How Controversial Should I Be?

“But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.” 
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I was working with a client a few days ago, and the topic rolled around to suicide.

She had been suicidal once, at a truly difficult time in her life. With therapy and support her life has now moved beyond the worst of the pain and back to a place of balance. But there is no-one to talk with about what happened, she said, now that she no longer pays a therapist to listen. And she worries people will think she is still in that space if she tries to talk about it with friends or family.

‘I understand,’ I said to her.

‘How could you?’ she answered crossly. ‘Only people who’ve been there understand. I mean REALLY understand.’

‘I can feel into your body, and step inside you where you met that pain head-on. So yes, I can understand it from inside you – as a psychic,’ I said, ‘but I also understand. Me. I understand.’ I said those last words more slowly this time, weighting each one.

‘No way,’ she said. ‘You? I don’t believe it.’ She looked genuinely shocked.

‘It’s true.’ I looked her in the eye. ‘I have stood in that place twice, and both times it was unexpected. Each place was a different planet I hope never to go back to. Both times I found a solution that ultimately kept me here. And you’re right. No-one ever talks about this stuff.’

We were out of time, and this was about me now, not about her.

‘Maybe you could blog about it,’ she said to me as we finished up. ‘I would have found that useful, to have known someone like you could have had feelings like me. I mean, I was so f*cked up and broken and ashamed…’ She paused. ‘To have read that, to read that now, would still be helpful. So, could you?’

What do you think, dear Tribe? I’ve written about being psychic and being incontinent and all other manner of personal over-sharing. Should I break this taboo too?

I’ll be guided by you.

Much love, Nicole xx

2016 – The New Energy of Connection and Disclosure

Image from www.tlc.com

Image from www.tlc.com

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”
~ Fred Rogers

 

Since early this year I’ve noticed an unusual and promising trend – people talking!

Not just any kind of talking. Not just pass-the-time-of-day conversations. No. I mean real conversations, with all manner of self-disclosure.

An elderly relative of ours who has long struggled with mood swings and lapsing into periods of angry not-talking and self-imposed isolation, recently confessed to my husband that she was feeling cranky and out of sorts and didn’t know why. It didn’t feel good, she said. She didn’t know what to do about it. It was the first time she had ever talked about her feelings.

A long-time friend invited us to share supper with her. As we sat out under the trees, surrounded by fairy lights on a balmy summer’s night, our friend began talking. This is a friend who has NEVER talked about herself, and instead has always cleverly deflected questions, talked about politics or the weather, and turned conversation back to us. Ben and I sat, mesmerised, as she talked long into the night about her early life, her career, and her relationships. Interlaced with reflection and feelings. Stories she’s never shared before.

While sitting with neighbours earlier this month, sharing belated Christmas drinks, my neighbour talked about remembering flying in the night sky when she was a child. After which we all shared similar strange memories and experiences that we had always held close to us, for fear of judgement.

It’s a taste of these new energies we are moving into. Sharing our stories, discussing our feelings, voicing our fears – all of these things bring us closer together, and help us to understand that we are not alone. That our supposed strange and lonely path is actually a journey walked and understood by many.

I have a simple favour to ask.

Next time you’re meeting with family or friends, put your phone away. Banish the screens. Take time to be with each other. Give these new energies a chance to work their magic by being present and truly listening to the people you are with. Be brave enough to offer your own feelings, thoughts and experiences into the conversation.

Be part of this revolution of connection.

Much love, Nicole <3 xx

Image from ww.fote.co.uk

Image from www.fote.co.uk

 

Music, Smiles and All Good Things

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“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” 
~ Confucius, The Book of Rites

 

Ben and I ventured to the Mullumbimby Farmers’ Markets yesterday morning. We got there a little later than usual, about 8.30am, because after my pre-dawn meditation I sat down at the computer and hammered out some more words for my memoir. The reward for all my toil? Breakfast at the markets – whatever I wanted, plus a good local coffee.

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Normally I’d race around first and grab the things I want that always run out – kale, certain kinds of bread, organic free range eggs, hibiscus and ginger kombucha drinks, but the weekly busker was so engaging, his music so mellow and warm and inviting that we grabbed a coffee, stopped at a table in the middle of the markets and sat down to listen.

So, it seems, did just about everyone else.

The tables were packed, and people found spaces on the grass to sit in the early morning sunshine and listen to the performance too. It was like being at our own private concert.

There was lots of smiling and clapping. Little toddlers danced blissfully, friends hugged, and strangers came together to share in the magic that is music.

Such simple pleasures, but oh so good!

The busker’s name is Mark Heazlett. He’s a local musician from Brunswick Heads here in the Northern Rivers. He sure did make the market a wonderful day out. If you’re ever round our way I can thoroughly recommend a trip to our Friday Farmers’ Markets. Maybe I’ll see you there! 🙂

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Roadside Bounty and Shared Harvests

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“We must give more in order to get more. It is the generous giving of ourselves that produces the generous harvest.”Orison Swett Marden

On the back roads around our own little farm, many farmers and those folks with large home gardens have set up roadside stalls to sell some of their surplus produce.

I love shopping like this. For a handful of coins I have access to the freshest of fruits, vegetables, flowers, plants and occasional batches of jams or pickles.

Doesn’t this gramma pumpkin look delicious! I’m thinking to use it for a pumpkin pie and some scones for our weekend visitors.

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One of the other fabulous things that makes my world turn is sharing.

I made a large batch of chicken bone broth, and shared it with a neighbour. In return they gave me some avocado ‘seconds’ from a large bucket someone else had gifted them.

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Later, I shared some home-baked Anzac biscuits with an elderly friend, and in return I was given a large bag of bright green chokos which I shall turn into pickles over the weekend. Some of those pickles, I’m sure, shall be swapped for other bounty.

The empty glass jars I’ll fill with pickles were saved for me by a friend who owns a coffee shop and book store in Byron Bay. I’ll keep a jar of pickles out for her for repayment of her kindness.

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And of course, I also harvested lots and lots of hugs as I gathered this wonderful produce yesterday!

This morning Ben and I are heading to the Mullumbimby Farmers’ Markets for a few more goodies for the week ahead. Some fermented foods, some bread and local cheese, a couple of extra veggies, a jar of excellent local miso paste, and of course a social catch-up and a coffee with friends.

I’m wishing for you a weekend full of sharing, love and laughter. Much love to you, Nicole xx

Friends around the Dinner Table

Image from Party Bits 2 Go

Image from Party Bits 2 Go

“Some of the most important conversations I’ve ever had occurred at my family’s dinner table.”
~ Bob Ehrlich

 

When I was younger I used to knock myself out throwing Dinner Parties. I would pore over cookbooks and foodie magazines, spending hours putting menus together, striving to get the balance right. I felt pressured to choose the perfect wines, the best music, the most suitable table decorations. But that was only the beginning. Then came the preparation, which was usually a culinary marathon.

And of course there was the question of what to wear. The house needed to be cleaned and beautified. It was always a full scale production.

These days I’m much more relaxed. Sure, I still knock up the infrequent ‘special occasion’ dinner, but what has become most important to me is the opportunity to share my table with friends over a simple home-cooked meal.

If I want fancy food I can go to a restaurant!

One of the most enjoyable aspects of living in the country is that sharing meals is a very common way of getting together. It might be a cup of tea on the veranda, a barbeque down by the river, or a simple lunch or dinner. Nothing fancy. In fact, most often it’s about stretching what we (or our hosts) would have eaten anyway just that little bit further.

Why did I ever worry so much about getting a dinner ‘right’?

We ran into (well, not literally) neighbours out walking their dogs on the winding country road that leads to our farm late on Wednesday as we were coming home from our trip to the Outback. Pop over for dinner on Friday, I suggested. I’ve missed our friends and I wanted to catch up properly.

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Thursday I napped. And did a mountain of washing. I began catching up on the hundreds of emails and messages that have piled up in my absence. I forgot all about my invitation.

Yesterday I cruised the Farmers Markets, and then came home and remembered we had the neighbours coming for dinner. I had a poke through the garden, the pantry, the fridge. I’m tired from all these drugs I’m on, so it needed to be a throw-together meal.

Result?

Dinner: Lamb Roast and homemade gravy and real mint sauce, roasted pumpkin and sweet potato, and crunchy fresh coleslaw.

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Dessert: Fresh Strawberry and Mulberry Cake (dead easy!) with an impromptu berry compote (fancy word for saucy berries) and ice-cream.

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Good old fashioned chuck-it-in-the-oven-and-it-cooks-itself roast and to be just a little bit special a simple dessert, because who doesn’t love cake???

Food doesn’t need to be spectacular. It just needs to be honest and fresh.

And the very best things about dinner last night? The company was relaxed and terrific – and they brought their dogs (as well as a bag full of fresh mulberries)!

No dressing up for me – I wore my pirate pyjamas and a favourite apron. A neighbour set the table, and another helped me serve. We chatted endlessly about farms, drought, the environment, the elections and all the local gossip. We all washed up together, and I was in bed by nine!

Today we have friends from the city dropping in. And now I have all these lovely left-overs. I’ll give them cold roast lamb and chutney sandwiches and a slice of the leftover Strawberry and Mulberry cake for lunch. Lashings of French Earl Grey Tea and a wander around the garden to stretch our legs afterwards.

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Recently we stayed with friends at their Outback Station, between Longreach and Barcaldine. On one memorable night, I had a cheese toastie and a cup of tea for dinner as we girls sat around the kitchen table chatting while the boys were off watching the footie on TV. Another fabulous breakfast was simply bacon and eggs, with tinned spaghetti on toast. I was as happy as a pig in mud.

A meal at home with friends is really about friendship. The food is just a bonus. If you’re ever over my way for a cuppa and a chat, don’t expect me to drag out the best china and slave over a hot stove for days, modelling artful and pretentious food. Do expect a full stomach of whatever’s going, and to be asked to help in the kitchen or with the washing up. After all, isn’t that what friendship is all about?

Much love to you, Nicole xx

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Getting My Hands on My Inheritance!

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“Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

In a quiet corner of an organic cafe somewhere in Brisbane yesterday, history was made.

My mother (that’s her hands in the top of the picture above – like me she’s quite camera shy!) finally lent me the precious Family Recipe Book. Several times she stated in front of my sister and I (quite loudly I might add…) that it was only a loan, to facilitate the idea she had for a post for my blog based upon the comfort to be had by making and eating slices.

And in the grandest of gestures she actually let me take the tatty old exercise book – stuffed full of hand-written recipes, magazine clippings and scribblings on the backs of envelopes – home to the farm with me so that I may transcribe the wisdoms within its pages into a book of my own.

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I was made to promise, PROMISE, that I wouldn’t share some of the most secret recipes with you, my Bloggerverse friends. And I wouldn’t, Mum, honest.  Not with my grandmother peering down from Heaven in her imperious way. Goodness, some things – like the Heavenly Tart Recipe – are sacred.

But I am excited.  There is so much good stuff between the pages of this book that I’ve grown up with and added to over the past few decades.  My family history, and my inheritance, is the stories and recipes and memories contained here.

I look forward to sharing some of my family’s legacy with you.  And I’ll start later this week with a post dedicated to Slices, for my Mum, whose idea it was.  Just so we are clear about that…

It was Mum’s idea!  Did everyone get that? Good.

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We’re One! My Blog’s First Anniversary ♥

cakes

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss

Wow. That came around fast. Today marks the first birthday of my blogging career – a whole year of sharing words, images and my crazy life. Who ever knew it could be so good?

The truth of how I got started here in the blogosphere is embarrassingly clichéd. December 10, 2011, we were flooded in down at our farm. Luckily we still had power, but the torrential rain certainly limited the scope of activities. A friend had left some DVDs behind, and that fateful (told you it was clichéd!) morning my husband popped Julie and Julia into the player.  “Here, watch this,” he said. “It’s a chick flick. About cooking or something.”

He ended up watching it with me.  If you are one of the last two people left on this planet who don’t know anything about it, you can check out the trailer:

The movie ended, it was still raining, and my husband looked at me. “You should start a blog,” he said. “I mean it. You’d be great.”

“But what will I write about?” I asked.  “Honestly, I doubt if I have very much to say.”

Ben rolled his eyes at me. “Of course you do. Just blab on about the stuff that interests you. Anyway, you love to write!”

So venture down Memory Lane with me and visit  my first ever post – a recipe for Ice-Cream Plum Pudding. It took me most of the day to work out how to set up the blog and upload pictures. (And to be honest I still consider myself a blogging amateur…)

I’m quite a private person, so I felt quite daring putting my life on display. And Cauldrons and Cupcakes does sum up my world pretty well. A homespun yarn or two as we wander around the farm, recipe swaps over a cup of tea and tasty snacks before shooting the breeze about all things spiritual, psychic and philosophical. Oh, and a free guided meditation or reading thrown in every so often, because after all, that’s what I do.

I guess this combo is working – in my first year I’ve already had over 300 000 views.

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I know one thing. I love blogging. I love the friendships I have found online, and the ability to support and share through this medium.

This blog has come to mean something very special to me. And so have you. Thank you, from my heart to yours, for your support and friendship over the last twelve months. I look forward to sharing the journey with you as we step forward into 2013.

Anyway, in honour of the occasion I’ve prepared a party to celebrate. Grab a drink, eat some cake, share some hugs.  There’s plenty to go around. I’m so glad you’re here!

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Bless. Much love to you ♥ xx

(And for the rest of this week? – Christmas recipes, meditations and adventures!!!)

Celebration Chocolate Mudcake Recipe

It’s my friend’s 40th birthday today, and we’re having a ladies lunch in her honour. Of course we need good cake.  There will be grandmas and new babies and friends coming from afar. Twenty cake-loving women, and we need enough cake leftovers to make the men happy when they join us later.  Somehow it always falls to me to make the cake…

The picture above is a double recipe.  This cake is a triumph – so easy, and it never fails to please.

Ingredients for cake:

250 grams unsalted butter (I’ve used salted and that’s fine if it’s all you’ve got), 200 grams good quality dark chocolate, 1 cup caster sugar, 1 cup soft brown sugar, 3/4 cup plain flour, 3/4 cup self raising flour, 1/4 cup cocoa, 1 teaspoon instant coffee, or one shot of espresso, 1 1/3 cups of water (a teensy bit less if you used espresso), 3 eggs

Method:

  1. Break the chocolate into pieces and dump into a large saucepan.  Add in the chopped butter, sugar, water and coffee.  Melt together until all ingredients are dissolved and then cool.
  2. Sift flours and cocoa into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Gently mix through the cooled chocolate liquid by hand with a large spoon.
  4. Finally, beat the eggs together to combine, then gently fold the eggs into the cake mix.
  5. Pour the batter into a double lined 20cm deep cake tin, and bake at 150 degrees celcius for 1 3/4 hours. **check cake towards the end so it doesn’t overcook.
  6. Allow to cool in tin before removing

Chocolate Ganache:

Melt together 250grams of broken dark chocolate and 1/3 cup of cream in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat and allow to cool until it thickens, stirring occasionally and then pour/spread over cake.  (Don’t leave ganache in fridge and forget about it or you’ll have to eat the lot!)

I also made some chocolate leaves by melting dark chocolate and using a clean paint brush to paint camelia leaves.  Just peel the leaf away carefully when the chocolate sets.  Ivy leaves also look brilliant, but the cows ate my ivy, so camelia leaves had to suffice. Any non-toxic leaf will work. Then I used smarties (chocolate beanies) to make flower patterns. It looks a bit like I channelled my inner 1950s housewife, don’t you think!

♥ Serve in small slices (be warned – this is rich!) with some vanilla icecream or a good double cream.  It keeps well, but never seems to last.  Enjoy! xx

 

Capsicum Jam Recipe, and musings on left-overs and over-supply

Christmas feasts and left-overs are pretty much synonymous, don’t you agree? Gluts are also a regular part of growing your own produce. I was given a big bag of juicy organic yellow and green capsicums (bell peppers for you non-Aussies) by a neighbour this morning. That’s the way it is here.  When you have an abundance of something in your vegetable patch you share a little with the critters, keep some for yourself, and give the rest away. That also works well with Christmas leftovers. Leftovers are wonderful opportunity to feed friends, or to invent tasty meals for little effort.

I already had some red capsicums, so I’ve decided to whip up some capsicum jam to go with all of our Christmas leftovers. It’s terrific with roast vegies, ham, turkey and other meats and cheeses.  Also makes for awesome sandwiches. Naturally, one jar shall go back to the friend who gave me the raw materials!  This jam is easy to make. You’ll need capsicums (obviously!), a few cloves of garlic, a bay leaf, olive oil, sugar and balsamic vinegar (A good shake of Peri Peri or chilli flakes is optional, but advised).  Here’s how you do it:

Firstly, peel your capsicum.  If they are very fresh you can use a sharp potato/vegetable peeler and the skins will come off easily.  If the capsicums are a little soft place them over an open flame, or cut into halves or quarters and place under a grill until the skin blackens.  Cool, and then slip off the skins with your fingers. Make sure that the capsicums are seeded.  I’m using about 12, but you could make a small batch with just two or three. Slice your capsicums into ribbons. Chop your garlic finely (I used four fat cloves), or put through a press. Put a heavy bottomed pan onto a low heat and add a good slurp of olive oil. Add the garlic and cook until it softens and becomes fragrant without colouring.                                   Dump the capsicum in and toss with the oil, adding a little more if necessary. Raise the heat a little and soften the capsicum (about 7 to 10 minutes).  Add a tablespoon of sugar (if a small batch or increase  proportionately if making a larger batch) to help caramelise the capsicum (another 5 to 10 minutes).  Use a tablespoon of vinegar to deglaze the pan and give a sweet and sour tang to your jam. Keep your sugar and vinegar in the 50:50 ration and you’ll be fine.

There are three stages you can cook this to.

Tapas stage looks like this and is great for using on crusty bread (heaven with cheese).  The capsicum will still taste fresh and bright and have a little crunch to it.  Add your chilli or peri peri now, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Cool without delay.

Pasta stage looks like this.  You’ll need another 5 to ten minutes cooking time. Keep stirring every so often so it doesn’t catch.  The flavours will now be mellow and sweet.  Stir through cooked pasta, add a handful of rocket and some parmesan shavings and you’re good to go. Also good with leftover roast vegetables added into your pasta.  Meat lovers may want to add ham, bacon, pancetta or similar.

Jam stage.  The capsicum is now velvety goodness in a pan, with a rich, oily complexity.  Adjust your seasonings to taste.  Cool and bottle.  This will keep about 3 weeks and goes well with meats and cheeses.  I also like it with avocado on toast. 🙂

There is something magical about sharing – it fills you with a sense of abundance, and it lights up the world with kindness. Got some left-overs in your fridge?  Maybe it’s time to create a feast for friends and neighbours, or a care-pack for that lonely person you know. ♥