Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New Beginnings

Some things come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.
Last year I had one season, summer, but like all seasons it had to come to an end.
Standing in the winter that seems to have lasted too long I have decided that I must make my own new beginning.

One Chic Chickpea has meant so much to me over the past year and a bit that I have been blogging here, and the friends that I have made in this digital world are dear to my heart, but like all things this too must come to an end. 
Or is that just a new beginning?
Friends, you can find me now at my new home Thoroughly Nourished Life
I hope you will join me in my new beginning.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Brand New Yellow Brick Road

A few years ago I stood at another cross road in my life.
I was very fortunate to have the guidance of a mentor who took the time to call me out on what I was doing to myself and to help me start to put one foot in front of the other and move forward again.
For a long time the only way I could set such strong feelings and powerful moments straight in my mind was to write songs.
Tonight, I share it with you.

Brand New Yellow Brick Road 
by Amy Brooke Chatwin (1st November, 2009)

Well I returned from Wonderland a year ago
With a room full of pictures and head full of dreams
Lost something and found a whole lot more
Guess the old truth wasn't what it seemed
We all fought to try and find that before time again
But it was finally over and no one saw the end
I pushed it all aside, hid the new girl deep inside
Became a blank just to survive

Somehow you saw the lost soul in my eyes
I thought I'd finally covered her up
But you saw through that disguise
I told you too many times that I was fine
You took the time to call me out on my lies
Now I'm broken but I'm building
You led me back to the beginning
Made me start again
Find out for myself just who I'm meant to be

And I'm a little scared
Will someone be there to hold my hand
Never done much alone before
What happens if I take that step
And find a world beyond all I've ever known
What if somehow I have stumbled onto
A brand new yellow brick road
If I start this journey I may never come back
What if my old dreams don't fit me when I've grown

Somehow you saw the lost soul in my eyes
I thought I'd finally covered her up
But you saw through that disguise
I told you too many times that I was fine
You took the time to call me out on my lies
Now I'm broken but I'm building
You led me back to the beginning
Made me start again
Find out for myself just who I'm meant to be

So here I am back at the beginning
Ruby slippers on the road
Starting again
With three clicks here I go.....

Somehow you saw the lost soul in my eyes
I thought I'd finally covered her up
But you saw through that disguise
I told you too many times that I was fine
You took the time to call me out on my lies
Now I'm broken but I'm building
You led me back to the beginning
Made me start again
Find out for myself just who I'm meant to be

Monday, March 26, 2012

A quarter is more than you think....

One quarter. Doesn't seem like much when you hold it in your hand in the shape of a coin.
When you look at a cake, it seems like a bit more.
What happens when you look at a century?
25 years.
On Saturday I officially celebrated 25 years in this world.

I have lived a beautiful life so far. I am lucky that even with all my adventures, and a few mistakes under my belt, I do not regret a single moment of it.
It is with the distance of years, a rose-coloured glass barrier of time, that I can look at what I have been through with a smile on my face and comfort in my heart.
There are always clouds, even in the bluest of skies and those rainy days will catch you by surprise, out in the open without an umbrella sometimes. 
Last year I had the longest summer of my life. Bright mornings, clear days, golden afternoons and brilliant star filled nights.
Sadly, all summers must come to an end, but the seeds sown within my soul on those long warm days were nurtured by the rains that followed and the fruits are mine to gather and share with all who come to my table.

The beauty of celebrating the passage of time that has passed between this March 24th and the last is the patterns it reveals and the truths it spells out so plainly.
Once these patterns and truths are in front of me there is no way to ignore them; in fact, it would be unhealthy not to learn from what life is teaching me.
I prefer to focus on the patterns that make me happy and how I can continue these threads throughout the quilt of my life.
What makes me happy?
Early morning so that I can be the first to see the sunrise and hear the last of the night time quiet before the world wakes.
My family and friends. Time with them is more precious than anything you can buy.
Things that grow. Flowers, fruit, being close to the earth.
Feeling my heart beat, and race and rise and recover.
Sharing whole, delicious food with people I love.
Losing myself in pages, dancing between the lines, and remembering that there is nothing beyond the power of imagination.
When you find a pattern that works - keep it on repeat, these are the threads that help me weave a thoroughly nourished life.

What are my truths? What have I learned so far on this wonderful journey?
Just love. Love is the most important thing.
Love your life, and show it the commitment that it deserves. Treasure each and every day. Even the dark ones, they make you appreciate the light so much more.
Love every heart that comes your way - whether family, friend, or neighbour - we really are in this together.
Love the earth, take care of the little patch that you get to call your own. We might not all get to call the shots on global warming, or the bigger issues, but take care of your space. Plant a garden. Love an animal. Do what you can, with what you have.
The biggest truth of all: love yourself.
Look at those scars, inside and out, and remember that they are the poetry of your life.
The ferocity you feel inside - all that you are at your very core, that is your power - your gift of life to share with the world.
Don't try to change it, it might bend to your will for a time, but it will never submit.
So stand in your truth and love it every day.
Until you can love exactly who you are, right now, you will never be able to give yourself fully to all the other brilliant loves that are waiting right outside your door.

When I look back, when my last quarter is spent, I want to be able to smile and close my eyes and say.
Yes, I loved this life.
Happy birthday Amy. Here's to the next quarter.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

First Race of the Year!

My, my, what are these? 

They belong to these two, smiling, sweaty (yes we know we are gross) faces.

The little chickpea and I took part in the Twilight Running Festival this evening!
A 4pm start for our 10km race was a nice change from early morning starts. Jess and I really enjoyed the beautiful weather and we were very lucky that the threatening black clouds held off all afternoon.
Finishing time was an unexpected joy at 1:02:52! We were both a little nervous, being morning runners, but the twilight seemed to agree with us!
Tonight we are putting our feet up, eating sushi, and watching lots of trashy TV.
Yep, post race pampering.
Who else has a race coming up soon?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Little Ditty

Just something small for a rainy Saturday night.
Humour this student with pages still to go....

What I wish I looked like when I study...(source)

A Bookly Ditty by Amy

Stormy night
Candle light
Where am I?
Came the cry
At last look...
Lost in book

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Quotes That Keep Me Going

When the days lay foggily in my mind and the hours pass too slowly to even count, when the thought of rousing from my waking slumber and stumbling until I find sunlight leaves me drowsy again: I turn to words.
Sometimes the act of just scribbling down my own thoughts is enough to remind me of how wonderful the world is with all its possibilities and chances for a new start.
Some days the wisdom of great minds is needed and these are some of the quotes that remind me of the spark that lies within us all, and the greater hope that is the flight of every soul.

“If more of us valued food and cheer above hoarded gold, it would be a much merrier world.” 
 J. R. R. Tolkien (source) 

"Better to light the candle than curse the darkness"
Chinese Proverb  (sometimes also attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt)

"She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails."
Elizabeth Edwards

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
Mark Twain

And, possibly my favourite for it speaks tomes in few words.

"Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself."
George Bernard Shaw

Dear reader, which words of wisdom speak the most to you?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Oh I Miss You All

My dearest readers,
I am sorry for my absence at the moment. This week just passed I had several evening engagements as well as work and university; with the candle burnt at both ends I flickered out for a little while.
Absence certainly has made my heart grow fonder. I promise prolific prose promptly delivered this week.
In the meantime please accept my apologies; I will be back very soon with recipes, commentary, and photos.
All my chickpea heart,

Thursday, March 8, 2012

International Women's Day

Today, dear readers, is International Women's Day.
Celebrated throughout the world on March 8th, it is:
 'an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, and more importantly, for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women' (source) 

I would like to take this chance today to celebrate some of the amazing women who I am fortunate enough to have in my life as daily inspiration and examples of the amazing will and wonder of women.

First in line is my Mum. My first and strongest example of what it means, and what it takes, to be a woman today. This lovely lady is a tour de force of familial responsibility, friendship, personal and professional advice, and warm fuzziness. Of course, as with most mother-daughter relationships we have had our differences, but I can honestly say that this beautiful woman who carried me, and cared for me is a filament of gold woven through the fabric of my life. Mama Chickpea taught me that you should always see both sides, choose a positive outlook on your day with every sunrise, always look to turn a stranger into a friend, and that a cup of tea will solve most problems. Love you Mama.

The next two amazing women who stand as pillars in my mind are my sisters. One of blood, one of coincidence, my darling Jess (little Chickpea) and the beautiful Casey. These ladies are a complex synergy of hard work, dedication, young wisdom, and (it must be said) downright silly dancing and singing combinations. There is no problem that I cannot present to them and receive advice or comfort, or a taste tester. When I am down, they are the ones with the ladder and the light to help me out of despair and illuminate the way forward.

Both of my grandmothers also stand as legendary female characters and influences in my life.
My paternal grandmother (sadly passed) raised five children, built a house and home, married her teenage sweetheart and helped out those in her community. Nanny Dawn, you left an incredible legend behind to live up to.
My maternal grandmother, Mormor (Danish for mother's mother), survived German-occupied Denmark during World War two, left Denmark and all her family to move to Australia with two young girls (Mama and my aunty) and build a life in a new country where she didn't even speak the language. Mormor has always encouraged me to march to the beat of my own drum, and I owe much of my gypsy spirit to this lady.

My closest high school friends whose friendship has followed me into adulthood: Caroline, Josie and Laura. You ladies let me slip back into that easy lunch time feeling and the conversations that we had all those years ago beneath the shade of our favourite Jacaranda tree. The passing years have taken all of us on different adventures but our bond is as strong as those school girl days.

Samantha, my co-chief bridesmaid and one of the most beautiful souls who blesses my life with her presence in it. You are just at the start of an amazing journey little sister, take every day as your own.

 I would also like to take this opportunity on International Women's Day to point out that not only is it amazing women who support the achievements and advancement of females in our society. There are so many men who play a role in actively promoting female interests and encouraging the women in their lives. I must thank my Dad who always wanted only daughters (be careful what you wish for) and then along with Mama set about showing us that there are no limits to what a girl can do. My Dad taught me to cook, hammer a nail, how to watch motor sports, the best way to eat ice cream and jelly, and has supported his daughters in their every endeavour.

Dear readers, happy International Women's Day. Take today to celebrate the accomplishments of the amazing women in your life. Look back on how far we have all come and the path of those that have marched before us.
Be proud to be a woman. To be in an age where there is nothing to stop any of us from achieving our dreams and ambitions. Look at all the women who are powerful figures in our own lives and those who are making decisions and blazing new trails around the world, then set yourself the challenge of being your own woman of distinction.
You don't have to be the first woman on an all male basketball team, there are so many ways that we can set an example of what it means to be a woman today.
Take ownership of your physical self. Love your body, whatever shape it comes in, show it care and attention and take health as your goal rather than deprivation and loathing.
Love your mind, learn from every day and every person you meet. Read, write, create, experiment, share stories and memories. Find mentors and companions who challenge you and support you to grow.
Nourish your spirit. Look for meaning in every day moments. Count your blessings every day.
Love wildly and without reserve.
Make the most of your every precious heart beat.
Be empowered in your life by the lives of those around you.
We are women, watch us soar.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Privilege of Understanding Ourselves

'It [this book] reminds us that we read because literature offers the privilege of understanding ourselves through the lives of others. It reminds us that with this privilege comes the unanticipated power to change our own lives.'

- Rabalais, K 2012, 'Desperation unfolds like a luminous dream', Review: The Australian, 3-4 March, p.18-19.

This week I have been doing a lot of reading.Now, that really shouldn't be a surprise with a degree title 'Writing, Editing, and Publishing', should it?
I have long loved the written word; as a child I would read anything I could get my hands on, as a teenager I would stay up to all hours of the morning to finish a new novel that had been delivered to my hands that very morning, and as an adult I spend hours everyday reading (nowadays a lot of blogs make up my reading list!), now I am in the process of making reading my job!
A few years ago, when I was going through a period where I lost my own sense of character, my individual needs and the essential joie de vivre, I lost my love of reading. Somehow my lifelong love of losing myself between the pages, dancing between the lines, and travelling the world from my arm chair, had disappeared. 
As I started making positive changes and walking slowly back into the light my appetite was reawakened. 
A hunger like none I had ever experienced took me over, satiety could only be achieved through a steady diet of text. The last two years have been filled with literature from all walks of life: romantic fiction, histories, science journals and books, cookbooks, explorers tales, pop psychology, and poetry.  

The wonderful chance that I have been given, to be in a place in my life where I am able to go back to university, has allowed me to begin appreciating the craft of the written word from a wholly new perspective. To begin exploring the very basics, such as the intricacies assigned to constructing a 'proper' sentence and the macro level issues like breaking into the publishing industry.
I think I have fallen into the right (or should that be write?) rabbit hole Alice.
I would never give back the five years that I spent at university for my undergraduate degrees; I gained the knowledge and power to help others, and myself, and one of the greatest friendships of my life.
But this time I am studying something that I have a true passion for and I feel the excitement every time I walk into a lecture or tutorial.

When I read the newspaper this weekend and saw this quote in a book review it echoed with me.
Why do I read?
I read to learn, I read to escape, to come back to myself and all that is important, I read to be reminded of times in my past and to be inspired for the future, I read to step into another's shoes for a while, I read to be whisked away to foreign lands, or to dream of places that don't exist.
There is privilege in peaking into the life of others, to learn from their travails, be entertained by their tales, and to be reminded of the ordinary beauty in our world.
The minutiae of daily life can take away our ability to probe more deeply into our experience, to allow time to reflect on what we have been through, and to imagine all the possibilities of the world.
There in lies the privilege of reading.
The gift of an author stimulating those deeper feelings about our experience, helping us question what we have seen and done and the acts of others. The chance to reflect on what the world has to offer, or how everyone's experience of life can be so different and yet contain so many similarities to our own, no matter where in time or place they have lived.
The privilege is the seed that a good book can sew in our minds that grows into inspiration to dream of all that is to come....

Tell me, dear reader, why do you read?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Back to School!

Hello my lovely reader,
I must apologise for my absence these last few weeks, I have been busily preparing for (and freaking out about) going back to university again!
On Tuesday I left work in the afternoon and made the trek across town to my university campus for my first lecture. I must admit that this first lecture scared me a little, okay, a lot. Coming from a science background I feel that I face a huge learning curve with this graduate degree in writing, editing and publishing. I am afraid of this curve, that it could possibly throw me off like a motorcycle racer who leans to close to the corner and gets torn from the bike. It is important to acknowledge this fear, to give it a name and look it in the eye. Once I know what the fear is exactly, what it's spidery arms are reaching towards and how far it has spread, I can begin the work of counteracting the fear on my terms.
So I am afraid of a curve in my learning. It is a good curve but the fear inside me is that I am not up to the task. To counter this I need to remind myself that I have already been to university (albeit in a different context) but I know that I am capable of the work expected at these institutions (Amy: 1; Fear: 0).
I am also excited by this learning and that battles fear in a big way because that excitement feeds motivation, which in turn nourishes hard work (Amy: 2; Fear: 0).
But the final point in my trio of battling points against fear is that I have love and support from the people around me, and fear is all by itself!
Final Score. Amy: 3. Fear: 0.

When I headed off to my second lecture yesterday I was understandably apprehensive, but I walked out of the room inspired.
Part of the beautiful campus at UQ.
As part of our assessment we have to write a response to each week's lecture. These responses can include poetry, so of course I made up a little nonsense poem about the inspiration and hope I always feel when I walk out of the first week of lectures, the dreams that are inspired by the possibilities of where this course could lead me. I hope you enjoy.

“First Lecture Dreams” by Amy Chatwin

Last night in those starry dreamless hours
I surrendered myself to those highest powers
The dreams called forth by a first lecture’s hope
This is what I remembered through the haze as I awoke

I dreamt of typewriters and coffee stained pages
Submissions from hipsters and new fashioned sages
Whisked away to a world where offbeat is god
But corduroy and activism is not my scene so the dream moved on

Now I’m in a high rise, Prada suited and coiffed
Shiny windows, harbour views, a Blackberry always going off
Rushing in heels, call to my assistant to “Get Ms. Wintour on the phone!!”
This slickness doesn’t suit, oh Morpheus please find my publishing home!

Then I’m landing in soft pages and a pot of tea brewed
Crumbs, galleys from a new Nigella (post-its galore!) across my desk are strewn
Laughter from the kitchen – celebration of a new ‘cook-blook’ to come
Morpheus you found it – the perfect ingredients – hard work, food and fun

A place where ‘yummy’ is a defining criteria
Proofs with recipes crowding their interiors
Yoho and a bottle of essence of rum
A job baked from this batter seems just the right (write) one!

Before I can taste this ambrosia delight
The dawn starts calling an end to the night
My alarm calls to alert a new day and end this sweet sleep
Lecture notes, assignments yet to do, remind me
It’s only first week!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Banana Chocolate Muffins for Bobby C.

It is strange how much can change in the turn of a year. I am one of those sappy sentimental types who loves to look back over the course of time and see the progression of my life, and the lives of those around me, at any given opportunity.
You should have seen me on New Year's Eve. I was a moist-eyed, messy haired maelstrom of emotion.
Anyway, the strangest things can transport me into reflecting over the year, and today it just happened to be the price of bananas.
Please, stay with me, I promise there is a point, a recipe, and some photos, very soon!
This time last year Brisbane was in the early stages of cleaning up after our horrendous floods. Every day there were new reports of the extent of the devastation and the millions of dollars of work that needed to be done to put people's lives back together. I won't deny that there are so many people still suffering the after effects, but there is still help available and still work goes on.

Shortly after the floods northern Queensland was severely affected by cyclone Yasi. Again, communities were leveled, whole lifetimes swept away along with houses and possessions and all the banana crops.
Here in Brisbane, in the areas not affected by the flood, such as where I live, one of the major symptoms of the natural disasters plaguing our state was the price of bananas. Such a silly thing, but here it is a type of barometer for our society. In Brisbane, that means that when bananas hit $15 a kilogram, something is wrong.
Sometimes in life it is those common daily objects and foods that we rely on to indicate normality and maintain consistency when all else goes awry. Over the past couple of months when there have been some major shifts in my life the rhythm of the everyday, the dulling, soothing regularity of household tasks has been a blessing. You just surrender to the familiarity, and you know that those everyday things, those simple parts of life, mean that when you look at the bigger picture, when you are able to, everything really will be all right.
Now, a year after the floods, and what a year it has been, I saw bananas at the market today for 29 cents a kilogram. 2012 might be a restful year after all. The banana always knows.

These muffins were made for my Dada, Bobby C.

Banana Chocolate Muffins for Bobby C.

I used a scale to measure all large quantities of ingredients, wet into one bowl and dry into another. It made for easier cleaning up! To convert grams to ounces simply use this handy little calculator.
Makes 20 medium sized muffins.

225 grams plain flour
115 grams brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder

170 grams milk
3 small bananas, or two medium
Juice of one lemon
2 large eggs
50 grams rice bran oil (or other mild flavoured oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

2/3 cup chopped dark chocolate


  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Line two muffin tins with 20 paper liners, or spray with cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl mash bananas with the lemon juice, you want them to be mostly liquid but a few banana chunks are okay and will caramelise slightly when baked.
  3. Into the banana bowl weigh the other wet ingredients; milk, eggs, oil, and vanilla bean paste.
  4. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.
  5. Add dry ingredients to the banana mixture and stir until mostly combined, then gently fold in the nuggets of dark chocolate.
  6. Spoon mixture into prepared pans and bake for approximately 15-18 minutes, swapping trays between top and bottom halfway through the cooking time. 
  7. Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Returned, and, Observations about Observation

Here I am, returned safe and sound from my southerly sojourn. Lighter of pocket, and heavier of suitcase with blistered feet and a relaxed mind I wound my way back into town on Monday afternoon.
I did a great lot of walking, and thinking and drinking and talking whilst I was in Melbourne. I present to you some thoughts recorded while sipping chamomile tea one afternoon, and some photos from my week away.

It is no great secret that one of my favourite pass times is people watching. Whether I am travelling, or just a home town tourist, even on my commute to and from work, I love to observe my fellow humans.
How can we, all essentially the same, be such an endless source of entertainment and wonder?
Perhaps that is what people-watchers like myself are trying to figure out.
I find amusement in the details of people, the intimate and telling parts of ourselves that we put on display to the world everyday; the chic minimalist woman who wears her grandmother's earrings because they remind her of a beloved now passed, the tough businessman with his 'I Heart My Labradoodle' keyring, the rebellious neon haired teenager who still wears her confirmation crucifix. These are the almost imperceptible details of people that provide me with hours of entertainment and endless leads and lifetimes in my mind.

When that which can be seen starts to bore, I turn to that which cannot be viewed.
What are the secrets of those around me? Who are they? Where have they travelled from to be in the same place as me today?

The three women across from me at the cafe today are a perfect example. An eclectic group for sure; one woman in a council worker's safety fluorescent shirt, another who would be right at home as a humanities lecturer at the local university, and another who appears to work in hospitality if anything can be guessed from her monochromatic black garb and serviceable and steady sneakers.

Three very different occupations, three women who do not appear related, and yet here they are sharing coffee, laughter and conversation. Where did their lives become entangled? What spark inside each individual lit a fire of companionship in the other so that they came to be sitting around a small, round, concrete table on a sunny afternoon in Melbourne.

Then, how did it transpire that the wires of each of their lives led them here at the exact moment I sat down to my own cup of tea and pistachio macaron?

These are their stories to keep and mine to keep wondering about.
Isn't it amazing though, that all those stories intersected for an hour one February day.

They leave, together, and I stay, alone, and wait for the next unknown story to pass before my eyes.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bon voyage!

My dear readers,
I am off adventuring tomorrow, just a week long jaunt to gorgeous Melbourne to catch up with some friends, drink amazing coffee (and perhaps some champagne...) and do some damage to my savings account. 
I feel my feet drawing me to all corners of the city to gather tales and walk through the dappled late summer light. 
I may have time to regale you with my adventures during my sojourn, but this wanderer might forget...

Your peripatetic friend,

Thursday, February 9, 2012

So Many Celebrations!

It seems we can barely go a week in the chickpea household without some celebration or another, not a bad way to live at all!
Today marks a very important occasion in our family calendar - my parent's 32nd wedding anniversary!
February 9th, 1980
There is beauty in love that has lasted so long, and many years of happiness to look back on; from their love grew our family and the wonderful times we have all had together.
My parents have taught me so many beneficial things throughout my life, and watching their marriage over the past (nearly) 25 years of my life has allowed me valuable insight into how love blooms and grows throughout our life span.
Things are not always perfect, in fact who would want them to be? There will be areas of pressure build up, and things will go wrong, but if you remember that the greatest bond between you is love, then you can survive these things. Seams of pressure build coal into diamonds, and diamonds are forever.
You are in it together, and as long as you have each other nothing else matters.
Remember to value the small things that other's do for you - because while grand gestures and diamond rings are fabulous, at the end of the day making the bed and mowing the lawn are just as valuable expressions of love everyday.
My parents have stood side by side through many storms in their 32 years and their love now is even more beautiful with its patina of time and care. There are worn in comfy spots that show in the smiles on their faces, and rituals that still transport them back to when they were only newly weds.
Perhaps the moment that I see the years fall away the most is when my Dad gathers Mum into his arms for a waltz every time 'Three Times a Lady' by Lionel Richie plays on the radio. The smile on her face, and the mist of happy tears in her eyes turn Mum back into a blushing bride dancing with her husband at their wedding, and Dad back into a young man who was so happy to start a life with his lady.
Congratulations Mum and Dad, here is to 32 years more of happiness, health and love.
'Three things will last forever--faith, hope, and love--and the greatest of these is love'
(1 Corinthians 13:13)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tuesday Book Corner: Caleb's Crossing

This past week I have had the pleasure of losing myself in 17th century New England through the lyrical voice of Pulitzer Prize winning author Geraldine Brooks' new novel 'Caleb's Crossing'.

This offering is a thought provoking read about the meeting of two cultures, namely the English Puritan settlers and the Native American tribes of Martha's Vineyard. The story takes place through the eyes of young Bethia Mayfield, the daughter of the island's minister, and her interaction with both the island itself and a young Native American boy she names Caleb. As their stories become more closely entwined over the years and Caleb makes the crossing from his world to hers Bethia begins to wonder whether the part she played was for good or evil and how she will be judged for the deeds of her life. 
This tale draws out the elements of interaction between old worlds and new; both in terms of settlers and native peoples, and also the roles of men and women. Learning and education are also highlighted as Caleb attends Harvard University, and hungry for knowledge Bethia must hide her desire to feed her mind, and sacrifice much in the journey. Next time I encounter some 'old world' myself I will be thinking of what I could learn from them, before I impose my own way, thoughts and emotions onto something that could be perfect just as it is, and perhaps enrich my life.
Tragedies abound in 'Caleb's Crossing', death, sickness and back breaking work are never far from the protagonist and she seeks to find God's message as each unfolds, believing that she is being punished for her sins. The hardships Bethia faces in her personal life are echoed in the role of the sometimes harsh seasons that pass on the island and the new mainland world Bethia finds herself in. 
Of late I have found myself struggling with immersing myself in fiction, however the realistic painting that Geraldine Brooks gives through the eyes of Bethia captured me within the first chapter and kept me prisoner until the last word. Bethia is a modern day woman in a pilgrim's world, and her fight for education and justice in a world not easily giving of either is an inspiration. 'Caleb's Crossing' left me reflecting on how lucky we are to have our freedom of speech and ability to seek education as women, and the still unfortunate existence of less liberated places still on earth. 

This is truly a book that you won't be able to put down, and one that will stay with you long after the final page.

"My hands will be engaged in menial tasks - but my mind will be free."
(page 277).

This is one for the bookshelf dear reader.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Just a Line Today

Don't allow any definition of yourself, the human spirit lies beyond categorisation.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Fate of the Leftover Brownies

I have a tale to weave my friends, of the brownies who were left behind after their delicious counterparts had already been gobbled the night previous in a sugar deprived haze.
These lonely chocolate souls awaited their fate on the counter of my kitchen thinking of the simple days and wondering when they too would be plated plainly and savoured simply with a cup of tea. Little did they know that some brownies are bound to have greatness thrust upon them, whatever their humble beginnings might have been.....

Right now, some of you are probably thinking, Amy, why did you have leftover brownies? What on earth could those chocolate morsels have ever done to you that you could neglect them so badly and leave them alone all day? Well friends, it's called moderation and because I wanted to build something a little exciting out of them when I had a friend over for dinner on Friday night. These plain but delicious brownies became perfectly fancy mini desserts when paired with some other everyday ingredients that I had on hand.

On Thursday I made some delicious Healthy Secret Brownies (recipe to come) and I got to thinking how even more tasty they might be as a dressed up brownie trifle when my friend Caroline came to dinner.

Firstly I took a cookie cutter that would result in pieces of brownie small enough to fit in the bottom of the small glasses in which I planned to serve dessert.

After the brownie medallions were safely tucked into their new glass homes I mixed about 1/3 cup of milk and two teaspoons of instant coffee powder and heated it in the microwave for thirty seconds. Remember to use a large enough microwave safe bowl otherwise your milk will foam over the top (not that I know this from experience...). I then drizzled about a tablespoon of the mixture over each brownie and put them in the refrigerator to macerate in the caffeine elixir.

When dessert time came I warmed up each bowl for about a minute in the microwave and topped them with a correspondingly tiny scoop of ice cream and some toasted chopped almonds.

Oh, and some shaved chocolate because, they are only mini you know....

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Coming Home to the Garden

Today I put my hands back into the earth and I remembered where my heartbeat truly lies.
I forgot everything but the microcosm of life before me, the afternoon sun lovingly warming my back, the blades of grass tickling my ankles and the smile on my face as I felt the old familiar joy of dirt under my fingernails.
It seems that my life has revolved around the garden in one way or another. I suppose that it was always fated that it would with both my grandmothers being avid gardeners; for necessity in providing for their family, and for celebrating the beauty of the bloom. My parents have always surrounded our home with plants, trees to bring shade in this sometimes sun beaten land, and blossoms for colour in our dark green world.
I don't remember the first time I planted something of my own, but as a child most photos of me reveal that I was never far from a flower. Even now, the gift that is most guaranteed to bring a smile to my face is a bunch of blooms.
A seven year old me.
When I was in late primary school, about ten or twelve I suppose I planted the first thing that really brought me pride; Hollyhocks that grew so high that they seemed to be reaching up to touch the great blue yonder, there is a picture of a five foot nothing me standing beneath the rods of blooms; yellow, pink, red and white, smiling at something that I had helped come to life.
At that age gardening for me was a hobby born from both curiosity, an endless hunger for more and more knowledge about anything I could get my hands on, or my mind into; and also from the fact that I was very uncomfortable amongst my peers. At that age most of my friends were characters from the stacks of books I voraciously devoured weekly. Many of these books focused on some sort of magic, in particular magic of the natural world and I suppose that also stirred me on to get out into the garden.
As an adult the garden to me is ripe with metaphors (if you will excuse that awfully obvious pun), and it seems particularly poignant now, at the not so fresh start of the new year, to be discarding that which I planted last year to begin again. Today while I was removing the remains of some pea plants that did not thrive under my care, it came to me that sometimes in life it does not matter how much you try to foster some things, they are not meant to grow. You can tend to love, and try to bring a heart to life, but if it does not come from fertile ground and your conditions are not ideal to its particular temperament, it will not stay yours for long no matter how hard you try.
Removing last season's radicchio plants brought to mind the old adage 'there is a season for everything', I think this is true for emotion too. There was a season, a lovely long season for rejoicing in love, and the shiny promise that it brought to even everyday matters, there was a season for mourning the love that was lost, through no fault, and now a season for healing and bringing back to life all that has lain dormant for so long and fostering the new growth.
There are all manner of lessons waiting in my garden, and I am a willing student.
Yours, from the vegetable patch,

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

End of January Update on My New Year's Goals

Today ends the first month of this year, can you believe that it is already over!
I struggle with accepting the passage of time, however even I cannot argue with the calendar as it ticks over to the second month of the year. It is an opportune moment to reflect on how I am going towards achieving the goals that I have set for myself in 2012, and insert some pretty pictures of the gardenias I was pleasantly surprised to see had survived our recent stream of daily down pours.

University has yet to commence for the year, I have bought some of my textbooks though and swapped the big comfy couch in my room for a small desk and wooden chair so I feel that I am readying my space for study, as well as my mind.
I have yet to submit any articles to health, fitness, food or lifestyle magazines but I will do better to look for these opportunities.
In preparation for going back to university my workplace has dropped me down to two days per week. At the moment these days are being filled with domestic duties, but I am eager for study to start as I feel a little anxious when I don't have something to do! My garden and mastering the art of the yeasted bread are going to fill some of the remaining weeks though.

The first race for this year isn't until March but I have already gathered my girls (it is the International Women's Day Run after all!) and Jess will be running with me, and Mum will be walking (with Dad, our honorary girl...).
I have been getting into a better routine with my fitness and I have taken some of the pressure off myself. Last week I managed three runs, this week I hope to do the same and then step it up. I am trying a more balanced approach and have started incorporating some yoga, circuit training DVDs (I am a Jillian Michaels junkie, no apologies - she makes my least favourite activity, strength, get over and done with in 20 minutes), and soon to start CrossFit style class at my gym. I am trying this for the first time tomorrow so we'll see how I go and whether I will be able to type tomorrow night...
Last year I spent so much time on the treadmill that I started to resent it. I didn't want to keep pounding away and staring at an orange wall, I took a step back and just started walking at an incline, and now when I am hungry to start running again I am slowly getting back to it. I just need to be mindful to nourish my body and mind with exercise rather than being strict and punishing with it.

Fun Stuff:
I bought some beautiful 'beefsteak' tomato plants to go in my garden, accompanied by heirloom beets (they are striped white and red inside!), yellow bell peppers and some sage and oregano. This week my 'weed patch' shall begin its transformation into a mini Eden.
Mum and I also attacked the fabric store and came out with patterns and fabric for several outfits. Yet to put needle to material as yet, but I am prepared now!
Oh and pie crust! That could be my mission until I go back to uni!! Wonder if I'll be able to find taste testers?
Any favourite pies out there, I am willing to take suggestions