Thursday, May 30, 2013

How do you like your elephant?

"The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time"

You might have seen this saying before on this here blog; it's one of my all-time favourites. In fact I love it so much, I have it stuck on my inspiration board next to my desk, complete with little elephant button.

I find it's a handy reminder that when things seem overwhelming, you have to step back a bit and remember that breaking your task(s) down into small chunks is the way to go. You only have to start with a small bite, and then another, and before you know it, your mammoth job is mostly done.

Right now, I don't have any major "Oh my God!" events or tasks looming, so things are reasonably calm and un-anxious (is that a word?) in my life. But I DO have that crazy 1,000 squat challenge to complete this week, and my elephant motto is helping me keep that thing in perspective.

I took my first "bite" yesterday, when I knocked over a hundred reps after my morning cardio session. I broke THAT down further into even smaller bites: Four sets of 30-30-20-20. When I got home last night, I cranked out another two sets of thirty, plus one of twenty before dinner, then got through four more sets of thirty before settling in to watch Offspring. That got me to 300 on Day 1 - not bad.

This morning I warmed up with thirty squats before starting on my weights session, then did thirty more  before stretching when I'd finished. Thirty more were done while waiting for my eggs to cook, and a final thirty while the coffee machine did its thing. That puts my tally at 420 - and I'll take it to 500 by the end of today, which sees me halfway there with four full days plus some spare time before 6:00am Tuesday if I need it.

That elephant doesn't stand a chance.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013


We slid straight back into our normal routine here at Chez Kek, after our blissful, decadent mini getaway last weekend. And somehow it's already Wednesday - I have no idea how that happened.

I do try not to wish the days away, but honestly? At this time of year, weekdays are a drag. So I spend my time thinking about the coming weekend and what I might indulge in.

Of course there's likely to be a bit of mountain biking and/or walking around here:

To add to this week's usual commitments, I somehow managed to volunteer to take part in a challenge. Hmm, maybe that's it...the word "challenge" to me is like a red rag to a bull... So I'll be adding a little extra activity to my week, in the form of 1,000 bodyweight squats before next Tuesday's RPM class.

I've got off to a slightly late start, thanks to a mad day yesterday. But I banged out a hundred this morning after my cardio session and plan to get three hundred under my belt by the time I fall into bed tonight.

Anyone care to join me?


Monday, May 27, 2013

Art, food and celebrations

I love to celebrate - just about any occasion will do, really. So when our wedding anniversary falls on a Saturday, it's a chance to go all-out. This year was our twenty-eighth of wedded bliss...or something like that anyway. "You get less for murder" seems to be the phrase that gets bandied around on these occasions more than any other.

We decided to spend the weekend in our own town and I found a sweet deal on a Luxury King room at the Sofitel on Collins. Which happens to be the same hotel where we stayed on our wedding night. 

We started the day the same way we usually begin Saturdays - with a mountain bike ride. Then after some necessary tasks at home, we took the train to the city, arriving at 2:00pm for our check-in. We were pretty damn happy to be told we'd been upgraded to a Prestige Suite. Awesome. 

One of the things we love about this hotel - apart from the fact that it's five-star and very fancy - is that all accommodation is the 35th floor or above, so every room has a view. Like so:

My town 
Even if you're not staying there, pop up to the atrium bar on level 35 for a drink and go enjoy the view from the floor to ceiling windows in the toilets...

We dumped our bags, I oohed and ahhed at the palatial accommodation and the view towards the bay, and then we wasted no time heading out, grabbing a late lunch at one of the bars on the city square.

St Paul's Cathedral towering over the square
Then we headed down Swanston Street and across the bridge to the Arts Centre, where the NGV had the fabulous Monet's Garden exhibition running. I have a soft spot for the French Impressionists, and Monet in particular. Of course, I've seen photos of many of the paintings over and over in books, but the real thing is something else again. The waterlily canvases are just superb.

NGV does these major exhibitions very well and the explanatory text and audio-visual displays through the space really helped convey a sense of Monet's life and the passion he had for his garden. Giverny is on our travel bucket list, for sure. 

A word of advice if you plan to visit the exhibition - or any of the major exhibitions at NGV: book your tickets online. The queues are horrifying. We were more than happy to just stroll right past and straight into the exhibition gallery with our pre-printed tickets.

Water wall at NGV
After we'd soaked up enough French beauty, we stopped for a coffee on St Kilda Rd and then wandered up to Federation Square, where Bike Boy sampled a beer he hadn't previously tried. I ducked into ACMI to pick up some info on the Hollywood costumes exhibition - it was too late in the day to try to cram that in, so it's on my to-do list for another weekend. 

We wandered back to the hotel, peering in the windows at Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Prada and the like as we walked up Collins St. I always wonder who buys this stuff...? It's beautiful, but insane prices. People with more money than sense, perhaps?

No Dolce & Gabbana for me for our evening festivities... Instead, I rocked my six-year-old LBD from Portmans, with a Target knit, Diana Ferrari burgundy suede ankle boots (clearance sale $39.95) and a statement necklace I picked up last week at Sportsgirl, of all places, for $20.

Bad lighting, fuzzy I could do.
Bubbles are compulsory for anniversaries
The main event of our evening was dinner at Movida. It's an outstanding restaurant, and we know the chance of getting a table as a walk-in is next to zero, so I'd booked two months ago and the anticipation level was high. We weren't disappointed. Everything tasted amazing and as usual, there were things on the menu that we wouldn't normally eat and would never cook ourselves. But we know from past experience that everything the kitchen produces is a taste sensation. I can't decide if my favourite was the lamb neck or the pheasant breast... 

Obviously, I had churros con chocolat for dessert. Duh.

We walked back up Hosier Lane after dinner to admire the latest creations from Melbourne's street artists. I love this lane!

Not Monet... a different kind of art experience. 
On Sunday we slept late, then made our way downstairs and had breakfast at the Great Space Cafe in Collins Place - no, breakfast wasn't included in our room rate and we baulk at paying five-star hotel prices for some eggs and toast. I found a great omelette on the specials board that was stuffed full of spinach, leek and peas. Yum!

We took a tour of the Shrine of Remembrance, where there was a Boer War commemoration ceremony going on in the forecourt - complete with (loud) cannon fire salute. I haven't visited the Shrine since I was a kid and I wanted to check out the new Visitors Centre and memorial garden. I don't remember ever being able to climb up to the balcony that runs all around the building as a kid, but it's open now so we took the opportunity to check out the view. 

Our weekend finished with lunch at the Belgian Beer cafe on St Kilda Rd - it's called something else now, but the food and the beers are the same and so is the decor in the beautiful old bluestone building. 

The huge pots of mussels are the way to go if you ever eat here. We both chose Moules Espanol and enjoyed every mouthful. Bike Boy found another beer he hadn't tried, so he was pretty happy. Or as we like to say, feeling gruntled. It's the opposite of DISgruntled, didn't you know?

Ambiance plus.
Then it was time to head home and have a quiet evening in - where I may have fallen asleep on the couch.

It was a short but lovely break, and I can't wait to do it again. It's always fun to do things that you just never seem to find the time to do normally. I also find that I notice "stuff" that's always there, but which I somehow manage not to see when I'm going about my normal business. I don't know how many quaintly beautiful buildings I spotted that I've never seen before. It's the difference between having time to look around you instead of bustling along in a hurry to be somewhere. Or maybe it's just being in a more relaxed state of mind.

Do you ever play tourist in your own city?


Friday, May 24, 2013

Shorter days, bigger effort

Ugh. Winter and its short, dark days. (Image source))
Whoa. Where did my week go? I swear it was Monday just yesterday...

You know those weeks where it feels as though all your days fly past in a blur of: Training, work, cooking, eating, sleeping, rinse, repeat? Yeah, it's been one of those.

I put it down to the effect of the shorter days. During the lovely, long days of summer, I seem to easily fit so much more into twenty-four hours than at this time of year. I mean, yesterday I noticed that the sun had set by 5:15pm. Blah. I have a natural urge to hibernate when it's cold and gloomy, not to mention dark for like fourteen hours a day.

So it's kind of strange that I've had absolutely no difficulty getting up early every day to train. A couple of times I've even found myself wide awake a few minutes before the alarm was due to go off. Mind you, I still don't like getting out of my warm bed when it's chilly out, but my commitment is holding firm.  I'm a woman on a mission, and that mission is to regain my former fitness and strength, however long that takes.

This week's training has really taken things up a notch. First, there was the weekend, where on Saturday I decided to treat myself to a Spinervals workout and on an impulse, pulled out one of the On The Road series. It was the Tucson Training Ride, and I picked Workout B, the Gates Pass ride (there are two), which is described like this:

Workout 'B' is a varied workout for aerobic development and power building and will have you ride up the front side of famous Gates Pass Road into the breathtaking beauty of the Saguaro National Forest where you'll buzz around McCain Loop Road. Then the suffering really happens as you climb up the backside of Gates Pass which kicks up to over a 14% grade! 

Sounds like fun, no? Good thing my idea of fun is different to most people's. This was an absolute killer sixty-five or so minutes of hill climbs, with some downhill sprints now and then for relief. The pretty desert scenery provided a small amount of distraction from the pain. ;o)

On Sunday, of course, I did the 300 workout.

Monday, I took it easy. No, I did not sleep in; I went to the gym and did an easy-ish thirty-five minutes of cardio, alternating between the treadmill and elliptical. Then in the evening I jumped on my spin bike at home and pedalled steadily for 40 minutes while watching a couple of old episodes of the Big Bang Theory.

Tuesday was my regular RPM class. I was extremely happy with my performance this week. I always do OK on the climbs, but sprints are my weakness. However, this week I managed for the first time to wipe the speed off the screen - there's an upper limit of 140 RPM on those computers, so once you tip over that speed, the cadence readout disappears. I have never done that before, but in Tuesday's class I did it twice. Go, me!

Wednesday, I decided I was sick of the same old thing for cardio; it was time for some FUN. So I hunted through my files and pulled out an old program that Liz had given me as part of my contest prep training back in 2007 or 2008. Who could resist a workout titled: Who's the nutter on the treadmill? I printed it out in a nice big font - cannot read less than about 16-point font without my glasses these days - and packed it in my gym bag the night before. It did the job; got me sweating and got me plenty of funny looks. What? Who doesn't do walking lunges on the treadmill? And then a series of Cathe firewalkers and BOSU squats? Pfft, it's not like they haven't seen that before...

On Wednesday night, I realised that my killer DOMS from Sunday's workout had finally subsided. And you know what that means... Yep, it was time to do another 300 workout on Thursday morning. I took a lesson from Sunday's effort and swapped in lat pulldowns for the inverted rows, plus picked a more sensible weight for my triceps pushdowns. I had to use a dumbbell instead of a kettlebell for my swings too because I was at the gym and: no kettlebells. Other than that, it was the same, and this time I got through it in 34 minutes.

This morning, I picked another of Liz's crazy workouts; this time the Psycho Bike Legs Complex. That was a fun little combo of seated climbs, Tabata-style sprint intervals, bodyweight squats and squat jumps (for time), repeated for just over 30 minutes. Now, that's how I like my cardio: Short, varied and hard enough to leave me in a sweaty, gasping heap. Also? It's over and done with early and I can get on with my day.

Tomorrow I'd like to get out on the bike, but that will depend on the weather. It'll have to be fairly early, because Bike Boy and I have a big weekend planned. It's our wedding anniversary tomorrow and we're off for a couple of days to enjoy ourselves with some of our favourite indulgences. :) Sunday will definitely be a rest day.

It's taken me a remarkably short time to get myself back almost to my peak cardio fitness, which just shows that solid planning and consistency in executing the plan are all that's really required. Well, there's obviously a bit more to it than that, but that's a whole other post.

The key to keeping myself interested in my training is definitely variety. I'm not a class person (I make an exception for RPM), so thank goodness I have dozens of Liz's workouts available, workouts from five Phat Camps, plus thirty or forty DVDs to choose from, and of course plenty of my own creations too. If I had to spend my days plodding on a treadmill at the gym like most people down there seem to do, I'd go insane.

Do you love variety in your training, or do you prefer to do the same kinds of things over and over?


Monday, May 20, 2013

Am I a Spartan yet?

Yesterday I did a 300 workout. Remember the movie, 300? The one full of buff, shirtless Spartans in leather undies, waving swords around and showing off their gleaming bronzed flesh? Nah, I never saw it either... but ever since it was released back in 2007, the training regime that got the actors into tip-top physical condition for their roles has been very popular.

It's a very simple (note: I said simple, not easy) resistance training program, where the basic idea is to do a total of 300 reps in your workout. The original program that the actors apparently followed can be found here and includes pull ups, box jumps and floor wipers, none of which I'm about to attempt with my various dodgy body parts. But that's OK, because you can do any combination of exercises you like, and break them down into however many sets it takes to get it done.

My task was to perform six exercises, which had to include:

  • One whole-body exercise, preferably using weights
  • Two upper body exercises
  • Two lower body exercises
  • One abdominal exercise

AND to complete 50 reps of each in a total time of between 20 and 60 minutes.

The first one took a bit of thought. Things like burpee pushups were out, because of my stupid shoulder. Can't do a single pushup at the moment. Push-press? Nup. Can't do any overhead presses, or actually any push movements at all with my upper body. *sigh* Eventually, I came up with a solution: kettlebell swings! So this was my plan:

1. Kettlebell swings: 25/15/10
2. Dumbbell squat: 25/15/10
3. Inverted row: 25/15/10
4. Stiff-legged deadlift: 25/15/10
5. Triceps pushdown: 25/15/10
6. Plank with lateral "walk": 25/15/10

Ideally, I'd have put a chest and a back exercise in there, rather than back and triceps, but you have to work with what you've got and my anterior delts are pretty well cactus at the moment, so there's no chest anything in my repertoire right now. Except stretches - and even those are incredibly painful. I'm working on it, but it's slow...

The kettlebell swings were fine. Not easy, but fine. The squats? No problem, apart from burning quads and glutes. I ripped through my first two exercises pretty quickly and started to think I was going to be done in twenty minutes....

Then about five reps into my inverted rows, I started wondering what the HELL I was thinking? My upper body strength is way under par, thanks to a prolonged period of basically not being able to anything much at all. I persevered, although I had to break the 50 reps down into six sets to get through it. Sheesh. The deadlifts went OK, as I knew they would - I do those pretty regularly, after all. Triceps pushdowns? I'd tested out a couple of different weights: one was too easy, the next increment I thought might be a bit tough, but I settled on it anyway. Turns out, I was right and again, I had to break my reps down into six sets, with the last one being a measly three reps. Almost there. I was sweating, my heart was racing and my arms and shoulders were letting me know they were NOT happy.

I thought the plank walks would be no big deal. Um, I forgot to take into account my banged-up left elbow, which doesn't like any weight on it at all, and the painful burn on my right forearm. Yeah, that was a really smart choice of exercise... But once I start something, I refuse to quit, so I adjusted my arm position as best I could, gritted my teeth and just did it anyway. When I was finished, I realised I could have done them with my hands on the floor and arms extended. D'oh!

The whole thing ended up taking me 44 minutes, thanks to the longish rests and multiple sets on my upper body exercises, but I got through it.

My verdict? It was an awesome resistance training workout, and thanks to the high reps and reasonably rapid speed required, I'm betting it got my metabolism pumping and burned significant calories. Would I do it again? Absolutely - only I'd choose my exercises a bit more carefully, and I think I'll wait for this burn to heal before trying any kind of plank again.

I may even make this a weekly "thing".

Having looked up the movie on Wikipedia just now to get the link, I'm reminded that Gerard Butler stars in it. And I discovered that Dominic West (of The Wire and The Hour fame) and one of my all-time favourite Aussie actors, David Wenham, are also in it. I may just have to get hold of a copy and watch it. Purely for research purposes, of course. You know, to assess the actors' physiques and judge whether or not the training program really did the job. Nothing at all pervey about it....

Have you ever tried a 300 workout? How did you find it?


Saturday, May 18, 2013

How not to cook

This post is brought to you by my own stupidity.

Yesterday's Food Revolution Day posts showcased a couple of easy Jamie Oliver recipes, some local produce and featured me telling you how easy it all was. I did leave something out though ....I'm not known for my grace and poise, and true to form, in the course of providing those recipes and photos for your reading (and hopefully cooking) pleasure, I sustained a nasty burn to my arm.

I may have been cooking for forty years, but I'm still a bit prone to grating my fingers, slicing bits off my nails and dropping sharp kitchen implements perilously close to my bare feet. I generally manage not to injure myself too badly, up till last night, anyway.

I can't even recall what actually happened, but somehow, as I took the cooked fruit crumble out of the oven and went to set it on the stove top, the dish slipped. Instinct took over - I could visualise the heavy Corningware dish hitting the glass of the open oven door (yikes!) and/or hot food splattering all over the kitchen and ME and I just leaned in and quickly grabbed at it. Unfortunately, I was in the wrong position to grab it with my oven mitt-clad hands, and instead, managed to catch it between my body (luckily, I was wearing several layers of clothing), the stove front....and my bare right forearm.

I'll give you some free advice:

1. Don't do this.

2. If you ignore my first piece of advice, run the burn under cold water for a LONG time and then go get some Solosite gel and a clear film dressing from your local pharmacy.

Encased in shiny plastic and a bit crusty round the edges today, but otherwise OK. I realised
this morning that the green criss-crossy bit was supposed to have been peeled off. Stupid #2.

The gel killed most of the pain and the film kept my clothes from rubbing against the blister. I slept like a log and it looks pretty good this morning.

Please make me feel better by leaving a comment telling me all about your kitchen injuries, would you?


Friday, May 17, 2013

Food Revolution Day - Part 2

Food Revolution Day went - well, pretty much a lot like every other day in our house. Apart from the bit where I got off my butt and drove up the road to buy some local produce, which I blogged about earlier today. I flicked through our cook books and searched online and eventually chose to make two Jamie Oliver recipes to create a two-course dinner.

First up was his superb squash soup, which really was superb, and easy to make (Tip: If you use a food processor to chop the veggies, it's even easier).

The base: celery, carrot, onion, garlic - plus herbs from the garden

This recipe used the pumpkin I bought (or squash, if you're from anywhere in the world but Australia, apparently), plus fresh rosemary and sage from our herb planters and a few staples out of the fridge. I also used our home made chicken stock, instead of stock cubes, as we always have a supply in the freezer.

These plants have gone nuts. Anyone need some fresh herbs?
For once, I made no substitutions to the original recipe, although I didn't make the croutons, because: bread. I did, however, add some sliced pre-cooked chicken breast to my bowl to satisfy my protein needs. The flavour was magnificent, with just the right amount of kick from the chilli. And the fried sage leaves crumbled on top added a lovely finishing touch.

The finished product: superb! (No croutons, though)
To use some of my lovely apples and pears plus the raspberries, I decided to go for one of my old stand-bys and make a fruit crumble for dessert. I chose Jamie's apple crumble recipe as a starting point, using half apples and half pears and tossing in the raspberries once the other fruit was cooked. I really liked this recipe, which had oats in the crumble topping - although this time I did make some tweaks. 

I had no wholemeal plain flour, so used wholemeal spelt flour instead. And I swapped the caster sugar for some rapadura sugar, just because. I could have used coconut oil or coconut butter instead of the butter, and might do that next time. Some shredded coconut in the topping would be nice as well.

Sweet, sweet deliciousness!

The verdict? Easy, delicious and hearty. These two courses could just about make up one of Jamie's famous 30 Minute Meals, they were so quick to whip up.

Food Revolution Day wasn't a stretch for me, to be honest - we cook our meals from scratch 90% of the time anyway. But it did make me think about where my ingredients came from, and how to source more food locally. 

I know I'm lucky to have a fruit orchard nearby, and we have a number of farms selling fresh eggs too. It's only a short drive to Donnybrook Cheese, where I can buy cheese, yoghurt, cream and butter that's as fresh as you can possibly get. Their hot ricotta is a creamy dream come true. Mmm... And we have a few farmers markets that may be small, but offer quality products (like this one at Hurstbridge). I just need to be organised and make an effort to get to these places more often.

Really, these were super-easy dishes to make - you can't use the excuse that cooking is too difficult or takes too long with these two.

Did anyone else join in Food Revolution Day? Leave me a comment - and a link if you have one - and let me know. And you can check out what other people got up to if you scoot over to Emma's blog and scroll down to the comments. 


Food Revolution Day

Today, I'm taking part in Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Day, along with a number of other bloggers, including Emma from The Scoop on Nutrition. Thanks for the heads-up, Emma - I might have missed this if not for your tweets. :)

What's it all about? The FRD website explains it this way:

Food Revolution Day on 17 May is a global day of action for people to make a stand for good food and essential cooking skills. It's a chance for people to come together within their homes, schools, workplaces and communities to cook and share their kitchen skills, food knowledge and resources. Food Revolution Day aims to raise awareness about the importance of good food and better food education for everyone by focusing on three simple actions – cook it, share it, live it. The first Food Revolution Day took place on 19 May 2012 with more than 1,000 events in 664 cities across 62 countries. Find out all about Food Revolution Day 2012 here.

One of the focuses of this particular challenge is to use local ingredients wherever possible. Luckily for me, living on the outskirts of the city means that we have actual farms on our doorstep. So this morning after having my pesky elbow x-rayed, I zipped up the road to Yan Yean to the local orchard and berry farm and picked up some goodies that were produced right there - only 6km from my front door. 

Today there was nobody manning the shop, so they had priced packs of fruit and veg on tables outside with a "leave your money in the tin" note. Cute. :) 

Butternut pumpkin, Pink Lady apples, Beurre Bosc pears & the last raspberries of the year.
Obviously, I have a fridge, freezer and pantry full of ingredients too, but these - plus some of our home-grown herbs - will be the feature of my meal. 

Not being very well at all organised, I haven't decided exactly what I'm making yet, but I will come up with something. I'm supposed to use one of Jamie's recipes - as we own three of his cookbooks and so many of his recipes are online, I'm sure I can easily find something using my chosen ingredients.

I'll be back later with my report.

You could join me and cook something spectacular yourself - if you do, please leave me a comment and/or a link to your blog post. Or just follow what other people are producing in their kitchens on Twitter or Instagram: the hashtag is #FRD2013


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Nude food

HeartActive is a delicious, 99% fat free milk enriched with plant sterols, which are proven to help reduce cholesterol. Research shows that consuming plant sterols everyday in milk can reduce cholesterol by an average of 10% in three weeks.  HeartActive is currently available in a 1L carton with an extended shelf life (45 days from production) compared to regular white milks with a shelf life of 14 days.

I don't know about you, but I like the food I eat to be as close to its original, natural state (hence my use of the word "nude" in the post title. Oh, alright, it was also an attention-grabbing ploy. Busted!) when I buy it as possible. I'm not some extreme earth-mother hippy type, sprouting my own mung beans and weaving them into kaftans or anything, I just like my food made of FOOD. So I mostly manage to construct my meals of fresh meat - I'm including fish and poultry in "meat" - eggs, dairy products, nuts and fruits and veggies.

Realistically, unless you happen to own a hugely varied mixed farm and can produce your own everything, you're going to have to rely on some packaged items from the centre aisles of the supermarket. Some of my regular purchases are things like rolled oats, rice, tuna, a few canned veggies, nut butters, vinegars, oils and flours. The odd block of chocolate may also find its way into my trolley. I have no idea how it gets there.

Really, NO idea.....
Still, most of the stuff I use that comes in packages is also whole foods. But when I do pick up a bag, carton or box containing a mixture of ingredients, I want to know what's in it. Reading nutrition panels and ingredient lists has become just a normal thing for me; I've been doing it for years.

How do I decide whether or not a product is OK? I have a few criteria, and my first one is this: Ideally, all of the ingredients must be real foods. If the list descends into things that have numbers instead of names, or those that look like they belong in a science lab, not on a farm, then I'm immediately wary. I also use a LOT of common sense and don't get all angsty just because A Current Affair ran some dodgy story about a particular product/additive/production process.

Additives aren't all bad. Some are essential so that the food doesn't spoil. For instance, salt has been used as a preservative for millennia, and whilst we don't want to over-consume it, the mineral itself isn't evil.

My view is that stuff that's added to foods in this country isn't likely to be a problem for most people - but that reactions to certain substances are often dose-dependent. Which means that a tiny amount of additive X probably won't cause a drama for someone who's a little sensitive to it, but a large amount might. Which only backs up my approach of keeping those things to a minimum.

I'm not playing down the impact of some additives on susceptible people, but the folklore that often grows around these things can get a bit hysterical.

One additive that the rumour mill went a bit wild over in recent years is milk permeate. It's bad for you; it's good for you; it's just the dairy producers trying to save money by watering down our milk. Personally, permeate in my milk is not one of the things I worry about. And all of the sources I checked - which included registered dieticians, government health bodies, as well as the dairy industry - agree that there's no reason to worry. But if you do still happen to have concerns, relax. There is a wide variety of permeate-free milk available. Heart Active (my anti-cholesterol secret weapon) is one of them.

I'm a lot more concerned about consuming artificial sweeteners (or an excess of natural sweeteners, for that matter), trans fats, high fructose corn syrup and my list goes on. But whatever your concerns, it's good to know that there are products available that you can buy with confidence, knowing that they don't contain X, Y or Z that you're trying to avoid.

Sponsored Series by Nuffnang Australia
HeartActive is a delicious, 99% fat free milk enriched with plant sterols, which are proven to help reduce cholesterol. Research shows that consuming plant sterols everyday in milk can reduce cholesterol by an average of 10% in three weeks. HeartActive is currently available in a 1L carton with an extended shelf life (45 days from production) compared to regular white milks with a shelf life of 14 days.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mothers Day... and a race report

Happy Mothers Day to all the mums, grandmas, aunties, godmothers and anyone else who has anything to do with bringing up kids. You're all awesome and should receive chocolate for your efforts.

I don't know what Mothers Day is like in your house, but here's how my morning went, in pictures:

Up early in time to catch this spectacular sunrise from the front porch

Some gorgeous flowers from my eldest. The others were still snoozing.

My reason for being up so frighteningly early. Lovely Jose, I miss you.

Waiting for the starter's siren
Number One Son. I don't think he was fully awake. Scary, since he drove us there. ;) I was thrilled to have him  with me.
There was pink everywhere - also some fab and fun costumes.
These ladies were good sports; happy to pose for a photo.
The Anderson St hill is a killer! These girls cheering us on were exactly what was
needed. Other signs read "We love men in tights" and "Tight butts drive us nuts". Hehe.
More costumes. Fairies can run pretty fast, you know.
Just past the finish line. The number of participants was crazy - this doesn't even begin to show what it was like.
Keeping it real. No makeup, no carefully arranged expression, windblown
hair, flushed face... I may not look pretty, but I DO look like I just ran 4kms.

I didn't hit a PB; but that's OK because I wasn't even aiming for one. My goal was simply to finish and preferably to run the whole thing. That bloody hill got the better of me (mainly because I started out a bit over-enthusiastically. Oops) and I had to walk about 50m in the middle of it. But I'm happy with my effort anyway, finishing in 26:47 - that's a 6.6km pace, which may not be fast, but will do for a start. It's been a long time between runs.

Coffee was drunk post-race, then we headed home. I'm going out for lunch shortly with my mum and my sisters, and then it's a family dinner at home when the younger boys have finished work.

Whatever you're getting up to, I hope you have a great day. :)


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Fitter, stronger, faster

THis morning I hopped on the mountain bike for the first time in three weeks. Last weekend Bike Boy was sick and I had other training commitments anyway. The previous week it was blowing a gale - vile weather for cycling.

Today was one of those clear, crisp autumn mornings. The air was cold, but I've bought up big in the online sales and now have base layers, arm and leg warmers, liner gloves and a wind-proof jacket, so I'm (almost) all set for the colder weather. I missed a bargain long sleeved winter jersey on Cell Bikes the other day because I dithered too long and they sold out. I'm still kicking myself. Anyway...

We headed to the park as usual and rode along gravel, dirt and grassy tracks, with Bike Boy leading the way. At the end of the main access road, he swung left. Uh-oh. That's a steep, narrow, downhill dirt track that I don't particularly love. There IS a platform at the bottom of the track, overlooking the Plenty River and the old homestead, which is a good place to take a break before heading back home. But there's that very steep uphill bit to get back to the road...

I love a view!

So after a rest and a drink, we started back up the hill. It's not that long but it IS really steep - and it kicks up just before the top. I told myself I could do it; that after that killer climb in Bright, this would be a piece of cake. I picked my third-lowest gear, and just spun my legs. I dropped down another gear halfway up, saving the last one for the final, steeper section. I was pretty pleased with myself as I powered up that thing!

I flew over the bump at the top onto the flat road and looked down at my gears to change back up ....and realised that I wasn't in my lowest gear at all. I thought I was using my small chain ring, but nuh-uh. I'd accidentally left that thing on the middle ring.

Seems I'm stronger and fitter than I realised. :)

Have you ever had a moment where you realised your fitness had progressed way further than you thought?


P.S. I was grateful that I didn't fall off going down the hill. I'm still having issues with my left elbow from the spill I took in Bright. My GP doesn't think it's fractured (I can flex, extend and rotate with no dramas), but isn't quite sure what's going on with it, because almost six weeks later, it's still very swollen and painful, with a weird pocket of fluid right on the pointy bit. We're betting on a local infection - I did gouge a deep chunk out of it, which is all healed up now - and trying antibiotics. If that doesn't work, I'll have to get some imaging done to see what's going on.

I should post a photo - it's quite spectacular, in a gruesome kind of way...


Friday, May 10, 2013

Spice up your life

Most of this week has been kind of boring in the food department. I had plenty of good food on hand, but lacked time and motivation to do anything much with it. So my lunches alternated between grilled chicken with baked kumera and some steamed veggies or a frittata that I'd whipped up last Sunday.

Breakfast was my standard oats, whey and (home-made cashew) milk. Snacks were just as repetitive: apples, bananas and a home made protein bar - which was delicious, but by Thursday I was kind of over it. All of those things are foods that I love and meals I'm happy to eat, but not on high rotation. Aargh!

So today at lunch time, I finally got around to trying out the Heart Foundation recipe I mentioned a few days ago. (Yes, it was going to be Tuesday's dinner, but Bike Boy was away and I was late home and just could not be arsed.)

Oh, the flavours! Party in my mouth!
There are heaps of recipes over on the Heart Foundation's website, but the one that caught my eye was green curry risotto with salmon, because: CURRY. And SALMON. Two of my favourite things.

I'd grabbed some salmon fillets, a green chilli and a can of coconut flavoured evaporated milk at the supermarket this morning; we already had everything else on hand. Or SO I THOUGHT... until I started grabbing the ingredients and made the irritating discovery that we only had about two tablespoons of arborio rice left. Drat. I could have run around to the milk bar to see if they stocked it; they have a pretty good range of groceries. But I was hungry already and wanted to get started, so I did what I've done before: substituted basmati rice. I can hear the gourmet foodies among you gasping in horror - but hey, I've done it before and whilst it isn't the same texture, nor quite as creamy, it gives a good enough result. Just keep adding liquid and keep tasting for tenderness until it's right.

Anyway, I halved the recipe, as I only wanted  lunch for myself - one leftover portion is fine, but I didn't need three. It all worked beautifully. I quickly made the marinade, threw the fish in and stuck it back in the fridge while I set about making the risotto. I used vegetable stock instead of chicken stock, only because it was on sale at Coles. Either works just fine. I also took a shortcut with a bought curry paste - we often have home-made pastes in the fridge, but not today.

The risotto worked out well - it probably took about 40 minutes all up. It needed an extra cup or two of water after I'd used all the stock, which may be because I was using the wrong rice. I grabbed basil, Thai basil and Vietnamese mint from our garden and some coriander from the fridge (cannot grow that sucker!) for my chopped fresh herbs. I seared the salmon to give it a crispy, slightly blackened finish, but then turned the heat down to make sure it cooked through.

One addition I made to the recipe was to chop - and then steam till almost cooked - a bunch of asparagus and one of baby bok choy, then add them to the rice after I added the evaporated milk. Every meal needs veggies plus I thought the risotto looked a bit kind of beige and boring on its own. The bits of green really gave it some visual pizazz to match the flavour.

The taste was sublime. Extra lime squeezed over it is a must. Never mind the fact that this is jammed full of Omega-3s and quality protein, with nothing nasty added; it is truly a delicious meal you could proudly serve to anyone.

If you'd like the recipe, just pop over to the Heart Foundation's website (or to browse some of the other yummy ideas there).

Just what we all need: Killer flavour that's not going to contribute to an early demise. :)


Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Recipe alert!

A while back, I promised to re-post the old recipes from Kek's Good Food that got lost in the transfer over to FitBodies Food on WordPress. Damn you, technology! I'm doing it in dribs and drabs because, frankly, it's tedious...

Anyhoo, I've got another up for you now - my savoury pancakes with roasted capsicum salsa. These are SO yummy, and I'd forgotten all about them. I think they may just be on the menu this weekend. :)


Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Heart Week

I'm a little slow off the starting blocks here (I blame screen-free week for messing with my blogging routine), but this week is Heart Week, a campaign run run by the Heart Foundation aimed at improving the heart health of Australians.

You might remember that a few weeks back, I attended a wonderful evening featuring healthy food, great company and very useful information, courtesy of the Heart Foundation. Let me remind you....

Photos courtesy of Brand Meets Blog

Probably the only time you'll ever see me in an apron.
One of the key messages the Heart Foundation want to get across is that many people don't recognise the symptoms of a heart attack. Here's something you might not know: Not everyone experiences chest pain. Something really simple that we all can do is to learn the warning signs of a heart attack.  That way we can act immediately and call 000 if we experience them - and greatly increase our chances of survival.

You're probably thinking: But what if it's not a heart attack? I don't want to call an ambulance if it's a waste of time. Well, you know what? Wasting the ambos' time is the best possible outcome. If it's not a heart attack? Awesome; you'll be fine. But if it've probably just saved your own life - or the life of someone close to you.

I take this stuff seriously. Although my risk of heart disease is relatively low, it increases with age and for women, with menopause too. And there's some family history too; a trifecta, yay! I can't change any of those risks, but as I've said before, I'm doing what I can to reduce all of the risks that I can control through lifestyle choices.

So to mark Heart Week, tonight I'm going to test out another of the tasty recipes on the Heart Foundation's website and will share it with you a bit later in the week. Meanwhile, click on the link, go have a look yourself and see if something takes your fancy.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. No payment was received and opinions expressed here are my own. Good health through nutrition and lifestyle is something I feel strongly about. If this post provides the impetus for just one person to educate themselves about heart attack symptoms, or to add some new healthy recipes to their repertoire, then I'll be content.

This post is not intended as medical advice or to treat any existing illness. If you have any heart or other health concerns, please consult a qualified medical practitioner.