Monday, March 14, 2022

Living well in challenging times #6....home is your Covid-cocoon....

Hubster and I are recovering from a case of Covid. Note that we are triple vaccinated and so very thankful for being so. We could have easily been very much more severely impacted without the vaccine.

He brought it home first, becoming unwell two weeks ago, and subsequently testing positive. I remained supportive and upbeat for a whole 48 hours, before likewise, testing positive. For us, this meant lots of lounging around, sleeping for  up to 16 hours a day, and being eternally grateful for our well-stocked pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. Home was our cocoon, literally.

We didn't feel much like eating anything but home made chicken soup, which we had in abundance in the freezer, and my homemade Le Rice copycat. Here's that recipe in a few sentences...

Le Rice copycat (luxurious creamed rice)

In a saucepan, combine 3/4 cup arborio rice, with 1 1/2 cups full cream milk powder, 4 cups of water, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 2 tablespoons of sugar. 

Bring to a simmer, stir to separate the rice grains, pop on the lid, and switch off the heat.

 If you have an electric cooktop, the stored heat will continue to cook this, so long as you don't peek and release the stored heat from the saucepan. 

Leave for several hours, to allow the rice to cook, swell and become tender. If after a couple of hours (or if you have a gas cooktop like I do), the rice is still al dente, give it another blast to bring it up to heat, and leave it for another hour or two.

If it still looks liquid-ish, you need to let it sit for longer. The rice should be tender and plump, with very little liquid remaining. It will continue to swell when refrigerated, believe me. Scoop into dishes and chill before eating.

Once we started to feel better, this salmon and pasta dish came together magically one night, giving us some relief from chicken soup.

One pot Salmon and Kale Cream Pasta

One serve

Throw a handful of gluten-free penne pasta into a cup of vegetable stock, in the bottom of your wok or saucepan. Add three handfuls of shredded kale. Put the lid of the wok on, and let that simmer for about five minutes. Stir, add half a teaspoon of minced garlic, and rest a defrosted piece of pre-seasoned salmon on top of it all, adding a little more water.
Put the lid back on, and let that simmer for another 6 to 7 minutes. Check the salmon for doneness, and remove it to your plate.
Turn the heat up to allow most of the remaining liquid to evaporate, and added a drizzle of pouring cream, stirring well. Let that reduce a little, then transfer that to your serving bowl, breaking the salmon up over the top.

Truly scrumptious.

Let's also talk about my gluten free scones (biscuits) pictured at the top of the page.

I have never baked scones. Instead I've baked a series of rocks which the family refused to consume, and which could have easily been used as brick edging in the garden. Especially once we became Gluten Free. Whilst Covid-ised, I had time to research, and research I did.

And behold...success at last! AND gluten free!

Here's what I did:

Best ever Gluten Free Scones

Having conducted my highly scientific research, I determined that the Lemonade Cream Scone method, was the best solution, and decided to use my very expensive gluten-free flour, which I hoard, like gold, for those recipes that require a high proportion of flour to other ingredients. I think I’ve had this bag of Caputo gluten-free flour, since Mother’s Day 2020, when we were briefly released from Covid-captivity, to celebrate Mothers Day at a local notable park. There is also a notable delicatessen nearby, where I pounced upon this flour when I saw it, having heard about it previously. At $24 for a one kilo (2.2lbs) bag, it’s worth hoarding!
So, duly armed with quality weight-for-weight-may-as-well-be-gold gluten free flour, a can of Sprite (lemonade), a bottle of thickened cream, and a few teaspoons of baking powder, I went to work.
Here is my (note the proprietary nature of that pronoun 😁) method:
Chill everything and by everything, I mean bowl, utensils and ingredients.
Heat oven to 210C fan forced.
Prepare a smallish tray or cake tin with baking paper, as one secret I learned via my research, was to nestle the scones close to one another, to aid rising.
Choose a scone cutting implement. I used a stainless steel cup, which I regretted as I didn’t register that the sides sloped inwards. A straight sided glass or proper scone cutter would have yielded a more authentic scone shape.
Dust bench liberally with GF flour.
Sift 3 cups flour and 5 teaspoons of baking powder into the chilled bowl.
Stir with a chilled knife to combine.
Add 1 cup of well chilled thickened cream.
Add 1 cup of equally well chilled lemonade, observing with satisfaction the fizzing (it’s the little things right?).
Stir quickly with the cold knife to barely combine. It will be a sticky dough, but that’s what you’re after.

Tip the sticky dough onto the floured bench, dust your hands well with flour, and pat it down a little. You want the dough thick, because the nature of the scones is that they don’t actually rise that much in the baking. Mine was about 3 to 4 cm thick.
Cut each scone, being careful not to twist your cutting implement, as this impedes the rising, due to twisting of the edges of the dough. You probably already know this. I kind of did too. But now that I am scientifically informed, I’m going to present it to you as a new fact (LOL). Lift each scone onto your prepared baking tray with a chilled spatula.
NOTE: I chose to do large scones, in preference to small ones, as I believed there was less potential for them to turn into slabs of concrete. My own small tip.
Gather the dough together, pat into a thick slab, and continue cutting, until you run out of dough. I just formed a scone shape with the last piece of dough, and nicked the sides vertically with a sharp knife in several spots, (yes another trick I learned in my Covid induced research), and to be honest it rose just as much as the ones I’d cut with the cup, so go figure.
Brush the tops with a little more of the cream to encourage browning.
Bake for 12-18 minutes until golden and sounding hollow when tapped.
Eat them hot, with the traditional jam and cream, or condiments as per your preferences, or chill/freeze for later. I successfully reheated one from chilled, for five minutes in a hot oven this morning, for breakfast.
I’m ridiculously chuffed. The French chef, who works as a support worker with disabled son, declared the scones absolutely delicious, ate two and a half, and commented that he could not believe that I had accomplished them with gluten-free flour.

Meanwhile, you know me. I didn't let a little case of Covid deter me from dressing nicely.

And given the success of my scones, having conducted extensive research, I will now apply my research efforts to rose growing, and see if I can improve my success there!

We survived Covid well. 

We were triple vaccinated, had good stores, a comfortable home, and streaming services to keep us occupied. 

We laid low, slept when we needed to, made no rush to return to normal routines until we improved, and kept to ourselves. 

We did not 'enjoy' the experience, but we now know, that if we should become unwell again, we can be cocooned at home quite pleasantly.

I trust that should you become unwell, that you will fare equally comfortably.

Try the scones! You'll like them, I promise!


Friday, February 25, 2022

Living well in challenging times #5...Just start...

Today, can I encourage you to look at your life from a different perspective?

Following my previous post, I received several messages detailing how difficult it is for some of you, to just 'get in and get stuff done'.

So let's have a think together....

Here's what Getting Stuff Done isn't:

1. Trying to emulate someone on social media...

...yes that includes me. 

I mentioned this in my last post, where I encouraged you to just be YOU. 

Your life is completely different to mine. You live somewhere different, your circumstances are different, you wishes and hopes and dreams are different. Trying to Get Stuff Done to be just like 'insert persons name', is not going to work...for YOU. Decide what you want your life to look like, and work from there.

 If a little clutter, a little dust, a comfortable, homey, slightly chaotic environment is part of who you are, and providing we're talking 'comfortable' and 'healthy', then don't feel pressured into decluttering, rehoming, and reinventing. 

2. In that vein, Know Thyself. 

There is no doubt in the minds of anyone who knows me, where my preferences for food, art, appliances, travel, reading, clothing, and decor are. I know myself well, so by nature of that, my loved ones know me. They know what to expect from me, they know what gifts are appropriate, and if I were to pop off to the Nevermore tomorrow, they could do justice to my memory without a second thought.

Who are YOU? Are you living a life true to yourself? And if not, is there a way you can change that?

 We can change our life in small ways, even if not in greater ones. 

3. You can have the life you want.

City living but craving country life? You don't have to relocate to enjoy little bits of country life in your day to day. Use your weekends to explore the smaller communities where you live. Make hiking in the bush part of your regular routine. Bring Country Life into your decor with found items from your hikes, from thrift stores, and flea markets. Grow something...anything. Learn an Heirloom skill. Foster a homeless animal. Become a carer for injured wildlife. Volunteer at a animal shelter. Inject the parts of your imagined Country Life, into your City Life in small ways.

Country woman dreaming of city lights? Join the library and enjoy the glossy magazines at zero cost to you. Follow the Big City Girl type blogs. Keep abreast of events in the city and adapt your budget so that an annual or bi-annual trip to view the Chanel or Matisse or Picasso exhibition is not out of the question. Learn to make your favourite 'city treats' at home. Mine was once avocado on toast and a coffee with cream. Of course, those things are part and parcel of everyones breakfast menu, but they were exotic back in the day! Treats like Flourless orange and almond cake, and Chocolate fondant puddings are ridiculously easy to make, and if it gives you your taste of City Life, then so be it.

What's this got to do with Getting Stuff Done?

Living a life that's not true to self, is guaranteed to be an obstacle when it comes to Getting Stuff Done. 

It's a chore if you're doing it because someone else says you should, or because you think you should.

 What needs to happen is that you WANT to do it, or even NEED to do it, because your desire for the life you truly want, is so deep and strong, that NOT doing what needs to be done, leaves you feeling frustrated and disappointed.

Write it down.

Can you encapsulate the life you want in a single sentence?

Here's mine....

"I want to live a peaceful life, supported by my loved ones, and surrounded by beauty."

That has been my objective and mantra, before I ever knew what an objective or a mantra was. Even as a child, I liked my bedroom 'just so', with my bed made and my curtains tied back with a lavish bow each and every day. It's just part of me.

When you get right down to it though, my life as a child wasn't perfect. There were seven children, and only Mum, and peace and beauty were sometimes thin on the ground. Love never, that was always there. But certainly I can directly tie my need for peace and beauty in my life, to times when those elements were lacking. Those times led to a striving in my adult life, to ensure those elements were a constant, not just for me, but for my own family. 

Writing down your ideal life can be complicated. Finding the words can be hard. Even just thinking about it, can bring emotions and memories to the surface that are confronting. If that's the case for you, please do not hesitate to source a mentor, a counsellor, or other support, to ease you through the process of finding your best life.

Because, at the end of the day, we all only get this life once. Make the most of it. Don't, as someone said to me quite recently, do the same thing over and over for 75 years, and call it a life. That had a profound effect on me, spurring me into action on all manner of tasks over which I'd procrastinated for many years. Maybe it will have that effect on you too.

Tonight, go to bed, and dream of what life could be. What your BEST life looks like.

Then tomorrow.....just one thing, then one thing more. Keep going.

Much love....


Friday, February 18, 2022

Living well in challenging times #4....surround yourself with what makes you happy..

This weeks topic seems obvious. And yet, I find so many people neglect it...

Surround yourself with what makes you happy. 

I know so many folk, who can't wait to leave their home each day, to wander the shopping malls. This was a particular challenge in recent times due to lockdowns. How can one escape to the shops during a Pandemic?

Why, why, why? I can only assume that it's to look at what they love, enjoy a coffee with a friend, sit in air conditioning maybe?

To me, it's always made far more sense to look at what I love at home. To invite a friend to home for a coffee, and to find a cool, breezy spot under the many trees we have planted in our garden, or splurge on having the air-con on at home when the temperatures rise. All strategies that we have been able to implement, because going to the shopping mall is NOT and activity we prioritise.

What do you love? 

What do you leave home to view, window shop, and admire?

What is on your wish list for your home, for yourself?

We rarely leave our home these days. We've had our wish list in action for two decades. Working towards fulfilling our wish list has been an activity that Hubster and I have enjoyed immensely.

We have worked long and hard on making 'home' the place we prefer to be. We've taken elements of Parisian apartments (chandelier anyone?), gardens in Tuscany (sunflowers, lemon trees and oleander), potted florals in London (roses and geraniums), buffet breakfasts and bougainvillea in Singapore (why can't you have curry with raita and fluffy donuts for breakfast occasionally?), and of course, you know I adore striking accessories, and dress 'for myself' every single day, no excuses, ever.

This all sounds like pricey stuff, right?


The donut 'cake' at the top of my post? $6 for the donuts, $2 for the berries, roses from my garden. I assembled it in no time flat for a birthday celebration. 

The chandelier was all of $60 at a thrift store. It was neglected, tangled and sorry looking. Hubster saw it's potential and restored it to it's former glory. Our electrician friend installed it for $180. A grand total of $240. And yes, those are genuine crystals.

Flowers in the garden?

Well, even the blackest of thumbs can grow a bougainvillea if the climate is hot and dry at least for some of the year. I've had mine in this pot for nigh on two decades. It just keeps giving. I trim it back aggressively after each flush of flowers to keep it neat.

Geraniums and begonias remind me not just of London and Tuscany, but also of Mum and Nanna. Both ladies had the greenest of green thumbs. I've decided it's all about having time. Now that I have time, my own thumb is on the greener side.

Dress for yourself! Seriously. My Nanna lived in the sub-tropics having emigrated from Europe post World War II. Even at the crack of dawn, collecting eggs from the chicken pen, I never saw her looking anything but beautifully dressed and groomed. She wore an apron-pinafore type thing over her beautiful dresses to keep them clean and neat. She always always wore earrings, and smelled like Lily of the Valley or Avon Somewhere, Somewhere or Rapture or Topaz. I particularly adored the Topaz bottle. It was tall and slender and had a gigantic (to my mind) square cut gem atop it's lid. Maybe that's where my love of sparkly items originated?

Speaking of sparkly things, having a wardrobe of accessories to help you to feel 'dressed', assuming that's your jam as the young 'uns say, does not have to be a expensive exercise. Most of my accessories are thrifted. This particularly beautiful lariat and tassel necklace was just $4. Glam 80's vibe right there.

On the odd occasion I purchase flowers either for myself, or as a gift, again, I go with something bright and bountiful. Sunflowers have been just $8 a bunch here when in season. How could those not make life happy. They're the happiest things ever....

And of course, I've been banging on about 'growing something' since forever. If you've followed me for any length of time, you'd know that rose growing and I don't always see eye-to-eye. But we keep trying to be friends. I grew this one. She makes me want to literally squeal with joy!

Let's break that down...

1. Know what you love, and how you can incorporate that into your life. Simply not going out for coffee for a few weeks, might help you find that chandelier/pot plant/other special thingamajig sooner than you think.

2. Have a plan for how you can acquire what you love over a period of time. Using thrifting, online auctions and THAT marketplace, to source what we love, is practically an art form here. It can be for you too. I have found that simply having a list in my phone, helps me differentiate a random pretty that catches my eye but ultimately will end up back in the donations pile, from something that I know I will truly love forever. Sometimes the items on my list just about fall into my lap, and other times, I've waited years and years. Stay focused.

3. Stay true to yourself. Never in human existence, has so much information (aka temptation) been available at our fingertips. It's easy to be swayed. Don't be. If you're a Boho Beauty, do that and do it well. If you're a minimalist, stick to your guns...there's beauty in that too. Me? I'm a Francophile through and through. Always have been. Going right back to when I wanted to learn French in High School, and my Mum persuaded me to learn German instead. Poor choice. I should have stuck with French. That particular skill evades me now. Staying true to self, helps you evade Online Buyers Regret. Be you. After all, who else is there to be?

4. By all means, have interim Items of Joy. Before we could afford chandeliers, I have little tealight candles with crystals around their base. Before I grew real roses, I stuck silk ones in a pot on my doorstep. Truth. Thanks to The Bluebirds are Nesting on the Farm for that little trick. Don't be averse to a bit of tomfoolery when the situation dictates. Whatever makes you happy.

And one last thing....

If you find that special something, but it's the wrong colour? Paint it. I transformed this planter. It was a colour I don't remember. I painted it white.

These Art Deco inspired cranes, were in a most UN-inspired pastel blue colour. I painted them hot pink. I later repainted them orange, but that's a tale for another day.

I've remodelled necklaces, turned earrings into cardigan clips and vice-versa, shortened dresses to make tunics and tops, and that gold sea urchin thing in the photo above? It's a polystyrene ball, stuck with wooden skewers. Make do, right? Why pay $65 when you can make do for under a dollar?

What about you?

What makes you happy, and how do you make it happen?


Thursday, February 10, 2022

2022...A foot in two worlds...

Life is funny.

Have I told you I've been doing some modelling? That's the fashion kind, not the clay kind. 

It came about randomly, as so many things have in my life. I wasn't specifically seeking it, but an opportunity arose, I said yes, and here we are. Who'd have thought a short 62 year old, size 16 (about a 12-14 to some of you), with silver hair, could do such a thing? But there it is. They pay me and everything. Go figure. I'm still scratching my head.....

So here I am some days...dolled up to the nines as we used to say, talking up a storm and wearing pretty things, and the know...home and hearth and all that.

Decluttering continues....

My pantry, like my wardrobe, is now a thing of beauty.

Asking Hubster to make the 'shelves' in our new pantry in to 'drawers'? Smartest thing I ever did. 

And how much do I love using the Bon Maman jam jars as much cuter than the Moccona ones.

So satisfying to re-line the drawers with that non-slip matting. Almost as therapeutic as vacuuming plush pile carpet...I think you know what I mean.

Neat rows are so soothing.

And you can't go past those Lazy Susan things for ease of use. I have them everywhere. I got mine at KMart here in Australia.

You won't find these sunshine yellow eartherware bowls anywhere though. When The Diva worked part time at L'Occitane, they had a store refurbishment. The bowls were part of the old store decor and the staff were told to help themselves. Nice, right? And perfect for my earthy veg.

Speaking of earthy veg, I'm trying hard to convert Hubster to a mostly Vegetarian diet following his Cardiac episode last year. This was a winner. Sort of a cross between Pea soup and Dhal and curry. Served with home made Coconut Yoghurt. Absolutely Delish.

These Texas sized vege muffins were another win. Basic muffin batter, add grated or chopped veg, lots of fresh herbs, bake. Serve with chutney. Hubster even agreed to eat this as a MEAL.

In other kitchen news, I bought some of those wee chicken mignon things, you know, a breast sliver wrapped in a strip of bacon. I baked 'em, chilled 'em, and sliced them crosswise. Two little things yielded all this 'deli meat' for sandwiches, toasties, pizzas, and salads.

Barb asked me to update my style journey.

New specs, $2 thrifted necklace (the thrift store ladies hated it...I LOVE it), Mums vintage ring with interchangeable stone and side inserts. Red lipstick. That's about outfit du jour here.

Boho figures more largely now that corporate life is truly behind me.

I'm told that the dress below sold out when I modelled it for a recent presentation. Wowsers. It's not me. It's the dress. Here's the accessories I wear with it.

And much as I adore the fit and flare look, I'm opting for a more relaxed version of that these days.

I'll update more on my style journey over the coming weeks.

How are YOU?

Is life treating you well?

What's new and different at your place?