Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Feedback wanted

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You might have noticed that I now have some advertising on this site. Unless of course you always read my content in a feed reader... in which case you're probably getting those annoying Google ads at the bottom of the post. Sorry about that...

If you do happen to use a feed reader, do me a favour and click through to the blog, would you? I'm still refining my advertising approach and I'd appreciate a bit of feedback.

Personally, I hate blogs that are so full of ads that it's hard to figure out where the content stops and the advertising starts. I also really, really hate pop-ups that you have to click on to close so that you can read the post that's hidden underneath. But I'm interested in what you think.

I've tried to minimise the impact of my ad units, without making them so unobtrusive that they're invisible - which, after all, would defeat the purpose. I'm also doing my best to make sure that the products and services advertised are inoffensive and where possible, fit comfortably with the health and fitness theme.

So how am I doing so far? What turns you off when it comes to blog advertising? Does advertising influence whether you read a blog or not? Please leave me a comment and let me know.


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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Genius!

Look what my awesome artist skills managed to do yesterday:

"Remembrance"
I spotted a garden bed full of Flanders poppies over at the park during my lunchtime walk, right next to the local council's war memorial. So I got all creative, tweaked this and increased that, turned something else down a tad and took a photo with a difference.....



OK, here's what really happened: It was bright outside and I could not see a thing on my phone screen. I could tell that a pop-up thingie had appeared with options for me to choose from, but apart from the brightness factor, I didn't have my reading glasses so I had no idea what it was asking me to do. So I hit the back button and just took the damn photo anyway. The whole thing was accidental, but wow!

Perhaps I should just blindly wave my phone around at random objects more often. I could end up with an exhibition in a swanky gallery.


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Recipe alert!

Not a new recipe (sorry), just some improvements I made to my super-choc brownies.



If you've already made them, try them again with the modified recipe. If you haven't, what are you waiting for?


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Monday, November 28, 2011

Strong women from the past

I came across an online review of this amazing book a couple of days ago. Venus with Biceps, a history of muscular women in pictures:


Sorry about the teensy picture - the image is too low-res to make any bigger.

I don't know about the text, but the photos are great. There are circus strong women and acrobats, their waists tightly corseted:

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Edwardian ladies dutifully performing exercises with tiny dumbbells:
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But this is my favourite, from the 1950s. I love the high heels and the meticulous hairdo:

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I guess you never know when you might pick up.... Me, I'm more the roll-out-of-bed-pull-on-any-old-thing-and-go kind of girl. Hair combing optional.

If you click through to the article, there's also a short video of trapeze artist Laverie Vallee from 1901, who was apparently famous for performing a striptease on the trapeze. Yes, that is what I said. Don't get too excited, guys, it was 1901.

This book's definitely on my Christmas wish list.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Counting my blessings

All week I've been fighting off feelings of resentment and general crabbiness because I have too many things to cram into my days - most of them not fun stuff, unfortunately. But I'm attempting to turn that around by focusing on the things I have to look forward to, instead of the mundane work/housework/errands that seem to fill my days.

So here's my list of upcoming exciting events:

1. My birthday. Who doesn't love being spoiled and getting lots of attention? Also: there will be cake.

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2. Elton John. The old rocker is touring again, and I was lucky enough to pick up tickets to one of his Melbourne shows next week via a Facebook friend (thanks Miss Cheryl!). I've never seen him live before, and I figure I should grab the chance now because, who knows, there may not be another.

3. A visit from my Kiwi pal Sara, who's making an unexpected trip across the Tasman in a couple of weeks' time. I'm hoping to show her a bit more of Melbourne than she usually gets to see, maybe do some shopping and definitely visit a few gourmet foodie hangouts.

Cannot. WAIT.
4. Christmas. I'm such a sucker for Christmas food, decorations, get-togethers with family and friends and even Christmas music if I'm in the mood. (But our tree is NOT going up before December 1st. It's a rule...)

My pretties remain packed away for now
5. Holidays (Yes, again...). I have three weeks off from Christmas onwards, and plan to potter around the house, sleep past 5:30am, train when it suits me, and maybe get stuck into a few neglected projects here. We might also get away for a few days to one of our favourite parts of the state. Wineries, gorgeous scenery, relaxation... sounds good, no?

Um...minus the autumn colours at this time of year.
5. Phat Camp. I've booked in for my 5th Phat Camp, in February next year. It's always a fun weekend, even if I do have difficulty walking for days afterwards. I'm looking forward to seeing some old faces and lots of new ones.

Exercising my baby muscles at Phat Camp 2005 

There really is plenty to be grateful for in my life, apart from family, friends and basic human needs like food, clothing and shelter - those go without saying. I just have to keep my mind on the fun stuff, and not dwell on the boring, the mundane and the downright loathsome.

Now, back to folding washing and cleaning toilets.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

What's your hidden talent?

This week I've dedicated a pretty big chunk of time to creating a photo book of my favourite holiday shots. It wasn't difficult, but I had to learn the ins and outs of the software and (the hard part) decide which photos to include and which to leave out. Hey, I ended up with 44 pages, and that was only 200 or so of the 1200+ images I have....

Anyway, that led to me spending some time going through the many thousands of photos I have stored on my hard drive. And that led me to some photos I haven't looked at for a long time. Including some of the embroidery work I used to do in another lifetime, when I seemed to have plenty of spare time to sit on the couch and ply my needle.

I'm actually pretty good at it. I never bothered creating my own designs, I'm too lazy for that and there are so many gorgeous ideas out there from way more talented people than me anyway. But I loved choosing the fabric, the silks and ribbons and beads, and turning a blank canvas into something gorgeous.

This was my all-time favourite (you should be able to click on it for a larger image):


I created it to hang on the wall in our lounge at the old place. Those hydrangeas took a LOT of work - each flower had to be individually created off the canvas, then stitched in place. It's very 3D and the colours are magnificent. I lashed out a bit on materials, buying hand-dyed silk and satin ribbon for the larger flowers.

Unfortunately, handcrafted embroidery pieces don't go with the decor in our current house, so this one now hangs on the wall at my Mum's. The rest? They're sitting in a pile in the garage. Perhaps one day I'll see if I can sell them.

Do you have a hidden talent? Leave me a comment and share your secret.


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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Photo Fun

I've recently discovered some new photo apps for my Windows phone, and have been wasting time having a ball playing with different effects. 

PhotoFunia is just pure fun - you can place yourself into some great scenes. Magazine covers, billboards, TVs, next to famous people and more. Here are just a few:






That last one is awesome - I liked it so much, I did a couple of Vogue covers with friends on them and posted them on Facebook last night. 

The online version is good too, although I think the phone app is better. Careful though - you can lose entire days playing with this thing...

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Monday, November 21, 2011

How was YOUR Monday?

Mine began badly - not because anything bad happened, but because I was in a bad mood. Not only was it Monday, but I had an early start at the office, which throws my whole morning out (and I do like routine and order). 

I'd rather be anywhere than here some days

I've been feeling under pressure and distinctly grumpy about all that I have to do and the lack of time I have to do it in. Work, things that need doing around the house, errands for everyone else that I have to do in my lunch break, Christmas shopping, blog and business stuff and more. However, I've kicked my own butt and told myself to get over it - half of the pressure is self-imposed anyway.

I realised these truths: 1. What doesn't get done won't kill me or anyone else. 2. If someone's a bit miffed that I didn't do something for them, they'll get over it. 3. If my house isn't spotless (*snort* like that ever happens!), I'll survive. 4. And taking time for some R & R helps me to cope with everything else.

So in the spirit of my new-found laid-back philosophy, tonight I'll be curling up on the couch with Bike Boy for some quality time with our favourite serial killer, and the ironing can wait. I am prioritising though - some things are important and have to be done if I'm to remain on an even keel. Like the blueberry pancakes I'll be whipping up as soon as I publish this post, so I have a healthy morning tea ready to go for the next couple of days.

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Whilst I was out and about at lunchtime, I spotted this:

George! How could you....?
Who is that hussy?



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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Definition



Sticktoitiveness n.
1. The thing that keeps you going when you don't feel like getting out of bed to train at 5:30am; 2. The inner resource that enables you to get a healthy dinner on the table when cooking something decent seems harder than climbing Everest because you're so tired/busy; 3. The voice in your head that pipes up part way through a gruelling Tabata workout and says You're. Not. QUITTING.



It is so a word - Google it if you don't believe me.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Recipe Alert!

Oops. I almost forgot to post a link to my latest recipe over at FitBodies Food: Super-choc brownies.



Yes, that's what I said...SUPER-CHOC BROWNIES. Go get some.


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Vanity



Yesterday a Tweet from the newspaper The Age happened to catch my eye. Don't ask me what it said now; I have no idea (short-term memory loss, anyone?)... BUT it linked to this article by health writer Paula Goodyer, which is an absolute ripper.

The topic is one that's been discussed innumerable times by health and fitness bloggers, including yours truly: In a nutshell, that a little vanity can be a good thing, and can help you to stay motivated when it comes to exercise and eating well. She makes the point that there are extremes - witness some of the crazy and obsessive behaviour of models and other celebrities in their quest to become or stay stick-thin. But a healthy level of vanity - I'd probably call it pride in your appearance - can be useful.

This passage of Paula's had me nodding my head in agreement:

....when does accepting your body for the way it is become not taking responsibility for looking after it? If staying in shape can be a convenient cover for a destructive eating disorder, can loving yourself as you are be an excuse not to act against excessive weight gain? 
 

I do agree with the popular line that we should love and appreciate our bodies, whatever size or shape they are. I certainly don't want to look like a supermodel. But I have a problem with people who use the "We're all beautiful, no matter what we look like" line as an excuse for not doing anything about health-threatening obesity. Or the idea that if you want to lose weight, you must hate yourself. I've certainly written about that before.

It's a tricky topic to discuss, because you can be seen as unsympathetic, prejudiced or just plain nasty. It seems it's not acceptable to be critical of fat people - but hey, go nuts picking on thin people; they're apparently fair game, as are "obsessive" exercisers and "health nuts". Whatever, that's a whole other topic of its own.

Go read the article and tell me what you think. Oh, and be sure to read the comments too. The one by Old bag is a real eye-roller.


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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cure for the crankies

I've had a cranky couple of days. I'm putting it down to not enough sleep, the detoxing effects of switching from holiday food (and fruity cocktails) back to my normal way of eating, plus the always deflating effect of returning from holidays and getting back into your normal, mundane life. *sigh*

So I'm cheering myself up by reliving our trip via my photos. I took squillions, which ensured that I ended up with quite a few decent ones.  I recall the days, not so long ago, when you had to ration your holiday photography, because film processing was relatively expensive... Then when I got home, I'd usually find that out of each roll of thirty-six, I was happy with maybe three. Thank goodness for digital technology!

Warning: If you're sick to death of my holiday pics and tales, you might want to come back tomorrow. 

These aren't in any particular order, because I couldn't be arsed cutting and pasting the html code to rearrange them after uploading. Hey, I said I was cranky.

Krabi - Most days, I had this pool all to myself, because the other guests seemed to prefer the beachfront pool. Lovely!

Krabi - Ao Phra Nang, limestone cave and deep green water.


Bangkok - our last day. Sunset from across the hotel pool.

Bangkok - Siam Square. Fantastic for shopaholics! Or if you need a taxi...

Just hanging out with Oprah... Madame Tussaud's, Bangkok.

Krabi - limestone islands viewed from the beach at Ao Phra Nang


Our last night in Krabi, Railay Bay. FINALLY caught a decent sunset!

Krabi - Ao Phra Nang. Possibly my favourite photo.  

Cocktails taste so much better when enjoyed with a beach view.

Bangkok - tropical gardens at Jim Thompson's house. We loved this place - so much history and art, all in one place.

Bangkok - view from our hotel room across Siam Square.
Eat your heart out Deb, George wants ME! He's just playing hard-to-get.

We also shopped quite a bit while we were away, and picked up a few bits and pieces to decorate the house. If you're interested in what we bought, I've posted some pics over on my home/decorating blog.

Hopefully by tomorrow The Cranky will have moved on and I'll feel like posting something that requires a bit more brain power.


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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

HOW many more...?

"After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb."
Nelson Mandela


Yesterday morning I fronted up to RPM for the first time in three weeks. I knew it was going to be tough going after my break, but apparently someone had told the instructor last week that they hated sprints, but loved hills. No, it was NOT me. I'm not stupid enough to blab about something like that - I know what a warped sense of humour fitness professionals can have...

So, my class consisted of hill climbs. LOTS of hill climbs. I think there was one sprint track, but the other six were all freaking HILLS, with a huge proportion of standing climbs. I love hills - I always say I'm built more for strength than speed - but this was a little too much of a good thing. My bum is killing me already.

I felt like this guy around Track 3 - all those hills ahead, eek!

Of course, yesterday also happened to be the day that Bike Boy decided to accompany me to class. His first ever cycle class. He did a sterling job, although I think he sweated about 5 litres, judging by the puddle on the floor. All I got out of him afterwards was "I hate standing climbs!"

I suspect we're both going to be walking funny today.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Operation Buff Goddess

Holidays are well and truly over and I'm back to my normal routine; or at least, trying to get back into a routine.

This is the ONLY holiday shot you'll be seeing of me... purty, ain't I?
This week is going to be difficult, only because I struggle to cope with time zone changes. Some people seem to breeze through international travel, even the long-haul trips like London or L.A. Me, I take a good week or so to adjust to the one-hour daylight saving change twice a year, so a four-hour time difference has really been a challenge. Maybe my brain chemistry is just "special".

On Sunday morning, I jumped on the scales to find that it wasn't just my luggage that had picked up a couple of extra kilos. Hardly surprising, given the fun I had with "Fruity cocktail o'clock" while we were away. I wasn't particularly bothered about the weight gain - scale numbers are mostly all about actions and consequences, after all. Besides, it's just fat and/or fluid and can be removed as easily as it was gained.

There's no point getting into a flap over scale numbers
It's about six weeks until Christmas, which is plenty of time to do a decent amount of lard-busting. So I've started as I mean to go on, with daily exercise, sane eating, and some advance food preparation. Hopefully, I'll adjust back to normal sleep patterns quickly. Getting up at 5:30am when your body clock thinks it's only 1:30am certainly helps you to feel like going to bed early.  o_O

Getting my ducks all in a row
There's no room for fluffing about here. The weather's hotting up, holidays will roll around again shortly, and I plan to be looking a little more svelte by the time Santa starts doing his rounds, and a little less like a Christmas pudding.

The countdown is ON.

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