How to have a depressing Sunday

Don’t leave me drowning in your Sunday rain

It’s right down the drain I go

– Foo Fighters, Sunday Rain

I’m gonna talk you through the day I just had as an example of what not to do. It’s a warning to my future self.

Step 1: Don’t make any plans.

Don’t check in with your friends or other local acquaintances. Just resign yourself to the fact that you’re going to be alone with nothing to do and a day to kill.

If you had plans but they fell through, don’t attempt to make any new plans. Don’t have a fallback. You went all in on those plans. Dwell on them.

Congratulations, you now have nothing to look forward to! Scene set for the day.

Step 2: Night-time self-loathing.

When you wake up to go to the bathroom in the night, once you get back to bed, open up your phone and start surfing. Go on, you’re only gonna keep dwelling on those plans otherwise. Soak up all the instant gratification (and blue light) you can get. Whatever crap you usually browse. Reddit, Youtube, adult content, the works. Don’t worry, it’s Sunday, there’ll be plenty of time to sleep in afterward. Except of course you won’t, because the sunlight/noise/your bladder will wake you up at your usual weekday time. But you don’t know that yet, despite the fact you’ve experienced this several times before.

Step 3: Wake up at your usual weekday time.

There it goes. Lie in bed for a while, secure in the knowledge you won’t get back to sleep. Forget about making last-minute plans now – no one wants to see you like this. Oh well, you’ve got some hours up your sleeve. What better way to spend that time than…

Step 4: Gaming.

Preferably something fast-paced and mentally taxing, like real-time strategy. What could be more fun than building up a city and tearing down the neighbour’s one? Unfortunately, since you’re sleep-deprived, things don’t work out as well as usual. Your satisfaction evaporates, replaced by frustration. Time for the ace in the hole: cheat codes! Look on in guilty defiance as the enemy town burns in a hail of gunfire.

Okay, false start. But it’s only mid-morning, and you’ve got another strategy you want to try. Time for round 2!

Step 5: Share your joy with the world.

Now that your brain is thoroughly fried, it’s time to take on those errands you were putting off. Namely, groceries. It’s lunchtime and, on top of gamer brain, you’re getting hangry. It would have been nice and quiet in the morning, but that was gaming time! So you now get to experience the joy of grocery shopping at the busiest time of the day (if not the week).

Act like you own the place. This is your supermarket. Resent the fact that other people exist. They’re trying their best to get in your way and generally make the experience as annoying as possible. Don’t let them. Cut them off. Stare them down. Whatever it takes to get to the checkout.

Be sure to dither about your lunch options too. You want something cheap, healthy, and ready to eat, and you’re not leaving till you find it. No, it doesn’t exist, and it never will. Give up and go home to the canned food you already had. You could have just eaten that – why did you even go grocery shopping?

Step 6: More gaming.

Take out your grocery rage on some pixelated characters. Well, try to, anyway…

☀️☀️☀️

How to salvage something from a depressing Sunday

Step 7: Suddenly decide to do something.

It’s now late afternoon and you’re racked with guilt for wasting the day. But wait, it’s not over yet! What’s the quickest and easiest way to gain a feeling of accomplishment?

Exercise.

If you’re lucky, you’re feeling a tingling sensation in your legs at this point. That’s all the pent up energy from doing nothing all day. Time to strike. Get those training shoes on and hit the pavement!

Yes, it’s dark out. Too bad. Hey, at least it’s quiet now – a refreshing change from the supermarket!

Crush it for half an hour and bask in the warm glow of endorphins. Congratulations, you’ve done something today! But why stop now?

Step 8: Self-care.

Hooray, you don’t hate yourself any more! What better way to celebrate than with some R&R. Take a long hot shower/bath to clean away your sweat. Ahh, doesn’t that feel amazing?

Step 9: Don’t stop now!

You can have a good, productive day yet! You may be tired, but push through! Crank up the music and make yourself some dinner!

Way to go! You’ve accomplished something today, AND you’ve saved yourself some work in the coming days. I guess this Sunday wasn’t a write-off after all. But, looking back, it feels hollow. Don’t you wish you’d done something with the rest of the day?

Oh well. Let’s call it a draw.

Step 10: Promise yourself you’ll do better next Sunday.

You’ve got a week to make plans. Get on it!

How was your Sunday? What have you got planned for the next one? How do you deal when plans fall through? Let me know!

Advertisements

Make Yourself (some dinner)

Rev up those fryers, ‘cause I am sure hungry for one – Help! Help! My leg!

– Fred the fish, SpongeBob SquarePants

While you’re at it, rev up those vocal cords too. This is gonna get intense.

Welcome to the Sunshine Singalong Cookathon!*

(*working title)

Invite a friend, or maybe wait until you have the flat to yourself – I’m doing the latter…

Tonight’s soundtrack is the 1999 classic, Make Yourself by Incubus. Want to sing along? Hit play and turn up the volume!



Cue the music!
1 Isn't it strange
Isn’t it strange

It may look strange, but it works! I call this the poor man’s sound system. It amplifies the bass to give a deep, satisfying sound.

On the menu tonight: Chicken tikka masala. Get everything out now so you don’t forget anything later!

2 Isn't it weird that a privilege
Isn’t is weird that a privilege…
3 could feel like a chore
…could feel like a chore?

Grab a cup of frozen mixed veges and give them a quick blast in the microwave while you chop the onion and garlic. Chuck the mixed veg and onion in the pan with a little oil.

4 It seems as though I'm going nowhere
It seems as though I’m going nowhere really [flipping] fast
Garlic cooks quicker, so hold it back til the other veg is soft. About now you’ll need to put on the extractor fan – and turn up the music so you can still hear it! Now fill the saucepan two-thirds with cold water and put the heat on full.

6 Experience the warmth
Experience the warmth

Fry the veg til it’s done and turn the heat off. Dump one cup of rice into the saucepan, which should be warm by now. Important: Turn the heat down now or it’ll boil over during the next step! (True story.)

7 Just when you thought it was safe to think
Just when you thought it was safe to think

Time for chicken! Chopping this is probably the most time-consuming part of the process, and the most demanding in terms of food hygiene (wash your hands, folks!). Recipes will typically tell you to cook the meat first, or cook meat and veg separately, but I’m too lazy to wash up two chopping boards and two frying pans. So, veg out, chook in, heat on.

8 If I hadn't made me
If I hadn’t made me, I would’ve been made somehow

This stuff demands your full attention for the next little while, apart from a few quick stirs of the rice. Keep it moving – pink to the middle, brown to the outside. Let all that water (injected to bulk up the weight for sale) pour out and steam away.

9 Hold the wheel and drive
Hold the wheel and drive

When the chicken starts browning, dump everything in the pan. EVERYTHING. Including the sauce. (Drain the rice first.) While that simmers, now’s a good time to start washing up. But scrape the bottom once in a while to stop it burning!

10 Pardon me while I burst into flames
Pardon me while I burst into flames

When it’s no longer soup, it’s time to plate up. And we’re done, midway through the last song! Make Yourself (sans bonus tracks) clocks in at 48:12, so including clean-up we’re talking maybe 50 minutes total. Take a bow and chow down!

11 RESIST AND MULTIPLY
RESIST AND MULTIPLYYYYYY!
Bonus round: How many more meals will I get out of this?
12 That is your privilege
That is your privilege

One medium container and one small container means three more meals ready to go –not a bad haul!

And that’s how I cook.

This method works for a remarkably wide variety of recipes:

  • Meat: Chicken, steak, sausages, mince, or none at all (substitute pumpkins and/or kumara for substance)
  • Carbs: Rice, pasta, couscous, corn chips, wraps (skip the saucepan for the last two 😉)
  • Veg: Frozen mixed, kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, lentils
  • Sauces: Pasta sauce, Indian, Chinese, Mexican, soy/teriyaki
  • Optional extras: Cheese, sour cream, chilli sauce, mayonnaise/aioli
  • Music: Whatever you like to sing along to!

Some combinations obviously don’t work. Use common sense. Or go wild and experiment!

Ok, but… what?

You might have cringed while reading this. Sauce from a jar? Everything in one pan? What madness is this? Well here’s the thing: I’m not a chef. This is a pragmatic system, honed over years of flatting, and it works for me. It’s economical in money and time, it’s nutritious (I think!), and – crucially – it’s fun. So much so that I no longer dread cooking – I truly look forward to it!

What’s your go-to food-prep playlist? Got any cooking tips for me? Let me know!

The coincidental baker: A sweet comeback story

I love “small-world” coincidences. Those moments of joy when you and an acquaintance discover something surprising in common. They speak to the statistician in me, as if to say, “what are the odds?”

Since I started my journey I’ve encountered so many coincidences that I’ve lost count. I’ve met someone who turned out to be a flatmate’s friend, I’ve met people who turned out to be (or work with) my future colleagues, and I’ve found myself accidentally competing against friends in a pub quiz. But this latest one is a real doozy.

Me and baking

I’m no stranger to baking. As a kid I’d often help out my mum with whatever cake or muffin recipe she was working on – usually by licking the spoon! At my first flat I was baking oat slice or muffins on a weekly basis for snacking.

Unfortunately, I moved to a flat with a dodgy oven. Let me tell you, no baking habit can survive a dodgy oven. Seriously, this thing was 50°C under temperature. Two undercooked batches of muffins later, I called it quits.

Fast-forward three years. I’m in a different flat with a better oven. In fact I’ve been here for most of that time. But the motivation wasn’t there. I needed a reason to get back into it. I needed… inspiration.

r/Whataretheodds

In recent months I’ve found myself surrounded by bakers – in my flat, at work, and in my social circles. It seems like everywhere I turn there’s a fresh batch of cookies looking back at me. This sowed the seed in my mind, but still didn’t persuade me to break out the muffin tray.

That is, until one of these bakers started a blog for her recipes – just as I was about to launch mine! (If you’re reading this, I promise I’m not just copying you!)

And to top it off, the perfect occasion popped up: my flatmate’s birthday party. An indoor picnic at our place – BYO food. She’s the sort of person who really appreciates a personal touch. So, after a quick google and shopping trip, here’s what I came up with for my comeback from baking retirement.

Banana & date muffins

For my first bake since forever, I picked the simplest thing I could find – with one catch. I have a rule that I don’t use added sugar. So no packet sugar, no golden syrup, and no cheating with sugar substitutes either! Fruit sugar is all good of course. (Chocolate and honey are a grey area). This was borne of the “I quit sugar” movement, and my general distaste for over-sweet foods.

I followed this recipe from Kidgredients – it has kid in the name, so it must be simple! The only change I made to the ingredients was to use (imitation) vanilla essence instead of vanilla paste. As you can see here I didn’t exactly splash out – I figured I should save the good stuff for later on when I get some skills.

1 - other brands are available
Other baking supply brands are available

I’ll let the pictures and captions tell the story from here.

Cue training montage music!
2 - food processor
Pro tip: blender =/= food processor
3 - coconut oil
So this is coconut oil… I honestly had no idea what I’d find under the lid
4a - 1
Batter 1…
4b - 2
Batter 2…
4c - 3
Batter 3…
4d - batter up
Batter up!

 

5 - toasty
Toasty
6 - lick the spoon
I get to lick the spoon, yay!
7 - 5 minutes in
Too toasty! Quick, turn it down and move them to the bottom!
8 - looking good
Looking good! Except that one in the back corner…
9 - taste testing
…which of course I used for taste-testing purposes!
10 - ready to party
Ready to party! (Down to 8 after the flatties had their share)

And the guests took care of the rest. A complete, and subtly sweet, success. Which means I’m just gonna have to bake more for myself!

It’s good to be back.

 

Had any great small-world moments lately? What’s your go-to simple baking recipe? Let me know!