November Inspirations

So this is my last Inspirations post –

141These posts have had my highest reader following out of any of them, I reckon because people like to see the tasty treats each month more than anything.

I have enjoyed doing these posts quite a lot, even though the write-up of some of them had to be combined as it takes a fair bit of effort. Doing this challenge has certainly got me back into cooking after a bit of a hiatus and made it fun again.

Quote of the month

151The above quote really summarises how I am trying to refocus how I am affected by things. I am a person that will stew over things for long periods of time and I sometimes feel high levels of anxiety over things that happened years ago. I’m getting better at letting things go and trying to put things into wider context. It’s generally helping me manage my anxiety levels; however, I do still get the odd day where I melt down. As always, a work in progress.

ImageThis last year has been great fun and although I haven’t ticked everything off yet I am not going to let the time constraint bother me, or see this as a measure of the degree of success or failure of the year.

In the last 12 months I have done so much, especially when you put it into the context that I am only actually at home for 2 days of each week! So this year I aim to remain fabulous… or just as fabulous rather I should say and embrace all the adventures to come…

Recipe of the month

This months effort was pretty much a disaster, which was a real shame to end on.

I am a big fan of banoffee pie, but hard;y ever have it. We had an excess of banana in the house, so I decided to make one.

My first issue was that I couldn’t get digestive biscuits for the base, which I used milk Arrowroot biscuits for instead. These turned out to be too crumbly and wouldn’t form a crust that wouldn’t hold its shape, although it was looking good to start with.

059I lined the crust with a layer of caramel, which I couldn’t get to fully caramelize and therefore, had an odd texture that I found off-putting.

062Sliced banana covers the caramel, which is then covered with whipped cream and grated chocolate. I was bitterly disappointed that my last recipe of the year turned out so badly, but I was assured that it actually became very tasty after being left in the fridge for a day. I wasn’t there to confirm this opinion though, but m going to choose to believe it.

063This month I am thankful for…

All of you! Thank you to all of my friends and family that have supported me through this year and this adventure.

Thank you to everyone that made suggestions and to those that helped me reach my goals.

I couldn’t have done it without you all. In a year when I’ve barely been around and faced down high levels of stress and fatigue it’s been great to share all of these great memories with you and reclaim my weekends.

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#16 Feed the dolphins at Tangalooma Reef

A few years ago I saw that my friend Lucy and her family had been on a trip to feed dolphins. I loved the idea of this and instantly added it to my bucket list, where it’s been sitting for a few years now – in fact my friend has emigrated and had another child in the meantime!

The other weekend I headed over to the beautiful Moreton Island with my friend and gal-pal-adventurer Esther.

Moreton is the 3rd largest sand island in the world, approximately 10km across at it’s widest point and it’s highest point is just over 260m I believe – you may need to fact check me though as I’m writing this from memory.

We jetted over to the Island on a catamaran to the island resort Tangalooma, where the beautiful beach greeted us…

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Along with these friendly fellow – I love Pelicans.

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And yet more beach…

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We started the day strong with coffee, cake and a hoard of trashy magazines.

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Whilst looking out over yet more beach…

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It was the perfect day, with just the right amount of cloud, warm but not burny or sweaty. So we trooped off to find our own spot of the beach away from the main resort.

Oh look another picture of the beach –

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After a wonderfully relaxing morning we grabbed a late lunch and I had an obligatory ice cream.

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With another couple of hours before the dolphin feeding began and being such a lovely day we explored (a very small amount) and plonked back down on the beach. It was so wonderful just doing NOTHING! I felt like I was on vacation, it was brilliant!

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At 6pm it was time to report to the jetty for the all-important activity! As expected it was pretty over-run by Chinese tourists.

They lined buckets of fish and handwash along the beach. The dolphins have been coming to Tangalooma for 20 years and it had an internationally recognized program – you read about it on the resort website.

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The dolphins actually line up to be fed! To ensure that the dolphins don;t become dependent on the feeding events they only feed them 10% of their daily intake.

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By this time it was a bit nippy, but you stand in the shallows for a little while beforehand so acclimatize. It’s quite a funny experience standing in knee-high water grasping a herring!

It was all over very quickly, you reach down to feed them and then woosh the fish is gone! We had a cheeky male that was trying to nip in and steal extra food, so had to be quite fast.

Once we had fed our dolphins we retreated to the jetty to get dried and dressed before hopping on the boat home.

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All in all a great day, although I would say more-so for the relaxing beach day than anything else. I’m also not very comfortable with the idea of humans feeding animals but still trying to refer to them as being wild. It is good that they have a program running there though, as we heard that over 10% of the dolphins locally are partially entangled with finishing wire, as over-fishing as resulted in them looking to the fishing boats for food as they draw fish in. The fishing wire can easily cut fins and tails off and kill the dolphins. The Tangalooma centre has the facilities to care for injured dolphins before releasing them back into the wild and they are checked before every event i.e. every night.

On the way back the journey made me feel rather ill – not good with boats, so I retreated out to the upper deck, which had the advantage of having great views of the docks coming back into town. They are actually really quite pretty.

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#24 Learn to make cheese

So I love cheese, like reeeeally love cheese. In fact I think cheese is pretty much magical. My dream holiday consists of drinking red wine and eating cheese…

Having had a lovely time recently making jams and pickles I went back to Green Living Australia to do a cheese making class.

There essentially 3 basic techniques for making cheese and once you master those you can making any type of cheese. The main difference between the cheese varieties is the bacteria used. For instance a feta and a Camembert are the same, except for the type of bacteria that cultures the cheese.

For any cheese you start with milk – it’s best to have non-homogenized milk i.e. milk in which the natural fat hasn’t been a whizzed up by machines. It is very important that the milk is pasteurized so that you have control over the bacteria that culture your cheese. For a long time cheeses made with unpasteurized milk (raw milk cheeses) were not allowed to be made in Australia, this is now relaxing but is still strictly licensed due to the safety risks.

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It is also highly important that your work area is sanitized and it is recommended that you work with single piece stainless steel equipment, as lots of nasty bacteria get up under the edges of the heat-resistant plastic spoons and ladles most people like to use.

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Ricotta

The first cheese we made was a lovely ricotta – did you know Ricotta actually means “re-cooked” as traditionally it is made from the waste whey from mozzarella making. In this instance we used milk though.

After mixing the milk and culturing ingredients the mix is heated. Curds i.e. solid lumps then form.

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The curds are then scooped out of the pan using a slotted spoon and placed into cheese cloth which is hung for around 50 minutes to drain.

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The result is creamy rich ricotta, which we mixed with parsley and ate with crackers.

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 30 minute Mozzarella

This was the one I most enjoyed making as it’s more hands on. The recipe and instruction for how you do this can be found here.

Again you heat your milk and culture until curd forms. You then test for a “Clean Break” where you make a T-shaped cut in the surface and lift a section to see how the sections pull apart.

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We then cut the curds into small cubes using a long spatula. During this process a lot of whey (the liquid) comes out of the curd. You can separate the curd from the whey.

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This simple quick recipe uses a microwave, you heat the curd up and then essentially knead the cheese, as if it’s bread.  This was the fun part – although it’s quite hot.

226Whilst kneading a lot of whey also comes out of the cheese. As it cools it stiffens and you need to re-heat it in the microwave and continue kneading about 4-5 times. It’s ready when you can stretch it out and it has that classic mozzarella texture, you then sprinkle in some cheese salt.

227When it’s ready drop it into cold water in the shape you want it to hole and voila you have mozzarella! This was the creamiest richest mozzarella I’ve ever had, it’s amazing!

228Feta

The process for making Feta is similar to the mozzarella. You form and cut the curds in a similar way.

229Once you have cut the curds you line feta baskets, or a colander, with cheese cloth and gently pour the curds into the baskets. They then need to drain for around 5 hours. Once drained they can be cubed and salted and are ready to eat.

Such a yummy day!

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October Inspirations

Quote of the month

In the penultimate month of inspirations posts I’ve started looking back over the year, what I’ve done, what I have to achieve. Ultimately the quote below has been the basis of the entire year. This is a quote that I have looked at several times over the last few months and is so true.

I’m getting what I can done before my birthday, but am not looking at that as a deadline, so I still aim to do all the things I wanted to, it might just take a little bit longer than expected.

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Recipe of the month

October has been a bit of a failure for cooking, the things that I have tried haven’t worked out too well. Having recently moved I am also trying to get to know our new oven too. The fact that Mark is the most amazing cook and one of my favorite things is watching him work his culinary magic also keeps me out of the kitchen a bit.

After last month’s pastry tart I wanted to finish up the ready-made pastry sheets I had in the freezer, as I don’t like keeping things for too long.

We also had a bunch of extremely ripe bananas…

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So this month I decided to make chocolate-banana scrolls.

I started out by spreading Nutella over the defrosted pastry sheet, before spooning over mashed banana.

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I then did 2 batches. The first was cut into 2 inch strips, which ultimately flopped over in the oven, but were still very tasty. The second batch was cut into 1cm strips, so far smaller and made into mini bite-sized treats.

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They don’t look very pretty but they were tasty and that’s all that counts at the end of the day.

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This month I am thankful for…

My baby sister, who is not so much of a baby anymore! Claire has been sending me lovely cards in the post to accompany some present I received from my family recently, which are all currently on my Fridge 🙂

I can’t wait to see you and the rest of the family at Christmas and can’t believe it’s been 2 1/2 years since I last saw you, so I don’t have any photos of us today, I can’t believe how super glamorous you are these days.

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Oh but you didn’t think I would end on such a lovely note did you… Had to share what is my all-time favorite picture… This is when you were doing impressions of what a Shark looks like and still even a year later this makes me laugh out loud!

You are one of the funniest and most clever people I know and I am super proud of you.

I love you and miss you all the time. Bleurg, writing this is making me cry.

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#8 Volunteer – Weekend to end all women’s cancers – October 24-25

One thing that I found frustrating when I moved to Australia was that my working visa restricted my ability to participate in volunteering.

Whilst I am sure that it was not the intention of the conditions when they were set up for workers under an employer sponsored 457 long-stay business visa you are only authorised to do work that is organised by your primary employer.

Work doesn’t have to be paid to fall into this category and therefore, whilst a technicality you can invalidate the terms of your visa, which isn’t worth the risk.

Since I made Australia my permanent home this is no longer an issue – yay!

When I was younger I was involved in volunteering activities and always enjoyed it. I had been looking for something else to get involved with for a while and therefore, this is one of the items on my list that I chose for myself.

In 2012 I lost my mother to cancer, cancer of an unknown primary that then metastasised into various other tumours. Unfortunately there is not a lot of publicity about this type of cancer and also few charities associated with it. However, as cancer touches so many people – an estimated 1 out of 3 of us directly, not including all those families and friends also affected, I like to support cancer research charities. I think that with all the environmental factors associated with modern life and living longer we will all be affected by this. In fact I live with the expectation that one day I will likely be personally affected, due to other health issues that put me at elevated risk.

The Weekend to End All Women’s Cancers supports the QIMR Berghofer Institute in several of its women’s cancers programs. The weekend saw approximately 500 individuals walk 60km around Brisbane over 2 days.

I signed up to work as crew for the weekend, as after walking the Kokoda 30km trail back in May I knew I wouldn’t manage the walk this year myself.

I was assigned to the “Gear” team, along with a fetching sparkly blue lanyard. It was nice that the survivors were given sparkly pink lanyards so that they stood out.

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Essentially I spent the weekend helping organise people’s camping gear and setting up on Day 1, we then welcomed the walkers in as they arrived and helped them find their bags/tents etc. That night they had a dinner for all the crew and walkers, although due to my long work week and the 3:50 start I headed to bed early so I was ready for the next day.

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Day 2 was pretty hectic, in 3 hours a team of between 5-10 of us packed down over 500 chairs and set up the final ceremony area, organised almost 200 peoples bags, packed down 250 tents and then stripped and packed down about 100 trestle tables.

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Lots of snacking was involved to keep us going! We were all pretty gross and sweaty after that though, so changed into the final crew shirts and enjoyed a tasty packed lunch.

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Those of us left then donned clackers and pom-poms and headed to the entry to the “runway” to the finish line to cheer everyone one for the last 100m.

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We ended up cheering for over 3 hours! It was great welcoming everyone in and seeing the happiness and relief at having finished and the pride at their accomplishments. It was really lovely to see those who hung back with us and cheered others on as they waited for slower team mates, so that they could walk the finish line together.

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Lots of walker had to be picked up by the “sweepers” due to injury, they get dropped at the 100m mark so that they can still cross the finish line themselves, albeit slowly. Those too injured to walk got taken across the finish line in golf buggies. One injured lady said that she felt like she didn’t deserve to cross the finish line – but we got her there. I don’t think it matters at all whether they walked it all or not, every entrant walked as far as they could and I doing their best was as deserving as everyone else.

Every walker raised a minimum of $2000, with the event raising $1.2M in total, a great effort and testament to all involved. Unfortunately the event will not be running, but 2017 is the 70th anniversary of the institute and they will be running a special series of celebratory events, so I’m sure there will be a lot to get involved with.

I met lots of amazing people, both women and men who participated and worked as crew. From the couple who are both survivors that have ridden several of the 100km cycle rides and crewed the walks, to the 70-year-old lady that walked and camped!! And crossed the finish line looking fresh as a daisy, so many people blew me away.

It was a really great forum for people who had survived or had cancer and those that had been affected by it to have open conversations with others. When you lose someone important to you they don’t cease to be part of your life and yet, understandably, others don’t want to talk about death or those who have died. But this doesn’t mean that you don’t want to talk about them and you need to. You also need to talk about your experiences, the good, the bad and the gruesome. Having that environment to be able to freely talk about a topic that is awkward and “morbid” in general social situations is really valuable and I think part of why these kinds of events are so successful.

The event finished with a ceremony with all the walkers, their families and crew and it was a nice way to wrap it up before heading home to crash out. Mark said that night that he had never seen me so tired; I still tried to get him to build a shed though!

Was it worth it, definitely, would I do it again, most definitely.

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#18 Eat 3 Green things a day for a month, specifically 3 different green things not 3 items of the same green thing…

One of the slightly odder challenges that a friend (thank you Esther) put forward was to eat 3 different coloured food items each day for 1 month.

So I decided September was the month to go for it!

I was slightly anxious about how I would manage this whilst living out at a mining camp; but it was pretty fun in the end. It actually didn’t require much in the way of thought or preparation.

I originally wanted to try and push the limits and make it to 90 different foods -which is pretty hard, see if you can even come up with 90 – I challenge you! Between my work team we came up with quite an impressive list, which I failed at completing. However, this would have required lots of visits of specialist foreign markets and that’s just not very compatible with crazy short weekends full of trying to move house and do other fun things from my list.

I did have quite a lot of fun with this one and reckon my colleagues did too – especially watching me try the Gourd!

Below are some pictures of some of my green food things…

Over 30 days I ate a combination of any of the following, managing up to 11 green food things in any given day!:

  1. Lettuce, in a mixed salad with…
  2. Peas, and
  3. Green pepper (or capsicum as people over insist on calling it), plus
  4. Cucumber, followed by…
  5. MelonIMG_2927
  6. Other mixed green leaf vegetables – estimate I had about 7 varieties including rocket and fresh spinach in my lunch salad throughout the monthIMG_2784
  7. Kiwi fruitIMG_2782
  8. Gourd or Bitter Melon
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  9. Spinach, Kale and Ricotta SoupIMG_2792
  10. Mint Aero chocolateIMG_2793
  11. Green Beans
  12. Spinach pastaIMG_2796
  13. PestoIMG_2797
  14. Cake with green coloured frosting/green coconutIMG_2799
  15. Green lollies e.g. jelly babiesFullSizeRender2
  16. Custard AppleIMG_2801
  17. AvocadoIMG_2879
  18. Guacamole
  19. Green smoothie with Spirulina and KiwiIMG_2802
  20. Celery, combined with…
  21. Lebanese Cucumber, in a salad and served with…
  22. Spinach QuicheIMG_2808
  23. Bok Choy, in a stir-fry with…
  24. Pak ChoyIMG_2815
  25. Green chili peppers
  26. Olives, stuffed olives, so many olives…IMG_2824
  27. PearsIMG_2825
  28. Alfalfa Sprouts/bean sproutsIMG_2831
  29. Lime Cordial
  30. Broccoli – SO much broccoli
  31. Pistachio NutsIMG_2830
  32. Green AppleIMG_2783
  33. Cabbage
  34. Green tea
  35. Spinach Curry
  36. Kiwi pavlova (yes this definitely counts…)
  37. Coriander
  38. Key Lime Pie (thank you Esther it s super tasty)
  39. Kale
  40. Salsa Verde
  41. Zucchini/courgette lasagna
  42. Green jelly and cake with green sprinklesIMG_2904
  43. Mojito with fresh mint and lime
  44. MidoriIMG_2876
  45. Asparagus, and
  46. Broccolini, mixed with…
  47. Snow peas, served with wilted greens and a whole bunch of tasty seafood… (one of my top meals of the month)IMG_2877
  48. Green GatoradeIMG_2878
  49. Tabbouleh
  50. Stuffed vine leaves
  51. Thai green curry with green beans and peas
  52. Capers
  53. Leaks
  54. Green lentils
  55. Brussels Sprout (yes I did really eat one)

And as if eating green food wasn’t enough I found these frankly AMAZING broccoli toys at IKEA!

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September Inspirations

I’m only just managing to sneak this one in here on the final day of the month!

To say that September has been a crazy month is a serous understatement and I actually have 3 overdue blog posts, I’m hoping with the long weekend I’ll get the chance to catch up, so keep an eye out!

Quote of the month

I generally like to think I am a positive person, certainly not overly annoyingly so though.

I do work hard to see the positives in everything and honestly believe that it take work to change your mental outlook, it’s not entirely down to natural disposition.

That being said I do have my negative days, I am a person that torments myself with “What Ifs…?” and “Oh buts…”

Sometimes it feels like the negativity is taking over, but generally I’m able to take a deep breath, find some context and carry on.

The last month has been really difficult for me, I’ve been an emotional wreck. A combination of loss, high stress and fatigue and lack of exercise have results in an entirely not-hot mess. However, things are on the up and I’m generally back to my positive self – watch out world!

Therefore, I chose this quote for this month, after I saw someone share the image on Facebook at the start of September. I think it’s pretty perfect as sometimes it feels like you’re chasing off demons, or like someone threatening is literally standing over you. Standing up for yourself, sometimes even to yourself is always worth it.

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Recipe of the month

September has not been a good month for cooking!

I have been the ultimate takeaway queen in fact!

Last weekend we moved into our lovely new apartment and on a rainy Sunday afternoon I cooked our first meal at home. As the house is still in chaos and only half the kitchen was unpacked kept it simple and made a puff pastry tart with spinach, tomato and buffalo mozzarella, served with a baby leaf salad with a lemon greek dressing.

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This month I am thankful for….

The lovely Ruth, who leaves us for new adventures back home in the UK.

We will all miss you terribly but are super excited for you and your new family!

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#1 Complete a fun run of 10 kilometers or more…

On Sunday August 30th I completed the Bridge to Brisbane 10 km fun run!

This is Brisbane’s largest annual fun run and was my first 10 km fun run – I usually go along to a few 5 km ones such as the Neon Run.

Every year the run falls on a week where we get a sudden heat wave and this year was no different. It was between 30 and 35 degrees all week long. We were also forecast a storm for Sunday morning and the ominous heavy rain and grey skies on Saturday didn’t fill me with confidence.

However, Sunday morning dawned (yes it was a super early start) and it was dry but overcast – hooray for cloud cover!

Mark was also running with his workmates and we were both signed up for the jogging category so headed over together, bleary eyed and a bit nervous.

The run starts on the southern side of the Gateway Bridge, which is really very steep for a bridge! The first kilometer is a solid uphill grind. You’ve walked about 2 km by the time you get to the start time so you’re pretty well warmed up though.

Coming down the other side of the bridge was certainly more fun than going up it!

Unfortunately about 3.6 km my left knee went out (it has a nasty habit of doing this). I then walked for about a kilometer, which really slowed me down. After that I got my jog on again though and slogged away pretty well.

The route follows Coronation Drive, which runs along the Brisbane River and has great views of the CBD. If you’re ever arriving in Brisbane for the first time, I would really advise you to take the route into town via Coro Drive rather than via the tunnel, it’s nice day or night.

There were some great supporters out cheering for people and a few bands to motivate people along the way. There were also a load of Vegan protesters too, which seemed slightly odd… and made me want a bacon sandwich!

It was pretty cool running along the Inner City Bypass, which is usually only open to vehicles, as you get cool views coming into town. Although the uphill incline around the 6.6 km mark wasn’t going down well with anyone!

At 8.2 km I saw my first person vomiting, which made me feel infinitely better about how I was doing and all my sore bits!

The run finishes up at the Brisbane RNA Showgrounds, where you get given a t-shirt and refreshments. I chowed down on some oranges and went to find the rather speedier-than-me-with-his-giant-person-legs Mark.

It took me 1 hour and 18 minutes to complete, which was under my self-imposed cut-off of 1 hour and 20 minutes… just. But I’m happy with that! Originally I had hoped to get in a few months of training and get in around the 1 hour and 5 minute mark; however, I hadn’t been out for a jog in over 6 weeks by the time it came round, so all in all a pretty decent attempt.

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#2 Learn to make Jam or Pickle

I love condiments, in fact that is an understatement I LOVE condiments.

Most of my fridge is filled with condiments… it’s a problem when I actually need to fit the proper food to accompany all the condiments in there…

I have memories when I was a child of checking out all the old preserving jars on the shelves down in the cellar. We had loads of them, although I don’t remember anyone actually making preserves…

Last weekend I went on a home preserving workshop run by the wonderful Valerie of Green Living.

The course runs through the basics of making jams, pickles, fermented foods and preserving low acid foods like most vegetables.

We started off with jams and made two. The first was a Papaya, ginger and lime jam, the second was a strawberry jam.

The papaya jam was made following a standard recipe. Most jams require a ratio of 1 kg fruit to 1 kg sugar – that’s a whole lot of sugar!

The strawberry jam used a special type of pectin that is calcium activated and therefore allows you to reduce the sugar content by 50%, which I think is great.

You cook the fruit with a small amount of acid (lemon or lime juice) and then add in the sugar and pectin. You can really feel the mixture thickening up in the pan.

Once the jam has reached the correct consistency it’s ladled into hot jars (so they don’t crack) and sealed.

Essentially you have now made jam – hooray!

However, crucially you have not made a preserve.

Jam!

Jam!

If you were stop at this stage you would have tasty jam, but you would need to eat it within the next few days, as it will go off.

To preserve the jam, so that it will last in your pantry for a long time before opening you need to essentially re-cook them.

You place the jars in a large pan of boiling water, ensuring their sat off the bottom of the pan (using something akin to a cake cooling rack).

It is important that the jars are totally submerged in order to ensure that they heat all the way through.

Whilst they are in the water you cans see little bubbles of air escaping from the jam jars

After 10 minutes they can be removed and set aside to cool.

On cooling you hear little “pop” “pop” noises, as the jars lids are all suctioned in by the cooling vacuum between the jam surface and the lid.

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We enjoyed sampling the jams with fresh scones and crackers, they were so tasty and flavorsome.

We then made some more “savoury” preserves – a Shiraz jelly (yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum) and an apple, onion and sultana chutney.

The difference between a jam and jelly is that the jelly is made using only the juice of the fruit – or in this case, wine.

The process is then the same as for jams.

Apple chutney on the way...

Apple chutney on the way…

The Shiraz jelly was amazing. I will definitely be trying this again. I reckon port or mulled wine jelly will be featuring at Christmas this year.

We sampled the jelly and chutney with crackers and super tasty Jarlsberg cheese, made at one of the centers cheese making workshops.

We then made Kim-chi, which is  a traditionally fermented cabbage product from South Korea. To ferment the cabbage you fill the jar with chopped veg, cover it with “bacteria water” – sounds super tasty right! Then you seal it up and leave it to do its business. You need to open the jar everyday to release the build up of gas, but after about 1 week you will have Kim-chi. As I’m only home at the weekends I have to put mine in the fridge at home during the week. This slows down the process, so it will take several weeks before I get my tasty veg just right.

Kimchi... or smelly veg in a jar

Kim-chi… or smelly veg in a jar

Valerie also explained how to preserve low acid foods, which are mainly vegetables. This was quite scary actually! Botulism aka the most toxic substance on earth (which people inject into their faces as Botox) can grow in low acid foods if not preserved properly. It kills and there is no cure… So this is something you don’t want to get wrong.

To ensure that your food is preserved correctly you have to place your veg in jars filled with demineralised water. They they go into a huge pressure cooker. They then have to be cooked for the correct duration to ensure that the entire jar is heated to over 116 degrees for a set period of time – due to the risks involved these cookers come with guides that specify the necessary pressure and times for different food types in different sized jars.

Overall this just made me nervous. As I live in a place where I can get good quality fresh fruit and veg year round and also have enough room in my freezer I don’t think I will be doing much low-acid preserving any time soon.

I left with a bit of a goody bag full of jar lids and mega useful jar tong (so I don’t burn my sensitive little fingers on the hot jars).

Later that day at home I heard the tops of my jars making the “popping” noises of the lid being sucked in as the vacuum formed as they cooled.

For breakfast on Sunday I enjoyed tasty jam on toast. I then took the strawberry jam to a baby shower, where it was enjoyed on fresh scones, home-made by the lovely Ruth.

Tasty Papaya jam on toast

Tasty Papaya jam on toast

I really enjoyed the day, it flew by. I can’t wait to make more jams and pickles at home.

I would definitely recommend the courses at Green Living and fully intend to go along to their cheese making course next month!

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#3 Visit a new place in Australia & #10 Skydive

Warning… this is quite a mammoth post – This may require sustenance to complete and if you get to the end then pat yourself on the back! At least there’s lots of photos!

 #3 Visit a new place in Australia

To say that I have called Australia for what’s coming up to be half a decade and is now my chosen country of permanent residency I have unfortunately not seen very much of it!

That is if you don’t count all the work sites I’ve visited… Which generally aren’t tourist hot spots given that someone is planning to either develop them, something has fallen down, or it’s a coal mine.

A spot of winter sun is always a good idea and this year we decided that whilst both of us are working FIFO up north it would be a good time to head over to the coast.

Moranbah, where I am currently working, is about a 2 hour drive inland from the coastal town of Mackay. A further hour or so north you have Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands.

The Whitsunday’s are really beautiful and famous for the beaches. We took a 2 night, 3 day boat trip on the ‘Summertime’, a historical converted cray-fish boat. We had a “double cabin” which might be a bit of a stretch, neither of us are exactly petite so it made for a few fairly snuggly nights.

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It also happened to be Airlie Race week, so as we left the harbour we were surrounded by hundreds of yachts, which was pretty cool. It was a pretty windy day too, so good for sailing, but a bit chilly!

snorkel - coral 1About 30 minutes out we saw our first turtle, just hanging out getting some air and checking out the race! This was super exciting as I’d never seen a turtle in the wild before!

We headed over to the first snorkeling location, at the western Hook Island Reef, where we sat and watched 2 whales for a while before jumping in the water. We saw another turtle, I was actually swimming about half a meter away from it, amazing! There were lots of awesome fish and coral, including French fish who always swim in pairs and the most enormous Wrasse.

Mark also tried scuba diving for the first time, check out this bond like action shot…

Dive 2

We then sailed over to the strait OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbetween Hook Island and Whitsunday Island for the night, watching another whale with her calf along the coast.

 

After a great BBQ dinner and a dip on the on-board hot tub (yes really!) we set about working out the rope game…. Trying to untangle yourself from two twisted ropes, which looks simple, but is utterly frustrating…. Much hilarity ensued…

Rope challenge

The next day we set sail early and the motion of the boat woke me up. Feeling nauseous I ventured upstairs to watch the beautiful sunrise.

Sunrise Day 2

The morning of Day 2 was spent over at Whitehaven Beach, which is simply stunning.

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We were the second group there, so it was really quiet and empty. It’s a really beautiful place. We wandered around, looking for wildlife, watching the plovers and taking pictures.

We got some good shots with a group photo…

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And went for a dip in some Vegemite…

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The water was crystal clear.

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The afternoon was spent with more snorkelling & diving out at the spot where the famous Lara Bingle advert was shot – Langford-Bird Reef.

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snorkel2 - sea starThis reef had a better range of fish, including really funky long pointy ones that swam around me in little shoals. I wasn’t lucky enough to spot another turtle though. Did you know star fish are now officially called Sea Stars?

After another great BBQ dinner we watched an amazing sunset, we also saw a dolphin and a shark hanging around the boat… They obviously smelt our tasty dinner!

Sunset Day 2

The stars out there were beautiful; you get a real sense of the depth and distance. It’s also great seeing the Milky Way. I still can’t get used to the Southern Hemisphere stars though.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADay 3 started out with a spot of kayaking over to the eastern Hook Reef Beach, where we were surrounded by pretty blue butterflies and the rock formations looked like rolling barrel waves.

That night we all caught up for dinner in town and watched the Rugby.

The next day was fairly quiet; we slept in and then went exploring over at Midge Point, where we had the beach entirely to ourselves.

The evening was topped off with an amazing Italian dinner, the best Cannoli I’ve had in a ong time and a Tiramisu Martini.

#10 Skydive

Whilst in Airlie I also managed to tick off item No.10, by going Skydiving over the islands – after all I’m unlikely to find such a  beautiful spot to do it in Australia again between now and December. I had originally hoped to do my skydive over Queenstown back in March; however, it can mess with your ears and given that I have moody ears at the best of times I didn’t want to end up deaf for the wedding we had gone for.

I jumped at Skydive Airlie Beach, located just outside of town. I opted for the 14,000 feet jump so I got the full minute worth of free-fall.

My instructor was called Toby and was so relaxed he really put me at ease. They get you all suited up, run through the safety briefing and you go and jump in the plane.

The view on the way up, circling over Airlie Beach and over the coast is beautiful, looking out across to the islands on the one side and the rain-forest on the other.

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Out of the 3 of us in the plane I was the first to jump. Once the door was opened we lent out to check we were in the right spot, and then it was time to swing out of the door – the only moment when pure, blind panic set in!

Robyn Shaw 0041A few seconds later I was flying through the air!

It’s quite an incredible feeling, you spin around quite fast when you first come out of the airplane, but quickly settle into position.

 

The views are just amazing and the minute of free fall felt like quite a lot longer. I was too distracted by the views to pull any cool poses for the camera…

So you’ll have to make do with my grinning like an idiot in them all!

Once the parachute opens it becomes very gentle and calm, until you turn! It’s pretty awesome having a go at steering and I got to swing around a few steep turns on the way down to the landing pad.

Robyn Shaw 0068I landed down by the beach in Airlie, so had great views the full way down.
The landing was the bit I was most nervous about, but it was a just a gentle bump.

Mark had also come over in the support crew bus to meet me at the bottom.

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Woo hoo I survived…

Robyn Shaw 0121Again again…

Robyn Shaw 0130I always think of myself as being quite reserved and boring but after going skydiving, bungee jumping, white water rafting, ice climbing a volcano and bunch of other stuff I might revise my opinion to mildly adventurous…

Robyn Shaw 0138Now what’s next…

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