juicy oranges and 1.5 large juicy lemons (see note re icing below)
  • 1/3 cup potato flour
  • 1/3 cup besan (chickpea flour)
  • 1/3 cup buckwheat flour
  • (or substitute 1 cup pre made gluten free flour for the flours listed)
  • 4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons flaxmeal
  • 2 tablespoons rice malt (or maple) syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 teaspoon lemon essence (optional)

ICING INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup pitted dates soaked in juice and rind or 1/2 ripe juicy lemon and 1/2 juicy orange (I soaked all the dates in all the citrus and just took some out for the icing)
  • 1/3 cup cashews
  • 1/2-3/4 cup dessicated coconut (or use 2 tablespoons coconut butter if you prefer a smoother result)
  • about 1/4 cup almond milk (to achieve thick spreadable consistency)

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to about 170 degrees (or a bit warmer if you have an oven that isn’t a dragon like mine).
  2. Line 2 small 10cm round tins and one 20cm tin with baking paper.
  3. Puree dates and juice / zest / essences and syrup. Put in large bowl and mix in all other ingredients until a thick batter is achieved.
  4. Smooth batter into prepared tins.
  5. Bake about 30 mins (or until skewer inserted in centre comes out clean)
  6. Cool on rack.
  7. While the cakes are baking, make the icing by putting all ingredients into stickmix blender attachment or mill or small food processor and blitz until smooth (adding water to thin as needed).
  8. Allow cakes to cool completely before applying icing.
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I got a bit fancy and did a layer cake…..even managed to slice it well…..has a really nice consistency!

Unsettling tears (An ode to Fudoshin and the benefit of hindsight)

Fudoshin: I need to find it and keep it with me at all times……not be distracted from the aim of the game!

We stood facing off at the edge of the ring,

Preparing ourselves for the fight,

I felt the excitement I usually feel,

You must have felt something wasn’t quite right.

It took me a while to notice,

But then when you dealt the first blow,

I was taken aback; no, not by the impact,

But your tears that had started to flow.

I assured you that I was not hurting,

I said I was fine to keep going.

You needed a minute to settle yourself,

Then I felt how unsettled I was growing.

We continued the bout when you came back,

But I’d lost my mindset by then,

I could think only of how you were feeling,

Before you attacked me again.

This time you kicked with less mercy,

I too preoccupied to deflect.

With a sting in my side, which I tried hard to hide,

We bowed out as friends; with respect.

I know I have learned several lessons,

Taken some hard knocks I still feel.

But I need to be able to hold it together,

Because one day this fight may be real.

Lemon almond tea cake

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Why is it if you get sold something bad they call it a “lemon”, anyway? Lemons are fantastic and ok I would prefer I get given lemons rather than sold them….but honestly, I can’t think of a single sour thing to say about them 😉 …..(not my best joke – apologies). Well, jokes aside, I am cruising through the lemons I got last weekend. I used another 5 this evening to make up this cake.

CAKE INGREDIENTS

  • 2 lots of almond pulp – ie 2 cups soaked almonds worth after making almond milk (or about 3 cups almond meal).
  • 1 cup pitted dates soaked for about an hour or longer in the zest and juice 4 large ripe juicy lemons
  • 1/3 cup potato flour
  • 1/3 cup besan (chickpea flour)
  • 1/3 cup buckwheat flour
  • (or substitute 1 cup pre made gluten free flour for the flours listed)
  • 4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons flaxmeal
  • 1 cup soy or almond milk or water
  • 2 tablespoons rice malt (or maple) syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 teaspoon lemon essence (optional)

ICING INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup pitted dates soaked in juice and rind or 1 ripe juicy lemon (I soaked all the dates in all the lemon and just took some out for the icing)
  • 1 tsp lemon essence (optional)
  • 1/3 cup cashews
  • 1/3 cup dessicated coconut (or use 2 tablespoons coconut butter if you prefer a smoother result)
  • 1 tablespoon rice malt syrup
  • about 1/4 cup water (to achieve thick spreadable consistency)

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to about 170 degrees (or a bit warmer if you have an oven that isn’t a dragon like mine).
  2. Line 2 small loaf tins (10cm x 30cm) and a 10cm round tin with baking paper.
  3. Puree dates and juice / zest / essences and syrup. Put in large bowl and mix in all other ingredients until a thick batter is achieved.
  4. Smooth batter into prepared tins.
  5. Bake about 30 mins (or until skewer inserted in centre comes out clean)
  6. Cool on rack.
  7. While the cakes are baking, make the icing by putting all ingredients into stickmix blender attachment or mill or small food processor and blitz until smooth (adding water to thin as needed).
  8. Allow cakes to cool completely before applying icing.

Gender Equality and Chivalry. What exactly are we striving for in the battle of the sexes?

Knights and Ladies
by A.A. Milne

There is in my old picture-book
A page at which I like to look,
Where knights and squires come riding down
The cobbles of some steep old town,
And ladies from beneath the eaves
Flutter their bravest handkerchiefs,
Or, smiling proudly, toss down gages…
But that was the Middle Ages.
It wouldn’t happen now; but still,
Whenever I look up the hill
Where, dark against the green and blue,
The firs come marching, two by two,
I wonder if perhaps I might
See suddenly a shining knight
Winding his way from blue to green-
Exactly as it would have been
Those many, many years ago…

Perhaps I might. You never know.

I used to perform this poem as a song when I was at school. I loved the poem as a child, loved it when I sang it, and still love it now. The meaning I draw from it has aged with me. OK….now you have visited a part of my literary upbringing, I will start getting to the point.

I remember one of the charming things I noticed about my husband when we first met, was that he opened doors for me ( and by that I mean in a literal sense). Noone had really done that for me before. No one had ever really treated me like a “lady”. Perhaps because I never felt like, acted like, or defined myself as one, or perhaps it was just because I had never met my “knight”.

At first I was suspicious. I thought he was doing it to make an impression. A good impression? Probably. A false impression? Possibly. Turns out I was wrong. It happens sometimes 🙂 ). We have now been together for fifteen and a half years, have been married for eleven and a half, and have two rambunctious beautiful kids. OK so my husband doesn’t always open doors for me now, as he’s often busy with the kids, but he does generally treat me with the same degree of reverence and respect he did then. I suppose he was brought up to be a gentleman, (whatever that actually means now), and I quietly hope that this will rub off on our son (and our daughter). Even if chivalry is dying, or out of fashion, it is, in my humble opinion a positive attribute to have, since in its essence it embodies courtesy, respect and consideration.

These days, I still don’t really define myself as a lady. I am just a person, trying to be the best person I can be, within the constructs of the society in which I live. I was brought up in a generation who were emerging from a “man’s world” and entering and exploring a brave new world of “gender equality”. I still remember a time when sexist advertising and sexist comedy were accepted and allowed on television (I even watched Benny Hill and the like). I am not so old that I remember women getting the vote or anything quite that significant. I do however remember when the words of the Australian National Anthem were changed from “Australian sons let us rejoice” to “Australians all, let us rejoice” when I was in primary school. More significantly I recall encountering / learning how to use “gender neutral” language in first year university (it was compulsory) and also when various religions, including the one I was brought up in, started ordaining women leaders.

Moving on to the present day though, I live in a world of supposed “equality” of the sexes. On closer inspection though, it still isn’t exactly an even playing field. OK so the current political climate probably doesn’t help matters, but no matter who is in power, it doesn’t seem to be women. Just look at what happened when we finally had a female Prime-minister (for 2 seconds). Yes…Not much really changed.

Is it taking us too long to move beyond the historical constructs of gender inequality (whatever that actually looked like)? How many generations will it take? How many of the current generations are still perpetuating male supremacy or female vulnerability? Is equality really an important thing to achieve? I don’t actually know the answer.

Is it unfair that in some places women are denied education? Absolutely. Is it ridiculous that men still get paid more for the same jobs in some contexts? Too right it is. Is it acceptable to gender stereotype jobs, kids, toys, colours (and so on)? Well I don’t think so, and yet it happens!  Should women have to be feminine and males masculine and dress accordingly or should they be subjected to ridicule for dressing how they like? No they should not.

But some other questions, are a bit stickier.

Is it fair that women can grow children and men can’t (at least not without medical interventions)? Is it fair that women have different bodies and body composition to men? Is it fair that some cultures accept that the genders have different (but “equally important”) roles? Can a man know what it is like to be in a woman’s shoes (and vice versa)? Are girl children and boy children just destined to like pink and dolls and blue and guns respectively (I use these examples simplistically) no matter how hard you try to bring them up exactly the same way?

And then there are more etiquette related questions like: Should men treat women with chivalry or should everyone just treat each other courteously and with respect? The age of chivalry is not yet quite dead, and I for one would strongly advocate for a gender neutralised version of its revival, before it dies out completely.

And let’s not forget humour: Should sexist humour be completely banned, or just contextually banned? Being the butt of jokes is not necessarily a lot of fun (unless perhaps you are making a joke about yourself). However, I personally, don’t like being made to feel like being a woman is somehow a disadvantage. Whilst in some circumstances, this may be the case (as in examples given above), within my frame of reference, it generally isn’t (or at least I don’t see it that way). In the company of friends I wouldn’t necessarily be rattled by a male friend telling a sexist joke. At work or in quasi professional circles, it doesn’t really feel so comfortable. When the joke implies that if I was a man I would somehow be superior to my current self, especially when told in a room full of men most of whom I don’t know (who politely laugh at the joke), I find myself a bit torn. I am not sure whether I should politely laugh with them or inwardly (or outwardly) laugh at the joker and at the absurdity of the “joke”.

So: Gender Equality and Chivalry. Do we need them? Can we have it both ways?

I used to consider myself, a bra burning feminist, (in the days where I actually needed a bra – haha…it’s ok to make fun of your own “bits” isn’t it???), but now I am caught; confused, and conflicted as to whether we should still be thinking about getting “even” or whether should just be embracing our differences and making use of them. And finally, whether we should be learning from each other to extend our current skill bases. We then wouldn’t need to fight for (or indeed about) supremacy or domination, or even about equality, but rather look for harmony and cooperation. This is a more yin and yang construct, if you will; two even but equally important parts which fit together exactly to complete the whole.

Face facts:  Fellas: you are never going to experience (first hand) what it is like to have PMS or to have a child kick inside you. I am never going to know what it feels like to get kicked in the nuts or to have the freedom to be able to urinate standing up (usually without having to wait in line to do so, even when in a public venue). Perhaps we all need to just accept this and move on.