Creativity Break

I’m in week 3 of uni already with 2 assignments due in the next 2 weeks. I’m doing 3 subjects which is a full on post grad work load with the amount of reading.

Let’s just say… I’m very busy!

I met my first practicum mentor teacher yesterday, as well as the principal & the class of year 2 kids I get to work with. Exciting stuff. Everyone seems nice.

One of the kids even made me this, although I think she thinks my name is Loren? Not sure.

20140723-173952-63592324.jpg

Today it’s back to the books in between toddler interruptions but I had a sudden burst of creative mojo. It’s been a bit rare at the moment which is a bit sad, so I did a quick scrapbook page to tide me over:

20140723-174146-63706807.jpg

Nothing fancy but it felt nice to create ūüėä

{Tasty Tuesday} Nutella Choc-Chip Mug Cake

DSC_0558

That dreaded moment came when I realised I had no chocolate in the house…well, almost no chocolate. There were chocolate chips in the cooking supplies. Oh dear, time for desperate measures.

When I get a massive sweet tooth craving and have no chocolates otherwise in the house, its time to turn to the amazing mug cake or cookie recipes on Pinterest. My favourite has always been the chocolate chip cookie in a cup recipe from No.2 Pencil, which was partly my inspiration for this recipe experiment.

I went to make my go to mug cookie, but oh no… not only were we out of chocolate, but apparently butter too. Yet, hubby had decided Nutella was a necessity at the most recent grocery shop instead. Okay, that works. I’m sure I’ve seen recipes that substitute butter for Nutella. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon Nutella
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) of choc-chips
  • 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • Optional – tablespoon or two of sugar

DSC_0560

Method

  1. Whisk egg with a fork in a microwave safe mug or bowl.
  2. Add in other ingredients and mix well.
  3. Microwave for 1 minute
  4. Add a dollop of ice cream for extra indulgence, put your feet up, grab the TV remote or a good book, and make the most of this moment! You deserve it ūüėČ

Unlike the No.2 Pencil recipe, I am lazy and throw in a whole egg rather than separating my whites and all that fuss. So rather than a cookie, it’s more of a cake. You could separate your egg if you like, but seriously it’s good just as it is. The ice cream is perfect, melting into the moist mug cake and it has just the right amount of subtle Nutella hazelnut flavour mixed in with an abundance of chocolate chips.

My chocolate craving was cured… for today!

 

Photo Editing Basics in Photoshop Elements

 

One of the best gifts my husband ever gave me is my Photoshop Elements 11 (oh… and my iPad – thanks honey).

As an amateur photography enthusiast, it is an essential tool and so easy to use. It can take your dark, underexposed photos and give them a refreshing ‘natural’ glow, or convert colour to black and white, crop out unwanted background and just so much more. So much that even I haven’t uncovered probably 90% of what it is capable of yet.

However I am going to share with you my go to technique for quick photo edits which makes a massive difference overall. Because lets face it, how many of you end up with photos like the one below often? I know I do.

DSC_0564

Start by opening up your photos in Photoshop Elements. I use Photoshop Elements 11 which isn’t the latest but it is recent and similar to the couple of versions before and after. There may be a few subtle differences in how it looks though.

With the photo you wish to edit on the active screen, go to the Expert editing screen – you will find the 3 tabs at the top – Quick, Guided and Expert. Expert should be the 3rd tab.

Your screen should look something like below.

Go to the side menu where there is a thumbnail of your photo in PSE 11, this is on the right.

Right mouse click on this and choose duplicate layer. You can rename this to anything you like however I went with the auto names.

Do this twice. You will now have 3 ‘layers’ to work with, as below.

Photoshop1a

Click on your top layer so it is highlighted like above, then click on the dropdown menu above this where it is labelled ‘Normal’.

Scroll down and choose ‘Screen’. Your main image will become brighter.

 

 

photoshop2

Click on the second duplicated copy of your image at the right.

Repeat as above, however this time select ‘Soft Light’.

There will now be darker shades added to your photo.

photoshop3a

Now it is up to your individual preferences on how light or dark you want your image to be, so each of your new layers highlighted one at a time, you can adjust the Opacity.

You will see the percentage box next to the drop down box you selected earlier on the right above your layers.

As you will see below I adjusted my soft light to be quite a low opacity percentage as the photo was very over exposed. I left my screen at 100%. The levels will depend on the exposure of your original photograph and your individual preferences.

photoshop4a

And below is the edited end result – not a perfect edit but a very quick and simple way to improve a photograph when you are short on time or have only a basic knowledge of Photoshop capabilities.

DSC_0564

And another before and after:

Untitled-1

Big difference with little technical skill required!

What are your favourite quick tips for photo editing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Quit My Job…

On Wednesday I quit my job.

After more than 7 years of being a psychologist, the senior psychologist, a programs coordinator, a provisional psychologist supervisor and various other related roles, it was time to take a massive leap and move on from what I have known.

For anyone who knows me well, it was an unexpected decision and one that was expected to be a while off yet. Yes, it was known that I have embarked on a new direction, having only kicked off my university studies for a Graduate Diploma in Teaching (primary) less than 3 weeks ago. Maybe 2. The past few weeks have been a blur. But I had expected to stick it out til the end of my university study period, which is somewhere between 2-2.5 years.

So why the drastic change of mind?

Unfortunately in many ways I felt I had little other choice. My workplace was no longer particularly supportive of my flexible working hours and part time arrangement. I started to get a bit of pressure from some of the senior management team. Unfortunately the worst of it came from my line manager, who as a mother, I expected more compassion. The decider was when I was told perhaps it was time to choose what is most important – yep, she was referring to my role as mother vs my role at work.

No mother or father should ever be asked such a question. There is no other answer. Being a parent will always come first. But that does not mean you cannot be an exceptional and competent professional also. And I was… I still am in fact.

So after some events that followed that pushed me to my limit, I sent my resume at random to a few companies I found via Google asking for a flexible opportunity for a part time psychologist. Lucky for me my experience is apparently highly sought after. The following Monday I had several interested parties.

I have chosen at this point in time to go with an organisation that employs independent psychologists to work under our Australian Medicare system, seeing students, teachers and parents in the school setting through GP referral. What stood out most for this role was not simply the benefit of working a school and getting my foot in the door for my future career, starting to build my experience now. No, it was the fact that the owner of this business was a mum. She understood the need for flexible hours, close to home, working as little or as much as suited me. She got it!

There is a bit of paperwork to organise in the lead up, but with my month notice at work, and a further month needed to complete my first university practicum, the timing is good.

Handing in my resignation though, it was tough. It was the first time I’ve ever really had to do it, having only been casually employed previously. But after giving the deputy a bit of a shock, I had a great chat with the director who informed me the door would always be open for someone as hard working and competent as myself. It was just what I needed to hear. Actually, it made the whole thing quite emotional.

Yep, there were tears that day. A little funny really, since I could not stand the place a week before. But it was merely tainted by one or two individuals and some recent events. That does not take away all the good experiences and many good people from over 7 years. For the most part, I have enjoyed my role. But it was the kick I needed to get out of my comfort zone and move forward.

I am excited for what comes next. Although terrified all at the same time. Tuesday comes with a first meeting with one of the managers from the company I will be joining, followed by a meeting with my mentor teacher for my first practicum and the class of year 2 students I will be working with.

What made me certain I had made the right choice though was the fact that I slept fine the night before. I was even calm right up until the moment I handed over my resignation letter. And even following those tears and the realisation that it was actually happening, I slept well again that night. If it was the wrong choice, there would not have been such a sense of calm.

My husband is a little nervous, naturally. I am going from a permanent part time position to contract based, paid per client work. Yep, that makes me nervous too, but thankfully he is also supportive and understanding that I needed to get out. He saw the impact of the last few weeks, months of stress. And he knows better than anyone it takes a lot to cause me stress.

So today starts yet another journey, hopefully full of exciting opportunities, learning experiences and wonderful memories.

Wish me luck!!

 

 

 

Shaped Sandwich Cutters

SAD3 

It can be challenging sometimes to get kids to eat certain foods… or at least to keep a variety of foods on the menu. My daughter would happily eat cheese sticks and bananas all day if we let her. With a side of rice perhaps.

We recently had a chance to try out a fun sandwich cutter to help add some novelty to meal time. Our first use, we used it to cut up a piece of toast. You can see the cutter above – a dog and dog house.

SAD2

And above is the result. What works well is that it cuts the crusts right off because for some reason, little people seem somewhat adverse to crusts a lot of the time.

  DSC_0500

And the cheeky little miss enjoying her shaped toast (complete with peanut butter rather than the usual Vegemite… this is Australia). She loved the dog shape and ate him up in a flash. After some play time across the high chair though.

The cutters can be used to create shaped sandwiches too so can be fun for kids school lunches as well as meals at home.

This particularly cutter is from Cheeky Chuckles in Australia RRP $6.95. There are other fun shapes available too and other great products for kids.

What do you do to add some fun to your kids meal times?

{Tasty Tuesday} Chicken Italiano Filo Pastry Pie

pie3

I am neither Italian or have a clue what I am doing with filo pastry. This is my first time cooking with filo pastry in fact. Although I have been to Italy at least…

Grocery shopping the other day resulted in a lot of chicken. Bulk chicken breasts in fact as they were half price. $8.99 AU for 1.4KG. WHAT??? So I got 2.8kg worth. That’s a fair bit of chicken so I wanted to experiment with some new recipes. Usually that meant heading to Pinterest for some inspiration and yes that did happen. I had planned to make chicken filos… just plain and simple. But I had no feta so it wouldn’t be quite the same.

Somehow I ended up making a pie without any recipe for guidance. A brave move as I have also never made a pie.

But it was pretty darn tasty, even if I do say so myself. Here is how you can re-create my experiment gone right!

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts or 500g diced chicken
  • 3-4 rashers of bacon, diced
  • Spinach – I actually cheated and used frozen spinach, 2 cubes worth but a handful of chopped leaves would be nicer
  • 2-3 tablespoons of pine nuts
  • Mixed herbs, salt & pepper to season
  • 1/4 cup of grated cheese
  • Filo pastry
  • 1/4 onion
  • Tin of diced tomatoes
  • 1-2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • Melted butter to coat top of pie
  • Oil for frying pan
pie2

Filo pastry is so thin and fabric-like – easy to work with

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Pre-heat frying pan with oil.
  2. Dice up chicken, bacon & onion and cook in frying pan
  3. Once browned or sealed, add in spinach, pine nuts, seasoning, garlic, tomato paste and tinned tomatoes.
  4. Simmer for approximately 10 minutes.
  5. Grease pie dish (I used a slice pan) and create pie base with several layers of filo pastry.
  6. Add pie mixture to dish. Using several more layers, create pie crust.
  7. Coat pie with melted button and place in oven until filo pastry becomes crispy and golden.
pie1

Simmer your ingredients on the stove

There you have it. A spur of the moment pie recipe perfect for the cold winter nights. The filo pastry is also a healthier alternative to puff pastry typically used for pies.

Don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest if you want more recipe inspiration from my 3 recipe boards, including my own marvellous creations!

pie4

Enjoy!

Just Somebody That I Used To Know…

Last night my hubby & I settled in earlier and were watching some TV in bed. Bad habit, yes I know. But sometimes it’s nice on a cold winter night (while trying to get the little person asleep).

We were watching a doco on Queen then some random show came on which appeared to be a celebrity gossip show in that Good News Week style panel, with a bit of humour and a whole lot of inappropriate. It was mildly amusing. Then it got weird.

There came the unexpected moment when my ex boyfriend was on TV…

Apparently he is now a ‘celeb expert’ and has a weekly segment on this random show. How bizarre. Not only that but apparently he’s a stand up comedian and has done other TV and comedy themed gigs over the last few years.

How times change. But it has been 13 years or so. A lot can happen in that time and good on him for doing something he seems to love. Back all those years ago, he had very little going on. No work, no study, no distinct plans. Dyed black dreads, dressed as a goth, complete with black nail polish and eye liner (don’t judge me…).

Just goes to show how life can take us in unexpected directions.