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Just another random blog entry…

So it occurred to me that since I started my course I haven’t blogged. Weird that once you start studying something you love, it ends up being the last thing on your mind while studying it.  As for mentioned study? All is going well, I guess, as far as I know anyway. It involves some effort, there is one random (I am sure she wont mind me calling her that) chick in my course who I have full appreciation for, what a gem. Three weeks left of my first unit, and assuming I pass, only 11 to go.

Lets see, since the few updates… Franklin is still kicking ass in his role as the worlds best cat. That little bastard can ignore all the toys we bought him and will play endlessly with butchers string like nobody’s business. In your face catnip!  This cat is chasing the end. Or the beginning, whatever he can get his giant manly fur claws onto.

We had a fly by visit to Australia which served a few purposes – the main one being the wedding of the decade, our good mates Alli & Gerard got married! And like muppets we left our cameras at home (oh the shame) so waiting on some of the crew to share their pics from the grand event. It was a beautiful wedding with sweaty eyeballs and amazing racks of lamb, and while the week leading up in Sydney was iffy weather, the day was ridiculously lovely. But my poor heels, I knew it was ambitious when we had some setting up/take down duties, but they were hot and rockin’ while they lasted.  All of two hours. Bless the handbag that fit my flats! And it was more than ace to hang with Team Helson, always gracious hosts, and whom we miss dearly. I can’t tell you enough how important our crew is. They are family, and it was more than brilliant to get to hang with them at the wedding (you know who you are, most of you saw my drunken toast to you assholes!).  We love ya.

We also got to visit my family in Albury for a few days to start with, and what was better, Lee’s dad was able to come up from Melbourne for a few days. It was ace to see everyone, especially as I haven’t seen Joe & Maret since… Julia Guillard first became prime minister (we were home for a few weeks during our RTW trip, when we landed and KRudd was still PM, by morning no longer). You know, I just googled her name to make sure I got the spelling right, and the first search result was Julia Gulia. Gahahah! Sometimes life throws you a free one 😛

Really good to see our dads hang out too, family is important even through all of life’s fuzzies and curve balls. And when our flight was delayed, Mel rocked our worlds by bringing us some Yums sandwiches, which were, as always, bloody  tasty.

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I know, what kind of a shit person am I to get a photo of the sandwich, and none of my family and friends, let alone the wedding?! Still, the sandwich really was rockin’, thank you for rescuing us in an hour of need, Mel. Our trip was another friendly reminder that one week is not enough time to go home for a visit. The trip there was insanely disgusting (I caught a feral head cold on the way and was pretty much green for the first 17 hours of our trip), and the trip back was long and ruined our ideas of what clocks are meant for. Still, totally glad we just f#@%ing did it, it was a mad rush but totally worth it. Except the swollen feet, I probably pushed it with the heels at the wedding as it was, here’s what I came back to Canada with. Ms Piggy would be so proud!

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The next big event is heading to London for Helyn’s wedding, where I am actually partaking in the wedding party, as MoH (actually, one of two, but I am the matron, I feel so old). So we are in the midst of planning that trip, more on that later. We have some more ‘lets f#@%ing do it’ plans, but alas nothing to update you with just yet, so stay tuned. For now we are well, healthy, busy, and happy, and that’s all that matters. Will update something more substantial soon. xxx

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Vincenzo’s… IM NOT HAPPY!

To be fair, I shouldn’t just say this is a Vincenzo’s problem, especially considering my last post about gluten free and dairy (cow only) free and the pitfalls of trying to work around this dietary ‘requirement’, albeit somewhat self enforced.

So… last time we had a work lunch thing I per-ordered gluten & dairy free. What I got was a ham sandwich with lettuce, tomato and mustard on the most disgusting stale-like gluten free bread imaginable. Yuck. So when the next one came up, I said I would bring my own lunch.  ‘But we are ordering from Vincenzo’s this time!’. OH BOY! Sign me up! Especially now as The Chenz has gluten free wraps!

So lunch arrives, everyone makes fun of my special order in a bag named ‘Anna’  and I had high hopes. Well, that was wrong of me.  What was in the bag was a turkey, tomato and cucumber sandwich on gluten free bread. With mustard. Seriously people,  is this the only gluten and dairy free option?! Vincenzo’s, I am disappointed! What about sundried tomatoes? Or artichokes? Or roasted eggplant?! Just because I ordered gluten and dairy free doesn’t mean I don’t have taste buds!  Too hungry to argue with my lunch, and not enough time to get something else, I picked the tasteless guts out of the sandwich and left the stale sweet crumbly cake-like ‘bread’ for the trash to feast on.

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I feel awful as the lady who organized lunch went to the effort to get this for me, I really do appreciate it. And I know this sounds like a HUGE first world problem, which it is, but sandwich disappointment is something I take seriously, and like my gluten free ‘bread’, I’m gutted.  And I am seriously thinking about my life.

#fml #firstworldproblems #tryingtoeatwell #donthatemecosimbeautiful

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Healthy Pizza?

They said that it couldn’t be done. I am on a quest to prove them wrong.

To be honest my quest started when I started to cut wheat out of my diet. Well, gluten really. I had a couple of failed attempts at buckwheat baking, and using spelt flour (including an emotional failed attempt at pizza dough which I am still not ready to talk about) but my luck so far has been non existent. So it wasn’t such a ‘healthy pizza’ quest, it was more ‘alternative pizza’ that initiated the search.

Regardless, I love pizza. I could eat pizza every day if I could. Pizza represents everything that’s awesome in this world, except for the fact that its really not good for you.

So in my infinite search (and I say infinite because I am really not expecting this to ever end), I stumbled across a recipe for thin crust pizza base… made from cauliflower.  WHAT I hear you say? Yeah, you read that right, cauliflower.

Here’s the recipe:

2 cups shredded raw cauliflower
1 cup grated mozzarella
1 egg
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp olive oil

Huh. Really?

So all I did was run the cauliflower through my food processor with the grater attachment. Easily done. I grated a cup of sheep mozzarella (staying away from cow dairy). Also easily done. Mixed in a bowl with the egg and salt, then patted down on a pizza tray after drizzling the olive oil over the top, and slowly spread it thin. Probably the easiest part. What happens next? It’s baked on 425 (F) for 15 mins, then taken out to have toppings chucked on top, then back in the oven to grill (broil) for another 3 or so minutes.

What what?! Here’s how it turned out:

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Last bit to mention is flavour. Well, it was pretty bloody tasty, albeit a little ‘pancake’ like (ie you cant pick up a piece and eat with your hands, its a bit soft yet holds together really well). Overall I am dead impressed, and didn’t get that bloated feeling like after eating pizza. It was satisfying, and delicious. This recipe is a keeper.

You are probably thinking what I am thinking – ‘it still has a cup of cheese in the base, AND cheese on the top, so how healthy can it be?!’.  I am wondering what an alternative flour from wheat could bring to the mix, as well as if I would use a cows mozzarella (sheep/goats is really really soft). Can I get it to firm up a bit? Can I go without cheese in the base at all? What else can I come up with? We will see. But for now, I am enjoying my healthIER pizza alternative.

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Thrive – my new favourite thing

Over the weekend I met with my friend Lindsey for lunch, and we embarked upon somewhere new to us both. I have been tempted by this place for sometime, but have been a bit wary of its potential hipster population and reputation.  But the menu has always appealed to me, especially when it comes to a total lack of healthy eateries in this town. So we did it, we bit the bullet and we gave it a bash.

I ordered the pad thai (I was was meant to go with raw but stuck with the rice noodles).  And oh my god, it was delicious.  So delicious in fact that I was kicking myself for not taking a photo, and have been thinking about it every since.  Look what my husband picked up for my lunch today! Three words – win win win. I love this dish, and look at it, in all its vege goodness. This has quickly moved up my favourite things list, especially on the local front.

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Man, I wish I was Oprah. I would be able to randomly point at people and say ‘You get pad thai! You get pad thai! You get pad thai! EVERYOOOOONNNNE GETS PAD THAI!’.

Don’t let its saladness turn you off, the flavours in this ridiculously good dish are enough to satisfy even the most hipsterish of pallets. Be warned for nut allergies though (sorry guys, but its the nuts in this that totally tips it over the awesome scale!).

Seriously, if you are in town, give Thrive Juice Bar a crack. The staff are lovely, menu options are plentiful, and the daily specials are enough to tempt you out of your original decision. I foresee a-plenty more visits, this one is a keeper.

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And it begins…

We are only 26 days into our year of ‘LETS/JUST F#@%ING DO IT!’ (happy Australia Day btw), we have achieved quite a lot. Decisions have been made, things have been purchased, and plans are happening as we speak.

To start, we wanted a pet. Going with this years theme, we rescued this little guy on a whim:

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His name is Franklin and he is awesome. I can’t tell you how nice it is to finally share our home with a fur child again, its been too long.

If you think making decisions on pets is big, check out our next big decision we made and pick up on Tuesday next week.

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Wooooah… WE F#@%ING DID IT! WE TOTALLY F#@%ING DID IT! And while its sad to bid farewell to our Passat, we are dead keen to get going in this piece of joy.

Study starts for me shortly (I’m going to f#@%ing do it), Lee is looking at his own study options, and the planning for the remainder of this year is happening. However, life is what happens when you are busy making plans, so some of our ideas may need to wait for 2014 funding, due to some exciting developments around the world.

Our good friends Alli & G are getting hitched back home in Australia. Given our vacation allowance here in Canada means its going to be a whirlwind of a trip. But you know what? We are totally going to f#@%ing do it in a one week there-and-back-again stint, but alas sans Bilbo Baggins. It’s going to be brilliant.

My good friend Helyn asked me to be her matron of honour in her wedding in the UK come July. And you know what? I’m totally going to f#@%ing do it.  I have never officially been in a wedding party before, other than my own, so I am dead chuffed and excited. And I have to say, really honoured, no pun intended.

Let the games continue, plenty more to come. So far I can report we are loving the freedom of our decision making, and even if there are some restrictions that come with it, it is definitely very liberating.  Although this has a financial impact, you cant take money with you when you cross over, so why not live a little?!

I am hoping in 11 months we look back and have a drink and say we f#@%ing did all of it. Probably followed by a ‘sh!t yeah!’ and a beer chaser.

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2013 – LETS F#@%ING DO IT!

There is a scene at the end of Long Way Round where Ewan and Charley are riding their bikes on the bridge over Hudson River in New York sobbing into their helmets, yelling ‘WE F#@%ING DID IT!’ to each other –  they just rode their bikes around the world from London to New York. Lee and I watch Long Way Round & Long Way Down repeatedly, we find these guys and what they achieved so motivating and inspiring, as well as really damn funny. But for some reason, of all the quotable quotes, the one that resonates with me the most is the sobbing into the helmets. WE F#@%ING DID IT. Every time I watch that scene, something bubbles up in my chest, and I think to myself: I want that feeling.

A few months back, while watching the end of Long Way Round again, it got me thinking.  The cogs were turning and the mice running around in their wheel were doing hefty overtime. Our Game of Firsts year of 2012 was coming to an end but we didn’t want to stop having firsts, or pushing ourselves into things outside of our comfort zones. Then it hit me – why cant 2013 be our ‘Lets F#@%ing Do it!’ year? That way, we can have a whole year of similar moments. Once we just f#@%ing do it, we can say we  f#@%ing did it! Fist bumps, tears and all.

So in 2013 we will continue to push ourselves, try new things, be positive, and most of all feel proud of our achievements. And if we want to do something, well guess what, we f#@%ing will!  I am looking 2013 straight in the eye when I say from the bottom of my heart, lets  f#@%ing do this thing.

This becomes a new years resolution in itself. I was originally going to make mine to stop swearing, but I guess with this years theme that might be a bit difficult… Happy New Year everyone xx

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Christmas Festivities

The lead up to this Christmas was a difficult one, so I wanted to make it extra special. And of course, for me that means spending a whole lot of quality time in the kitchen. I made ninja bread men, which were so much fun to make (and even more fun to paint their faces), and I finally got around to making reinbeers after all these years. They were a gift, I think it might become a staple every year for under-the-tree shenanigans.

The Christmas dinner menu was a hefty one but worth every effort. I started with a hot mushroom dip with flat bread for an afternoon pre-dinner ‘snack’. For dinner, we had brandy apricot stuffed turkey breast, red onion & Gruyère gratin, rare roast beef filet, maple roasted parsnips & carrots, roast potatoes, roast beetroot & goats cheese salad, and balsamic asparagus & vine tomatoes. Mmm mmm mmmmm, all washed down with champagne and wine.  And that was for just the three of us. Luckily it was good, we ate it for two days!  For dessert I made santa hat brownies with armaretto cream. There was a bit of an ‘incident’ with the first batch (just call me butterfingers), so glad I had back up.

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Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this Christmas, and was really pleased that my dad and husbandman did also. It was quiet, but I think we made up for that with Christmas tunes, booze, and awesome presents under the tree. It was a fairly late night, and after a cleansing margarita we decided to call it a night.  It was also good to speak to the family during their Christmas, plus my sister Heidi called from Aus for ours. Thanks Heids!

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Unfortunately it was not a white Christmas as we expected, but on Boxing Day we did a 3km walk to the pub to stretch our legs (and arms, several pitchers later we were ready for our walk home!), and the snow had finally arrived, the streets were blanketed, and everything looked stunning.  As you can imagine, after a few beers, this was very happy news, and while the walk home was a bit cold, it was lovely – everything is so much prettier white. Welcome snow, its good to see you again, finally!

We managed to fit in a few more Firsts – we visited Stratford which is about a 40 min drive away, and what a cute little place! I spotted a lovely shoe shop, and found some lovely red boots which I am looking at right now. Merry Christmas to me, eh?! We explored the town a bit, and stumbled across a whole bunch of ducks, and they were awesome! Cute little buggers chillin’ in the snow.

We also managed to get out to Niagara, it just seems wrong being so close and not taking dad for a visit. He had never been before, and Lee and I had not been in winter, so this was something special. What a treat, how beautiful is this?!

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And so it is with mixed emotions we say farewell to 2012. I know a lot of people are pleased to see the end of this year, as am I. I can honestly say while there have been some real highlights this year, it has also been one of the worst, and one of the most stressful. Our Year of Firsts was definitely filled with many firsts, not all of them pleasant, but we managed to push some of our boundaries and have learned a thing or two about ourselves along the way. And I am even more thankful for the people in our lives – our family around the world, our amazing crew back home, the beautiful people we know along the way, and our new Canadian friends. We love you all, thank you for everything you have done for us this year, Team de Souza are grateful!

2013 may have a different theme (again, more on that later), it will definitely still be filled with firsts.  And while I am not kidding myself about 2013 not also being full of its own stresses, I feel much stronger and ready to tackle the year. Stay tuned, stay safe and Happy New Year!