Thank you for not stealing

During my lunch break today I went to the supermarket and noticed they had muffin tins on sale for half price – $6.49 each. Great! I picked up two tins, plus a few other things, and headed to the register. The total came to $9.20. I had a moment of thinking, “I wonder why I thought the total would be more than that?” but dismissed it and walked away. Halfway across the car park my maths-deficient brain finally realised that two muffin tins @ $6.49 each is definitely more than $9.20, and that’s without the other things. It seems the girl at the register hadn’t realised there were two tins nested together, and only charged me for one. My first thought was, “Cool – free muffin tin!” This was eventually followed by, “Wait, maybe I should go back and pay for it.” I thought that, but kept walking. It took about another 20 steps for me to think, “Damn it. No. I need to go back.” And let me tell you, I was a bit grumpy about it.

So I went back to the store and waited at the unattended service desk, getting progressively grumpier. I’ve come back to PAY for something. Don’t they understand that? Why are they keeping me waiting? Finally, a man came over to serve me. I explained what had happened… “I purchased these two muffin tins a few minutes ago but I was only charged for one… so I’d like to pay for the other one.” The man grunted, “Fine,” scanned the item and said, “Yeah, that’s $6.49.” I paid, he said ‘thanks’, I left.

I walked away with my muffin tins and other things, and I was cranky. My crankiness stemmed from two things:

1. I had to go back and pay for something I purchased, and
2. The man at the register wasn’t more appreciative.

Er, let’s break that down a little, shall we? Firstly, I was accidentally not charged for an item I’d had every intention of purchasing, and when I realised the mistake I seriously considered not paying. Which is to say, I seriously considered STEALING a muffin tin. I would never try to sneak out the door with a muffin tin shoved up my jumper, but apparently I’m okay with stealing if it’s… I don’t know… an easy theft?? And then, when I went back to pay for the item that I should have paid for in the first place, I was cranky about not being treated a bit better. I mean, what was I expecting? That they would fall on my neck in tears of gratitude and declare me Customer of the Decade? Basically, I wanted the store to thank me for being so supremely awesome, which would then give me an opportunity to be magnanimous and generous and maybe a little bit humble (for, let’s stress this again, simply choosing NOT TO STEAL).

It’s entirely possible I need a little attitude adjustment. Perhaps we can chat about that over some muffins…?

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1 + 1 = x to the power of yellow. Obviously.

I’ve mentioned the anxiety thing before. Boring. But hey, you know what really helps with anxiety? Exercise. And you know what really helps anxiety to get soul-suckingly worse? NOT exercising. These are two very important facts, but it seems I am incapable of retaining them in my brain for no longer than 45 seconds at a time. Here’s how this normally goes down:

  1. My anxiety levels get out of whack and I feel horrible.
  2. I think to myself, “Hey, you know what really helps with anxiety? Exercise!”
  3. I start exercising regularly. Usually just walking, but consistency is more important than sweating.
  4. Within a week or two I have more energy and I’m sleeping better.
  5. As a result of energy + better sleep, I start doing crazy things like vacuuming and remembering to take out the recycling.
  6. I start craving vegetables and fruit, and enjoy preparing some delicious, vitamin-packed meals.
  7. I feel GREAT.
  8. I completely forget that any of this had anything to do with exercise, and think to myself, “Why the heck was I worrying about anxiety? Clearly I’m not anxious. I feel good! I have totally kicked this anxiety thing. I AM CAPTAIN AWESOME!(*mental high-five and victory lap around the lounge room*)
  9. It rains, or I go out to dinner, or I decide to sleep late, or I’m pre-menstrual, or there’s something good on telly… so I skip a few days of exercise.
  10. My energy levels decrease because I haven’t exercised, and so I’m too tired to cook anything other than toast.
  11. Clearly I can’t be bothered exercising because, hey… tired.
  12. My house gets messy.
  13. I feel the anxiety creeping back.
  14. It creeps some more. Then pounces. And I feel crap.
  15. Suddenly realise I haven’t exercised in two or three months.
  16. Duh.

Currently, it’s been about two months since I did any regular exercise. I’m feeling mentally blobby, and quite a bit more anxious than I’d like.

But hey! You know what really helps with anxiety…?

Fear

I have struggled with anxiety for my whole life. It is so much a part of my life that until a few years ago I didn’t even realise I was anxious – that’s how normal it was to me to feel like that. I’ve done a lot of work on this with my counsellor and, happily, I have it a lot more under control now, but sometimes I still find myself temporarily paralysed by fear for what seems like no good reason.

A while ago I spent some time searching for Bible verses that talk about fear, and it turns out there are a lot of them. I wrote a selection on a large sheet of paper and I usually carry it with me. That kind of helps, but there is still a part of me that gets frustrated with myself that I can’t just get over all this anxiety and fear. And I wonder if God is angry or fed up with me for not trusting him enough. I mean, surely people who really trust God don’t have fears, right?

Then it hit me – there are a lot of Bible verses that talk about fear. I know I just said that, but think about it for a minute – there are a lot of Bible verses that talk about fear. Which must mean that God knows we have fears and anxieties. He knows that we are fearful creatures, and for the most part we don’t handle our fears all that well. And he’s got it covered. Yes, you are afraid. You are anxious. You fear things that don’t make sense. I promise, I understand how you feel. That’s why I’ve written you this letter – so you’ll know that I love you and I care about your fears.

We’ll always have fears. Big or small, rational or irrational, nagging, awful, gut-wrenching fears that keep us awake and make us doubt ourselves. God is not angry with us for being afraid or anxious. He cares about our fears, and he’s made sure we know it.

Here are some of my favourite parts from God’s letter to us:

But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. (Psalm 56:3)

I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4)

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will never fail you nor abandon you. (Deuteronomy 31:8)

For I hold you by your right hand – I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid, I am here to help you.’ (Isaiah 41:13)

I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give you is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27)

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. (Ephesians 1:4-5)

Non-foods

I grew up in a area of Sydney filled with ‘disadvantaged schools’ and housing commission flats, often occupied by alcoholics and drug addicts living alongside struggling families who had nowhere else to live. In the other houses there were a lot of young families, particularly European and Middle Eastern migrants, who moved into the area because it was cheap and it was the only way they could afford to buy a house. And on top of all that, it was an area where the government decided to temporarily house hundreds of Vietnamese refugees. In short, the phrase ‘melting pot’ was used every time the area ended up in the newspaper. Which was often.

My family was, comparatively, reasonably well off. My mum grew up in the area long before the migration and government housing boom started – in fact the area was mostly bush – and my parents built a house in the 60s in what was then an exciting new housing development. Although it could be a rough area, it wasn’t like that where I lived. There was, however, still a fair amount of poverty in the area – people who struggled to make ends meet and who relied on government unemployment or disability benefits.

As is always the case in lower socio-economic areas, people didn’t eat particularly well. Added to that, it was the 70s and fresh vegetables really weren’t always the big deal they are today – and even when we had them, it was normal for them to be boiled to a limp, tasteless, sloshy mess. Convenience foods and packaged foods, however, were still fairly new and exciting. As a result, I ate a lot of what I would call non-foods when I was growing up.

These are, to my surprise (ar ar), still available. I know what you’re thinking… frozen peas. Oh, if only. These are dried peas. I can still remember the sound of their dessicated little bodies rattling around in that packet. Now, the whole concept of dried peas confuses me. I know that peas can be purchased fresh, but in reality hardly anyone buys them that way. We buy them frozen. When you want to eat them you chuck a handful into boiling water (or, these days, the microwave) and a few minutes later they’re good to go. So how are dried peas more convenient? Surely they would take longer to cook because they have to rehydrate as well as heat up. I can understand these peas might be convenient to take camping, or to use if you didn’t have a freezer, but otherwise? They seem like a waste of effort. And thus began my lifelong dislike of peas.

(We, by the way, did not go camping. And our freezer worked perfectly well.)

Although I remember seeing this in our pantry, I don’t particularly remember eating it. Deb Instant Mashed Potato. I actually had to Google it because I wasn’t sure how they worked. Apparently, instant mashed potatoes are made of real potatoes that have been cooked, mashed and dehydrated. To prepare them, you add hot water or milk, “producing a close approximation of mashed potatoes”, but with more salt and much less dietary fibre or nutrients. Well, win! I’ve also just checked the price online. A 115g packet (I’ve no idea how much this makes, reconstituted) is $1.94, or $16.87/kg. Brushed potatoes, on the other hand, are currently $1.98/kg. Add $1.25 for a litre of milk and $1.49 for a block of butter and you could still make mashed potatoes for a large family for a fraction of the price of Deb. And, you know, they’ll be actual mashed potato, not “a close approximation”. But hey, with Deb you can probably save a good… ten minutes. Totally worth it!

Ah, Tang. Not orange juice, not orange cordial, not… anything. Tang stands alone. I can still feel the grittiness at the bottom of the glass when it didn’t dissolve properly. Which was always. It was… strange. I really have nothing else to say about Tang, but in ‘researching’ it I discovered that the scientist who invented Tang also invented Pop Rocks. Remember that gritty stuff that exploded in your mouth? Oh, it was so cool. There was, and probably still is, an urban legend that eating Pop Rocks and then drinking Coke will cause your stomach to explode. Like all good urban legends, there was even a rumour of a child actor who OMG DIED!!! doing exactly that. The rumour was so widespread and persistent that the FDA in America set up a hotline to answer the questions of concerned parents, and the manufacturers sent letters to school principals, created an open letter to parents, took out advertisements in major publications and sent the inventor on tour to explain why the rumour was false. That’s one awesome urban legend. Hats off to whoever started it.

I will admit here that I do still buy milk powder, but not to drink. I use it in bread recipes, and it’s great. Although oddly yellow – is that to make it look like “creamy” milk when you drink it? Anyway, I can kind of get why you might have this around, if you run out of fresh milk or something. But honestly, that’s no excuse for making me drink the stuff. Drinking fresh milk does not agree with me these days, but when I was a kid it was my drink of choice. I loved it, and drank several glasses a day. So when we ran out of milk and my mother helpfully made up a jug of powdered milk, I was excited. Yay, milk! Except, NO. It does NOT taste like milk. That moment of tasting it remains one of the bitter disappointments of my life. Right up there with carob. It’s not chocolate… so why does it look like it?? So disappointing.

Those are some of the non-foods of my childhood, which are partly the result of living where I did and partly the result of living in the 70s. What awful excuses for real food were you forced to eat as a child?

 

Timing is everything

Conversation yesterday with my counsellor:

Me: You know that anger management technique you mentioned last week? Is that meant to be done WHILE I’m angry, or later?

Counsellor: Preferably later. You know… after you’ve buried the body.

For your dining pleasure this month…

(Actually for MY dining pleasure, but that sounded weird.)

I’m trying a few new recipes this month, because I’m bored with the old ones, and it’s the right kind of weather for meaty, stewy kinds of food. So coming up this month we have:

Cheat’s Lamb Stew – so called, I assume, because it’s cooked very quickly but looks like a slow-cooked meal. In my case it’s a ‘cheat’ because I’m using beef and not lamb. I love lamb; I don’t love the price. This one looks like a pretty standard casserole so I think it will be nice.

Spiced Moroccan Soup – tomato based, with spices and lots of chick peas. It includes harissa paste, which I’ve never used and I forgot to buy it anyway, but happily, a quick internet search tells me I can make it myself.

Spiced Beef Pies – basic spicy beef mince pie, served in a ramekin with a torn bread and cheese mix on top instead of pastry. Looks like a rainy weekend kind of meal.

Chicken & Chorizo Cassoulet – this one looks yummy… except I forgot to buy the white beans, which is the key ingredient that makes it a cassoulet and not a regular casserole (apparently). Oops. I wonder if four-bean mix would taste the same?

Spiced Chickpeas with Cauliflower and Chorizo – this one is tonight’s dinner. Looks really good.

Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings – it’s more of a side dish than anything, but oh my goodness they look delicious. And I’m sure mine will look exactly like the picture…

Slow Cooked Beef Ragu Pasta – supposed to be made with brisket. I’ve never even seen a brisket… I’m using stewing steak. I’m sure it will be fine.

So that’s the menu for this month. Sounds good, hey? I’m hoping they actually ARE good… I’ll keep you updated!