I had a day off today, on account of some time off in lieu I built up a while back at work. Strangely enough, I still found myself swatting away that creeping bleak Sunday evening feeling yesterday, even though I knew Monday was entirely mine. However it really was a lovely quiet little weekend. I baked, and Tim and I had burritos and grilled corn and Bloody Marias for brunch (the difference between a Mary and a Maria is vodka and tequila, to which I found myself asking aloud which was more of a brunch liquor, and tequila won because we felt like it, even though vodka had more of a morning feel to it. Yeah.) We also watched a lot of House of Cards and spent much time unpacking our swirling feelings around Top of the Lake and a few minutes unpacking Star Trek 2. I went to an exhibition launch at the City Art Gallery on Friday night and drank a lot of wine and all of a sudden it was Monday morning and all of today stretched out before me.
It all stretched out before me, because I slept in for seven minutes. On my day off. My body is annoying. And then, also annoying, I spent a lot of the morning curled up on the floor sniffling, on account of our landlord rebuffing Tim and I not once, but twice, in our request for a pet cat. Whether or not you’ve noticed that I talk about cats quite a lot, or have one tattooed on me, or have three paintings of cats on my wall, or whatever, the fact is I want a cat with every molecule of my being. It physically hurts my heart. And we just can’t have one, despite there being nothing in our tenant information about not having pets, or indeed, any reason whatsoever from our landlord, despite my very persuasive email. And apparently my yelling “I’m gonna take this to City Hall!” will have no effect, well, according to Tim. I really don’t want this to be the end of the road for Tim and Laura Having A Cat, but also I acknowledge that I’m not Leslie Knope and this isn’t a comical episode of Parks and Recreation where plotlines will be wrapped up neatly after some toiling. But I also feel like I can’t simply stop trying. Is there some kind of tribunal for if your landlord makes you cry because they just say no to a cat, without saying why?
But as I said, I did do some baking, as a means to a very specific end: work snacks. A few different factors – money, time, disorganisation, listlessness, money again – mean that my lunches for work are generally terrible. In that I’ve recently been having instant noodles for lunch, and that’s a distinct step up nutritionally and delicious-wise from what I used to eat. It’s a bit stupid but it’s the way it is: I can make myself elaborate (or at least decent) dinners or pretty weekend brunches or huge cakes, but I struggle to put any effort into lunch for work. Maybe because it’s hard to throw lots of time and money into something you’re going to wolf down under fluorescent lights, maybe because it’s hard to make something that is filling and that you look forward to and that you won’t get utterly sick of after five days (instant noodles, looking at you.) Maybe it’s just because I’ve only recently started to think about it, and it’s easy to fall into habits that require the least from your brain.
I do go through occasional bursts of inspiration, but I’m going to try to be more consistent now, so that I have the energy throughout the day to not fall asleep, and so that lunch isn’t something I dread yet long for because I’m so hungry but also know that it’s just dried noodles in a polystyrene cup. (They actually are pretty delicious as a snack, by the way, but they’re not that filling and day after day of them is not cool.)
Kinda typically, I completely screwed up one of my ventures, the granola bar. We might call them muesli bars in New Zealand, but that to me recalls memories of primary school morning tea, grimly dry, mealy, oaten briquettes which came in boxes of six or eight and occasionally had a mean sprinkling of chocolate chips on top or some vague apricot flavour. And also, oddly, a listening comprehension test from the same time where the narrator pronounced the word “muesli” as “mooooslie” and it was very distracting. Granola bars sounds a little more freewheeling and chewy and American and cool.
I made this recipe for Date Orange and Almond Granola Bars from The Moveable Feasts, a food blog I love – the author Amy just seems like someone I’d get on with in real life, and she is beautifully descriptive about food but in a relaxed way…I don’t know, a lot of food blogs these days have a really strange energetic style that I not only don’t enjoy reading, but also it blurs them all into one. This one though: it’s good. And this recipe seemed exactly what I was after to take to work – something sustaining and easy to make, and yet still snacky and sweet and enjoyable.
I then somehow added three times the required amount of oats. I don’t know how or why, just my usual heedlessness I suppose – it wasn’t till the next day that I worked it out – but it basically turned into granola, really really good granola, so all is not lost. Just diverted. I now have a container to take with me to work for eating by the handful, the spoonful, or the milky bowlful, depending on my needs.
So if you want to make the granola bars, just follow the link, and if you want to make this into granola bar granola…just triple the quantity of oats. On purpose.
Fortunately the other thing I made worked out just fine. I really like Fine Cooking magazine and figured I’d find something on its website that my brain could happily latch on to. Well, there was a little heedlessness involved here, too – this is supposed to be a recipe for Ginger Bars, but halfway through making it I realised I had no ground ginger. No harm done: I like cinnamon even better.
These have all the squish and sweetness of brownies, but with the pure rush of comforting warmth that cinnamon brings. They take about five minutes to make and get better each day. They just taste ridiculously good.
Adapted from a recipe from Fine Cooking magazine.
- 180g soft butter
- 4 tablespoons golden syrup
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
Set your oven to 180 C/350 F and line a brownie tin with baking paper.
Cream the butter, sugar, honey, golden syrup, cinnamon and salt together till light, airy, and pale. (Also: you should totally eat some at this point, it’s amazing.) Beat in the eggs, then stir in the flour and baking soda. Tip the lot into the brownie tin, sprinkle over a little more cinnamon if you like, and bake for about 25 minutes. It should still be a little tender in the middle, not entirely wobbly and liquidy, but not too firm either.
Cute plate, yeah?
So, now that I am armed with two snacks, one of which can double as a lunch, I’m feeling a little better about the week ahead. Cat-related tears aside (which resurfaced this evening) (which I should really call having-no-cat-related tears.)
PS: I wrote something about Tim’s and my trip to Nashville for a national newspaper here, and it ended up online, if you want to read it. We loved Nashville so much, I could’ve written triple what I did here.
title via: Lily Allen’s LDN. Sunny and grey at the same time. Oh why oh why would I want to be anywhere else?
Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, As Long as the Grass Shall Grow. Just really simple and beautiful.
Solange, Stillness Is The Move. This woman cannot make a musical misstep as far as my ears are concerned. I love this airy cover of the Dirty Projectors’ song.
Next time: I made some oven-baked risotto and it was as awesomely zero-effort as it was excellent-tasting.