Sunday, June 27, 2010

Getting out of Hand

Ever since our family computer packed a sad and refused to function normally, my laptop has become the hub from which all homework assignments are now performed. I’m not happy about it and now I’ve begun to notice some changes that don’t exactly thrill me.

Firstly, the login photo of an adorable Golden Retriever with a smiley face has been replaced with a robotic war machine. That’s not all.

In “Pictures” where I upload photos of my products for my blog, I’ve found pictures of intense war scenes between two fierce Lego nations – axes and sickles raised, in a frame by (arduous) frame battle to annihilation. Wait there’s more.

Just this morning while editing a story, a freaky, black hexagonal-shaped object dropped down from the toolbar and began rolling and flipping over like a creepy spider scuttling across the bottom of my screen. Yes I yelped, wouldn’t you? My hands stayed well clear of the keyboard for several minutes until I was certain it couldn’t get me. Then it just became annoying.

But then, just when I thought that was testing my ability to be a good ‘sharer’, I found something that left me utterly appalled - pictures of Justin Bieber. Things had clearly got out of hand.

There’s one of Justin Bieber looking startled like a possum caught rummaging through garbage; a posey one of him and his HAIR - possibly two different entities but it’s impossible to tell if it is in fact a small animal attached to his head. That would be cruel. My favourite and I have to say, made me chuckle, is the one of Justin Bieber’s head super-imposed onto a beaver’s body. Justin Beaver, get it? (Is this an old joke? Sometimes my kids don’t update me as frequently as they should. I hate not being current.)
The Phenomenon

What’s with this Beaver, I mean Bieber phenomenon? Can he sing? ITunes at the ready, I decided to investigate.

A quick search revealed a song, “Baby Baby”. Ok, it was catchy, in fact a little too catchy. It’s still playing on a continuous loop in my head thanks to a recent trip to the shopping mall. Hate that background music. To make matters worse, as I typed the title just now, I actually began singing it – out loud. Nooooo!

When I saw Justin in an interview I commented that it was ridiculous that a twelve year old could be showcased in such a way, until I was told he was sixteen. Oops! An easy mistake, his voice is so squeaky.
Seriously, is this necessary? Do our tweens need to flock to this Boy Wonder? There are so many worthy causes we could involve our kids in to add some genuine depth, compassion and understanding to the foundation of their lives. Such depth would be an invaluable basis for our youth to draw from, to be inspired by and to build on for the generations to come. What is the world coming to?

O-M-G, Michael Buble’s coming to town!

Eeeeeeeeeeeek! *hysteria*

©2010 Philippa Vette

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Rising to the Challenge

When the challenge had been issued something sparked inside. It was an opportunity to rally, to rise up – a chance to prove to myself I still had the goods. Oh, but I didn’t have a clue!

The Challenge

When my friend and Running Buddy (RB) invited me to run five kilometres with her, I thought, ‘I can do that.’ If I could run three kilometres on the treadmill at the gym, I could manage five kilometres with a buddy for support. With that reasoning safely tucked under my lycra waistband, I accepted the invitation and rocked up one evening to go for a street run.

Easier Said Than Done

Our suburb is full of rolling hills and it was half-way up one of the first hills I decided I should re-think running. It was dark and our dog, Jake was next to me and he kept jostling for my spot on the footpath. If I didn’t pay attention it was extremely likely that I would trip and skid my entire face along the uneven concrete surface. Not the look I was going for!

Half-way up the second hill which seemed to stretch on into next year, RB dropped the bombshell. “We’re almost half-way now.” Wait just a cotton-picking minute!
“We’re almost half way?” I queried, scrambling for air as if I needed to suck it through a straw from a crack in the wall of the earth. “How far are we going?”
“Well, I used to run 5k’s...” Used to...?
“But that was getting too easy, so I added in another block, so it’s now 6.8kilometres. I round it up and call it seven.” That’s a big block, lady! At that moment I think my heart dropped onto the pavement. Bearing in mind that RB is only three weeks older than me, excuses were futile. I hate it when I can’t play the ‘age’ card.

But those beautiful endorphins did kick in and at times I felt like my body was powered by jet propulsion, in fact it was as if a shot of adrenalin was making me super human – like Jesus on water, above the elements. Oddly, RB’s husband drove by in his car and thought I looked “stuffed” right when I was getting my third wind. Hrmph! What would he know? People in the medical field don’t know everything. I wasn’t anywhere near cardiac arrest!

Being multi-tasking women, we even managed to talk while we ran. That’s skill! For the record, it was a much quicker pace than the ‘shuffle’ hinted at on Facebook. We discussed all the important issues of the day; Facebook, what’s on at the movies, favourite recipes and booking that much-needed massage so I could walk the next day.

I thought it was cute that RB measured our running time against her 18 year old son’s.
“He’s got nothing,” she declared.
“He’s got young legs!” I blurted, a stream of sticky spit trailing from my mouth.
“We can outlast him any day.” A big call. This girl’s got gumption!

We made it home and I survived. Several weeks later, I went out for a walk and something on the inside began to stir again. Could I do the run without anyone except the dog with me? It was like my very own cheer squad was lining the road spurring me on. I began to run, puff, lift my arms and pump my legs. I ran and I ran and I did not stop. I ran that dog all over the shop! And... I made it! *applause*

Exceed Your Own Expectations

I didn’t think I could do it on my own but what I thought was impossible was suddenly done. When someone pioneers the way and cuts a path, others are supposed to follow. Be an example, an influencer - an overcomer! You don’t know if you can make it until you give it a try and see how far you get. A starting point is always necessary to measure progress.

If you can’t imagine running seven kilometres, break it down. Put your shoes on and imagine leaving the house and taking those first few steps. That’s where RB started. Do you think it looks impossible to start a new business in this economic climate, complete those assignments on time or make lifestyle changes that seem insurmountable? Just kept putting one foot in front of the other until the job is done. It always takes more hard work and perseverance than you first think so don’t quit just because it’s hard. Of course it’s hard but just remember, after every struggle comes an ease you can never experience without first venturing out of your comfort zone and breaking new ground.

©2010 Philippa Vette

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Inspire Me With The Bold & the Beautiful

Squeezed between espresso lounges and quaint home wares and clothing boutiques is a little store brimming with style. Fiera. Gorgeous jewellery housed in clear glass cabinets from wall-to-wall. Their iridescent jewels sparkle like a beacon of hope to any avid shopper looking for that special piece. Just when I thought my joy was complete, my eye caught a spash of vivid colour on the back wall.

Hello Ladies...

Adding a whole new slant to the term, 'feature wall' was shelf after shelf of gorgeous Spencer & Rutherford designer handbags. (Right there, I just lost any male readers!) Seriously, if you want to make your special lady feel valued, appreciated and thoroughly spoilt, take her shopping to pick one out. These handbags are more than an accessory - they are unique works of art!

With names like, Brigitte, Aurora & Lulu if you step out with one of these over your shoulder - you're going to get noticed!

FYI - the limited edition range all have the Spencer & Rutherford signature brass plaque inside with 'her' number. The lining, a soft princess pink suitable for the deity in all of us. Each collection is also named: Superstition, Tinseltown and The Cat's Miaow all feature at Fiera. So hard to choose a favourite.

Visit Fiera online and subscribe to VIP nights for new collection launches and your 20% introductory discount voucher: or in person; 151 Oxford Street Bulimba in Brisbane.
Fiera have five locations in South East Queensland. Spencer & Rutherford are a Melbourne-based company distributing nationally and around the globe. Go Aussie go.
So, save you pocket money, check them out and go out in style!

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Family That Plays Together

In the name of family togetherness, we hit the road on the weekend and headed north along the Sunshine Coast. That seems normal but for the chick who’s been telling you to get a plan and stick to it... we had no plan – and no idea where we were going!

No Plan and No Idea
The dilemma was finding somewhere suitable for all of us; adults, teen, tween and toddler. Mr Practical, not usually known for his spontaneity, was understandably a little edgy during the drive. Several times he leaned over and tried to ask where we were going but I just shrugged my shoulders and gazed vacantly out the window. I didn’t have a clue either so he just kept driving.
I could think of many places he and I could go; browsing quaint little stores dotted throughout the hinterland, sipping exotic teas in idyllic cafe’s, sampling lavender chocolates... no wait a minute that’s what I’d like to be doing with girlfriends.

After thirty minutes, Mr P wrote the letters Z-O-O on the seat and turned off the freeway. He was taking charge! We were on our way to Australia Zoo. There was bound to be something for everyone there.

You Little Beauty!
We marvelled at the flying bird exhibition in the Crocossieum. They were all extraordinary but I’m not a fan of flapping wings close to me due to a terrifying ordeal as a little child. Being the ‘big girl’ I thought I was, I attempted to feed what seemed to me, like hundreds of hungry mama hens with only one small bucket of grain. They turned on me and ... well, I’d rather not talk about it. So, when a black cockatoo flew dangerously close to my head and my hair got a quick blow-dry from its wings, I had kittens right there in my seat! (Oddly, I exhibited none of the calmness and stability present when that renegade seagull conducted the same manoeuvre recently in Sydney. See “Something in Common” April 17, 2010.) I must’ve sensed a bad vibe from this bird.

We marvelled at the enormity of the three lady elephants, the elegance and striped beauty of the tigers and the kids had fun racing from one enclosure to the next reading the names and ages of the crocodile detainees to see who could find the biggest one.

The Man from Snowy River
My favourite had to be the young man dressed so fine in his Drizabone jacket. I was almost swept off my feet, not from being wooed but from hysterics. It was a wombat. Yes, a wombat wearing a jacket. It even had a real collar and a large pocket on the side... for what, spare change?

When we were all Crikey’d out and I’d explained for the umpteenth time why Steve Irwin wasn’t there, to a curious three year old, we took a short drive to our favourite gelataria at the beach. We discovered this gem of a store about seven years ago and although it is about one hour and twenty minutes drive from home, we have been known to get in the car and drive there just to get our ‘fix’. It is so good, it makes everything alright. We even discuss what flavours we’re going to order and we, being the connoisseurs of all things gelato, enjoy matching flavours and delight in new combinations. We take our dinky little spoons and taste test everyone’s (within our family that is - not strangers, that would be brash) and decide what we’re having next time, even before we leave the store.

Leaving the store, Mr P let Caylee tuck into his dripping gelati. None of us took much notice but wondered why all of a sudden when we were cruising down the freeway, she started talking non-stop (that’s not actually abnormal for two of my children – it’s in their genes) and her legs started a bizarre Riverdance frenzy while she was strapped into her car seat. For about half an hour or more, she was hyper. I turned to Mr P and asked, “What kind of ice cream did you get today?”
“Coconut and... coffee.”
I glanced around to the back seat and suddenly, BANG, she was fast asleep. Well, that was interesting. Keep the caffeine away from the littlies is my tip for the day, unless they have a cleaning cloth in one hand and a bottle of Spray n’ Wipe in the other, then let it rip!
All's Well...
At the end of the day, we were tired but happy. We’d spent the day together, shared an experience and built a memory. So, no matter where you’re heading in life, even if you’re not sure of your destination or even your next move, just keep going forward, make some memorable moments, share the journey and step by step, you’ll find your way.

©2010 Philippa Vette

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Inspire Me with the Perfect Marriage

It's not every day you can say you've met a couple who are perfect for each other but last weekend it happened, quite spontaneously yet it was clearly meant to be. Introducing... pumpkin and fresh thyme quiche!

When thyme heats up, the aroma takes you on a journey. I made a half n' half large shallow quiche - one side pumpkin & thyme, the other ham, oven roasted red capscium & fetta. Next time I'm heading straight for the roast pumpkin, fetta and thyme. I put the same on a freshly made pizza base the other night and it was so delicious and light I almost imploded with pure joy! Grab your favourite quiche recipe, oven-roast some pumpkin tossed in a little olive oil, then add it into the quiche pastry shell. Add the egg mixture and pick fresh thyme leaves and scatter over the top and bake. It's that easy.

The second recipe... "Best Ever" chocolate cake. It's a big call but it's lighter than a mud cake but not as light as a sponge. Easy to make and great for afternoon tea or lunchboxes.

"Best Ever" Chocolate Cake

I'm always a little skeptical when I see a claim such as "best ever" but I made this cake three times last weekend and it was wonderful each and every time. By using cocoa, you keep the fat content down but still get the lovely chocolately flavour. Anyway...

First... Mix together 125g butter, 1/2C castor sugar & 1/3 icing sugar with an electric mixer until colour changes to a pale creamy colour. Add in 2 eggs and 1 tsp vanilla and 1/4C blackberry jam and mix again until combined. (I've also used dark cherry and also raspberry.)

Second... Sift 1 1/4C self-raising flour, 1/2C cocoa, 1 tsp bicarb soda into butter mixture. Fold together with 1C milk until it just comes together.

Third... Pour batter into a greased 20cm cake tin and put into a 180C oven for 40-45 minutes. Leave to stand for 15 mins then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely. Decorate with icing or ganache or sifted icing sugar and strawberries. YUM!

Chocolate Butter Cream

50g dark chocolate finely chopped

25g butter

3tsp cream and 1/4C icing sugar into a small saucepan. Stir over low heat until smooth & glossy. Spread over cake.


2/3C cream

200g dark chocolate chopped

1/3C castor sugar over low heat until mixture melts and is smooth. Brush 1-2tbsp of melted jam over cake and then ganache. If ganache is too runny, wait a few minutes for it to stiffen slightly.

Cake recipe courtesy "Epicure Chocolate" compiled by The Age, 187 pages of wall-to-wall chocolate. Bliss...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Navigating Those Unexpected Endings

The morning after being retrenched, resigning or retiring is when reality can hit so hard, you may not want to even get out of bed. But if you’re armed with a plan and a strong cup of coffee, not only will you survive – you’ll go on to thrive!

A good, workable plan is in fact a rescue plan, an evacuation plan and a battle plan all rolled into one. If your departure from your workplace came as a surprise, before you go to bed that night, you absolutely must sit down and write a list of what to do the next day. Even with emotions rife, you must pull yourself together to write down at least one reason to get up the next morning. When you’re winded – you need time to get your breath back and there will be time for that, but you must write a list for the next day and state your goal for the end of the first week. Irrespective of whether you achieve it or not, it will give you something to aim for – an objective. In the workplace your whole day/week/year was full of objectives.

Keep a Routine

If step one of your plan is to have objectives to work on for the first day and week, then step two is; keep a routine. Get up at the same time, shower and get dressed for work. Ladies put your make up on! It might sound odd if you’ve just lost your job but in essence you’re still in work mode so make the most of it. You’re not on holiday - you’re going to work, just not at the same place. You’re going to work on finding another job, to update your CV, to network. You’re preparing yourself to meet new people, visit new (work) places, engage in new experiences and initiate a new beginning.

It doesn’t matter if you’re currently out of work, a stay-at-home-mum/dad, retired or on disability, a structured day with a plan will help you feel more satisfied. You can add in hobbies, exercise, catching up with friends but you’ll feel more satisfied if you allocate a certain amount of time to some kind of work or study to grow in knowledge, skills and experience. We feel better about ourselves when we better ourselves. Volunteer work is another great way to sharpen those skills such as punctuality, commitment and reliability. Giving up some of our time for something or someone else helps us appreciate the time that we call our own.

An End Brings a New Beginning

It can be a challenge to say the least, to let go and move on but it is essential if you intend presenting your best for a new job, new opportunity, your current relationships and for your general wellbeing. You may have lost a job but don’t lose your health too! Work through matters with a close friend or partner and ask for their continued support.
It’s not easy if you’ve been with the same company for many years and invested so much of your life into your work, but look at it this way; it wasn’t all for nothing. When a person is challenged, they grow and a larger capacity means they’re so much more capable, giving them so much more to offer in the future. Just ask any new mum! Let things in the past stay there. Though there is a time to mourn the loss or end of something important, simply get up one day and declare, “That’s enough. I’m not going back – I’m going forward.” Then write in your plan the date and the actions you are prepared to take to enable yourself to move forward. (Keep it legal please!)
Avoid a Pity Party

It can be tempting to wallow a little (or a lot) in people’s sympathy but draw the line and tell yourself to get up and get going. There’s a fantastic opportunity coming your way and you’ll never see it with your head down!

When my Dad retired, he already had a plan. He and Mum took a long holiday to UK and Turkey. It was something they’d wanted to do for a long time and it became the perfect bridge from work to retirement. When he came back, the emotion of finishing his working life had been washed out of his system by wonderful experiences, meeting new people and getting far enough away to have a healthy perspective when he returned home. He still has a plan for each day and that includes his hobbies, rest, exercise, socialising, travel as well as home maintenance and cultivating his extensive vegetable garden that really isn’t any smaller than when we all lived at home – though he would probably say it is!

Step four is crucial. When you’ve done the other steps you must also keep good company. Positive, supportive people are gold. Treasure them. Your new beginning starts with the decision not to give up. It takes 21 days to form a new habit and 45 days to break an old one, so you’re going to need a day by day plan for each day of the working week to get you past Day 45. After that, you’re more likely to keep the good habits of your new routine. If you get a job in that time – great but if not, don’t be discouraged, it’s coming. Keep your head up – you have so much to offer and what you thought was the bitter end, may just position you for something far superior, so rewarding and way beyond even your wildest dreams.

©2010 Philippa Vette

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Inspire Me with the Best Little Soup in the Universe

There's nothing better on a chilly day than a hot, spicy soup. Value for money and full of flavour, a hearty soup will feed all the hungry mouths at your table.
My soup is already simmering away on the stove as I write but be warned, when the hungry hoards come home and they smell the roasted garlic and rosemary, they won't give me a moments peace until they have a big bowl of steaming soup set in front of them. Slurping is mandatory!


First... Cut up about 1kg of your favourite kind of pumpkin. Remove seeds and skin or peel skin off when cooked... easy. Throw into a large oven dish with 3-4 unpeeled cloves of garlic, two carrots peeled and cut into 2cm slices, 2tsp olive oil to coat and 2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary. Oven set to 180 degrees Celcius. Bake about 1hour.

Second... When all vegetables are soft, remove from oven (turn it off) and place into a large saucepan. Peel off pumpkin skins and squeeze out soft garlic and discard papery outer. Discard rosemary. Cover with water or 1/2 liquid chicken or vegetable stock and 1/2 water or use water and add 2tsp powered chicken stock. Bring to boil. (Only just cover pumpkin or you'll get a watery soup.)

Third... Add 1/2 tsp of turmeric, cumin, cinnamon and a pinch of white pepper (Tip: if your children aren't used to these flavours, use less because more can be added later but impossible to take out!) When boiled, remove from heat and carefully blend using a stick blender or ladle into a food processor to blend until smooth. Spoon into bowls, add a swirl of natural yoghurt or low fat Greek yoghurt and serve with favourite bread or toast such as Turkish or quesadillas (see recipe below). Enjoy. Even better the next day as flavours develop.


These are so easy.

First... place a flour tortilla into a frypan.

Second... place baby spinach leaves over surface of tortilla and sprinkle grated cheese on top.

Third... Take another tortilla and place on top and press down a little. I don't use oil in the pan, you really don't need it. When outside is browned and cheese melted, transfer onto cutting board and cut into quarters. That's it!!

Get the children involved by allowing them to choose their ingredients. Try BBQ chicken, creamed corn and cheese, guacamole and salsa or really any combination you can think of. If it can go into a toasted sandwich, it'll work. Perfect for in front of the TV or after school. Try making a breakfast one with bacon, egg, cheese and baby spinach or roll up into a wrap and toast in sandwich toaster. Bon appetit!