Monday, November 28, 2011

I Have Been Changed For Good

'Who can say if I've been changed for the better
I do believe I have been changed for the better
And because I knew you
Because I knew you
I have been changed for good'
("For Good" - Wicked the Musical)

Some people come into our lives for a moment, passing flitting in and out and leaving barely a brush mark on our soul.
Some people come into our lives forever, shaping the long distance course of our years, our decades, our ever afters.
There are others, who lie between a moment and forever. They come into our lives for a season or two. They signal the end of winter, the growth of spring, the lazy glowing days of summer, the golden remembrance of things passed in the autumn.
They pass out of our lives, leaving memories, acting as turning points; forks in the road.
They have much to teach us if we only listen. If we are open.
If we share our experience and grow together.
These people of the seasons often sow the seeds of change for us to nurture when they leave and harvest down the road in our lives.
There is sadness when these people leave us. They do not pass as silently as the seasons.
Our lives will have gaps in their shape.
Our hearts will be cracked, often broken, needing time to heal.
When we are feeling lost, after our paths have peeled away from those who loved us for a season, we must first take a moment.
Take a moment to let your heart cry, let it shatter into a million bright and brilliant pieces.
Take a moment at the crossroads.
However, do not stay here for too long. Look at all the beautiful things that this person has left you with.
Remember the happiness, the love, the wonder that you shared.
Those things do not die when someone leaves our side. They live inside us as the fertile ground on which to begin a new life.
We are stronger because of what we shared. Our lives are richer because of the beauty they brought us.

I know that my life will seem a little hollow for a while now that you are gone. I know that I need to rebuild a future for myself.
But I must thank you first. Thank you for the love. Thank you for all the smiles.
I do believe I have been changed for the better.
Because I knew you.
I have been changed for good.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Making your own luck: my best recipe ever

Firstly, I must apologise for the somewhat dour mood of my last post, and then, secondly I must thank everyone for their support whenever I reveal that I am having a hard time with something.
Although we do not celebrate Thanksgiving here in Australia, I am truly thankful for all the friends that this little blog has brought me.

Yesterday, while walking to my car from work I stooped to pick a coin off the ground; being a firm believer in the old adage 'See a penny pick it up, all day long you'll have good luck'. 

This was of course, before I realised that the coin was set into the concrete.
It stirred my mind though, and got me thinking about how it is so important that we make our own luck in this world. Although certain events in my life have me believing firmly that the hands of destiny and fate like to take  charge of the mixing bowl and spoon occasionally, I am even more certain that I am the mistress of my own recipe, heavy on the luck.
Luck is not a pre-made preparation that you can purchase off the shelf. There is one way to procure this precious substance: make it yourself.
You need:
  •  a good amount of self belief, 
  • a lot of love from others and for others,
  • an adventurous spirit,
  •  some readiness to take on the world and what it has to offer, 
  • a little bit of a bruised positive attitude (this makes the luck a little more dense and not so fluffy and gives excellent flavour)
  • Gratitude when the luck rises and comes out perfectly
  • Gratitude that you got to take the ride anyway, even when the luck isn't so perfect
I would like to end here by saying that even though your luck might not always come out like it looks in the recipe book, there is a chocolate lining to every crummy pastry sheet. Do not give up on yourself. Do not give up on life. 
The only real luck is that which you carry in your spirit. 
And that can never be broken.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Today I am not okay, and that is okay

Some years ago I found myself in a dark place. I was lost, I had wandered off the path and had no idea which way to turn to find my way back.
I had no map, my compass was shattered and worst of all, I did not call for help.
My voice was muted, a pitchy broken croak.
I did not want to ask for help. In my mind it was not okay to be not okay.
So I stood in the woods alone with the clouds of my own making, my own mind, gathering overhead.
I waited, I wallowed, I laid down in the dark and cried frozen tears.
I let someone else rescue me, let others decipher that I was not okay.
I was passive in my recovery for a long time.
My own steps towards the sun came later, when I grew stronger.
I learned to avoid the darkness, to light my own torch when midnight threatened.
Eventually I knew the truth, that the light came from inside me. I was my own torch.
I was the candle. I was the bushel. Some days I was both.
I controlled how brightly I shone on the world.
Most importantly I discovered how to be authentic to myself. 
What to do on days when I was not okay.
That it was okay to ask for help.
That it is okay to be not okay.
So today, when I am blind sided by something in my life, when rain is threatening and my torch flickers in the wind I don't abandon myself like I did in the woods that day.
I look for the stars through the clouds. I hold that torch in the lee of the wind and protect it with all my heart.
I call for help.
Because today I am not okay, and that is okay.
Tomorrow will be better.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Maple and Walnut Layer Cake - and Puppy Love

In my humble opinion there is nothing better in this world than some puppy love.

Especially when that puppy love means my Molly is able to jump up on the couch (even though she isn't technically "allowed" up there) all by herself, despite her three-leggedness.
Oh I know, she just hates it!

Something that might come close to the beauty of Molly kisses is this Maple and Walnut layer cake, adapted from 'The Hummingbird Bakery: Cake Days' by Tarek Malouf and the Hummingbird Bakers.
Life in all its glorious, messy, hurtful, exciting cycle sometimes requires that one make layer cake to just celebrate the luck that we have in being here. Today was one of those days, and thus this cake was brought forth into the world.

Maple and Walnut Layer Cake(s)
Adapted from 'The Hummingbird Bakery: Cake Days' by Tarek Malouf
Makes one three layer cake

120 grams butter
400 grams raw caster sugar (you can use white if this is what is available)
360 grams plain flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
350mL milk
3 tablespoons maple syrup
3 eggs
100g walnuts, chopped


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and wipe the inside of three 8 inch cake tins with butter and line the bottoms with baking paper.
  2. In the large bowl of a stand mixer place the butter, flour, sugar, salt and baking powder and mix on low speed until the combined mixture resembles fine crumbs.
  3. Place milk, maple syrup and eggs in a small bowl and combine. Then with mixer on low speed add the wet ingredients to the dry and beat until well combined.
  4. Add walnuts and stir in by hand.
  5. Divide between the tins and place in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cakes are golden brown and spring back when lightly pressed on top.
  6. Let them cool in the tins on a wire rack for about 10 minutes and then take cakes from tins to cool completely.
  7. When cakes are room temperature sandwich together with the amazing frosting recipe below!

Maple Frosting

200 grams butter
750 grams icing sugar
50mL milk
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
Finely chopped walnuts to decorate


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine icing sugar and butter until they resemble fine sand.
  2. In a separate jug lightly mix maple syrup and milk. Add this liquid to the icing sugar preparation and then beat frosting until light and fluffy.
  3. Lick the beaters, seriously, before you even think about putting any on the cake.
  4. Frost cake and then store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  5. Lick the frosting bowl. Yes, you may enter sugar coma but it is worth it.

My workmates will adore a two layer cake so I made these little mini cakes for Mum and Dad to enjoy for dessert!

Friday, November 18, 2011

I've Been Keeping a Secret

I can be secretive sometimes.
Greedy sometimes.
I like to hoard secrets occasionally and wait for exactly the right time to revel in their lip-smackingly delicious delivery.
Note: I also do this sometimes with the last piece of chocolate cake.
So, here it is. The secret that I have been keeping for the past two weeks (unfortunately there isn't any buttercream involved).
After a two year break, and swearing that I would probably never go back to school after 18 years of formal education; I, Amy, being of (questionably) sound mind and (for the most part) sound body, am going back to university! (again...)
Next year in February I will once again return to the hallowed halls of my alma mater (in reality a sprawling modern campus with an 'urban village' centre) and crack open the books (or laptop as it were) in an attempt to utilise my grey matter.
I will be completing a post graduate course in professional communication, focusing mainly on writing and editing.

I want to take the body of knowledge I have from my background in health, my innate sense curiosity for the world, and my enjoyment of learning and use that to tell the world about things. To bring knowledge, and information, and entertainment to people by writing.
I want to give voice to the parts of my soul that sing of how extraordinary this world is. I want to investigate the corners of my mind that create characters who follow me around begging for their stories to be written.
I want to use the written word to enchant, amaze, comfort, empower, soothe, and inspire others.
I want to be a writer.

Now you know my secret...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hold You in My Heart

Sometimes in life there is a rogue Joker in the cards we are dealt.
You never see it coming until the dealer flips over the edge and the picture comes into view.
It happens to everyone, in one way or another.
When you are lost in this void, chilled to the bone, do not fear, do not feel alone.
Here down in the deep, the deep that we all know too well there is hope, there is light.
There is life.
Take a hold of the hands that come to help you up when you have fallen here.
Relax into the arms and hearts of those that rush to embrace you.
Open your eyes to the light cast by the lamps of those that lead the way.
When you emerge from the dark, and you are blinking in the sunlight of a new day; please remember all of those who walked every difficult step with you during those starless nights.
Hold them in your heart, as they held you safe in theirs.
Keep your hands free to offer whenever they might fall.
Embrace them when they need strong shoulders.
Shine a light to guide them home.
I am so thankful for the hearts that hold me. I know that I never walk alone.
I hold you all in my heart.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cupcakes for Friday

I spent some quality time in the kitchen tonight with Jess making sweet treats for a friend's little boy's birthday party.
Since we had some batter left over from mini cupcakes (pictures tomorrow) I baked and iced the extras to celebrate the end of another great week.

Lovely gathering dust

This derelict building is one I pass everyday I pick up my sister from university. Although now it is only a lonely facade and falling apart at the seams I love to imagine what I would do if I was able to buy the property and breathe new life into it. In my fantasy it becomes a bookstore cafe with an apartment for me to live in above the store. That way I could run around the city everyday and refuel on sugary goodness while wallowing in some literature. Well at least I can dream.
Lesson: Remember to see the potential in even the most broken places, have a little faith.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pumpkin Spelt Flour Muffins

So you might have noticed that I do a little bit of baking...okay, okay, a lot of baking. I have to tell you that actually don't eat most of what I post on here as my stomach doesn't make friends with wheat very well.
Luckily nowadays there are so many options and I have founds spelt flour works incredibly well in most recipes that use wheat flour (please note: spelt is not gluten free, just wheat free).
After seeing so many delicious pumpkin recipes circling around the internet lately I knew that I had to have some of that gorgeous gourd in my baked goods.
Therefore I took a recent recipe that had peaked my interest and baked it with spelt, and made a few other little chickpea twists as well.
Please enjoy.

Spelt Flour Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Adapted from Skinny Taste.
Makes 13 medium size muffins and 1 little muffin for a friendly canine.

1 1/2 cups butternut pumpkin puree
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 golden caster sugar
1 1/2 cups wholemeal spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and grease 13 cups of a medium size muffin tin
  2. In a large mixing bowl place the pumpkin purée, olive oil, egg whites and vanilla, and mix until well combined.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together the rest of the ingredients.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix gently, try not to over mix. 
  5. Spoon into greased muffin tin and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds. Place in the oven and bake for approximately 12 - 15 minutes or until the tops bounce back when lightly pressed.
  6. Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

These muffins are delicious when they are warm out of the oven spread with a little bit of jam, or plain. 
I need jam in my life though.
I also froze these tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and they defrost very well in the microwave.

I had a little extra batter left over - just the right size for a Molly treat (sans pumpkin seeds of course).
Oh yes, life is tough round here for a dog.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

In Unexpected Places

Beauty is everywhere.

A carpet of gold in the car park of my office building.

Remember to look around, you never know what beauty is lying right at your feet.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Unseen Ripples

In the course of our lives we meet more people than we can keep track of.
In just a day we come into contact, however brief, with countless lives other than our own.
There is an exchange in every one of these encounters; be it a smile, a nod of the head, two words at the supermarket check out.
Our lives briefly touch someone else's, then we move on with our day. Perhaps never to meet again.
Sometimes these brief exchanges can mean more to someone than we know.
Sometimes they can save a life.
I am so fortunate in my job that I come into contact with very inspiring, wonderful people. I am so fortunate that I get to be a player in their lives for a brief amount of time.
It is very easy to measure the clinical outcomes of these relationships.
It is harder to measure the true wellness outcomes of our partnerships.
I was told today by someone that had it not been for our time together that they were not sure where they would be in their lives, their marriage, their friendships.
I was told that I had made a positive difference, that the universe had thrown us together at the right time. Two souls who just clicked. Two positives that equalled a positive change.
I cannot claim the reward of being responsible for the hard work she has put in to making changes in her life.
All I can say is.
Pay it forward. Be kind to strangers. Smile at everyone you meet. Offer a hand.
You never know what the cost of the smallest gesture will mean in the currency of someone else's life.
There are ripples we don't see when we toss a rock into a pond.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Multitasking? Take a Moment.

We are a society of multitaskers; proud when we can cleave a second into its millis and cram each one full of tasks to accomplish simultaneously.
We read and answer emails while we run or walk or cycle or cross train.
Take phone calls while we drive, at the same time planning dinner and questioning what to wear to brunch on the weekend.
Eat our breakfast while making family member's lunches, feeding the cat and packing school bags.
We overlay our lives with coatings of to do lists and check boxes.
Make a day only seem worthwhile if every moment is filled with accomplishments, stresses, and further goals.

I too am guilty of this.
Only recently I found myself sticking my earphones in while I took the ten minute walk from my car park to my office. I strode up the hills and wound my way through the back streets until I reached my office with no recollection of how I had gotten there.
Had the agapanthus finally blossomed along the pretty picket fence one street over?
Was the grey cat sunbathing in the driveway again, peering at me with his tawny eyes?
Were the mock-orange trees still perfuming the air with their tiny star shaped white flowers?
I had no idea.
I had been listening to some music, writing a note and focusing on whether I should really expose my feet to the sighted world now that they were emerging from a winter spent in hiding and might possibly blind innocent bystanders.
When I went to walk back to my car that afternoon I left my iPod in my bag. I listened to the birds chatter in the warm afternoon sun. I stopped to take a photo of some pretty blooms that made me smile. I scuttled away from the bougainvillea bush when I heard rustling underneath and saw a scaled tail disappearing into the under brush.
I arrived back at my car feeling refreshed, quiet inside, ready and happy to go home and do a little more work and enjoy dinner with my family, see my boyfriend on Skype.
I realised that sometimes you just need to turn off the noise. Just let the world exist for a moment without trying to interact with it, without trying to change it, organise it, get ahead in it, reply to it.
Just take a moment to let your mind breathe.
Multitask some meditation, some quiet time into your day.
Couple it with some breathing, a few smiles, and some random happy thoughts.
Just take a moment to be in the world, be in yourself.
Just take a moment.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Nothing Goes To Waste

I believe in life, as in the kitchen, that nothing should go to waste.
Time, opportunity, inspiration, talent, hope, love; these are all gifts of the universe that should never be easily discarded.
There are an infinite number of minutes that my human heart will beat in this life; we all pass through time much faster than we would like.
Opportunities are often only presented to us once, take adventure in your hands when it comes flowing into your life; just give into the ride sometimes.
Inspiration, that thread of our muse's laughter that we catch the barest whisper of at times. Follow it's song, you never know what parts of your soul you may uncover.
Don't hide your light under a bushel, or a life not lived. When you feed your talent, when you let it shine and make use of it in your life; you are not only filling your life with light, you are shining it on others.
Hope. Four letters whose power can never be underestimated. The binding agent for all of human kind. The protector of our hearts and souls in the darkest of times.
There is no greater crime in this life than to waste an opportunity to love. Show your love for those who are closest to your heart. Let others love you in return.
Fall shamelessly every day.
Never waste these gifts, for you never know when there will be none left to open.

When it comes to food, I don't believe in waste either. So when I remembered the fresh blueberries I had purchased on the weekend were still sitting in the fridge I knew that I needed to get baking.
Fresh blueberries (especially when they are on sale) are a real gift in Brisbane. They have a short lifespan here in this hot climate and so whenever I see them in the supermarket I treat myself to a punnet.
Unfortunately I forgot about them, and so now they have new life in these muffins that will be enjoyed by my co-workers for morning tea tomorrow.
Friendship, and an opportunity to foster it, is another gift that should not be left to waste.

Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from '100 Favourite Muffins and Slices' by Simon and Alison Holst

1 - 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup plain wholemeal flour
3/4 cup self raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup apple purée
3/4 cup golden caster sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large egg
1/4 cup plain yoghurt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla essence


  1. Heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius and line 18 holes of two regular muffin pans with paper.
  2. Mix together flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
  3. In a separate bowl mix together apple purée, sugar, oil, egg, yoghurt and vanilla.
  4. Add flour to wet ingredient mix and stir until just combined (there should be some streaks of flour still visible).
  5. Add blueberries and gently (very gently) fold through mixture so that you avoid breaking up the berries.
  6. Spoon mixture between the cases and gently slide pans into the oven.
  7. Bake for about 12 - 15 minutes, then remove from oven and allow to cool in tins for 5 minutes before removing to cool completely on wire racks.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Simple Spicy Cookie for Tuesday

I was born into a stable home, a place I have lived for my entire life up to this point. But I have always felt the pull of faraway lands, exotic experiences, daring adventures; the beat of a misplaced gypsy heart.
However, sometimes I crave the simplicity of the everyday. The comfort of home style and handmade.
On a wet spring night, all I really want is a good book, a warm jumper, a cup of tea and cookie on the saucer beside it.
These cookies call to mind far off lands with their date and spice studded dough, but the texture, the very warmth that emanates from the act of eating a cookie are comfortingly familiar.
Please enjoy.

Date, Walnut and Cinnamon Cookies

Inspired by 'Indulgence Cookies' from Murdoch Books.
Makes 24 Cookies
125g unsalted butter, softened
140g brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
100g plain flour
110g plain wholemeal flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line two baking sheets with baking paper.
  2. Cover dates with boiling water and leave for about 10 minutes, then drain well and chop.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together flours, baking powder and cardamom.
  4. Cream together butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy using electric mixer (or really working those arm muscles).
  5. Add egg yolk and beat until just combined.
  6. Pour in dates and walnuts and stir with wooden spoon to combine.
  1. Add flour mixture and stir until a soft dough forms.
  1. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to make dough easier to shape.
  2. Roll tablespoons of mixture into balls and place on trays about 4cm apart and flatten slightly.
  3. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges begin to turn golden brown.
  4. Allow to cool on tray for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

These pair perfectly with a good cup of Irish breakfast tea.