Choose to be happy

kikki k happiness book

My friend The Wellness Mummy recently wrote a blog post about the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal. I couldn’t have agreed with her more, it’s such an awesome thing to do as part of your bedtime routine – to sit and think about all the good things that happened that day so you can write down what you’re grateful for. I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal for over a year now. I actually found a five year journal where each date (i.e. 18th of March) has five entries for five years of thoughts. I’ve now crossed over into my second year and reading what I was grateful for a year ago really puts it into perspective! A year ago I was thankful for my toddler sleeping better and here I am with a newborn!

The point of this post however is to let fellow readers know of an awesome little thing I spotted at Kikki.K today – the Happiness Journal, which I believe ties in with Gretchen Ruben’s “The Happiness Project“. Along with other gratitude style journals, the Happiness Journal focuses more on, well, keeping you happy! Kikki.K are actually running in-store workshops on how to use the Happiness Journal. How great is that? It would be such a fun project to do with a friend or take a ‘not so happy’ friend along to. I had a browse through the book and it uses each month to focus on things you’re going to do or change to make yourself happy.

If you don’t think you need to work on your happiness as such, keeping a daily gratitude journal is another awesome way to leave the day on a good note. This is the five year journal I used, but there are a few more out there!

five year journal

I love all the projects becoming dedicated to happiness. Personally, I am a big believer that we can choose to be happy. It’s the ‘glass half full’ idea. It’s not just me that thinks it – apparently it’s a scientific fact – read this article about it!

So what are you grateful or happy about today?

 

Healthy Salted Caramel and Macadamia Cheesecake

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Healthy cheesecake? Is that possible you ask? Well, it depends what you consider nutritious. When you eat a healthy diet cream cheese isn’t exactly on the naughty list. This is a fairly nutritious cheesecake using lots of wholefoods and no refined sugars – so as far as desserts go, yeah it’s pretty ‘healthy’! Oh and it’s also really quick and easy to make – winning!

This recipe started as a “Hazelnut & Vanilla Cheesecake” with a chocolate flavoured base. It was a ‘throw-random-ingredients-in-the-Thermomix-and-see-what-happens’ experiment that turned out better than expected and I posted a pic on Instagram. A few people wanted the recipe which is when I started experimenting further. Having made it a few times to replicate the exact recipe measurements I thought I’d try a new flavour which turned out to be far more delicious (and perhaps more ‘naughty’)! To make an even healthier cheesecake just omit the salted caramel topping and add the raw cacao to the base.

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Healthy Salted Caramel & Macadamia Cheesecake

Ingredients

BASE

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons flaxseed
  • 8 medjool dates
  • (optional: 2 tablespoons raw cacao to make it a ‘chocolate’ base)

FILLING

  • 250g cream cheese
  • ½ cup greek yoghurt
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla bean paste / vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon vanilla powder
  • 2 tablespoons rice syrup
  • ½ cup macadamia nuts (or hazelnuts)
  • optional: honey, to taste (for those not used to sugar free eating)

SALTED CARAMEL TOPPING

Adapted from a Quirky Cooking recipe.

  • 50g coconut sugar*
  • 50g maple syrup*
  • 100g coconut cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla powder -or- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste / vanilla extract
  • a pinch of Himalayan salt
**alternatively use 100g of one of the ‘sweet’ ingredients.

Method

Blend all the base ingredients in the Thermomix (speed 6 for 5 seconds) or a food processor until it resembles crumbs*. Place these in a pie or cheesecake dish and press down firmly. Place in the fridge to set.

There is no need to wipe out the bowl, just place the filling ingredients in the Thermomix and blend (speed 6 for 10 seconds) or until it reaches your desired consistency. The macadamia nuts should be crushed into tiny pieces.

Place the filling onto the base and place in the fridge for at least an hour.

Place all the caramel ingredients in the Thermomix (speed 2 for 3 minutes) on 100 degrees. Alternatively stir the ingredients in a saucepan on low to medium heat for the same time.

You can choose to keep the caramel warm or place it in the fridge to cool. Slice it up and then pour the salted caramel on top of each slice. Keep the cheesecake refrigerated.

*If you don’t have a Thermomix you might like to chop the nuts before adding the other ingredients.

I love this recipe so much that I’ve made it about five times in the last few weeks. It hasn’t failed to impress guests either. I hope you enjoy it!

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Meal planning – the easy way

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Life just got busy. Even more busy than I thought busy could be. I knew it was going to happen but nothing can prepare you for the adventure of having a toddler and a newborn! Our newest addition is just over three weeks old now and we’re settling in better than I expected (then again I had very low expectations of myself!). Which brings me to the topic of discussion.

I spoke recently about my new year resolutions, one of them being to eat better. It was this resolution as well as my aspiration to have less waste and less stress (because I have less time) that I ended up learning the art of meal planning. Meal planning looks good on Pinterest but can seem really difficult to actually start. I have sat down in the past and tried to come up with a week’s worth of meals and got nowhere.

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This time is different – the secret is to organise a weekly organic fruit & vegetable box to be delivered to my doorstep. This means we have the benefits of eating organic as well as eating in season (which provides you with the best way to get the most nutrient value from food). Our box comes from The Organic Collective (Perth peeps I can’t recommend this company enough! They’re great!). I then force myself to meal plan around this which helps narrow down the many options. When I unpack the box I think about all the meals I can make and then write them up on my menu chalkboard. This really helps me to focus on cooking what we have at hand, and not cook on a whim.

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At the end of the week if I have leftover vegetables I will try to make either a vegetable lasagna or blitz all the veges into a ‘super sauce’ for pasta. If there is any leftover fruit I freeze them for next week’s fruit smoothies (which we tend to eat every other day for breakfast).

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Above: Frozen mango, banana and orange juice from leftover fruit to make tropical smoothies (yes, believe it or not we had leftover mango! Crazy I know!)

I have tried meal planning in the past but coming up with a week’s worth of dinners and then shopping for all the ingredients usually proved a daunting task – however having the fruit & vegetable box means my choices are narrowed down. Some weeks things might get repetitive, like for the last two weeks I’ve received a lot of eggplants so last week I used them to make a vegetable pasta bake and this week I’m making eggplant parmigiana – but it’s making me a bit more adventurous in the kitchen. Because we’re in the middle of summer I nearly always get the kind of vegetables to make a salad which means dinners can be as simple as meat and salad. In winter I’ll get lots of root vegetables, perfect for making soups and casseroles. One thing is for sure, we are definitely eating more fruit and vegetables.

So there’s your secret meal planning weapon. Eat in season! Eat organic! When you don’t know what to make – Google is your friend! If you have any other meal planning secrets I would love to hear them.

Zombies and Geeking Out – My 2014 New Year Resolutions

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Image source

My past new year resolutions might have been a bit ambitious so last year I made it simple for myself, to be happy. I did really well with that one. I followed my heart and happiness came along for the ride. This year I thought I’d step it up just a teeny weeny notch because I really like a challenge (if having a newborn and a toddler isn’t going to be challenging enough).

So here it is, drumroll please:

My 2014 resolution is going to be:

  • Eat a higher proportion of healthy food (i.e. cut the crap!).
  • Keep up to date with my photo albums.

But where do zombies and geeking out fit into all of this?

ZOMBIES

Last week I had a horrible night of recurring zombie dreams. I woke up several times to pee (pregnancy is delightful) and each time I’d get back to sleep I’d have another zombie dream. But one in particular really woke me up – literally and figuratively! The dream was about how I had a child who had cancer but we were stuck in an apocalyptic zombie nightmare. With no way of treating the cancer the only way I could think of making my child better was to eat to better health. I woke up from this dream and my mind went crazy. I thought about how bad it would be if I got cancer and couldn’t look after my children. “I have to eat healthy” I proclaimed to myself in the dark. I owed it to my children. Those darn zombies sure do have a way of getting through to me. I think it’s also a few inspiring people that eat 100% healthy (The Wellness Warrior and A Foodly Affair to name a few) who both had to suffer from sickness before they dramatically changed their diets. I don’t want to get sick before I make the right changes, I want to prevent sickness. Really I should ‘blame’ my raw (un)cooking class (by Hannah from A Foodly Affair) – I just haven’t stopped thinking about it since then!

When I tell people I’ve got to eat better they look at me like I’m crazy “But you eat so healthy!” – well I do, and I don’t. My diet seems to be a fine balance between super healthy (raw, organic goodness) versus plain old bad (chocolate, processed snacks like chips etc). The good doesn’t make up for the bad unfortunately, and I think it’s time to cut the crap, especially before my son develops any of my bad habits. And yes, I am aware of how mad it seems to proclaim absolute healthy eating just a week before Christmas! But as it turns out, there are plenty of healthy and delicious ways to eat Christmas themed food. I might share some of it with you in the new year!

GEEKING OUT

I’ve been trying to put together my 2012 photo album for most of this year and I’m only half way through. I am a massive memory keeper and avid photographer, but not so great at getting it out of the digital world and into a memory piece to hold and cherish. So this year I’m embarking on the whole Project Life thing. It’s just one of the many ways you can collate your photographs and memories. I’m choosing this one because it seems really simple and easy and best of all CRAFTY! I catch up once a month with my girlfriends for what we call “Crafternoon Delights” and rather than push myself to make a new craft every month I’m just going to put together the previous month’s photos and memories. I bought a starter kit the other day so I can start the new year right. I would really like to incorporate some recycled goodness into my albums instead of buying all new scrapbooking accessories – can’t wait to see how that turns out! This is where I got geeky people!

So there you have it. Another year to be a better me. What are your new year resolutions?

The Christmas Rules – our family guide to buying kids presents

eco empire christmas rules

I recently read an article from Lulastic and the Hippyshake about the tyranny of toys. This really resonated with me as a Mum to an 18 month old, trying desperately to make our toy collection modest and inspire more creative and imaginative play. It especially resonated with me because of this time of year – Christmas – when a little part of you makes you think you need to spoil your child to make them happy. You really don’t. I thought I’d tell you our new ‘Christmas Rules’ and what my son is getting for Christmas so you can see how we’ve dealt with the tyranny of toys and the consumerism of Christmas.

We decided when choosing presents for our kids we will always use this as a guide:

  1. A toy that inspires imagination
  2. A toy that is secondhand
  3. Something he needs
  4. Something to read

So this year, these presents ended up being:

BILIBO ‎ – a toy that inspires imagination

Bilibo

Looks pretty boring? Well watch this video if you are wondering what on earth this could inspire: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-H7XmbcDK0

I love the fact that there is no specific use for this toy, that the kid will figure out different ways of using it. I can’t wait to see what my son does first!

BABY DOLL – a toy that inspires imagination

baby doll

With a baby brother due very soon we thought we’d give him his own baby doll to play and practice with. He’s naturally fond of baby dolls, constantly playing with them and putting them in prams at Playgroup. It will be a great tool to use when we have a newborn and I need to keep my son busy. As I’m sure it won’t get as worn out as a girl’s doll might I’m sure we’ll be able to pass this doll on to a friend or to the thrift store when he’s over the whole baby thing.

STACK’N’ROLL  – a toy that is secondhand

Fisher-Price Stack and Roll (segments)

There is no way I would buy a Fisher Price plastic toy brand new. There were plenty to choose from on ebay secondhand. The reason I bought this toy is that my son has played with it before and finds a new use for it every time. It encourages counting, stacking, choosing colours, putting it together to make balls – it’s a pretty verstatile toy. Plus my cousin-in-law still has a set for her four and six year old girls because they STILL use it. Good investment I say!

BIKE HELMET  – something he needs

kiddimoto bike helmet

My sister is buying him a trike for Christmas. It’s the kind of trike that is going to last a long time and be used by subsequent siblings (another boy, due in February!). We thought we’d buy him the responsible but boring bike helmet to go along with it.

BOOKS – something to read

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Books are a great investment and my son really loves to read. I decided to get him an old classic that I grew up with! We also got him a book on being an older brother, I especially like that this book has pictures of the Mum breastfeeding a few times (in fact the book makes a comment that it seems like the baby is always hungry! Hilarious!).

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So there you have it. I don’t think we’ve spoiled him at all and I like that we have a good guide to stick to each year. Some of the gifts I wanted to get him a while ago but figured I may as well save them up for Christmas (though I still wonder if unloading a pile of stuff on one day is a good thing).

When it comes to grandparents and family however, it is tricky. I try to guide them as much as possible. You can ask them to make something (help building a cubby maybe?) or all contribute to one big present.

Next year we’ll be adding a few more traditions to our Christmas, like donating old toys to charity and buying gifts for the needy. I want my kids to get the thrill of giving just as much as receiving.

Do you have any rules or guides you follow? I’d love to hear them!

Raw (un)cooking class

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Straight from the garden

I love raw food. It can be some of the tastiest food I get to eat. One of my absolute favourite cafes is a raw vegetarian cafe. For some time now I’ve been dreaming of going to an A Foodly Affair raw (un)cooking class. Finally I had enough free time and a good excuse (early Christmas present) to go! A Foodly Affair is actually the lovely Hannah and it was so enjoyable to listen to someone who is really passionate about delicious raw food and general health and wellbeing, and if you weren’t already a raw food convert then seeing Hannah’s glowing skin would certainly change your mind!

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Hannah from A Foodly Affair

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The class getting involved

This particular (un)cooking class was Christmas focused. I was intrigued to see how Hannah would pull off a raw Christmas meal as there are some very particular traditional flavours associated with Christmas – but Hannah managed to put together an amazing spread of food that even the fussy eaters would be happy eating on Christmas day. I was particularly surprised by the Faux Turkey with Cranberry Sauce – a ‘stuffing’ like mixture was placed in a lettuce leaf with cranberry sauce poured on top and then it was all rolled up in the leaf – it really did have all the flavours of Christmas and I kept going back for more! It was so addictive!

Making almond milk for a 'nutty nog'

Making almond milk for a ‘nutty nog’

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Shaving some cacao butter

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Preparing some raw coffee and cardamom bites

The class certainly inspired me to get more involved in my raw (un)cooking as well as eating more organic and healthy foods. I also just bought her e-book “Love Thy Food” which I’m pretty excited about – especially the section on feeding toddlers. My toddler really listens to his body and it’s been so interesting watching his food journey. He is really into salads at the moment and recently discovered vegetable juice and smoothies and is absolutely addicted. I can’t wait to see what else I can tempt him with!

Faux turkey with cranberry sauce

Faux turkey with cranberry sauce

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Sweet potato and cranberry salad

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Pesto stuffed mushrooms

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Cheesy cucumber bites

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Maple cherry bombs

If you’re interested in going raw then I absolutely recommend a raw (un)cooking class. It’s a great way to be introduced to the entire process of buying and (un)cooking raw food as well as picking up heaps of great tips along the way. Plus you get to sit down and eat everything at the end! You can find some of Hannah’s upcoming classes listed here.

Potato Printing Tshirts

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I try to get most of my toddler son’s clothes secondhand – though the older he gets the less secondhand clothes are available and I’m starting to realise why – toddlers get really dirty and active so the clothes don’t last. So I’ve started getting clever with his wardrobe. I’ve started buying affordable, well made, ethically produced plain tshirts and personalising them – and potato stamping is by far the easiest way to do it.

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I feel like this is so simple it barely justifies a tutorial. Just peg the tshirt to some cardboard (so the paint doesn’t go through to the back of the tshirt). Then simply cut a potato in half, make a shape, dip it into fabric paint and blot it onto some paper towels (or brush the paint onto the potato stamp using a brush if you have one) then stamp it onto the tshirt. Then just let it dry.

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I think they came out pretty well! It’s actually been months since I initially wrote this post and took the photos and the tshirts are still going strong!

Life Lately

I’ve still been quiet on the blog. I don’t feel like I’ve had anything big and special enough to share, though I do find myself using Instagram in a sort of ‘microblogging’ way – showing quick and cute things I’ve done without the need to write an elaborate post. But I still feel connected to this blog and feel I owe it some loving, so the least I could do is put a few of my Instagram photos up and offer a bit more of a detailed explanation!

1. My new Sinchies collection. They’re reusable food pouches where you suck the liquid from the spout on the side. I’ve noticed how much toddlers love those pouches but I couldn’t handle the waste! By having my own reusable pouches means I can fill it with all sorts of delicious and healthy recipes without all the added nasties. So far we’ve made smoothies, our own yogurt and healthy chocolate custard! You can also freeze them so you always have food on the go! Need I say more?

Sinchies reusable food pouch green smoothies for toddler

2. Also on the subject of food (toddler’s lives seem to revolve around food!) I bought these awesome Re-Play divided plates from Dandelion. How cute are they? I’ve found toddlers really like to think they have a choice in what they eat, and providing them with little sections of different food seems to make it more exciting. For me, I like being forced to provide a range (of at least three) different options for him to eat – I have actually found myself being ‘forced’ to steam veges to go along with a meal because I didn’t have enough to fill each section. Not a bad thing! BUT the exciting part is these plates are made from recycled milk bottles – how cool is that!

Dandelion Replay sectional plates toddler food

3. With Christmas approaching I’ve found myself really struggling with that blind urge to just buy my kid every cool toy I see. I mean spoiling a kid just feels so good doesn’t it? BUT spending a fortune on new toys is just ridiculous, spoiling him with something new and exciting all the time is not – especially when it’s free! Take this for example – I set this up to stop him from balancing on some dangerously stacked wooden planks we had stored ready for his future cubbyhouse (made out of scrap wood ofcourse!). He was so excited about something so simple and it took me all of a few minutes to put together.

Make your own toys a walking plank for balancing

4. Speaking of Christmas, I’ve been getting ready in the past few weeks. The first step was making a few gift tags out of paper (you can use recycled Christmas paper!) glued to the coloured side of food packaging cardboard (cereal boxes etc). So easy and didn’t cost me a thing!

DIY Christmas tags using cereal boxes and Christmas paper

5. And here’s one of the gift tags in use! This awkwardly wrapped present is a Bilibo. What’s a bilibo? Check out this awesome video. It’s basically an ‘elementary shell’ and it’s left to the child’s imagination as to what it can do. I can’t wait to see what my son might do with it!!

Bilibo wrapping for Christmas

6. Well this was just for fun. Bike browsing at Captain Walker’s Bicycles in Fremantle. We kind of stumbled across the shop and practically drooled on the floor. I gave up bike riding when I first fell pregnant two years ago. I was about to get back on the bike, even started researching baby seats when I found out I was pregnant again! We have big plans to make bike riding an important family activity so I reckon give it a year and we’ll be back here picking up our new bikes!

Bike window shopping

7. If you live in Perth then you have to check out MYRE in Fremantle. Using the old abandoned Myer building in Fremantle, MYRE have transformed the space into a hub for awesome West Australian bespoke retailers. There are huge plans for this space (currently only occupying the ground floor of a four storey building) with a rooftop garden currently in the works! Love it!

MYRE in Fremantle

8. And to show you what kind of things you can buy in MYRE, this is something I just HAD to have. A crochet cactus from Kate + Abel. How adorable is it? I’m all up for real plants, but I killed the last cactus I bought (I know, I know – how do you possibly kill a cactus?) so this is going to live very safely in my kitchen. Mkaes me smile every time I see it!

Crochet cactus from Kate + Abel

Now it’s time to get back to my Christmas decorating. I’m planning on decorating my alternative Christmas tree a bit different this year!

Follow me on Instagram at @kat_wray

Broccoli Pesto

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This recipe came about after suddenly producing a lot of broccoli in my vegetable garden – they all grew at the same time and suddenly I had to get imaginative with broccoli recipes! I wondered if I could make it into a pesto so I started browsing the web. Wouldn’t you know it, people have done it. Though most of the recipes I found used cooked broccoli, whereas I’d much rather get the health benefits of using raw broccoli. I then discovered Green Kitchen Stories used raw broccoli in a pesto so I knew it could be done!

The best part about this recipe is that it’s an excellent veggie smuggling food for kids. I actually got the “Mmmmm” sound out of my 15 month old with this recipe! Broccoli is also one of those super veggies – it’s packed full of antioxidants (which help prevent cancer), potassium (which helps maintain a healthy nervous system), magnesium, calcium, and as it contains a large amount of soluble fibre it helps reduce cholesterol.

Pesto is also a versatile food to make. You can stir it through pasta, put it on toast with eggs or in a sandwich, use it as a dip with veggie sticks. This recipe yields a small bowlful. I used half to make enough pasta for four adults (I added some sundried tomatoes and crumbled feta), and there was enough leftover for sandwiches for a few days.

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BROCCOLI PESTO

You will need:

  • A food processor, blender (or thermomix)

Ingredients

  • 1 large broccoli (around 2 cups chopped)
  • 50g of parmesan or pecorino
  • A handful of basil
  • ½ lemon juiced
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • ½ cup of walnuts and hazelnuts (or any mix you have)
  • ½ cup of olive oil (or more)

Method

  1. Place your broccoli into ice cold water and let it sit. Because this recipe uses raw broccoli you might want to check it for bugs first and putting it into icy water usually sorts that out. My broccoli is straight out of the garden and I don’t use any pesticides, so I often find caterpillars or tiny bugs inside!
  2. If your parmesan is whole, place it into your blender/food processor and blend until it resembles fine crumbs and then set aside.
  3. Now place the broccoli, basil, garlic and nuts in and blend until well blended.
  4. Now place the parmesan, olive oil and lemon juice and blend until smooth. Add more olive oil until you reach your desired consistency.

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These little hands didn’t have the patience to use a fork – it was too yummy!