Kitchen Therapy


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Short Ribs In Red Wine and Port

I admit it! I have (until recently) been one of those people who thought creativity meant being able to paint or decorate!
It was something that involved a lot of drawing and knowing which colours went together.
So, given this definition, I routinely described myself as “the least creative person you were to ever meet!”
Then, my 10 year forced me to re-evaluate my beliefs.
I had his future clearly planned for him in my mind. Studying economics at university and then working for one of the major banks! Done!
Then something weird happened. He started to develop a real creative streak!
I started to get nervous.
He enjoyed it and others noticed he had a knack for it.
My banking dreams were being threatened and replaced with visions of him painting portraits at Circular Quay!
How could he do this to me!!!
Just as I was beginning to think I had to do something drastic to save my child from a life of artistic poverty, he said to me “Jack (his friend) and I have been talking and we decided we are going to work for Disney making graphics for their movies!” I wanted to cry! Working for Disney! That was a real job? Right? And he would be making money!

He forced me to re-think my ideas on creativity! It was the best gift he could have ever given me!

Today I see creativity everywhere I go.
Take this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe. It took creative genius to pull this baby off!

Juggling work, three kids at three different schools doing three different after school activities, a father coming out of rehab after a massive heart attack and stroke and me deciding to go back to uni, I was sure these ribs were going to fall by the wayside!

But the sadist in me wouldn’t let go of the satisfaction I knew would be waiting for me at the completion of this week’s recipe! So after buying a wheelchair and mobility scooter for my dad, I ducked into the fabric shop nearby and bought the cheesecloth for the bouquet garni.

After driving to uni to pick up my time-table with my 3 year old I realised it was ‘O’ week (orientation week) so I put off my grilling plans and we joined the celebrations!

A few lollipops and some one on one time with my baby was worth the delay!
Back home and the grilling…

…chopping and cooking were finally under way!

Before long the ribs, vegetables and a tonne of booze were all tightly snuggled into the oven for a few hours and we were on our way to pick up the others from school and meet friends for a catch up.
While the kids ran around and the grown ups chatted, the ribs bubbled away at home. We came home to the most amazing smell! Everyone was so excited about dinner till I told them it was for tomorrow night! Ha!
The next day the fat was scooped off and the ribs were ready for the final grilling!

They were pretty amazing!
If I didn’t join French Fridays with Dorie I would never have cooked these!
I would have flicked through the book and came back to it on the odd occasion and maybe even made a handful of recipes I felt comfortable with.
How much I would have missed out on!

The creativity of the other members inspires me, check out their takes on this recipe here.

 

 


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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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Golden Cheesy Bread Rolls (Kiflice)

“Until you know that life is interesting – and find it so – you haven’t found your soul.” – Geoffrey Fisher

Why does baking feel so incredibly satisfying and nourishing to the mind and the soul?

Or is that just me?

I get excited finding and planning my next cooking project, buying the ingredients and then carving out the time to play!

I wrote about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his studies about being in what he calls “flow”. Being engrossed in an activity that causes time to disappear, our problems and worries to melt away and we are no longer aware of our surrounding other than as they related to what we are doing. Being engaged in an activity that both challenges us and rewards us, an activity that gives us a sense of accomplishment and improvement, this is his definition of happiness.

Given this definition, then baking, cooking, creating something from scratch, is so wonderfully important to me because it makes me happy!

It’s as simple as that!

Could there be any better reason?!

Making these kiflice, which are Serbian bread rolls, brought back so many childhood memories, they made me feel closer to my Serbian dad who is in rehabilitation after suffering a heart attack and a stroke and they helped me feel closer to my heritage and my family!

Amazing that these little golden bread rolls could do so much!

I saw them when they were featured on FoodPress by Things We Make and followed their link to Maja from Cooks and Bakes who posted her recipe in Serbian and English!
They wouldn’t leave my thoughts and I knew I had my next baking project!

I made them with feta and they turned out magnificent! These little cheese rolls brought happiness not just to me but also my dad!
I’m already planning my next batch with fried leeks and goat’s cheese feta!

As the quote from Geoffrey Rush says, I hope you find that special something which makes your life interesting and in turn find your soul!




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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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How Can I Be Happier?

 

We have studied depression in depth for the last century and we know a lot about what makes us miserable! 

Most of have felt depressed at some point in life. We feel down, we don’t really care about much, we have no energy and for a while, life feels unpleasant. But we know we will get through it.

Some people however have more frequent episodes of feeling down and the duration and intensity of these episodes can be used as guides to unresolved psychological problems. Depression is way for the body to communicae to us that there is something wrong. When I talk to my clients about depression I get them to think of it as a continuum rather than a question of “Am I depressed or not?” On one end of the continuum is the mild to moderate range where the experience is painful and uncomfortable. While on the other end we have Bipolar or Manic Depression which is more biological in nature.

Our goal is to treat the problems that the clients present with, to get the levels of depression and anxiety to nil, zero. But people want more than just feeling not depressed, they want to have meaning and happiness in their lives.

This recognition led to a new branch of psychology called Positive Psychology. It is interested in the “scientific study of optimal human functioning.” So the goals is no longer to just identify and treat mental health problems, but also to teach people how to enhance the quality of their lives using substantiated research and findings that have been proven to deliver results.

I like to think of happiness also having a continuum where the more frequency, intensity and duration of symptoms is symbolic of being further along the continuum and feeling happier!

Martin Seligman, on of the founders of Positive Psychology defines happiness as “both positive feelings (such as ecstasy and comfort) and positive activities that have no feeling component at all (such as absorption and engagement)”.

Mihaly Csiskzentmihalyi claims the way to happiness is through “flow”, a state where we are so engrossed in “some activity that time either lengthens or disappears, we no longer notice our surroundings except as related to the activity and any problem or discomfort drops entirely out of mind”.

I used to think “I’ll be happy when…”
I struggled (for a long time!) with the idea that happiness was a choice avalaible to me at any  point. I believed that happiness was the end goal, the reward for hard work and suffering!. I remember thinking “if I just went around all day feeling happy I’d never do anything again!” I got really stuck here. I felt accessing happiness just for the sake of it was cheating and fake.

Then one day it dawned on me. When you are happy you are more likely to achieve your goals and succeed! When I feel happy I am excited and energised. I feel at peace and I find it easier to get absorbed in whatever I am doing. I can appreciate my self and my surroundings more. I have increased clarity in thought and inspiration. Feeling happy actually helps me to produce a higher quality of work.

So rather than asking “Am I happy or not?” ask yourself “How can I be happier?” This changes the nature of happiness from something that is the end result to happiness being  an ongoing process. Something that is infinite in nature and within your control.

Can you think of something you really want?
Imagine you have it.
A new house, a new car, a new body? Whatever you think will make you feel happy. Now imagine yourself going through the day having this something you treasure. How will you feel about yourself, how will this effect the interactions you have with the world. Will you feel more confident, assured? 
When you have really stepped into the role and can feel this I want you to consider that you just had acces to all those feelings all on your own. They are there, available to you at any moment!  

When you’re happy, nothing has actually changed yet everything suddenly seems different.


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Purpose Is How We Find Our Meaning And Joy In Life

At some point, most of us will question what our purpose in life is. 
We may feel lost, empty and exhausted and think “there must be more to life than this.”

And then we get stuck.
Is there really more?
How will I find it?
How will I know when I have found it? 

So we embark on a journey. An exciting voyage of self discovery.
Well, it’s exciting from a therapist’s perspective however I’m not sure if my clients would use those words to describe what they go through!
They would probably describe it more as a very painful, depressing, anxious and even angry time in their lives. I would understand if you thought me to be a bit of a sadist at this point, however this pain is essential. This pain is what tells us that we have lost our way in life. It is meant to work like an alarm system, guiding us as we navigate through life. Giving us feedback as to how we are progressing in the world.

When you find yourself feeling depressed, anxious, angry, exhausted and numb, I ask you to stop and listen. You are being told that what you are doing is no longer working for you.  

The way you are living, the choices you are making on a daily basis as to how you spend your time and energy have now become the problem. You have lost your way and this is what your pain is trying to tell you. 

So where do you go from here?

  • Well, you can choose to ignore the unpleasant feelings until you collapse into a crying heap with the doctor mumbling something about chronic fatigue (this seems to be my preferred way of coping).  
  • You can try to numb and bury those feelings real good with food, alcohol, drugs, affairs, gossip, dramas – both on television and real life, etc (hmm, I think I can claim this method as well).
  • Or you can use these feelings to guide you to your purpose in life. I made that sound pretty easy huh? Well the answer really is just that simple. We are encouraged to find our purpose; find our true/real/authentic selves; find our meaning in life and all for a good reason.

Having a purpose in life is what makes us happy.

How to be happy has been discussed by the greatest minds in the world for centuries. It’s not a new concept or one that I will in any way claim to have made some radical new discovery about. However after working with hundreds of clients from all walks of life I can say with confidence that people who find themselves, who live an authentic life, a life in line with their purpose, are the happiest. Being a psychologist, I have ingrained in me, a deep respect for scientific research, so I can make this claim with a sigh of relief as we now have the research to confirm what we have always known. To find our purpose, our meaning in life is to find ourselves and in turn our path to happiness and joy.   

So all this may sound fine and good but I know from personal experience that you are probably thinking “it doesn’t tell me how to actually find what my purpose is! I am ready to do what it takes! Just tell me what I am meant to be doing?”

I know this because my clients have read every self-help book, listened to hundreds of seminars, watched endless you tube vids hoping that this will be it!
The thing that finally reveals to me my purpose so I can get on with it!
Get on the path that will bring me guaranteed happiness and wealth. 

However this seems to also be where most of us get undone. For we not only want to be taken by the hand and lead to our path, we want a guarantee that our path will bring us guaranteed emotional and financial rewards. Oh, yeah, and if it feels like hard work at any point, then obviously we are not on the right path. Because finding your passion and following your purpose should be effortless and feel good 100% of the time. Right? Many of my clients have spent a lot of time trying to work out what their passion is and feel very confused when they try to work out how their fondness for sex or eating can be turned into a profitable business.

In this day and age, the focus seems to be very much on doing what makes us feel good. Eating cake feels fantastic, however it only feels good while we are eating it, take away the cake (or alcohol, sex, drugs, gossip, etc) and you don’t feel good anymore. In fact, once all these numbing behaviours are gone, you will probably feel worse about yourself. This is how you know if you’re on the right path, it shouldn’t leave you feeling bad at the end of it.

I am talking about finding who you are by paying attention to the things that make you lose all sense of time when you are doing them. Is it when you are following a new and complicated recipe? Or when you have discovered a new bush walk? You may find what you like surprises you. I ask that you simply pay attention without judging. Without asking “now how in the world is this going to make me money?” To find yourself and in turn, find your purpose and find happiness I ask that you pay attention to what gets you in the ‘flow’. While you are engaged in this activity what we are looking for isn’t necessarily just that you feel good. It may be something that challenges you, requires work and effort. When you are engaged in it however time flies. You get lost in what you are doing and time has no meaning. Once it’s done, you feel a deep sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.

So if you are feeling anxious, depressed, angry, exhausted, empty and fantasising about disappearing (and not even caring that you want to disappear) it is time to accept that what you are doing is no longer working for you. I’m guessing that you are spending your time and energy on activities that are not giving you any fulfillment or pleasure. It is time to rediscover your passion for life. It is time to find yourself, by finding what you are interested in and good at. What you like doing just for the sake of it. (We’ll worry about what the point of doing it is later, let’s just work out what gets you in the ‘flow’!)

Please feel free to make comments and suggestions.