Monday, June 25, 2012

Winter sucks - but sometimes not so much

The billabong near our place a couple of Sundays ago. Thick fog, freezing cold.

Same spot yesterday. Brilliant sunshine - and where did those houses come from??
Kinglake ranges in the distance. Mt Disappointment to the left. (Disappointing because it's only 760m high, perhaps?)

A dose of sunshine and a visit with the local birdlife is always uplifting. Today I had the company of swans, coots, egrets, cockatoos, corellas, red-rumped parrots and a lone pied cormorant on my walk.

Must. Learn. More. About. Local. Birds.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

My week in (funny) pictures

Thank goodness for weekends.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Shaken, not stirred

Last night just before 9:00pm, I was sitting on the couch, dividing my attention between the TV and Twitter, when there was a kind of a bang and then a loud rumble, accompanied by the house moving around wildly.

It's funny how your brain works when unexpected things happen: What..? Helicopter...? Truck going past...? Strong wind...? Crap, the house is moving like crazy...WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? That last bit, I yelled out loud, immediately followed by Earthquake?!

My brain kicked into gear and I followed correct earthquake action plan protocol: I turned to Twitter for confirmation of what just happened:

Shit, Twitter was THAT A FREAKING EARTHQUAKE??????

It was amazing to see my Twitter stream light up with tweets from Melburnians, all asking the same thing. I couldn't keep up with the tweets. Reports were coming in from all over the state - it was felt as far north as Albury-Wodonga, and west to Geelong.

As usual it took the TV stations a good 20-30 minutes to even run a news break segment, so Twitter and some of the seismological websites were the best source of info.

The judges scored it a 5.3 (there was some argument initially, with a score of 5.2 being awarded, then after a protest, being upgraded to 5.5, and finally points deducted for not being scary enough, so back to 5.3) and it was pretty shallow, being 9.9km deep. The epicentre was in the east of the state, near Moe in Gippsland.

It looks as though there's only some minor damage - the State Emergency Service reported last night that they'd had about 20 calls for help, and none of them for anything major - but it was sobering this morning to read that the disastrous Newcastle earthquake back in 1986 was a 5.6.

I pity the poor supermarket staff down in Moe, Morwell and surrounding areas this morning. They have a bit of work to do...

Source - The Age
There's a bit more info here if anyone's interested.

I'd like to request no aftershocks today, thanks. I work in a seven-storey building and I really prefer that it doesn't sway about whilst I'm in it.


Monday, June 18, 2012

In my dreams


My Dream Monday:

Stay in bed till at least 8:00, then spend the day in my pjs, answering my emails, reading, updating client programs, watching trash TV and doing a little writing.

My Real Monday:

Get up at 6:30 after next to no sleep, then drive for an hour or more in the rain to sit at a desk doing boring work for other people before repeating the drive in reverse.

Only 900-odd working days till retirement.... I'm holding onto that thought.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Thursday, June 14, 2012

It's only words...

There are certain catch-phrases that pop up again and again on health and fitness blogs that make me roll my eyes. If the same ones appear numerous times on one blog, I'm going to delete that site from my reader faster than you can say "burpees".

Here are a couple that make me cringe...

Eating clean - In my brain this translates as: I don't eat anything fun. Not even any kind of fruit because it contains sugar and sugar is evil. In fact, if it isn't fish or chicken breast or broccoli, I don't eat it. I'm earnest, boring, and if I spot you putting a biscuit in your mouth, I'm going to lecture you for hours about your horrible, horrible diet. Blah!

There really is room for balance in healthy nutrition. A potato won't make you instantly fat and a banana won't give you a sugar rush and/or prompt a heart attack. Also? Healthy cooking doesn't have to mean grilling some protein and adding a side of steamed green stuff. Cottage cheese with protein powder is not dessert. And treat meals are not "cheating". Gah! I give you as evidence my entire freaking food blog.

Just do it (or just suck it up) - these are motivational phrases, intended to immediately make you get over your injury, clinical depression or those overwhelming feelings of "I have so far to go, I don't know where to start". In fact, these phrases are apparently thought to have magical powers that will cause you to immediately dash outside and jog 5km, even though you've never run more than 20 metres in your life.

Seriously, these expressions are more likely to make those who are already struggling feel like great big failures. Heap on the guilt, why don't you?

I understand that the folks who continually say these things honestly believe that they're being helpful. Or maybe they're actually trying to motivate themselves. But sometimes we need to look outside ourselves and realise that not everyone is the same. We have different lives - different jobs, different families, different physical limitations, different psychology...

Sure, just about everyone is capable of eating well and doing some sort of exercise, but badgering them about it isn't going to work for 90% of people 90% of the time.

Does anyone else have a pet hate along these lines? Is it something I say...? Do tell.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Faster than the speed of stupid

This time of year is always a challenge for me. If it wasn't for my lily-white skin and blue eyes, I'd swear that my ancestors hailed from some place where the weather is perpetually warm because I am just not well adapted to cold temperatures. And frankly, I think that folks who actually go to snowy places ON PURPOSE are more than a little on the loopy side.
Even the local ducks think it's too cold for swimming

My winter fantasy is to find a well-paying job that I could perform whilst staying in my pjs all day, huddled under a blanket on the couch. If such a position existed, I'd have my resume submitted before you could say "hot chocolate". Ah, back to reality...

Quite apart from the chilly weather, over recent weeks it's been a bit of a struggle for me to maintain focus on training. My injuries restrict what I can do, I've been quite time-poor, and it's cold and DARK outside when I'm not at work. All of those things make it more difficult to fit some exercise into my day, but they don't make it impossible what's the story? Hmm.

I've been stomping around in a bad mood for weeks, cross at myself for not making more of an effort to live up to my own standards. I knew what I needed to do, but just couldn't seem to put that knowledge into action. Bah! Then a few days ago, I came across this guest post by Shauna and BAM! Lightbulb moment. (Yes, I know lightbulbs don't actually go "bam!" Or if they DO, that's probably not a good thing...)

I loved Shauna's list of reasons why she needs her "exercise oxygen" - I wholeheartedly relate to them all, but especially to these three:

… it takes me out of my head and back into my body
… I’m miles more productive afterwards
… the stronger I feel, the more wholeheartedly and generously I give to others

Sometimes you just need someone to point out the bleeding obvious to get you moving in the right direction once more.

On Monday, I got "out of my head" by just going for a nice long walk, camera in hand. Sure, it wasn't exactly strenuous cardio, but I was: a) moving; and b) not sitting around feeling miserable. Turns out, that was exactly what I needed. Yesterday I missed my morning cardio opportunity, but I chose not to let that be an obstacle and I did the promised spin session when I got home from work.

This morning, I hauled my complaining butt out of my warm bed at 5:45 and headed to the gym for a short but effective cardio session (20 minutes of incline walking with a 5-minute burst of sprint intervals tacked onto the end), followed by some foam roller work and stretching. In spite of feeling a minor attack of the can't be arseds coming on last night, I made myself set out gym bag, keys and phone on the hall table and pile my workout clothes in the bathroom before I went to bed, so getting organised this morning was about a three-minute job. An early night helped too. Duh!

My plan for the rest of the week is to just do something each day. Tomorrow will probably be some kind of weird modified weights session plus the dreaded yoga, Friday a rest day, Saturday more cardio and some Pilates, Sunday RPM. I'm kind of winging it, which I'm strangely OK with. Normally I'm such a freak about planning my training. At this point though, the focus is on retraining my mind, so I'm not setting any great expectations in the exercise department - as long as something gets done, I'll be content.

Thanks, lovely Shauna - your blood's worth bottling! I owe you a coffee next time you're in town.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012


The weather has taken a turn for the f-f-f-freezing this past week or so, and on quite a few mornings we've woken up to thick fog. I rugged up yesterday morning (two pairs of pants, thermal top, hoodie, parka, scarf, beanie) and took myself off for a walk anyway. It was eerily quiet - as it is when foggy - and there weren't many people about. 

I did manage to startle this guy though:

This morning, the mercury plummeted to just a smidge above zero. This does not please me. After (another) night of disturbed sleep, the idea of exchanging my warm bed and a potential extra hour's sleep for a spin bike at the chilly gym was about as appealing as prising out my toenails with a pair of pliers. So I stayed put.

Of course, that means that I will have to resist the urge to park my butt on the couch tonight and get the old body moving when I get home from work. I'm thinking foam roller, some rehab exercises, a little resistance work and then a stint on the spin bike.

Tell me I'm not the only one struggling with this cold weather...


Sunday, June 10, 2012


I don't own an iPhone. I know... I must be the only person on the planet, right? In spite of using a MacBook and having a house full of gadgets all sporting the Apple brand, I'm actually quite happy with my Windows phone. Except for one thing: the horrendous time-lag involved in getting a Windows version of any cool new apps.  *sigh*

So, having recently acquired an iPad, I wasted no time downloading Instagram and I love it. (Well, duh!)   Sure, I still can't snap a photo with my phone and immediately Instagram it. But once I get photos from my camera or phone on my iPad, there's no stopping me.

So FINALLY, I can join the image-obsessed hordes and share what I'm wearing....

After 5:00pm? It's PJ time!

Shoe obsession? What shoe obsession?

...what I'm drinking....


Cab-sauv merlot

G & T in honour of Her Maj - Bombay Sapphire, of course.

...where I've been....

Port Douglas

Port Douglas

Port Douglas

Port Douglas

Port Douglas

....and other random pointless fascinating stuff....

CPR dummy. Rough kisser, as it turns out.

Pretty flower

Don't say I didn't warn you.


Saturday, June 09, 2012

The real me

I've been tempted before to join in Edenland's Fresh Horses Brigade, but have never actually done it until now... And here I am, jumping into what seems like the deep end with this particular topic: Who Am I? It's something that I've given quite a bit of thought to in recent weeks, so it seems a good place to start.

I think a lot of people see me as someone who's got it all together. Confident, secure, content. That's all true some of the time, but most people don't see what's under the facade.

I'm the person who's good in a crisis. As long as it's somebody else's crisis. I can take charge, make decisions, be supportive, come up with the right things to say. If it's happening to me though, don't expect me to display a stiff upper lip. I'll be over in the corner, weeping and shaking and hoping that somebody else will take control. That time my almost two year old ran smack into the corner of a wall and split his forehead open? So much blood... I was comforting him, but freaking out inside. Thank goodness for a great neighbour who acted like it was no big deal, calmed me down and drove us to the clinic.

I'm afraid of many things. Of mice, of heights, of not being liked, of being in a room full of strangers, of failure, of facing my deeper feelings. I can avoid some of those things most of the time. But when I can't? I obsess and worry over them for ages.

I'm secure in my close relationships, but I find it difficult to make new friends. I hang back, wondering if I'm misjudging their friendliness, if I'm overstepping the mark, if they're just being polite. It was so much easier when I was a kid....when did making friends get so complicated?

I'm fifty-one years old and sometimes I still don't know where I'm going. I give you Exhibit A:

I don't suffer fools, but I've (mostly) learned to keep my mouth shut when somebody is saying something completely ridiculous that isn't about or doesn't affect me. There's no law against idiocy and I try to follow the old maxim: If you can't say something nice, say nothing at all. That goes double for social media.

I'm smart but sometimes I do really stupid things. Like the time the chip pan caught on fire because I forgot about it and then I dumped it in the sink and ran water on it, even though I KNEW that was exactly the wrong thing to do. Terylene curtains burn really fast, by the way... How can you be smart and stupid at the same time? I think it's called being human.

I love my family so much that sometimes it hurts. All three of my kids have inherited my ridiculous stubborn streak, which makes life pretty interesting. Well, interesting is one way to describe it.

I'm too loud. I claim that's a result of growing up in a loud family - if you didn't yell, you wouldn't be heard. I do make a conscious effort to speak quietly a lot of the time, but if you're ever around when I get excited about something, you might want to stand back a bit. If I'm a bit drunk and excited, ear plugs might be useful.

I'm big on physical contact with my friends and family, but if I don't know you well, do not stand too close to me, and absolutely do not touch me. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I have the patience of a saint when it comes to fiddly craft projects, but if I have to wait more than two seconds for a web page to load or stand in a queue for more than a minute, I go completely nuts.

I have a very strong sense of right and wrong, and am definitely not a risk-taker. Safe and sensible, that's me. I obey the road rules, lodge my tax returns on time, brush my teeth, eat my veggies. Sometimes I think that makes me really boring, but then I'm grateful that I've never been sacked, expelled or banged-up in jail. So maybe it's a good quality after all.

Honesty is important to me. If you ask my opinion of something, I'm going to give it to you. So if you're just looking for validation of your own viewpoint, maybe don't ask me what I think. You might not like the answer. That particular trait has not been very helpful to me career-wise, but I seriously don't care. I prefer truth to sucking-up and at least I can live with myself.

I can't wait to retire, but I don't really want to act like a grown-up. Those two things seem contradictory. Actually, I think there's a whole blog post in that...

I'm all of this and much, much more. And somehow I'm pretty comfortable in my own skin. Not so much that I stop trying to learn, to improve, to understand. But enough that I'm content to muddle along as I am most of the time.

I'm glad when I'm able to make a real difference in someone's day or in their life. Helping a friend or a client in big or small ways is always satisfying. But today is filled with the mundane, the ordinary. I'm dealing with the week's washing, watching the weather change from fog to rain to sunshine and back to rain outside my window, listening to Bike Boy bang around in the kitchen, and contemplating using the squishy overripe bananas in the fruit bowl to make banana bread. And I'm OK with that, because those things are who I am too.

Want to join in? Click on the thingie below.

Edenland's Fresh Horses Brigade


Friday, June 08, 2012

Congratulations Katrina!

Speaking of blogging and blog awards, here's one that I'm ecstatic to hear about. Katrina From The Block (yes, the designer of this very blog) is the overall winner in the Kidspot Top 50 Bloggers competition. 

She wins a Ford Territory to drive around for a year, PLUS an all-expenses paid trip to BlogHer in New York in August. I can't think of a nicer blogger to win this prize.

There are lots of things I love about Katrina's blog, but two biggies are:

1. It's REAL. Katrina's personality shines through in every post, and there's not a whiff of superiority about her. She generously shares her knowledge about blogging with anyone who's interested and is very down to earth.

2. She doesn't follow the "blogging rules" that I read about on so many big blogs. She knows her stuff when it comes to blog design, but when it comes to writing, she just opens her heart and writes about anything and everything. Niche? Pfft.

Those are my top two "rules" of blogging: Be real and write from the heart. This proves that you don't have to sell out to be successful. If you remain true to yourself, good things will come your way. My faith in blog awards is (somewhat) restored.

Congratulations, Katrina!   :o)

I'm totally going around telling people that I knew her before she was famous....


Thursday, June 07, 2012

What's behind the mask?

.....they saw, standing in just the spot the screen had hidden, a little old man, with a bald head and a wrinkled face, who seemed to be as much surprised as they were. The Tin Woodman, raising his axe, rushed toward the little man and cried out, "Who are you?"

"I am Oz, the Great and Terrible," said the little man, in a trembling voice. "But don't strike me--please don't--and I'll do anything you want me to." 

Our friends looked at him in surprise and dismay. 

"I thought Oz was a great Head," said Dorothy.
"And I thought Oz was a lovely Lady," said the Scarecrow.
"And I thought Oz was a terrible Beast," said the Tin Woodman.
"And I thought Oz was a Ball of Fire," exclaimed the Lion.

"No, you are all wrong," said the little man meekly. "I have been making believe."

L. Frank Baum
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Blogging and social media are fantastic in many ways. You can connect with people you would never have met in real life due to geography, learn about all sorts of places, products, lifestyle choices, causes or world events and never ever have an excuse to be bored because there's always something happening somewhere on the internet.

But there can be a downside. If you're not careful, it's easy to come down with a bad case of what I call The Grass is Greener syndrome. You know, where everyone else is doing fabulous things, achieving amazing goals and generally being awesome, while you're struggling to just put one foot in front of the other.

You have your own plans, hopes and goals, but you see all these bloggers doing such wonderful things, having praise heaped on them by their gaggle of (thousands of) admirers - and possibly picking up awards that are worth big $$ as well. You look at your blog stats, your Facebook page "likes", your Klout score and you can't help comparing yourself with "everyone else".  And you start to wonder Why am I bothering?

Then there are the fitness-related posts bragging about a bench press PB in the hundreds of kilograms, or the five thousand burpees someone did before breakfast. Meanwhile you're battling along with your own training, fighting against injuries or time restraints or some other thing and knowing that you're not performing at your best. (Can you say "Failure"?)

All of which leads to a feeling of dissatisfaction and sometime to silly decisions. I see many people jumping on the 12WBT wagon, or joining up at their local Crossfit gym or deciding to run a marathon in six months, when they can barely jog around the block right now. And I wonder how many have really thought about whether it's right for them?

I've been wallowing around in both of these murky pools lately. My blogging's not good enough, my training sucks, I can't do anything right, blah, blah, blah. Poor me. I read about what other people are doing and I feel like a big fat failure.

Well, I'm calling bullshit on half the stuff I read online. I'm not saying that people lie (OK, yes I am in some cases), but feats of strength at the gym or being nominated for a blogger "award" does not a happy life make. And comparing yourself with other people only makes you mental. So I'm taking stock of the good things in my life... and then I'm going to make myself a little plan to work on a couple of areas that need improvement.

Here's my little list of a few real things that make my life bloody fantastic:

- I'm in a very happy, stable relationship. Married for 27 years, people - Now that's an achievement. There should be an award for THAT.
- I'm in good health. A minor injury isn't going to slow me down.
- My kids are smart, happy and (mostly) thoughtful boys, who do well at school/work. I'll take an awesome parent award while we're handing out trophies, thanks.
- We're financially secure. We're not rich, but we can afford to eat, pay our bills and have a few holidays. That's a lot more than many people have, and I'm grateful.
- I have a few real life friends who are absolute gems. Some of them are also online friends who manage to keep it real. I'm looking at you, Sara and Liz.

There are many more good things in my life, but you get the idea. My life is awesome. I'd better go update my Facebook status to tell everyone.

Does the internet ever make you dotty, loopy or downright crazy? Please tell me I'm not alone...


Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Pashmina - it's Nepalese for "awesome"

Somebody pressed the "winter" button in Melbourne this week. Chilly temperatures, blasting winds and pouring rain do not comprise my favourite weather conditions, but since there's nothing I can do about it, I  need to put some thought into what I wear each day.

I can't just fling on a big, bulky knit. Given my dodgy personal thermostat, which can see me shivering one moment and sweating the next, my key word for this time of year is "layers". So here's how I coped with yesterday's delightful top temperature of 10C, my frequent hot flushes, plus an office air conditioning system that's frankly a bit schizophrenic:

Winter layers

A camisole (not shown) under a long-sleeved tee stopped me melting during my hotter moments (although there may have been some frantic fanning with the nearest flat object) and a cardigan over the top was adequate for indoors - when the air con was working properly. My leopard shoes were my statement piece, and collected numerous compliments.

When things got a bit cool, I pulled out my secret weapon: a pashmina my mum bought me in Hong Kong a few years ago. Wrapped around my shoulders, it added just enough extra warmth to stop me turning into an ice block.

When I needed to venture outdoors, my lovely warm wool coat did the trick, and the pashmina did double duty as a scarf to keep the draughts at bay. Such a versatile piece of clothing; light, yet warm and multi-purpose. It would be great for travel, as it weighs next to nothing and folds down to a thin layer. Evening wrap, scarf, maybe even a light blanket for plane trips...

I think I've found THE essential item to get me through the nastier part of the year. I may need several in different colours.  ;o)

What's your most versatile wardrobe item?


Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Little treasures got bigger

Over the years, Bike Boy has travelled often for work reasons. Before going on a trip, even a very short one, he'd always say to the kids: Boys, I have to go away tomorrow and I need you to look after your mum while I'm gone, OK? As little tackers, they'd nod solemnly - they've always taken this delegated duty very seriously...

Last night I wasn't feeling at all well and Bike Boy was away once again. I'd had a sleepless night on Sunday, which didn't thrill me when my return to work was imminent. First day back with three hours' sleep in the bank? Ack! Then I woke from my inadequate slumber with a slight headache, which stuck around all day. Then last night my clogged sinuses decided they needed some company in the form of a painful earache. Great.

I cooked dinner for The Baby, swallowed some Panadol, then parked myself on the couch in front of the TV. Number One Son came home, cooked himself dinner, put his washing in the machine and went off to his room to do whatever it is that he does in there. The Baby came out of his room at regular intervals just to give me a hug and mutter sympathetic noises.

At some point towards the end of The Voice, I must have nodded off. At about 10:15, my little darling came and woke me with a hug and told me I should go to bed, so I groggily staggered off to the bedroom and fell into a deep sleep. Bliss.

This morning I got up to find the lights had all been turned off, the dishwasher run, the kitchen and family room tidied and my iPad plugged in to charge.

My boys are the best.  :o)

No, I don't have any recent photos of the three of them. So this one from 2002 will have to do. Note that my eldest little darling is making donkey ears behind my head...


Monday, June 04, 2012

Vice or virtue?

I have many, many character flaws. Now and then I set myself on a self-improvement mission in an effort to overcome my faults, but I always slide back into my bad habits pretty quickly because they're part of who I am. Just a few examples:

I take myself WAY too seriously WAY too often. I can get myself all worked up over things that just aren't all that important to anyone but me.

I expect too much of myself. I think I should achieve ridiculously lofty standards that I would NEVER ask of my kids, my husband, my clients, my colleagues or my friends. Why do I do that? Dunno.

I am pig-headed stubborn. I don't know how Bike Boy lives with me to be perfectly honest, because it's pretty much my way or the highway.

But you know what? All of those faults are also virtues. I set challenging goals, I slog away at things till they're done (or sometimes until I'm done) and I don't allow anything or anyone to get in my way. While I may be a pain in the arse to live with, I do actually achieve stuff sometimes. Stuff that may not be of world-shattering importance, but that makes a difference in my life and sometimes in the lives of others.

There have been many times when I've wished I was one of those laid-back kind of people who never seem to worry about anything, who just go with the flow. I could worry less about the mess in the house or how I performed against my own impossible standards. But then I think my life would be a lot less satisfying if I was the kind of person who just sat back and let things happen. I really doubt I'd achieve very much at all.

Does anyone else have faults that actually work in their favour?