OUR CHRISTMAS CAKE RECIPE IN MEMORY OF MY MUM

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Every family has traditions synonymous to themselves at Christmas time and the upholding of these traditions varies with each family and each generation.

One such tradition in our family was the making and baking of the Christmas cake.  I am fortunate enough to remember memories of my Grandmother – my mum’s mum and her small kitchen where a lot of the joy and passion for baking was passed down.  Scones, apple tarts, fruit cakes, jams and Christmas cakes were baking norms where we all got to help out and be very much included and indulge in the culinary delights of whatever was being created.

Like my mum and her mum before her I have involved my two children in baking over the years with sleeves rolled up, over-sized aprons donned and weighing scales at the ready.  Inevitably the kitchen scene would always end up the same, flour all over the place on the counters, stuck between the cracks in the tiles, all over the floor, up the noses and whitening the hair of my two enthusiastic kids as sieves were shaken with enormous enthusiasm whilst sporting two major grins.  Any one visiting, young or old got to roll up their sleeves, get involved and share in the fun and creativity as well as indulge in the end result.

Baking is a huge part of my family tradition with recipes being passed down the family line just like royalty would pass expensive gems.  My mum’s recipe book was always bulging with recipes she picked up and collected over the years.  She would title the recipe by the respective person she sampled the food and subsequently received the recipe from.  Mrs Hennessy’s Cheesecake, Lisa’s shortbread cookies and my pastry recipe even made it in there.  Baking holds fond memories for me and one such memory is the yearly Christmas cake.  Those that know me personally know how much food and especially Christmas cake is a topic of great discussion with me especially in the classes just before Christmas.  Discussing recipes is a daily event just as much as tampering and altering recipes is.

Traditionally Mum liked to bake her Christmas cakes on the October Bank Holiday weekend.   Baking early allowed the cakes time to age, mature and allowed the alcohol to infuse ensuring that the cakes were nice and moist.  One cake wouldn’t go very far in our household and each year, this year being no different my Mum would bake no less than four Christmas cakes.

In my teenage years Dad would be sent off on the elusive hunt to track down and find the hidden cakes.  Mum used to go to great lengths to ensure that at least one cake would make it to the Christmas season.  We were like blood hounds on the hunt once we got a sniff of fruit cake.  Invariably a cake would always be found, normally in the back of the hot press and Dad would always be encouraged by three devilish daughters to cut into that cake and teatime became an indulgent pleasure.  Truthfully I think mum deliberately let this cake be found so she could see in advance just how it had turned out prior to Christmas, but she never let on.

Like any family our cake recipe has evolved over time taking into account the taste and flavours of the relevant generations.   Mixed peel e.g., in our family is a major No, No right back to my grandmothers time.  So the recipe would always be adjusted with either more cherries or sultana’s being added in place of mixed peel.  In the last year or two ordinary flour has been replaced with spelt to cater for my sisters and I dietary requirements.  An apple is added for extra moisture and as a token of good luck from the harvest and any person within the house at the time of baking got to stir the cake and make a wish.  Then you dare not breathe whilst the cake was in the oven and heaven forbid you drop something and the fruit sank.  Wonderful memories.

Just before Christmas apricot jam is spread upon the cake and covered with a layer of almond paste, marzipan was another No, No in our family.  The cake is then iced with Royal icing or of late mum took too icing with rolled out icing as she could really release her creative instinct for the benefit and joy of her five grand kids.

The alcohol of choice would always be poitín if it could be sourced, normally landing at the house in a 7up bottle or plain glass bottle, however it was transported it always appeared under hushed circumstances as poitín is a boot leg traditional alcoholic beverage in Ireland.  We savoured these cakes the most as the flavour was mouth-watering.  Traditionally and legally above board whiskey is used in most Irish Christmas Cakes today.  In our house however, when poitín wasn’t available or able to be sourced brandy became the tipple of fancy used as substitute.

My mum sadly and unexpectedly passed away recently and at her funeral a few days ago I was fortunate to meet people who shared her life and joy of baking.  She promised her Christmas cake recipe to a few but regrettably passed away before she could deliver on her promise.  In honour of her memory and delivering upon her promise I am sharing our family recipe with you.  Please enjoy as you create and stir memories of your own.

MY FAMILY CHRISTMAS CAKE RECIPE – 10” Square Tin

Ingredients:

16 ozs    Butter

16 ozs    Brown Sugar

9              Eggs

18 ozs    Flour (Spelt)

1 tsp      Mixed spice

5 Tbsp   Brandy (or if you know someone who knows someone – a small drop of poitín)

2 pkts    Sultana’s

1 pkt      Raisin’s

6 ozs      Cherries

4 ozs      Ground almonds

4 ozs      Mixed Peel (we substitute cherries or sultana’s here)

1 ½         Cooking apples

Place all the fruit and alcohol in a bowl and leave for a couple of days or overnight to soak up the alcohol.  Add all the other ingredients and mix well, don’t forget to make you’re wish.  Bake the cake in a fan oven at 150C for 3-4 hours.

De-stress Yoga Workshop

Backache

Pregnancy for me was always an amazing experience.  I just loved feeling and being pregnant.  It was the after math of pregnancy, however, that wreaked havoc within my body personally.  Hormones and weakened tummy muscles placed extra strain on my lower back.  A number of weeks after my daughter was born I was descending steps one day when my knees buckled and gave way causing me to land brutally onto my knees with excruciating pain darting into the lower lumbar region of my back.  As a new mum my daughter was my priority and not getting back a toned slim fit body.  Before the year was out I found myself pregnant with my son.

My son was 9 months old and thoroughly enjoying bath time when I first really incapacitated my back. I was leaning in over the bath in the process of lifting him out when he wriggled and fell out of my soapy hands.  Reflexes kicked in and I caught him before he hit the base of the bath but in the process I slipped two lumbar discs which hadn’t quite regained their strength after the pregnancies.

If you suffer from back ache you know the pain and fear which registers in your body as a result of the injury.  The memory is stored within my muscle tissue in my lower back and to this day 16 years later that memory is still in place.  What ensued as a result of this injury were weekly jaunts to have my back realigned because I wanted somebody else to “fix me”.  So I travelled and I was realigned, walked rigid in fear of slipping the discs again for a couple of days before eventually re-slipping them whilst lifting one of the lads up into my arms.  This process continued for a couple of years and the final straw came when at one such appointment a horse was before me and a greyhound behind me.   I left in tears but with a knowledge that “I, me” personally needed to do something about what was happening, not somebody else.

I turned to yoga and there began my real healing journey.  Yoga allows you to strengthen muscles which over the course of life become weakened, lacking in tone, thorn, or damaged by experiences we put ourselves through.  Yoga gently strengthened my back, improved my muscle tone and flexibility and actually changed my whole physical appearance in the process by improving my posture.

Pregnancy is one way of weakening our muscles but there are other ways.  Perhaps you lift and haul heavy items during the course of your days’ work.  Do you drive for a living and do you keep both hands equally on the steering wheel or do you continuously keep one arm raised causing imbalance to the muscles in your upper back and shoulders? Do you sit properly in your chair at work? Imbalance in your muscles takes place if you do not equally work both sets of muscles around a particular area where you may be repetitively repeating the same action over and over again.  We are creatures of habit and fall into the repetitive phase quite easily.  Perhaps you are someone that stands a lot as part of your work, did you know that how you stand can affect your posture and likewise impact upon your back? Simple changes and awareness can reap profound effects.

Yoga will help bring awareness to your body.  It will bring balance back into your muscles, whilst stretching, releasing and strengthening those same muscles.  On this workshop I will be focusing on bringing flexibility back into your back.  I will show you ways to strengthen stretch and loosen your back out in a safe manner and you will feel the effects immediately releasing within your body.   Fear of repeating the initial pain lodges within our psychic and we hold that tension within the cells of our bodies, on this workshop I will be showing you ways to free this memory from the cells and create healthy newer memories.

I personally escaped the pain, but it meant “I” had to do the work, put in the time and the effort to ensure my back recovered.  If you are tired of trying the same old methods to sort your back, why not consider trying the option of yoga?

I guarantee you that if you join me on this one day workshop it will be the beginning of a new lifestyle for you.  You will gain the freedom to embrace change and enhance your life for the better.

You will learn how to strengthen and release your back, bringing ease and flexibility back to your body.  Posture will improve and your overall feeling of well-being will be increased.

Do you deserve this?  Does your loved one suffer from backache and perhaps you would like to offer them this healing gift.   If you would like any further information, please feel free to contact me on 086 7847998 or private message me here on my page.  The cost of this workshop is €80 and dinner is an additional €20 for a three course meal which is optional.  There is a change to the menu this time and dinner will be a choice of fish / meat, vegetables and potatoes, desert, tea and coffee.  Please note that booking is essential due to constraints on space.

I look forward to perhaps seeing you on the mat.

Om shanti Noreen.

Release Your Inner Dragonfly – Yoga Weekend

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Do you feel like you are constantly running on empty, caged and held captive by endless demands on your time? Maybe you feel energetically heavy, lethargic, stumped creatively with stores of inspiration depleted or totally drained. Are you constantly on standby ready to meet the demands of others on your time, children, work, smart devices, jumping to the “ping” tones of your phone? I often felt this way and I was often left asking myself “what about me?” What about time for me? I found myself yearning for space and freedom away from it all. I am a wife, mother, with a healing business and part time job and on occasions this can all become overwhelming when I struggle to try and keep all the balls in the air and remain positive, often I am left wondering “just where is all this headed?”?

If you can associate with any of this then maybe my “Release your inner dragonfly Yoga adventure” may be the answer / ticket for you. Why releasing your inner dragonfly? I absolutely LOVE dragonflies and the symbolic meaning of the dragonfly. It is why I choose a dragonfly as a logo for my business and the qualities I try to fall back to time and time again when life becomes a struggle. Magic, mystery, joy, lightness of being, harmony, peace, strength and change are qualities the dragonfly embraces. Qualities I struggle to achieve a lot of the time but still believe we are all searching for when feeling stuck or overwhelmed by life, a little something to help transform us into a better space and place. My intention for this workshop is to try and help you attain some of these qualities in the Burren. All levels of ability are welcome from complete beginners to the more seasoned Yogis/Yogini’s. Yoga for me has always been about getting to know myself better, so in the Burren I will be giving you an opportunity to deepen your awareness of yourself and help you to awaken your inner dragonfly.

The dragonfly delves deeper into the meaning of life beyond the surface of superficial things. He discovers greater movement, healing, transformation and change but he does so in a light hearted way. As Yoga is the union of mind and body we will be incorporating breathing techniques, meditation practices and Asana’s to help us to go beyond the surface of our own physical bodies to help bring back balance and harmony to our whole system. Practising yoga regularly stretches your muscles resulting in an increase range of mobility in joints. It stretches soft tissues and improves muscle tone, strength and endurance. All this coupled together helps increase flexibility and strength within the human body bringing about better posture and body awareness. Hatha yoga practices will help therapeutically stretch, open and release fatigued bodies and muscles. Soothing relaxations and calming breath works will gently dissipate tension and tightness from the body and allow you to soften and surrender into mellow warmth as the practices fan the flames within the heart centre igniting and renewing passion and joy for life, Dragonfly type of passion.

With external pressures from everyday life taking its toll on our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing I have decided to make the emphasis of this workshop to be about “self love”. So often we tend and cater to the needs of others always placing ourselves last in the queue of life, this workshop is an opportunity for you to place yourself top of that queue by embracing pure selfish indulgent pleasure for oneself.

Socrates said “The time is now”. Right here, right now I am offering you an opportunity to indulge yourself, there are no bells or flounces, flags or banners, I am not making promises of miracles, or life changing events I will be simply guiding you through various yoga practices where you will get an opportunity to explore and possibly deepen an age old peaceful practice that will enhance your life in the most meaningful way.

Yoga teaches self-acceptance and promotes relaxation in the body. Lowers blood pressure, increases lung capacity and slows heart rate which in turn has the added benefit of boosting the immune system and we all know that your health is your wealth. My favourite benefit of all has to be the fact that yoga slows down the aging process and every little bit helps.

The benefits of yoga are numerous the above are just a few major ones. I know for me personally it taught me tools to cope with life and the struggles I personally faced. Initially I took up yoga as a means of getting out of the house where four walls on occasions would literally feel like they were closing in around me. I didn’t realize when I took that first vital step that I was embarking on a journey which would quite literally save my life. I’ve come a long way from giggling down the back in that first class, stifling laughter as we tried to bend and contorted our bodies into positions with the most bizarre names. Yoga, however, in between the laughter and giggles had stealthy seeped her way in under my skin intertwining and mixing with every miraculous cell of my body like Blackcurrant Squash mixes with water. It wasn’t until my dad died a few years later and my life spiralled completely out of control that I learnt the true value of yoga and the tools she supplies to help us cope with everyday life and the struggles we face. Yoga has quite literally picked me up off the floor and pieced me back together, on more than one occasion I may add and it has helped put me back on the right track.


I know personally what yoga is capable of so this workshop for me personally is about giving thanks for the love I have embraced through yoga. So our workshop will be about love and we will be working closely with the heart chakra whilst at the same time embracing the spirit of the dragonfly in a colourful way, so if at all possible, bring bright colourful clothes with you. We will be embarking on a journey to free our inner dragonfly and will lovingly treat ourselves in a guilt free pleasurable way whilst embracing this journey.

A little over a year ago I attended a yoga workshop at the Cliffs of Moher and the impact of the stunning location remained with me. We will have the whole complex to ourselves for this weekend so you are free to ramble at your leisure and explore. The yoga studio was purposely designed and is the essence of peace as the backdrop to our yoga will be the Atlantic Ocean. Accommodation is modern but with huge character and extremely comfortable and homely with amazing views for as far as your eyes can see. Food is contemporary vegetarian cuisine.

I found peace and freedom whilst there if only briefly and floated home after a wonderful weekend. Leaving I made a silent wish to perhaps one day return and hold my own yoga workshop there in that raw and beautiful location. The food is lovingly cooked and served each day by a chef I personally wished to bring home with me. The food will tickle your taste buds and I guarantee at some point during the weekend you will be trying to taste and identify the various ingredients as you try to figure out what was in the recipes. Needless to say that the sense of indulgence is added to when the wash up magically disappears! You simply sit back, indulge, savour, relish and enjoy.

Relax in nature’s embrace where the wild Atlantic Ocean air will cleanse and re-energise every pore of your being. Be revitalised by allowing gusts of wild energetic sea air gust through you, clearing all feelings of lethargic heaviness from your heart and soul. Power walk or opt instead to mindfully meditate whilst strolling into the breath taking scenery along the magnificent coast near the Cliffs of Moher. Throw open any energetic doors which may confine you and embrace the vast openness within yourself as free and stunning as the cliffs themselves. Feel all tension leave your body in this magnificent location where there will be no expectations, no disruptions or demands upon your time. The workshop environment seeks or requests nothing from you other than to allow yourself to be fully present in the moment and to give yourself permission to truly enjoy. My wish and hope is, that in this space like the dragonfly you will find the freedom to embrace peace, contentment and tranquillity.

To further enhance and deepen this experience you may also wish to avail, at an additional cost, of a full body massage. Raise yourself blissfully to another dimension and enjoy a further indulgence for self, offered by our workshop.

All this will unfold over the course of our weekend and as the sun sets on our journey of adventure together I guarantee you we will return to your respective homes lighter, freer, more grounded with a healthier immune system, totally relaxed and ready to face whatever the winter may unfold.

Om shanti

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Dates: Friday 9th Oct. to Sunday 11th Oct. 2015
Times: Check In 4pm on the 9th Oct and Check out at 1pm on the 11th

Cost: Early bird €370 (until 31st August 2015)
Regular price €410

Location: Cliffs of Moher Retreats, Moher Lodge, Kinielty, Liscannor, Co. Clare

Archery and Yoga

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Shortly after Christmas 2014, a great friend gathered a few of us together over dinner with an agenda.  His idea was to set out goals in various areas of our lives for the year ahead with a specific intention of working towards those goals and bringing fun and greater happiness into our lives.    As a collective group we would be present to encourage, nudge and bear witness to the unfolding of these goals as they may or may not occur during the year.  As an added bonus we get to meet up every once in a while and reconnect.

Whilst writing out a list of goals was easy enough to complete, narrowing them down into three concise goals under each section proved a little more challenging.  It took a lot more insight and thought.  It meant the goal became more important in its intention and suddenly frivolous goals started to fall by the way side in place of more concrete significant ones.

One of my “goals” under the hobbies section was to take up archery.  My friend asked “why archery”? As I journey through my life I am trying to attain a particular set of achievements for myself.  Sometimes in certain areas it is difficult to see if I am making any headway or progress and it can become a little disheartening.  Archery was a physical target I could see, connect with and I knew immediately if I achieved it or not.  Simple as that, plus, I had tried my hand at archery over the years and I enjoyed it.  I decided I wanted to deepen my interest and knowledge in it whilst at the same time learning to do the art properly.

This year my goals got voiced in front of a group of people I respect greatly and the effect of this has been huge as it has helped me implement and follow through on my goals and I am holding myself accountable to achieving them.  I basically created a bucket list with a limited time span of twelve months for completion.   Archery I decided was going to be completed before the summer, so off I trotted to invoke the help of google.  I found Nemo Rangers Archery Club in Cork City and I booked in for the 6 weeks beginners’ course which commenced early May.

I have been wistfully looking back over what this course has done for me and what it has helped me achieve over the past couple of weeks.  First and foremost, it gave me time for myself.  I scheduled into a busy life style a specific time block just for me.  I undertook this course on my own.  I didn’t rope in friends to come along but instead braved something completely new all on my own, it has been most rewarding.  In the safety of groups we often do not branch out into other avenues preferring to remain within the confines and safety of the group.  Standing alone, you have to interact, break new ground and you get to savour new experiences which have a huge expanding and uplifting effect.  For me personally even the hour’s car journey to Cork gave me much needed head space for myself.  I got to challenge myself by taking on something new and there is great satisfaction in knowing that I committed to the task and followed it through simply for me.

How many times in our lives do we decide to do something only to allow ourselves to be railroaded or side swiped by other demands on our time, thereby preventing us from completing the task?  I never realised how doing this allowed me to chip away at my own self-esteem.  I, in effect was saying that I personally wasn’t worth my time or effort and that X, Y and Z were more important.  I have empowered myself greatly by completing this course.  I will admit there was an “oh crap, what am I doing here” moment when I rounded the corner in Nemo Rangers to find a room full of strong guys staring back at me.  There were some fun moments also and valuable lessons learnt.  One lesson I learnt during “tidy up” at the end of the night was –  when you are rolling the straw target back into storage and it starts to fall on you let it go and do NOT keep holding on!!  My apologies again to my poor colleague who I pinned underneath the straw target whilst I lay spread-eagle’d on top of it and him.  Sorry!!!  As the course developed it was also endearing to see that guys like girls can miss a shot to centre target.

Archery gave me focus and something to aim for.  This flows smoothly into other areas of my life as I know I can aim for my goals and dreams.  With a little focus, some high shots, some lows and the odd curve ball or in my case wandering straw targets, a little bit of practice and not giving up, eventually sooner or later there is a very good chance I may, just may make that target.

I’ve learnt that the tighter you hold onto something the more wayward the reaction is to it and it may even repel completely.  Gripping the bow too tight whilst focused on the yellow bulls eye resulted in bruising and stings.  You quickly learn to lighten your hold after a couple of burns.   Life is the same, think about it.  Sometimes, we hold on so tight, with tunnel vision, hoping and praying against the odds for a certain resolution.  We are so fixed on the end result or target we don’t see the tension and physical harm we are inflicting upon ourselves in the process.   Lighten up and let go a little was the lesson here.

There were huge similarities between archery and yoga which surprised me.  Both are a discipline.  Both draw your awareness into your body, centre and focus you.  Archery and yoga make you aware of areas of tension held within your body and release requires you to soften and to let go.  Both have a focused target in mind.  In archery it is the yellow circle at the centre of the bale of straw whilst in yoga it is to travel to the centre of self to find union of mind and body.  For both practices the fun is in the journey getting there.

The next item on my list of goals is Kayaking.  There is a slight issue here, I can’t swim!  But hey, that’s certainly not going to stop me.

So what have you stopped yourself from doing?  Are you ready to take on a new challenge?  What is on your bucket list or goal list?  Do you consider yourself worthy of trying to achieve them?   Take it from it from me, GO FOR IT. You ARE worth it and in the long run the fun in trying brings with it new surprises, fun moments, binds new friendships and reaps great rewards.

Om shanti

Noreen.

 

Healthy Power Flapjacks

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What type of cook are you?  Are you the kind who gets a recipe and follows it to the literal ounce? Or perhaps the type that doesn’t bother with measurements and it’s a case of a fist of this and a pinch of that? Or are you my type?  The type that finds a recipe which has been proven to stand the test of time and taste, it works perfectly!  Right up to the point when my creative mind begins to unfold and begins to wonder what if……  What if there was an extra pinch of cinnamon?  a couple of sultana’s or more truthfully a couple of fists full… Suddenly the tried and trusted recipe looks nothing like its original form.  There have been successes, there have been flops but there also have been brilliant devious discoveries e.g. the chocolate brownies last longer if sultanas are accidentally added to the mix! Oops!

What I love about the following recipe is it works even if tampering of a proven recipe happens.  I also love that there is no butter and no sugar added and all you do is throw everything into the one pot and mix.  This is one of those recipes where you can break the rules and let your imagination and taste buds just run riot.

Basic Recipe

3 mashed bananas (ripe – medium sized)

1 large cooking apple stewed

2 cups of organic oats

¼ cup of almond milk or coconut milk

½ cup raisins

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 tsp cinnamon

 

Choose from the Optional list or use them all!

¼ cup of dates

¼ cup of figs

¼ cup of prunes

¼ cup of goji berries

¼ cup of sultana’s

¼ cup of walnuts

¼ cup of cashew nuts

¼ pine nuts

Desiccated coconut

 

Note:

I increase the milk quantity and I would use large bananas when adapting the recipe to include the optional extras.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes at 350 in a greased brownie tin.  Take out of oven, sprinkle with some desiccated coconut and allow to cool.

Lazy hazy night time yoga from my bed…..

Do you find life is passing you by and days are just whizzing past so that suddenly months instead of days have slipped away? I do and this year summer for me personally has just gone in a blink of an eye.  Projects which I had planned remain untouched in various areas of my home and my yoga practice has slipped from an everyday discipline to being  more like my rounder shots – hit and miss!  Still, I am not beating myself up over this as these are the lazy hazy days of what’s left of summer past.  Light and heat are slowly beginning to fade away and autumn’s gently caressing us with cooler air, shortening evenings and a hint of chills to come.  We are slowly getting ready to snuggle on down into the inevitable winter which lies ahead.

With these hectic lives we live I am an advocate of incorporating yoga into everyday living.  I can be heard saying do a forward bend at the kitchen counter whilst waiting for the kettle to boil… do your core work between adds of your favourite TV programme or whip out that pillow and take yoga to your bed.  With this in mind I’ve decided to share a little of my bedtime yoga practice with you.  Bedtime yoga aids my sleep, relaxes my mind and enhances my experience of a snugly deep and utterly delightful sleep.

I like to read positive, uplifting, life enhancing, captivating and magical longing pages of a good book before I drift off into slumber.  Keeping this in mind my first bedtime yoga pose is Sphinx.

 

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 I whip out my pillow, turn onto my tummy and prop myself up on my elbows which are positioned just beneath my shoulders, arms parallel to each other and my head is held loosely, shoulder blades are gently relaxing downwards.  Head and neck can be kept lose and tension free. I then lift and extending each leg at a time, pointing my toes towards the end of my bed as this helps to lengthen into my lower back.   I then gently press into my pubic bone thereby tucking in my tail bone as I relax and gently breathe into this gentle back bend whilst I catch up on a couple of pages of my book.

Benefits of Sphinx Pose:

  • Sphinx pose helps to release stress from the body
  • It helps to strengthen the spine
  • It gently stretches shoulders and abdomen
  • It expands the chest and lungs
  • It helps to stimulates abdominal organs
  • Best of all, it helps to firm the buttocks

After a few minutes, I like to do a gentle relaxing moving meditation.  Breathe in and out fully into each pose, do not force your breath simply allow it to flow in and gently ebb back out.  Each breath moves you into the next posture, alternatively you can break each pose down and hold each pose for a number of breaths before then finishing with all poses flowing together into yoga flow.

 

Moving Meditation:

Starting position – Childs Pose  – pose of surrender

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Breathe In –   Heart opener, kneeling

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Breathe Out – Hare Pose  

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Breathe In – Table top  – Weight bearing

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Breathe Out – Down Dog   – Inversion

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Breathe In – Table Top

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Breathe Out – Hare

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Breathe In – Heart opener, kneeling       

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Breathe Out – Childs Pose

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Hold childs pose for at least three breaths.  Place your awareness on breathing, those with asthma may focus on breathing into the back of lungs, helping to work the muscles at the back of the lungs and develop lung capacity.

Repeat this meditation a number of times.  

Benefits of this moving meditation:

With breath awareness during yoga flow, all your cares and worries slowly begin to drift away as you gently float into ease of movement with the breath.  This allows the chatter of the brain to fall away, instills a sense of peace and calm which is beneficial and supportive to a good nights sleep. I often ask students to close their eyes whilst embracing this meditation.  It completely shifts your awareness inwards, you can literally feel every movement and subtle shift within your body.  This also allows you to trust yourself and your own innate intuition as you knowingly find your mattress as you return back to starting position.

  • Child pose – allows your awareness to start to travel inwards helping you to cut ties with the outside world and all the distractions that this brings, thereby alleviating stress and anxiety.  It releases tension in the back, shoulders and chest.  It lengthens and stretches the spine.  It gently stretches the hips, thighs and ankles whilst at the same time stretching muscles, tendons and ligaments around the knee.
  • Hare pose – stretches the back muscles and helps relieve backache. Tones the pelvic muscles and sciatic nerves.  When actively practiced (gently extending into the palms of your hands)  it helps to tone the shoulders, upper arms and chest area.
  • Down dog – is an inversion which stretches your arms, back and legs in one movement.  It is weight bearing and thereby improves bone density especially in the upper body.  This pose boosts your immune system and aids circulation in the body. It also aids the movement of energy in the body. Lifting the sit bones towards the ceiling also lengthens into the hamstrings and calves.

Then gently come too lying on your back and rest in lying cobbler.

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Lying cobbler is a strong groin and hip opener and is sometimes known as the Goddess Pose.  It massages all the lower organs of the body such as the urinary, digestive and reproductive.  If practiced regularly it can help relieve and regulate irregular menstruation.  It relieves sciatic pain and prevents hernia.  Gently place your arms on your upper thighs and bring your knees together to come out of this pose.

Introducing a calming breath work whilst in the pose is also conducive to aiding a great night’s sleep.  Breathe in for the count of four and breathe out for the count of eight if possible.  Relax, release and allow all your cares and worries to float away as you drift contentedly into a blissful sleep.   Sweet dreams…… Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Reflecting on a year past – Part 3 Rebirthing

Rosemary Khelifa is a Rebirthing Therapist based in Dublin.   As I had never heard of rebirthing previously I invoked the help of Google once more and yet again Wikipedia came up trumps.

Rebirthing-breath work is a breathing technique that is used to heal suppressed emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, etc., it can heal suppressed emotions regardless of what point in one’s life they became suppressed.

As a yoga teacher I am used to doing various breath works and appreciate the profound effect that correct breathing techniques have on the body system as a whole unit i.e, the physical, mental and spiritual body.  In Hatha Yoga I use the breath for centering at the beginning of class, as a healing mechanism via poses and relaxation at the end of class to help release and let go. I have witnessed first-hand the calming effects correct breathing has on children, the physically, mentally disabled and people stressed to the hilt from every day pressures.  It is amazing to be present and physically see tension and stress dissipate and dissolve from the human body right before my eyes by just breathing correctly.  The energy in the room also takes on softness with a distinct element of peace and calm which becomes palpable and almost caress able.   In this atmosphere healing takes place whether recognised in conscious form or not.    The rebirthing breath I have found personally accelerated the healing and clearing process much faster from my body than yoga ever did.  The breathing technique used placed emphasis on the “in” breath with deep awareness and focusing full attention on the breath.  This allowed my energy field to accelerate much quicker and release suppressed emotions as quickly as two appointments in.

I’ll be honest here, even with all my breathing experience and various pranayama workshops, the rebirthing breath work became quite a challenge as I realised the full extent and capacity of my lucid mind to distract, deter and prevent me from doing what it was I wished to do – breathe mindfully.  I felt faint (even whilst lying on the plinth), I felt the back of my heart tighten and restrict, my knee begin to swell at an alarming rate, my fingers began to throb, pulsate and swell into what felt like alien body parts, my right leg swelled to treble its normal size, I couldn’t move it.  I turned so cold I felt an affiliation with the Eskimo’s from the Antarctic!   However, none of these experiences were real or physically occurring.  It was a hallucination of my mind, delusion, playing control games in order to prevent me from focusing on healing by use of my breath.  I learnt a valuable lesson on the extent our minds will go to in order to distract, perplex, create a story and deter us from our original mission.  I learnt that the mind is the equivalent of the elusive ninja – ego, the reticent assassinator of our dreams, our hopes and desires.

The human body will do everything physically possible to heal itself on every level naturally.  Rebirthing uses the breath to access this inner innate wisdom of our bodies to expel suppressed feelings and emotions if we manage to by-pass our egos.  It isn’t natural for us to suppress feelings and emotions, they need to be expressed and experienced.  Our body will clear these suppressed feelings from our physical, emotional and energetic body if we allow it to access and express what it is naturally designed to do.

Rebirthing is a magnificent stress management tool and there are many significant valuable qualities to practicing this therapy.  People are wakening up and realising that all physical ailments and disease stem from ignored, suppressed and unresolved emotional tensions.   The energy behind these emotions cannot be ignored.  Sooner or later they will manifest and express themselves in some shape or form within our bodies.  Think of it as steam gently building up in a pot, if that steam doesn’t have an outlet, then you better step back and watch as the lid explodes with the passing of time. At this point in time I feel it is important to share with you why I am personally undertaking all these forms of healing therapies.  My Dad passed away at the age of 59 from Cancer.  His father before him likewise succumbed to this deadly disease.  Other members of my dad’s family also met the same fate.  Everything I believe in life is about perspective, you could say it is genetic perhaps or unfortunate, I chose to look at prevention rather than a cure.  Storing anger, hurt, pain for whatever reason, suppressing it has the same effect on our bodies as steam gently building up in a saucepan and sooner or later it will express itself in some shape or form.

Rosemary has helped me greatly with releasing suppressed emotions and energy blocks.  To be honest I am amazed at the amount of emotions any one human being can keep suppressed and unacknowledged within their body.   I also became aware of a habit I expressed on numerous occasions, apologising and saying I’m sorry.  Each time I said I’m sorry, Rosemary asked me to say one thing I loved about myself.  That was an eye opener!  This is where the realisation of conditioning in our lives became an obvious issue.  Rosemary empowered me with the use of positive mantras and affirmations and the repetitive nature of saying these mantras has had an enormous positive effect.

Rosemary’s approach is a holistic one.  In her presence I felt safe, secure and protected.  Under her guidance and care I stopped asking who, what, where and how questions.  I began to really trust in the process of things unfolding exactly as they are meant to.  I stopped incessantly searching for answers and pushing myself to seek unattainable goals.

A friend of mine graciously gifted me with a walk with a Hawk last year for my birthday.  I was overjoyed, however on seeing the hawk initially I felt huge pity for this beautiful creature which was kept prisoner behind caged units and allowed to experience freedom on rare occasions to display and perform for human entertainment.  However, I soon learnt via his keeper that this bird was not caged in the sense that I felt he was and I was again reminded that appearances can be deceptive.  Yes indeed he had a tag and was implanted with a tracking device but if this bird chose to take off, soar, dive and glide through the air, then that is exactly what he would do and there wasn’t a thing his keeper could do about it.  I learnt that he chose to entertain humans as they provided a regular supply of food and water.  I was suddenly able to correlate with this bird, I wasn’t physically locked behind prison bars, but fear often kept me rooted into habitual conditioning.  I too am free to choose, the only thing holding me back is myself.   Once I realised this in the rebirthing session I empowered myself to stay with the fear I was feeling with the movement of energy within my body.  I surrendered to the feelings and the physical release of blockages was enormous as I shook, contracted, contorted and released pent up emotions from my physical body.  It was and continues to be an unreal experience.  On occasions I felt nauseated but this too was good as it is a form of cleansing from the physical body.  By facing the fear and surrendering to the breath energy was free to move through all of my body’s meridians allowing me to start healing at a deeper level.

I am a work in progress. I am still resisting this at some levels but again with Rosemary’s assistance and support I am getting there and slowly setting free my energy.  For once in my life I am just going with the flow without wondering why and how.  I am just trusting that I am capable of healing myself in the way my body needs naturally.  The feeling is wonderful as I feel lighter and freer than I have done in months not just physically but mentally and emotionally.

Rosemary K

holisto.com/therapist-listing/rosemary-khelifa‎ 

To every person who has touched my life in the past 13 months or so I say a huge thank you.  You are creating and shaping the chapters of my life, unfolding my story in ways I never fully comprehended or knew possible.  Thank you to those who are still shaping my life by encouraging me to move outside my comfort zones, feel the fear, grow, journal, heal and open up to my full feminine essence.

Life is a journey, a journey of discovery, both of self and life in general.  Embrace it, treasure it and enjoy it, we only get one shot at it.  Be present, present in whatever shape or form life presents itself to you, but more importantly than being present feel your true emotions in the moment.

I’m living my dream, I’m trying to be present and focused aware, I’m aiming to live life so I may rugby slide tackle into a grave at the end of my days whooping and hollering –  “Woohoo!! What a ride”.  I hope this blog shows you it is possible, it may not be easy but it IS possible and so very worth it.  Om shanti & Deepest Love Noreen.

 Photo for Rebirthing

 

Reflecting on a year past – Part 2 Embracing Tantra and its healing energy

You have to trust where you are being guided and at times I trust my instincts and do this whole heartedly without a second thought.  On other occasions, however, fear and procrastination hold me back from wonderful experiences and opportunities and I recognise this.   I decided I needed to focus on energy and in developing the Reiki side of my business.  I needed to develop MY knowledge of energy to a greater depth and the only way to truly appreciate the benefit of energy is to experience it first-hand.

We all have energy flowing through us.  Our bodies have seven major chakras points. Chakras are areas within the body where energy meridian pathways cross and meet.  When these energy centres are balanced we feel great, healthy, uplifted and positive.  However, on occasions these energy centres get blocked due to various triggers, conditionings, beliefs and stress in our lives and this can have the opposite effect.  Energy is all around us and this energy connects us to every living being.  We intuitively pick up on this energy e.g. have you ever walked into a room and instinctively knew that something was wrong?  You have sensed the energy.  Reiki is healing energy and I have a desire to help people, so I put it “out there” to the Universe that I was willing to gain a deeper knowledge, understanding and awareness of energy in order to help others.

The boomerang reply which came back was NOT what I expected!   By chance, I was asked if I did Tantra Yoga.  Being honest I wasn’t even sure what Tantra was other than Sting engaged in it.  So I took to Google and in particular to Wikipedia –

Tantra is the name given by scholars to a style of meditation and ritual which arose in India no later than the 5th Century AD.

I also knew through yoga that all forms of Yoga stemmed originally from Tantra.  So, I decided I wanted to know more about the subject of Tantra and not just hearsay.  If for no other reason, I wanted to be able to pass on and relay proper informed information to any further queries which happened my way.  I continued my search on Google and found Vesco Bondov.  Vesco describes Tantra best when he says,

“It is ultimately about feeling our own power and this then brings the self-realisation and the enlightenment”.

At our first meeting Vesco successfully identified areas in my energy field which needed addressing.  I had had minor surgery prior to our meeting which I had not disclosed and he advised me that I needed healing in this area.

Vesco is an intellectually highly educated person in many fields outside of Tantra. His background is in psychotherapy, art therapy, dance and martial arts to name but a few.  He was one of the founders of Transcendental Meditation in his native Bulgaria and Director of the First TM-Yogic Flying/Levitation course there.  He was also one of the pioneers of the more dynamic styles of Hatha Yoga in Ireland a few years back.

Vesco is an extremely gentle, kind hearted person with an endless bounty of knowledge and dedication.  He also has an enormous perception of the human spirit and form.  He is exceptionally patient and understanding and I will be the first to admit I was NOT the easiest of clients.  I often challenged, fought and unknowingly tried to manipulate him on many levels as fear of change held me rooted in old holding patterns and conditionings.  Vesco, however, saw beyond my masks and armouring to see the injured human being I was at source and the layers I had built around myself as my modem of strength.  Under his innate intuition, guidance and support through means of breath work, awareness, music and with a little bit of therapeutic wrestling thrown in (to activate deeper holding patterns), I am slowly beginning to recognise the masks of protection and armouring I encase myself behind and wear quite unbeknownst to myself.

I am learning how conditioning and beliefs shape us into beings with fears, anxieties, patterns and tendencies which successfully crush our spirits and limit us not just in our physical bodies but our mental and emotional ones too.  It rings true that fear in one area of our lives hinders us in all other areas because once again both personal and business lives are interconnected.  Why?  Because we store these emotions in our physical bodies thereby, causing ripple effects into our energetic bodies. This creates illnesses, blockages and armouring as we try to control events and people in our lives in order to protect ourselves from getting hurt.  This is SO unhealthy.  Personally, I was guilty on a lot of fronts and now I am very much aware of this.

During this time I struggled with ME on occasions and there were periods where suppressed emotions within me brought forth moments of aggression, anger, sadness, tears and isolation.  Difficult trying times for someone who normally doesn’t face these emotions but opts instead to swallow them, smile, see the positive side and then just get on with things.  The energy work and introspection made me physically heavy and weighed down by it all.  There were days where I felt like I had physically been to battle.  Days where I wished I was alone on a deserted island to absorb, lick wounds and re-gather my strength in order to continue.    Those were the duvet days where I just wanted to hide from the world and the occasions where I felt fear the greatest.  But you can get busy living or you can get busy dying.  Life for me is for living and the desire to do so is unfathomable.  I can honestly say now, I am more grounded, content and happy within my life than I have been for years.

Tantra has taught me that fear stunts our growth as human beings, it limits our lives.  Love opens us up in immeasurable ways.  Fear keeps us locked behind self-inflicted prison walls.  Love breaks down those walls and I’m not talking about the fluffy, gooey fairy-tale love but deep love and acceptance of all that is.  There are five primal fears and seven major fears yet there is only ONE love.  In fear mode we engage primal instincts to survive.  We are unable to effectively feel deep genuine emotions but are controlled instead by our flight, fight or freeze response.  We are unable to grow or flourish into the remarkable loving sensual beings we were born to be.  We are unable to appreciate and feel the ecstasy of true natural essential living. Vesco has taught me that Tantra awakens you to the essence of who you truly are at the heart of it all, at source where we are the most pure.  Here we are boundless, there is no limit to our potential as human beings.   Tantra is a powerful healing energy which encourages self-love and love of others.  Tantra is love at its most natural greatest form.  It is self-realisation and awakening to the enormous potential we ALL have as human beings.  Tantra in effect is LOVE and the complete opposite to fear.

Slowly but surely, I am opening to genuine feelings.  I am beginning to ask myself – “how do I feel? How do I, REALLY, feel and not how would others expect me to feel? ” There is a huge difference in the response.  I am learning to be present in the moment and observing the lengths my mind will go to in order to create a story, create fear and prevent me from being truly present in any given situation.  I am learning how devious and controlling our minds can be as I continue to step outside my comfort zone, embracing new opportunities and being receptive to the healing benefits gained through Tantra.  I am learning trust once again and being self-empowered as I learn to trust my own innate inner guidance.  A year ago, I would not have written about this as I would have been afraid of what other people would think.  I have grown and I am delighted that I have done so.  I have changed in so many ways, the greatest being that I now realise and accept that what other people think of me is actually none of my business.  What matters most is what I think of myself, the freedom in this is unreal.  It is extraordinary because I am being free, genuine and for the first time in my life being true to me.

Vesco also recognised in me a behavioural pattern where I persistently push myself to overachieve, to incessantly seek answers and to keep forging ahead whilst at the same time successfully managing to ignore what it is I am really avoiding in my life.   Strength of character is important to survive in life, to survive challenges and tribulations.  Strength has its place.  I am a survivor and strong in character but being strong all the time creates imbalance in me as a person so I am learning it is also vitally important to be vulnerable, a quality I tend to supress and hide.  Both qualities balance life just like yin and yang.  Vesco recommended that I see Rosemary Khelifa a Re-Birthing specialist and this brings me into the final section of my blog.

So from an energetic point of view this year has taught me that…… recognising, accepting and loving the true essence of who we are at the heart of it all, is the single most healing benefit there is.

 

 

Reflecting on a year past

I am writing this in appreciation of the countless number of people who have approached me during daily activities, corresponded with me privately though text, Facebook and my web page offering words of encouragement and support.  Knowing that you empathise and associate with my words is amazing and I draw comfort from knowing I am not alone in these feelings or experiences.  I hope that you may find some morsel of comfort in my discoveries to date to enable you take a leap of faith into your own personal dream whatever that may be.  Trust me, it IS worth it.

Three influences equal three sections.  The sections unfold as events occurred and it represents how I have been developing both myself and my Yoga Company and coping with these changes.

Section 1             Growing the business of Yoga

Section 2             Embracing Tantra and its healing Energy

Section 3             Rebirthing

I didn’t realise starting out that launching myself into business would also mean growing as a woman in a personal development capacity.  I just never stopped and gave it any real thought.  Both, however, are proportionately linked on all levels.   Growth in the deepest darkest layers which we all have – fear versus courage, light versus dark, contentment versus disquiet, the yin versus the yang so to speak fuse together in order to make it all work.   Anyway, I didn’t sail off into the sunset on a magical yoga mat having made my first million or write my first book (yet!!)  But I did learn what it means to survive in the business world and what it means to grow and evolve as a human being.

On a business level classes have grown in size, number and direction and plans are underway to develop and grow the business in other avenues.  I’ve identified areas of weakness and areas of growth.  With regard to classes – wow!  I have been so fortunate to have met some incredible people with whom I have bonded.  Life experiences were shared, survived and the combination of these energies transformed our yoga classes through the year.  Back bends re-opened our hearts closed from heartache and pain.  Twists helped us to view the world from two sides allowing us to recognise that sometimes life just isn’t purely black or white there are some grey areas.  Forward bends allowed us to travel inwards to seek answers and solace within ourselves, learning in the process how our emotional issues sometimes hinder and prevent us from moving freely into Asana’s.  Balances helped bring us back into focus and relaxation helped us release and let go.  This past year yoga has once again worked some element of its magic back into the lives of those who were open enough to give it a try.

It was a busy year too in relation to pregnancy yoga with many a yoga baby making their way safely into our world.  It was just so rewarding on a personal level to be in the presence of those angelic energies which shaped and often interrupted weekly practices with high kicks and somersaults.  There have been many magical moments and it has been an absolute pleasure for me personally to hear of their safe arrival.  Thank you to both Mam’s and babies for that joyful experience.  Due to outside work commitments and unavailable time blocks Children’s Yoga classes didn’t get off the ground as initially intended.  Again this is something that will be looked at for the forthcoming months ahead.  This year also saw the second of our pop up yoga classes which again happened in the Town Park and that was an incredible experience as thankfully the weather held up and we experienced harmony of mind, body, soul and nature.  What a blissful combination.

I believe that when you put your greatest desires and hope’s out there and carry belief as you’re back burner, the Universe WILL answer you, its what I like to call the boomerang effect.  Answers come in all shapes and forms via opportunities and people entering your life in the most bizarre and profound ways, just be willing and open to receiving.  The Universe answered me in the form of an invite to attend a talk being hosted by the Charleville Referral Partner Group.

Referal Partners Picture

 www.referralpartners.ie

These are a group of like-minded business networking people who meet every Thursday morning in Charleville.  They provide a weekly educational slot hosted by Donal Mulcahy of North Star Coaching. This slot covers various elements of business life.  Members and visitors introduce their business to the group, outline referrals being sought and basically get their name out there. These meetings are consistently closed each week with a positive quotation by the Chairperson.

Photo of Donal Mulachy

  www.northstarcoaching.ie

Initially I offered great resistance to accepting this invite because I was beginning to come face to face with my own personal fears.  Outwardly I appear very confident, calm and in control but we all know appearances are never what they seem and to quote the old cliché you should never judge a book by its cover.  Inwardly can be a very different story!  I declined the offer to attend and slunk back into my safe life on the mat.  My regret was politely accepted and advised that if I were to change my mind I was still most welcome to attend as a Guest.  This email was accompanied by a photo with a caption……

 Take a leap of faith

Fortunately for me Donal Mulcahy is a superb Business Coach and his expertise in this area had already sized me up as a visual, right sided brain person who didn’t like to be called chicken!  I would indeed have missed out on so many wonderful growth opportunities on every level had I not attended and subsequently joined this amazing group.   It wasn’t easy, my initial 60 second sales pitch saw me with my knees knocking frantically together.  60 seconds is a LONG time especially when you are sweating profusely like a pig on a hot spit.  I was engaging in a breath work for 90% of the time there, preventing the onslaught of a panic attack barely concealed beneath the surface of my facade.

What were my fears you might ask?  They were SUITS! Business people with thriving businesses! What could I possibly have to offer?  I feared not belonging, lacking in knowledge, not knowing what they were talking about and TRUST ME there were occasions when I didn’t know what the blazes they were talking about – SME’s, CPD’s, Mission Statements, Five Year plans and Goals.  OH MY GOD What am I doing here moments??!! All I want to do is teach yoga, share the benefits, the rewards, the joy and hopefully break even in the process.  I feared being worthless and the most catastrophic of them all I feared failing.   However, the Universe sends you what you need when you need it the most.  The Universe sent me the Referral Partners Group and in the safe confines of this group I am slowly beginning to evolve into an emerging business woman.  I am slowly but surely growing in confidence, self-belief and self-esteem in this area of my life thanks to the wonderful business opportunities, support and encouragement that this group have had to offer and I am truly grateful for this.  Also, as luck would have it, I’ve learnt I’m not the only one whose knees knock together, many of those with well established careers and businesses also have moments of weakness.  We are all human and all feeling the same fears. So from a business point of view this year has taught me that……

Woohoo!!  I can do this, YES I can!!

Shanti Comforts

photo 1 (1)  photo 2 (1)

This is a chocoholic’s dream recipe and offers “balance” to healthy living.   It is the equivalent of a personal hug offering indulgent cocoa comfort just when you may need it the most.

I have tried this recipe using different brands of ingredients but I have found that by using “Green and Black”, organic products and spelt flour the sensual experience on your taste buds is just orgasmic and worth every cent of the indulgence.

Preparation Time:                  10 minutes                                                

Cook Time:                              30 minutes

Oven Temperature:               180 degrees

Settling Time:                         Leave stand for at least 10 minutes to cool

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 250gms butter
  • ¾ cup cocoa (Green & Black Organic)
  • 1 ½ cups of white spelt flour
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 4 organic eggs
  • 1 family block of chocolate (cut into chunks) I have used Green & Black Organic Dark Chocolate
  • 1 pullet of raspberries (added to the mixture just before placing into the oven)
  • ¼ cup of sultana’s (optional)
  • ¼ cup of ground almonds (optional)

 

Method:

  1. Melt butter
  2. Beat in the eggs, sugar and vanilla essence.  BEAT WELL
  3. Add all the dry ingredients including the chopped up chunks of chocolate
  4. Place in a lined sponge roll tin or similar small tin
  5. Gently place the raspberries haphazardly through the top of the mixture and bake for 25 – 30 minutes approximately
  6. When cool cut into squares and dust with icing sugar, sit back and enjoy every finger licking second.

 Om shanti