Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Back to school 2013

It's the first day back to school today for Gareth. He seems to be getting so much more grown up. He is looking forward to being a senior this year and the much anticipated school Camp trip. It was so good seeing him happy to return to school this morning and seeing his face light up as he saw his friends again. As they lined up for assembly I watched them busy chatting and laughing and with arms over each others shoulders. I hope this will be a great year for them all.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Wild Weather

The weather this last few weeks has been so extreme. We have had unbelievable heat, particularly on one day where it hit 49.5 C. Then came the rain and the floods this week. Luckily we have not been too badly affected. We just battened down the hatches and let the wind and rain do it's worst while we stayed cuddled up safe inside. The only sign of the house struggling with the wet was the rain water running down the inside brick wall of the garage. Luckily that was all and it never got anywhere inside the house. The TV footage of people loosing their homes and sometimes their lives was more than enough to give us a sense of perspective.

As the rain cleared today we went down to the local park next to the lake to let Gareth and his friend burn off some energy. It was a fabulous day and I stopped at the shops for ice-creams for the kids. We watched the clouds race across the sky and in the distance saw a big dark cloud form. Minutes later it appeared to be racing towards the shore. The kids laughed and pointed and said how it looked like a cloud from a movie. Then the wind picked up and went from a gentle breeze to a mini tornado in about 60 seconds. The water whipped up on the lake and the girls hair flew wildly about their heads. Even the ice-creams couldn't take it and were literally blowing off the sticks!

The kids stood there, laughing and leaning into the wind and letting it take their weight. They whooped and shouted with all their might into the wind only to have their words whipped from their mouths before they could be fully formed. As we felt the first few rain drops hit our faces we turned and ran to the car for shelter. By the time we got the doors open the rain was pelting us and we sat laughing and out of breath as the rain drummed on the windows. It really was fun to see how the young can be so brave and so fearless. I loved the Amelia Barr quote I found for my photo. It really sums up how the kids were today, facing the storm and defying it with joy and abandon. I truly hope that they will learn to continue living their lives like that!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Eat, Fast and Live Longer: Week 2

The second week of my new healthy eating regime and I'm feeling good. The two days of fasting (Mon 21st/Tues 22nd) were much easier and with no headaches this time around. I still felt the urge about 4pm to jump into the fridge and eat everything but I found it was just a matter of being disciplined and drinking lots more liquid.

Last week I spread my calorie intake between three meals (100/100/300 calories)  This week I chose breakfasts that were about 160-170 calories (bigger than the first week) and just had Miso soup at lunchtime (30 calories) and had a 300 calorie dinner. I found that this worked better for me as I was leaving a 12 hour gap between my meals eating at 6.30am + 6.30pm.

According to the research this is the best way to get your body to turn to its own fat stores. The body chooses to get its energy from the food consumed in the previous few hours but if the food intake is reduced then it turns its own fat stores into fuel (yippee!) A by product of this process is ketones which are excreted in the urine. These can be tested for using a urine dip-stick which are available through pharmacies. We got a box of these sticks when Byron had his kidney stones as a way of seeing if the blood in his urine was resolving. It was very satisfying to test during the fast and see the ketones appearing in the evening of the first fast day and continue to be present right through the second fast day.

One of the main aims of intermittent fasting is to reduce levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) which is the growth hormone currently being studied for its involvement in Cancer and Alzheimer's and Dementia type diseases. It is possible to have your IGF-1 levels tested through a simple blood test. In Australia it costs $130 (after you get your Medicare rebates) You would need  a minimum of two blood tests, one at the beginning of the program and at least one a few weeks or months down the track to see if you are reducing your levels. If I had a spare $260 I'd be happy to have these tests done but for now I have to content myself with the cheaper ketone testing, weighing scales and how I feel in myself.

So far I feel that I have challenged my attitude to my "need" for food. I have always believed that I needed to eat small regular snacks or I would get "wobbly" and get headaches etc. The first week reinforced this belief as I did get headaches and wobbles both days. It made me question if this form of lifestyle change suited me and if it could be a long term way of improving my Dementia, Stroke + Cancer risk factors. This second week was much, much easier. The hunger grumbles never got unbearable and were easily dampened down by drinking a glass of water. I had no headaches this week and the more I read about Dr Michael Mosley and the research he has been studying the more it strengthened my resolve to really give it a good go.

As a weight loss diet I can't say that I have had a huge change in the numbers on the weighing scale. Day to day my weight has fluctuated wildly but I have to remember that after the fast days I have significantly less waste product working its way through my intestine (giving very exciting readings on the scales) but over days 3-7 as the amount of waste product returns to normal levels then obviously the scale readings reflect this. Over the 2 weeks I have lost about 1kg but I really have been eating lots on my non-fasting days and I haven't done any exercise. As I settle into the rhythm of this new eating pattern I would like to re-introduce some simple exercise and maybe cut down on the muffins and chocolate and all the late evening nibbles that we find ourselves tucking into in front of the tv on days 3-7!

I want these changes to happen gently and get used to one step at a time. Although I have felt better this week during my fast days I do not think that I would have enough energy to exercise on these days. I think it would be more sensible to spread the exercise over days 3-7. If I want to follow through with my plans to be healthier as I turn 40 in August then I can't just go mad with new eating patterns and a big exercise plan because I know that a couple of months in I will fall over exhausted and return to bad habits.

I really hope that these changes will be sustainable into the long-term future as this is not really just about loosing the wobble on my waistline. This is about trying to learn from cutting edge research on how to massively reduce my chances of developing Dementia, Stroke, Cardiac diseases and Cancer. For anyone reading this who wants to know more I really recommend watching the BBC documentary Horizon: Eat, Fast and Live Longer or reading Dr Michael Mosley's book The Fast Diet.

I will continue to let you know how I get on over the coming weeks, especially as I make more of an effort to start some simple exercise too. The kids go back to school over the coming week which will leave me with no excuses! It's good telling all you lot about my resolutions as I feel I want to be able to have friends to be accountable to! Watch this space...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Australia Day 2013

Happy Australia Day one and all!

I hope wherever you are and whatever you are doing you are happy. 

If you are an Aussie then "G'day mate and cheers" 

If you aren't then use this as an excuse to shove a sausage in a bit of bread, crack open a beer, crank up your central heating and put on a pair of thongs (the footwear not the undies) and pretend for a moment that you are on a hot sandy beach with us celebrating all things Australian!

"It’s not where you live-but how you live. "

Friday, January 25, 2013

Please explain, explained!

I  wrote earlier about passing a weird electricity pole in my area with what I thought were giant moths on it. Many of you guessed that it was some kind of animal or fish skull. One of my readers Anne even suggested I knock on the door to the house to ask. Now I am a shy person around people I don't know so knocking on a strangers door didn't appeal. Knocking on a strangers door who had a liking for hammering skulls on poles really didn't appeal! 

Instead next time we drove past I tried to bribe one of my kids to get out of the car and take a close up photo for me. No success there so I jumped out myself leaving the engine still running for a quick get-away!

I does appear to be a skull and my Aussie friends assure me that it is most likely a flat-head fish. 
So now we know the likely answer I shall ask you... Would you follow Anne's suggestion of knocking on the door for a more detailed explanation?  If so you are very welcome to stop by my house any day you fancy and I'll drop you around myself. (Just no promises I won't drive off in a panic if a mad lunatic answers the door with a hammer in his hand!)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cake Pops.

When I finished the Cup Cake Masterclass a few days ago the lady running it offered us to take home any unused coloured fondant as she would have to bin it because it had been handled. No-one seemed to take her up on the offer but I knew that I would have delighted kids if I brought some home. With no-one else wanting it I went away with a big bag filled to bursting with every colour of fondant under the sun. 

Yesterday we had a houseful of girls who wanted to bake. They rummaged through the recipe books before settling on a cake-pops book my good friend Cathy had sent me from England. When the basic cake pops had been formed and balanced on ice-cream cups out came the fondant! All afternoon they laughed and created and finally ate their colourful masterpieces.

A whole days entertainment from someone else's left overs that were otherwise heading for the bin. Now to go sweep up the hundreds and thousands that are rolling around the kitchen floor...!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Miso soup V Chocolate...

I am practising the art of extreme self control by sipping my miso soup from my favourite cup as the kids make cake pops from chocolate mud cake, smarties, white chocolate and coloured fondant.

I will stay strong.
I will stay strong.
I will stay strong...!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Cup-Cake Masterclass Workshop

I was lucky enough to be invited along to a cup cake decorating class in Sydney this week. It was run by Cake Decorating Solutions. I went with my sister-in-law and her sister and mum. Another friend had originally been booked in too but couldn't make it so I was offered to join them. I wasn't sure what to expect. All I was told was bring an apron 
(which I forgot, ooops!) 

We found the building where the class was taking place and joined about another 15 ladies sitting down either side of a long table. We each had a white box with 6 chocolate cup-cakes ready to be decorated. As the teacher talked us through the steps of each cake she told us lots of basic tips and tricks for using butter-cream icing and fondant. 

She started with a basic "Mr Whippy" which essentially looked like an ice-cream. I would have liked a flake of chocolate to stick in the top! 
Next we used the same fluffy frosting with a different petal nozzle on the piping bag. This allowed us to apply individual petals all around the circle of the cake. Some managed to make  theirs look dainty and rose like. Mine just ended up looking like an oversized floppy chrysanthemum! 
Then we moved on to the fondant icing which I much preferred. At least with this I could squish and mould and start again until I got what I wanted. We used embossing rolling pins to leave pretty patterns on the fondant and could choose any colour to make a present or bow on top.
 Next was the baby face. A simple but fun decoration that would be great for a baby shower. 
Mine was a girl! (Did you guess?!)
 Then came the flower topped cake. I may have gone a bit overboard as I couldn't decide which size flower press to use and combined them all!
 The final decoration was probably my favourite. The ladybird. I loved this one. You really couldn't go wrong with the red and black fondant. I think this would be cute for a toddler birthday party, My sister-in-law seemed to enjoy making this one too and something tells me she may use it for a future party...
 Here are all mine together in their box ready for the 2 hour drive home.
 It was a long way to travel for just one class but it really was worth it. Apart from the fun decorating I also really enjoyed having a chance to spend some time laughing and chatting with these great ladies (without the distraction of lots of little kids running around our feet!)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Please explain...?

As I drive my car around my local area being taxi to my kids and their social lives I have sometimes caught a glimpse of something strange on an electricity pole. Every time I pass it takes me by surprise and I make a mental note to stop and take a photo next time we are driving through. Is it a collection of something natural or man made? Giant Aussie moths? Or maybe some wacky art?

What do you think?

Friday, January 18, 2013

A scorcher...

Many of the blog and Facebook posts I have seen over the last week have talked about snow, snow and more snow. Here on the other side of the world we are in a different temperature extreme. Heat! 

The temperature in New South Wales today has blown all known records. 

This is the current reading mid afternoon in Sydney... 49.5 C (121 F !)

Send snow fast!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Eat, Fast and Live Longer: Week 1

Week 1 and I have chosen Tuesday and Wednesday for my "fast" days. I didn't want to try it on a busy day or a work day as I have no idea how my body will react to a lowered food intake. I know that skipping meals gives me migraines and I wanted to be sure that I can cope with whatever my body throws at me as it finds itself truly experiencing hunger for the first time in many years.

My breakfast was a simple boiled egg (80). Lunch was a banana (100) and tea was a generous fillet of steamed white fish with a good serving of steamed broccoli seasoned with sesame oil and a Thai drizzle of chilli, garlic, lime juice, brown sugar and fish sauce (242). The hardest time of the day was between 4pm and 6pm. This was when my body truly seemed lacking in energy and my head started the familiar throb throb throb in my right temple. I drank and drank and drank tap water, some black tea (blaaagh) and also some miso soup (30). Bed was a welcome relief and I could happily have gone to sleep ahead of the kids!

Talking about the kids. They persuaded me to bring them in to our local town and while there cajoled me into visiting a cake shop. I sat there with my book clenched firmly in hand and watched on as they tucked in to sugary delights. It killed me to watch them offer me a lick of their spoons but I stayed strong and drank my bottle of water dry, squeezing out every last drop and then feigning interest in recipe section at the back of my book as my stomach growled at the injustice of being empty when food was so clearly just a sniff away.

This week is proving challenging...

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Eat, Fast and Live Longer

Now that I have got to the bottom of the second box of Christmas Quality Street can you guess what my primary New Years resolution is going to be this year?

Like many people around the world I am carrying a little more weight than I would like. I'm not very overweight. My BMI is 24 and falls into the green "healthy" range but only just. Another couple of kilos and I would find myself in the yellow "overweight" range. I would ideally like to lose enough weight to see my BMI drop to 21-22.
(Click chart to see it close up)
I feel that as every year goes by it becomes harder and harder to maintain a healthy weight. Instead of accepting this I really want 2013 to be the year that I make some long term changes. Changes that will see me celebrate turning 40 in August in as fit and healthy a body as I can.

I eat fairly healthy meals but have a weakness for chocolate, muffins and all things home baked. I don't exercise as much as I should. I have the equipment but like many other mums who balance running a home, caring for kids and part time work there just never seems to be the time. I find that when all the essential parts of my day are accounted for there is only ever the smallest time window left for extras. For me extras involve writing this blog, trying to make home-made cards, reading, exercise, keeping in touch with family and friends overseas, spending time snuggled on the sofa with Byron and...sleep zzzzzzz.

It was while snuggling on the sofa the other night that I watched an episode of Horizon. It is a BBC documentary series that has been running for many years. Made in the UK it was being shown on the satellite channel BBC Knowledge. This episode was about the UK obesity epidemic. It talked about exercise and what types are best at actually losing weight and boosting health. Many of the findings were a bit outside the box and not what I expected.

The next evening I had a long overdue phonecall with my friend Cathy in the UK. We drifted onto the topic of health and she asked if I had seen any of the recent Horizon episodes. She talked about an episode called Eat, Fast and Live Longer. It radically challenges the concept of healthy eating and suggests that drastically cutting your calorie intake on two days a week to 500 calories then eating normally for the other five days can not just lead to weight loss but can halve your risks of cardiac disease, stroke, cancer and dementia.

You really would need to watch the one hour documentary to make your own mind up. I have done a lot of on-line research and have bought the book The Fast Diet to learn all the science and read the research before I dare start. I'm really not a person for fad diets. I know I need to eat less and exercise more so that my jeans can be buttoned easily. But protection from cancer? Heart disease? Stroke? Dementia? That's a whole different ball game. As a nurse I see tangible examples of the negative impact of these diseases every shift and it scares me.

I'm not scared of turning 40. I don't mind the fine lines that are etching themselves on my face. But I am scared of growing old, of loosing my health. I think that this lifestyle change is worth trying. I know it will be hard but I am looking forward to growing old in a healthy body....and hopefully the bonus of squeezing back into those skinny jeans again!

Have you heard of this? (It's also called the 5:2 diet) What do you think of the claims? And if you have tried it have you any tips or advice for a novice? I'll hopefully let you know how I am getting on as the weeks go by...

Friday, January 11, 2013

Blueberry and Lime muffins.

And this was what we made when we finished our picking at the farm...

Recipe found here

1½ cups self-raising flour, sifted
½ cup brown sugar
¾ cup blueberries
1 egg, lightly beaten
¾ cup milk
90 g butter, melted
1 teaspoon grated lime rind (optional)

1. Mix flour, sugar and blueberries in a bowl. In a separate bowl lightly whisk egg, milk and
butter together.
2. Pour the liquid ingredients into the flour and stir with a spoon until ingredients are just
combined, do not over mix.
3. Spray muffin pans with cooking spray and fill muffin pans with mixture, level with the
4. Bake at 200°C for 15 minutes, until muffins spring back when lightly touched.
5. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack.

Recipe notes
Don't over mix the muffins or the may become tough and rubbery. Best eaten same day made
but will store in an air tight container for a couple of days

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Feeling Blue?

It must be time to go to the Blueberry farm!

This local pick-your-own-berries farm has become an annual trip each January as we have gone to pick our own fruit in...




and 2009. (The year it rained...!)

The owners did a huge prune back of the bushes in 2010 and had no crop. The 2011 crop was small and was reserved for local restaurants and finally now in 2012/2013 there is a bumper crop available to the public once more. It was an overcast day in the high twenties. A welcome relief after the 43 degree day yesterday.

We picked just under 2kgs of fresh juicy berries and came home ready to get stuck into some blueberry muffin baking. The results of which will be on a future post if I can photograph them before they get scoffed!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

A different perspective.

Today was a lovely day spent in the company of relatively new friends. 18 months ago we knew two other local families to smile to but due to the different ages of our kids we had never really spent much time socially together. Then something magical happened to tie us all together with a thread that I hope will never be broken.

There was an exchange of phone numbers with a heavily pregnant lady after church one Saturday. A phone call late one night for help. A friendship that went from polite to real as each contraction strengthened. A baby born in an ambulance. A beautiful baby girl who was baptised with two Godmothers. And that is how we three women became friends and our three families have become intertwined.

Today we got together in one home. There was swimming in the pool, a delicious BBQ and a glass of white wine that went down ever so easily. There was watching nine kids from toddler to teenager play together. Finding the balance between letting them work things out and kissing sore bits when they fell off the swing.

Then there was the fun of seeing things from a different perspective. Taking photos while flat on my back.
Persuading my friend to look at the trees from the grass. There was giggling as the kids asked what the mummies were doing?!
And giggles myself just now as I refuse to rotate this photo to the expected "normal" and leave it at its different perspective. Because every now and then life gets turned upside down. And it is from these times that good things grow.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Cricket V's Swimming

Byron loves cricket. Come to think about it he loves to watch anything that vaguely falls under the title of sport, preferably in the company of other like minded blokes and while holding a cold beer! And so on a boys night out back in December someone mentioned a trip to Sydney in the New Year. Today was the day. Five of them set out bright and early and by 10 o'clock they were sitting happily beer in hand ready for 8 hours of watching men run around in ridiculous heat. Their idea of perfect!

At one point they appeared on TV as the cameras zoomed in on them for a brief 10 seconds of fame. Yup. This was as good as it gets!
I love friends. Come to think of it I love doing anything that vaguely falls under the title of a girly get together in the company of other like minded woman while holding a cold iced-coffee! And so as the men planned an escape to Sydney us wives conspired to get together too. Today was the day. Five of us girls gathered at my house and by 11o'clock we were sitting happily beside the pool, iced coffees in hand ready for 8 hours of watching our kids run around and swim in dappled shade. Our idea of perfect!

There were no TV cameras zooming in on us for a brief 10 seconds of fame but there was a mad Irish woman with a new camera clicking away having a ball. 
By the time the men returned home dark had descended, children were all back in their own homes showered and put to bed, the washing machine was humming as it washed swimmers and towels, the kitchen was cleared away and all that was left were some tiny melon juice footprints on the kitchen tiles. I'm not quite ready to wipe them away yet. I can see this being an annual event. But never again will the footprints be quite so tiny or so cute...

Friday, January 04, 2013

"There was never a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep"

Sian and myself babysat my brothers three kids tonight while he was at a wedding. They were all staying with Grandma who lives near us so we opted to look after them there where beds, cots and all the nappy changing paraphernalia were close to hand. Byron joined us there on his way home from work and we were all hands on deck playing, feeding, bathing and putting to bed these three little live-wires!

Off to bed...
I'm pretending to be asleep!
And me too!
It amazes me how much changes in a few years. I am so used to my three kids being big enough to set the table, eat without cajoling, get showered and into nightclothes independently. It's a whole different world from running after wriggly toddlers, persuading them to eat "just one more bite" bathing them without drenching the bathroom ceiling to floor and reading bedtime story after bedtime story! 

My kids were once 4yrs, 2yrs and newborn and I just do not know how I managed to juggle feeding and bathing them on my own while Byron was in work. I guess it's something you just do but I am so grateful to be at the current point in my life with a 14, 12 and 10 year old!

It was incredibly fun but absolutely exhausting. We stood outside afterwards and congratulated ourselves on the success of a quiet (if completely trashed) house. Thank you Sian for catching the moment on my phone!

Thursday, January 03, 2013

New Camera!

I have loved photography for many years. My point and shoot camera has been wonderful but I have secretly had lens envy when I see the great photos taken by friends with their SLR cameras. This Christmas Byron treated me to a beautiful new Canon SLR and I am in heaven! Nervous heaven I should say as I am petrified to get the camera out of the box in case I damage it or don't do it justice.

As the kids splashed in the pool and Byron sat relaxing and supervising I tiptoed out into the recently watered backyard. I took a few photos and tried to remember what the different settings were for. What I saw when I got back indoors were a whole heap of blurry images and the occasional beauty! Byron of course asked if I had read the manual? Manual? What manual? Manuals are for wimps. Well I suppose it wouldn't do any harm to flick through it.

I'm really looking forward to learning and experiencing a different level of photos over 2013...

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Fun is...

...5 cousins and Uncle Joe in the swimming pool. (While Aunty Rhonda and Gina look on from the dry comfort of the seats!)

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Hello 2013!