Rocking and a’ rolling… Swings and roundabouts

Hmmm, so once again there’s been a lull in the writing. Not in the thinking or planning (I even made up a blog schedule!), just in the action of writing.

I’ve had one heck of a year so far and I can only anticipate that the next few months will be just as jam-packed if not more so than now. My job has been busier than ever (with people leaving my team left, right and centre!), we took a month off on holidays in the USA, and I’m now in the process of downsizing all my ‘wares to move into a lovely inner-city apartment with the wonderful man in my world.

It’s all been a (mostly) positive experience; almost worthy of a #soblessed hashtag, but it’s also tricky to admit that I’ve had a lot of change in a very short amount of time… Some I chose and others were more unexpected and not of my choice at all. So it’s kind of reasonable I guess that the thing I enjoy most of all, but that fits into my “spare time” has faltered away once again. But I am forever determined! I am really, really hoping that once the move has happened, I’m going to have more time on my hands to do what I really enjoy… Instead of spending over 2 hours a day commuting to and from work! It will mean less time listening to podcasts every day, but I’m prepared to make the sacrifice😉

In the meantime, I have also somehow over-committed myself by enrolling into three separate short courses all starting in the space of six weeks in September and October. To be fair, I did enroll into them all before I knew I was about to move but it all feels like quite a rude shock now. However, one of these courses is focusing on blogging so it will hopefully spur some action around here more often! If nothing else, I’m determined to keep a “what I’m learning” log on here while I’m studying, for myself, but also there may be something worth sharing. I do hope so in any case!

If you’re interested, here are the links to what I’ll be up to when I’m not packing boxes over the next few weeks! The first and third courses are free, through Future Learn, and the other is a great blogging course with it’s roots here in Melbourne, though anyone can register.

Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance

A six week course, starting next Monday September 14

Facilitated by Dr Craig Hassed & Dr Richard Chambers of Monash University in Melbourne (both of whom I’ve seen speak live at events, and are amazing sources of information!)

Blog with Pip

A four week course, starting Wednesday September 24

Facilitated by the lovely Pip Lincolne from the blog ‘meet me at mikes’ (which I feel I’ve been following forever!) Pip makes and writes about beautiful things, embracing creativity and this course is designed for newbie’s to help you carve out your own piece of the Internet, find your “voice”, as well as the technical know-how. I got this at a discounted rate, however it’s still stinking cheap for under $100!

Psychology and Mental Health

A six week course, starting Monday October 26

Facilitated by University of Liverpool, UK

I’ll be reporting in after the Mindfulness course starts next week, till then I’m off to start researching removal vans!

–Bec

Right Thoughts, Right words… Right action

What better way to kick off a new year of blogging with a fitting song title from one of my favourite bands? Yes, it’s March, yes it’s not really still the “New Year” but it’s a new start for me and my poor, neglected, content-lackluster blog. Truth be, that title completely sums up how I’ve been feeling about my blog, elements of my work life, and where I’m heading for months now. I’ve been all about getting the “right thoughts”; the inspiration, ideas, dreams going about my vision and slowly turning that into the “right words”; the language I’m using, the dialogue I’m having with both myself and others about where I’m heading. It’s now (finally!) time to turn this into the right action, and to start writing again about what it is that I’m passionate about and sharing my story beyond my own self-talk and the occasional chat with friends and family.

My truth bomb has been coming for a while, and it wasn’t new knowledge, but it hit me that I was caught up in the idea that you have to have things “perfect” before you start. It’s bollocks. You can start any old time, and refine, focus and adjust as you go along. What I’ve been struck over with is my tendency to try and plan, brainstorm (and use the classic “I don’t have enough time!”), collaborate and generally sit on the sidelines is serving no one, least of all myself. It’s bloody scary and confronting putting yourself out there, but I know it’s something I have to do.

So here I am. This blog will have a new(ish) focus; for anyone playing along at home, I’m no longer that “cupcake lady” selling my wares at Melbourne markets. I still adore cooking, but I’ve had some huge shifts in my health focus, how I’m living my life, and also the direction I’m planning for my next career change (back in the health & wellness sphere… eep!). It’s not perfect, but I can’t keep waiting for that magical moment to arrive – because it probably never will. But it’s a journey of some sort, and one I feel worth documenting, if for no other reason than for me to see where I’ve come from.

Muchos excitement!

– Bec

*For anyone interested and not aware, the title refers to the song and album by Scottish band ‘Franz Ferdinad’ from 2013

Fitzroy Fun Times

(With a nod to neighbouring Collingwood!)

So when I originally was coming up with ideas of what was important for me to write about, one of the things I’m super passionate about and seem to spend a lot of my free time doing, is out and about exploring Melbourne and all it has to offer.

I adore this city. The vast array of free stuff available, markets, festivals, events, exhibitions and opportunities are endless. Not to mention the great dining, art, and other “to dos” mean there is never an excuse for being bored in ol’ Melbourne town. So when it came up that I had a completely free Saturday to myself, free of all commitments it felt time to do some exploring and experiencing.

So Saturday morning came around, with predicted temperatures to hit 40c in the early afternoon I was feeling a little smug about getting so much done in the early hours. I’d heard about the Flour Market through my regular Broadsheet newsletters, a pop-up in Fitzroy celebrating all things baked goods. It was predicted to be packed from the get go, so the natural solution was to make this my first stop. I was there by 9:15am (it opened at 9, though I heard there was an opportunity to purchase early tickets to get in at 8), and as predicted it was choc-full of people celebrating their love of waffles, doughnuts, pie, cake, bagels and more. I wasn’t even able to see the stalls; such was the density of lines. I joined what I thought was the shortest and quickest moving line, which I soon found out, was for the delectable iced doughnuts (yessss!). However, as I was close to the front, I noticed that the only doughnuts left were mixed berry with white chocolate. Womp womp. One of the few flavours I can’t tolerate is strawberry (other berries are OK) and anything mixed berry is guaranteed to have strawberry in it, so I left the queue in an instant. I managed to get quick lines in for a different doughnut stall, one selling the sugar coated, gooey filling kind and snapped up a salted caramel variety. There was also a sweet macaroon stall with flavours such as Earl Grey and dark chocolate, lavender, and Mont Blanc with blackberry. All were delicious!

Salted caramel doughnut Flour Market

Macarons - Early Grey & Dark Choc, Mont Blanc & Blackberry, Lavender

I also picked up a waffle with maple syrup and a slice of cinnamon and pecan bread and I was beyond done. Nothing savoury, but a latte later and I was on a serious sugar/ caffeine high. As I soon learnt, not the best setup before a movement class and I was twitching for hours later but an interesting experience nonetheless.

Waffles

Next stop was to The Mind Room in Collingwood for my free Mindful Movement 101 class. This was run by Nicole Betts from Pursuit of Wellness and was based on the 7 movements of Qigong. The idea is that you practice these 7 movements in sequence 3 times a day (it should take around 7 minutes to complete) as a form of deliberate movements which has a range of benefits for our internal organs (Nicole described it as a massage for the organs), our meridians for self healing and overall wellbeing of the mind body and soul. This description sums it up perfectly: “With Mindful Movement we are practicing with the intent of focusing our energy and our attention solely on our body, breath and movement. We are turning inwardly, allowing calmness to wash over us and moving our body into the ‘relaxation response’ where we can increase our self healing abilities.”

It was a lovely way to spend an hour, practicing these 7 movements and coordinating our breath at the same time (sometimes harder than it sounds!). It became clear to me after a short while that having so much sugar before the class wasn’t such a great deal and that my insides were being well and truly “massaged” but it’s all good learning for next time! Nicole was great, and also sent us all out information sheets after the class so we could remember how the movements all worked together! I’m committing to getting up an extra 10 minutes early each day to get this done first thing as a peaceful and intentional way to start the day.

My last stop was to the closing down sale of the gorgeous ‘Lark’ back in Fitzroy. For those who haven’t come across Lark previously, they are an adorable shop originally based in Daylesford but with a huge online shop as well (www.larkstore.com.au). The Dayleysford shop was closed in 2013 and then moved to a pop-up in Fitzroy in late 2013 and I believe they will be doing other pop-ups around the country in 2014. In any case, Saturday was the very last chance to pick up a pretty bargain, so I was committed to the cause.

As the sale had started the day before I was prepared for the fact that there may not be a lot left in stock, but was still hopeful. It was indeed well gone through, but there were still a few bargains to be had. These sweet plates below were $5 each and I also picked up the floral print oilcloth bag for a fiver – great for taking lunches to work! All in all, it was a quick visit and for $20 I’m happy with my loot.

Lark purchases Lark purchases (2)

After this, it was a quick trip home via the fruit & veg market and into the air-conditioned goodness of home! Given that I was out from 8:30am and home by 2pm (with temperatures perilously close to 40c by this stage!) it was a choc-full morning of yummy food, new skills learnt and some pretty new things!

— Bec

Taking stock in 2014

Crap. It’s been an awful long time since I visited here. You know those things that you love doing, but for some reason stopped (for what seems like a totally legit reason), then it becomes awkward and the longer you leave it, the tricker it is to come back to? Yeah, the blog’s been that for me for a while.

Anyways, I have no intention of dwelling, and while I’m here feeling all inspired (but nowhere to begin!) I thought I’d join along in Pip Lincolne’s taking stock exercise she did a couple of weeks ago. Just to get back in the swing of things. It was her list of what was happening for her so far in 2014 and others have joined in too!

Because quite frankly, I can’t believe that it’s February already. That March will be next month and I’m already making plans for April. Bonkers. And yep, am totally aware we all say this every year without fail, but nonetheless doesn’t stop me feeling like the year is like an over-eager toddler and waddling away from us too quickly to catch up (mentally at least!).

So here’s my list. Some a little vague, others quite pertinent (to me anyway!). Catch you round, sooner rather than later this time!

Making:
 Lists. Lots of lists. Things to cook, things to organise, ideas for the year ahead.

Cooking: 
A sour cream lemon cake this weekend for my mum’s birthday!

Drinking:
 Brown Brothers Cienna. Sweet red chilled wine is an occasional (guilty) treat.

Reading:
 ’Flavours of Melbourne’. It was a Christmas present that I’m completely lusting over.

Wanting:
 Time to myself to contemplate and make grand plans.

Looking: 
At the number of fashion websites that are already bringing out their Autumn ranges. It’s still stinking hot here in Melbourne!

Playing:
 Lots of podcasts while I’m driving home from work.

Deciding:
 On a road trip with the boy to Canberra for the Labour Day long weekend in March

Wishing:
 I didn’t have to worry about finances.

Enjoying:
 Daylight savings in Melbourne, and long sunny evenings. Amazing sunsets and great cloud formations.

Waiting: 
For the weekend. Nearly 3 whole days to myself!

Liking:
 The boy I’ve been dating these past few months. Makes me laugh and we have a great time together.

Wondering:
 Where the next big challenge for me will be coming from.

Loving:
 The ‘Headspace’ meditation app I’ve just installed on my phone. 10 minutes of mediation for 10 days. An achievable challenge!

Pondering:
How I’m going to make 2014 even better than 2013.

Considering:
How much I can cook this weekend in the heat.

Watching: The new ‘Spicks and Specks’ on Wednesday night. Hope it lives up to the original!

Hoping:
 That the cockroaches invading our house at the moment (thanks heat wave!) decide to leave very, very soon.

Marvelling:
 At how much my world has changed in 12 months. And what hasn’t.

Needing: 
More sleep. And more exercise. More time!

Smelling: 
Like garlic still from last nights dinner (unconfirmed).

Wearing:
 The black dress I wore to work today.

Following:
 The adventures of Joy the Baker while she is on a Compassion trip to Uganda.

Noticing:
 How much better I am at life when I give myself time to be organised.

Knowing:
 That despite my grumbles, life’s pretty good right now.

Thinking:
 That it’s good to be writing and thinking about the blog again.

Feeling:
 Itchy. That life has to be bigger and more meaningful than the day-to-day, 9-5 grind. Wanting more.

Admiring: 
Everyone I read about online who has been able to have a great plan and put it into action. People who work for themselves especially. Getting inspired!

Sorting:
 Through paperwork this weekend & (hopefully!) creating some form of filing system.

Buying:
 Birthday presents for mum & stepdad. Accommodation in Canberra & tickets to see Neil Finn(!!)

Getting:
 Restless.

Bookmarking:
 A webinar I’m listening into tonight (via Kylie Patchett)

Disliking:
 Some of the decisions being made by our current Federal Government at the moment.

Opening:
 Hopefully a new book to read this weekend (which one to pick?)

Giggling:
 At ‘Friends’ repeats. Never gets old.

Feeling: Content, grateful, restless, inspired, frustrated, determined (yep, I answered this one twice, but Pip had it on her list twice! This is a sum up of all of the feels going on right now in my little world).

— Bec

Creamy zucchini & tarragon soup – Reinventing an old favourite

I love soup. Who doesn’t? When the autumn air hits Melbourne, it’s one of the first things I turn to for easy work lunches and I-just-don’t-have-the-strength-to-cook-a-meal-for-one dinners. It’s a long term love, with all sorts of memories associated and lots of warm fuzzy feelings. And yes, I know I’m probably “lucky” to only have myself to think about when it comes to meals on a daily basis, but cooking-for-one does require that extra bit of energy to not make scrambled eggs on toast night after night.

So while soup is a regular staple of my Autumn/ Winter/ early Spring diet, it’s rarely something I get too excited about. Relieved to have a use for some nearly-decomposing vegetables? Yes. A little smug at being able to get my 5 serves of veggies in daily? You bet. But OMG excited…. Notsomuch. So when I find a soup recipe that makes my taste buds sing with joy it’s just such a winner. I made this on Monday night and it served me 4 square dinners. Perfect for a week which had me crawling to bed after work at my earliest opportunity.

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I don’t think I’ve ever cooked with tarragon before (heck, I didn’t even know what tarragon tasted like before this week!), but it’s not something I would associate with veggies. Chicken perhaps, but not zucchini. However this combination, along with a hearty chicken stock, some white wine and a splashing of cream made this feel waaaay more decadent than it really was. Some fresh salt and pepper and heck, I could have been fist-pumping my way through the rest of the week!

It’s one of those wonderful recipes that is easy to adapt and utilise what you already have in the fridge. As a bonus, opening a new bottle of white wine for this soup meant it was the perfect excuse for me to indulge in a glass (or 3!) while it was bubbling away…

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Creamy Zucchini & Tarragon Soup (recipe adapted from Joy the Baker)

  • Oil (I use Grapeseed)
  • 1 leek, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (crushed, from a jar would also be fine)
  • 4-5 zucchini, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tarragon leaves (I used a packet from the supermarket, this seemed to work fine)
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 2 litres chicken or vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup thickened cream
  • Salt & pepper to serve

Heat  a few healthy glugs of oil in a large pan, add leek to sauté until translucent. Add garlic, making sure you don’t let it burn. Add zucchini and tarragon leaves, cook for about 2 minutes while stirring often. Add the wine and deglaze the bottom of the pan. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes with a lid on the pan, until zucchini is cooked through.

Transfer soup to a blender in batches and puree until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and stir in the cream. Serve with fresh salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Peanut butter oatmeal biscuits

Creativity strikes me at unusual times. Often while I’m driving (peak hour traffic is amazing for switching my brain to another place), nearly always when I’m in the shower. Sometimes an idea gets stuck in my head and it feels like I can’t rest until I start getting it done. But that anxious anticipation and mind racing excitement can be half the fun.

Other times, I get that great idea, or see inspiration for something I want to bake, have the itching feeling, but for whatever reason it never happens… It might be a time thing, or a relevance thing, or an organisational thing, but it goes onto the backburner of things I coulda/ shoulda/ woulda done. Sigh. Such is the world at times I guess.

**Side note** Thank goshness for Pinterest! At least I get to record all the great recipes I see on the interwebs there. Am not sure I would ever remember things otherwise🙂

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These cookies were something I saw months ago (eek, actually it was over a year ago!), and it was ticking in my head for ages, I wanted to make them SOOOO bad. The idea of chewy oatmeal biscuits smooshed with peanut butter filling sounded too delectable.

I can’t remember now why I didn’t just make them there and then. It’s not like there are special ingredients I needed to go out and purchase. I can only think that it was perhaps that I didn’t have an audience of people to eat them with me that might have been the holdback. Silly really, but I do maintain that I need to know who will be eating them before I bake (it can’t just be me… though I want to eat every single one of them, oh I really, really do!). Perhaps I was seeing the bestie who desn’t eat nuts that week? Oh well, I’m making them now and I know they’ll go down a treat at the workplace Monday morning birthday celebrations/ work meeting!

These cookies smell just like Autumn should… Full of brown sugar, butter, cinnamon and oats. It really was a task not to eat them all straight out of the oven! It’s important to remember you need even numbers to make them work properly, so you can’t pick at just one!

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For anyone interested, the recipe has been adapted from a Joy the Baker recipe here. Instead of the peanut butter filling specified, I used some leftover peanut better frosting and caramel sauce frosting that I’d frozen from some cupcakes I’d made over Easter. I combined both frostings together to make a creamy but crunchy nutty caramel mixture. Delish!

PS – Apologies for bad photo quality today… A combination of a) quickly faltering afternoon light and b) an uncharged Nikon mean that the ol’ iPhone was all I had on hand!

— Bec

Links I Love

It’s the weekend! If you’re anything like me, I’m always scraping for some time to catch up with what’s been happening in the blogosphere  over the past days, and find I am using my trusty ‘Bloglovin’ app more and more to keep up-to-date with my favourite writers, bakers, inspirers and creators.

I know this has been done a bit throughout the interwebs, but I find it a lovely way to share some good blogging karma as well as reminding myself of my favourite things I’ve seen this week:

  • Joy the Baker’s Creamy Zucchini Tarragon Soup is perfect for these chilly Melbourne evenings!
  • Sarah Wilson gives us 13 very nifty things to do with chia seeds – more than just something to sprinkle on your cereal🙂
  • Melissa from Suger Coat It shares my love of Autumn and says yay for cooler weather (as well as rocking the socks off a dress I’m coveting!)
  • Pip at JustB talks about DIY mindfulness in our everyday worlds which speaks volumes to me after the meditation workshop I did last weekend.
  • Beth at BabyMac has me all nostalgic for the great Australian roadtrip – Love a good country pub feed

Enjoy!

“The Ikea Effect”

I don’t for a second proclaim to be the first person to talk about this, but it’s one of those concepts that just “clicks” with my way of thinking. The notion that we value what we create. That something we build brings us happiness, above anything that money buys. I’m sure that this belief is at the heart of all creative’s and the reason why so many of us do what we do. It’s not just thrift or talent that spurs a person into the DIY frame-of-thinking… It’s the feeling of creating, producing and having something at the end where you can proudly tip your hat: “I did this”.

As someone who isn’t particularly “arty” (my underground hang-up; the feeling of having a creative mind, without the artistic talent to match), I love this concept more than anything… Because it also applies to baking! It took some time for me to become aware that what I really loved, wasn’t the eating of cakes (in some cases, I have no interest at all in them), it was waiting for the final result, and putting them out there for others to enjoy.

Every time I’ve changed jobs in recent years, it doesn’t take my new work buddies long to find out that many Monday mornings (or in fact any excuse for a morning tea) often include my trusty Tupperware container full of cakes to share. Watching others enjoy what I made is only a very, very close second to my absolute favourite part of the whole process… Waiting for the cakes to be finished so I can take them out of the over and see what they look (and smell!) like🙂

Having said all this… Here are some Green Tea cup cakes, that were not only a delight to bake, but something I get overly freakin’ excited about eating as well.

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–Bec

I first read about the Ikea effect and it’s applications to baking here. I <heart> Sarah Wilson and her musings on life. So often she totally encapsulates what I’m thinking and my beliefs on the world. But blogging girl-crushes is for another day!