Friday, April 29, 2011

What to do about school lunches?

The litle Divas' gluten free lunch box hasn't been the challenge I thought it would. She's a good eater, so long as she hasn't got tummy troubles, and has a wide variety of favourite foods. Here's what she took in her lunch box today....

An apple, a mandarin, a peeled carrot
2 steamed potatoes with herbed butter in a thermos
Beetroot slices in a sealed container
Pineapple slices in a sealed container
A plain mini bar of chocolate
Home made meringues
Slices of GF Strassbourg luncheon meat
Some poached chicken breast

That sounds like a lot, but I know she'll eat every bit. It's hard for a minute to think past the traditional sandwich and home baked goodies, but we're doing it and reaping the rewards.

Today I'm making some coconut macaroons, her other favourite and I'll be posting the recipe later.

Meanwhile, if there's something in particular you're hankering for and you're GF or Coeliac, let me know and I'll see what I can come up with. I can't promise I can help, but I'll give it a darned good try.

Here's to our (gluten free) health....Mimi...x

Thrifty Thursday....thrifty shopping...


On my Tray of Bliss today are my latest thrift shop bargains.

I love shopping at thrift shops, or op shops as they are called here.

The one I love the most is in an industrial area close to my daughters dance school and I adore scurrying in for a nosey around, late in the afternoons after dropping her at dance class.

It's an Aladdins Cave in there.

Apart from the usual discarded neon tank tops and quasi-designer shoes and bags, they have frequent deliveries of all kinds of vintage ware. I've purchased nearly all of my pretty things there, and totally refurbished my daughters bedroom into a shabby chic heaven for under $250 with recycled bargains.

In doing so, I've also delivered food hampers and flood relief into the hands of people who need it the most. Because of course, that's the idea of thrift shops....they raise money for all kinds of good causes.

If you haven't discovered thrift store shopping, perhaps now is the time. Just be prepared to roll up your sleeves, search and plunder, and sometimes walk away empty handed. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. Here's a guide to successful op-shopping.

1. If musty dusty smells bother you, then I have it on good authority that a damp teabag will ward off the mites and prevent a sneezing attack so tuck one into your bag in a sealed container before you leave. Take a delicate sniff when the dust mites become too much.

2. Wear comfy shoes and old clothes and if you're really sensitive, take some disposable gloves. Pop them on while you're searching, removing them when you're done and disposing of them appropriately.

3. Be prepared to spend some time cleaning up your bargains. Few things at the op-shop are in pristine condition, but respond beautifully to a bit of detergent, soaking, scrubbing or polishing.

4. Try to imagine alternative uses for things. I have a handtowels rolled up in a lustreware vase, bubble bath in several cut glass whisky decanters, cosmetics in a wicker cutlery tray, and pens and pencils in an old plastic chocolate box.

5. If 'what your friends will think' bothers you, don't tell them. Say you inherited them, or were given them, or got them at a garage sale...although I'm yet to comprehend why it's okay to buy things at garage sales, but not op-shops. Go figure.

6. Finally, when you declutter, give something back to your favourite op-shops. You've loved your someone's cast-offs, so perhaps someone else will adore yours.

My photograph today reveals my bargains from yesterday. An enamelware bowl I've repurposed to hold apples, a copper teapot and sugar cube tongs. Total outlay...$14.10. The ten cents was for the sugar cube tongs, found separately to the teapot, and looked at quizzically by the checkout operator as he handled them. Clearly he'd never seen such a thing.

And that's the best thing about op shopping. You'll find all sorts of surprises for not much cash.

And that's Thrifty with a capital 'T'.

What's on your Tray of Bliss today?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Day One.....

About eight months ago, my then 10 year old daughter, had a bad night feeling ill. She had abdominal pain, shivering, clamminess, headache, dry mouth, backache and aching joints. We had no idea what was wrong with her. She climbed into bed with us and eventually slept.

We'd been away at the beach that week so a trip to the Doc on our return was in order. In the meantime, I followed my Maternal Instincts and removed anything in her diet that could have triggered the odd reaction. She'd always been a bit funny, getting hives for no reason we could ascertain, tummy troubles (but nothing severe enough to warrant concern), headachey and so on...all of which we just put down to pre-adolescent hormonal issues, or when she was smaller, simply childhood fussiness.

He took one look at her and asked if we knew anything about Coeliac Disease. She presents as extremely slender for her age and height and all of the symptoms we mentioned were consistent with Coeliac Disease.

She had the initial blood test, and strangely, it came back negative. However, the Doc suggested that as he knew she'd been on a gluten and dairy limited diet (and was feeling considerably better), that it might be wise to consult a dietitian regarding a gluten free diet plan.

Now, I'm pretty savvy about these things, so I swung into action. She wasn't 'coeliac' so didn't require the careful monitoring of foodstuffs that this entails. She was simply 'gluten sensitive', so we'd eliminate ALL the usual suspects, and all would be well. Hey...we'd even reintroduce gluten products over time to see if she could build up a natural resistance.

Nuh-uh...

Any reintroduction of bread or pasta...her favourites...would result in overwhelming fatigue, fuzzy headedness, and tummy and back pain. We kidded ourselves that it was everything else BUT the gluten because it's just so much darned easier.

In the end, after another nasty reaction where she suffered back and abdo pain and was running hot and cold and clammy and faint, we decided enough is enough.

Not only is she going gluten free, but so are her Dad and I. After all, Coeliac Disease is genetic, so maybe he and I are gluten intolerant as well.

Two days of being gluten free and she is bouncing and back to her 'old' self. I feel more energetic and don't have the 3 o'clock fatigue that's always plagued me. I am thinking clearly and more able to concentrate on more than one thing at a time, which as you all know is practically a pre-requisite for Motherhood. And strangely (or perhaps not so), a niggly and sometimes debilitating pain in my right side, which I'd always put down to Gallstones, has all but disappeared. DH is much the same, or so he says...he's such a cynic. Just give it a few days and he'll be singing a different song.

So here's my aim.

Having read copious material on Gluten Free living and eating, I've decided that our plan of attack will not be to try recreating our favourite Gluten laden meals with flours and substances unfamiliar to us...although there's nothing wrong with that, and I may yet declare a defeat with my strategy and revert to that.

Instead, I will try to create meals and treats that don't rely on flour or flour substitutes as much as possible. I'll incorporate more fresh veg and fruit into our diet, which in itself can't hurt, and utilize seasonal produce and imagination to replicate our previous wheat and flour filled menues.

Stay tuned....

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wicked Wednesday...luscious warming Chicken Soup...


On my Tray of Bliss today is a steaming bowl of fragrant chicken soup.

It's the beginning of Winter here in Queensland and our first cold snap hit us this week. Heaters are cranked up and fleecy nightgowns and flannelette sheets have been resurrected for our entire...oh...12 weeks of nippy weather.

We Queenslanders are such a bunch of sooky-lalas, that the minute there's a nip in the air and a breeze in the branches, we're inside shivering under our blankies.

So with the first whisper of Winter, here's my favourite chicken soup recipe.

To a large stockpot, add one whole chicken (or a carcass will do), two stalks of celery, sliced, one large bunch of parsley tied with a ribbon of spring onion (shallot), one peeled head of garlic left whole, two diced carrots, two bay leaves, and 10 peppercorns with enough water to thoroughly cover.

Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer over a low temperature, for one and a half to two hours unti the chicken is soft and falling from the bone.

Shred the meat from the bone, and discard the bones. and the skin. Strain the remaining broth through a sieve and discard the contents of the sieve, reserving the broth.

Add the meat to the broth and add 1/4 teaspoon of Cinnamon, and a teaspoon each of ground Cumin, Corander and Ginger.

Add some noodles or pasta now if you like and return to the heat, continuing to simmer until tender, or for a gluten free version, stir through two beaten eggs, creating a ribbon effect.

Season to taste...you might need one to two teaspoons of salt if it's a bit pot of soup, and a bit of pepper. If you're feeling under the weather, the juice of a lime or lemon and a sliced chilli or two will sort things out and make you feel much better.

Enjoy!

What's on your Tray of Bliss today?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wicked Wednesday....Gateau au Chocolate de Babeurre`..


YUM! OMG! This is Deee-vine...can I have another piece?

That's the usual response when I serve this one.

Try it once and this will forever be your go-to cake for celebrations, lunch boxes, desserts and for impressing the boss, the pastor, your new beau, or your friends and family....I promise!

Gaeteau au Chocolate de Babeurre`....

(Chocolate Buttermilk Cake...but doesn't the French version sound lush!)

2 Cups Flour
2 Cups Sugar
¾ Cup Cocoa
2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
2 Eggs
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Buttermilk
1 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 ½ Teaspoons Vanilla Extract or Essence
1 Cup Boiling Water

Preheat Oven to 150C..this is a slow bake recipe
Lightly grease and flour a 22cm x 35cm baking dish, or grease, flour and line a similar sized cake tin, or prepare 12 large or 24 small cupcake or muffin papers inside muffin pan holes. This cake batter is quite liquid, so the great thing is that you can pour it into the cupcake papers, so long as they are stablilised by being inside the muffin pan holes. You cannot just place the cupcake papers on a tray for this batter. It'll just run everywhere!

Place all the ingredients above into a mixing bowl.
Mix at medium or medium high speed until all ingredients are blended and smooth.
Pour into greased and floured baking dish or pour into cupcake papers inside muffin tin holes.
Bake for 1 hr for a large cake or about 45 minutes for cupcakes.
Test by sticking with knife. If it comes out clean, it's done!
Allow to cool.

This cake is so moist and delicious that it simply doesn't need icing. That doesn't mean you can't ice it if you wish, but here, we just eat it as is, dust it with icing sugar, or my favourite...decorate with white  chocolate shapes and squiggles.

All you need is about 100gms of white chocolate buttons, melted on 50% power in your microwave for about 2 minutes.

Pour this into a ziplock sandwich bag, and snip a teeny tiny corner from the bag. It needs to be just a whisker of the corner of the bag, or you'll end up with white chocolate everywhere.

You can then squiggle, heart, gift box, beribbon, or write cute words on the top of your cake or cupcakes to your hearts content.

These look like designer cupcakes from a cupcake boutique and are so more-ish that you'll make this one over and over and over again.

On my Tray of Bliss today is a cupcake, a coffee and my Cafe` Corner.

What's on your Tray of Bliss?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Thrifty Tuesday...the most velvety butter chicken and low fat too!


Who doesn't love Butter Chicken?
 
The Diva returned from school camp recently and asked for orange chicken. She could not elaborate beyond that. It took some weeks to discover that she didn't mean chicken in orange flavoured sauce, but chicken in orange coloured sauce AKA Butter chicken.

Here is my own recipe for the best, most silky, fragrant butter chicken ever.

Best of all, it's low fat AND microwaveable.

Okay, don't get on my case about the authenticity and all that stuff. I know that REAL butter chicken is marinated for days, cooked in a tandoor oven, and slathered in rich creamy sauce.

But I never could leave a good thing alone, and for as long as this dish is my daughters favourite, and we are compelled to consume it at least once a week, my hips and my time management requirements dictated that I commit the small blasphemy of finding a better way of cooking and serving butter chicken.

Like many of the best recipes, this one has evolved from the original, with some of my own touches.

So without further ado, here it is....

Best results are obtained by marinating this overnight, but if that's not possible, give it at least two hours.

For four serves, you need:

about 750gms chicken thigh or breast, cut into large chunks

For the marinade, you need:
one cup of buttermilk
one teaspoon each of smokey paprika, cumin, turmeric, minced ginger, minced or ground coriander and Garam Masala
1/2-1 teaspoon minced garlic depending on how much you like garlic
a teeny pinch or more of cayenne pepper according to taste
one very heaped teaspoon of tomato paste

For the rice, you need:
2 cups long grain rice
3 cups water
pinch of salt

To make the sauce from the marinade later, you need:

1 1/2 cups tomato puree...it's called Passata in the supermarkets here or one 400gm tin of diced tomatoes
one tablespoon of butter
1 heaped tablespoon of flour
1 cup low fat mik

Combine the marinade ingredients in a large container or bowl, and throw in the chicken chunks. Leave for at least two hours, and preferably overnight.

While the chicken is marinating, cook your rice. Now I'm going to give you my most secret secret for cooking perfect, fluffy rice every time, without a rice cooker....pay attention.

THE RICE:

In a large saucepan for which you have a tightly fitting lid, combine rice and water at the ratio of once and a half cups of water to each cup of rice. If you like your rice fairly moist and plump, add an extra 1/8th of a cup of water for good measure, along with a good pinch of salt.

Bring the rice and water to the boil, stir well to loosen the grains, put the lid on and SWITCH OFF. Yes....off.

Leave the pan with the lid on, for 20 minutes. If you have an electric or ceramic hotplate, just leave it there so it cooks with a bit of residual heat. If you have gas, check after 15 minutes and if it's still watery, turn the gas back on, bring back to a simmer, switch off and replace the lid.

After 20-25 minutes, you should have perfect fluffy rice....that's if you haven't peeked!

Tip your rice into a microwave safe bowl and cover for serving later.

THE CHICKEN:

20 minutes before serving time, take the chicken chunks out of the marinade. Set the marinade aside to make the sauce.

Put the chicken chunks into a microwave safe dish, and cover with a microwave safe lid or cling wrap. Microwave on high for 7 minutes, stirring after 3 minutes. Leave to stand for 5 minutes. The chicken will continue to cook during this time. Don't worry if it's not entirely cooked through. By the time it stands for a bit, and you stir it through your sauce, it'll be just be perfect.

THE SAUCE:

While your velvety, delicious chicken is 'standing', make your sauce. This is done by simply pouring the remaining marinade into a pan, and adding the tomato puree`. Bring this to a low simmer over a medium heat, until hot and steaming.

While this continues on a low simmer, make your sauce thickener. This really gives the butter chicken some substance and a delicious creamy texture without the calories.

In a large microwave safe jug, melt the butter. Stir in your flour, and microwave on high for one minute, stirring well afterwards.

Pour your milk into a microwave safe cup or jug and heat until steaming. About 90 seconds on 'high' power is about enough.

Whisk the steaming milk into the flour and butter (this is called a roux) until smooth.

Microwave in one minute blasts, stirring well after each minute, for three minutes until thick.

Pour this milky sauce into your tomato marinade mixture and whisk thoroughly until smooth and thick.

At this point, you'll add your velvety chicken to the silky sauce, and allow it to heat well.

THE TASTING:

For best presentation, get a teacup or jelly mould, and spray it with cooking spray.

Heat the rice in the microwave on 'high' for 3 minutes and fluff with a fork.

Have your plates out ready to go.

Carefully spoon the rice into the teacup and compress it well. Invert the teacup onto your plate and you'll end up with a neat little mound of rice.

Carefully spoon some chicken onto the plate with a slotted spoon, so you don't slop sauce everywhere. Then use a large spoon to serve some of the sauce over the chicken, drizzling a little decoratively over the rice.

Sprinkle with fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves or flaked almonds.

Serve immediately.

Enjoy!






Monday, April 18, 2011

Whatever happened to the long drive....


Look at this little arrangement on the side of the road in countryside France.

It's put there, by residents (3 of them) just for passing motorists to have something cute to view.

The 'man' is made from terracotta pots, and the wagon is painted that glorious shade of blue popular in some provences.

There were pots of pansies and geraniums around to add colour to the display.

We had been randomly driving around trying to find our way to Etretat`, and go lost several times.

Had we not got lost, we wouldn't have stumbled upon this little montage`.

A happy serendipity.

Once upon a time, before petrol hit well over the $1 per litre here in Australia, we used to go for a 'drive' for something to do.

You'd get to know the neighbourhood, or explore other neighbourhoods. You'd stumble upon a new park, playground, BBQ area or church to explore.

We used to love sitting outside churches n a Saturday afternoon to watch the parade of brides. The bells would peal, confetti would be thrown, and they'd drive off in their beribboned cars, making space for the next happy couple. It was beautiful.

No-one does this any more. Sure, the cost of fuel is prohibitive, but I also believe that no-one drives for exploration, walks for fun, runs for the sheer pleasure of feeling the wind on their limbs, or drops in for a coffee just because you were passing by anymore either.

What's wrong with us?

We've all forgotten that it doesn't have to cost money to entertain ourselves.

I recently took my daughter to a large cemetery to explore, read and admire the gravestones and family crypts and be saddened and heartened by the many hidden stories there. We took some gravestone rubbings done with tracing paper and charcoal, and placed flowers on some graves that looked lonely.

Surprisingly, this was one of the most delightful outings we've had. It created conversation about family ties, grandparents, medicine, God, median lifespan, my Mum and Dad who have passed away, gardening, flowers, stonemasons, weeds, crows, shadows, how leadlight is made, religion, the afterlife, Buddhism, and a myriad other topics.

If we'd sat at home, we would have watched a movie and never had that conversation.

As it happens, she now has a deeper appreciation of many things in her life, and I have a new appreciation of how quickly she is growing up.

On my Tray of Bliss today, is a note to glue our gravestone rubbings into our scrapbook along with some dandelions we are pressing, and not take the few years I have with my daughter before she 'grows up', for granted.

What's on your Tray of Bliss?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Timewarp Thursday.....Donny vs. Justin....


No-o-o...this is not Justin Bieber as you can see by the title on this album cover. There's Justin up there to your right. It's my old hearthrob, Donny. And there's a reason that I've chosen his pic for my blog today.

Today I feel like the worst Mother in the world.

Today I wish that I hadn't cancelled the darned Sunday paper delivery. Because then I would have had some idea that Justin Bieber was touring Australia.

I don't watch TV really at all, and I only listen to CDs in my car.

So I've been blissfully unaware.

The only reason my oversight was discovered was because my 11 year old daughter coerced me into taking her and a friend to the Justin Biever...sorry Bieber...movie currently playing here. Having actually been convinced that yes, he's cute, and yes, he can sing, we googled him and HELLS BELLS.....he's touring as I write. But lamentably all ticket sales are exhausted.

It's funny because, having been a big Donny fan at the same age, I actually feel her disappointment keenly. If someone had told me Donny was touring (as he did once) and I found I'd missed out, I would have bawled for a week....ahhh..those pre-teen hormones.

But my darling girl has taken this oversight stoically, and vowed to instead have a Justin Bieber party with all of her like minded friends. Bless her.

This Justin B, is very similar to Donny in many ways. Toothsome, mop haired, doe eyed, super cute Christian boy with a girlish voice and a non threatening repertoire.

The physical similarities are astounding.
What goes around truly does come around.

On my Tray of Bliss today is a planner for the JB party...I might actually enjoy myself. I'll just close my eyes and pretend it's Donny.

Or you could help us by going to the Bad Mummy Where's My Justin Bieber Tickets Blog listed to your right, and vote for us! It's a self generated blog to attract the attention of the JB team. I happen to know, having seen the Bieb's movie, that he's a big fan of social networking...so c'mon Biebs...put thy money where thy mouth is and help us out~

What's on your Tray of Bliss today?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wicked Wednesday...DIY Cafe` Corner...



Alert....Mothers Day is just around the corner....

On my Tray of Bliss today is an idea germinated from my aversion to shopping centres.

As I mentioned last week, I finally stumbled upon what it was that I used to like about cafe's. And it wasn't the coffee or the overpriced sandwiches!

It's the Princess Feeling. Being waited upon, the feeling of crisp linen, gentle music, murmured conversations, white on white serenity.

So I've created my own Cafe` Corner. Now, it's not a lounging corner, which is what springs to mind when you think of having a coffee at home. It's a single table version of all the things I love about my favourite coffee shops.

Now if you're a Starbucks or Gloria Jeans kinda person, my cafe` corner won't be for you. But you can still analyze the elements of your own fave cafe` and replicate it at home too.

So here's how I turned this pile of stuff.....


Into this glorious little corner of plush quiet....


...in which to enjoy my own coffee and cake treats.

What you need:

A smallish table that's tall enough to get your knees under. So NOT a coffee table or side table. Mine is an old derelict desk, snaffled up at a thrift shop for $10.

A pretty chair. I've repurposed my bedroom chair, but even an old outdoor chair covered with a favourite quilt could be lovely.

A roll of non slip matting. This is available from discount stores and supermarkets and is meant to stop your crockery and cutlery from banging around in the drawers, amonst other things. This stuff will give the top of your old table something to 'grab' the tablecloth, and is also nice and squishy for leaning on.

A white table cover. Now I already had this one, which I only use at Christmas. For me, it had to be plain white, but if your cafe` has red vinyl or floral table covers, then that's what you'd be after. Old bedsheets are a great alternative to tablecloths.

Now the little details....I have sugar cubes because I have such happy memories of teas with my Nanna and Mum in long ago establishments where sugar cubes and coffee crystals were de rigeur`. If you prefer the little paper sachets, then they too are available at your supermarket.

White salt and pepper shakers...another thrift shop find for under a dollar give a five star feel, as does the little white vase. I filled mine with small white ostrich plumes as an alternative to flower buds. These were under $7 at my local haberdashery and just looking at them makes me dream of another time and place. Very 'Narnia'.

I love the look of glossy magazines tied with recycled ballet pink ribbon from my daughters ballet slippers. You could do the same with either magazines or books..it's a very girlie look.

A decent sized white cup and saucer is essential to encourage lingering, and a coffee pot or teapot is a nice addition.

Now, find a special corner in your home...one that you love. I chose a free space next to my beloved bookcase. It's a bit gloomy in a good way, and sort of cosy and overlooks a bit of garden in a side window.

Set up your table with the non slip matting under the tablecloth or cover, and all your pretty accoutrements` arranged in a way that pleases you. Settle your chair in a comfortable position where you can view something that you love. For me it's a Monet print, my books, some photos and figurines, and the palm trees outside.

Boil the kettle, cut a slice of your favourite cake, sit, and enjoy. Who needs to spend money to chill out at a cafe`.

What's on your Tray of Bliss today?


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tranquil Tuesday....time to think...


I love order in my life.

This photo taken from one of the rooms in the former home of the sculptor Auguste Rodin, speaks of order and calm to me.

The symmetry of the placement of the chairs, the windows, the manicured gardens beyond and even the shadows on the parquet floor all suggest a kind of ordered serenity.

Do you find sometimes that things are just a mess, both figuratively and literally. I can almost measure my state of mind by the state of my desk and home. If my mind is calm and tranquil, then my home and desk are tidy.

If your mind is in disarray, do you find, as I do, that everthing else is as well?

As hard as it may be, the best way to work through a busy, messy or crazy time in your life, is to make an extra effort to surround yourself with order. Simple things like sticking to a routine, even to the point of writing a daily task list, can be helpful. I write everything on my daily to-do list, even blogging, exercising, visiting friends and spending time with my children. This may seem so obvious, that I almost see you rolling your eyes and going 'well...der..'

But it's when these little things slip, that you'll find everything else slipping too.

The days when I've neglected my evening routine of planning the following day before going to bed, are my most frantic days. Nothing goes right and I'm chasing my tail from dawn till dusk and beyond.

Maybe as I've grown older I've learned to appreciate routine more as I try to squeeze more out of each day.

My planning for the following day includes setting out the breakfast dishes...something I remember my Mum doing when she had seven of us to get off to school in the mornings. The dishes, cutlery, cereal, coffee pot, glasses and cups are all set up on the kitchen bench ready to go. You'd be surprised how this one thing streamlines the morning and prevents us tripping over each other.

Clothes are laid out to avoid that 'where's my sports socks/school badge/favourite undies' madness. Bags and briefcases are emptied and repacked for the following day. Diaries and planners are consulted to see who has swimming/cross country/early morning appointments to ensure we're all out the door on time with all the accoutrements of the day on board.

I even prepare my daughters school lunch as far as possible. We stick to fresh stuff in lunches, so salads are pre-prepared, sushi rice is cooked in adavance to be assembled into moulded sushi in the morning, eggs are boiled, home baked goodies are stashed into containers and bottles of juice and water frozen to keep it all cool in the Queensland heat.

None of this is a new idea. I know many of you would already follow a similar routine. It's just a note to self, that without these routines, home life becomes more harassed and exasperating.

Give me time to think and plan, a few moments of long contemplation as suggested by Rodins' iconic sculpture, The Thinker, a few tasks done ahead, and a calm start to the day. That truly is bliss.

What's on your Tray of Bliss today?


Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday Musings......


On my Tray of Bliss today is the reminder "It's never think it's too late to fulfill a dream".

Why do we imagine that fulfillment of dreams and goals is only for the young?

Why is it considered unusual for anyone over 40 to step up to the mark and do something new or different?

I constantly set myself new goals. Not necessarily the same ones, because goals and dreams can change. I guess that's another thing that gets forgotten. You aren't the same person at 50, that you were at 20 or 30.  So why would you have the same dreams?

I recently achieved a lifelong goal of being paid for writing, photography and cooking. Okay, okay, it's only writing recipes, not a novel, and the photos are of food, not someone's winsomely beautiful children or a spectacular frozen landscape, but it's a start...see here for more...under the heading 'Cooking with Mimi'...


Actually, sign up for the free newsletter while you're there..it's a wealth of information on living a more frugal life.

So, in my fifties, I've realized another lifelong dream...

You should see the look of surprise on peoples' faces when I tell them. It's an odd mixture of 'I didn't know you could do that'...to 'But you're just a Mum'...to 'Wow, but you're so old...'!

Seriously...older people can do stuff too.

I gain inner peace and fulfillment for seeing my goals come to fruition that shopping and spending could never provide.

If you're stuck in a cycle of spending on 'stuff' to make you feel good, maybe it's time to sit down and write out a list of dreams of your own to fulfill.

Once you have a solid goal in your sights, those designer cosmetics and Latte`s won't seem so attractive, I promise.

And whilst your friends might pooh-pooh you when you say you're saving for a cruise in the Greek Islands, they'll be as envious as all hell when you come home sporting a tan, and sharing tales of swilling wine and singing in Greek Tavernas with fab swarthy blokes.

My photo today is of the Town Square in Honfleur. There's a beautiful traditional carousel there, and I'd seen photos of it years ago. So when we visited Honfleur, I got on that carousel. Yes I felt a bit silly, but it was another dream fulfilled.

Now, I dream of the next time I'll visit Honfleur. I find myself looking at the patrons in the many cafe's in my local shopping hub, and wanting to run up to them saying...."But have you seen the Eiffel Tower...it's so much better than this..."

But it's possible I'd be arrested for harassment :-)

One thing is for certain. When my Mum was terminally ill, amongst the swirl of emotions and the realisation that I was losing my best friend in the whole world, was the gut wrenching acknowledgement that there were no more dreams to be fulfilled for her. At the relatively young age of 60, her life was over.

I don't want this to be me. I don't want that for you. When the moment comes for us to meet our maker, who wants to be thinking 'I wish I'd....'

On my Tray of Bliss today is my List of Dreams, with a few more additions and a few more ticks.

What's on your Tray of Bliss today?


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Salubrious Sundays.....

sa·lu·bri·ous
  • adj
  • Conducive or favorable to health or well-being.
 ~definition thanks to The Free Online Dictionary~

Isn't it funny...I always had an idea that Salubrious meant something enitirely different and had all sorts of other connotations.

But it is such a lovely word. In the city where I live, there is a suburb called Salisbury. I used to love the train trip from the suburbs to the city as a small child because the conductor would call out the stops. I was fascinated with the way he said Salisbury. "Saaaawlzbree, Saaaaawlzbree station" he'd call. I'd try to imitate him, loving the way the word rolled around in my mouth like a peppermint before being relinquished.

"Salubrious" is another word like that I think.

On my Tray of Bliss today is the opportunity to do something salubrious.

Having said yesterday that our garden is nothing like Monet's Garden at Giverny, I must say that by sub tropical standards, it's still very lovely. All leafy and green and with patches that have just the right amount of gloom to cut the morning glare. There's a flash of orange here from the Strelitzias, an underscore of violet from the Gingers, and the tinkle of a water feature not too far away.

Breakfast is a black coffee...my favourite kind...vanilla infused...and a Yoghurt, Honey and Banana Parfait. Easy to replicate...here's the recipe in four sentences....

In a small glass or compote dish, layer thick yoghurt, and sliced banana. Drizzle with local honey. Repeat these layers until the glass is full. Consume enthusiastically.

Note my little Coffee bag...On one of our trips to Paris, we indulged in afternoon tea at the Hotel du Louvre. They have a sumptous lounge there and the tea was delivered in an exquisite Limoges cup with a silk organza teabag..I've never forgotten it. Yet it was only a little while ago, that I discovered that the tiny organza bags found in Haberdashery stores make a fine impromptu coffee or tea filter a `la Hotel du Louvre.


Just pop the tea leaves or coarse coffee grounds (not instant) into the teeny bag, and place in your cup before pouring boiling water over them. I find the first cup brewed this way is a little strong, but the second is perfect. And you can't beat the luxurious look of the shimmering organza and shiny satin ribbon for making you feel just a wee bit Princess-ish.

Today the digestive system takes a rest and we eat light. Salad leaves from our garden with a poached egg perched atop for lunch...eggs sourced from a friend with her own chickens. Then a light soup for Dinner.

We awaken with new zest on Mondays and wonder why we don't eat like that more often. But ahhh...yes...we don't have to DO anything on Sunday. We basically lounge around for the bulk of the day, indulging in a Pre-Prandial walk at dusk, taking our daughter and our Whippet along to admire the neighbourhood.

But then there's another Sunday, just around the corner.

Sharing at...



Saturday, April 9, 2011

Spontaneous Saturday.....


On my Tray of Bliss today is the opportunity to be spontaneous.

Well...whatever else is decided.. I think today it's going to be gardening day.

The little patch of garden in todays photo is actually part of Monet's Garden in Giverny. We visited there a few years ago and it was the realisation of a life long dream for me.

 My very first purchase with my wages from my very first job at the tender age of 16, was a large, oversized print of Claude Monet's Waterlilies, which still hangs in pride of place in my bedroom, 35 years later.

It was 27 more years before I'd see the real thing....and worth every moment of waiting and budgeting and sacrificing to get there.

My garden is nothing like the Monet's garden at Giverny. For a start, I live in a sub-tropical region where many of the Monet style blooms just won't bloom. And secondly, being a frugal kind of lady of honest Scots-German descent, I grow vegetables in my garden. 

I'm currently harvesting Mignonette Lettuce, Nasturtium leaves, Finger Eggplant, Radishes, and Parsley. In the next little while, I'll be enjoying strawberries, capsicum, tomatoes, lemons, beetroot, and asparagus.

Oh, I've had my failures...we won't even discuss aphids, mold, possums, grasshoppers, snails and errant neighbourhood children, except to say I've dealt with them all.

But the reward of walking onto my back verandah, and clipping just a few leaves of this and a touch of that to toss with my home made honey mustard dressing makes it all worthwhile.

Oh, have I mentioned my recipe for Honey Mustard Dressing? The heady scent of the honey mixed with the full bodied flavour of the balsamic vinegar and mustard is a perfect accompaniment to any combination of salad ingredients.

Would you like to try it?

Honey Mustard Dressing:

In a small jug or jar, combine 1/4 cup each olive oil and balsamic vinegar. To this add 1-2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard, and a tablespoon of honey. Warm in the microwave for just 10 seconds to liquefy the honey and mix well. Use immediately. Stores in the refrigerator, but needs to be brought to room temperature prior to use as the oil will solidify in the fridge. 

Enjoy~

What's on your Tray of Bliss today?


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thrifty Thursday...


Here's a gift I put together for a friend of my daughter, who was turning 11.

It's a tinted bubble bath in a recycled prettily shaped bottle, a home made solid perfume, and a spray bottle of home made Sweet Dreams Spray. Labelled with luggage tags, and presented in a recycled box, it was declared the pick of all the gifts at the birthday party.

Cost...almost nil.

To replicate this gift you need:

*A spray bottle decorated with stickers or decoupage or even lace and ribbon
*A small container with a lid eg. old lip balm or an old recycled face powder compact.
*Any kind of prettily shaped bottle with a lid. Again a recycled bottle from your pantry would suffice if decorated with lace and ribbon.
*A bottle of inexpensive hand wash or bubble bath.
*Fragrant oils
*Petroleum Jelly or Beeswax pellets
*Almond or Olive oil
*A container, box or basket for presentation
*Shredded paper for lining the box
*Cardboard Luggage Tags... available at Stationers

To make the bubble bath:
Pour enough handwash or bubble bath into your pretty bottle to almost fill. Tint with a tiny amount of food colouring. Add your chosen fragrance oil and seal firmly.

To make the solid perfume:
Melt about a tablespoon of Vaseline or Beeswax pellets and an equal amount of olive or almond oil together in your microwave in a small jug. Add your fragrance oil and mix well. I used about 20 drops of Frangipani Oil marketed for use in oil burners. Carefully pour this into your clean, recycled lip balm container or compact. Leave for about 20 minutes to cool and become solid. Label 'Solid Perfume...Special Blend for "name"'

To make the Sweet Dreams Spray:
Fill your spray bottle with water that has been boiled and allowed to cool. Add about 15mls of fragrance or essential oil, such as Rose Geranium or Lavender. I used Green Apple scent as it's so fresh. Label 'Sweet Dreams Spray...Special Blend for "name"'.

Line your box with your shredded paper, nestle your gifts in there attractively, and wait for compliments!


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wicked Wednesday....


I declare Wednesdays the day to be Wicked.

For me that means indulging in the better things in life. Well, not just better, but the best of everything. For me, one of those things is eating out at good restaurants.

I wonder at this obssession with eating out. What is it that makes us want to pay 5 times the price of the ingredients we could prepare at home, to have others wait on us. Even more puzzling, why pay to get up and down like a yo-yo to eat food we'd never consider at any other time as in ....cue scary music....The Buffet Dinner.

I lost interest in randomly eating out, after my first big overseas trip. I mentally calculated how much I'd spent on lukewarm latte`s, tacky toasted sandwiches, fair to middling Fettucines, and crusty cakes in crowded cafe`s, and cursed my old ways. Give me a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower or a stroll through Kensington Gardens or shopping at a Thrift shop at Notting Hill any day.

Then I went through a stage of trying to recreate the experience of the Cafe` Latte` by concocting a series of powdered mixes to which one added hot water to make the 'latte'....well, what can I say but Bleeeeugh....!

Finally I sat down and wrote out all the things I used to love about going to my favourite Cafe`s...

Soothing music
Fine China
Linen Serviettes
Quiet Corners
Dim lighting
Glossy Magazines to browse for free
Fresh flowers and lush pots of greenery
Water features or the sound of tinkling water
Comfortable chairs with squishy cushions
Gleaming wood and brass
Hushed conversations
Antique Lace
Organza teabags
Water in pretty decanters
Sugar cubes
Ornate utensils
Someone to wait on me

An interesting list...because I have all those things in my own home...except for the person to wait on me.  He's not always here...*giggle*...

So I've set about creating my own Cafe` at home. Because at the end of the day, it's got nothing to do with the coffee and cake...it has to do with feeling special. It's those few moments of being the Princess..."yes Madam, of course you can have your Jasmine Tea in a gilt pot, with cucumber sandwiches and crystallised rose petals on the side all delivered by a handsome man in a tuxedo"...well, you know what I mean.

*News Flash*... I can do that right here. Well there could be a problem with getting the man of the house into a tux to serve my tea, but other than that, I'm looking good.

Today I'm setting up my coffee corner...stay tuned for luxe photos and instructions for setting up your own and start putting the money you save towards your next overseas trip....or your first one.

And as for eating out...well for me, if I can be bothered and the budget bends enough, it's five star or nothing. Why would I pay for someone to serve me food that's just 'ordinary'?

What's on your Tray of Bliss today?


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tranquil Tuesday....


Today I'm having some down time.

I'm actually going to disconnect from technology for a good portion of the day.

Instead, I'll get out my photo box and put together a Book of Memories for my husband for his birthday coming up soon.

The advent of digital photography has been a boon in so many ways. That instant gratification of a great photo beats the long wait for the prints to be returned from the lab that we Baby Boomers remember well.

But it also means that we don't sit down with the photo album or the photo box in our case, and reminisce about our good times. The photos remain protected and hidden in that souless thing we all use called The Computer. Or they're 'burned to disk'. Or on my iPhone. No-one actually LOOKS at their photos much any more.

This was brought home to me just the other night when my daughter got our old photos of a European holiday from about eight years ago. I've always been a keen amateur photographer, and this was probably the last time I used my old Canon Eos on a family trip. A digital camera was in my Christmas stocking the Christmas after, and I never looked back.

Well, she, and we, sat for a good hour and a half, laughing, groaning and giggling our way through what must have been a dozen old rolls of film printed out as glossy 6" x 4" photos.

"Oh there's me getting my face painted at EuroDisney...wasn't that funny...I couldn't understand a word the lady was saying..."

"Oh there's you and Dad outside the Orangerie in Kensington Gardens...remember that squirrel that came up to get some food...wasn't he sooooocuuuuuute...."

"Oh I remember that garden in France. Wasn't that the one where they only trim the hedges with scissors so that the new leaf buds don't get damaged???"

"Ohhhh...remember when we saw Sean Penn waiting to get on the Eurostar...wasn't he a cranky pants...?"

Well, you get the idea. Yes we had a ball. Both on the trip and reliving it. And an evening of revisiting our own past, rather than vicariously reliving someone elses life on TV was a truly tranquil experience.

I've just set up a tranquil corner in my home. It's just a table with a vase of greenery, boxes of photos, scissors and other implements, and old magazines and trimmings of gift wrap and ribbons. That's all we use when we're 'scrapbooking'...in the true sense of the word. No big spend-ups on fancy trims here. Our scrapbooks are real scrapbooks that will yellow and fade with age.

But the memories they create will remain fresh always.

What's on your Tray of Bliss today?



Monday, April 4, 2011

Monday Musings...


At the age of 51, I can unequivocally say that life is short.

Holey Moley, here I am, well over half way through mine, and I haven't done a snit of the stuff I thought I was going to do when I was 20, 25, or even 35.

What were those things anyway? Things that were going to earn me fame or infamy as the case may have been, things that would earn me money, things that would have my name in lights.  Entering politics, publishing a book, seeing my photographs, sketches and paintings  displayed in places of note. All that stuff.

Instead, I had a couple of rotten relationships, three fantastic sons, finally got it right and married a good man, and got my wish for a daughter.

Throw into the mix the fact that my No. 3 son has Cerebral Palsy and is totally physically dependent, and you start to get a sense for where it all went right.

Yes...right. You might think that a life changing event like having a child with a severe physical disability would make life all pear-shaped suddenly.

But in fact, the diagnosis of my son's disability and the realisation of how it would impact on him and us, was like a giant lasoo flying through space, capturing me and hauling me in for branding. Suddenly, none of the things I thought I wanted to achieve in my life mattered any more.

It was all about quality of life for him and for that matter, all of us. Having a kid who can't even wipe their own nose or scratch their own nether regions is a humbling experience. It's time consuming and sometimes all-consuming. You don't have time for much else for years and years and years.

But I can honestly say it's been a good thing. What sort of selfish, self centred little snot would I have become without the introduction of my son into my life. I shudder to think.

So here I am. My two older sons are good people with loving partners. My Son No. 3 is living independently with near round the clock support...I'll share THAT little story another time, and I now bask in a certain little glow of achievement.

I have a loving husband a daughter who is the daughter mothers like me dream of, and a sweetly comfortable life.

I've learned now, that getting to the pointy bit of life has nothing to do with fame, fortune, the admiration of folks I don't even know, and acquiring stuff.

It has to do with treating people with honour, seeking to improve the lives of those who cannot act for themselves, keeping  your promises, and sometimes even *shock! horror!*, putting the needs of others before your own.

My husband and I run a business, manage a home and complex family with stepkids and all the baggage that goes with it. We also lobby politicians to improve the lives of the disabled, serve on commitees that might assist in that outcome, and still manage to find time for each other and our friends. Some days we're over it, to be honest...the whole 'do-gooder' thing. But if we don't do it, then who will?

I suppose you just have to say to yourself "Who wants to get to the end of their days and say 'well, I had a good time..?"

Life is not a race...the first one to get to the finish is d-e-a-d.

Let's stop trying to be the first one to have the new generation thingy, the latest model of this, and the shiniest version of that.

Let's appreciate that the way to be remembered when we are gone, is to DO something great, not HAVE something 'great'.

Life ticks away, whether we like it or not.  I like to feel my heart beating in time with that ticking, knowing that there are only so many ticks, so many beats, and to make each beat and breath count somehow.

On my Tray of Bliss today is my journal. I sometimes forget to write in it. But today I'll write that I am grateful for my bodys' willingness to continue to breathe in and breathe out. For as long as I can manage to do those two things, I will find ways to make the lives of those around me as joyous, peaceful, and memorable as I possibly can.

What's on your Tray of Bliss today?


Friday, April 1, 2011

Loving words displayed for all to see...

On My Tray of Bliss today is something special for a special girl.

I only have one daughter.

I want her to always know how special she is to me and to us.

I just made this for her to display in her bedroom.

It's just a bunch of loving and descriptive words and phrases to reaffirm some of the reasons we love her so much.

I simply typed the words in different fonts and colours and printed them out. I found pastels worked best for my thoughts for my little girl. For a boy or man, you could use different shades of grey or primary colours.

The page was then trimmed to size and fitted inside a frame I already had.

A nil cost gift for no special reason, for a loving daughter who is special for all those reasons and more.

What's on your Tray of Bliss today?