May 29, 2014

National Parks

by Laura - Chronicles of Passion

I’ve always been drawn to national parks and oceans. Across every country, I always seek out the parks and the water. Not because I’m a beach laying girl, or because I want to get a sun tan, but there’s just something about the ocean that holds such beauty. Maybe it’s the pure massiveness of it, maybe it’s the inevitable gorgeous landscape that always surrounds it. Maybe it’s the beauty of the life unknown beneath it. Whatever it may be, and partly I’m sure because of my east coast Canada roots, I’m a happy girl when I’m at the sea.

And I’m equally as happy when I’m in the woods, with nature, surrounded by trees and wildlife, plants and those once in a lifetime thing you don’t really know if you will ever see again. Or just in a national park. The boy and I are on our east coast Australia road trip, having the best time! And from bush to state forest to rainforest this country has it all- the number of national parks here is incredible. We’ve stopped to run in them, camp in them, hike in them, swim in them, and it never gets old. Every part of our journey is built around the national park we can hit along the way.

So if your headed up the east coast of Aussie any time soon, here’s the highlights for us:

1) Kosciuszko National Park – Home of the highest mountain in Australia, the hike to the 2280 meter summit was well worth the 18 km journey. There’s lots of other hikes, camping and of course skiing and snowboarding in the winter – this is indeed the “snow sport” area of Victoria, Australia.

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2) Dooragan National Park – This little gem is one of those places where you end up and can’t stop being so happy that you found it. Small, but impressive, this park is really just for the view and a really awesome love-hate mountain run if you’re up for it! The trail goes to the bottom of the mountain, through brush, rainforest and a lot of curving hills before hitting the bottom and sending you back up again! A bit off the highway, this small, but delightful place is well worth the diversion.

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3) Eungella National Park – This one is all about the rainforest run! The park is huge, offering several short and long trails, boardwalks and lookoffs, as well as platypus viewing if they are interested in showing off! There are a few different camping areas available both walk in and drive in. But if you’re up for the best part, let yourself run wild on the trails and enjoy the beauty of the rainforest. It’s slippery and rocky in parts, but it just all contributes to the fun!

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May 13, 2014

Instead of Running

by Laura - Chronicles of Passion

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I’ll take a run any day. Seriously. I love it. And now that the weather here in Melbourne is getting cooler and I can run in the morning or evening and have it under 10 degrees, it is golden. Plus when the boy comes with, it’s just the best thing ever! There’s something so liberating about runs when it’s cool and crisp and you’re cold at the start and need to move to keep your exposed fingers and legs warm. I love it. Continue reading

May 11, 2014

10 Things You Didn’t Know You Could do at Home

by Laura - Chronicles of Passion

I’m a huge fan of trying things at home. I’ll often see something in a store or a recipe in a book or a food at a restaurant and think “I could do that!” The end result doesn’t always works out, sometimes takes a few tries, but never fails to be a lot of fun. And when you’re in a constant state of trying to save money, these little things can be an even better option. Because let’s be serious, the flight to Hawaii the boy and I just booked en route back to Canada is a far better use of our money than buying infused oils or sushi!

1) Make nachos – This took a little bit of experimentation, and really these were for the boy, so he had the final say on all the trials. No matter how you look at it though, with cornmeal, water, salt and a little oil for brushing as the only ingredients, these are the easiest nachos you will ever make! Here’s the verdict on the best ones:

  • Make polenta, as per instructions on the bag of cornmeal, adding extra salt to your taste.
  • Once polenta is done, line two baking trays with baking paper, and spread polenta very thinly onto each tray.  You may have to wet the back of a spoon continuously to prevent it from sticking.
  • After you have spread it all out, brush with a thin layer of oil (about 1 tsp per tray), and sprinkle with salt.  Using a sharp knife, score the trays into desired nacho shapes
  • Bake in 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 40-45 minutes, or until nachos break apart easily and are crunchy.

2) Grow Kombucha – While this requires a little extra cost up front, the end benefits and cost savings compared to buying it are more than worth it. If you aren’t familiar with it, Kombucha is an ancient Chinese sweet tea that is fermented using a scoby or mushroom. The final product has heaps of health benefits, from helping with arthritis and other degenerative diseases, to restoring gut health and helping in digestion through its high amounts of naturally occurring probiotics. It’s also a powerful detoxification drink, which is very good for liver detox. But before you can reap all these benefits, go online and find yourself a scoby. There are lots of reputable dealers who will ship it to you with all the instructions on what to do and how to get started. After that, all you need is some tea and some sugar and you’ll have these growing on your kitchen counter:

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3) Grow your own sourdough – I’ve talked about this on here before, but having your own, homemade sourdough bread is easier than you think. And the best deal! I’ve been following the information on this site to make mine and it has turned into many a sourdough loaf and pizza crust. Sourdough pizza crust by the way is incredible!

4) Make your own condiments – From BBQ sauce to jam, to chutney to pizza sauce, making your own condiments and sauces is one of my favourite things.  You can be so adventurous and cater it completely to your own liking.  Start looking up recipes for all the things you buy and use a lot of, and you may save yourself a lot of money.  And be pleasantly surprised at how much better they taste!

5) Infuse oils  - With some good quality olive oil and a few extra, empty oil bottles, you can have whatever flavour of infused oil you like.  Choose your herb, vegetable, fruit, etc. you would like to infuse it with, place it in the empty bottle and then slowly pour the oil over top.  Move the contents around inside until you are happy with their visual appearance, and then leave to rest for 2 weeks before using.  The possibilities are quite endless . . . Rosemary, roasted garlic, lemon and ginger, chilli, lime, sundried tomato and basil.  Let your imagination run wild, and then just use them as you would ordinary oil in cooking or for bread dipping.

6) Make your own specialty Caffeinated Beverages – Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a special coffee machine or a special milk frother to make fancy caffeinated beverages.  I’ve recently been super into Matcha, a form of green tea, with incredible health benefits, due to the fact that you consume the whole tea leaf, and not just the extract.  I add it to smoothies, make it into tea, and of course, make Matcha lattes.  And without any fancy coffee equipment, the milk part is easy: place milk in a small saucepan on the stove and begin to heat, over low to medium heat, making sure not to burn.  As you do so, place a handheld immersion blender in the milk, set on low and blend until frothy.  Your milk should be hot and frothy and the same time, perfect to add to any beverage!

7) Sprouting – Depending on what you want to sprout, you need minimal to no equipment.  Fresh sprouts are incredibly good for you, as they contain more enzymes than their cooked or fully grown counterparts, due to their young age.  If you want to sprout beans and legumes, all you need is a jar and some wet paper towel.  Wet the paper towel and place it in the jar.  Rinse the beans well and then pour them in the jar amidst the paper towel.  Leave at room temperature out of the sun and continue to rinse the beans 1-2 times daily.  Within a few days, you should have sprouts!  To do alfalfa sprouts, you are better off going to your local health food shop and buying a sprouting tray.  They usually are $10-$15, but it really completely opens up your sprouting possibilities!

8) Dry your own chillis – This one requires the use of s dehydrator, and a lot of patience, but the end result is well worth it.  Purchase 400 – 500 grams of fresh chillis.  Cut the tops off and place in the dehydrator.  Allow to dry for 8-12 hours, or until they are crunchy and hard to the touch.  Once done, break them up in a mortar and pestle and pound them to your desired consistency. You can also leave them whole and place the whole dried chilli in your dish.  The heat in these is intense and they are much better than store bought.

9) Make your own hard shell tacos – This is another option for the polenta mixture from number 1.  This time though, cut the baking paper into small rounds, the size of taco shells.  Spread the polenta on the paper and drape the paper over the wire racks in the oven.  The polenta will go crispy as in number 1, but just in a taco shape!

10) Make your own sushi – I used to think sushi was hard to make and expensive.  The truth is, it’s probably cheaper to make it than buy it.  Once you purchase the initial rolling mat and nori wraps, the rest is just rice and your choice of filling.  And that is the best part: you can fill it with whatever you want! I’ve done everything from mushroom sushi to curry sushi, to classic vegetable sushi.  I’ve used brown rice, regular rice, and cauliflower rice.  Cook your rice, spread it out and go wild!  Even if it doesn’t stay together as well in the end, you’ve made your own sushi:)

 

Have fun and enjoy all your new projects! Anything else that you do at home instead of buying or just for fun?

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