Best Ever Butterscotch Bars

This is a version of a recipe given to me in middle school by a friend (I still have the original, very well-loved looking version in 11-year-old handwriting). It’s been tried and tested to death by me over the past 10 years, so I can safely say this is fail-safe and is definitely a people-pleaser.

This is a version of a recipe given to me in middle school by a friend (I still have the original, very well-loved looking version in 11-year-old handwriting). It’s been tried and tested to death by me over the past 10 years, so I can safely say this is fail-safe and a total people-pleaser.

Being a bit of a glutton for sweet treats myself I like to add the chocolate layer. I love me a classic choco caramel slice, and this is better than any I have ever bought. The version without the chocolate is also incredible, I’d been making it without the chocolate for nine years before I decided to take make the addition, so if you’re not about that life or simply don’t have chocolate on hand, this is still amazing.

Chocolate butterscotch slice recipe
Made this just in time for a rainy rest day!

Get baking and enjoy in moderation (try to, it’s addictive, I’m sorry)!

– Ingredients –

Base:

  • 125g butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 cup self-raising flour (or 1 cup standard flour with 1 tsp baking powder)
  • 1 cup standard flour

Filling:

  • 200g butter
  • 4 rounded Tbsp golden syrup
  • 800g condensed milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • drop of vanilla essence

Optional:

  • 250g chocolate (doesn’t matter what kind, I like using good quality milk chocolate)

– Method – 

Preheat oven to 180°C and line a 23x23cm or 23x33cm baking tray with baking paper.

For the base, cut the butter into pieces and add to large saucepan. Remove from heat once starting to melt. Beat in vanilla, egg, and sugar. Stir in both flours until the base is crumbly. Press mix into a ball. Press the dough into the tin. (You can choose to make this without the chocolate if you wish. For this, break off 1/4 of the dough, wrap it in sandwich-wrap and put it in the freezer before pressing the remainder into the tin).

For the filling, melt butter in a saucepan. Add in golden syrup with a spoon run under hot water. Beat in the condensed milk until completely combined. Add salt and vanilla, then pour over the base. (For the version with no chocolate, grate or crumble the remaining 1/4 of the dough over the butterscotch).

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in the center of the oven until the filling has browned. Remove from oven.

Using a double boiler, melt chocolate. Pour and spread chocolate evenly over the slice.

Allow to cool for 2 hours before cutting into slices with a sharp knife run under hot water.

 

The Wellth Self-Care Guide

Stress can be helpful in certain situations, it doesn’t exist without purpose. Stress can, however, become a bit too much and begin to feel overwhelming, so here are four proven strategies you can and should employ to keep yourself well.

Let’s begin this guide with a trusty cliche: life isn’t fair. From time to time, life throws you a curve-ball, no matter how hard you work or how good you’ve been, and it really is not fair. But it happens anyway. When you’re stressed, looking after yourself can fall to the bottom of your to-do list so it’s important to remember to keep your wellbeing a high priority, you’ll probably find that in doing so, your stressors will become easier to tackle.

Stress is the activation of your brain’s fight-or-flight mechanism. We need stress to help us react quickly to danger, and it can even be helpful to motivate you to complete your work to a deadline. However, stress can get too much and begin to feel overwhelming, so here are four proven strategies you can and should employ to keep yourself well.

1. Mindfulness

A lot of scientific research has gone into mindfulness and its ability to reduce stress through learning to calm your mind and body, similar to meditation. Its a technique taught to people suffering from chronic diseases, nurses, psychotherapists, councilors and health professionals who frequently deal with high volumes of work that can be distressing or emotionally taxing in nature. So don’t dismiss ‘mindfulness’ as mumbo-jumbo, it has been proven to reduce levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Keep in mind this is a strategy that’s best if you get some experience doing it and make it a regular thing. If you try it once and you don’t think it works don’t give up on it altogether. Heres how you can practice mindfulness yourself:

•    Take some time out to focus your mind on one thing. Here are some ideas to help you get the hang of it, focus on: how the sun feels on your skin,  the taste and smell of your food, your breathing, the tension in your muscles and relaxing them methodically, all the sounds in your environment. Direct all your attention to whatever it is, don’t try to multi-task, all you should be doing is relaxing and focusing your mind on the task at hand.

•    If you’re having trouble and find that your mind is wandering, that’s ok, don’t dwell on it, acknowledge it and direct your mind back to the target of your focus.

•    Since you’re doing this because you’re stressed, you may have some intrusive thoughts or feelings about the stressor. That’s ok too, acknowledge the feelings, allow yourself to feel the sensations of emotion, but guide your mind away from engaging in actual memories or thinking through the problem. If you notice this happening, you don’t need to get frustrated, just relax, acknowledge it, don’t judge your thoughts, and direct your mind back to your focus.

•    If you’re new to this, it’d be better to start with short periods to allow yourself to get the hang of it before increasing the amount of time you do it for. But remember that you can do this any time, it doesn’t matter if you’re sitting at your work desk.

•    Another mindfulness strategy is the ‘body-scan.’ From your toes to your head, pay attention to and notice how your whole body feels.

•    If you are someone who struggles with anxiety or frequent worry, give yourself a moment where you allow these thoughts to go through your mind, and try to acknowledge them and not engage with them or feel anything about them.

2. Exercise

Exercise as a stress reliever is a more well-known strategy, but I’d like to push the importance of it. Engage in a level of activity that challenges you and makes you feel good. Not only does a good workout release endorphins in your brain, you have also achieved something to be proud of which is a mood booster in itself. If the stressor you’re facing is a problem that needs fixing, exercise can help you think more clearly as it improves your cognition and increases your energy. Try just going for a walk, or practicing yoga in your room. If you need some motivation or inspiration head over to the Beginners Guide to Loving Fitness.

While getting active when you’re stressed will help you, regular exercise is important to help keep you in good spirits the rest of the time as well. Exercise is especially important and recommended by health professionals for those with anxiety and depression.

3. Social Support

A problem shared is a problem halved. Confide in someone you love, get some good advice and reassurance, allow someone to help you. Don’t bottle it up, nothing good ever comes from that. Sometimes someone else has a different perspective that will make you view your problem in a different way, or they may help you come up with a plan that helps you feel like you’ve regained control.

If you don’t feel comfortable sharing whatever it is that’s getting you down or stressed, then even just reaching out to someone for some quality time can do you some good. Get your cuddle on, hugs reduce the stress hormone cortisol, so get amongst. Getting someone to give you a massage can be a good stress reliever as well. Stress leads to muscle tension, and massages release muscle tension and feel-good endorphins! So relax, and let your partner or bestie put in some elbow grease to work the stress out of you.

4. Time for Yourself

A good stress reliever can simply be doing something just for yourself. Treat yourself to some quality ‘me-time.’ A bit of a pamper or even just getting yourself organised can make you feel refreshed and set to take on the world again. Time for yourself can be anything you enjoy doing, here’s a quick list of self-care ideas straight from my own personal journal:

  • take a bath
  • listen to music
  • paint your nails
  • put on a face mask
  • light some candles and get some mood lighting going
  • watch a movie
  • bake your favourite treats
  • snuggle into fresh sheets
  • write a to-do list
  • clean your room
  • write in a journal
  • go outdoors
  • treat your body to some fruit and veggies
  • stay hydrated

 

When life gets you down or gets overwhelming, just remember, it’s not a bad life, just a bad moment. How many bad moments have you had that you completely forgot about because it got resolved or seems insignificant now? Remember that this too shall pass, and you will be able to say you conquered it. If bad things didn’t happen you wouldn’t appreciate the good. Feel the emotion and appreciate you’re experiencing the full human experience, you get to experience all the feelings that come with being alive, and that’s beautiful.

 

 

 

References:

  1. WebMD, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction – Topic Overview
  2. Anxiety and Depression Association America, Physical Activity Reduces Stress 
  3. Birnie, K., Speca, M., & Carlson, L. E. (2010), Exploring self‐compassion and empathy in the context of mindfulness‐based stress reduction (MBSR). Stress and Health, 26: 359-371. doi:10.1002/smi.1305
  4. Khoury, Bassam & Sharma, Manoj & Rush, Sarah & Fournier, Claude. (2015). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Healthy Individuals: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2015.03.009.
  5. Chiesa A, Serretti A (2009). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: A review and meta-analysis. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(5): 593-600.

 

7 Tips From a Bad Uni Student to New Uni Students

Hindsight. It is a beautiful thing. As the end of my studies are drawing near I have the pleasure of looking back and wondering what on earth I was doing half the time over the past three years. Lots of missed opportunities and sub-par decision making. So like a wise older sister I shall now impart to you some worldly knowledge in the hopes that your uni experience is a successful and healthy one.

Tip One: Be thrifty

Whether you are getting a student loan, paying your way, or getting support from your parents, uni is expensive. I have spent a week or two in the last few years eating cereal with water because I ran out of milk and couldn’t afford to get more. Do not let that be you. That’s gross. Make sure you have money for necessities before you go out for lunch or go out drinking, even though its tempting.

Tip Two: Prioritise

Because Uni is so expensive, don’t take it for granted. If you have a loan, you’ll be paying for it later, and if you fail a course and have to re-sit it, you’re adding to the cost for future-you. If you don’t do the work for your classes in favour of your social calendar or your new Netflix subscription, you are wasting your own time and money. That being said, having a good social life is a huge part of your uni experience.  But you do need to make sure you strike a balance between work and play so you form a good work ethic and set yourself up for the rest of your studies.

Tip Three: The ‘Fresher Five’ won’t kill you

If you haven’t heard of the ‘Fresher Five,’ it’s a common phenomenon where you gain five kgs plus in your first year. I’m telling you now, this is a real thing. Obviously, the metabolically blessed among us escape gain-free, but for the rest of us mere mortals, it is brutal and sneaky.

It’s easy to get caught up in the bad habits that are fostered in the first year, especially if you just moved out of home. But first-year and uni, in general, isn’t some alternate ultra-fat-storing universe where weight gain is unavoidable, obviously the usual still applies. You know the drill: eat your fruit and veggies, eat your protein, manage your portion sizes, don’t go ham on the higher calorie treats, and keep active. The major traps in first-year revolve around making new friends and wanting to involve yourself in every social opportunity on offer, and social eating and social drinking are a big part of that. Remember that you can still hang out with people and have fun without over indulging. Sometimes a sugar-free energy drink at a party is just as fun, or choosing the smaller option at lunch and skipping the added cake or fries (or in my case, milkshakes).

Stress eating is another catch, so keep the healthy snacks stocked up so you can turn to those when you need to. Keeping on top of your health is worth it, and as an added bonus it’ll help keep you mentally sharp for your studies.

However! If the fresher five befalls you, do not fret! At different times in life we have different priorities, and if in uni you find that socialising and keeping on top of your workload is what is most important to you, that is perfectly fine. For me, I was well and truly acquainted with the Fresher Five by the end of my first year, but my lifestyle now is a far cry from what it was then and the fresher five is a distant memory. Do your best, but don’t beat yourself up. You have the rest of your life to follow your fitspo dreams.

Tip Four: Don’t procrastinate

Do not do this. I myself used to be terrible at it. Worst of all its been proven that procrastination isn’t some kind of trait, or brought on by anything out of your control. Nothing is making you procrastinate. Procrastination is a choice. I hate this fact, but it is, none the less, a fact. Do not choose to leave your work to the last possible moment.

While you’re putting off your work, yes, life is good, but that it sets you up for a very, very not good time ahead. Often you underestimate how long an assignment is going to take, or you run into some unforeseen issues that you haven’t left yourself the time to sort out. Issues like this make doing your uni work suck way more than it needs to. Its no fun and wreaks havoc on your stress levels.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking ‘diamonds are formed under pressure,’ because while you may somehow pull an A+ out of your ass the night before the deadline, that does not mean you will manage that miracle every time. Don’t be lazy. Make like Shia LaBeouf and just do it.

Tip Five: Sleep

Partying and late night cram studying can absolutely ruin your sleeping pattern, and leave you sleep-deprived. This is bad for you, more so than you may think as sleep plays a role in keeping your cognition on point, your mental health, and your weight regulation. Go to sleep at a regular hour like a regular person as often as you can. Enough said. Go to bed.

Tip Six: Use successful study methods

I study psychology, and one thing they drill into us is that in order to consolidate your learning, to really get it to stick, you need to engage with the material. The more involved your processing of information, the better you will learn it. For a start, don’t skip lectures. Second of all, take notes. When it comes to note taking though, not every method is equal. You’re better off going old school and taking notes by hand, not on a laptop because writing by hand has been shown to improve learning as it requires more processing than typing. On top of that, if you have readings to do, take notes by hand for that too because reading often isn’t enough. In fact, its been shown that when you re-read material and it becomes easier to read, that isn’t necessarily because you learned the content, it can mean that you have simply become familiar with the writing allowing the act of reading to flow more smoothly.

Tip Seven: Take opportunities

Get involved in Uni life. There are so many clubs and study groups and extracurricular opportunities that can help your learning, forge valuable connections, and give you the boost you need to make things easier when it comes to getting a job at the other end. I wish now that I took what opportunities I could early on, and I’m kicking myself for it now. You have the chance to give yourself an advantage, so why wouldn’t you?

Take these tips and let my learnings through trial and many errors be a lesson to you. Even though I have managed to be successful in my studies (please don’t think I’m a total loser I promise I’m doing fine), it could have been a hell of a lot smoother, and I could have done myself much prouder had I adhered to this advice. You have been warned. My conscience is now clear. Go forth and kick some academic ass.

A Beginners Guide to Loving Fitness

Getting into fitness can be really damn hard. Especially for my fellow shy and self-conscious girls out there. It can feel like a battle of willpower you’re never going to win. I’ve been there. I feel you. I had trouble sticking to a routine for more than a couple of weeks. When it came to the gym, I was intimidated by all the ‘perfect’ fit people. I didn’t want to be seen incompetently fiddling with equipment or completely butchering the execution of an exercise, on top of sweating and puffing and looking generally out of shape. I paid for gym memberships but left them untouched. I personally found the idea of going for a run embarrassing because I didn’t want to be seen looking like I was dying by anyone I might pass. But after much trial and error, about two years ago, I stumbled onto a path that began my fitness journey. Behold: the internet. So much information, so much misinformation, but some absolute gold if you find yourself in the right place. If you relate to any of what I’ve said so far, then this should appeal to you. Working out in the comfort of your own home, courtesy of YouTube, no equipment necessary.

Looking back, I think that pairing working out with an activity I already loved was the turning point for me changing the way I felt about exercise, it no longer felt to me like a necessary evil. Being able to work out in my own home also had the benefits of being completely free, super accessible, and entirely removed self-consciousness from the equation. YouTube workouts offer what is effectively a not-so-personal Personal Trainer, the videos guide you through a workout, explain correct form, and offer motivation, and if you’re not feeling it, you can find a new one in a click. Using YouTube makes working out so simple there’s really no excuse.

If you’re a beginner, then cardio is the opposite of fun. Bedroom-dancing, on the other hand, = much fun. You can get your sweat on dropping it low if that’s what you’re into. I personally loved The Fitness Marshall. His channel features popular songs with fun hip-hop routines along with hilarious and motivating commentary. I was surprised by how effective these videos were, I’d be puffing and sweating in my living room, but for the first time, I was actually loving it.

Dancing had made working out fun, and it got to the point where getting physically active made me feel really good, and I sought something more to get that feeling. I phased my dance-cardio to a warm-up, or half my workout, and introduced some bodyweight workouts that I found. At one point I had over 30 tabs open on my computer for all the videos I used. I found that for bodyweight workouts with no equipment, pilates was my favourite. I loved that small movements that looked so simple could burn so much (in a good way).For this, my favourite channels were Fitness Blender and Blogilates. I worked my way up from beginner to advanced levels, being able to complete moves that I couldn’t a week ago gave me a rush of motivation. I started to get a kick out of seeing what my body could do.

At this point, I was loving my workouts. They became ‘me time’, and I made them a priority. I no longer needed to have my cardio disguised by fun dance routines, I craved results and the satisfaction of feeling that my physical limits had been pushed and loved how after a workout my body felt tired and my mind felt wired. I discovered High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), an effective cardio workout style I could still do at home, which boasted efficient fat-loss, boosted metabolism, muscle maintenance, and improved cardiovascular endurance. I had put on 5kgs during my first year at university, (thank you to binge drinking, pizza, and Kit-Kats) which I had been struggling to get rid of. Once I incorporated HIIT into my workouts is when the biggest changes in my body started to happen. For these workouts, I used Fitness Blender. Their channel offered a huge variety of videos for this. I also discovered The Body Coach who offered awesomely grueling do-anywhere HIIT. Both channels offer videos for all abilities that allowed me to work my way up, which while obviously being good fitness-wise, also gave me a goal to reach for.

From that point, I was seeing results in the mirror and loving feeling my strength and fitness increase. I wanted to get stronger still. I got dumbbells to use but soon discovered that to keep up with what my body needed to continue to improve, I’d need to keep buying more and more to up the intensity. Joining the gym was finally a feasible option for me that would allow me to continue to grow. I was motivated, excited, and confident in what my body could do. I still am two years on.

Everybody’s Fitness Journey is unique, and none is superior to another. Don’t let workouts you hate make you hate working out. If you are struggling to find love for fitness, try a different approach. Whether its dance-cardio in your bedroom for fun, a sport that riles up your competitive side, scenic hikes because nature invigorates you, or martial arts that make you feel bad-ass, whatever works for you. It may just take trying something new.

Green Exercise

Low mood, high stress, low self-esteem. All bad for your wellbeing, and all unfortunately very common.

Succumbing to the pressure to conform when social media faces you with swathes of what it likes to think are ‘perfect people’ is easy. It is common to get sucked into trying to attain that ideal image and seeing yourself as less-than. Although it’s a positive and healthy change that ‘strong is sexy’ is in vogue for women’s bodies over the extreme thinness that was once strived for, feeling pressure to look a certain type of way is never healthy (for women or men). Feeling negatively about the way your body looks can be detrimental to your self-esteem. Working out is supposed to be rewarding, not a punishment, and you should be loving, not hating, your body at all stages of your fitness journey.

Feeling down and stressed can stem from many unavoidable aspects of life. Whether it be school, work, or relationship dramas, life doesn’t always go smoothly. Unfortunately for many, low mood and high stress can stick around longer than it should or feel to be permanent. Whatever the case is, there are things you can do to combat these feelings.

Working out, in general, makes you feel good (thank you, endorphins), and is obviously good for your health. A lot of us also spend the majority of our time cooped up indoors, and surrounded by an urban landscape, and then go to the gym to workout indoors as well. While this is still going to help you physically and mentally, there is more you can do to keep your body and mind in top shape.

Studies into ‘Green Exercise’ are showing that moving your workout into a natural environment can do more to relieve stress, improve mood, and boost self-esteem. Even a short period of exercise in a natural environment has a substantial effect. Whats more, the improvement in self-esteem was found to be even greater for those suffering from mental illness.

For those of you who turn to the gym to lift and run away from a negative body image, who could use a pick-me-up, or just generally want to reap the benefits, consider changing it up and take your dose of exercise somewhere beautiful outdoors. A workout away from the gym won’t ruin your gains, I promise.

 

 

References:

1. Mackay, G. J., & Neill, J. T. (2010). The effect of “green exercise” on state anxiety and the role of exercise duration, intensity, and greenness: A quasi-experimental study. Psychology of sport and exercise, 11(3), 238-245.

2. Gladwell, V. F., Brown, D. K., Wood, C., Sandercock, G. R., & Barton, J. L. (2013). The great outdoors: how a green exercise environment can benefit all. Extreme physiology & medicine, 2(1), 3.

3. Barton, J., & Pretty, J. (2010). What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? A multi-study analysis. Environmental science & technology, 44(10), 3947-3955.