Category: Daily Life

Cream of chicken soup

I have had this recipe in my collection so long I can’t remember where it even originated from. I’m fairly certain it was something I learned to make in Home Ec as a teenager. Over the years, I’ve tweaked and adapted to suit my tastes and I have to say, it’s hands-down my favourite comfort soup! I make it the minute it starts to cool down with a huge serve of sourdough bread. Since winter has well and truly hit my part of the world, I hope you enjoy this as much as our family does.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients

  • Shredded chicken breast (either slow cook yourself or buy a roast one from the store)
  • 250mls thickened cream
  • veggies of your choice – I use carrots, onion, celery, potato, kale, zucchini – whatever is in the house/ in season
  • 3 tablespoon flour
  • Chicken stock / Bone broth
  • 50g or so of butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic – the more, the merrier I say
  • 1-2 teaspoons of cornstarch

Chop up all your veggies nice and small. For zucchini, I just grate it all finely so the kids don’t give me too much grief. If you want to be real clever, you can peel yours first and it blends right in! I keep the skin on though so the kids get used to having bits of green in all their food. Then melt butter in a large saucepan and start to fry up your garlic and onion. Once they soften, add in your veggies and make sure they’re well-coated in butter. I like to have some water boiling in the kettle while I’m doing this. Next I add the flour and mix well. This is where you need to be quick because the flour will quickly glob up and stick to the bottom of your pan so have that boiling water at the ready. Once the veggies are coated in flour (about a minute or so) add in the water – use as much as you want depending on how much soup you want to yield. I don’t have this down to an exact science as it depends on how much veg I’ve cut up. Then add in your bone broth (I keep some frozen in cubes on hand always) or powdered stock will do then let is simmer away for about 15 minutes or until veggies are all cooked through.

At this point, if the soup is still too runny for my tastes I’ll add a few teaspoons of cornstarch mixed with cold water (make sure to mix them together first!) then add to my soup and quickly whisk it for 30 seconds. I only do small amounts at a time as it thickens the soup quite quickly. I then add in my shredded chicken and cream to finish off.

Serve with warm crusty bread and ENJOY! It’s so good for lunches too and everyone in my fam-bam wants seconds whenever I make it.

Life Lately – part two

I wouldn’t go back to last year, not for a minute. The mere thought of it makes me start to feel ill. I definitely didn’t think to myself last year while everything was going on “hey this would make a great blog post one day.” I wasn’t secretly glad to have a topic worth writing about. Frankly, I just wished none of it happened and I could post a gift guide or keep on slinging skincare. But I kept going back to that word; my theme – vulnerability – and I knew if I acted like this wasn’t happening, then I was nothing but a liar.
So by the end of 2017, I was both physically and mentally exhausted, not to dissimilar to this year actually. But 2018 exhaustion isn’t wrought with fear and doubts, just good ol’ fashioned ‘I’ve over-committed in every area of my life and I have two kids’ kind of exhausted. I’m fortunate enough to have been surrounded by a discipleship group the last two and half years. These are people in our life we trust implicitly, see often and allow to speak into our lives, even if it’s hard to hear. Sidebar: we ALL need those kind of people in our world am I right?

It was one night in one of our gatherings after my post went live that one of the women who is a psychologist kindly suggested I come in to see her. As I do when anyone gets too close, I shrug it off, make a joke and try to act cool. But secretly my husband and I had already discussed it and he had suggested I talk with her. So off I went. Honestly at first I felt like this was going to be a huge waste of her time. After all, I was fine – this was just a weird year; fantastically unlucky in sickness. Overall life was great and it’s not like I’ve not suffered any major traumas or abuse. Sure I’ve had some extremely hard good byes – another post on another day perhaps – but really, I didn’t feel like I someone who “needed” help.

But over the weeks and months, I realized not only did I need these sessions, but they had became a lifeline for me. Truthfully I dreaded almost every session because I still felt awkward but by the end, I was always sad to go. Every session was filled with new little gems, learning to look at things differently and effective strategies for dealing with my panic and anxiety. I really feel the most valuable thing I could learn was how I’ve been wired and what I can’t change. Some things are just who I am and how God made me – so no point trying to fight that. What I can do is learn to re-train my brain to deal with situations and stress in a much healthier way. Again, if you know me well, you know I’m a huge over thinker – to the point that it’s considered chronic or dysfunctional. I’m wired to think things through and be analytical, which can be positive attributes. But those thoughts were being allowed to rule my day and control my emotions and belief systems, which is where I came undone. I’ve summed it up as succinctly as I can but I can assure you the process is neither simple or quick. What I can say is that it’s worth it. In twelve months, I’m starting to feel like a new person. I haven’t yet got it all figured out and it’s tiresome at times to feel like I’m constantly talking to myself to re-train my brain, but I’m seeing progress. The best part? No panic attacks since the end of last year. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my moments where someone just says the word ‘gastro’ and my entire body starts sending off alarms (crazy, I know!) but now I’ve got ways to talk myself off the proverbial ledge so I don’t end up in a ball on the floor again. And like anything, when you practice it enough, you get better at it and it becomes a habit – the good kind.

So if you’re still reading this, the biggest takeaways from me would be:

  1. Talk to someone, specifically a professional. Don’t be too proud. No one has their life together like they make it look like on Instagram anyway. I don’t like talking about my feelings at all (just ask my poor husband) and even I can say that this is the best thing I’ve done for my mental health… ever.
  2. Find something that works for you. For me, I like to write. Even in my time with God, I find it easier to write to Him than to pray out loud. I also love worship music and it’s something that instantly calms me down so it’s playing in the car, at home and in one ear of an earphone at work so I’m constantly filling my head with truth. I’ve also added reading to this list. If I’m immersed in a great piece of fiction, I’m too distracted to be stressing over something else. It sounds crazy but it does work to keep my mind off wandering places where it shouldn’t go.
  3. Learn to say no. Nowadays it seems like ‘busy’ is the best thing you can be. How are you? Oh really busy. Like my boss says “you don’t get to own busy.” EVERYONE is busy and I’m really not sure why we made it a buzzword as if translates to being important or productive. Busy has only made me tired, burned out and flakey to be honest. Do I want to help people whenever I can? Of course. But I can’t be all things to everyone and now I’m okay with it now. Isn’t it better to focus our attention to one thing at a time and do that thing well?

Lastly – but most importantly: “keep focusing on the things that are above” Colossians 3.1

 

 

Spicy cashew cauliflower

So due to an overwhelming demand for this recipe after I posted it on my insta-story, I thought I better chuck it on here for handy reference.
Since June (admittedly after watch the documentary The Magic Pill) we’ve been trying to do a loose form of the ketogenic diet. I’m definitely not one for fad diets – or diets of any kind to be honest- but so much of what we watched and had been researching ourselves resonated with this. After all the sickness of 2017 (read this post if you don’t know what I mean) I knew I had to make some changes to my diet and every day life to see some progress and after a few short months, I can honestly say there’s been a change to my overall health and most excitedly I’ve started to lose my little ‘kangaroo pouch’ as I fondly called my leftover baby belly. Anyway all this to say I love food and still love carbs so if I was ever going to stick to this (well 80% of the time…) I had to find ways to make food I don’t normally enjoy (i.e. cauliflower) taste better. So without further ado here’s my accidentally amazing spicy cauliflower side dish recipe!


Ingredients

– 1 large cauliflower
– Frank’s RedHot sauce (2-3 tbsp depending on your taste)
– 1 tsp white vinegar
– 3 tbsp butter
– handful of raw cashews
– splash of EVOO & salt and pepper to taste

 

 

 

 

 

 

Method
– Cut up cauliflower into small pieces and crush the cashews into small chunks
– Heat the oil and start to cook cauliflower. Add a small splash of water and put a lid on the pan to let the cauliflower steam through.
– In the meantime, melt butter in a small jug and add the hot sauce and vinegar, whisking together. Once the cauliflower is almost cooked through, remove lid and add cashews and hot sauce mixture. On a high heat, cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper to serve.

I made this on the side of chicken cutlets battered in egg and almond flour, shallow fried and drizzled with lemon with greens on the side. Such a light, grain free but still delicious meal!

Mother’s Day gift guide

Well after packing away the Christmas decor it seems, Mother’s Day is now upon is. Let’s not even talk about how fast 2018 is slipping through my fingers shall we?
For something a bit different I thought I’d round up some gift ideas for the special momma in your life. Mother’s Day always falls on or near my birthday so this list will be pulling double duty for me….cough…husband….cough…

WEEKENDER BAG
Tell me what woman wouldn’t want a weekend away? Brownie points if she can go without the kids! Although what’s the point, you always end up looking at photos of them anyway.This would also be a great hospital bag.

MONOGRAM BATH ROBE
I know, I know- it’s kind of a typical Mother’s Day gift. But in Australia it’s starting to cool down so this is hugely practical AND you can have it personalised so it’s bit nicer than just a regular robe.

WATCH 
I still love these simple, elegant watches. Such good value!

C&M TEE
Classic and stylish, these graphic logo tops are apparently going to be everywhere this season. I feel like they’re everywhere already! I LOVE tee shirts – I’d live in them if I could.These are a bit pricey but for the trendy mama, I think this would be a hit. I also love these shirts because they have “mommy and me” options. I’m a sucker for matching.

CARDIGAN 
When I was looking for a cute robe, I stumbled across this cardigan and now I want to move into it. Forever.

SLIPPERS
Yes, another “typical” Mother’s Day gift but HOW CUTE are these pom pom ones from Peter Alexander? They’re on major sale at the moment. I love my gold glitter mocs but now I want these too!

SPA DAY (or hour, whatever you can get!)

CANDLES
If you can’t get her a spa day, at least her light a candle and pretend she’s there! No seriously, I love candles – can’t have enough. I’m obsessed with Ecoya’s French Pear (smells like my favourite place in New York) and Sweet Pea & Jasmine.

SKINCARE
The gift that keeps on giving! You know I wouldn’t be able to go past my beloved Rodan and Fields. There are so many options at different price points: from delicious lip balm to body scrubs. Maybe an eye cream for any mama with a newborn. And a big supply of coffee of course.

SWEET SILVER
I was kindly gifted a voucher for Smallprint when I had Jack from some of my coworkers. It was the sweetest gesture! I now have Jack and Emma’s tiny fingerprints around my neck – which is the closest thing to keeping them t his small forever. Excuse me…of to cry quietly and eat chocolate now…

Happy Shopping friends! If all else fails, get the kids to make her a card and write things you love about her. Add some homemade coupons for cuddles and on-time bedtimes. Mom’s love that stuff!

Life Lately…

I don’t believe in good or bad years. Sure, some years the balance can be severely skewed one way or another but still I stand firm that every year – even the absolute worst of years – still have good in them if you look hard enough.
For this household, me in particular, 2017 was not my favorite year. Not even close. In fact it’s taken me until December to even muster up the courage to write this and admit to myself – and now others – just exactly what this year has been like.

For the last two years, I’ve felt that God has given me a word that has ultimately become the theme for the year that followed. This year, I couldn’t shake the word vulnerability. I’m inwardly groaning just writing this because being open and vulnerable is not my thing. At all. Just ask my husband- we’ve been together almost a decade and I still find it hard to let my guard down. This is the man who watched me birth his two children for goodness sake. Seeing it in black and white makes it seem laughable now but it’s the truth. Never in my life did I imagine that this ‘theme’ for the year would outwork itself the way it did. I couldn’t foresee that I would be so rocked, so sick, so brought to my knees that the vulnerability would have to be pried from my fingers if I wouldn’t freely give it.

Now important disclaimer: I’m not blaming God for any of this. I don’t think he sent down plagues of illness and disasters upon us – though it felt like it at times. So I hope in reading this, that’s not how it comes across because I’m not here shaking my fists at the sky.

So back to it….it was March. We had a whirlwind summer, maternity leave round two had just finished up and I was excited to sink my teeth back into work again. One of our favorite things to do is have people over for dinner, especially new people to church. On one such occasion, we had a lovely new couple over for dinner and while cooking and chatting, I accidentally grabbed a hot panhandle and burned my whole left hand. Such was my desire to keep dinner going, I decided to stick my hand in a bowl of ice water – which I’ve since learned is the worst thing you can do. I got through the dinner as best as I could but the minute they walked out the door I burst into tears and told James this pain was worse than labor. I stand by that comment by the way. I ended up calling a locum to come out so I could at least see if I needed to go to hospital or get it properly dressed. The doctor kindly prescribed me some pain medication to help me sleep and assured me it would be fine to take two. I made sure to mention my codeine allergy – repeatedly in fact – only to learn the hard way the medication prescribed did in fact contain codeine. The long and short of it is I couldn’t get up and walk without throwing up wherever I went. My husband ferried the kids to childcare, I called in sick to work then waited for my beloved friend to take me to the doctor. She held my hair back while I threw up in pot plants outside the clinic while old ladies tried to help wipe my face. In other words, it was the beginning of the end of my humility.

In the weeks that followed, I had a bout of food poisoning and then caught severe gastro that lasted a week. Somewhere in and amongst all that, my sweet daughter turned one but her birthday is a complete blur. One night, in a bid to get back into our normal routine, we invited friends over for dinner. It was a Thursday night so I had been working all day. I can remember feeling off all day, feeling panicked but I couldn’t pinpoint why. I got into my car to head home and before I had pulled out of the driveway I was hysterical. I’m talking ugly sobs all the way home. It was too late to cancel, nor did I want to, but moments before our guests arrived I was in a ball on the floor sobbing, not being able to breathe for no apparent reason.

At this point, I knew something was wrong. I blamed it on the gastro and they kindly left early to give me some space. I managed to hold myself together to make it to June for our staff retreat with church. I was counting down to a few days away as a family, just making space for whatever God needed to do in us. I could literally write another post just on that retreat, maybe another day, but it’s probably not as exciting for you as it was for us. And I thought it was a turning point I suppose, that after some of the things spoken over us that it would all just click into place. It was and it wasn’t. Looking back now I’m not surprised because isn’t that often what happens? You take a step of faith only to be met with opposition? I try to remind myself that the greater the opposition, the greater God’s plan is for us.

The rest of this year has been filled with sickness, mostly for my daughter and me. The pressure to stop taking sick days has hung over me, especially as we entered events season and my anxiety cranked up about ten notches. I’ve had to call on friends from church, some that we’re only just getting to know, to watch my kids, cook meals and take over basic daily tasks while I’ve been too sick or too anxious to function.

So what’s the point of me telling all this? I like to think I live an authentic life – my instagram is proof that I’m not all about glossy photos that paint a picture perfect life. I wish I could do that but it isn’t me and frankly I don’t have the time or effort to put into it. But another part of me has felt a bit like a fraud when I see people in person and they ask how are you and you respond with “good, how are you?” It’s basically ‘lie and deflect.’ Behind closed doors I’ve been battling with anxiety that is crippling me; the smallest things sending me into a panic where my heart races and I start to cry. A big contributor has been our upcoming trip overseas to see family. If you know anything about me it’s that I love my family more than anything and miss them terribly – yet I’d give up this trip if it means not having to fly the 21 hours with dizzy spells and two toddlers. Sometimes someone can bring up one thing about the flight and suddenly I can’t eat and I’m physically sick. I find it’s gotten worse over the years – the anxiety in the lead up to a trip.

It seems so silly when I think about it at times, all of this stuff. I feel like we are leading a church campus – how can I be going through this? Where is my faith? Get your stuff together woman! I’m currently hogging all the prayer time during our devotions, at least that’s how it feels. But of course God doesn’t call us to live by how we feel. And if there’s anything to be learned from all this rambling is that God is the author and perfector of my faith, not me. I need to let go and let Him deal with the issues of my heart, let Him take those fears because I know He wants more for me and more from me. I’m not saying I’ve figured it all out because clearly I’m still a work a progress but I know at least admitting where I’m at was a big part of the issue. I’m still learning that it’s okay to not always be okay. But when I’m not okay, I need to run to the only One who can bring healing to my troubled heart.

A few weeks ago a beautiful friend spoke this over me – not just sent it in a text (though that is so amazing too!) but she read it out loud while I stood there and wept:

Isaiah 54.10-17
Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
“Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with lapis lazuli. I will make your battlements of rubies,  your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones. All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace. In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you;  you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you.  If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you. “See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc; no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord.

I love this version as well – the use of the words terror and tyranny. They sound so harsh but they truly describe how these months have felt. It’s felt terrifying to be so out of control. It’s felt oppressive and lonely (mostly because I didn’t let anyone in so that’s on me). So now whenever I start to feel anxious I put on some praise and worship and keep reading that verse (and many others). Sometimes just writing the verses out by hand or speaking them out loud make such a difference. So to wrap up this insanely long post: all I can really say is let the One who made you, heal you. By all means do whatever you need to – talk to people, see a professional but ultimately run to the One who is waiting with open arms and gave up Heaven to have you.

For me, the biggest thing I can take from all this is that nothing is wasted; God will use ALL things for His glory. Romans 8.28 has been spoken over me more times than I can count. I’ve seen Him use all the good, bad and hurting things in my life and made them all beautiful in ways only He can. So while this has been one of the hardest years it’s also been one of the ones I’ve heard God speak more clearly than ever. It’s been a year where I’ve felt more pursued by Him than ever. So even when it hurts, I’ll praise Him and I hope if you’re in the same boat, you will too.

My makes-me-so-homesick-vodka sauce

If, like me, you grew up in New York – specifically Long Island – then chances are you’re familiar with Penne ala Vodka. It’s a staple in almost every Italian restaurant. And for good reason: it’s hands down the best sauce in the world. Ever, ever, EVER {foreva eva, eva eva in an Outkast voice, sorry had to}
Anyway imagine my dismay when I get moved to Australia as a 16 year old only to discover that it basically doesn’t exist here. No one had heard of it and only one restaurant had it on their menu as “vodka sauce” and it was nowhere near what I was used to. So a combination of boredom and homesickness was all it took to start perfecting this recipe. It’s an adaptation of Rachel Ray’s “You won’t be single for long” vodka cream sauce but her recipe has no meat in it. So I had to rectify that one. No disrespect for my girl but everything is better with a bit of bacon!

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Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
2 heaped tsp minced garlic or 2 cloves
1-2 cups vodka (nothing fancy needed!)
2 shallots {or 1 large onion in a pinch}
5 slices of pancetta, chopped in chunks {or prosciutto, bacon etc}
1 can diced tomatoes
1 bottle of passata {our family makes their own but whatever you can get}
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil
Pasta of your choice – I use bowties or penne

Heat butter and oil in a pan. Fry up pancetta and shallots until crispy. Add the fresh garlic and fry until golden. Add 1 cup of vodka and let it reduce for a few minutes.  Next, add the passata and diced tomatoes and let it cook for about 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, bring some water to the boil and add salt.

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Once the pasta has cooked til al-dente {around 8 minutes}, turn the heat off the sauce and add the cream. Stir through, season with salt and pepper. I usually toss in another douse of vodka to finish it off and whack on some fresh basil.

Pour the sauce over the pasta and enjoy. I’m talking put on stretchy pants, pour some wine and really dig in.

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Newborn Daze

Ah the newborn days…do I miss them? Not entirely. And I’m not even out of them yet; I’m actually staring down the barrel of them again in the very near future!  But one of the things I’m grateful we did was get some professional photos during those early days. Although the day we booked ours – day 6 – was particularly awful and I called our lovely photographer to explain I couldn’t possibly look at my son lovingly that day. Thankfully she did still come by to grab a few snaps so we could use them for his dedication that week and then came back a few weeks later. I went through them the other day and maybe it’s the hormones, but it made me feel giddy at the prospect of having a tiny baby all over again. {Disclaimer: giddy with a healthy dose of terrified mixed in}

This is what exhaustion looks like

This is what exhaustion looks like

These are taken on my nonno's old chair

These are taken on my nonno’s old chair

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fall family photos

Like every parent will tell you, ‘the days are long but the years are short.’ When it comes to Jack’s first year, truer words were never spoken. I blinked and we’d reached that milestone. And to that end, I wanted to make sure we marked the occasion with photos of our little family. Once again, Crystal from The Flourish Photography captured beautiful memories for us to look back on and they incorporate all my favourite things: James, Jack and fall {autumn to the proper Aussies reading this!}

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The frown that cracks us up all the time

The frown that cracks us up all the time

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this cheeky face sums up our happy one year old

this cheeky face sums up our happy one year old