Monday, 25 August 2014

Monday Motivation - 25 August 2014

Bad things happen to everyone, I'm sure you're aware of that. What sets people apart, the "can's" from the "cannot's", is the way we handle adversity. 

Image source: www.thedailyquote.com

The "cannot's" are those people who take everything life throws at them as a personal attack. They are convinced that life is out to get them, that they drew the short straw on everything. They are the people who sit on a heap, feeling sorry for themselves, and blaming everyone else for where they are in life. Does that sound like someone who will get anywhere in life? Is that who you want to be?

The "can's", on the other hand, are those tenacious go-getters who take the worst that life can throw at them in their stride and soldier on through it. The ones who never back down from life, who don't expect anyone else to take responsibility for their actions. 

I'm not saying that to succeed, you need to be emotionless to the things that happen to you. What I am saying, is that you need to  accept your role in any situation you find yourself in, take responsibility for your actions, and figure out how to go on from there. Understand that life doesn't have a personal vendetta against you, that the things you face are not some cosmic attack on you. 

Only you can decide which camp you are going to fall into. 
Only you can decide to roll with the punches life throws at you, or to curl up into fetal position and hide.
Only you can change your life, no one else can do it for you, so choose your reactions wisely.

And remember, happiness is a choice.


Monday, 18 August 2014

Monday Motivation 18 August 2014

Life seems ruled by time, doesn't it? Alarm clocks blaring, rushing from one place to the next, meetings, responsibilities, every day seems filled to the brim with stuff to do and people to see and places to be. I often feel like I am giving so much of myself, between raising two children and working two jobs that my passions have been left by the wayside. I would tell myself often that I 'don't have time to read a book, play some piano, enjoy a quiet cup of coffee, or do some writing', and I believed it.

Starting this blog, and doing what I love, prompted me to relook my time-management skills and re-prioritise my schedule. I decided that Sunday nights would be 'my nights', devoted to blogging, reading, cross-stitch etc, anything that made me happy.

Image source - www.howjoyful.com
Follow the link of a beautiful free printable of this saying! 

Find one thing that brings you joy, one thing that makes you happy, something you love, and schedule time to devote to it. Just half an hour to do something that brings you joy. Soon, you will be so used to having that 'you' time in your schedule that you will wonder what ever kept you from devoting that time in the first place. 

Doing what you love will make you happy. Happiness in one aspect of your life will spill over into other aspects, infecting all areas of your life with love and happiness. Go on, you deserve it!

And remember, happiness is a choice! 


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Baked Potatoes and Gluten Free Cheese Sauce

A few weeks ago, my children went back to school after the winter holidays, and back to school means back to school sports. This term Mr J started min cricket, which is a bundle of laughs so far!
I love watching my children take part in school sports. I love watching Mr J learn and grow, interact with his team mates, and have fun. What I don’t like about afternoon sports, is the fact that it happens from 5-6pm, twice a week, which means that me and my two hungry little boys only get home around 6:30 on sports nights. Before going gluten-free, that meant picking up takeaways or throwing together a quick pot of pasta. Now that those are no longer options, I have had to work on new ideas to get dinner on the table quickly after practise. My go-to meal for these instances at the moment: baked potatoes!

Baked potatoes – golden, fluffy mounds of starchy goodness, perfectly customisable to suit any taste. I have tried numerous toppings with my boys, and so far our favourite is bacon with cheese sauce. I spent a long time after my gluten-free diagnosis lamenting the fact that I would never again be able to enjoy a creamy, decadent white (or b├ęchamel) sauce, which is traditionally made by mixing a roux base  (melted butter mixed with cake flour) with cream or milk and then heating it up until thick, creamy and luscious. After feeling very sorry for myself for quite a while, I decided to sit down and rethink the situation, which is when the solution dawned on me. Cornstarch (or maziena to us South Africans) turns out to be the perfect substitute! Now, my favourite go-to dinner for busy nights is back on the menu!

Baked potatoes with Gluten-Free Cheese Sauce

Ingredients

Potatoes or sweet potatoes – I use about 1 medium potato per person
Your choices of toppings – bacon, chicken, mince etc

Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2 – 2.5 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup milk
¾ cup grated cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

1.       Scrub potatoes and pierce well with a fork. Put into the microwave on high for 5-10 minutes, turn occasionally, until soft.

2.       Cook toppings

For the sauce:

3.        Melt butter over low heat in a sauce pan. 

 4.       Add cornstarch little by little, mixing well, to form a stiff paste.
  
5.       Mix in the milk, whisking well to ensure all the cornstarch is incorporated.



6.       Keep over a low – medium heat and simmer gently, stirring often to avoid lumps from forming.

7.       I’ve noticed that cornstarch white sauce takes longer to thicken up than regular white sauce, but once it starts thickening, it thickens quickly. Once it has reached your desired consistency, remove from heat and add seasoning and cheese.

8.       Stir while to melt the cheese. You can add a little bit more milk if the sauce has thickened up too much.

To Serve:

9.       My children prefer me to cut up their potatoes into chunks before serving, but use your own discretion for this.

10.   Serve potatoes in a bowl topped with your toppings and cheese sauce.

11.   Garnish with some extra cheese or fresh herbs.
I used some left  over mince and veggies out of the freezer as our topping, which made dinner even quicker and easier! 

From famished to fed in 20 minutes! Enjoy!



Monday, 11 August 2014

Monday Motivation 11 August 2014

I am one of those people who always has a motto in life. Granted, it changes every year or so as I transition through life, but my current motto is 'Choose Happiness'.

It sounds simple doesn't it? That you can choose happiness as easily as you choose what to wear in the morning or choose what to make for supper at night? But don't be deceived. Choosing happiness is not about sticking a fake smile on your face and pretending to the world that you're okay.

Choosing happiness is hard work. It takes conscious effort and daily work. It is about learning to accept that the only person you can control, is yourself; that by changing the way you react to a situation, you can change the outcome of the situation.

 Image credit - www.thedailyquotes.com

Choose to see the happiness in small moments of your day, choose to not let others dictate your reactions to a situation. Choose that happiness is important enough to fight for. 

Have a Happy week friends!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Gluten Free Apple Crumble

I have been craving a good apple crumble for weeks now! Warm and fragrant, topped with a crispy crumble and drowned in fresh cream, what sounds more perfect on a winter's day? Luckily for my tummy, we had a family get-together this weekend and I graciously offered to be in charge to pudding for the day! Yay!

Family get-togethers in my family are big and loud and rambunctious and delicious! I love being part of a big, crazy, close-knit family and am so glad that my children get to grow up surrounded by loving family members and playful cousins! But anyway, back to the food!

Gluten Free Apple Crumble (serves about 6)

Ingredients:
8-10 apples, cored and thinly sliced (I kept the skin on mine, but you can peel them if you choose)
1 tablespoon Cinnamon
2 cups Gluten Free Oats. GF Granola would work well too. (South African readers, I found some at my  local Dischem)
1 cup desiccated coconut
50g finely chopped, mixed nuts (either raw or roasted would work)
75g chopped butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
Fresh cream or ice cream to serve

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 180°C

2. Sprinkle the cinnamon over the apples and toss to mix. Arrange evenly in an ovenproof dish.
This is my baby cousin Chloe, who I quickly roped into helping out!

3. Combine oats, coconut, nuts and sugar for the crumble topping.
Look at the yummyness!

4. Sprinkle crumble topping evenly over the arranged apples. 

5. Dot the topping evenly with the chopped butter.
All ready for the oven! My assistant was very pleased with her handiwork!

6. Bake the apple crumble for 20-30 minutes until the apples are soft and the topping is brown and crispy. I like my topping extra crispy so I left it in the oven for a bit longer.

All warm and toasty from the oven

7. Serve warm with fresh cream or ice cream.
Total Deliciousness! 

I hope you enjoy this!

Monday, 4 August 2014

Monday Motivation 4 August 2014

If you are anything like me, Monday mornings suck enough as is. Back to routine, back to work, back to school, with just the memories of a great weekend to carry you through. So I figure, everyone can use a little inspiration and good vibes to enjoy along with their early morning cup of coffee!

Following on from the epiphanies I shared in my previous blog post, I'd like you to bear this one thought in mind for the week:
Image taken from here.

Think of the one thing that you want to achieve, the one thing that you want to do with your life, where your passion lies.

Now think of the reasons keeping you from achieving it, whether self-imposed or from external influences. Take a moment and really think about them. 

Now, forget about them. Forget about the fears and insecurities and self-imposed boundaries. Forget about the blocks that exist only in your mind. 

Believe in yourself and your abilities, believe in the power within yourself and the capabilities that you were born with. Believe in your inner strength. Believe in you!

Happy Monday friends! Go out there and kick butt!

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Waterval Boven Adventure Weekend (Part 2)

What a crazy week!  I've been meaning to bring you this post all week but life got in the way!

A few days ago, I brought you part 1 of my 'Cure to Cabin Fever' weekend, a spur-of-the-moment trip to beautiful Waterval Boven that I took with my good friend Frans from trailblazerguide.com. There was way too much adventure to pack into one post, so, here is the day 2 post as promised!

There are few things in life more perfect than a good cup of coffee early on an idyllic morning, and Sunday did not disappoint! After an early start and a cup (or three!) of Joe, we headed out to the crags.

Waterval Boven boasts over 500 climbing routes with something for all levels of climbers.We decided to head out to 'The Creche', an aptly named beginner route perfect for a newbie like me! First of all, the views are amazing! Nothing can prepare you for the awe you feel looking down at the Elands River valley from the top of the crags!




Seriously, the photos (thanks to my little camera and lack of photography skills!) do not even begin to do this amazing place justice! 

As I mentioned in my last post, Frans is an avid rock-climber, and so has all his own gear and safety equipment. He is experienced and  safety-conscious and knows his way around these crags. He hooked up an abseil rig for us in The Creche, and gave me a full safety briefing before I descended. I have abseiled before (many, many years ago), but it was always an assisted abseil (connected to a belayer who controls your descent for safety). The rig that Frans set up for us on that wonderful winter's day, was totally different though! I would be doing an unassisted abseil, which basically means you, a rope, a harness, and only your own strength and skills to get yourself safely to the bottom! No pressure, right? 

View from the top!

Wrong! Lots of pressure! I was a nervous wreck! My mind was spinning a thousand miles a minute about my feeble upper body strength and how I'll never make it to the bottom in one piece! Talk about mind over matter! But none-the-less, down I went. Inch by inch, little by little, fully reliant on my own body to get me to the bottom. Half way down, my arms started shaking, my legs started trembling, my mind started wandering, and I felt myself start to slip...
Down we go!

I quickly remembered my safety briefing from Frans, and held onto the rope with all the strength I could muster! Precariously clinging to a rock face on what feels like the edge of the world, with only me and myself to stop a plummet to the ground, I came to a very important epiphany...

When all is said and done, the only person you can fully rely on in life, is yourself. If you don't believe that you are strong enough, or clever enough, or capable enough, or beautiful enough to tackle the situation at hand, then who will believe it? If you don't see yourself as perfect, forget about your hangups and insecurities, and feel confident if your abilities and your worth, then you have nothing. If you can't see yourself as capable enough to live your own life, then you are defeating the purpose of life. 

My brainwave over, my strength renewed, I soldiered on, and a few minutes later, was shouting my victory cry to the whole valley! A short while later, Frans joined me on the ground, and I could swear he was still giggling at my victory dance! I was still beaming from ear to ear, and ready for the next challenge he had planned...

That was, until I heard what the next challenge was! Apparently, if you can climb down it, then you can climb up it too, and so, I started on my first rock climb! Climbing up was definitely tougher than abseiling down. There is no fixed route, you are attached to a rope and a belayer at the bottom for support, but other than that, it's just you and a mountain. Picking my way inch by inch up the steep rock face, Frans shouting encouragement from below, I realised that self-reliance comes in many different forms. Some of the foot and hand holds I needed to use were only a centimetre or two wide, and I would never have thought that such a tiny strip of rock was enough to support my weight and get me up to the next ledge. I'll be the first to admit that I nearly gave up, more than once. I was afraid to put my life into my own hands, afraid to take the leap of faith that would be needed to rest my weight fully on the next foothold, afraid of the consequences of 'failing'. After a long pause, I realised that I had no guarantee that it wouldn't hold, no guarantee that I would not be able to make it to the next ledge, non guarantee that I would fail. All I had, was the knowledge that I am capable and strong, and that if things did go wrong, I was connected to a safety system that would not fail me.

And so, I did it. I pushed up with my right leg, reached and grabbed with my left hand, and slowly but surely, I made it to the top. I had conquered what I thought as unconquerable, I had quelled my fears and learnt to trust in myself and my instincts, and the mountains and crags echoed my shouts of triumph! 

Back on solid ground after abseiling back down, clouds were building and the wind was picking up. We decided that two life-changing epiphanies were enough for one day, and set out on a hike to get us to the top of the crags near the vehicle. Birds and butterflies and unbelievable sights made the hike seem to fly by, and in no time at all we were enjoying lunch in the shade of a tiny waterfall.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and so also my unbelievable weekend. Sunday afternoon was spent travelling back home, quietly contemplating the experience I had just had, and determined to take the lessons learnt to heart and apply them to my everyday life.

I would like to thank the original Monkey Man, because without him this weekend would never have taken place. As I mentioned before, Frans has his own equipment which made this whole weekend easier on planning and budgets, but commercial climbs and abseils are available through out the region. If you ever find yourself with a case of cabin fever, take to the roads and experience all that life has to offer! You might learn some amazing lessons along the way!