Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Next to a Kookaburra


I am sitting outside, on a deck next to a kookaburra, in the distance I can hear the waves crash on the beach. He/she is laughing, contently in a low branch next to the deck. It's a warm day, the sunshine is finally out, it seems for the whole day!

Life doesn't get any better than this...

If only more people could be like the kookaburra. Laughing at the world. I definitely need to learn this skill. Sometimes I let things get the better of me, when they shouldn't. I don't know how to let go of my fears, and just let it be.

I have been following posts about anxiety by Deepak Chopra. I'm working on finding my inner peace. And trying to find help for anxiety and the fears that fills my life. I find that keeping myself busy, and being able to laugh, even if it is at myself really helpful!

This made me laugh so much when I saw this picture. I took a photo of my dog chucky, and the flash went off, I didn't mean to do that to the poor mutt! But it did make me laugh today though...


"This doesn’t mean that you should fight against your mind. “Calm down” and “There’s nothing to worry about” are useless phrases when other people try them; they are equally useless when you try them on yourself. The mind that fights with itself only adds another layer of anxiety, because when you know that fighting the fear is pointless, you feel more helpless. The way to healing is always the same: find your true self, become whole, rise above the divided self. Even though worry is milder and less disabling than phobias or panic attacks, it needs to be healed if you want to find the kind of inner peace that no one can take away from you." Deepak Chopra.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

William Street Festival


Today Hubby and I stumbled on the William Street Paddington Street Fair.  Paddington Alive was so much fun. It had such a wonderful community feel to it.

On offer were beanbags, a ping pong table, DJ, beers, beautiful big style icon posters hanging from the balconies, live music, cupcakes, champagne and macarons!

And not to forget the beautiful stores that are there,  Leona Edminston, Alimentari (beautiful small deli style cafe) Pratten, Nudie Jeans, The Corner Shop, William Chocolate Shop (yes of coarse I bought some chocolates!) Elegantly Scant, Collette Dinnigan, Ginger and Smart (one of my favourite designers), Tigerlily, phew and that's just a few.

I have to say I did feel a slight pang, for the residents near Paddington Alive. See I used to live just off this street, and it was always impossible to find parking in the best of times. I cannot imagine how they felt about the festival, the noise, parking and so many people....But not having to be a resident anymore, it had such a beautiful neighbourhood kinship feel to it that I missed living here with every footstep.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pear, Raspberry and Pistachio Bread



This bread is very tasty, and smells amazing when baking. It is also super moist cause of the pears. Don't use pears that are too large, the bread will end up to soggy. I love a big slab toasted with butter, with a big cup of tea.

1 3/4 cup self raising flour
1/4 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 pears peeled and pureed
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond essence
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs
70 grams butter
1/2 cup frozen raspberries
50 grams pistachios chopped roughly
2 tablespoons plain oats for topping

Preheat the oven to 170C. Sift the flours, cinnamon and baking powder into a large bowl, then stir in the sugar.

In another medium size bowl, add the rest of the ingredients, leaving out the oats and mix together with a spatula.

  

 Add the wet ingredients to the dry and give it a good stir. Pour into a lined loaf tin. Top with oats. Then bake for about 50-60 minutes.

  

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Stroganoff


I have been wanting to make a stroganoff for such a long time. I adore this meal, you basically throw it all in the pot and simmer, then add a cream or sour cream to mellow it out. The only thing that I hate that people do is use strips of beef. I have always hated the little rubber bullets of meat, in this beautifully rich sauce. I used a osso buco cut of beef, only cause I love to have meat on the bone when making stews, so the meat stays tender. And it looked so good today at the butcher that I decided to try it with this.


1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon beef stock powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 red onion sliced
3 garlic cloves diced
1 knob butter
1 tablespoon worcestershire  sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tomatoes diced
handful of mushrooms sliced
glass of white wine
beef dusted in flour
salt and pepper
1/4 cup sour cream
parsley chopped

Start with dusting the meat in flour. Add a little oil to a large hot pan, and brown the meat on both sides, then set aside on a plate.
Add the onions and garlic. Brown them slightly, then add the spices, both paprika's, cinnamon, and beef stock powder. Heat the spices until fragrant. Should take 2-5 minutes.

Add in the wine and tomatoes cook until reduced a little. Then add the tomato paste. Cook for a further 5 minutes.
 Next add the knob of butter and the mushrooms. Then add a little water to make a sauce.
Put the meat back into the sauce and simmer for about 1 1/2-2 hrs. Stirring and checking every so often. Adding water if needed. 
Stir in a dollop of sour cream and the chopped parsley. Serve with rice, potatoes mashed or steamed whole or pasta.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Anxiety, the Fear, Loathing and Distraction


I have had anxiety for about 10 years now. It has a massive stigma attached to it. Some people don't understand this mental illness. For me sometimes it's not there at all, I can go months without feeling the extreme anxiety, and only feel the healthy anxiety everyone gets. Other times I am so overwhelmed by it, that it makes me so upset.

I have chosen to not take any medication for it. I know that most people think that this is irresponsible, but I need to learn to cope with this debilitating form of mental illness on my own terms. Otherwise I will have this illness, with no way of coping for the rest of my life.

I choose to use mindfulness and lots of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, aka CBT.

I have also started to like using meditation. I got into this months ago, but it has taken me a while to understand it. I don't practice daily, and I only sometimes use Cd's to help me. Most of the time I prefer to meditate on my own. Go somewhere quiet, and just sit there, take in my environment around me. Observe the world. Recently I have taken to going to the beach, I have so many photo's to prove this! I love to just sit there, even in the cold and just listen to the waves, the birds, and whatever else pops up. But I try not to listen to my internal self. Just observe. This fills me with a sense of calm and peace. I find myself walking back from the beach with a big smile on my face, and I can't help saying 'hello' to total strangers.

Anyone that has anxiety and panic attacks, knows how individual they are. Everyone has their own symptoms, and triggers. I know many that can't even talk about these things, for fear that it triggers an attack! I used to be like this. I would bury my head 'in the sand' and hope that the whole world would just disappear. But now I feel like I can't stop talking about it!

I have wanted to start a support group for a while now, but all my fears stop me. I would love to get together with people, that also suffer from this condition to go for walks, and to talk to people that will understand and help alleviate some of the loneliness. No matter how many people you tell, even your loved ones, they will never understand, the fear and loathing, unless they have had anxiety or had a panic attack.

This is such a lonely way to live, to close yourself off from the hurtful and hateful world. I am constantly thinking, 'why am I so lonely?' I don't want to be, so why am I?

I think by now I know my triggers. However, I also know what helps me feel better. It doesn't always work for me, but the times that it does I am so grateful and happy. The biggest help is distracting myself. I can't endorse this enough, no matter what this usually helps.

Playing my ipod: really loud. Put on your favourite album, at the moment mine is Angus and Julia Stone's Down the Way, and play it loud! Sing and dance to your hearts content! Even if it is sad music, if you love it that's what matters. I go everywhere with my ipod, just in case I need it.
Talking to people: even if it is only via IM,
Cooking: I'm known for tackling complicated recipes! Or things that will take me all day. I love making all sorts of stuff now from scratch. And knowing what is in my food. And I believe that the health benefit from this is extraordinary.
Cleaning: yes cleaning haha! If I'm especially bad my house will be spotless!
Anything that involves thinking about something completely, and will consume you. I love puzzles for this. I have found some great sites online. One that I use is http://thejigsawpuzzles.com/ it is silly but helps me to focus on something other than fear and anxiety.
T.V. with my hubby. We have a great laugh sometimes, and usually at nothing in particular, we have lots of in jokes.
Meditation: I have tried to incorporate meditation in to my life as much as possible. Even if it is only a few minutes to take time to listen to the world around me. I feel so good afterwards I wonder why I never did this earlier.


These are just are few things that I do to help me. I hope that this helps someone with the same problem. Please feel free to contact me if you wish. Also if you see a woman walking along the beach, possibly singing to her ipod, it could be me, so at least smile back.....It'll make her day at least.

Whatever fear says, nothing can destroy me. When people fall they don't break, they bounce. Change is inevitable. Resisting it doesn't work. Deepak Chopra

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Evening Primrose Soap



This soap is twice hand milled. I posted a previous blog about the agony of doing the milling, or re-batching. But this one wasn't as bad to mill. The reason I wanted to mill the soap was to put in special oils, and milk to help soften the skin.

I used:
coconut oil, for super lather,
olive oil, great for dry and irritated skin,
evening primrose oil, great source of essential fatty acids, superior for dry skin,
jojoba oil, rich in vitamin E, closest to skins own chemical composition,
shea butter, skin healing, anti-aging
mango butter, wound healing, great source of essential fatty acid, highly prized butter for cosmetics industry.
milk, skin softening.


I also added green bentonite clay exfoliating beads. That's what has turned to soap an avocado colour. I don't tend to add artificial colours. Unless I really want something different. Recently I have been experimenting with natural colours. I've tried using coffee for browns, also clays to dye the soap the same colour of the clay. I'm always trying to think about what else I can use to dye the soap naturally. Or  just leaving it natural and seeing it change over the 6-8 week curing process.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Carrot Cake/Loaf



I love making sweets, to the point that I have to stop myself from making them everyday! I would have to open a bakery to fit them all in if I let myself go wild. 


One of my favourite things in the world is making cakes, and on the top of the list is a carrot cake. I have tweaked it so many times now, but this recipe is definitely a favourite. This recipe makes a loaf tin size, but you can make it in a round cake tin also.

Ingredients
2 carrots grated
1 cup self raising flour
1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup almond meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon of mixed spice, I use 1/2 cinnamon, 1/2 nutmeg, dash of ground cloves.

50 grams golden raisins
70 grams of pistachio’s, roughly chopped.

3 eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup golden syrup

2 teaspoons vanilla
Lime Icing
150 grams cream cheese
juice of 1 lime
4 tablespoons icing sugar
1 lime zested

Sift the flours, baking powder, and spice into a large bowl. Then add the pistachios, golden raisins and almond meal.

Beat the eggs until light and fluffy. Add the brown sugar, oil, golden syrup, vanilla. Beat untill brown sugar has dissolved. Takes about 2 minutes.

Add the wet ingredients to the flour bowl. Mix very lightly, with a spatula, but not completely. Then add the carrots and mix well.


 


                              Pour into the prepared cake tins and bake at 180c for about 45 minutes.

         
Mix the icing ingredients together and spread onto the cake. Enjoy! This cake is lovely without icing also. Anyone that knows me will laugh that I actually said that! 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hand Milling, Oh the Pain.

I have been frantically re-batching the soap disaster I had, for the last couple days.

Grating and chopping.
Soaking in milk and water.
Constant stirring and mixing over heat. Watching it so it doesn't burn.
Glopping it into the molds then hardening it, only to have to do it all over again! Grrrr. I definitely take my hat off to the people that actually do this to their soaps all the time. It is not easy.

Well I give up! this is the best I can do. It still smells amazing. I have cut a small amount to try, and it also feels lovely. It still has little flecks of the cinnamon soap that I used as decoration, but who cares? I like it, that's what matters.....right?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Soaping Tragedy

Today I made a soap loaf. It was a disaster. I was trying to make a chocolate, raspberry and cinnamon sugar smelling loaf. I had made cinnamon previously and had a few bars left over, so I decided to cube them and put them in between the layers of chocolate and raspberry for something different.

Everything was going really well. The bottom layer was the chocolate, it was perfect! And smelled so yummy. I then pressed the cinnamon cubes halfway into this layer, again perfect. Then while mixing the top layer, and having it at a light trace, this is when I like to add my fragrance oils, I added the raspberry, and to my horror, it split!! It was oily, and lumpy on the top, and the bottom layer is a crumbly mess.

What is going on?!!?? Why did this happen? After lots of Internet research I found out that, It was the fragrance oil that I used. I mostly use the Brambleberry range, but the raspberry I purchased elsewhere. With the Brambleberry they tell you if this is going to work in cold pressed or not. But the other place does not, so I decided to chance it. Why did I do this? I knew it was a mistake when I poured it in. I am hoping that the 'ricing' can be saved with the re-batching method. If not this will just devastate me. It is the worst thing that has happened since I started the soaping....I hope it never happens again. I know I will only be buying from brambleberry in the future! At least they bother to test their products!




I have just tried the hand milling process. I'm waiting to see if that save's this horrid loaf.... At least it smells great!

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Tale Of 2 Dogs

This is a little post about my dog. Let me start with where I am right now...

I have been living all over the place at the moment. Hubby has a job where we move around a fair bit, about every 1-2 years.

We have been frantically trying to find a place to rent, but are just finding it really difficult. So while he works up north, I've decided to stay with my parents.

I miss my husband everyday, but I hate the idea of having to travel back and forth every weekend or even during the week!

I have a chihuahua. But so do my parents. They haven't been fighting or anything, but they don't along that well either. The older and larger dog, is Pepe, my mum's dog. He is a very gentle wise old dog, placid and quiet. On the other hand, I own Charlie, his nickname is Chucky for a reason. He is young crazy and boisterous, he loves to run around and just bark right up in Pepe's face! This freaks poor Pepe out so much and his little ears go down and he runs.

But Chucky loves cuddles, and Pepe is so very warm, and he is constantly trying to hop into Pepes bed. But Pepe growls at him to get out, and let him have his old man nap!

Well today I found them like this, and they stayed like that for about an hour... Just gorgeous! I hope this means it is the start of a beautiful friendship.

Macarons and Pastries


Today Hubby and I went to Adriano Zumbo's place for macarons. I adore these little sweets, and am struggling with trying to make them myself. One day I will try again and hopefully they will actually turn out, and not be a lumpy, or gooey mess.

It is my personal opinion that Zumbo's are the best. They are perfect. Crunchy on the outside, nice and soft on the inside. The filling is perfect, just enough. And they are also a little different.

I had passion fruit, salted peanut caramel, berry, pear pistachio and fennel, mandarin, and mont blanc. Every time we go there I can never decide which ones I want, so I always just ask for one of each!

And the pastries are to die for. I love my pastries, and can be very fussy about them. Zumbo's are again perfection.

http://adrianozumbo.com/

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Finding my Dosha




I am becoming increasingly fascinated with the world of Ayurveda, Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness. 

Today I was goggling dosha's quizzes wanting to know what mine was. What is a dosha? According to Wikipedia, 'dosha is one of three bodily humors that make up one's constitution according to Ayurveda. The central concept of Ayurvedic medicine is the theory that health exists when there is a balance between three fundamental bodily humours or doshas called Vata, Pitta and Kapha.'  
I found the quiz on Deepak Chopra's website the best for me. http://doshaquiz.chopra.com/


So in doing the 2 dosha quizzes I found out I am both a Pitta and a Vata. But my mind is Pitta. It gives you a list of things to help you achieve balance for your well being. For me to rid the irritability, aggravation, and inflammation, my prescription would be: daily yoga, massage, communication with nature, staying cool and twice daily meditation.

It is so interesting and very insightful. It also sounds like a lot of hard work. But I am going to try and learn to apply something everyday, no matter how small, all about the baby steps. So even If I can't get out and do a yoga class because of anxieties and fears. I will start with walking. I love walking and taking photographs along the way. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Date and Banana Puddings with Fudge Sauce



After such a glorious Sydney day, I was really feeling the cold in the evening. I adore the sunshine. So when it goes down I love to bake or cook up a storm, mostly to feel warmer! My hubby and I try to make it a family day on sunday's. We don't have any kids yet to have our big family day, so we head to one of our parent's homes. Usually my folks. My  mum is a wonderful cook. She makes the kinda food you miss and crave when you move out. Mum will do the food, and I do the dessert. Tonight I made these little puds.
I have made these puddings many times. I like to change the flavours almost every time I make them. Sometimes I use dates and banana, or berries, or citrus with lemon and lime!
Makes 6

100 grams dates
1/2 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon bi-carb 

2 med bananas mashed
2 teaspoons vanilla
100 grams butter softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup self raising flour

2-4 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
Fudge Sauce
50 grams butter
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons cream.


Method
Preheat the oven to 180C. Roughly chop the dates and place them in a heat proof bowl. Add the bi-carb, then pour the boiling water over them. Mix the vanilla and banana into the date mixture. Set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar together until pale. Add the egg mix thoroughly. Then add the banana, date mix and stir until combined.
Spoon into ramekins and place them onto a tray. Sprinkle the tops with brown sugar, then pour the hot water on top. Add a small amount of water to the bottom of the tray to make a water bath. Bake for about 25 minutes.
For the fudge sauce just melt all the ingredients together. 

Top the puddings with a spoon of vanilla ice-cream, or cream, then pour over the fudge sauce.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Cappuccino Cupcakes


I am always baking every Thursday lately. Mostly cause my hubby is working, up north, away from home. He comes home every Friday night, so I like to make his favourite food and sweets for his arrival home. I really love spoiling him, but I hope he realises that once we find a house up there, there are not going to be as many sweet Thursday's!

I am still trying to master the art of piping icing, they look terrible! My good friend Miss S, sent me a little piping set, with bags, nozzles, and instructions. I am still hopeless, but they taste great though! My hubby always thinks I put too much icing! The one thing we argue about. But I never see him scrapping it off! He eats cupcakes so quickly, blink and you'll miss it quick, so what's he complaining about. There are two things when making cupcakes you can never have too much of, 1. vanilla and 2. icing!!

I used a Donna Hay recipe for a basic vanilla cupcake, then added coffee to the mix. I have to say I am not usually successful with Donna Hay recipes, but these turned out very well, and they are super easy. I topped them with a simple vanilla butter cream frosting, then dusted them with chocolate.

Makes 10

Cupcake Batter
125 grams softened butter
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon coffee granules mixed with just enough water to dissolve

Icing
100 grams butter softened
2 1/2 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180C. Then place everything for the cake batter, into a bowl and beat for about 4 minutes. Fill cupcake patties 3/4 full and bake for 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Mix the icing ingredients with a spoon, then ice cooled cupcakes, and dust with chocolate powder.

Almond and Chocolate Soap

I love to make cold pressed soap. I love the whole tactile process, and knowing exactly what is going in my soap. I find it very rewarding. I love the whole science behind it, that at any moment something can go horribly wrong. I know that sounds strange,  but when one soap bar turns out, it is all the more satisfying and exciting.

There is such a process behind it all, not just how it is going to look at the end, cause you really never know. The soap can change so dramatically with the addition of a different oil, or scent, or ingredient. Cold pressed soap also tests your patience, you have to cure, or rest your soaps, for a period of 4-6 weeks once they are made. This kills me! I almost always want to use it straight away, to see if it is going to be a great soap. Is it moisturising? Does it make enough bubbles? Does it last? Is it a little bit unique and individual? And how does it leave my skin feeling afterwards?

I feel like I have finally cracked it! It has taken me months. This is a soap bar I made today. It is made with coconut oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, mango butter and shea butter. I also sprinkled a spa mineral on top. I used almond biscotti and dark rich chocolate, which I bought from brambleberry.com, to fragrance. These are the best fragrances I have ever used and smelt in my life! I have so many of them. I add them to bath water, or oil burners, or my handmade soaps, I just love love love them!

They almost look and definitely smell edible! Like a big chocolate loaf cake.




Check out brambleberry for great soapy products! http://www.brambleberry.com/

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Eclipse, Vampires, Anxiety


I went to the movies today! I haven't been in such a long time cause of the anxiety issues I have. I watched the twilight movie eclipse. I don't really see the fascination, but then again I'm 33, not 15! It was entertaining at least. Twilight was just not my kind of thing.

Don't get me wrong it's not the whole vampire thing, I have been on the vampire bandwagon way back in the early ninties. It started with Buffy. Oh I loved Buffy, she was strong, wooden stack wielding, and cute, she always cared about what she looked like. She was also in love with the cutest vampire at the time.

Oh Angel, we miss you, but thank you for coming back as Seeley Booth.


Now I love the whole Trueblood series. I have also read some of the Sookie Stackhouse books and loved them! I find the Twilight vampires a little tame. I think if there was such a thing as a immortal being, incredibly strong, who's existence relied on blood out there. They would be very scary or at least, cause they live for hundreds of years, want to mess with people just a little, you know..... for fun?!

My grandmother was Russian, so she believed that vampires existed. As a kid thinking that vampires actually existed but in the mother land, was strange and scary. Not the blood sucking kind, more the, you become a vampire if you die and you haven't been baptised Christian Orthodox. A heretic! Your soul wasn't/isn't protected when you die, so you had a higher chance of becoming the undead. If you were a witch the chance of becoming a vamp increased even more!

This is the web dictionary definition of a vampire. Um what is with number 4???!!!

vam·pire

–noun
1.
a preternatural being, commonly believed to be areanimated corpse, that is said to suck the blood of sleepingpersons at night.
2.
(in Eastern European folklore) a corpse, animated by anundeparted soul or demon, that periodically leaves the graveand disturbs the living, until it is exhumed and impaled orburned.
3.
a person who preys ruthlessly upon others; extortionist.
4.
a woman who unscrupulously exploits, ruins, or degrades the men she seduces.
5.
an actress noted for her roles as an unscrupulousseductress: the vampires of the silent movies.

Monday, August 2, 2010

FourAteFive

Yesterday after my usual early morning wake up call from chucky, he always comes running into the room, takes a leap of faith jump onto the bed, cause it is very high up for him, and tucks himself in on my side of the bed to snuggle, and give kisses, hubby and I decided that we should go out for brunch.


Well I've got to say that I am so glad that we did! We went to one of my usual haunts Surry Hills in Sydney. After walking up and down deciding on what place to eat at, most of them are so good, we decided on a place we had never tried before, 4ate5. The only thing that lets this place down is the coffee. It had a burnt, metallic taste to it, but yet it was cold! Strange! The food on the other hand was delicious! My only gripe is that I thought my pancakes were swimming in way too much diabetic inducing maple syrup. Don't get me wrong I love my sugar fix, but this was excessive....

I had the special, buttermilk pancakes with a delicious ice-cream, of cherry and chocolate (I think, sorry I forgot!) Also topped with these beautiful warmed bananas, served in the skin but they easily slid out, with cherries, strawberries, and rhubarb mash amazing!
While hubby had french toast. It came with the cherries, strawberries and rhubarb mash also. But the surprise came when he cut into the toast and found a banana inside! Just divine! We will be going again sometime soon. Only the coffee lets them down, and being so heavy handed with the syrup. 7/10


 
                                                                   The french toast
                                                                      
                                                                     The pancakes