Monday, January 31, 2011

Back in harness

My lovely long five-week break had to come to an end unfortunately, so today marks my first day back at the office. I enjoyed my holiday, but I'm feeling remarkably positive about getting back to work. For one thing, it means a return to my usual routine - and as I've mentioned several times, I'm a creature of habit and I work far better with a bit of structure in my life most of the time.

The other reason I'm OK with putting my nose to the grindstone again is that I've finally resolved the issues that plagued me all through last year: the insomnia, the emotional craziness, the anxiety and the horrible overwhelmed feeling that dogged me. Thank goodness for modern medicine!

I have some plans for 2011; nothing earth-shattering, mind you, and I'll be mindful of not taking on too much at once. But after a break of several months, I've started work on firing up my business again. Some of you may have seen my new Fitbodies Facebook page. There isn't much there yet, but it's a start. I'm going to be taking on a handful of online coaching clients and just a few for one-on-one sessions at my studio here, or outdoors in the beautiful surroundings I'm blessed to have. And just quietly, I'm really excited about it. :)

I'm also planning to attend Filex - Liz and I are plotting to bunk in together and cause some mayhem in Sydney, as well as learn some new stuff (and collect some of the CECs required for our professional registration).

On a personal level, this year will be focused on rehabbing my injuries and eventually rebuilding my strength and cardio fitness to pre-injury levels. I'm enlisting the help of my physiotherapist, my osteopath, and I hope to get myself signed up for some coaching as well. Accountability makes a huge difference.... not to mention the fact that I hate doing my own training programs.

So this week, I'm back to early starts, with some training first up, then several hours of being chained to a desk. Oh well, a lunchtime walk always helps to blow away the cobwebs.

And it's only six weeks to the next long weekend. :)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Flood relief - on a personal level

I had a post all prepared for today about training and working around injuries. But something more important has come up and some help is required from the blogging community.

Blogger A-M lives in Brisbane, in one of the flood-affected areas near the river. She and her boys were extraordinarily lucky in that their ground floor apartment was untouched by the floodwaters. They have spent quite some time with no power or hot water and various other inconveniences, but A-M considers herself fortunate and has been out and about helping others who were not so lucky, like 73-year-old Ken.




Please go and read A-M's post about Ken, who is in desperate need of some help. His townhouse was completely flooded and is now just a shell, with no walls, floor coverings, cabinets or power, and not a stick of furniture. You can help Ken directly by using the Paypal "donate" button that A-M has set up on her blog.

Also, if you're in Brissie and you know a generous plumber who may be able to spare some time to help Ken get a new kitchen installed, please leave A-M a comment on her blog.

I know that bloggers are a generous lot and I'm sure we can help Ken get back on his feet.

x

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Weekly photo



I'm told this beastie is an Australian Blue Skimmer.

Who knew there were so many varieties of dragonfly?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Angel

On Tuesday I was blessed with a home visit from my osteopath. I used to see Melissa regularly, until she ran away to Canada a couple of years ago. I tried a couple of others, but none of them quite cut it, and I’d given up long ago on finding anyone as good.

Then the other day she popped up on Facebook and announced that she was back in Melbourne and practising again. Woohoo! I wasted no time sending her a message and had her booked for a couple of one-hour sessions (one for Bike Boy) before you could say “tight infraspinatus”.

She gave us both a right working-over, getting her magic fingers right into my screwed-up ITB and glutes, as well as my traps, mid to upper back and my neck. Oh, my neck! I haven’t had this much mobility for months – I can actually turn my head to each side, enough to see a little of the view behind me. Miracle!

Wednesday morning, I woke up feeling as though I’d been hit by a truck. My poor body didn’t know what had hit it - I felt as though I’d put myself through a super-hard workout and had killer DOMS. In spite of that, I can tell my muscles are much looser than they’ve been in ages. I have another session booked next week and I can't WAIT.

Melissa, you're an angel. An angel with fingers of steel and a sadistic streak, but hey, I'm not complaining. I'm beginning to see some light at the end of this tunnel.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Free stuff! Yippee!

I read Craig Harper's blog regularly, but I rarely comment. Not because I have nothing to say, but because ....well, he's famous, he usually gets seven thousand comments per post and like many people, I tend to suffer from a slight case of "He wouldn't be interested in my opinion".

I find this happens a lot with the more popular blogs that I read. I don't know why I allow myself to believe that my comments matter less than any of the other billion or so commenters. No logical reason at all, really. One of those stupid self-limiting beliefs.

Anyway.

Last week I actually left a comment. Oh, yes I did. The topic was parenting - more specifically, over-protective parents and whether as a society we are adequately preparing our kids for life. I'm not a perfect parent. Hell, we just went off for the weekend without telling our eldest we were going away. But we've tried to nurture our kids without coddling them, to give them the skills to cope with adult life, and to make them self-reliant, whilst still loving them to bits.

So I thought I was a bit qualified to comment, and it seems that Craig liked something I wrote, because I WON A SIGNED COPY OF HIS NEW BOOK. I was planning on buying it; just hadn't got around to it yet. I mean, how could I not want a self-help book titled Stop F*cking Around!?

If you're interested, my comment is over here. Scroll way down, to somewhere near the bottom of the forty-odd comments and you'll find it. And do me a favour; if you spot the typo, please ignore it. ;)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Australia Day bonus post: Warning!



Watch out for giant super-strong kangaroos that leap out without warning and tip your car over.


Gawd, between them and the drop bears, it's bloody dangerous venturing outdoors.

Modern family communication

While we were away on the weekend, I had fun testing out my new phone. We arrived and I did a Facebook check-in, announcing that I was at Bright (I wasn't, but that was the closest location I could find).

A short time later, my phone rang. It was Number One Son.

N1S: Uh, so you're at Nan and Pop's place?
Me: Yep.
N1S: You didn't tell me you were going away.
Me: Oops.
N1S: ......
Me: NO PARTIES!

I checked Facebook a short time later and was amused to note his most recent status update:

That awkward moment when your mum checks into your grandparent's house 4 hours away and it dawns upon you they've gone away for the weekend - without them telling you.

The next day Bike Boy and I were madly checking in at wineries, breweries and cafes, complete with phone pics and thinking ourselves pretty clever for old folks. Son's next status update was this:

Slightly disturbed my parents are all over it on checking in and posting photos up on fb..

Good to know he has such a low opinion of our technological capabilities.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The elephant (not) in the room



We took The Baby with us on our weekend getaway, but left the two older boys at home. They were both working, but even if they'd been free, they're past wanting to spend a weekend with their parents ...and/or grandparents.

When we arrived home on Sunday afternoon, both were at work and I was pleased to note that the house was tidy and especially that there were no dishes on the sink. I carried our bags into the bedroom and paused. Someone's been sleeping in my bed, I remarked to Bike Boy, in my best Mama Bear voice. The giveaway? The bed was neatly made - I hadn't bothered to make it before we left. Also, the multiple pillows and cushions, while neatly piled on the bed, weren't arranged the way I always have them.

"Baby Bear" checked his room and announced that someone had been sleeping in his bed too. Cue parental muttering....

An inspection of the recycle bin revealed a large number of empty cans and stubbies. Number One Son is a renowned party boy, and it was obvious that he'd had several friends over for a drinking session. Clearly, some had stayed the night. *sigh* At least he'd done a good job of cleaning up and nothing was broken.

We were eating dinner last night, when I noticed the empty space on the shelves in the wall niche, where a carved wooden elephant usually resides:



Where's my elephant?! I asked the party animal. What elephant? and a blank look was the response. He apparently knew nothing about it. I figured it would turn up - unless one of his drunken mates had taken a fancy to it and absconded with it.

This morning when we got up it had reappeared, as if by magic:



Perhaps it got lonely up there and wandered off in search of other elephants, coming home when it couldn't find any.

I'm impatiently waiting for the boy to get home from work tonight to hear the explanation.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Getaway

Over the weekend we took the opportunity to get away for a couple of days. We hit the highway to go visit the in-laws, who happen to live in a particularly pretty part of Victoria. Their tiny town is close to one of the state's favourite holiday destinations, Bright.

We stopped on the way up at Milawa and stocked up on goodies from the Olive Shop....

Cruised the market in Bright and shopped for gourmet treats (at least I did; Bike Boy was out on his new MTB, pedalling up and down mountains)...



Observed the huge number of cyclists in town for the Audax Alpine Classic....



Dropped into the local lolly shop/cafe for an iced coffee. The Baby thought he was in heaven....



Spent a lovely hour or so at Boynton's winery, which has a sensational view of Mount Buffalo.





Stopped at the Bright Brewery on our way back, where I stuck to water, but Bike Boy enjoyed a few cold bevvies....

Sat on the creek bank with our feet in the icy water, while The Baby built himself a dam....



Relaxed on the lawn with a cold drink or two...



And I played around with my camera...





All up, it was a very welcome break.

I'm into my last week of holidays now and intend to make the most of it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What's the opposite of a control freak?

Remember my January List? Since the last update, I have managed to cross a couple more things off it, but that's more by chance than by actual planning or effort.

You see, after my doctor's visit almost two weeks ago, I decided that what I really needed was some serious rest. And whilst a lot of the items on my list are things that I enjoy doing, or at least not particularly arduous activities, there was a sense of obligation about them. Kind of "I have to do these things, whether I feel like it or not".

I thought about it, and decided: Bugger it - I'm on holidays. I'd just go with the flow and do what I felt like from day to day. Seems that what I felt like was mostly reading, taking naps, watching DVD episodes of Heroes with The Baby, Mad Men by myself, or Dexter with Bike Boy, taking a few walks and generally not doing much at all.

The result of all this indolence (and some quality sleep) is that I feel mentally recharged and refreshed. I also managed to have that 60-minute massage*, using the voucher I was given for my birthday, and my body hasn't felt this loose and relaxed for a very long time. If only funds and my schedule would allow, I'd make it a weekly event.

I thought I might get stuck into a few List items this weekend, but instead, we decided to head off for a few days in the country with the in-laws. (And thanks to the marvels of modern technology, I've been able to stick to my daily blogging commitment...)

I may finish off my list this coming week before I go back to work, or I may not. Whatever.


*I can thoroughly recommend Masci Hair and Spa in Eltham, if anyone in my part of Melbourne is looking for a special day spa experience.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

The intrepid explorer

I was out for a walk the other night, and decided to take a different route than usual, through an area I hadn't explored before. Up until a few months ago, we weren't easily able to get through to the neighbouring estate, as the two areas are divided by a long billabong. Now that more roads have been constructed and a bridge has finally been opened, I've been checking out some new sights.

Less than ten minutes' walk from home, I spotted this path, leading through a long strip of natural bushland, and followed it to see where it went.




It's been nicely landscaped to complement the bush setting.



I wandered along it, enjoying the sounds of the frogs croaking away in a boggy patch nearby and watching flocks of squawking galahs fly overhead. Then I rounded a corner ...and discovered THIS:



My heart started beating faster, then a little further along, I found THIS:



And THIS:



And OMG, THIS:



I was almost peeing my pants by this time, I was so excited. There was also THIS:



And THIS:



And THIS (which I'm not exactly sure what it's meant for....but I'll think of something):



I was laughing out loud by this time. I'm sure the dog-walkers who passed by must have thought I was nuts. But Oh. My. GOD. It's my very own neighbourhood fitness circuit. Squeeeeee!!

And all the while, you're surrounded by views like this:



And if you take the roundabout way home to cool down, you can visit the kangaroos:



I LOVE my neighbourhood!

Then I remembered that I can't actually DO very much at the moment. No running, no step-ups, no chins, not much at all, really... But I'm busy planning a training session based around what I can do - some pushups, dips, inverted rows, crunches... maybe even mountain climbers and modified bench jumps. Definitely a few things with a band.

Can't wait to test it out.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Recipe challenge - recipe #4

Bike Boy grabbed some diced pork out of the freezer the other night and requested that I "do something with it" the next day for our dinner. At around 4:00pm, I still hadn't given it any thought at all, but a quick Google led me to a simple recipe for pork Vindaloo.

It turned out to be a winner - the curry king himself pronounced it "very good". Here's the recipe, slightly modified by me:

1 tbs peanut oil
500g lean diced pork
1 smallish onion, sliced
1 tsp crushed garlic
2 tsp grated ginger
About 1/2 tsp crushed chilli (or more if you're adventurous)
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tbs vindaloo paste
1 cup water
1 tbs brown vinegar

Heat half the oil in a large saucepan and cook pork in batches till browned. Remove to a plate. Add the remaining oil and onion, stirring for 3 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, chilli, mustard seeds and curry paste, cook for 2 minutes or so until mustard seeds pop.

Return pork to the saucepan with water and vinegar. Bring to the boil and simmer, covered, for 60 minutes or until pork is tender. Remove the lid and increase the heat until liquid is reduced by about two-thirds.

Bike Boy's suggestion: You could substitute a can of diced tomatoes for the water. The tomatoes add a nice acidity and help to tenderise the meat. Plus you get bonus veggies!

I served it up with raita (basically diced cucumber and natural yoghurt) and pappadums. We cook them in the toaster, no oil required, although it can be tricky to do it without them falling down the sides...

I totally forgot to take a photo. BAD blogger!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Salad days

Everybody knows vegetables are good for us, right? Low in calories and high in fibre, plus packed full of vitamins and minerals. Essential for good health and perfect to fill up on when you want to lose some weight. Salads in particular are great because they're usually fast to prepare. But even if you're a veggie fan (like me), you can get a bit bored now and then.

I've had days in the past when I just couldn't tolerate the idea of another salad. My solution was to make them a lot more interesting and tasty than most people's usual lettuce-tomato-cucumber combos. So if you're bored with salads, give some of these ideas a whirl:

Try adding fruit to your salads – it makes them seem more substantial, and in many cases you won’t need dressing at all, as the juice will provide enough moisture.

• Orange segments go well with rocket, baby spinach and some thinly sliced red onion.
• Diced apple is always great with cucumber and crunchy greens.
• Apple is also good combined with lettuce leaves, celery, walnuts and some fat free natural yoghurt mixed with a little lemon juice and black pepper. Kind of a healthier version of a Waldorf salad.
• Thinly sliced pear also goes well with rocket and onion. Add a few shavings of parmesan and some black pepper.
• Diced mango is fabulous in a leafy salad with some sliced red and yellow capsicum.
• Try watermelon with snow pea shoots and coriander leaves.

Some roasted veggies in your salad makes it special:

• Roasted pumpkin with baby spinach, cucumber and basil leaves
• Roasted or chargrilled capsicums make anything taste great
• Sweet potato can be substituted for pumpkin
• Boiled or baked potatoes, sliced and served warm with salad veggies
• Roasted onion or garlic – yum!

Add some nuts or seeds, but go easy on the amount. Try some of these:

• Walnuts
• Pecans
• Almonds – slivered or flaked work well
• Pine nuts
• Pepitas
• Sunflower seeds
• Sesame seeds

Turn your salad into a salsa. Just chop everything finely and mix:

• Tomato, onion (just a little), capsicum, coriander leaves and avocado
• Roasted capsicum, tomato and onion with balsamic vinegar
• Mango, capsicum, onion, squeeze of lime juice
• Peaches, onion, basil, vinegar and oil

Care to share your favourite salad ideas? Jump in and leave a comment.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Twitter, not twits

I was intrigued by the idea of Twitter when it first appeared on the scene, but was a bit reluctant to get involved, because.... well, I spend quite enough time plugged in to social media, thanks.

I finally gave in and activated my account a few weeks back, and waited to see what I would do with this new communication mode. Some of the tweets I read were amusing, many were yawn-worthy, and some I studiously ignored so as not to get involved in angry exchanges.

Businesses have been using Twitter and Facebook for some time, and I see the benefits, but I finally discovered one huge reason that justifies Twitter's existence. Emergency services use it to mass broadcast announcements in a very effective way.

During the recent (and ongoing) floods in Queensland and here in Victoria, folks have been madly retweeting messages about rising floodwaters, road closures and other useful information. They've also been offering assistance - things like food, accommodation, shelter for animals - and letting others know which supermarkets have food on the shelves, where emergency shelters are and so on. This info spreads faster than a bushfire through dry grass - especially when you have your account set up to send tweets to your phone.

I'm following the Victoria Police and CFA, plus ABC news, and the info has been invaluable. It makes me feel a lot safer, living in a bushfire-prone area too.

Who says social media is self-indulgent and superficial?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Blessed sleep

FINALLY. I've managed two decent nights' sleep IN A ROW. This is major cause for celebration! I've been battling sleep issues for months now - apparently all part of the super-fun hormonal circus that we ladies of a certain age get to experience.

Over the past year, I've tried every herbal remedy I could get my hands on - at least the ones that weren't likely to mess with my already below-par liver function. I cut out coffee, ditched alcohol, Googled desperately for anything that might help... but still couldn't crack it for a decent stretch of unbroken sleep. Training was spasmodic because I couldn't drag myself out of bed, I was cranky, tearful and indecisive, and my appetite and cravings were out of control; all the usual results of severe sleep deprivation.

In desperation last week, I took myself off to see my GP. We discussed HRT and dismissed it. The benign lesions on my liver that have been behaving themselves for the past seven years or so *may* be negatively influenced by oestrogen, and I'm not about to risk that. After a long discussion about the pros and cons, I agreed to trial an antidepressant. No, I'm not depressed (although I may well be teetering on the brink of insanity after months of next to no sleep), but these drugs have been found to reduce hot flushes. So the doc gave me a prescription and a good old heart to heart about being kind to myself, listening to my body and taking it easy when I need to, plus trying some relaxation exercises.

The first few days on the drugs were a bit odd. There was an immediate improvement in the hot flushes, but the minor side effects were a bit disconcerting. The main one was that I was constantly yawning - very weird. It's been seven days now and all that seems to have settled down, but best of all, a couple of blissfully undisturbed nights have made me feel amost human again.

Today I'm going to make the most of a day free of commitments and a surplus of energy, and get this house ship-shape. The weather looks dodgy too, so indoor activities are definitely on the agenda. First though, I'm off to do a short Pilates workout.

Later!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sharing the bloggy love

Post ideas are a bit thin on the ground at the mo... I'm actually having a few days R & R (which mainly involves lots of laying around on the couch, reading books), and my brain seems to have switched to neutral. So today's post is a bit of a cheat.

My pal Shauna is celebrating her ten-year bloggiversary. If you don't know who Dietgirl is, what rock have you been hiding under? The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl was the very first blog I discovered, way back in about 2002, and I've been following Shauna's adventures ever since. We share a love of chocolate, a dangerous addiction to Nutella, and a desire to help others live a healthier life. Of course, Shauna's also a talented writer and published author.

We finally got to meet in 2009, and chatted away over lunch like old mates. Here we are, saying cheese:



Anyway, ten years of blogging is a huge achievement. So head on over and say congratulations!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Recipe challenge - recipe #3

I'm working away at my recipe goal, and tried this one from Taste.com.au the other day:

Spanish Pork

1 tbs mustard
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbs baby capers, rinsed, drained
8 pimento-stuffed green olives, sliced
1 tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tbs olive oil
350g piece pork fillet, trimmed


Preheat oven to 180°C. To make sauce, whisk together mustard, garlic, capers, olives, parsley, zest, juice, 1 tbs olive oil, pepper to taste and 2 tbs warm water.
Heat remaining oil in an ovenproof frypan over high heat and cook pork, turning, for 5 minutes until golden.

Place pan in oven for 5 minutes until pork is cooked through. Rest pork for 5 minutes, then slice.

Drizzle with the sauce.

Of course, I made some changes....

I used pork steaks instead of fillets and curly parsley from our garden in place of the flat-leaf kind. We had no pimento-stuffed olives on hand, so I just used green olives. Since I wasn't using fillets, I also didn't bother with the oven part, simply cooking the steaks over a high heat in a non-stick pan. And pouring some room-temperature sauce over my hot pork steak didn't appeal, so I removed the meat from the pan, then poured the sauce in, both to heat and to pick up the pan juices.

The verdict: WAY too much lemon juice. Thank goodness I used a small lemon; it was cat's-bum sour anyway.

I'd cut the juice back to a teaspoon next time, but would definitely make it again.

I didn't take a photo (I know, blogger fail!), so here's the one from Taste.com's website, which looks utterly unlike mine. And just quietly, there was not a broad bean in sight. Ugh.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Plodding

I'm having a bit of a mental battle over training at the moment. The sensible part of me knows that I need to be patient, exercise restraint and stick to what I'm able to do safely. Which is basically a whole bunch of boring stuff. I realise that this is the right thing to do... but then there's the other part of me, the one that whispers that this stuff is for wusses, that it isn't REAL training.

I've always enjoyed the go hard or go home approach, and apart from a few weeks between September and November last year, it's been a long time since I've been able to do that.

My sane side is ruling though, and I'm behaving myself and plodding along like a good girl. *sigh*

So far this week, I've walked, stretched, done a short Pilates workout and used the foam roller and tennis ball ad nauseum. Yesterday, I also allowed my physio to stick his elbows into my glutes and his nasty fingers into my neck, shoulder and knee in a most painful way, and then use me as a human pincushion. Today I'm off to the gym for an upper body workout, and I'll make an effort to get on the spin bike as well for some sedate cycling. I have been enjoying my walks, but if this rain keeps up, I'll be doing most of my walking on a treadmill for the foreseeable future. Better load up the ipod!

The real downside of being so restricted is that I need to cut back my food intake to match my reduced energy expenditure. I love my food, but tight pants was not one of my January goals....

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Rain

I'm not moaning about the constant rain today. It's been mostly wet since Sunday night, and forecast to be all week, so I can't do the work I'd planned outdoors, get washing dry, or go for a walk.... but it could be worse.





You can donate to help flood victims at any of the major banks, Coles, or online here.

Stay dry and safe, Queensland bloggers!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Recipe Alert!

I give you: Friday night's dinner recipe.... Pomegranate chicken.

Bike Boy thought the chicken was pretty good, although he isn't a fan of pomegranate seeds, so the cous cous wasn't a winner for him.



Note to self: turn off the bench overhead lighting before snapping photos without the flash. Way too yellow. Ugh.

And here's a pic of my pomegranate cocktail from the other day:



Pretty!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Rescued!



I've been moaning about my crappy phone for months now, but I was locked into a contract until February, with no chance of an immediate upgrade. I was also unhappy with my plan, because T3lstra only offered very rudimentary internet services for nix, and I was constantly exceeding my limit, just by checking Facebook or eBay once or twice a day. Hey, you've gotta amuse yourself at work somehow, and Big Brother keeps a close watch on our personal internet usage.

I'd all but made up my mind to switch to 0ptus, because of their unlimited Facebook, Twitter and eBay usage. My only reservation was their lousy coverage compared to you-know-who.

Enter my knight in shining armour... Bike Boy wandered out in his lunch break on Friday and tested umpteen phones, then screwed T3lstra for a cheaper plan than I was currently on, with more bandwidth than I can possibly use, and a brand new touch screen Windows phone thrown in. My hero!

He walked in the door that night and handed me this shiny new gadget. Excitement gave way to yawn-inducing tedium as he spent hours setting up my email accounts, transferring my contacts (more or less successfully - although I did have to email Sara and ask her to send me her phone number again. Oops) getting my Windows Live account up and running and showing me the basics.

I still have a few things to learn, but I'm very happy with it so far. I was so busy playing with Facebook, Twitter, photos and downloading apps that it was quite a while before I remembered that it makes phone calls. LOL.

Now I'm confident that when I go back to work, I can survive a day at the office without dying of boredom

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Class-ification

"...lets flaunt our class privilege by mocking poor people and judging what they decide to put in their shopping trolleys. The whole world doesn't live like you."

Some of you might recall the above comment, which was left on this post quite a while back - and no, I haven’t been stewing over it ever since; I was just reminded of it the other day by something I read, and so here are my thoughts:

Let’s talk about my “class privilege”, shall we? Here’s another case of someone making sweeping assumptions about me, probably based on one (tongue-in-cheek) post. What? Does she think I was born into a well-off family in the leafy suburbs, attended a posh private school and never wanted for anything? Mummy and Daddy must have given me their secondhand Beemer for my 18th birthday and then coughed up a huge wad of cash as a wedding gift so we could buy our own home.

Let's leave la-la land and return to Planet Reality, shall we?

I was born to very young parents who struggled constantly to make ends meet. They never expected to have three kids by their third anniversary, but they made do – my father worked two jobs and my mother continued her trade as a fashion designer and dressmaker from home, mostly making wedding dresses and special occasion outfits. They built a very small house in the far-flung outer suburbs, where land was affordable (but the roads were unmade and there was no gas). When I started school, Mum went back to full time work in a factory manufacturing ladies’ wear – and was looked down upon for doing so by most of the neighbourhood – while Dad worked night shift as a taxi driver.

When my parents split up, I was only about six. There was no single parent’s pension and women did not receive equal pay, so Mum supported us and somehow managed to hang onto the house on a very low wage. My sisters and I never realised we were poor, which is a credit to my Mum’s financial management skills. She brought home fabric offcuts from the factory where she worked and made us beautiful outfits. Once I remember my sister and I needed ball gowns (in primary school, can you believe it?), and she cut up a couple of her old dresses and remade them into stunning full length outfits for us. We had enough to eat, but there were no takeaways, no soft drink unless it was a birthday party, and if we wanted a snack, we were pointed towards the fruit bowl, which was likely to be full of home-grown plums or apricots or other fruit given to us by friends or family.

I can recall both the water and the power being disconnected because there wasn’t enough money to pay the bills. I also remember the mortification in my mother’s voice when she answered the door to a debt collector who was chasing an overdue rates payment.

Mum remarried and things were a bit easier, but there was rarely any money to spare after the essentials were paid for. School camps were a strain on household funds, but we never missed out. Brownies, ballet and piano lessons were somehow paid for, even if Mum went without new clothes or fancy hairdos. Most of our veggies were grown in the backyard, and if we went on holidays, it was usually camping or staying at a friend’s beach house. We went to the local state schools and all did well – because we applied ourselves and worked hard, as our parents had taught us to do.

When I left school, I did as my parents did: worked to support myself. We did not spend a small fortune on our wedding – we both considered that to be a stupid waste of money. Instead, we did the whole thing on the cheap, calling in favours from family to help out with flowers, dresses, rings, invitations, cake and more. Then we saved and saved so that we could put a deposit on a house in a decidedly un-trendy outer suburb six months after our marriage.

When each of my children were born, I went back to work when my maternity leave ran out. Not because I don’t care about my kids, but because keeping a roof over their heads and food in their bellies was kind of important.

We lived in our tiny, 11 square house for 22 years, before upgrading to something bigger (still in the outer boonies), and the move was not without its financial sacrifices. I first went overseas when I was 37 – and have left Australia exactly twice. We don’t have holidays regularly unless we visit relatives, we drive old cars, and pack our lunches to take to work every day. We build things ourselves, shop at factory outlets and generally save as many $$ as we can, not as a hobby, but beause, like most families, we need to. We don't have a pool, a boat, a holiday home, a stockbroker ...or a butler, dammit.

I’m not complaining about my lot; I have a very happy life with a loving family, a nice home and enough food to eat, even if juggling the bills is sometimes a challenge. And I'm well and truly grateful. But don’t DARE accuse me of having “class privilege”, whatever that is, let alone flaunting it. I’m an honest working girl who’s earned every single material thing I have (little though it might seem to some).

I don’t sit around doing nothing with an expectation of receiving handouts. I don’t have a sense of entitlement and I despise people who do. If you don’t like where you are right now, get up off your arse and work for what you want.

And by the way, that goes for fitness or weight loss goals as well as financial ones. Nobody is going to do it for you.

Oh, and don't make snap judgements about bloggers and their lives either. Chances are, you'll be way off the mark and you won't be making yourself any friends.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Progressing nicely

At the end of the first week, I thought I'd better do a quick review of my progress on my holiday list. Here's what I've completed so far:

1. Dismantle the Christmas tree and pack away all the decorations. - Of COURSE, five minutes after I stacked all the boxes back in the garage, I found a couple of extra things from around the house that I'd missed.

2. Take stock of my supplements and go shopping for whatever I need. Magnesium and evening primrose oil was all...I'm well stocked up on everything else.

3. Spend a day helping Mum re-pot her eleven thousand orchids. Man, was that a marathon effort! Eight hours of solid, back-breaking work, less a one-hour break for lunch and to go buy some more potting mix.

5. Clean out the fridge. All I can say is Blah!

12. Get outdoors in the evening and take some decent shots of the local wildlife. Did this a few nights ago, here's the evidence:



Don't know about decent; It was extremely windy and I had difficulty hand-holding the camera with my telezoom lens.

13. Cook a romantic dinner for two.
"Romantic" is subjective. Since three out of three kids were home, I fed them and told them to bugger off to their rooms. We had a peaceful and delicious meal, and it was nice... I'll post the recipe shortly too, as part of my January cooking challenge.

16. Clean up my studio/office.
There's one pile of papers still to sort and file, but I'm calling it done anyway.

17. Book in a relaxing one-hour massage.
Got this one locked in for the week after next.

25. Track down a decent Pilates DVD.
I've ordered one, still looking at a few others though.

And these are organised or underway:
8. Go to the movies with Bike Boy. Tickets are booked and we're all set for a night out tonight.

21. Get myself to the optometrist for a check up. Booked in for the week after next.

27. Read at least two books I've finished one and am onto number two already.


All going to plan. :)

Friday, January 07, 2011

New Year nonsense

Even if you’ve lost your diary and slept through the midnight fireworks the other night, you can tell it’s a new year from the number of bloggers and real-world acquaintances starting some crazy-arse diet. Usually one that involves cutting out food groups, eating the same three meals day in, day out, or buying some overpriced supplement that’s the new Big Thing.

*sigh*

I’ve come to realise that it can take quite a long time not only to understand, but to believe in your heart, that it is possible to both eat well and lose (or maintain) weight. Most of us have to work our way through the silly diet maze to get to the priceless treasure on the other side that is enjoying your food and eating well instinctively.

I followed some dumb diets in my twenties. If I could go back in time, I’d smack my younger self over the head. Did I seriously think that skipping breakfast, having a tub of diet yoghurt and an apple for lunch and a “normal” dinner was the answer? Or that the weight lost on the Israeli army diet was going to stay off when I returned to my usual way of eating?

Luckily, I’ve progressed in stages through various healthier ways of eating (Weight Watchers, Body-for-LIFE, Precision Nutrition) to get to a point where I can cook and eat well without really thinking about it. And where eating out won’t freak me out, even if the meal does involve my Mum’s Black Forest trifle.

I know I’m not alone, and also that I’m one of the lucky ones who really hasn’t had that much of a struggle. For a really scary story (with a happy ending), go have a read of Sara’s post detailing her journey through the minefield of eating disorders, to the very content and healthy place she’s in now.

Anyway, back to the silly diets… Let’s bust a few food myths.

1. All white foods are bad.

Look, refined white flour and sugar products are not your best friends. And anything commercially produced using them usually has artificial this and that added to boot, so keep white bread, biscuits, mass-produced cakes and muesli bars etc to a minimum. But potatoes? Awesome veggies for most people! Yoghurt? That’s white, isn’t it? Unless you have a problem with dairy, this is one food I recommend. I’ve eaten Basmati rice regularly for years and lost weight easily. I’m sure there are others, but the point is, if it’s processed, skip it; if not, it’s unlikely to hamper your weight loss efforts just because of its colour.

2. Fruit is bad.

Don’t be bloody ridiculous. The whole fructose is bad for you movement is getting out of control. If one more diet "guru" jumps on this bandwagon, I'm going to scream. Listen up: Modified or concentrated fructose (such as high-fructose corn syrup, found in a lot of biscuits, breakfast bars and other mass-produced baked goods… which you shouldn’t be eating anyway) is probably very, very bad for you. Fructose in its natural state, paired with fibre and vitamins, such as you find in an apple or cantaloupe, is FINE. Eat your two or three serves of fruit a day and enjoy them.

3. Low-fat is the only way to go.

I’ve seen some people reduce their dietary fat intake to 10g or less daily (which is no mean feat), and yet wonder why they’re not losing weight, or why their skin is really crappy. We NEED fat for umpteen essential bodily functions, and if you don’t eat enough, your skin and hair will look rubbish, your hormones are likely to go all haywire and you won’t feel fantastic. And your fat loss will probably stall, as your body hangs onto its fat stores for dear life because there simply isn’t enough being eaten on a daily basis. There are a whole lot of other issues with fat-free or low-fat foods too, but all I’ll say there is: read the label. See what’s been added to replace the fat that’s been taken out, and compare the calories in the fat free version with the normal one… you might be surprised.

There are plenty more myths floating around, but that’ll do for now.

I’m still sticking to my non-miracle not-diet, and very happy with it, thanks.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

One down, four to go


I committed to trying five new recipes during January, as part of my 2011 Actions. I've made a good start, having jotted down quite a few ideas already, so I don't think this is going to be all that difficult. I'm starting off simply, with a drink recipe I created the other day.

I noticed pomegranates while shopping last week, and bought one on the spur of the moment, although I didn't have a specific dish in mind to use it in. We had friends coming for a BBQ on Sunday night, and I had a sudden brainwave, and came up with this super-easy Pomegranate cocktail:

Grab four champagne flutes and pour a glug of Grenadine into each. Maybe ...a tablespoon? I didn't measure, so you'll just have to work it out for yourself, depending on how sweet you like it. Cut a pomegranate in half and squeeze each half over a bowl to collect the juice and seeds. Scoop a heaped dessert spoon of seeds and a bit of juice into each glass. Then top up with champagne. If you want to get fancy, garnish with a twist of lemon peel.

If you want a non-alcoholic "mocktail", just use sparkling mineral water or soda water instead of the champagne. There's no alcohol in Grenadine; it's just a pomegranate flavoured syrup. BTW, you should find it at any bottle shop, where they keep the mixers.

I don't have a photo (sorry), so you'll have to take my word for it that they look very, very pretty. Taste great too. :)

Maybe I'll just have to make some more, and then post the recipe over on my food blog...

No, this isn't a recipe for a MEAL, but it's still a recipe. Works for me.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Come with me...

The main thing that keeps training interesting and fun for me is variety. I can follow the same weight training program for several weeks without getting bored, but if I don't mix up my cardio, it soon becomes a dull, miserable experience. Injuries aside, I can happily walk, run, and cycle, or do any one of hundreds of gym or home workout combinations, as long as I'm not repeating the same thing over and over.

One of my favourite types of cardio is an outdoor "boot camp" style session. There are endless variations and combinations of exercises, and the scenery can be different too, if you want to vary the location. I've blogged about some of my outdoor workouts before, but today I thought I'd take you on a little tour of where I like to train. Follow me!

Excuse the less than panoramic shots - I only had my telezoom lens with me (because I was planning on doing some wildlife-spotting) so it's kind of tricky to fit some things in. Note to self: Use the wide angle next time.

I might start with a warm up jog alongside the creek at the end of our street...



That brings me out at the bridge on the "main" road (nothing main about it, there's hardly any traffic), which I cross to bring me to the park. There's no proper sports ground, just a grassy oval for the local kids to kick a ball around or play a game of tippety-run. Also perfect for me to do sprints across, do pushups or crunches on the soft grass and so on...



This path runs all the way around the oval, so it's handy for jogging or walking intervals, walking lunges, side shuffles or whatever else I fancy...



These rustic seats are conveniently placed for step-ups, elevated pushups, tricep dips and other such fun. The bit of shade is welcome too...



The playground is disappointingly rudimentary, but I can still throw a band around a pole and do rows, tri extensions, lat pulldowns or high biceps curls....



If I want to go further afield, I follow this path which continues along the creek towards the wetlands. There's a handy little slope for doing hill sprints, just out of sight...



At the top of the hill is this lookout area. It's nice and flat, and I'll often do some walking lunges and X-band walks back and forth here while enjoying the view. The steps are handy for Bulgarian split squats, or for jumping up with feet together (thank goodness there are only three or four)...



As well as the steps, there are two more of these bench seats, so more pushups or step-ups are pretty much mandatory here...



I jog or walk along a path from here and around onto the boardwalk across the wetlands...



More handy pushup/step-up/dips stations (or just stop and catch your breath while watching the ducks)...



This stretch has annoyed the crap out of me for years. The path just comes to a sudden halt and if it's been raining, you have to negotiate your way through mud to get to the next section. Looks like the missing 10m or so of concrete is finally being done....



If I've got any energy left, I'll leave the wetlands and do a wide loop around the main road to get back home. This stretch may be uphill, but the shade is very welcome on a sunny day...



Then it's a flat run (or walk) home and I'm done.

Anyone else care to share their favourite outdoor workout spot?