Nope, you can’t have everything (and that means everyone)

The question of electricity (and where it comes from) has been much on the minds of South Africans lately.

Ongoing entrenched problems at the nation’s power utility mean we suffer from “loadshedding” – rotational power cuts, aimed at preventing the national grid from collapse. (There’s a good explainer here).

The latest round of these power cuts happened at around the same time as sustained international news coverage of COP26 and the climate crisis.
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Life’s compasses: What I learned from Star Wars

If you type the words “life compass” into Google, a remarkably similar set of results appears. From blogs, to life coaches, to organisations, there are many people and institutions offering to help people navigate change, and find their way through challenges.

I’m not promising anything so big. I just want to write about the things that are my life’s compasses, and the directions they have sent me in, with the hope that some of the things I have learned will be of help to other people.
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Getting things done: The power of an afternoon nap

It’s 2pm on a Friday, and I’ve just had a little nap – which will keep me going all afternoon.

I discovered the power of an afternoon nap when reading Make Time, where one of the key concepts is making sure you have enough energy to do all the things that need to be done in any given day.

That means the obvious things – a good night’s sleep, eating nutritious food, going for walk, taking breaks. For me though, it’s meant something less obvious – a gradual shift in the way I approach my working life.
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Meal planning: The “what to cook blues” and what to do about them

In our house, we share the cooking duties. I cook supper for a month, and then my husband cooks for a month. In the month we aren’t cooking, we take care of the laundry.

It wasn’t always that way: for many years Bob was the chief cook, and I was the washer of clothes.

At some point I realised that I was bored to tears with doing the laundry and suggested we take turns at these two major household tasks. Turns out he was bored with the cooking too, and so our new regime was born.

Our approaches to the cooking month could not be more different: Bob looks in the freezer, takes something out and cooks it. Simple.

I, on the other hand, do a Meal Plan (and am about to do one as January turns into February).

I do that for many reasons: I think it saves time, money and allows, oddly, for more creativity.

Here’s how I do it

A day or two before the turn of the month – I take stock: see what’s in the cupboard, the fridge and the freezer and make a list.

Then on a piece of paper I write down the days of the month, along with the actual day of the week, like this:

Mon 1
Tues 2
Wed 3

And so on, till I get to the last day of the month. Then I note any days where I know something is going on that affects supper (this is less of a thing in lockdown since we never go anywhere) – so Saturday the 6th might say “supper at Gill’s” – and that’s one less night that needs a plan.

(Note – we all do our own lunches and breakfasts, so only supper needs to be part of the plan).

I then allocate meals per night based on what’s in stock, and what I feel like, and what I know people like. Quick meals for week nights, longer or more elaborate meals for weekends. I try also to incorporate one or two new recipes, to prevent boredom.

So the first week of February is probably going to look something like this:

Mon 1 – fish finger bhorta (a recipe of Nigella Lawson’s that I discovered in a previous cooking month)
Tues 2 – pasta meal (find recipe – we have some olives in the cupboard)
Wed 3 – kedgeree (a recipe using tinned fish – I try to do fish once a week)
Thurs 4 – burgers (remember to buy rolls)
Friday 5 – roast chicken
Saturday 6 – paella
Sunday 7 – butter chicken (use the chicken left over from the roast)

I then transfer the list to the pages of my diary, and add reminders to take things out of the freezer (so the page for Thursday the 4th will have an item that says: take chicken out of freezer).

And then I go about my month secure in the knowledge that my previous self made sure there is one thing in my day that I don’t have to think about at all.

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Main picture: Eli Eshaghi on Unsplash