The one with the quinoa and barley salad.

20120723-175243.jpg

This warm salad is perfect for winter!

Cook quinoa and barley together in a saucepan or rice cooker. Add chopped radish, finely slice flat leaf parsley, chopped celery and chopped cucumber. Mix in a small container of store bought sundried tomatoes and half a pack of slivered almonds and sunflower seeds.

Drizzle with lemon and dijonnaise.

Enjoy with the meat of your choice mixed in, or a vegetarian alternative such as falafel or tofu.

The one with the eggplant parmigiana.

20120718-185600.jpg

This eggplant parmigiana was dead easy to make but such a delicious and filling meal that had us wanting seconds even though we couldn’t fit them in!

For two people we partially peeled one eggplant (so that the skin looks tiger-striped) and then sliced it into thin pieces. Each of the pieces we then crumbed as if cooking schnitzel (flour, egg, breadcrumbs) in the frying pan with a bit of olive oil.

Once all of the pieces were done, we layered tomato sauce, mozzarella and parmesan cheese and fresh oregano in between layers of eggplant. Cook in the oven until cheese is melted as with a pasta bake.

Top with parsley and enjoy!

The one with the baby steps.

“Dreams of the days where he stood like a mountain, it’s been a while since then but who’s counting?”/em>; – Illy, “Cigarettes”

Today is Friday the 13th.

The last time the 13th was a Friday was in April, the day I overdosed.

Three months later and I have just survived my first shift back at work since around February, when I first got really sick.

It’s amazing how things come full circle.

They may seem like baby steps, but they are huge to me.

The one about Making Australia Happy.

The other week at therapy the psychologist pulled out a DVD quickly to teach us about mindfulness and mindful eating.

The segment featured Melbournite, Dr Russ Harris, expert on mindfulness, and author of The Happiness TrapDr Russ was leading a group of eight unusually unhappy Australians living in Sydney through a mindfulness exercise.

His first job was to hire a world renowned piccolo player from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra to pose as a busker on the street near their headquarters. Of the eight volunteers, only one stopped to notice the amazing musician, all of the other meandering along the street without a care in the world. This, he explained, is why we need mindfulness. Sometimes we are too lost in thought to notice the pleasant things happening in the world right now.

They went on to do an exercise on mindful eating, where they were each given a sultana (sun-dried grape) and asked to spend five minutes eating it. They had to pretend they had never eaten the fruit before, and study it as if it were new and interesting.

The volunteers looked at the shape of the sultana, the colour, the speckles and the wrinkles. They held the sultana up to their ears and listened for any squeaks or squidges. They felt the wrinkles in between their fingers and up against their lips. They felt their mouths water as it came close to their mouth and the smelt the sweetness of the fruit, inhaling deeply. Finally they bit a little bit off, carefully tasting it as if they weren’t sure whether or not it was poisonous. With the final half of the fruit they sucked carefully, chewing and rolling the portion around their mouth with their tongue, lapping up the taste.

Most felt surprised their mind didn’t wander more, that they could focus on the sultana and this process of eating it for the whole five minute period. Most said they enjoyed the “salty” more, and that they could see how this theory could help them in their everyday life. That the sultana was a metaphor, and if they stopped and appreciated moments in their life more often they would feel more happy.

After therapy I went to the ABC shop and bought the rest of the series on DVD. Overall, it’s a great watch. The participants are tested regularly over a period of eight weeks for cortisol and melatonin in their blood and saliva. Their brain patterns are measured and their daily activity tracked. Their progress is marked by infrequent completion of a “Happiness 100 Index” measure. You can take this quiz yourself on their website.

They say that most Australians, on average, should score between 70-75 on the Happiness 100 Index. Anything above 50 means that you are more happy than sad, and similarly, anything less than 50 means you are more sad than happy. A score less than 50 gives you a higher risk of depression and anxiety. Most participants scored less than 50 the initial week, but by the end of the eight week program they were all above the national average.

Out of interest, I took the quiz to check the validity of the thing. Knowing I have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety I expected my score to be low – and it was. I scored 20. Over the next few weeks I intend to take in the lessons learned from the series, changing my diet and exercise as well as practicing mindfulness more. Of course I will also be regularly taking medication, seeing my GP, psychologist, psychiatrist and going to therapy. So it won’t be a very controlled test, but it will still be interesting to see my Happiness 100 Index score rise (hopefully).

I encourage you to check out the series and the website, and maybe even take the test for yourself!

The one with the grilled chicken.

20120712-080136.jpg

Taken by me (twice), and edited using Instagram.

This was a quick and easy dinner!

Chicken breast grilled in the George Foreman and topped with freshly chopped chives and melted butter.

Vegetables cooked in fry pan = finely chopped red onion, garlic, peas, four small vine ripened tomatoes (cubed), a handful of chopped parsley, all seasoned with salt and pepper.

Very quick to make but tastes like Master Chef!

The one with the owl tattoo.

20120711-192220.jpg

Taken by me, edited using Instagram.

After deciding last week to try my hand at tattoo art, I bought a bunch of art supplies and a handful of tattoo design magazines and set to work.

This little owl – done in oil pastel – was my second piece after the koi fish. He is based on a design from the magazine Tattoo Ideas by an artist named Carlo D’Alessandro.

I really find this type of art to be my outlet, it’s so therapeutic and I am able to be completely mindful when working on a piece. Lost in the moment.

Our latest homework for DBT is an exercise known as PLEASE MASTER (yes, very Fifty Shades Of Grey!)

PLEASE MASTER stands for Physical iLlness, healthy Eating, Avoiding mood altering drugs, regular Sleep, Exercise and MASTERy. It is thought that if we look after ourselves by controlling the first five things, and reward ourselves by mastering something pleasurable (like art) that we will able to once again feel happy.

Let’s hope it works!

- T x

The one with the warm winter salad.

20120711-191006.jpg

Taken by me, edited using Instagram.

I found this recipe in the latest issue of Frankie magazine and decided to give it a shot! It’s so yummy and filling, definitely worth making for tea one night.

Simply roast a thinly sliced red onion with about 500 grams of cubed pumpkin and a couple of cloves of garlic. Whilst it roasts, boil a cup of French lentils (with a bay leaf for seasoning) in a generous amount of water for about fifteen minutes.

Combine drained lentils with pumpkin, red onion and garlic mix in a large bowl. Add 120 grams cubed feta, about a cup of pitted kalamata olives and a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley.

Drizzle with dressing made from red wine vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, garlic, dry mustard powder and brown sugar.

Enjoy!

- T x

(For detailed recipe see page 080 of the July/August 2012 issue of Frankie)

The one with the koi fish.

20120705-131111.jpg

Taken by me, edited using Instagram.

For DBT this week our homework includes mastering a new skill. For me, I have always had an interest in art, and find it very therapeutic. In hospital, I would actually sketch alot, mainly pictures of people I know, using photos as a reference. (Occasionally I also drew celebrities, but it’s not quite as fun.)

Seeing as we are meant to learn a NEW skill, something we can master and turn to in times that we are feeling unsafe, I decided to focus on drawing something else. Tattoos.

So here is my first effort, a Japanese Koi fish. Obviously there is some improvement to be made – but I found it such a good mindfulness exercise. It was very relaxing, and easier than typical meditation for me. My mind barely wandered, focussing on the shapes and colours of the drawing instead.

- T x