A voice for the voiceless

It’s so inspiring when you get to meet someone who’s passionate about the same things in life as you and today I got to do just that. At the start of this year, I arrived back in Australia after three months travelling and volunteering in South East Asia with a Christian NGO called Destiny Rescue who work in rescuing young girls and women from sex-trafficking, while aiming to end child slavery in our lifetime.

The person who I met up with was Destiny Rescue marketing manager Tony Cunningham, to discuss how (as a writer) I can contribute to Destiny Rescue’s publicity and help get them known in the wider community. I have now made the decision to volunteer some of my time to write press releases and good news stories about the awesome work Destiny Rescue is doing as well as working on some multimedia marketing strategies for them. Because I’m so passionate, I’m also considering becoming an advocate and volunteer speaker for Destiny Rescue so I can share what they’re doing with people like you!

While what I experienced overseas was incredibly eye opening, heart wrenching and uplifting (all at the same time), I now feel compelled and encouraged to raise awareness and have conversations with people about human trafficking. Ultimately, we need to face the fact that slavery is real and that there are more slaves today than any other time in history. But with that said, there is something we can all do if we want to see an end to it.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future”.

Since coming back, I have not only felt convicted about keeping in touch with Destiny Rescue staff and volunteers, but rather to continue in partnering with them now that I have seen for myself how they are empowering these young girls by giving them a hope and a future. In a sense, I feel responsible for getting the word out there, hence why I have chosen to be actively involved in becoming a ‘voice for the voiceless’.

As Destiny Rescue is a volunteer based organisation, 100 per-cent of child sponsorship funds are sent directly overseas to help children within the programs, with all additional fundraising done in Australia. It’s everyday people like you and me that can get involved and make a difference so, what are you waiting for?

In the upcoming weeks and months, Destiny Rescue has some fantastic events which I encourage you to support and get yourself (and a few friends) along to.

On the 7th and 8th of September, Destiny Rescue will be teaming up with Chant4Change, a charity benefit concert, combining music, acting and dancing in order to raise funds towards rescuing children from sexual slavery and ultimately create CHANGE.

This will be held at Lake Kawana Community Centre on the Sunshine Coast and is bound to be a fantastic night of entertainment (I’m certainly hoping to get along). For more information and to purchase tickets, check out their website and ‘like’ them on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/Chant-for-Change

But personally, what I’m looking forward to the most is the much anticipated release of Street Dreams, a documentary directed by Jason Bray which aims to expose the dark world of human trafficking and child prostitution, while seeking out the heroes behind the tales of hope and rescue of these enslaved victims (see trailer below).

The documentary premieres Australia wide on August 17 and features Destiny Rescue and the work they are doing in Thailand.

For those who are keen to see the premiere in Brisbane, it will be showing Friday 17 August, 7.30pm at Tribal Theatre (346 George Street). To purchase tickets or for more information about Street Dreams screening dates visit Red Earth Film Productions.

 

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Freelancing. What’s that?

Earlier this week I was given the chance to step back in time and be a student for a day, as my friend Rebecca had invited me to accompany her to the Walkley Foundation MediaPass Student Industry Day at the Brisbane Powerhouse.

Being a ‘free’ event and having the day off work, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to hear some tips on how to become a freelance writer/journalist and what it all entails. I must say I’m glad I went along (thanks Bec) as I found the day inspiring and insightful. There were so many fantastic guest speakers including Courier Mail assistant editor Trent Dalton, freelance writers Benjamin Law and Lee Mylne plus Triple J Hack reporter Alex Mann.

As panel sessions were structured in a Q&A style, many of the questions I had lingering in the back of my mind about freelancing were answered. Questions like, how do you pitch to publications? How much should you get paid for your work? Plus there was tips on how to secure government funding if you’re a freelancer starting out (thanks Ben!) Oh and apparently if you’re a writer, you shouldn’t be offering to work for free. In the words of Lee Mylne, “if its good enough to be published, it’s good enough to be paid for”.

As highlighted by Benjamin Law (who currently contributes to frankie, The Monthly, Qweekend and Good Weekend), being a freelance writer is far from a glamorous. You spend much of the day cooped up in the house in front of a laptop/computer wearing your pajamas. Occasionally a friend might call and ask if you want to do lunch or coffee in which you use it as an excuse to escape the ‘office’.

Brisbane-based writer Benjamin Law © 2012 Paul Harris

If there’s anything that I learnt and took away from the day, it’s the following:

1. Know your strengths and your weaknesses. Particularly know the strengths of your story ideas and know your weaknesses as an interviewer.

2. Pitch only what you can deliver and give editors what they want. Building a relationship with editors is vital!

3. NETWORK! As the saying goes, it’s not what you know but who you know. Get some allies and build yourself a support network.

4. Freelancing consists of two things – writing and marketing yourself! The two go hand in hand.

5. Be confident in your own work and be willing to persevere. You must be hungry at all times and in the words of Andrew McMillen, “hunger can’t be learned, only encouraged”.

Shuck you very much!

Since moving to Brisbane several months ago, I’ve had various people tell me about a coffee house that I absolutely must visit. So the other week I decided to meet a friend and see for myself exactly what everyone keeps raving about. I’m talking about Shucked Coffee House, a trendy little café tucked away in the industrial streets of Newstead.

And yes, I know exactly what you’re thinking. What an unlikely place for a coffee house and you’d be right, but at the same time, discovering Shucked amongst a group of car dealerships is what makes it such a gem. Best known for its breakfasts, brunches and incredible coffee, Shucked will leave you with nothing else to say but, “shucks, that was so brunch-alicious!”

Originally a warehouse, Shucked has been transformed into a modern coffee house/cafe which carries vintage tones and an all over warming feeling. The atmosphere is inviting from the moment you step through the door. The staff are all smiles and extremely friendly (not to mention helpful when it comes to choosing what to eat as the choices are endless). Needless to say, it’s the perfect place to bring a group of friends on a late Saturday morning, sip lattes, catch up and share a plate (or two).

It was about midday when my friend Katerina and I ordered. As I had skipped breakfast, I was craving eggs and after much contemplation, I eventually opted for the sweet potato rosti served with poached egg, wilted spinach, crispy bacon and caramelised balsamic onion. Katerina chose the lunch special that just so happened to be homemade rabbit ragout served with parmesan cheese and toasted turkish bread. All of it was absolutely divine!

Feeling extremely comforted after such a satisfying meal, there was no way we could leave straight away so Katerina and I decided to be adventurous and ordered chili hot chocolates. While I’ve had chili hot chocolates in the past (and loved them) this one was like no other. After one sip, our lips began to burn, our mouths were on fire and neither of us could reach for the water fast enough. As a person who doesn’t mind a bit of spice, lets just say I won’t be having one of those anytime soon.

Sadly, parking near Shucked is a bit of a problem. While there’s an array of paid (and unpaid) parking bays, getting one is difficult given the amount of people who work in the surrounding area, so catching public transport is highly recommended. But apart from that, Shucked is a definite must, whether you live in Brisbane or are just passing through. You won’t be disappointed and if you don’t believe me, you can always check them out on Urbanspoon.

Booked out!

If I asked you to tell me one thing that we do on a daily basis you’d probably say eat, sleep, walk but what about read? We can’t go anywhere these days without reading something, whether it be facebook messages, text messages or emails. Depending on what you’re reading, you may or may not consider it a joy but honestly, nothing beats curling up in bed (or on the couch) reading a good book.

Early last month, my housemate told me about the Lifeline Bookfest being held at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Brisbane. It’s an annual event not only held in Brisbane but throughout Queensland, drawing large crowds of bookworms over consecutive days.

As someone who had never been before (I love how Brisbane is exposing me to events like this), it sounded great and as an avid reader I thought I might as well tag along and check it out. However when the day came, my plans changed at the last minute and I decided not to go. I later regretted this decision when my housemate arrived home with a bagful of books including novels, cookbooks and various other goodies.

“Darn, I knew I should’ve gone,” I thought to myself.

Last weekend however, I was on the Gold Coast and had some time to spare. Unsure of what I was going to do with myself, I called a friend who just so happened to mention the Lifeline Bookfest was on at Parklands that weekend. Without thinking, I jumped in my car and quickly made my way there. This time, I wasn’t going to miss out!

It was 2pm on Sunday afternoon when I arrived and from the moment I walked through the doors, I was greeted by an endless amount of books beckoning my name. To be honest, I didn’t even know where to begin, but the fiction hardbacks looked like a good place to start.

I spent two whole hours (which felt like five minutes) slowly perusing the endless rows of books. During that time, I’m pretty sure I lost count of the number of Dan Brown books (mostly the Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons). While I was particularly after some George Orwell classics (namely Animal Farm and 1984), I came across some other goodies that I have been intending to read for a while.

One is The Shack by WM. Paul Young and the other, Q&A by Vikas Swarup, which the movie Slumdog Millionaire is based on. I even scored myself a two-dollar Brisbane and Gold Coast street directory, which now permanently lives, in my car for those days when I just can’t seem to find my way around town. All up, I spent fourteen dollars and have myself some fantastic reads which I cannot wait to get into!

Lifeline Bookfest is a great family event that really does have something for everyone. Books span over 20 different categories and are broken into three different sections – high quality, priced and unpriced.  This year’s Brisbane Bookfest that was held from 9-12 June, raised over $70,000 with all proceeds going towards UnitingCare Community’s Lifeline service, including Lifeline’s 24-hour Crisis Line.

So not only do you score some real bargains but you can walk away knowing your money has been donated to a worthwhile cause. If you missed this year’s Bookfest, don’t worry, Brisbane’s next Lifeline Bookfest will be held from Saturday January 19 to Sunday January 27, 2013 (which really isn’t that far away). So pencil it in your diary and keep that day free because this is one event you won’t want to miss!!

For more information, head to: http://www.uccommunity.org.au/brisbane-bookfest or ‘like’ them on facebook http://www.facebook.com/LifelineBookfest

Sweet as sugar

In May this year, I was given the opportunity to attend the Noosa Food and Wine Festival (as a budding food journo) and it was while I was checking out the culinary exhibition that this particular stall caught my eye (which may have something to do with sweets being my guilty pleasure). And with macadamia shortbreads that are ‘to die for’, I thought it would be unkind for me not to share some of the sweetness with you…

Hailing from Epping in Sydney, SWEETNESS The Patisserie specialises in all things sweet and the selection they brought with them this year were some of the most decadent treats one could only dream of.

SWEETNESS owner and founder, Gena Karpf, said it was their second time at the festival and that they had come back to share their love and passion of all things sweet. As summed up by Gena, “sugar is what we do”.

Mini macadamia shortbreads (far left) and other delectable treats  © SWEETNESS The Patisserie

In 2011, SWEETNESS The Patisserie was a finalist in Delicious Magazine’s Produce Awards (from the earth category) for their delicious mini macadamia shortbreads. These delicate little beauties literally melt in the mouth and it’s easy to see why these pastry chefs are so good at and really enjoy what they do – you can taste it in every bite.

SWEET Mallows are another signature indulgence. These lavish handmade marshmallows are available in 30 different flavours, so there’s bound to be one to suit any type of taste bud. Another tasty treat is SWEETNESS’ signature dark chocolate and orange slices, perfect as an after dinner refreshment.

“While they are time consuming to make, that’s exactly what defines them,” Gena said.

Signature SWEET Mallows © SWEETNESS The Patisserie

For more of the sweetness head to: www.sweetness.com.au or find them on Facebook www.facebook.com/SWEETNESSThePatisserie

Say cheese to winter goodness

Being winter, all one craves is delicious comfort food. I’m talking about the type of food that after the first bite makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Winter to me is all about pot pies, soup (minestrone, mmmm…), lasagne, casseroles, hot chocolate and sticky date pudding. The list goes on! This morning when I woke up, it was cold, wet and miserable and the only thing I could think about was what I was going to cook for dinner (which ultimately would make everything better!)

For me, cheese is always a winner (whether it’s a grilled cheese sanga or served with a fruit platter), but nothing beats melted cheese. So if you’re looking for a dish that oozes cheesy goodness and screams comfort, then this baked four cheese and spinach cannelloni dish might just be what you need to dig into this winter. It’ll have your family and friends coming back for more (and more!)

(click on thumbnails to view gallery)

Ingredients

500g fresh ricotta

2 eggs, lightly beaten

100g parmesan, grated

150g firm feta, crumbled

2-3 tsps nutmeg

5 large bocconcini balls, torn into small pieces

250g frozen spinach (defrosted and excess moisture drained)

Salt and ground pepper, to season

250g fresh cannelloni sheets (12 in pack)

Sauce

60ml extra virgin olive oil

4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

400g can chopped tomatoes

700g bottle tomato passata

2 Tbsp sugar

1 (0r 2) handfuls of fresh chopped basil

Method

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. To make the cannelloni filling, put ricotta and eggs in a large bowl and gently stir to combine. Fold in 70g of the parmesan, feta and nutmeg along with half the bocconcini. Season with salt and pepper.

To make the sauce, heat the oil in in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until golden. Add tomatoes and passata  and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in sugar and basil and season. Once done, spread sauce over the base of a 20 x 30cm baking dish.

To assemble cannelloni, spoon mixture on the long side of the sheet. Roll the sheet into a log shape to enclose mixture. Place cannelloni seam side down in dish. Repeat with remaining mixture and cannelloni sheets. Spoon over the remaining sauce and sprinkle with remaining bocconcini and parmesan.

Cover with foil and bake for one hour then remove foil and cook for a further 10 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned. Serve with garlic bread (if desired).

Now prepare to go into a food coma!

My beautiful friend, where will I meet you?

Each morning when I drive to work, I pass this gorgeous little coffee shop in Albion. The white back drop and big black writing catches my attention every time. Well, at least I thought it was just a coffee shop until the day I decided to check it out for myself and my oh my, I couldn’t have been more mistaken. Ma Belle Amie which translates to ‘my beautiful friend’ is more than just a coffee shop. It’s a cafe and gift store bundled into one and ‘a place for beautiful friendships’.

Nestled in the heart of Albion across the road from the train station lies this quaint little abode which has been open for just over a year. Immediately after entering, my eyes are greeted to a world of colour and I am drawn to all things beautiful and feminine. With a diverse range of giftware, this gorgeous little shop will have you poking every corner. French inspired? oui, and to top it off this place is decorated with hanging parasols, floral wallpaper, and shelves of trinkets draped in fairy lights only adds to the delight.

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The range of giftware is endless from teacups and saucers to photo frames, jewellery, clothing, clocks and DIY kits – something to tickle every girls fancy.  There’s also a selection of quirky cards and stunning gift wrap, perfect for that special occasion. While some products are sourced from overseas, owner Clarissa Rayward also sells a range of Australian products including local Brisbane wares.

And what would a cafe be without good coffee and great service? Soft tunes while sipping your pot of tea or cup of coffee makes Ma Belle Amie the ideal spot for catching up with a friend (or two). But if it’s lunch you’re after, the girls have that covered as well. With a range of delicious lunch options including homemade pies, quiches and vegetarian lasagne all served with fresh salad (made on the spot), you’ll be left wanting more. My personal favourite however is the mushroom and blue cheese arancini. Even now just thinking about it, my mouth is starting to salivate – it’s that darn good!

For those with a sweet tooth, don’t worry, Ma Belle Amie has an amazing selection of scrumptious sweets including vanilla passionfruit slice, coconut macaroons, apple crumble and caramel flan and chocolate mud cakes (just to name a few). Oh, and no cafe would be complete without homemade cupcakes. It’s easy to say, I think I may have just found my new favourite hang out.

So next time you’re in Brisbane, make time to stop by Albion and check out this treasure – Shop 1, 10 Albion Rd, Albion or visit them online www.mabelleamie.com.au or on Facebook www.facebook.com.au/mabelleamie