Saturday, 22 May 2010

In The Kitchen: Muffin Tops!

Yes, muffin tops! But not that kind.
Boy came home from the supermarket earlier in the week with this:

Muffin top pan

Yes, indeed. It's the kind of kitsch kitchen gadget which makes you think to yourself, "why didn't I invent that when Seinfeld was still on, not ten years later?" Regrets aside, I used to be an avid muffin maker, so I dug out my old recipe and got going! I have a generic sweet and savoury muffin recipes that you can add any ingredients to and create different variations. Here is the sweet version:

3/4 c. self-raising flour
3/4 c. oat bran
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 c. brown sugar
OR equivalent of sugar substitute
pinch salt
1/2 c. plain yoghurt
1/4 c. milk
2 tbls butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg, beaten lightly

In a bowl stir together the flour, oat bran, sugar, baking powder, salt and any other dry ingredients.
In another bowl whisk together the yoghurt, milk, butter, egg and any other wet ingredients (including fruits).
Stir the yoghurt mixture into the flour mixture and stir the batter briefly until it is just combined.
Place the batter in a greased 6-cup muffin tin, dividing it evenly, and bake the muffins at 180oC for 25 minutes or until browned.

The mixture.

Today I added:

1 banana, mashed
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup milk chocolate bits

(I also used 1 cup plain flour and 1/2 cup wholemeal flour as I didn't have any oat bran. You can really faff around a lot with this recipe - it's very forgiving.)

One large tablespoon of mixture in each 'top' seems to do the trick:

Raw mixture in the pan.

As they're half the size of traditional muffins, this recipe makes 2 batches, a total of 12. They don't need as long in the oven as traditional muffins, either. I baked them for 15 minutes. The tops were just browned and the choc bits gooey. Mmmmm!

Cooked muffin tops

I love Muffin Tops! There are almost infinite variations in flavour. (I made up about 12 different flavours in my old baking days.) I can wrap one up and slip it in my handbag without worrying that it's going to get crushed. They're a smaller snack for those who are health conscious. And you can easily turn one upside down and spread butter on it as if it were toast if you're not so health conscious.

I think we may be seeing more Muffin Tops at La Cucina de la Apartmentcat soon!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

A Conversation With My Body

I started reading The Gabriel Method by Jon Gabriel last night. Yes, it's a weight loss book. I know what you're thinking! These things need to be read with a large dose of scepticism. I'm only up to Chapter 2, but I had to pause to take things in a bit. Chapter 1 talked about being friends with your body, working with it and not hating it. This sounded kinda interesting, so I thought I'd have a conversation with my body:

My Brain: Halloooo, body! Hello! Have I got your attention? Hi!

My Body: *suspiciously* Hi.....

My Brain: I know this is a bit strange and different for you - it is for me too - but I'd like to sit down and have a chat with you and get to know you really well, so that we can get along better together.

My Body: Well, we are sitting relaxing and doing nothing right now, which is really nice and is something we hardly ever get to do together, so .... all right. What do you want to know?

My Brain: How are you?

My Body: *surprised* You really want to know?

My Brain: Yes! Please tell me.

My Body: Well, seeing as you asked, I'm tired, stiff and a bit grumpy!

My Brain: I'm sorry to hear that. Is that because of when we fell over and hurt ourselves last week?

My Body: Mostly. That was a big shock for me. It's taking me a while to recover. I hope you're patient with me while I heal. I'd like to say thanks for taking me to the Chiropractor straight after it happened. It really helped a lot.

My Brain: Yes, we really needed that. I'm starting to learn that it's OK to get what I need, for all of us. So tell me, Body, what do you want?

My Body: Hmmm ... brazil nuts! And dried apricots! The ones without that stuff on them that makes them taste funny. And yoghurt with banana and seeds sprinkled on top. Yum! And lots and lots and lots of water! Roasted vegetables with herbs and a little olive oil are good too. And the soup you made for us last week was delicious!

My Brain: Aw, thank you! But ... but I thought you wanted to eat chocolate and chips and pudding with cream?

My Body: Hmmm ... no. Not really. It's you that wants to eat those things. When you get really stressed. You already know that! And speaking of stress, please try to stress less. I know you have that anxiety thing, but it really hurts me when you get all worked up about things that will probably never happen. My heart starts thumping and I can't breathe properly. All I want to to is jump up and run away, and you're telling me to sit there and do nothing while you're also telling me that something really bad is happening. It's pretty scary for me. And when it keeps happening over and over, my whole body gets tense, I feel sick and my adrenalin gets all out of whack I don't know what I'm supposed to do!

My Brain: Wow, I'm getting anxious just thinking about all of that! What am I doing to myself!? Wow, I'm really ruining my body! I'm gonna die young of a stress-related disease!!

My Body: Whoa, now, calm down! This is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about. Get me to take a couple of deep breaths. .... that's it ... do you feel better now?

My Brain: Wow, I really do. Thanks! So you have things to teach me as well. I'm really learning from this experience. So is there anything else you need, my lovely body?

My Body: More compliments, please! I want to feel loved! And.... well, do we really have to go to work and sit in a stuffy building doing nothing for so many hours each day?

My Brain: I'm sorry sweetie, but I'm afraid we do. I know that you're sitting there doing nothing, but I'm working hard during that time. We have to work so we can get money to buy all the things we need to keep us alive, happy and healthy.

My Body: Money? What's that?

My Brain: Ummm, never mind. Can I ask you some questions about yourself, Body?

My Body: Sure, fire away!

My Brain: Well, I've been doing a lot of research on Low GI foods. Will switching to a Low GI diet be of great benefit for us? I read that Selenium stimulates the thyroid gland and may assist with weight loss. Do you want some of that? Apparently Resveratrol is anti-ageing and Chromium reduces cravings for sweet food. Would it help you if we took those? Do you like the Liver Tonic we've been taking? Is that helping you? Why do we have Ulcerative Colitis? Why are your cuticles always ragged? Why do your feet smell? WHY??

My Body: *laughs* Oh brain, you're so .... brainy! I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. All I can tell you is when I'm hungry, when I'm thirsty, when I'm tense and when I'm tired. And that will just have to do.
Hey, remember the time we went to Japan? We got up at whatever time we just happened to wake up, we spent all day walking (yay!). We ate whatever I wanted, just whenever I was hungry. And you loved it too because you got to learn all those new things. And ApartmentCat loved it because it was so inspiring for her! That was the best time ever! Why can't we do that all the time??

ApartmentCat: Yeah!! I want to be on holiday all the time so I can spend all my time painting and writing and making cosies for things!

My Brain: *sighs* I wish we could do that all the time too. But life's not like that.

My Body: But I've got to have something! I want to go for walks ... and do yoga! I really, really want to do yoga! You keep saying we will and then we never do! It's not fair!

My Brain: I'm sorry, Body. I'm sorry that I'm always so tired after work and I can't give you the things you want and need. I'm sorry that I blame you for being stiff and tired when it's really nobody's fault. Is there anything else that concerns you?

My Body: Yes, I need more sleep! We always stay up late. You tell yourself it's because you're doing art and craft, but you're really just watching TV or playing computer games. It makes me tired and even less likely to want to do things the next day.

ApartmentCat: Yeah, what's the go with that?! We hardly ever do art and craft anymore because we're always so tired! I get so bored and frustrated and it sucks!

My Brain: You're both completely right. I want to give you both everything you need to be happy and healthy. Instead of being the one that's always in charge, I'm going to ask you what you want to do, body.

My Body: I want some exercise. I'd like to go for a walk today at lunch time.

My Brain: I don't know about that. ApartmentCat and I were going to sit at my desk and watch YouTube videos at lunch time.

My Body: Oh, pleeeeeease! It will be great! While I'm doing my thing, you can listen to podcasts and ApartmentCat can look at all of the beautiful autumn leaves and get inspired. And I guarantee that we'll feel great afterwards because I'll have you release some endorphins for us!

ApartmentCat: I know! Instead of "exercise" we can call it "Body Time"! That sounds a lot more fun!

My Brain: That's a great idea!

My Body: Oh... can I have Body Time every day? Please, please!

My Brain: Of course! It'll be fun!

My Body: Yay!

My Brain: Oh, I feel like I've made a new friend! I think I'm going to cry! Group hug, everyone!

ApartmentCat: Eugh! That's so cheesy!

My Brain: Emotions are part of who I am, you know. I need you guys to accept me the way I am as well!

ApartmentCat: This is great stuff! We should write this down!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

The Big Reveal

I've decided to change the name of my blog. I've had my blog since 26th May 2004, which is quite an extraordinarily long time on the Intertubes! I've changed a lot in the last 6 years, and I've been unhappy with the old name for a while now. "The Barely Competent Knitter" just doesn't suit me anymore. Negative Nancy ruled the roost back then. It represents a past that I want to leave behind. Even the subtitle which I added a few years later - "A Work In Progress" - is only slightly better. Aside from that, I do a whole lot more than knit now! (I was going to put "just" knit, but we all know you can't describe knitting that way.)

I wracked my brain to try and think of a name that would encompass my passion, my multiplicity of interests, my child-like (and sometimes childish!) glee in discovering new things, and possibly even my tendency to remain anonymous and shy away from meeting new people (a few titles had the word 'hermit' worked into them). I googled all the names I liked and they were already taken! Darnnit! Yes, I'm vain enough to want a blog with a unique name. Besides, it's less confusing.

I let the matter sit on the backburner for a few weeks. Then I had a dream. It's well known that when other people talk about their dreams it's interminably boring, so I'll keep it short. I was on a cruise ship (why, I don't know, but it was fun!). There was some kind of trade conference on and I was there to show off my wares. The place was a-buzz with crowds and colour. There were lots of people waiting to see my crafts, my art and my writing. One thing was missing though. I didn't have a way to display them - I needed a table to put them on. I tried everything to get a-hold of one, but I couldn't beg, borrow or steal a table! I even tried pretending to be a buyer for Ikea, but no deal! The dream ended with frustration and disappointment.

At first I had no idea what this dream meant or if it was significant. Then I realised what it was trying to tell me - I am the table! A table is the best thing ever because you can put whatever you want on it: a pretty tablecloth and a delicious meal, a box full of paints and a blank canvas, a writing pad and a pen, a shabby chic vase with a single rose in it or even a bunch of self-help books. The possibilities are endless! And a table is a place to create and share and accomplish things. So, yes. I am a table. And my blog will be called this. If you're reading my blog raw (not in a reader) you'll be able to see that there's a new banner up there ^^ and a little blurb about the name over there >> .
[Edit: I have since shortened my blurb and added a link to this post.]

When I made the decision, here's how the conversation in my head went:

ApartmentCat: I'm so excited! I'm going to change the name of my blog to I'm a Table!

Negative Nancy: What are you, crazy? That's a stupid name! It doesn't even make sense!

ApartmentCat: Yeah, but I don't make sense! So who cares!

Negative Nancy: You're crazy! And a weirdo!

ApartmentCat: No I'm not, I'm a creative, wonderful person!

Negative Nancy: Ach, whatever. Go ahead. But you'll regret it in a few months.

ApartmentCat: Nyer!

We all know that Negative Nancy is a stupid-head anyway!
So there'll be some changes around here. I don't know what form they will take yet; we'll see. Watch this space! (Watch this table?!)

Sunday, 2 May 2010


Well, bless my sodden aunt! I've finished an art journal page!

I don't really want to make too much of a fanfare over it because, quite frankly, it's not really that good. But it's finished, and that's what's giving me the sense of achievement. It was one of the Perennially Unfinished pages I featured a few posts ago. (It's the fourth picture down, if you're clicking.)

Here it is in finished style:

The Drabble. Acrylic paints, felt tip pens, gel pen, chalk pen, deco tape, masking tape, scrap cardboard, lolly wrapper, words.

Since we last saw it, I painted some white and black egg shapes on it using the pre-cut holes in Easter egg packaging as a template (serendipity right there!). I took to it with some sandpaper to give it a more aged, grungy look. You can see that best right next to the spine on the left page. I stencilled on the word 'art' using a stencil I made from masking tape a la Karen Michel's book. Then I went at it with my beloved Sakura Gelly Roll pens, creating borders, filling in the eggs with doodles and and generally just having fun. I could have added more, but then I decided to stop and declare it finished.

To me this is a transitionary page. (Is that a word? Well, it is now!) I can see myself evolving in it. It wasn't planned, the composition is pretty wonky, the background colours are ones I wouldn't' normally use, the text I wrote myself and the stencil and doodle elements are new for me. I did some crazy stuff on it that I didn't think would work - but it's turned out quite well. I like it.