Thursday, August 28, 2014

HELLO CACAO | NICE TO SEE YOU



Today I had to come and share one of my recent and marvelous new discoveries: cacao powder (yes, I discovered it, it was me).

Cacao powder is not the same as cocoa - it's not that tin of Nestle in your pantry that you use to make choccy cakes. Sorry.

Let's just get one thing sorted before we continue: how to pronounce cacao. *Leaves page to find out how to pronounce cacao.*

Okay everyone, it's KA COW. I was saying it wrong. *How embarrassment*

Alright, so lately I've been adding a friendly spoon of cacao to my morning smoothies. As a lover of chocolate, I feel like I'm having a treat, and my body agrees! Lately I've been thinking about redefining the word 'treat'. As far as food goes, when we traditionally think of having a treat we think: piece of cake, chocolate, dessert, take-away. But whom are you treating? It's a treat to your taste buds, fair enough, but not a treat to your internal organs or your bootay (depending on your preferences). When you eat nutritious food, your body, your internal organs (just imagine them as cartoons with big smiley faces) are screaming "THANKS FOR THE TREATS!".

Just another way to think of it.

Anyway, ka-cow powder adds an extra taste element to my smoothie and is a treat to both my taste buds AND my body (UH-HUH MOMENT ALERT!)

I'm going to borrow a couple of paragraphs from this Body + Soul article about the benefits of cacao (it basically says that raw cacao power is crazy high in antioxidants and is great for your hair, nails, healthy organs, bloodstream and mood).

Naturopath Aimee Robbins says raw, powdered cacao is full of flavonoids, which act as natural antioxidants. "Antioxidants protect the body from ageing and disease caused by free radicals. Raw cacao contains up to four times the antioxidants of traditional cacao powder, and has the highest antioxidant value of all the natural foods in the world." Scientists from Cornell University in the US recently discovered that raw cacao contains nearly twice the antioxidant content of red wine, and up to three times the antioxidant content of green tea.
The cacao bean is also rich in magnesium, an energy mineral and vital electrolyte. This super-food is also a good source of sulfur. Sulfur is associated with strong nails, shiny hair and a healthy liver and pancreas. Medical herbalist Dominique Finney says the flavonoids in cacao prevent fat-like substances in the bloodstream from oxidising and clogging the arteries. "Cacao has also been found to help regulate blood pressure and reduce cholesterol while building the immune system."
...Raw cocoa is an aphrodisiac because it contains anandamide, a substance that induces euphoria. It also contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which is a mood enhancer. While this super-molecule exists naturally in the brain, the only other food that contains PEA is blue-green algae. 
Shiny hair AND happy organs? I can tell you're sold, now where do you get it?

I bought a 125g  pouch of Nature's Way Cacao Powder (100% certified organic raw - all of the things) from Chemist Warehouse on special for $8.95 and that will last me a few weeks. Some sources say that mixing raw cacao with dairy inhibits the absorption of nutrients. Admittedly I need to find some alternative ways to mix it as I've been having it in a dairy smoothie. Do you have a cacao powder concoction you can share with me? I'm not a fan of store-bought soy, coconut, rice or almond milks because they contain a lot of additives/sugars. Maybe I should try my hand at home-made almond milk... that's a story for another day!

Happy cacao!

Monday, August 25, 2014

FATHER'S DAY GIFT GUIDE 2014


Did you know that Father's Day in Australia is Sunday 7th September? That means we have two weeks to sort out a gift - something thoughtful that won't stink of last-minute vibes (that Lynx pack from Woolworths and a Scratchie). For the book lovers, surfers, barbeque-ers, campers, fishers, drinkers and Masterchef wannabes, all of these items are available online so whip out that credit card and get shopping!




1. Lovely Day for a Guinness Poster Hard to Find $110 2. Hot Dog Penny Boxer Peter Alexander $49.95 3. Top Mix Navy Blue/Grey Havaianas Havaianas Australia $24.99 4. Triumph & Disaster Shearer's Soap Antipodean Love $8.95 5. Camping Coffee Maker Carry Case BCF 6. EH Holden Storage Box Antipodean Love $64.94 7. Falcon Enamelware Range Antipodean Love from $10.95 8. Personalised Sterling Silver Identity Bracelet HardtoFind $89.00 9. Triumph & Disaster Rock & Roll Suicide Face Scrub Antipodean Love $29.95 10. Oztrail Titan Armchair BCF $109 11. Pagan Playing Cards The Flush $22 12. Mailman of the Birdsville Track Book ABC Shop $24.99 13. Australia's Hardest Prison Book Angus & Robertson $27.99 14. Fulton Walk Short Quicksilver $69.99 15. Campfire Jaffle Iron BCF $24.99 16. Sphere Ice Moulds Latest Buy $13.95 17. Tackle Box BCF $99.99 18. Darrell Lea Dad's Bag Tasteful Delights $25 19. Custom BBQ Branding Iron Latest Buy $29.95 20. Fishing Lures BCF from $14.95 21. Gents Hardware Shoe Polish Kit HardtoFind $39.95

Saturday, August 23, 2014

YUMMY PANCAKES WITH SUGAR-FREE OPTION



Pancakes are one of those things that sugar quitters keep trying to tamper with, and I believe they should just STOP. Someone recently Instagrammed some Sugar-free Maca Coconut Buckwheat Protein Pancakes. Pancakes aren't supposed to be stiff and beige. Pancakes aren't supposed to be made from quinoa or sugar harvested from kale.

I have tried a few modified/healthified pancakes in my time, so I do know what I'm talking about. I have tried pancakes using wholemeal flour, and again I say to myself, "why?" I have also made pancakes using dextrose instead of sugar. The dextrose left a funny taste in my mouth. If you're going to go to the trouble of treating yourself with pancakes, you don't want them to be a chore to eat.

Thus I present to you a guaranteed YUM sugar-free recipe that will yield yummy pancakes!

It is by far the best sugar-free pancake recipe I've had, and all I had to do was... leave out the sugar from the regular pancake recipe I've used for years. I served them here with some frozen blueberries that I heated in the microwave.

Pancakes don't want to be a health food (they slipped me a note) but if it's just sugar you're trying to avoid, THIS is the recipe for you (obv. if you're totally avoiding fructose you'll skip the blueberries, but why would you, blueberries are excellent!)

PANCAKES

1 cup self-raising flour
Pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon bicarb soda
2/3 cup sour milk*
3 tablespoons sugar (simply leave this out if you don't want sugar)
1 egg
2 teaspoons melted butter

*Make sour milk by adding 1 teaspoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to the milk, microwave for 30 seconds, stir.

Combine dry ingredients. Mix to a smooth batter with beaten egg and milk. Melt butter then stir into mixture. This recipe is good for pikelets - for a thinner pancake just add more milk.

Enjoy!

Friday, August 22, 2014

PINK HIMALAYAN SALT - SUPERFOOD OR FAD?



A friend of mine recently put me onto pink Himalayan salt, with the simple recommendation that "it's actually good for you". I like salt, and I love pink - sold. But being the information fiend that I am, I had to further investigate this claim with a little reading. So, is this just another food fad or is there substance to pink Himalayan salt beyond its exotic name and rosy hue?

According to this read, pink Himalayan salts "are one of the world's most potent and powerful hidden secrets... prized for its healing and restorative powers". The salts are a pure substance sourced from the Himalayan mountains and have a supposed list of health benefits including the following:

- 84 minerals and bio compounds

- Used to effectively detoxify the human body

- Lowers blood pressure

- Relaxes muscles and mind due to its ability to be easily absorbed into the bloodstream

- Used to treat sinus issues and other respiratory conditions including asthma

- Improves sleep

- Balances the body's acidity and alkaline levels

- Clears and heals arteries

Why might pink salt be superior to ordinary table salt? According to this post, "commercial refined salt is not only stripped of all its minerals, besides sodium and chloride, but is also chemically cleaned, bleached and heated at unnecessary high temperatures. In addition, it is treated with anti-caking agents... [that] also prevent dissolving within our system leading to build up and then deposit in organs and tissues, causing severe health problems. Finally, the iodine that is added into salt is usually synthetic which is difficult for your body to process properly."

While that all sounds convincing, there are just as many articles that claim the Himalayan pink salt hype is bogus, and definitely a fad. This health blog says that the quantity of extra minerals in pink salt are too small to count, and that at the end of the day, it's all salt (this blog does not like salt). 

This site claims that pink Himalayan salt is unusually high in fluoride and that this is damaging to your health; it labels the emergence of pink Himalayan salts as a scam, but it does talk about the various benefits of different varieties of salts.

Damn. I really liked my pink salt grinder. You know, my parents were never huge salt consumers, I think I picked up the habit of adding a sprinkling of salt to my dinner (especially my peas) from my Nanna. She definitely didn't have pink salt, and if you'd asked her what a superfood was she might have said that it was a really good baked potato?

At the end of the day, I feel like there is something to be said for the health benefits of different types of salts, including the way these salts have been treated before reaching the supermarket. But I also believe that for something that I consume in moderation, it's probably going to be neither here not there at the end of the day (or at least until they make up their minds). If you like the look of the pink Himalayan, join the club, but otherwise, I don't think a light sprinkle of the Black & Gold is going to send you early to the grave.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

15 TIPS FOR HANDLING UNEMPLOYMENT LIKE A BOSS



Yesterday's happy-happy-joy-joy post comprised of a rant about my current struggles with unemployed life. I let you know that I'm experiencing a few more bad days than I care to, and that I'm looking to flip this situation for the better. Involuntary unemployment is always going to be a tricky situation; as I explained, there can be really bleak days, but I also know there are things you can do to make the situation more positive. The aim of this post is to reflect on my positive days, lessons learned from the past six months, and to form an action plan for myself and for anyone else who may face a similar situation. My aim is to crowd out the bad days by amplifying the good, and to basically win at unemployment.

This post is not a guide for finding a new job. There are plenty of resources out there for finding vacancies, preparing job applications and so forth. This is not a post about dealing with unemployment by GETTING A JOB. It's about dealing with the situation as a whole.

I'm speaking from the position of having been without full-time work for six months (and still in this position at the time of writing). I have had bad days, but the days where I feel most positive are the days where I am organised, exercised, healthy, in control and proactive. Some of these tips are things I do already on my good days; others are things that I need to introduce or make routine, for my own wellbeing. So here we go.

1. Attend to Your Job Application Strategy Early
At the beginning of my job search my CV was not in top shape and my cover letters were not amazing, either. I had thought they were acceptable, until I attended a workshop that highlighted a few things I could improve. Since then I have received double the response to my applications. I regularly re-evaluate the material I am submitting (sometimes when you look at something too much, you're unable to see it objectively) and still have more work to do to improve my applications. My advice would be to seek professional advice at the beginning of your search - you want to be 100% prepared if an advertisement for your ideal job pops up.

2. Establish Your Goals
My strategy for finding work has been somewhat complex due to my relocation from the city to the south, and for months I lacked a defined strategy. Establish your strategy - what you're looking for and where, and stick it to the wall. This will help maintain a focus and keep you from applying for that farmhand job 3 hours inland when you're feeling desperate (having said that, I'm all for crazy changes if they fit in with your other plans!).

3. Have a Designated Work Station
I'm lucky to have a spare room with a desk, so I do all my job seeking in an officy setting. I find that it helps to have an organised desk space, with a folder for filing all of my applications. When I sit down at my desk I know that it's time to focus, and I have a sense of control - it pretty much feels like a day at work (without the pay, people to talk to, or a vending machine). I have some inspirational quotes stuck in front of my desk and an essential oil burner - little things to keep the environment positive. I have also found that it makes the application process less time consuming to have a folder on my desktop with subfolders for 'Resumes', 'Cover Letters' and 'Extras' (Certificates, References etc) then subdivided again for different categories of work (e.g. Hospitality, Marketing, Admin, etc.). It took a few hours to set this up, but now that it's there, it definitely helps make the whole task less brutal.

4. Work Casually
I've been doing a bit of casual work (waitressing, babysitting) and I also have a small business on the side, but even so, if I had to do over this time I would try to find a part-time or casual job with steady hours, from the outset, even though my goal was to find full-time work. There is just no way of telling how long you will be out of work for. For that reason I have recently begun applying for casual jobs as well. I allowed my conscience to talk me out of this for a while as I didn't want to stuff around a potential employer. I now realise that you have to leave those things at the door and do what you gotta do. A casual job may not be your ideal scenario but it's a means for social contact and more importantly, funds! That brings me to my next point...

5. Benefits or No Benefits?
Centrelink. It's a dirty word. For good reason. I shouldn't say that - the fact that we have access to government benefits is pretty amazing, but I would not push the idea of a Newstart allowance (payment for job seekers) on anyone unless you feel you really need it. I was receiving payments for a few months, now elect not to, and I prefer this scenario. The program requires you to apply for a certain amount of jobs every fortnight so I suppose that provides the motivation that some need. For me, in hindsight, I would have been better to just find more casual work instead. The number of jobs I was required to apply for while receiving payments was more than were available, so I was forced to send faux applications to reach the quota, and to sometimes apply for jobs that weren't suitable or were very far away. It's a bit of a flawed system because you end up taking jobs that you don't want. I won't even go into the nightmare that is dealing with the "administration" of Centrelink. Anyway, for me, it is better to have full control over the jobs I apply for, putting more energy into fewer applications - jobs I actually want. My advice would be to find casual work to tide you over, that will still allow you the flexibility to attend interviews. I am trying to avoid jumping into full-time work that I don't want, because firstly, it makes it very hard to then apply for jobs your actually want, and secondly, you might end up just settling.

6. Establish a Routine
Besides having a quality CV, establishing a productive routine would be the most important thing on this list. This is something I need to work on re-establishing. I think the most important thing for the day is to set an intention to be productive and to get stuck in early. My most effective days involve getting up early (7.30am), having breakfast, attending a gym class, showering, attending to chores, then sitting down to job applications. Procrastination can be a real kicker with applications, but it helps to remember that the hardest part is getting started. So just start - then you're doing it, then it's done. In the afternoon you might have time for some extra curricular activities (for me: sewing, reading, blogging) then preparation for dinner. When I follow this formula, it works for me because I'm reaping the therapeutic benefits of exercise, keeping the house clean and organised, and making sure that I attend to job seeking every day. I feel like I've achieved and that's healthy for my overall happiness. My plan is to re-establish this routine and I am going to aid this along by writing out the routine and sticking it to the wall. I also need to work on keeping monotony at bay by including some highlights throughout the week - that might be as simple as going out to do the grocery shopping, a swim at the beach, getting a cheap massage or meeting a friend for lunch. It's important not to fall into the trap of punishing yourself for your situation by not allowing yourself these little bits of fun. You may as well make the best of a bad situation.

7. Exercise
I dealt with the subject of exercise in a recent post, and although I sometimes find it hard to summon the motivation for the gym, the fact remains: "I really regret doing that workout", said no one ever. I must make time to incorporate exercise into my daily routine. On the days I do exercise, it gets me out of the house, interacting with others, and it pumps up the endorphin levels. I feel more energetic and ready to take on the day. Even if you're not yet kicking goals with finding work, it's nice to feel like you're kicking some kind of goal: why not fitness?

8. Include Hobbies and Make a To-Do List
Applying for jobs is time consuming, but shouldn't take up 8 hours a day. As I said before, you may as well make the best of a bad situation, and devote some of your time to your hobbies. That may even involve volunteer work. For me, I was able to make some progress in further developing my hobby business, and lately I have taken up a fun sewing project. It's good to do things that keep up your creativity and passion. I enjoy cooking, so I've also used this extra time as a chance to try out new recipes that I might not otherwise have time for.

9. Set Non-Work Goals
It can be draining when you are pouring all your efforts into the task of finding a job yet receiving no rewards - the reward is a job offer, and it might take a while to get. To keep your fighting spirit up, I think it's a good idea to set an achievable goal that is not related to employment. It could be something as simple as tackling the jobs you've been putting off for ages - something like cleaning out your cupboards or organising your digital photo collection, or setting some fitness goals. It brings a great sense of achievement when you can strike a task off your list that you might have been putting off for ages. I want too look back on this time and think: "I may not have been working, but I achieved X goal."

10. Eat Well
Good nutirition means a healthy brain, and a healthy brain means a happy you. It goes without saying that good nutrition is essential for mental and physical health. Unfortunately if you are in the habit of using food to desenstitise your emotions, then involuntary unemployment is likely to be a tricky time for you: it has been a challenge for me. Menu planning at the beginning of each week has helped me, as has buying ingredients to cook healthy and tasty lunches at home. Junk food binges will only make you feel worse and won't solve any problems, so do your best to avoid junk by distracting yourself with a walk or bath - something enjoyable. If you have a bad moment, nutrition-wise, leave the damage behind and start fresh. There are no limits to the number of fresh starts you're allowed to have.

11. Get Dressed and Do Your Hair
When there's a long day at home stretched ahead of you, the lure of your big baggy trackies is strong. I cannot lie, it's also pretty brilliant not having to put on a full makeup face everyday for work. But unemployment is not a good reason to become a sloth. You would be amazed how the way you dress, even when at home, can impact on your mood. I know for me, I feel much more positive on the days when I dress in nice clothes (comfy yet still acceptable for public appearances), semi-do my hair and slap on a bit of blush and mascara, rather than shuffling around in the sloppies with a ghost face. The aim is to still feel like a functioning member of the human race.

12. Have a Day Off - Just One
When you're in between work, looking for a new job IS your job, and it's a mentally and emotionally draining one. There is only ONE reward, employment, and you can't tell when you're going to get it. Sometimes you do need a break from the routine to recharge your batteries. I have found that there are significantly less jobs advertised on Mondays, so if you feel like you need a breather, Monday could be an option. Don't fall into the trap of missing more than one weekday in a row, though. It's important to keep the momentum of your routine, but also, some popular jobs are only advertised for a day, and you don't want to miss out.

13. Sleep
I am lucky to be living with my gainfully employed boyfriend, so we usually head to bed around 10pm every night and I almost always get my 8 hours' sleep. I am so grateful for this; without someone telling me when to go to bed my bedtime seems to go out of control. Make sure you treat yourself to the restorative sleep that your mind and body needs; a sensible bedtime is also essential for making sure you can get stuck into the morning tasks early on.

14. Plan for Fun
Being without work can be a lonely time, applying for jobs is dry work, and the housework is not exactly exciting stuff. The money may only be trickling in but it's still important to plan for fun and exciting outings and adventures to keep yourself stimulated. Life doesn't have to stop just because you're not working, so if you have an empty weekend coming up, plan ahead so you have something to look forward to - places to go, people to see, and a good reason to get out of the house.

15. Put Yourself First
My last tip is about remembering to put yourself in pole position. This means staying true to yourself and focused on your goals. Some compromising might be required in order to get back into the workforce, but don't succumb to pressure and feel like you have to do things that aren't right for you. Keep focused on your own goals and steer clear of anyone whose company you know is not the best for you right now; it might be someone who harasses you for being out of work or gives you unsolicited advice and suggests different career options for you - rarely helpful, insulting to your intelligence, and you need to be around positive and supportive people. Above all, just as your work does not define your entire life when you are employed, being out of work does not define you, either. Make you own definition. Lastly, fake it til you make it - it's okay to have "woe is me" moments, but then consciously amp up your positivity, surround yourself with as much fun and laughter as possible, and remember that your situation is only temporary.