Reflections on…. living through a global pandemic.

First off, that’s a title for a blog post I never thought I’d write.

Secondly, how ENORMOUS is that virus image? I thought about changing it/ scaling it down but have decided it’s an apt metaphor for how this virus has taken over the world… ergo: the image takes over the page. 

It’s been roughly two years since covid-19 “officially” became a global pandemic, certainly enough time to sit back and reflect – and as it happens, I’ve been indulging myself in observation and musings for several weeks now.

This morning we were lucky enough to start the day with a walk along our local beach, where there were plenty of happy dogs running about, people stopping to chat to each other, some die-hard surfers doing their best to find waves on a non-surf beach, and local humans generally in good spirits, moving about with relative freedom – albeit with masks at the ready.

What struck me is that whilst this landscape looked similar to BC times, there is an undercurrent to daily life that simply didn’t exist at the start of 2020.

At the beginning of the pandemic (here in New Zealand), we felt like we came together as a nation – and we were a team of five million, uniting against the spread of the virus.

As the BBC put it here, relying on science and empathy.

Lockdown 1.0 (as we so affectionately named it) was filled with incredible things:

  • We saw people taking time to walk their neighborhoods (often for the first time ever) and we put teddy bears in our windows for wandering families.
  • People created Facebook groups showcasing NZ brands to support local.
  • We encouraged people to buy vouchers for local cafes and restaurants, to keep businesses thriving in uncertain lockdown conditions.
  • The government rolled out support packages to encourage employers to retain staff.
  • We told each other to check in with the old and vulnerable in our neighborhoods.

Here in my neighbourhood we were even graced with the cycling opera singer, prompting people to lean out their windows and balconies to cheer.

2+ years in, the world, and our little corner of it – looks and feels vastly different. 

As the lockdowns persisted, the people of Aotearoa (much like the rest of the world) have become tired, confused and irritable.

We began wondering (worrying) about the future, and today our news feeds are filled with divisive rhetoric, and stories designed to pit us against each other.

And whilst it’s true that unemployment is lower that its been since pre-GFC days all it takes is a look at our front page news to see where the hearts and minds of kiwis currently lie.

Yes its newsworthy that a self-proclaimed prophet was arrested for allegedly breaching bail conditions after a charge of attending and organising a protest in breach of alert level 3 restrictions – but do we really need to give this individual and his followers so much airtime? 

What about the other anti-vax/”vaccine hesitant” voices enjoying an enhanced platform to share their views? Freedom of choice is important, but when these individuals make up such a proportionally small percentage of the population, you can’t help wonder if these articles are being intentionally published to simply rile people up and get more interaction/ more views (and therefore more revenue)

You can’t blame the  news articles for that right? Right?

Well lets think about that.. we are what we consume. Be that food, music, art or media. If we are constantly being fed negativity and divisiveness instead of the full story of what’s happening in the world – how will that make us feel? What does prolonged exposure to negativity do to our brain?

Obviously not everyone has the time and/or ability to step back and review or analyse what they’re consuming (and how it makes them feel) because humanity is exhausted.

But now, more than ever, we need the good news stories – we need to know about the acts of kindness in our communities, the people caring for and thinking of each other – we need a voice for those that are taking the time to care so that we can reconnect with our communities and each other.

We know now how prolonged stress makes us feel. We’re NOT at our best right now – so perhaps we need to remember some of that lockdown 1.0 kindness.

If you can feel your blood pressure rise reading mainstream articles, or you start grinding your teeth when tuning into the 6pm news – perhaps its time to turn off/ tune out and tune back in with yourself.

We are what we consume after all, and if we don’t stop clicking on those negative and divisive headlines, the stories will not evolve. So maybe show those algorithms what you really want to see? 

Far be it for me to give advice on the internet, but if you’ve made it this far I’ll share something that has helped me navigate the sh*tshow that is the global pandemic: Gratitude.

It takes practice if this is not something you’ve done before, costs you nothing yet can change everything.

I’d start here – take 2 minutes to remember and articulate the good things that came out of this pandemic, it could be little things like:

  • No commute! No work clothes!
  • Learning to cook. (sourdough anyone?)
  • Rediscovering music and fav movies.
  • Watch parties and zoom calls with friends (this would have never have happened previously)
  • TV chat shows via video chat, bringing a realness to media we’ve not previously seen.
  • The incredible freedom that we’ve enjoyed in NZ, comparative to other nations.

Or perhaps we should just turn off socials and get out in our neighbourhoods again.

If the past few weeks have shown me anything, its that whilst there aren’t as many teddy bears lounging in NZ in windows – there are still people out and about, trying to make the most of this incredible NZ summer, and as cheesy as it sounds – a smile and a kind word go a long way.

Hot Cheesy Dip

I’ve made versions of this over the years and it’s one of those things you basically can’t f*ck up. Much the same as my no-fail muffin recipe, you can use this and change it up with whatever ingredients you have on hand, or whatever tickles your fancy.



You’ll need:
Cast iron pan (I have a medium-sized dish with a wooden trivet I use for this and shakshuka dishes – seriously get yourself some cast iron and it will last a lifetime)
Onion (as finely chopped as you can get it, or stick it in a blender)
Fresh garlic (use more than you think you’ll need, don’t be stingy with this)
Vegetables – I used spinach, portobello mushrooms and broccoli. (Chopped up roughly, into pieces about the size of your thumbnail)
250g cream cheese (leave it out so it softens a little, otherwise it won’t combine with the other ingredients)
125g feta (you can go wild and use the lot, but you don’t need it, I’m saving the other half for shakshuka/ baked eggs for Sunday brunch)
50g finely grated fresh parmesan (for the love of God, only use fresh, if you have that fake stuff in your house I want you to throw it in the bin now, that stuff isn’t even food)
Fresh lemon – you just need a small lemon wedge for some fresh juice before you serve the dip, the citrus cuts through the richness of the cheese and lifts the flavour, it’s a small thing but important.

Combine ingredients, pop in your cast iron skillet, into the oven on high for about 20 mins, take it out and stir part way through.

Best served with lightly toasted baguette or your fav bread for dipping. Don’t feel you need to cut the baguette – it’s more fun to rip pieces off and dip in…

I use little square plates when I make dishes like this, otherwise it can get pretty messy.

A note on veggies: you can stick everything in a blender if you like, it’s faster for sure. Ive made this both ways, but prefer the look and texture of roughly cut veggies in this dip.

Rarotonga Feasting: Moonfish in Pawpaw

Just a quick note/update, as there’s still much relaxing to be done in Rarotonga… Last night I whipped this dish up with local ingredients and it was easy and super fast. No exact measurements – I’m on holiday after all you gotta go with the flow!

 

Into two double layered tin foil boats, combine

Half an onion, thinly sliced, three gloves freshly minced garlic

Two teaspoons fresh chillis

Fresh salt & pepper

Two medium Moonfish fillets over the top of the onion/ chilli mixture (any NZ fav fish would work, but non-gamefish will flake apart rather than hold together, so needs less cooking and should be combined with other ingredients much more gently)

1.5 tablespoons coconut milk spread evenly over the fish  pin the two packets

Small handful finely cut coriander over the fish

Seal up into packets, and put in a medium oven to poach the fish in the mixture and juices

 

Cut up a handful of fresh green beans, put this on the stove in a pot with about two teaspoons of coconut milk, and half a teaspoon of the same chilli used on the fish, cook on low until a little more tender (but still with some crunch)

Cut up baby bananas, add to the beans, add more coconut milk (another teaspoon) take off the heat and let is rest with the lid on..

 

Halve a a ripe pawpaw, and scoop out the seeds, then create a deeper ‘boat’ in the pawpaw.

 

Take the poached Moonfish out of the oven, use a big spoon to add it to the beans and bananas, combine, perhaps add a little more coconut milk if it needs it, then add another small handful of freshly chopped coriander.

 

To serve, add to a plate with rice, and spoon the mixture into the pawpaw….. we had ours with champagne but I’m sure a nice mild Pinot Gris would pair just as well.

 

Vegan Green Goddess Dressing

A vegan/dairy free take on a modern classic dressing – this takes around 10 minutes from start to finish, and will keep in the fridge for up to a week… but I doubt it will last that long!

Ingredients

2 large cloves garlic

Juice of 2x medium lemons

2x gherkins

1x teaspoon olive oil

1x teaspoon apple cider vinegar

A handful of frozen baby peas

A handful of fresh parsley

1/2 Ripe avocado

Pinch of black pepper

2-3 teaspoons of water for the consistency you desire

 

Simply combine all ingredients in a food processor in the order stated above, until you reach the consistency you want – I used this as an alternative to my usual tahini-based dressings on a buddha-bowl with bulgur wheat base, steamed winter veg of broccoli, cauli, green beans and carrots, and spicy potato wedges to zing up the dish for a weekday work lunch. All up this took about 25 mins of prep and I had dinner and two huge bowls for lunch.

 

Buddha Bowl w/ Spicy Miso Coconut Dressing

This is a fabulous way of preparing and eating food with a INTENT. Food that nourishes body, mind and spirit.

As we move into a new calendar year, it’s a great opportunity to start that ‘diet’ you’ve been chastising yourself about… but instead of some ridiculous calorie restricting monstrosity that people very rarely if ever stick to: how about trying to just eat a natural, largely plant based diet?

Buddha bowls are a great way to do this…. You can cook quinoa in bigger batches, and it lasts 2-4 days in the fridge in an airtight container, and cut veggies will also last up to 3 days covered in a damp handy towel and wrapped airtight. Like most things that are worthwhile doing, it takes a little prep but it’s more than worth it.

For this bowl I’ve put together a combination of the below listed fresh veggies, and made a new fav dressing (which can also be used as a dipping sauce for crudités or drizzled over pita breads on a nibbles platter)

Ingredients:
Organic quinoa base (I used Ceres Organics but you can’t see it on this pic)
Roasted garlic pepper cauliflower (I had a whole cauli in the fridge that needed using, so I mixed organic sesame oil with fresh garlic, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and roasted for 25 mins on 180 till it started to golden on top… Don’t cook any longer or it loses it’s crunch completely)
Red cabbage – finely cut
Fresh parsley (from the apartment deck-garden)
Snow peas cut length ways
Julienne carrots
Julienne cucumber
Sunflower seeds (suggest toasting these if you have time)
Julienne yellow capsicum

Layer the quinoa on the bottom, and then lay the cut veggies in rows across the bowl… this prep and layering is an important part of putting the intent and energy into your bowl, and its the part of the process that makes the selected ingredients look beautiful and appetising. Once everything is layered, I drizzled this with my newly perfected spicy miso coconut dressing – which I have included below.

Spicy Miso Coconut Dressing [or dipping sauce]
1/4 cup organic coconut oil
4 Tablespoons lemon or lime juice
1 thumb-sized nub of fresh peeled ginger
1 medium cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup (or agave syrup or organic honey)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon miso paste
1 Tablespoon water
1 tablespoon Harissa chilli

Blend ingredients until smooth, add water at the end.
** If you want to use as a salad dressing, simply add another tablespoon of water.

The Art & Science of True Happiness

Sometimes I wonder if true happiness is the real ‘holy grail’.

It seems like the whole of our existence is spent defining, refining, chasing, striving, comparing, ruminating and generally being fixated on happiness.

Whole industries have been created to tell us what it means to be happy:

  • Buy this car!
  • Get a bigger house!
  • Go on this holiday!
  • Lose that weight!
  • Buy those shoes!

We have advertising companies crafting these wonderful ideal people, living a seemingly perfect life, bombarding us with the idea that everyone else is having a better time than us, and we’re sucked into this cycle of buy, consume, strive, compare and buy again… and when we buy that coveted ‘key to happiness’ we wonder why we are not suddenly, deliciously, deliriously happy.

And and it’s not just about consumerism. We are trapped in this cycle of constantly comparing our unique selves to the rest of the world.

It could be the desire to climb the corporate ladder… ‘better’ job, fancier title, more responsibility, more money to spend on more things so that people can definitely tell you are successful and happy.

It could be based around your looks… constantly dieting, primping, preening, spending hours to get ready with the perfect hair, makeup, dress, shoes…. taking a million selfies to post to social media and prove to the world that you are an effortlessly beautiful human specimen who really knows how to have a good time (…’I woke up like this’)

 

Since when when did happiness come from things?

What will it take before we realise that the only true yardstick for lasting, genuine joy is within ourselves?

True Happiness – the genuine, lasting, deep joy that fills you up – comes from within.

  • It starts with mindfulness, stillness.
  • Taking time out to breathe.
  • Learning to be still in your own body.
  • Learning to enjoy the way your body moves, it’s strength, its gracefulness.
  • It comes from enjoying lifes pleasures with intent.
  • It comes from being present in your own mind and realising you have the power to direct your thoughts.
  • It comes from knowing that thoughts become things – and yes patterns take time to change but it’s worth it.
  • It comes from knowing that what you focus on becomes bigger, that you grow your intent and you shape your world.

 

When you slow down and smell the roses you realise all the other things that you’ve been missing..

The interesting thing about the pursuit of happiness is that it actually doesn’t cost anything. We’ve been duped into thinking that happiness is a commodity – to be bought and sold to the privileged few lucky enough to be able to afford it.

Yes, nice things are nice. But what you are looking for is that feeling of connection and contentedness with your world, and it doesn’t come in a bottle, on a plate or in an expensive shopping bag.

It comes from being able to appreciate how utterly amazing this world is.

  • It’s a good nights sleep, and waking up with the birds and the sun feeling rested and ready to take on the day.
  • It’s smiling at a stranger and having them smile in return.
  • It’s spending time walking – using your feet on the earth and paying attention to your surroundings.
  • It’s talking to random people you meet and asking if you can pet their dog.
  • Its seeing gangs of overexcited kids chasing each other around a park, screaming and laughing.
  • Its a good book, a favourite song, a board game with friends.
  • Its making a healthy nourishing meal and taking the time to enjoy your mad culinary skills.

But most of all, it’s realising that you don’t have to play into the hamster wheel of corporate life, or conscious consumerism – and that you are infinitely powerful in creating your own joy.

And the best thing about it, is that you can start right now.

 

should

Courage to live an authentic life..

People don’t usually wake up one day and suddenly decide they’re not happy with their lives… it’s a gradual thing.. it creeps up on you when you’re not paying attention. It gets down into the crevices of your heart, tucks itself into the secret parts of you that you no longer bother to pay attention to because you’re just so gosh darn busy with the perpetual motion of day to day life.

It often manifests itself in strange and unrelated ways:
– The ‘blah’ you feel when you wake up in the morning..
– How annoying slow people are in the supermarket or on the road..
– The way your ‘fuse’ gets shorter and shorter, or people just become harder and harder to be patient with..

And then you realise: it’s not them – it’s you.

There’s a brief feeling of falling when you realise you’re not excited about life anymore… it’s sort of like you’ve been falling the whole time but you’ve only just realised that the hard earth is fast approaching – and you scramble to open your parachute and then wonder if you even have one.

Because the process of change is a lot like realising you might not have a parachute.. and change can HURT. It’s scary stuff. You might lose friends, lovers, you might just lose yourself.

And the moment you realise you need to change? The ah-ha moment.. the epiphany.. the lightbulb going on above your head?

Its often a glimpse of joy that is so bright, that lifts you up and takes you by surprise and makes you feel alive – that brief moment where you realise that this is how you want to feel. 

There’s a lot of inner work that needs to be done at this point. If you want to capture that feeling again – you need to work out what floats your boat and pushes your buttons.. and you can’t base this around what other people are doing that looks cool, interesting or seems like what you should be doing to be happy. It’s got to come from you.

One of the best parts about your change journey is rediscovering your passions… focussing on the experiences and actions that make you feel alive again. Awake. Fully present and accounted for in your own life. Its a wonderful, truly magical time of discovery and energy.

I often encourage people to write these things down… keep a gratitude journal.. articulate what you are learning and experiencing and feeling – and do this just for you. (The process of writing is another step to manifestation after all)

At this point you are already changing… because you’ve decided that you can’t just go back to sleep now.. you know what you have been missing out on.

But the process of real change is tough. If you want to live a fully present, authentic life then you simply cannot keep doing the same things you’ve always done, you can’t even necessarily keep the same people in your life (particularly if they themselves don’t embrace change, or have any desire to be their best and happiest selves) and this is the hard part: letting go of the people and things you know, to allow space in your life for the unknown. To take the risk because you know that the brief moments of falling can actually feel like you are flying it’s all a matter of perspective. 

And sometimes you can actually hit the ground, knock the wind right out of you – lie there on your back, struggling to breathe and wonder how the heck you are going to be able to move again… or you can bounce. You can jump up, run over to the plane and head back up into the sky for your next adventure…..

Enjoying your own company..

2014 has been a year of change.. a year of contrasting highs and lows. I’m so proud of what I have accomplished, but I know that it’s meant a lot of change both in me as a person, and in my life.

The past couple of weeks I’ve spent a lot of time alone… remembering how it feels to be in my own company. Doing things like lots of walking, taking pictures, getting pedicures, full body massages, re-organising my closets, meditating, enjoying the feel of grass under my feet.. and eating by myself, being fully present in the moment, enjoying and savouring each bite.

I’m happy to report that I still enjoy my own company…

As human beings we crave contact with other people, we seek out others for companionship, to validate us, make us feel special, to avoid dealing with our own insecurities and to hide behind the noise of day to day interactions. When we’re not with others, we’re on social media platforms – we instagram, tweet, Facebook post and stalk, anything to avoid being alone. Alone physically, emotionally and alone with our thoughts.

What is so scary about our inner selves that we constantly avoid our own company?

Why do we buffer our experiences to avoid being alone?

Personally I’ve learned so much about myself in these past weeks. I’ve re-learned the beauty of silence, and spent time embracing my inner voice.. I’ve faced my fears (and still am) and worked out the things that are truly important to me. I feel like I still need to spend some time alone with myself.. and its almost like this sacred time will allow me to move to the next phase of my life. Whatever it may be…

I’m not afraid of what I’ve found when I look within.. and thats an incredibly empowering feeling. When you know yourself and you know your true passions, hopes, dreams and fears.. there is a mastery of self and the ability to live your life in the present moment. It’s not all roses and champagne.. theres a lot of gunk and detritus to work through.. but the end result is the ability to enjoy your own company, and that is a gift you deserve to give yourself.

There is a slight catch – you have to do the work .