For extra cupcake deliciousness, just add choc chips.

I initially started making cupcakes because I wanted something to snack on. I also wanted something other than cake to share when the occasion calls for it. So the search began for a quick and easy cupcake recipe. Sure, I could have purchased a packet mix off the shelf (nothing wrong with that). But I wanted something to make from scratch. I also wanted it to be gluten free so my friends who don’t eat wheat wouldn’t miss out. After scrolling through some of the recipes, I clicked on Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes by the Healthy Chef and wished I could have rung a bell for victory.  Yay. I found a recipe I could make from scratch. Not only are the cupcakes gluten free, but they are also low in fat. Double yay.

A friend and I taste tested the first batch I baked and we concluded they were delicious as they were. I was pleased with my efforts. Not bad for a novice (back then). Rather than adding icing to them, we experimented with what else could be added to them. She handed me a piece of chocolate to try with the next bite of the cupcake I was eating. I felt like I was on a cloud of happiness. We both agreed chocolate chips/pieces and the cupcakes make a perfect combination. Now when I make the cupcakes, I add the choc chips to the bowl just before mixing all the ingredients.

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When the cupcakes are in the oven, I’m reminded of a bakery with freshly baked bread and the chocolate factory I visited a few years ago. That chocolate factory is the same place I order the choc chips from. I couldn’t just use any choc chips. It wouldn’t feel right. Not when I’m making something to call my own. I also find the whole process of making the cupcakes therapeutic in some ways. It’s enough to put me in a euphoric mood.

That positively good mood has extended into the feedback about the cupcakes received thus far. People have said they are “delicious”, “yummy”, “divinely delightful” and “better than laughter but only just”. I must be doing something right when someone tells me they loved the cupcake they had a week or so earlier. That definitely put a grin on my face. Someone else suggested I enter the Great Australian Bakeoff. I’m not sure when the deadline is for that. But I might consider entering a baking competition or something similar. Watch this space.

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A wave to prevent etiquette slipping southwards.

Call me picky or whatever but I’ve noticed a few things etiquette-wise slipping southwards. For some unknown reason it is the same situations (see below) that keep popping up and I think it is time something was done about it. The Oxford Dictionary describes Etiquette well. Check it out here if unsure what the word means. And just like a textbook with questions and answers, I’ve come up with a solution on what to do should you find yourself in one of the situations below.

Failure to give a courtesy wave to someone when they let you into their lane.
Think peak hour bumper to bumper traffic and there is a left lane ending so all the cars in that lane need to merge into the right lane. I (or the person in car A) don’t have to let you into my lane. Nor do I care what car you drive (luxury or other type). A wave of acknowledgement will do. Failure to do so might result in you being beeped at or something else. That reminds me, I should get the dashcam back up and running.
Solution: A simple wave from you (or the person in car B) will do. For more information on what a courtesy wave is, check out the links following the other situations.
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Tailgating when there is no one in the lane next to them and overtaking while turning.
Normally when it is safe to do so, drivers would merge into the other lane next to them should they not be driving as slow as the car in front of them (sticking to the speed limit of course) Unfortunately there are drivers out there who would rather sit on someone’s tail and follow too close. Last thing anyone wants is a damaged back bumper bar. And what’s with this overtaking while turning business? I thought it was illegal and dangerous.
Solution: Either slow down or when safe to do so, pull into the other lane. Sometimes there is no option of merging into another lane and that is when you need to slow down As for the overtaking while turning, don’t do it Honestly. Just don’t. I know you think it might be the only chance of getting ahead of the motorist in front of you before merging onto the freeway (or other road), but just wait until the turn is finished. It’s only going to take another second or two. Then by all means overtake to your hearts content when safe to do so.

The failure to place trolleys back either into a store trolley bay or carpark trolley bay.
I understand people want to want to do their ‘good deed for the day’ and leave shopping trolleys around for someone else’s perusal. But not everyone has the same vision. There have been a few times where I’ve moved trolleys out of the way so there wouldn’t be a risk of them damaging mine or anyone else’s car.
Solution: Place said trolley back in a trolley bay. Or if you feel the need to the do the ‘good deed for the day’ thing, put it out of the way where it won’t damage anyone’s car. Poles (concrete or steel) or anywhere a trolley could roll in the wind and damage anyone’s car are not recommended.
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Failing to cross the road safely when there are either traffic lights or a pedestrian crossing 5 or so metres away.
I’m talking about when people see a car coming and still cross anyway (especially in shopping centre carparks and other places when said car is a few metres away). On top of wanting to find a carpark, getting in and getting out of the shops, people shouldn’t have to worry about injuring a pedestrian because they didn’t look if there was a car approaching. Drivers can only drive so slowly around those areas without stopping and annoying anyone behind them. A pedestrian crossing is also referred to as a zebra crossing due to the white lines on the black/tar coloured background. This is often accompanied by a yellow round sign with black feet on it                                                                                        Solution: Either use the crossing or wait until the approaching vehicle has passed you. Look left, look right and if crossing at a corner, look where the other road ending is too. If it is clear, cross, if not, wait until it is clear. If not, move to another spot and attempt to cross the road. And if a car does stop for you, make sure you give them a courtesy wave.
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I’m still yet to figure out how to prevent traffic lights staying red for so long. But I would love to know your opinion of other things etiquette that can be improved. In the meantime, I’m off to refit the dashcam onto the windscreen. Stay safe wherever you are and give a wave if someone lets you into their lane or stops for you. It only takes a few seconds.

Courtesy wave links
http://kdvr.com/2012/05/18/driving-you-crazy-the-courtesy-wave/ This is a good video.
http://www.mynrma.com.au/blog/2011/05/26/the-lost-art-of-the-courtesy-wave/
http://www.complex.com/sports/2013/06/unwritten-rules-of-the-road/the-courtesy-wave-is-not-optional

Sources:
Driving you crazy: The courtesy wave http://kdvr.com/2012/05/18/driving-you-crazy-the-courtesy-wave/ viewed 22/3/2015
The lost art of the courtesy wave http://www.mynrma.com.au/blog/2011/05/26/the-lost-art-of-the-courtesy-wave/ viewed 22/3/2015
The courtesy wave is not optional http://www.complex.com/sports/2013/06/unwritten-rules-of-the-road/the-courtesy-wave-is-not-optional viewed 22/3/2015
Oxford Dictionary definition of etiquette http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/etiquette viewed 22/3/2015

Mourning Percy. More than just a feline.

Just before the New Year arrived, my beautiful feline Percy passed away suddenly. I won’t outline how it unfolded but I will say being called into that consulting room to hear the news was one of the worst moments of my life. He died of a blood clot.

Guilt, anger, sadness and shock. Yes I felt them all. The question ‘What if I’d done more to prevent his death?’ also ran through my head. But I’ve realised that no matter how many times I question it, I can’t bring him back no matter how many times I wish it could happen.  Chances are he’d be keeping me company (or walking across the keyboard) as I’m typing something if he was here.

Some people might say ‘he’s just a cat get over it. Life goes on.’ Yes it does but that doesn’t mean I’m going to ‘get over it.’ He won’t be far from my mind. Not when I see his face in a photo beside his little shrine. And although he’s been gone for two months, I still miss his wet sandpaper-like tongue giving me a kiss on the cheek. I also miss walking down the pet food aisle and smiling whenever his favourite flavours were on special. It had to be a treat after having his teeth cleaned (as recommended by the vet). Maggie on the other hand will eat almost anything.

Percy, you were more than just a cat to me. You were my best (four legged) friend and were always there for me. Thankyou for almost nine years together. If I had to sum up what owning a cat like you taught me, it is that pets are family and shouldn’t be forgotten or replaced immediately once they have crossed over to Rainbow Bridge.  No one should feel alone during the time of mourning and I can safely say I had a great deal of support from family and friends when it first happened. Having Maggie around has also helped (I think we’ve helped each other through this time as she is more smoochy than before) but there is still that emptiness around the house.

R.I.P Percy <3
R.I.P Percy
R.I.P Percy.
R.I.P Percy.

As I end this post, I thought I’d share a video of Percy and Maggie at dinner time.

Appearing on a keyboard sometime in Th(e) future.

More than a decade ago, I mainly used my phone for three things: making calls, sending texts and playing Snake (Nokia 3315). More than a decade ago, tapes and CD’s were my main ways of listening to/backing up music. Fast forward to today and both the way we communicate and the format of music have evolved. Gone are the days of using multiple devices for different things. All you have to do is buy a phone with a camera, internet access and MP3 player and you are set for almost anything the day can throw at you. Add to this the portability of the computer in the form of a tablet or laptop. But wait—there’s more. Just when we thought tablets had evolved, now there are applications for your Smartphone, iPod, Android and other devices.

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As if that wasn’t enough, now a Melbourne restaurateur has taken the next step to keyboard evolution with the development of a symbol for the word ‘the’.

The closest to the symbol I can get (using my apparently obsolete keyboard, purchased only early this year) is ‘Th’. Unfortunately the version of Word I have is yet to acknowledge its existence as a red squiggly line appears under the unit. Then again, it is under three years old, so it may be present in the next version.  Another point to consider is Th already represents Thorium (Element 90 on the periodic table). As with most things, this new symbol intends to make texting, tweeting and anything typing related easier. Chances are it is aiming to replicate the work of the ampersand (the and {&} symbol).

Whilst I think the introduction of this symbol will work out for the better, I am still a little on the sceptical side (for now, anyway). I thought there was already a shorthand version of the word ‘the’ in the form of ‘da’ as in ‘da quick brown fox jumped over da lazy dog.’ Not that I use it often—if at all. And how would the symbol be pronounced? Would it fall under the category of dental? Or alveolar? Or some other way?

As long as the introduction of this symbol is done right, I don’t see any problem with it. I’m sure sometime in the future (maybe 5 or so years), it may be appearing on a keyboard I use. But for now, I’ll enjoy my phone (have upgraded to a more current model), iPod and other devices capable of doing more than one thing. It’s nice to have backup.

 

Can I get one student ticket thanks.

Back home, going out to an attraction on my own is something I wouldn’t do. That is because there is always someone/more than one person to go with. Unfortunately I didn’t have that layer of security whilst visiting most attractions while abroad. At first I was daunted with the thought of going sightseeing alone having been given excuses such as “I’ve been there already” and “I’m not interested in going”. Or else there’d be a last minute cancellation on a planned day out. At this point in time, I had two choices. Either stay home, watch the world go by from the security of my apartment and miss out. Or take the plunge and go by myself. I chose the latter thinking it would be something to talk about when I arrived home. With this thought in mind, I set off down to the local train station to begin my adventure for the day. First up: Tower of London. Just me and my camera.

I was brought back down to earth with the fact I was travelling solo when I arrived at the Tickets area. Groups of people were taking photos of each other smiling, laughing and taking crazy photos. I couldn’t help but feel a little left out as I walked towards the entrance with my ticket.

The more I explored the Tower, the more I felt it didn’t matter that I was on my own. And what made me feel even better was hearing a minor disagreement on where to go next amplify between two people in a group (I walked into the area where they were). I didn’t have that problem. Nor did I have to worry about becoming separated from the friend/s that came with me.

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The fact it was icy cold and rainy on the way home was irrelevant to me. I was more thrilled with the fact I ventured out on my own. For some reason, the more I ventured out on my own, the more I felt liberated. Don’t get me wrong, I also enjoy going out with friends and family.  But sometimes you have to take the leap and go places on your own. Although I don’t think that will be happening for a while.

Sounds like a great feature to have around in life.

Music will always be around in my life regardless of the genre listened to. It has accompanied me on the drives to a myriad of places such as the countryside. Whenever I’m upset, annoyed or not in the mood for anyone’s company, music would be my companion. Especially when I’m having a bad day.I also listen to it when I’m on the computer (it’s playing in the background as I type this), on public transport and when walking.

Having music on in the background when doing the housework is mandatory for me. I’m not sure about anyone else but I sometimes belt out a tune or act like I’m on stage (especially when I am vaccumning). I find doing the chores to be boring without it. Even when I’m studying, I have the radio or one of my various playlists on in the background. One of these playlists is made up of of songs I find motivating (listed below). Overall, music has always been (and will continue to be) present in my life. As I conclude this blog post, I would like to say thankyou to the artists who produced/produce the music in my life. May the music live on. *cheering and applause from me.

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And now  for the list of some of the songs I find motivating. There’s more than this but these are some of the songs I keep listening to. Feel free to add to it.

Eye of the tiger- Survivor
Thunderstruck-ACDC
Titanium-David Guetta featuring Sia
Good Feeling-Flo Rida
Spectrum (Say my name. Calvin Harris Remix)- Florence and the Machine
Feur Frei- Rammstein
The cup of life- Ricky Martin
In the Shadows- The Rasmus
Learn to fly- Foo Fighters
Fighter- Christina Aguilera
Clocks- Coldplay and not forgetting
We will rock you/we are the champions- Queen

Not worth the unknown. Adopt instead: A tale of two felines.

About this time of day back home (night time AEST), my two felines, Maggie (aged two) and Percy (aged seven), would most likely be playing with their toys or asleep somewhere in the house. Their lives haven’t always been about sitting on laps or chasing toys around the house or going for walks in the backyard on the lead (for Percy anyway) or any other thing that cats are renowned for. Each cat came to be part of the household under different circumstances.

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Percy was adopted from an animal shelter when he was nine months old. Maggie came to the house when she was a few months old after starting her life in a garage of someone we know. Rest assured, her mother was de-sexed prior to me travelling abroad.

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Before taking Percy home, he was de-sexed, micro-chipped and vet checked. He also came with a 28 day health guarantee and was temperament tested. He’s since been given the nicknames fluffball (sometimes he would curl up in a ball and sleep on my lap back home) and smoocher (he loves to smooch).

With Maggie, Mum and I split the payment for her being de-sexed and micro-chipped. I paid for her vaccinations and there was no health guarantee. In fact we found a few fleas on her a couple of days after bringing her home. They were dealt with promptly. Unlike Percy she is not a smoocher and doesn’t like being handled. Having said that, she will sit beside me on the couch and put her paw on my lap.

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Sometimes it is easy for people to get caught up by that cute puppy or kitten in the window of a shop. But is it worth all the hassle that comes with it if you don’t know what you are really buying?  A few years ago when looking for something for Percy (which they did not have), I overheard a sales person at a pet store (where they sold puppies, kittens and birds) say to someone looking to buy a puppy say they had no idea where they get the animals from. While it might not be like that now, I would adopt from an animal shelter any day over buying from a pet store given the experience I’ve been through with Maggie (in terms of paying for everything).

When you adopt from an animal shelter/animal rescue facility, you are doing more than just saving a life. You also have the de-sexing, micro-chipping and a vaccination included in the adoption fee. If I adopted Maggie from an animal shelter, I’m sure I would have saved some money.

There are also pet stores in partnership with animal shelters.  Adopt from one of their adoption centres and, you will not only be bringing home a new member of the family, you will also have the benefits of adopting from an animal shelter (de-sexing, micro-chipping 28 day health guarantee, follow up call etc). And while I’m at it, the shelter staff, volunteers, foster carers and people behind the scenes deserve to be thanked for all they do. This is especially for the ones that don’t receive any government funding.

Regardless of supporting animal shelters or not, it is important to remember a pet is for life not just for an occasion. I’m sure Maggie and Percy would agree if they could talk.

By Stephanie Galea.

Carrots: Why I like them and methods of consumption.

Despite the fact some vegetables are washed and ready to eat straight from the packet, I sometimes still rinse them just to be on the safe side. But the majority of times, they must be rinsed before consumption. Carrots are one example and since I’ve been living away from home, I’ve realised the importance of this. But I like carrots for their versatility.

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Other vegetables are versatile as well. But it’s the carrots that come to mind when thinking about a vegetable that can be made into a cake. I’m yet to hear of a spinach or tomato cake. Although somewhere along the line it may exist. I just haven’t heard of it. And I’m not talking about the potato cakes or batter covered vegetables either. Broccoli fritters anyone?

When I was younger, I drank carrot juice from time to time. Was it gross? No actually, I liked it. And I’d like to get back in the routine of having it once in a while. I’m only saying I’d drink it occasionally as I don’t want to my skin to resemble the colour of a Dorito. I’ll stick to eating them in my meals most days of the week.

Whilst I don’t snack on them, I have heard of people having carrots with peanut butter to nibble on. Although it makes me wonder if anyone has chocolate/hazelnut spread or jam with them. Carrots with chocolate? Sure. Let’s try that sometime. Let’s make a Rocky Road and substitute the carrots in place of the marshmallows. I don’t know how that would turn out, but if I’m in one of those moods to try anything with anything, I might give this a go.

Regardless of whether carrots and chocolate go together or not, I find carrots tasty when roasted. Gravy and butter are two well-known complements to the roasted type. But I sometimes have mine with sweet chilli sauce just to liven in up.

Slice carrots up and you can make all sorts of pretty designs with them and other vegetables too. I was attempting to make a flower of some sort in the picture below.

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Just don’t play with them too much as they are there to be eaten not played with. Did I mention they are good for you and your immune system? That’s for another post. In the meantime, I think it’s time for a glass of carrot juice.

Yes, it was me who ate the cookies in the cookie packet.

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I picked up a packet of Double Chocolate Cookies from a local Sainsbury’s store recently. Back home (Australia, the land down under), cookies are sometimes referred to as biscuits.

Did you know: the word cookie comes from the word ‘koekje,’ meaning small or little cake? And that the word biscuit morphs from the word ‘bicoctum,’ meaning twice baked?* Well, now you do.

Biting into a cookie from Sainsbury’s took me back to my experiences with biscuits back home. Sometimes Mum would pop a packet of cookies into our shopping trolley during our venture to the local supermarket. When we arrived home, we’d share the packet. We’d be lucky if there was anything left a couple of days after purchasing them. Other times, the smell of freshly baked biscuits would fill the air in our house. “There’s some biscuits in the container. Help yourself,” she would say to me whenever she made them. Usually, they would last two to three days at the most after being baked. But on either occasion, I would pace myself, ensuring I didn’t eat too much at the one time.

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That’s exactly how I approached the consumption of these cookies from Sainsbury’s. I didn’t eat too many in one sitting. I didn’t have to, given the softness in the middle. I’m used to biscuits being crunchy. Not these cookies. Even after a couple of days of opening them, the softness still remained. I was impressed with the choc chips being evenly distributed throughout the cookie rather than all stuck together at one part of the cookie or having none at all. Opening the packet was like breathing in the smell of a freshly baked chocolate cake.

Price was another advantage. At £1, it is a cheap way to treat yourself. The only disadvantage about them, is the absence of ingredients listed on the packaging. This means you don’t actually know what you are eating. A possible solution is to put the ingredients (or a rough list indicating how much calories/salt/sodium is in each batch) on the side. The packet only informs consumers the cookies are baked in store using British Flour and contain flavouring of some kind. There is also the option of asking in-store what they are made from. Regardless of this issue, I’ll continue to treat myself to these cookies, in moderation of course. Or alternatively, I might make some if I have a chance.

*Information courtesy of Linda Stradley, and What’s Cooking America. 2004. Linda Stradley United States. TX 5-900-517.
http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/CookieHistory.htm

Time and Opportunity.

This is a poem I wrote about a week ago. It’s about making the most of every opportunity that comes your way. After all, time doesn’t wait for anyone. It’s also about not dwelling on the things that have happened in the past & not letting anyone or anything stop you from reaching your goals.

Time and Opportunity

Technology
enables me, family and friends
to be close even though I’m so far from home.
But time
Does not wait for anyone
Can’t turn it back.
Wrong decisions make you learn from past mistakes.
Move on.
Waiting.
Don’t wait until something comes.
It may not come at all.
Go on. Go seek it out.
You might not get the chance again.
A once in a lifetime opportunity.
Live for the moments to come not the moments that have passed.
Sort things out.
Challenge the norms.
Be yourself.
Don’t be uncomfortable for anyone.
Go ahead
Live the life you want
And don’t look back.

 

Stephanie Galea.