Onwards and Upwards (or, The Fight Against the Downward Spiral)

Onwards and Upwards (or, The Fight Against the Downward Spiral)

I have had a rough couple of years.  Actually make that three years.  Then add on a decade or two.  Whilst being blessed with an amazing (albeit slightly insane) family and the most wonderful and loyal friends imaginable, I have always had trouble being happy.  To tell the truth, I don’t really know what happiness feels like, which is very sad and quite the annoying little conundrum.  This unhappiness is not due to a terrible upbringing (mine was normal and loving and safe) or a precarious political or economic climate (Australia – it’s pretty chilled).  I wasn’t born deformed, I don’t have a speech impediment or a brain disfunction (well…not a diagnosed one anyway) and I didn’t grow up in a cult (although I did love Bros in my teens and probably would have given up my life for them if they asked.  Which they didn’t.  Probably a good thing in retrospect).  We weren’t rich but we had enough – I never went hungry, I never went to sleep at night not knowing where I would sleep the next – I wasn’t picked on in school (well, no more than anyone else) and I wasn’t abused or neglected by my parents.

So why so glum, chum? You may well ask (or not – you probably have your own problems) as you try to see what the heck I have to complain about and make me so sad.  The answer is SELF ESTEEM, or, rather, the lack of it.  I never had any.  I don’t know where to get it.  I don’t know how to hang on to it once you have it.  I don’t know what it feels like and how you know you have it when you get it.  It’s a complete mystery to me.  Just like I will never wake up one morning knowing anything about physics or chemistry, I am also unlikely to wake up feeling good about myself.  

I often think it is a gene that I just didn’t inherit.  Some people get long legs or red hair or a big nose – I got low self esteem.  So low as to be nonexistent or at least very very hard to locate.  I do not possess the ability to say good things about myself or think them or accept nice words and compliments from other people.  I don’t know why, but I am trying to do something about it.

Counselling.  Sigh.  I have gone down this route before and it has helped some but I don’t think I really gave it my best and proper attention.  I think I did a lot of eye-rolling and agreeing with whatever the counsellor said.  I think I zoned out constantly.  I cried (a lot) and deflected ( a lot).  I didn’t use the time wisely.  Which is dumb but also a direct result of having low self esteem (don’t deserve help, don’t accept it and work with it).  But I am going to try it again.  I have to.  Next year I will be 40 and that scares me.  Not the age but the fact that I am the same person I was when I was 4 and 14 and 24.  Scared and sad and hating myself.  Which is a crummy way to be.  And now it is directly affecting my relationships and my marriage and my life in general.  And that’s not cool.  It’s time to put a stop to it

So, I am about to start down the counselling path once more.  I don’t look forward to it but I have to go there and make the effort and make myself a better me.  Not just for me, but for those around me that have been affected by my self-doubt and unhappiness.  Maybe one day soon I will be able to look in the mirror and say “You know what?  You’re ok kid!”  

I promise not to drag you down the mental health street.  It is littered with whining and complaining and excuse-making.  It’s not a great place to visit and you have no need to go there with me.  I am writing this because I need to make a statement to myself and kinda have it witnessed.  I am going to try my very best to get better.  No.  I am going to get better.  At liking myself, at being myself and at forgiving and accepting myself. And possibly at ironing because I am RUBBISH at ironing 🙂

Thanks for indulging me.  This has nothing to do with craft or cooking or anything even remotely arty or thrifty or creative.  It’s just about me.  And that me needs to change, for my sake and the sake of the people around me.

So here’s to a new me.  By this time next year I may be so big-headed that I go around wearing a t-shirt that says “I am awesome!” and actually believing it.  It seems unlikely (and possibly not really what I’m aiming for here) so I will settle for a little inner voice that tells me I’m alright and can achieve anything and have a right to be here.  That’ll do.

 

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Vampire-Slayer Kit

Vampire-Slayer Kit

A few years ago, before the whole vampire craze really heated up, I made my hubby-to-be a Vampire Slayer Kit (as you do) for one of our anniversaries.  It was a fun little project to make and I was pleased with how it turned out.  I don’t know if I would have the patience for all the fiddly bits now but at the time it was a labour of love and one that I was happy to undertake.  Hubby loved it (which is the main thing) and it was easy enough to make and complete in a short space of time.

I started off with a little tin (you can find similar ones here on Etsy) and painted it black.  To make the textured surface you mix a little PVA glue with the black paint and adhere some tissue to the surface, “dabbing” with the glue mixture as you go.  Actually, the tissue will stick on with just paint but I find that adding a bit of PVA to it helps create a stronger bond and also makes the ridges firmer when dry.  You need to move and scrunch the tissue as you dab it on, to create little cracks and crannies (so to speak!).  When it is how you like it and you’ve let it dry, you can paint over it again with just the black paint so all areas are evenly covered.  I then rubbed silver buffing creme over the ridges to add definition.

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I also glued on a silver (well it’s plastic…shh…don’t tell the vamps!) cross framed by an ornate silver frame.

For the cards inside I used appropriately-sized chipboard trading cards.  I covered one side with a text paper and then decorated the other side with necessary items that every Vampire Hunter should have.

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The garlic was actual dried garlic pieces and the “holy water” was a dollop of diamond glaze – it went a little milky but I like to think that after a hundred years or so even holy water would get a bit grotty!  I housed them both in teeny-tiny bottles (I knew they would come in handy some day!) and attached them with twine.  Labels were added too (I used some adhesive mini-typewriter letters and dictionary words I had and tea dyed them).

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For the “shovel” I used a miniature garden tool I had left over from some other project.  The nails were, well, nails, and I pinned them through a piece of hessian.  The little stakes were painstakingly (pain-staking-ly…geddit!?) wittled from little sticks and glued to the hessian.

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On a couple of the cards I created portraits of Mina Harker and Lucy Westenra – two ladies significant in the Vampire world!

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I also included some tea-dyed scrolls with some quotes from Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.

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Voila!  A Vampire Slayer Kit that is small enough to stash away in your purse or pocket (or be displayed on your mantlepiece like we have done).  Why not make one for yourself or a loved one.  You could change things and make it a Zombie Killer Kit or a Werewolf First Aid Kit  – I’d love to see them if you do make some!

 

Rustic Caramelised Onion & Ricotta Tarts

Rustic Caramelised Onion & Ricotta Tarts

I’m at home today.  I’ve been struggling all week with a number of ailments (sore neck, sore back, tummy aches etc) and just woke up this morning with a serious case of the “I don’t wanna go” syndrome.  So I called in sick.  Which I hardly ever do so I think I’m entitled.  Still feel horribly guilty though.

My neck and back are very painful so although I would dearly love to make some cards or sew or something, I’m not seeing that happening today.  I do, however, have to make some food to take to my cousin’s hubby’s 40th birthday party tomorrow afternoon.  My cousin asked me to make my Caramelised Onion Tart for the vegos in the family (that’s about 5 of us currently).  I know from past experience that vegetarian food generally gets picked on but then eaten by all the people who are actually meat-eaters so, to be on the safe side, I will make a double batch to make sure everyone gets some.

Now I am cheating somewhat and using ready-made pastry.  I don’t have the “oomph” to make pastry today but you go right ahead and made your own if you so wish.  I’m using the regular frozen puff pastry (I use Borg’s).

The ingredients listed below are approximate.  I don’t have a proper recipe – I just made this up years ago and it always works.  Good for people who don’t like really eggy quiches and tarts.  There is only one egg in the tart, just to bind.

Caramelised Onion & Ricotta Tart

Puff Pastry (2 sheets should be enough for the quantities below)

1 Red Onion, chopped roughly but into fairly small pieces

1/2 cup Smooth Ricotta

1 Egg

Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (for sprinkling on top)

Nutmeg

Chopped herbs (I used sage ’cause I have it growing in my sad little garden but choose your own as you like)

Method

Preheat oven to about 180 C / 350 F

Spray a patty-cake or small muffin tin with non-stick spray.

Take pastry out of freezer (duh!) and let it thaw while you are working on the onions.  Using a cookie cutter, cut out rounds to fit the holes in the cake/muffin tin.  Prick the bases of the pastry with a fork.

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In a frying pan, gently fry onions until they are caramelised and sweet (a pinch of salt added to the onion helps to release its natural juices and sweetness, also helps it not stick to the pan!)Image

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Take the pan off the heat and let cool a while.  In the meantime, mix the egg into the ricotta in a bowl.  Add chopped herbs and mix in with a little grated parmesan and a pinch of nutmeg.  Now transfer the cooled onions to the ricotta mixture and stir in until just combined.  Season with a little salt and pepper.

Spoon into the prepared pastry bases.

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Bake for about 20 mins or until pastry is golden and filling cooked.  As there is no flour in the ricotta mixture, it doesn’t rise up much, but the small amount of egg makes it just “pouffy” enough!  I have used small pastry cases this time but often use the same recipe to make one large tart, suitable for serving up at a dinner.

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Serve hot or cold – either way is good.  🙂

Enjoy!  And keep the meat-eaters away from it!  They have their own food!

Make your own Muesli Bars

Make your own Muesli Bars

Before I begin this recipe, I should warn you, the pictures ain’t pretty.  I always start these projects at some ridiculous time of night when lighting is bad and, well, my skills as a photographer fail me.  So you’ll have to squint your eyes and make believe they look gorgeous. And anyway, who ever saw a pretty muesli bar (or granola bar as they call them in the States.  I think)?

Muesli Bar Recipe

 

Now, muesli bars, however you make them, are hardly what you’d call a healthy treat.  Sure, the food companies who make them like to market them as healthy, but really, who are they kidding?  They have fat and sugar and lots of other things in them that nature probably didn’t intend for us to eat.  The best you can do, I figure,  is to try and find the ones with the least amount of preservatives and nasty chemicals.  So, ideally, make your own, so you know what’s going in them.  Here’s an easy recipe you can make in no time and add whatever tasty ingredients you like to the basic mix.  There’s lots of energy in these bars so they’re good for kids on the go!

200g Dairy free spread (I used a sunflower-oil margarine)

100g Maple Syrup

100g Soft brown sugar

325g Porridge oats (I actually use a mixture of multigrain quick oats & regular rolled oats)

 

1. Melt the margarine with the sugar and maple syrup in a medium saucepan over a low heat, until sugar is dissolved.

2. Stir in the oats until all combined.

3. Press into a shallow baking tin (lined with baking paper) and bake at 180 C for 20-25 minutes.  Leave to cool for 5 minutes then mark into squares or “bars”.  Leave to cool completely in tin and then break up into your pre-cut pieces.  Store in an air tight container.

For variety you can add dried fruit or nuts, coconut or chocolate chips to the mix.  Or, if you’re feeling decadent, coat the bottom in chocolate, or drizzle some over the top…maybe sprinkle on some sesame seeds…depends on how healthy/unhealthy you wanna be!

Enjoy!

 

Muesli Bar

 

 

I don’t normally re-blog posts from other people (hey, I have enough trouble coming up with my my own and getting you to stay with me!) but I thought this one warranted special treatment. I have been following Linda Petersen’s blog “Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane” for a little while now and it is inspirational and funny and interesting and boy, does it make you look at your own life and what you are (or aren’t) contributing to life. Linda is one of the special people – give her blog a go or at least read and comment on her post.

Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane Blog

I received a wonderfully insightful comment from  nancyaruegg.com  at “From the Inside Out”that I would like to share:

“Your attitude about your life-calling is an inspiration in itself.  You don’t consider yourself a martyr.  Instead, you see your background as preparation for what God has called you to do, and you take pleasure in the fulfillment it provides.  No accolades necessary.  My takeaway:  Each of us has been formed and prepared by God for a unique purpose.  We can each embrace our own.  Thank you for your inspiration!”

To which I responded:

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!  You have great insight into the way I feel.  I really love raising my kiddos, and I think I am pretty good at it.  However, I am no more remarkable at it than the friendly waitress who served us, carrying that huge tray of food without spilling a drop, pre-eminently…

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Can I stay home, please? (And a giveaway!)

Can I stay home, please? (And a giveaway!)

I really don’t want to work today

I’d simply much rather stay home

The library can manage without me I’m sure

Now where did I put that phone?

I’ll call them and tell them a little white lie

Who in the world would it harm?

I’ll tell them my head hurts, my tummy’s all wrong

And I’ve possibly broken my arm

My car’s broken down or got a flat tyre

My house is in need of repair

The bathroom is flooded, the kitchen’s on fire

And I can’t do a thing with my hair

So I simply must stay at home today

It’s surely the right thing to do

Then I can craft and create and play

And then I won’t feel so blue

Sigh.  Another work day ahead.  So happy I’m not working this weekend.  The only thing worse than working on a Friday is knowing you have to come in again on Saturday!  Happy work day to all of you who have to do the 9-5 thing today – we’re all in this together.  And for those of you who have the luxury of staying at home, crafting, sewing, painting, creating and being artistic and “authentic” – lucky, lucky you!  Tell us how you did it and how we can do it too!

Have a happy end-of-the-week everybody 🙂

PS GIVEAWAY! As a “thank goodness it’s the weekend” special, I’m going to give away a pair of Violet Annie earrings made by moi, to one lucky person who leaves me a comment.  Figured it was about time I started giving back and sharing the love a little.  Just leave me a comment and let me know what colour you like best (before Feb 19).  The winner will be randomly chosen.  🙂

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Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all.  Whether you’re married, engaged, just starting out in a relationship or single (and happy to be so), I hope you had a wonderful day today and shared the love.

Hubby and I kept it low-key today but he did get me a card (that he picked out by himself and everything!) and I made him one too (a hastily doodled one -see below).  We celebrated with a slice of cheesecake in front of the TV, did the dishes together and just had a quiet night in.  Love doesn’t have to be about bunches of roses, expensive jewellery and romantic poetry.  I happily settle for someone helping me wash up.  🙂

 

Valentine's Card Home Made