Friday, August 29, 2014

Church isn't a building. Its a family.

It’s been quite some time since my last post and, in that time I've considered if I wanted to keep my blog live or to shut it down and not have to wonder if I've got anything worth writing about for the cyber world to read.
Well, I probably don’t have a lot to say that would keep readers interested and coming back for more but, I've always wanted to write. I want to one day call myself an author of at least one book! I don’t care if I still don’t know what my book will be about or that I might be aged 90 by the time I write it and aged 95 by the time it’s published but… I dare to dream. So I’m going to keep my blog live and I’m going to write when I feel the urge because this blog is part of the bigger picture God has planned for my life. Not sure what?
Anyway, here I am with an urge and I’m going to write about community, church community. Let’s call it a letter to my church.

Dear church,
You are my family. One of us said that there is a letter with your name on it. Then another later said that the first line of that letter reads “To my dear child, I love you”.
Now I’m going to tell you what the second line says. It says, “You are enough”.
Regards.

Building family from church is sometimes hard. Let’s be honest, it’s exactly like blood family, you can’t always pick who they are! Just like your family, church family are the people God purposed for your life for, at the very least, this season. You may not be in the same stage of life as that person or the same age as this person or from the same place as another person but God put you in the same place with those people for such a time as this. He brought you together for this time so that you could show them a kind of love that only you can give and, for you to know a love that only they can give. God aligns people’s paths for a reason and sometimes it’s just to love one another.
Photo credit Matt Fong
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:34-35

We just came back from our church camp which ran from Friday afternoon till Sunday midday. It was a great weekend but it was also very challenging for my family. Having to keep our eyes peeled for the whereabouts of our little wandering munchkins who weren’t just wandering but also crying and whining. The nights were freezing and in fact the first night was reportedly Darwin’s coldest night of the year thus far. It was so cold that it felt like I only slept for a combined total of 30 minutes for the entire night. We had learnt from previous years camps that it gets very chilling at night so we were prepared this year [or so we thought].  But alas, not prepared enough, we were freezing our butts off, the boys were waking all throughout the night and my oh my the first rays of sunshine could not rise fast enough!
Now, there’s no other remedy quite like that of a good coffee and good company to set you straight for the day so, out of the depths of a freezing and sleepless night I emerged from our igloo and set my eyes upon that first morning coffee by the camp fire. But not before the changing of nappies, dressing of wriggling and crying children and, the serving of their breakfast. All sounds relatively simple but any parent reading will know what rigmarole that all is, let alone after a cold and sleepless night! 

Let’s continue.With the warmth of a morning campfire and the sipping of hot coffee the day brightens and I’m privileged to be spending the weekend with my wonderful church family.
A lovely couple in the church had prepared an amazing race for us all to participate in and the idea was that it would be a bonding exercise that would help us get to know each other a little better. It did exactly that and was a lot of fun… and also my exercise quota for the quarter!  
About half way through the race Matt fell to the evils of an unseen log! He tripped and bustered his foot which then, had him out of action for the rest of the camp. Sigh. My husband is an incredible help to me and especially when it comes to parenting our sons. We work as a team and we only run smoothly (like a bumpy kinda smooth) when we work together. I’m a stress head and he’s too far the opposite but together we’re some kind of balanced.

So, camp was hard work! But the beauty of it all was how amazing it was to see church family rally around supporting and helping each other and, so naturally.
People helped others pitch tents, they jiggled and bounced each other’s kids, they washed each other’s dishes and at the end of each night they communed by the camp fire with marshmallows on sticks.
It’s in this moment I realize that my church isn't a building. My church is a family. My church are the people.
Church, you are enough! Being yourself and the person God wants you to be is all that needs to be and, for you to love one another. Building community isn't just about being an awesome worship leader or serving up the yummiest church supper. It’s loving each other first. Its being present and its saying "use me God".
Sure, I believe people should get involved and serve in their church where they feel called to and, I do want to be part of church growth, not on the outside just ‘watching’ it all happen. But I was reminded by a dear friend last week (on a day I was busy fulfilling roles I had committed to) about something that was said on a Colour DVD we had previously watched. The speaker had said that “you are the gift, not what you do”. It was so timely for me to be reminded of that on a day where I’m wondering if the coffees I’m serving taste okay, if the birthday cake I’m about to make will be successful and if the church talk I’m preparing (or not preparing, rather winging) will be encouraging and not a ramble. I am enough. Just being me and loving and serving others is all God requires of me…  not the world’s best coffee, or a 3 tiered chocolate ganache cake or, a talk that’ll land me a book title.


So, when church campers loved and served each other over the weekend, and were just being themselves (BO and all) they also blessed each other. I am so thankful for each one of you and the love that you bring into our church family/community. I can know that whatever my struggles or achievements that I have people that I can love and share my journey with. I pray that anyone can walk into our church building and find the love of a family, not the draping of lavish curtains but instead an example of God’s love for his children. 

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

May Date Nights

Well hello there! My oh my it has been too long since I last blogged! So let me bring you all up to date. 
March date nights weren't blogged and it was actually a rather hit 'n' miss month for dating. Just proof that even the most [wannabe] organized of people fall short. 
If I remember correctly the couple of date nights we had were a movie and Chinese evening and on the other occasion we brought to life an old chair with a new paint job. The chair painting date was great for encouraging good conversation however, our topic of conversation turned to one that was a touchy subject. It became more of a frustrating date night rather then romantic! But we can laugh at it! Lets face it, marriage isn't always all about romance and, sometimes those frustrating conversations have to happen. Its more about 'how' we have them. Husband and wife won't always see eye to eye but its important to remain respectful whilst honest. Just another #imperfect moment in dating history. 

Anyway, life has also gotten the better of us this month so, we're going to let slide the next few weeks and resume our date nights next month in May. 
Its remembering that it's okay to go with the flow sometimes. Whilst date nights are of high importance we also don't want them to become chores. And of course we're not saying that it's a chore to spend time with our spouse but lets be real, sometimes we're just not feeling it. Some nights/weeks it would seem more relaxing to just chill out in front of the tv or bury our head in a book we're dying to read and finish because we're  mums and reading time is too precious! Anyone feeling me?

So while we've been going 'with the flow' these past two months it has also sparked reevaluation. Its time to stop and acknowledge that our priorities have made a slight shift and that's okay but, now we must re sort them. 

Date nights for May:

Week 1 - Workout session

Week 2 - Bake/make a cheesecake for dessert. Neither of us have done this before.

Week 3 - Fabric painting/printing on some plain tea towels.

Week 4 - Write a short letter [to each other] on your first impressions of each other.


Remember I would love to here your date ideas!

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Finding My Feet

I am learning a lot this year. Its only March and already I feel stretched and challenged and even content. All good things!
Last year I yearned so much to be able to move into a house with a yard and bath and well, just extra space! I prayed endlessly for this desire and I cried many many tears, asking God why he would not answer my prayers and hopes. There's more to our 'housing situation' but I don't wish to divulge on a public platform so, if you feel like you're not getting the whole picture then you probably aren't! But basically, I was feeling so consumed with me me me and I I I and want want want that I don't remember being content with what God has already blessed me with? Grateful yes but content no. Not unlike this year, 2013 was challenging and it stretched my faith beyond what I thought I was capable of. This year I am still being challenged and stretched and its my level of contentment where I'm feeling it most. 
Its been somewhat refreshing to not feel so burdensome with anger and disappointment toward God but rather safe in the knowledge that He knows...
  the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11.
Not everyday I wake up automatically feeling content so I found a tool to help me express my emotions. I journal. I haven't been big on journal writing in the past but when I was given a 'daily' diary for Christmas I decided to use it to express my feelings when I was feeling discontent and, frustrated with the things that were out of my control. So when I'm having a moment I write it down and then close the diary, leaving my unhappiness between the pages. It has helped immensely! It saves ruining my day with discontentment and helps me to refocus.
I also write down the good things but the journaling is particularly therapeutic for my times of struggle. I'm thinking a separate journal might also be handy for writing down things to be thankful for daily?!
So with Gods strength, I'm learning that it is possible to be content when things aren't going to plan.
This year I'm also learning that although God may have given me a vision for something it doesn't necessarily mean it will happen with smooth sailing!
In the past I've struggled with where I fit in at church, in the way of ministry that is. We're all supposed to have these so called spiritual gifts and to be an arm or leg of the 'body'! Anyone ever sat through one of those sermons, and then been like "what on earth am I contributing to? Am I a hand or a hipbone? My husband is a talented muso and has always contributed to the church music team. Its always clear that that is where he fits in. And even when he's had times when he feels less than passionate about it he still knows that's where he can fill a need and contribute. I often feel like just the wife of a gifted person without anything to offer to the church body. I've always gotten involved in the churche goings on but just never felt called to a particular area or, I just didn't feel worthy or fitting enough .

Well this year I had a vision [for] and calling to womens ministry and I experienced this overwhelming sense that I know that I know that I know this is where God has placed me in church. But I've been involved in womens ministry for a few years now! And a few years its taken me to realize that this is exactly what God had planned for me in church ministry. Those years of me feeling like such a minor part of the body has lead me to this point of knowing that it may be minor and although its not my - handsome worship leader of a husband at the front of stage - it is still however very important! I've experienced so much frustration in ministry and often felt like giving up on my roll but now that God has revealed his plans to me I have such peace and patience and contentment. When my plans and aspirations for the ladies in our church don't go to plan, its still all okay and this is still part of the journey. I have found my feet and now I must walk the path God has laid before me. I have such a heart for the women in our church and I'm excited for the future.
Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. Proverbs 31:25


   


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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Truth about New Years Resolutions!

Last year was a good year. Highlights were Samson's arrival and we purchased an investment property, our first property.
But coming out of 2013 I was feeling greatly discouraged by how the year had gone. The goals and desires we had been working towards just didn't come about and there was nothing we could have done to make them happen either. 

So when 2014 dawned I was not in high spirits, I was still frustrated from the previous year and, in fact, I was not done with 2013! "Come back here you year 13, I've got unfinished business with you!" Life does go on though and yes I was now in 2014 but I was sure to not make any new years resolutions or goals. I didn't want to make goals only to be let down by them. Oh but wait I did have one goal (that I was only willing to share with hubby) and that was to give less of myself to others. I'd felt somewhat hurt by relationships in 2013 that I'd decided to just look after me and care only for myself.

Then February came along and I found myself with my first 'productive' goal for the year. I decided to invest in building stronger relationships with a few people. Hang on, hang on.... what?! All of January I had decided to throw the towel in on investing in others and now, now I was wanting to do the complete opposite! "God, you softened my heart"!
My goal was to pull back from Facebook a little and to get personal. I have many Facebook friends but know few closely. I feel that there is a lot to see about others on social media but few people are interested in getting to know you well. 'Friends' want to know what you're up to but not interested in building a friendship/relationship with you. Its 'nosy' at its best. 
I picked 2 friends who I knew of well (but not closely) and had met and, I wrote to them asking if they'd be interested in corresponding via snail mail or even email. They both live in other parts of the country so having a coffee date isn't an option (at this stage) but that writing to these beautiful women might overtime develop a strong friendship and we'd become encouragers. 

So okay, God softened my heart enough to make one positive goal in 2013 but that was all he was getting out of me.
Apparently not so. A few weeks ago my husband and I were feeling a bit blah about being able (or rather not being able) to connect in our church. We decided to do something about it but we're not moving churches, we're staying at our post! We're "Embracing Our Place" which by the way, is a fantastic talk. I only came across this video last week. Anyway, we're holding our post and we've decided make a conscious effort to try and connect better with the people in our church family.
Sundays are mostly about child wrangling and creche for us so, its often difficult to hold a conversation that doesn't involve running after a wee little man trying to a) eat all the donuts, b) getting drenched at the water bubbler or c) rearranging the music equipment. So we've committed to having people over weekly for a meal. We've moved our date nights to Tuesday evenings and have created 'hospitality Mondays'. Our small abode and my mediocre cooking have always put me off having people over so I'm overcoming that in 2014.  We've been doing 'hospitality Mondays' for 3 weeks now and we've certainly adopted a more positive vibe for being able to connect with others.
God really did change my heart!

I have one more new years goal and that is to find the best coffee in Darwin! Once a week (finances permitting) I want to buy and try a coffee from a different cafe in Darwin. I will be making small reviews on the cafes/restaurants using 'Yelp'. And if you ever want to share in my search than I'd love to take you on my date!

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Fashion Challenge

Okay, so my recent blog post 'My storyboard. My dreams' was really meant to be this post! I started writing and found myself off track and didn't have a clue how to bring it back to what I was originally going to write about! So if it sounded like a whole lot of fluff, it possibly was a little!
What I WAS going to blog about was on how I was scrolling through pinterest and came across a  pin that was Kendi's 30 for 30 fashion challenge. You can read about it HERE.

In short, Kendi started a fashion blog and found herself a little broke after spending many $$$ on putting together her outfits. So, she came up with the '30 for 30' challenge where she selected 30 items from her wardrobe and then created 30 different outfits with those items. And the catch was that she wasn't to purchase any new clothing during the challenge. The 30 (or what ever number you choose) items include shoes but not accessories or coats. 

I thought this was a great idea to help me get more creative with my wardrobe, and to not feel so bored with what I already have. I've decided to start with a '15 for 15' - 15 items of clothing (including shoes) and 15 different outfits. 
Anyone else up for a fashion challenge? If you'd like to follow my challenge and check out my outfits along the way then be sure to follow me on Instagram.

ta ta!

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My Storyboard. My Dreams.

I am a huge fan of Pinterest! It takes me back to the days when I was studying for my diploma in fashion and, I among other students, sat around flicking through magazines [of any kind] in search of inspiration for our next clothing design. We cut, we pasted, and voila… a storyboard that represented a theme. The theme represented our own taste, thoughts, emotions and likes. They may have been someone else’s pictures but we ‘chose’ them.
One of the very first storyboards I created was one that had to represent who I was as a person. I was 15 when I created it and it has hung above our bed for a long time, it reminds me of the person that I am supposed to be. I think back to when I was 15 and I remember how young I was, having completed my schooling and now an emerging fashion student at TAFE. I was so raw and so pure in my thoughts and style. I drew from the current trends but I was never ruled by them. I wore what I liked! I also giggle a little because there were hairstyles and outfits where I now think “what on earth was I thinking?!” but I was my own.

Sometimes I feel so far from who I am. I get caught up in wondering what I ‘should’ be, and the person people want to see. My clothing style is still all mine, I feel no pressure there but my personality, my job status and my dreams all feel stretched and tormented. Will people like me for the person I am?
I look at my storyboard and I see that 15 year old Jessica was a girl with classic and feminine taste, she dreamed of being a wife and the story says she wanted to be a mother also. 15 year old Jessica wanted to represent womanhood and she stood for the sisterhood. She wanted the pretty things of the world to be appreciated. She wanted to have love all around her but, most of all she wanted to generate and radiate that love. 15 year old Jessica tells me that good friendships were incredibly hard to find and build. But as I glance at her board she says that she’ll still be the person she is and the person God created her to be, no matter what. No compromises.

Whilst I may have changed a little over the past 10 years I am no less the girl represented in that storyboard.
I can learn many things by looking back at that board but I know I could teach her a few things too. I would tell 15 year old Jessica that a pearl ring is an impractical engagement ring. I would tell her that age would not make friendships easier to build, and that flower crowns and flowing white dresses would not make a sisterhood. I would tell her that marriage wasn’t all about French kissing and skipping through fields. I would tell her that childbirth isn’t that scary after all but that childrearing is incredibly challenging. I would tell her flowers wither and that almonds are really expensive to buy, and books aren’t something you ‘just’ write. Bet you’re all wondering what this board looks like aye?!

Girls, women, ladies – be sisters! I encourage you to reach out to each other. Mothers, have a girl to girl coffee date without your children. Wives, embrace the unattached women, you were once there. And the single ladies, experience fun with mothers, wiping bottoms isn't the only way they find fun! In 2014 let’s create unity among women from all walks of life. Let’s be the change and radiate love. Accept one another for who they are and let’s appreciate our differences, be it age, taste in fashion or career.

This year I am taking back the dreams that 15 year old Jessica dreamed in that board. 25 year old Jessica wonders if she’s a friend worthy likable character but 15 year old Jessica knows that she is exactly who God wanted her to be. 

Let’s be the sisterhood.


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Monday, February 3, 2014

February Date Nights

Its been both a busy and somewhat laid back couple of months. The holiday festivities kept us busy over Christmas and New Years, including a 3 week trip back home to NSW.  We've had random dates over the past few months but have otherwise not 'dated' weekly as we were. This month we resume our weekly date nights and continue to build on our marriage. 

Ideas have not been flowing easily but we've got a few things lined up. If you have any great date night ideas I'd love to hear them.

Week 1 - Watch a marriage DVD by Paul David Tripp "What did you Expect", redeeming the realities of marriage. 

Week 2 - Compose a song. Thinking praise or worship.

Week 3 - Play chess. I will beat my husband one of these days!

Week 4 - Write/draw a rough family tree of our families, going as far back as we can remember and adding all family members that we can recall. Matt and I haven't grown up knowing the others family so it will be a good exercise and challenge. 





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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

{ DIY } Boys Bow Tie


Recently I raided my fabric stash and made Rupert some funky new bow ties. Wearing a bow tie has become a 'thing' with Rupert. He seems to like wearing them but I can't help but wonder whether he will like or dislike me for it when he's older?! I can hear the words, "Mum why did you always put a bow tie on me when I was little?" I shall reply, "Would you have preferred a bow in your hair instead!" But he does look dashingly handsome on a Sunday wearing his little bow ties so, we're going to continue with the fad for now. 

Since they are so easy to make I thought I'd share my 'how to' with you all. If you own a stash of fabric scraps this will cost you near to nothing, and even if you don't it will still cost you very little!

You will need:
Approx 20 cm fabric
5 cm velcro 
Approx 20 cm interfacing (optional)

From fabric cut: 
Bow - 21 x 13 cm  +  interfacing
Strap - 5 x 37 cm
Knot - 5 x 7 cm


Fold bow horizontally twice, overlapping ends so that it creates a 3 layer thickness. Do not press.

Fold ends to meet in the middle, overlapping slightly. Stitch in place. Do not press.

Fold the bow in half, then fold the edges [back] toward the center. You can either tack or tie some thread around the middle to hold in place.

Back view.

To make neck strap press horizontally in half. Turn raw edges in, about ½ cm and press. Stitch along open edges.

Fold 'knot' piece horizontally, overlapping ends (same as bow). Press.

 Wrap 'knot' piece around both neck strap and bow. Tuck under raw edge and use a pin to hold in place. Hand stitch closed.



Sew Velcro to each of the neck strap ends. Bow tie complete!


Create a bit of fun by using different prints!


   


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Monday, November 4, 2013

Musk Stick & Marshmallow Cake

Birthdays are a great excuse for trying new cake ideas! 
Earlier this year I made the 'Kit Kat Cake' filled with Smarties for Rupert's 1st birthday. You can see it here. Its a cake design that looks fantastic and the great thing is that its so easy to make. So, when a friends birthday came up last week I pondered on how I could make a different cake with the same concept as the 'Kit Kat' cake, and this is what a came up with!


I used my all time favourite butter cake recipe which makes 2 cakes, stacked them with chocolate butter cream icing in the middle, then iced the outside with pink butter cream icing. The weather is so humid in Darwin so you've got to be quick, so following the icing I used 3 packets of musk sticks to place around the outside of the cake.

I then filled the top of the cake with small marshmallows, you can find these in the baking isle of the supermarket. I used about 1 1/2 packets.
A ribbon tied around the middle and a couple of 'barber' straws over kebab skewers finished it off quite nicely.



Easy Vanilla Butter Cake 
Recipe taken from Taste.com

Ingredients
3 cups self-raising flour
1 cup plain flour
2 cups castor sugar
300g butter, cubed and at room temperature
1 1/4 cups milk
6 eggs, at room temperature
3 tsp vanilla essence

Method
  1. Preheat oven to 140°C. Position rake on second lowest shelf of the oven. Grease 2 round cake tins.
  2. Place all the ingredients in a [very] large mixing bowl and beat on low for 30 seconds or until just combined. Increase the speed to high and beat for 1-2 minutes or until the mixture is thick and all the butter is incorporated. Evenly spoon the mixture into prepared cake tins.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 2 - 2 1/2 hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from oven and set aside for 10 minutes. Turn onto a wire rack for 2 hours or until completely cook.




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Date Night Idea :: Paint your dream home


Last month one of our date night projects was to each paint our dream home, or rather 'attempt' to paint to paint our dream home!
It was so pleasant sitting out on our veranda in low lighting with a brush in hand and chuckling over our painting skills. It was very therapeutic and, we both ended up with red houses! Always learning something new about each other.

I highly encourage couples to have deliberate time together, time learning about each other. Don't ever stop dating! 







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Thursday, October 31, 2013

November Date Nights

4th Oct - write a [short, simple] children's storybook with illustrations. 

11th Oct - electronically collate children's book ready for printing. We'll have it printed at Office Works or somewhere that allows you to make your own books.

18th Oct - as an anniversary project we are going to build a coffee table that looks something like the picture below.


25th Oct - We're still working on this one but as it is our 4th wedding anniversary on the 21st, we are thinking of doing something a little crazy! Possibly putting on our wedding getup and heading out to a restaurant for some fine dining. Not sure that I'm brave enough to go out in my wedding dress but it would be fun to do!

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Friday, October 11, 2013

I Quit Sugar :: Week 8 - the end!

Yeah baby... I completed a sugar detox! Sunday marked the last day of my 8 week sugar detox program and I am very proud to have taken on and conquered the challenge. I've thoroughly enjoyed taking on a new approach to the way I cook and bake, I have certainly reaped the rewards. 
Having been a vegetarian before I know what it means to be creative with meals minus the meat but never sweets/deserts minus the sugar. I am continuing to apply some of the detox 'rules' to my everyday eating. Doing the detox wasn't only to empty my body of 'junk' and sugar but also to reeducate myself on eating healthy again, to become 'sugar wise'. 
I would highly recommend the program to anyone.




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Friday, October 4, 2013

October Date Nights

So here is what we've planned for Mondays date nights for the month of October.

7th Oct - write a letter to each other to open on our first date night in our own home... for whenever that may be!

14th Oct - using watercolour paints, each paint our dream house. 
Its probably more of a female thing but ever since I was young I've had this picture in my head of what my ideal home would look like... and its not a unique design, its very stereotypical actually. Wonder if you can guess what my dream house looks like?

21st Oct - make 'Jason's Rocky Road Trifle' from More Icing Please and watch a black and white movie... any suggestions on which one? Detox will be over and it will be a cheat night so we are going to indulge a little with this yummy trifle.

28th Oct - Mexican theme night - We're not entirely sure on the menu yet?



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I Quit Sugar :: Week 7

Yay! Am so pleased I made it this far. I feel so much better for starting this detox and, I'm going to try so hard to continue all my new 'good' and healthy habits after I complete the program. 

For the past few weeks I haven't really struggled with my cravings but this week I found myself craving ice cream. I now find it easy to turn down the cravings but I wonder if that's just because I'm on detox and I'm not supposed to eat those foods? I worry a little that even though I may not seek out junk food that I will cave to my cravings and think it's okay because I'm no longer on a program that forbids it. 
But I'm determined to not go back to my junk food ways. Why would I do that to myself?! I've lost 2kgs and 3cm off my bust (not overly happy about this), waist and hips which proves that although I didn't think it, I was actually carrying weight I didn't need. It's weight that was kept on by my sugar addiction. Kind of blows my mind!

So, because we all have to live a little we are going to adopt the 'cheat day' rule. Clean eating for 6 out of 7 days, and then a day to not feel guilty if we stop in for a cheeky soft serve at maccas. As I also love my baking and cooking I can use cheat day on our Monday date nights for any indulgent desert I may want to make. I will otherwise be continuing my adventure on becoming more creative (and educated) with sugar free ingredients and recipes. Being sugar free is not being tasteless or boring, it's knowing the right recipes and substitutes.
Practicing my pork roasting for Christmas. My best crackling yet!


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10 Things About the Man I Married

Behind every happy wife there is a hard working, patient and loving husband! It's no secret that we female creatures can be a puzzle for the men to figure out and, although hubby will probably never quite understand the 'female' ways he is nevertheless doing a great job of hiding it. Hehe.

So I thought I'd write a short post introducing you all to the man I love most.
Here are 10 things about my husband Matt.

1. He's a civil engineer working for a small private consulting firm here in the Northern Territory. He completed  his degree in 2010. Just 1 year after we married.

2. He's not really your 'handy home fix-it' kind of guy, he's more of a 'defrag your computer' man. He's all things tech savvy! He has attention to detail and therefore great at reading manuals and maps. Making the bed however... Nil attention to detail!

3. Matt had to buy new underwear on the day of our wedding because he had fallen that far behind in his washing. It was probably at that moment he was relieved to be taking a wife that day! Hehe.

4. He's a very talented musician. Every girls dream man but, before you think I get serenaded to everyday let me just say eh, it's happened twice. Wedding and 1st anniversary haha. But yes, a musician who plays saxophone, bass, electric and acoustic guitar, drums, percussion and sings. Before Samson's arrival he played timps and percussion for the Darwin symphony orchestra, and he also leads church music. Matt has a great appreciation for music of all different genres.

5. Like most men he enjoys his sports; rugby, cricket and tennis. Over the years he has played a bit of rugby and a lot of indoor cricket. 

6. If you and I were chatting over coffee and you asked if my husband was romantic, I'd probably hum and ha. But I do know for sure that he is undoubtedly in love with his wife [me] and, gives unconditional support and commitment to myself and our family. Oh and he does spoil me with flowers on a very regular basis, so somewhat romantic.

7. He's 25 years old (9 months older than myself) and has a younger brother and sister.

8. He's an amazing father to Rupert and Samson and has always been hands on and in the thick of all things pooey and drooly. It won't be possible for our children to reach adulthood and not know how blessed they were to have such a great father.

9. My husband is a Star Trek fan. Nothing more to say here. Oh wait, they call these fans trekkies, yep he's a trekky!

10. Matt's father is Chinese and his mother is Scottish English. In other words he's a hairy Asian!





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Friday, September 27, 2013

I Quit Sugar :: Week 6

Wow, great week! There's not a lot to say about week 6 as it was much like week 5, in that my cravings have pretty much disappeared altogether. Although, I did have a moment when I walked past Donut King and thought it would be nice to have a donut but, otherwise not tempted to fall into old habits. 
At this stage in the program we are able to reintroduce a bit of fruit into our diet which has been nice. Still keeping it to a minimum though. 
I'm half way through week 7 now and when I got on the scales for a weigh in (a few days ago) I was a little chuffed to discover I had lost 2 kg since the first week. I had also lost 2 1/2 - 3 cm off my bust, waist and hips! Did not expect that. I haven't even been exercising, and I didn't think I had a lot of excess weight to lose. But apparently I did, and just by eliminating the lollies and chocolates, and high fructose foods I have dropped in size. Hubby had also lost a few kilos!
Anway, will leave you with the above yummy sugar free pancakes that I [partly] devoured the other day. Recipe was taken from Sarah Wilson's 'I Quit Sugar' book. You can also find it on her website www.sarahwilson.com.


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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Apple Tarte Tatin

For our 'French' date last night I made Apple Tarte Tatin for dessert. I'd never made nor eaten this dessert before and I was delightfully impressed by its simplicity and flavour. I was also shocked at how much sugar is required! SO sweet! Not only because we're on detox but also because we want to limit our sugar [fructose] intake, I used Stevia, instead of the usual castor or brown sugar. I also did some experimenting with quantities but this just wasn't the dessert for escaping 'sweet free'.

Ingredients
40g butter
1/2 sheet puff pastry
1 granny smith apple
4 tbs Stevia
Coconut cream to serve.

Method
Preheat oven to 250°C. Melt butter. Grease 2 ramekins with a little of the melted butter. 
Halve the apple and place cut side up in each ramekin. 
Sprinkle 2 tbs stevia over each apple and drizzle the remaining melted butter over each one. 
Using base of ramekin as a guide cut 2 circles from the sheet of pastry.
Place on a baking tray and bake on the top shelf of the oven for 15 mins or until bubbling, and you notice the sugar caramelizing.
Remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 230°C. Place a pastry circle over each ramekin and tuck down the sides using a spoon (so that the pastry hugs the apple). Return to the oven and bake for a further 8-10 mins or until pastry is golden.
Turn out onto plate and drizzle with any caramel left in the ramekins. Serve with some cream, ice cream or, as we did, some coconut cream for a healthier option.
Makes 2.
Note: I experimented a little with the Stevia/sugar quantities. I made two tarte tatins using 2 tbs (which we had for dessert) and then I also made one with 1 tbs and another with just 1/2 tbs. The ones pictured above were made with 1/2 tbs and 1 tbs and as you can see, they aren't overly caramelized. They were nevertheless sweet enough! But the tarte tatins using the full 2 tbs did taste better, and was the right amount to form a good caramel.

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Recipe :: Lemon Chicken Roast

Thought I'd share my chicken roast recipe with you all... Because it is so delicious! It has a subtle lemon flavour with a crispy skin and is tender and moist on the inside. Very yummy!

Ingredients

1 whole chicken
1 lemon halved
2 garlic cloves
Olive oil
Paprika
Rosemary

Method

Preheat oven to 220°c. Rinse chicken under cold water, including cavity. Pat dry with a paper towel. Squeeze one half of the lemon over chicken and rub into the skin. Put both halves of the lemon into the cavity along with the garlic and tie legs together.
Rub a small amount of oil into the chicken and season with paprika, rosemary, salt and pepper. In a normal oven cooking time should probably only take an hour but our oven (our dodgy oven) takes about 1 1/2hr to do a roast. I also rotate the baking dish half way through.

I bake veggies in a separate dish and, lightly coat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and chilli flakes. I leave them to bake for as long as the chicken takes but cover with foil for the first half of cooking time.

I make gravy using the juices and it gets a lovely lemon flavour.



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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Date Night Project :: Charcoal Sketching

On our most recent date night on Monday just gone, we made homemade pizzas together and we also  sketched/drew head portraits of each other with charcoal. 
The pizza was delicious as always and, thanks to a fellow blogger we were let in on the the secret to making a professional pizza! It worked a treat. Can't believe I never realized how it was done?!

Upon finishing our yummy pizzas, in a candlelit setting on the balcony, we then pulled out the sketch pad and charcoal sticks. We probably spent about a half hour sketching each other before revealing our finished artwork to the other person... we had a good chuckle! Neither of our drawings looked like our subject but it was a lot of fun. I have displayed our portraits in a couple of square frames.
The picture in the middle was a little creation of mine. Created by 'smacking' a bunch of kisses onto some sketch paper (possibly a little odd)! I plan to hang all 3 frames horizontally above our bed. This was a great date night project... give it ago!

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I quit Sugar :: Week 5

Week 5 was great! It was the first week since starting the detox that I didn't feel like I was struggling with my cravings. Up until week 5 I had this horrible feeling [and desire] that I was going to have a huge chocolate and lolly binge as soon as the detox ended. It sounds terrible but I was even looking forward to the finish line and then having a 'pig-out'!

Week 5 and now part way into week 6 I am feeling great, particularly this week. Although my cravings were diminishing last week I was struggling with headaches and some nausea but, having read the relevant chapter in my I quit Sugar book, it mentioned that some people at that point in the program would start to feel unwell. Its your body going through withdrawals and its a good thing! 
I'm also looking at the 'sweets' in the stores and on marketing material and thinking how disgusting (I can't think of a better word to best describe my feeling) it is, as oppose to wanting it. I just don't have the desire to eat them. ITS FANTASTIC!
Below is the 'Sweet Green Meal-in-a-Tumbler' that I blended up yesterday, its really yummy.
Sweet Green Meal-in-a-Tumbler
Recipe from 'I Quit Sugar' by Sarah Wilson



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Friday, September 13, 2013
So I've been really loving all the 'flower crowns' out there. They are delightfully pretty and feminine. But it's kind of an indie look which I don't tend to pull off. It's not really my style. I'd love to give it a go though and thought I might try my hand at making one. They are so easy to make! 

You will need: 
Pliers
Faux flowers of your choice. $2 shops and spotlight stock them.
Head band 
Floral tape (opt.)
Floral wire (you won't need this if your flowers are wired)

If your faux flowers are wired just coil each one around the headband in an arrangement of your choice. Trim stems with pliers if need be. If your flowers aren't wired, hold flower at the stem in desired position and begin wrapping the floral wire around both headband and flower. 
Continue adding flowers until you get the desired look. The floral tape can be used to cover any 'mess' or sharp ends. Alternatively you could hot glue some felt on the inside to give a neat finish.

Click here for some other ideas.


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Thursday, September 12, 2013

DIY Candle Jar


Pour some soil into a medium size jar. Use enough soil that you don't have to reach too far down to light the candle.
Sit a tea light candle on top of the soil, pushing down slightly to position.
Tie several rounds of string around the jar at about the level of the soil so that it hides the tea light. I used cooking twine but raffia would look  great. 
Add a few simple faux flowers and your done! 
I doubt anyone would need instructions for this but thought I'd share. Its so simple and pretty.



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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I Quit Sugar :: Week 4

Hmmm... well... on Saturday evening I went out to dinner with the sisterhood girls and we dined at the 'Buzz Cafe Restaurant'. Such a lovely restaurant with mellow music, soft lighting and a gorgeous view overlooking the water. It was so lovely to be dining in such wonderful company with great food and a relaxed atmosphere. 

However, the night took a turn much unexpected when all six of the girls I was dining with suddenly pounced on me like a cat to wool, and they tied me to my chair! Before me they set the most amazing desert I'd seen, it was some kind of almond chocolate panforte with a dollop of ice cream and a drizzle of strawberry syrup. And well, they gang fed me! Spoonful after spoonful, it was just dreadful and it tasted awful.

Okay so your after the true story right? Well yes I did eat an amazing desert and no it didn't taste awful. We had all ordered our meals and all but two meals were brought to the table. Myself and a friend didn't recieve our meals with the others and after some time we brought it to the waitresses attention. By now the other girls had just about finished their meals. The kitchen staff had made an error and they were very apologetic and gave us all a free desert to make up for it. Hmmm, yes, what was I to do? Everyone was getting a free desert off the menu because I and another didn't get our meals on time and, I kind of felt like I deserved the desert. The best part was that it was free and the worse part was that I broke my detox with no good reason. Theres no excuse and I am feeling quite guilty, so much that I wasn't even going to mention it on here but I wanted to continue to be transparent on this journey of mine, and now you know my weakness! My detox continues.

Coco-nutty Granola Recipe by Sarah Wilson. Great for breakfast or an afternoon snack.
On a better note, I have otherwise been enjoying not having so much junk food in my life. As I've become more aware of the sugar content in foods I've also realized how much rubbish I had been filling my body with. On a much too frequent basis. It is such an awesome feeling to have done away with my habitual sweet-snacking. I usually make healthy substantial dinners and I can't believe that I was counteracting that by having a packet of lollies here and there! I mean, what was the point of making sure we have healthy meals if I was only going to eat lollies and chocolates in between?! 
Thanks to the detox program I've been able to replace my unhealthy snacks with some wholesome ones which still taste great!
Above is a picture of some Coco-Nutty Granola that I made using [homemade] activated nuts. Granola is great for breaky or morning/afternoon tea. I like to serve it with natural yogurt and, have found it to be quite filling (hubby thinks not so much). 

Now you're all probably wondering how hubby is going with the detox? Well he was doing great until Fathers Day came around and, he decided to eat the tasty celebratory foods offered at morning tea after church... he caved. I had actually thought he was doing away with the detox but on Monday he was back to the 'sugar free' ways. I didn't realize until a few days later. He's not much of a sweet tooth nor a sugar addict so even if he had discontinued detoxing he would not have hindered me. I'm a hindrance to myself as you've learnt already! 

Poached Egg with Bacon. A yummy sunday breakfast.


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Monday, September 9, 2013

September Date Nights

Its been over a month since we introduced date nights, and it's been really great to have that one night of the week set aside just for each others company.

We didn't have date night last Monday because we had family visiting from interstate but here is a whats on for the next 4 weeks.


2nd sept - no date night, family visiting.

9th sept - poker night *wink wink

16th sept - We're going to make pizza together and then draw portraits of each other (good luck to me, I  can't even draw scribble).

23rd sept - A 'French' theme night. We going to cook a French dinner and watch Amelie, a french movie.

30th sept - Cheese and wine on the balcony. Discuss date night ideas for the next month.

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Are you up to the challenge?

If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed that I posted a pic of some Batic fabric given to me by my brother. I was asking if anyone had any ideas of what I could make with it, other than using it for its usual purpose as a sarong. A fellow follower suggested making a 'pirate scarf'... that's right a pirate scarf, my thoughts exactly! 

I honestly don't think I could pull off the somewhat indie look but I feel a challenge worth attempting coming on. I suggested the style dare in a comment and in reply it was suggested that we take on this challenge for Sundays church wear?! Okay, so now it's not just a pirate scarf but I also have to sport it at church! I'm not going to use my new Batic fabric but I will take on the challenge. Anyone else up for it? 
Below are some examples of how a 'pirate scarf'is worn, for fashion not costume. 
On Sunday I will post my look and I'd love to see yours too! Post to Instagram and use #mamaessyfashiondare.

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

I Quit Sugar :: Weeks 2 & 3

Okay, here I am finally with an update on my "I quit Sugar" detox. On Sunday just gone I completed week 3 and, my it was tough! Week 2 was still in the 'cutting back' phase and I was still allowed to eat sugar in very small doses but then week 3 came along and it was 'cold turkey' time. No fresh or dried fruit. No juice. No muesli or muesli bars. No jams. No condiments containing sugar eg. bbq and tomato sauce. No flavoured yogurts. No honey. No chocolate, soft drinks etc. And basically nothing with more than 6g sugar per 100g.

It was particularly tough because I had my parents and one of my brothers make a spontaneous visit to Darwin and, it gave me that holiday feeling. 'Holiday feelings' tend to come with celebratory food! I wanted to chill out with my family with chocolates, cake, lollies and a bottle of soft drink. Its what you do right?! I was strong enough to resist but I did make a few mistakes along the way.
In the [welcomed] chaos of having 3 extra people bunk in our 2 bedroom unit I ate a few fruit bars and didn't even realize till days later that I ate them - and wasn't supposed to. I also ate a bit of carrot which I later found out is high in fructose. Not really the kind of sugar I'm addicted to and need cutting back on but I did feel like I had let myself down a little. Oh and I've also had an issue with low milk supply (breastfeeding) so along with a herb called 'Fenugreek' (which by the way is a miracle worker for getting your supply back up!) I also took Sustagen which contains a fair bit of sugar. At this point I had to weigh up what was important and of course it was Samson's well-being. I contemplated whether there was even any point continuing the detox if I couldn't do it thoroughly?! I felt like I had failed what I so desperately wanted to achieve.
The two foods that have really helped me through my challenging moments have been natural yogurt with cinnamon and bacon and egg cupcakes
I came to the conclusion that surely it would still be better for me to continue even if I couldn't follow all the rules. The purpose for me doing the detox program was to break my addiction with 'sour worms' and 'chocolate coated licorice', and to replace them with healthier snacks. Although I've made 'Sustagen' the exception I have been keeping to the rules of the detox and I am feeling proud about that.  I will no doubt do the detox again somewhere down the track.

Something else that has also been challenging is peoples negative responses to others wanting to live a healthier lifestyle. I've discovered that there are some narrow-minded and condescending people who think its ridiculous to cut back on sugar. I don't believe I've pushed my 'detox' ways on others, and other then here on my blog I don't tend to talk much about it, or at least not in a way that should make others feel bad about their own eating habits. So its been very frustrating that people will try and bring you down with negative comments, which anyway reads to me that they need to make you look bad in order for them to make themselves feel/look better. I am part way into week 4 and I shall not be moved by negativity!



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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pen Friends, Where Are They Now?

Yesterday I found myself thinking about the pen friends I used to correspond with via good old 'snail mail'. I wrote to friends who lived only 20 minutes away and then there were friends who lived far away and, I loved writing to each one of them. At what point did I stop sending and receiving letters? What happened? Was there a letter lost in the post, did someone move address, did we lose interest in writing, did busy lives, study and jobs get in the way or, was it technology?
When I moved to Darwin I remember writing to my nanna but sadly she has since passed away. Grandparents are great people to write letters to. Its what they know and its what they did in their day. But I've entered a stage in my life where close relatives are slowly quickly passing away. I've already lost two grandparents in 12 months - but that's for another post. Like our elderly, handwritten letters are fading too. The only other person I currently write to is our sponsor child. 

There's an element of mystery when you write to a friend who you may have only met in the flesh once or twice, and the reason you met was because you were both at the same place for a common reason or interest, a mutual friend even. You know that you both have at least one thing in common. Through each letter received and written there's an unfolding of a special friendship and you're learning about that person with anticipation. 
Today, we seem to stalk for friends on Facebook and hit the 'add friend' button in hope you'll be granted 'instant' friendship. You then scour their profile in attempt discover who they are, photo by photo, status by status, you 'instantly' make up you're own judgement of that person and, who you think they are based on what they have posted. Obviously I do believe a profile says a lot about a person but its all surface knowledge, it's not a close friendship its an acquaintance who we met once and then proceeded to add them on Facebook... to never have another proper conversation with! 
Okay, so maybe some of you use Facebook chat but how often do you chat online with someone you only met once with? Do you get what I'm saying? Friendship on Facebook just isn't deep or intimate enough if you're really wanting to get to know someone and form a close friendship with. 
Social media is merely a stepping stone to close friendship. Other efforts need to be made. That's right, I just said 'effort'. It's too easy to be a Facebook friend, its clicking buttons at your fingertips every so often. A 'like' here and a 'like' there, maybe a comment even.
If there's one thing I've learnt its that friendships require building on and effort (effort you want to put in). Its taking initiative, its making a call, arranging a coffee date, its a meal at your home (which I fail miserably to do) and maybe its a personal handwritten letter. It's making sure you water the seed that was planted so that it grows beautiful and strong. 

I'm feeling like this post is starting to sway from 'writing letters' and turning into a rant about Facebook (which you can read here) but what I'm trying to get across is this:

I miss taking the time to write a letter to a friend. I miss building a friendship through letters and than eagerly looking forward to the day we meet again in person. I miss writing a letter to someone who lives in the same city but who I don't see often. The 21st century is in great need of quality time!



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