Monday, 29 September 2014

Easy Raw Chocolate Recipe

I must confess I have a new love in my life. And no, it's not a member of the opposite sex. Heavens no. It's raw chocolate.

I discovered an absolutely delectable brand of raw chocolate in the supermarket a few months ago and it has been an obsession ever since. I do have some competition for my new love though - my rascal of an eighteen-month-year-old, who adores the stuff just as much, if not more, than I do.

The ingredients in the chocolate are all natural so our obsession isn't a problem as far as our health is concerned, but I have been starting to think that perhaps it is becoming a bit of a problem as far as our finances are concerned. At $2.59 per small bar, this choccy isn't cheap. I worked out that if we had just one little bar a day (not that we do. We do have days off, but we also have days when I eat four or five in a row so that evens things out), that would end up costing $945.35 over a year.

So I decided I had better learn how to make it myself.

After studying the ingredients on the back of the packet, looking up various recipes online and doing a bit of tweaking and experimenting, I've come up with an easy peasy recipe for raw chocolate balls:


1 cup of dates, chopped

1 cup of nuts, crushed (I used 1/2 cup of almonds and 1/2 a cup of cashews. You could also use pecans, walnuts or macadamias or a combination of whichever nuts take your fancy).

1/4 cup of coconut oil

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon cardamon

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla


1. Chop dates, place in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside to soak for one hour

2. Place nuts in a sandwich bag or plastic bag and bash with rolling pin until crushed. You can also use a mortar and pestle for this if you have one. But I recommend the sandwich bag and the rolling pin because the bashing process is enormously fun. In fact, I'd go as far as to say it's actually therapeutic. Perhaps I should bash nuts more often.

3. Once dates have soaked for an hour, strain, making sure to catch excess water in a bowl

4. Place dates, nuts, spices, coconut oil and cocoa in a bowl and mix all ingredients together

5. If more moisture is required, add some of the remaining date water until desirable consistency is achieved (this is a sticky mixture though so you may not need any at all)

6. Line a tray with baking paper. Place rounded teaspoons of mixture onto paper

7. Place in refrigerator. Leave to refrigerate for at least an hour 

8. Sit back and indulge
Bake Play Smile
Do you like raw chocolate?

Do you have any other tried and tested recipes for it?

Have you bashed anything lately with a rolling pin? 

A Cautionary Tale About Pyjamas and the School Run

A Cautionary Tale About Pyjamas & The School Run

I have often wondered if all mothers of school-aged children were asked to do an anonymous survey about whether they had ever dropped their child off at school in their pyjamas (assuming, of course, that they didn't have to get out of the car) what resulting percentage of secret pyjama wearers there would be.

I must confess that I am guilty, not just of a once-off or a now-and-then offence, but of being a serial pyjama school run mum. And while I'm being honest, I might as well confess that I'm sometimes still in my  PJs when I go to pick my son up from school in the afternoon too.

Well today's post is a little cautionary tale about why one should actually dress oneself in a socially acceptable manner before leaving the house ...

As we leave the house in the mornings, my nine-year-old son and I have developed a bit of a routine: I grab the house keys, the car keys and the baby and go out the back door. As I do so, I stick the house key into the lock, leaving the door open. While I am putting the baby in her carseat and warming up the engine, Ben follows me out of the house, turns the key in the lock, gives me the keys and runs next door to get Han, the little girl who lives there, who we take to school. This usually works quite well because I can threatened Ben, who is the slowest breakfast eater in the history of the world, that if he doesn't hurry up I will drive Han to school and leave him at home. Fortunately for me, he likes school and this always speeds him up. He also doesn't want to miss out on seeing Han.

Last Friday, however, our little routine did not go altogether smoothly. Neither Ben nor I are morning people and we were running even later than we usually do. The morning fog had also not yet lifted from our brains and, although we didn't realise it at the time, we were both operating in a state of muddle-headedness.

I drove the kids to school in the usual way, decked out in pyjamas with a hoodie over the top. The little girl next door is used to seeing me dressed like this now. She either thinks it's completely normal or else she thinks I'm officially insane and is just too polite to tell me, because she's never mentioned it.

After dropping them off, I drove home, parked the car, got the baby out of her carseat and patted my left pocket where I always put the housekeys. A feeling of dread washed over me. The pocket was empty.

I checked the right pocket. I checked all through the car. I checked to see if they were still in the door. But alas, the door was locked and the keys were nowhere to be found. There was only one place they could be: in Ben's pocket.

Now if I had been clad in socially acceptable attire, this would not have been much a problem. I would simply have driven up to Ben's school, knocked on the door of his classroom, explained the situation, got the keys, end of story. But this was not the case. Now don't get me wrong, I'm really not too concerned if people like the way I dress or not, but I had my son to think of here as well. It is doubtful if he would ever truly be able to forgive his mother for turning up to his school, where he is still very much the new kid on the block, in her flanellette pyjamas. Added to that, I was braless, make-upless and wearing a pair of big fluffy slippers (not that turning up to your kid's classroom in pyjamas is okay as long as you're wearing make-up, a bra and nice shoes, but I'm just trying to draw a picture of my physical state).

I looked a little something like this, only hundreds and thousands of times worse, because this is my 4 pm face (I got Ben to snap a re-enactment shot when he came home from school) and at the time I had my 8:30am I-don't-do-mornings face on and believe me, you should be grateful that you're not looking at a photo of that.

At this point a number of things went through my mind. Should I call the school and ask the secretary to ask Ben to meet me in the carpark? That might have worked, but my phone was inside the house. Should I drive to my sister's or my best friend's house, ask them to come back with me in the car and get them to knock on the door of Ben's classroom? That seemed like a plausible solution so I got back in the car and headed off and then realised that I had no petrol. Both of them live twenty minutes away and I would have been lucky if the car could have got half that distance. Even if I swallowed my pride and ventured into the petrol station in my nocturnal apparel, there was the small problem of money; my purse was locked inside the house too.

Perhaps I was just going to have to risk it. I'd just get in there, get it done and get out as quickly as possible. If I put on my sunnies and just popped my head round the corner of the classroom door, keeping my body concealed, then surely there was a chance I might get away with it. I put my hand to the top of my head to reach for my sunglasses (which I never go driving without, even if it's overcast), but all I could feel was the top of my head. Of all days, of course this day would have to be the one where I forgot my sunglasses. I hunted round frantically in the car for my old ones which I knew had been floating around there recently, but all I found in the way of eyewear was a pair of 3D glasses. That's really all I needed to top off my outfit and give me a lifetime reputation as a flat out freak.

At that point I also remembered that, being Friday morning, the whole school would also be having assembly. Parents are always invited to this of course, but this was far from a comforting thought. So besides gate-crashing the assembly and scarring my son for life, the only other alternative I could think of was waiting outside the house until school finished six and a half hours later. It was chilly, I had no clean nappies for the baby and the only thing to eat would have been the nasturtiums in the front garden.

So desperate times led to desperate measures. The only thing left to do was to ask Han's mum, Thuy, for help. Thuy and I have met and greeted each other several times since we moved to the area a couple of months ago and she was very happy when I offered to drive her daughter to school, but up until that point, we had never been inside each other's homes and she had definitely never seen me so casually dressed.

I knocked on the door and when she opened it, I blurted out "I need your help". I didn't even need to explain the whole story. As soon as I said "Ben's got my keys in his pocket", she nodded her head, got her coat and came outside. An amused little smile spread across her face. She doesn't have a car, so we both drove up to the school in mine. She got out and braved the crowds at the assemble to find Ben and bring the keys back to me where I was lying low in the car.

When we got back to our houses, she invited me in for a coffee. I hung out in her loungeroom, without even bothering to go home and get changed, for another two hours. That little smile didn't leave her lips the entire time.I think we're going to become good friends.

That afternoon when I asked Ben to take a photo of me for my blog (because, let's face it, I really have no life and don't have anything else to blog about), instead of apologising for pocketing my keys and allowing me to endure such emotional exhaustion, he said very matter-of-factly: "It's lucky you didn't come up to assembly this morning in your PJs, mum; your pyjama top doesn't even match the bottoms!"

So in future I shall be far more careful. In future I shall ensure that I always go to bed in matching pyjama top and bottoms so the next time I get locked out of my house, at least I will look fashionably co-ordinated when my neighbour opens the door to me. 

So tell me the truth ... do you do the school run in your PJs?

Have you ever been caught out?

Could you trust your neighbours to save you from public pyjama shame?

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Ten Things I Love about Here

I've had this post growing in my head for more than five months now.

It took root while I was thinking one day back in April about all the things Ben and I left behind when we left the home we used to share with my daughter's father. My losses were great, but my son's were greater because he had no control over the decision to move away from his school and his friends and a limited understanding of why it was necessary to move so far away.

At around the same time that I was having these thoughts, a number of things started to go wrong in our little cottage: the roof sprung a large leak, we were visited by several rodent guests, the oven decided it would stop working whenever it was raining, the washing machine decided it would only work when it felt like it, and half the light bulbs in the house stopped working all at once. Some of these problems were reasonably easy to fix. Others have been ongoing challenges.

So Ben and I came up with a little motto to help us put things into perspective and appreciate our house more during those times when we get fed up and want to rant about our house being too small or too leaky or that it stinks of dead rat-in-the-ceiling, That motto is: "it's better than camping" and it makes us remember all the things we have, like beds and hot showers and a computer and a power point to charge my phone.

And so, on that day back in April, I thought to myself, actually there's a lot to be thankful for around here. I started to make a list in my head and every so often, as the weeks went by, I'd add something to that list in my head. I'd go back to that list whenever I felt my thoughts returning to the things I had lost and left behind to remind myself of the beauty and fortune in our lives.

Tonight, I thought I'd finally get that list out of my head and onto this space. So here it is,

Ten Things I love about Here

1There are three parks in walking distance from us

We visit them often when the weather is fine. Sometimes, we even go on a park 'crawl' and go to all three in one day. And it's as good for me as it is for the kids - it's a pretty good work-out chasing a toddler around a park! It's really quite embarrassing how quickly I work up a sweat and start panting.

2. We have the best of both worlds

We live in quite an unusual suburb of Western Australia in that our house seems to straddle two parallel worlds. On one side of the river near to us is the hub of urban life, but on the other lies a laid back of cul-de-sacs and cottages, some of which are among the oldest buildings in the state.

If we walk out of our driveway and turn left and walk for five minutes, we come to a mini suburban metropolis where we can find top-quality coffee, a library, three major supermarkets, a video store, a post office and a take-away pizza chain. Oh, and the liquor store I told you about in this post.

But if we walk out of our driveway and turn right and head for five minutes in that direction, we go past  properties that are semi-rural, some with geese and chickens, some with horses and one with alpacas. Yes, that's right, alpacas. I was walking along one morning with my top-quality take-away coffee in my hand and all of a sudden, I looked up and there was an alpaca. I had to do a bit of eye rubbing.

This is where I planned on inserting a photo of an alpaca or a horse. I went walking this morning to snap one, but the blighters were all hiding from me.

3. We live in walking distance from a train station

I know that might not sound particularly riveting to some of you, but Ben loves train travel and after living so far away from any trains for such a long time, it's all seems rather exciting for us. We've taken a few trips into the city of Perth and also to Fremantle.

                                                Ice-cream time in the city with my lovelies last weekend.

I don't notice the toots of the trains anymore as they come and go from the station. When we first moved in, I noticed them all the time. But it was strangely comforting because it reminded me that I wasn't completely cut off from the world the way I had been before.

4. This little corner of the globe is quirky (and we do like a good dose of quirk now and then)

This means our family walks are rarely dull. I'm not just talking about the people we meet either. We have a route that we follow when we're going for a walk just for some exercise and fresh air and along the way, in among the houses of the back streets suburbia, we pass a graveyard (which Ben always wants to enter), a caravan park, an antique shop and a veterinary clinic which doesn't look like a veterinary clinic at all because its premises is a rather rundown suburban house. We often hear a cacophony of assorted barks, squawks and brays coming from inside when we walk by.

5. We have corner shops - TWO of them - spoilt for choice

I was delighted and surprised to discover that there are two surviving corner shops close to us, when all over the country, these iconic institutions seem to be dropping like flies. It's even more surprising when you consider just how close they are to some of the major supermarket chains. But how could a supermarket ever hold the same intimacy as a corner shop? Actually, if I'm buying more than one item, the man who owns the one I go to most often usually tries to rip me off by ten or twenty cents each time. He looks over whatever I've put on the counter then just tells me a price. Maybe he's just really bad at maths, but I tend to think he's a very cunning business man taking advantage of the fact that he doesn't have to scan items or give receipts. If he managed to get an extra ten cents out of every second customer every day, that would really add up over a year. But I'm onto him. And I still love corner shops.

6. All is going well at Ben's school

He has really hit the ground running at his new school. He came in at week eight of first term and had been invited to two different boys' homes for a play before the end of the week. He's made friends with both boys and girls of different ages and backgrounds and never wants to miss a day of school. I try to remind him often that I'm so proud of how good he is at making friends.

The only real thing that's not going so well is his inability to stop talking in class. I think I will have to nominate his teacher for earthly beatification.

7. We have orchards, vineyards and rolling hills practically on our doorstep

There are two ways that we can drive to my parent's place from our house. The first way involves two highways and several sets of traffic lights and for a while I thought that was the only way. Then one day, we were out driving about and exploring and we realised that there is a back way to their house through the Perth hills. This way takes about ten minutes longer, but has winding roads through the bush instead of highways and beautiful scenery instead of traffic lights. I take the back way whenever I can (except at night because there's no street lights on those windy roads).

In some places, the scenery on this route reminds me of the landscape around parts of the south west of Western Australia, where we lived for two years before moving here. Driving through these roads, with their apple trees and grapevines, helps to ease the longing in my heart for the place we had to leave.

8. Our garden is full of endless surprises

When we first moved in , I had no idea that there were so many natural beauties in our garden. I was allowed fifteen minutes to inspect the house during the home opening before making an application for it, so there wasn't enough time to explore the garden in detail. Since then, we've discovered an olive tree, a locut tree, a jade plant (which is also known as a money tree apparently, so hopefully it will bring me good fortune) and as the seasons have changed, roses, lavender, hawthorn, black-eyed susans, nasturtiums and poinsettia have all sprung up and made our garden alive with colour and flooded with fragrance.

There's also this beauty whose name I can't remember. I think it starts with D. If anyone knows, please tell me!

9. I have neighbours who bring me food

This point will have a entire blog post complied in its honour one day I'm sure. On one side of us lives Fadima from Singapore, who brings us exotic spicy delicacies whose names I can't pronounce and on the other side lives Thuy from Vietnam, who brings us coconut curry and noodles and desserts made with banana and tapioca. I make them biscuits. They always tell me they were delicious, but never know for sure if they eat them or not :)

10. Happy people

Since moving to this area, I have been surprised and touched by how friendly so many of the people are around here. One thing I noted straight away was how genuinely happy the people who work in the supermarkets are. They seem to take a pride in their job en masse that I haven't observed in any other place I've lived in before. On two separate occasions, when I've asked ladies in Coles to help me find a particular item, they've ended up sharing their own recipes with me too.

I'll be honest and tell you that before moving here I had a preconceived notion that this was not a particularly 'nice' area and that the people here would all be rough at best and maybe even dangerous. Well some of them are, but most of them are anything but. They might not be 'refined', but at least they're not pretending to be anything they're not.

Recently, I was telling a friend of mine how amazed I was by how open and friendly the people are around this area. The place I lived in before had a reputation for laid-back locals and a welcoming attitude and yet, I found it was much more the case in this new place. And she said to me: "Maybe it's you that's different. Maybe because now you are free to be yourself and you don't have to worry about who you talk to anymore or what you say and you're not so full of anxiety, maybe that draws people to you".

I've been thinking a lot about what she said, and I think she might be onto something :)

Linking up this weekend with Lizzi for her Ten Things of Thankful link-up.

What are you thankful for in the area where you live?