Trauma & Addiction…

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This picture makes me laugh so much, I was clearly suffering from Middle Child Syndrome – I wasn’t happy that the arrival of my baby brother was over-shadowing my 5th birthday.

Recently I completed my studies in Counselling with no intention of working as a counsellor. Weird I know…

Someone once asked me if I was addicted to studying. I’m not, or maybe I am. I actually enjoy learning, meeting new people and having shared thoughts. But I also like the brain stimulation, the stress of deadlines, the amazing feeling when I handed in an assignment. By the way, I don’t pretend to be in any way cool….

Truthfully, I started my degree in Early Childhood for a number of reasons – there is a ‘joke’ – or perhaps it is more of an understanding, that we become Early Childhood Educators because we ourselves missed out on a childhood.

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Bachelor of ECT – 2004

I finished my undergraduate degree in Early Childhood and was and always will be incredibly passionate about child development. I then completed a postgrad specialising in Early Childhood Education, followed by my Masters specialising in the Early Childhood and the Multicultural classroom. I wanted to start a doctorate, but by that stage child development was not as strong a focus for me. Besides, I think my mum was done trying to find a place for the framed pictures and degrees at her place.

The reason I enrolled in the Counselling degree was due to having several people in my life with addictions. I honestly did not understand why and how someone could voluntarily want to get high, drink, gamble, smoke so excessively to the point it could destroy the relationships around them. To give up one of those things was harder than fighting for those that you cared about.

That line. Can I just say has brought me to tears. I have just had a flash of those people I had to say goodbye to over the years. It took me a very long time, I am talking years for me to understand that while felt I was supporting these people through their tough times, I was actually enabling them. I was, in their heads, accepting of their addictions.

When I first moved to Japan, as incredible and exciting experience as it was, the first year away was also my loneliest, I had also come out of a 3 year relationship and I thought by moving overseas this would help – of course it did not, and I found myself studying to fill that void as best as I could.

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Postgraduate in Education – 2006

I started working as a consultant in the EC field and met an amazing group of professionals who all shared an incredible amount of knowledge, but I also found we had different strengths when it came to creating an inclusive Early Childhood program.

Through my caseload, I began to read many different reports and assessments on children with additional needs. It was here that I began to see some links with high needs children with challenging behaviour where one or both of the parents had history of trauma either with themselves or in the family. I then began to see the future links with trauma in Early Childhood and on-going issues in adult life, especially with mental illness and addictions. For this reason I wanted to go beyond reading a variety of articles and learn more at university, so I began studying again!

Note, I am not a psychologist, I am not a counsellor, the information I have found is based on research that I found beneficial to answering some of my questions. I understand that some people may not agree with my views, however I do believe the trauma that can occur in the early years can be supported – and hopefully allow a child to continue being a child.

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Postgraduate in Counselling – 2016

 

I found the information to be incredibly intriguing as to the links between trauma and supporting a child’s well-being through this time. This is where the importance of Circle of Security comes into play.

What is trauma?

I think this article from KidsMatter explains Trauma in the Early Years clearly “it is important to remember that trauma is not the event but the reaction to the event“. The response to the event will vary from person to person, child to child. The effects on the individual will also depend on the reaction to the response. For example, if the response is prolonged, this can embed the trauma and therefore become long-term trauma or lead to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Supporting Trauma:

The best way to support a child through trauma is to ensure that the child is safe and genuinely feels safe. It is also important to talk through the what has happened, what is happening and to label the emotions. I refer to Circle of Security. The program is nothing revolutionary and is the basis of everything we know and understand in Early Childhood.

An Example:

A few years ago I taught a 4 year old who despite being in child care from 6 weeks, without fail she would cry at drop off and separation from mum and dad was difficult for everyone involved. When the child – let’s call her Ellie started at my centre, I was immediately told by the parents this information. I encouraged prior orientation, and Ellie became very familiar with myself and the other educators. Within a few weeks, Ellie had settled really well, there were no tears and she was engaging with peers and thriving. All seemed perfect…so I thought.

Mum then explained Ellie’s high anxiety over the weekend and on the drive to preschool, none of which was observed at the centre and she never exhibited this with dad either. As we got to know each other better, more information was shared, to which I then learnt Ellie had gone through a very traumatic experience and had been in and out of hospital for the first few years of her life to correct issues with her stomach. On each occasion to the hospital, it was mum who had taken her.

Ellie’s anxiety was embedded responses to the intrusive medical procedures. With the family, we researched and found a wonderful child psychologist who was able to support them and enabled Ellie to work through her emotions.

It is important to recognise that sometimes as an educator or parent this is not an area of expertise, which is why they are child psychologists. Understandably this can be a high cost, however Medicare can support this with the Mental Health Care Plan which can cover all or some of the cost. Mental Health Care Plans can be accessed through your GP who can then refer you to a psychologist.

The Link to Addiction:

It is nothing new to state that childhood trauma can increase the risk of an individual developing an addiction or depression later in life, however there are different studies that also suggest changes in the brain or triggers affecting neural networks.

It makes sense, an addiction increases dopamine and therefore taking away the pain the individual may be feeling. In addition, this is an emotional response – if I am not feeling good right now, what will make me feel good?

This goes back to how we learn to self-regulate.

Here are a couple YouTube videos that explain this much better than I do;

 

Loving someone with an addiction is exhausting. It can and will break you. The hardest part is letting go and finally understanding that because you care you are continuing to fuel their addiction. By trying to protect them, you are accepting their addictions. But they will continue to lie, manipulate and destroy people around them. Until they seek help they cannot and will not get better. There are amazing support networks out there.

The most difficult part is understanding that the trauma they faced as an innocent child has brought them here, and until they face those demons, they will never change. In the meantime, as educators, as adults we have a voice and we need to protect the children around us.

Chocolate Mousse…

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I do not have a sweet tooth, but I have limited to zero control around chocolate…I’ve heard it’s medically proven it’s good for you – enough said

When it comes to some easy, but indulgent desserts, who doesn’t love a quick but delicious chocolate mousse? This recipe literally takes about 10 minutes to prepare.

Ingredients:

  • 200g dark cooking chocolate
  • 50g butter
  • 250ml thickened cream
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar

Method:

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In a microwave safe bowl, add 200g dark cooking chocolate

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Add 50g butter. In a microwave melt in bursts of 30 seconds

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In a separate bowl add 250ml thickened cream, whip the cream until soft peaks form

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Stir butter and chocolate mixture until combined

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Separate the 4 eggs, whites in one container

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Add the 4 yolks to chocolate mixture

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Whisk egg whites until soft peaks form

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Add 2 tablespoons caster sugar until mixture is thick and sugar has dissolved

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Combine chocolate and egg yolks

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Add thickened cream and fold through

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Add egg whites

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Fold through until combined

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Add into individual bowls or ramekins and set in fridge for at least 3 hours

To decorate I added some white and milk chocolate drops, but you can also add raspberries.

Blueberry & Oat Mini-Muffins…

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When it comes to baking, the easier the better! I like recipes that are quick and can be adapted to create something new. When I went shopping I saw blueberries were on sale and changed this original recipe which calls for bananas and added the blueberries instead. I think quite easily the fruit could be adjusted for anything from raisins to raspberries, even walnuts.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 90g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/4 cups blueberries

Method:

Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly grease muffin tray – I used the mini-muffin tray to make 24, but a regular tray may make about 12.

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In a mixing bowl, add dry ingredients. 1 1/12 cups plain flour

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1 cup rolled oats

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2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder & 1 teaspoon salt

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1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

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3/4 cup sugar. Then stir dry ingredients together.

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In a separate bowl, melt 90g butter and allow to cool

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Add 1/2 cup milk

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Add 2 lightly beaten eggs to the mixture.

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Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients. Add 1 1/4 cup blueberries

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Using a metal spoon stir ingredients until combined.

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Add mixture to muffin tray and cook for 15-20 minutes.

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Allow to cool and place on wire rack to cool.

 

 

Cheoreg – Armenian Easter Bread…

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“Mum, I’m going to make Cheoreg”.

My mother’s reaction to this was not really a surprise – she blankly stared at me and responded with “why, when you can buy it?”

Traditions:

My family story can be viewed as a complicated one, and for a very long time I felt quite lost with my identity. It is only now, in my mid-thirties, that I can embrace my cultural background.

My parents are Armenian, yet I was born in Switzerland, and have spent a majority of my life living in Australia. A close friend of mine described me as being 70% European, 30% Aussie…I’d say that changes back and forth on a daily basis.

Growing up, I always felt out of place in my social circle and even in my family. It was

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My uncle & nana who both passed away in 2012.

only when I met two of my Great-Aunts that I finally felt I made sense. My Grandmother (Nana) was the matriarch. She rarely smiled. She rarely hugged us. Nana was a tough lady that we all truly believed would outlive us all. To this day we do not actually know how old she was when she passed away as she had no papers when leaving Iran and created some ‘younger’ birthdate.

But Nana was the one who followed the Armenian traditions, and when she passed away in 2012 so did the Armenian family gatherings. 6 months later, my wonderful Uncle passed and my already very small family was halved.

This year I wanted to bring back these traditions and so hence why I decided to make Cheoreg. What’s Cheoreg? Armenian Easter Bread.

Armenian Easter:

The traditions we celebrate are not about religion. Two things I love about Easter is the decorating of the eggs and the pilaf with crispy potatoes. We also eat kuku sabzi and smoked cod.

This year I also decided to make Cheoreg, which I have never made before. The recipe itself is easy to follow, however it’s a lengthy process, and to be honest it tasted amazing, but I’m not sure I got the texture right, and I think I didn’t bake it long enough. But then my family & friends polished it off pretty quickly! I hope my Nana would have been proud. The fragrance while baking filled the home, so overall I am really happy I made it – will attempt again next year🙂

One of the ingredients is Mahleb which I purchased from the Lebanese/Armenian deli in Willoughby – but I think is available at most Middle Eastern supermarkets.

* This recipe will make 3 loaves.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 packet active dry yeast or 2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast from a jar
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick)
  • 5 large eggs (+ 1 yolk for the egg wash)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1½ tablespoons ground mahleb
  • 6 cups all purpose flour + ½ cup for kneading

Method:

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Add 2 cups of milk to a heat-safe jug and microwave for 1-2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon sugar.

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Add 2 1/4 teaspoon of dry yeast and stir mixture. Let sit for 25-30 minutes.

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In a separate bowl add 1/2 cup of butter and melt.

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Leave melted butter to sit for same time as milk mixture.

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In a large bowl, add 5 eggs

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Add 3/4 cup sugar

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1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

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Mahleb – or Mahlepi in Greek

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Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of Mahelb

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Stir mixture

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Add the milk mixture and melted butter

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Next, add 6 cups of flour to the liquid

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Using a wood spoon, combine the ingredients together. This will be quite sticky.

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Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until no longer sticky (about 5 minutes) – you may need more flour depending on the weather.

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Grease a large bowl with butter and add the dough. Cover with cling wrap

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Cover this with a tea-towel. Let dough sit for 5-7 hours so it doubles in size.

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Turn dough out onto a lightly flour surface and knead.

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Divide the dough into 3, and then into 3 sections again

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Roll out into about 30-40cm ropes.

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Braid the ropes and then turn into a circle. Put onto a baking tray with grease-proof paper and then cover with a tea-towel. Let sit for 20-25 minutes.

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Preheat oven to 180C. Then make an eggwash – using one egg white and a tiny bit of water and brush onto the loaves.

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Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until dark and golden on top (so baking time may vary with your oven). Remove from oven and let cool on wire cooling rack.

 

Then eat with some butter or jam – cherry is my favourite!

White Chocolate Chip & Cranberry Cookies…

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As a child  was always hovering around my parents as they cooked. I think it came to mum as a huge relief when I began offering to cook the family dinners and bake. Still at mums place now there is a big plastic container full of ‘my things’ – ranging from holiday themed patty cases to cookie cutters that I have purchased over the years. I have always loved trying to make something new, and I was really fortunate to have 2 brothers who absolutely devoured anything that was put in front of them – and they are fortunate that they attend the gym regularly!

When it comes to cooking, I really enjoy it and it is no doubt the European in me that believes cooking for people is a way of showing you care. It should be fun, and easy and a time to allow yourself to be creative.

I love recipes that are simple yet different, and these white chocolate chip and cranberry cookies just tick every box.

Ingredients:

  • 1 2/3 cup plain flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate drops
  • 150g butter
  • 1 egg

Method:

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First, preheat your oven to 160C (fan forced). Add 1 2/3 cup of plain flour and 1 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

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Sift into a large bowl.

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Add 1 cup of brown sugar

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Add 1/2 cup of shredded coconut

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Next add 1/2 cup of dried cranberries

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And then 1/2 cup of white chocolate drops

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In a microwave safe bowl, melt 150g butter of butter and add to the dry ingredients.

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Lightly beat an egg and add to mixture

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Using a metal spoon, combine the ingredients

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Until they all come together

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On a tray lined with baking paper, spoon out the mixture

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This should make about 24.

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Pop into the oven for about 12-15 minutes.

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Bake until they are nice and golden.

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Bon Appetit!

Reflection on Practice…

For the past 12 months, I have been facilitating Reflection on Practice (RoP) Sessions. I have been working collaboratively with other Early Childhood Professionals to put together sessions on Positive Behaviour Guidance and Using Communication and Visuals to Support the Care Environment.

Based on the feedback that was received after the sessions, many Educators reflected they wanted more training and strategies on behaviour.

If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always got…

Recently, I facilitated the first RoP session titled “Tools to Support the Care Environment”. In the past the sessions have been limited to 8 Educators and to 2 hours. This time we allocated up to 20 spots and this RoP would be held over 2 sessions of 3 & 2 hours. In putting this session together, I worked collaboratively with a colleague of mine Lisa, who has worked in the field of inclusion for many years. She also still currently teaches support classes at a Primary School in Sydney.

Lisa has over 10 years teaching experience and has worked in a variety of roles ranging from Early Intervention and supporting families through to working 7 years in an Autism Specific School. With extensive experience  teaching children with additional needs such as ASD and Cerebral Palsy, Lisa has highly specialised skills with supporting the care environment through the use of visuals and Makaton (now Keyword Sign).

Understanding what is behaviour:

When a child consistently presents with behaviours that are challenging or puzzling, our first response is often instinctive. This response is based on our own experience as children and/or as parents. This initial response may be unhelpful bringing with it a complex web of relationships, values and expectations that hold little relevance to the child and their situation.

If we want to have a better understanding of children’s behaviour, we need to view it though a new lens. The ‘Circle of Security’ model (Marvin, Cooper, Hoffman & Powell, 2002) is one way. This model translates attachment theory (which is complex) into a working model for both parents and childcare staff to apply to their daily practice.

We need to;

  • Manage roles so that there is always an adult physically and emotionally available to children.
  • Being aware of where children are on the circle and what intervention is required to help them manage their emotions.
  • Providing safe hands for each child – a refuge for when their emotions are too big for them to manage.
  • Reflecting on how we can support all children to effectively use the circle, at the same time teaching emotional regulation.

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For more information on Circle of Security, you can purchase Robyn Dolby’s “The Circle of Security: Roadmap to building supportive relationships” (e-version) from the Early Childhood Australia shop. Currently this is reduced to $10.

Considering our Care Environment:

During this RoP session we reflected on the impact of the Early Childhood environment. Below is a visual to highlight that the minute we walk in the door to work, our bubble expands to include Children, Families, Educators and our own outside negative (or positive) influences.

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The responses shared by the Educators at the RoP were that this image was overwhelming. Some other feedback included;

“Understanding to be more patient and communicate more with co-workers.”

“To ensure to share ideas with all Educators.”

“Reflect on the environment more regularly.”

“To consider thinking about all people who are involved in the environment.”

“To remember everyone has impacts in their live.”

In considering keeping our children to feel safe and secure, we need to look at our Care Environment; we need to look at many different aspects. These include;

  • Layout
  • Consistent Routines “How do we do that?”
  • Consistent Educators
  • Consistent rules & values “Who’s involved?”
  • Language “Are we talking positively?”
  • Child appropriate
  • Consistent approach with challenges or is the same outcome & consequence for each scenario

Reflecting on our Teaching:

We split into groups and reflected on our care environments and considered some of the challenges we encounter on a regular basis. Many Educators shared very similar scenarios and we reflected on some of our own personal barriers. Professionally supporting each other we looked closely at strategies for visuals, routines, transitions and expectations of the children, our colleagues and ourselves. Below are examples of visuals; Quadrant turn-taking clock and Boardmaker Visuals for Group Time.

Turn-taking clock

Group time

The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) has some fantastic resources which are easily accessible and free. These range from templates to videos which can be used as great supportive tools. Here are some links;

Reflective Practice: http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/nqsplp/e-learning-videos/talking-about-practice/reflecting-on-practice/

Thinking about Practice: http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/nqsplp/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/EYLFPLP_Thinking_about_practice_Planner_Screen.pdf

Professional Learning Program Materials: http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/nqsplp/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/EYLFPLP_E-Newsletter_No20.pdf

Further Professional Development:

If you would like for Lisa or myself (or both) to provide further support through role-modelling or facilitate a Reflection on Practice Session at your service, you can PM via beingmissevie@gmail.com (please note we are in the area of Sydney, NSW).

Children’s Services Central: http://www.cscentral.org.au/development/cscentral-professional-development.html

Early Learning Association Australia: https://elaa.org.au/services_resources/training

Hot Cross Buns…

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Heading closer to Easter and while bakeries and supermarkets have been selling hot cross buns since the 26th December, I’m not complaining, it’s probably the only time I really eat bread…and the chocolate chip ones are a little bit amazing…did I mention I have a weak spot for chocolate🙂

So considering cooking with children, anything that encourages children to work together, be creative thinkers, build on their literacy & numeracy skills, can only be beneficial for their development, cognition, and social and emotional well-being…if they can get their hands dirty…that’s a considerable bonus!!

Here is a very simple recipe for making Hot Cross Buns.

Ingredients:

  • 27 g sachet Dry Yeast (or 30g fresh yeast)
  • 300 ml Milk, warmed
  •  cups Plain Flour
  • 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 90 g Butter, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups Mixed Dried Fruit
  • 1/4 cup Caster Sugar
  • 1 Egg

Crosses:

  • 4–5 tbsp Water
  • 1/2 cup Plain Flour

Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup Water
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 1 tsp Mixed Spice

Method:

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Warm 300ml milk, add sachet of dried yeast. Stir and leave in a warm place for 5 minutes until mixture is foamy.

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Let 90g of butter soften.

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In a mixing bowl add 4 cups of plain flour.

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Add 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.

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Add softened butter and rub togteher with fingertips.

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Add 1 1/2 cups of dried fruit. I added cranberries and mixed dried peel.

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Add 1/4 cup caster sugar. Stir mixture together.

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To the milk mixture, add 1 egg and whisk. Add to the flour mixture.

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Combine mixture and knead, knead, knead.

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Transfer to a lightly greased bowl and leave in a warm place to double in size.

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Dough will have doubled in size. Preheat oven to 220C.

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Punch dough with your fist.

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Separate the dough into 16 pieces. Add to a greased tray. Placing close together.

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Mix 1/2 cup plain flour with 4-5 tablespoons of water. Mix to create a paste.

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You can use a piping bag, but I used a teaspoon. I call this the rustic look🙂

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Put into the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

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Reduce oven to 200C and bake for further 10 minutes.

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To make glaze, simmer 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon of mixed spice.

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Brush over hot buns.

 

Jam Drops…

 

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I must have been about 7 or 8 and I had entered an IXL (the jam) colouring competition and won myself a children’s cookbook. I was pretty excited and I felt really grown up that I had my own cookbook. I started going through the recipes and deciding what to make – the first thing I baked was jam drops. To this day, I still follow that easy recipe! My mum was incredibly supportive with my creativity, and understood my need to be independent. With 2 brothers who both have a weakness for sweets, I was always busy (and happily) baking.

For 2 years I lived in a place with a terrible oven and to avoid the constant disappointment of burning the base and uncooked centres of cakes I stopped baking and relied on no bake recipes. Now that I have a decent oven again, I am making up for lost time and baking almost every second day. Personally I find cooking an enjoyable experience.

Benefits of cooking with kids

As much as any activity can be fun, what I always promote is connections. Relationship building is the most important. With cooking, you’re not just making food, you are teaching science in action; helping to lay down basic math, reading and time-telling skills; encouraging healthy food choices; building confidence and creativity; enhancing communication and deepening connections with your child. Indeed, cooking with little ones is nothing short of awesome.

Cooking with kids gives you the chance to introduce them to fresh, healthy food and interesting ways of cooking it. It can be lots of fun, and it’s also a way of spending more time with your children.

There are also all sorts of things your child can learn while helping you to cook, including:

  • what different foods look and feel like
  • where foods come from
  • how to get food ready for cooking – for example, washing and peeling vegies
  • what new words mean – for example, whisk, peel, egg beater, grater
  • how to understand measuring and maths concepts – for example, half, one teaspoon, 30 minutes
  • how to follow instructions in a recipe and do things step by step
  • how to wait patiently for that cake to rise!

This recipe is incredibly easy (not healthy :) but we can indulge once in a while) and should make about 25-30 cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 125g butter
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cup self-raising flour
  • small amount extra plain flour
  • some of your favourite jam(s)

Method:

Preheat oven to 180C (moderate heat). Line baking trays with baking paper.

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In a mixing bowl add 125g melted (softened butter)

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Add 1/2 cup caster sugar

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Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence and on medium speed, combine the mixture

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Add 1 egg

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Combine the mixture

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Mixture should look quite creamy

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Add 1 1/4 cups of sifted self-raising flour

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Using a spoon, combine the mixture together

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The mixture is quite sticky so add some plain flour onto your hands, separate the mixture into balls onto the trays

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With some plain flour on your fingers, press a hole in the middle

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Add some jam, I used apricot. Bake for about 15 minutes.

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Bon Appetit!

Frozen Mars Bar Mousse…

 

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With my brother’s 30th coming up I wanted to spoil his sweet tooth and was prepared to take days off work to get a cake together. I spent months (not an exaggeration) researching different cakes, I had looked into purchasing soccer ball cake tins which would be shipped from the UK, I contacted the local cake supply store for special food colourings and decorations, and I asked for my colleagues input and I narrowed the list down to 10 very indulgent cakes.

His response was “the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make” and he had decided on the Frozen Mars Bar Mousse cake. The boy (man) loves his ice-cream, I should have known he would have picked the giant Mars Bar Ice-Cream cake.

Looking at the recipe, it’s quite simple. Maybe a little too simple. I always feel like I’m bound to fail when it comes to basic cooking – like roasts, I will literally stand in front of the oven watching it cook, and it is always undercooked.

So…I had to work out the time frame where I knew a group of us could come together & enjoy without the cake melting!

This is a really simple (yet indulgent) dessert which children can help to make, I think it

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Moment, lips, lifetime, hips…but so worth it…

will please your inner child.

Ingredients:

  • 6 x 60g Mars Bars
  • 600ml thickened cream
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 50g dark chocolate melted

Method:

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Using a loaf pan, spray vegetable oil and then line with cling wrap.

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Chop up 4 Mars Bars.

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Add in 300ml of cream. Melt over a pan of simmering water or use the microwave in bursts of 30 seconds.

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Add in remaining 300 ml cream and add in 3 egg yolks.

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Stir and leave to slightly cool.

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Using electric mixers beat the 3 egg whites until stiff peaks forms.

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Fold in egg whites into chocolate mixture.

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Pour into prepared pan and cover with cling wrap.

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Put into the freezer and leave overnight (or at least 8-12 hours) until firm.

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Turn out onto a plate, and remove the cling wrap. Chop up remaining Mars Bars and put on top.

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Melt dark chocolate and drizzle over top.

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Perfect for the big kid🙂

 

It’s a Walk-Off…

Flashback to the year 2001 and my then boyfriend came home and gave me the Billy Blanks Tae Bo VHS box set (yes VHS). He used to be a professional kick boxer and would occasionally train me, I think the gift was meant to be a joke but I was instantly captivated by the tacky dance music and Billy Blanks looking all fabulous in a bright

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I know…captivating…

blue skin tight full-length leotard and leg warmers. Feeling absolutely athletically challenged in comparison to, well almost anyone, I actually found the Tae Bo workouts fun and achievable. To this day I still love the workout, but thankfully can now access on YouTube. If it’s raining I will do an 1-1.5 hour session of cardio and love how good I feel after and it really clears my head. On a gorgeous day, I walk.

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, instead I prefer to set goals. An on-going goal is that every month I attempt to achieve 100km’s – weather pending.

I consider myself quite a creative person and I have a considerable amount of ideas and thoughts, my brain is constantly active and I find walking calms me and allows me the opportunity to reorganise my thoughts into positives and achieve everything I set out to. 2016 brings many big (but exciting) changes and adventures, and I really want to feel prepared.

The other day in the office I pondered out loud if it was achievable to reach 100km’s in a week. My Manager commented absolutely and would join in the challenge (well it was more like ‘Game On B****’). One colleague turned to me with concern and asked why I was attempting this – my response was I needed to do this for my own Emotional and Cognitive Self-Regulation. Ladies & gentleman, it’s a walk-off!

What is Self-Regulation?

Self-regulation is a person’s ability to adjust and control their own energy level, emotions, behaviours and attention. Appropriate self regulation suggests that this is done in ways that are socially acceptable.

Why is Self-Regulation Important for Children?

Kid Sense describes self-regulation skills as a link to how well children manage many tasks during early childhood. With these skills, children are more able to manage difficult and stressful events that occur as part of life, such as loss of a pet, death of a family member or family separation. This helps to decrease the ongoing impact of stress that can contribute to mental health difficulties.

As a child learns to self-regulate, skills such as concentrating, sharing and taking turns also develop. This enables a child to move from depending on others to beginning to manage by themselves. Most children at some stage will struggle to manage their feelings and behaviours, particularly when they are tired, hungry or facing new experiences. When this happens, they might become upset, sulky or angry. This is all part of being a young child and is not necessarily cause for concern. If however this is problematic on a regular basis and there are seemingly little reasons for a child to be displaying such behaviours it is likely to be problematic in that it will impact upon academic performance.

Referring to the KidsMatter website, this is a detailed factsheet but a great read.

The Link Between Self-Regulation and Addictions:

If you know me well, I constantly will promote ‘Self-Care’. Looking after yourself is incredibly important. Many people can rely on some form of negative behaviour or addiction to help them feel better. Some of which include but not limited to, unhealthy habits with say food, gambling, drinking, illegal substances and smoking, and the inability to self-regulate leads to these problem behaviours. A very important self-regulation skill is resisting urges or impulses that leave you feeling bad afterward, including addictive ones.

We all have at some time had issues in relation to our emotions, but it is the way we try to cope that supports this from growing into bigger, deeper problems. Relying on ways to escape reality are often attempts to avoid and escape feelings of helplessness, fears of rejection, and unfulfilled wishes to be loved. They all involve problems with self-regulation.

The skills for Self-Regulation first develop in the early childhood years. We learn (or don’t learn) them in relationships, especially with parents and other caregivers.

Parents and caregivers with good self-regulation capacities of their own provide the kinds of safe and comforting relationships that allow children gradually to develop emotional awareness, tolerance of unwanted feelings, and control over harmful impulses.

Ideally, caring adults give children the support and acceptance they need to learn the skills for regulating emotions and impulses.

This involves skills like:

  • Deciding and controlling where you focus your attention.
  • During intense stressful moments deciding and controlling when and how much attention you focus on different aspects of the situation, including your own thoughts, feelings, and impulses.
  • Choosing how you think about your emotional reactions to things.
  • Stopping yourself from acting on a sudden impulse.
  • Stopping yourself from acting on a desire or craving.
  • Thinking, imagining, and doing things that are calming when you’re angry, anxious, afraid, addictively craving, etc.

In future blogs I’d like to discuss trauma in Early Childhood on a deeper scale, my post on Circle of Security very briefly touches upon this.

Techniques for Mindfulness with Children:

When I was teaching the 4-5 year olds, I always encouraged rest/quiet time. I had the conversation with my kids that they didn’t have to sleep but it was important to let their bodies relax and recharge their batteries. Each day we would do different activities in this time. I understand this is a time for Educators to have a quiet time themselvesthe_magic_of and to complete any documentation/paperwork, however this is a really important and wonderful opportunity to connect with your children and provide them really valuable skills.

I would read a mindfulness story from Patrice Thomas’ The Magic of Relaxation (2002) and have the children visualise the journey. I would then set up drawing tables and get the children up to come and draw what they remembered. It was always incredible how during this time how quiet the children were, how focused and how they would all have something different to share with their drawings.

Breathing techniques and yoga are other great activities to do with your children and don’t worry if you’re not trained, here are some great links to support your lesson plans;

Challenge Accepted:

“How’s the mental cleanse going?” 

I had to laugh when I read this message sent by a good friend. As adults , it’s important we take that time to self-regulate. It’s ok to put yourself first, and you’re not being selfish, you’re looking after yourself. For me, this can vary between Tae Bo, walking, studying, reading, writing/blogging , cooking….

  1. The Purpose: I decided to take this week as a form of self-reflection, to reorganise my thoughts and I felt this was a critical time to create some space and time for me. A week seemed realistic for my personal retreat.
  2. Removing Distractions: I felt to be motivated I needed to remove all negatives distractions. A friend of mine thought I was mad when I explained I had deleted all social media apps, was cutting alcohol for the week and was going to avoid chocolate. Two out of the three were going to be incredibly easy and achievable for me.
  3. Create a Plan: In my calendar I worked out the days, kilometres and routes that I would be taking and considered the time that this would take. Thankfully being summer and a rain free week, this made it a lot more achievable.
  4. Create a Support System: I made sure I took opportunities to connect. Removing social media is so valuable, as you really do appreciate genuine face-to-face contact. I made sure after every walk I caught up with a friend or family member for either a swim, dinner or coffee just so it wasn’t all solo thinking time. I really felt that helped and I love having a good chat and I really value laughter while looking out at amazing views. So win-win! I was also really fortunate to have a very supportive team at work who continued to motivate me throughout this journey, they all checked in to see how I was going physically as well as emotionally.

I took the walking paths of Narrabeen Lakes, Manly to Shelly Beach, The Bay Run, Bondi to Coogee, crossing The Bridge and also hung out with the pure bundle of happiness that is my dog Rocky Balboa. What a stressful week, here are just some of the awful views I had to put up with…

So how’d I go?:

When I first started I was paying close attention to the lovely lady on Runkeeper who told me I had achieved 1km…I instantly thought I still have 99 to go…WHY am I torturing myself? I reminded myself that this was for my well-being and the week really flew by. Not going to lie, my legs are in serious pain! But I feel good, and that’s what the week was really all about. Confession – I slightly failed in the chocolate department as a colleague brought some sweets back from Poland…oh and there was that bag of mini M&M’s…hmm and that slice of birthday chocolate cake. Ok…MASSIVE FAIL!

I did feel the first two days were emotionally draining, averaging 17km a day, I had a lot of time to think…a lot. I was in a deep sleep by 9pm. After the first couple days I was then able to process new ideas, like planning my trip to my other home in Geneva (insert Greek Isles and other destinations here). I literally felt like I had sweated out every negative thought and the week brought about some very positive changes and upcoming opportunities. This really was a detox for my soul.

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Goal achieved🙂

 

I’ll be honest, there is quite possibly no way I would do this again (certainly not 100kms in a week!!). Congrats to my Manager for also achieving the goal, and sharing in my pain! I chose probably the hottest week to do this – which averaged 36C most days, I’ve gone a few shades darker (not by choice), my body aches and it is a challenge climbing stairs, and I have a few painful blisters. However the positives outweigh this, I was able to really focus on my well-being and I feel I have a lot of clarity. I am grateful for the support network I had around me who not only encouraged me on my quest for mindfulness, thank you for laughing with me, this seriously kept me motivated. I really believe I’ve made an incredibly positive difference for myself.

Finally:

Practice self-care everyday, even if it’s for 5 minutes. Allowing these moments for yourself and providing these skills for children will help produce change towards a better state of well-being.

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