meat cake and puppy teeth

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My husband bought me a laptop for Christmas. Well, Christmas and my birthday and our fourth wedding anniversary last year. Due to the notable expense, it was a few presents in one.

It’s beautiful; shiny and new and expeditious. After almost an entire year of stealing hours on Aaron’s desktop computer (read my original eulogy here) it feels like a luxury to have my own device again.

As I had hoped, the accessibility of a laptop has somewhat rekindled my passion for creative writing. I’ve been tapping away at all hours of the day and night, sipping cold tea and humming absentmindedly. I’ve also uploaded almost twelve months of digital photos from my DSLR, uncovering many edible inventions and several hundred (no, I’m not joking) photographs of Loki (our scraggly fur-kid with ambrosial eyes).

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ballAh, Loki. He’s one family member who’s less than fond of my Christmas present. Within a few days, he identified the laptop as competition for my undivided attention (second only to my cell phone). He takes great pleasure in lying across the keypad, ‘nosing’ my hand away from the keys at every given opportunity.

This occasionally leaves wet smudges on the corners of the screen. I kind of like them; I’ve left them to dry like a little line of clouds.

They’re evidence of his friendly occupancy, his shared residence of this shoebox of ours. This place is his home.

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It’s hard to believe we’ve had this smart little bundle of energy for over twelve months now. We celebrated his first birthday last September and, rather cheesily, I baked him a ‘meat cake’ with sweet potato and carrot ‘frosting’.

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It was an improvised job, a spontaneous project based on this idea by my friend Trixie. I packed it full of his favourite things (minus the loose ‘anything on Aaron’s plate’ category) in this order:

  • cake: one beaten egg (plus the ground eggshell – just dry them out and pound them up in your mortar and pestle), about 350g of beef mince, chopped parsley and some bone marrow (leftover from bone broth) mixed and oven-baked in a small 15cm/6 inch lined tin until firm (160 degrees C /320 degrees f for roughly 20 minutes from memory). Allow to cool, remove from tin and invert onto a plate.
  • frosting: mash one small steamed sweet potato and one steamed carrot (peel left on) together with some bone broth to loosen. Spread over cooled meat cake.
  • decorations: Italian parsley leaves and sliced vegetable leather (from my favourite local Perth dog bakery, Go Fetch)

I was rather pleased with his level of enthusiasm:

lokiup side ear lick bite fini

Yep. One happy dog, although I can’t really extol my canine baking skills – he’s rather unfussy when it comes to food. We’re very, very lucky.

Hopefully he feels like he’s lucky, too.

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I treasure each moment with this pup; his tentative growls, morning licks, keen stick legs and pleading eyes (usually whilst I’m eating my cereal. Or eating anything. The common factor is eating). He’s always enthusiastic, regardless of fatigue, fear or pain.

The trust, unconditional love and genuine affection you receive from a dog is incredibly humbling. It makes me want to be better, to try harder, both for him and because of him.

He deserves the very best of me (as does my husband. No, not just because he bought me a computer).

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Thanks for indulging this very personal, sentimental post of mine (I do hope those of you who keenly follow my Loki photos on Instagram feel satisfied with a big ol’ dose of scraggly cuteness! For those who don’t – I assure you my next post will be something vegetarian and delicious).

I’m praying for many more years of meat cakes and nose smudges. It’s definitely worth the daily vacuum bag full of dog hair.

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shaved carrot salad with orange, pomegranate and mint

plateThere’s something about the end of another year that makes one strangely contemplative. Whilst I’m not one to make New Year’s Resolutions, I generally follow the loose aim to try to ‘be better’ as the clock ticks over to January 1.

A better wife; strong, gentle and wise. An efficient worker and homemaker. A better daughter (this one has spanned decades), generous and loyal. A better friend and sister, regardless of time and frustration. A clear representative of my faith. Just generally better than the year before.

Better. 

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Despite realising the folly of setting broad, inchoate goals (less added value, inexorable failure) the ‘reset’ has been somewhat subconscious. I mean, I don’t spend each December 31 meditating upon my failures (okay, well maybe I do to a certain degree), selecting ‘states of betterment’ whilst sitting in the lotus position.

It just happens, like a subtle alarm, the benefit of which is urgency for positive change.
ribbonsSo, on January 1 2016 at 12:59, I’m sitting under the air conditioner with a cup of steaming herbal tea (current temperature is currently 35 degrees C / 95 degrees F but I’m English and tea solves everything). I’m contemplating effective change, clearer goals and less self-depreciation, as adherence to old patterns would cast me as either a fool or a lemming.

Short term goals seem like a good idea. Achievable, smart and time limited. Michael Hyatt seems to think it’s a good idea to write them down, so I’m factoring in some blogosphere accountability (a strange concept indeed) and capping the number at three.

Goal one for this year is to secure a job (preferably) before the end of January. Being unemployed is liberating but also disconcerting in the worst of ways; I’m continually counting pennies with mounting portions of nervous energy. Please don’t be concerned regarding my self esteem or resilience. My contract ended due to economic circumstances within my organisation, not due to individual performance (golly gosh, I think I’d avoid sharing that on the internet. Please know I’m ok!). However, I’ve explained in previous blog posts that I’m a terrible overthinker and free time leads to unconstrained pondering at all times of the day (or night).

I need purpose for my cognition, posthaste.

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That leads me to goal two, interim creative projects. I’m going to use my free time (and aforementioned cognition) productively whilst waiting for the right employment door to open. I’m not going to sweat the small stuff, I’m going to exercise a little grace and appreciate each moment as it comes. It’s not exactly an epiphany, but I’m gradually realising that each juncture should be appreciated and utilised, whether it be for breathing space, rest or creativity. However long I’m waiting for a passing train.

Last but not least, goal three: finding a way to reconnect with Church. This is a rather personal goal that may only make sense to those of you who follow a congregational faith. If you’re a Christian, you’re probably familiar with dialogues surrounding Church (and organised religion in general).

I struggle with Church. I find it hard to attend one. But I know that I need to.

pombetterAnyway, as the photographs suggest, I’m posting a recipe today. Something fresh, light and healthy, perfect for hot days and balmy Summer nights. It’s a new favourite on our seasonal menu, mostly due to the innate adaptability of the recipe. Extra hungry? Add protein. Feeling exotic? How about adding some coriander and chopped red chilli?

Just use the basic dressing and carrot ribbons, then follow the core principles below:

  1. freshness – soft herbs like parsley, mint and coriander and/or fresh leaves e.g. some torn baby spinach, rocket, beet leaves or chard
  2. fruit – switch up the pomegranate for some raisins or dried cranberries soaked in the orange juice, add in some grated or slivered apple (perhaps with some chopped celery and walnuts, such a good combination), substitute mandarin for the orange
  3. crunch – substitute the almonds for some toasted, crumbled walnuts or pecans, even some toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
  4. optional added protein (for the extra hungry) – if you’d like to fill out the salad for a healthy light meal, I’ve added a few of my favourite protein-packed ‘extras’ below (under ‘optional add ins’).

As always, thanks to all of you for being not only readers, but friends across the seas. Wishing you a beautiful, blessed and memorable start to 2016!

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Shaved Carrot Salad with Orange, Pomegranate and Mint

Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a light meal

  • 2 large carrots, washed and peeled
  • 2 spring onions (green shallots), topped and tailed, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup flaked almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
  • a good handful of washed mint leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 navel orange, segmented (squeeze the juice from the leftover pulp into the dressing – 1 got about 50mL)
  • a good plug of extra virgin olive oil, about 50mL
  • 2 tbsp (30mL) good quality white wine vinegar
  • sea salt and cracked black pepper
  • a squeeze of honey, to taste (use maple syrup for a vegan alternative)
  • optional, protein-packed add ins: good quality crumbled feta (about 100g will do), Italian canned tuna, rinsed cooked brown lentils, 1 cup cooked quinoa

Using a vegetable peeler, shave long thin strips off each carrot in a lengthwise rotation. Discard the hard centre and stem. Place shaved carrot into a medium bowl with the pomegranate arils, sliced spring onions, orange segments and mint (reserve some pomegranate arils and mint leaves to garnish later. Add in any optional tuna, quinoa, beans, lentils or feta (reserve some crumbled feta for garnish).

In a jug or bowl, whisk together the orange juice, extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar and a little honey or maple syrup. Taste, season and adjust sweetness as required.

Pour the dressing over the salad. Mix well, cover and refrigerate for 10 minutes for the flavours to develop. Remove from the refrigerator and gently mix through half of the toasted almonds, reserving the rest for garnish. Use tongs to transfer the salad to a serving platter, allowing excess dressing to drain back into the bowl.

Garnish with reserved pomegranate, mint, toasted almonds, feta (if using) and a grind of black pepper.

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