Tag Archives: diet

The Dog We’ll Never Forget!

“What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love

deeply becomes a part of us.”

Helen Keller

It’s been almost three years since our gorgeous Border Collie, Bilbo, crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. However, today I read a few posts which reminded of him and all these raw emotions and memories came flooding back in a way which caught my defences off guard.

Bilbo was every bit a part of our family as the rest of us, and there’s a dreadful sense of loss when you lose someone in your family. Human or dog, you just can’t replace them straight away and they leave behind a hole like a cookie cutter in their very own shape, which can not be filled. However, although it can be painful to remember, it’s ultimately worse to forget, which is why I wanted to share this moving story.

Just to put you in the picture, it was mid-January 2012…eight years ago. It wasn’t New Year’s Day when every other human and their dog automatically go on diets to welcome in the New year. Rather, it was two weeks later. I was the first cab off the rank, Geoff was second and Bilbo was lucky last.

Bilbo + Amelia

Bilbo with the kids when he first arrived.

Starting with yours truly, just before Christmas, I’d found out that my auto-immune disease was affecting my lungs and I was showing early signs of Institial Lung Disease(ILD) and fibrosis. I couldn’t get an appointment with the lung specialist until mid-January, the day before we were due to leave on a family holiday to Byron Bay. I was absolutely distraught over Christmas and New Year and vowed I’d do anything to keep myself alive to be there for the kids. They were still only seven and five and still so young and naturally I vowed to do everything I could to get more time with them. Fight right to the very and if I had to. Indeed, I would do anything for love and the song became my song and mantra through this truly excruciating time:

Jonathon Amelia Bilbo

Taken on our son’s first day of school in 2009.

However, there’s a key line of the song undermines all that devotion….”but I won’t do that”.

What was it I wouldn’t do? Where was my breaking point? Where would I draw the line when it came to self-sacrifice to be there for my kids?

It was funny because I remember looking into the pantry and seeing a packet of Tim Tams sitting in there, and it was calling out to me. It was like they’d come to life and were asking me if I could give them up. Could I give up my beloved Tim Tams to buy extra time with my kids? Or, was the packet of Tim Tams going to be my Achilles Heel? My “but I can’t do that”?

Of course not. I was made of stronger stuff than that. Well, at least I hoped so.

Bilbo Lady Ro kayak

Only a lunatic would go kayaking with two dogs on board, especially Bilbo who is sitting right on top of me. He never really found his sea legs and tried to keep his precious paws well out of the water.

Well, I was lucky. The lung specialist felt that the Institial Lung Disease was mild and dormant. I was not in any imminent danger of dying, although he told me exercise and losing weight could help my breathing and quality of life. The next day, we left for my in-law’s place just outside Byron Bay, Australia’s alternate health capital and found myself sugar-free on the Caveman Diet and drinking gurgling spirolina smoothies. Over the next few months, I lost ten kilos.

Meanwhile, my husband, Geoff, was diagnosed with high cholesterol, and the doctor wanted to see whether diet could avoid medication. So, while I went sugar free, he went low fat and with all of us eating the same food, we were both losing weight.

That is, all except Bilbo.

bilbo BW dog food

The dog really must be sick…he is sleeping in the trail of dog food Miss left for him.

However, that didn’t last very long. Soon, Bilbo went off for his annual trip to the vet’s, and boy did I get a talking to. I don’t know if any of you have ever taken an overweight pet to the vet. If you have, you might’ve found yourselves in a similar spot where you’re much loved pet is unceremoniously called: “FAT.” If they’re being nice, they might tell you: “You’re killing your pet with kindness”. However, they could also be brutally direct, and speak to you in a way that no paediatrician would ever use to a parent of an overweight child. Indeed, they can hit you where it hurts just like a well aimed ruler across the knuckles. Actually, make that the heartstrings. There’s not much worse than being told you’re a bad parent of child or dog.

Bilbo & Lady

Bilbo & Lady

To be fair though, Bilbo did hit the scales at 42 kilos, and although he’s tall for a Border Collie, he wasn’t that tall. Of course, I should’ve known and done something about it myself, without needing the vet to point it out. A friend had referred affectionately to his “love handles” as she was feeding him her left over gravy. Moreover, while he could somewhat conceal all that excess over-indulgence beneath his woolly coat, we weren’t stupid.

Bilbo Lady Ro kayak

Reality really hit home, however, when the vet asked how many meals a day he’d been having. That was the very first time I’d really become conscious of the mind-blowing volume of leftovers I’d been feeding him. Both of our kids were non-eaters and it wasn’t unusual for him to get both of their leftovers breakfast, lunch and dinner. After all, I hate waste, and we even have a worm farm to consume what the dogs don’t eat.

Bilbo was put on an instant diet. No more snacks, treats, leftovers.

Zip.

Fetching Bilbos Ball

Finally some assistance. Miss puts Bilbo out of his misery!

The trouble is, how do you tell a dog that he’s on a diet? How do you explain that you’re just not being mean, when you no longer give him that tasty morsel of fat off your steak? He was so used to getting all of our left overs that he had expectations – a sense of entitlement. So, naturally he looked at me through those huge, soppy puppy dog eyes as though I’d ripped his heart out. I was being so mean, and he knew nothing about the virtues of tough love. Was it too much to ask for Mum to have her cake, and for him to have some too? He certainly thought nothing of it. However he was a slow learner. A few weeks later when the kids went back to school, Bilbo spotted the lunchboxes and knew there would be leftovers for him inside. You could just imagine the look on his face when they bypassed his bowl and went straight in the bin.

Bilbo staring out to sea

I’m surprised Bilbo didn’t record his own sob song and post it on Youtube. His nose was very out of joint. After all, he knew food and love went hand in hand, and straight into his mouth.

“They say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.”

Banksy

The only other time I’ve even seen Bilbo look at food in quite the same way was when he was put on prednisone for an infection. He was absolutely ravenous (prednisone is like a hunger drug and it makes you eat and eat and eat).

It really was hard putting him through this diet, but he lost weight, even if he was never going to make Slimmer-Of -The-Year.

Losing his appetite was the first sign Bilbo wasn’t well at the end and not being able to chase his ball was the second. Even still, we hoped for a miracle.

It wasn’t meant to be.

“Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for

those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as

separation.”

Rumi

However, as the song The Way We Were reminds us:

Bilbo shadow Palm Beach

Our Philosophical Dog walking along beside the tide. He doesn’t like getting wet paws.

Memories
May be beautiful and yet
What’s too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget

So it’s the laughter
We will remember
Whenever we remember
The way we were
The way we were

Best wishes,

Rowena

Bilbo with ball

Bilbo appropriating another dog’s ball.

 

Blow My Candles Out! Carrot Ranch Fiction.

“Happy Birthday, Honey. I’ve checked all the ingredients. Even your cardiologist says it’s fine…gluten free, sugar free, fat free.” Sue tried hard to smile. “So, you can have your cake and eat it too.”

“So, what IS in it?” Richard growled, longing for Nigella’s Nutella Cake instead. As much as he loved his wife and family, he wasn’t sure it was worth coming back for this new life with all its restrictions. He couldn’t even breathe without asking for permission first.

“Carrot cake? I am NOT a horse! I’m off to the pub. You can blow my candles out!”

……

Every week, Charli over at Carrot Ranch hosts a flash fiction challenge where you write 99 words to a prompt.

March 16, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about carrot cake. It can be classic or unusual. Why is there cake? How does it feature in the story. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by March 20, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published March 21). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

 

Weekend Coffee Share 20th May, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, I’m going to be a better host, and offer you a choice of coffee, tea or Bonox before we get started. I know there have been some weeks where I’ve forgotten my manners. My apologies. This week I’m going to try to be a better listener, reminding myself that I have two ears and one mouth.

So, how was your week?

Perhaps, we should come up with some kind of rating system to sum up the week. You know, the sort of thing they have on those survey questionnaires where you rate your attitude between one and ten. The trouble is, that my mind goes a bit blank by the time it’s Sunday and last Monday seems a lifetime ago.

In so many ways, it was a fantastic week.

On Monday night, my adult dances classes started up again and this term, we’re doing tap. This is the first time I’ve really done tap, other than a few classes at school. I wasn’t too sure how I’d go and wondered whether I’d go for six trying to walk in my tap shoes. I was also concerned that it would be too hard on my legs and I’d need to sit down. That was quite a realistic expectation and I was getting tired. However, fortunately we ended up shifting to the corner and taking turns, giving me a chance to rest. I really loved tap and felt almost euphoric by the end of the class. I might not be Ginger Rogers, but I extended myself out of my comfort zone and all this exercise is so good for me.

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Thai-Style Chicken Burgers.

Tuesday night, I finally summoned up my courage and I cooked the Thai-Style Chicken Burgers from Julie Goodwin’s Essential Cookbook for dinner and her Apple Crumble Slice for dessert. They were both sensational. You can read about my efforts Here

Sometime last week, my daughter also found out that she’s been accepted into the dance stream of the selective performing arts or CAPA class at our local high school. She’s thrilled about this, as she’s really got into dance this year. It’s really become her thing. Meanwhile, she’s still waiting on the results of the selective high school test. I think it will work out either way.

Friday morning, I went to My First Yoga Class  Like the tap class, this was another tentative, new experience. Given my mobility and health issues, trying something new can be more daunting and those usual fears and concerns ramp up a bit, sometimes to the point of paralyzing panic. However, my physiotherapist had recommended this particular yoga class because it’s being taken by an occupational therapist. All of us in the class, have the same physio and it’s turning into what’s known as “adaptive yoga”. They have the same thing in other sports. It just means that its designed for people with disabilities. I loved yoga, particularly the last 15 minutes where we lay on our mats under a blanket and wearing lavender scented eye-masks and falling into a deep state of relaxation. I had such a glowing sense of well-being at the end. Needless to say, I’ll be back next week.

In between all these upbeat happenings, I’ve steadily been reorganizing our home. A few months ago, I received a government assistance package for people with disabilities called the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme). In addition to receiving occupational therapy and physio at home, I also get  7 hours of cleaning and a mentor for 7 hours. So far, we’ve been focusing on reorganizing and getting rid of stuff. I don’t know quite how I feel about all of this. There a lot of stuff to process and you have to decide what you’re going to do with each and every item, which becomes quite draining after awhile. The other problem is that you pull all this stuff out of nooks and crannies, but it doesn’t seem to fit back in. Inevitably, I’m left with huge mounds of stuff and need some kind of compacting system…something like the station guards on Japanese bullet trains who heave commuters into the train. Today, I just wanted to move a book shelf about 40 cm to the left, but because I needed to empty everything out of it, it became a massive and really quite overwhelming job. Both our kitchen table and another large foldout table were both piled with books. Indeed, I had enough books left over after I’d filled the bookshelves to fill another book case. Unfortunately, I’ve only found about ten I can part with.

My son did offer to burn the extra books. I told him that burning books was a crime and you could be sent to jail. He’s 13 now and he knew better, but I almost got him.

Clothes Horse

Clothes Horse??

I also had a run in with an Obstinate Clothes Horse

By the way, last week I mentioned that I’d taken our son to Emergency with weird symptoms. Thanks for your concern and best wishes. He seems to be doing quite well and doctors are suspecting migraine aura, without the accompanying headache. Still, that generated medical appointments with more to come just to be sure. Next week I also have an appointment with my rheumatologist in Sydney. So, there’s another day gone.

I am starting to feel quite conflicted by the amount of time which is going into sorting the house versus do my writing and research. While I was happy to put them aside short term, getting the house sorted is turning into a long term, intensive project and almost a full time job. While I want the whole family to become more organised and sorted, it does come at a cost to me. I am now conjuring up ways to get the kids to do more. Kids seem to be rather pampered these days, and have taken to enslaving their parents.  I’m now needing to turn the tables a bit. Get us all working together as a team, when none of us is exactly what you’d call team players. We seem to operate better as Lone Rangers.

Kings Cross

Kings Cross’s Famous Coca Cola sign viewed from the Sydney Tower Eye.

By the way, I also wrote a flash for Friday Fictioneers. Every week, I marvel at what enters my brain for these challenges. It’s always such a long way from my everyday life in  an Australian beach town. This week’s was Missing: Kings Cross, Sydney.

Hope you’ve had a great weekend. It’s now Sunday night here and I’m heading off to find something for dessert. Sweet Week on Masterchef starts in ten minutes. My laptop could well be in danger as I drool at the screen.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Ally over at Nerd In The Brain. You can click on the linky and I hope you’ll join us.

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yummy Marshmallow Mud Toastie.

Easter is the perfect time for experimenting with marshmallows and chocolate. The oozier the better.

While I’m not sure whether Isaac Newton would agree, that placing marshmallows and chocolate in between two slices of brioche and applying heat and pressure constitutes a scientific experiment.

However, although he’s obviously not around to ask, I’m sure he’d be licking his fingers and declaring the results: “scrumidillyumptious”!

As for myself, I concluded that further experimentation is required.

marshmallow mud toastie

Ingredients

2 slices of brioche loaf (I get mine from Aldi)

Chocolate (I chose Cadbury Dairy Milk)

Marshmallows (I chose pink).

Here are the Basic Directions:

Place a single slice of brioche in the sandwich press for each person.

Arrange pink marshmallows and your choice of chocolate as desired on top of the brioche. You will observe in the photo below that I prefer a rather oozy, messy outcome. On the other hand, our daughter wanted to minimise the ooze and even placed hers in the fridge for a bit to firm it up a bit.

Cover with a second slice of Brioche (the lid) and close the sandwich press.

Remove toastie using lifter when golden brown and contents have melted. Watch out for hot melted contents  and the risk of burns.

I started out by simply melting Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate in between two slices of brioche.

That was just begging for a few marshmallows.

Finding that combination rather sweet, I added a few blueberries for a bit of tang.

I’m now planning to try a rocky road version with nuts and glace cherries to balance out the very sweet chocolate and marshmallows.

Personally, I can see the Marshmallow Mud Toastie satisfying those late night chocolate cravings without creating a huge mess.

Well, let’s just say the mess is contained to your face and fingers.

Of course, I understand that these innocent  Marshmallow Mud Toasties will have their critics. That puritanical do-gooder wowsers, will shoot them down. Slam their insane sugar and calorie content and the evils of “food therapy”.

However, personally I believe scoffing one of these oozy treats, is a hell of a lot better for you than some other cures for depression or a rough trot.

Therefore, I don’t believe I’m stretching the truth too far, to say these scrummy treats are actually “healthy”.

What do you think?

xx Rowena

 

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“Healthy” is all a matter of perspective and while they have their critics, retail and food therapy can be a lot better for you than some of the alternatives.

A – Ashgrove Farm, Tasmania.

Quite frankly, you’ve got rocks in your head if you can’t find happiness at Ashgrove Farm.

Indeed, even the cows there, are said to be the “happiest cows on earth”.

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An uber-happy Cow.

Don’t ask me how they’ve worked that out. As far as I knew, cows weren’t that good at filling out market research questionnaires, but what would I know?  I’m from the Mainland. It could well be, that after eating all that supergrass, these Ashgrove cows have developed magic superpowers,  and they’re not just smiling for the cameras anymore.

I wouldn’t know. As I said, I’m from the Mainland.

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My daughter tasting the Cheese.

So, even if you don’t eat cheese, it sounds like you might enjoy the grass and you could even  add it to your salad, if you’re that way inclined.

Now, perhaps you’re a bit sceptical about these happy cows,  and your thoughts might be drifting towards a different kind of grass. However,  if you were living in Tasmania with a year-round supply of lush green grass, you’d agree that it sure beats munching of dry chaff out on the desert fringe.

As you might be aware, we spent three week getting around Tasmania in January, showing the kids “where Daddy comes from”.  The founders of Ashgrove Farm are my Father-in-Law’s cousins, but quite aside from the family connections, Ashgrove Cheese became our home away from home as we continuously restocked our cheese supplies and even loaded up the Esky for coming home. I’ve become passionately addicted to their Lavender Cheese, which is only available on the Mainland via mail order so I had to stock up. My other favourites include the Wasabi Cheese which I was adding to everything except my Weetbix when we arrived home, and a Bacon-flavoured Havarti Cheese.

If I had to differentiate Ashgrove Cheese from other cheeses, I’d say they’re deliciously creamy. When this creaminess is partnered with the Lavender or Wasabi, for example, this creaminess is cut through by these flavours for a very well-rounded and balanced flavour.

I hope my very elementary attempts at food writing there make sense. Despite being a writer and something of a foodie, I find it very difficult to write about food in any detail. I’m much, much better at eating it!.

By the way, Ashgrove Farm’s store doesn’t simply stop at cheese and there’s a wide range of gourmet treats like coconut ice, fudge, salad dressing and…(drum roll)…ice cream to die for! I particularly loved the lemon ice cream which was as white as snow  with a strong lemon flavour cutting nicely through the exceptionally creamy, smooth texture.

Humph…I’m  starting to wonder whether this virtual tour of Ashgrove Farm has been such a good idea. I’m staring longingly at their web site and banging my head against the screen. Let me in! Let me in! Or, I’ll huff and I’ll puff and …I’m now start behaving more responsibly.  Cheese addiction can become life threatening if you don’t keep yourself in check.

So, on that note, let me turn it over to you. Are you doing the April A-Z Challenge? If so, please leave a link to your A post below and I’ll try to head over. I’ve got rather caught up lately and haven’t been blogging as much.

It’s been great to catch up!

Xx Rowena

Today is the first day of the A-Z April Challenge and my theme this year is Tasmania. My husband is a -5th generation Tasmanian and in January this year we spent three weeks travelling round around Tasmania, and this is my theme for the challenge this year.

New…the Christmas Cake Work Out.

Tonight, I’m announcing the Christmas Cake Workout.

Launching a weight loss campaign with only two sleeps til Christmas, has to be the definition of insanity. The ultimate in reverse psychology, going against the flow, being “unique” and dare I say (drum roll)… being a real “individual”!

Yet, that’s me. I’m always blazing my own trail, without the slightest regard for wherever the flow is going. No wonder I often end up “all by myself.”

So, this afternoon  I found myself doing the Christmas Cake Workout.

You must think I’ve got rocks in my head thinking that eating Christmas Cake is going to give me that elusive bikini body. After all, Christmas Cake with all that butter, sugar and boozy dried fruit, is  guaranteed to turn you into a pudding instead.

So, this is a good time for me to point out the fine print. It’s just a minor detail, but with the Christmas Cake Workout, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Success is all in the mixing. Indeed, it’s mixing this huge, monster cake which builds up serious muscle. I can guarantee you’ll be lifting weights at the Olympics afterwards. The mixture is so dense, that just getting the spoon through is hard going.

Given that we’ve only got a small family, you’re probably wondering why I was making a Christmas Cake big enough to feed the entire Australian cricket team and the WAGS (wives & girlfriends). We’re not huge fruitcake fans and certainly have no desire to eat Christmas Cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner, especially after Christmas. Indeed, I much prefer chocolate cake and I only have a few slices of Christmas Cake for tradition’s sake.

So, what on earth was I thinking?

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Preparing the Dried Fruits.

Well, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t thinking. I should’ve known that 3 kilos of dried fruit, 8 eggs and 500g of melted butter, signified a huge cake. Indeed, the cake also called for an entire cup of brandy, which either makes it very big, or a seriously heavy drinker. I’d be sozzled if I drank all of that!

Well, the story goes that this recipe was on the back of my Christmas cards. It was quite different to my usual Christmas Cake recipe with walnuts and grated apple in the mix, and looked quite interesting. As I said, it called for 3kg of dried fruit and I thought I’d venture out of my comfort zone and added some dried figs. At this point, I was still well short so I also added some dates. This cake was starting to sound quite exotic.

Anyway, depending on your viewpoint, you could say making this cake was serendipity, divine intervention or meant to be. That’s because Lady, our scoundrel of a dog, ate almost all of the Christmas Cake I’d made using my mother’s recipe. We were just lucky that my Dad has a peculiar aversion to cinnamon and I’d made a dozen smaller cakes for him. They’re all that’s left. So, he’ll now have to share. Sorry, Dad!

Anyway, getting back to the monster cake, the dried fruit and brandy have been stewing in my largest mixing bowl in the fridge for the last 2 days. It might not be a bath tub, but it’s big…and it was full. No room for any other ingredients whatsoever.

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So, I decided to mix all the other ingredients together in my large mix master bowl and then split it into three equally large bowls. I divided up the drunk fruits and started stirring. Heave-ho! Yes, those biceps were already starting to pop!

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That’s why I’ve called this process: “The Christmas Cake Workout”. This stirring was seriously hard work. In  the end, the mixing spoon couldn’t cope. There was no alternative. It was a case of using the equipment God gave me. I sunk my hands deep into the dough, using my fingers to blend the mixture through the fruit. Once mixed, I managed to get all the dough into one bowl, even if it did require 3 tins to bake.

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They now need to rest for three weeks, making them post-Christmas Cakes. Or, perhaps even a cake for next Christmas. Howzat! Imagine being a whole year ahead with my Christmas Cake…

I must’ve wandered into someone else’s life!

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!

Love,

Rowena

 

Cafe au Chocolat!

Welcome to another Weekend Coffee Share.

I hope you’ve had a great week and your sweet tooth is activated. The word for this week is chocolate. Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate! I know most self-appointed health gurus don’t class chocolate as a super food. However,that just goes to show they’re a bunch of quacks. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the ultimate super food. Indeed, super duper!

So, I hope you’re not on a diet. Even just reading this post, will pile on the kilos.

Our first stop is Max Brenner’s. Yummy! Max Brenner’s is a chocolate shop and cafe where chocolate seemingly oozes out of every nook and cranny and you could almost think you were in Wonkaland. I’m not sure whether I’d call death by chocolate a particular fantasy of mine but you could easily die a chocolate death in there, squeezing in mouthful after mouthful until ultimately exploding into a chocolate fountain.   Dare I mention Monty Python’s Mr Creasote  (who I must say I’ve mentioned half a dozen times on my blog)? That thought definitely puts an abrupt end to all my chocolate fantasies.

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Belgian Waffles at Max Brenner’s AKA Heaven.

When my cappuccino arrived, it was drizzled with luscious milk chocolate which I indulgently scooped up with the foam. Oooh it was good!!! Then, my Belgian Waffle arrived. Fortunately, it had a side-serve of lush fresh strawberries, just to create an illusion of health…too bad about the cream!

Although I’m shamelessly hedonistic at times, I must admit that I did feel a tad guilty indulging in Max Brenner’s alone. I’ve usually been there with Geoff in the past as a special treat. Instead, while he was slaving away at work,I was practically having an affair with this chocolate treat I had somehow managed to call “lunch”.

Yes, I can be absolutely shameless at times!

However, as if that wasn’t bad enough, on the way to my daughter’s doctor’s appointment, we stopped off at a French chocolate shop in West Pymble, Otello, which includes Du Plessy Praline. This inclusion is very important as its the chocolate shop I visited as I child every Easter, absolutely spellbound by the chocolate Easter rabbits. I don’t know the story behind the molds. The designs had to be French and I could have been skipping through the French countryside chasing the chocolate Easter bunnies. That is, if I wasn’t living in Sydney.

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My visit to Du Plessy’s triggered a creative frenzy. Exactly 10 years ago, Mum, the kids and I had visited Du Plessy’s just after my son had had his very first hair cut. He was 2 and our daughter was only 10 weeks old. Due to the haircut, I had my camera with me and while travelling down memory lane chatting with “Madame”, I plucked up the courage to ask her if I could photograph the kids in the shop. She agreed.

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Little Man and the chocolate.

So, while I was in the shop, I offered to email them through. While I was sending them, I saw the photos through very different eyes. I had forgotten that Madame had given our son a couple of chocolates while we were there. That doesn’t sound like anything special and yet it was. I don’t remember her giving us chocolates as children and these were special chocolates at that!!  It was also quite a risk too giving a two year old chocolate. I don’t need to describe chocolate spread all over a little face and hands. We’ve all seen it. The shop was the epitome of elegance…a look but don’t touch place and here she was risking an out-of-control chocolate terror leaving hand prints all over her shop. In retrospect, this was definitely a case of “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!” Yet, she didn’t seem to mind. All these twists and turns of memory culminated in Le Petit Chocolat.

Anyway, I left Otello with a gift of chocolate hearts. A gift in anticipation of the photos and so I made sure I dispatched them before I forgot!! Eating too much chocolate isn’t my only bad habit!!

By the way, my daughter’s trip to the ENT specialist went well. The vocal nodules have gone. Hallelujah! Excellent news! Need to follow up with the speech therapist but it’s a real relief.

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Sydney opera House viewed from Kirribilli.

Last Monday, I caught the train down to Kirribilli again to see the dentist. We are getting to know each other too well. I have been experiencing sensitivity and while this might be a great quality for a poet, it’s not an endearing quality in a tooth. Due to my complex medical issues or perhaps it’s just me, sorting the issue out is not straight-forward but my dentist, bless his soul, is persevering.

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Ironically,these train trips have been very productive. What with a 1.5 hour trip each way, that’s a lot of reading, writing and more writing.

When I’m done, I wander around Kirribilli or even catch a ferry into the city before I come home. This time I walked down to the Harbour through Bradfield Park admiring the massive pylons which look like they’re holding up the Sydney Harbour Bridge but are purely decorative.My walk coincided with lunchtime at a local boys’ school and the boys flooded out onto the narrow streets lining with Victorian terraces. That’s when I saw a soccer ball whoosh past me followed by a gang of legs. That took me quite aback. Seeing young boys playing soccer in the shadow of the Sydney Harbour Bridge , flanked by those huge granite pylons just seemed absolutely timeless, like they’ve always been there.

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A bit too popular- names carved into a Moreton Bay Fig Tree, Kirribilli.

Speaking of things which has seemingly always been there but not, I was entranced by a Morton Bay Fig Tree, which had initials and all sorts carved all over its trunk. It looked cruel, disrespectful in a way and yet they told stories and bore testimony to some of what the tree has seen and been a part of. There were so many untold stories!

As for Mister and his poetry efforts, he is going from strength to strength. You may recall that he is having to write poetry for his English assignments. After launching himself with Through My Window, he has moved on to Haiku. He had to write 5 and I didn’t actually see most of them before they went but they were looking good.One I found particularly profound: Roses Aren’t Blue

Frog

This frog looks like it’s eaten way too much chocolate or has a tooth ache.

All this Haiku writing was quite contagious and the house converted into a Haiku laboratory of sorts in between distractions (Grr! Minecraft!!!) He needed to write a series of four Haiku about the seasons. Rather than writing about what the four seasons are like overseas, Mister wanted to write about what they are like here. However, while this is fabulously patriotic, it’s a little hard to write about four seasons when you don’t have them. At least, not in the conventional sense.

Anyway, I wrote a series of Haiku about all four seasons at our beach: Haiku for Four Seasons

Last week, I participated in Charlie’s Flash Fiction challenge again. I don’t usually write a lot of fiction and was initially sceptical about the effectiveness of writing flash but am now a real convert.

Last week’s prompt was “Galloping”. I wrote  the Galloping Little Man the Galloping Little Man who breaks free from his mother’s grasp and goes running down the aisle at Church squealing “Gallop! It’s quite interesting to read this alongside “Le Petit Chocolat” to think about how adults respond to young children.

This coming week, our son celebrates his 12th Birthday. Now, there’s only one more year until he becomes a teenager. However, as he’s already started high school, I think he’s had a bit of a head start.

Anyway, I think that about sums up last week. Hope you had a great week and thanks for stopping by!

This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster Part-Time Monster. Here’s the linky.

xx Rowena

Chocolicious Chocolate!

Throw out your copy of: How to Win Friends & Influence People. If you want to be popular, the answer is chocolate. Not just any ordinary, garden-variety chocolate but the good stuff. The stuff that is so good, that it’s literally evil.

After all, as my husband explained:

“Life is too short to waste it eating mediocre chocolate.”

While definitions of such superlative chocolicious indulgences can be quite subjective, I’m yet to find someone who doesn’t fall head-over-heels in love with Australia’s Tim Tam Biscuit. All rules of social restraint and decorum go out the window where Tim Tams are concerned. Even the most disciplined health nuts have confessed to inhaling an entire packet of Tim Tams and it’s pretty much a given that  once you open the packet, they’ll all be gone in the blink of an eye. Tim Tams are so good that there was even an advertising campaign showing why a Tim Tam is better than a man.

Simply Irresistible Tim Tams

Simply Irresistible Tim Tams

The Tim Tam is so popular that a sacred ritual has evolved: “The Tim Tam Explosion” or “The Tim Tam Slam” although when I was at university, it was known as “The Tim Tam Suck”. These all describe the same scrumptious and daring ritual where you bite off opposite corners of a Tim Tam and dunk one corner in a hot cup of tea or coffee and suck it like a straw. The drink fills the biscuit and it metamorphoses into a sloppy, delicious mass, which you can hopefully get into your mouth before it disintegrates and falls in your drink. Of course, the chocolate coating melts all over your fingers so this is definitely not the done thing around “polite society”. It’s probably, not recommended on a first date, either!!

However, when it comes to chocolate, there are those special occasions when Lindt is in order and Lindt Balls have a special place in our hearts. Geoff and I took them bushwalking for our first Valentine’s Day together. Being a scorchingly hot, Sydney Summer’s Day, the Lindt Balls were liquid and have been known ever since as “Lindt Smears”. Therefore, indulging in Lindt Smears is rather hazardous during a Summer and you’re lucky if you can get the wrapper off before it disintegrates and implodes. I must admit that I do enjoy a gooey Lindt Ball but there’s a fine line. You can get a lot of heartbreaking wastage as the chocolate merges with the wrapper.

Who can argue with Snoopy?

Who can argue with Snoopy?

Another favourite chocolate indulgence, is a Hot Chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows. I first discovered these when I was backpacking through Europe back in 1992 and ordered a Heiss Schockolade mit Sahne in Koln (Cologne). Wow!! Since then, I have found what I believe to be the world’s very best Hot Chocolate located at the Perisher resort where we go skiing. Their Toblerone Hot Chocolate comes with snowman with three marshmallows on a stick which you dunk into the hot, creamy hot chocolate. There’s also a stick of Toblerone and a cigar biscuit. Just amazing.

Sumptuous Chocolate Soup

Sumptuous Chocolate Soup

Recently, I found a scrumptious chocolate cake which was almost drowning in chocolate soup. That reminded me of the wonders of chocolate sauce. You can read about it here:

https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/therapeutic-indulgence-a-rendez-vous-with-laksa-and-a-saucy-chocolate-cake/

Being a keen baker, I have also made quite a few chocolate treats and I encourage you to have a go. In our household, we had a tension between the kids who prefer milk chocolate and the adults who prefer dark and so now I tend to make half of each to keep everybody happy.

Here are some indulgent chocolate recipes for you to try:

Yummy Chocolate Cupcakes.

Yummy Chocolate Cupcakes.

Easy-Peasy Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache:

https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/easy-peasy-chocolate-party-cupcakes/

White Chocolate Rocky Road:

https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/white-chocolate-rocky-road/

Flourless Nutella Cake:

https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/too-much-chocolate-temptation/

Two-Faced Chocolate Caramel Slice (milk and dark chocolate):

https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/two-faced-chocolate-caramel-slice/

Chocolate Hazelnut Indulgence Cake:

https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2012/11/22/chocolate-hazlenut-indulgence-cake-my-own-creation/

After writing about all that yummy, scrumptious chocolate, my mouth is watering and I’m seriously considering breaking into our stash of Easter eggs. Something tells me, resistance is futile and as any true chocoholic will confess, when you eat your eggs quickly you can always poach the slow poke’s bulging stash.

However, if you are more more virtuous than I and can get through the entire Easter season without even a nibble of chocolate, perhaps you like to read about it instead and should get hold of: Chocolat by Joanne Harris…or even the movie http://www.joanne-harris.co.uk/books/chocolat/.

A great Easter read and also a fabulous movie, which will leave you craving for artisan chocolate and a trip to France.

A great Easter read and also a fabulous movie, which will leave you craving for artisan chocolate and a trip to France.

Easter always seems to bring rain on Australia’s East Coast, at least, and so it’s a great time to curl up with a book, a movie and eat chocolate:

“The greatest tragedies were written by the Greeks and Shakespeare…neither knew chocolate.”
― Sandra Boynton

If you are participating in the A-Z Challenge, what was your C and feel free to provide a link and share your topic.

Love & chocolate moustaches,

Rowena

Therapeutic Indulgence: A Rendez-vous with Laksa and a Saucy Chocolate Cake.

In my last post, I confessed to running away from home for the weekend for some seriously self-indulgent R & R after a rough week of medical tests for our daughter .

While Saturday saw me catching the ferry to Palm Beach and time traveling back into my early 20s, on Sunday I caught a lift to nearby Avalon for a seriously indulgent feast. That’s right…food glorious food! So you can go stick your green smoothies and assorted super foods where the sun don’t shine. I’ve now subscribed to the pleasure principle and I’m in hot pursuit of some seriously indulgent foodie treats!!

Yoda has relocated to Sydney's Avalon Beach.

Yoda has been relocated to Sydney’s Avalon Beach.

My first stop was lunch at Yoda. Yoda is the sort of place you’d expect to find tucked away in an alleyway in South-East Asia. Yet, it has somehow astro-traveled to beach-side Sydney via the Millennium Falcon so now I can safely enjoy those authentic Asian flavours without catching some ghastly, turbo-charged, gastro bug. I’m not always an adventurous restaurant eater and often stick with what I’ve had before and really enjoyed. I don’t get to eat out all that often and so I don’t like taking chances. The food not only has to be good, it has to be something I love. L-O-V-E LOVE!! It also has to be better or different to what I cook at home and I’m a good cook. When we go to Yoda for dinner, I tend to order the Tea smoked duck with freshly spiced orange sauce & coriander salad or the Vietnamese chicken cabbage salad with peanuts, roast garlic & house dressing. These are both fabulous, authentic dishes. However, I thought I’d try something different and chose Laksa lemak which is a coconut soup with chicken, prawn, fishcake, noodles & cucumber/coriander salad. This was such a treat and I felt like I was casting a fishing line into the richly fragrant soup. Hey presto! I caught some octopus, fish cake and then a few prawns. It was such a treat and much more productive than any of our fishing expeditions where we’ve only caught fingerlings we had to throw back.The seafood was really well cooked and tender and the Laksa soup with it’s rich, aromatic flavours, was just divine.

However, the food wasn’t all I experienced at Yoda. As I shared in my previous post covering the ferry and bus ride over, when you travel alone you met such a smorgasbord of interesting characters.

Sitting at Yoda, the gentleman next to me struck up a conversation. I’m not saying he was trying to pick me up or anything like that. It’s just what Avalon is like…so community oriented and friendly that you don’t think twice about talking with total strangers. Anyway, my new-found friend is “batching” while his wife’s away for an extended time looking after her sick mum. This has left him in a bit of a spot. Should he spend month after month staying home in front of the box by himself or get out there and keep living? It’s a hard call. He kept saying: “you only come this way once”, which is so true. Nobody wants to waste whatever precious time they have left. From what I understand this means going out to see a few bands. Eating out. We all want to carpe diem seize the day but when you’re married and your partner is out of action for whatever reason, what are you supposed to do? Stop breathing? I don’t know. As an extrovert myself, I could sympathise.  We all have to get out, although that said, there are certain activities which should be curtailed.He told me his wife had called saying she’d heard he was at Palm Beach with a blond and he replied: “At my age, what did you expect me to have? A bucket & spade?” No to be fair, mentioning a blond conjures up all sorts of connotations where as if she’d been hanging out with a woman with glasses, for example, would it be so evocative? Anyway, he had a fine wit and certainly had me in stitches and I suspect he’s been up to no more mischief than wishing he was 21 again!

After indulging at Yoda, I headed across the road to Bookacino, a landmark Indy bookshop with a cafe out the back. For a die-hard bibliophile, Bookacino reminds me of exploring your grandparents’ home with all its nooks and crannies. Exploring row after row of titles, you never know what you might find and the new worlds those pages will open. Being an insatiable sticky beak, I just love it.

Of course, despite our cascading  columns of books and claustrophobically packed bookshelves, I can’t go into Bookacino without taking new “friends” home. After all, how could I ever leave a great book homeless and alone? Oh no! It needs love, family, a place to call home! This might sound like very faulty logic. After all, how could a book living in a crowded bookshop with thousands of friends, or possibly rivals, ever be considered homeless or even  alone? However, the heart tells a very different story. I hear its cries!!

This time, I walked out with The Art of Belonging by Australian social commentator, Hugh Mackay and a colouring-in book: The Impressionists. for our daughter.

Chocolate Cake heaven!!

Chocolate Cake heaven!!

Next stop was Cafe Ibiza. To be perfectly honest, I must confess that I wasn’t going there for health food. Rather, I was looking for the most indulgent, decadent chocolatey chocolate thingy that I could find.  Something so evil it would smash the evil calorie counter. What I found, even exceeded all of my superlatively luscious, chocolate fantasies. A simple chocolate cake warmed and smothered in chocolate sauce and as I ate the cake, the chocolate sauce became a sumptuous soup. I dove deep into its incredible depths and didn’t even rise to draw breath. Oooh! Death by chocolate never tasted so good!

Sumptuous Chocolate Soup

Sumptuous Chocolate Soup

After such indulgence, I’m of a view that “when you’re on a good thing, stick to it” and I’d much rather stick to an endless supply of chocolate sauce than a can of Mortein insect spray.

So now I’m on the search for the ultimate chocolate sauce recipe to hold me over until my return. It’s a matter of life and death!!

“The greatest tragedies were written by the Greeks and Shakespeare…neither knew chocolate.”
― Sandra Boynton

After such therapeutic indulgence over the weekend, I’ve decided that I need to throw caution to the wind closer to home and break out more often. After all, we only live once!

xx Rowena

Why Stay Calm, When You Can Really Panic???!!!

Keep Calm and Carry On might work well if you’re a rock or the proverbial brick. However, if your passions are somewhat more easily aroused and your blood starts to boil and explode despite going to your happy place or bathing in the Pool of Siloam, welcome to the club. Feeling rather aroused, agitated and more of an Incredible Hulk than a Bruce Banner, I have tried going to my happy place of calm. Indeed, I’ve tried locking myself inside and throwing away the key. However, I keep returning to turbulent seas, which are much better depicted by  Munch’s The Scream. Indeed, if only I could scream, I’d feel better.

The reason I’m feeling all wound up and tense is that our daughter will be having tests next week to investigate some issues with reflux and being underweight. She will be having a barium meal and endoscopy to check things out. These tests aren’t difficult, traumatic or life-threatening and neither are the potential issues we’re investigating. Miss is largely well and energetic but she barely eats and is about half the size of many of her average-sized peers. If this is who she’s meant to be, that’s great. I would love to be almost that lean and she can be the real fashionista. However, there are a few ripples that concern me…as well as my gut intuition.

Dr Suess

All the same, I’m still wound up and agitated about it all and feel like something sinister is running after me and I just want to whack it on the head and destroy it completely…a bit like Basil the Rat in the final episode of Fawlty Towers.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mv0onXhyLlE

I'd love to put an ad in paper and get rid of my health issues.

I’d love to put an ad in paper and get rid of my health issues.

Where is a good cannon when you need it?

Of course, it didn’t help when the doctor’s secretary called out of the blue offering me an appointment “tomorrow” and then the doctor telling me he can do the endoscopy next week. I know I said it was urgent before Christmas but after being in the deep freeze for so long and not thinking about it, suddenly it’s all systems go and I’m struggling to defrost. Despite my best efforts to self-calm, I am well and truly freaking out!!

You would probably imagine that after all my medical issues and treatments, that our daughter’s tests would be a walk in the park. I’ve had brain surgery twice, chemo, an arterial blood test. I have lung function tests where they even block off my breathing for a second or two. Hey, I’ve even given birth to two children, albeit via the zip. I also had blood transfusions every 3 weeks for 5 years where they probed around through dry river beds and often had a few jabs before they found a decent vein…ouch! I also had my teeth cleaned at the dentist lately, which was probably more painful than any of this. My teeth, like the rest of me, are over-sensitive.

Oh yes! When it comes to medical trials, I’ve definitely earned my stripes. I am very, very resilient!!

However, there’s a huge difference between being the patient and being the patient’s Mum.

No parent likes seeing their child experience any kind of discomfort or pain but for me, there’s also this sense of responsibility. An awful, sinking feeling that I’m leading my precious, baby lamb to the slaughterhouse, especially as we’re not even 100% sure that there’s a problem. Of course, that would be the ideal outcome. We don’t want them to find anything. However, that also raises the question of whether the tests were needed in the first place and whether I’m putting her through all of this for nothing.

If only I could add this to the barium meal, Miss might drink it.

If only I could add this to the barium meal, Miss might drink it.

I mean getting a child to swallow the barium meal when she’s been known to refuse to chocolate cake is going to be no mean feat. Indeed, Dad will be coming with us for moral support. It reminds me of an old ad for Quik we had as a child: “Drink it Freddy! Drink it!” www.youtube.com/watch?v=-P-OFW3ZDB4

Am I just being an overstressed, over-anxious Mum? Am I so used to being overweight that seeing ribs on someone else seems odd and verging on starvation just because I’m so well padded?

Moreover, while we’re on the subject of overly anxious parents, Munchausen by proxy syndrome (MBPS) comes to mind. MBPS, which is also known as “medical child abuse,” involves the exaggeration or fabrication of illnesses or symptoms by a primary caretaker. It was named after Baron von Munchausen, an 18th-century German dignitary known for making up stories about his travels and experiences in order to get attention. “By proxy” indicates that a parent or other adult is fabricating or exaggerating symptoms in a child, not in himself or herself.

However, when it comes to attracting medical attention, I don’t need anymore.

I don't think hospital was on Dr Suess's list.

I don’t think hospital was on Dr Suess’s list.

Moroever, I’m with Dr Suess. When he wrote: “Oh the places we can go!”, he wasn’t talking about hospitals or doctors’ waiting rooms!

All these things aside, our daughter’s refusal to eat does put quite a lot of added strain on family meals. Under duress, she’ll eat a Weetbix for breakfast. For years, her sandwiches have come home from school untouched, day after day, year after year. She eats an amount of food the equivalent to two match boxes for dinner and often complains about feeling full or sick. Even as a baby, she refused to eat and her weight has hovered around the bottom 5-10% most of her life. The fact that she has remained on the same trajectory and is relatively healthy and active are very encouraging but there’s still this nagging doubt.

I just need to make sure. Know I have covered the bases but not put her through exhaustive, unnecessary testing. Despite my uncertainty, I do think that when you have concerns as a parent and that uneasy feeling in your gut, you need to put some trust in your own judgement and intuition. Investigate. Ask questions. My daughter’s doctor also thought there was enough evidence to take the next step and refer us on. After all, these symptoms are concrete, measurable and aren’t the product of my over-active imagination…the stuff of a medical, fantasy novel published by Hypochondriacs Anonymous. To be honest with you, I’d much rather be a hypochondriac than really be sick.

To some extent my approach, has been informed by my own experience. When I was around 25, I was diagnosed with Dandy Walker Syndrome (DWS), a variation of hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain and had brain surgery to insert a shunt to treat it. Our best guess explanation for DWS was my difficult birth. There were times where I’d had various tests and we came close to working things out but we always missed the next definitive step, which would have given us the answers.

I have often wondered how different my life would have been had the Dandy Walker been diagnosed as a child. Growing up, I always felt “different” and I think I always knew there was something and I really did try to work out what was going on. I turned to psychology to try to unravel these inner mysteries when in fact, the problem was organic, structural and all in the plumbing. I was teased and bullied and all but destroyed at times and it would have been helpful to have understood what was going on. Since I had the surgery, my coordination also improved and I could have been spared a lot of heartache.

On he other hand, I was very independent and  I traveled quite a lot with that harbour in my head. I traveled quite a lot within Australia, usually travelling on my own but meeting up with others on the road. All this travel culminated in a trip to Europe in 1992, after my parents gave me a 12 month open ticket for my 21st birthday. I stayed in Europe for 9 months, mostly living and working with a family in Heidelberg in Germany. To be quite frank, I doubt my parents would have funded that if they’d known about my head.

No! No! No! That would never have happened. I would have been way too precious. Wrapped in more layers of bubble wrap than a fragile porcelain doll, I would have been protected, sheltered and to be honest…as stunted as a bonsai. Not that all parents of children with disabilities closet their kids and when they do, perhaps not without due cause but having a shunt in your brain is a fairly major thing for a kid and they are renowned for blocking and being temperamental…particularly in years gone by. We’re not talking about having a broken toe. Brain stuff is at least potentially major.

I know my life would have been very different.

Perhaps, it is this awareness that even serious medical conditions can bubble along seemingly under the surface for many many years while only causing intermittent trouble, that has caused me to be vigilant with my kids’ health. That’s not to say that intuition is always right and that your worst fears will turn into reality but it is a reminder. Serious health complications can have relatively subtle symptoms (at least at the start) and prevention and early diagnosis can be life-saving.

That said, as I head towards our daughter’s medical tests, I am hoping that it’s all nothing or just something simple and easy to accommodate. I’d much rather be an anxious mother than having a sick child. Wouldn’t you?!!

By the way, thank you so much for listening and I would welcome your thoughts.

xx Rowena

PS I’d like to share Ronovan’s post on boosting your positivity. I need to revisit this myself: https://ronovanwrites.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/positivity-negativity-be-gone/