Saturday, 28 April 2012

Recipe of the Week/Month

As the days are getting shorter and chillier and the need to watch my waistline has gotten stronger I have started craving healthy, nutritious, warm, toasty soups. So my latest recipe is my mum's ever famous pumpkin soup. I love this soup, it is one of my favourite winter comfort meals and is pretty easy to make. My only advice: if you can have a male peel and cut the pumpkin for you unless you're a pretty strong chic that is. Pumpkin peeling and cutting can be pretty hard.

Mum's Pumpkin Soup

1/2 pumpkin (I used a Kent), peeled and chopped 
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 large carrot or 2 small carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tsp curry powder
100g diced bacon
Salt and pepper to taste
500ml chicken stock
200ml of carnation milk
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  1. Combine pumpkin, potatoes, bacon, onion, garlic, carrots, salt, pepper, parsley and curry powder in soup pot. Almost cover ingredients with cold water. Bring to the boil and reduce heat, simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Add 500ml of chicken stock, stirring so it doesn't stick and bring to the boil.
  3. Add carnation milk and reduce heat to low stirring until soup begins to bubble. If you would like your soup to be smooth, blend with a stick mixer at this point. 
  4. Turn off heat and stir through cream and further salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with cream, parsley and croutons.

Notes: if you would like a smooth soup but don't have a stick mixer, strain the liquid from the soup into a bowl after step one. Then blend the cooked vegetables in a food processor in batches and add liquid and vegetables back into the pot continuing with the recipe. Enjoy.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Dating a New Aged Guy

Men can be thoughtless, trouble causing, annoying, ignorant, rude, mean, SARCASTIC and everything else. They cause us women such pain and torment but many of us just can't live without them. On the other hand they can be loving, sweet, romantic, giving, funny, SEXY, helpful, the list is endless. Of course all of these traits relate to both sexes. Men, as have women, have changed over time and it seems we are finally facing our first generation of male adults with computers and gaming as a leisure option. Of course many of our dads had access to our PC's or Nintendo but they didn't grow up with them, use of these devices didn't come natural to them. Many X and Y generation males have grown up with these devices and the gaming and Internet addiction has continued on to adulthood. I am not limiting computer gaming addiction to just males, many females enjoy a good game too, we all know about my Diamond Dash addiction and I once spent days on end exhausting all of The Sims games. I remember as a child before the invention of facebook, my parents spending most nights together on the couch watching TV and cooking tea together. Although dad always spent more time sitting down watching TV while mum ran around like mad in the advertisements. Their hobbies were crafts or outdoor activities and there was no way you could watch your favourite TV show illegally, you had to wait for it come on TV each week.

As a girl engaged to a 'serious computer game and all things nerdy' addict I thought I would share some tips to make life easier. After all we can't really base our relationship on our parents as there is nothing to go off and if you do you might become a nagging annoying partner and things probably wont last long. Alex and I actually split up two years ago and part of the reason was I think my inability to accept him as he is and his inability to understand how some of his actions affected me. We now have the perfect combination of everything and we manage a lot better. We live quite separate home lives, we each have our own computers in separate rooms and two TV's.  

So first rule, don't interrupt your man when he is gaming. Alex plays one particular game on his PC which runs for around 40 minutes. He wears his headphones and sometimes I hear him nearly screaming at the people he is playing with, he is intensely focused clicking away like crazy. If I interrupt during this game he ignores me and gets irritated with me. What I have to understand is that for him, any distraction during this game could mean losing the game. Yes some of you might think well that's just pathetic, a relationship should always come first, but I am pretty sure if I interrupted Alex with a life of death situation he would forgive me, however, everything else can wait 40 minutes. If I need to talk to him, I either go into the 'study' (which I have renamed 'The Magical Room', at least for Alex it is) and say come see me when you're done or leave a note on his desk. And sure enough every time he does and there isn't a problem. The sooner you can accept that this is your man's choice of hobby the better off you will be. Just do whatever you can to make it work. As long as Alex is pulling his weight around the house, has a reasonably healthy lifestyle with a job and a social life I really have nothing to worry about. We all have our choice leisure activities. This is just how much Alex pulls his weight around the house these days, cooks tea most nights and cleans up 50% of the time as well, folds towels, puts washing out or the machine on if I ask, puts all rubbish and bins out, mows the lawn (this one requires a fair bit of nagging), neatens the bed if I ask plus heaps more I can't even think of. That is way more than my dad ever did around the house. Tip: most men just require you to ask, they don't see the things needing doing.

Secondly develop your own addictions or things you love doing. For me I have heaps of TV shows I watch, games I play, books I read so when Alex is gaming this is what I am doing. The only thing I try not to do is household chores when Alex is off doing his gaming thing, otherwise I do tend to get a little resentful but I am still working on this one. If you're really keen start playing the same games this will cancel out Rule 3 altogether. I am not that keen, although Magical Cards does look pretty interesting.

Thirdly, living these separate lives does mean we need to schedule time together and find things we love doing together. Unlike our parents who spent incidental time together watching TV or doing puzzles (yes my parents did puzzles) we don't often have these incidental moments. We do try and find a TV show we both like but we have to be committed to only watching it when are together. With TV at your fingertips these days (shh) it can sometimes be difficult to not just keep watching episode after episode. We have movie date nights, dinners and social nights with friends or sometimes just cuddle on the couch watching whatever is on but the difference is they scheduled.

Fourth rule, don't yell, scream, slam doors, cry, whine, moan etc. This will only make your man game more and you feel like utter shit, plus if he is wearing headphones he probably isn't going to hear you anyway. If you are worried that he is really getting addicted, sit down and chat with him calmly when you are both focused and feeling loving, yes it can take up to week to find a time like this! There have been times in our past where Alex has started staying up super late (or early) night after night and I have started worrying about his health and the affect it also has on our relationship and his social life, staying up late means sleeping until 3pm in the arvo. When I have spoken to him about like this he has really opened up to me and admitted that it can be hard to pull away from the computer of a night. Studies do show that the light of a computer screen can also mask your feelings of tiredness so you don't realise you're tired until you get up and walk away from the computer. Alex still has nights where he stays up to 5am sorting his magical cards or gaming. That's okay. I have been known to stay up reading or drinking with mates that late too. As they say, everything in moderation. At the end of the day you have to support your partner, be there for them, help them change only if they want to change and be honest with them. If they are doing something you really cant learn to accept, talk to someone try to accept it and if you can be honest about it. If they aren't willing to compromise you have a choice to make. No amount of nagging is going to help and will only waste time and deteriorate your own life further.

Lastly, schedule time for intimacy as well. I need more sleep than Alex so most nights I go to bed earlier than him while he games. This does mean we aren't often awake in bed together at one time so yes you know where I am going with this one. This is where date nights and scheduled nights come into play. You will be surprised how much scheduling these things can make your day that little bit exciting, as you know exactly what you've got to look forward to that night! 

I hope you can relate and it helps any of you ladies out there dating a gamer. What are your tricks for managing life dating a gamer? Oh and if you think Alex sounds addicted keep it to yourself, we are managing just fine plus that means less time for me to watch TV! Oh and I am sorry if I have majorly generalised in this post, this is just my take on these things!

How ironic, I just went into the Magical Room to ask Alex to proofread my post for me and he was playing the crazy click like a maniac game. I looked at the screen and saw that he has been playing it for 29 minutes so I will check back with him soon. He will probably realise I was after him anyway and come out when he is done - perfection :)

My Current Addictions

I thought I would introduce you to some of my current addictions. Check them out.

PINTEREST - I visit Pinterest usually a couple of times a day pinning pictures of interest and inspiration. Anything from recipes to try, to wedding ideas, fitness motivation and inspiring words. If you haven't yet checked out Pinterst I encourage you to do so especially if you are somewhat crafty and want some new DIY's to try. "Pinterest is a virtual pinboard. Pinterest allows you to organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. You can browse pinboards created by other people to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests." Check out my pinboards here.

REVENGE - I am a TV addict and my latest addiction is Revenge. It is thought provoking and interesting and I am always counting down the days to the release of a new episode. "The series follows the exploits of Amanda Clarke who under the alias of Emily Thorne, has returned to The Hamptons with one goal -- to seek revenge on those responsible for destroying her family".

THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE - The novel I am currently addicted to. I don't get a lot of time to read but this book has me squeezing in time to read in any spare minute I have. I haven't seen the movie and I expect it wont be anywhere near as good as the book as is the case with most novel to movie adaptations. "The Time Traveler's Wife is the debut novel of American author Audrey Niffenegger, published in 2003. It is a love story about a man with a genetic disorder that causes him to time travel unpredictably, and about his wife, an artist, who has to cope with his frequent absences and dangerous experiences".

DIAMOND DASH - My latest facebook game addiction. Yes I know a facebook game, really Simmone? but yes I love this one. It is fun and is even better playing on an ipad as that allows multi-touch. "Diamond Dash is the 60 second gem rush: click colorful gems, use magic diamonds and compete with your friends."

THE HUNGER GAMES - If you haven't heard of it you must have been hiding under a giant rock for the last two months. Alex and I went to the movies last week to see this film and it was really really good. A great movie for a girl and guy to go see as it has the girly sob story but the action side to appeal to a guy. "The story takes place in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future in the nation of Panem, which consists of a wealthy capitol surrounded by 12 less affluent districts. As punishment for a past rebellion against the government, the Capitol initiated the Hunger Games–a televised annual event in which one boy and one girl from each of the 12 districts are selected in a lottery as "tributes" and are required to fight to the death in an arena until there is one remaining victor." Now as soon as I finish reading The Time Travellers Wife I will be adding The Hunger Games trilogy to my list.

What are your current (healthy or at least not destructive) addictions? I am always open to new suggestions and interesting things I haven't heard of. 

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Bridal Party Requests

So growing up with a scrapping mother who ended up running a scrap booking store meant crafts were a pretty big part of my childhood. I remember making dream catchers, embossing over the toaster, trying to learn to knit and crochet and I am familiar with terms like sizzix and cuttlebug, vellum, linen and one that cracks me up every time - bling!  I enjoy creating things and so once I was engaged I knew I wanted us to ask our bridal party to be attendants at our wedding in a special way. I searched online for a fun way of asking them and considered buying something special off etsy but just couldn't justifying paying for something that I could create myself. So after some Google inspiration I set to the task of creating a little something to post to our soon to be attendants. With the exception of the best man, they weren't aware of our requests until receiving them in the mail and on the back was a little invitation to a celebration at our place but only if they accept our request. Take a look. 

They became better as I progressed and if I could create them again I wouldn't have gone so heavy with the inking on the girls requests. I created the dresses from scratch and for the tuxedo's I printed the picture on the paper, cut out each component (jacket, shirt, collar of shirt, collar of jacket and tie) on paper and used these as my template to cut each component. I had to put it together with tweezers due to the ties and collars being so little. I am pretty proud of the end result and think it's a nice keepsake for the attendants.  Let me know what you think!

Recipe of the Week/Month

I was absolutely addicted this season of My Kitchen Rules, a few weeks ago we had friends over for a board game evening. I was feeling very inspired by Nick and Rocco's amazing desserts so thought I would make a reasonably amazing dessert of my own. For those who don't want to be so adventurous in the kitchen, just make the mousse and serve in a glass but for others who want to push themselves outside of their comfort zone try the whole thing. 

Chocolate Mousse with Vanilla Sponge and Raspberries encased in a Chocolate Shell with Raspberry Coulis.

Chocolate Shell:
200g milk chocolate, melted
200g white chocolate, melted

Raspberry Coulis:
1 cup raspberries
1/2 cup raspberries

Chocolate Mousse:
200g milk cooking chocolate
25g butter, melted
150ml double cream
3 egg whites
2 tablespoons caster sugar

To serve:
1/2 cup raspberries
1 plain sponge (I bought one from Woolworths bakery area)

Chocolate Shell (I promise to feature a post with step by step pictures in the near future)
  1. Cut two 30cm by 7cm rectangles out of transparent overhead projection sheets.
  2. Pour white chocolate in a squiggly motion over the plastic strip deliberately going over the edges of the plastic. Make sure the trickle of chocolate is thin by pouring it slowly but moving the jug fast.
  3. Move the strip to a chopping board so that the white chocolate over the edges is left and the strip wont set to the surface.
  4. Leave the white chocolate until set.
  5. Pour melted milk chocolate over the white squiggles. With a wide spatula press down lightly at one end of the strip and slide across so the milk chocolate falls in the gaps and completely covers the white. Fill in any gaps with milk chocolate.
  6. Leave for a minute then pick up and shape into a tear drop shape on a tray. 
  7. Scrape edges of transparent sheet with knife whilst chocolate is still soft to remove any untidy edges.
  8. Refrigerate until plastic begins to peel away.
Raspberry Coulis
  1. Place raspberries and sugar in saucepan. Heat until raspberries soften and the sugar dissolves and coulis begins to thicken.
  2. Strain into jug.
Chocolate Mousse
  1. Melt the chocolate, then stir in the butter until melted. (My advice: complete the next two steps first so that chocolate doesn't begin to set)
  2. Lightly whip the cream.
  3. Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until peaking. Whisk in the sugar.
  4. Fold the cream, then the egg whites into melted chocolate mixture, using a large metal spoon, until evenly combine. Spoon the mousse into prepared chocolate cases below.
To assemble
  1. Cut one sponge cake layer lengthwise and place the chocolate shell on cake, push down gently, using a knife to assist you so that the cake forms the bottom layer on the shell.
  2. Place a layer of raspberries inside the shell onto the cake.
  3. Fill the chocolate shell with chocolate mousse.
  4. Neatly place raspberries upside down on top of the mousse.
  5. Decorate plate with coulis as desired and place assembled shell on plate.
I have always melted chocolate in the microwave. Many people struggle with this as the chocolate can easily burn. Put the chocolate into a glass jug and place in microwave for two or three thirty second bursts stirring between each one. Continue with 10 second bursts stirring each time until chocolate is melted.