‘Insomnia Lottery’, or ‘I’m ridiculous’

I am an insomniac. At about 10pm each night, any careful planning I have done around “getting to bed early” flies out the window and I turn into some procrastinating, self-sabotaging hellbeast who needs to watch an episode from season 3 Masterchef that she found on TenPlay. THEY’RE PUTTING THEMSELVES ON A PLATE, YOU GUYS. 

So, lately I’ve been trying to sabotage the self-sabotager by using a repeated pattern of thought to fall asleep. I’ve been imagining that Jane and I have won 6-12 million dollars (I vary the amount to keep it interesting) and then I set about imagining how we might spend / save / invest / donate it. The beauty of the “lotto meditation” as I’ve been calling it, is that it is so unrealistic that it doesn’t allow me to fret or get anxious about the real world (what I normally do, leading to insomnia). I’ve never bought a lotto ticket so it’s a fantasy divorced from my day to day life. It also involves doing maths in my head which, like counting sheep, I find calming.

Over the last week or so, though, I’ve started to really believe that we might win lotto (I repeat: I have not bought a ticket. InsomniacMaeve is ridiculous). And, with that belief, I’ve managed to allow my usual anxious late night self to filter into my imaginings. No longer do I drift off to sleep joyfully imagining that I am handing over a cheque to the Asylum Seeker Centre, paying off a parent’s mortgage or a friend’s debt, getting amazing clothes tailored in me-size or designing the house of my dreams (it has a slippery dip from the second floor, a massive kitchen and one of these for Jane’s cat).

No, no. Now, the following conundrums are keeping me up:

  • What will I do if Jane and I want to invest the money really differently? Will she be troubled by how much I am choosing to invest in an all-expenses paid international tour for Lady Sings it Better? Will our good fortune spell the end of our relationship?
  • Will my siblings resent me if I don’t give them enough money? 
  • What actually happens when you win lotto? Who do you call? Are you expected to do media? What if I don’t want to tell anyone I’ve won? Will people find out who I am, come to my house and rob me?

Despite being anxious and overthinking things, I still want to win lotto (I repeat: still haven’t bought a ticket). Last night, I climbed into bed and attempted to sleep. After much consideration of the above questions, at around 1am, I reached for my phone and googled “Australian lotto with best odds of winning.” After a further 15 minutes of reading a wikipedia entry on Australian lotteries (Powerball offers better odds of winning any prize, OzLotto offers better odds of winning the top prize), I put my phone down and admitted that my “lotto meditation” was no longer an effective means of falling sleep.

Anyone got a better suggestion?

Hearty Mushrooms with Provolone Polenta

To put it bluntly, this was bloody delicious. I couldn’t decide which mushroom dish from Ottolenghi’s ‘Plenty‘  to make so I combined two and the result was perfect for a wintry Sunday evening. It should be noted that I made some mistakes and didn’t have some of the ingredients I was meant to have, so it’s possible – indeed probably – that an even more delicious version of this dish could be made, if you had, for example, more than two kinds of mushrooms or the patience to let the cheese fully brown on the polenta.

The two dishes I adapted were ‘Mushroom ragout with poached duck egg’ and ‘Mushroom and herb polenta’ from ‘Plenty’.

Ingredients 
Serves 2

  • Butter and olive oil
  • 4 large portobello mushrooms
  • A handful of dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 white onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Half a teaspoon crushed dried chillis
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon of truffle oil
  • A handful of rocket / baby spinach / other fresh leafy greens to serve, with a small squeeze of lemon on it

For the polenta

  • 1 cup instant polenta
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • a few shavings of parmesan
  • pinch salt and black pepper

Steps:

  1. If your polenta isn’t instant, you made need to get it on first. Most polenta packets will have instructions on the back. Follow them!
  2. Soak the porcini mushrooms in enough boiling water to well cover them and stand aside (about a cup).
  3. Meanwhile, fry your mushrooms in batches in a hot pan – I’d use a heavy based deep fry pan. You only want to cook one layer of mushrooms at a time so they they get browned. For reasons unclear to us all (I think I was distracted by the tv), I did one batch in butter then the second in olive oil. Ottolenghi says to fry the mushrooms in oil, for what it’s worth. Put the mushrooms to the side while you…
  4. Put 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the same pan and fry your onion, carrot and celery for 5 minutes on a medium heat – you don’t want them to brown. Add the chilli and chopped garlic at the last minute and give it a stir before you add the wine, but don’t let the garlic brown or burn.
  5. Add your white wine to the pan and heat it up. Take the soaking porcini mushrooms out of their liquid and squeeze out any excess. Pop the porcini in the waiting bowl with your other mushrooms and pour the soaking liquid into your pan with the wine and vegetables.
  6. Add another cup of water, all of the herbs except the parsley, the balsamic vinegar and soy sauce, pepper and salt (I used rosemary salt but any good sea salt will do).
  7. Boil your sauce / stock til the sauce reduces to about a cup. Taste it and make sure it’s tasty :-)
  8. Meanwhile make your polenta – if it’s instant. Follow the instructions on the packet, adding pepper and salt.
  9. Strain out your vegetables leaving only your sauce. It’s up to you how thorough you want to be with the straining. The recipe suggested fully straining the sauce, but I just scopped out the carrot, celery and the woody herbs (bay, rosemary) with a slotted spoon so there were still bits of garlic, onion, thyme etc.
  10. When your sauce has reduced down, re-add your mushrooms (both the fried portobello and the porcini) and cook away, letting the sauce reduce further.
  11. Add your parmesan shavings to the polenta and taste it to test the seasoning. It’s up to you how you want to incorporate the provolone. I put my polenta into the serving bowl, topped it with grated provolone, then grilled it. You could also stir it through.
  12. At the last minute (when most of your sauce is reduced and your cheesy polenta is good to go), stir through your truffle oil and chopped parsley. Pop the mushrooms on the plate with the polenta and a handful of leafy greens with a squeeze of lemon.

I can already think of loads of variations on this dish I could make in the future: add different mushroom varieties, turn the polenta into chips, add cream to the sauce (if I wanted a heart attack), add a few handfuls of puy lentils for a nuttier, heartier version, serve the ragout on mashed potatoes or use it as the base for a risotto… The options are endless. Enjoy!

Just for Laughs: the world’s favourite comedy festival has no room for women

Sydney Opera House announced its ‘Just for Laughs’ line up, but they didn’t bother announcing any women. I got mad and wrote a Daily Life opinion piece about it. Published 16 July 2014.

This morning I got an email from the Sydney Opera House informing me that I could buy tickets to “the world’s favourite comedy festival.” I love comedy, I thought. Indeed, I perform comedy. This is the festival for me!

Except it isn’t.

Like so many comedy festivals, events, open mic nights and variety shows, ‘Just for Laughs’ has just announced an exclusively male line up. Now, I’m not saying that Bill Bailey, Trevor Noah, Rhys Darby, Jim Gaffigan and Dave Thornton aren’t funny, I am just completely fed up with the exclusion of women in Australian comedy.

Read the rest of the article on DailyLife.com.au

Playlist: 5 Songs That Are Important To Me

Making lists is, without a doubt, one of my favourite pastimes. So, when I was asked by Daily Review to list 5 songs that are important to me and why, I jumped at the chance. I’ve popped the first one below, but you can visit Playlist: Maeve Marsden on the Daily Review site for the rest.

The whole thing is in aid of promoting Lady Sings it Better’s upcoming shows at Hayes Theatre Co, so you should probably book tickets to that…

I’m Your Man – Leonard Cohen 

This was my first solo with Lady Sings it Better, sung a cappella. We now sing my arrangement in four-part harmony. It’s a great summary of the show’s brief (singing songs written by men), and it’s also such a wonderful song, literate, sexy, strong, vulnerable, playful and clever. Leonard Cohen is my favourite lyricist and an outstanding storyteller.

Warm potato salad with basil, lemon and avocado

I first made a version of this salad after visiting a little market stall near the apartment we were staying in, in Valparaiso, Chile. I wanted to buy a finite amount of food because we were leaving a day or so later, and I wanted to buy vegetables I could name in Spanish. We already had a small bag of colourful potatoes from the markets in Chiloé, birthplace of the potato – seriously, Chiloén potatoes are a massive thing. My partner is Irish so she was pretty stoked.

Anyway, I say a ‘version’ of the salad because the one I made tonight – and the recipe I am providing – is a variation on a theme, much like most of the things I cook. If you’re looking for precision, look elsewhere! I love the combination of lemon, garlic, basil and a little chilli kick from the tabasco (if you think I made chilli / Chile / chilly puns every day when traveling in South America, you would be correct!). The avocado smushes into the warm potatoes and thickens the dressing, serving the same purpose as mayo but with a fresher flavour. Enjoy!

Ingredients:
Serves 2

  • Potatoes – I used purple potatoes and they were both delicious and pretty. Kipfler are also great, new potatoes at a stretch. You want about 4-6 small, firm ones.
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Splash of tabasco
  • Splash of good quality olive oil
  • Big handful of basil leaves
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed or chopped – if you like a real raw garlic, punch, chuck it straight in; if not, fry or roast it first
  • Thinly sliced red, yellow & green capsicum
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 small Spanish onion, finely sliced
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
  • Green beans or asparagus (optional)
  • Toasted pine nuts (optional)
  • I put bocconcini in tonight but in retrospect it wasn’t necessary

Process:

  1. If you are cooking the garlic, do so. If eating it raw crush it and sit it in the lemon juice while you prepare everything else. I crush my garlic on this excellent contraption I bought at the markets in Edinburgh in 2012. Alas, I don’t know what it’s called but it makes a gloriously pungent garlic paste. Mix the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, tabasco, basil salt and pepper in a salad bowl.
  2. Steam the potatoes in a steamer. It’ll seem easier to boil them. Don’t. They are much nicer steamed.
  3. Slice all your veges.
  4. If using asparagus or green beans, chuck them into the steamer for the last 2-3 minutes.
  5. Strain the potatoes and greens then add them to your bowl with the lemon juice mix. Stir through.
  6. Add the other vegetables and the avocado, mix the lot and serve.

Robin Thicke is a repeat offender, but he’s definitely not alone

I wrote this article about the #AskThicke twitter storm and my experiences singing misogynist pop, for the Women’s Agenda, 4 July 2014.

I don’t know of many people who grow up dreaming of singing songs about aggressive sexual encounters to crowds of smiling people. It’s mainly just me… and Robin Thicke. As a cabaret singer who builds each performance around the most misogynist, offensive and downright ridiculous songs written by men, Thicke’s latest antics are a creative goldmine.

Margaret Attwood gave us the idea that men are afraid women will laugh at them, whereas women are afraid men will kill them. If this is the case, the #AskThicke PR catastrophe that’s been amusing the Internet this past week is a classic example of women and men using their best weapons…

For the rest of the piece, visit the Women’s Agenda.

ABC – The Drum: The time for slacktivism is over – protesters are angry

Following Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s cancellation of a visit to Deakin University, I wrote this article for ABC – The Drum on 21 May 2014:

There was a time in my feckless, badly dressed, late 90s youth that I was pretty keen to be a member of the Socialist Alliance. I was reaching out for somewhere to belong, and, with a government that supported neither my rights nor my views, angry leftie students seemed a damn good place to start.

As the news broke today that the Prime Minister was cancelling a trip to Deakin University for fear of the safety of innocent bystanders, I empathised with the student protesters he was avoiding, all dressed up with no place to go.

The ‘Howard years’, as we like to call them now in shuddering reminiscence, were a great time for student protest. Between VSU; babies thrown overboard; the Intervention; his refusal to apologise for, well, anything; and the most caricature-worthy eyebrows in Australian history, there was no shortage of material for chants, signs and impassioned student newspaper op-eds.

Without social media, organising protests and communicating our message may have been harder. But, without social media distracting us, we all bothered to attend protests once they’d been scheduled. As a student at a small, rural university, our opportunities to riot were limited, but we hosted meetings, discussion groups, political theatre performances in pubs, marches down the relatively car-free main street, and a glorious 80-day sit-in protest outside the Vice Chancellor’s office. The latter was complete with tents, performances and a makeshift kitchen. It’s nice to remember the halcyon days of my youth as fiery political action, but it could be argued that we were looking for “an excuse for a camping trip” rather than the “excuse for a riot” Abbott has claimed Deakin University students are after.

The left got slack during the Rudd/Gillard reign. Kevin07 t-shirts made their way to the back of the cupboard and we all congratulated ourselves on a job well done. Sure, the government wasn’t perfect (especially if you were an asylum seeker) but they were our lesser of two evils, so we hid indoors, keeping quiet in the hope that this was the worst it was going to get. Now that we were able to rely on vague awareness-raising Facebook statuses or hashtags to make us feel politically engaged, protest petered out, save for near weekly equal marriage marches. The older generation bemoaned a disengaged youth and accused young people of ‘slacktivism’, and we all got angry about that for a week then went back to watching Game of Thrones.

And so it was that after the last election, we were a messy bunch, unable to work out how to respond to a harsh new world. Facebook events for more equal marriage protests came and went as we flailed about trying to remember how to walk and shout in time. Indeed, it’s noise pollution, not physical violence, we should be afraid of; Australian protesters really aren’t great at chanting. If you ask me, we should spend a little less time working out which shoe to throw, and a little more on rhythm, harmony and understanding that you don’t need to screech into a microphone.

Jokes aside, many of us expected things to proceed much as they did back in Howard’s time. A well-received first budget, years of ever worsening policy and unheard protests, leading finally to a tipping point when this government’s version of ‘Work Choices’ came along and rallied everyone together. Right?

Wrong.

The Government gifted us a punishing budget, and national student protests are planned across the country this week, mere days after, oh look, more national protests on the weekend. No amount of patronising sound bites can disguise the mood in Australian politics. Much like Shakira’s hips, the polls don’t lie.

The claim that students are rioting is, if anything, an offense to anyone who has ever participated in an actual riot. The Daily Telegraph posted a picture of an Angry Young Man™ and claimed that the weekend’s protests were violent. In reality, most participants in the rallies were senior citizens, babies wearing ‘Activist in Training’ onesies, and families strolling down the street holding carefully alliterated, pun-tastic signs they’d crafted as a Saturday morning bonding activity. A small collection of red-flag-wielding Socialist Alliance members, playing Rage Against the Machine out of an Otto bin, threatened to – god forbid – sit down in the road, but that was about it. The chants we are hearing are directed at policy – No Cuts, No Fees, No Corporate Universities – not at tearing down democracy.

The Prime Minister is right to be afraid, not of screeching students or misspelled signage, but of the next election. Those of us who took to the streets crying ‘Resistance!’ in the 90s grew up and got organised. You may hear us gently mocking the Socialist Alliance as we sit around drinking craft beers and eating pickles in another Sydney pop up bar, but we’re still angry, we’re attending protests, and we will organise against this budget.