Totally sugar-hungover, no thanks to the Easter Bunny's many well-meaning helpers, this morning I decided to make this Coco-nutty Granola recipe from Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar book. It's pretty good! I'm eating it with milk (right this second) but I think it would go even better with a dollop or two of natural yoghurt.

To make: Combine 3 cups coconut flakes, 2 cups combine chopped almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts and pepitas, 2 tablespoons chia seeds, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 80-100g melted coconut oil and 3 tablespoons rice malt syrup (for sweetness: optional. I didn't use it, simply because I can't seem to find it in any supermarket. I don't think you need it though, as the coconut brings a little sweetness of its own). To make this into more of a muesli, add 2 cups rolled oats to the mix and a little extra coconut oil.

Spread on an oven tray and bake for 15-20 minutes at 120 Celcius, turning halfway through the cooking time.

It's hard to find a muesli in the supermarket that's not sweetened either with sugar, honey, agave or dried fruit; in fact, I plain just can't find one. So the DIY option is a good one if you're trying to kickstart the day sugar-free.


These are vanilla buttercakes with vienna cream frosting. My ingenious vision was to use fairy floss as nests for a candy-shell egg. The photo shoot was coming along very nicely, until the fairy floss started to shrivel and disintegrate! Total MKR disaster scenario!

Soooo, yeah. I must caution you against using le fairy floss.

The cupcake paramedics appeared (oh hey, Mama Ryan) and suggested crumbling up some easter eggs in place of the floss. Good save.

Mama Ryan was working in the kitchen at the same time, making some deconstructed lemon meringue pies. She had a lot of leftover biscuit dough, so of course the next natural step was for her to fashion it into a baseball. We started playing throw and catch... she threw a curve ball and the floorboards got pastried! Haha, pretty Good Friday so far. 

Happy Easter! x


This evening marks the beginning of the four-day easter weekend - hurrah! I've been doing a spot of baking for Good Friday lunch... cupcakes made with full cream milk and dreamy Tasmanian butter. And sugar. Not so healthy. Especially when I am a day overdue with my Week 6 IQS blog. My bad. Anyway... I'm excited about my decorating session in the morning! There is fairy floss. And there are speckled eggs!

Tonight I got thoroughly drenched on the way from the station to my car. But you know what? I didn't care, because it's the long weekend. I was actually running/doing this weird shuffle thing halfway between running and trying not to slide over, with my knitted cardi on my head, and laughing. If you can't entertain yourself then what hope do you really have, hey?! Well, that's what I keep telling myself, when I find myself having a solitary giggle sesh.

Slowly coming round to the point... one of my favourite blogs is Bleubird Vintage, and sometime ago she posted a blog with some pics from a farmhouse. These visions have stuck firmly in my head, and I had to trawl back to May 2011 (YES!) to find them. I'm going to gratefully borrow (sans official permission) and post them below, with a link back to the post in question. So what is it about these scenes... I just love them. They feel like freedom, and chilly mornings with farmhouse and fireplaces and goats and meadow picnics.


a picture blog of our day at the sydney royal easter show :)


'It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.'

Death (as in, the cloaked guy who collects souls) is the narrator of The Book Thief . Death usually doesn't get caught up in the lives of humans, but every now and then there is a human story that can't escape his attention. Young Liesel Merninger's is one such story. Liesel is orphaned and is sent to live with foster parents Hans and Rosa Huberman. The backdrop of the story is Nazi Germany; a poor street in Munich. The story is Liesel's childhood... thieving books, stealing apples, football in the street, young love... oh, and the young Jew that Liesel's foster family is hiding in their basement.

I struggle to summarise this book; I've really never read anything like it. Even though I really enjoyed the second half of the book, I found it slow to start and difficult to get into. On the other hand: beautiful writing, rich and complex characters that come alive off the pages, a history lesson disguised as fiction, actual tears, and a gripping conclusion. Its account of life in a German town in 1939 entranced me... you read about this time in history, and it's just so inhumane that it could definitely pass as fiction, but it's not. It's hard to comprehend. It's horrible. But... strangely enriching. To understand. It's humbling.

If you're a keen reader and you are prepared to wade through the beginning of the story, you should give this one a go. I'm sure you'll be grateful for the journey. 


Sometimes just looking at pretty pictures of sweet stuff is as good as eating it... this is a form of art I can get on board with! Feast your eyes on these snaps from Candy Bar Sydney.


I love this print. I think it would be the sweetest thing for a little girl's room. The words are just plain sweet. $22 from Brown Paper Packages and designed to fit into an A3 frame; also available in A2.


NOW is a good time to start playing with some sweet-tasting ingredients such as low-fructose vegetables and fruits, and safe sugar substitutes, but use in moderation, as sweeteners can give you sweet cravings the same way that sugar does.

Rice syrup, glucose syrup, stevia, dextrose and xylitol are safe sugar substitutes, according to Sarah Wilson (though I'm a bit dubious about stevia - see last week's post, in the I Quit Sugar thread).

Hello and thanks for stopping by. This is the end of my Week 6 of the 8-week I Quit Sugar program. Two weeks to go!

This past week was reasonably successful in terms of sugar-avoidance, but I can't claim it was perfect. I am still making an effort, but not being stringent, which I'm a little disappointed with. There was the 3am orange juice squeeze-athon (though I already mentioned this last week), Monday's croissant (I justify that by pretending I'm a skinny French lady?) and also some sips of sweet wine, here and there (for which I blame the Hunter Valley). Oh... I also had some wonderful blueberries; they were sensational.

On the whole, not horrific. Miraculously, I have managed to mislay 3.6kg since the start, despite my sugar allowances here and there (and everywhere for those couple of weeks in the middle). The scales have been particularly friendly this week. This is really interesting, in fact, because in the Week 5 chapter, Sarah Wilson talks specifically about the detox process, writing, "Some of you, around about now, will be nauseous, dizzy, constipated (nice), have aching kidneys and joints. This means that you're withdrawing and detoxing... your body is ejecting toxins from your fat cells and they're swirling around your system on their way out".

Now, I'm a bit skeptical about this. Had I stuck to the program vigilantly I could have felt that I had earned this mighty detox, but because the middle 2-3 weeks were pretty murky for me, I'm not sure it makes sense that my body would detox? I don't know how that works. Having said that, what I can tell you is that on Saturday afternoon just gone, I felt extraordinarily nauseous for no good reason for three hours. It was very unpleasant, to the point that I wanted medication and didn't want to move from my bed, save to reach for my laptop to diagnose possible life-threatening medical conditions. After a few hours, unmedicated, the feeling passed and then I was fine (you can relax!). I can't put it down to anything else, and then this week, the falling scales... so maybe my fat cells are doing swirly-outy things, after all? Tata then, fat cells.

Sarah writes at the front of Chapter 6, "most of you will find you're no longer craving sugar, or sweetness". Not true for me, Sarah, and maybe that's because I stuffed up in the middle and was only ruthless at the start, therefore haven't given myself the chance to reach that elusive magical pinnacle of being sugar-craving free. Or maybe, sugary treats are just delicious and they are EVERYWHERE, making it very hard to avoid and get out of your psyche. For instance, at lunch today I walked past a bakery and made deliberate and prolonged eye-contact with a tray of handsome peppermint macarons. Are you trying to tell me I am supposed to have no feelings for said macarons? I just can't see that happening anytime soon. It truly does make me a bit sad. I just wish this stuff wasn't everywhere, so readily available. I wish I didn't love to bake them so much! The things that were once special treats are just, everywhere.

Having said that, Sarah Wilson started off her IQS journey hoping to break her reliance on honey, fruit, a piece of dark chocolate after lunch (did she mean piece, or family block?) and dessert if she was out. With all due respect: hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. She wa'nt addicted to no cakes and bikkies. Maybe her reliance was just an itty bitty easier to give up?

Anyway. I'm still craving sweet things... I just feel like I have a little more control when it comes to dealing with those cravings. I'm more clear-headed to be able to take a mental pause, ask myself if I really want it, if this particular treat is worth damaging my health for, and how I will feel after - and then ultimately I'm able to decide (albeit a little sadly sometimes) that I won't have the treat this time. I should mention that this 'pause and think' process is happening automatically; it doesn't  involve me having to stop and write in my journal for 5 minutes - win! This is no small feat for me. Before IQS, it was like: Thought pops into head for chocolate/cake/whatever --> realise there's a possibility I'll regret it but have to get the chocolate because if I don't get it I might regret *that* and might go crazy! That's crazy talk! I have some clarity now, to think it over and make a decision based on a few things, and to know that I certainly am not going to go crazy if I decide to go without. It works a lot of the time. Sometimes it won't. Sometimes, after this IQS, I will make a very deliberate and happy decision to eat sugar and to have that sugar do its damage. It's just nice to be able to make a choice.

Anyway! I am reasonably happy with my efforts this week and keen to give the last two weeks a red hot go... through EASTER. Argh!


A couple of weekends ago we found ourselves in Hunter Valley Wine Country, NSW (a.k.a. 'The Hunter'). On the Saturday morning we visited the Handmade in the Hunter markets on the grounds at Kevin Sobels winery.  The markets run on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of every month, and are worth a visit if you're in the area and looking for something to do instead of in between wine tasting. The markets are small and quaint, but being quite the treasure hunter, I made some lovely discoveries.

Firstly, a jar of Coconut & Lemon butter from Casbar's Kitchen & Garden. HEAVENLY, I tell you! I could happily eat it by the spoonful; only the fact that I gave this to my Mum as a present is stopping me from doing so. For at least a few days. Secondly, some wax melts from Julz Soy Candles & Melts. I bought the tropical scent and the musk scent, which you can see relaxing away in my melting pot. This musk is OUT OF THIS WORLD! My room smells precisely like sweet, sweet musk sticks. Make sure you stop by if you're in that neck of the woods.

Here are just a couple of pics from our weekend...


No I'm not planning a wedding, but thanks for asking! What I am planning, is an early-morning trip to the Sydney flower markets, and to attend a floristry workshop with my pal. We both love flowers (small fact that sets us apart from most ladies) and have a budding interest (yeah, I did) in the event floristry industry. I picked up this mag when I was in the mood for inspiration. Here are a few of my favourite pics, starting with the floral teacup cake topper...


It takes between 21-28 or 66 days to break a habit, depending on which study you rely on.

It doesn't matter if you lapse, so long as your intention is to continue.

Like a muscle, the more we practise, the more this way of being becomes natural.

If you do lapse; keep your intention on track. Tomorrow is a new day.

Identify your challenging moments (when sugar cravings usually hit/take over) and pre-plan a distraction technique.

When cravings hit, tell yourself you will pause for 20 minutes, then see how you feel. Take note of how the craving shifts.

Rather than thinking in prohibitive terms, e.g. "I must not each chocolate!", crowd out the "bad" food with the good stuff. Just eat more good stuff.

Clearly, this whole 'Obliterate Sugar for 8 Weeks' thing has not panned out so well for me. Pretty much as soon as I had that McFlurry attack a few weeks ago (I attacked a McFlurry), my momentum was shot and I haven't been able to get it back, sadly. Excuses excuses. This past week I slipped in a few sugary treats and I was hit by/resigned to that irritating attitude of the "I don't cares!". Unfortunate, because I do actually care... I think I just lost some of that sparkle and resolve.

That's looking at it rather negatively though. On the other hand, sugar eating has definitely decreased in comparison to normal, and my whole thought process about sugar has also changed. I believe I owe that to the three weeks where I was on track. I feel like in those first few weeks, where I was shunning sugar, left right and centre (seriously, I was kicking those bad boys away like a kung fu champion, you should have seen me) I was able to make some serious mental headway: Firstly, showing myself that it was, in fact, possible to say no to sugar and then feel completely alright with your decision afterwards. I think that previously, I actually feared saying no, or even feared not buying something sweet, because I was worried that I would feel empty/like I was missing out, without it, sad as that is! Secondly, I realised that I actually enjoyed not eating sugar, that I felt a lot better without it. Now, I'm either just plain not even thinking about it (as much) or if I am, I stop and ask myself, "Do I really feel like that?" and then a lot of the time I just think, "No, not really", and then I just forget about it. No dramas, no will power required, no nothing. It's just like a simple, rational thought. And THAT, boys and girls, is where I wanted to be. And it is SO refreshing. So, overall, I am pretty happy with progress. However, few sugar mishaps this week (some biscuits here, few sips of cola slurpee there, two freshly squeezed oranges at 3am this morning...) and so I would really like to commit to another few strong weeks of kung-fu-style sugar refusal. Just to see if I can strengthen that muscle a bit more. I have just gotten a touch lazy and need to get back into that focused head space.

I am slowly, verrrrrrrry slowly, losing a bit of the fatsies (about 2.2kg so far) and that is in spite of not doing any exercise for the past month (oopsy daisy, should probably get onto that) not counting calories, eating when I'm hungry and until I'm full, and not changing any other eating habits (still eating bread, pasta, rice, full fat dairy... yes, I am the poster child for dieting).

Something I want to start doing is looking into a few of Sarah Wilson's recipe suggestions. It's odd that I haven't done this already, since I love cooking; think it has been a time/lack of organisation thing. Going to start with this Coco-nutty granola, as the Weetbix just isn't touching the sides, these days!

Stevia is a sugar alternative, and as I am starting to think about ways to incorporate some sugar alternatives into my diet, I wanted to refresh my memory on its properties. I found a brand of sugar-free, stevia-based dark chocolate in the supermarket this week; before I get addicted to those, let's see what they're saying about stevia...

Sarah Wilson calls stevia a "safe sugar alternative", and writes:
"Stevia...comes in liquid form or mixed with erythritol to form granules. Stevia is a natural alternative, derived from a leaf and contains no fructose. Most researchers deem it safe but still don't really know what the human body does with the steviol once ingested".
Not exactly comforting, is it? Now an excerpt from David Gillespie's The Sweet Poison Quit Plan:
"Stevia is shorthand for a plant called Stevia rebaudiana, a relative of the sunflower and native to South and Central America. Stevia leaves contain stevioside (300 times as sweet as sugar) and rebaudioside (450 times as sweet as sugar)... the extrme sweetness comes from the steviol; the rest is just glucose. So from a fructose perspective, there's nothing wrong with stevia  there ain't no fructose there. The big question is whether eating large quantities of steviol has any detrimental effects. Japan has used stevia as its main non-sugar sweetener (including in Diet Coke) for more than 30 years. It has been approved for use in Australia and New Zealand since 2008, and the studies done universally suggest that it is safe in the quantities we are likely to consume.
My only lingering concern about stevia is that researchers don't really know what the human body does with the steviol. They know it has some effects (which they don't consider to be significant) on insulin and blood glucose levels. The overall impression I gained from reading these reports and studies was similar to the one I expressed in Sweet Poison concerning artificial sweeteners: they seem safe but they haven't been in our diet long enough to be sure. Check back in 30 years. Would I eat a product sweetened with stevia? Probably, if I really needed a sweet hit, but I wouldn't make a habit of it". 
I think David Gillespie has hit the nail on the head there: evidence is inconclusive, so I won't be forming a stevia habit. 

The non-sugar alternatives that both Sarah and David agree are 100% safe are:

Glucose and Glucose Syrup (derived from plants)
Dextrose (just another name for dextrose)
Lactose (naturally occurring sugar found in milk)

Rice syrup can also be an alternative, providing the ingredients list shows that no other sweeteners have been added.

I will happily use sweet recipes made with the ingredients above, but will fee better about shelving the stevia-based recipes. Sorted!