West Coast Wonders ~ My trip to the other side of the country

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If you haven’t made it to the West Coast of Australia yet where the Indian Ocean meets a stunning coast line, the sand is as white and soft as a dream and the sunsets are to die for, I highly recommend you book yourself a ticket ASAP. Having just returned from a lovely 5 day trip with my boyfriend over to Perth and the Margaret River, I’m left with great memories and a full belly. Having treated ourselves to a variety of wines and gourmet cuisines over the last few days, our waistlines are a little tighter than usual, but our smiles are also a little wider.

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We sampled everything from pork belly, whiting and cod, to beef cheeks and venison cooked five ways, complimented with beautiful fresh breads with olive oil, dukkah and balsamic. Just writing this is making my mouth water! Seriously, Western Australia is a foodie heaven. With open plan breweries in the port area of Freemantle, numerous cafes and restaurants throughout the city and dotting the shoreline, Perth and the Margaret River region are my top picks for a taste overload.

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While you’re over there a must-see are the wineries approximately 3 hours south of Perth, and with around 200 to choose from you’re bound to find a bottle that speaks to your soul. As a reluctant red drinker, I was surprised to find quite a few that I actually really liked, and can’t wait to further explore the red wine market. To name just a few, we went to Arimia Winery for lunch (incredible food), but be warned – you can actually see the little piggies that they use on their menu! I’m all for the whole farm to table trend, but I still feel a little uneasy seeing what I’m about to order alive out in the paddock! Call it blissful ignorance, but that’s just me. We also checked out Aravina Estate, an incredible winery with a beautiful selection of vintage cars and surfboards on display. To be honest there is something special and unique about each winery in the region, with lakes, bridges, fireplaces, boats and floral displays providing a visual feast for the eyes.

Already looking forward to my next trip to this beautiful (although slightly isolated) part of the world 🙂

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And now I know why people keep coming back to Bali… 

I’m currently in the luscious, charming village area of Ubud, Indonesia on my first Balinese experience – and can say without a doubt that I’ll be back, at least twice more. Countless people told me before I flew over that I’d love it, and they weren’t wrong. Who couldn’t love the chaos of scooters crisscrossing through every alleyway, monkeys casually strolling around completely integrated in the local life, and the pitter patter of rain softly sweeping through the canopy of trees? And that’s just the start of it. 

As I lay here nestled in a king size bed under a softly billowing mosquito net, listening to the fish pond gently humming outside, I can’t help but feel content. Although I might have the rumble of something kindly referred to as ‘Bali Belly’, I’m still excited to keep tasting the authentic (and cheap!) cuisines. Poached prawn and papaya salad, crispy skin chicken with lemongrass and chilli, and sticky black rice pudding are just some of the delicious items I have tried so far. Entree, main and dessert last night cost me approximately 20 Australian dollars, which is at least half of what I’d pay back home. This is the real deal though so I’m more than happy to tip generously and support the welcoming and gracious locals in any way I can. After all, we’re on their turf now and respect can go a long way. 

Outside of every shop front and dwelling are beautiful offerings of flowers and incense, which tourists avoid trampling on at all costs. These gorgeous baskets of petals are an absolute feast for the eyes, though I’m sure their meaning goes a little further than decorative value. Drifting off now for a little afternoon nap, with nothing else planned for the day except a dip in the pool and perhaps a massage. Ahhh, life isn’t so bad 🙂 

When stress subsides, the other senses soar…

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Last year – my year from hell, I got into the habit of eating frozen bought chicken kiev’s with mashed potato nearly every week night. Bland, carb loaded and devoid of many nutrients, but it was easy. Lazy – yes, but easy. And at that stage in my life I had pretty much stopped caring about a lot of things, one of those being my interest in cooking and eating healthy. You see when stress takes over every inch of your body, you simply become focused on making it through the day. You don’t care about whether your dinner that night is going to be interesting, delicious or challenging to make. In fact I was shovelling my dinner down so quickly that I didn’t even register what I was doing, all so I could shower and get back into bed. As I slowly unwind this year I’ve found myself becoming interested in cooking again, and I’m really excited.

They say that your gut is your second mind and I wouldn’t have believed them until last year, when I experienced just how intrinsically linked the stomach and your mind really are. I was completely burnt out from my job, stressed to the max and experiencing daily stomach cramps, headaches and bloating. I would get home and need to lay down for hours just to let the pain in my stomach subside, and I had no idea what was wrong with me at that point. I got blood tests, scans, urine samples… the lot. I finally decided to try a gluten free diet, which I have been doing for about a year now. I can honestly say this helped a lot at the time, however I would notice that after particularly stressful days I would still be doubled over in pain. After much reading and investigation, I realised that when the body is stressed and in that ‘fight or flight’ mode, your digestive system basically switches off. This is because the body is literally panicking and preparing for action, in situations where it most definitely doesn’t need to be worried. So when I was fuelling my body with wheat products which are already difficult to digest, coupled with my inactive and stressed out digestive system, it was simply a recipe for disaster.

HOWEVER, after quitting this job in November and moving home to a caring, supportive environment I can honestly say that 5 months later my gut is making a comeback! I’ve dabbled with probiotics and expensive vitamins, cut out alcohol and caffeine, reduced my sugar intake and gone for bowen therapy and regular massages. Trust me, I’ve tried everything to get my body back on the mend. Over the last few weeks I’ve slowly been re-introducing regular old bread into the mix, pasta, biscuits, muffins and pancakes. Not because I want to eat these types of foods all the time, but because I believe balance is key – and I certainly don’t want to make myself completely intolerant to these food groups!

A few months ago I wasn’t even interested in going grocery shopping, I was content just eating whatever was in the cupboard. I was focused solely on getting through the day without feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, and this took all of my energy. Now I’m excited to start cooking again, experimenting with flavours and enjoying the kitchen. I’ve just made a lovely pesto filled with basil, pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Delish!

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Photo credits – chefmattmoran & ihavethisthingwithpink