Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Can I live on $2 a day?

There's days that I whinge and complain a lot about not having enough. I want to buy new clothes but I can't afford them. I want to buy expensive cheese, but I have to get the tasteless home-brand stuff. I want to drive down the coast for the day, but have to wait a couple of days until I can afford to put petrol in my car.

At these times I feel like I've got it so bad. Why can I not just have a little bit more to make my life easier? It's just not fair.

Well, no actually, it isn't fair. It isn't fair at all and I'll tell you why.

  • If you are lucky enough to earn $50,000 a year you are in the top 3% of world wealth.
  • If earn $20,000 a year (basic starting wage) you are in the top 13% of world wealth.
  • Even if you are on Newstart and only earn $13,000 a year you are in the top 19%.
  • 1.3 billion people live in extreme poverty and survive on the equivalent of $2 a day

If we were to live in a fair world a lot of the luck that we have would be spread a little more thinly. We are lucky we have so much.

So I feel it's important to spend some time doing our part for people who have no choice in where they live or what luck they've been dealt. The Hungry Babushka directed my attention to the Live Below the Line challenge that is coming up in a couple of weeks (6-10 May). The goal is to live on $2 a day for 5 days and experience what is like to survive on the extreme poverty line.

What can you do to help support Live Below the Line?

1. You can sign up and try to live for $2 a day yourself 

2. Or you can donate here to help the Oaktree Foundation raise money for those living in extreme poverty.

Let's all be grateful for what we have and spend some time thinking about others who aren't as lucky as we are in Australia.


Debbie x

If you do sign up share the links to your page below so we can support each other going forward.

I'll be posting thoughout the week my trials and successes.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Post Secret in Brisbane

I had another entry I was going to post today, but last night something happened and I wanted to talk about that.

Last night I went to the first Post Secret event in Australian tour. The first time he's been in Australia actually. I felt like I've been waiting for this since I first opened a Post Secret book nearly 10 years ago.

Post Secret is an internet community founded by Frank Warren where people post in their secrets. They can be big or trivial, but something I've learnt from reading these secrets over the years is that not one of them is unique. If you have a secret, you can pretty much guarantee someone else has got it too.

I first discovered Post Secret in a little book shop in The Rocks, Sydney. I picked it up, flicked through the pages and immediately bought it. It seemed like the most amazing thing I had come across - all these peoples secrets laid bare for my voyeuristic eyes to pore over. I devoured the book and occasionally would pull it back off my book shelf to flick through it again.

Later on, I discovered the website and signed up to receive updates from Frank. Now every Sunday, after lunch, an email arrives in my inbox with a handful of new secrets. It's become my Sunday ritual to sit down at my computer, open up my email and read the secrets that have been delivered to me. At the bottom of the emails there would be a list of upcoming speaking events - but these were always in America.

When Australian tour dates appeared I immediately booked two tickets, and I'm thrilled that I did as it sold out amazingly fast. I gave one of my tickets to The Dashing Hans, who was with me when I bought that first Post Secret book.

I had an idea what the night would entail - a talk by Frank on how he started Post Secret, the sharing of secrets and what they meant to him and others - but I had completely forgotten about the fact that he invites people to share their own secrets at the end of the night.

Some of the secrets that people shared were big, hairy, monstrous secrets. After the event I saw some of those who had told their secrets getting hugs from strangers.

One common theme that came up was people who had bought two tickets intending to take their 'one' with them... only they didn't meet them in time. Or people who were convinced they would meet their 'one' there. I've never been to an event before that had so many people who attended for such loaded reasons. It felt like most of the audience was there not because they just wanted to go, but because they had this great weight that meant that had to be there.

Did I get up and share a secret?

No, I was way too chicken - I also couldn't think of anything good.

Do I have a secret I want to share?


Afterwards I looked at the #postsecret tag on Instagram, I felt like I was going through it all over again and feeling that connection with other people that Post Secret is so good at doing.






So you still want to hear my secret?

Do you have a secret you want to share?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Black Tea Cake with Honey Cream Cheese Icing

In the last few months I've spotted a few cake recipes that use tea to flavour the cake. I have been dying to try it out and was not disappointed with the results.

I'm a big tea drinker (and a bit of a tea-snob actually). I have a large collection of different leaves so I can always select the tea that I feel in the mood for. I also shared my cake with The Dashing Hans who is another tea connoisseur and who has shared many tea-related journeys with me. We both agreed that the flavour wasn't as tea-ish as we would have liked, so next time I bake this cake I will replace the regular Assam leaves with something a bit stronger (like a Russian Caravan or a Lapsang). But other than that this cake was delicious!

This recipe comes from Pastry Affair and I found it worked perfectly.


1 cup milk 
3 tablespoons black tea (or the contents of 3 tea bags)* 
55 grams butter
1 cup granulated sugar** 
2 large eggs 
1/4 cup vegetable oil 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 3/4 cups plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt

*As I mentioned above, I used a regular Assam blend (Daintree Tea to be exact). This tea is quite full bodied so I was expecting the flavour to come through stronger. I'll be sure to update when I've tested on different blends of tea.

**I felt this gave the cake a much more caramel flavour that may have been why the tea flavour was lost. Next time I bake this I will be using a finer blend of sugar.

Bonus Baking Tip - Get your eggs, milk and butter out early as you should always bake with these at room temperature. Having the butter at room temperature makes it easier to beat and if you bake with cold eggs and milk it can cause your mixture to shrink when baking giving you a tough cake.


Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and prepare you baking pan (about 20cm will be fine).

Warm you milk up close to boiling point (you can do this on the stove or the microwave). Then add your tea leaves directly into the milk. If you are using tea-bags, don't just dunk them in but cut them open as you want all the leaves in there. Set aside to cool.

Cream together your butter and sugar until it's light and fluffy then add the eggs one at a time. Beat well after each egg. Now add the vegetable oil and vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Add 1/3 of your flour mix to your wet mix and mix until just combined. Resist the urge to use electric beaters to mix your flour this over-beats the mixture and results in tough cakes. Add 1/3 of your milk/tea mix and stir to combine. Continue until you've added all your flour and milk/tea. You should have a smooth batter - I had to add a little more flour to get a nice cake batter consistency.
Pour your mix into your pre-prepared cake pan and bake for 30-40 minutes. Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack before icing.

Honey Cream Cheese Icing

250 grams cream cheese
1 cup of icing sugar (give or take for taste and consistency)
1/2 cup of honey (give or take for taste and consistency)

Beat together cream cheese, icing sugar and honey until you have a flavour and consistency that you like.

Note: the more you beat the more this icing will become runny. To obtain a stiff icing you can pipe with, use really cold cream cheese, add more icing sugar and beat as little as possible.

Drizzle over cake

I added some lemon zest as well :)

Enjoy with a good cup of tea.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

How I lived without internet for 47 days

When I decided to give up all non-essential internet for the 47 calendar days that is Lent I  thought it would be difficult but that I would manage it. I knew I relied very heavily on the internet - for entertainment and the generally making-of-my-life-easier. But I didn't realise how much I relied on it. The first night of my internet fast I dreamt about checking my Facebook page. I found myself questioning my decision when I had to stand in the queue at the cinemas to buy my ticket instead of having it ready from ordering online.

I had visions of breaking my internet habit quickly and using my free time to read copious amounts of high brow literature, finish several embroidery projects, bake fresh bread every day, finally commit to running regularly and starting to meditate. What really happened wasn't as serene and self-empowering. The first week I replaced the internet with junk food, downing an entire packet of chocolate biscuits and a large packet of chips the first day at work when the internet wasn't so easy to ignore.

Once I got past the junk food phase I replaced the internet with television where I watched hours of The Block and My Kitchen Rules. I also watched the entire seven seasons of Buffy resulting in the Facebook dreams being replaced by Buffy dreams and I got the songs from Once More With Feeling stuck in my head for a fortnight.

This suggested to me that I may have a bit of problem disconnecting from technology and that by replacing the internet with television I may have missed the whole point of what I was trying to achieve so I set up some new rules. I had five weeks left of Lent at this stage and so decided to wean myself off television one hour at a time. The first week I was allowed five hours a day, the next week four a day and so on until I would, theoretically, be down to one hour a day by the last week of Lent.

This proved to be more difficult than I suspected.

It was fine during the working week, but the first Saturday was a nightmare and I had the horrifying realisation that I was using all this technology to quite the voices in my head. You know the ones... They spend all their time second guessing you and bring up all the things you've done wrong in your life. There weren't any dreams about Facebook or Buffy that night, instead I kept waking up anxious about work, money, uni, life in general. I had about three hours sleep that night. The next day I re-wrote the rules again and gave myself a Sunday reprieve. Once a week I allowed myself as much TV as I wanted. I also let go of the idea of getting rid of technology all-together as it was literally sending me mad without.

Instead I officially crossed the line from youth market to adult and spent the remainder of my Lent listing to an awful lot of ABC Radio National. I started to bring up current affairs topics I heard when listening to Amanda Vanstone (maybe the sleepless anxious nights or Buffy induced ear-worms weren't so bad).

There were a couple of slips along the way. I had a couple of sneaky Google searches (one to double check how long Lent actually went for in case I got it wrong... I didn't). I listened to some old podcasts on my ipod during a early morning flight. And I checked my email a little more frequently than was allowed by my predetermined rules. But am proud to say I didn't access social media once and didn't watch any on-demand tv.

I did miss a lot of things happening in the world. Mostly things happening in my friends lives. A visit with The Hungry Babushka interstate made this plainly obvious when not a conversation went by where the phrase, 'did you hear... oh yeah, you're not on Facebook' came up. For all it's intrusiveness this website is clearly essential to my social life and without it I felt very cut off from my friends. I also discovered too late there was a Ted X conference at my university so I missed the registration. And that for the first time in my degree three of my classes decided to integrate social networking as teaching tools.

But I think this has been a good experiment. I'm very glad I did it. I did manage to finish a very large, very dull high brow novel (Czech actually, which I think gives me bonus points). I did bake a couple of batches of bagels and a batch of biscuits. I did one week of running before it started to rain for a month and I caught the flu. I've actually got a fairly good head start on my uni assignments. And I can comfortably walk away from my computer without feeling the need to compulsively check Facebook, Pinterest and my blog analytics.

It seems important to remember how easy our lives are. With so much to entertain us, and inform us, and aid in our communication. So many shortcuts to make our lives easier. 'Struggling' without social media for a couple of weeks is not very high up on the list of difficulties I could be facing.

This has given me an idea for a future project, but I am going to file that one away for a later date. In the meantime, I am very glad to have my internet back, but may still try to not use it quite as much as I was.

So how did everyone else go? What did you give up for lent? Were you successful? Do you feel different?