Cara’s delicious soba noodle salad with a tangy ginger and soy dressing…

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We recently travelled down to the picturesque NSW South Coast and stayed in an idyllic beach shack (in a little spot called Bendalong Beach) with our friends Cara and Ben…it was one of the most beautiful mini-breaks we have enjoyed in a long while and was memorable for so many reasons. The landscape truly was breathtaking – pristine beaches with fine white sand seemed to stretch, uninhabited, for miles…the last sun of Winter shone blissfully the entire time (which was so appreciated after a week of torrential rain) and the colourful and quirky array of wildlife we spotted was nothing short of astounding! The kids were completely captivated by the neighbourhood kangaroos (who calmly minded their business and basked in the sunshine behind picket fences), an echidna, seals, dolphins and groups of pelicans which glided calmly across the clear, sparkling waters.

It was also so much fun cooking in the cottage’s charming kitchen and we were lucky enough to sample Cara’s delicious soba noodle salad – so fresh, tasty and beautiful for lunches and dinners. This salad is amazing on its own but it would also be incredible with some steamed broccolini, grilled chicken, fish or tofu or a crunchy Asian coleslaw.

Cara’s recipe is below…I hope you enjoy.

Ingredients

1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds

salt 

250g soba noodles

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

5 teaspoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons honey

2 teaspoons sesame oil

fresh grated ginger (approx 4cm piece, or to taste)

2-3 sprigs of spring onion chopped

Directions

Boil a large pot of water with a little salt.

Once boiled put in the soba noodles and cook as directed, approx 3-4 minutes.

Drain and rinse with cold water.

Set aside.

In a separate bowl mix the vinegar, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil and ginger.

Pour noodles into your serving bowl, mix in the dressing and stir through the spring onions.

Then stir through the sesame seeds and leave for half an hour to let the flavours develop before serving.

Pop in the fridge then bring out 10 mins or so before serving.

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Beautiful Bali…when we travelled without the kids for the first time in years…

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Above: Colourful lanterns hanging in the tree outside popular Seminyak bar Ku De Ta

At the beginning of this month Mark and I flew to Bali for his cousin’s 40th birthday party – it was an experience that was incredible and unforgettable in many, many ways and it was the first time we had travelled without the kids in a very long time. The last time we left the girls at home with family members was when we flew to Bali (four years ago) and at the time, I was pregnant with Jack…since then, like most parents with young families, we have been busy raising the kids, running a business and living a fairly hectic (but very happy) life and I can barely believe how quickly the last four years has passed.

As a mum who is never far from my children, in the week before we went away I began to feel extremely anxious about leaving the kids and an overwhelming bout of ‘mother guilt’ swept over me…in all honesty before I had the kids I had no idea what ‘mother guilt’ even was and to be perfectly frank I thought such a concept was ludicrous and the stuff of fiction…but, these days (like most mums I chat to) I feel it often and I have resigned myself to the fact that I will probably feel it for the rest of my life…it’s illogical and irrational and makes very little sense (given that all I seem to do is strive to be the best mum I can be) but it exists and can be strangely (yet powerfully) very crippling – because the moment we have them their little hearts and souls are inextricably bound to ours.

And even though we were leaving the kids with my incredible sister-in-law Amanda and my amazing mum Jude (who are both absolute rock stars when it comes to child minding) I still had serious pangs of unease prior to leaving and started questioning whether in fact we should be going to Bali at all. Luckily for me, my mum is always filled with refreshing words of wisdom and when I relayed my concerns to her she said, “Oh my goodness Lyn….don’t be so ridiculous, of course you should go!! Make the most of Amanda and I and enjoy every second…the kids will be fine, we will love every precious moment with them and you and Mark will be in tropical heaven…together!” Of course, as always, Mum was right. It was a no brainer – life is meant to be lived and opportunities like these grasped with open and grateful arms. So, although I left copious lists, friend’s contact numbers, instructions and enough food and meals to feed a small army, I left home and the kids feeling mildly at peace and ready to embrace the exciting journey ahead of us.

The minute we stepped off the plane, the Balinese heat and humidity hit us and I felt instantly calm and at peace – it really is the perfect place to escape our chilly Sydney winters and such an easy flight away. We drove to The Legian (our hotel) at peak hour and as erratic horns honked and the golden sun set, I became mesmerised…breathing in the island’s intoxicating sites, smells and sounds. Motor bikes piled with parents and children zoomed passed, laid back commuters smiled and waved and the heady smell of incense and traffic ignited my senses. I felt so inspired and alive…so happy that Mark and I were about to spend five days in such a captivating location together…gloriously far from the responsibilities and demands of home.

Our days in Bali unfolded with ease and spontaneity and to be honest, we planned very little…

Each morning we took a Vinyasa yoga class in our hotel grounds…a setting so glorious and breathtakingly beautiful I could barely believe my eyes – the mats were lined up with care on the softest, greenest grass, overlooking the ocean and under a canopy of palm and fragrant frangipani trees.  We ate breakfast slowly and late…always starting with a selection of fresh, local tropical fruit, yoghurt, bircher muslie and eggs and then we’d set off on foot to explore Seminyak’s shops, cafes, markets and uniquely bustling intertwined streets…and as we walked each day I was so moved by the colourful Balinese peace offerings that seemed to be placed (with gentle care) absolutely everywhere.

We also hired a motorbike daily to travel beyond Seminyak…it was an amazingly freeing and fun way to explore the island – the best (and most popular) means for tourists and locals to sight see it seems. A highlight for me was driving from Seminyak to Canggu and beyond…soaring past the lushest rice paddies, occasionally getting lost (which was lots of fun in itself) and stopping at the very popular Nook Cafe to enjoy an icy cold fruit juice in a comfortable, shady setting overlooking the rice fields.

Before we left, I had imagined that Mark and I would have loads of fun exploring Bali, that we’d enjoy sleeping in and relaxing and appreciate celebrating with family and friends without the kids in tow, but what I hadn’t anticipated was how much we’d laugh…how much we would cherish each other’s company and how young and alive we would feel. We have always been the best of friends and have enjoyed travelling together but in Bali, after years of being focussed on the children and their wellbeing, years of being so unbelievably busy we were able to pause, to take a few deep breaths and live wholeheartedly in the moment…and although we missed the kids an awful lot, we ‘Face Timed’ them every day and told them about our adventures and came home with a fresh perspective, feeling more connected and rejuvenated than we have in a very long time. And I honestly feel that it did our little family the world of good…after all, there is no truer saying than absence makes the heart grow fonder….

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OUR TIPS

Beach-side bars we loved – Ku De Ta in Seminyak, Potato Head Beach Club and the new Finn’s Beach Club at Canggu (only 10 Minutes from Seminyak). These bars are the perfect places to relax with a beautiful meal and a drink and take a dip in the pool if you like. We also loved La Laguna in Canggu – a quirky spot to drink, eat and explore, with a definite bohemian vibe.

Motorbike adventures – We had a ball exploring Bali on a motorbike. It is a carefree and inexpensive way to see a lot of the island and getting lost is part of the fun!

Stay somewhere special – The Legian was incredible and we loved every single moment. The staff were so friendly, the rooms were next level and the breakfast and daily yoga were such a highlight. I really believe that our accommodation choices can make the difference between a good or a great holiday…do your research before you head off.

Explore on foot – I loved location of The Legian as we could literally head out of the gates and we were in amongst the bustling streets of Seminyak. The middle of the day gets extremely hot so it’s a good time to stop somewhere for a cold drink and relax.

Mama San – The best meal we had in Bali was at this popular restaurant. It was amazing and we feasted on dumplings, pork belly and whole fish. It does get very busy so book ahead – I would go back here in a heart beat!

Cafe Bali – Located in the centre of Seminyak, this cafe became a favourite of ours – the food is cheap, fresh and delicious.

Nook – A delightful, colourful cafe with a tropical energy that sits right on the rice paddies located just North of Seminyak. The food is healthy and delicious and inexpensive. We enjoyed a beautiful fresh juice here.

Flea Markets – The Flea Markets in Seminyak are well worth a visit. I found our girls some beautiful little purses, crystals and bracelets and the stall owners will bargain. There is no fixed price like in many of the Seminyak shops.

Treatments – One of the highlights for us was being pampered. A full body massage costs about $10 an hour (in some places less or a little more), pedicures, manicures etc are all very inexpensive so you can relax with a different treatment every day. There’s no need to book ahead…just pop in off the street.

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Above: Our morning Vinyasa yoga class overlooking the ocean at The Legian Hotel in Seminyak

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Above: Colourful peace offerings placed with care throughout the streets  

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Above: Lush rice paddies line the streets in Canggu

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Above: Mark and I at Gareth’s 40th birthday party, in the stunning grounds of Berawa Beach of Canggu Bali

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Above: The picturesque infinity edge pool at The Legian Hotel in Seminyak

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Above: A beautiful boho inspired setting to enjoy a drink and meal on the beach at La Laguna

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Above: A breathtaking sunset from The Legian Hotel in Seminyak

Maz’s healthy pumpkin soup with my green goddess pesto…

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In the second week of the school holidays we packed the car up and headed off with the kids to visit Mark’s Mum Marilyn (Maz) in country NSW. As a family we have always loved road-tripping and this last trip certainly didn’t disappoint – there is something so beautifully freeing about leaving home behind and breathing in the landscape as the scenery changes and at this time of year, the Autumn trees are truly spectacular. The Maple, Poplar and Liquidambar trees shone glorious shades of orange, rust, red and gold…illuminating the country roads and towns, framing the sprawling paddocks and reminding me how captivating and prominent the seasons are when we venture out of Sydney.

As usual, Maz spoiled us completely with her amazing home made cakes and treats and she also made us a delicious and hearty pumpkin soup – an old friend of hers arrived when we did with a couple of fresh pumpkins from a local farm…I have never seen pumpkins so orange in colour and the flavour of them in the soup was incredible. We were lucky enough to bring some of the pumpkin home with us and I made a batch of Maz’s soup last week. It is healthy, hearty and packed full of goodness and flavour – perfect for our chilly Autumn evenings.

This is an easy and nutritious meal for the whole family – I made a green goddess pesto with fresh herbs from the garden to dollop on top but you could also just add natural yoghurt or sour cream.

The recipe is below…I hope you enjoy.

Ingredients

For the soup:

1/2 fresh pumpkin, chopped into pieces

1 sweet potato, chopped

2 large carrots, chopped

2 potatoes, chopped

2 onions (any onions)

4 cloves garlic

2 bay leaves (fresh or dried)

About 1.5 litres chicken or vegetable stock (enough stock to cover all of the vegetables)

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

For the pesto:

1/2 cup basil

1/2 cup parsely

1/2 cup each kale and mint leaves

1 clove garlic

1/2 cup raw cashews

1/2 cup olive oil

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onions and garlic – cook, stirring, until softened.

Add all of the chopped vegetables and bay leaves…cover with the stock and simmer until all of the vegetables are cooked through and soft.

Allow to cool then blend the soup – I use my hand held blender so the soup can be reheated in the same saucepan.

For the pesto: Blend or process all of the ingredients and dollop on top of the soup before stirring.

Serve the soup on its own or with crusty bread or savoury muffins.

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