Do you think food can make you happy? I think so. But have you ever been to “dessert heaven”?
During my childhood I loved when mum was doing some baking – my sister and I used to be there just in time to make sure we won’t miss out on some cookie dough or cake batter.
I had the pleasure to meet a chef at the Retreat and one day she decided to do some baking. When I came into the kitchen on that special day, a sweet, warm and buttery smell of baking was in the air. Tina was behind the kitchen counter and bowls & muffin trays in front of her. I couldn’t wait to find out what she was doing and where this delicious smell came from.
Until this day I have never heard of “Brookies”. And I bet my face must have been full of question marks when Tina was talking about them. Now I know Brookies are a mix of brownie and cookie. After finding out that a combination like this actually exists, I got even more excited as I do LOVE cookies and would potentially never say “No” to a brownie either.
Thank god that some of these Brookies were already in the oven so the promised tasting part wasn’t far away 😊. The whole place smelled soooooo good. But besides that, it was great to see what food does – It creates memories and connections. And I also realised once again you can always learn something new every day – if you want to. You just need to be curious and open.
The tasting of my first ever Brookie:
The freshly baked and still warm Brookie looked very similar to a muffin. The base & the outside part was made out of cookie dough so it isn’t as soft as a muffin and more like a crispy cookie. The inside/middle part of the Brookie was made out of a lemon brownie and was soft, creamy and mouth-watering. I was enjoying every single bite of it and far far away in “dessert heaven”. Fortunately, Tina made heaps of them so everyone was very lucky to get to try a Brookie.
But to be honest I’m glad my sister wasn’t around so I didn’t have to share. But I will happily make them for her at some point as Tina has kindly shared her recipe!
200g butter (melted)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 T vanilla essence
3 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Grease muffin tray.
Beat butter and sugar for 1 minute.
Add eggs and vanilla, beat for 1 minute.
Stir in flour and baking powder.
Dough should look and feel soft. But not sticky.
Roll into 30g (or Table spoon size) balls and press into muffin trays, dough should come up at least 3/4s to the top.
CREAM CHEESE FILLING
1 packet of cream cheese (250g)
4 T sugar
Mix sugar through cream cheese.
Spoon into cookie cases. (1 big teaspoon)
250g butter (melted)
2 cups white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs (I use size 6)
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Zest of 4 lemons
Juice of 2 lemons
(You will use the other 2 lemons to juice for the lemon glaze.)
Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius.
Combine butter, sugar, vanilla, eggs, flour, baking powder, salt until smooth.
Stir in lemon zest and juice.
Spoon over cookie cases. Just to the top. Try not to over fill.
Bake for 15 – 20mins.
3/4 cup of icing sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
Hot water if needed.
Add lemon juice to icing sugar. Stir until smooth. Add a teaspoon of hot water if glaze is too thick. Glaze should be thin enough to drizzle over the BROOKIES with a fork.
Author: Michele Reiher, Christchurch
My mum used to say “Be kind to others” and as a child I had no idea that kindness will be so important to me one day.
Being kind is the hug you give a friend who is going through a difficult time; the message you send to check in on your sister who is sick or the cookie you put on the desk of your colleague who seems to be having bad day.
You don’t even need to know the person to be kind. A simple act of kindness can be the smile you give a stranger in the supermarket; holding the door open for someone or the “Good morning” to the bus driver.
It doesn’t take much to be kind and you can literally start straight away. Little and bigger acts of kindness can make such a difference in people’s life. It makes them feel noticed, cared for and valued. But it will also make a difference to you.
It will fill you with warmth; joy and will most likely put a smile on your face - because you did something good for someone else.
Kindness is limitless. Kindness is free. Kindness is magic.
Author: Michele Reiher, Christchurch
A beautiful gift of writing kindly contributed by a recent Guest of Taranaki Retreat ...make yourself a cuppa and.... ENJOY!
I’ve been contemplating the grey mass of cloud obscuring Taranaki for nearly a week without a sight of the mountain now. I’m surrounded by reminders of its existence, the rich pasture, the rain and the streams, but also a series of more literal symbols. In nearly every room of the retreat where I’m staying, there’s a representation of the mountain somewhere. There are paintings. There are signs with the logo – the shape of the mountain in a circle. Even the bug hotels that the Building Mates team has been constructing have the shape of a tall peak, representing Taranaki. But of the mountain itself there has been no sign.
It’s a shame, because I’ve been lucky enough to have a bedroom which looks directly towards the mountain. But the window of my bedroom is nothing in comparison to the stunning windows of the chapel, a small prefab with hundreds of colourful handprints decorating the outside. One wall, the one facing towards the mountain, is almost entirely glass, three enormous windows which invite you to look outwards and contemplate the breathtaking view. Or contemplate the clouds cloaking that breathtaking view, should Taranaki, at that moment, be lost from sight.
The chapel is a place for contemplation and reflection, along with meetings, yoga, drum practice and whatever else people need the space for. I’ve done Tai chi there every morning, lighting the candles and trying to keep my mind focused on my breath and my body as I move through the form. But my mind has inevitably strayed to the mountain I’ve been unable to see.
It is no accident that the windows of the chapel face Taranaki. The mountain is a powerful symbol, drawing the soul as much as it draws the eye. Even its frequent disappearance behind the cloak of cloud is a source of metaphor. People who come here are struggling. Under the weight of the burdens they carry, it becomes difficult to see what’s important. The clouds – their suffering, their struggle, their pain – have obscured the mountain. But the mountain is still there, and the clouds will eventually pass, revealing Taranaki again. There’s a note to this effect on the wall of the chapel, inviting people to meditate on the mountain and its meaning to them.
But there’s something else I’ve seen in Taranaki, something which becomes clearer the more I study the mountain’s geology and history. What people love so much about the mountain is its stunning shape, the way its slopes gently curve up to the solitary, sharp peak. This shape is portrayed in images of Taranaki across the region and across the world. But, as I’ve realised, that shape is a sign of Taranaki’s inherent instability. It has formed as a result of eruption cycles where the cone is built up and then collapses, then is built up before collapsing again and again. The beautiful, steep slopes have spawned the lahars and landslides that are so destructive and yet have also given Taranaki its beautiful soil.
Taranaki Retreat is much like the mountain. The warmth of its welcome does not come from wealth and ease. It was built by people who know suffering. It is maintained by people who know suffering. It’s brought to life by people who know suffering. Each day, people give their time and energy and love to the Retreat because they remember when they carried what seemed like an unbearable burden. Perhaps, like Taranaki, like me, they did their best to build themselves up, only to find themselves falling apart, again and again. But out of their suffering has come something beautiful and rare. From their experience, they find something to give to others who also suffer. The pain they’ve experienced has become their motivation, their compassion, their empathy. From their darkest times, they’ve created a place that brings people healing and hope.
Do you ever feel somehow blindfolded in your life and have no idea where to go next?
Why am I here?
What's my purpose?
Is my life meaningful?
Before I went to the Retreat and during the time there, I thought I will leave with a set plan or goal and know exactly where to go next. I got quite worried at the end realising that I still haven't got this plan. But then someone said "how about focusing on being curious rather than a set plan?"
Changing my focus made me feel so much lighter.
Yes, I do not have my exact plan (yet) but I'm feeling okay about it. It’s almost like being an artist and starting with a blank canvas and enjoying using all sorts of bright colours.
I am the creator of the next chapter of my life.
Author: Michele Reiher, Christchurch
If you have the chance to go there, please do so. Visiting Back Beach was very special to me and I will never forget how it made me feel.
I do love the beach and immediately agreed when a friend suggested to take me to Back Beach for a little walk.
Just knowing that I will go to the beach filled me with lots of excitement – a feeling I haven’t really felt for a long time. And I was VERY excited. A 35-year old was literally feeling like a little girl before Christmas. But I guess that’s what happens at the Retreat – It brings you back to your inner child who might got a little bit lost on the way of getting older or by experiences in life.
During the drive to the beach we – or I might need to say I – was talking a LOT. Full of excitement, joy and just being happy to see & spend time with my new friend.
After arriving we had an amazing view just standing there on the top of the sand dune overlooking Back Beach. Even though I had the WOW moment and was full of joy seeing the ocean, I wasn’t 100% there. You know I was still talking, concentrating on my story, and having all these thoughts in my head.
I started to walk down the sand dune – still talking. Fortunately, my dear friend said suddenly: “I’m sorry, but...” and I finished her sentence saying “... I should just shut up.”. She laughed (but agreed!) and said: “I just want you to really enjoy the moment when you walk or run down this sand dune.”
I smiled – because I knew she was right.
I concentrated – and this time not on all my thoughts and things which were going on in my head about the past and the future. I concentrated on the now. I felt fully in the present. Me standing on the top of the dune.
First, I walked slowly but then I started to run. I felt the ground, the light breeze on my face, I could smell the ocean and hear the waves. I felt alive and right there – at Back Beach.
Author: Michele Reiher, Christchurch.
Whether he did or not, maybe we will never know, but from that potential event came the quote "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
What small step could you take in the coming month, that would be a stepping stone towards a goal, a dream or something you are wanting to change?
Even by just making the smallest of steps it can start something, it can start a ball rolling, it can give us a sense of achievement or hope, it could start a conversation, or give us some new info or insights.
Can you take that step straight away? What would you need to make it happen? If it seems like you are needing a lot for that step to happen, can it be broken down any further?
"I can't talk to my family about this Liz, they all tell me I'm the strong one, and that I've got my shit together."
But even the strong ones need that hug sometimes, that reassurance, that space, that support, that encouragement. The strong ones also need the faith and belief, the compassion, the buddy to walk the path with them
If you are a strong one who is propping so many up, who is supporting and encouraging, but then goes home and sobs, or can feel that pent up stuff building in your body, please send us a message. You can simply say I can't be strong anymore and we can start the conversation from there.
You do not have to walk this journey on your own. We see you, we hear you. We get it.
Get in touch, either for you or for someone else. https://www.taranakiretreat.org.nz/contactus.html
What is the kindest thing you could do for yourself?
Could it be to take 5 outside?
Could it be to change the bed sheets?
Could it be do to make that Doctor's appointment?
Could it be to say no to something?
Could it be to have ten minutes playing the guitar?
What could it be for you?
World Gratitude Day this month - 21st September.
More and more I am hearing about the healing powers of gratitude. I am a firm believer, but recently saw that it was being spoken about at a trauma event. I feel the evidence has become so much that a regular sustained gratitude practice can really have such a positive impact. It has been shown many times to change the neural pathways in our brain.
When we think of something enough, or often, it starts to form a pathway in our brain, just like when we take a path through some grass. If we were to regularly walk that exact path, or repeat those beliefs in our mind then we will create a pathway, and this pathway will continue to deepen and be carved out.
However with a regular practice, we can start diverging off that original path, and creating another one. One that, thanks to the gratitude, helps us create more positive outlooks, beliefs, patterns, habits.
And then the positive ripple starts spreading out, and after a while we know no other way, we are spotting things left, right and centre, that we are grateful for, and the best bit? Gratitude is about keeping it small. What are the small things right now that you are grateful for? Here's ten of mine right away....
My dinner (mine always involves food)
Great conversation this afternoon
Time to relax today
Someone remembering how I like my tea
A change to blog.
Look around, what are you grateful for?
Road trip time.
Car is packed and you are on your way, destination may be known, it may not be.
You've been driving for a bit, and there's a sign that says scenic lookout. Do you stop?
Bit further along there is a lovely looking cafe and you are feeling a bit peckish or maybe in need of coffee. Do you stop?
A while in to the journey you see a sign for some waterfalls that you've always wanted to visit, but alway driven past. Do you go and explore?
You see cars parked in the streets and there seems to be a market on. Do you stop?
I remember while road tripping about a year ago my heart and soul would be wanting to stop and explore/investigate, but my head would be determined to get to wherever we were going, even if we didn't know. That time my heart and soul won and I was so grateful, had a beautiful curious experience.
This can also be applied in life. When are you going to stop along the way, rather than constantly striving and driving to get somewhere. Where are the places, you can take in how far you have come, when can you recharge, or explore or have fun?
It's not about the destination, it is so about the journey...