Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Challenge Begins!

I've now posted my first dish on my Food Blog... I'm very excited! I won't be posting the links on here each time, so you'll need to subscribe to the food blog to stay up to date!

If you end up trying any of my recipes that I post, I'd love to hear your feedback! Happy cooking!

"Challenge Accepted"

(For greater emphasis on the title, imagine Barney Stinson saying it - and for those of you who don't know who Barney is, start watching "How I Met Your Mother" for a good laugh and you'll soon work it out!)

So, what is this challenge that I've accepted? Well, it's a challenge that I've actually given myself and I'm kind of nervous blogging about it, because that means it's public and I'm therefore more accountable! Many of you would know the passion for cooking I have, that's really started to develop over the past few months. I've been trying out quite a few new recipes so my collection is really starting to grow. With this in mind, I've decided to try and do 220 new recipes in 365 days. That's just over 4 recipes a week on average! I'll be posting all these recipes in a separate blog that I've set up called Nell's Food Corner (thought I'd keep the same theme as my book blog!).

A little while ago, some good friends of mine had their own photographic challenge and it's been on my mind for a while to do something similar... not 365 photos in 365 days, but the idea of the challenge. Hence why my cooking challenge has finally come to a head! If you are interested in doing the challenge with me (i.e. you try 220 new recipes in 365 days, not add to my 220), you'd be most welcome to join me! Please let me know if you are interested and I'll be in contact!

So, I hope you are as excited by this as what I am! Stay tuned for my first recipe post!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Getting Focused

Sometimes I have trouble focusing... I have so many thoughts running through my head that even I have trouble keeping up with them all!

I'm having one of those moments right now... I'm thinking about my blog and realise that it doesn't really have a focus. When I started my first blog, I used it as an electronic way of getting my 'update letter' out to friends and family, so was quite long and detailed. The entries slowly became more regular and shorter, but the general idea was to keep friends and family up-to-date with our lives.

When I started this new and improved blog, again the idea was to keep everyone updated with our lives. But I've been inspired by other friends' blogs, which can be more anecdotal, thought-provoking etc so I've written a number of entries that weren't so much updating as they were sharing thoughts... which I'm doing at the moment!

I'd love to get your feedback... As a reader of my blog, what are your thoughts on the following:

1.) Should my blog be focused on one thing - i.e. one main theme and if so, what should that theme/focus be?

2.) Or, do you like to see a variety of things (e.g. update on the family/what we've been doing; funny stories/anecdotes; thoughts I'm having/responding to blogs that have got me thinking etc)?

3.) I've become very passionate about cooking and trying new recipes... I'm interested in blogging about it... should I start a new food blog (like my book blog), add entries to this blog, or just not bother at all?

4.) Is there anything else you'd like to see on this blog?

If you would be so kind as to leave a comment below, comment on Facebook or email me your thoughts, I'd absolutely LOVE it!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dodging Cameras?

I was recently reading a friend's blog titled "Dodging Cameras a.k.a Life in your 30s", which she wrote in response to another blog titled "Avoiding Mirrors, Dodging Cameras" and like all good blogs do, it got me thinking!

Both blogs were an interesting read and I started reflecting on my life in photographs. As much as I understand where both women are coming from, I don't have the same view as them (sorry, "D"!). Quite the opposite in fact. Well, not quite opposite - I don't look for cameras and seek them out, as opposed to 'dodging' them!

So, let me explain... in my younger days, I wasn't overly confident in myself and went through that 'awkward' phase that so many teenagers do. As a Christian, I went on a lot of youth camps and loved them. I made heaps of friends and really enjoyed myself, but was always self conscious of how I looked. I've never been a 'big' girl, but I never thought I was thin, or had a nice body (I've always had a 'tummy'), so I did a really unflattering thing (that at the time I didn't realise how unflattering it actually was) and wore baggy clothes (often shopping for boy clothes that didn't look too boyish) to hide my body. I didn't have issues with being in photos, but looking back on photos, it was a bit of cringe factor, especially with my hairstyle, so the overall look just wasn't that great, in my opinion.

Fast forwarding to today, I am much more confident and comfortable in myself and don't have quite the same body issues as I used to. So, what changed? Often when you get to your 30s (as proven by the 2 blogs I referenced above), you start to get a lot more self conscious of your body and the aging process that seems to miraculously speed up at that crucial 3-0 birthday. However, I'm blessed to not be struggling with that... I'm not saying that I'm not aging - far from it - but my struggle isn't a mental/emotional one. I'm not concerned about my wrinkles or the few grey hairs that seem to have appeared (I'm not sure how long they've been around for - up until December last year, I used to get highlights in my hair on a regular basis, that could have been covering them up for I don't know how long, or they could just be a new addition in the last couple of months!). Anyhow, I digress as I tend to do! And I still haven't answered the question "what changed?" I think I can pinpoint a number of things:

1. I met and married my wonderful partner. As a teenager and in my early twenties, I had always struggled with being single. Until I met Hubby, I'd never really been in a relationship and been on very few dates, so my self confidence was very low. After meeting him, my whole outlook changed and I became confident in myself.

2. I became pregnant (after a long struggle with that too, but that's a story for another day!) and having longed for a baby for so long, I enjoyed my pregnancy body. Admittedly, I didn't get all that large and right up until Darling Daughter was born, I never look more than a few months pregnant, as opposed to the full term that I carried her. After giving birth, I still had the same tummy that I'd had 'growing up', but now I had an excuse - I'd had a baby (don't tell anyone that it was my pre-baby belly!). So, my tummy doesn't bother me anymore (I'm conscious of it, but not so worried about it!).

3. I started getting styled hair cuts and colours in my hair. In my teenage years, I never really did much with my hair, but now, getting a fresh new cut and colour, really puts a bounce in your step! I haven't had anything done to my hair since moving up to Cairns (I HATE trying to find a new, good hairdresser after having such a great one for so long!), but I know I need it and am looking forward to that fresh feeling of stepping out of a salon!

4. I've learned what clothes actually flatter me so I try and buy clothes that are best suited for my body. Funnily enough, completely opposite of what I used to wear (baggy clothes), are the more fitted clothes with the right cut that show off my body in the right way. I may not always dress the best, but now I know what clothes are right for me!

And that's "what changed!"

So, dodging cameras? Nah, I like the memories they create too much!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Life Without Internet

How did I manage to survive before we had internet?! I was thinking about that last night as I googled an ingredient that is common in the USA, but not in Australia, to work out a substitute. It got me thinking - what would I do if I didn't have the internet to look up what the product actually was, or what a suitable substitute would be.

As I have dual citizenship for Australia and the USA, I love baking and cooking using a lot of American recipes acquired from my grandmother's recipe tin, other family/friends in the States, American cookbooks or from Betty Crocker (I've subscribed to 'her' website and LOVE trying out many of her recipes). However, the draw back is that some ingredients/products are either nonexistent here in Australia and therefore I need to find a substitute, or they are called/referred to as something completely different and I need to find out what it's called in Australia. Either way, the easiest way to work it out, is to go to the internet. I just type in the ingredient and wah-la, up come a million (give or take!) links to that ingredient, giving me information on what it is, how to use it, a substitute for that product, other recipes using that product, little anecdotes from others using that ingredient or the most annoying link to click on: someone else asking the same question I have in a forum, but no one has answered the person, meaning no answer for me! But my point is, there is a heap of information right at my fingertips, helping me with my dilemma of food lost in translation!

But my second point is - whatever would I have done if I had the same passion for cooking as I do now, before the days of internet, or even more importantly, Google? Firstly, I probably would have given up making that particular dish/recipe that day because researching would take a while and I'd run out of time. Secondly, I'd ring my mum and find out if she knew what the ingredient was and if there was a substitute, or another name for it. It wouldn't be guaranteed that she'd know, so I'd have to email one of my family or friends in the States and wait for a response. But, hey! This is in the days before internet, so there's no such thing as email! Snail mail would just be silly by the time I got a response, but if I was to ring them, I'd have to wait until an appropriate time because of the time difference. And by the time I coordinated that phone call, chances are, they would know what the product was, but would have no idea what the Australia equivalent would be! Grr... I'm nearly pulling my hair out with frustration writing this and this is just a hypothetical! Hence, why I would have given up making the recipe at that time, perhaps giving up all together and not bothering to pick it up again, placing it in the 'too hard' basket.

So, that's the first obvious drawback to having no internet. A second drawback, which is related to my passion for cooking, is no longer having access to the internet to find new recipes to try! I love the Masterchef Australia website, so get quite a few recipes from there. As I said before, I subscribe to Betty Crocker as well, so enjoy trying her recipes, as well as other cooking related blogs, Facebook pages etc... all in existence, only because the internet is in existence.

And I haven't even touched on the obvious use for the internet - communication with family and friends. Especially in my case with my mum's family overseas and having moved away from family and friends in our 'home' state, as well as the friends we made while living in Adelaide while Hubby studied, the internet has been a life-line to keep in touch with everyone. I'm not someone to pick up the phone and call, so email is a great way for me to stay in contact.

One final thought... if we were living in the days before internet, you wouldn't be reading this blog right now! And in actual fact, you wouldn't even know what the word 'blog' meant, and for that matter, google. Excuse me?! What's a google? And a blog?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

24 Hours With the Girls

I had a blissful 24 hours over the past day, going away with some lovely ladies from the church who decided to go away overnight on a girls' retreat to Port Douglas. We had high expectations of foot spas, manicures and chick flicks on Friday night, but instead, we played games, went out to a beautiful Thai restaurant for dinner and came home to play more games until 1:30am!

Enjoying our time at the restaurant!

We had a bit of a sleep in the next morning and a beautiful breakfast of pancakes with a variety of topping options and fruit salad. Very filling!

We then continued playing games until we realised that it was lunch time, but no one was hungry because of the huge breakfast, so we finally made the decision to pack up and start heading home, with a detour to Thala Beach Lodge for a coffee or the like.

It's a gorgeous resort/hotel with breathtaking views, so we enjoyed sipping our tea/coffee/cocktails while nibbling on an antipasto platter and turkish bread with dukkah and coconut oil dip. Nothing too heavy after a big breakfast, but enough to tie us over until dinner!

Toblerone cocktail and View from our table

I arrived home to a daughter who had missed me and has started calling me "Mama" again, as opposed to "Dadda", which she had decided to start calling me since being up here in Cairns... even though she knew my name is Mama... sweet words to greet me walking through the door.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Chicken Run

Today we visited a chicken farm. One of hubby's parishioners grows chickens for Steggles so he invited us out to take a look. The chicks had just been delivered so still very young, and very cute! It was quite interesting learning about the process of growing chicks on a commercial basis. Steggles deliver the chicks when they're a day old and come and collect them when they are 45 days old and not quite so cute anymore!

Darling Daughter (DD) wasn't quite so sure about the chicks at the beginning, but by the end she was loving them!

You'll have to ignore the wind, but here's DD having fun looking at the chicks

We're hoping to go back when they are ready to be taken by Steggles, so we'll give you an update next month!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Family Tree Photo Board

I got the idea for a photo board from a friend and decided to put my own twist on the idea by making a Family Tree photo board. I had a lot of fun doing this and very excited about the end result. Darling Daughter (DD) loves it too... I made it for her. She loves looking at photos and because she doesn't get to see her family very often, it's a good way for her to get to know their faces. She can identify many people. Each of the leaves are attached with Velcro, so DD can pull the pictures off and carry them around the house/show Mummy/Daddy. I love seeing the enjoyment she gets out of the trees.

Unfortunately it wasn't a craft activity that DD was able to help me with, but she benefits from the end result! Hopefully the next crafty thing I do can involve her.

If you are interested in making one of these yourself, I've included instructions and progressive photos below...

Family Tree Photo Board - Instructions
Material Required
- Board paper - 250gsm - green shades and white
- Scissors
- Leaf stencil (I googled one and found this)
- Grey lead pencil
- Family photos
- Glue stick
- Black marker/texter
- Laminator (I picked up a great one at Officeworks for $48, but they have cheaper ones as well)
- Laminator pouches
- Tree silhouette (I googled one and found this)
- Brown crayon (I used a Crayola jumbo)
- Contact (optional)
- Velcro Strips - hook and loop - self adhesive

1. Using the leaf stencil and grey lead pencil (I adjusted the size of the leaf in Microsoft Word so that I got the size I wanted), trace the required number of leaves for your family tree onto the pieces of green board paper. Carefully cut each piece out.

2. With each family photo, cut around the people you want and glue them onto the leaf. When gluing them on, make sure you alternate which way the stem of the leaf is facing, so that you don't end up with all the same facing leaves!

3. Using the marker, hand write the name of the people around the photo, on the green leaf.

4. Using the laminator and pouches, laminate each of the leaves. I used A4 pouches and put 2 leaves to a pouch through the laminator, but the size of your leaf will depend on which sized pouch you can/should use. Once the leaves are cooled, cut out the leaves, leaving about 5-10mm gap from the edge of the leaf.

5. Using the tree silhouette, hand draw the outline of the tree on the white board paper with the grey lead pencil. Once you are happy with the outline, draw over the line with the crayon. Then colour in the branches and trunk. I liked the uneven tones the crayon gave, to make the tree look more "woody".

6. This step is optional, but I covered the board paper with contact to give it more protection from grubby hands etc, as well as to help with the adhesion of the Velcro, to ensure the Velcro didn't rip from the paper when a leaf is removed.

7. Cut out strips from both the hook and loops from the Velcro, approximately 5cm (but this will depend on the size of your leaves). Remove the backing from a piece of hook and attach the sticky side down to the leaf. Press firmly. With the loop, remove the backing and place sticky side up so that the Velcro is joined together. Carefully position the leaf on the tree and press firmly to attach. NB: Instead of Velcro, you could attach a magnet to the back of the leaf, but the board you use for the tree would then need to be magnetic as well, or attached to something that is magnetic.

8. Repeat Step 7 until all leaves are attached to the tree.

9. Look back and admire your creation!

10. I attached the tree to a wall using blue tac, but you need to be careful when removing the leaves that it doesn't pull the blue tac off as well. I need to work out a better way to attach to the wall, so if you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them!