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Virtual World Tour of Bloggers

norway

Vero has started a collaborative project collecting videos from her blogging community around the world. Being isolated doesn’t have to be boring.

Are you curious? Then, hop over to Vero’s blog to see the short Collaborative Blogger Video.

It was good fun to be involved in such a project and I thank Vero for organizing this “Vlogging experience.” I particularly enjoyed seeing some parts of the world that I only know from words on a screen or a social media posts.

Would you like to make a video of your corner of the world?

Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com
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pavlova recipe
Australia, blogging, Cakes, Food, History & Traditions

The Challenge of Making the Perfect Pavlova

Christmas has been and gone and with it the traditionally festive dessert of choice in Australia, (with its warm weather), the humble ‘Pavlova.’ This ubiquitous dessert really needs no introduction and not wishing to trigger my New Zealand counterparts, I won’t mention its origins, but will note the recipe has Australian variations!

Photo by Sandra Filipe on Pexels.com

Discussions around this dessert led to a four way cooking challenge which I will explain further in the post.

Modern Take on Traditional Pavlova

My take on the Traditional Pavlova Recipe, is mainly decorative but it works well to add to the festive appearance for a special occasion or to spoil a family member.

Still piled high with a delicious marshmallow centre and surrounded by the crunchy meringue shell that we all know and love, this pavlova is topped high with seasonal fruits, whipped cream, or custard as well as cream, (depending on your cholesterol level).

As Pavlova is generally Gluten-free, (omit the cornflour), you can serve this to sensitive tummies as well! Just check the chocolate you use is gluten-free too, if you have Coeliac guests.

What’s Different about this Pavlova?

It is perfect for a birthday dinner, a party, or just a treat to spoil yourself in lockdown and has a Chocolate Dome that you can smash with a rolling pin or large serving spoon, when slicing up.

What fun! Especially for kids!

Pavlova

Smashed Pavlova Chocolate Dome Recipe

Ingredients

  • Olive oil or cooking spray
  • 800g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 600g thickened cream
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 1 pre-prepared pavlovaRecipe here
  • Topping of seasonal fruits: eg. cherries, mangoes, raspberries or kiwifruit

N.B. Undecorated pavlova can be made several days ahead; store in an airtight container, prior to decoration.

Method – Making a Chocolate Dome

  1. Spray a 12″ or 28cm plastic or pyrex bowl lightly with oil and place in the freezer. Melt chocolate on low heat on the stove in a double boiler or in the microwave if you prefer.
  2. Remove the bowl from the freezer and pour in half of the melted chocolate. Rotate the bowl to cover as much of the inside surface as possible, using a pastry brush to push the chocolate out to the rim. Place back in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  3. To finish the chocolate dome, use a pastry brush to brush remaining melted chocolate over existing layer, ensuring any thin areas are touched up. Place back in the freezer for 15 minutes or until set.
  4. Remove the bowl from the freezer. Trim the chocolate on the lip of the bowl to create an even base line and then gently rotate and tap the sides of the bowl to release the dome with a rolling pin. Run a knife along the sides of the bowl to release the dome slightly. Once chocolate comes away from the edge on all sides of the bowl the dome is ready.

3. Meanwhile, top the pavlova with cream and decorate with mango slices, cherries and raspberries. Carefully cover finished pavlova with the chocolate dome. Serve immediately.

Tip: use a wooden rolling pin or similar utensil to “smash” the chocolate casing when serving and prior to slicing.

Food Blogger Bake Off Challenge

pavlova recipe

When Sandy at The Sandy Chronicles mentioned a delicious dessert of her own a Blogging Bake-off idea was conceived. Thus, I’ve invited other blogging cooks such as Ju-Lyn from All Things Bright and Beautiful and Moon from Bits and Pieces to take up the Pavlova Bake off Challenge with me!

Have you previously posted about Pavlova? Would you like to try making a pavlova or another meringue like dessert?

Join in on the Pavlova Bake- off challenge by adding a pingback to this address in your post and it will update with your link.

Amanda – Something delicious to Ponder About

lavender
blogging

Aromatherapy Products

The use of essential oils for therapeutic and cosmetic use has become mainstream in recent times. With a multitude of aromatherapy products to choose from, which ones stand out from the ‘crowd‘?

What are the real benefits of using products with essential oils?

Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

How are Essential Oils Created?

Essential oils are extracted from plant material using steam or water distillation. Selected plant materials are heated with steam, water or both until the essential oil vaporises. The oil then condenses as it cools.

Being a concentrated plant oil, they should be used sparingly and always diluted in some other medium, such as plain massage oil (cold-pressed vegetable oil) or unscented base cream (but not a mineral oil cream, such as most brands of sorbolene or baby oil)…Aromatic plant oils, including essential oils, should never be ingested (taken in by mouth), as they can be toxic.

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au

About Utama Spice Products

All the products at Utama Spice, an all-natural skincare company, are based on traditional Balinese herbal knowledge and comprise 100% natural ingredients.

The farming communities in Bali, Indonesia, produce the raw materials for Utama Spice’s natural skincare products and in so doing, support local farmers in organic farming, bee farming and seaweed farming.

The company believe: “if you wouldn’t cook with it, you shouldn’t put it on your body.”

As a graduate of the Environmental Science, it is a joy for me to discover a business, such as Utama Spice Natural Aromatherapy Products, who offer a high quality, sustainable product with a low environmental impact, one that is ethically produced in harmony with nature and respectfully for humanity.

Furthermore, I was delighted to read the products contained:

  • No Synthetic Oils
  • No Synthetic Fragrances
  • No Artificial Colours
  • No Synthetic Preservatives
  • No Surfactants
therapy products

Aromatherapy Product Review

I found the Aromatherapy product range from Utama Spice, based in Bali, Indonesia to be a beneficial and therapeutic asset in, and around, my home. All the benefits of the essential oils are available, beautifully presented, in an easy to use pump pack.

Utama Spice Lip Balm

Being someone with sensitive skin, it was refreshing to find the Utama Spice Aromatherapy lip balms and liquid soaps were highly moisturizing, with no hint of dryness or irritation.

With all the benefits of natural ingredients like coconut oil and beeswax, infused with essential oils to lock in moisture, the aptly named WellKiss Lip Balm was a standout favourite for me.

The Tangerine and Peppermint Lip Balms were very much appreciated by my daughter, in the windy weather that we frequently experience, living here, by the coast. The whole family will be thankful for that level of protectiveness for the sensitive lip areas, come wintertime.

Utama Spice Liquid Soaps

Utama Spice’s range of Liquid Soaps

The Man of the House found Lemongrass Liquid Soap excellent for showering and bathing and that fresh scent lingered pleasantly in our bathroom, after use.

If you are looking for something a little stronger to use on tougher cleaning jobs, Utama Spice offers an Antiseptic liquid soap which has the benefit of Neem Oil as an active ingredient to kill germs.

Body Butter Moisturizers

For those needing an intensive moisturizer for ultra-dry skin, an application of the Tropical Flower Body Butter, after showering, is an excellent remedy for cracked heels, as well as any rough spots on knees and elbows.

Moisturizing Soaps and Lotions

Lavender Liquid soap and Coconut Moisturizing Lotion with Pure Lavender Oil.

I suppose it is no surprise that the Home by the Sea overall favourite Utama Spice Aromatherapy product, was the Lavender Liquid soap and Coconut Moisturizing Lotion with Pure Lavender Oil.

Yoga Mat Energizing and Sanitizing Spray

Yoga mats can become notoriously grotty if you’re using them outdoors, so the compact size of the Utama Spice Yoga Mat Energizing Spray, was brilliant, meaning I could keep it in my handbag, for regular use after Yoga and exercise sessions.

The added bonus of knowing the essential Oil of Lemon, Bergamot, and Mint were helpful in sanitizing the mat was most reassuring, especially given the current Covid pandemic.

Three varieties of Yoga Mat Spray
Photo Credit: Utama Spice.com

Quality Control of Utama Spice Aromatherapy Products

The company maintain strict hygiene procedures to ensure the products and the raw materials are checked at every stage of production, thereby guaranteeing the highest standard of quality control to create a well-made, but still handcrafted, natural beauty product.

Utama Spice Customer Service

Utama Spice maintain a supportive and friendly culture with its customers and shipping is prompt, with tracking options for orders at no extra charge. With a flat rate of $10 shipping, (free for orders over $100-AUD), the location is no barrier for customers worldwide.

If you have any issues with your order they will go above and beyond to make sure you are completely satisfied.

Discounts and giveaways are offered to customers who subscribe to their website.

Utama Spice Products Product Review Recommendation

I am very happy to commend their products to you and was thrilled with their products. I will be ordering more supplies.

Online Store – Utama Spice Products

It you wish to order, you can find the Utama Spice store online.

Please note that I received no monetary incentive for this review. It is the unbiased and honest opinion of StPA.

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Friendly Friday Challenge Review 2020

As we are on a break from our regular weekly photography challenges, my talented co-host, Sandy from The Sandy Chronicles, highlighted some extra special photographs from Friendly Friday 2020.

Most Popular Friendly Friday Post for 2020

My favourite theme for 2020 was: Yellow. It was also the Friendly Friday Challenge post that received the most comments! Here’s my favourite yellow photograph:

Colours are fun and laid back themes for our photography, as the colour yellow has a such a ‘sunny,’ disposition. Yellow objects always brighten up any room.

Re-visit the original Friendly Friday – Yellow theme or Sandy’s 2020 Friendly Friday Review in case you missed them the first time around.

Kyoto, Japan

Friendly Friday Blogging Challenge

The Friendly Friday Challenge for 2021 will return January 29 over at The Sandy Chronicles with a slightly altered format. What will that be?

We will tell you soon!

Until then, keep clicking those shutters!

Friendly Friday Photo challenge
Happy New Year 2021 png
Australia, blogging

Social Distancing in Australia

So much for social distancing, I thought. Notwithstanding our relative safety here in Australia, we are still in the midst of a global pandemic.

Photo by Yaroslav Danylchenko on Pexels.com

We’re allowed to attend social events again and in my state in Australia, we’re even permitted to sing, (something not all states, are allowed to do as yet).

How fortunate are we? Believe me, I do not take this for granted.

Apart from providing our contact details at all venues, society here has, by and large resumed to B.C. levels, [i.e. – before Covid]. Just in time for all that Christmas and New Year’s Eve revelry.

Until now, people were still hesitant to get close to one another. Would social distancing and clean hygiene practices be ditched for the sake of socializing and enjoyment in 2020, now a vaccine was on the horizon?

Being one of the unlucky ones with a respiratory system prone to serious illness, I was more than happy to continue to ‘elbow pump’ people, in the greeting that Covid made fashionable, until the ends of time. Hugging friends had become a thing of the past for me.

The 2020 pandemic, as well as my recent retirement, has meant that I’ve escaped the annual torture of suffering with each year’s strain of ‘Influenza’, as well as various bugs and infections that are an occupational hazard of working, as I did, with young children. 2020 was, for me, far healthier than previous years.

In fact, I’ve not seen a Doctor all year. Yay for me!

Fast forward to this year’s New Years Eve. Much of Australian society is back to normal, except for bans on large gatherings, as in city fireworks displays. *[Mind you, I still can’t fathom why Cricket and football matches in stadiums are exempt from this ban. Is there an invisible force field that protects sports spectators from the pandemic?]

cricket match

My plan for celebrating 2020 NYE at the Home by the Sea, involved attending a Karaoke Dinner at a local restaurant, with around 8 of my neighbours and friends. Dutifully, all of us scanned in our particulars, using the QR code on the table, upon arrival, for the purposes of contact tracing should anyone come down with the dreaded ‘Corona’ virus. We then looked forward to an evening of singing, good food and company. And it was indeed a fun night.

Yet, my heart did skip a beat as the waiter removed our individual plates after the first course, stating that the rest of the seven courses, would be served from disposable paper boats. Therefore, we should hang on to our cutlery, for the duration of the evening. Share plates of cheese and crackers and dessert had my hygiene radar twerking mildly, as did my wonderment at our used knives and forks scattered ominously across the table between courses.

Was I being a little paranoid about germs?

Singing into the Karaoke microphone, shared with 30 or so other drunken folk, was not encouraging for hygiene either. I couldn’t find a disinfectant wipe for the mic, anywhere on site, although there was plenty of hand sanitiser at the bar, which was well utilised. After my allotted drink or two, I relaxed, as did many others and begun to really enjoy the evening.

Abba, Shania Twain, Queen and Pink tunes were an absolute hoot to sing and really got everyone joining in with gusto. It was as if the floodgates of pent-up social energy had opened, energy they’d been harbouring for much of 2020.

Around Midnight, whilst our table was chinking glasses at a socially approved distance, a recent acquaintance I knew sitting at an adjacent table walked straight over to me, hugged me and without any warning landed a big sloppy, slightly drunken kiss, on my cheek.

“Eek! What if she has Covid?” was my very first thought.

To say the kiss felt strange, was an understatement. Something quite natural a year ago, now felt like a personal violation!

To put this into context, I haven’t kissed anyone other the ‘Moth‘, since the pandemic began! The legacy of Covid means I’ve not even kissed my elderly parents and now, this felt so – weird and wrong! Quickly noticing my shell-shocked response, the lady did offer a swift and heartfelt apology. But the damage was already done. A day later, I had my head perched over the toilet bowl/bucket, throwing up. The usual New Year’s Eve ‘Gastro’ Virus had found me. For many years, it appears regular as clockwork, in that first week of January after the New Year’s Eve parties. Was it the kiss, the unsanitised microphone, or just coincidence? Surely not the alcohol?

The silver lining, I could say was this 24 hour ‘wog,’ helped me lose some of those extra pounds I’d gained over Christmas. However, the dynamics of physical contact with friends has now completely changed in society.

Now recovered and back at the keyboard, I pondered the events as they unfolded. More worrying for me than getting a mild case of ‘gastro,’ was that folks are so quick to abandon safe hygiene practices and social distancing in the name of fun.

As far as the pandemic goes, we are not out of the woods in Australia, yet.

How quickly people forget.

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blogging, Mental Health, Motivational, Philosophy

A New Year and Dealing with Intense Emotions

Happy New Year 2021 png

Christmas time may be a source of stress or joy. Compounding those yuletide stresses, the Covid pandemic continues to rage, so there was little cause for joy in many parts of the world.

Marlene inspired me to think of the year’s outcomes in terms of ‘gifts,’ some good and of course, some bad. We’d do well to focus on the better aspects for our own well-being. So, what if any, positives can be noted?

Photo by Ryutaro Tsukata on Pexels.com

Lessons from the Pandemic

Whether we like the lessons or not:

  • This awful year has taught us patience and more appreciation for things at home.
  • This dreadful year has been a godsend for parts of the environment and animal world.
  • The pandemic afforded us time to develop or re-discover DIY home projects.
  • This deadly virus has potentially increased family tensions but has given extra time with loved ones. I will take as a blessing option, thanks.
  • Rates of family violence and alcohol consumption rose, yet levels of air pollution diminished due to fewer vehicles on the roads. The night sky was/is full of stars hitherto unseen in cities, as air quality improved.
  • Peak hour traffic congestion eased and commuter accidents lessened.
  • Workplaces were forced to become more flexible, benefitting those caring for someone, at home.
  • Money from saved travel and workplace costs, (uniforms, ancillary items, office durables and rentals), could instead be spent on other items that bring joy.
  • Extroverts suffered from social isolation but many introverts thrived.

..some Australian online [alcohol], retailers have reported 50% to 500% increases in sales compared to the same period in 2019.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7300689/#dar13092-bib-0018
Photo by Harrison Haines on Pexels.com

Negative Impacts of the Pandemic

This pandemic has uncovered a festering mal-contentment at the interplay between politics and society and offered diametrically opposed opportunities and grief.

Unemployment rose sharply and many lost businesses, their livelihood, or their lives. In some places, political decisions and divisiveness led to civil unrest. Financial ruin became rampant. Mental health nosedived.

For each one of us, the impacts may be very individual. With no short term end to Covid in sight, the heightened emotions the pandemic brings, remain uncomfortable and difficult for many folks to manage.

How do we deal with those difficult emotions?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Dealing with Difficult Emotions

Write Down Your Thoughts

Sometimes it can be cathartic to transfer those strong emotions into written words. Blogging can be great therapy.

female writing

Slow Down and See Each Moment

Ironically, the pandemic has made me feel grateful.

Grateful for things I DO have and it ensured I did slow down and appreciate the individual moments that pass by.

Grateful for our country’s relative safety bubble.

We can be grateful for modern science working hard to solve the virus riddle.

Grateful that I have not been touched by financial ruin, separation or Covid itself.

Grateful that even though my workinglife ended prematurely, I now have time to enjoy retirement activities with the Moth.

Grateful that I have daily incidental conversation with the adult children who came home due to financial reasons.

Grateful that I can let unimportant things slide.

Grateful to have the awareness I am so much more than just my emotions/feelings.

Grateful that emotions and feelings change as the world moves and changes. Everything must change for, just like bad weather, nothing ever lasts.

2021 Mantra

In this New Year of 2021:

If I feel sad, I will sit with that feeling of sadness.

If I feel loss, hurt or rejected, I will accept that feeling, not deny or think that I ‘shouldn’t,’ feel that way.

If I feel frustrated or inadequate, I will sit with that until the feeling passes. I won’t feel tormented that these emotions are wrong or bad, but rather let them ‘slide.’

Let it slide.

Not quite the same ‘sliding,’ as the lyrics of the song suggest, but the personal reminder is contained in that catchy melody; the melody that is today’s earworm.

“Let it Slide.

Happy New Year

Australia, blogging

A Very Warm Christmas in Australia

swimmer at the beach

It was almost a perfect summer’s day. That interlude of lazy days between Christmas and New Year.

The waves gently caressing the shore and the tourists out on stand-up paddleboards, kayaks or paddle boats. The number of pink inflatable ponies bobbing around in the water adorned with small children, an indication of what was on sale at the retail stores prior to Christmas. It was idyllic.

The Moth broke the comfy serenity by saying:

“This looks just like that scene from Jaws.”

Only of course, thankfully there was no shark reeking havoc amongst the bathers. But it did bring to mind what many friends from overseas have told me. They live in fear of a shark attack if they go swimming in Australia. Some refuse to even paddle in the shallows for this reason.

Yet if truth be told, you are much more likely to drown than be attacked by a shark in Australian waters. You only have to watch a few episodes of Bondi Rescue if you don’t believe me.

On average, 87 people drown at Australian beaches each year, (SLSA 2010), yet there have been, on average, only 1.1 fatalities per year from shark attack over the past two decades. It is clear that the risk of being bitten or dying from an unprovoked shark attack in Australia remains extremely low.

https://taronga.org.au/sites/default/files/content/pdf/Changing_patterns_of_shark_attacks_in_Australian_waters_CSIRO.pdf

Shark Attacks in Australia

Shark attacks, in Australia, has been well documented since colonial times and the number of reported attacks during the 20th century seem to fluctuate in line with changing patterns of water-based recreational activities, (such as swimming, surfing and sailboarding), public awareness and shark netting operations.

Bribie island beach australia children playing

We will never completely eliminate shark attacks, unless the species most likely to attack humans in Australian waters: ie.the White, Tiger and Bull sharks disappear from our waters. Extinction of animal species is never a preferred option.

So will there be a Jaws style attack at the Home by the Sea?

Not likely.

So you can pack that swimming costume when you come to visit.

By the way, we call them ‘togs, or bathers.’ Just so you know.

Edit: And also Cossies in Sydney, apparently.

Related Post: Growing up in Australia

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frozen lake sweden
blogging, Photography

Travel photo

Su at zimmerbitch invited Ju Lyn to join her and other bloggers to post one favourite travel picture a day for ten days without explanation and also to nominate someone else to participate. Ju Lyn kindly nominated me on her post.

And in turn, I will nominate a blogger but there is no obligation with this. Another blogger may have already nominated Drake, but I commend to you his blog, if you have not visited. It is worthy of a travel photographic visit.

Drake and I have “followed” each other for some years now, perhaps too many to mention.

remote scandinavia

I usually do not nominate another blogger in these challenges and with Christmas looming I may not make the required ten days, but for now I have met the requirements which makes me happy!

Have fun and join in too?

jigsaw puzzle
blogging

A Gift for All Ages – Puzzle Review

Ever tried to find a perfect Christmas or Birthday gift to span across various age groups. A gift to give a family of young and old? An educational and learning gift that challenges the mind and engages the receiver for more than 10 minutes?

Books are great but not everyone likes reading, or the same genre. Then there is edible gifts but choosing an appropriate food means you now have to factor in gluten free, dairy free, lactose free and vegan options. Too many families have food intolerances that must be considered. It is too hard.

Enter the 1000 piece Jigsaw Puzzle from Shannxi Toy Manufacturer.

jigsaw puzzle

Puzzles are excellent toys for fostering the development of logical thinking and intelligence. Puzzles are not only educational, but essential in children’s intellectual development as they promote spatial awareness and understanding of shape relationships. These three dimensional skills are especially important in creative pursuits, design or engineering careers.

Shannxi 1000 Piece Balloon Puzzle

I was kindly gifted a wonderful Jigsaw puzzle from Toy Manufacturer Shannxi Classical Trade Co. Their jigsaw puzzles are made of thickened paper, are strong and durable, and suitable for ages 7 – 107 years of age.

The puzzle in a box complete with separators for sorting the various styles of puzzle pieces. It defintiely helps to sort the light blue from the dark blue when it comes to placing sky tones.


As it happens, my neighbour is somewhat of an expert in jigsaw puzzles. At 91 years young, she is fit and sharp minded, something she attributes to her love of completing jigsaw puzzles.

old woman completing puzzle

Peg is the authority so here is what she thought of the puzzle:

Review of Shaanxi Hot Air Balloon Puzzle

Likes

  • Border is easy to figure out and complete
  • Two puzzles in one – the reverse side is printed as another puzzle
  • Template Mat included, is a great reference tool and can be used as a sorting mat
  • The puzzle is a lot of fun
  • Reverse side gives a clue for difficult areas of similar color
  • Puzzle box has separators to categorize and sort pieces – very useful and a great idea
  • Design will please most adults
  • Fosters patience and hand dexterity and great for those prone to arthritis in the hands
  • Puzzle can be completed by doing one section at a times due to dual printing on both sides
  • Constructed using high quality wood and paper pieces

Peg’s Dislikes

  • The blue sky was tricky and required perseverance to complete
  • The pieces were hard to retrieve once inserted in the puzzle. ie. if they are inserted in the wrong place and are changed. A small piece broke off from the printed underside of the puzzle piece when it was switched around.
  • The design could have benefited from some smaller balloons in the distance for higher visual interest.

My Recommendations

  1. I am very happy to recommend this product for children and adults.
  2. The puzzle is challenging enough to engage and adult and child for many hours.
  3. It has the therapeutic advantage of being great practice for fine motor dexterity and hand control.
  4. It is educational in the sense that it uses the mind to compute shapes and spatial relationships.
  5. Delivery was timely and email communication with the company was without problem.

Shaanxi also have fully customized options and 3 D puzzles for your enjoyment.

If you are interested in purchasing a Jigsaw puzzle for Christmas or that special gift, Jason and the team will be happy to assist you with various delivery options to meet your personal needs.

Shaanxi Classical Grain Trade Co. +86 15829369901

We chat: +86 15829369901

Email: 982067068@qq.com

*I received no monetary incentive for this review.

Here are some more Christmas gift ideas.