Saturday, October 27, 2012

Much ado about nothing

It seems I can't even average one blog post a week at the moment. Life feels crazy-busy and yet somehow at the same time, there's not much happening at all.

My days have been filled with the mundane - work, washing, tax returns (ugh), weeding, and hours spent in traffic, mostly going nowhere. On top of all that, we can't seem to get a break with the weather; every freaking weekend is cold and wet, which does not make for productivity on the exercise or gardening fronts ...or enhance my mood one little bit.

In spite of lack of time and cruddy weather, I have managed to take the camera out a few times and shoot some local scenery. That makes me happy.

Picturesque, no?

The river's gorgeous when the sun actually shines

Moody skies over the billabong

Spring is apparently here, even if the weather can't quite get its act together

This is a sad excuse for a blog post, but it's all I have time for today. This afternoon I'm taking my mum for lunch in the city and then we're seeing South Pacific at the Princess Theatre - a slightly early birthday present for the old girl. I love me a musical, I quite like Lisa McCune, and I adore Eddie Perfect... so I'm really looking forward to it.

Enjoy whatever you're doing on your Saturday arvo! I'll be back...sometime.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

OMG, I forgot to blog!

You would think that when one spends a weekend at a blogging conference, mass bloggy outpourings would immediately follow. Apparently not so.

On Sunday I was exhausted. My brain hurt - literally. Must remember not to eat that catering crapola ever again. A steady diet of bread, pastry, more bread and only token amounts of protein or vegetables leads to headache, bloating, lethargy and aching muscles. 

Now it's back into the weekly madness for me, which leaves little opportunity for composing brilliant blog posts. So instead, this snapshot of my weekend will have to do for now.

This year's venue for the Problogger Event

Me with all my friends. Sometimes people get a bit much and I need to find a quiet place....

The coffee at the venue was awful. Thank goodness for Melbourne cafes.

There were some brilliant speakers....

...and some interesting outfits. (I have more to say about this - later)

I learned a lot.... between photographing my shoes. As you do.
I also met many, many bloggers - and I don't have a single photo of any of them. Total blogger FAIL, right?


Saturday, October 06, 2012

It's not always about you

It seems to me that society is becoming increasingly self-centred. Maybe it's always been that way, but I'm fed up with people imagining that the freaking world revolves around them.

It might be a cliche, but there is truth in the idea that if you stop bloody navel-gazing for a while and start to reach out to others, you'll be a happier person. You know, pay it forward and all that. It's something I've always known, even if I haven't always practised it every day of my life.

Yesterday I took myself out for a walk in the late afternoon. I hadn't visited my favourite neighbourhood spots since we got back from our holiday and having been cooped up in the house all day, I felt the need for some fresh air. I grabbed my camera and wandered up past the billabong. There were no exotic birds there worth photographing, no egrets or herons, just a few ducks. I continued on through the grassy parkland, where I spied a mob of kangaroos in the distance. Yay, thought I, here's a photo opportunity.

Aww...I missed these guys.

As I walked towards the roos, I disturbed a couple of Eastern Rosellas in the grass up ahead. They flew past me and perched on the side fence of a nearby house. I didn't have my telezoom lens and knew it was unlikely that I'd be able to get close enough for a decent photo, but they're so pretty... I snapped off a couple of shots before they flew away and as expected, they weren't much chop. Oh well.

See the pretty birdies? Look; those teensy little green & red specks there...

I turned to continue my walk and had only gone a few steps when I heard a voice calling out "Excuse me!" I turned to see a guy standing at the front corner of the house fence about 20 metres away and raised my eyebrows. "Can I ask what you were taking photos of?" he said, just a little aggressively.

My first thought was ARE YOU FREAKING SERIOUS? A number of sarcastic responses came to mind, but I just looked straight at him and said "Uh. Those birds" and waved my hand in the direction they'd taken off in. He had the grace to look a little embarrassed and just said "Oh. OK."  I turned on my heel and kept walking before I could say any of the things that sprang to mind. Such as:

Mate. Don't flatter yourself. If I wanted to take photos of a house, I'd pick one more interesting than your boring, ugly, style-less beige job. 

Geez. Paranoid much? (I may or may not have muttered that one as I walked away)

Really? REALLY? Do you ever step outside your front door and notice how amazing this place is? Do you even SEE the gorgeous birds, the kangaroos, the way the light changes the landscape? If I lived where you do, I'd bring a chair out here every day and just sit and soak in the beauty. Stop being so bloody self-absorbed and see the world around you once in a while. 

I'm really tempted to go back there next weekend and set up my tripod and big zoom lens down by the river and aim it squarely at his house. Just to piss him off. (I won't)

Why do so many people immediately assume that everything they see or hear is about THEM? If someone was tippy-toeing around on my property with a camera, I'd go ask them what they were doing. But if I noticed somebody taking photos on public land near my house? Meh. Whatever. I'd assume there was something fabulous - like A PRETTY BIRD, for example - worth taking a photo of.

I think we all need to get out of our own heads (and our own houses) now and then or we can end up a little bit nuts. Go out and interact with actual people. Walk your dog and say hello to the folks you meet along the way. Meet your neighbours. Get involved in school or community activities, or social stuff at work.

I believe that if we expect the best from people, not the worst, then mostly, we won't be disappointed. What do you think?


Friday, October 05, 2012

Did someone say CHALLENGE?

I seem to be a sucker for a challenge at the moment. As well as my recipe and eat more veggies challenge, I appear to have committed myself to the following:

- Fat Mum Slim's October Photo a Day challenge. I wasn't going to participate this month, but peer pressure from a certain someone got to me. (Yes, I'm looking at you, Clara!) I don't think I'll post my daily pics here, but if you want to follow along, you can find them on Instagram or Twitter. Don't have Instagram? That's OK, you can view people's pics in a web browser, over here on Statigram.

- A 12 week health, fitness and ditch-some-excess-weight challenge that I began before we went on holiday. I know! What was I thinking, starting something like that with a three-week holiday looming? I thought about waiting till we got back, but I figured, hey, why delay things? So I jumped straight in, tidied up my eating and turned up the heat on training a little and was pleased to see my fitness improving and my patchy skin clear up (always a tell-tale sign that my diet is not as it should be. Tsk). As a bonus, I also shed a couple of kgs before we left. I'm right back into it with almost six weeks to go and feeling great. My goals are a bit vague: increase fitness; see some improvements in my dicky shoulder; feel energised. And if a bit of unwanted body fat goes west in the process, that's all good too.

- The corporate 10,000 Steps Challenge. My workplace runs this every October and I've participated a few times over recent years. The idea is to tally up at least 10,000 steps each day and compete, both as teams and individuals, to accumulate the most steps over a month. I got back from holidays on Tuesday and was working through the several hundred emails in my inbox when the call to arms for the upcoming 10,000 Steps event caught my eye. Quicker than you could blink, I'd sent an email around to my team looking for interested parties (we needed ten people to make up a team) and before I knew it, I was "volunteered" as team captain. We're set to go on Monday; I just have to find where I put that pedometer...

Not quite 10,000 steps, but it bloody felt like it! Batu Caves, outside Kuala Lumpur

I think I may have a slight problem when it comes to my competitive nature. Don't anybody else say the word "challenge" in my hearing, OK?

Am I a complete nutcase, or does someone laying down a challenge get you fired up too?


Thursday, October 04, 2012

Recipe Alert!

I posted this recipe the other day and completely forgot to link to it here. Oops.

It's not that I'm trying to bombard people with my recipe blog posts, but sometimes I wonder if anyone even reads that blog.... I know I've been a bit lax with posts, but I hardly ever get a comment over there. You're making me sad, people....  :(

Anyhoo, I invented this lasagne recipe earlier in the week. I lightened it up (and added some nutritional POW) by taking out a couple of layers of pasta and replacing them with layers of veggies instead. It turned out excellent, if I say so myself. Which I do. :)

So head on over and give my Lasagne with added veggie power a go. And leave me a comment, maybe?


Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The spice of life

I made it myself!

Coming back from a holiday is always a bit of a love/hate thing. Living out of a suitcase becomes a drag after a while, so it's good to be back home with space and storage and all my stuff. I love being able to turn on a tap whenever I want a drink - or just to brush my teeth. We do take our clean water supply for granted most of the time. And of course I missed my boys.

But having to do everything for yourself after being waited on for two and a half weeks is a bit of a downer. Want a meal, a drink, the bed made, your washing done? Just lift the phone or wave a hand and voila! Your wish is granted. I could use a bit of that around here. I don't suppose I could train the kids to do it....? No, probably not.

I am enjoying preparing my own meals again though. I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want and know exactly what's in my food. Before we left for our trip, I'd made an effort to get out of my boring food rut and had started trying some new recipes as well as trotting out some old favourites. I was really enjoying coming up with a variety of tasty, healthy meals. I'm pleased to have jumped right back on that particular wagon.

Nothing drives me off the healthy eating path faster than boredom. I remember spending several weeks some years back eating nothing but chicken and salad, fish and salad, steak and salad. *yawn* I don't know how I lasted that long, but I soon found myself craving pizza, cake, chocolate - anything but bloody protein and salad.

So in the interests of staying on track, I've set myself a little October challenge: I've pledged to try a new recipe at least once a week. The cooking class we took in Vietnam was amazing and we bought the restaurant's recipe book so we can explore the cuisine further. As well as Vietnamese feasts, I'm aiming to up my veggie consumption by finding new ways to use fresh produce - other than salad.

This week's effort? A lasagne that featured a couple of layers of pasta, alternated with a layer of grilled eggplant and a layer of grilled zucchini slices. I'm really happy with how it turned out, and I'll share the recipe as soon as I get a chance to write it up. And when I remember to take a photo before shovelling it into my gob.

Got any great healthy recipes to share? Link 'em up in the comments!


Monday, October 01, 2012

Travelling light

I swear I intended to blog more than once whilst away, but sleeping in, sightseeing, hunting out delicious local foods and lounging around pools kind of got in the way. There was also the small problem of hopelessly unreliable internet in Vietnam. Just getting a few photos uploaded to Instagram took the patience of a saint.

We had a great time - apart from the nasty episode of digestive distress I suffered in Penang, courtesy of a dodgy fish salad. Much time was wasted there lying in bed feeling sorry for myself. Boo!

I actually packed some training gear, but it never made it out of my suitcase. Except for the one day when I donned my runners because we were visiting a tourist attraction that required climbing 300-odd stairs. Yeah, I thought thongs were probably a bad idea... I also ate whatever I wanted - again, except for those few days in Penang when I felt vile and ate next to nothing - and indulged in a few desserts and a daily cocktail. Or two.

So, I must have come home with a few extra kgs on board, right? Well no, not really. We arrived home on Friday and I stepped on the scales on Saturday to see a bonus 2kg had appeared. I'd already predicted that, as something about air travel tends to make me retain fluid and I could see it in my puffy face and ankles. Two days later though, that's gone and I now weigh exactly what I did when we left three weeks ago.

What's my secret, you ask? Although I may eat whatever I like, I make sure not to overdo portions. I try to practice what I usually do at home and pay attention to my body's fullness signals. I never, ever allow myself to get to the "totally stuffed" stage. I try to include veggies and/or fruit in most meals too - they fill me up and help prevent overindulgence on less healthy items. And I aim to stick to sensible quantities of alcohol. Just quietly, bucket-sized glasses of "bottomless Sangria" are not a good idea. I may have found that out the hard way...

We also shun taxis when we're in a foreign city and use the perfectly good legs we've been given to walk everywhere. You see more that way, plus you burn off the previous night's cocktail(s)...

It's not rocket science, I know, but it works. :)  Of course, weight maintenance is one thing, but fitness is a whole other story. I now have to get my fitness back up to where it was three weeks ago. Tomorrow's RPM class is going to be nasty.

To distract myself from that horrid thought, here's some gratuitous food porn from Kuala Lumpur:

Breakfast: street food, KL-style:

Coconut rice topped with curry and half a hard-boiled egg
Crispy popia - way more delicious than they look! 
More street food, this time dinner:

Giant BBQ prawns, topped with about a ton of garlic
Crab curry - very messy, but delish!
Mussels with some Chinese green veggie or other
One of our favourites - food on sticks. I think it was chicken.
Sweet somethings. Each of these was literally two bites, so overdoing it wasn't an issue unless you went back for seconds, thirds and possibly fourths:

Chinese custard tart

Chocolate lava pie. OMG-good!
Our biggest food indulgence was a swanky afternoon tea at the Ritz-Carlton on our last day. There were cucumber sandwiches (of course!), mini quiches, scones and all kinds of delightful little sweet morsels, including these:

Tiny berry tarts complete with edible gold leaf
The spread. Well, some of it...I forgot to take a pic until we'd demolished half of it.
And thankfully, unlike certain other South East Asian destinations, they know how to make an espresso in KL...

Caffeine withdrawal is NOT something you want on your holiday.
I do have some photos of things other than food from our trip, but that's a whole other post. :)