Tuesday, 22 November 2016

An Exciting Sea Change

Well, it has been a CRAZY couple of months, which would explain my lack of posts.

For those of you who don't know, my Mum and I relocated from Brisbane (QLD) Australia to Geelong (VIC) Australia back in August 2016 and WOW what a journey it has been so far. I'll admit, initially I was very confused and had no idea what was going on. There was a lot of commotion happening and boxes everywhere. Little did I know at that point how much my life was going to change.

It all started with a flight to Canberra where I stayed with a friend for a few days, before my Mum and Nanny arrived to pick me up. Boy was I excited to see them. They packed me into the back of the car and off we went, all the way to Geelong. It was a long 8 hour drive. But I didn't mind so much because I was able to sleep in my bed on the back seat the whole time. I did worry about my Nanny though because she had driven all the way from Brisbane as my Mum was pretty sick and unable to drive. But she was a champion and got us to our destination in no time.

Since moving to Geelong, I have become best friends with the resident cat Bella. She is an 8 year old Ragdoll cat. She doesn't seem to mind sharing her home with me. Personally I think she likes having someone to play with. We generally stay out of each others way, but occasionally we do like to chase each other around the house. It definitely makes the humans laugh.

I now get to see my Nanna and Papa every day. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is race into Nanny and Papa's room and greet them with a few cheeky licks to the face. They love it.

We go exploring all the time and even go to the beach which I love. I also have a little backyard to run around in which is great. My human family have bought me a kennel to chill out in, but I don't like to use it. I'm more of an inside dog really.

I cannot begin to tell you how exciting my new life is. I am meeting new people all the time, going for long interesting walks and always have numerous people to play with and snuggle up with. I can't even walk down the street without someone coming up to me and giving me a pat. You should see the kids faces light up when we go for a walk around school finishing time. It's pretty tough being a handsome dog.

Gone are the days where I spent hours on end at home alone just waiting for my Mum to come home and give me a cuddle. I'm definitely exhausted when I go to bed at night time now, because I am so active throughout the day. It's great!

Anyways, I need to get back to ruling the house. I'll be sure to check in again soon.

Peace out dudes
Mr Teddy Bear

Monday, 12 September 2016

The perfect starter to your next dinner party

Having people over for dinner and want to serve up a tasty starter that is easy and quick to put together, tastes great but won't ruin an appetite? 

I recently had the privilege of putting together a Mediterranean inspired degustation menu for a very special 30th birthday which consisted of a five course meal, so naturally I wanted the starter to be light, tasty and easy to put together. 

These bite sized toothpicks were the perfect starter and satisfied even the most fussiest of eaters. 

And the best part about these mouth watering canap├ęs? They take less than 10 mins to put together, which in my case was perfect. 

All you need is some small toothpicks together with prosciutto, cherry tomatoes, bocconcini balls and some basil! It really is that easy. 

Want to get even more creative and add even more flavor to this dish? Try rolling the bocconcini balls in some pesto!! 

Bon appetit.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Pork fried rice served in lettuce cups

This super easy and quick meal will have your guests impressed and coming back for more.

Serves 4-6. Cooking time 15 mins

- 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
- 500g pork mince
- 1 teaspoon garlic
- 2 teaspoons ginger
- 2 cups of chopped or frozen vegetables (carrots, zucchini, capsicum, broccoli, beans or peas)
- 1 cup cooked rice
- 3 tablespoons water
- combine 1/4 cup gluten free soy sauce and 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- lettuce leaves to serve

Step 1
- cook rice, set aside

Step 2
- heat oil in wok or large frying pan. Add mince and stir fry until browned

Step 3
- add garlic and ginger and stir fry for 1 minute

Step 4
- add vegetables and stir fry for 5 mins or until tender. Add rice, water, soy sauce and brown sugar and stir fry until all combined

Step 5
- divide mixture among lettuce leaves and serve. Salt and pepper to taste

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Gluten & Onion free chicken & bacon risotto (+ mushrooms)

Are you sick of going out to restaurants and not being able to order a risotto due to an onion allergy (because we all know that most stock will have onion in it)? Well now you can have this delicious meal in the comfort of your own home. 

After a lot of research, I have managed to find beef and chicken stock cubes that are not only gluten free but onion and garlic free also. But please note, it is only the cubed version that is onion free as pictured above, the ready made powdered version contains onion! 

This isn't a dish you can whip up in 20 mins! It does take time. I would allow an hour from start to finish. 

Serves 6. 

- 500 grams chicken breast, diced (roughly 2 chicken breasts)
- 3 cups arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 tsp garlic (disregard if you cannot tolerate garlic)
- 4 rashers bacon, chopped
- 4 cubes of Massel's chicken stock in 1 liter of boiled water
- 1/4 cup Parmesan 
- 1/4 cup fresh basil
- 10 mushrooms, chopped (optional)
- oil (vegetable or extra virgin olive oil)
- salt and pepper to taste

Step 1 
- Saute chicken in oil and garlic. Once cooked, set aside

Step 2 
- Saute bacon (+ mushrooms). Set aside

Step 3
- Place 4 chicken cubes in 1 liter of boiling water

Step 4
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in pan, cook rice for 3 mins

Step 5
- Add wine and reduce. Stir regularly

Step 6
- Add stock, one cup at a time until all absorbed

Step 7
- Add chicken, bacon (+ mushrooms), Parmesan, pepper and fresh basil. Stir. 

Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Fiji - Stronger than Winston

When you think of Fiji, you imagine tropical beaches with crystal clear water, beautiful sunsets lined with palm trees and locals whose smile and friendly personality could light up an entire room. And this is exactly why my friend and I decided to book a girls trip to Fiji for March 2016.

What we didn't expect was for cyclone Winston to hit a week before we were due to arrive and cause mass destruction across Fiji.

After we got the green light from our travel agent that it was safe to travel as planned, we decided we wanted to use the opportunity to help out people in need. We knew there was devastation, but where do you start?

Firstly we put a call out on Facebook for donations of clothes, toiletries, school books and notepads to see what sort of response we would get. We then both sent out emails to our workplaces with a similar message.

Within a few days the responses started rolling in and to say we were overwhelmed by the generosity would be an understatement. The Brisbane community, having been through a natural disaster themselves with the Brisbane floods in 2011, know all too well the damage that mother nature can cause. We were inundated with clothes, toys, books, pencils, notepads, cash and the list goes on.

In total, we managed to take just under 50kgs of donations over with us. When we arrived at the Hilton Fiji Beach Resort & Spa we arranged to meet up with the BlueEnergy representative Akosita to discuss a visit out to a community in order to distribute our donations. BlueEnergy is the Hilton's Community Outreach Program that is committed to serving surrounding communities.

Akosita was most accommodating and managed to arrange us a private taxi driver for the day and she also offered to come with us on our community visit.

After our meeting, we decided to travel to the community of Ba, roughly an hour and a half drive away. Although this community wasn't the worst affected area of Fiji, given our time restraints, it was a great place to start.

Akosita also offered an office in the staff quarters of the hotel for us to go through all the donations we had and separate them into different piles. We agreed to take half the donations to Ba with us, and leave the other half with the hotel for them to take to the community that was hit the hardest, Rakiraki.

So a few days later, our taxi driver Mohammed arrived and off we went. First stop, the local grocery store to spend our cash donations on food and water for families in our destination community of Ba.

Our drive to Ba was one of great anticipation and excitement. We had no idea where we were heading and what to expect at the other end.

As we entered the community of Ba, Muhammed stopped off at a family home and picked up his brother in law who knew the community well. He was able to guide us to the areas that had been hit the hardest. He was also able to protect us from the people begging for help and trying to jump into our truck and take food and water.

What we saw next was truly heartbreaking. Although we were both expecting to see some damage to homes, we definitely weren't mentally prepared for the extent of the damage and the effect on living conditions.

Our first stop was a tiny little pink house where the entire back of the house had been swept away by the cyclone. This family had lost absolutely everything and all they had were each other, a sheet on the floor to sleep, a tiny table and a ceramic toilet, all in this tiny room. They had no food, no water and no electricity so they were ever so grateful to receive clothes and a food pack that would last them roughly a week. It was heart breaking, but we had to keep going.

We were then approached by a couple who realised what we were doing and begged us for food and water. They explained that although their house had survived, they were both sick and hungry and needed food. It was then that we realised that we simply couldn't help everyone and it was going to be a tough day emotionally seeing the devastation but also knowing there would be a lot of people we couldn't help.

The next house we entered was across the road, a Mother, Father, baby and Grandfather. Although their house was slightly bigger to begin with, they lost the roof and the resulting water damaged everything inside.

They had managed to save one bed for the baby to sleep in. We walked through what used to be the kitchen, through the lounge room and into the bedroom out the back which was the only room left with a roof. The roof was badly damaged and leaked every time it rained, which meant they are forever moving the bed around in order to keep the baby dry.

The pain was evident as they spoke to us and there was a huge feeling of helplessness. How do you explain to a tiny baby that there is no food or water? What do you say to people that have lost absolutely everything and are just struggling to survive and keep each other alive?  The answer is nothing. We were very silent as we took the tour with this family.

They thanked us for the food, water and clothing and as we exited the building the emotions got the better of us and we both stood there, embraced each other and broke down. It was a very sad yet beautiful moment shared between two friends who felt completely helpless. Even writing this story brings the emotions back and leaves me a weeping mess.

The next house we stumbled across was a family unit, 4 adults and 4 children, who had a roof over their heads, but no walls left in their home. As with the previous home, there was only one bed, this time occupied by an elderly man who was paralysed and could not walk. If you look closely in the photo of the house above, you can see a home made wheelchair used to move him around.

A five year old boy named Marnie caught our eye here so we stopped and handed over food and water and also clothes and some toys for the kids. One of the toys donated was a frisbee, which this little boy had never seen before. At first he was a little apprehensive to accept it, so the two of us  went into his yard and showed him how to use it. The expression on his face was a mixture of amazement and excitement all rolled into one. He had never seen anything like it. His eyes lit up and eventually we witnessed the most gorgeous smile. This smile spoke a thousand words.

He held the frisbee tight and followed us down to his neighbours place where he showed the other kids his new toy. It warms my heart knowing that such a simple item has brought so much fun and joy to people living below the poverty line.

In total, we were able to provide eight homes with food, water, clothing and toys. The more we saw, the more we understood the extent of the damage. What inspired me the most was the determination and persistence of these families. They are stronger than ever and are just doing everything they can to get their lives back on track. Although they are pained by the experience, they are happy, smiling and getting on with life. The children may not have much, but they are laughing and playing and enjoying what little they have.

The absolute highlight of the day was our last stop at a local school. As we had a lot of books, note pads, pens and crayons, we wanted to donate this to a local school. The kids welcomed us with open arms all screaming "bula" and giving us high fives. They had never seen a tourist before, as no one has really visited this community, so they were ever so excited. As soon as Akosita yelled out "photo", we were surrounded by kids laughing, screaming, smiling and all wanting to get in the picture. To see a group of kids who have absolutely nothing, but loving life to the fullest was incredibly heart warming.

It was truly a magnificent way to end a very emotional and physically difficult day. This experience will stay with us forever. Words cannot describe exactly what we saw this day and the emotions we felt, but the pictures and memories will last a life time.

We wanted to thank The Hilton Fiji Resort & Spa for their assistance in helping us achieve this goal. Particularly Akosita and Muhammed. Without the help from both of you, none of this would have been possible. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for helping us every step of the way. The Brisbane community also thanks you for taking the other half of the donations out to the community of Rakiraki.

Thank you to everyone who donated. I am also happy to report that the donations didn't stop with this trip. The staff and children at the Brisbane Boys' College have continued to bring in donations and we will soon be shipping even more donations across to Akosita at the Hilton Fiji. Thank you also for your generosity and hard work in getting these donations together.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Lemon and Ginger Detox Tea

Are you suffering from a cough or cold? Feeling stressed or suffering from mood swings? Do you have digestive and bloating issues? Do you suffer from arthritis or motion sickness? 

Believe it or not, but this simple yet effective tea can not only help with the above symptoms, but can also assist in getting rid of nasty toxins from the body as well as improving immunity, enhancing blood flow and preventing heart disease. 

This tea is an excellent way to detox the liver and is great for reducing the waistline! Both the ginger and lemon also assist in reducing inflammation within the body.

The best thing about this tea is that it can be enjoyed both hot and cold, which makes it an enjoyable beverage all year round. 

I absolutely love this tea and highly recommend it for anyone in the need of a bit of a detox. It's the best way to start the day! 

Here is how you make it:

- boil up 1 litre of water
- peel a piece of fresh ginger, roughly 4cm in size and finely slice
- combine the boiled litre of water with the ginger and let sit for 20 mins or so
- add 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (roughly the juice of half a lemon)
- add 1-2 teaspoons of natural honey
- for an extra kick, add a pinch of cayenne spice 

You can serve it straight away as a warm tea or put it in the fridge and serve it as an iced tea. 


Monday, 1 February 2016

The things my human family do to me

Here I was just minding my own business on a lazy Sunday when I heard the word "treat". My ears immediately pricked up and my mouth started watering.

When I approached my human family they thought it would be hilarious to put this funny thing on my head. 

I tried to shake it off a few times, mainly because it covered my eyes which blocked my view of the delicious treat I was patiently waiting for. I tried every trick I knew. Sit, drop, shake, stay and nothing was working. With every minute that passed I was getting more and more eager for my treat. 

In the end, they got their laugh and I got my yummy treat. Humans do funny things at times. But you've got to love them regardless. 

Peace out dudes. 
Mr Teddy Bear

Saturday, 30 January 2016

A Real Crowd Pleaser - Home Made Potato Bake


Do you love potato bake? Who doesn't right! Well this delicious recipe is sure to keep everyone happy and coming back for more. It's super easy and great to take to the next BBQ or family dinner party. And it's even better the next day!

Serves 4-6 people

What you'll need:
- 1 oven proof baking dish
- Olive oil spray
- 5 medium sized potatoes
- 300 ML of light thickened cream
- 5-6 pieces of shortcut (rindless) bacon
- Dried parsley
- Ground Parprika
- Salt and pepper
- Italian herbs (optional)
- Garlic powder (option)

1. Heat oven to 180 degrees (fan forced)
2. Spray baking dish with olive oil
3. Peel potatoes, cut into cubes and place in baking dish
4. Cut up bacon into small pieces and scatter over potatoes
5. Poor 300 ml of light thickened cream over the potatoes and bacon
6. Sprinkle with garlic powder, paprika, Italian herbs, parsley, salt and pepper
7. Use a spoon and mix it all together to coat the potatoes
8. Cover with aluminum foil and place in over. Bake for 45 mins. Then take foil off and bake for another 10-15 mins until potatoes are cooked, but slightly firm

*hint it works best if served when potatoes are slightly firm, otherwise it goes a little bit mushy! 

**if you aren't allergic to onions, you could also add 1 chopped small onion to the mix

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Love at first sight?

Yesterday the 16th January 2016 was all about wagging tails, cute dogs and puppies and cheeky cats and kittens, all hoping to find their forever home at the RSPCA Adoption day at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre.

Last year, a staggering 10,000 people attended the event and 270 animals were adopted. This year, they wanted it to be bigger and better. Within the first hour, 64 animals had been adopted. By the end of the day, over 415 animals had found their forever home.

The buzz, the excitement and the anticipation were all evident the minute you walked through the doors. We were greeted by the friendly RSPCA volunteer workers who were just as excited to be there as the people searching for their new best friend. There was plenty of laughter, chatter, smiles and the odd tear while you made your way through the aisles of cats and dogs.

I admit, I was one of the many people to shed a small tear.  I walked past one particular dog pen that had a sign saying “I am a special dog” and inside was a dog with 3 legs and the sweetest face you have ever seen. The dogs’ eyes told a thousand stories. When I was able to get a little closer, I then noticed another sign saying “I have been adopted” and inside the pen was this gorgeous special dog with its new family all giving plenty of cuddles. The wagging tail was enough to say that this particular dog couldn’t have been happier. And it was a magical moment to witness.

What I also found truly heart warming was the “I have been adopted” signs on a lot of the pens with older cats and dogs in them. Its no surprise that the cute, tiny, playful puppies  and kittens are quick to be snapped up, but it completely melted my heart seeing the older dogs and cats being adopted also because they too deserve all the happiness in the world.

Each animal had its own story and of course its own personality. I enjoyed a special moment with a beautiful black and white cat where he would stick his paw through his cage and try and grab my hand. I would move it quickly and tap the top of his paw. A few times he was quick enough to grab me and there was plenty of giggles around us as I battled it out with this cat. He was so incredibly playful and I hope that he was adopted.

I’ve seen some feedback about the disappointment of seeing a lot of empty pens as there was a bit of a time delay between animals being adopted and new ones being brought out to fill the pens.

Although I understand the frustration of wanting to find an animal to adopt, especially people who had travelled from the likes of the Gold Coast to attend the event,  I also appreciate the logistics of hosting such an event. The animals were transported from shelters all around Queensland and I can only imagine the amount of work involved to not only plan such an event but execute it also.

As a lover of all animals great and small, I wanted to thank the RSPCA from the bottom of my heart for hosting such an incredible event. Having 415 animals adopted into new homes last night was a fantastic achievement.

If you are looking to add a fur baby to your family, please take the time to check out an adoption shelter near you.

Here are some photos provided by people who were lucky enough to find that special pet.

This is Toby, falling asleep on the job. Picture courtesy of Fiona

Kittens at play. Photo courtesy of Angela

This is Lulu (formerly named Opal. Picture courtesy of Lauren

Picture courtesy of Angela

This is Tux, looking very happy! Picture courtesy of Sam

This is beautiful Bella. Picture courtesy of Kylie

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Breakfast in a wine glass? Yes please!

Now this is how I like my breakfast served! This delicious smoothie packed with all the essential vitamins and minerals to keep me healthy, not only tastes delicious BUT it keeps me full for hours. I wake up everyday really looking forward to my breakfast. And when it takes less than 20 seconds to make and can be consumed on the go (ok perhaps not in the wine glass), there really are no excuses for not starting your day with a healthy balanced breakfast.

But so many people out there are guilty of skipping the most important meal of the day. I've heard all the excuses "I don't have time", "I'd rather sleep in an extra ten minutes", "coffee is my breakfast". 

So why is breakfast the most important meal of the day? Well it refuels your glycogen (energy) levels, it kick starts your metabolism, provides you with energy to keep you going throughout the day and breaks the overnight fasting period (hence the name break-fast) just to name a few!

And did you know that eating breakfast is actually good for your waistline? Research shows those who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight and more likely to be within their ideal weight range compared with breakfast skippers. This is because if you skip breakfast, you are more likely to reach for foods that are high in sugar and fat. 

If you don't have time, get up earlier or choose a breakfast that is quick and easy  (ie smoothie). If you struggle to stomach breakfast, try introducing something small to change your habit (piece of fruit). Having breakfast everyday means incorporating it into your routine. Introduce it slowly and try different foods if you need to. 

I promise you that your body will thank you and you'll not only notice a difference in your energy levels but also your concentration. 

So do yourself a favor - stop making excuses and start having breakfast!