Learning-blocks and learning blocks

Karate. I love it. It isn’t easy for me, but part of what I love is the struggle. After all, if it is something you love, why would you not have to, or indeed want to fight (pun intended) for it?

I know eventually things will fall into place, become more automatic, not feel difficult and so cognitive every time. I had to accept that fact on faith at the start, but as time has passed, I have seen it happen; I have felt it happen. At first, pretty much everything was difficult, felt foreign or un-natural to me. I always seemed to turn the wrong way or use the wrong arm or get things out of sequence. Now there are many things I can do with less thought, and in a more fluid or applied context. My body seems to cooperate more often than it used to, and my conciousness feels more part of the movement somehow, (rather than feeling like an outsider trying to programme a somewhat faulty robot to move).

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, given my initial analysis), there have been certain techniques that I have found particularly difficult to get my head (and wrap my limbs) around. A very good example of this would have to be Mawashi Uke (round-house block). I first came across this technique learning my first kata, Sanchin. It has reared it’s scary head made an appearance in several other kata I have had the pleasure of being exposed to since.

To add further confusion to the mix, before I had mastered the basic technique in my first style, I started training in another style which has 2 distinct versions of the block, neither of which are quite the same as the one I was initially attempting to learn. That concept, in and of itself, was difficult for me to understand at first.

Anyway, I practised and practised; in the mirror, in the shower, opening doors, against walls, in bunkai, in the kata.  I thought it was starting to look something like it was meant to, and it felt like I was doing the right thing…..and yet every time I did it in class in my kata, particularly in one of the next ones I learned, (Geki Sai dai ni)…..it evidently wasn’t right at all :(.

I had a lot of feedback on it (some fairly constructive, and some less so),  many demonstrations and even hands-on correction, to the point where even I could tell that I was doing it all wrong. Somehow though, my body refused to cooperate and my mind was just totally confused; I just couldn’t seem to get it right at all. I felt bad about that, and I felt frustrated, that despite my best efforts, and all my practice, I still didn’t seem to be getting anywhere.

I (and perhaps even my Sensei also 🙂 ) was nearly at the point of throwing my hands in the air (rather than moving them in purposeful circles, as the name of the block suggests), and was at the point of beating myself up over why I should have such a learning-block about my seeming inability at learning this block, when, there appeared on this dimly lit part of my path, a glimmer of light, that helped me find my way, and (both literally and figuratively) “turn things around”. Someone important mentioned that “actually that particular block is pretty complex”. That small acknowledgement helped me persist.

This did not mean I got it right straight away. Oh No! I said “glimmer of light” not “bolt from the blue”. The remark was probably some 6 months ago! At that point I had been fairly consistently getting it wrong for 12 months. Trying to unlearn bad habits is sooooo much harder than learning something from scratch. The point is though, it helped me be open again to the idea that eventually it would come to me. Patience and practice were all that was between me and mawashi uke.

Today in class I had the opportunity to spend some quality time on one version of the block. I got to have it really slowed down for me, got to watch it, try it, repeat it, work it both sides, apply it, all without pressure, without an audience (except my teacher) and without anyone judging me (especially myself). As a result, I now feel comfortable that I am more or less doing it the right way, at least enough to incorporate it into the kata(s) it fits into. Sure, automation will probably mean I still default to old (incorrect) patterns for a while, but, with enough practice, I will be able to overcome this. It felt really good to be able to self correct when practising at home tonight.

I still have the other 2 versions of this block to conquer, and in time will also need to progress to more advanced ways of doing them all. The main thing is that I now have some sort of foundation and frame work, and nothing in my way. And now that I can more confidently use the version of Mawashi Uke I “got” today, any further learning blocks can be effectively grabbed and pushed aside!

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Half a year older and perhaps half a year wiser.

I have been writing this blog for 6 months it seems. I guess it’s become a habit now. I started this blog as a way of communicating recipes and random thoughts that were too big or too complex for other forms of social media. I had thought about doing it for a while but was always too busy. It was kick started (pun intended) when I had some enforced time on my backside due to breaking my toe at training. Some of the people who know me well enough will even have figured out why and how I chose my pen name. 😉

From humble beginning (a pancake recipe I made up for my kids) to a serve of humble pie (when I took some posts down from public view due to them being potentially inflammatory), it was, and still is, “a work in progress”, as am I.

I know I have a few followers and I do appreciate it when people like or comment on my posts but I didn’t intend this to be any sort of popularity contest; my primary aim was to have an outlet to write. My better half’s quad-copter channel on you tube is far more popular than my quirky blog (it’s actually pretty funny really 🙂 ), which remains an eclectic mix of “weird” recipes, karate experiences and general reflections on lifestyle and life in general. It is more of an on-line journal and recipe book for me. Some posts are private, so that only I can read them, but other things I am happy to share with anyone interested.

That said I am happy to consider requests on what people would like to see more of or less of, or general thoughts / likes and dislikes, so feel free to contact me or comment if you wish. At this stage I am planning to continue to post when the mood strikes.

Thanks for visiting me and I hope to see you again soon.

Easy-as ABC Crumble (slow cooker)

We like our abbreviations in this house. And we like things that are easy to make and delicious to eat, especially with still not much of a kitchen. Hence “EASY-AS ABC CRUMBLE” was born. You can have crumble without an oven…..YAY!!! Of course you could cook this in the oven if you like…..but the fruit was so delicious done in the slow cooker I am not sure that I would!

Fruit layer:

  • 6 apples (I used 5 large granny smiths and 1 medium fuji), chopped in chunks
  • 6 medium bananas, sliced
  • About 1/2 cup custard powder (I used up what I had left) – could use vanilla essence and a bit of tapioca flour instead
  • tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest

Topping:

  • Almond pulp from 2 cups almonds (made into almond milk) – about 3 cups of pulp
  • about 3 cups quick oats
  • 1 cup dates covered in boiling water to soak for 15 minutes (and the soaking water)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil.

Method:

  1. Combine fruit, custard power (or flour and vanilla), cinnamon and lemon zest in slow cooker making sure the custard powder or flour is absorbed into the fruit.
  2. Make the crumble but blitzing the dates to a purée, adding water as needed, add spices zest oats and almond pulp and combine. Add melted coconut oil to mix in. Add the rest of the soaking water as needed to form a damp crumbly mixture.
  3. Spread mix over fruit and pat down gently.
  4. Put tea towel over slow cooker pot and put lid on over the top.
  5. Cook on high for 2 – 2.5 hours.

So that’s how the slow cooker Crumbles! (Apple pear and raspberry crumble)

Miss 4.5 and I decided to make some crumble today since it was cold, and since although we now do actually have an oven, there is a technical hitch…..it is still in the box and the plug to plug it into does not exist yet…..although since the crumble we have a shelf for it to go in :)…..progress. Also the first attempt at slow cooker crumble (which I will also finish posting) was pretty damn nice.

I ate three helpings of this when I got home from karate (have I ever mentioned that training makes me absolutely ravenous!!??)….without drawing breath or taking out the phone camera…..so yes it was really good!!

So before I forget what we put into it:

INGREDIENTS:

FRUIT LAYER:

  • 5  apples (I used 4 granny smith and 1 fuji), chopped in chunks
  • 2 pears (I used packham), chopped in chunks
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries (would work equally well with other berries too)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon lemon rind
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca flour (arrowroot)

CRUMBLE:

  • 1 cup of dates soaked in water to cover (boiling water works better if in a hurry – soak about 15 mins while you prep the fruit is my tip)
  • 3 cups almond pulp (ie 2 cups almonds which have been soaked and turned into almond milk)
  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 3/4 cup dessicated coconut
  • 2 teaspoons melted coconut butter
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger

METHOD:

Combine fruit, spices, lemon rind, vanilla and flour in the slow cooker making sure flour is mixed into the fruit.

Blitz dates and a little soaking water in food processor and gradually add rest of the soaking water as needed. Add in almonds, spices and coconut and mix well and then oats and coconut butter pulsing until combined. Add a little more water if needed. Should be crumbly consistency which is a little damper than traditional crumble toppings.

Put crumble layer on top of fruit and pat down gently.

Put a tea towel over the slow cooker pot and put the lid on. Cook on high for 2 – 2.5 hours until it smells really nice through the house and you can’t wait any more!

Enjoy warm (if you can wait that long or have karate first!) or hot. Plain or with whatever accompaniments float your boat. Mr 6.5 recommends blueberry yoghurt!

Serves about 10-12 (except if you are a karate mum and eat 3 bowls of it in which cakes it serves 7.)

Black Sticky Rice – with green tea ice cream, black sesame ice cream and coconut cream

INGREDIENTS (serves about 6-8)

  • 1.5 cups black glutinous rice (available at Asian supermarkets for about $5-6 AUD for 1 kg bag)
  • 1 x 400 mL can coconut milk or cream (you will use some in rice and some to serve and some in ice cream if you want to serve it with that too….there will still be some left over to have in a smoothie or hot drink too.)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla essence
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar or any other sweetener of choice (more or less to taste – I prefer less personally)

METHOD

  1. Rinse and soak rice in some water for about 12-24 hours.
  2. Drain rice and put in medium pot with 1/2 cup coconut milk / cream and 2 cups water.
  3. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 30 minutes until thick and creamy.
  4. Add vanilla, cinnamon and coconut sugar to taste.
  5. Allow to cool slightly and serve with ice cream (see links below) / drizzle of coconut cream.
  6. Can refrigerate and reheat rice as desired – keeps for about a week.

Black sesame icecream – I also added some coconut cream to the mix (just enough to make it mix more quickly – you don’t need to but it is nice and helps the consistency of left overs when frozen)

Green tea ice cream

The empty handed way for the person with their hands full.

TIME. It’s that finite window we have to fit in everything we want or need to do in life. We break it up into bite size chunks: Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years; morning, afternoon, evening; summer, autumn, winter, spring; meal times, bed time, time to wake up.

When babies come along, there are added routines and more things to fit in the same amount of time: nap time, feed time, play time, nappy free time, bath time,  story time, bed time. As the babies start to grow up a bit there is kindy time, school time, term time, reading time, holiday time……

Honestly I can’t understand how I ever thought I was busy before I had 2 small people to consider, whose individual ideas about time-frames often significantly conflict with my own! How much of my 20’s and early 30’s did I waste doing nothing or on time wasting activities? Who knows?….what’s done is done.

Somehow, regardless of how much time I need to take care of basics and keep the wheels turning (which is fairly significant considering I work part time for money and full time as a parent with all that entails), I still have time for other things, like making music, spending time with family and friends, exercising, blogging, sleeping, and and lots of other things besides.

Fact is, I am busy. I have a very full life. My life is full on most of the time, but that’s how I roll!

Am I too busy to train karate, or more appropriately, to incorporate or “live and breathe” karate? In theory, it would appear so. My hands are pretty full, literally and or figuratively, to live “the empty handed way”. So how can I (without the use of JK Rowling inspired magic) fit in up to 9 hours of dojo training, 5 hours of associated travel and a reasonable amount of practice in between?

I would like to say that I make time, but that is physically impossible (as useful as it would be to have an extra few hours in a day!!), but it is a simple matter of prioritising, preparing and occasional power-napping!

And when I am busy and literally have my hands full? I use what is free. Standing at the sink (I have one again now!!!) doing dishes = practising kata in my head. Brushing my teeth = practice shikodachi or other stances. Can’t get to sleep at night = practice breathing. Need a stretch break at work = practice stretches / warm up exercises / blocks. It’s amazing how many ways there are to open a door (with feet or hands) that incorporate something useful that needs practice! And it is a personal challenge to see how many kata I can fit into the 3 minutes it takes for my lunch to heat up! (And yes….how many strange looks I get from people passing the staff room while I am doing so….at work…..)

The fact of the matter is that when something is that important to you, be it Karate, yoga, meditation or whatever else floats your boat, then that’s what you do. So I don’t make excuses, I just do it. Even if I feel ‘meh’ at the start of a class or don’t feel like getting off the couch to practice at home. I. Just. Do. It. And I keep on doing it, and I hope to keep on keeping on until my time is up.

Time. Our life time is limited. We are born, we live, and we die. I want to reach my last second, knowing for certain that I have achieved my goals and run the best race I could between the start and the finish line.

Jaffa mud cake with jaffa ganache icing.

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I may not have an oven at present, but I have a mum close by who has one. I also had an excuse to bake. A friend of mine is celebrating a big birthday tomorrow and she’s been sick and having a bit of a rough time lately. I know she likes chocolate and I know chocolate is supposed to be a healer of many things.

On Monday the tilers came to do the floor. It was noisy and really dusty so I packed a box of things I needed and got Ms 4.5 in the car and headed around to Mum’s to bake.

Here is what I came up with. It is based on a flour-less chocolate cake recipe I had veganised in the past but this time with a citrus twist.

(makes 2 x 20cm – for sandwiching together and 1×10 cm cake) – Serves about 16-20.

CAKE 

  • 3 cups dates soaked in boiling water to just cover for 15 mins (reserve water for use with the flax)
  • 6 cups almond pulp (about 4 cups almonds made into almond milk will leave this)
  • 4 heaped teaspoons flax meal mixed with 16 tablespoons date soaking water (once cooled)
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda or GF baking powder
  • orange zest (about 3 teaspoons – depends how orangey you like it)
  • juice of one large orange
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 1 cup cocoa

ICING / FILLING

  • 1 cup dates soaked in boiling water to just cover for 15 mins
  • 1/4 cup cocoa (more or less to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest (depending on how orangey you like it)
  • juice of one orange
  • 1 teaspoon melted coconut butter

METHOD

Preheat oven to low (this cake cooks slowly and will burn on the outside before it is cooked if you are not careful). I would suggest 160 degrees Celsius in fan forced or 175 degrees in standard oven.

For Cake:

  1. Drain dates and purée using a little water from soaking or the orange juice to assist.
  2. Combine flax and water and let stand for about 5 minutes.
  3. In large food processor (or mixing bowl) combine all ingredients until mixed completely.
  4. Scrape into baking paper lined tins, pressing into sides, and flatten tops with lightly dampened fingers or spatula.
  5. Bake about 60 mins (checking every 10 mins after 30 mins) until cakes slightly cracked on top and skewer inserted in centre comes out clean.
  6. Cool in tins for 15 mins or so and then carefully lift out onto cooling rack.

For icing:

  1. While cakes are cooking, drain dates and purée using a little water and the orange juice.
  2. Add the other ingredients and blend well until smooth and glossy.
  3. Put in the fridge to firm up a little.

Assembly and storage:

When cakes are cool, level as needed (or cut in layers for small cake), sandwich together with icing and ice top (and sides if desired).

Store in fridge. Should keep for a week, (if you don’t eat it before that!!). Cake will freeze as will icing but best to freeze separately and assemble when you want to use it in that case.

Set a high bar and reach for that star (Part 2)

Last night was the final (for me) of a series of 4 workshops run by visiting instructors. There is a final workshop tonight just for instructors and black / brown belt students. I suspect that will also be fantastic (though way out of my league)!

All the workshops run over the last 3 weeks have been amazing. I learned a lot of new things and got to build on some other skills which were more familiar. I got to see new ways of teaching, feel out new ways of learning and work within a huge group of enthusiastic and spirited participants. I also learned some more about myself as a person and as a learner. I also got to see my 6 year old take part in his first seminar last night, which was almost as special for me as it was for him.

Without going into specific details of exactly what we did at each workshop I would like to share some personal highlights.

  1. Being able to almost keep up with learning the pattern of a very difficult kata without throwing my hands in the air or freaking out.
  2. Being able to understand and see some of the bunkai before it was explained due to seeing patterns from other kata.
  3. Keeping up with the kihon and ido and getting most of the pre arranged drills correct after one or 2 goes.
  4. Not feeling out of place even when I was probably way out of my depth.
  5. Socialising with like minded individuals at varying stages of their journey and sharing / hearing stories about training and other parts of their lives.

These are highlights for me because a year ago I would not have managed any of this. It gave me a sense of personal development and general improvement in the context of being in a room full of people who were mostly further along the road (ie being able to see what I need to aspire to).

On a more personal level I learned some other things:

  1. I can and do learn best when challenged to work beyond what I think I am capable of.
  2. I am strong, determined and won’t give up.
  3. I naturally am accepting and respect others but in return, I need to feel accepted and respected in order to feel comfortable in a learning environment.
  4. I can detach myself and be objective without over-thinking reasons for why things are as they are, to help myself to overcome difficult or uncomfortable situations.
  5. I feel a strong sense of pride in seeing my son develop his confidence, concentration and achievement.

So, onward and upward to the next challenge. This year has another quarter to go and there is a lot going to be happening. Bring it!! Osu!

Mummy Burgers

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20150816_175738[1] Top: Burgers cooling on the tray in mum’s kitchen. Bottom: View on the way home from using my mum’s kitchen for the afternoon while she was out. We live around the next bend but this is my favourite part of the (short) drive home.

My mum used to make burgers when we were growing up. Of course that was when I was omnivorous (how I was brought up). Burgers are a favourite with my own family but I do them a bit differently these days…..and they continue to evolve and change depending on what comes to hand.

These burgers are vegan and easily adapted to being completely gluten free and nut free with a few tweaks. I make mine vegan with either home made tahini cheeze or this time with a vegan cheeze I found at the supermarket (personally I think home made is nicer and won’t buy the over processed soy cheese again I don’t think) and serve on large cos lettuce leaves instead of a bun. My husband and kids like them served on the home made rolls I make. My husband and son like cheese and a fried egg with theirs and my daughter likes just melted cheese.  We all have our own particular condiments. I like dijon mustard and sriracha (chilli / garlic sauce), my husband likes smokey barbecue and the kids like barbecue and tomato sauce. Our go to salads include avocado, grated carrot, eskal dill pickles (or homemade dill pickles if we have), tomato, and red onion.

This is today’s recipe but they aren’t always exactly the same as this.

Makes 40 burgers (which can be frozen for when you want them).

  • 500gm silken tofu
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari (for GF)
  • 2 massel stock cubes
  • 4 carrots (zucchini also works well….you can pretty much smuggle any veg you want in and the kids will be none the wiser…..hehehe!)
  • leafy bits and small stems celery from a bunch of celery (about 4 cups or so).
  • green parts of a bunch of spring onions (or one brown onion)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tin lentils
  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • 1 cup walnuts (can use pumpkin / sunflower seeds for nut free)
  • 2 teaspoons LSA (can use linseed meal for nut free – normally use but couldn’t find in the not kitchen!!)
  • 4 cups (approx) quick oats (enough to make the mixture sticky). NOTE:You can use a combination of cooked rice or quinoa and quinoa flakes for a GF version which works fine – I actually like the cooked rice in it better than the oats personally.

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees (this was mum’s fan forced one as I currently do not have oven facilities at home).

  1. Get a very large bowl or pot to mix the mixture in.
  2. First food process the spring or normal onion and celery until liquid. Add to the mixing pot.
  3. Grate or process the carrots (or zucchini) to finely grated or very small pieces. Add to the mixing pot.
  4. Process the tofu, stock, soy or tamari, LSA or linseed meal, onion and garlic powder until creamy and combined. Add to the mixing pot and stir into the pulverised vegetables.
  5. Process the nuts or seeds until small chunks are the biggest bits. Add to the mixing pot.
  6. Process the drained legumes together lightly (if you want a few whole ones leave some out of the processor). Add to the mixing pot and combine with the rest of the ingredients.
  7. If using cooked rice or quinoa you may want to process this a little first and add in. If using oats just add enough to make a sticky but mouldable mixture. I found about 4 cups of oats is about right. 4 cups of cooked rice or quinoa is probably fine too with a little quinoa flakes.
  8. Let stand for about 10 minutes to let the oats sog up some of the moisture.
  9. Cover 4 oven trays with baking paper.
  10. Form mix into 40 burgers (about 5 cm diameter or so). Small handfuls are the ticket.
  11. Place on trays.
  12. Bake about 20 mins one side. Flip and bake 10 mins on other side. Burgers should be crisp and slightly brown on the outside and firm in the middle.
  13. Cool on rack for freezing or refrigeration or eat straight away. These reheat well in the microwave or a pan or on the barbecue.