everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

The Camino Diet

As I’ve mentioned, it’s only around a month til my friend Steph and I leave for the Camino. A lot of well-meaning peeps have been giving us tips and hints, as well as remarking on how they can’t wait to see how fit and thin we are on our return. (Not that we are super unfit and ginormous now, I might add.) I remind those people that one of my favourite lunches on my last trip to Spain was a potato omelette on a giant bread roll – now that’s carb loading. And then there’s the wine – I am sure that it’s culturally insensitive to refuse.

So, we really don’t know what impact the 800km will have on us. Sure, it’s a lot more walking than we’d normally do each day in our office jobs, but then there are the delicious (and not always healthy) foods along the way, undoubtedly an important part of the journey. So maybe it’ll just even out and we’ll come back looking EXACTLY THE SAME. Just warning you now – it’s definitely a possibility.

One of the many books that I’m reading is ‘Guide to the Camino’ by an Australian lady, Trish Clark. Trish includes local delicacies in her book – food and drink that walkers should try in each town. As I read the list for one town, I felt the weight stacking on:

Fried bread with garlic and ham? Yes please!

Fried bread with garlic and ham? Caramelised custard & sponge cake? Yes please!

And then I read about another town and realised that – at least for me on my bull-free diet – this stop might be a lean one:

Cinnamon pancakes it is.

Cinnamon pancakes it is.

So, looks like there will be lots of exercise and lots of fried bread and pancakes (and bull hoof stew) – life is all about balance, right?!

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The scariest puzzle of all time

We had a family party on the weekend and, as I was packing away the puzzles that the younger kids had been playing with, I noticed one aspirational puzzle entitled Careers. As I checked out the range of career options that our kids were being shown, I could not help but notice that the ‘Artist’ looked suspiciously like Jesus. Oh, and also like he has A PENCIL COMING OUT OF HIS HEAD, but that is really secondary.

The Artist and the Doctor.

The Artist and the Doctor.

I was so amazed that I took it to my brother for a second opinion. He pointed out that the other puzzle professionals looked sort of suspicious. The grimacing scientist mixing up a lethal cocktail of chemicals, the smug computer programmer on her ancient PC and the very shifty looking carpenter who may well be nailing his most recent victim under the floorboards…

Look out, kids.

Look out, kids.

But there is a clear winner in this puzzle – the teacher. You would definitely make sure your homework was ready if this was waiting for you in the classroom – ready to strike with poisoned apple or the ruler dagger.

Yikes.

Yikes.

So, there you have it. A whole range of frightening career options to choose from…

This is why I love working in HR.

This is why I love working in HR.

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Friday Foto – Camino style

And the countdown to the Camino is well and truly underway – just around one month to go now! I have most of my gear sorted (backpack, sleeping bag, hilarious walking poles etc), which is great. But I am still experimenting with socks and haven’t yet found the right fit – comfy, not scratchy, not too hot for the Spanish summer, nice colour and all that. And every book or forum post that I read stresses that socks are VERY IMPORTANT. They are also VERY EXPENSIVE at around $30 a pair, but that’s another story.

Today, I am trying something new. I really bought these just because they look funny and made me laugh. And they have a cool name.

Not gloves, but socks.

Not gloves, but socks.

Once I took the time to arrange them on my feet (much trickier than putting on normal socks, I tell you), they actually feel pretty comfy. Weird, but comfy. Like my toes are all arranged in a neat order in their self-contained little sockettes.

I am not sure if they make my feet look weird or if it's just that I've never really taken a photo of my feet before...

NB, the sock toes are square-shaped – my actual toes are not. Nor are my toes puffy, as they appear here. These socks do not help me put my best foot forward, I tell you. 

So, there you go. Some weird looking alien sock feet for your Friday. Now I have to go and try them out. Hope that you have a great weekend!

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Soup-er winter dish

So, I know this isn’t a food blog, but it is a blog about everyday things that add sparks to our lives – and in winter, I say that includes tasty soup. And when I was sent a new flavour of Pitango organic soup to try, I told myself that it could only really count as an everyday spark if it was delicious. It was, so here we are.

I really like soup in winter – preferably when it’s cooked by other people. My mum is an excellent soup-maker, even if she can’t be completely trusted about the ingredients. She recently gave me some allegedly meat-free minestrone and, when I detected something chewy halfway through and said “um, is this bacon?” she looked genuinely puzzled for a moment and then said, “oh, yes, sorry – I didn’t put that much in there, so I forgot”. Now, if the surprise ingredient had been chunks of lamb or beef, things would not have ended well, I tell you.

A quinoa & black bean salad made by my brother Jimmi. He threatened to release a cookbook called "Listening to Quinoa".

A quinoa & black bean salad made by my brother Jimmi. Ever in tune with the market, he threatened to release a cookbook called “Listening to Quinoa”.

I also like quinoa (‘keen-wa’) – sometimes known as the rich man’s cous cous (not really, I just made that up). Quinoa gets a bad reputation because a lot of fancy pants hipster types have adopted it as the grain du jour. Which is kinda funny, since our South American friends have been using quinoa as a key grain in their diet for – like – ever. The Incas even considered it sacred, apparently. Long before our local organic store started selling it at extortionate prices.

As recommended by EverydaySparks.

As recommended by EverydaySparks.

Anyways, I digress. Back to the Pitango soup that I tried – it’s organic, gluten-free and made in New Zealand (a description that actually reminds me of my blogging buddy Jo at This Sydney Life), but please don’t let any of those things put you off. The new flavour that I tried was vegetable & quinoa and it was very tasty – with enough of a hint of Mexican flavours to make me add a dollop of guacamole to my next serving. I could be a Masterchef yet, my friends!

Yes, those chives are from my balcony herb pot. And I made that toast. So I feel like I contributed something here (but thanks for the gifted bowl and spoon, Pitango people).

Yes, those chives are from my balcony herb pot. And I made that toast. So I feel like I contributed something here (but thanks for the gifted bowl and spoon, Pitango people).

I was just looking on the Pitango website (it’s here if you would like to check out their range) and noticed the claim that the United Nations has declared 2013 ‘International Year Of The Quinoa’. Maybe you keep track of these things better than I do, but I totally missed that – and it’s already mid-July. Must talk to my brother about that cookbook: “Listening to Quinoa” could be an unexpected global hit! In the meantime, this Pitango soup is definitely a winner. The proof is below.

Yum.

Yum.

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Treats from Ireland

I wrote last week that some friends from Ireland were visiting Australia for the Lions tour, spending this past week here in amazingly sunny Sydney. I haven’t yet processed my feelings about the match on Saturday night, where I was the lone little Wallabies supporter in a block of hundreds and hundreds of Lions fans, but I’ll try to write about it another day.

Anyways, my lovely friend Gavan brought me out a bag of treats from Ireland as an international gesture of goodwill. I’m not sure who started this crazy contest – I have been known to send over hideous Austrayan goodies (mostly to remove them from our shops) from time to time – but this bag o’ crap from Dublin’s finest tourist store has really raised the bar. In fact, it has inspired me to put together a Diddly Dee Oirish showbag for next year’s Easter Show in Sydney. It will go off like a leprechaun in a pot of gold, so it will.

Here are some pics of my gifts – do let me know if you would like to borrow anything…

The bag. Off to a very good start.

The bag. Off to a very good start.

Complete with a tin whistle playing leprechaun, if you don't mind.

Complete with a tin whistle playing leprechaun, if you don’t mind.

They really would work with any outfit.

They really would work with any outfit.

Roll on, 17 March...

Roll on, 17 March…

Probably not so lucky if you actually eat them.

Probably not so lucky if you actually eat them.

An unexpected warning on the bag of ShamRock lollies.

An unexpected warning on the bag of ShamRock lollies.

I’ll stop there, even though I’ve only covered maybe half of the contents of the bag. But you get the idea. Although, I do need to add one more highlight – I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Tayto, the Irish crisps that backpackers miss so much that they have their family post out boxes to them (well, they used to, until an entrepreneur started importing them to Australia and charging extortionate prices for a taste of home). Anyways, the flagship flavour is cheese & onion and they’re pretty much a national treasure. So, what else to do but release a limited edition treat – embed the chips into chocolate bars and sell them to the general public. I’ve tried it and it’s pretty much as horrible as you might imagine: some things were just not meant to be, Tayto.

Limited edition indeed.

Limited edition indeed.

Huge thanks to my friend Gavan for this bag of treats – I don’t know that I’ve ever had such a thoughtful/generous/funny/scary/sickening gift all in one bag. Now the stakes have been raised, I’m off to find some hideous Australiana to further advance global cultural understanding and tolerance. Or something like that.

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Friday Foto – At the zoo

This week, with some Irish friends visiting for the rugby and a burst of some incredible springtime weather, we spent a lovely day at Taronga Zoo. Definitely one of my favourite spots in town and quite appropriate for the Lions fans.

Anyways, no pics of the animals today – but the tree trunk that I saw in the reptile exhibit. I was so taken with it, I almost didn’t notice the giant boa constrictor that I was meant to be checking out.

So here it is – the Taronga Zoo Tree Shark…

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Oh and some large toy animals in the Zoo shop wearing booties. Just because.

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Have a great weekend!

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Blog Crush: Sally’s Baking Addiction

I have a blog crush. The blog is Sally’s Baking Addiction. I want to make and eat pretty much everything on Sally’s blog – especially the things with brightly coloured sprinkles. Which is A LOT of the things, thankfully. According to her brief bio, Sally is a ‘food writer, recipe developer, picture-taker, lover of peanut butter, and obsessed with sprinkles’. Sounds pretty great to me!

Even if you’re not into baking, you can surely appreciate the food porn value of Sally’s blog – and it’s calorie-free if you just look at the pictures. But don’t just take my word for it – check out these photos of some of my favourites…

This tie-dye cake makes me wish we celebrated 4th of July in Australia...

This tie-dye cake makes me wish we celebrated 4th of July in Australia…

 

'Easy homemade Funfetti cake'? Yes please!

‘Easy homemade Funfetti cake’? Yes please!

Salted Caramel Choc Chip Cookies. Uh huh.

Salted Caramel Choc Chip Cookies. Uh huh.

S'mores Brownie Pie. Yes, that is a toasted marshmallow topping.

S’mores Brownie Pie. Yes, my friends, that is a toasted marshmallow topping.

Ok, I have to stop now or I will go into a virtual sugar coma. But if you’re looking for some sweet inspiration, including healthy(ish) options, gluten-free options, no-bake options and lots of sprinkles, then Sally’s Baking Addiction is the place to visit. The recipes are detailed and easy to follow, supported by amazing photos. As with any temptation, EverydaySparks of course urges moderation in your consumption of Sally’s treats. But there’s no harm in looking…

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Garden & Gun

Catchy title, isn’t it? To me, it’s a confusing combination of relaxation and terror: like Library & Land Mine, or Beach & Bazooka. But to hundreds of thousands of readers in the USA, Garden & Gun is a leading magazine covering all that is great about the South (of the USA). According to its President & CEO, Garden & Gun “…is a metaphor for the South—its land, the people, their lifestyle, and their heritage.” And their gardens and guns, presumably.

I’ve never read the magazine (having no real connection to the South, nor to gardens or guns), but the website is certainly an interesting and informative place to visit. Since I’m guessing that you probably haven’t read the magazine either, here are some highlights that I found on the Garden & Gun website…

From the Sporting Life section.  [image from gardenandgun.com]

From the Sporting Life section.
[image from gardenandgun.com]

From the Food section, an article entitled Build a Better Hot Dog includes a description of the creative dogs produced at a shop called Frank in Austin, Texas. “…like the Jackalope (antelope, rabbit, and pork sausage with a cranberry compote, Sriracha aioli, and cheddar).” Yes, really.

And, in what I think would be a great title for a sister magazine, the Arts & Culture section features an opinion piece God, Gators, and Gumbo. Uh huh.

There is another cool section called G&G Reader Good Dog Photos, which is pretty much what you would expect it to be – a heap of photos of Good Dogs (split into categories like ‘at play’, ‘on water’, ‘at rest’ and my favourite: ‘dogs being dogs’). Here is the impressive winner of the ‘dogs on water’ category: Fritz – a yellow Labrador retriever from Charleston, South Carolina.

Fritz, a dog who helps catch giant fish.  [image from gardenandgun.com]

Fritz, a dog who helps to catch giant fish.
[image from gardenandgun.com]

There is a Garden & Gun online store, which has some great things for sale. Also on sale for $300 is “Bird in Hand” – a photo of a man holding a dead bird. Not my cup of tea, but am sure the “Gun” part of the Garden & Gun readership would appreciate the art. The “Wear” section of the store features branded shirts, caps and leashes (for dogs) as well as pocket squares and a women’s shooting vest. And a “Croquet Golf Set”, which sounds intriguing and looks quite fancy.

If you would like to check out the very interesting website of Garden & Gun, it’s here. I’m no fonder of the garden or the gun, but I still like the insight into another world, from this magazine representin’ the South. Yeeeeeee-ha.

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The Pancake Man

This post was made possible by our EverydaySparks correspondent in Dublin (aka my Irish sista Aoife), who somehow stumbled across this site and thought I might like it. And I do. A great find, thanks AB!

The site in question is Jim’s Pancakes and I was pretty impressed by the home page header alone, where Jim has taken word art to a whole new level and made his site name out of little pancakes. Then there’s the understated tag line: ‘just trying to make some cool pancakes for my daughter’. And that’s what he did…

Jim made Star Wars pancakes:

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Jim made a romantic gift box pancake stack for his wife:

pancakegiftJim made candy cane pancakes for Christmas:

pancakecandycane

Jim made a burger and fries pancake extravaganza:

pancakeburger

And probably my favourite. Jim’s bling pancakes – a whole chain of pancakes worthy of any sweet rhymin’ rapper.

PancakeBlingYou can check out Jim’s Pancakes here and if you’re feeling particularly inspired, Jim has a book for sale, with a very exciting title: OMG PANCAKES!

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