mushroom stew with spicy chive scones

People, life is hard and full of disappointment.

It’s hard to get up in the morning when you know you won’t see daylight except out a window for nigh on nine hours.

It’s hard to live surrounded by boxes, but sometimes it’s harder to unpack those boxes to find out what lives inside.

It’s hard when your life is full of potential but you don’t know where you want to steer your ship.

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vegan chocolate cupcakes

I was at a cafe the other day taking a break from, well, my life, and it was pretty busy so I got a seat at the counter which runs along the window, squeezed between a girl on a notebook computer and a guy drawing with a sharpie in a visual diary and

side note but I am always fascinated by people who can draw and I like to watch them. The way that people can use a pen or a sharpie or whatever and make lines on paper look good? wow. Probably because I would really be able to draw but I don’t have the discipline to make myself draw enough to get good at it. I love to do too many other things.

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life happens

When does one become an adult?

When can a young man or woman stand in front of their peers and older adults and declare themselves to be officially grown up?

What are the markers that show the world that you have left  that middle space between complete dependence and complete independence behind? And why the heck do we have to go through it in the first place?

What happens when we get to adulthood, and how do we deal with leaving our safety net behind?

Life happens to all of us, but only some people happen to life.

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cupcakes, chocolate

I didn’t really know what to title this post because although there is a recipe for chocolate cupcakes at the end, it’s not really about the cupcakes. The cupcakes are a vehicle for me to talk about stuff.

I feel like lately life has been happening to me, rather than that I am actually living life. It might have to do with the fact that I’m living in a state of limbo and my life has been turned upside down this year. I don’t know what I want to do with my life or where I’m going and so I’m filling in time by working and baking and going to parties and weddings.

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just…relax

Hey guys on the interwebs. This is a little post to say hello! Hello to my new subscribers, numerous as I know you are, and even if you are not many, you are all wonderful. Thanks for checking out my little corner of the internet. I appreciate it!

It’s been a bit hectic over here because it’s summer! There is some amazing produce hanging around at the moment but it’s also hot and sticky and not always all that pleasant. There is work to be done but there is also something else that is happening in my life at the moment.

I am about to move house! I’m moving out of the hills and away from all the beautiful views. Away from this hectic house full of people to a new challenge, a new house with new people. So I’ve been packing and organising and getting slightly stressed trying to fit everything into my life. But it’s happening.

I have several posts in the line up, I just have to finish editing the photos which is proving difficult because my camera’s still playing up so look forward to those! They may be backed up but they will appear on your screens for you to read with your eyeballs soon. Sooner than soon. I promise. Because I love you. That is a true truth.

So instead of a recipe I invite you to simply pour yourself a glass of something, or a cup. It could be bourbon, bourbon with coke or another mixer, maybe some other type of alcoholic beverage. Beer would be nice, thank you. Perhaps you would prefer a cup of tea, and I totally support that idea. Hot chocolate, especially if it is winter where you are residing. Coffee. Lemonade?

Sit, with your beverage. Make it pretty. Use your favourite drinking vessel. Maybe you want a straw? Yep. A tea tray! Excellent idea. Sit. Take a moment. Relax.

With love, from my corner of the world to yours.

not your mama’s nutella

Well, unless your mama is Stella of Bravetart. Then, yeah, I stole your mama’s nutella recipe. However, I’m fairly sure Stella doesn’t have kids, so no, this is not your mama’s nutella. Really, it’s not nutella at all, because Nutella is trademarked.

This is a chocolate hazelnut spread that is much better than nutella. Trust me. I know. It took me a while to get there, but it was worth it. (Whether it was worth the procrastination it took – the time away from my essays – only time will tell.) Oh, it was a real hassle but we got there in the end.

So, why make chocolate hazelnut spread yourself, you ask? Good question. The thing is, I’m trying (slowly, painfully, with not much success) to bring my life back to the ground. The earth. So I’m planting stuff and making bread and sitting in the spaces but I don’t have a lot of time and I make a lot of lame excuses.

I want to eat less processed food, more local and organic food. I want to celebrate life properly. It’s a long hard slog but I’m getting there. Sometimes I feel like I say that WAY too much. I’m getting there. Getting to a place where I’m at peace. Getting to the end of my tether. Getting to the top of the mountain. Getting back down again. Getting to God. Getting further away.

Getting there is usually positive, however, because positivity breeds positivity. I am not great at being positive all the time, however, I do my best. And physical activity plus healthy food equals a pretty positive day.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Adapted from Bravetart

Dude, this was a fiasco and a half, let me tell you. I started off with my sister in the kitchen and I should say right here, I am not good at sharing a kitchen with anyone, let alone family. Then the brittle didn’t become brittle, which I figured out later was because I didn’t cook it enough (so either get yourself a candy thermometer or cook until lovely golden brown) so I got sticky non-brittle EVERYWHERE and then it was like nine o’ clock before I even started the dishes. Oh my goodness.

But was it worth it? Yes, definitely. It’s amazing. Make this, and you will never buy storebought Nutella again.

7 ounces (205 mL) water

15 ounces (425g)

6 ounces (170g) honey or corn syrup

3 ounces (85g) butter

1 vanilla bean

10 ounces (285g) hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed, chopped coarsely

8 ounces (200g) dark chocolate (72% cocoa is preferred) melted and cooled

1 ounce (28g) cocoa powder

3/4 tsp salt

6-8 ounces (170-225g) hazelnut oil (We couldn’t find hazelnut oil in the supermarket so we used macadamia nut oil instead and it was fine. I only used about 5 ounces all up.)

Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape out all the lovely insides and put it into the sugar. Slice the two halves lengthwise again and mince them as finely as you can. Rub all that vanilla goodness into the sugar so you have vanilla sugar (this is also a good way to clean off your hands and knife from all that clingy vanilla bean paste.)

Place the sugar, butter, honey/corn syrup and water into a saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and stir continuously until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil, not stirring, until the mixture reaches about 300 degrees (Farenheit, I think) on a candy thermometer (this is about 150 degrees Celsius) or pale golden brown. Or lovely deep golden brown, if you want to go that way.

Take off the heat and stir in the hazelnuts. As you can probably see from my pictures, I didn’t chop the hazelnuts beforehand but I chopped up my brittle fairly well after it set so it turned out ok.

Grease a baking tray and pour the brittle mixture in.

While you’re waiting for the brittle to set is a good time to melt your chocolate.

When it’s set, carefully remove it from the pan and break it into manageable chunks (I fairly well chopped mine because I was scared my small slightly-cracked-but-still-useable food processor might not hold up to the pressure.) Be careful not to cut yourself on the sharp brittle!

Pulse half the brittle in the food processor. As it keeps running, add in the rest of the brittle piece by piece until it’s pretty much powder. Stop the food processor and dump in the cocoa, chocolate and salt. Keep the processor running until it’s pretty well homogenised, then as it keeps running, carefully pour the oil in until it reaches your desired consistency.

Now is the time you dip everything you can get your hands on into this liquid gold and stuff it in your mouth. Soft white bread, crunchy baguette, chopped fruit – anything and everything tastes better dipped in nutella. Then pour it into jars, seal tightly and keep indefinitely at room temperature.

a day in the life

I had a pretty good day on Friday. Sleep in, picnic, walk in the park, cupcakes and pizza. I thought I might share some pictures because I like taking pictures and I took a lot. I’m getting in the groove because I figured before I ask for a super fancy camera for my birthday, I’d better know whether I was going to use it. Right?

Right.

And, yes, that means that right now I use a point and click. Hey, a girl’s gotta have some sort of pictures on her food blog, right?

Right again. So.

This is my bed. I like to make my bed in the mornings… yeah, the picture’s a little wonky. Sorry. I had to get up early to drive my brother to work experience. I then slept another three hours. I love sleeping in.

I saw a beautiful sunrise this morning. I didn’t take photos because I was driving.

After I got up, at approximately noon, I messed around on the internet and wrote you some words. Then I took in the washing and took some photos of some flowers.

Pretty!

I went to the library to borrow some books… and to scan in a design for a camp I lead on in September. It’s called… September Camp. Surprise!

I can’t show you the design because it’s a secret still. I think.

Then I went on a picnic in the park.

I got coffee and a toastie from this place called Yarra Coffee. Good coffee – you can buy beans there too! – and great food. I got the #5 toastie, with avocado, tomato, fetta, pesto, baby spinach and possibly one more ingredient I can’t remember. I had a choice between olive and rosemary sourdough or plain. I chose olive and rosemary. Yum!

Toastie

Coffee

Converse

I went on a walk around the lake and listened to the Joy the Baker podcast with Joy and Tracy from Shutterbean (available from Homefries). I love going for walks! Me and my roommate went on walks around the lake pretty much every day for a while there last year.

Beautiful day for a walk. I really loved the look of these rushes. Oh! Unfortunately, I wanted to feed some scraps and duds to the ducks but I wasn’t allowed. Sad face.

I was going to make muffins but decided to make cupcakes instead when I saw local strawberries for sale.

And then I went to hang out with friends and eat pizza. And talk about camp. Excited!

How was your Friday?

day five – LBTL

It’s the last day! Whoohoo!

In other good news, I reached my fundraising goal (although if you’re still interested in fundraising, you are most welcome, and the link is here. Otherwise, you can donate to one or two of my friends who are also living below the line this week: Roberta or Miranda. Miranda’s going for two weeks on less than $2 a day AND no furniture. You go girl!)

Plus, Live Below the Line Australia raised over one million dollars in total for anti-poverty initiatives in East Timor, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia and in our very own country (since when were we the ones who needed help? More on that one later.)

Okay, so I think a recap of my week is in order. Here we go:

What I had to start out with:

750g pumpkin @ $1.98/kg = $1.48

Approx. 1.4kg potatoes = $1 at the fruit and veg market on the discounted table

Approx. 1.2kg tomatoes, approx 1/4 of which was mouldy by the time I got to it = $1, see potatoes

Approx. 1.4 kg of assorted nashis and I think they were royal gala apples = $1, see tomatoes

200 homebrand teabags = $1.99

500g large spiral pasta = $0.59

1 small head garlic = $0.49

1kg homebrand plain flour = $0.95

250g homebrand salted butter = $1.41

Total = $9.91

Day 1

Stewed apples and pears = $0.20

2 cups tea $0.02

Pumpkin and potato soup with flatbread, x2 = $1.70

Total = $1.92

Woke up late-ish, made soup and flatbread to take to work. Worked five hours, then took my soup to a TEAR group meeting, where two other people were also living below the line. We had much discussion on war and poverty, and didn’t really get anywhere with the hard stuff, just that it’s hard and we have to keep thinking about it and working out better ways to live and work for a better world.

Day 2

Stewed apples and pears = $0.20

2 cups tea = $0.02

Pumpkin and potato soup with flatbread = $0.85

Pasta with potato and pumpkin = $0.38

Total = $1.45

Woke up at 5.30 in the am to go to uni. Not recommended when you aren’t eating as much as you usually do, because I felt like crap pretty much the entire day. Not so much hungry as my stomach was getting used to having different things, and less than usual. Drank lots of water, because it helped wash the bile down that kept coming up. Not a great day overall.

Day 3

Stewed apples and pears = $0.20

2 cups tea = $0.02

Pasta with potato and pumpkin = $0.38

Potato and pumpkin soup with flatbread = $.85

Flatbread, munched on during the day = $0.14

Total = $1.59

Went to uni again today. I actually felt much better today, got some fresh air on my walks to and from the train station. My friends kept offering to let me cheat, but I held my ground. Ah, hot chocolate. We meet again soon! Also had some really interesting conversations with my classmates. One of my friends was arguing that we should be grateful for our position in life and be thankful for what God’s given us. I said that it doesn’ t count as God’s gift if we took it from other people. God made us all to be equal and we’re not living that way.

Day 4

Stewed apples and pears = $0.20

2 cups tea = $0.02

Tomato soup with flatbread, x2 = $1.28

Total = $1.50

Worked again today. Noticed much more than Monday my proximity to food. So glad that in two days, I get to drink coffee again. Also noticed I was more crotchety than usual. Either the lack of food/sugar or the constant reminders of my privilege were getting to me. gah! One day to go. Huge uplifting feeling when I saw that I’d reached my fundraising goal. Again, you guys are awesome!

Day 5

Stewed apples and pears = $0.20

2 cups black tea = $0.02

Pasta with pumpkin and potato, x2 = $0.76

Total = $0.98

Woke up at 5.30am again. And again, not a good idea. I almost puked on the train, and I don’t even have that much to puke! I’m really, really glad that as of tomorrow I get to put sugar and milk back in my tea. Sorry, Mum, black tea just doesn’t do it for me. I’m studying now and kinda wanting a snack but you can do this erin, pull through, one more day. It’ll be interesting to see how I go tonight; I have a birthday party! It’ll be fun regardless of the food situation, though.

I have to say, I’m already thinking about next year, how I can go better, fundraise more, change my lifestyle so that it’s not just geared around one time a year where I remember the 1.4 billion people living below the extreme poverty line but that it’s  a part of the direction of my life and my vision.

I want to thank each and every one of you, my readers, for sticking with me through this. I know a lot of you personally; I don’t know all of you but I really appreciate it. A special shout-out to everyone who donated. You guys are incredible!

living below the line

For the next five days, I will be living below the extreme poverty line for my food. This means I will be living on $2 a day.

I’m not sure whether I’ve mentioned this before, but now that it’s imminent, I’m freaking out just a little bit. I’ve got all my food together, my meal plan done up, my total figure totalled. I’m freaking out a little, to tell you the truth.

I will be eating a LOT of potatoes. They were on special at the fruit and veg market, so I have over three kilos of them.  I have lentils. I have tomatoes and I have some apples and pears that I’ll be stewing up for my breakfast, as well as the flat bread I’ll be making with my kilo of flour and butter.

I have teabags, so at least I won’t be without my caffeine. So no, my house mates won’t kill me. Yay! On the other hand, I couldn’t afford milk, or sugar, so that’ll be an experience. Mum, I know you like black tea, but I’ve never really gotten into it. Maybe this week I’ll develop a taste for it! Could do worse I suppose.

Freaking out a little… or, a lot… I don’t know how I’ll go on this food this week. I don’t know whether I’ll get super run down from lack of protein or lack of calcium. I’m hoping it’s ok if I forage, though. We have a veggie garden. At least I got given some mint a little while ago, so I can have peppermint tea.

SO my list of ingredients this week is:

Potatoes

Tomatoes

Apples

Pears

Lentils

Flour

Butter

Pumpkin

Garlic

Teabags

I’m kinda scared. But I’m also pumped. Pumped to raise awareness of poverty issues, pumped to raise money for people in real need, not in fake I-wish-I-had-a-pair-of-designer-jeans (or shoes, or socks, or whatever else… yes, I’m talking about myself here.) Pumped to do something, even this small thing.

So again: here is the link to donate to my live below the line campaign; it also includes some info about where the money will be going.

Please donate, and if you don’t, please at least read about it. And maybe when you’re done, check out how high you are on the global rich list. You might be surprised.

the hunger games

The Hunger Games (and its following books, Catching Fire and Mockingjay) are a trilogy by Suzanne Collins, and they are a shot to the heart. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic North America, where the country is drastically shrunk by rising sea waters and is now called Panem, a country made up of the Capitol and twelve districts. Each year, a boy and a girl are drawn from each district to participate in something called the Hunger Games.

Our heroine is a girl called Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to take her sister’s place in the games. This is because the object of the Games is to be the last one left alive. Yep, these people pit kids against each other (keeping in mind the children could be anywhere from twelve to eighteen years old) for sport. And everyone has to watch and celebrate the victor.

I don’t want to spoil the books for you because I really think you should read them yourself. I stayed up past midnight for three nights, one for each book. I told myself each time that I wouldn’t do that, I’d read some and save the rest till morning, I’d be a good girl. I never lived up to these promises though, because these books just caught my heart.

The thing about these books, though, is that they are about our world now. We in the West are the rich Capitol, whose children are safe and who don’t see the Games as bad, just as entertainment. Operating under the motto Panem et Circises, as long as we are fed and entertained, we don’t look past the screen to see the pain and suffering of the rest of the world. The Districts, who feed and support the Capitol, who once rose up against them but were crushed and are now continually stamped all over by the Hunger Games and the order of the system, are the Second and Third Worlds, struggling to survive and doing anything to keep their families alive.

There is a part in the books where the people who had previously won the Hunger Games are asked to vote on whether there should be one more viewing, one more Games, where the rich Capitol’s kids are made to play. And the consensus is yes. These people who have been crushed all their lives, who fought to survive people set out to kill them, who had to live with the consequences of killing and being hunted, who lived through a revolution, decide to keep the cycle of violence alive – just one more time, because revenge is sweet and it’s the only thing they can think of to take their minds off the pain.

That we live in a world where this happens is no good for anyone. That we think that violence and death can somehow solve problems, heal hearts and minds, vanish guilt and ease pain, is a product of what our world has become and it’s what’s keeping us all sick, keeping our world spiralling downward.

See, after I’d finished reading the last book, crying at the end because it’s not all black and white, and every death is etched in the minds of those who executed it, I was reading the paper and I saw the articles written by people who had lost loved ones to terrorists and people who were so downtrodden and in pain, the only way out that they could see was to inflict that pain on others. And they thought that more death could heal their hearts. Not that they could forget the pain but that revenge could somehow soften the blow.

That we live in a world where violence is the answer, that death solves problems, that we cannot see what harm we are doing to ourselves by living this way, makes my heart sore, and it was all I could do yesterday not to burst into tears over the dishes.

I’ve never felt the pain of losing a loved one to a deliberate attempt to cause harm. I don’t know how it feels. But when I see this pain and heartache, I turn to those who have and have come out with love, arms open, forgiving and full of grace. This beauty that can come from the ugliness of violence and hate pierces my heart and reminds me of the hope that I find in Jesus.

These are the people that give me hope. These are the people that, if I were ever in a situation to choose between vengence and justice, I would turn to to point me towards the Way, the Truth and the Life.

September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows: particularly their reaction to the recent killing of Osama bin Laden

A story in the book Plan Be by Dave Andrews. Just buy the book, we’ll talk later.

Jarrod Mckenna

There are more, but for now just check these out. Forgiveness is hard, but love is the only way.