Month: June 2014

Forest Bathing


Angel Trumpet

Have you ever noticed how calming it can be to sit under the trees in a park or walk through the bush or forest? The Japanese have a name for immersing yourself in nature for relaxation- they call it ‘forest bathing’- and it’s recognised for its health and stress management benefits.

Forest bathing can be as simple as taking time-out in your own backyard, all you need is to surround yourself with greenery and, if possible, some running water. The benefits are due to ‘nature’s anti-depressants’ aka negative ions. A negative ion is an atom (or molecule) with an extra electron, giving it a negative charge. Basically negative ions are produced naturally via water molecule movement (evaporation, waterfalls, surf, rain etc) which is why they are so often found around water and in nature, and they affect the serotonin levels in the brain. Think about how great a fresh sea breeze makes you feel- that’s negative ions at work!

Pond

I always try to take at least 10 minutes each day to just sit outside. I usually take a cup of herbal into the backyard and soak up some vitamin D with my negative ions mid morning. I have a small pond with a tap style fountain and the sound of that bubbling water just adds to my little escape. If I’m working outside the home I have my lunch just outside the building on the grass under a big old Morten Bay fig tree. Or if I’m lucky and get an extended lunch break I pop down to the Botanic Gardens and soak up the beautiful exotic atmosphere there. The beautiful Angel Trumpet tree at the top of this post is on my way to work and if I get my timing right I can squeeze in five minutes on the bench underneath to bathe in its glorious scent. It’s amazing how that little intermission from everyday work/life for  reconnection with nature makes a huge difference to my wellbeing. That breath of fresh air is quite literally doing you good.

Do you make time for time-out outside? Do you have particular nature spots for relaxation or invigoration? Please share below!

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The Obliging Op Shop

One of the most expensive aspects of parenthood is clothing constantly growing children. Purchasing (or making) good quality clothing ensures it will last for more than one season and child but the costs can still be extravagant. At the beginning of each season I visit a couple of op shops (opportunity shops, also known as thrift shops overseas) to put together a wardrobe for my daughter. The op shops usually oblige with sturdy items that have been outgrown before they were worn out. I have an aversion to the sickly pink that tends to smother the girls section but beautiful and quirky items always turn up. Many still have the original tags attached- unwanted gifts or thoughtless purchases that were never needed. Plain basics such as leggings and singlets are often harder to come by, perhaps because they are worn out completely, and these I source from the usual channels.

Today I popped into a local St Vincent De Paul shop for a quick browse of their kids’ section. Although I only do two big shops a year I find a quick browse when I pass by an op shop often turns up great pieces one would otherwise miss. Today was just such a day.

Opshop

The haul:
Woollen cardigan with country scene (including sheep- my daughter loves sheep!) $8
Denim overall/pinafore dress $5
Floral corduroy dress $3
White kaftan-style top with blue embroidery (never been worn, new with tags) $4
Pink bangle with strawberries $3

I also picked up a lovely peach bangle for myself for $4. It matches a pair of earrings I already own perfectly.

A pretty good bag of bargains if I do say so myself! I’m hoping the new bangle will mean my darling daughter will stop “borrowing” mine and the new additions to her wardrobe will certainly extend its wear. Apart from the cardigan the other pieces are rather trans-seasonal. They can be warmed up with long sleeved tops and leggings/stockings in winter and in warmer weather worn on their own, or with short sleeved tops, and bare legs/shorts.

The other wonderful aspect of op shopping is the environmental benefit. It is so much better to reuse what is already out there before purchasing something new. It saves resources and energy and challenges our preoccupation with having the newest and best.

Do you frequent your local op shops? What are the best bargains you have discovered?

Midweek Meals- Pressure Cooker Risotto

Risotto is a great winter meal. You only need one pot, some arborio rice, stock or broth, and whatever flavourings you like. What makes this dish extra easy is a pressure cooker. Seriously. The first time I made risotto in the pressure cooker I was dumbfounded. Then I got on the phone and called my Mum because I just had to share how amazing this was. It was so easy and so quick! No stirring. No watching like a hawk. Ingredients go in, lid goes on, seven minutes later you have perfectly cooked risotto. That’s right, SEVEN MINUTES! Who knew?!

Ingredients:

1 cup arborio rice
2 cups stock
1 onion diced or 1 leek sliced
Olive oil and a knob of butter
Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper

Method:

  1. Heat the butter and olive oil in the pressure cooker
  2. Add the onion/leek and cook until translucent
  3. Add the rice and and stir to coat, cooking until the rice changes colour
  4. Add the stock, stirring quickly to deglaze the pan, then put the lid on
  5. Once the cooker has reached the appropriate pressure (high) cook for 7 minutes
  6. Once the time is up remove the lid and stir to allow any excess liquid to evaporate if needed
  7. Grate some parmesan into the pot and add salt & pepper to taste

Variations:

  • Increase/decrease the recipe using the ratio of 1 cup rice : 2 cups stock
  • Replace half a cup of  stock with white wine (use this to deglaze before adding the rest of the liquid)
  • Add protein such as chicken or bacon when you cook the onion/leek
  • Add any veggies you like, such as mushroom, pumpkin, peas etc.

leek

sliced mushrooms

leek, mushrooms, bacon

add the rice

Stock goes in

After 7 minutes

parmesan

give it a stir

Pressure Cooker Risotto

Risotto is a bit like soup in that you can use up whatever veggies and protein you have lying around and you bulk it up with the rice. This makes it very cost effective, which is great for those of us on a budget! Have you noticed most of my recent posts have been about food? Sorry about that. I think it’s the pregnancy- I’m obsessed with food! I’ll get onto something different next post, I promise!