Mmmm… Cake.

It’s been a while since I posted and apologies, I have been very busy and not had much time for writing on my blog. I appreciate your support, likes and follows! I will make time to do some reading of your blogs, like and follow in return – it may take a little while as I have been doing a different type of writing – academic writing for assessments required for my studies. It has been challenging and rewarding at the same time and I am truly enjoying the journey. In my spare time, I am also doing some creative writing, domestics, family responsibilities, school and extra curricular activities which leaves very little spare time. I do make time when I can so thank you for your patience in advance.

I have been baking due to dietary intolerances and have been making this delicious gluten and dairy free chocolate cake for when I feel like a chocolate treat. I thought I would share it for those of you who may have the same dietary intolerances or may know someone who does and this could be a sweet treat they can try. I tend to use less sugar, however, please adjust to taste. I find this cake is quite quick and easy to make. Here is my take on a gluten and dairy-free alternative to chocolate cake – enjoy!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup water

2/3 cup oil (olive or vegetable)

2 eggs

1/2 cup cocoa powder or 200g dark chocolate, melted

1½ cups of gluten free self-raising flour

1/2 cup gluten free plain flour

1/2 cup of sugar

Ganache:

250g dark chocolate

I teaspoon coconut oil (olive or vegetable oil is fine also)

1 large avocado (or 2 small avocados), mashed well.

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

In a large bowl, add water, eggs and oil. Stir to combine.

In another bowl, add flour cocoa and sugar and mix well. If using melted chocolate, please leave out until after combining the wet and dry ingredients.

Add flour mixture to wet mixture and mix with electric mixer until smooth. Add melted chocolate here if using instead of cocoa and combine well.

Pour into greased, round cake tin (20 cm). Place into oven for 50 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.

Leave cake to cool in tin for 30 minutes, place onto cooling rack to cool further. Make ganache as cake cools.

Method for Ganache:

Mash avocado in a bowl and set aside.

Place a glass bowl over a saucepan of water, add dark chocolate pieces and oil. Bring water to boil, then turn down to low heat. Stir as chocolate melts to ensure no lumps.

Add melted chocolate to mashed avocado and mix well.

Pour over top of cake and spread evenly. Serve with a scoop of dairy-free vanilla ice cream.

I didn’t have any dairy-free ice cream when I baked this – hence no ice cream in my photo – however, it is still very nice without it. You can see my ganache is not very smooth because I like to leave small lumps in my avocado and I find it looks quite rustic and provides a burst of avocado as you eat the cake. You can make it smoother if you prefer. I find the cake is moist and makes for a ‘healthy’ indulgence when you are craving some chocolate cake. I feel food is a universal language – it enables you to share your love of food with others and offers a variety of tastes, flavours and cultures. Food brings people together and sparks conversation. Cooking and baking is an enjoyable past-time for me, especially when shared with family, friends and loved ones. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do, there are so many options now that even with food intolerances, I don’t feel like I am missing out! I hope this encourages you to experiment and find what suits your taste in order to Laugh. Love. Live with food – Namaste!

Through the fog…

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My journey with depression started 2 weeks before my grandma passed away. Or maybe earlier, I’m not too sure but I’m most aware of the last 6 weeks. When it was happening, I didn’t know what it was. I felt like I was not 100%, nor was I unwell. I just felt off but I didn’t know what it was. I may have been picking up on how my grandma may have been feeling before she passed away as I have felt her spirit since her passing in more ways than one.

On the morning of my grandma’s death, I had woken to go to the bathroom – this happens frequently during the night but what made it odd was that I had to do a bowel movement. This is not usually the case and it was very difficult but nothing much happened. I went back to bed and my mobile rang and it was on low volume so it took me a while to figure out it was my mobile. The call went to my voicemail. I think the call was at about 1.30am. Before I even checked my voicemail, I knew it was about my grandma’s passing. I can’t explain how, but I knew. I listened to the message, it was from the hospital saying she had passed away at 12.10am. I woke my husband and told him and asked whether I should call my mum, I wasn’t thinking, I was numb. He advised I should let her sleep and call her at a decent hour later in the morning. I did not go back to sleep that night.

My phone rang at 4.00am and I knew it was my mum calling to inform me about grandma, I was numb. My mum was distraught and I went into protective mode – of myself and my mum. I went into autopilot and starting doing what the eldest daughter needs to do at that time. It was hard seeing my mum’s grief, I was holding myself together the best way I could. I had to help my mum go to the cemetery, organise and purchase a plot, go with her to the funeral home and organise the funeral, flowers, hymns, readings, pall bearers, readings, pictures and slideshow along with the viewing and wake which ended up at our house. There was much to keep me busy, I went into auto-pilot and reminded my mum to eat, drink, rest and sleep. In the process, I was neglecting to do these things myself. I lost my appetite, was sleeping around only 4 hours each night and just kept going with everything that had to be done.

To make matters more hectic, I had my sister from Perth coming to stay from the night before the viewing until the Funeral, 3 days later. Every day since the phone call, I had every sibling, mum and other family members over at our place for 2 weeks. It was overwhelming to say the least. My younger siblings tend to drain my energy so I was conserving what little energy I had to get through this difficult time and trying to shut out the ‘noise’ from my sisters. I was trying to hold in my grief and not express it but when I read my remembrance at the funeral service, I broke down and you could hardly understand what I was saying about my grandma. I had to recover and do a reading later on which I was able to read more coherently.

I had no energy to tell anyone of my grandma’s passing except three good friends – one who I’ve known for 40 years, another for over 20 years and another whom she and I have a different spiritual connection. We can’t explain it but it is there. I did write a post about it to express some of my grief and emotion as I find writing helps me process thoughts and feelings. It helped to an extent. I felt at peace when we laid my grandma to rest because I knew she was in a better place and no longer suffering. I felt she could finally spread her wings and fly. When everyone left our place after the wake, I finally had some peace. Saturday was devoted to cleaning up and taking my daughter to ballet. I felt somewhat better.

Sunday, I took my mum to watch the movie “Crazy Rich Asians” to bring some laughter back into our lives, even though there were some tender moments that also brought some tears. It was just my little family around me on Monday which was nice and brought some peace. The next day, I was going back to work. I thought getting back into routine would help – it turned out I was very wrong about that. As I am also a Life Coach, I provide Management Coaching at work. I love the coaching experience but it does take a lot of my energy. Something I didn’t have much of at the time.

I remember surviving through each day with very little sleep, I was making myself eat even though I had no appetite. I couldn’t afford to get sick. After being at work for 1.5 weeks, I received a work email and was also receiving coaching myself – yes coaches need to be coached too! Both the work email and coaching made me realise I was breaking down and not coping – it was costing me my inner peace which is too high a price to pay. I realised I needed to ask for time off work to grieve. I had been holding it in for far too long.

The weekend before my week’s leave, I had a Holy Communion to attend which was giving me anxiety. I experienced the worst anxiety I had ever felt. I was up early in the morning going to the toilet several times, not able to eat breakfast and not wanting to socialise as I knew there would be other people I knew at the service. I was using all my energy to get dressed and out the door. As I walked into the church, a friend saw me who I had not seen for some time, looked at me she asked “Are you OK?”, I manged to reply “I’m ok, Just Ok.” She let me have my space as I went to find my other ‘friend’. When I found her, she did not ask how I was, did not check if I was OK. She laughed and smiled and chatted. Every sound was too loud, laughter was an assault to my senses and smiling was painful.

I used all my energy to get through the mass and held back tears. During the mass a friend sat next to me who always gives out positive energy. I think that helped me half way through the mass. It was so difficult during mass as there was an elderly man in a wheel chair with his loving daughter which reminded me of my mum with her mother when she was still alive. When I turned behind me to shake hands to say ‘Peace be with you’ there was a lovely elderly lady wearing a hat which reminded me of my grandma. It was tough. When the mass was over, I could only manage to see the girl who was having Holy Communion to say “God is in your heart”. I was almost at breaking point, I was trembling with the effort of keeping my composure for that long. Her daughter has anxiety and I could see how strained she was on that day as well. We bid our goodbyes and went home. It was tough but I survived!

spbh.orgImage credit: spbh.org

The next day I went to my family doctor because I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I knew something was out of balance but I didn’t know what. I didn’t know what was happening to me, I felt like I was in a fog and couldn’t get out. I burst into tears when I explained what I was feeling, what I was doing or not doing and he diagnosed me with depression. It was both a relief to know what was wrong and also filled me with dread to tell the news to my family. My doctor prescribed me antidepressants so I could sleep because the chronic lack of sleep was contributing to my depression.

I had a good night’s sleep for the first time in 3 weeks. I had the week to recover and time to grieve. I scheduled a few activities I wanted to do on my own and also visited my Grandma’s grave on the one month anniversary of her death. I had anxiety that morning too but I was determined to go. I bought hot pink and white roses and drove to the cemetery. I grabbed a flower holder that is provided by the cemetery, put some water in it and placed the flowers in the holder. I walked to my grandma’s grave and placed the flowers at the top of her grave. I took off my shoes, sat on the grass and grieved, wept, spoke to her in Vietnamese and at times sat in silence. I felt such a release and my heart was finally lighter. I finally felt like the fog was lifting. I thanked my grandma, said goodbye and left.

I finally felt like I was on the road to recovery. I hope my story helps others who may be experiencing anxiety and depression or helps others pick up warning signs from friends, family or loved ones who may be experiencing anxiety and depression. This week, I finally took my own advice to take some ‘me’ time to look after myself so I can then look after others. I also put into action something I posted on my Instagram Coaching page:

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I let go of energy, habits, behaviour and people that didn’t serve me. I was taking back my power – something I coach others to do and it was good to finally take my own advice!

Someone once showed me this quote by Buddha:

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The Buddhist way of life resonates with me and I found this saying to be fulfilled during this week. I am going to borrow another saying by Buddha when he was teaching about the Not Self “This is not mine. This I am not. This is not myself.” but insert the word ‘depression’ into it – “Depression is not mine, Depression I am not. Depression is not myself.” This has been a tough week but a journey I had to have. I feel I am stronger because of this and enables me to be a better coach to enable others to Laugh.Love.Live! Peace and blessings – Namaste!

 

 

 

Weary

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Image credit: doyoubelieve.com

My heart is heavy,

I’m sick, mostly sick of people being unkind to each other

Inner peace, a high price to pay

When it is absent or in conflict

Transform, change, renewal

Time needed to heal

Release emotions, grief and sadness

Find hope, new beginnings

Everyday moments of wonder

A new day, a fresh start

Being present, focus on the now

Release fear and look ahead.

Weary - greet the new morn

Image credit: hugsandkissesandnot.com

 

In Loving Memory…

Winnie the Pooh

Image credit: Pinterest

Our family suffered a loss last month. It is still quite fresh as we laid our beloved Grandmother, Mother and Great Grandmother to rest last Friday. I feel as though I was in a fog for the last week and a half after we were informed of her passing. Seeing my mother’s grief, organising the funeral, burial, wake and viewing was tough to say the least.

I believe everyone grieves differently – there is no right or wrong, just different. I tend to be quite private but I feel posting about this contributes to my healing process. I have fond memories of my Grandma with my family. Grandma was a kind soul, always friendly and tolerant. Grandma had a hard life, she lived through the Vietnam War, losing a few children and her husband before her. My grandma lost everything she had and still fought on, forging a new life for herself. Even so, she lived a long life, living up to 96 years old. Grandma would have turned 97 in December this year.

My mother was able to sponsor her mother, our Grandma and we met her in November 1995. I remember thinking Grandma so cute, funny and friendly. She talked incessantly of her grandson in Vietnam who she had to help raise as his father passed away when he was young. His father, my uncle was a soldier in the South Vietnamese Army and when the North Vietnamese won the war, he was captured and tortured as were many. He was finally released and his family were so happy to see him, most of all his mother – my Grandmother. However, shortly after he arrived home, he passed away in his sleep. The joy of having her son back was short-lived.

My Grandma is from North Vietnam but ended up living in South Vietnam with two of her children, my mum and older brother – my uncle who passed away. The reason for this is because my Grandma went to visit her father who lived in the South when she was upset with her husband. My Grandfather was a very good looking man and my mum said apparently, he could be a bit of a playboy.

While my Grandma was visiting my Great Grandfather, the instability between North and South Vietnam increased. As a result, travel and communication between North and South Vietnam was cut. No one was allowed to travel between the two or communicate via phone or telegram. This meant my Grandma was now cut off from her husband and other children. My Grandma had about 10 children. She had her only daughter, my mother with her and my mum learnt later from an Aunty that her father loved her dearly as she was his only daughter and thought my Grandma took her away to punish him.

When the Vietnam war was over and communication between North and South Vietnam was restored, her sons went looking for my Grandma – their mother. They did find her and this was a happy reunion for my Grandma but her husband had moved on. My Grandma chose to stay with her father in South Vietnam with my mum and uncle. She raised them on her own. The rest of the children stayed with their father in North Vietnam.

It is amazing to think of what my Grandma has lived through and experienced but was still a loving, kind, compassionate soul. She lives on in our hearts and our memories. Grandma is in a better place now, no longer suffering as she suffered two strokes in the final years before her passing and passed away with pneumonia. I believe she is now free to spread her wings and fly, always watching over all of us. My Grandma was happiest when surrounded by family and when she could express her independence – something that was taken away from her after her second stroke. When we visited Grandma, I felt she was no longer smiling with her eyes.

Remembering my Grandma reminds me to Laugh.Love. Live. Life is too short to only survive, it needs to be embraced and lived to the full – be present, enjoy the little things because I feel it’s the little things that you cherish in life. Peace and blessings.

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Pause

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I’ve had to press Pause for a little while on my blog posts due to study and work commitments. I will be blogging again soon, I have missed blogging dearly and I am eager to get back into it again. I have had a post in draft since May because I started studying for an accreditation so will finalise and publish it soon. The accreditation is something I have been wanting to do for 4-5 years and this year the timing was right.

I’m slowly getting some time back and although I have been MIA for a little while, I have been reading some fellow blogger’s posts when I’ve been able to steal small moments and will get back into soon. I will start blogging again soon – lots to catch up on! I have also been busy getting my little business up and running which I will reveal more about later!

While I have had a pause – to study, to ponder, to organise, rejuvenate and begin or resume…a journey – it’s served it’s purpose, I am energised, looking forward to the what is coming up for me. This has given me a renewed sense to Laugh.Love.Live and enable others to do the same! Have you been able to press ‘pause’ along your journey? Looking forward to reading more of your journeys and exploring mine more deeply. Peace and blessings.

yogaman

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Exhaling…just a little!

Inhale, exhale

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Last year, I wrote a post titled Waiting to Exhale. In it, I spoke about working on my daughter’s health and well-being. I alluded to behaviours that were impacting my daughter’s well-being by her peers. It all came to a head at Easter last year when my daughter broke down and let her father and I know what was specifically causing her such distress. My daughter has anxiety, from a young age due to health conditions when she was born, resulting in her undergoing 2 lots of corrective surgery (at 3 months and 7 months old). Due to this, we were in and out of hospital until she was 4 years old – her anxiety became more apparent at age four.  Since then, her anxiety has been manageable and not been triggered…until recently. It is heartbreaking watching your child go through something but feel helpless because you don’t know the extent of what the issue is.

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image credit: pinterest.com

Once my daughter finally opened up and this was after seeing a psychologist, working with her eating and general health…and just loving her! It was shocking to learn this was happening to my child and she hadn’t told us (her parents) even though it had been happening for 2.5 years already! I felt that once it was out, it helped shift things immensely – we knew what we were dealing with and how we would like to tackle it. My husband and I were exasperated and felt helpless when everything we tried had not helped, but now I realise it was because we hadn’t gotten to the root of the problem.

The issue that triggered my daughter’s anxiety was bullying. Something that I am so opposed to that it just shocked me to the core! I am aware that the bully/ perpetrator is usually dealing with things themselves but I feel there is no excuse for bullying. It doesn’t only impact the victim but their families, and usually for longer than the actual period of time the bullying took place. It is a complex situation and I don’t condone it nor do I tolerate it. As children we first learn from our parents and adults in our life, so I feel it is fundamental that we display behaviours that are congruent with what we teach our children.

What we say or don’t say is behaviour that is observed and learnt by our children. I am becoming more aware of what I say and how I behave to ensure they are congruent with what I say/ teach my daughter. I cannot control other people’s words and actions but I can control mine in order to help guide my daughter. Our children become who we are, if we don’t like who we are then we have the power to change that. As per my favourite song by Whitney Houston, I believe our children are our future. We need to teach them well so they can lead the way as they become adults. Children are our future leaders so time invested in our children is time well spent. Who do you want your children to become? What type of leaders do we want for the future? How do we ensure our children become good role models?

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Image credit: happilyevermom.com

My time invested in my daughter is a work in progress, we are learning together and committed to her health and well-being. That said, she has started high school, made some new friends and has shared her experience with them, she has found them to be supportive and protective of her. She has a tighter group of friends consisting of existing friends plus a few new friends. I have often mentioned to my daughter that friendships will change but if she finds a good group of friends – who support and encourage each other, accepting their differences then hopefully, their bond will grow and strengthen. Since that revelation over a year ago, I have watched my daughter become more assured, happy and healthy in mind and body again. There is still work to be done, the journey is not over but I have been able to exhale…just a little – so we have been able to continue to Laugh.Love.Live more fully again.

Please contact the services available in your area/ country to assist with any issues regarding mental health, bullying, general health and well-being. I have included some website links to some available in Australia but please do not feel limited to these – please feel free to explore all options to find one that is most suitable for you. Peace and blessings!

www.beyondblue.org.au

https://www.lifeline.org.au/

https://www.headspace.com/

https://kidshelpline.com.au/teens

https://www.youthbeyondblue.com/understand-what’s-going-on/bullying-and-cyberbullying

https://bullyingnoway.gov.au/

http://www.thechildrenspsychologyclinic.com.au/

 

 

Who are you becoming?

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The title of this post was a homework question to ponder for an accreditation I am completing. I didn’t like who I was 20, 30 or even 10 years ago but I like who I am becoming. I am becoming authentic – becoming who I am supposed to be. I feel as though I was living my life based on expectations placed on me – whether that be mine, my family, friends’ or society’s. I am unlearning years of conditioned thoughts, actions and behaviours. It took years to learn and will also take years to unlearn and I am glad to be on that journey.

 

I have been on a self-discovery/ learning journey now for about 6 years. Learning about yourself is often an uncomfortable one, accepting things about yourself that you may not like. It is also about looking at what you can change and how you can go about it. It’s not an easy journey and one that I still stumble on but one that I am committed for the whole journey. There are thoughts, actions and behaviours due to unconscious or sub-conscious thoughts/ behaviours that I am still addressing. Sometimes they will pop up at times least expected. Like my one with body image, familiar with most people – females in particular.

When I was younger, I was unhealthy for a long time – physically and mentally. As a result, I was quite thin. People used to say to me “You’re so lucky to be skinny” but I didn’t see that comment as a compliment. I would exercise to try and put on weight, muscle and to look healthy but I remained “skinny”. I was in a toxic environment and this resulted in not being in a good space physically and mentally. I became anaemic, my acne flared and I was making unhealthy food choices – I wasn’t eating or sleeping well for many years. When I was able to remove myself from the situation, I was able to sleep and eat properly. I gained weight, looked healthier and felt better about myself.

However, when I bumped into people who hadn’t seen me since I was “skinny”, the comments I would receive were “Oh, you’ve put on weight” and “Be careful you don’t get too fat”. So, even though I was finally healthy, people didn’t seem to observe this and chose to comment about me getting ‘fat’. I was in my early twenties so image was one of those things that was kind of important (not something I’m proud of but it was reality). I would respond to those people with “Yes, but I’m healthy now”, but I still had a small part of me thinking I was ‘fat’. I try to avoid using those labels especially now that I have a daughter who could be influenced by how I perceive myself. I prefer to say that our bodies should be healthy – regardless of weight, size or shape. By choosing not to use those labels, I am unlearning years of conditioning and still progressing. I have a long way to go but slowly making progress – and progress, no matter how small is still progress. Something that I feel society has yet to tackle successfully eg Media, advertising, films, etc. There has been some progress but there is much more to room to move.

Which is why my comment to a couple of my friends one night bothers me so much, even to this day although it happened a few weeks ago. I caught up with friends I hadn’t seen for a while and we started discussing tattoos. One of my friends, whom I call my ‘tattoo buddy’ as she has accompanied me previously, has a design that she drew and had finally decided where she wanted it to be placed. I love her design and also the location she has decided. I have also been contemplating where I’d like mine and mentioned a spot I was considering. That spot is on my side torso, my friend said with encouragement “Yes, that’s where you should put it!” To which my response was (to my horror) “It just means I can’t get fat”.

Awkward poster

The thing with words is once you have said them, you can’t take them back. I can’t take back my words and I have been ruminating over them since. I realise my comment was a reflection of how I felt about my body, not anyone else’s. I tend not to notice people’s weight/ size unless it is pointed out but I’m quick to criticise myself. Something I am slowly changing… becoming. I’m not perfect, nor will I ever be but I can be better. Even when I facilitate learning, I say “Practice makes permanent” – not perfect. I feel that nothing is perfect. I can practice the change in my thoughts, actions and behaviour to become permanent.

I caught up with my youngest sister recently and we spoke about this question amongst other things. She is also on a self-discovery/ learning journey so our discussion revolved around a few things related to this. My sister spoke about what she wanted in her life right now was different to what/ where some of her friends were at the moment. I said that it was okay for her to be different and she agreed. I also mentioned what her friends want or are doing in their lives at the moment may not be what they want but may be because it is expected of them. We spoke about how sometimes the years of conditioning also takes a long time to unlearn.

How sometimes we may say/ do things sub consciously or unconsciously based on what friends/ family/ society has projected on us rather than what we really want and that we need to become more aware/ conscious to prevent doing that. Especially if it is not congruent with who we are. She mentioned how it is with me being the eldest and her being the youngest (there are 14.5 years between us), how responsibility is always expected of me and sometimes thrust upon me even when I may not want it. I agreed, and mentioned with her being the youngest, that there were also certain expectations that were projected upon her.  We both laughed and said we are ‘flipping the bird’ to expectations! We accept who we are and who we are becoming, faults and all – it’s quite liberating!

So, who are you becoming? How can you ensure you like who you are becoming? What are some things you could start or continue to do, to become who you ARE?

I aim to enable myself and others to Laugh.Love.Live. Thank you for allowing me to share and process my thoughts through this blog. I feel I process things better when I construct my thoughts into writing. Thank you for sharing back with me via your blogs, likes and comments – it is very much appreciated, provoking thought and insight! The definition of authentic is below – I hope to realise point 1, but not so much point 2! Peace and blessings!

authentic
ɔːˈθɛntɪk
adjective
adjective: authentic
  1. of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine.
    “the letter is now accepted as an authentic document”
    synonyms: genuine, original, real, actual, pukka, bona fide, true, veritable; More

    sterling;
    attested, undisputed, rightful, legitimate, lawful, legal, valid;
    echt;
    informalthe real McCoy, the genuine article, the real thing, your actual, kosher, honest-to-goodness;
    informaldinkum;
    raresimon-pure
    “the first authentic Rubens in the museum’s collection”
    antonyms: fake, spurious
    • made or done in the traditional or original way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original.
      “the restaurant serves authentic Italian meals”
    • based on facts; accurate or reliable.
      “an authentic depiction of the situation”
      synonyms: reliable, dependable, trustworthy, authoritative, honest, faithful; More

      accurate, exact, factual, true, truthful, veracious, true to life;
      informalstraight from the horse’s mouth;
      rareveridical
      “an authentic depiction of the situation”
      antonyms: unreliable, inaccurate
    • (in existentialist philosophy) relating to or denoting an emotionally appropriate, significant, purposive, and responsible mode of human life.
  2. Music
    (of a church mode) containing notes between the final (the principal note) and the note an octave higher.

Gratitude!

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Just a quick shout out to my followers – thanks so much, I have reached over 200 follows! It’s reassuring to know that my posts are read and resonate with you all. Thank you to those who have also engaged with my blog by leaving comments – much appreciated! When I started blogging (it has been 6 years to date!), I wasn’t sure how my blog would unfold but it soon took shape and I am continually inspired by fellow bloggers who provide encouragement with their ‘likes’ and ‘follows’. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy lives to read and follow my humble blog and also than you for sharing your experiences, knowledge, ideas, creativity and thoughts via your blogs! Due to work/ study commitments as well as family and extra curricular commitments, I may take a while but I eventually read and follow back those who comment, like or follow my posts. Continue to Laugh.Love.Live via your own blogging experiences – peace and blessings!

 

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From the city of fountains to a coastal escape!

 

As we left Rome, we were excited to start the next phase of our trip which was to relax, rejuvenate and rest. My good friend who went to Italy a few years ago, said that if we are going to Italy then we have to go there – ‘there’ is Positano! We organised to fly to Naples which was humorous in itself as we didn’t realise how quick the flight would be – it was a 45 minute flight and no sooner had we made our ascent, then the pilot announced that we were on our descent! We landed in Naples airport and headed out to meet our driver. It was probably a good hour and a half drive. It was nice to sit and take in the sights as we drive through Naples and headed down and up the winding roads to Positano.

We were staying in Montepertuso which literally translates to hole in the mountain. Our apartment was just underneath that ‘hole’. We had seen the photo taken from the balcony in the booking and it looked amazing, we were excited to arrive and unwind. We arrived before the apartment had been finished cleaning so the daughter of our host, Teresa advised us to go to town centre, which was 5 minutes walk away. She recommended we try Il Ritrovo, it was in Piazza Capella. We walked to the town centre and found Montepertuso to be a quaint little town. There is a general store which we frequented to buy food and supplies during our stay and bus tickets. The restaurant was easy to find, it was the main one there and only one open for lunch which made it an easy choice!

We were seated on the balcony which had wonderful views over the Tyrrhenian Sea. We had glimpses of the amazing view when we arrived at our apartment and along our walk to the Montepertuso town centre. We had a lovely lunch, the restaurant uses all local, fresh produce and the food is very good. We felt relaxed already as we sat and enjoyed the view, the lovely food and the friendly atmosphere at Il Ritrovo. When we finished lunch, our waiter gave us some mixed herbs and dried chilli to take away which came in handy when I cooked dinner a few times during our stay. After lunch we headed back to our apartment to check in, change and head down to Positano Centre.

The bus ride to Positano Centro was a harrowing experience for the uninitiated! It was nail biting as the bus driver navigated the narrow roads where at times, you could reach out the window and touch the side of the mountain! We give the bus drivers much credit as they all navigated the mountainside with ease. At times, you wondered how two cars could fit alongside each other to pass but it happened without incident. The bus stop was at the street which was above our apartment and due every hour. You could buy bus tickets on the bus for 1.30 euro but if we purchased them from a newsagent or at the general store, it was a little cheaper at 1.10 euro. We found out that you could buy as many as you needed in advance as they were one way tickets so we would buy 6 or 9 at a time for the 3 of us. We had no idea once we were dropped off at the bus stop at the Positano Town Centre, which way it was to the beach but we rationalised that we should keep walking down.

As we walked, we passed may shops, markets and the iconic church of Santa Maria Assunta right in the town centre. We didn’t stop to admire much during this walk as we wanted to get to the water to have our first glimpse of the beach and fit in a quick swim for the afternoon. When we arrived, we were not disappointed by the beauty of our surrounds.

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Our first day at Positano and Montepertuso exceeded our expectations. Our host was a lovely man named Raffaele who lived in a nearby apartment as did his daughter, Teresa and her family. Teresa speaks English and helped us with directions, communication and organising a boat trip to Capri on her Father’s boat on our last day in Montepertuso. More about that later. We learnt from our balcony, we could see the island Il Galli – it is privately owned and is the one that looks like a dolphin from the air. Being a private island, you are unable to visit but we were told by Teresa that it has beautiful villas on there and you can see it from the air. I’ve included a picture I found on the internet as some of you may be familiar with it.

Li Galli

Li Galli – picture courtesy of Golden Tours Sorrento

We headed back up through the town after our afternoon swim to catch the bus back to Montepertuso. There is only one bus and the bus stop is right above our doorstep so it was very easy to catch the bus to and from Positano town centre. There is also the option to walk to and from Positano Centro down the many flights of steps and back up – we were advised it would take about 45 minutes either way but we decided the bus trip, although a nail biting experience at times, was an easier alternative with my daughter in tow.

The next day we decided to spend a full day in Positano, after breakfast we headed up to the street (which was up 5 flights of stairs) to get the bus. We did a lot of walking even though we took the bus up and down to Positano Centro! We decided we would relax and enjoy the beach, have lunch and just soak up the sunshine and atmosphere at the main beach. This was our down time, family time at our happy place – beachside and we were savouring every moment!

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We had a couple of days where it was Wake up, eat, beach, sleep, repeat! Then one day we decided to hop on a ferry to explore Amalfi. There are many ferries you can catch from Positano at various times and prices. We walked out to the ferry wharf to find out what time the ferry was due to depart and we were lucky that there was one leaving fairly soon. We bought our tickets and waited to board, we had no expectations and just wanted to see where the day took us. The ferry ride was amazing, we loved seeing the coastline as we sailed down the Amalfi Coast from Positano. We arrived at Amalfi, not knowing what we would do other than wanting to see Grotto Esmeraldo.

When we got off the ferry, there were people asking people to join a boat to go to the grotto, as it was what we wanted to do – we got onto the boat, paid our 15 euros and we were off! It all happened very quickly, no sooner were we off one boat, then we were aboard another! The trip to the grotto was quick, we unloaded and waited at the entrance to the grotto. It cost 5 euro for the tour of the cave – it is one cave and has the nativity scene submerged under the water. There are plenty of stalactites hanging from the ceiling of the cave and due to the refraction of light, the water looks emerald. It was a very quick tour of the cave before we were waiting for the boat to return and take us back to Amalfi. Once we arrived back at Amalfi, we grabbed some lunch near the wharf, then walked into the town centre to explore.

It was such a beautiful little town to explore, markets, stores, we saw the Duomo di Sant’Andrea in all it’s glory. We ate delicious arancini, roamed the streets, taking it all in and found at the end of the main street in the piazza, the Fontana cap e ciuccio. It is an unusual decorated fountain basin which was originally used to refresh the local donkeys who had pulled carts from nearby villages. We enjoyed this spontaneous day trip and we planned to have a couple more before we left the Amalfi Coast.

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Another day trip we decided to do was Sorrento. We arrived to the port and made our way up to the town centre. It was a maze of streets, markets, rows and rows of stores and was very busy. We walked around, looking the Basilica di Sant Antonino which was beautiful and walked to a vantage point to take in the view. We had a lovely lunch in a restaurant down by the marina during the infamous Sorrento Summer storms before heading back to Positano. We weren’t that impressed by Sorrento – we found there were rows of shops and not much else. We spoke to another couple waiting for the same return ferry to Positano and they shared the same sentiment. We were glad to have experienced it for ourselves, although we now wish we had visited Ravello instead. It will have to wait for another time!

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We spent Father’s Day at Positano, having lunch at a restaurant with great views a little further from the main beach, called Ristorante Lo Guarracino. The food was amazing and was a great way to celebrate Father’s day while away! We explored walking around from the restaurant to a little beach further up, taking in the gorgeous views and enjoying the scenic walk. It was a spontaneous exploration where we uncovered a great walking track, having our own little adventure! We were liking our stay here at Positano more each day, always something amazing to discover!

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On our last day, it was nice enough to go out on the boat trip to Capri. We were excited to be able to take the trip because we had booked a different boat trip but due to the storm a day earlier, it was cancelled and our deposit refunded. Initially, we were supposed to share the boat with two other people but we were lucky to have it to ourselves for the day. The weather was beautiful, sunny and calm seas – it was an amazing way to end our week in Positano. We toured along the Positano coast then headed out to Capri. The sea was calm, the sun was shining, there were no clouds or rain in sight! We sailed under the famous arch of Il Faraglioni where we were advised that it was good luck to kiss your sweetheart as you pass undderneath, which we happily obliged!

Raffaele gave us a tour around the island of Capri before we disembarked. We had lunch at Ristorante Lo Zodiaco, it was a lovely place to eat lunch by the water and helped my daughter to feel better as she had gotten a little seasick as we travelled across from Positano. We wanted to see the blue grotto but when we bought tickets, the man said “if it is open”. When were we aboard the boat, we were advised that due to the storm a couple of days ago, it wasn’t open but we still enjoyed the boat trip – we love being in and around water.

We returned to peruse the markets along the marina, unfortunately we didn’t have time to go up to the gardens due to the time taken to see if the blue grotto was open but we still enjoyed the day – we knew we would return one day. On the return trip to Positano, Raffaele stopped the boat in the bay of a small beach. It is only accessible by boat and we jumped into the clear aqua waters of the Tyrrhenian sea! It was the  highlight of our trip. We swam to the beach, walked along the beach before heading back into the water to swim back to the boat. I languished in the sea a little longer, not wanting the day to end. The water was so refreshing and clear, it was such a treat and a great way to cap off our week in Positano!

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We hope you enjoyed Positano and the Amalfi coast as much as we did – we hope to return to explore more of the area and see places we didn’t get to visit this time around. Our ‘places to go’ list seems to grow each day! We definitely felt relaxed and rejuvenated after a week here. It was a priority to Laugh.Love.Live during our time here and we looked forward to visiting a few more places in the eternal city before heading home. I’ll leave with a few pictures of us exploring Montepertuso, the main piazza, the Chiesa Santa Maria delle Grazie and the “Pierced rock” where the legend states that Mother Mary fought with the devil ( in Serpent form) and won. Mother Mary pierced the rock with her finger as a sign of her everlasting presence here – what a great legend! Peace and Blessings!

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Ville D’amour

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Roundabout at Avenue de Villiers

This is the third destination of our European Adventure – we boarded the Thalys from Midi station in Belgium excited about our next destination. We are enjoying our European adventure immensely and looked forward to each new country. We arrived with a little trepidation as my friend and relatives in Belgium warned us to keep our bags close because of pickpockets and watch for drivers who take tourists unawares, charging extortionate fares. We arrived to armed guards and police guarding the station. Police directed tourists to the taxi stand to wait for a taxi. I spoke to a fellow traveller while waiting in line for a taxi who said he loves this city and said he comes back every year just to visit. He recommended markets near the Eiffel Tower on the weekend and said he caught the metro, walked the streets and emphasised it was a safe city – a great recommendation upon arrival!

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This city is my Aunt’s favourite city of all the places she has visited – she has spoken about it many times and has been back several times to visit. Now that I’ve been there, I can see why. One of my close friends who helped me with planning this leg of our trip, sent me a message asking me what my first impression of the city was moments after I had arrived. My response was “such a pretty city”. The city I am referring to is Paris – ah Paris!

A few hours after arriving in Paris, we made our way to the first attraction and I fell in love with the city – the vibe, the beauty, the history. J’adore Paris! When I found out we were staying only a 15 minute walk away from the Arc de Triomphe, I didn’t tell my husband or daughter where we were headed except to say “Just keep walking” when they asked “Where are we going?”. When it came into view, I said with a flourish “That’s where we are going!” It was such a breathtaking moment and seemed very surreal – to be facing a monument that I had only dreamed about and seen only on TV or in books. I couldn’t believe we were standing at the busy roundabout where the Arc de Triomphe stood! It was a breathtaking moment for me and I daresay also for my husband and daughter.

We observed the traffic on that roundabout and deduced that it was a crazy, busy roundabout! We even observed a man gambling with his life when he decided to cross the traffic to get to the Arc but I assure you there is a much safer and easier passage via the underpass! Upon returning home, my friend told me that travel insurance companies don’t cover you if you drive at that roundabout and now that I have seen it first hand, I can see why! After 7 days of observing traffic there, we still couldn’t make sense of who was supposed to give way, or how you would enter and exit!

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Our next two days were aboard the hop on, hop off Big Bus tour of Paris – we caught the metro to Trocadero and had our first glimpse of the Tour Eiffel! It was a bit grey but we were amazed to be standing in sight of it! We then walked  across the road to board the big bus. We were able to catch many sights, take many photos, hop off and spend time before catching another bus to the next stop!

Over the two days we saw the Tour Eiffel, Champ de Mars, Ecole Militaire, Hotel des Invalides (Napoleon’s final resting place), Petit Palais, Grand Palais, Avenue de Champs Elysees, Arc De Triomphe, Palais de L’Elsee, Place de la Concorde, Eglise de la Madeleine, Opera Garnier, Musee de Louvre, Musee D’Orsay, Musee de L’Orangerie, Jardin des Tuileries, Trocadero, Notre Dame, Musee de L’Homme, Musee de la Marine, Moulin Rouge, Sacre Coeur, Gar de Nord, Gar de l’Est and Musee Grevin, just to name a few!

We didn’t have time to see inside everything but will definitely have to come back to visit places we would like to explore further! A fellow blogger also visited the Palais Garnier went inside and has graciously given me permission to provide a link to their video of their visit – it is a beautiful building, as were many of the buildings in Europe! The Phantom of the Opera’s falling chandelier scene was inspired by the real-life event of a chandelier falling from this Opera Garnier’s ceiling because of the weight. Please enjoy the video:

https://miutravels.wordpress.com/2017/09/11/a-short-vid-of-palais-garnier-in-paris/

We saw so much and some we chose to only pass by but the places we did spend time in was amazing, these included the Musee de Louvre, Musee D’Orsay & Musee de L’Orangerie. We also spent time at the Eiffel tower and Trocadero, outside Opera Garnier, visited Petit Palais where there was free entry (that was a nice surprise), went to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and visited the Sacre Coeur – my daughter said that she didn’t want to have to climb any more stairs after those two visits! There are 284 steps to climb to get to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and 270 steps to the Sacre Coeur! Our legs definitely got a workout visiting those two places! For those who are unable to climb that many stairs, there is a lift in the Arc de Triomphe where it takes you nearly to the top and there are only about 40 or so stairs to climb to the top. At Montmatre, you can ride the funicular to the top of the hill to make it easier to get to the Sacre Couer, and there is also a ramp and lifts at the Basilica for disabled access. We also visited the Arch La Defense and took the lift to the top to take in the panoramic views of Paris! My daughter was glad that there weren’t stairs to climb!

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We also visited Pont Neuf and the little park underneath – the Square de Vert Galant which is on the Seine river. It is a nice place to relax and enjoy Paris!  The name Pont Neuf translates to ‘New Bridge’ but it is actually the oldest stone bridge in Paris! We saw many people had put padlocks onto the bridge with their names/ initials – whilst we think this is a lovely sentiment, we feel it took away from the beauty of the bridge. We also had a quick visit to Galleries La Fayette to buy a gift! It is such a beautiful building with a gorgeous dome roof which has a restaurant in which to sit and enjoy. There is so much to see and do in Paris, we have agreed we need visit again at a more leisurely place to explore the places we were unable to do visit time.

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After our busy couple of days around the city of Paris, we went on a day trip to Giverny to visit the house and gardens of Claude Monet – my favourite artist! The gardens were beautiful and seemed like I was standing in a replica of his paintings! I couldn’t believe I was standing there taking it all in! Claude Monet was a french impressionist artist who made money while still alive thanks to the dedicated support of collectors, most notably from Americans who discovered his work in the 1880s. Monet’s famous paintings of water lilies were inspired from his own garden.

https://www.claudemonetgallery.org/biography.html

Monet’s house was also wonderful, he loved colour and his house reflected that with colourful rooms and paintings. Monet liked Japanese prints and had his own private collection at his home. All the artwork in his home have been replaced with replicas – with the amount of people visiting there are sure to be valuable pieces which may be damaged or go missing!

After a beautiful morning, we headed off to a traditional french restaurant in Normandy and along the way, our bus driver went our of his way to stop and let us see a 12th century castle (the top/ turret of the castle was built in the 12th century). It was used by the Germans as their headquarters during the war, it is the Chateau de La Roche-Guyon. It is now a museum which holds guided tours, the 14th century addition is the main building which you can see behind the gates. Just when we thought the day couldn’t get any better, we arrived at our picturesque destination – Moulin de Fourges, it was built in 1790 on the ruins of a former mill, it is one of the most elegant mills in the valley inspired by the architecture of Queen Marie Antoinette’s hamlet at Versailles. We had traditional French food, which is simple but very nice – a lovely salmon pate for entree, Chicken for main and tart tatin for dessert because Normandy is also famous for its apples. The lunch was also paired with some lovely french wine.

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After lunch, we explored the gardens around the restaurant and found an artist painting by the banks of the river. I purchased one of his paintings as did a few other people who were part of our tour, they were reasonably priced and were great souvenirs of the trip. My painting is hanging in the same room I am writing this blog where I can enjoy it and be reminded of that lovely afternoon!

We headed off to see one more grand palais that afternoon, the Chateau de Versailles! We had heard a lot about it but until you see it for yourself, you cannot imagine the scale of opulence and grandeur! It is amazing to see – the building and gates gilded in gold, opulent fabrics, paintings, statues and ornate ceilings. The gardens are also beautiful and have fountains synchronised to music. The garden is apparently smaller than the original gardens – the adverse history surrounding the palace makes you feel a bit disgusted at the opulence, when you hear that the people of Paris were starving but King Louis XIV lived in all that grandeur!

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We came, we visited and we loved Paris! We ate the most scrumptious croissants and pastries (loved the chocolate eclairs!), baguettes and even tried some burgundy snails -well, when in France! All in all, we had a wonderful time and were sorry to be leaving vowing to return again some day to visit Paris at a more leisurely pace and also see more of France, particularly the south. It seemed that this European adventure was getting better and better at each destination and we still had one more country with a few more places to visit! We definitely were applying Laugh.Love.Live to the full – our first taste of Europe creating an appetite wanting more!

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I hope you are enjoying our adventures as much as we did, we learnt so much on this trip – Europe is immensely rich in history! It is nice to relive the memories, discoveries and adventures – thanks for sharing them with us and hope you will join us on the final leg of our European Adventure. Peace and blessings!