THE COURAGE TO SAY YES (or no)

Why are some of the simplest words the hardest to vocalise? Today I have been pondering the power of yes and no, making a pledge to myself that I will make use of them, as appropriate and as my heart & instincts lead me. I have recently been doing some intense “heart searching”, asking for signs and being open to hearing the answers. As is customary when I go through a process such as this, coincidences* appear at every turn, things begin to flow** and I feel inspired.

It’s a touch scary too!

And so, being a “visual person”, I created this simple quote graphic to inspire me, based upon the very thoughts I have been mulling over all day.

I am excited at the prospect of being able to share with you the fruits of my saying yes (and no) over the course of the next few months. I anticipate that the next year will see huge and wonderful changes happening in my life.

In the meantime, I thank you for the continued support and inspiration you all share with me by being here, sharing your stories and by following your own hearts and paths… MM xx

MissMarzipan_yes_and_no

 

*You wouldn’t believe them if I listed them all, but one of many is the fact that I entered into this period of deep self-reflection and heart searching just as Deepak Chopra’s new meditation experience began. Each day, I find the reflections/meditations beyond spookily appropriate, exactly mirroring my own personal reflections of the day.

**The experience (aptly entitled Finding Your Flow!) has now been running for a week, but it is not too late to register here for FREE!

From The Chopra Centre site:

An inner guide for transforming your life!
Did you know that there is a flow of powerful energy that permeates every aspect of our reality? When aligned with this flow, we’re tapped into the pure, unlimited source of all peace, possibility and potential. Actualize your vision for authentic wellbeing with us on 4.14.14, when we will embark on a 3-week journey toward true transformation. We’ll reveal the secrets to finding your flow and teach you how to leverage its mighty power to effortlessly carry you like a river current to all of the joy, love and fulfillment you desire.

If interested in my reflections on Deepak Chopra’s previous 21-Day Meditation Challenges, see links below:

 

 

DIY CHOCOLATE BUNNY BUTTON DECORATIONS, IQS-STYLE (and my 15 seconds of Instafame)

Hi all! Just a quick post to share a quick idea as Easter 2014 commences!
As you may be aware, I am in the midst of a sugar detox using Sarah Wilson‘s book I Quit Sugar For Life as inspiration. On a mission to Easter-fy one of the IQS dessert recipes (the gorgeous Choc Mint Slice), I took a look at my pantry cupboard and was struck by a very simple idea.

And this is it…

MissMarzipan_IQS_chocmint_slice_easter_bunnies1

CHOCOLATE BUNNY BUTTONS, IQS-STYLE

INGREDIENTS

A couple of squares of melted (86%) chocolate*, or 20g (which contains only 2.6g of sugar)
Some organic almond meal
A few raw, organic cocoa nibs
Some organic toasted slivered almonds

DIRECTIONS

  1. On a piece of baking paper, draw circles of the same size (mine were approximately 2cm in diameter) spaced a couple of centimetres apart with a marker pen.
  2. Flip the paper over, place on a flat tray/plate and, using a teaspoon, dab some chocolate in each of the circles to form a disc (not too thin, not too thick).
  3. Stick two slivered almonds of similar size and shape (it helps to have pairs ready beforehand) at the tops of each chocolate circle. These will be your bunny’s ears.
  4. Sprinkle all chocolate discs liberally with almond meal. You may need to pat it down very gently. This will create your bunny’s furry face.
  5. Take small coco nibs (or cut larger ones in half with a small kitchen knife) and stick somewhere near the middle of each disc to form a nose.
  6. With a toothpick, dab tiny dots of melted chocolate on either side of the nose to create your bunny’s eyes.
  7. Transfer your tray/plate to the fridge to let your bunnies cool and set. This won’t take long.
  8. When you’re ready to decorate your cakes/cupcakes/cookies/slices with bunny buttons, they should be very easy to remove from the baking paper. Adhere them by dabbing a small amount of melted chocolate where you want to attach your bunny and then gently press it down.

 

*I am sure vegan chocolate could work too!

MissMarzipan_DIY_choc_bunny_buttons

Bunny button production line (this bit is messy, but I promise you they clean up alright!)

 

So what’s the “Instafame” bizzo I was referring to in the title of this post? Well, it’s an unexpected spin-off from having posted a picture of my “Easter pimped” Choc Mint Slices via Instagram that saw Sarah Wilson herself (!!!) seemingly liking my idea, reposting* my image via her Instagram profile and giving me a lovely shout-out… which, in turn, generated a very generous response from her followers (of which there are over 60, 000!). A little while later, CleanCheatsOfficial picked my idea along with two others as their pick of the very best cleancheats approved clean Easter treats!”

I know it’s probably rather sad of me to be touched by this, but having only “gone public” with my Instagram profile 10 days ago (and being a real newbie when it comes to Instagram), I am rather thrilled to have connected/had contact with some people who are hugely inspirational to me right now*, Sarah Wilson being one of them. I truly don’t want to be a person who relies on validation from others in order to make me feel good about myself (as I know that kind of feeling good is false and fleeting), however, having kind support and encouragement in any form means a great deal to me, especially when I have a tendency to trivialise my own “little domestic pursuits”.

Happy Easter to those who are celebrating! MM xx

 

*I feel like I am too new to Instagram to use terms like “regram” in some vain attempt to appear social media-savvy, but my brother assures me that this is what the act of reposting via Instagram is known as! I am a total tech-dork!

**Poh Ling Yeow, whom I adore, is another such person.

HOW TO GET A NEW SPRING WARDROBE FOR FREE! (and do the environment a favour at the same time)

During my wild and crazy youth (lol), despite not really following mainstream fashion trends, I used to love dressing up, spending hours (literally) getting ready to go out, experimenting with hairstyles and coveting cosmetics. I am glad to not “be there” now, truth be told, however since motherhood it’s probably fair to say I have gotten myself into a bit of a style rut and the true joy of dressing up that I once experienced daily has eluded me (except on special occasions). I haven’t posted about anything related to my own personal “style” since I first started this blog. And no doubt that’s because it genuinely has not been a focus for me during this period. I don’t think I have ever cared less about clothes/shopping than I have since my pregnancy with L in 2010. Granted, back then I did love shopping for my maternity wardrobe (I bought everything in one go… God bless H&M), but that had more to do with being excited about the pregnancy… and dressing to celebrate my much-treasured “baby belly”. These days, as a non-pregnant mama of two, I have lazily, shamelessly continued to wear on rotation some of the maternity* items I purchased on that particular shopping expedition (Yep, that’s correct! Maternity items… purchased in August, 2010, people! Two thousand and ten!) ad nauseam, despite having gone through another pregnancy since then and, twice over, shrinking back down to my “normal” size & shape**.

Anyhoo, on the weekend I was invited by a dear friend (who goes by the name of The Green Brunette, if you’d care to check out her wellness-inspired yummies and send her some love) to a biannual clothing swap. I have been to two of the previous swaps, mostly as an exercise in clearing out my closet and socialising (there’s always a fun group of girls in attendance). This time I had a prior engagement, so decided that I would merely pop in, say hello, leave a few t-shirts and head back out the door.

It wasn’t to be.

I first fell in love with vintage/second-hand clothing when I was 14/15 years old and used to shop at an incense smoke-filled basement shop, complete with mini coffin near the cash register, in my home town. I loved knowing that whatever I purchased there would be unique… I loved the thrill of hunting for buried treasures in amongst endless racks of funny, mothball-smelling ensembles. But I now live a life of convenience when it comes to clothing, it seems. Of course I want to look presentable, but I hardly extend myself, creatively speaking. And, quite frankly, the thought of spending hours going through racks of clothes to maybe find one thing that could maybe look ok on me is rather unappealing these days.

And so my sunday plans were thwarted by the appearance of a number of pretty things at the clothing swap- laid out, on the trestle tables, right there in front of me… no hunting required. They got me thinking “Miss Marzipan***, you really should try something new!”. My partner in crime, JT, and I gave each other the go-ahead to act a little nuts and thereby ended up leaving the venue with about 8 times more than what we arrived with.

And this is what I came away with:

3 blingy costume jewelry bracelets
A jersey dress with sequin detail neckline
A gorgeous little bolero jacket
A delightful floral dress (that I never would have imagined suiting me if I spotted it in a store… but I love it!)
A short-sleeved sweater with lovely, sparkle-sprinkled neck line
A sheer shirt with lace detail and sweet buttons
A super-sweet floral peasant top
A brand new Friis Co. bag with tags still attached (this find brought back memories of saving enough to buy a Friis bag for around 550 Swedish Kronor during a difficult, rather depressing time a decade ago when I was earning around 400 sek per WEEK!)
A black halterneck dress with beading detail
An open-back sweater. Very versatile!

I do enjoy a little challenge when I know something positive will result from embracing it and have turned this experience into a call to action for myself. It’s time for me to rediscover the joy of dressing up in an “everyday way”.

To help me commit to putting these new clothes to good use and not reverting to relying on my circa 2010 maternity staples, I carefully hand washed the clothes using my favourite eco-friendly laundry detergent by Attitude (ylang-ylang and tangerine… it’s heavenly!) and started wearing (and relishing) them immediately.

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I emptied out my favourite bag (a now sadly beaten up-looking Jimmy Choo that my husband lined up outside of H&M [with a bunch of hysterical women] to purchase for me when I was sick in bed one day back in 2009) and repacked the items inside it in my new bag, knowing that if I didn’t use “newy” straight away, old faithful would remain on my arm/shoulder until the day it completely disintegrated. The transfer of items was unexpectedly easy as my bag had surprisingly little inside it (it’s normally rather TARDIS-like); a couple of receipts, keys, purse, eye drops, translucent pressed powder, trusty fine point pen, sleeves, British passport (which I annoyingly have to carry around thanks to my expired Swedish identity card), cinema tickets to see The Grand Budapest Hotel (mementoes from a rare date night with hubby) and one of baby Cupcake’s spare beanies.

MissMarzipan_pretty_thrifty_bag_contents

WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT A CLOTHING SWAP?

Guests have the opportunity to peruse “new” and exciting things originally sourced by friends (and friends of friends) from a wide variety of labels/stores.

If you believe in reducing, reusing and recycling this has to be the ultimate way to “shop” for clothes!

What’s more, shopping at a clothing swap is cost and risk-free!

With nothing to lose, you can comfortably take a chance on an item you might not look twice at in a store. If it works for you, great. If not, someone else might love it… or it can go in the charity**** collection at the end of the day.

It’s a great way to clean up/jazz up your wardrobe, revamp your personal style and be kind to your wallet, your friends and the environment.

WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE?

 

Thanks again to The Green Brunette (and Dutch co.) for the invite, initiative and hosting another lovely event and <3 to you all, from a slightly-more-stylish Miss Marzipan xx

 

*Ok, so they’re officially maternity things, but they can pass for non-maternity too… most of them. I am not that dowdy, I promise ;)

**Kind of… my shape may never be exactly the same again…

***I don’t actually speak to myself in this manner, nor do I refer to myself as Miss Marzipan!

****There are charity clothing bins right outside of the venue where my friend hosts these events, so any items left on tables at the end of the day are bagged up and donated instantly!

I QUIT SUGAR TOO (an experiment in going fructose-free and eating whole)

While traveling in Australia recently, I received a message from a friend in Stockholm. The gist of it was that she’d done Sarah Wilson‘s I Quit Sugar program (otherwise known as IQS), that she was working full-time, heavily pregnant with baby #3, had babies #1 and #2 to take care of and yet had more energy than ever before… as a result of quitting sugar! Now, I understand that this is anecdotal evidence, but my curiosity was piqued. In fact, the whole thing sounded positively crazy to me… not just the concept of quitting sugar (fructose) entirely, but the incredible claims my friend was making too. She sent me a link to a blog post she’d written (aptly entitled “I Quit Sugar”) and it struck me as a call to action of sorts. Refined sugar-free I have done, Oprah’s One-week Vegan Challenge was a breeze, I have had a little success with gluten-free baking experiments, I have completely detoxed off of caffeine at various stages in my life (such as during my pregnancies), but I have never considered cutting out fructose completely (after all, isn’t fruit good for us?) nor cooking every single meal from scratch (sauces/dressings/condiments included).

Who is Sarah Wilson? (for those of you who don’t know)

I will let Wikepedia answer that question for me ;), but briefly, amongst other things, she’s a blogger, journalist, qualified health coach, program host (her first television presenter role was as the host for MasterChef Australia, Series 1, in fact!), autoimmune disease sufferer and the author of I Quit Sugar, “the bestselling Australian non-fiction title of 2013, selling over 100,000 copies and kick-starting a lifestyle revolution Down Under.”

So why quit sugar?

Well, aside from hopefully having more energy (and no energy slumps during the day), there are several claims that some scientists/researchers and, subsequently, Sarah Wilson and the IQS team have made that might provide a little motivation…

The claims (and links) on the science page of the I Quit Sugar site include the following points:

Saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease. Sugar does.
Sugar increases your risk of heart disease
Sugar ages the body and causes wrinkles
Sugar increases your risk of diabetes
It’s more addictive than cocaine
The white stuff makes you fat
Pancreatic cancer uses sugar as fuel

And what is Sarah Wilson’s definition of “sugar” (and “quit”)?

“On the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program we recommend you cut out ALL sugar, including fruit (fresh, dried and juiced), from weeks 2-6 to give yourself a chance to break the sugar addiction and allow your body to recalibrate. After this period, you are encouraged to reintroduce some low-fructose fruit and see how your body handles it.

The thing to know: fruit contains a lot fructose. Sure, whole fruit contains vitamins, minerals and fibre, which slow the absorption of the sugar, but fructose is fructose.

The other thing to know: we are designed to metabolise the amount of sugar contained in two small pieces of fruit a day. If fruit is your only source of fructose in a day, then two pieces of fruit is fantastic. But if you are also having other sources of added sugar/fructose such as a few squares of chocolate, breads or sauces then you might want to consider upping your vegetable intake instead (indeed, this is our approach on The Program). Most vegetables are more nutrient-dense than fruit anyway.

Dried fruit and juice are to be eliminated for good, however. When the fibre and water is removed from fruit, you’re left with a bundle of condensed sugar.

A glass of fruit juice contains 8-10 teaspoons of sugar.

Which is the same amount contained in a glass of Coke. And it makes zero difference whether the juice has been freshly squeezed or has come from a carton. Same deal with dried fruit… it’s 50-70 per cent sugar.”

- See more at: http://iquitsugar.com/resource-sheets/am-i-allowed-to-eat-fruit/#sthash.l02jH4tc.dpuf

So, I read all of that (and a bunch of other IQS-related stuff) and wondered…

… could I quit sugar too?

Would it afford me the same amazing results as my friend achieved? Would it turn me into a sweets-obsessed lunatic or an anti-social, housebound recluse who spends her days obsessing over her limited dietary options?

Only one way to find out!

Just before we left Australia, I spotted Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar for Life on sale at a special discounted price, liked the look of it, grabbed a copy and packed it in my suitcase. I returned to Sweden, after having indulged on all that the Fringe Festival food trucks in Adelaide had to offer, keen to embark upon this new sugar-free adventure.

Over the next few weeks I hope to share the details* of that journey here, including meal plans, meal plan templates/shopping lists, recipes, Instagram pics (fresh from my fledgling Instagram account) and hopefully a whole lot of inspiration!

To be honest, I don’t see myself staying completely sugar-free in the longterm, but for now it’s a case of so far, so good :)

Here’s a brief rundown of what I consider to be the pros and cons at this point:

WHAT I AM LOVING

Eating no processed food
Cupboards, fridge and freezer all stocked with healthy food
Eating LOADS of veggies and nutrient dense food
Consuming foods with minimal gluten
Cooking all meals from scratch with healthy, organic ingredients
Being aware of every ingredient we use in preparing meals
The opportunity to get super-organised in the kitchen/plan meals/go to the supermarket knowing exactly what we want/need to buy and sticking with it
Seeing my kids enjoy some of the food too
Experimenting and tweaking recipes (making some of the “meaty” ones vegetarian-friendly)
Trying new things
Increased mindfulness and awareness around food and how it really makes me feel

WHAT I DON’T LOVE SO MUCH

All the prep and from scratch cooking means tons of cleaning up too and not much time for other stuff (such as blogging!) with the little ones to take care of
Not being able to easily come by some “specialty” ingredients (Hello, rice malt syrup? You’re harder to find than Nemo here in Stockholm!)
Not having enough time in the day to cook, experiment, etc., more!
The fact that dairy and meat feature prominently in many of the recipes (and I prefer to eat veggie, use vegan milk at home ordinarily, etc.)
Going to the cinema on a rare date night to celebrate our 9 year wedding anniversary and candy is off-limits… wah-wah :’(!

WHAT I REALLY DON’T LOVE

The lack of clarity around supplement usage (ie., a comprehensive outline of effects, who should/shouldn’t take them, possible complications, etc.). This subject really is a whole other post, but for now, let’s just say I had a nasty experience with Chromium (which appears on the suggested shopping list for the 8-week program) after taking just 1 capsule and the paramedics (yes, freakin’ paramedics!) said the toxicologist (yes, freakin’ toxicologist) they spoke to said this was not the first instance of an adverse reaction that has been reported!

I don’t want to harp on about this, but felt obliged to share my experience on this point at least briefly and to urge anyone considering undertaking this (or indeed any health-related) program to consider seeking medical advice from a qualified professional before taking any supplements for the first time.

… And on a brighter note…

WHAT I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO

Being able to get a hold of some rice malt syrup
Experimenting with sugar-free baking
Getting better organised and faster in the kitchen
Tweaking more recipes and coming up with my own original ones
Seeing the results of this experiment

*The contents of this blog post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. What I share via this blog is anecdotal, even if the topics I write about may be health-related.

MISS MARZIPAN ON INSTAGRAM!

Click here or on the image below to check out what I have been eating each day during this IQS process (plus other stuff!)  

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A MORNING AT JAMFACE (AKA trying to be useful & not “fangirl it” at Poh’s market stall)

Hello friends and welcome new readers! An incredibly hectic 3.5 month trip to Australia and a dysfunctional (and subsequently retired from service) MacBook Pro have led to Miss Marzipan‘s extended period of absence from the blogosphere, but I intend to jump back in the blogging saddle as of… now!

Although my time away was filled with fun, happy little adventures and loads of fabulous food-related exploits (mostly eating… lots), I wanted to share with you one of the most unique opportunities and enjoyable experiences of my time away.

I make no secret of my love of MasterChef Australia. Throughout both my pregnancies and beyond, MasterChef Australia* has been my ultimate “comfort television”** viewing choice. Five seasons of the show have produced inspirational stories and faces and, standing out from amongst them as one of the most creative/talented contestants to emerge from the MasterChef kitchen with an amazing new career in the food world, was professional artist Poh Ling Yeow, who placed runner-up in Season 1. Back in 2010 as we watched MasterChef unfold from our couch in Stockholm (a few months behind Australian television viewing audiences), I was a Poh fan… as was my husband… and, later on, baby L (who danced for the very first time in his high chair to the MasterChef “count-down” music when the series was repeated on Swedish television).

Fast-forward a few years/MasterChef seasons***, and I found myself back in Adelaide at the start of this year with (thanks to a hook-up from my gorgeous brother) an incredible invitation to assist Poh and her team at the opening of their first market stall, Jamface.

 

I was too tired and too rushed on the morning of Jamface‘s fanfare-free opening to be nervous… which is a good thing for sure, as it prevented me from potentially acting like a giggling buffoon upon meeting Poh for the first time. I needn’t have felt intimidated in any case, as Poh is as warm, down-to-earth, engaging and open as she appears to be on television. She apologised for not being able to be very available to me on account of having so much to do before the stall opened, which of course she didn’t have to… I mean, in my mind it was clear who was doing a favour for whom!

Even when stressed by the small, inevitable, inconvenient bumps in the opening day road (many of which Murphy’s Law would have occurring literally minutes before the first customers arrived), Poh’s endearing, self-deprecating sense of humour, ability to creatively problem solve and her fabulous, supportive team gave me the utmost confidence in the Jamface stall’s first day success.

And, of course, it was hugely successful.

How could it not be? With Poh’s drive, passion and arguable Midas Touch, plus a concept like “fun dining, not fine dining”, delicious locally made-with-love edible goodies, gorgeously packaged, charmingly branded and served with a smile direct from an equally charming hand-built stall, Jamface is that baby you know will grow up leading a fortunate, love-filled life!

And perhaps you think I am talking it up a little, in which case you may want to read some other opinions on the Jamface matter…
Such as this review by Slice
… and this Tweet by MasterChef Australia alumnus, lovely Callum Hann, who stopped by that day and kindly spared me a few moments of his time for hellos, pics and so on.

MasterChef Australia alumni, Callum and Poh

MasterChef Australia alumni, Callum and Poh

But I digress. Within minutes of arriving at the stall I was donning a Jamface by Poh handmade apron, bustling around assembling boxes for the pastries, loading Milly Fillies (Poh’s take on delicious little French pastries, vanilla mille feuille) into the cake display cabinet, botching up a spot of piping (ugh!), being handy with some paper towel on the damage-control frontline when it started to rain unexpectedly and watching Poh at work whilst trying to stay out of her way and not be too much of an annoyance to her “official” team (who were a bunch of darlings!).

My energy levels were boosted by the latte that was kindly purchased for me, the “reject” Milly Filly (too overstuffed with crème pâtissière to stand correctly, thanks to my slightly heavy-handed, cupcake frosting-adept self) that I consumed in a most unladylike manner and by the arrivals of the first customers (market-goers are so friendly!).

It was “out there” with the market-goers that I found the place where I could be of most use. Not a hard task, really. The Adelaide Farmers’ Market attracts some serious foodie types… and who doesn’t love free samples of gorgeous, delicious edibles? I rotated the samples I handed out. The rosemary crackers were a hit, as were the pecorino cheese ones… and the sesame… and the plain! It seemed as though every other person who tried one, bought some. It was the same story with the rich-in-fruit jams and the beautifully presented pot-set yogurts. I looked over at the pie warmer to discover the Paris Pasties had sold out in what seemed like minutes of the stall opening. The Milly Fillies were as popular as you would expect an adorably presented, scrumptious, homemade, pastry-filled-with-vanilla-creme concoction to be. And the pizzas. O. M. G! The pizzas were beyond mouth-watering. I was lucky enough to have one for lunch. The fried bases (genius, albeit of the evil variety), the simple combo of a tasty homemade tomato sauce (Poh’s Two Timing Tomato is delectable), a light sprinkling of cheese and fresh basil makes for a genuine taste sensation; classic flavours with a clever Poh twist. Seriously, one of the best pizzas I have ever had. And I love pizza!

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MissMarzipan_Jamface_by_Poh14

 

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There were people who came specifically to see Poh/her new stall or to be able to try her food for the first time, after years of seeing her cooking on television (on MasterChef , her very own popular cooking show, Poh’s Kitchen, and more). One absolutely delightful girl, who introduced herself as a “foodie”, “bookworm” and the daughter of another market stall holder (at The Cabbage Patch Catering Company), said she’d been waiting in excited anticipation for weeks to meet Poh after hearing she’d be a regular face around the market. Another lovely young lady approached me sheepishly, saying that she was nervous and “fangirling it” just knowing that she now had the opportunity to meet Poh. She explained that while other teens worshipped pop stars, her heroes were all chefs. And Poh was one of her favourites. Later that morning, I handed two awesome guys from Melbourne some samples of Jamface fare and we chatted about the quality of the Adelaide food scene, before one of them looked over at the stall behind me and exclaimed “Oh my God! Is that Poh?!”, before saying that he thought he might burst into tears at the happy prospect of meeting her.

MissMarzipan_Jamface_by_Poh16

My little brood came to visit too and I’ll never forget the proud and excited look on little L’s face as he saw me standing there with a ceramic plate balancing samples of jam. He beamed at me as though I was the coolest, most amazing mama on the planet! Both he and baby Cupcake sampled some of the food and stole some of Poh’s attention. Matt from the Jamface team gave L a small, blue, plastic market stall stool for which he’s developed a 3 year-old’s strange and inexplicable love (he tells me “it’s beautiful”) and which, as a result, we had to cart all the way back to Stockholm with us.

Little L checks out the merchandise

Little L checks out the merchandise

My time at the market flew by far too quickly. I had found a rhythm, had worked on my product knowledge/related banter, and had well and truly banished any sense of nervousness (or shame, it seems… I was taste-testing the samples too!). But, with heavy heart and happy tummy, I handed back my apron, thanked Poh and her crew and dashed off to a birthday party, wishing I could teleport myself to Adelaide and, more specifically, to the Farmers’ Market every sunday.

Imagine my surprise when, the day before we left Australia (blub, blub :’( ), Poh met me for lunch and gave me a signed and dedicated copy of her recipe book, Poh’s Kitchen, and the very same apron I wore on the opening day of Jamface as a memento.

Do I need to mention that I cried? More a sentimental fool than fangirl, I guess! ;)

*In fact, I was watching clips of MasterChef Australia while in active labour, literally a couple of hours before heading to the hospital to give birth to baby Cupcake! If that’s not crazy enough, I was also baking chef/restaurateur/MasterChef judge Gary Mehigan‘s delicious date and lemon scones (from MasterChef MasterClass) at the same time, pausing every couple of minutes to breathe/scream through a contraction, then getting back to baking. My husband wisely left me to my loco baking mission, despite being rather concerned about my physical (and mental) state! Those scones were my last meal before Cupcake entered the world… and they “carbed me up” for the delivery. Now that’s hardcore MCA dedication! They should give me a trophy ;)

**River Cottage and The Great British Bake Off are also up there in my estimation. My prenatal “comfort DVD” watching was comprised of (and completely limited to) Harry Potter, films 1-4. The rest of the Harry Potter films were too dark and menacing for my pregnancy hormones to deal with. Sad, but true.

***At the Unley Gourmet Gala (a completely unrelated event in that was held in January), I was lucky enough to meet another former MasterChef contestant, Season 2′s Marion Grasby. She had just finished a public cooking demo, but was extremely generous with her time. Little L, who was with me, looked up at Marion and said “It’s so nice to meet you.”, to which Marion replied “Oh, it’s so nice to meet you too!”… And she seemed very genuine. Is it just me, or are the contestants on Masterchef Australia waaay warmer than contestants on other reality television shows? Now that I have met three of them in person, I know it’s not merely a case of crafty editing!

and before I go, I’d like to take the opportunity to…

 

… OFFICIALLY INTRODUCE MISS MARZIPAN ON INSTAGRAM!


click here or on the image below to check out what I’ve been up to at home and out and about :) 

MissMarzipan_on_Instagram 

HAPPY NEW YEAR! (+ some last-minute ideas to kick-start a fabulous 2014!)

Here I sit, in the warm summery town that I called home for many years, and contemplate the fact that in one hour and 2 minutes my fellow countrymen and women will be some of the first people on this planet to ring in the new year.

I have just completed my visualisation mood board for 2014. The one I made this time last year was so successful that, despite any challenges that we faced during 2013, when I look at it now I can honestly say to myself “Yep, this is pretty much how 2013 **felt** for me!”.

Visualisation works. It REALLY does.

So I absolutely had to create a mood board for the coming year too. And here it is…MissMarzipan_visualisation_mood_board_nye_2013-14 To copy and paste from my own NYE post last year (as I am running out of time to do the short run/yoga/meditation session that I want to symbolically do tonight before a glass of alcohol-free bubbly), “… mood boards such as this help aid/affirm powerful intention, increase motivation and evoke feelings of positivity. You can easily create your own using a page layout program such as InDesign, make one using magazine images and ye olde cut-and-paste method or, if really pressed for time, why not create a Pinterest board called “2014″ and cram it with pins of the things you’d like to fill your life with this coming year?”

And speaking of Pinterest, did anyone see the lovely gratitude jar idea that was all over Pinterest (and possibly your Facebook newsfeed) this time last year? Well, we tried that too! The only thing was that I was almost quadrupling-up on my writing. I religiously, obsessively keep various journals already… and not a day goes by that I write where I do not note things to be grateful for. So we did it for only a month. But the jar filled up very quickly nonetheless! IMG_2212 Here’s to 2014! And here’s to all your dreams for the year coming true! I plan to embrace the words of Kobi Yamada; “She turned her can’ts into cans and her dreams into plans.” xx, Miss Marzipan

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU! (… and because I’m full of the Christmas Spirit, here’s my first little competition/giveaway!)

**COMPETITION NOW CLOSED**

Simply leave a short comment on this post to consider yourself entered in the running for personalised printables, designed just for you :). Merry Christmas!

It’s Christmas Eve and I am super-busy getting the last of the preparations done before tomorrow’s parties (yes, more than one!)… and I really wasn’t going to add anything else to my to-do list, however in amongst all the printables posts I have made recently, I have received many comments. And whilst “chatting” with Mimi over at chefmimiblog.com, she mentioned the need for some personalised labels. I suddenly felt inspired and thought I’d oblige.

So here they are, Mimi (just click on the image below to download)! And I do hope you’ll like them. Merry Christmas to you and yours! MM xx

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And for anyone else who happens to be reading this on Christmas Eve, 2013, if you would like some labels made for you in a similar way (square or round format for adhering to jars/tins/confectionary boxes and a business card format for use as a swing tag/larger gift tag/business card, etc.), just leave me a little comment and I’ll randomly draw a winner and be in touch with you about your Christmas gift.

A very Merry Christmas to all of you!
MM xx

*This competition is now closed. Thanks to all who participated :) And here’s to a great 2014 to all those stopping by! MM xx

SIMPLE HOLIDAY-THEMED CHEVRON BUFFET LABELS (another little printable gift to you)

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And hot on the heels of the thank you tags and hot chocolate jar labels, come the quasi-retro chevron buffet labels! Designed for an Advent-themed crafting night supper I held for the girls three weeks ago (on the other side of the planet from where I now sit and type!), my original buffet labels had all menu items typed in, however I thought I’d quickly create some “general” holiday-themed ones which you can fill in by hand (a silver pen would be lovely!).

Simply download (for free, of course), print on photo paper, cut out, write in the name of your dish, fold along the guideline and pop on your buffet table. Pretty easy, huh? ;)

Happy Holidays!
MM xx

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To download labels click here or on the image above

SIMPLE HOLIDAY-THEMED CHEVRON THANK YOU TAGS (a FREE downloadable printable for you)

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Having whipped these up quickly to compliment the labels I’d already created for my Christmas hot chocolate mix jars, I thought I’d share them here (a little pre-Christmas gift) in case anyone is searching for a simple holiday-themed printable thank you tag. My previous thank you tag post with free downloadable template continues to get lots of visitors, so I can only assume people are in need of different styles and designs of gift tags. Just like the jar labels, these tags are a simple retro-inspired design, with a chevron-patterned background and soft red/coral and pale blue colour palette.

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You can print the template, cut out the tags and use them as they are by simply adhering them directly to wrapped gifts/a gift jar/a gift box, etc., or you can do as I did and adhere them to inexpensive natural cardboard swing tags, which look lovely tied to gifts with cotton kitchen string.

Best wishes to you and yours!
MM xx

 

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To download labels click here or on the image above

 

FROSTY SNOWFLAKE-STAMPED SUGAR COOKIES (possibly the easiest way to “cheat” your way to a decorated festive cookie without candy, chocolate or icing!)

In December last year I baked sugar cookies for my blessingway/baby shower and felt like I’d discovered cookie gold! I couldn’t have been happier with the results. A year later, with our mammoth trip and our son’s Lucia concert approaching, I tried to organise thank you gifts for his teachers in the midst of packing, cleaning, keeping up with social engagements and caring for the little ones. This year L’s teachers all received a hot chocolate mix jar, some mince pies and peppermint chocolate bark, but I wanted to make cookies too, so I fell back on my favourite sugar cookie recipe.

Not only do these cookies taste wonderful, they hold their shape and don’t spread or crack, which makes them perfect for decorating delicately with icing or fondant… or even for “cheating” your way to a decorated cookie, as I have done here…

I made this cookie dough 2 weeks in advance of baking the cookies, yet still felt the pressure of the ridiculous time crunch we were dealing with so, quite spontaneously, I invented* what could possibly be the easiest way to get a snowflake-decorated cookie effect, with an absolute minimum of work/preparation/mess/clean-up involved.

Interested in creating something pretty, festive and yummy whilst saving yourself a whole heap of time?
Read on, my friend…

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FROSTY SNOWFLAKE-STAMPED SUGAR COOKIES

INGREDIENTS

2.5 dl (250 ml) butter, softened
2.5 dl (250 ml) granulated sugar white, processed in food processor for 30 seconds
½ tsp salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
A couple of drops almond extract
6 dl (600 ml) all-purpose flour

FOR DECORATING
White glitter/sparkling sugar for sprinkling
Snowflake fondant plunger cutters for stamping
Edible shimmer powder/pearl dust for brushing over

DIRECTIONS

  1.  Cream butter, sugar and salt with mixer set at medium speed for about 3 minutes or until light and fluffy.
  2. Add yolk and mix well. Add whole egg, vanilla and almond extract and mix until well-incorporated.
  3. Add flour, mixing at a low speed until just combined. Do not over-mix!
  4. Divide dough in halves and wrap in cling film**.
  5. Refrigerate until firm (at least one hour and up to 2 days).
  6. Preheat oven to 190 degrees C.
  7. Dust work surface and rolling-pin with flour. Roll dough to about half a centimeter thickness, sprinkling with additional flour as needed to prevent sticking. Cut into circles and place on baking paper-lined trays. And here’s where we get crafty!…
  8. Take a snowflake-shaped plunger cutter and stamp it down in the center of each cookie (the work of seconds!). Don’t be shy about it- you want to make a decent enough impression that you can clearly see a snowflake.
  9. Pinch a little glitter sugar between your fingers and sprinkle a little either over your snowflake “stamp” or in the space around it. Again, the work of seconds!
  10. Bake cookies in preheated oven for about 10 minutes or until they appear dry on the surface and are light golden brown on the edges (large cookies may take up to 12 or 13 minutes).
  11. Remove tray from oven and marvel at your cookies as they emerge ready-decorated! Allow cookies to cool on a wire rack.
  12. If you want to get extra fancy in the easiest of ways, quickly and lightly dust a little edible shimmer powder on the areas of your cookie that don’t have glitter sugar on them. This creates a lovely “frosty” effect that, once again, only takes seconds to achieve… and involves no preparation.

 

*I say “invented”, however I cannot know for sure if I am indeed the first person to think of this. In any case, I can honestly say I have not seen this on Pinterest or elsewhere yet.
**At step 4 you may wish to freeze in your dough for later use, as I did. My dough remained frozen for 2 weeks before I removed it and allowed it to defrost to a chilled temperature, before continuing the cookie-making process from step 7 onwards. So easy!


Cookie recipe adapted from this fabulous one from Karen’s Cookies.