Kitchen Therapy


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Pizza with Onion Confit

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This week’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was the perfect recipe to kick-start 2013
(after a month of posting nothing!)

I had good intentions…

But we all know where they lead you when there’s no actions to back them up!

December was chaotic.

In addition to the usual holiday madness, I had my older son finishing his last year of primary school.
After 7 years together (in Australia, kids start primary school when they are about 5 and complete a year of kindergarten followed by Years 1-6) my 12-yr-old son has now finished Year 6 and is off to high school where he will do Years 7-12!
School ended December 19th, however those last few weeks were in full party mode.
Surfing lessons, golf, tennis, camps, craft days, graduation ceremonies, concerts, dances and dinners were all arranged by the school.

My son and husband at his Year 6 graduation dinner/dance…

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Then there were all the after school activities that the kids took to arranging for themselves on Skype and Instagram!

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While the primary school was focused on sending their Year 6 kids off with a bunch of great memories, their respective high schools had their own orientation days and activities designed to welcome their new Year 7’s for 2013!

 And all this was just with one child!

My younger son is starting primary school in 2013 so he had a series of orientation days of his own to attend and my daughter is undertaking the Duke of Edinburgh program which meant the last couple of weeks of school were spent getting organised for a kayaking/camping trip.

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So…

Visions of myself baking Buche de Noels, Gingerbread houses, Christmas themed cookies, cakes and cupcakes went out of the window.
This year, it felt like Christmas was eclipsed by… life.
I didn’t even try to fight it.
I just went with it.

The kids return to school January 30th and we usually go away for a couple of weeks at some point over this 6-week break, however this year we decided to stay in Sydney.

And days like the one in the pics below, reminded me of what an awesome place we live in!

My son went to his friend’s 5th birthday, kayaking around Manly harbour…IMG_4502

The kids headed out with their parents…

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Then returned to cool down with a swim and a picnic lunch.

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Today was a crazy 43 degrees celsius in Sydney.
But yesterday was the perfect pizza making day!
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And so we kick start 2013 baking with Dorie and Julia!

We all love olives and goat’s cheese in our family, so this recipe was enjoyed by everyone.
I have been wanting to make this for a while and I love the mix of the sweet onions with the salty olives and cheese. I thought it was perfect!

This Tuesdays with Dorie recipe can be found in the book ‘Baking with Julia’ or by heading over to Paul’s blog ‘The Boy Can Bake’  .
After a month away, I am looking forward to catching up on what everyone has been up to!


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Good Stuff and Gratitude

Wineglass Bay – Tasmania

The 4 hour drive from Launceston to Wineglass Bay on the east coast of Tasmania was long, slow and uneventful (except for the wars being waged in the back seat over, well… everything).
It was during this leg of our Tasmanian Christmas vacation that I had a moment of perfect clarity. An Oprah “aha” moment. It was perfect and fleeting. And I knew I had to grab it and flesh it out before it was drowned and lost forever in the singing and wailing coming from behind me.

Life was short and I was spending too much time on things and people that were not serving me. In fact, they were sucking the life right out of me!

This moment lasted seconds but it felt like existential enlightment flooding every inch of my being! It was a very physical experience, I didn’t just think it, I felt it! And for a few fleeting moments, everything made perfect sense!

I decided right there and then to be picky, really picky, with what I allowed to fill my mind!

I resolved to set my standards high and to do everything in my power to fill my mind with good stuff! Exciting, inspirational, “feel good” stuff!

I made an active choice to fill my mind with beauty and creativity.

I identified what dragged me down (and who) and was clear on what fueled me and always set me back on course.

So these days I spend a lot more time here…

And it never fails to shock that pants off me how clear I am when I leave this place! I walk away feeling strong, focused and clear on what and who is  important.

The other thing that has kept me on track is this blog!
If I’m not immersed in putting together the latest post or cooking the latest Dorie recipe, I lose myself in the amazing blogs you guys have. Blogs that feel like a home. Blogs that are lovingly maintained and radiate warmth and personality. Blogs that I look forward to reading simply because they make me feel good.

And then something amazing happened!

These amazing people, whose blogs I admire, actually throw encouragement and acknowledgement my way and make me feel 10-feet tall!

Allison from French Whisk and Yummy Chunklet dished out a Sisterhood of World Bloggers Award!

This award simply asks that you pass it on. I’m kind of new to this blogging thing, but two blogs that have recently struck a chord with me are:

Jane at 7 Sutras

Gina at Gina Marie’s Kitchen

At the same time, Betsy from A Plate Full of Happiness and Katie from Prof Who Cooks awarded me with the Stylish Blogger Award!

Talk about feeling great! I am conscious of sounding like a gushing Gwyneth at the Oscar’s so I’ll just say thank you for the awards!
(And I am pasting the badges on my sidebar with pride!)

This Award has a few more requirements:

1. Thank the Person – thanks again guys!

2. Share 7 things about yourself – I think I’ve shared enough above and don’t want to risk boring anyone anymore!

3. Share 15 blogs you enjoy – again, being kinda new to this I don’t know that many blogs to nominate! But here’s a few that I’ve come across that stood out to me:

Effie at Effie’s Food Corner

Brian at Ottertude

4. Let the Bloggers Know! As it’s after midnight in Sydney, Australia I will do this first thing tomorrow!!!

Good Night!


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Australia Day 2011: Dee Why Beach

We get up early and head down to Dee Why beach along with thousands of others.

It’s tradition.

Bacon and egg rolls, sausage sandwiches, swimming, cricket on the beach, BBQ’s and beer!

January 26, 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip, commandeered 11 convict ships from Great Britain into Sydney Cove.

Today, we celebrate everything Australia stands for.

The outdoors, our beaches, our families, friends and community.

So, with the local band belting out AC/DC.

BBQ sauce dripping down our wrists.

And a killer rip dragging us like rag dolls into the surf so huge waves can spit us back out into the sand, we celebrate another Australia Day!




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Tasmania Day 1 (Part 1): Launceston and the Tamar Valley Resort

As the plane descended into Launceston my husband, Emily (13 and jumping above) and

Todd (10) strained their necks to look out of the tiny plane window. They took in the the endless, rolling, green hills with a random farm house scattered here and there. They all turned to me and said in awed wonder “Where the hell did you take us?!’

“We flew over a town back there! Seriously!” I defended my choice of holiday destination.

They weren’t really complaining I realised, just slightly concerned and bewildered about about finding food and lodgings amongst so much emptiness!

After a short wait, we were told our rental car was going to be upgraded from a full size sedan to a full size sports model. And in no time at all my husband was loving the empty freeways that he could “play” on with his new toy!

Launceston was a short 15 minute drive from the airport and our accommodation, the Tamar Valley Resort, was another 10 or so minutes after that.


Seriously, this place is real!
I was half expecting to see the Griswold’s kitted out in their Bavarian slap-dancing polka outfits strolling through the putt putt golf course!

Our two room lake-view cottage was picture perfect and newly refurbished (so we were happy to overlook the fact we weren’t on the lake along with the paper thin construction of dwelling until we froze our arses off the first night there).

However all was forgotten when the kids discovered the jumping pillow.

And putt putt golf, kayaks, paddle boats and trikes.

The Tamar Valley Resort was a bit out of the way however I think it’s part of being in Tasmania. There is a lot of empty space, as long as you have access to a car though, it’s really no issue as the roads are pretty good and empty!

Overall, a pretty good choice of accommodation for a family staying a few days in Launceston and a great start to our Tassie vacation!


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“Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

The last few weeks have been emotionally and physically draining. My father had a heart attack that he was not expected to recover from. Luckily he has recovered and even though he has lost the use of his right leg, we are overjoyed with the progress he has made.

As we have progressed through the wards of the hospital, I have cut down my daily visits from 12 hour bedside vigils to a two to three hour visit. My days are very full and very tiring and as I drive to and from the hospital I find my mind drifting, questioning theories about grief. Running through exercises and passages I have read, asking myself what is useful and even possible when clients come in during times of stress. I have never wanted to be one of those psychologists that just talks at you, telling clients what they should be doing without making the effort to understand or respect what they are telling me. I have also never had the patience to be one of those therapists that sees clients endlessly, listening to them carry on about the same issue and not challenging them (may sound cold but there are clients who do just want to come in and have a bitch or a whinge without any interest or intention to change their lives!)

My dad’s heart attack meant I was now facing one of my biggest keeps you up at night fears.
Most of the time I felt I couldn’t breathe from the pain that seemed to crush my ribs and block my airways!
And then out of nowhere there were moments of perfect clarity that allowed me to step back and observe the process I was going through with objective interest.
Moments where I felt complete acceptance with the cycle of life and I knew that we would all be okay.

So here’s what I learnt from my dad’s heart attack…

1. All the stuff that books tell you doesn’t matter, really doesn’t!
Who cares about the gossip and who said what about who! You have no time or energy or interest in such rubbish! It was like a breath of fresh air. I had perspective and I wanted to make sure that I rememebered what really mattered and more importantly what didn’t matter for the rest of my life. I knew that at some point things would have to return to normal and I didn’t want to waste this experience.

2. You can choose how to respond.
I always felt that I would be one of those women you see on television, you know the one’s that wail, scream and try to throw themselves at the coffin. The thought of losing a family member has always filled me with such anxiety and despair that I never doubted that would be me! Recently I went to a friend’s father’s funeral and this friend of mine conducted herself with so much dignity that I took strength from her. Another friend’s 5 year old has been battling a brain tumor and again I witnessed a woman handle a terrible situation with incredible strength and grace.
I started to build other ways of being in my mind. Seeing these women helped me realise that you can choose how you conduct yourself no matter what is happening. I taught it, but I must confess I had my doubts, the pain with some clients at the loss of a loved one or the loss of a marriage is so intense and debilitating that you can easily be dragged into their worlds and feel as incapacitatingly helpless and hopeless as they feel. If you meet them all the way you will find it hard to see a way out yourself, if you don’t meet them at all, you will never really have an empathic understanding of what they are going through and will not be able to establish that necessary relationship and connection you need to be of use to them. So just like in counselling, in real life it’s finding that balance for yourself where you can grieve but you have the door open to the rest of your life and you can come and go freely.

3.You can only play victim for so long.
I find this hard to say without sounding insulting. I have clients who come in and spend so much time and energy waiting for the world to acknowledge the unfairness of their situation and then fix it. The world does acknowledge it, but then it expects you to move on. I felt surely everyone could see how much I was going through and I felt justified in my grief, until I returned to work and there was a stack of forms and files that needed addressing immediately. I had to work hard at not feeling resentful and sorry for myself! I have seen clients waste so much time and energy refusing the move on. Losing their jobs, their relationships as they cling desperately to the perceived unfairness and injustice of a situation. I’ve seen enough to know there comes a time when you need to accept and move on with your life. The alternative is truly terrifiying! Losing everything and everyone and then realising that it was all for nothing, carrying on will not take away the pain, it just creates more. Nothing will take away the pain, it’s about building a life around it.


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How do I know if he’s the right one for me…

What to do when you start to  think that maybe this isn’t the right person for you…

Well kids, this is a topic I am very passionate about because I don’t want to see you in a therapist’s chair 50 or 60 years from now talking about how you wasted your life on someone who never loved you or treated you with respect.

Where is this coming from you might ask?
Many clients, family and friends who spent their lives waiting for the “love of their life” to change and become the man or woman they knew they had the potential to be!

So this advice may be hard to take and you will probably ignore it at first buy you will come back to it at some point. I just hope it’s sooner than later…

 When you are considering getting married, moving in, having children or making any kind of committment with this person, I urge you to look at him or her. Look beyond their great looks! Look beyond their cool attitude and obvious intelligence! Look beyond the great hairstyle, tatts, piercings, car, money or whatever it is that has made you think this is the one!!!

Do you like him or her just as they are.

Now I know this might sound a bit simplistic and even stupid! But I have heard so many times the answer “no” and then followed by “but once they change they’ll make a great husband/wife!” 

Don’t marry / stay with someone because you think they have potential! 

Potential is something that could possibly happen, as opposed to what you’ve actually got there. See this person as they are. Not the person they could one day be once they kick that drug habit. The person they could be once they get a job. Or one of my favourites, the person you know they could be once they grow up and start acting more responsible! What makes you think they will grow up? And here’s one of the most cringe-worthy answers I get of all time… “once we have kids they’ll have to grow up and take responsibility.” No they won’t!

I know I sound incredibly cynical but consider the following scenarios…

1. When you met him, you knew he smoked pot but you just assumed he would stop one day because that’s what people do. You go on to buy a house, have kids however you can’t go on holidays because he can’t take his pot or whatever drugs there are without getting caught! He disappears into the shed for a while each day and when you ask him what he’s doing he gets angry at you for snooping or not giving him his space. At random times throughout your relationship you’ve discovered drug taking paraphanalia, but he has always said it’s someone else’s or it’s been there for years. He lays around and doesn’t help much or intereact much with you or the children. He gets passed over at work and you know he could achieve so much if he just applied himself and he promises he will, but he never does. Everyone else can see that he’s unreliable and stoned yet you believe him because you don’t want to see it.

2. You’ve been married for 40 or 50 years and one day he dies and finally you find all the evidence and confirmation you need that he had been cheating one you! You pretty much knew it while he was alive, actually he cheated on you while you were dating but you believed him when he said he wasn’t and anyway you weren’t married then and you thought once you were married it would all stop. Now you are left with anger, resentment and bitterness because finally you have all the proof you needed. But too late now.

3. When you met he was so exciting, playful, spontaneous. You thought he was the best thing and you couldn’t believe how lucky you were to have snagged him! You did everything for him! Cooked, ironed, payed his bills and you loved doing this because he needed you. People told you that you were being used but you just cut them out of your life because you thought they were just mean and jealous! Fast forward a few years or even decades and he is still loving life and having fun! You have become bitter and resentful because his playing meant someone had to be the adult and you are tired and exhausted. Finally you see what everyone else!

These are just a few scenarios. There are many, many more!
However I don’t want to lose sight of my point here.
Don’t ignore the niggling doubts, don’t bury you intuition that says there’s something not right here.
And my favourite, don’t ignore the feedback from family and friends!
They know this person better than you and they can see them in an objective light.
And if you think you will change him or her you are kidding yourself! 

I say this because I have seen so many people stuck in relationships that suck the life right out of them!
People stay in these relationships hoping/waiting for their partner to change. To stop taking drugs, stop acting life a child and get a job, stop sleeping around. Because if they stop then everything would finally be okay!

If you stay in a relationship where you are cheated on, trespassed against, abused, taken advantage of, the consequences to you are not pretty. While you have invest all your time and efforts in this person you didn’t realised you had lost yourself in the process. You lose your self respect by behaving in ways that are beneath you. You lose your confidence and you lose your ability to trust yourself and others. It ain’t pretty when you have a person who is well into their 60’s crying about wasting their life on someone who never loved, respected or appreciated them.

I have seen so much anger, resentment, bitterness and pain it would be a damn shame to not take it on board and learn from it! I also think that if their experiences help another human being then it might ease their pain just a little bit to think that it was for something. It had some meaning.


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Are you a tad bit overprotective when it comes to your kids?

 

As a parent, first and foremost I want to protect my children.

My instincts are to protect them from any harm that may come their way. So while I understand the following concept intellectually, I really struggle implementing it.

Depression has been on the rise since the late 1950’s, it is not only increasing, the victims are getting younger and younger.

Dr Martin Seligman claims that “our society has changed from an achieving society to a feel-good society. Up until the early 1960’s, achievement was the most important goal to instill in our children. This goal was then overtaken by the twin goals of happiness and high self-esteem.”

The focus today is very much about feeling good, I know how intense the urge to rush in and protect my children from any negative feelings is. The argument however is that negative feeelings are there for a reason. They carry messages about how we are fairing in life and galvanise us into action when things are going wrong by making it very hard to ignore the pain and discomfort they inflict upon us.

Another thing to consider is the concept of “flow” that I wrote about in an earlier post by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Being in flow is when you lose yourself in what you are doing. It’s when the best of your abilities are matched with the challenge before you. If the challenge is to easy, then you get bored, however if it is too hard you feel hopeless and want to give up. Flow is about feeling challenged and frustrated as you try to achieve your goals. It is about failing and trying again. Seligman says, “rewards alone, high self-esteem, confidence and ebullience do not produce flow… A life without anxiety, frustration, competition and challenge is not the good life; it is a life devoid of flow.” When we consider that research indicates flow is what makes us happy and gives our lives meaning, we can then can grasp the importance of negative feelings in our overall happiness. 

The last point I want to make is about how bad feelings can be used to stop us from feeling helpless and depressed. Feeling helpless, feeling immobilised, feeling like nothing you do will make any difference, is how many of my clients who are depressed feel. When we protect our children from failure, from feeling sad, anxious, or angry, we deprive them from learning persistence. When we are faced with a problem, we can try to change how we approach the problem until we find a way that works. Or we can give up. If we protect our children from feeling bad and failing, then we are teaching them to give up, we are depriving them of the skills to perservere when the going gets tough. We are teaching them to avoid anything that feels bad, making it difficult in the long term for them to experience flow in their lives. When they come up against any difficulties, or negative feelings, they may easily give up, placing them at high risk for developing depression.

My own goal is to try very hard to resist the urge to jump in and “rescue” my children from anything and everything. This includes too much homework, a mean comment by a friend, being overlooked for an activity, etc. Yes, I know I sound a bit nutty but I can’t help it! I want to “fix” it so they don’t feel bad. However the prospect of creating helplessness and depression is sobering enough to make me stop and think. I want to help them build resilience and resources to cope with life. Bailing them out will make me feel good, but it won’t be doing them any favours!