Saturday, October 29, 2011

Choosing a pet...I choose the Hound...

I've had lots of pets in my lifetime.

I've had dogs, cats, birds, fish, mice, guinea pigs and lizards.

Of all my pets, my most favourite have been my little Whippet, and my sons Greyhound.

Our Whippet and Mr A's greyhound are the two most recent additions to our family at large. We had actually decided not to have any more pets after our beloved labrador died. The Musician and I had plans to travel and The Diva is rarely home to enjoy the companionship of a pet. But that was not to be.

The Diva insisted on having another dog, and of course when Mr A moved into his own place, he naturally wanted to have a pet of his own.

So, knowing full well, that I would end up feeding, bathing and exercising aforementioned animals, I went into research overdrive.

I wanted a quiet dog that didn't bark, shed hair or demand exercise. I wanted a dog that would lay quietly at my feet when I read. I wanted a dog with a sweet, placid dispostion that wouldn't frighten children or adults who aren't that fond of animals.

I wanted, and got, a Hound.

The Hound breed encompasses Greyhounds, Whippets, Borzois, Afghans and Italian Greyhounds amongst others.

They demonstrate all of the above traits and are vastly underestimated as pets.

They're also not so fashionable just now as they simple will not fit into your handbag!

Now that we've had a Hound (well, a Whippet in our case, a Greyhound in Mr A's case), we'll never own any other breed.

What's your favourite pet and why?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Waving, not Drowning....

In the course of Mr A's life, we've had many opportunities to join a 'support group'.

I did so, when he was first born, at 28 1/2 weeks gestation.

It was a Premmie Parents Group.

I didn't like it. They all wallowed in self pity a lot, when I just wanted to know what to do next. When I met up with some of them years later, my son was the only one who was living a 'different' life through being a Premmie. He was the only one with a life affecting disability. The others were all fine. So why all that wailing and breast beating at the start?

That one meeting, put us off support groups forever. To this day, if I hear the words, I run screaming from the room.

The trouble with support groups is that often they're not all that supportive. It's more like a 'drowning in unison' group. That's how I felt anyway. I was already overwhelmed by the situation I suddenly, and unexpectedly found myself in, and sitting around moaning about it really wasn't helping.

I needed someone NOT in my situation at that time, to grab me by the hand, pull me from the quagmire of emotion, fear and anxiety, and show me how the future could be and would be.

I was told at the beginning that Mr A would never walk and would have to attend a special school. Well, they were right on the not walking, but competely wrong on the 'special' school. But let me say this. There's more to his life than the lack of ability to walk. Walking is over-rated as far as he, and we are concerned. He gets around just fine and dandy in his motorised chair, always has somewhere to sit, and gets preferential treatment at sporting events and concerts. And yes, he attended a 'special education unit', but this unit was on the campus of a mainstream high school, where he was valued and accepted as part of the normal throng of high school life. He went to the school camps, he attended the semi-formal and formal, he gave speeches, played sport, and cheered the school teams on at sporting events. He also completed a normal high school curriculum, earning an OP (Australian high school competency score with the highest being 1 and ranging through to the lowest at 28), of 12, bettering many of his 'able bodied' peers. In the end, the two things that we feared most at the start, have not been things to be feared at all.

We were also lead to believe that he would never live independently, and would forever be tied to us, depending upon us for every daily living task. Well, we proved that one wrong too, but that's a long, long story for another day.

I needed hope when Mr A was first diagnosed, and frankly it was thin on the ground. The service organisation wanted to tie him up in knots with equipment and orthoses, and I just wanted my son to be as normal as possible. They treated me with disdain when I wanted to pursue 'alternative' treatments, but came running to pick my brains after I did so, and had a good outcome.

They argued and debated so many of our decisions, which, long term, have proven to be the right decisions. Things like having rods inserted into his back at the age of 14. This is considered a standard procedure here for young people who have CP amongst other things, and who exhibit low trunk tone and scoliosis. It's a painful procedure, with a lengthy recovery. It would have meant around 4 months off school for him, right when he was settling in and had a large group of friends, and a difficult time for me as his carer, as a full trunk cast on a young adult who is already totally physically dependent is a challenge to say the least. In consultation with Mr A, the surgeon and ourselves, the decision was taken NOT to subject him to this ordeal. For him, it's been the right decision. He would not have gained any significant measure of trunk control over what he already has, and the idea of having a foreign object inserted next to my sons spine, just didn't sit right with me or him.

If I'd been in a 'support group', I may have been differently swayed. That's the other thing with support groups. The 'group' always expects you to fall into line with their way of thinking, and so frequently has our thinking for Mr A and his future been out of step with current party line, that we probably would have been booted out as heretics, anyway!

For us then and now, our mantra is 'no support groups'.

When we had our hands emerging from the quagmire, we weren't drowning, we were just waving goodbye.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Friends and sisters...who could do without one or the other?

This is one of those pictures that paints a thousand words.

Do you remember the intensity of your friendships at this age...perhaps 10 or 11 years old?

What a beautiful reprensentation of two little friends or perhaps a portrayal of the special relationship between sisters.

The hair entwined into one single braid, the comforting and loving arm around the waist, heads close together sharing a secret or a single dream between two imaginations.

What's on your Tray of Bliss today?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

To caravan or not to caravan.....

On my Tray of Bliss today is the Australian Dream...well sort of.

Here in Oz, as in many parts of the world, it's the Grand Tradition, at a certain time in life, to hitch the caravan up to the 4WD and head off into the sunset for the Trip. The Trip entails navigating the circumference of Australias extensive coastline, with a detour into the Red Centre, The Kimberleys and The Vineyards. We call those who go on these road trips, Grey Nomads. A term so coined as the Trip is usually taken by couples who, finding themselves footloose and fancy free after many years of child rearing and dedication to long hours at work, decide to up stumps (an Aussie expression meaning to haul tail) and see our vast land at their own pace. One year is the usual time frame.

Now The Musician and I had long ago decided that this idea was not for us. We like our creature comforts, and our homes away from home usually have a Day Spa and a Golf Course attached. So squinky wee beds and teeny stovetops are not really for us.

But looking at these photos, honestly, I could be tempted.....

These are the most mouthwateringly adorable homes on wheels that I have ever seen...

....and dammit....I WANT ONE!

I don't even want to go anywhere in it.

I just want it as a kind of grown up cubby house.

Waddya reckon (another famous Aussie expression loosely translated as What do you think my Dear?)...

What's on your Tray of Bliss today?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tattoo sleeves for hand splints and ankle foot orthoses...

Here's a thought that came to us when we collected Mr A's most recent hand wrist splints. These have never been attractive things. I guess that goes for nearly all of the paraphernalia that comes with adequately supporting our disabled family member! But as soon as I saw them on him I knew I had a solution.

Those fake tattoo sleeves are just the thing. They come in all manner of colours and designs and are just the right idea to jazz up orthotics of all kinds at very little cost. I've ordered a dragon one for Mr A (they're readily available on eBay)and I guess I'll be using some sort of fabric glue to apply it.

I'll let you know how it goes!

Photos soon!

American Beauty....

On my Tray of Bliss today is my thrifty bedroom makeover.

It all started when I bought this Memory Quilt on eBay over a year ago. It's sort of a folk art/shabby chic style piece and it's utterly beautiful. I've never seen anything like it. It's kind of worn in spots, but that's part of it's overall charm.

It was actually purchased for The Diva, but was so enormous when received, that I honestly didn't know what I was going to do with it.

Finally, in my frustration at not being able to find a suitable bedcover for my giant King Sized bed, I decided to see if this one would suit. Well,'s absolutely perfect!

It's meant rejigging the colour scheme of my bedroom a little as previously we were all neutrals with a touch of burgundy. But as you can see, we've simply upped the Burgundy and added some blue and we're looking good.

The addition of a couple of new pillowcases, and a cushion gave a bit of extra oomph. This cushion is actually a great secret way of storing Winter blankets and linen. This one is simply a quilt, folded into a suitable rectangular shape, encased in a remnant purchased for $1.80 because the colours complimented my quilt and wrapped 'gift' style, securing with safety pins. A complimenting grosgrain ribbon completes the picture. I store all of my bulky blankets and quilts this way. Larger ones are rolled into a cylinder, secured with rubber bands or kitchen string and wrapped in my Winter flannelette sheets. Again a toning ribbon is a nice touch.

It's a great way to get some free cushions and some blanket storage at the same time!

Just remember where you've hidden them when the cooler weather rolls around. I remember cursing vehemently when I couldn't find all of my Winter blankies...until The Musician reminded me that they were adorning our bed as decorator items!

This American Memory quilt was really a bit of a find.

I scored it for just $24, and when I received it, was amazed at the work that had gone into it. It's squares of denim or chambray with pieces of other remnants stitched into creative shapes on each square. I imagine these are scraps of clothing put to further use. There are gingham hearts, floral bikini shapes, random geometric shapes with musical notes on them, vintage ric-rac braid, ribbon, guipure lace, georgette hat and dress shapes, little scotty dogs in velvet and so on. It's the most beautiful, rustic thing ever. I imagine someone labouring over this for literally years, and shudder to imagine what turn of events forced the sale or abandonment of such a lovingly prepared item.

Total bedroom makeover? Well $24 for the quilt, $6 for the pillowcases, $1.80 for the remnant to wrap around my 'cushion', and $1.60 for the grosgrain ribbon. All up...$33.40 for a complete bedroom makeover.

Just goes to show, you don't need to spend a lot for a new look!

More detail from the quilt....I'm fascinated with the history of it...

Wedding dress or debutante gown perhaps?

This piece in cotton...could it have been a special childhood or Sunday Best outfit? Or perhaps a Valentines Day memento?

I had a dress trimmed in just this sort of Ric Rac when I was a child :)

These two cute figures were perhaps from a much loved apron or popover, donned by Nan to bake each day...

....and who was the musician or music lover in the family?

And finally,  a special piece...hand embroidered Satin Stitch forming a sweet little vine.

What's on your Tray of Bliss today?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Motherly Advice....on feeling helpless....

Hi Sweetie. Come, sit here, where it's nice and peaceful.

So what's this I hear that you're feeling helpless? I know this happens sometimes when something is happening that you feel you have no control over.

I've been there when I've watched those I love, yes, even you, making decisions that I just know are wrong or inappropriate for some reason.

Remember it happened to me when we had that diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy for Alby, then when my own Mum was diagnosed with a terminal illness. It's an awful feeling of just being in a space where you can't do anything to change the outcome, isn't it.

Yes, I've felt helpless many times in my life. Yet, here I am, whole and breathing, and perhaps a different, stronger person for the experience. You will be too, I promise.

I get that sometimes too, you want to jump in and say 'But things would be so much better if....'

Remember my own Mother had seven children? From time to time I would hear her say things like 'Darling, have you considered....?' or 'What if you tried.....?', but that would be the extent of her interference. She stood by while each and every one of us made silly choices. Silly partners, silly jobs, silly friends, silly spending.

Did that make her an irresponsible parent?

I think not.

On the contrary. Whilst externally we cursed when things went wrong, and wondered why she hadn't intervened, internally we knew, on some level, that she was forming us into responsible human beings. We learned by tidying our own 'messes', that poor choices mean poor consequences, but that with effort, and by accepting and absorbing the lessons therein, all is not lost and you can, and do recover. 

We learned this financially, emotionally and socially. Now look at us. We're all in our 40's and 50's, in happy, stable relationships, financially secure, with loving partners (some of us on partner no. 2, granted), happy children and rosy futures. What a shame she's not still here to see that.

Now don't get the idea that I'm simply abandoning you to the dangers of life. I'm not, and she did not. She remained a powerful influence on all of us by always having a policy that home is where you go when things go wrong. So from time to time, we all returned to our childhood home, sometimes with our own children in tow. We'd shed our tears, lick our wounds, Mum would make cups of tea and serve comfort food and bed us down on the living room floor. When we felt ready to face the world again, or rather when she felt we should face the world, the living room bedding would be put away, and she'd say things like 'well, Darling, you really need to get back to it...what can I help you do first?'. You'd know then, that Mum had done as much as she could do, and the rest was up to you. I will do the same for you. Home is where you come when all else is failing you. Home is where you can come for love, support and good advice. Home is not however, where you come to hide.

I hope you make mistakes. I will watch over you, I will counsel you, but I will not intervene. I will not lend money, and I will not come between you and your life partners, however much I may be tempted to do so.

I am here, as my Mum was, to be Mum.

It's the best possible thing I can do...even if it makes me feel helpless.

What's on your Tray of Bliss today?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Musings....a day at the beach Aussie style...

A visit to the ocean remains one of the great free restorative practices in the world. The beachside is yet to become an 'admission by fee' affair, at least here in Australia, and ever since I was a wee tot, it's been my favourite weekend away.

What is it about a day at the beach that puts life in perspective? Is it the leveller of realising that the 'body beautiful' comes in many shapes and sizes? Is it that we are all stripped of our designer bags and jewellery (well, mostly anyway...Noosa does boast some fashionable local icons)? Or is it just that Sun, Surf and Sand are a great way to wash away the cares of the week?

We spent a day at Main Beach at Noosa yesterday doing exactly that.

One of the worlds prettiest spots, sporting a great protected beach with a gentle wave, friendly lifeguards and an enviable cafe and shopping strips just steps away. Not that we frequent the cafes and shops, but we do love a wander down Hastings Street, home bottled icy water in hand, window shopping and people watching to our hearts' content.

When we visit Noosa we prefer to rise early and beat the crowds by arriving around 7am. Not only does this afford greater parking opportunities (parking being a nightmare there later in the day), but also allowing a longer window of sunbathing and swimming time before the scorching midday sun sets in.

We usually take an esky (Aussie thermal cooling box) packed with our favourite breakfast and snack items. These would traditionally include rice crackers, sliced cheese from the big block of edam at home, fresh fruit in season, home made goodies like Labna and home marinated olives and fetta, yoghurt and muesli balls, iced tea or juice and big bottles of chilled water. A Latte` on arrival, in the shade of the native conifers is our one 'bought' indulgence.

A walk to the isthmus commonly known as The Groin is the first order of the day, after setting up beach chairs, towels and boogie boards. We set off at a brisk pace to earn our breakfast, making it to the groin and back (visible in the far distance of this photo) in about 20 minutes.

An invigorating dip is next, before diving into our esky to explore the treasures within. We munch away companionably while the Lifeguards complete their setting up and the rumpled Mums and Dads and young couples start arriving.

Terse words are exchanged by the couple next to us who have 4 children under 5 years old in tow and who are trying to marshall the kids while setting up their sun shelter, umbrellas and towels...clearly they're here for the long haul. The kids squeal excitedly at the incoming tide, racing back and forth to their harried parents. The Diva and her friend take our raised eyebrow cue, and go over to offer assistance by amusing the little ones with some sand art in the shape of a turtle. A grateful 'thanks' is mouthed our way.

The younger pair behind us, recline elegantly in designer swimwear, each absorbed in thier iPhone, before the effects of the night before and the warm sun on their limbs renders them somnambulent.

A large group of folk, perhaps a decade older than us arrive. All clad in black bathers of one form or another, they jolly each other into a vigorous swim across the bay, before, like us, delving into an enormous esky of fresh delights, exchanging stories of caravanning and camping.

I produce my book of the moment, 'Not Without My Daughter', whilst The Musician, The Diva and her friend, head off into the surf.

The beachfront is filling now, as the later arrivals jostle each other for a spot.

Time passes, I doze, the rest of the family frolics and by 11am, we've had enough. Too hot, too busy.

So, we assemble our gear, set off back to the car, repack it all, ready for the next excursion.

We're all refreshed, calm, relaxed and showing a bit of colour for our morning in the sunshine.

Back to the accomodation for a nap and a light lunch before curling up to watch a great sci-fi movie.

A lazy afternoon ensues, with a reluctant move toward home by about 6pm.

We arrive home by 8:30, having enjoyed a meal of fish and chips on the way back, and scurry for the diary to see when we can do it all again.

Bliss....what's your favourite getaway?

Here's my own recipe for Tropical Yoghurt Muesli Balls...the perfect portable breakfast for any day of the week. Start the preparation a few hours before bed and roll the balls before retiring for the night. This gives the muesli a chance to absorb the liquid for nice firm little rounds.

You need:

1 cup any kind of muesli. I use a Gluten Free one.
1 cup any flavour of yoghurt. I prefer my home made Greek yoghurt.
3 tablespoons pulp type fruit salad or crushed pineapple. We have one here in Australia called Golden Circle. Their fruit salad is crushed pineapple and other fruits with passionfruit pulp included. It's my favourite.
1 cup dessicated coconut.

Mix the muesli, fruit salad and yoghurt together in a small bowl and allow to sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour to allow the liquid to be absorbed and the muesli to soften.

Roll into balls as large or small as you like, and toss in the dessicated coconut.

Return to the refrigerator for at least an hour to firm.


Friday, October 14, 2011

If you could live anywhere...Number Two......

I adore this house. It's seashell shape fascinates me. It's called the Nautilus house, and is found in Mexico.

Note its smooth undulating lines...

This stained glass is to die for...

Not sure about the round bed...I prefer a bit of space to thrash around in, but loving the curved wall of cupboards...

And the living room...well it's kind of Sponge Bob Squarepants meets The Jetsons, isn't it? Adore the organic look of the circular skylights, the greenery and again, the gems of rainbow coloured light formed by that fab bank of technicolour glass.

Life here would be a calm oasis, wouldn't it?

Meals taken in that garden like lounging area...tapas served on large glass or clay platters perhaps. Things that echo the curves of the house. Jalapenos stuffed with oozing cheese, oysters drizzled with lime and ginger, bocconcini cheese wrapped with proscuitto, rounds of zuccini (courgette) filled with lean mince flavoured with earthy spices like cumin, coriander and cinnamon.


What's on your Tray of Bliss today?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Australian Garden in Spring....who needs roses and peonies!

Pink Oleander...

Vivid Orange Nasturtium...

$32 strawberries which you can read about here!

Heirloom Gerbera....

Red Geranium...

Orange Clivea...


White Plumbago....

Humble Dandelion....


Whilst I love the traditional French and English gardens, I realise now that my old fashioned Aussie Garden has it's own charms...

What's on your Tray of Bliss today?

Sharing at...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Budgeting and Insourcing...accept your limitations!

$32 Strawberries...keep reading and you'll see why!

I often have friends visit, who cannot believe that we live so well on so little.

We eat well, we entertain well, we dress well, our daughter, and our youngest son (we actually have four sons, but the older three are all grown and married) want for little, and we travel overseas every two years or so.

There are many, many blogs out there these days on saving money, living frugally and reducing your carbon footprint.

But most of the families I know personally don't subscribe to them, and wouldn't dream of planting a vege patch or repurposing a pair of jeans into a tote bag. It's all too much trouble. Even if it's for the reward of an overseas trip funded by the bank account, rather than the credit card.

The problem is that upon first viewing, all of these things are 'too much trouble'. It's all a bit of hard yakka, as we say here in Australia.

So you need to start small, like I did. That said, you also need to choose your battles wisely. Can I tell you about some of mine? You might learn a thing or two.

When I commenced my money savings journey in earnest after many years of frittering my hard earned cash away on stuff that only made the retailers wealthy, I had a few false starts.

One of those was soap making.

I am a sucker for scented bath and body products. I never could go past a Body Shop or Bath and Body or Lush, without buying just a couple of things. These coupla things would undoubtedly run into double or triple digits in dollar terms, but what-the-hey....

So one of my early efforts focused on making my own luxuriously scented soaps.

Well after spending about $100 on ingredients and equipment, I was ready. Or so I thought. Measure this, weigh that...oops need something else. Dash out, get missing thing, go back to start. High anxiety, due to many, many warnings on the dangers of inhaling this or spilling that. Get soap made, leave to cure behind lounge, to great grumbling from The Musician Husband. Test at 3 weeks, notice great chunks of caustic soda...toss, start over. Eventually get something useable and nicely rustic, but family refuses to use it as it 'looks funny'. Dole it out as gifts to unsuspecting friends. Experiment over. That said, I did eventually have soapmaking success which you can read about here.

I had greater success with hand and body creams, which was a little more foolproof, but ultimately went back to the pharmaceutical stuff for the face as the face really, really needed it. All good on the body cream though, as well as pillow/linen spray, bubble bath, solid perfume, home made talcum powder, bed powder, and lavender bath bombs.

But it was the overwhelming success of my home made Limoncello which actually caused me to wonder if I'd missed my calling as a Grand Brewer. Maybe my family and friends are all just hopeless imbibers of exotic liqueurs, and they would have loved it not matter!

I had similar epiphanies with my vege patch. Plant strawberries, get one strawberry, give up. Try again. Get 4 strawberries this time...caculate how much I spent on wicker planters, potting mix, wet granule thingoes, strawberry runners and fertiliser. Decide $32 per strawberry is false economy, and give up.

Tomatoes...same. I do have some tomatoes on a tomato plant in my front yard right now. But for the life of me, I can't make the tomato plant stand up with the blessed tomatoes on the thing. I've planted them in a posh tomato planter with it's own add-a-ring tower to guide the tomato. The tomato plant ignored it and grew off on it's own tangent, falling over and breaking at regular intervals. I've staked them, they fall over, I've tied them to a palm tree, they broke off. I don't know. Maybe fruitish things are not for me. The Musician Husband just kept asking me why I don't buy the tomatoes for $2.99 a kilo. A fair question. 'They taste better' simply garnered a raised eyebrow.

I've had better success with leafy things. I've got a lovely nasturtium happening and we do eat it in place of Rocket which we love. I also have a Wild Rocket, some asparagus, a finger eggplant and some chilli. All A-Ok. But I am the only one who eats those things and it's not like I'm saving a bomb by not having to buy them.

I've decided that people who make a success of this kind of lifestyle deserve a medal, really. Honestly they must do nothing else. I admire them and all, but it's just not for me. I can't for the life of me, understand how they grow enough strawberries, or use the oversupply of tomatoes and zucchinis. And I'm not being derisive, I am just asking myself the question.

Oh and did I tell you about my sewing adventures? Buy sewing machine at $250, buy numerous patterns at around $17 each....perhaps 10 of 'em, buy fabric. Look at instructions, recoil in distaste. Measure something? Overlock something? Hand stitch something else? Hmmmm. Not to mention The Musician Husband complaining about the dining table being set up as a sewing station. (Do you see a common theme here...) Okay, maybe on another day.

Cutting my own hair was another strategy. Armed with detailed instructions from a reputable money saving website and a sharp pair of scissors, I hacked my way to a visit to my hairdresser. I had to. It looked awful. I think my hairdresser is still chuckling to herself over that one.

Have I mentioned the breadmaker and the slow cooker? Both wonderful inventions. Did I also mention that the average temperature where I live is around 27 Celsius almost year round, except when it rises into the high 30's right around Christmas? Yes we have our chilly moments...they last about six weeks. Have you ever tried to have a slow cooker and a breadmaker on the go when the ambient temperature is in the 30's? That's a minimum of around 86 Fahrenheit. No way. We eat cold food when it's hot and hot food when it's cold. It just makes sense. So overall...useability factor...about 3 out of 10. We'll stick with yummy Poached Chicken Breast, thanks very much.

These days, I've accepted my limitations and my money saving strategies are more about cooking from scratch, shopping from my own wardrobe and the thrift shop before even crossing the threshold of a retailer of any kind, making gourmet gifts and preserves, and making sure that my pantry is well stocked for tight times.

I don't spend on gym memberships when I can walk for free, I don't join weight loss programmes when I can Google how to eat sensibly complete with menu plans and recipes, I don't sit in stinky nail salons to get my nails looking nice when I can have a quiet moment in my own back yard painting my nails over a cuppa, I don't buy books or magazines when I can join the library or search the net, and I don't buy my children experiential gifts...I give them the gift of my own experience. I reduce my carbon footprint by walking for exercise rather than driving to the aforementioned gym and buying local where I can. I recycle, repurpose and buy pre-loved wherever possible.

So if you want to, as my blog title suggests, live a life of which your Nanna would be proud, look at where your hard earned cash goes. Make savings in those areas where you are humanly able, where your own strengths lie, and don't worry about what the rest of the world is doing. The important thing is to make small changes where you can. There is a Chinese proverb that says 'The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.' Amen to that.

Don't make soap when you can make soup, don't grow tomatoes when you don't eat them, and don't plant strawberries in a $30 wicker basket. The birds and wildlife will still get to them before you do, no matter what they're planted in.

What's on your Tray of Bliss today?


Monday, October 10, 2011

Poached chicken....once tried, never forgotten....

Okay folks.

Not long to Christmas now.

Here in Australia, it's dang hot during the Festive Season. So I tend to try to find do ahead type dishes that allow us to chill on the day...literally and figuratively.

This is a firm favourite for any time of year here, but especially at Christmas. It yields a full flavoured, moist and succulent result, that you just don't get with baking or pan frying. Once you've tried chicken breast prepared this way, there's not turning back.

You need:

Approximately 1 skinless chicken breast per person (that is half of a full breast of chicken)
6 cups of stock or flavour infused water


One large saucepan or wok with a firm fitting lid
One large container with lid for storage

How to:

Bring your flavour infused water or stock to a slow boil. Ideas for flavours include commercial stock cubes, peppercorns and bay leaves, half commercial stock with half coconut milk and kaffir lime leaves and coriander (cilantro), white wine and vegetable stock.

Pop the skinless chicken breasts into the simmering stock and return to the boil. Put the lid on and switch OFF. This works best on an electric hotplate where the heat subsides slowly, but can still be achieved with gas by giving the water another heat blast after about ten minutes of resting. Rest the whole thing, lid on-no peeking, for about 25 minutes.

Check the chicken breasts by slicing one in half (you'll be slicing them for serving anyway). They should be moist and juicy and succulent. If they are still pinkish or raw in the thickest part, return to the stock and rest for a further 10 minutes, reheating the stock just a tad first. Dont' boil it or the chicken will become tough!

Store the breasts in the cooking liquid until ready to use. This keeps them juicy. These can be prepared up to 48 hours ahead of use.

To serve, carve across the breast diagonally into thick slices and arrange attractively on your serving platter.

Seve over a finely sliced home made coleslaw, and garnish with anything from salsa, to guacamole, to fresh mango and coriander (cilantro), to dukkah, as pictured. My festive dukkah is a ground combination of nuts, dates and citrus zest and is utterly delicious if I do say so myself!

But that recipe is for another day...

What's on your Tray of Bliss today?

Friday, October 7, 2011

More Boho Gypsy Bedroom...Peacock chairs and feathers...

On my Tray of Bliss today is a handful of Peacock feathers.

The Diva and I purchased these on a recent trip to Alma Park Zoo. She's decided to have them displayed on her shelves in her new Boho Gypsy bedroom, in a big tall vase.

The funny thing is, I remember doing exactly the same thing at her age. Is it just a perennial obsession with this age group, or is it a case of all fashion, personal or decor, comes around in circles?

They will look rather lush, and I couldn't help but recall that I also had what is called a Peacock chair like these ones.... of course the hunt is now on for a similar one for her.

Fortunately they are a thing that isn't terribly in vogue presently, so they make regular appearances at the local thrift shop. That said, I've probably just cursed myself and I won't see one for yonks!

I used to have my Peacock chair in a sunny corner of my bedroom with a comfy cushion and a batik sarong draped over it. Well, it was the 70's!

Hers will be somewhat more lush. Perhaps a velvety shawl or a hand knitted blanket will be more welcoming.

What's on your Tray of Bliss today?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Motherly Advice....Living a fulfilled life...

In the interests of this post, I'll share that I have a family history of Ovarian Cancer. 

My mother and maternal Aunt and Grandmother all succumbed to this insidious disease at around the age of 60 years. Therefore, at the age of 51, I find myself taking stock of where I am and what I have achieved in my life.

Okay, I'm never going to be a political leader, a Princess, a film star or a celebrity chef.

But a wise person once said to me, 'just do the things that fulfill you, and then if the time comes to face Death, you can do so with peace in your heart'.

That time comes for all of us.

So how do you make sure that that peace is in your heart when it arrives?

I don't believe in a Bucket List as such. This term of course, made famous by the movie of the same name, (as far as I am aware) where two men work their way through a list of 'must do or see' tasks before dying. The term arising as they wanted these things seen or done before they 'kicked the bucket'.

I had one when I was young, although it was a list of goals back then, not a Bucket List. Dying was far from my mind and my Mother was young and healthy. Being the driven young woman that I was, I actually achieved quite a lot of the ambitions on my list before I turned 30. Then I had my third son 11 weeks prematurely, he was subsequently diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and I was told he would never walk or participate fully in life (well, they were wrong there!), and suddenly those things on my list were no longer important.

My list went from 'Become Lord Mayor' and 'Be a famous writer', to 'make sure Mr A has the life to which he is entitled', 'put affairs in order in case something happens to me and Mr A has to survive without me' and so on.

At this stage, I achieved all I set out to for Mr A. He is a fine young man, successfully living independently, playing a sport, doing his own shopping, studying and participating in life to the fullest of his abilities.

My other sons are happy and successful, and my daughter is able to follow her theatrical and dance passions. Importantly, I also have a loving husband, who means the world to me.

I've travelled a little, been treated to some pretty gems, have a beautiful home and garden of my dreams, and a life that I can, overall, look back upon with pride.

Thankfully though, I am hard pressed to imagine what else I need to do to find peace.

I am at peace with my life, my experiences, my mistakes and my own personal failings. I don't seek a better life, a better job, a better husband or a better house. I have loved, been loved, been disappointed, heartbroken, sad, and lonely. I have grieved for a parent, a friend, a grandparent, a baby. I have driven an old car and a new car, and they were both just a means of transportation. I have made a difference in the life of disabled people and been blessed with a longed for girl child after having three wonderful sons. I have travelled a little and seen the parts of the world that make my heart sing. I've viewed the Mona Lisa, The Thinker and Monets Garden. I've met movie stars and rock stars. I've escaped tragedy on more occasions than I like to explore.

In my dreams, I can fly (and I do so often), I can converse with my Mother, speak my mind to lost loves, mend friendships, say the thing I meant to say, respond with witty repartee, and sail and ski and run fast. I don't need to do those things in my waking life.

My bucket runneth over.

What's on your Tray of Bliss today?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Windows to the World...

Sorry...I've been painting. My daughters new room that is.

She's away for a few days at school camp, so we're taking the opportunity to make some progress with her Gypsy Bohemian Bedroom.

The walls will be this colour. It's called Taubmans Daylight and it's the colour of this clear sunny sky. That's what my daughter requested..."a sunny sky colour Mummy'...

Her furniture is white, and we have patchwork covers in happy reds, blues, and pinks.

So her window coverings will be pretty gelato colours in the same shades, done as above. Swathes of voile in muted reds, white, and pastel shades, no two the same.


What's on your Tray of Bliss today?