Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Over and Out

2013 was a pretty good year. 

There were no exciting travel adventures - the furthest places we went were Bright and Echuca, and those were only quick weekend trips. We did manage a weekend in the city as well, and we got out to a few restaurants, some Yarra Valley breweries, plus I attended a few fun blogging events, so it's not like I sat at home all year like some sort of Nelly-no-friends.

There were no huge, life-changing events, either good or bad, so I guess that's a win? Life just chugged along pretty much as it normally does for me. Health was generally good - apart from a banged-up elbow, courtesy of the mountain bike, and my recent run-in with a garden nemesis.

We did celebrate our youngest child becoming an adult just last week, so I guess that heralds a new phase of our life. Although... he won't have his driver's licence for at least six months, as he took his sweet time getting his learner's permit and hasn't held it for long enough to sit the test yet. So I'm condemned to continue with taxi driver duties for a while longer. *sigh*

Anyway, overall it was a solid year in terms of training, rehabbing creaky body parts and getting on top of my life-long digestive woes. Work was OK - even pretty interesting a lot of the time - and it pays for some of life's little extras, so I can't grizzle about it too much.

Highlights of the year? Well, just stuff that I did, saw or enjoyed along the way.
Next year I have three major plans:

1. Blog more. This past year, blogging has taken a back seat as I've concentrated on training, increased my hours at work and attempted to focus a bit more on social and family time. I have heaps of things to say and am inspired by so many other bloggers, and I'm determined to write more, both in terms of volume and quality. We'll see how that goes.

2. Enjoy our Big Trip. This really is a capital letter kind of holiday because: Europe! Six weeks shall be spent soaking up the sights, culture, history, food (and wine) of France, Spain, England and Scotland, with an extra week(ish) in Singapore and KL.

3. Spend more time in the saddle. I'm already working on this - the road bike has made it down off the rack on the garage wall and I did a session on the trainer the other day so I could reacquaint myself with the gears before taking it out on the road this morning. I only rode around the quiet neighbourhood streets, with Bike Boy trailing me like a nursemaid. And I may have only had one shoe clipped in... but hey, I managed not to go SPLAT, which is a major achievement. Baby steps and all that. ;)

No S.M.A.R.T. goals amongst that lot - just a short list of a few things I enjoy that I want to do more of or do better. I think that's enough to be going on with.

Happy New Year to all of you - I hope 2014 brings you nothing but good things.


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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bake ALL THE THINGS!

I've collected a huge number of recipes on Pinterest that are low-FODMAP or could easily be adapted to suit, and have been dying to test them out. Alas, work and life have been seriously interfering with my baking plans...until now.  Hurrah for holidays!

The mulberry tree just keeps on giving and giving and despite giving away bags full of the juicy berries, our freezer is rapidly filling up. I think I've filled close to ten litres worth of containers and bags so far and the crop isn't finished yet. So when we were invited to dinner and I offered to bring dessert, this mulberry frangipane looked like just the ticket.


It turned out really well, and several people went back for seconds. I love to make food that I can eat without fear, but that other people greet with "YUM!" rather than a suspicious look and a "What's THAT?"  :)

I'm going to make it again with some modifications, because although it was nice, I thought the filling needed more almond flavour and less egginess to be a true frangipane.

I followed the recipe precisely (apart from substituting spelt flour) and ended up with way too much pastry, so I decided to turn the leftover portion into a berry galette, because I'd seen Nigella whip up an apple and blackberry version on TV just last week, and it looked simple and delicious.

Not so successful....

You know that saying "A face like a dropped pie"? I'm pretty sure this is what it means...

The thing is, like most shortcrust, this pastry is so buttery that it really needs refrigeration for half an hour or so before you attempt to work with it. Me? I'm impatient and decided to skip that part. D'oh! So my over-soft pastry fell to pieces, the berry juice leaked through all the gaps and my rustic pie turned out exceptionally rustic. It tasted fabulous though so I'm going to have a do-over and will blog the recipe once I get it just right.

I still have many, many more recipes to test. Today's experiment is going to be a dairy-free, egg-free chocolate mousse. I'm possibly a little bit TOO excited about that.

Check back over the next week or two for some recipes that will tantalise your tastebuds - and hopefully not look like they were dropped on the floor.


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Thursday, December 26, 2013

My favourite day of the year - and other drivel

And....exhale. 

Boxing Day: No relatives bickering, no cooking, no cleaning up, no schedule. Cricket on the TV, new books, CDs and DVDs to enjoy, afternoon naps, maybe a bike ride or a walk.

Christmas is fun, but exhausting. I didn't take many photos yesterday, because I was busy EATING ALL THE FOOD and chatting to family, so these are all I have:

Mum always gets the job of organising the entrée because: PRAWNS
Best thing EVER: Vietnamese green mango salad. I'll share the recipe next week.
Death by Chocolate - always a hit. Even with the FODMAPs-intolerant & wheat-avoiding relatives.

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And in other news, my nasty allergic reaction is finally improving. It may not look like it, but this is WAY better than it was a few days ago:


That's the worst patch, near my wrist - still quite swollen, very itchy and a bit blistered. The rest still looks ugly, but has flattened out and the best part is: the blisters haven't ruptured. Usually they burst and weep and crust and it's all pretty disgusting. And then there's residual scarring which takes months to fade... The use of an oil-based cortisone cream, which keeps the skin moist, plus firm bandaging has helped reduce that significantly. And on Monday night when I reported back to the doctor and he was unhappy with the progress, he prescribed me a short course of oral prednisolone. That seems to be speeding up the healing nicely.

All pretty drastic treatment for a skin rash, but this is no ordinary rash. At least the raging histamines had settled down by the beginning of this week, which thankfully saw a return of emotional stability in time for Christmas. I doubt my family would have appreciated the presence of Itchy McGrouchy at the festivities. ;o)

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I'm now on holidays until the 20th of January; Bike Boy heads back to work right after New Year, but at least we get a week off together. So we're planning on doing a whole lot of reading, cycling, cricket-watching and other low-stress stuff, with maybe a cinema, restaurant or winery outing thrown in. Summer holidays are my favourite!

I hope you all had a happy, relaxed (and non-itchy) Christmas.


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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Itching you a very scratchy Christmas

I just spent ages writing a post, uploading images and so on and lost the entire thing. I'm extremely short on patience today, so here's the abridged version:

Allergies. They suck.

Mozzie bites? To you they may be a minor annoyance. For me, they swell up to welts the size of a 20 cent coin and make my life miserable.  It's more like some ferocious animal has attacked me. A bit like Perkins....


Plants are my nemesis. Grass pollen gives me hay fever, contact with some grasses causes hives and this motherf*cker should be eradicated from the planet:

Grevillea "Robyn Gordon" may look pretty, but it's a poisonous bastard.
Allergic contact dematitis, a fun affliction. Imagine a red, raw, raised rash that itches like nothing you've ever experienced before. It then develops hundreds of tiny blisters, which eventually burst, so you have a very attractive red, weeping, scabby arm/leg/face/whatever. All of this, just from brushing against the plant - which people insist on positioning where they overhang front fences. I spend a lot of my time veering onto nature strips when I'm out walking...

For almost thirty years I've avoided this horrible plant with its bright red flowers. But unbeknownst to me, the nursery industry has been busy breeding new cultivars from the same parent stock. So there I was, innocently walking down my sister's front path, with no idea that that pretty pink and white flowering shrub was related to G. Robyn Gordon. In fact, I didn't even SEE it, because why would I be looking out for something unknown?

Result:

It actually looks much, much worse than this. It's tricky to take arm selfies...

I'm a bit angry. This reaction to G. Robyn Gordon has been well-known since the mid-80s. And yet...the industry continues to produce new plants with exactly the same parentage. No regulation, no requirement to provide warnings on labels. Nice one, fellas.

Anyway, it's been a week already, so that means it will clear up in maybe three weeks or so. Shame it's not long-sleeve weather.

Between the itching that's interrupting my sleep and the histamines running riot in my body making me cranky and depressed, I'm struggling to summon up any Christmas spirit at all. If you're looking for me, I'll be the one over in the corner, covered in calamine lotion and drowning my sorrows. Kind of like a big, red-and-white Grinch.



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Friday, December 13, 2013

Celebrating

I may have forgotten to mention that I had another birthday last week. When you're silly enough to give birth to one of your children on your special day, it kind of takes a back seat. Well, that's not quite true: Bike Boy and my mini-men always make sure that a fuss is made, bless them. But this year, because it was The Middle Child's twenty-first birthday, my turning fifty-three was just not that big a deal.

Birthday flowers
As well, I had to work on the day - a circumstance which frankly made me more than a bit grumpy. I have not worked on my birthday in thirty-three years, but this year I'm short on leave days, since I've booked up a whopping eight weeks next June-July for our European adventure and have three weeks off after Christmas as well. All in a good cause, but still...

Anyhoo, I got through the day and Bike Boy and I spontaneously decided to go out for dinner to a local Indian restaurant, even though we had a "proper" celebration planned on Friday night with friends. It turned out to be a good day. :)

....and more birthday flowers
For some reason, this year I've noticed a lot more griping from people about being a year older. Friends, folks at work, social media posts, everywhere - so many people are depressed about being 53, or 47, or whatever age they may be turning. Me? I don't recall ever being anxious, upset or sad about another birthday. Partly because I love birthdays (big kid), but also because it's not like you wake up on the day suddenly feeling creakier, crippled, or in any way less able than when you went to sleep the night before.

Mainly, though, I'm always grateful to be seeing another year out. I've lost a couple of dear friends along life's rocky road and I'm pretty sure that both would be ecstatic if they could only celebrate another year with their loved ones.

...and yet MORE birthday flowers!
So I celebrate. I celebrate being fitter and healthier than I was ten years ago. I celebrate being able to walk, run or cycle my way around the beautiful neighbourhood I live in. I celebrate having spent twenty-eight years married to my partner in crime. I celebrate having three sons, all of whom are turning out to be wonderful young men. I celebrate extended family who are always there for me. I celebrate good friends, abundant food, a comfortable lifestyle, fine wine and decadent chocolate. (Yes, even the little things should be celebrated.)

Indian birthday feast - looks terrible, tastes amazing.

If you're a habitual birthday griper, look at it this way: You're going to get older and bitching and moaning never makes anything better. So how about on your next birthday, you decide to change your attitude? I promise you'll be a lot happier.

My favourite part of the world - right here :)
Life is way too short to waste time being miserable about stuff you can't change.

And: I'm grateful for gorgeous shoes at bargain prices

How about you? Do you greet your birthday with enthusiasm, or hide under the covers and hope it won't find you?


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Saturday, December 07, 2013

Time flies

So, this happened last week:



Yep, son #2 turned twenty-one. I'm good with that. I'm also good with the fact that my baby has finished high school and will be turning eighteen in three weeks' time. That's him on the right there with the sleazy-looking moustache. Thank goodness Movember is over and it's now gone.

But it hit me the other day that #1 son is now only four years away from his THIRTIETH birthday. WTF? I'm so not ready to have children in their thirties...


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