Drawing, Cannelloni and other therapies!

I just had the most stress full couple of weeks, it was incredibly busy at work so I was starting earlier and finishing later and broke my usual exercise habit and of course didn’t have time to go to the local fruit and veg market so I was picking up meals here and there. On top of all this was the anniversary of the passing away of somebody dear to me which always makes me a little emotional.

I was an absolute mess, a ball of tension and emotion. As I realised my back was hunched over and my shoulders were up near my ears I realised… Girl you got to look after yourself!

I stopped and told myself not to get so worked up and looked at ways to be kinder to myself. I dedicated some time during the week to me and the things I love. Instead of coming home and plonking myself on the couch in front of the TV I turned it off and did a drawing other days I would turn some music on and ceremoniously  prepare a meal or have a nice bath with candles and music.. I even booked myself in for a 1 hour full body Aromatherapy massage, best $55 I ever spent!

It was bliss and a reminder that sometimes you have to stop for a second and prioritise yourself. Quite often we place so much pressure on ourselves, stop it! There are so many hours in a day, there is always room there to work in some “relax time”.

Usually on a Sunday afternoon my fiancé and I  make a yummy meal and relax in front of the TV. I had started a drawing earlier in the day and was enjoying myself so much I didn’t want to stop, I had downloaded some cool tunes and had my head phones in at the dining table singing away with my new art supplies I had purchased. I looked up and noticed he too had turned the TV off and had picked up a book and looked very relaxed on the couch having a read. I thought to myself, what a peaceful little household this is, how heavenly, we were both so relaxed. So Simple, just turn the TV off!! Of course I drew tropical places and exotic animals.. a sign I need a holiday soon I think!!

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I saw one of my friends in a similar position, work had been demanding and she felt like she was being pulled from all angles. We were making plans to meet up on the weekend and I suggested we make cheese and spinach cannelloni together and have a feast at your place. Perhaps it is  the Italian in me but in my opinion Sometimes you need that grounding experience of friends in the kitchen together, with a good glass of wine hand making a yummy meal together ceremoniously. The best bit is, you get to taste the results of your labour afterwards, around a big table with company of your choice, music of your choice and a comfortable setting. We made Cheese and Spinach Cannelloni with a red meat sauce ( a fusion of mine and my friends recipes to add some oomph to the sauce) I will post the recipe shortly.

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Don’t get me wrong sometimes you just need a good movie and some popcorn and some down time but do also take time out for yourself and do something else you love too! Re discover an old passion, run out and take some photos, try a new recipe, do a drawing or painting, pick that book up again! I know.. its not rocket science but sometimes we forget!!

Yummy Home Made Focaccias

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Every year we have a family reunion on Rottnest Island in Perth. We hire out 3 Villas and decide which will be the main Villa for meals. No matter what you do that day dinner is always with the whole family gathered around the tables and an amazing spread of food. Normally everybody contributes one thing so that no one person is stuck with the cooking all the time and it works really well. I usually contribute yummy salads or cheeses, we always have somebody on the BBQ and My Aunty Julie ( one of the best cooks I know) Makes a range of delicious dishes, one of my favourite is her Focaccia breads. She makes the dough from scratch and creates the most sensational flavour combos like Caramelised onion and fetta or goats cheese, Chicken and pesto, Smoked salmon, cream cheese and Capers, salami, or even just her simple garlic, oil and oregano is amazing.

 If you make your dough in advance it is a great, quick and easy snack that always impresses! Sometimes I have simply brought  some dough over to friends houses and before their eyes rolled it out, popped some toppings on it and 15 minutes later there’s an amazing gourmet style home made snack!

 I don’t really put much cheese on the focaccia if any so you can make these to be fairly healthy as well.

Its also great to have some spare dough in the fridge or Freezer to make a quick Focaccia on a lazy Sunday arvo.

 Twice now I have joined my aunty while she makes these breads, I cant quite say that mine are as good as hers but I have her exact recipe here so we are starting in the right place.

 You will need..

375ml (1 1/2 cups) warm water
2 tsp (7g/1 sachet) dried yeast
Pinch of caster sugar
600g (4 cups) plain flour
1 tsp salt
60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil, plus extra for brushing

 If you half the yeast and make it the day before you need it, it will have a deeper more sour doughy taste.

 Combine your ingredients in a bowl and mix till it is firm and not too sticky and looks like it is ready to be kneaded.

Flour a clean dry surface  and place your dough on this knew surface. To knead the dough use the palms of your hands to push into the dough and then fold the edges back in and repeat. If it starts to get sticky sprinkle a little more flour and keep going, you will need to do this for at least 10 minutes until it is almost bouncy and has a nice soft smooth skin all around it.

 If you are making this  on the day leave it somewhere warm to rise on its own for a couple of hours. Otherwise pop it in the fridge covered for a coupe of days and let it slow rise in the fridge, If you want to cook it that night take it out that morning.

 When you are ready depending on the desired size grab a big hand full of dough and roll it out, don’t roll them too thin as you want a thick moist bready texture not a thin dry pizza.

 Brush with Olive oil and sprinkle some Garlic salt and fresh oregano to start. You can either just make it like this ( use a little more oil if plain) or begin adding your salami or onions and fetta or chicken and pesto or tomato Basil and Mozzarella etc.

 If you do want to make the caramelised onion and goats cheese, you will need to make the onions in advance. Use red onions and cook them very very slowly until they are sweet and golden. don’t add salt until the very end. then add a dash of beer or balsamic vinegar, and sprinkling of brown or white sugar.Pop em on your Focaccia.

 Pop in the oven at 170 degrees and roast for around 15- 20 minutes depending on the size, just keep an eye on them in the oven

This recipe makes 3 large focaccias and is SO yummy and gourmet, and fabulous with wine or beer.. go ahead.. make one!!

Happy 150th Birthday Newtown!!! (and a spooky story to match!)

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Newtown turns 150 this weekend, the event will be marked by the annual festival held at Camberdown Memorial rest park. But did you know underneath that park rests 10,000 graves??

Newtown and its melting pot of students, cultures, self professed  weirdos, emos, goths, glam rockers, yuppies, carefree, artistic people and more has always been close to my heart.

When my mum and I first moved to Sydney from Perth we moved to a terrace in Newtown and I went to Newtown public school, my best friend was Fijian and my other friend was Turkish, I was pretty much the only person from an english speaking background in my class. My mum was very groovy back then and it was not unusual to see her rock up to the school to pick me up barefoot with black nail polish and a hand made top. Back then in the 80s Newtown was pretty grimey and nowhere near as cool as it is now but it was always an area to find a lot of unique creative people.

We later moved to the inner west where I grew up.  Mum Returned to Newtown when I was  about 19 SHe got a job as the Co-ordinator of Newtown Neighbourhood centre. They do amazing stuff for the community, I remember one year Mum and her team ensured that all the homeless People on the street had warm coats and shoes without holes in them for the winter.

I would often visit mum for Lunch and pop into the neighbourhood centre, the team  there was always a mixed bunch of passionate people who really cared about the community and Newtown not losing its identity!

When Mum and I walked down King St in Newtown she new everyone, the buskers on the sidewalk, the locals and all sorts of funny characters that Newtown attracts.

Often when I need some reflection time I visit the cemetery. It reminds me that many lives have gone on before us, battles have been fought hearts have been broken, Love has been found all hundreds of years before I was born.

As a child I used to race ahead and stand on a grave (woops) and pretend I was a cupid or an angel statue and mum and her friends would  say “wow, what a lovely angel statue”, I would chuckle and run to the next one and do it again and again.

Did you know that the whole park surrounding the cemetery also used to be a grave yard?? I have been told that some days if the sun is right you can see the outline of the graves in the grass.

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In  1848 the whole block was a private graveyard for All Sydney. Over 18,000 bodies are buried there. There are lots of stories about the earlier days, they say  the near by residents complained because maggots used to  surface when it rained a lot over in the section of the graveyard that slopes downward.

On very cold mornings an eerie Miasmic mist (an emanation from rotting organic matter) was seen at the bottom of the hill around the graveyard.

There are also a few reported ghosts who haunt the grave yard  including a man in a coat, children are said to have spoken with him but he just watches people go about their business in the cemetery. Another character a man is in early 19th century military uniform can be seen viewing  the stars with a telescope near the grave of Major Mitchell on Moonless nights. There are reports of many more ghosts that have been seen heard and felt.

100 years later A young girl was murdered in the cemetery( on 13th of June 1946) by this time the cemetary was overgrown due to lack of funds.  After much public outcry the council decided they needed a public park due to the Eyesore that was the old cemetery and Sydneys’ rapid population growth, as a result ¾ of the now overgrown graveyard was turned into a park and all the headstones, well those that would fit now line the inner wall of the graveyard in 1950, you can still see all those headstones today.

So this Sunday if you venture down to the annual Newtown festival, while you are licking your soft serve listening to cool tunes remember  what lays beneath you is over 10,000 bodies!

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