Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bye-bye to 2011

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Apparently, we're about to see out yet another year. Seriously, whoever it is that messes with time as I get older and makes every year pass faster than the last, would you JUST STOP, OK? I feel like my life is flashing past before my eyes, and I'm pretty sure I'm not on my death bed.

2011 wasn't a bad year. Not like 2008, which was packed full of a lot of great stuff, but unfortunately I seemed to pay for that with twice as much really, really crappy stuff. And as for 2009? 2009 can bite me! 2010 was a year of creaking along, trying to put the pieces back together bit by bit, and succeeding in some areas.

This year? Well, there were plenty of highlights, and just a few crappy moments. So without further ado, I give you my year in pictures:

There was a LOT of travel (yay!). First up, Easter in central Victoria. Autumn colours, sunny days, crisp mountain air, paddling in the creek, wineries, breweries, gourmet food....

Heritage listed town, autumn colours - perfect!

Then I took my first ever trip to New Zealand, and my first solo overseas trip (not that New Zealand really counts as overseas, because hey, it feels just like home). It was a flying visit to help Sara celebrate a milestone birthday...

Who are those hot chicks?

That was followed closely by a luxury anniversary weekend with Bike Boy in late May at the Royal Mail hotel, right at the foot of the Grampians, thanks to a very generous birthday gift....


The impressive Mount Sturgeon at sunrise
In October, I spent a weekend in Brisbane with Liz. I had the pleasure of participating in TWO of her cycle classes, relaxed quite a lot and got to see a bit of Brissie....

Miss Liz showing me around her home town
A few days later, we flew off on our big Thailand adventure....

Krabi - the "relax and drink cocktails" part of our trip
I think that's more travel than I've done in the past five years. Hey, I'm just practising for retirement.

I set myself a goal at the beginning of the year of doing a lot more photography - I think I achieved that one. A spanking new DSLR for my birthday last year helped boost the enthusiasm, and I made a habit of dragging that thing with me on my neighbourhood walks and most other places. When it wasn't practical to take the camera, my phone was a reasonable stand-in, and I bemused my work colleagues by constantly snapping pics of my food, my umpteen varieties of tea, the view from the nearby window and anything else that stood still long enough...

A funky angle and a phone app makes even my boring office building look kind of interesting
2011 was also the year I got a lot more serious about blogging. This blog got a professional makeover, I added some advertising and affiliate accounts, and formulated some actual policies about...um...things and stuff... Plus I attended the ProBlogger training day, met lots of bloggers, gained inspiration and learned a trick or two about this whole blogging business. I still have plenty to learn and nowhere near enough time to do everything I'd like to do, but I think progress has been pretty good.

Business-wise, I'm taking strides forward. Witness my recent Fitbodies website re-do  - which, by the way is FINALLY finished now...so go take a look if you haven't already. My Facebook page is now operating the way I envisaged, and I got a custom Twitter background to match the whole shebang. I also did a lot of soul-searching this year about what I want to achieve and what I can reasonably do. As a result, I've made some business decisions and plans that should bring a great 2012 and still allow me to maintain some balance in my life. Always tricky...

On the training front, I'm finally feeling as though I'm making good progress. I've been doing the old two-steps-forward-one-step-back dance routine for the past few months, but I'm about to break that pattern once and for all. I've recognised a couple of my big blockers (more about those later) and I'm ready to smack those suckers down next time they rear their ugly heads. 

The head cold from hell that struck just before Christmas and isn't quite gone set me back a little, but I'm moving forward anyway. I am ready to bring AWESOME in 2012. The gym's closed tomorrow, which means my usual Sunday RPM class is off the menu - but I have my spin bike here, so: no excuses, no regrets!

As for New Year resolutions, I don't do those. I'm going to focus on setting realistic goals throughout the year and just work towards them in a sane manner. (By the way, if you want some help reaching your potential and some top advice on how to have a totally amazing 2012, go read Tim Brownson's article over here.)

Right now, I'm off to sit with my husband in our outdoor room and enjoy a relaxing drink before dinner and a quiet night in. Whatever your plans are, I hope you have an enjoyable night and a happy, healthy and prosperous year in 2012

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Psst! Want to know a secret?

Hop on over to FitBodies Food where I've spilled the beans. Or the vanilla pudding. Or something.

Top Secret

2012 is going to be exciting!

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pre-New Year's resolution

Happy to be seeing the old year out? You bet!
I've been inspired by Katrina to do a little de-cluttering by the end of the year. I don't know about you, but I find that when my house/desk/wardrobe is a mess, my brain starts to feel messy and cluttered too. Ridding myself of surplus "stuff" and having everything organised somehow leaves me feeling clear-headed and focused. Not to mention all the time that I don't waste looking for things....

So I've just made a pre-New Year resolution to do the following things:

1. Clean out my wardrobe, donate surplus clothing to charity and clean up the mess that's in there. A trip to IKEA may be required for hooks and more matching coat hangers. I might even brave before and after photos.... (you have no idea how scary it is in there!).

2. Tidy up my office space and my studio in general. I've had a break from training clients for a few weeks, and have allowed piles of crap to accumulate in here. It's kind of handy when we entertain to just shove all the mess in here and shut the door. It's definitely out of sight, because let's face it; nobody wants to come and check out my squat rack.

3. Get the folding and ironing up to date *gulp*. I know there's a laundry under all that crap.

4. List surplus "stuff" on eBay. Books, DVDs, some brand-name clothing, Number One Son's old Warhammer figurines. If we don't want it, it's either gotta be sold or donated.

So it's almost noon on Wednesday and I have until midnight on Saturday to achieve that lot. Can I do it? Hmm....


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Monday, December 26, 2011

Dear Santa, that's not what I asked for

Our Christmas Day didn't go quite to plan, thanks to the disastrous weather that hit Melbourne in the late afternoon and evening. The weather forecast wasn't all that fabulous, with showers and possible thunderstorms predicted throughout the day. It looked great outside in our yard at 8:00am, but you know, this is Melbourne...

Pfft. Storms...? What storms?
We were spending the day at my sister's house, and the only way to seat 20 people for lunch there is to use the covered deck out the back - not ideal in inclement weather - so we had our fingers crossed that the BoM was wrong. Unfortunately they weren't. But in spite of alternating rain and sunshine, we got through lunch without getting wet. It was hot and sticky, but that's just how Christmas Day ought to be.

So we relaxed and enjoyed plenty of this:

Noms
A little of this:

Death by Chocolate
...and lots of this (I was driving):

I love me some fancy water
The sun came out, the temperature rose and everyone was a little hot. After lunch the brothers-in-law hid in the man-cave under the house and drank beer, and all the kids sat around stirring each other while my sisters and I cleaned up. Hey, we got the best deal - it was air conditioned inside!

All up, it was a fun and relaxing afternoon. Then around 4:00pm, one of my brothers-in-law picked up a severe storm warning via his smart phone. It looked like a nasty one, with dangerous hail and flash flooding predicted. And according to the radar images, it was heading straight for us.

We made a quick decision to go home and get the car under cover before it hit. I did NOT want to be caught on the road in that. We made it safely and watched the first storm cell roll across just to the south of us. Ha! Missed us! Number One Son was at a friend's house right in the middle of it, and had protected his brand new car with blankets and sheets of plasterboard that they had lying around after a renovation. He sent me this photo via text, showing that he'd found a good use for the piles of hailstones:


The boy's ingenious!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we weren't so lucky with the second group of storm cells, which blew in shortly after 6:00pm. I was watching the storm front head straight for us. Our back fence is quite high and I'm quite short, so I perched on a stepladder with my camera to take a few shots of the impressive cloud formations (yes, in the wind and yes, with lightning going on not far away. Smart...):

Apparently that nasty-looking colour is an obvious sign of hail
Pretty, but I'd prefer it to be over someone else's house.

I have NO idea what this even is, but it was freaky and moving really fast, straight towards us.

And down it came...

Drifts of hail everywhere

These hailstones are way bigger than they look

Like....THIS big!

I've read newspaper stories in the past about golf ball-sized hailstones hitting Sydney, and thought "Wow!" but this is the first time I've ever experienced it myself. And hopefully the last. As I commented on Facebook, those things were coming in so fast and hard, you'd swear Warnie was bowling them.

Just so that you can share in the full sound-and-image experience, here's a little video footage of some of the worst of the storm:


Then we lost power for two or three hours - of course, just as it was getting dark. Perfect timing.

The end result - two quite badly hail-damaged cars (the one in the garage was fine, of course), shredded trees and plants and a bit of a mess to clean up around the yard. There are tree branches down all around the neighbourhood, but we seem to have been let off relatively lightly. I've been reading about windows, skylights and pergola roofs smashed, not to mention car windscreens. We have friends and relatives with flooded homes and my mum is still without power today, so I suppose we didn't do too badly. Oh - and there was a tornado over in the western suburbs.  O_O

So, not as bad as it might have been, but still a pretty sucky end to Christmas Day. Quite frankly, Santa, I'd prefer a pair of socks, a garish wrongly-sized sequinned t-shirt, or some nasty cheap perfume next Christmas.



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Edit: Make that THREE hail-damaged cars. Number One Son's eight-day-old pride and joy didn't escape the mayhem after all. He's not happy....

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas to all

I wish all my readers - yes, all five of them - a very merry Christmas (or Hanukkah or any other seasonal celebration that may be your "thing").

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Thanks for sticking around in what was a very patchy year for me, and I truly wish for you and yours a happy and safe holiday season, especially if you're travelling to visit family or friends.

Tomorrow I'll be spending the day with my extended family, who are luckily mostly close by. I'm having a few weeks off work, so I expect to be back posting on Boxing Day.



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Recipe alert!

We were the recipients of a lovely surprise gift yesterday. The Baby spent the day with his girlfriend (I know! If I could stop him growing up, I would) and he arrived home with an enormous shopping bag full of fresh fruit. His girl's mum got a heap of freebies from her workplace, and it was more than they could use, so she kindly sent some home with him.

There was a pineapple, bunches of grapes, a couple of mangoes, a punnet of strawberries, four avocados and a pile of nectarines and peaches. Yummo!


Most of it will keep in the fridge for a few days, but the stone fruit was quite ripe and needed to be used up fairly quickly.

I recalled the delicious brekkie Liz had served me when I stayed with her in Brisbane: fruit compote with yoghurt and muesli. I've been meaning to have a go at a similar recipe myself ever since, but you know...busy life and all that. But this morning, I had the time and had all the ingredients, so I was inspired to have a go at my own version of fresh fruit compote.


It turned out great and was just what I needed to restore my energy after an early morning smash-and-grab shopping trip to Coles. The recipe's up over at Fitbodies Food - go check it out!

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It should be renamed the CRAZY season

In spite of good intentions, I've allowed the silly season to get the better of me this week. I was way behind on my gift-buying, out of ideas for certain people, hadn't posted pressies to my interstate relatives and had a weekend schedule that was ridiculously jammed full of social commitments and errands. As a result, my mind switched to its usual "OMG, OMG, OMG!" mode, which helps not at all and only serves to make me act like a crazy person.

I did have an extraordinarily fun afternoon and evening with Sara on Friday ...and may have had a champagne or two, but my early morning workout cancels those out, right? But I slept badly, then had to hit the floor running to get everything done before friends arrived for dinner on Saturday. Sunday was another jam-packed-full day after yet another poor night's sleep. We had an early Christmas get-together with the in-laws for dinner and I'd promised to make this for dessert, plus had still more essential stuff to do.

Then it was right back to work on Monday, when I still had a million things I needed to be doing. Aargh, aargh, AARGH! Lack of sleep plus stress do not add up to fun times. As evidence of how crazy the past week has been, I give you this:

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That, in case you're wondering,  is a complete absence of photos of the magnificently decadent Death by Chocolate. See? I obviously totally lost my mind. It was amazing, by the way - and I donated the leftovers to my sister-in-law, so there's nothing sitting around in the fridge here to tempt me.

I thought my hay fever was acting up the past couple of days, adding to the joy. Sneeze, sniff, sneeze. Yay. Only it turns out that I have a head cold. Merry freaking Christmas! I woke up this morning in a bad mood with a sore throat, headache and snot oozing everywhere and stomped off to work feeling very resentful. Then I did the only sensible thing and came home at lunchtime. A nap helped to restore some brain function, and I managed to complete my last Christmas purchase online AND I even have everything wrapped and placed under the tree.


The house is still a mess, I have one and a half more days to get through at work, but thankfully, I'm feeling a lot more sane.

Lesson learned: Do my usual OCD thing and get the damn Christmas shopping done in November.



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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Renovations

Huzzah! My FitBodies website makeover has been completed. Well, almost ...there is some content to be added, but that's not likely to happen this side of Christmas, so I'm doing the "Big Reveal" now.


If you hop on over to take a look, you'll see that only the main page and the gallery are done. I'll be getting to the rest once Christmas Day is behind us - until then, I barely have a spare minute.

I love, love, love the new look, which is all thanks to Katrina at The Media Maid - who also did this blog design for me. She's given my Facebook page and Twitter background the treatment too (if you're not already a fan/follower, you can find them via the website. Just click on the pretty green links in the sidebar).

If you're after a fresh new look for your blog or website, give Katrina a yell. She's very easy to work with and will deliver exactly what you want....even if you're really annoying like me and don't actually know what that is.  :o)

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Still playing tourist

I've had a lovely week, hanging out with Sara and showing her around my city. Every other time she's been here, we've had a schedule so packed full of "stuff" that there's been little or no time for sightseeing. This time it's been a nice change to have more time for fun, interesting and relaxing activities. And coffee.

Today we met at Flinders Street station...


...where I made her act like a dorky tourist and pose for a photo under the clocks:


Yes, that tiny little figure amongst the crowd really is her. See?


Then we took our time wandering through the lanes and arcades, starting with Degraves Street. We did NOT eat any of these:


Or these:


Or even these:


When we emerged in Bourke Street, we hopped on board one of these....


...to get us to the Carlton Gardens, where we admired the Victorian architecture of the Exhibition Building:


...before heading around to the museum. We managed to spend several hours there, including a visit to my favourite exhibit, the rainforest:


Where I almost stepped on this little fellow:


When we'd had enough of history, science and geology, we wandered down to the Greek precinct in Lonsdale Street for some afternoon tea at International Cakes.


Yes, that baklava IS enormous and no, I did NOT eat it all.


Then there was time for a quick wander along the Yarra....


...before heading off to our respective platforms at the station. Oh, look who's just across the tracks there:


Tomorrow we get one more chance to drink coffee, take photos of our food and gossip before the tourist has to head home on the weekend.


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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Not this little black duck!


I have a stack of things to blog about - new goals, good progress, the fun of hanging out with my Kiwi blogger pal Sara (there were wombats!), a review of an awesome fitness product, some mind stuff I've finally got a handle on, my website makeover and OMG.... so much more.

But it's already past 10:00pm and tempting though it is to stay up and write, I know what happens when I go short on sleep - and it ain't pretty! So this little black duck is off to bed and blogging will have to wait.

Nighty-night!


P.S. Pop over and "like" my Facebook page if you would. It's been prettied up so you'll get a sneak peek of the new website theme. I'd appreciate it. Ta.

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