Monday, May 31, 2010

Zero points soup.

Someone told me about a soup that is packed full of healthy veggies, is good for you, is fat free and leaves you feeling full. It originated with Weight Watchers and now there are a few different varieties if you search around. I think the name refers to the points value that Weight Watchers assigns different foods. You are encouraged to eat healthy low points foods to stop hunger pangs. As a "Zero Points" food you can have unlimited amounts of this healthy soup. I made some over the last few weeks and have been taking it into work for lunch. I also have a bowl if I am heading out somewhere that I am likely to be tempted to pig out. It fills me up so I can still eat out but not get tempted to over eat because I am starving.

Today I made two different varieties, an Asian style and Italian style. Buying the ingredients was a challenge, some of which I had never seen before and had to ask fellow shoppers to help me find! After making a complete mess of my kitchen I am now the proud owner of 24 containers of healthy goodness. 

I have attached the recipes below as found on-line. To be honest I just bought the veggies in whatever size packages they came and used the lot. In general I would say that I doubled the ingredients and still only got 12 serves from each recipe. Maybe my idea of a serving is way different from theirs but if it is healthy I don't think you can have too much.

P.S: It's time to 'fess up. This blog post may come across as healthy and full of self control but there is something in the photo that should not be there....
Can you see it in the back left hand corner...
The Japanese writing?....
I've been found out. It is the packet of Carries Japanese chocolate biscuits that are my undoing and the reason I need the healthy soup in the first place!!!
Time to go eat some more soup... sigh...

Asian-Inspired Zero POINTS Value Soup

Makes 12 servings
POINTS® value | 0 per serving


  • 140g pak choi, chopped
  • 150g Chinese cabbage, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 20g fresh ginger root, thinly sliced and julienned
  • 100g oyster mushrooms
  • 100g spring onions, chopped
  • 140g canned water chestnuts, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1440ml vegetable stock
  • 70g beansprouts
  • 200g mangetout
  • 2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 25g coriander, finely chopped


  • Put pak choi, Chinese cabbage, garlic, ginger root, oyster mushrooms, spring onions, water chestnuts, pepper, red pepper flakes and vegetable stock into a large soup pot. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partly covered, for about 10 minutes. Toss in beansprouts and mangetout during the last 3 to 4 minutes of simmering.
  • Add soy sauce and coriander. Serve.

Italian-Inspired Zero POINTS Value Soup

Makes 12 servings
POINTS® value | 0 per serving


  • 40g chicory, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 160g onions, chopped
  • 30g baby spinach
  • 2 small courgettes, cubed
  • 1 medium red pepper, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1440ml vegetable stock
  • 800g canned chopped tomatoes
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 25g fresh parsley, chopped
  • 25g fresh basil


  • Put the chicory, garlic, onions, spinach, courgette, red pepper, fennel bulb, vegetable stock, chopped tomatoes, red pepper flakes, thyme and oregano into a large soup pot. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, partly covered, for about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in salt, black pepper, parsley and basil. Serve.

Friday, May 28, 2010

My luckiest day EVER!

Today was a great day according to Gareth. In fact to quote him it was "My luckiest day EVER!"

You see yesterday we had a phone-call from the bank. They wanted to speak to Gareth our 7 year old. Not your average phone call then. After explaining that Gareth was still at school but would be home in half an hour they promised to ring back. He was a bit nervous as the call came through and we passed the phone to him. The bank lady told Gareth she had some good news. He had won a competition!

A few weeks back he had been given a picture of a clown to colour in. He had put so much glitter glue on it that it was as heavy as a rock! He had stuck on googly eyes and a red ball of fluff for the nose. After letting it dry over the next few days it was finally handed in to the bank reception area to the oohhhs and aaaghs of the staff.

And so today after school we drove down to the bank to collect his prize. He was given a bag full of goodies, stickers, pencils, balloons, activity books, you name it! He was grinning from ear to ear. The self proclaimed luckiest boy in the whole universe!!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

12 week challenge... an update

An update on this weeks weigh-in.

Currently the main weight loss leader has done no exercise, just reduced her intake of milk?!!

The person who has done the most exercise, 1060 minutes!, has lost only 0.6kgs but is looking fitter.

I'm so glad that we have different prize categories to reflect the different ways people are benefiting from their efforts. I have proudly passed the 1000 minutes of exercise mark too and am 20 minutes behind the leader. I've dropped 3.5kgs and am aching all over but happy. Waistbands are still very snug as I am still 8kgs heavier than this time last year but I'm happy that I am moving in the right direction. I've also moved my Body Mass Index from the pre-obese band back into the normal band. My GP should be happy too. I am delaying an overdue migraine follow up until after the 12 weeks so it is an added motivation to be accountable to my doctor at the end.

There has been lots of temptations in work this week including a big spread of food to mark the leaving of two of our doctors. I was really chuffed to see that our healthy eating has not gone unnoticed. Within the spread of pastries and fried fish, spring rolls and battered calamari rings I noticed a healthy fruit platter and one of the departing doctors who had brought some chocolates had also made an effort to buy some healthy choice treats too for those of us in the challenge! So many people commented on how they were proud of their self control and were managing to avoid the temptation of the huge chocolate mousse cake.....

Well some people anyway!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Japanese surprise!

Today was a very exciting day. A parcel arrived from Okinowa in Japan, via the US postal service. It was from Carrie, a fellow blogger that I have got to know over the last year through her blog and emails. Carrie is an American Navy wife and is based in Japan at the moment. She asked a question on her blog recently and promised whoever could answer it that she would send them a Japanese parcel of goodies. I nearly pushed Sian off the computer chair in my rush to get to the keyboard! Sian helped me to re-read Carries recent blog posts until we thought we had the right info. I commented and then waited in gleeful anticipation to see if I had won. I had been in such a rush Carrie had to email me back telling me that I had miss-read her question and had only answered one of two things. Another push-Sian-off-the-chair and I found the missing info, re-commented and screamed the house down when I got Carries reply that we had won!

And so today's parcel arrival was much awaited and anticipated. I had the dilemma of whether to tear it open straight away or whether to wait for the kids to get home from school to share in the fun. I posted on Facebook that I was waiting and had friends commenting, tempting me to just get on with it. I resisted and so at 6.30pm we all came in the door from swimming and the chaos began. It was like Japanese Santa had arrived. The box exploded open with bizarre and beautiful things being grabbed out by the kids amongst squeals and ooohs and aggghhhs. There were fruit chewy sweets, ninja and super hero masks! Miniature rubber foods like sushi rolls, cakes and fruits, origami papers with the most complicated instructions in Japanese (?!) Sian has already managed to interpret them and has made a giraffe! There were weird and wonderful foods too. Asparagus flavoured chips, crab pizza crisps, a bag of almonds and dried salted fish mixture (bllllleeeurggghhhh!) I couldn't stand the smell but Byron and Sian wolfed them down! There were sets of chopsticks chosen individually for each of us with cute pictures on them and special little clear containers for each person to store them in. I even got a great t-shirt with funny Japanese/English translations about living a healthy life and to feeling the "Good Viblations" !

I'm exhausted just typing this all out. I have no idea how much effort Carrie must have gone to gathering all these treats for us and how she managed to fit them into one box is beyond me. We are totally Japanesed out tonight. The kids are all asking for a Japanese meal tomorrow night so they can try out their new chopsticks! I better go check Sians school lunchbox and make sure she's not bringing in any of those smelly dried fish to scare her friends.

Thank you so much Carrie. The kids have gone to bed happy and talking about the really generous American lady and how she must have spent at least a thousand dollars on all the lovely treats! You really have made our day!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sympathy vote.

Have pity for the father who got drenched to the skin trying to keep track of the official score-sheet as it dissolved under his pen while his two youngest kids played Rugby in the torrential rain. 

Have pity for his oldest kid who didn't play but got the job of trying to hold the umbrella over her Dad as her siblings coated themselves liberally in mud and grass.

Have no pity for the kids who enjoyed every second of getting muddy and wet even though they lost the match and had boot prints in their faces as they left the pitch.

Oh, but have lots of pity for the mother who has to wash out the mucky, sodden rugby kits when she gets home.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Family Funday Sunday!

The public transport here in Australia is very reasonably priced compared to what we are used to in England. As an example: A train trip to Sydney which takes about 2 hours would cost a total of $27 for the whole family. Where we lived in England, an off peak train trip to London which took about 2 hours would set us back $140.

To make things even better the New South Wales Government have put together a scheme called Family Funday Sunday to get families out and about for a minmal amount of money. For $2.50 a head any group of adults and kids who have a family connection (Aunts, grandparents, cousins etc.) can travel anywhere in New South Wales all day Sunday using as many trains, buses and ferries as they want.

We took advantage of this last weekend and got on a train just after 8am and returned home 12 hours later having travelled all around Sydney. We arrived in Sydney Central and got a ferry to the famous surfing beach at Manly for ice-creams and then spent the rest of the day in Darling Harbour at the Australian Maritime Museum.

I didn't bring my camera but luckily the mobile phone came to the rescue until I ran its battery flat!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Keeping up momentum.

The weather has gone all chilly and wet here in Australia. Autumn has arrived and already we are getting glimpses of the winter on its way. Enthusiasm for exercise has plummeted with a sore throat being my main excuse. Here are some photos Sian and myself took on our big walk last week while Gareth and Rhiannon were at Rugby training. It was a beautiful evening and seems like ages ago. This weeks Rugby was called off due to rain. I'm hoping that looking at these pictures might motivate me again. There is a cross-trainer in the garage so I really cant use weather as an excuse. I'm tired, grumpy, just in the door from work and need a cup of tea. Maybe when I've drunk it I'll have a go...

Bet you can't guess who is who...?

Ok, Forget I asked, I'm going to put the kettle on!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Someone in work is trying to sabotage our 12 weeks of dieting and fitness.....

Someone left this Post-it note on the front of our folder where we record our weight and exercise....

Monday, May 17, 2010

What do you think?

On a recent walk along a beachside path we saw this graffiti...

It sparked great conversation amongst the kids about what it is referring to. 

What do you think? 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Spot the kids...

We are walking a lot more since I started the 12 week challenge. 
Today we walked from Merewether baths to Nobby's lighthouse and back. Just over an hour.
You can see Rhiannon clearly scooting along in her red jacket but if you look closely you can just make out Gareth and Sian through the hole in the sculpture...!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Today was a very exciting day for Mr B. His football team that he has supported since childhood is called Cardiff City, nicknamed "The Bluebirds" . They have reached the end of the current season and have successfully got through to the playoffs which gives them a chance to be promoted into the Premiership, the top of the Football ladder.

The Bluebirds have never been in the premiership in Byron's lifetime. Because we now live on the other side of the world their evening match was happening  in the early hours of our morning. When Byron woke he checked the on-line news on his mobile and saw that the score was Cardiff 1: 3 Leicester, He was devastated.  I went downstairs and returned to bed with a cup of tea which he drank silently. After a while he picked up his mobile to read the match report only to see a different score Cardiff 3: 3 Leicester. The match had not yet ended! He ran down the stairs at breakneck speed and watched as the team he has cheered for since childhood went on to win the game!

There is one final nailbiting game to be played on Saturday, the winner of which will be promoted into the Premiership. Who knows what highs and lows Saturday will bring. For now Byron is on cloud 9!

We seized the moment and decided to make this evening a mad celebration of all things "Bluebird" By the time Byron walked in the door from work we had blown up blue and yellow balloons, hung up his Cardiff City flag and made lots of teeny cupcakes decorated with blue icing and flags on cocktail sticks that the kids had helped make when they came in from school.

Roll on Saturday. While the Bluebirds play their very best in Wembley stadium, on the other side of the world  the 5 of us will be cheering them on Down Under!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

International Nurses Day 2010

Right now there is a nurse helping a woman become a mum, 

a nurse holding the hand of a dying man, 

a nurse inserting an IV in a child, 

a nurse listening to an Alzheimer's patient tell a story,
a nurse missing their family while caring for yours. 

As you read this, nurses all over the world are hard at work doing a great job that cannot be measured by the money they earn. It's not a glamorous job. It isn't highly paid. What makes it worth doing is the people we care for and the thanks we get from from their families. Today is International Nurses Day. If you know a nurse make their day by telling them they are doing a great job...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

12 week challenge

I've never had much of an issue with my weight.

As a teenager I was skinny, completely lacking in the chest department and could easily have passed for a boy. I wished for curves while my curvy friends wished theirs away. When I was getting married I was about 45kgs. 14 years of wedded bliss and 3 kids later my weight naturally crept up little by little to 55kgs and those curves I had always wanted appeared. I never felt the need to diet and was grateful for my high metabolism that let me eat chocolate or fast food without seeming to affect the number on the weighing scales. My only health issue was the regular Migraines that bugged me.

And so about 12 months ago I went on a Migraine preventer, a Beta Blocker that slows the heart rate down and lowers the blood pressure. They have reduced the frequency of my headaches but not eliminated them entirely. Unfortunately I have had an unwanted side effect of the slowing of my metabolism. I have put on 12kgs in as many months. My GP has told me I cannot afford to keep gaining weight this rapidly and has told me I have to lose it. I eat healthily and reducing my food intake has had no effect at all except leaving me crabby and hungry. I face the reality that most of my friends knew all those years ago, I need to exercise.

In order to keep me accountable and motivated I asked my work colleagues if they wanted to join me in a health kick. As the conversation evolved amongst 4 or 5 of us someone suggested the idea of chipping $10 each into an envelope. This was to be a prize at the end for the most successfully participant. In an effort to make it more about general health and not just losing kgs on the scales I suggested we work out our Body Mass Indexes so we could see what a healthy target weight could be. I made charts so that each of us could write down our weight, height, BMI and space to put in how many minutes of exercise we did each day.

We decided to set a time frame of 12 weeks and celebrate with a meal out at the end that anyone could come to. That was two weeks ago. It has totally snowballed. 35 people have joined. From the kitchen and cleaning staff to the nurses, physios, speech therapists and occupational therapists all the way up to secretarial staff and management. 35 people are now charting their exercise, exchanging healthy recipes and sharing workout DVDs. 35 people have learned what their healthy weight for their height should be. Some are already there and are just wanting to get into more of a pattern of regular exercise, others are far away from ideal and are not expecting to fix everything in 12 weeks but are starting to move in the right direction. The emphasis is on overall health and not just focusing on the number on the scales.

Beauty is not a number, we are all beautiful and individual but if getting that number in the healthy zone means that our beauty will be around for our kids for longer then bring in on!

There is $350 prize money at stake. Broken into prizes from $40-$100 so that a few people can be presented with a bonus envelope on the night of our meal out. Already people have said they don't care about the money. They said that if they win they plan on putting the envelope in the centre of the table to share out and buy their friends a drink. Already people feel they are winning because they feel better, their clothes are fitting better, their skin is glowing!

Every day since this challenge began I have done some kind of exercise. I'm exhausted but excited. There is a buzz in work. The kitchen staff stop by the nurses desk for just a bit longer to chat, people smile as they pass on the stairs and make jokes about how many steps they have climbed instead of using the lift, people are talking in the coffee room and encouraging one another.

I hope we last the distance. I hope the camaraderie continues. I hope the next time I see my GP he will be shaking my hand not shaking his head...!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mothers Day 2010

Mothers Day was a day of fun and excitement. Breakfast in bed. Kids fighting for space in bed with us as they handed me their gifts they bought at the school Mothers Day stall. Each one knowing that they had chosen me the very very best thing I could ever have wished for.

I think that Mothers Day is all about the kids giving you their handmade cards and the decorated poems that their teachers have laminated for them but I also think that Mothers and Fathers days are a lovely opportunity to tell your other half that they are doing a great job and that you made a good choice. Mr B spoiled me rotten and I thoroughly enjoyed watching him run around cooking, cleaning and generally running the house for the day!

I know not every family is lucky enough to have both parents under one roof. I'm forever grateful that we are lucky enough to be enjoying this adventure together. I'm not a perfect Mum but to be honest I don't think my kids care. I'm the only Mum they have ever known and so in their eyes I'm the best in the world.

What more could any Mum want!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Tough love.

We struggled this year to decide if we were happy for Gareth to play Rugby. He is 7 and has been playing a "tag" form of the game that minimises impact and injury. This year his team category made some changes and it became full contact. At 7 we were a bit unsure if we wanted to subject him to broken noses and fractured ribs. We held him back from registering for a few weeks but eventually relented and tentatively signed him up. He is loving it.

He trains on a Tuesday evening and Byron brings him and stays to watch while I am at home getting dinner ready to serve up when they come back in the door cold and muddy. This week Rhiannon wanted to go in the car with them and throw a ball around on the sidelines with her Dad. No problem I thought. Imagine my surprise when they returned later that evening grinning and muddy with some BIG news... My wonderful husband who voiced the above concerns about his 7 year old son being disfigured and battered had just signed up our mad middle child to the same team!

And so this weekend we padded and protected two of our three precious kids with skull caps and mouth guards and let them loose on a muddy pitch to chase after an oval ball and be pounded under a scrum pile of similar sized over excited children.

Oh please God let the man who falls in love with her in future years be not put off by crooked noses, dirty knees or cauliflower ears!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

What a difference a day makes...

....24 little hours!

In 24 hours my middle child went from looking like butter-wouldn't-melt-in-her-mouth-cute... don't-mess-with-me-I-play-Rugby-Union-tough!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Walking in Newcastle

We went on a walk last weekend. Byron and myself had just bought new sports shoes in a huge buy-one-get-one-free sports warehouse and we were feeling that post retail therapy buzz (well I was!) The kids had their scooters in the back of the car and so we stopped at the renovated docklands area of Newcastle and tried to keep pace with them as they scooted off ahead of  us along the waterside paths.

It was getting towards dusk and the light was fading. We bought them ice-creams from a small kiosk that was shutting up for the day and enjoyed watching the orange glow reflect off everything as the sun went down.

I think we will have to come here more often at this time of evening. Especially now that I have my broken in my fancy shmancy new running shoes!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The magic watch.

I've been a bit off the radar for the last couple of weeks. Sometimes life just gets busy and something has to give and recently that something has been blogging.

I still day-dream about a magic watch I saw in a film as a child. A watch that was running slightly fast. When the man who held it turned the hands back the ten minutes to correct it everything froze. Time stood still, people paused mid stride crossing busy roads, conversations remained unfinished, even the birds hung in the air. As soon as he put the hands back to their original position everything carried on with no-one aware that anything had happened.

In that magic ability to freeze time what would I do? Get my daughters unruly mop of hair brushed beautifully as we head out to school. Never be late getting anywhere ever again? Have an immaculately tidy and clean house because there would always be enough hours in the day? Catch up on sleep when the alarm clock goes off at 6am? Stop my child from falling over in the playground?  Find the time to exercise, ex-foliate and manicure my chipped finger nails?

I don't have a magic watch. If I had this blog would have been updated daily and you would be none the wiser!