Sorry for the disappearing act!

So sorry to have vanished over the last couple of weeks. I promise it wasn’t my intention to disappear. My whole family, including yours truly, have been ill and focussing our energy on getting better. To make things more interesting, the kids have started kindergarten which is proving to be quite a challenge! (more on this later). Also, we have FINALLY found a rental property of our liking (WooHoo).. So I have been busy with just the usual fun stuff.

Tomorrow is Baby#1’s third birthday and I can’t believe how quick these years have gone. It feels like yesterday that she was born and made me the luckiest mum in the world…

My big news is that we are moving into our own place in a week’s time and I can’t wait. Three months of living out of a suitcase in a hotel apartment has been quite a challenge to say the least. Looking forward to setting up my new abode with all my belongings that have arrived from Sydney. Also looking at buying some German mementos to add to the decor around the house. Happy days 🙂

Last piece of news is in the photo below. It is currently cooking away and preparing me for the night’s feast. Nihari is a slow-cooked pot of wholesome beef with bones; a traditional Pakistani-Mughlai hero of a dish. I will be sharing the photo of the end result along with my recipe in my next post. So don’t miss out!

Hope you’ve been well and life keeps surprising and inspiring you to have new experiences in love, life and everything else!

Until later,

ELP xxx

Nihari - beef slow cooked in traditional spices
Nihari – beef slow cooked in traditional spices 
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My Honey Walnut Bee Cake

I have been trying so hard to complete this post for the past 24 hours. But my endless duties with Baby#1 and Baby#2 at home just keeps me from fulfilling ‘me-blog’ time.

I come to a realisation that mums are like unsung heroes. So many responsibilities and social expectations (almost like Stepfords’ wives) but not enough recognition in return, sigh. I did a quick ‘Expected Work’ VS ‘Return’ pie chart in my head and it was totally out of whack.

Anyway, enough with the rant. All I really want to say is, “I BAKED A CAKE”. This was for Baby#2’s First birthday and everyone loved it. I too happy with how it tasted, it was fresh and scrumptious, the walnut honey scented buttercream combination worked like a charm. Not to forget the smooth chocolate ganache coating on the cake added an oomph to the cream cake.

This post is to inspire other home cook mums to overcome their fear of baking cakes because if I can do it, any mum can. Also, by way of which we can save ourselves the extra $$$ that can be constructively used at a day spa as a bonus. Now I got your attention 🙂

Baby#2 had a honeybee themed party and since it was a last minute thing, I had 3 days to organise everything. The cake recipe is adapted by Zoe Bakes recipe, but I made some adjustments to my liking.

The idea was simple. Make easy-to-bake things that compliment each other in look and flavour and put them all together. I baked two sponge cakes, halved and lathered with walnut buttercream between each divide. I know that sponge cake and chocolate ganache is a match made in heaven and usually a safe choice with cake lovers. So I did my crumb coating with ganache first and then frosting with just plain honey butter cream. I kept the sugar in the cake on the low side as the sweetness of ganache and butter cream complimented the lightly sweetened sponge cake. The secret to a good quality ganache is a great quality chocolate. I used dairy milk cooking chocolate for a kids birthday cake. However, ganache is best when made with dark chocolate with higher cocoa content.

My honey walnut bee cake
My honey walnut bee cake

The recipe below is in the order of how I prepared the cake . Here we go:

Honey Walnut Honeybee Cake

  • Preparation & cooking time: 3 hours
  • Serves: 12 desert size
Chocolate Ganache – What you need:
  • Dark Chocolate Or Dairy milk cooking chocolate
  • Thickened cream

How to make the Ganache:

  1. Pour the cream in a small saucepan and place it on low-medium heat for a few minutes. It just needs to get hot but not boiling. Turn off the heat once heated.
  2. In the meantime, chop the chocolate into fine pieces.
  3. Add the chopped chocolate into the cream, stir and let it sit till the chocolate softens and melts.
  4. Stir the ganache mixture with a wooden spoon till it comes all together and becomes creamy.
  5. The consistency will need to be thick yet spreadable as it will be used for crumb coat the cake.

Honey Walnut Buttercream – What you need:

  • 1 cup egg whites
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ¼ cups walnut pieces, lightly toasted and cooled
  • yellow food colouring

How to make the buttercream: Click here for detailed directions. Add the honey, salt, and vanilla.

Divide the buttercream in half and add the walnuts to one batch and the yellow food colouring to the other.

Sponge Cake ingredients:

  • 225 grams self-raising flour
  • 225 grams butter, at room temperature
  • 180 grams caster sugar OR 225grams if to be eaten without any frosting.
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

How to make the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
  2. Measure all the ingredients in a metal bowl.
  3. Mix all of the ingredients using a electric whisk.
  4. Pour the mixture into 2 non-stick 7 inch (18cm) tins.
  5. Place them in the oven till golden brown 20-25 minutes.
  6. Cool on a wire rack.
  7. Once cool using a sharp bread knife evenly half the cakes. I used the following You Tube video on how to cut and fill a cake like a pro!
  8. Spread the walnut cream in the bottom halves of each of the two cakes. Set the sponge lids on top of the creamed base and gently set with your hands.
  9. Then use of chocolate ganache to crumb coat the cake. Repeat to have a thick coating. This is to lock in the crumbs and have a smooth cake surface. Keep it in the fridge to set.
  10. Then put a thick layer of plain buttercream over the chilled crumb coat. Use the same crumb coating technique to even out the buttercream frosting on the cake.

Marzipan Bees:

  • ¼ cup marzipan
  • ¼ cup sliced almond
  • black food colouring
  • yellow food colouring

To create the bees: Take the marzipan and mix a hint of yellow food colouring in it for our little bee bodies. Knead the marzipan to even it out. Take a small piece of this yellowed marzipan and roll it between your palms in a lozenge shape, slightly tapered at the end. Using a fine tipped paint brush and black food colouring, paint about three stripes on the marzipan. I love my bees with an expression so I also gave them a set of eyes and a smiley. Allow it to dry. Once set, (takes about 2 hours) carefully attach the flaked almonds at an angle to make the bees’ wings. They might snap as you dig them into the marzipan bodies, so have some spare. TIP: you can use a small knife to make a tiny incision in the bees’ body and then insert the almond flake. Better than poking the marzipan with a flaky almond.

Have the bees sit on the cake right before serving.

The cake is the centrepiece
The cake is the centrepiece

Some other photos from the day.

Mini Pavlova treats loved by young and old alike
Mini Pavlova treats loved by young and old alike
Fruit trifle, jelly, sweet rice pudding on a make-do desert stand
Fruit trifle, jelly, sweet rice pudding on a make-do desert stand
Zarda - Pakistani rice desert cooked in sugar and saffron water
Zarda – Pakistani rice desert cooked in sugar and saffron water

 

Just some food for the adults: Biryani, Mince lasagne, Bean salad, BBQ chicken, BBQ mince patties, BBQ sausages and toss salad
Just some food for the adults: Biryani, Mince lasagne, Bean salad, BBQ chicken, BBQ mince patties, BBQ sausages and toss salad
Giveaways - Yellow and Black chocolate candy in glass jar
Giveaways – Yellow and Black chocolate candy in glass jar

So dear friends, have you ever thrown or attended an awesome themed birthday party as of late? I’d love to hear all about it.

Until later

ELP xxx

Bon Appétit – Italian dining in Leipzig

It was Sunday and I had planned to have a quiet afternoon in and cook some noodles for lunch. And then came Mr ELP who had other plans. He announced that he has booked us a table at this Italian place that we’ve been wanting to go for a while.

At midday we arrived at “Restaurante Da Vito” and at first, it didn’t look open and with the white chairs and minimalist look from the outside we both wondered whether we were at the correct place.

In the midst of uncertainty, we were greeted by a cheerful doorkeeper. Upon entering we walked to what was like a glass door to the dining area. This is where we heard the crackling of the cutlery, laughter of diners and warm aroma of wood-fire pizza, and we immediately realised we were in the right place.

The restaurant looked somewhat busy and we were told that despite reservation we would need to wait. But then within two minutes they were calling us to let us know that our table was ready.

The menu was in German and the waitress knew no English. This has been a challenge for us in Leipzig at quite a few places. But to the credit of Leipzigers they’re always so cheerful and accommodating and don’t let the lack of language situation be an issue for us. Our waitress cordially assisted us and with our broken German and her patchy English we reached a consensus on a mix of entrée and mains.

After placing our order, we started getting used to the ambience of the restaurant, the views of Elster river and the friendly diners who seemed so happy to have the company of our two children.

On the other hand, Mr ELP would shush Baby 1 and Baby 2 at every sound they’d make, but to our surprise the fellow diners seemed only too pleased by their non-stop chatter – we even had a few people turn around to play with the babies.

During the next 5-10 minutes (when it was nearly 1pm), a surge of people arrived and the restaurant went from having a few tables to becoming completely full with many large groups. The clientele was a mix of non-italian couples to large family groups of mostly Italian descent.

View of Elster River from the restaurant on a freezing but sunny day
View of Elster River from the restaurant on a freezing but sunny day

While we are waiting for our food we are also advised that the restaurant runs the gondola service on the White Elster river. The restaurant manager told us the owner Mr Vito had brought in the gondolas from Venice, to give a touch of Venice to the city. I promised to book a tour on our next visit.

We asked for the entrée and mains to come at once and so it did.

Pumpkin soup served with sourdough bread € 6
Pumpkin soup served with sourdough bread € 6

This pumpkin soup did just what soups do in winters i.e.- comfort you. Just the right thickness, lots of sour cream, and a touch of cinnamon and parsley. The sour dough was fresh, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, it went really nicely with the soup. I could just have this soup with the bread and die a happy woman but a few of us had to share and so it got gobbled up real quick and left me pining for more.

Bruschetta € 6
Bruschetta € 6

Bruschetta is our family favourite and just something we always like to eat when having Italian. For me personally, it’s like an ice-breaker; a perfect introduction to an Italian meal. I liked this dish, however I like my Bruschetta to have a mix of red onion, tomato, garlic and basil. I like the crispiness of the onion and find that the tomato, if not very fresh can make the sour dough a little soggy.

Margharita Pizza €12
Margherita Pizza € 12

This pizza was just delicious. You could taste the homemade tomato sauce on the wood-fire pizza base. It used three kinds of cheese; namely mozzarella, parmesan and cheddar. There was a generous use of fresh garlic in this pizza too which added a punch. The thick base was soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. Mr ELP downed half of the pizza within a few minutes.

Spaghetti with chilli garlic prawns served with rocket salad €16
Spaghetti with chilli garlic prawns served with rocket salad €16

Another safe dish to order at any authentic Italian restaurant is Pasta with prawns or seafood. This particular dish had the perfect amount of seasoning, chilli and garlic, not too strong and kids liked it too. Prawns were cooked to perfection, tender but not rubbery or chewy. The pasta al-dente and not soggy which was great. I drizzled a generous amount of herb infused olive oil for some extra flavour.

The food at Restorante da Vito lived up to its claim of an 18-year-old Italian restaurant in Leipzig city. The food here was a true representation of Italian cuisine, the flavours, use of herbs blended with  olive oil and freshly cracked pepper is divine.  I would eat at this restaurant every night if I could. After-all, it’s just next door!

So dear readers, how often do you eat out during a week? Is it mostly for breakfast, lunch or dinner?

Until Later, ELP xxx

Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015 & another chance to get it right!

Life is unpredictable and sometimes thing’s don’t go as planned. But the beginning of a New year is a good excuse to reflect on the previous year and to make a new start. Make a resolution to stick to your resolutions; whether it’s your relationship, eating habits, health or fitness or perhaps a new career move.

Apply the following quotes in areas where you think they will help motivate and drive you. Keep them in mind throughout the year and gain inspiration to improve your life and make 2015 the best year ever.

Quotes for relationships:

“Every relationship has tough days. Don’t let the grudge last. Be the first to try to make things right and stop waiting for an apology.” – Nouman Ali Khan.

“Intense love does not measure, it just gives.” – Mother Teresa

“When three of you are together, two of you must not converse privately ignoring the third till the number increases, lest the third should be grieved.” – Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon Him)

“The love of family and the admiration of friends is much more important than wealth and privilege.” – Charles Kuralt

You + Me = US
You + Me = US

Quotes for a healthy lifestyle:

“Sweat is fat crying.” – Unknown

“If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.” – Micheal Pollan

“There is no drug that can do for you what eating well, moving your body and self-love can.” – Bridget Jane via Pinterest

“Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tip toe if you must, but take the step.” – Unknown

And it is all in the way we think
And it is all in the way we think. Source

Quotes for your career:

“You’ve got brains in your head. You’ve got feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” – Dr Seuss

“Find joy in everything you CHOOSE to do. Every job, relationship, home. It’s your responsibility to love it, or CHANGE it.” – Chuck Palahniuk

“Don’t waste your time trying to impress other. Do what you love, love what you do.” – Unknown

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” – Joseph Campbell

Road to Success
Road to Success via Pinterest

Quotes to lift your spirits:

“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.”- Oprah Winfrey

“There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela

It’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” – Marilyn Manroe

“Respect your parents, they passed school without google.” – Unknown

2015
Another day, another $

A very Happy New Year to my dear friends and readers and THANK YOU for all your interest and support in the journey of EatLovePack. There is a lot more in store for 2015 that I am looking forward to sharing with you.

Stay safe. Love, hugs, kisses – ELP xxx

P.S: See you in the New Year!

Khagina – Aromatic Pakistani Scrambled Eggs

There are so many things we take for granted in life. Like good health, family, friends and a meal that hits the spot.

And there are some foods that bring back a rush of childhood memories.

Anday ka Khagina is one such breakfast dish. It is the Pakistani take on scrambled eggs with an addition of some classic vegetables like tomatoes, onions, coriander and chilli. The ingredients of which are a staple in any Indian or Pakistani kitchen.

I remember my mum quickly preparing the Khagina as a side in case of a surprise arrival of some guests who’d stay for a meal. This is such a versatile dish loved by young and old alike.

Fifteen years on, the aroma of this Egg dish still reminds me of my time in Karachi when I was a teenager and used to have this made for breakfast, accompanied by freshly made parathas and masala tea. Heaven!

Now, I only depend on me to make it and I do it only sometimes when I have time to savour and enjoy it.

Some people like to add turmeric, pepper corn, ginger or garlic to this dish but I feel the flavours are best kept simple.

So this is the recipe that we made at home in Karachi.

Khagina – Pakistani style spicy scrambled eggs 

  • Preparation & cooking time: 10 minutes
  • Serves: 2 people

Ingredients:

  • 4 organic eggs
  • 1 organic tomato chopped up, flesh removed
  • 1 organic red onion chopped up
  • A handful of roughly chopped coriander leaves
  • 3 small green chillies
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil

Method:

  • Break the eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk lightly with a fork.
  • Add chopped green chillies and coriander to the egg mixture and set aside. (This allows the aroma of the coriander and sharpness of the chilli to set into the egg mixture).
  • In a frying pan, heat some coconut oil on medium heat.
  • Season the oil with a pinch of salt and immediately add chopped onion and stir fry till transparent.
  • Add chopped tomatoes and fry till it shrivels up a bit and you don’t see any moisture in the pan.
  • Now add the eggs, coriander and chilli mixture to the pan.
  • At this stage, you can either scramble the eggs OR cover the pan with a lid and have the eggs like a pancake.
  • Once done, flip it on a plate and serve it with some wholemeal bread or punjabi paratha.

For those on a no-carb diet, this dish is delicious and nutritious on its own, giving you ample of energy and protein boost to kick-start the day.

Khagina - Aromatic Pakistani eggs for breakfast
Khagina – Aromatic Pakistani eggs for breakfast

On a lighter note, I found an interesting post on how you can learn about a person just by the style of their eggs! Check it out.

So dear friends, please tell me, how do you like your eggs?

Until later,

ELP x

Sydney Kayaking experience

If you hear the words ‘Im bored’ in the back of your head, change that today.

Sydney summer beckons you to outdoor adventure. And water activities are always number 1 on my list when it comes to outdoorsy stuff.

One of my favourite water activity is kayaking in open water.

Being in the water is an ideal way to detox and forget about the worries of the land.

Last summer I went kayaking in Middle Harbour in Sydney’s North Shore and I really enjoyed this experience.

We hired 2 single kayaks for 3 hours from Sydney Harbour Kayaks, one for myself and the other for my husband.

There are instructors available to guide you once you hire a kayak.

Kayaking at Middle Harbour in Sydney
Kayaking at Middle Harbour in Sydney

Sydney ocean water can be quite warm in summer so there was no need to put on a wet suit, but everyone was asked to wear a life jacket, so it was all good.

I love kayaking mainly because it is an easy access, low cost activity. You are so close to the city, but with the stunning water views, bushland and beaches, you feel like you are exploring some exotic destination.

Middle harbour is surrounded by Sydney’s hidden gem Garigal National Park. If you are a nature lover, you will appreciate the picturesque landscapes that you encounter along the way. You will explore beautiful coves and beaches that you didn’t know existed in Sydney before. The whole area is a treasure surrounded by beautiful mangroves.

I even got to jump in the water and swim in the middle of the harbour. We then parked ourselves at a local beach and had our little picnic there. It was absolutely serene.

With an instructor during training session
With an instructor during training session

If you are interested in learning more about kayaking, The Sydney Harbour Kayaks offer various training lessons free of charge. I took the ‘Learn to Kayak lesson’ where I was taught invaluable paddling techniques. As a result I feel more confident in the water for future kayaking or canoeing adventures.

Initially I had trouble steering the kayak in the right direction, but soon I understood the key is to approach it like you’re riding a bicycle. Think about keeping the balance in the centre of the kayak and not paddle and steer too much to one side.

Paddling away like a pro...
Paddling away …

Some useful Tips:

– Be prepared: Wear your swimsuit underneath as there are no toilets nearby to change.

– Keep protected: Wear a hat, sunscreen and glasses, I got sunburnt as I was missing all three.

– Take a waterproof camera: Views are to die for and I regret not having my camera on me.

– Water- bottle: Keep hydrated, you will get thirsty with all the activity.

– Go easy: Wear lightweight clothing and comfortable shoes.

– Parking at The Spit is quite costly so we usually park up Parriwi Road and walk about 300 metres down. Always check parking at any kayaking spot as most of these areas are expensive to park at.

You can enjoy kayaking pretty much anytime of the year as long as you can avoid the rainy season. Some people don’t mind that either.

Some other cool spots for kayaking in Sydney are in Chowder Bay in Mosman, Pittwater – Kuringai Chase National park. But my most favourite spot to kayak is from Rose Bay to Vaucluse along Sydney Harbour.

Have a look at this list by Time-Out for Sydney’s best kayaking spots.

All in all, kayaking is definitely a great activity for people of all ages, and makes a memorable birthday gift for your loved ones too!

Like a pro !
Like a pro !

Roundup:

Where at: Sydney Harbour Kayak at 81 Parriwi Rd, Smiths Boat Shed, The Spit bridge, Mosman.

Cost: Rental cost depends on the type of kayak or if you opt for one of the guided tours. Starts from $20.

Who can do it: Pretty much anyone interested in having a nice day outdoors; swimming knowledge is a plus but not essential.

Next, I’d love to Kayak amongst glaciers and icebergs in Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park.

So dear friends, what is your favourite place to kayak?

Until later, EatLovePack xxx

Homemade Chocolate-dipped Coconut Macaroons

I have never been a fan of desiccated coconut. I also think macaroons are over rated. In fact I don’t have a sweet tooth and besides chocolate mud cake, there are only a handful of deserts that take my fancy.

But when I reluctantly tasted a chocolate-coated coconut macaroon, that my husband had bought from a local bakery, I was blown away.

These babies were crisp on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside; with the perfect balance of coconut flakes and a generous layer of chocolate covering on the base. I was in cookie heaven.

I couldn’t get enough of these cookies therefore decided to make a batch of my own. Making these at home is easier than you think. I tried a recipe from Real Simple. These turned out to be a big hit at home and have become our family favourite. Coupled with a nice cup of coffee for hubby and I and a warm glass of milk for the young ones.

To my guests I serve it with tea and dental floss 😉

Chocolate dipped Coconut Macaroons

Preparation time: 30-40 minutes

Serves: About 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

1 14-ounce package of sweetened coconut flakes (roughly 5 cups)

2/3 cup sugar

3 large egg whites

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla or almond extract

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate

Method

  1. Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl combine everything, i.e. the coconut, egg whites, flour, sugar, salt, and almond OR vanilla extract. Mix well, batter will be stiff.
  3. Place a tablespoon full of batter onto parchment lined baking sheets, keeping about an inch in between cookies.
  4. Bake for about 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool completely.
  5. Melt the chocolate in a double-boiler or a glass bowl placed atop a saucepan of gently simmering water.
  6. Dip the bottom of each cookie into the melted chocolate and place upside down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Let it rest until chocolate cools and hardens. You can also refrigerate for about 20 minutes or until firm.

I store mine in an airtight container at room temperature. It keeps for about a week, but they usually get snapped up much faster.

Homemade Chocolate dipped coconut macaroon
Homemade Chocolate dipped coconut macaroon
Homemade Chocolate dipped coconut macaroon
Homemade Chocolate dipped coconut macaroon

Enjoy & EatLovePack xxx

Where Am I? And prayer request for victims of Sydney & Peshawar

Dear friends, I am not absent from this space, I am just observing a silent period in the wake of the recent tragedies that have taken place in two of my beloved countries.

In Sydney, Australia where 2 people died as a result of a hostage siege. And then in Peshawar Pakistan, where over a 130 primary and secondary school children were slaughtered inside of their school premises.

If you are reading this and have children, you can imagine what their parents must be going through right now. As a mother, this episode haunts me and I see their faces in my children.

Please offer a prayer for the victims, their families and loved one.

I won’t say much but only that these heart wrenching tragedies are a global warning that something is very wrong in our world and peace is the only way forward. 

An ode to those children from Peshawar…  

 

She packed my bag and gave me lunch

She made sure that my hair was done

For I had a day at school and be someone important

 

I wasn’t feeling well today

I told her I would stay

She said I needed to go

As it’s the last week anyway

 

She promised me a lovely lunch and a chocolate later on

We bid farewell like we always did

It wasn’t something new

We hugged, we kissed and said goodbye,

& “See you soon” in the afternoon

 

But then they came, with their evil plan

Killing each one of us

Stealing our dreams,

Crushing our hopes,

For a better day to come

 

I wonder how they rest in peace

Knowing what they have done

 

Sorry mama, I lied, I won’t be coming home tonight

I’ll be sleeping in this casket tonight

Please don’t cry and don’t be mad

We’ve been sacrificed in someone else’s fight

It’s unfortunate but it’s done

There’s nothing I could’ve done

 

Now I live in the heavens where there are many toys

There is no school and no evil,

There is only joy

But I miss my mum and my dad for I love them so

May God protect them and keep them safe is all I ever wish for

~Fareena

Pursuit of Happiness

People’s happiness levels tend to change over time. But some aspects of joy and happiness are a constant amongst us all.

At the end of the day we are all seeking happiness in things we do in life. We seek happiness in relationships, we work hard at our day-jobs to get recognition so we are happy, and we buy things to buy happiness.

But sometimes we overlook the ‘goal of happiness’ and life gets in the way.

The following are some simple things that I try to adopt in my life to attain greater satisfaction and hence a happier me. I hope you find it useful.

1. Keep Busy: As they say ‘an idle mind is the devil’s workshop’ – Engage in activities that are enjoyable and significant. It’s a good way to keep your mind off of useless thoughts that occupy space in your head. Think of negative thoughts as garbage in your mind that needs to go. I call it de-clutter. Combat negative people or thoughts by leaving no space or time for it.

2. Give Back to the community: One way to fulfil Step#1 is by doing voluntary work at a welfare organisation. Or lending an ear to someone who is going through a rough patch. There are many people who are in need of our help. I think we all know that the more we seek satisfaction in material goods, the less we find it there. Sometimes even a small gesture goes a long way.

3. Sharing is caring: share your life with your friends and loved ones. Surround yourself with those who genuinely care about you and won’t judge you. We don’t need mere acquaintances, we need meaningful relationships. Also, remember what we see in others is a reflection of ourselves. So even though we see negativity around us, we can try to concentrate on the good in people so we can emulate positive energy.

4. Look after yourself and your needs: You alone have the ability to create happiness for yourself. Do things that don’t have any bearing on anybody but yourself. Like a facial or a massage or just watch a movie with a tub of Ben and Jerrys. Tell yourself out loud ‘I am important therefore I love me’.

5. Meditation or Prayer: We all need some time to connect with ourselves and I find no better way of doing so than offering a prayer. It is an ideal way for me to self reflect and find some inner peace in this chaotic world.

6. Avoid Regrets: Life’s too short to hold regrets. Regretting things in life can be poisonous and destructive for self-esteem. Learn to move on from bad episodes in life and turn them around to your advantage by making them a life lesson.

7. Stop with the 2C’s – Comparing & Competing: This world is so temporary and everything we do in it is only for the moment. Instead of worrying about others and comparing yourselves to them, focus on working on your personal achievements. Make a conscious effort and train your mind to stop seeing the glass half empty.

8. Exercise: This one’s the hardest for me. I haven’t fully succumbed to the gym culture. But I do know that regular work-out or yoga makes me feel like a million dollars. Exercising has a profound effect on my my happiness. It’s just a tad bit demanding when you have young babies (excuses:p).

9. Eat chocolate cake: A slice of chocolate cake is my therapist and solution to all of my problems in life. You can never go wrong with a generous serving of muddy, gooey chocolatey cake. And you know the rest.

10. Just Breathe & Smile: Had a bad day? No worries, let go of the frown, take a deep breath and smile. Like I am right now, for no reason but because it’s so easy to do so and it makes people around you feel good.

Happiness lies within via Tumblr
Happiness lies within via Tumblr

So dear reader, make a list of 10 things that give you a head full of happy thoughts. No matter how childish or silly it may be, just write it down and evaluate your happiness today.

Until later

EatLovePack xxx

And there I was on top of the world

People in general are curious, no matter what age, intellect or social background they belong to.

It’s our curiosity that has led us to discover wonderful things of this world.

I myself have been inquisitive for as long as I remember. I was a tom-boy growing up; always up for a challenge. Climbing trees, bush walking, bicycle riding and hiking were some of my favourite activities as a kid.

So when we decided to tour New Zealand’s South Island, glacier hiking was an obvious choice of an activity for us.

We stayed at a cute retreat in the township of Franz Josef. The views around us were nothing less than stunning and you could see the glaciers from a distance, reminding us of the impending adventure. There were plenty of nice places to eat at and even a supermarket close by.

View from our motel in the township of Franz Josef.
View from our motel in the township of Franz Josef.

We did the Franz Josef Glacier Guide’s “all day tour”. This was December and though summer, the guided trips to the glacier are carried out all year round.

To start our hike, first we walked through a forest, a beautiful valley with waterfalls and then climbed a tall hill.

Making our way through the forest to begin our little adventure
Making our way through the forest to begin our little adventure
Posing in front of a waterfall en route to the glacier
Posing in front of a waterfall en route to the glacier

Once we got to the hill, we prepared for the hike by putting our ice hiking shoes known as crampons and have our gear in check. I particularly made sure we packed our sandwiches for lunch to be enjoyed at the glacier’s peak. Gotta do the important things first!

Our group of 12 approaching the little hill to begin our glacier hike.
Our group of 12 approaching the little hill to begin our glacier hike.

Be sure to keep warm and not underestimate the cold. It is quite cold on the glacier and by the end of the day you are exhausted as a lot of energy is spent moving around.

The guide demonstrates how to put on the bulky crampons for walking on the ice and we follow.

It all became real at this point. We were going to hike a glacier!
It all became real at this point. We were going to hike a glacier!

Franz Josef extends to about 12 kilometres. It descends at a height of 2700m from the Southern Alps to less than 300 metres above sea level. It is set amongst a temperate rainforest.

The face of Franz Josef
The face of Franz Josef

This experience wasn’t cheap. With a day trip like ours costing around NZD$399 for one person. Despite the significant price tag you cannot walk onto the ice without a guide unless you are an experienced hiker.

This price includes any special equipment you need for the hike like crampons, over trousers, waist bag, rain jackets, boots, hats, gloves and socks.

The difficulty level of this hike is about medium. If you are an active person with an interest for hiking, you could explore the glacier with little difficulty with the help of a guide. Though they wait for you to catch up, they are a bit pushy if you are lagging behind.

Stepping up at Franz Josef
Stepping up at Franz Josef

Our guide was very strict about hikers getting closer to crevasses or turning around during a climb for a better look. He emphasised that the glaciers can still be very dangerous even though you’re allowed to walk on them.

He told us that people have died from falling on or off the glaciers, even on guided tours. Such a situation can be avoided if you follow your guide’s instructions and stay with your group.

climbing up the glacier and posing for a photo
Climbing up the glacier and posing for a photo.

It was here that my phone slipped into the crevasse of the glacier, as I trying to take some photos.

Therefore a little reminder to self and to you guys:

WHAT TO BRING

  • Wear one and keep an extra woolen top (not cotton as it may get wet)
  • Hat
  • Waterproof trousers (no jeans)
  • Food and drink for the day
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Camera

WHAT NOT TO BRING

  • Mobile phones!
  • Ipods
  • Wallets
  • Keys
  • Avoid wearing fancy watch/jewellery
After losing my phone in the crevasse. You can see I wasn't pleased.
After losing my phone in the crevasse. You can see I wasn’t pleased.
Franz Josef from the top - One of the worlds steepest commercially guided glacier.
Out view while having lunch. Franz Josef from the top – One of the worlds steepest commercially guided glacier.

Round up:

Accommodation: Rainforest retreat at Franz Josef township.

Glacier tour Cost & booking: NZD$325 onwards. For more details click here.

What else to do at Franz Josef: Rejuvenate yourself in the inviting glacier hot pools. Other activities include white water rafting, kayaking, quad bike-riding and a lot more.

Next on my list is a 2 day hiking tour at the Aletsch glacier in the Swiss Alps.

So which glaciers have you visited?

Until later, EatLovePack xxx