Word Nerding

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Starting. That’s the hardest bit. Making words appear on a blank space. But not just words. Word in the right order the evoke meaning and feeling. (Quite obviously this is not something that has been happening much around here.) Words can be so beautiful and their power fascinates me. But, sometimes the effort it takes to make those words fall on the page in the right order is just too much.

But words are still beautiful and for me healing. For some reason, watching them fall on the page and reading them back to myself can open a window that seems connected to my soul. They have a wisdom that I have no memory of applying to them. That is a truly beautiful thing and I guess holds the key to why I have lived life loving them so much.

I am on the cusp of turning 46. My girls are growing like weeds in the spring sunshine. They delight me, frustrate me and bring me unspeakable joy. (Not to mentioned leave me living life at a million miles an hour as I drive them everywhere they need to be.) I think I’m leaving 45 behind as a much ‘wholer’ person than I started it. Thanks mostly to a wise lady counsellor who gave me the space to understand my own value. I’ve lived so much of my life completely without this awareness. But there was no way my heart could store value when rejection tore down every wall that self-value tried to build.

But now, things feel very different. Admittedly, I was a self-pitying mess. I was giving out love and compassion at a rate that was unsustainable and left me broken and miserable. A husband dealing with his own set of issues, a mother with Alzheimers and an aged father-in-law all jostled for my love and attention. (And that was before I even began to think about the girls – who are the centre of my life and deserve the best part of me.) My own brokenness stopped me seeing how desperately in need I was and left me on an exhausting treadmill continually trying to make everyone else’s life better (which of course is impossible) while I felt sad and sorry for myself. But, as things tend to do when they are ‘in season’ in your life, I started sensing the need for self-love. Articles would find their way to me and people would speak little words that that opened a chasms of need inside me. Gradually I began turning the love and compassion once reserved for other onto myself and a process of healing began.

I took myself off for counselling and allowed myself to feel and understand the rejection that had been choking me for 45 years. I gained some understand of the lengths us humans will go to to avoid the uncomfortableness of emotional pain. I guess, in essence, I made friends with it. Accepted it. Processed it. And put it into perspective. It’s still there. It’s part of who I am, but it no longer stops me understanding my own value.

Have you ever heard of Kintsukuroi? It’s the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with precious metals and has become synonymous with an understanding that sometimes things are more beautiful for having been broken. I am pretty sure kintsukurio is exactly what happened to me. I feel like my brokeness was made whole with the purest gold and my heart has become precious and beautiful. And that feels nice. Really nice. It gives me license to treat myself in a nurturing and caring way. To ‘mother’ myself and be totally in control of my own happiness. I know I have value – simply because I am me. All in all, I think it makes me a better person and life a lot more fun for everyone around me. (Thank you God for Kintsukurio – I think it might be my newest favourite word!)

So, today I have let words fall onto my page again. It felt good too. The words have worked their magic and helped me understand myself.

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Thaw

May 31, 2016 · 4 comments

Do you ever feel like internally you need to thaw out? 

Apparently I do.

My soul feels frozen and numb.

Not necessarily in an evil or destructive way.

But none the less unyielding and unwilling to give. 

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I don’t exactly know what this means.  It’s a new feeling for me.  I’m usually so good at being introspective and understanding myself.  I ask myself questions and give myself answers and seek the wisdom that comes from within.

But not now.  Now all is silent and all I can do is wait.

Wait for my soul to thaw and movement to begin again. 

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I’m not even particularly sure why things are as they are.  I’m a mum and  life is  busy.  I work.  I care.  I tend to my growing babies.  But perhaps I don’t tend to my own self enough.  Life, marriage, work, mothering, home maintenance, family and friends all jostle for priority and carry their own ‘barbs of wire’ that scratch and sometimes  draw blood if they are ignored. 

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I find it hard to nourish my soul and some days it screams for attention and love.  I tell it to ‘shut up and wait’ because there is always something or someone else that needs my care and  concern more than it does.   This is not really helpful.  After all, I’m sure all it wants is my kindness. 

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But even with my frozen soul, I feel a flicker of hope.  Hope because I know a thaw is coming.  I can sense it shimmering away just over the horizon.  Waiting for the perfect time to spill over like sunlight and bring justice to my world.   It will bring deeper understanding, answers, and fresh perspective.  And that’s what we all need, right?  Feelings and emotions will start moving again.  Passing through and whispering their little secrets of wholeness into my being.  Growth will happen and new things will blossom.  New strength.  New insight.  New joy for life.  

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Expectations bring hope and from hope springs the delights of life. 

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My consistency as a blogger sucks right about now.  Yeah, I know.  It’s one of the golden rules of blogging BE CONSISTENT, but then again I have never really been one to follow the rules – so I guess I can let that slide.

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Life has been all kinds of crazy around here for a few weeks.  The type of crazy where you mix looking after two elderly parents, one with Dementia and one with Alzheimer, with school holidays, job interviews and freezing cold weather. Can you see the picture?  Oh, we’ve been having some moments.   You know those ones where you choose to laugh because the only other alternative is to cry.  Hang on, there was this one time where I actually did both.  And it was surprisingly cathartic. 

This is only momentary madness though. Life will return to our version of normal, which only includes  one elderly parent, fairly soon.  School went back this week as well which means in a couple of days I’ll find time  to indulge my introverted nature and take some breathing space for my soul.  Then life will feel a little more harmonious and a little less crazy.   (It’s relaxing just thinking about it.)

Despite the general neglect going on around here, I am very happy to report that my Kidspot Put Yourself On The Map (#shareaustralia) post has been chosen as one of the top 20 posts in the competition. Meaning I’ve now been commissioned (now that’s a word that makes you feel like a true online creative) to produce and expanded version which will be published on Kidspot.  Thank you Kidspot.   I can’t wait to start work on the 10 best family adventures to be had in around the beautiful town of Ballarat.  So seriously chuffed to have my work recognised in this way.

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Most of my other writing work is falling a little behind.  I have posts that should have been posted and emails that should have been answered.  But that too will happen.  Perhaps not overnight – but it will happen (she says as she shakes out her long flowing hair).   So, if you’ve been waiting on me please know I haven’t  forgotten you and I’ll be back in touch soon.

In the meantime, amidst all the madness a few other little rays of sunshine have been lighting up my life.   I’ve had two fabulous local  job interviews for part-time project management and marketing work, which I’ve strangely enjoyed.  I have a second interview for both; so fingers are crossed I’ll be adding some new endeavours to the Caz Filmer Write’s bow soon.  We’ve also established a PR & Social Good group for Ballarat Bloggers and I’m loving linking our local bloggers up with fun and interesting local attractions and businesses and seeing the social media synergy start to bubble away.   I love social media synergy!  It’s seriously so cool to see the way it develops an individual personality – every single time. 

So there we go little blog.  You no longer need to feel neglected. I have written all over you – much more than I intended to write actually.   And I am once again reminded why I have this space and just how much I love to let words fall out of my fingers.   There  is something so fancy-free and peaceful about letting all of your words go on a blog.   Do you find that?  Is it what keeps you blogging too?

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I don’t know about you but I consider myself very lucky to have been born in Australia.  There are probably more than a million reasons why I’m grateful for the quirk of fate that saw me delivered to parents from down under.  But right now the one I’m really thinking about is how much it has to offer to those who enjoy the thrill of exploring new and fun places and spaces with their family.  

Today, I’m taking part in a challenge, as part of Kidspots Voices of 2015,  to share with you my own personal pocket of Australia in the hope that I can temp you to come and do some exploring here in Ballarat. Ballarat is a beautiful town.  It has clear crisp air, fabulous distinctive seasons and a part in  history that any living museum would be proud of.    But why would you want to bring your family here to visit?  Oh my friend the list of reasons is endless but today my job is to bring you three good ones and then let you discover the rest. 

 

Spend some time at Lake Wendouree

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The lake (as the locals call it) is a pretty big deal in Ballarat and an easy place to lose a good few hours of exploration time.  If you’re feeling energetic you could walk the six kms of pathway that winds around the lake itself.  (If you’re here on a Wednesday morning you might even see me slowly jogging my way around – so wave and please offer me a drink if I look ready to pass out.)   There are playgrounds dotted regularly around the lake but make sure you stop at both the Adventure Playground (a massive wooden construction so huge you’ll be lucky not to lose your kids) and the Indigenous Playground (a beautiful area filled with lovely art and rhythmical playthings inspired by our indigenous history) as they are particularly beautiful and a real experience for the kids. 

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Once you’ve walked the lake and had a play you can head over the road to the Botanical Gardens.  My own personal favorite things to do here are play spot the goldfish in the fishponds and walk down Prime Minister’s Avenue taking selfies with our  Ex-Prime Minsters.  But you might prefer to do some of the more traditional activities like checking out the begonias, enjoying the plant life or visiting Adam Lindsay Gordon’s Cottage. Each to their own as they say.  

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The lake also has an impressive wetlands areas open for exploration, the stirring Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial and a fabulous vintage tram you can ride on with the kids.    Once little tummies start to rumble there are more perfect picnic spots than you can poke a proverbial stick at, along with electric  barbecues, cafes and a regular ice-cream van. Lake Wendouree is a seriously great place to have a family adventure and you could easily spend the best part of a day exploring all it has to offer.   (PS: I had just finished my run around the lake before taking these selfies – so I think both me, Bob, Jules and Kev are looking mighty fine!)

 

Visit Nimmons Bridge on the Railtrail

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The next Ballarat based adventure I’ve chosen for you is a quick trip out to visit Nimmons Bridge.   The bridge is part of the Ballarat Skipton Rail Trail and was built back in the 1850s as part of the local railway net work.   The Rail-Trail winds its way from the Ballarat Station, meandering out through a host of local community towns, for 63 kilometers until it reaches Skipton.      As you can see from the photos, Nimmons Bridge is a stunning old railway bridge that has been restored to provide a breathtaking glimpse into life in yesteryear. 

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The bridge is about a twenty minute drive from Ballarat by road or, if the family is up to it, a 30 kilometer bike ride from the Ballarat Station.   (It’s on my  own personal bucket list to do the bike ride – but I must confess it hasn’t happened yet!)  The bridge’s under-structure is made from the most impressively huge logs, the sight of which leaves you wondering where they found trees big enough to make them from.   The surrounding views of gorgeous local farmland are lovely and all of the locals will tell you to make sure you leave some time to simply stand on the bridge and gaze out – allowing the view to restore your soul.    My trick is to let the kids go running ahead, following the pathway, while I wait on the bridge to watch them and enjoy my moments tranquility on my own.   

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There are two picnic tables ready and waiting at each end the bridge and a walking track which lets you see the bridge from underneath – which is honestly the best and most impressive way to see it.  You’ll also find an information alcove in the parking area which provides all of the history and backstory that you need give your Nimmons Bridge adventure some historical perspective. 

 

Do the Tourist Park thing

I’m sure you’ve all heard about the epic-ness of Sovereign Hill, undoubtedly Ballarat’s most famous attraction and something every family should do at least once.  It is seriously worth it.  We’re not talking about whiz-bang rides and fast food styled amusement parks here.   Sovereign Hill is a living museum of life back in the 1850s where you’ll find yourself panning for gold (which you get to keep by the way – watch the kids eyes light up when you tell them that), conversing with beautifully dressed ladies and cheeky old fashioned policemen and taking  rides in  horse drawn vehicles.  You can also create your own candle, watch old fashioned lollies being made and see the blacksmith at work – among other things.    It’s a fabulous day (or two) out and has much much more to offer than I can express in this one paragraph.   It’s literally a Ballarat must do – maybe even an Australian must do. 

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But Sovereign Hill is not the only tourist park Ballarat has to offer.  You should also consider spending some time at Kryal Castle.  It is an enchanting and magical place with its story woven around a mythic King, his lovely Queen and an un-seen She-Dragon who lives curled up in the Mountain behind the castle.    Recently re-developed, the castle has been well thought out to appeal to everyone in the family and will keep you entertained and on the go for hours.   There are puppet plays and the Tooth Fairies very own lolly shop, jousting knights and magical wizards blending mythical potions, playgrounds, magical mazes and even (if you are game and over 12) the gruesome Torture & Dungeon Museum.    Yet another great adventure waiting to be had in Ballarat. 

Have I impressed you with our tourist parks yet?  Best wait to answer that one because there are still more.   Ballarat is also home to a beautifully set out Wildlife Park  which specialises in crocodiles  (The Ballarat Wildlife Park) and a very cute and clever Tangled Maze – both of which you could easily lose two or three more hours to.     Did I tell you we are spoiled for choice?

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Are you tempted to come and explore Ballarat with your family?   I have no doubt there are enough exciting escapades waiting for you here that you’ll need more than a day.  If exploring really is your thing you might be interested in the Ballarat Bucket List which has another seventy-two family friendly things you can do in and around Ballarat.  So, if you’re up for it I think we could probably keep you here for a week.   Maybe I’ll see you out exploring my home town some day soon. 

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I’m sitting here in the wee small hours of the morning (4.23 am to be precise) shaking my fist at the gods of the internet for their meanness. Fancy cutting off my supply when I’m up, awake and hoping to whip out a few hours of online work before the daily routine starts and I’m too tired to think straight.     Unfair I say.  (Very softly so I don’t wake up the family.)  

  This blog has been around for while and has received the odd nomination for a few things here and there (most of which I’ve minimised away in my own special and unique style) but for some reason this one feels a little different.  Perhaps because these days there are SO MANY awesome online creatives.  Compared to back when I began here, when you could literally comment on every other blog in the land, the blogosphere is massive and filled with a wonderful mix of creative, clever and well-studied influencers. 

Anyway I am chuffed.  Tickled pink in fact.  (What the hell does that saying actually mean?  Do people turn a particular shade of pink when they are both happy and being tickled?  Sorry – did I say it was really early?)   I have no idea who made the original nomination, but secretly I think I might love you.  Thank-you with all my heart.   It means a lot to know that the effort that goes into this patch of cyber-space is worthwhile.  To be honest it also means a lot to be recognised for my skills as an online creative because this is something I LOVE to do.  And, like most bloggers, I’ve worked very hard to develop them. 

I am not about to start preparing my winning acceptance speech or anything like that.   But I am going to celebrate this  achievement and enjoy the process of being part of Kidspot’s #VoicesOf2015.  If I am lucky (or clever) this might even  draw some attention to my digital communications and social media management work – because picking up an extra client to two is never a bad thing.  But in the end I am just going to ride this journey through and suck out every little ounce of joy and fun it offers me.   Being a finalist is fabulous ~thanks Kidspot.   And cheers to the other 102 awesome online creative finalists too. 

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Victorian Gold Fields Railway Caz Filmer Writes leaning out the windowVictorian Goldfields Railways is a beautiful stretch of old-fashioned and steam-powered ‘rail adventure’ between Maldon and Castlemaine in Central Victoria.  At just over an hour away from Ballarat it doesn’t make it onto our Ballarat Bucket List (100 things for families to do in Ballarat) but it is a seriously good family day out and well worth the extra half hour drive.

The impressively restored steam trains travel between Maldon and Castlemaine, taking about 45 minutes to complete their journey.  You can buy a one way or return ticket.  If you choose the return journey, and get your timing right, you can spend a few hours exploring the opposite township.    Or you can simply wait for twenty minutes at the station while the steam engine refuels and turns around before climbing on board again and heading straight back.  (If you’re patient and willing to wait, the drivers might even let the kids climb up in the engine and see how it works before they head back.)   Check out the Victorian Goldfields Railway’s website for more information about running times and prices. 

The trains are beautifully restored and give you a first class idea of what steam travel would have been like back in the early 1900s.  There are first class and  economy tickets. As you will see in the photos below the first class carriages are seriously beautiful – but for my money economy is the way to go.  In economy you get a cabin that seats about eight and  the kids (read parents) can open the windows and feel the wind on their faces, hear the rhythmic sound of the wheels on track and see the train pushing on through the bush-land.  It’s really just a bit magical. 

The Victorian Goldfields Railway is volunteer run and you will find helpful and friendly volunteers on hand to collect tickets and share information about the trains.    Be warned though, these guys seriously like talking about their trains, once you get them started there is no stopping them.  We actually really enjoyed their knowledge and conversation so I would actually chalk that up as a good thing.    

The pictures below will give you a great idea of how our little adventure unfolded. 

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Victorian Gold Fields Railway Caz Filmer Writes First class carriage

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It really is a beautiful day out and just as much fun as it looks.   Well worth the drive to get there.  Both Maldon and Castlemaine are also lovely, historic and well-appointed towns to explore with kids.   There are loads of cafes, crafts stall, antique shops  and gardens in both.   If you get your timing right they both also run numerous markets and festivals.  A small shout of for the Fish-n-Chips at Maldon Fresh Takeaway and the fudge at The Maldon Lolly Shop  (both on Main street.)  Our lunch was close to perfection. 

Remember to check out the Victorian Goldfields Railway website for prices and train running times.  

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I tend to find it hard to slow down after a really busy stage in life.     It’s not that I don’t like to relax.  (It’s actually a passion of mine.)  But I  still find the transition from being busy to being ‘unbusy’ a hard one.   I think I feel guilty.  I question my own completeness without the busyness and  automatically start to look for new things to get me busy again.  

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Right now I am obsessing about what to do with the next phase of my life.  So much so I know I am in danger of losing the gift of this peaceful space I find myself in right now.   I can  feel myself stressing about choices and trying to make the ‘right thing’ happen  even though I have no idea what is right for me in this moment of time.  Should I be applying for more jobs?   Should I be looking for more digital communications clients?   Which way should I focus?   What is it I want to do? 

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I am a firm believer that, in life, if you wait and be patient the right answers and opportunities will come to you.  I tend to  “feel”  my way through life and that practice has rarely let me down.   Writing this post is really all about reminding myself of these things.     Knowing that I can’t always be in control, but that if I choose to listen and follow that still small voice deep within, what I need will come to me.   Even if all of the evidence around me (and my own over thinking) seem to suggest differently.  I guess that is what you call faith.

So, today I am choosing to hang up my inner control freak and follow the still small voice urging me to relax and enjoy the peaceful space I am in.   I will be content with what I have and allow my faith to bring me exactly what I need.   Selah!  (Hebrew word meaning pause and think on that.)

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For me, the best thing about owning a Cuisine Companion is that it makes cooking simple and easy. I love good food. But as I discussed recently I get very bored making meals for the family EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.   I have days when I love to cook, but I have others when the pressure to produce good family food drives me nuts.    So, since Cee Cee came to live with me last February, I’ve been researching and literally playing around with simple family meals I can cook up with absolute minimal fuss and bother.   Today, I’d like to share with you my own simple easy version of Thai Green Curry Chicken for the cuisine companion.     It’s inspired from a recipe my sister-in-law makes regularly and totally delish.     (Good work SIL!)

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If you just want to print out the recipe and avoid my pretty pictures and explanation, head on down to the bottom of this post.   But for those of you who like some explanation and visuals – read on. 

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Insert the Ultra Blade into your Cuisine Companion and add a peeled and quartered onion and two peeled cloves of very roughly chopped garlic.  Work at speed 12 for 10 seconds – resulting in a lovely fine chop.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

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Change the blade over to the mixing blade.   Add 1-3 tables spoons of green curry paste.   (1 tablespoon =  a mild flavour, 2 tablespoons =  strong semi-hot flavour, 3 tablespoons = a real zinger.)    Press slow cooker function and select 1.  (130 degrees  for  minutes 5 minutes).  

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While this is cooking chop your chicken breast into small cubes.  There is a lot of room for personal preference here. I like my chicken smaller and shredded.  You may prefer yours larger and more intact.  That’s the joy 0f cooking this way – you get to choose.  

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Add the chicken to the bowl and press the slow cooker function 3 and set the timer for fifteen minutes.  (95 degrees for 15 minutes).  While this is cooking roughly chop up your selection of vegetables.  For example (but not limited to) 2 medium-sized carrots, a zucchini, several stems of cauliflower and or good-sized piece of broccoli.  

If you do like your chicken well shredded you can swap back to the Ultra Blade once the chicken is cooked and  work it for 5 – 10 seconds at speed 8, however I’ve found this means you need to tip the chicken out to swap the blades and then put it back in and for me that feels too messy. I prefer to keep it simple.  However if  you do ever need shredded chicken for something such an easy way to do it.

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Add a 400g can of coconut cream (or coconut milk if you prefer), plus half of the same tin of water and a tablespoon of fish sauce, into the bowl along with the veggies.    Select the slow cook function 3 again but this time for 20 minutes.  (95 degrees for 20 minutes).   Now leave Cee Cee alone to do her work and go and do something more important than cooking!

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Tadah. Perfect and delicious Thai Green Curried Chicken.   Add some rice or enjoy as is.   A perfect winter warmer meal which also keeps well in the fridge for 3-4 days.   I could seriously eat this every day of the week at the moment!

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Disclosure.  My Cuisine Companion was gifted to me and I have agreed to post recipes for your enjoyment in return. 

Easy Thai Green Curry Chicken for the Cuisine Companion
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Ingredients
  1. 2 chicken breast fillets
  2. 1 onion
  3. 2 cloves of garlic
  4. 1 can of coconut cream (or milk) 400g
  5. half of the above can of water
  6. 1 tbs fish sauce
  7. 2 carrots
  8. 1 zucchini
  9. 4 florets of cauliflower
  10. 1 head of broccoli
Instructions
  1. Place the Ultra Blade into the bowl. Add a peeled and quartered onion and 2 peeled and roughly chopped garlic cloves and process on speed 12 for 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Change blades to the mixing blade.
  2. Add 1-3 tablespoons of green curry paste and press slow cook 1. (5 minutes at 130 degrees) While this cooks dice the chicken as small as you can manage.
  3. Add the chicken to the bowl and select Slow Cook 3. Set the timers to 15 minutes. While this cooks chop your vegetable into your preferred size and style.
  4. Add coconut cream, plus the same can half filled with water, fish sauce and vegetables to the bowl. Select Slow Cook 3 (which will automatically set to the necessary 20 minutes).
  5. Go away and come back when Cee Cee tells you she has finished her work. (Maybe cook some rice if you want to.)
Notes
  1. You can leave out the fish sauce if you don't have any. (As I have learned from experience.) IT will still taste amazing.
Room For My Soul http://www.roomformysoul.com/

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Social Media Free Saturday

Social media is an interesting beast.  I’ve pretty much lived and breathed it since I started this blog back in 2009 – but if I’m honest I’m only starting to really ‘get it’ now – six years later.    Maybe that’s because these days I make part of my income in the world of digital communications, or perhaps because I’ve had my first experience of feeling a bit burned by social media recently.  (First time in six years – that’s pretty lucky I know.)    Or,  more likely, it’s because I’m starting to see how social media is going impact the world of my girls in the not so distant future. 

This year the powers that be deemed it necessary for my eldest to have an iPad for school.  (Deep breaths.)  To be honest I’m fully supportive of technology becoming part of education.    In fact I think it’s  really important.  Our kids are going grow up in a world filled with technology and school is one of the safest and most productive places for them to learn about it. 

But what I didn’t expect was how the new school iPad was going to opened up our home to an entire new level of social media.   Suddenly my daughter has access to email, face-time and a plethora of other junior social media produced by the Department of Education.  In the past my girls have never been overly obsessive about screen time or games. We’ve never had to worried too much about managing their online time or restricting access – because they didn’t really care that much.    But now that the social aspect of technology has arrived, I can see that this is going to change – quickly.  

Where as I used to have to  beg my mum to let me call my friends on our home phone (admittedly we talked for hours on end)  kids these days can face-time, message and email each other.   The social aspect of school life can keep running way outside of school hours.    You can send each other emails at night to arrange what to play at lunch time tomorrow and organised play dates before your parents even know you’re chatting.  It’s a brave new world of social overload. 

Now all these things are genuinely okay on their own, but what I am starting to see is that social media is luring my girl in and there is a real danger of it beginning to suck up too much of her life.  And that’s before we even start to think about the more  far-reaching implications. I think the time has arrived for some purposeful family planning around the use of  social media in our home. 

So this, along with my own personal revelation that I too need downtime, has led me to Social Media Free Saturdays.  I am beginning to think that as people we don’t actually turn off or enter into downtime when we are continually focused on our social media.    As a self-confessed  introvert, who gets my energy from downtime,  that can be exhausting.    Sounds weird I know – but I honestly don’t fully relax when I’m staying connected.  Forcing myself to spend some planned time away has been a revelation and a relaxation all wrapped up in one – not to mention  good role-modelling.

So my weekends are now pretty much social media free.  (To be honest I occasionally sneak a look on my phone – but it’s happening less and less I promise.)   And it feels good.   It’s almost like closing the door on work (or school or whatever the case may be) and walking away into my own life again.   (Feel that?   See it’s relaxing just thinking about it.)      Do you ever feel the need to unplug from social media?  How do you set limits for yourself and your family. 

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Well I have officially called it.  It’s back to school season.  You only need to watch five minutes of TV advertising to know I’m right.    This is my sixth time around the ‘back to school merry-go-round’ and I like to think I’ve learnt a thing or two – or ten.   So below I have written, for your reading pleasure, my top ten tips to make back to school happen right. 

ten top tips for back to school

Be prepared with lunch-box idea. 
Start making decisions now about how you want to fill your kid’s school lunch-boxes.  Around this time of year Pinterest and Facebook feeds are filled with eye-rolling images of perfect, container free, super-healthy school lunches that seem to be designed to make us regular mums fall to our knees with guilt.   My advice – ignore them.    Instead spend time thinking about easy lunch-box foods that will satisfy and provide nutrients and fun.   Look for simple easy recipes and even shop-bought snack foods that you feel good about giving your kids.   Don’t make it too hard for yourself and don’t fail to plan.   The end result of both of these is a worn out mumma throwing whatever pre-packaged, sugar filled junk she can find in the pantry into  lunch boxes five mornings  a week.   (Trust me – I know.)

Develop a system to deal with school notes.
Any seasoned school mum will tell you that school notes can drive you nuts.    Our school has very strict rules about when notes are returned and what happens if you forget.    So I’ve been forced to become a bit of a school-note-nazi.  I fill them in the night they come home and send them back the next day – no questions asked.   I pretty much treat it like my own school homework.   A couple of  ideas that can help ward off the permission form crazies.  Consider getting a stamp made up with the regular details your school asks for.  This will save you writing them out again and again and again.    (For example, your  Medicare number, doctors contact details, emergency contact name/phone number.)     And have a regular place to file notes, newsletters and other important paperwork like blank bus change permission slips and absentee notes.   This saves you from the last-minute scramble to find lost notes and permission forms.

Have a  morning routine.
Cannot stress this one enough.  Don’t be fooled by the first two weeks of term – they will not always be that excited to get organised for school.   We have a routine mapped out and stuck to the fridge.  It goes something like this.  Breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed (always have them brush teeth before they get dressed – coz white spit marks on school  jumpers are not cool at school), pack bags, get shoes and sock ready,  brush out hair, have hair done by mum and then free time until it’s time to leave for school.   I refer the kids back to the fridge again and again over the school year and despite the system not being perfect it really does help. 

Be prepared to deal with lice.
I know nobody really wants to think or talk about this one –  but it’s reality people.  Doesn’t matter how much you pay for your kids education, how careful you are or who your kids play with,  you will eventually have to deal with head lice.   And that seriously is not fun for anyone.   Do some research about treatments and prevention.  For us what works best is nit prevention spray every day.  It’s become part of our morning routine.  Once their hair is done it’s sprayed.  You can  purchase a great spray from Nit  Free For Me or other similar places.  Or you can make your own from essential oils.  Both work – it just depends on how you roll with things like that.  

Be internet wise and ready with your kids.
These days our schools are training  kids to operate in a technological age.  One of their goals is to make sure our kids are able to do their day-to-day school work on a screen and use the internet.   That’s great.  It’s necessary.  But something I learned the hard way is that you have to be equally prepared for internet safety at home as they are at school.   When one of my kidlets wandered onto  You-Tube looking for loom-band tutorials I hadn’t had time  to set my computer up in a child friendly way. (Let’s be honest I hadn’t even started to think about it.)  It was a  near-miss to her coping a eye-full of inappropriateness when she somehow decided to switch to looking up bedroom makeover.   Be aware of things like google safe search and study up on how to set age appropriate restrictions on any devices they will be using at home. 

Get to know your kids teachers and the school.
This can be hard if you’re shy yourself and time poor but it’s honestly worth the effort.   If you have time, volunteering in the classroom or for the Parents and Friends Association is a nice way to really understand what goes on at school.  But let’s be honest a lot of parents simply don’t have the time for that type of thing.   Parent teacher interviews are good – but brief.   You’re lucky if you have 15 minutes twice a year and that’s  not nearly enough.     Don’t be afraid to make an appointment to talk to your kids teachers before or after school and use that time to let them know you’re ready to support your child to thrive at school.  It opens the lines of communication and you’ll find most teachers are happy to call you or catch to you in the yard, even for the small stuff, if you’ve made the effort to let them know you want to be involved. 

Get prepared to pay for school.
Who knew that public school costs?  With three kids at primary school I’ve worked out I’m paying around $1400 a year for books, excursions, stationery, camps and other miscellaneous school stuff.   (Uniforms not included.)  That’s  a reasonable amount and I’ve found it works out much better if you plan ahead for it.   Talk to your school about payment options.  Our school produces a list of expected costs for each grade for the following year and the end of the current school year.   This helps a lot.  You can then work out a monthly or fortnightly payment plan to help ease the end of term account nightmare.  

Talk to your kids about school.
This one does seem kind of obvious but it’s easy to forget once the busyness of family life kicks back  in.  Kids spend six and half hours a day, or thirty-two and a half hours a week, at school.  That’s a pretty big whack of their life.  I strongly recommend starting early to chat to them about what happens in class and in the playground.  While they are in the lower grades you might find yourself listening to a lot of chatter about playground antics and show-and-tell.    But fingers crossed this will establish some good routines and connections that will be seriously useful when your child hits the higher grades (usually around grade four in  my experience) and the issues of life start to become more intense.

Labelled everything.
Yes everything. Buy a label maker and go mad.  Clothes, shoes, books, bags, hats, lunch-boxes, drink bottles, toys ……. if it goes to school it needs to have your child’s name firmly attached to it.   I’ve tried every type of labelling available on the planet and most of them work pretty well.  Frankly, how you do it doesn’t really matter – what matters is that you do it.   The plain fact is  that things with labels come home – eventually.  Things without tend to get lost in the abyss of no return.  

Having done all – don’t stress. 
Yep.    Relax.  You will never get it all right.  Ever.  So don’t be too hard on yourself.  Prepare and plan as  much as you can and then simply live the school year with your kids.  Learn as you go and know that we all have weeks when the kids lunches aren’t perfect and their readers don’t get read.   They survive and so do we.

 Happy 2015 back to school season everyone!   Have I missed any other good back-to-school tips?  Share your own in the comments.   I’d love to hear them

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I have been trying to write this post for days – but the words keep doing their thing and side tracking me.   You see I had a bit of a ‘light bulb’ moment the other day.  I was sitting here pondering all of those new yearsie  posts you see where you choose ‘One Word’ to describe or inspire you for the year ahead, when it suddenly dawned on me that if I was to choose a word right now that word would be ‘me’.   Now that set me thinking…………

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On the surface ‘me’ doesn’t appear to be anywhere near as  superior a word as those others were coming up with.   But, as I gave myself some time to reflect, I realised just how appropriate it was.    Now I don’t want to make this sound all ‘poor me’,  because frankly that would be  nauseating.     But that said,  in all honestly,  right at the moment my life is focused in a million different places and none of them centre around me.     

I am caring  for my mum, who has alzheimers, as she spends her last months in our family home (an amazing but oh so challenging task).   I am also co-caring for my elderly father-in-law (who lives in a unit right here with us).  I have three primary school aged children who deserve as much of me as I’m able to give (they are my number one priority) and to top if off that  bastard black dog called ‘depression’ has moved in with someone very close and important to our family and its bark can add some seriously draining energy to our lives.   

And that my friends is enough.

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Right, well if we’re being totally honest here, I have to confess that looking after myself  (or focusing on me) has never been something I’m good at.   In  fact I’m probably closer to crap than good.     I find it much easier, and like myself much more, when I expend my time and energy on others.   It feels comfortable and I’m good at it.   On the other hand taking time out to care for myself seems selfish and deserving of disapproval.

The biggest problem I have with this approach to life is that it leaves me open to expecting others to meet my needs in return, and that my friends is a big fat mistake.   You can’t depend on others to meet your needs – especially if you don’t express them well.   End result.  My needs rarely get met and I spend a lot of my life running on empty.  

So I think you can see that I really need to explore the balance between ‘selfish’ and ‘self-supporting’ and take steps towards being a person who is responsible for meeting my own needs in ways that support  both myself and my family.     I need to make this year about ‘me’.  I need to learn how to meet my own needs.   (How is that for an overuse of the word need?)

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How am I going to do this?  Seriously I have no idea!  I have years of martyrdom training to debrief from and very little idea of how to put myself first without feeling ‘selfish’ or ‘disapproved of’.  But 2015 is the year I am going to find out.  I actually feel quite excited thinking about how this will all unfold and plan on exploring and writing about it a bit over the coming months. 

So how about YOU.   Do you do a good job when it comes to  self-care?   Share your thoughts, tips or ideas in the comments below.

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Does this season between Christmas and New Years bring out your introspective side?  It does for me. It seems to inspire thinking and planning by the bucket load.   I want to explore what has been and understand what it’s taught me while simultaneously trying to get a feel for the year ahead and pin-point what’s going to be important.   

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So, how do you plan for a new year?  Well if you are me you write stuff down and allow the words to clarify your thoughts and feelings.  (Yes I’m such a word nerd.)   I’ve already got myself a list of things I want to focus on in 2015 and a nice collection of goals to work on.   But that’s just how thing work in my head and I strongly suspect we’re all a little different.  But, just in case it helps you to plan your new year, here a couple of the questions I like to ask myself in late December.   Sometimes I find they need deep thought and contemplation, but then others it’s all about the first thing that comes into your mind. 

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When looking back at the year that’s been what am I most and least proud of myself for?

When  this new year ends how would I like things to be different from now?

What is one conflict, issues or problem I would like to have solved by the end of next year?

What is one thing I can do in the year to come to make my soul sing and bring happiness to myself and those around me?

Choose a top priority in each of these areas:

  • Family and relationships.

  • Career, business or work life?

  • Self development?

  • Connection with my community.

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Once I’ve asked myself these question the rest seems to flow.  The answers dovetail together and I start to see a clearer picture for the year ahead.   I guess they just set the right mood.   How about you?  Do you enjoy planning for a new year or do you like to take a ‘wait and see’ approach?    Maybe you have a great question we should all be asking ourselves.  Head on down to the comments and share away if you do. 

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2015 is only days away.  (Scary but true.)   As they say ‘no man (nor woman) can hold back time’.  I have no doubt we’ll all deal with whatever 2015 holds in awesome style and have my fingers firmly crossed we will be celebrating some grand and gorgeous achievements this time next year.   Happy (almost) New Year!

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