Masterclass- After one year of membership

So, are we going to renew our membership for another year?

With less than 3 weeks remaining in our yearlong Masterclass membership, we’re reflecting on the year that was and trying to decide if we’re going to renew or not. And here’s are musings.

What have we learnt?

Well, to be honest with you, we haven’t learnt much actually. With Gordon Ramsay we didn’t try any of his recipes or cooking techniques, but we did take up his advice and bought ourselves a good large saucepan- and these days this is the only cooking implement we use for everything! While all the other lessons we sat through, it was all nice to know but it also highlighted the fact that we’d never be like our Masterclass instructors. Because: A-We’re not as gifted as them; B- We’ll never have the same amount of time to devote to one single craft (as we do have day jobs); and C- We’re just not as obsessive about one single thing like they are! So, in the end, we haven’t really learnt anything, but have only solidified in our minds that we’ll never ever truly master anything. Nooo! And after the first month when I had already consumed 6 courses, I had to physically restrain myself from binging anymore. As the end result was that I wanted to buy all the gear that they had- case-in-point, I was 80% on my way in buying new DJ turntables after completing Questlove’s course. Until I made myself wait 3 months and re-consider then, and at that point, I realised that I just didn’t have the time to muck around on decks anymore.

Were there any bumps along the way?

Yeah, part way through our Masterclass year, we just gave up on it. Partly due to the fact that we watched it during dinner time, this time which we usually devoted to Netflix/Disney+, and after a while we just wanted some “real” entertainment- something mindless and fictional. And then when we tried to get back into it in October, as we felt we weren’t getting our monies worth and the subscription was going to end soon, then the Masterclass app had some bug where we couldn’t cast it to the TV anymore. So that was another few months before we tried it again (FYI the bug in the app has been fixed now after a new version was pushed out to users). So realistically we probably only used it for 5 months of 12.

How many courses did we actually finish?

I think I only completed 10 Masterclasses, perhaps 12 by the time we attempt to smash it out in the next 3 weeks. So that averages out to one per month, so more than $30 per course. Which is pretty cheap if you’re attending a community  based interest group in person over several weeks. But pretty pricy if it’s an online class, which is produced for mass consumption (which it is).

Have we got our monies worth?

For the 2 aforementioned reasons alone, i.e., only using it for less than half a year, and not using it enough so that each course was costing upwards of 30 bucks, I’d say we didn’t get our monies worth. But while saying that, I’ve noticed that they now have a new tiered pricing structure, and the single access cost is half as much as it was a year ago (advertised for $180, compared to paying upwards of $300 Australian dollars last year). So, if we were on this new pricing structure, would it be worth it? Yeah, it probably would have been, but based on the old cost (paid up front). We didn’t get our monies worth.

Would we renew for another year?

Hmmm, at first I was going to say definitely not. The classes had been fun and interesting enough, but not as educational as we initially hoped it to be. Just because 95% of things which were taught, were at a level which was way beyond what a mere mortal could ever achieve. And the new classes which have been uploaded since we’ve joined, have moved away from the original essence of Masterclass, but now they’re more on the lines of an extended version of a TED talk- and you can watch that stuff for free.

But with this new pricing structure, of $180 for a single user….. It has me thinking…… “Could we do this all over again for another year? And I think it all comes down to, is this $180 US or Aussie dollars (as this same exact amount has been quoted on both US and Australian web-sites). And you truly don’t know, until you get your bill from your credit card company. So, if this amount is US, after conversion and all the fees, it’s going to add up to near $300+ Aussie dollars again. For that same price, I’m out. But if that $180 is in Aussie dollars? I could be enticed to hang onto Masterclass for another year.

Netflix recommendations- Drink Masters

Alcoholics beware!

I always think to myself, what would they think of next!? The “They”, being Netflix, as they’ve tried pretty much everything in a competition style format, and I guess Cocktails and Mixologists were the next frontier!?

For those who have noticed ‘Drink Masters’ appear on their Netflix app but haven’t had the chance to watch it yet, it’s another Reality TV competition show ( like ‘Master Chef’ and other cooking competitions), where contestants are placed into high-pressure situations to be creative and to deliver. However, set aside the poultry and carving knives, and crack-out the cocktail shakers, the distiller, and Martini glasses, as this competition is all about the DRINK! From around the world, 12 of the most talented and creative Mixologists have been assembled to showcase their wares, and for one deserving winner they’ll take home $100K large! And here are my 6 big take-aways from the show:

One. Labour intensive

Holy cow! Who knew having 2 hours to prepare a single drink is almost not enough time!? The effort it took to create a single drink was just as labour intensive as cooking a highly involved meal!? I have to admit I have a greater appreciation for the guys and gals behind the bars now and have a slightly better tolerance/understanding  of the priciness of cocktails.

Two. Progressiveness

I have to admit I don’t usually partake in cocktails as I’m a simple man. But to see all the different techniques exhibited in the show, I’m utterly blown away in how creative and progressive modern bar tending/Mixology has become! Gone are the days of just mixing a few different spirits and serving it up with a wedge of lime!

Three. The cool factor

Have to admit, all of the 12 contestants (bar 1) were pretty cool catz- funky hairstyles/colours, arms covered in tattoos, and various piercings seemed like the standard look of the modern bar tender. Very cool, very cool!

Four. Terms like dry and wet

I’ve always wondered what people meant when they smacked their lips after taking a sip of wine and described it to be dry. But this question has been answered on Drink Masters! A dry alcoholic drink is a wine/spirit/cocktail which is less sweet, and wet implies that a certain ingredient has been applied more liberally than it is normally known for. *Nods sagely*.

Five. My wife is a closet alcoholic

Haaha, I’m just kidding. But Drink Masters has peaked my wife’s interest in alcoholic beverages (prior to this she hardly drinks). I’d say a visit to the ‘Smoking Panda’ may be on the cards for 2023! Woohoo!

Six. Tone Bell, where have you been all my life!?

And finally, how great is Tone Bell! Recently I’ve been uber impressed by Netflix’s casting decisions, as they’ve hit home-runs with all of their show Hosts! And Tone Bell is no exception. Funny, in a Suttle understated way. Smooth and cool when he interacts with the show’s judges and contestants. And his delivery was always spot on, no awkward moments here! So, standing ovation for Tone Bell!

But the one thing which I didn’t particularly like about the show, was the announcement of the winner. And I’ve found this to be the case in most of Netflix’s competition shows. They (they, being Netflix), really don’t know how to nail a suspenseful reveal! Perhaps it’s the lack of advert breaks to draw out the moment, or the fact that they can’t end the final episode on a cliff-hanger (which they’re great with mid-season), but I just find the big reveals to be a bit anticlimactic. That leaves me thinking…. “Really! That’s it? After 10 episodes, you finish on that note?”

But aside from that, Drink Masters was a whole lot of fun, and I hope this helps to bring people back out to their local bars and clubs post-Covid, as God knows how the hospitality industry needs this reinvigoration at this point in time! Add Drink Masters to the mix in your watch list, it’s definitely worth your time!

Podcast recommendation- Play Me a Recipe

A perfect listen on a lazy Saturday morning!

We only cook on the weekends, and just when I’m looking for ideas/inspiration for that evening’s meal- just in time the latest episode of ‘Play Me a Recipe’ is there on my Podcast player! **Note: Episodes drop each Friday evening.

There are other podcasts out there who also share recipes and cooking tips and tricks, but often times those shows are either long drawn-out not-that-interesting interviews, or a chef literally just reads out a recipe which takes them between 3-5 minutes to get through- leaving you not all that inspired.  However, what’s different about Food 52’s  ‘Play Me a Recipe’, is the fact that the chef or cookbook author for that episode actually cooks the entire meal with you!

Remember those days of TV cooking shows? Before all those shows were replaced with cooking competitions. Remember those days when there used to be cooks who actually cook the meal on screen from start to finish (admittedly they often used to pull out the ‘one which I prepared earlier’ from the oven). But essentially those shows showed us how easy (or difficult) it was to actually cook that meal. Which then gave us the confidence to try it ourselves!

And that is what ‘Play Me a Recipe’ is all about! In around 20 minutes, the chef outlines what you need from ingredients, seasoning to equipment, before starting to cook with you. In great detail, they walk you through each step of the recipe, where you can hear the knife chopping on the chopping board, where you can hear the vegetables being washed, where you can hear the food frying in the pan, and on the odd occasion you can hear the cat meowing in the background as it hears a can of tinned tuna being cracked open. Haaha.

And when there’s some down-time whilst waiting for things to boil, the chefs/cookbook authors share a little about themselves. Sometimes shamelessly plugging their next cookbook, or talking about their restaurant, or just sharing stories about themselves. So, the program is both educational, and enlightening, a pretty good combo hey!?

So, if you too like to experiment with new recipes now and again, and you’re always looking for inspiration in the kitchen, check-out ‘Play Me a Recipe’ from your favourite Podcast app. I guarantee you’ll be inspired to try something new in the kitchen this weekend!   

Product recommendations- Garlo’s Pies

I can definitely eat this once a week!

What to do, what to do about the quick mid-week evening meal? We want something quick, pre-cooked, but we want to be semi healthy as well! So, what to do? What to do!?

For periods we tried having store bought fresh gnocchi, ravioli, frozen meals….. But you can only eat so many of these things before you start to get sick of them. Leaving us thinking, “There has to be something better than this!?”

And only recently we discovered Garlo’s Pies, they’ve been supplying Coles NSW with their pies for more than a decade now, but living in the city and only having access to a small Coles with limited products these babies had only made their debut after the Harry Potter Magical Builders came to an end (a refrigerator was moved in after the Harry Potter shelve display was thankfully packed-away).

And what we love about Garlo’s Pies, are their variety of flavours “Satay Chicken is our favourite); the fact that they’re fresh and only take moments to re-heat in the microwave; and the fact that we have a sandwich press so after nuking the pie we crisp it back up again with a few minutes on (and under) our adjustable height sandwich press.

So, each time we’ve had them the pies have been full of flavour, with crispy/flaky tops, with soft, thin pastry all round, and after two pies each it definitely hits the spot. So much so that we enjoy our Garlo’s once a week, our Friday night treat! *Smile*.

Check out Garlo’s Pies at your local Coles and Woolworths (if you’re on the East coast of Australia), it’ll change your mind about store bought meat pies!

Netflix recommendations- The Mole (reboot)

It had us asking all week long, who is the mole!?

I’m thinking this might have been the best show we’ve streamed in 2022! It had us guessing right to the very end, ‘who is the mole’! It had us looking forward to each night when we sat down to consume the next episode! And we honestly felt a little bit empty inside, when the 10 episode season eventually came to an end, and we had to look for something else to fill in the void which the mole had left behind. *Sad look*. So, for those reasons alone, I’m saying it had to be the best thing we’d watched, 10 months into 2022!

For those who haven’t watched ‘The Mole’ before, it is a reboot of a previously airing  reality TV series from the early 2000s, where a bunch of contestants (around 8) aim to complete a series of both physical and mental challenges with the aims to win the prize pot some cash (some pretty large sums of cash). While all along in their midst, is a “Mole”, a saboteur who is working for the show to actively lose the team money. Moohaaha! And the sabotage can occur discretely or not so discretely- which makes it super funny. The dodgy-ness can come in the form of acting incompetent, purposefully withholding information to the detriment of the team, or taking bold and obvious actions of sabotage as an attempt to double-bluff the players.

And at the end of each episode, the contestants take a quiz where they answer questions related to the mole. And the individual who scores the lowest is kicked-off the show, until there is only One!

And to make the show that much more intriguing and difficult for the players, the players themselves are purposefully acting “mole-like”, to turn suspicion onto themselves in hopes that others answer their quizzes with them in mind- thus answering quiz questions incorrectly and bombing out of the game! It’s back-stabbing on-top of back-stabbing.

And all the while, we as the audience are guessing, “who is the mole?” As in the end, they all behave a little bit suspicious and Mole-like. For example, is this person trying super hard, because their trying their best to not look like the mole to deflect suspicion? Or is this person acting incompetent because they’re  the mole, or are they really as clueless as they seem? And in the end, in the final 3, I thought it could have been either one of two, so they were fooling me right to the end! So, it was a super fun and engaging show. So, you got to check it out! Really worth the watch!

Particular highlights of this season was the fact that it was filmed in Australia! Shout-out to my home country!

And also, a big call-out to the show’s host Alex Wagner! Most times game show hosts annoy me somewhat, either they bring too much energy and it’s a bit too in your face. Or they don’t bring enough energy, and the show feels flat and impacts on our enjoyment. But Alex was the perfect combination of both! And I thought she really added to the show and how I enjoyed the whole experience.

Again, if you haven’t already, check it out! Just search for ‘The Mole’ on your Netflix app! I guarantee you’ll be entertained and left guessing right to the very end!

Product recommendations- Intermittent fasting

Does it really work?

So, it’s been 8 years since I’ve started intermittent fasting, it all started after watching a 60 Minutes interview with Michael Mosely the creator of the ‘Fast Diet’. And like usual, part way through the segment I fell asleep and when I awoken I convinced myself that I was going to fast 2 days in a week. But in my sleep muddled mind, I had interpreted the 5-2 to be 2 days of completely not eating. So, for a period  of 4 months, I’d stop eating after dinner on a Wednesday night and not eat again until Friday dinner time2 days later – fasting each week for 48 hours straight. And the results were remarkable! The losing weight part was a given, but it was the other benefits which were startling! I found I had better concentration, I felt more energised, and I required less sleep. And even my resting heart rate became extremely low which meant that my body was coasting through life!

But then Winter came about, and I found I couldn’t regulate my body temperature so on the Thursday nights after already fasting for 30 hours, I found I wasn’t able to remain asleep as I was so cold and so hungry. So, I eventually gave up on my insane 48 hour weekly fasts.

But I had become accustomed to the feeling of well-being from not eating, so I wanted to keep up this intermittent fasting lifestyle (see how I didn’t call it a diet?). So, I tried the proper 5-2 Diet, where 2 days a week I only ate 500 calories or less, which equated to only having a large salad for dinner 2 nights a week. But that wasn’t satisfying, both as a meal, and both as a sense of achievement from mastering your primal urges to consume food.

So, I eventually settled on my own version of Intermittent Fasting, which is the simple rule of: “If I’m at work, I’m not eating.” As simple as that. So, if it’s Monday, I’d start work without having breakfast, I also skip lunch and I only ‘break-fast’ at 4.30pm when I finish work for the day. It’s as simple as that. So, give or take, you don’t eat for 20 hours and then you eat for 4 hours. And I do this 4 days a week, and I allow my Fridays to be a cheat day, so I skip breakfast, but I have lunch, lunch with colleagues back in the day when we used to work from the office. And this regime has been super easy to maintain because all you have to do is nothing! No need to prepare work lunch the evening before, no need to wake up in the mornings in a rush and ponder what to have for breakfast- you simply do nothing! And because I’m blind, when I was in the office it wasn’t like I was going to stroll down to my local take-away joint and buy myself some lunch. So not bringing something to work for lunch, simply meant that I wasn’t going to eat throughout that day.

I allowed myself couple cups of water during the day, and the occasional breath of air….. But I found by not eating during the day, I just remained focus throughout the working hours, none of that post-lunch sleepiness after consuming a high carb lunch. So, I’ve maintained this from 2015 to the present, and how am I doing these days?

Well, some benefits remain- like I still have an extremely low resting heart rate, I still don’t need much sleep, I still feel super alert throughout the working day, but the weight part?….. Well, let’s just say I’m no longer a size Small, and most items from my wardrobe these days feel awfully tight.

I’m blaming it on Covid and Working From Home! The immobility, the sitting at the desk all day long, the ‘not caring’ factor? That has all contributed to the middle-age spread. But I’ve also been less disciplined with my eating, sure I still maintain the same fasting hours, but boy when I eat, I eat! My wife comes home from work and all she sees me doing is eating. And I’m eating junk hand over fist, snacks high in sugar, snacks high in sodium, and amounts of it which would shock others. And there was a day last week when I reached the tipping point, I was buttoning up a shirt, which otherwise would have perfectly fitted a year ago, but everything didn’t feel right. My belly fat was bulging out dangerously so, that the last two buttons were at risk of not meeting their corresponding holes, and my man boobs were so out there that I felt like I needed a minimiser  bra, and it all got a lot worse when I sat down. So, no surprise, I wore a sweater over the shirt and felt awfully over-dressed on a 25 degree day in Sydney. And I told myself that I needed to do something, or otherwise I was at a point of no return.

So, I decided to return back to a more regimented version of my Intermittent Fasting lifestyle, the 3 golden rules being:

One. No eating while at work – That was easy, as I’ve always maintained this rule.

Two. Only eat during mealtimes, which means no more snacking before and after dinner – this was going to be harder, as there was going to be so many yummy snacks that I’ll have to give up. *Sad look*.

Three. Eat healthier – And the last was to watch what I put into my mouth regardless of the time of day, sugary snacks to be replaced by dried fruit, and the Soda Stream was now only to carbonate water, not home made fizzy sodas. *Sad look*.

And how do I feel, a week on? Amazingly good! Amazingly good! The first few days was tough, I felt hungry and cold most of the time, and lacked energy, which then played on my mood. But things started to turn a corner 5 days in, and I can already feel the difference! The waistline is less jiggly, shirts feel less tight and constricting, and I generally feel more positive and optimistic about the future. And this is only after a week of changing my habits! So, fingers crossed that things only get better in a months’ time, two months’ time etc etc.

So why am I blogging about this? One simple reason. ACCOUNTABILITY! Once it’s out there, I’m accountable to maintain this as I’ve told the world that this is what I’m doing and committed to. so hopefully this doesn’t become just a one week or one month fad of mine, but to at least maintain this stricter lifestyle for the next 6 months, during the warmer months when I can’t hide behind a jacket or sweater. But when those colder months roll in……. Haaha! Me and some choice snacks may be joyfully reacquainted., just for the months while I can hide behind a puffy jacket. *Smile*.