Tag Archives: therapy

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.

Keep Breathing…Friday Fictioneers.

“All my life,” Melissa sighed to her therapist. “I’ve been peering through the keyhole too afraid to live.”

Phillippa was trying hard not to yawn. Dumping clients was hard. Never mentioned the “F” word.  It was all about “finding a better fit”.  Being a “therapy drop out” wasn’t good for their self-esteem.

“Anyway…”

Suddenly, Melissa became strangely animated, even possessed. “I finally attended a writer’s group this week and read one of my poems. Thought I was gunna die. Then, I heard you counting and this other voice saying: “Breathe, Melissa. Breathe. You can do it.”

“It was actually me.”

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week’s image was provided by © Shaktiki Sharma.

This week, I’ve spent a bit of time researching my grandmother who was a concert pianist and I’ve been thinking about that experience I had as a child of almost looking through the keyhole into her adult world. There was definitely a “them” and “us” policy and children should be not seen AND not heard. That suited us and we’d round up change for lollies from the adults and disappear with our stash.

Yet, there were those times I distinctly remember peering into this adult world and watching through that metaphorical keyhole. Nothing quite like being a spy!

By the way, I’d also encourage comments about when therapy doesn’t work and what that was like. Personally, I’m a lousy one for taking action but I’m currently working through that with my physio. Or, should I say, I’m “walking” it out.

Hope you’ve had a great week!

xx Rowena

 

 

Happiness Through the Wars.

For the last 12 months, I have been in the compassion business and yet, so often I feel like slapping people straight in the face because they refuse to be happy. Instead, they’ve buried themselves in a deep hole and I’m starting to wonder whether they actually prefer it there. You see, all the means of escape are within easy reach, but they completely ignore them.

There are many reasons for this. Perhaps, they don’t feel they can change their circumstances. They have been given a diagnosis, or label, that supposedly renders them helpless. Or, they are just a bit overwhelmed, shocked and befuddled and might need a bit of assistance. After all, when you are going through a hard time, it’s easy to forget that you might only be passing through and this isn’t actually your destination.

If you are currently submerged in a crisis, you probably think it’s easy for me to say and that I just don’t get your situation. That I don’t know how bad it is. However, can you be so sure? What do you know about me? What’s my story?

red shoes

Me in my fancy red dream shoes. I’m usually barefoot, especially in Summer.

I’m not in your shoes. That’s a good thing, too. There are times when we need  that external tough nut who doesn’t give us what we want but what we need. That tough cop you don’t want to meet when you’ve decided everything’s hopeless and you’ve settled for a living death.

You see, as much as you might think you want someone to come along with a blanket, tucking you in and bringing you meals for however long it takes for you to die in a physical sense, that’s not what you need. Instead, you need that really annoying, irrepressible coach who tells you to: “Move it! Move it! Move it!”

You need action and probably even the proverbial boot up the you know where!

So, my question for you is this: “Do you want to stay where you are or do you want things to change…even if it is only those little annoyances you haven’t followed up?”

What we sometimes forget when we’re intensely focused on what’s gone wrong, is that it can always get worse.Somehow, we manage to shoot ourselves in both feet in addition to whatever adversity has come our way. Sadly, this happens way too often and while it’s tempting to play the blame game, we also have to look to ourselves.

What are we doing to actually improve our lot? To give ourselves the best chance?

You see, we are actually so much stronger than we think and have the means within ourselves to improve our lot. Moreover, as we feel more and more empowered, we in effect shrink whatever beast is bringing us down. Through these victories, however small, we also find a sense of happiness which can help us overcome further setbacks. This is what’s called resilience.

Of course, if you’d told me all of this when I was having a “dooner day”, I would’ve promptly slapped you in the face and retreated even further into my bed. I have to admit my Mum was pretty keen to get me moving again after those many colossal teenage break ups and I really thought she didn’t get it. Didn’t understand me. However, at the same time, when you’re older and you see the long-range, bigger picture, how can you let your beautiful daughter go up in smoke over a stupid boy? How could I do it to myself? That old phrase: “there are always plenty more fish in the sea” might seem heartless but it’s true. You just don’t appreciate that when you’re in it.

“When we are helping someone, it is so important to enable them, NOT render them disabled.”

Rowena

When we are helping someone, it is so important that we enable them, and do not disable them. While we can gallop in on our white horse and save the day on their behalf and be the hero, wouldn’t it be better to teach them how to ride so they can experience the thrill of not only overcoming their particular adversity, but also gain the strength and pride of learning a new skill? Having a new experience which gives them a sense of victory and achievement rather than reinforcing: “You can’t do this. Let me do it for you.”

Well, this is all very well unless you’ve taken a direct hit. Sometimes you need intensive, ongoing assistance or you might know that someone who does. No amount of wishful thinking, prayer, medical intervention is going to change what’s happened.

Or, is it?

Rowena Quad bike

Here I am riding the quad bike. Of all the activities, this one took me most out of my comfort zone.

What I would like to suggest is that you try to find a way around the hurdles and see what is possible. A few years ago, I went away on an Adventure Camp with the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Beforehand, I wasn’t very confident about my physical capabilities and was very wary of trying new things. Of course, given my diagnosis, I had every reason to pull back. However, I knew that the staff knew and understood my limitations. This provided a sort of safety net, which allowed me to take on all sorts of unexpected challenges which took me way beyond my comfort zone. Ironically, probably the most challenging activity was going down a waterslide on the boat without my glasses on. I am so short-sighted that I’m literally blind without them and yet I went flying into the water and pulled myself back onboard. Did I feel weak, powerless and useless after that? NO! Of course, not! Rather, I felt triumphant…even after smacking the water nose first and getting water up my nose. That success propelled me onto further physical successes including riding quad bikes and ultimately skiing down a mountain (an Australian mountain so it wasn’t Everest but it was Everest to me).

These were huge monumental changes for me as I’d never been a physical person and was much more comfortable living inside my head and being the writer.

So, being in the compassion business but also being a survivor, the most compassionate thing I can say to you is… NEVER GIVE UP! I’m not talking about reaching dreams like becoming a millionaire or even one that’s very important to me…getting a book published. What I am talking about is never giving up on YOUR SELF and your ability to pull yourself out of the rabbit hole. This is not to deny the power of prayer and God’s strength but God didn’t make us powerless. He didn’t want us to be victims. He said pick up your mat. NOT… I’ll carry it for you and keep carrying it for you. We are so much stronger than we ever thought possible but we need to use and exercise that strength. Not let it go to waste.

While tough love might seemingly fly in the face of compassion, building strength instead of weakness is an incredible gift of love and what ultimate leads to a more enduring form of happiness.

P.S. The Back Story.

Sometimes I wish I had badges or scars which acknowledge the challenges I have overcome and survived. They would give me the credibility to share my story without people thinking: “What would you know? She’s happily married with two kids. She even has two dogs for heavens sake…and a roof over her head.” You probably wouldn’t even notice any physical proof of my struggles at all.

Yet, if you touched the side of my head, well camouflaged underneath my hair of course, you’d find a bump. That’s the shunt which manages a neurological condition, hydrocephalus. When I was around 25, I had brain surgery and it took a good 12 months just to get back to square one again…let alone fly. The doctor had marked my file with “full recovery” at the time and after six months, those words almost seemed cruel. What was he talking about? I still wasn’t back at work and that’s what a full recovery meant to me at the time. AND…it meant now!! This instant. I was stuck in a dreadful state of suspended animation, which is hard enough for anyone to deal with let alone when you’re young. I picked up photography in a very serious way during this time and looking through the lens, you see what you see and somehow become absorbed into it and out of yourself and your problems. I have no doubt that it helped my recovery. It also bridged that gap with the rest of the world who was working. It turned out that when I went to parties, people were much more interested in hearing about photography than work! I was interesting. Moreover, my stories about the flip-top head were also fairly entertaining.

Throwing humour at your bad luck, also turns things around. Prior to my surgery, I was living in a veritable twilight zone straight out of Oliver Sacks: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat. Even the horizon moved up and down when I walked, so it’s no surprised that I walked like John Wayne with a broad gait just to keep my balance! This wasn’t the kind of poise you wanted as a young woman or teenager! However, once I was on the mend, these stories were quite funny.

However, as much as we like to believe lightening doesn’t strike the same place twice, it can and it does. Just because it only got your head last time, doesn’t mean that it can’t try and claim the rest of you as well.

Following the birth of my daughter, my immune system went haywire, as it usually does. However, instead of returning to normal, my body started attacking itself when I developed an exceptionally rare auto-immune disease, dermatomyositis. It took 18 months to finally diagnose this beast. By then, most of my muscles had wasted away and I couldn’t dress myself, roll over in bed or put my daughter back in her cot. Ironically, she was still being breastfed and due to the nature of the muscle breakdown, I was still able to look after the kids and get them dressed. Because this thing had snuck up on me and we had no idea what it was, I had no appreciation of just how incredibly hard every single move had become. My feet felt like concrete trying to lift them upstairs and my body felt like a bag of rocks trying to lift myself out of the car yet I just kept going. That’s what you do. It wasn’t like I had a choice. I had two kids to look after so I was also fighting with all that I had, to keep them As soon as I was diagnosed, I was put in a wheelchair. Full stop.

Actually, it could well have been a full stop but it wasn’t. I had treatment and while there is no cure, I am better.

chemo sonata bw

This disease has been a determined blighter and I’ve had several close calls. I live with about 60% lung capacity and had chemo two years ago. I am still here. Not just the shell of who I was, but ME. I am very much alive. Life isn’t perfect. I am content but I am also reflective. I am conscious of my journey and how different things would have been but I’m equally conscious of the depth and wisdom I have gained, which I believe can only be gained through adversity. I also know that I am not the only one. That pretty much everyone has their lot, their burden to carry. So, now the question for me is less about the nature of the load and much more about how I’m going to get to the other side.

Rowena skiing downhill Fri

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

How about you? Can you be happy in the midst of adversity?

xx Rowena

This month, 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion continues to work toward a better world with a focus on Compassion and Happiness. And, our monthly link-up date aligns perfectly with International Day of Happiness. How perfect!

Write your relevant post and add it to the link-up right here by clicking the blue button below.

 

 

Here’s how to get involved:

Join 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion on Facebook

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Use the #1000Speak hashtag across social media.

 

ZZZZZ…The End of the A-Z Challenge.

Never Wake A Sleeping Dog!

Ha! I have bad news for you, Bilbo! Dogs are open for therapy 24/7. You’re on call day and night…and thank goodness for that!!

Yesterday, marked the end of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge and as the song puts it, the party’s over..at least until next year! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8BGHt18JTI

Taking a leaf out of the dogs’ book, I was planning to fall into a very deep sleep now that the challenge is over. I was really looking forward to cruising along easy street. Indeed, I wasn’t even planning to get out of bed!!

However, my  hibernation was rudely interupted before it even began, to be perfectly honest. That all transpired after reading Geoff Le Pard’s Z post: Z Is the End? http://geofflepard.com/2015/04/30/z-is-the-end/

Now, I, or I should say “we” have a lot of work to do!!

Damn! However, I had a funny feeling that this overactive brain of mine wasn’t going to switch off, anyway!

Thanks to all who have been following me throughout the challenge, commenting and even sharing my posts. I have also grown expendentially by reading some fantastic blogs during the challenge, which have incredibly enhanced my awareness of the world beyond my own front door.

Being unable to travel much at the moment, I’ve truly appreciated these vicarious journeys and I can’t wait to follow in your footsteps!

Meanwhile, I’m going to make a greater effort to explore the world around me, which, after all, people travel from the other side of the world to see.

I’ll be back with a summary of my A-Z posts and I’m also going to do a word count. See how far these clicketty clacketty fingers have travelled in the last 30 days.

How many words did you clock up? I think we’re all about to be seriously impressed! However, if only building up words could somehow fire up the pedometer and get the body fit as well as the mind, we’d all be competing at the Olympics!

Anyway, although the challenge has been well and truly challenging, I have loved every minute and will be missing it just a tad…

xx Rowena

N is for Neuroplasticity: Changing Your Life.

Welcome to N for neuroplasticity on the Blogging A-Z April Challenge. My theme for the challenge is: A Few of My Favourite Things and while neuroplasticity might seem left-field, I really want you to follow me on this journey because the power of neuroplasticity has radically changed my life and understanding how it works, can help you as well. You can read an overview of my journey in my About page here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/about/.

While I can appreciate that neurplasticity might sound intimidating and be a trigger to flick to another blog, it is not as complex or mentally challenging as you might think. Nor is it some wafty, unproven fad. It’s a proven, scientific process, which has been championed by Canadian psychiatrist, Dr Norman Doidge through his two books: The Brain which Changes Itself and The Brain’s way of Healing.

In other words, it’s not a fairy story.

Neuroplasticity is really quite a simple concept when you explain it properly and when you harness its strength, you like me, will experience absolutely miraculous change. Unfortunately, you will still experience those “stubborn mules” which prove stubbornly resistant. However, at least, you know you’ve done your best to try and move them!

From what I’ve learned about neuroplasticity, we shouldn’t just be teaching kids the 3Rs but also how we learn. Some basics on how the brain works such as “use it or lose it” and how “practice perfects”. That our success or failure is based less on innate talent than hard work and that it takes a lot of hours…at least 10,000 to be precise, to even have a chance of making it to the top of our field. That success just doesn’t arrive on a silver platter.

Of course, some people have been blessed with bigger, faster engines but if they leave them in the shed, they’ll soon be overtaken by apparent snail power and left behind.

If you and your kids can get a grasp on how this works, you’ll never look back. You’ll still have ups and downs but you will be more empowered and skilled-up to tackle them more effectively. There’s little doubt you’ll be working harder but I guarantee you that whatever you apply yourself to, will see results. It’s as simple as:

1+1 = 2

It’s not rocket science.

Perhaps, the simplicity of it all is what stops people from having a go. We’d much rather put our faith in a much more complicated, mystical route than sticking to potentially tedious, repetitious practice and hard work…going over and over and over our mistakes until we have overcome them and “got it”.

Diagram showing brain activation while playing the violin.

Diagram showing brain activation while playing the violin.

As a musician, I’ve experienced this first hand. Instead of playing my favourite sections of a piece over and over again, my teacher gets me reworking the rough bits and playing them over and over again. She doesn’t say: “Play it again, Sam”. Being somewhat of a slavedriver, albeit a very nice one, she says: “I want you to play that section 10-20 times a day to get it right”. This sort of detailed practice is quite foreign to me as I just want to get up there and play, especially to an audience but you can’t do that straight away. It might be a year’s worth of practice on that one piece of music to bring it to the level of perfection where it can be performed. That’s a lot of hard work behind the scenes. However, once I have reached that long-awaited moment of victory, it’s like nothing else. A real eureka moment and I’m running down the street naked like Archemedes carrying my violin. Well, not quite but you get my drift!

What is Neuroplasticity?

Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity “refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behaviour, environment, neural processes, thinking, emotions, as well as changes resulting from bodily injury.[1] Neuroplasticity has replaced the formerly-held position that the brain is a physiologically static organ, and explores how – and in which ways – the brain changes throughout life.[1]

In The Brain Which Changes Itself, Norman Doidge M.D. a psychiatrist and researcher set out to investigate neuroplasticity. He writes “that the brain can change itself. It is a plastic, living organ that can actually change its own structure and function, even into old age. Arguably the most important breakthrough in neuroscience since scientists first sketched out the brain’s basic anatomy, this revolutionary discovery, called neuroplasticity, promises to overthrow the centuries-old notion that the brain is fixed and unchanging. The brain is not, as was thought, like a machine, or “hardwired” like a computer. Neuroplasticity not only gives hope to those with mental limitations, or what was thought to be incurable brain damage, but expands our understanding of the healthy brain and the resilience of human nature”. http://www.normandoidge.com/?page_id=1259

This brain plasticity isn’t just something for the laboratory or people experiencing chronic medical conditions or disability. It affects us all and is a more “scientific” explanation for what we have always known: “Use it or lose it!!” Indeed, our brain is constantly remoulding and fine-tuning itself.

To get an idea of how brain plasticity works, picture an old fashioned telephone exchange with all those cables plugged in. Our brain is built of these cables. So for example if we keep getting angry, those anger pathways will keep getting bigger and bigger just like exercising a muscle. Moreover, the bigger these pathways become, the angrier we will become unless we take action.

Conversely, each and every time we appease our anger and breathe deep, count to three whatever it takes, those neuropathways shrink and actually disappear. These are actual, physical changes in the structure of our brains. The brain map is different.

I have experienced these changes myself after undergoing brain surgery to treat hydrocephalus. I have experienced many changes but probably the most surprising is that I can actually play the violin and I now play in an ensemble. That takes some pretty complex brain and physical developments, which I never thought possible. I only took the violin up to help my daughter.

Neuroplasticity and Acceptance.

At the start of 2012 after a serious health scare, I set a personal challenge. I applied neuroplasticity to the serenity prayer:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.”

-Reinhold Niebuhr

You see, since forever, people have been telling me to accept things and quoted that prayer. Yet,  the trouble was that I simply didn’t know what I could change and what I had to accept and that’s what I decided to put to the test. I didn’t really set out with any clear cut goals but I was needing to lose some weight, which is a tough call when you’re taking prednisone AKA the “fat drug”.

It was during this time that I heard about brain plasticity and also the 10,000 hour rule and so what I was starting to appreciate was that I wasn’t set in stone. That all these words I used to describe myself, both the good and the bad, weren’t indeed words tattoed on my forehead which couldn’t be changed. They were more like stepping stones or train stops on a journey. I didn’t have to stay there. I could apply a bit of elbow grease and I could move on. Indeed, I was now in the driver’s seat and with the accelerator pushed to the floor, I was flying.

That was until I drove straight into pneumonia followed by a flare up of my auto-immune disease, which really was attacking my lungs this time and threatening my very existence.

Yes, neuroplasticity couldn’t fix everything.

However, my lungs have also responded to the same kind of repetitive practice and hard work which I’d applied to practicing my violin, except in this case I focused on building up my healthy lung cells instead of focusing on the damage and limitations. My lung volumes have since increased from a recorded low of 43% to 62% and are currently stable. In a sense it was a miracle and also the result of medical intervention but it also takes ongoing hard work.

Speaking of which, it’s time for me to start walking before that all important tide comes in and puts me out of business.

Living in a tidal zone really reinforces the need to carpe diem seize the day because “the tide waits for no (hu)man.”

Xx Rowena

PS When school goes back next week, I’ll be having to reacquaint myself with my violin. It has been rather neglected of late and I don’t want to lose the progress I’ve made!!

Sources

http://www.normandoidge.com/

[1] · Pascual-Leone A., Amedi A., Fregni F., Merabet L. B. (2005). “The plastic human brain cortex”. Annual Review of Neuroscience 28: 377–401. doi:10.1146/annurev.neuro.27.070203.144216.

Dogs of the World Unite!

Back by popular demand, it’s Bilbo and Lady, AKA “The Dogs”.

Every dog has its day and letter “D” on the Blogging A-Z Challenge is ours. Welcome to our universe. Of course, once we heard about the A-Z Blogging Challenge, we weren’t about to be overlooked, neglected or omitted…especially when we’ve been banished outside at the grandparents’ place at Palm Beach over the Easter break.

Hardly a postcard perspective: a wet Easter in Sydney as Autumn sets in.

Hardly a postcard perspective: a wet Easter in Sydney as Autumn sets in.

Just to fill you in, it’s raining. Indeed, it’s been bucketing down and there are also fierce winds which would make the French Mistral look restrained. Although we’re out of the rain on our bed with a blanket, this is no compensation for being inside with the family, even though we’ve been told to make the most of the view. It might be worth millions but so is being with the ones you love instead of being shut out.

You might recall that Bilbo wrote extensively about the Golden Rule and how important it is to treat others as you would like to be treated. So I ask you, how would you like to left outside in the rain instead of being snuggled up with your family by the heater? It’s not much fun, is it?

Moreover, we’re sure you can appreciate that for inside dogs like us, there’s no greater insult  than being shut outside. Far from just being locked out of the house, we’re shut away from our family, love, warmth, pats and above all else, a sense of belonging and being an integral part of the pack. This all means death to a dog.

Lady being quite the "dog hog" taking up both the huge woolen blanket and dog bed, leaving Bilbo shivering on the door mat before I intervened. I'm sure many blokes who've lost the doona mid-winter would say: "typical woman". I do think Lady also tries to live up to her name and sometimes even Bilbo is treated like the "Tramp".

Lady being quite the “dog hog” taking up both the huge woolen blanket and dog bed, leaving Bilbo shivering on the door mat before Mum intervened. I’m sure many blokes who’ve lost the doona mid-winter would say: “typical woman”. I do think Lady also tries to live up to her name and sometimes even Bilbo is treated like the “Tramp”.

What have we done wrong? What is our crime? Being a dog? Just because we were born dogs instead of human, does that mean that we are somehow inferior? Or, were all living things created equal?

Grandparents certainly don’t seem to think so! Not only to they put the kids on some kind of ridiculous pedestal which bears no reflection on their actual behaviour but they also elevate other despicable creatures to lofty, undeserved heights.

I don’t know whether you’ve had much to do with grandparents but they’re funny creatures. They talk about healthy eating but then fill the kids full of lollies and sent them home twitching full of sugar and all sorts of toxic chemicals. They cry poor and then spend buckets on the kids. Grandma has been bringing Bilbo ham scraps all his life and might tolerate a bit of interaction but there’s a real “us and them” approach and why they dote so much on those naughty grandchildren when we’re so well behaved, I’ll never know. In a way, it’s easy just to write them off and say they’re just not dog people. However, once we found out that they batted for the other side, we decided to fight back and stand up for Liberté, égalité, fraternité.

Text displayed on a placard announcing the sale of biens nationaux (1793).

Text displayed on a placard announcing the sale of biens nationaux (1793).

You see, it’s not just that they’re not dog people. They’re actually cat people. We are part of the family yet we’re banished outside peering longingly through the glass, while they all sit around the table and chat. Moreover, as soon as that wretched cat from the across the road even alights on the driveway,they bend over backwards contorting themselves to lure in that wretched fleabag.

That freeloading cat on its way to Grandma's house. Where's the big bad wolf when you need him?!!

That freeloading cat on its way to Grandma’s house. Where’s the big bad wolf when you need him?!!

Cat being cat, it’s so aloof and standoffish and completely lacking in canine warmth and affection. “Puss! Puss! Puss!” They all coax and then there’s  inevitably the ultimate of betrayals when the kids even join in: “Mama! Mama! The cat’s here!! I need some food for the cat” There’s absolutely no support for us. No calls of: “Mama! Papa! Please let the dogs stay inside!!” Grandparents always cave in to the grandchildren. Everyone knows that the little people cast some kind of spell over their grandparents and they can do not wrong. In the process., they somehow wrap their grandparents around their little fingers and manipulate them like puppets and they can’t say no. We know that if those kids pestered long and hard enough, we’d not only be allowed inside but we’d even be sleeping on the lounge!

However, we’ve had no such luck. The kids just keep playing with the cat.

Should read: "No Humans" and definitely "No Cats"!!

Should read: “No Humans” and definitely “No Cats”!!

Sadly, this kind of inequality isn’t just confined to the grandparents. We live in an unjust world. We might not be able to read but we’re not stupid. Dogs aren’t allowed on most beaches. We’re not allowed to catch the bus or the train either. As much as the humans might say it’s a dog’s life, we’re the ones stuck on the leash.

What makes humans think they’re so good? Haven’t they been hell bent on destroying our beautiful planet? They’re certainly NOT the custodians they were always intended to be. We dogs might leave a few smelly piles around for silly humans who can’t even breathe without texting to step in. Otherwise, we walk very lightly on the planet. Unless the humans dress us up like Christmas trees, we’re content to wear the coat God gave and we don’t need superfluous clothes, shoes or all sorts of bling. We’re quite happy with a simple abode although I must admit we’re rather partial to a drive in the car. I guess our carbon footprint isn’t quite so neutral after all.

Yet, we still come out way ahead of the humans!!

All these observations suggest to us that is instead of neutering dogs and keeping us on the leash, that perhaps the rest of the animal kingdom should unite and reverse the order of things. Put the humans on a leash before they blow up the planet and leave the rest of us homeless or even obliterated.

Lady chatting with Max online.

Lady conferring with Max online.

Of course, we can be benevolent to some humans just like they’re partial to some dogs but the hour has come. We have decided to harness the power of the world wide web and we’ve been conferring with comrades all around the world. So much for romance, Lady and Max the Dog were plotting revolution and nothing less. Yes, those gorgeous puppy dog eyes can be very deceiving!!

We get by with a bit of help from our friends and here are some of our canine comrades:

Max the Dog: https://withinthekstreets.wordpress.com/

Monika and Sam the therapy dog: Tails Around the Ranch: https://tailsaroundtheranch.wordpress.com/

Rachel Mankowitz: https://rachelmankowitz.wordpress.com/

Geoff Lepard touring Dulwich Street Art with his dog: http://geofflepard.com/2014/09/15/dulwich-street-art-part-one/

Clowie’s Corner: http://clowiescorner.en.1.3142.xyz/category/clowies-tales/

Doc at Mother’s Little Steps: http://motherslittlesteps.com/

Diplomatic Dog: https://diplomaticdog.wordpress.com/

Liberté, égalité, fraternité.

Dogs of the world Unite!

xx Bilbo and Lady

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