17. Stop Making Excuses (or at least find better ones)

This one was prompted by a recent comment asking if I had turned forty yet. Yes I have, hence the hiatus; what is the point of continuing the blog if the main premise is no longer relevent? My excuse hinged on a single preposition which, in a title, isn’t even capitalised. Furthermore, until relatively recently, I wouldn’t have even been able to identify as a preposition (although I still had the sneaking suspicion about it not being capitalised). Never one to let a deadline stand in the way (prospective employers – please disregard), I am once again going to continue with the list and the blog (prospective employers read: committed) – at least until I find a better excuse. In the meantime, I’ve a loaf of bread to bake.

Number 8 – Learn to Salsa cont.

Now in my second week of dance classes, I have learned a few things:

First – three moves of a salsa routine, not in succession but at key points when we are all facing the mirror. This is the single most important time to get the moves right. Most of the time I can bounce and turn any way as long as it’s in time to the music, and no-one is any the wiser (including and especially myself).

Second – I can blame part of my difficulty in learning a dance routine on my lack of any sense of direction. My inability to differentiate left from right, without simulating a writing motion, is a hinderance to the split-second timing it requires to put the correct foot forward or behind (which I forget in all the confusion). This motion can often be incorporated into the routine itself, however, I have no sooner worked out which foot goes where, under the basic direction of left, than the instructor switches it to right. It’s not so bad — I am in a class for beginners, although I do believe there should, perhaps, be a remedial class for those of us with little co-ordination. I am not the only one, but we are a minority.

Third – I will never learn to jive. This became apparent after fifteen minutes when, what took two minutes to do in real time, when put to music, was reduced to only two bars.

Fourth – Contemporary is the most forgiving of dance styles and I can almost bluff my way through this one as long as I get the drop-and-roll right.

Fifth – What you thought you could hide becomes glaringly obvious when the class is divided in two, and half becomes the audience.

Number 8 – Learn to Salsa

I have now signed up for six weeks of unlimited dance classes.

My experience in dance is somewhat limited to dancing around to Barry Manilow’s greatest hits and Grease in my mother’s white PVC boots on the back porch, pretending to be Olivia Newton-John or the newest member of Young Talent Time. Skip to drunken nights out with a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other, trying to keep an eye out for my friend who may well leave me for the guy she’s snogging in the corner – with the odd dance class thrown in.

Last night, in preparation, I practised Just Dance on the Wii.  For those unfamiliar with this game, it involves following an animated dancer through a routine, during which you are given an indication of your skill such as good, bad or okay and awarded various stars (or not) depending on how well you have done. This is determined using a hand-held device reminiscent of  the alcoholic beverages of my earlier days. At the end of each routine, you receive a score and are awarded an overall rating such as ‘smooth’, ‘energetic’ and ‘wild’.

After trying to follow Jazzy dance to Jai Ho eight times I am, at worst, ‘lazy’ and, at best, ‘creative’ in my dance, which I interpret in the same way I would a friend’s comment about a new haircut being ‘different’.

Somewhat discouraged by the following Just Dance review:

While the lack of true dance coaching may be frustrating, players will quickly realize that the choreography break-down is not really necessary here.  The choreography has some complex moves, yes, but the same moves are repeated throughout the song, allowing you to learn it over time.  If you don’t catch it the first few times, you’re almost guaranteed to have the moves memorized in the third play-through of any given song.

(remember, I did perform the same routine eight times);

I have, however, found a little loophole which could see me crossing this one off:

If you like dancing to the beat of your own drum, the Just Create mode is perfect for you!  In Freestyle, it allows you to create your own choreography for any given song and then have friends dance to it.

Stay posted

A mid-life existential crisis and two more things for my list

After abandoning my blog to have a brief mid-life existential crisis and a minor breakdown over the impossibility of finishing the list – let alone getting through it — I am returning with renewed vigour and a couple more things to add:

15. Find a hairstyle that suits me (another one from the original list which I still haven’t managed to do six weeks shy of 40)

16. Watch Gone with the Wind (which I now have, almost – if I could just sit through those couple of hours between the beginning and the end)

Number 5 – Learn to cook Thai

Today I stocked up on the basics. Having gone through my recipe books last night, I made a list of all the ingredients I need to make any or all of the sauces, dressings, pastes and stocks within. What I failed to note were the main ingredients (meat, vegetables and rice/noodles). Thus, when it came time to cook, I found I had nothing but herbs, spices, leaves, roots and an assortment of other strange ingredients no more substantial than a herbal tea. At 9:30 we sat down to eat – two stuffed baby capsicums each (not particularly Thai I know, but for want of other ingredients…) supplemented by a single cob of corn and an individual-sized serve of pumpkin soup.

I  have, however, made a cumin-coriander crema  and a bastardised version of fish stock (a.k.a. chicken) for Tom Yum Goong which, I am assured, will taste better tomorrow.

***

It didn’t. Or perhaps it did but it was still bloody awful.

Tonight’s recipe comes from Cafe Pasqual’s, Spirited Recipes from Santa Fe, which is actually more Thai-inspired than it sounds.

Pan-seared salmon with roasted cumin-coriander crema and chipotle salsa, sans the chipotle salsa (and substituting chicken for salmon).

Having spent way too much on the basics, I was reluctant to fork out any more money on ingredients that had no further use past one dish. In a serendipitous turn of events, my father, who is dating a woman originally from Mexico, had a can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce sitting on his kitchen table – exactly what I need for the salsa. Never before have I heard of this until last night, and then today…

So tonight I will cook pan-seared chicken with roasted cumin-coriander crema and chipotle salsa.

***

After spending many, many precious hours in the kitchen with little to show for the effort except a few strange-tasting concoctions which inevitably end up down the drain or in the bin, depending on consistency (because even the dog won’t touch them),  and discovering that I am unable to follow someone else’s recipe with any degree of success, I am returning to the original idea of creating my own signature dish. This, I imagine, must be one’s own concoction, and ideally created using ingredients that one would commonly find in one’s own kitchen.

I take a brief inventory of what is in my own.

Flour – usually (and only) enough to thicken a sauce
Black olives —  three or four swimming in a jar of vinegar
Vinegar – with a few stray olives swimming around
Grapes clearly on their way to becomming raisins
Garlic that has begun to sprout
Sprinkles (from several almost-empty packets that spill out and decorate my cupboard shelf)
Mint jelly – who bought that anyway and how long ago (and perhaps, more importantly, why can’t I bring myself to throw it out)?
Frozen peas that double as an ice-pack
Capers – how long do they last?
The remainder of the wholemeal pasta I tried once and thought I would attempt again when the original memory has faded
A dented can of tomatoes

I can now add to that:

Fish Sauce
Tamarind Paste
Two dried stalks of lemon grass
Sambal oelic
1/4 lime
A shrivelled knob of ginger
Palm Sugar
Chipotle chillies in adobo sauce
Dried galangal
Once-fresh Kaffir lime leaves
A variety of ground seeds

None of which I know how to throw together to produce anything other than the colour brown.

Perhaps I’ll just try baking a loaf of bread.

Number 1 – Ski Wishing Well

(not my top priority but the most immediate and achievable thing on my list right now)

As we only have three full days skiing, there’s no time to muck around.

Day 1 is a blizzard, hence a write-off. I don’t care; I have two more days.

Day 2. Full of confidence I head up Summit Chair. A little background information. This isn’t a death wish. I can ski. In fact, one of my instructors even went so far as to call me a natural. (Beaming from the compliment, I failed to tell him this was actually my fifth time in the beginners’ class).  Additional background information – I have no sense of direction. This isn’t an exaggeration, I get lost playing Super-Mario Kart.

Falls Creek is not really first-time-user friendly: the lifts and pomas, directions, even the whole ski in, ski out of your lodge/apartment thing (all fine and good once you know how to ski but not the best way to get down to the chairlift if you’ve never done it before). This side, the advanced side, is all new to me. I’ve never been up the lifts or down the slopes and I’m on my own. I follow the markers to the end, to where Wishing Well should be.
It’s not.
It’s Roller Coaster (I know that now…) – a very narrow, steep, moguly black run. The name says it all. I’ll spare you the boring details (which I’ve forgotten anyway in an act of self-preservation memory suppression) only to say  I end up perched on a mogul with one ski off, trying to jam my boot back in – on a mogul (it can’t be overstated). If I slide off, a very real and immediate possibility, I’m in trouble. I don’t and am grateful I’m alive to try again tomorrow.

Day 3. Up Summit Chair again. This time I take the kids. At eight and ten, not only are they better skiers than I, they’ve never got lost playing Super-Mario Kart. The run is closed and again, my sense of direction and good sense failing me, I find myself on another black run (Cabbage Patch*) with a sheer drop that stops my heart. The kids make it down and I’m pleased they’re not here to see the absolute panic on my face when I realise what I’ve gotten myself into.

*This one is number 5 on Arthur Stanley’s list of Australia’s black-diamond beauties, with Roller Coaster being another contender. (One man’s meat…)

It’s our last day and I’ve run out of chances, which is probably for the best because there are 39 more things on my list to get through, all of which I have to be alive for, so this will have to go on the fifty before fifty list.

Result: Fail

Difficulty rating: Turns out it’s eleven out of ten

I wouldn’t call it skiing, but I did get down two of the hardest runs at Falls Creek so I’ll give myself half a point.

Score: ½ point

Forty Before Forty

When I was young(er), I read a magazine article – ‘thirty things to do before you turn thirty’. Being some fifteen years off, I ripped it out and put it aside and lost it long before I got anywhere close to the end or the age. Now, ten years past the deadline, I have decided to make my own, and in the spirit of the original idea, it has become a list of forty things to do before I turn forty. Some are personal, some are ambitious, some are easier than others, and some are so overdue it’s a wonder I still think I’ll do them, and should either just be done or crossed off permanently.

So here they are (14 of them anyway):

1. Ski Wishing Well, the longest advanced run at Falls Creek
2. Write a novel (using the 90-day novel as my guide with only 82 days to write it)
3. Finish my quilt (even as I write this I’m full of doubt)
4. Read Ulysses (that’s been on so many of my lists now)
5. Learn to cook Thai (it was a signature dish on the original list)
6. Tone my butt (another that’s been on the list far too long)
7. Tidy my apartment (easier said than done with two kids – my two kids)
8. Learn to salsa (or any dance routine all the way through)
9. Learn to draw (using Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain) – very ambitious, I’ll download a drawing to show you my skill and how truly ambitious this one is
10. Pay off my credit card (yawn)
11. Quit smoking
12. Learn to apply make-up (really belongs on the fifteen before fifteen list, but better late than never)
13. Learn to surf (third time lucky?)
14. Watch The Godfather Trilogy
15. Find 26 more things to add to the list of forty things to do before I’m forty.

Now to work my way through them. Stay posted.

(Subject to change without notice)
Suggestions welcome.