Every year, I organise a team of colleagues to do the Global Challenge, a pedometer-based challenge where you have to get a certain number of steps per day. My team of seven has changed every year, but there are three people who have been in it every time, and more who have taken a year or two off and come back. This year, we have my three regulars, someone who is back from last year, someone who is back from four years ago, and two newbies.
During the Global Challenge, there are certain weekends where we have ‘mini-challenges’, that encourage us to beat our personal best, or reach some arbitrary number of steps as a group, etc. Traditionally, I try to organise long walks for these challenges – we’ve walked from Black Rock to Saint Kilda, up along Merri Creek to Fawkner for doughnuts, from Parkville to Williamstown to go on a ghost tour, from Brunswick to the CBD to go on a chocolate walk, and all the way from the mouth of the Moonee Ponds river up to Pascoe Vale, where we got caught in a thunderstorm.
I was looking for some activities for us this year, and after getting a hard no on my belly-dancing plans, and establishing that several of our walkers couldn’t do really long walks this year for health reasons, I started looking around for more sensible options. Which is when I spotted the ad for the Cancer Council Relay for Life… which just happened to fall on one of our challenge weekends.
This is a 24-hour relay to raise money for the Cancer Council, but it’s also about remembering people lost to cancer, and it has a fair bit of symbolism attached, in that nobody walks for 24 hours straight, but teams try to have someone on the track at all times. If one person can’t continue, someone else will carry on for them.
I suggested this, only half-seriously to my lot. (Fine. You don’t want belly-dancing. How about a 24-hour relay, then?) They were in. And I mean, IN. I was… appalled. But also the team captain, so I got us signed up, and went recruiting for more team members. My feeling was that we wanted two people rostered on at all times, in case someone needed a break, and ideally, I wanted the shifts to be offset so that someone was always fresh. Fortunately, I was able to recruit 13 people, with two more joining us on the day, which meant that we each did two 2-hour shifts, and most people stayed on a bit before or after their shifts to help out.
Teams are encouraged to have costumes, themes, etc. I was still recovering from the conference I’d just finished organising, so I was pretty much planning to just make sure people showed up and leave it at that, but I organised a bake sale to fundraise, and during the bake sale, our team plan evolved. We would wear lab coats! We would Engage With The Community! We would have a science fair booth, with experiments that people could participate in! We have a purple and yellow dragon onesie which is the same colours as the Cancer Council’s logo!
And we did.
I have to say, the day was a lot more fun than I had expected (I had not expected it to be any fun at all – I have dodgy knees which were playing up that week, so I knew it was going to be painful, and that’s about all I knew). Cancer Council was delighted to have medical researchers participating. The other participants – especially the children! – were delighted by our activities. There was a silent disco overnight, which was hilarious to watch – between the people singing along and the people dancing to music only they could hear as they went around the track, it was quite something. The lab coats turned out to be both warm and highly visible. We realised early that we wouldn’t be winning the 4x100m sprint activity, so we turned it into a onesie costume relay with the costume having to be worn by each successive participant – and lost convincingly, dramatically, hilariously, and to sustained commentary from the organisers, who found the whole thing hysterical.
There were also some serious moments – the carers and survivors lap at the start, and the candlelight ceremony in the evening, which remembered people who were fighting cancer and people who had passed away from cancer recently. It was very moving.
And I was very proud that, while other teams slowly shrank in size over the course of the event (I felt bad for one team where almost everyone went home at 9pm, leaving three people to carry the subsequent 13 and a half hours alone), my team mates all turned up on time, full of energy and enthusiasm, and walked, ran or danced their shifts, no matter what hour of the day or night.
You probably didn’t come here for an extended report on Relay for Life, and I promise that the recipe is coming up next. But while you are here… if you are currently feeling inclined to support a really good cancer charity in Australia, I’d love it if you’d sponsor me. Or my team, who really were fantastic.
And now for the recipe! Which is linked, tenuously, to this post by the fact that I invented it for our fundraising morning tea.
This was a bit of a pantry special – I needed something for the people who couldn’t eat lactose or fructose or gluten (of which I have quite a few at work), and I needed something that was quick and wouldn’t require me to go to the shops. I had half a packed of crushed walnuts and half a packet of cashews. I had cocoa, and cinnamon. And I had leftover vegan chocolate ganache from making Sachertorte cupcakes.
So that was easy. This is basically my almond biscuit recipe in yet another iteration, but I found that without almonds, it made a pretty sticky, sloppy dough, so I added some rice flour to help hold it together. I did find that I needed slightly damp hands to shape it, even so. But the results were really delicious, so it was worth the minor hassle.
Very few pictures, I’m afraid – I was too busy trying to make the biscuits in time after a very long day at work – but if you scroll down to the bottom I *will* tell you how to make a rainbow carnation.
Your shopping list
100 g walnuts (crushed is fine, you will be pulverising them anyway)
100g cashews (ditto)
50 g cocoa
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
75 g caster sugar
1-2 tbsp rice flour, if needed
1/4 cup soy milk
125 g Lindt 70% chocolate
30 ml maple syrup
Now what will you do with it?
Preheat the oven to 170°C, and line a tray with baking paper.
Put the walnuts and cashews in a food processor, and process until they are fine crumbs. Don’t try to get them completely smooth – you don’t want them to start releasing their oils and attempting to become nut butter.
Add the cocoa, sugar, and cinnamon and process for a few seconds to combine them. You might want to taste at this point and see if you want any more sugar – the cocoa and cinnamon are bitter, so you might need some.
Pour into a bowl, and beat in the egg until it all comes together. If it is super sloppy, add some rice flour until you have a sticky, messy dough that nonetheless can actually be divided into little round blobs.
Wash your hands in cold water, and pat them half dry. Or, it occurs to me, washing a teaspoon in cold water and using it, wet, to scoop out cookie dough might be simpler. Try that, then. You want little walnut-sized balls, basically, but they probably won’t be perfectly round. That’s OK. Just put them on the baking sheet with a bit of space between them. They will be fine once they bake.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until they are a little darker underneath, and put on a wire rack to cool.
Now make the vegan ganache. Chop the chocolate as finely as you have the patience for, and put into a small, heatproof bowl. Heat the soy milk and maple syrup until boiling, and pour over the chocolate. It’s then worth covering the bowl for about 30-60 seconds, so that the heat is trapped and can help melt the chocolate. You can stir it all together to smoothness after that.
Use a teaspoon to put a little blob of ganache on each cookie. Let it set, and then serve to someone who needs a chocolate fix.
This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, low-fructose and vegetarian. It is never going to be nut-free or egg-free, I’m afraid. In terms of flavour variations – I’ve already made at least twelve biscuits on this basic template, so really, just look at my biscuits page. You are bound to find something that appeals, assuming that nutty biscuits appeal to you.
Random Science Experiment – Multicoloured flower!
I may have no variations, but I did learn how to do some cool science experiments last weekend! This one was especially cool, and mostly just needs to be set up, and then it runs itself.
Your shopping list
A white crysanthemum or other white flower, with a long stem
Several small jars. Ideally, ones that tesselate, so square canisters might be best
Twine and small stakes (I think wooden skewers were used).
Now what do you do with it?
Fill the jars with water and colour each lot of water a different colour. Arrange them in a square or circle as close together as possible.
Split the stem of the flower into as many bits as you have jars – I think starting with four is probably safest, and use twine to balance it and hold it in place.
Leave for 24-48 hours. You may need to top up the coloured water. The flower will drink the coloured water, and the petals will change colour to match the water they are nearest.