New Beginnings and New Year Muffins

January 5, 2014 at 11:15 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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I’m a stationery junkie. I love notebooks of every kind, from school exercise books to hand-made, leather-bound journals. Once I bought a very small hand-made notebook in a Knightsbridge stationers in London. Its cover was soft suede of the palest green and the smooth, creamy-textured pages inside were exactly the same shade. The endpapers were of marbled paper in delicate pastels. It was so pure and pale and perfect that it was ages before I could bring myself to sully its perfection with my dark blue scrawl. It was years actually. This probably had something to do with my having bought it while travelling with my boyfriend, who died the following year.


Finally, finally, about twelve years later, I let myself dive into the beauty of the notebook and my blue scrawl became a part of that beauty. My scrawl is a semi-legible idiosyncrasy that a girlfriend used to call a spider’s two-step tango – back in the days before computers when we all saw one another’s handwriting often. But my writing is expressive of a creative person who has lived a life of vicissitudes so I’ve come to terms with my scrawl and it’s easier to read now than it used to be, possibly a sign of more sanity and serenity than I had in my youth.


Don’t I use a computer most of the time? Yes. Touch-typing is much faster. I’m always amazed at the number of people for whom typing should be a tool of the trade – like academics – who can’t touch-type. There are easy courses on the web like ‘Type Quick’ where you can learn it in a fortnight of just one hour every day and that investment is worth its weight in gold, time-wise plus ergonomically plus easier on your eye sight as well. I can type this while looking at the plum trees out the window. It makes it a lot easier and pleasanter to write.


My computer crashed on New Years Day. What sort of omen is that? It doesn’t sound good unless you interpret it as New Beginnings. Well, let’s hope it means that! On that morning, at 8.00am I cycled the five minutes to the pool as I often do. It was unusually and unpleasantly crowded. The lanes were peppered with thumpers as well. Thumpers are inexperienced swimmers who slap their hands onto the water and thump their feet, thus showering bucketfuls of water onto your face as you’re backstroking past them.


I was annoyed. And then suddenly I relaxed. This happens every year and I’d forgotten. It was New Year, the time of New Year Resolutions. The majority of these unfamiliar faces would have resolved to swim every morning in 2014. Inevitably, the first cloudy day or the first morning they feel too tired or when work starts getting busy, they stop coming. Most of these thumpers will not be crowding the lanes in a few days’ time.


Am I feeling smug about my own New Year’s resolutions? No. Nothing to feel smug about – I’m just stubborn. If I make them I usually keep them, in spite of the usual massive obstacles flung in my path. Maybe it’s because of my history of massive obstacles. If you want more morally appealing terms for stubbornness, I could say that my lifetime of vicissitudes have made me determined and persevering, patient and steadfast. If I say I’ll do something, I will do it.


We all have obstacles in our paths and it’s good not to lose sight of the gentle, small things of life that can lift it up to a happier place. Simple things like digging out my ancient laptop from the shed and discovering it still works, the old faithful. And simple recipes. Jules Clancy’s recipe for New Year’s Raspberry and Dark Chocolate Muffins is a good one. I’m going to take them to work on Monday, my first day back. Jules Clancy got it from The Bourke Street Bakery cookbook and it is easy and simple and very wonderful.


250 g plain flour

1 and a half teaspoons baking powder

200 g caster sugar

200 g unsalted butter

Three-quarters of a cup of natural yoghurt

Half a cup of water

2 eggs

100 g dark chocolate, chopped into rough bits

150 g raspberries, fresh or frozen

2 tblsp raw sugar for the tops


Pre-heat oven to 190C degrees. Line two big muffin trays with patty pans – that’s cup cake papers to Americans and everywhere now.


Combine flour, baking powder and sugar in a big bowl and make a well in centre. Melt butter, remove from heat. Stir through yoghurt and water and then add eggs, stirring well.


Pour butter mixture into the well in the dry ingreds and stir to combine. Fold through raspberries and chocolate and spoon into muffin papers. Sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake for 30-45 mins or when they are golden and feel springy. Cool in tray. (If you take them out early and eat them warm from the oven you get the chocolate still a bit molten so it melts in your mouth. Yum!)


Yum! And if your New Years Resolution is to give up sugar? Go to the website of either David Gillespie or Sarah Wilson where there are chocolate recipes with no sugar. Sarah even has an I Quit Sugar Chocolate Cookbook, which is good.


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