Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Music Review - Adrian Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds. The Corner Hotel.

I had always wanted to see live music, but never got out to do it. After le divorce, I made it one of my goals to do that. My dear friend Y (a prime target as she is single and also very agreeable) was dragged along with me. I took her to see Daniel Merriweather (very good but very drunk on stage), and also made her come to the Queenscliff Music Festival last year, where we had a ball.

The Fella is music-mad, and has a particular soft-spot for punk rock. Not American Punk, British Punk, just to clarify. He books gigs left right and centre, and I am mostly pleased to be his handbag. Many of the bands I have never even heard of. He gets me to look at their stuff on youtube to decide whether I want to go. I am quite impulsive when it comes to a lot of things, and if I like the video clip or song I will go along.

On Good Friday evening, I went and saw the Lumineers at the Corner Hotel with him. I am a new fan. These lot were a bit like Mumford and Sons, but a bit more American, down-home, thigh slappin' fun.

Last week, I went and saw the Temper Trap, at Festival Hall. I had picked this one as I quite like the temper trap. I must say, it was good. Ok. It sounded precisely like it did on the radio or on itunes, but mixed with the sound of Gen-Ys yapping loudly during the songs. There was no ad libbing, no mashing up, there were no surprises or encores. They played my favourite songs "Trembling Hands" and "Sweet Disposition" so I went home relatively happy.

So I've decided that I like the smaller venues like the Northcote Social Club or the Corner, with obscure bands - more magic happens there. I have no expectations and am often pleasantly surprised. I can bop along. I also have to have a go-to collection of flat and comfy yet stylish shoes that I can stand and bop around in.

Soooo....getting to the point. This band last night...

Some of you might remember Adrian Edmondson as Vyvyan from the Young Ones (so Google Tells me, I am a bit young for it)

He now looks like this:

I thought he looked a bit like an older version of Moby, one who has eaten meat and drank copious amounts of Alcohol (ie had far more fun).

He is actually a comedian as well, and on stage between songs, he cracked some great funnies. Peppered with the F word. My favourite kind of funnies.

The music: Punk rock songs done in Celtic Style, a la Riverdance or The Corrs.

Punk Rock is not really my thing but my gawd I love me some Celtic Music. I am NOT ASHAMED to say that I was a fan of Riverdance music, and the Corrs. I find the fiddle and the horns and the mandolin so uplifting that I just want to do that fairy jumpy dance that the Riverdance people do. FYI I can't do that dance, try as I might.

They played some Punk Songs - Rise by Public Image Limited (Johnny Rotten et al), a song by the Talking Heads, and they played London Calling by the Clash. I love that last song, as it reminds me of my trips to that great city.

It was great fun. I loved watching the fella get into it and shake his (very cute) bottom.

The fellas on the horn (Troy Donockley) and the fiddle (Andy Dinan) were amazing, apparently some of the best folk musicians in the UK. The fiddler stood around looking a bit lost and dopey when it was not his turn to play, but he amped it up big time when it was. Amazeballs.

Ade himself plays a very mean mandolin (or as he refers to it "the thrash mandolin").

All in all, great fun - loved it.

Next gig is the Melbourne Ska Orchestra. Will post on that soon.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Sydney Sojourn.

Hello and happy Sunday night/ whatever day you are reading this.

I whisked my fella up to Sydney for a weekend! Never let it be said that I am not romantic! If I want to be whisked away someplace nice, then I need to do some whisking! Quid pro quo etc.

The aim of the game was to see the Archibald Prize exhibition, the Bald Archies, see some sights and eat some food and maybe spend some money. I like to see the Archibald Prize Exhibition each year. I like art but have a particular soft spot for portraiture.

Sydney put on some glorious weather for us. Thankyou, El Nino or La Nina or global warming or whatever. It was grand.

Friday was a completely FULL ON day for me. It was the third day that week that I had to be in front of a camera (long story but being in front of a camera is a new thing for me). I had had very little time to sit down or eat or toilet or do any of those things. So I was glad when I got to down tools and go home and pack. Though the moment I relaxed I got a terrible headache. Luckily, the fella has club lounge membership, so I got to avail myself of the food and soothing drinks they had there....they had those thick yummy barbecue rice crackers there, plus liquorice allsorts, and my moderation muscle gets very weak with a bit of hunger, fatigue and alcohol on board. The plane ride was uneventful, apart from the presence of these new iPad entertainment thingies that Qantas are using. We had dinner on the plane, but on arrival in Sydney we decided that we needed a wander and a post-dinner-dinner.

We wound up at a restaurant called Wildfire, which sits in the overseas passenger terminal, between the Rocks and Circular Quay. The restaurant had a lovely celebratory air about it, with panoramic windows, big chandelier thingies and mood lighting. Plus a perfect view of the opera house.
I started out with a glass of Moet and some oysters - I had a one of each of the pacific oysters, the rock oysters and the angasi oysters (who knew there were so many breeds?) drizzled with lemon and a shallot vinaigrette (the only way oysters should be consumed IMHO). Plus there were chips cooked in duck fat. What is not to love?

The kicker, though, was the dessert!

We ordered banoffee pie. I was expecting a biscuit base, toffee, sliced bananas, whipped cream and a chocolate drizzle. This photo was what we received

This would've won a masterchef professionals creation/remix test. The "banana" was thin toffee, filled with banana and whipped cream. Beneath it was salted caramel and chocolate biscuit crumbs. The icecream was chocolate flavoured. It was fun and surprising.

The next morning, after the over-indulgences of the night before, we decided a long walk was in order, hence we hoofed it to Surry Hills to try and get to the famous Bourke St Bakery. We worked up an appetite on our walk, so we saw the queue snaking around the corner at the bakery, and promptly went across the road for brekky at a place called the Bookstore cafe. Not bad but not brilliant.

Sustained by our brekky, we trundled down Crown St, which had lots of great shops, my favourite of which was The Cook, His Wife and Her Shoes. They sold Chie Mihara shoes, which are hard to get in Australia. Sadly the price point is a bit high for me at the moment, so I had to be content with looking and swooning.

We made the trip by foot to the Art Gallery of NSW, in the Domain. We checked out the exhibition of the Archibald Prize finalists. Some of my favourites were

  • The pic of Asher Keddie by Vincent Fantauzzo. Incidentally, those two are in a relationship and the painting was called "Love Face". Also, I have a major girl crush on Asher Keddie, which will come out in full force when Offspring finally returns. Anywho, Vincent is a true master - you can see every strand of her blonde hair, with tufts floating free from her ponytail in an errant breeze. You can see her shirt is made of brushed cotton. You can see the luminescence of her turquoise eyes. You could feel the love there.
  • A painting of Dr. Catherine Hamblin (Australian Obstetrician, worked in Ethiopia, treated obstetric fistula). The painter captured her beautifully - she looked compassionate, tired and tough all at the same time, and exuded gravitas. Her hands were masterful - I imagined all the breech deliveries she had yanked out in her years.
  • A self-portrait of an artist who had suffered from a retinal detachment. You can tell it was a portrait, but it was very distorted. I was struck by how brave it was to come and do a painting when his eyesight had suffered a devastating insult.
  • The winner, painted by the quirky and distinctive Del Kathryn Barton, of Hugo Weaving (who looks very quirky and distinctive) with a skinny ugly cat.
We chilled out in the afternoon, watched a movie (Silver Linings Playbook - great performances) and then frocked up to go out to Cafe Sydney. More oysters and champagne were consumed. Otherwise the food was good, not revolutionary, but the kicker was the view, see:
FYI I wanted to go to Aria but it was booked out.

Again we went to bed approximately 7/4 full.

Today, we spent the day with friends of the fella, in Leichhardt. His friend, the husband, makes THE BEST pancakes, which were consumed with maple syrup, bacon and strong coffee.

After that, we all made a trip to the Bald Archies (the satire of the Archibald prize). Gina Rinehart, Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan and Alan Jones were big targets. Well worth a trip, the artworks certainly catched the zeitgeist better than those in the Archibald.

We then went for a wander about Watsons Bay, stunning weather, stunning views set amongst Australia's most expensive real estate. We went on the coastal cliff walk. There were lots of signs for Lifeline, saying "There is hope, call us".  Similar signs were on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I wondered how many suicides such signs would stop, or whether anyone would be on the other end of the phone if somebody called lifeline. I tried not to get too bogged down in that, and concentrated on the magnificent views, and here is my iPhone interpretation:

I am now very reluctantly heading back to apply nose to grindstone tomorrow.....

Wherever you are, or plan to go, have a great week. Even if you are familiar with your town, go off the beaten track a bit. You may be surprised at what you find.

A brief addendum to the last post.

On making mistakes.

In work, and in life.

I used to absolutely freak out if I had made a mistake, or thought I had (even though it was fairly minimal). I would even fear phone messages, thinking that I was going to get a telling-off for something I had or hadn't done.

I would feel sick on the rare occasions bosses got cross with me.

No bloody wonder I wanted to hide underneath desks at work.

I would expect perfection of myself, no matter how under the pump I was.

Then I went through a rough period, about the time that my marriage broke down. I was pretty sad and probably not over the bout of depression I had just had. I was relying on sleeping pills for regular sleep, and these made me pretty groggy of a morning.

The cracks started to show - I had trouble getting out of bed. I was regularly late. Sometimes I would forget I had appointments in the morning. I couldn't concentrate and some of my work was not great. People got cross with me. Even those who were understanding, I could still tell they were disappointed.

As mortifying as it all was, and as far from my best as I knew it was, I learned a few things from it.

1. People do understand, if you explain what is going on. They try to, anyway.
2. It really is not the end of the world. The world will turn and people will continue to want their piece of you.
3. I am fallible and need to take care of myself under stress, so that I can perform properly.
4. I do 100 things per day, if I focus too much on the 1 thing I got wrong rather than the 99 things I did fine, I am going to go loopy.

Fall down 7 times, get up 8. That's all you can do, really.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

How I deal with a s**tty day.

Yesterday was a bastard.

I am in a caring profession where I have to be attentive and kind despite anything I might be feeling myself, and in circumstances which are sometimes under-resourced and often less than ideal. Probably good preparation for being a mum!

It has taken me most of the ten years I have been working in my profession to be able to deal with a bad day effectively. And when I say effectively I don't mean striding away like superwoman with all problems fixed. Ohhh no. I just mean reasonably happy with the job I did and ideally not have had an episode crying in the loos.

My old way included the any or all of the following:
  1. Trying to please everybody
  2. Trying to get everybody to like me
  3. Trying to get every little thing done and fix every problem.
  4. Making a martyr of myself (ie working all hours, not taking breaks)
  5. Getting down on myself for a mistake
  6. Not patting myself on the back for a job well done
  7. Taking it personally when things out of my control occurred
  8. Not having any effective way of de-stressing, other than stuffing my face with junk food, or having a few wines to take the edge off.
Then ending up crying in the loos, having to sit there till the redness went from my eyes. I could not be effective then.

In the beginning I used to only have one bad day at a time. Later on, I had strings of bad days. Then not long after that, I could no longer face getting out of bed and wanting to hide underneath desks at work. It was a bit more complicated in causation than a few bad days at work, but you see what I am getting at here.

So here is what I have learned, with the help of some hindsight and tens of thousands of dollars worth of therapy.

1. Acknowledge that you are having a bad day.

This is the first and most important thing. When you can feel the rage build up, when all little things have gone wrong, it is important to say "ZOMG I am up shit creek without a paddle" or some such. Only when we diagnose the problem can we manage it and stop things from escalating / your head exploding. I believe it is called "mindfulness".

2. Let others know

Nobody is a mind reader. Everybody has their own job to do. If somebody asks you what is wrong, be honest. Many will go out of their way to help you and make it easier. Some even appreciate you even more when you show a side that is human.

3. Be still for a moment.

I have worked in life or death situations. Some things are absolutely time critical - in this case, a rush of adrenaline will get you through the urgent episode.

But when you think about it, the vast majority of things can wait. Yes it might make people irritable but so be it. You have had to wait for things too.

Take a deep breath. Have a cuppa. Take a bit of stock of what actually must get done today, and what can wait until circumstances are a little better. Make a list of what you need to do. Lists always make me feel virtuous.

If required, call a friend. I called the fella yesterday. I am sure I made very little sense to him when I said "I need a nap and a pair of new shoes". It only takes 30 seconds.

4. Say no, and don't feel bad about it.

Us women are very bad at it. It is one of the best things I have ever learned. People will get over it, they will still need you!

5. Delegate

I have people ringing me with problems a lot in my line of work, and most of the time I try to help them. Sometimes I can't. I just say "look, I am very sorry, I would love to be able to help you but unfortunately......... why don't you.............., get back to me if you still have a problem, and thankyou so much for sorting this out, I appreciate it". Luckily most of the time they sort it out. In this, you have to not mind so much that they might do it a different way to how you do it. That's the thing with delegation.

6. Ask for help, and thank people for helping you

Yesterday, I got precious little help from anybody. Yet one of my colleagues helped me out when she did not have to. I sent her a text message later "Thanks for your help today, I really appreciate it and you saved my arse". Everyone feels good after that, we all like to help and we all like to feel appreciated. It's a win-win

7. Don't be a martyr.

When you are under the pump, things like small breaks and lunch and getting away on time are even more important. Think of it as putting premium fuel in a high-performance V8 car (I love car analogies). I find I don't work as effectively if I have not had a break. Often I get my best ideas away from my desk, while eating lunch. It just helps clear my head. And my effectiveness sharply decreases after about 5:30pm, so I just go home. If I feel so inclined I can do some work after dinner. Sometimes I get a second wind.

8. You are not indispensable, except to your loved ones.

Don't shut yourself off just because you are having a busy time, or a bad day. In fact, your loved ones have a great way of bringing you down to earth, of giving you perspective and giving you happiness. One thing I don't get about people who complain bitterly about their work is that they often spend a lot of time there, either in person or in thought. It's a sick relationship, and we all know or perhaps live (or have lived) with people like that.

Go home! Pay attention to those around you! Give them a cuddle and tell them how glad you are to see them. Certainly don't take it out on them, or avoid them. At the end of the day, they are the most important thing. Nobody lies on their death bed wishing they had worked more.

9. Actively de-stress.

And be mindful of this also. It can be something that can be nice for everybody. Go to the park. Forget the washing and watch a funny DVD with your loved ones. Do some procrastibaking or therapeutic cooking and get your family onto it. Look up some funny memes on the computer. Share them - everybody loves a laugh. Have a list of little things you can do when you feel stressed; often it is hard to think up things in the heat of the moment. Eating nice food may be comforting, but be mindful of what you are doing.

And finally....

A bad day or a busy time is normal. A whole lot of them is not. If you are cranky and stressed out more than you feel relaxed and happy, this requires some examination. Is it your work? Home? Do external things need to be negotiated? Or could things be wearing you down? Depression can occur insidiously and often manifests as a few too many bad days back to back. Do not be ashamed; get help, perhaps of the professional variety. Get onto it before it gets onto you.

Now, what was I saying about memes....


Tuesday, 23 April 2013

A Beginner's Guide to Running.

This post is inspired by a lovely blogger Melissa, from sugercoatit.com
She was asking about breathing while running.

I have been running intermittently for the last 5 years, and ran the London Marathon last year which was the best thing I have done till now (and I have done some cool things).
I took up running because it is something that I will never, ever be the best at, to teach me to not compare myself to anybody else. And to lose weight. Well, 5 years  and a few injuries later, I still weigh the same, but I have a deep love of running, and a reasonably good working knowledge of it. I have learned by talking to fellow runners, sports medicine professionals and listening to my body.

All of the plugs I give here are my own personal recommendation and I received no money or perks whatsoever. I am not important enough for perks. Yet.

This is general information and what worked for me. You may find something different works for you. That is fine, different strokes for different folks.

So, you have decided to run (I do a little wiggle and twirl). Go. You. That's awesome!

Starting off:

Talk to your doctor/physio. That is a no-brainer disclaimer. Especially if you have any history of breathing issues or heart issues. Asthma is a common thing and can be bought out by running. Any old injuries, like dodgy knees, bad backs, flat feet or dicky ankles, go and get them seen to by a physio, podiatrist or a sports doctor. They might teach you some exercises. Do them.


Shoes, socks and bra, people. These are the things you must not skimp on - skimp at your peril.

Shoes: The right pair of shoes for you is essential for injury avoidance. There is much talk about minimalistic shoes, like five fingers or Nike Free, but leave them for when you are a bit stronger. Do not go with fads or Brands. Lots of runners wear Asics and people plug them, but they are not for everybody. I wear and swear by Mizuno Wave Nirvana, am now on my 3rd pair, bought pairs no. 2 and 3 on the internet at a significant discount. Running shoes do not need to be broken in, if they are not immediately comfortable do not buy them. Unfortunately running shoes are expensive in Australia. Deal with it - you cannot get a proper fitting over the internet. If you find a good pair of shoes, you can buy the same model over the internet a bit cheaper.
Where to buy: Stay away from Rebel Sport. Athletes foot is OKAYYYY.... A specialist running store staffed by podiatrists is far better. Some of them watch and video you running on a treadmill and it is very interesting to watch - some foot issues are only apparent in motion. I can recommend Shoe Logic, near the Melbourne City Baths, for the Melbournites.

Socks: These are really important as blisters are a real pain.Again you will have to try a few and see what you like. Go for synthetic, seamless and with left and right socks for perfect fit. Anything dri-fit or coolmax is good. I like Skyrun socks, and I have a few Thorlo brand. You can stock up on the internet once you find a good pair for you.

Bras: I confess to not knowing a great deal about bras, but little makes me cringe more than a pair of boobs flapping about on a lady (or man) runner, and it is just as common in average boobed girls as big boobed girls. I am a B/C cup, so I go for Lululemon Ta Ta tamer. The bigger lasses go for Enell which incidentally is Oprah's favourite brand. Ask around. Again specialty running shops are the go.

Apparel: Can be expensive. Go for sales or factory outlets, a lot of sports shops do brands at a good discount. Kmart actually does quite a good line in sports gear at a much better price and I always wear my kmart gear. Look for sweat wicking polyester, with flat seams. Chafing is nobody's friend. Avoidance of blistering and chafing is another post entirely.

When to run:

Short answer: any time you can! Whenever you feel like it! By preference I like a morning run, as I have got it over with and can feel virtuous during the day. Some think that running before food is better for fat burning, that may be true but the difference is probably minimal. Just run when you can.

Where to run:

I recommend running at the park rather than on streets - usually they have gravel/sandy paths which are a bit easier on the joints. There is also less traffic and maybe some hot people to perve on and often drinking taps. For safety, go where there are people around and it is well lit at night. Safety first, people. Princes Park in Parkville is my homeground.
There is also the old treadmill vs outside argument. It is reasonable to start on the tready, but you will never look back once you get outside. It will feel weird and jiggly at first, as it is harder, but the freedom you will feel is amazing.
With whom? Best to start by yourself - it is something you have to do at your own pace. It helps to look inward, to check in on all the sensations in your body, and get used to them. Run with music (but be safe) but sometimes the sound of your breath, feet and the birds in the trees can be amazing.

The nitty gritty.
  • A lot of people get demoralised when they first start running. They find it hard. The main reason why: they start out too fast. They try and keep up with the other people on the track. 
  • My tip is when starting out, run as slow as you can. That's right. Slow. You might find that you can do a couple of minutes. There you go! You can run for 2 minutes!Generally endurance should come before speed, trying to get faster is something you should really only attempt once you can run for more than about 20 minutes continually. It will come. Trust me.
  • The other thing is to run-walk. Warm up with a walk for 10 minutes. Try jogging for 1 minute, then walking for 2, and do that 4 or 5 times. Then gradually increase the jog component. Take a watch with you to time. 
  • A lot of folks do Couch to 5km. This is good but a few people find it a bit hard to focus. My mate Shauna Reid and her run coach pal Julia Jones run an online running course. All people start and finish together. It costs money but it is not much and is money well spent. You are less likely to shirk if you have paid a little.


Breathing is a natural thing that most of us give little thought to most of the time. Running or any fast movement works the muscles, increasing the body's demand for oxygen. This increases drive to breathe. An increased drive to breathe can make you anxious and bad anxiety can increase drive to breathe. It is entirely normal to feel breathless and breathe more quickly when running, and this improves as you get fitter. Do not even try to talk at the beginning, you have too much to focus on. When I try and up my speed, I get a bit anxious, but am familiar with it. You do not need to "manage" it by controlling your breathing, or breathing every x steps, you just need to go with it and breathe as you need. Your breathing will find rhythm with your foot fall. This is very meditative but do not expect this to come straight away. When running, just push till you feel that mild to moderate breathless feeling, try and stick with it for a little while, 30 seconds or as long as you can, then go back to a walk. Managing discomfort and new sensations is part and parcel of running. Do not run till you are really breathless or feeling sick. Plenty of time for that later.


You will see many different types of running forms. You will see the tall blonde who bounds gracefully. You will see the old shuffler. You will hear the clomp of the footy boys. You will see the duck-waddlers (my brother used to call me ducky, after he saw me run). A lot of people get hung up on form, and try and change yours. I had a run coach who made me take bigger steps which just ended up hurting my feet. Once you have started out and are running a little bit, you can go out with a run coach, who can give you pointers, but a lot of experienced coaches don't give much mind to run form. Case in point is Paula Radcliffe, who holds the female world record for the marathon, whose running form can only be described as bizarre. Check it out on youtube.

A few pointers though - Keep your stride shortish, you can increase your speed by increasing your turnover later. Focus your energy forward rather than in the up and down bounce. Try and land on your midfoot or on the ball of your foot rather than your heel. Arms relaxed and bent by your side. But most importantly just run and don't worry too much about this - it will come.

How to train

At the start, I would recommend running 2 non-consecutive days per week, 3 max. Running is quite a big stress on the body, and it takes time for the body to adjust. You will feel sore after a run - relish it (nothing like a good sore) and rest up. Get into the pool! I would thoroughly recommend some non-impact cross training, like the bike or elliptical. Do some spurts to get some extra conditioning in.

A lot of running injuries come from weakness about the smaller muscles around the hips and butt. A strong core is essential and will protect your back. Strong arms help get you around. I really recommend pilates as a good complement to running.


John "The Penguin" said "The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start"

Damn right it takes a lot of courage to start. Perhaps, like me, you were the last picked in teams at school and that traumatised you. Perhaps you carry a bit of extra weight. Perhaps you have a big inner-bully. Perhaps you are taking up running to conquer demons. Maybe it's something else. I get it. 

The best thing you can do is give yourself a big pat on the back. For starting. For trying something that is hard. For every time you got out there even when you didn't feel like it (always get out the door - that is the hardest hurdle). Forgive yourself the times you skipped or weren't as sprightly as you wanted to be. Congratulate yourself on the small wins. 

A short word on nutrition.

This is really a post or book in and of itself.
There are a lot of people out there who take up running to lose weight. This may or may not be you. Indeed, it is one of the heavier calorie burners.

HOWEVER, most people overestimate the importance of exercise in weight loss, and quite a few people overestimate how many calories their running actually burns, and overeat to compensate. As  a rule, 90% of weight loss is what goes in the cake-hole. The whole approximate calories in vs calories out rule remains.

As a ballpark figure, most women need about 2000 calories per day to maintain their weight - this depends on height, weight and age. 10 minutes of light jogging will burn approximately 100 calories, which is about equivalent to 1 freddo frog. I love freddo frogs. Could somebody fetch me one now?
Seriously though, you can see how it is easy to overshoot, especially in the beginning when you are not up to much distance. Have your treats, by all means, but work them into a routine and know that your running routine may very well not cancel them out.

What is very important is that your nutrition is adequate, especially in terms of protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. If you want to tackle weight issues, I would strongly recommend getting some personalised advice from an accredited dietitian.

What next?

You can run 10 or 15 minutes? Congratulations! You rock. Here are some things you can do:
1. Join a running group - there are many run groups in most cities, they may even cater to absolute beginners.
2. Enter a fun run. What's the difference between a jogger and a runner? The race number. Seriously, you will never look back. So what if you are at the back of the pack? More supporters at the finish line. The Sri Chinmoy runs are particularly friendly for newcomers - check out http://au.srichinmoyraces.org/. They do a pancake breakfast after. Even volunteer as a race marshall if you are not sure, you will likely be chomping at the bit to do the next one.
3. Who knows? A triathlon? Marathon? A trail or adventure run? Just don't give up. And try not to get injured.
4. Buy a running book or magazine...check out runners world, look around your local bookshop. Go 

Monday, 22 April 2013

A treatise to porridge.

As it gets cold, we crave warmth, and comfort. Red wine. Rich stews. Roasts, Pasta. Stodge. It gets harder to get out of bed. Harder to get out and exercise. Harder to be healthy, really.

One cold weather healthy habit is easy, though. Porridge.

Some people find porridge a bit of a poor-man's food, perhaps having been forced to eat it as a child. I don't remember ever eating porridge (or being cooked) porridge as a child. I would like to cook it for my future offspring, God willing/Inshallah.

Porridge (or oatmeal to the Yanks) is indeed like a big warm hug from grandma, as the ad stated, however in its naked state, it is rather bland. And covering it in brown sugar, as tempting as it is, sort of defeats the purpose. A little brown sugar, though, is a wonderful and indeed mandatory thing.

Here is how I tart up a bowl of porridge.

Hopefully, I get prepared the night before. I pop 1/2 a cup of oats in a bowl. (NOT the instant kind. No need to mess with perfection. And they cook quite quickly in the microwave). I then add some cinammon and nutmeg, then stir in 3/4 cup of water. Sometimes I slip a little vanilla essence in the water, if I am feeling cheeky.

That morning, I cook the porridge in the microwave for 1 minute on high, then stir, then repeat, then stir, then repeat. Important to cover with a microwave food sheild, as porridge explosions may occur (helps to watch through the glass for impending explosions later in the cooking process).

I add some accoutrements, in addition to a little brown sugar. Or honey. Or golden syrup
  • Grated granny smith apple (could be added before cooking), sultanas
  • banana and a dab of almond butter
  • figs and almond flakes (my favourite with figs being in season)
  • I have been known to add some good quality chocolate chips to porridge. Only once or twice though.
A nice dab of full fat greek yoghurt adds to the protein content.

It keeps little old hungry me good till lunch. More than that, though, it makes me feel pampered, which is a nice feeling to take through the day with me.

Poor man's food, I think not.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

The weekend in review. Setting the intentions for the week ahead.

Sunday evening can be a bit of an anxious time, a bit of a downer, especially if the week ahead is big and scary and busy. I actually have a lot of stuff on this week (including twice I have to look nice to get my photo taken - oh the stress!)

It is a good time to think about all the nice things I did on the weekend. I never used to enjoy my weekends, used to see them as a big chasm of nothing. During the time which I shall refer to as my *special single time*, I learned to fill my weekends with fun things. I was too scared to sit at home, for fear of what might enter my mind. Finally I got to a point where I was happy to be busy but happy to just chill in my own company. Now I like a bit of both. This weekend was a nice mixture.

Friday night I had nothing planned, and the fella was at a work function, so I got down and dirty with my washing. I have one of those old top loader washing machines, 10 years old, and it cracks the sads every time I do sheets and towels in there. It makes loud thumpy noises then stops, so I have to stand by it. But I digress.

Saturday, we started slow. The fella has bought a stand-up paddleboard, and we have used it before and taken turns. He is a bit past sharing his toys, so, bless his cotton socks, he bought a second hand one that I could use. Recently I bought a wetsuit, what with the water getting colder and all. It was a cheapy but does the job.

There was a time when I would never have had the confidence to strut about in a wetsuit, or a bathing suit, but this year has seen me wear an bikini and don said rubber suit. Like a boss.

St Kilda Beach, making a bold fashion statement. The steed is on the right of the picture.
Though the water was flat (and therefore good), the wind was very strong, and it was hard to paddle anywhere. Even harder to stand up, hence I kneeled. It is hard to kneel and paddle and go in the direction you want. The photos are indicative but neither show the exertion on my face nor reveal the cuss words I said. Behold.

I ended up going out near the boats, but paddling into the wind, my little girly arms soon became exhausted and I ended up on all fours on the board, thinking that I would like a nice cuppa tea and a lie down. I paddled back to shore and had a breather. I hit shore downwind of where I had left my stuff. We got back in the water after my breather to paddle back upwind, but ended downwind further.

Practice makes perfect, anyway.

That night, we had a birthday party to go to, and had to wear a hat. We could have gone with a running cap or a fedora, but decided to get a bit creative and make our own.

Blogger Smaggle encouraged us to do something that would have delighted us as a child in this post, and I used to love me a bit of crafting - Mum would have us amused for hours with bits of material, paper, glue and glitter, though budgets were tight and resources were sometimes limited. It was great to be able to have carte blanche for paper and sparkly things at the newsagent, on my discretionary income!

I went for a tiara ensemble, and the fella had a hankering after a fez. I was instrumental to the architecture of both, showing my childhood facility with cardboard and scissors. The fella got a bit cranky trying to put his hat together, and putting on the sequins to spell kia ora (he is kiwi, he is doing the moroccan/kiwi fusion thing). I calmly took over and made the had sufficiently fez-like. See?

Tassel was fashioned from magazine paper and sticky tape, by me.
You will be glad to know we won a prize of a box of Lindt chocolates for our efforts.

Today's outing consisted of visiting a friend with her newborn girl, a first child. Such a relaxed little bubba, who was happy to cuddle with the visitors. Mum was doing very well, bless her. Rather than flowers, I bought her some fancy ready meals from a posh foodstore; meals that could be eaten using one hand. I learned the importance of this on a blog somewhere. The couple appreciated it.

Now onto things I want to achieve this week. I am all for small, achievable goals. Here they are

  • Do my best at running training, don't use the presence of a fill-in coach as an excuse to slack off
  • Be prepared - pack lunch, get out breakfast things, arrange outfit the night before. It makes me feel very virtuous. 
  • Watch a movie off fetch-tv; I have had this for a few months and only watched one film. I should put it to good use.
  • Eat vegies at lunch and dinner each day, as many as I can get in. To this end, baby spinach leaves have been bought. The good, pre-washed ones.
  • Keep the weeknight alcohol minimal. And the weekend alcohol reasonable.
  • Go for a ride or long run on Anzac day.
  • Stay calm in all the busy-ness
What are your goals for the week? Did you enjoy your weekend?

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Things I like Thursday.

Well Hello!

It has been a little while - bit of a busy week. It is about to get even busier.
I have 2 photo shoots scheduled next week! Of little old moi! Exciting!

I used to have a lot more "stuff" - on paper. Husband. House in trendy suburb (actually mortgage in trendy suburb). Good money.

I still have a lot, and what's more, I appreciate it. I feel no more need to accumulate "stuff" and focus much more on "feelings" and "experiences".

And the little things. Things that I now stop and take notice of.

Even more important with some of the horrible things that have been happening in the world. We have to be content in the here and now. Bless Baghdad and boston.
And without further ado....

  • Cooking shows. Jamie's 15 minute meals. Food Safari (esp those with Asian/African/Middle Eastern themes), Yotam Ottolenghi. So much foodspiration.
  • K-Mart. I love the ads, particularly an old one where the grandma gives the granddaughter $10 and they go on the bus and they go buy cool stuff together at Kmart. I am tearing up now. I miss my nanna.
  • Things that remind me of nanna. When I moved out of my marital home, one of the first things I bought was a mohair blanket. Bargain on ebay. Nanna used to wrap us up in a bright orange one. Today, I had soup with bread dunked in it, and that tasted like being at nanna's. Using terms like "wireless" instead of radio.
  • Funny Advertisements. Like this one with the bikie and the lamb roast. Check this out.Bikie Ad
  • Making dad jokes. Just because I'm not a dad (and never will be, at least without major surgery) it does not mean I can't crack jokes with the best of them. And I never, ever get sick of them. For example, I present my clear plate to the waiter at a restaurant and say "I didn't enjoy that at all". And in my job, I often have to measure older people's height. They often say "I've shrunk", to which I reply "Did somebody put you in the washing machine?" HAW HAW HAW. Well I think it's funny.
  • Homewares shops. Cheap little utensils in Kmart. Thermomixes (or their cheap cousins). Food processors. I recently made some purchases at Howard's storage world. Love that shop. Though I am a bit of a tease as I look a lot and buy very little.
  • Looking at homes for sale, especially in trendier suburbs, and taking a guess at what they might be worth.
  • Music Like this
  • (Saw the Lumineers live on Good Friday. I am a convert)
  • Making holiday plans. Going on holidays.
  • Swimming. Hearing my breath in the water. How it makes my aching back feel.
  • Telling war stories about my marathon.
  • Making banana cake - my fella likes it, and I like to cook for him. I did one today, as I had over-ripe bananas that were begging me to transform them into cake. And the weather is perfect for procrastibaking. Here is proof.:

  • Grossing my fella out with stories about my job.
  • My running group - such a lovely group of girls, great coach, so glad I am back after my injury.
  • A well co-ordinated outfit, behold:
  • my purple pair of AG jeans. not that you can see them. And I love this cardie. 
  • Aldi Supermarkets. Supermarkets in general. Overseas supermarkets, except perhaps in Cuba. Communist country supermarkets are not very interesting.
What simple things do you enjoy?

Sunday, 14 April 2013

A Weekend in Restaurants: The Confused Mexican.

1. Friday Night Dinner: Blue Corn, St Kilda.
Blue Corn, 203 Barkly St, St Kilda - Urbanspoon Site

Fridays for me are a killer. All activity I do that day is draining, from work at one place, the drive to another work place, the work at the other place, then the drive down Punt Road or via the city to go to the Beach House (aka the fella's house in Elwood).

I really quite like going to Elwood though. I have not previously spent that much time in that part of town; I was strictly a north or west of the Yarra girl. All. My. Life. I am very partial to the beach. I like the people watching. Lots of nice little pure breed dogs to pat.

Anywho, I fancied some Mexican food. I am a fan of Mexican food, and have been to San Fran, Albuquerque (New Mexico) and Mexico City in recent travels, so I have had a good taste (FYI the thing I like to do more than shopping overseas is eating overseas).

The Fella suggested Blue Corn. I was excited; I have been keen to try it out. I was starving. And I was in very dire urgent need of a Margarita.

I will preface everything I say from now on by saying that I am a bit of a purist when it comes to Mexican Food and Drink - Ain't Broke, Don't Fix, IMHO.

The Margaritas were good. Although I am used to tasting a bit more Tequila and a bit less of the other ingredients, thanks to Juan the Bartender in Mexico city (helloooo, free Margarita and helloooo freepour). And I like FROZEN, dangit. I want my tequila and my brainfreeze!

To eat, we had some corn chips and salsa to start. We shared the Pasilla Braised Lamb Burrito with Mint Mojo, and the Scallop and Chorizo tacos.

I quite liked the S and C tacos, but there main fillings were stuck together with cheese, guacamole and corn. A bit greasy and bland. And it took away the shine of the main ingredients. Scallops and Chorizo are awesome things.

I was not at all keen on the Lamb dish. It was again a bit bland. I could taste no mint, but there was the aforementioned guacamole and corn, plus little bits of eggplant and sundried tomato. There were olives around the dish, which was fancily plated. I don't know what it was playing at, but did not think it was very Mexican.

I don't think Mexican food is about jumbling a few ingredients together, mixing it with corn and guacamole, putting some cheese on top and slapping it on a taco, that's what I am getting at here.

The bill came to just over $100 - I have had an entree, 2 meals and 2 drinks a bit cheaper than this. Service wasn't bad. Though I hate it when a restaurant is empty and they say "do you have a booking" - yes I know it is because people have booked for later but they could do a bit of table shuffling, no?

I have eaten some amazing mexican food overseas, in fairly unassuming and cheap places. There is some pretty amazing food here in Melbourne, from the cheap (Taco Truck) to the more costly (Mamasita - if you have not queued up with the hipsters at Pensioner hour, you must, it is worth it).

Consider this a bullet I have taken for you, and give this place a bit of a sidestep. There is better Mexican to be had around town.

Meanwhile, Cheers!
Hola, from the Margarita Sisters!

OOTD - the declutter.

Inspired by one of my favourite bloggers, Faux Fuchsia, I actioned a declutter on my closet yesterday. If the item of clothing didn't give me mojo, it was sent off to Savers, where hopefully it would give somebody else mojo.

I really need to capitalise on fairly minimal space. To that end, I took myself off to Howards Storage World to get some things to store things in, plus a very nifty garlic crusher.

It is always fun doing a clean out, as you are again acquainted with clothes and accessories that you forgot you had. Kind of like shopping, but without the spending and the telltale shopping bags.

What I learned about my couture collection.
1. I have too much black. I am not to buy any more black things. Black is not the new black.
2. I have lots of tops in a cream colour
3. I have heaps of accessories and need to make sure I wear them to put more oomph into an outfit.
4. I have a lot of Frocks (would NEVER say I have too many because a girl can NEVER have too many frocks). Many of them are Leona Edmiston Ruby (ie the cheaper line she does). Don't even get me started about Leona, I love her frocks.

Anywho, here are the after shots from the declutter. Behold:

Got me one of those little makeup caddy thingies, looks tres professional.

Accessories hangy thingy, with lucky running cap hanging atop.

So without too much fuss this morning, I could assemble a snazzy ensemble. My job has seen me go from "need to look very respectable in clothes that I don't mind ruining with (other's) body fluids" to "I can look less respectable (but no jeans), I sit at a desk and am not at risk of copping errant body fluids but I need to be comfy". ie. PhD candidate.

Here is


Cardie: Cotton on
Cream top (one of a few I own :/): Country Road, last season, on sale
Leggings: Sussan
Ankle Boots: Django and Juliette, from Cinori in Brighton
Necklace: Gifted, from a friend who bought it at "A Quirk of Fate" in Northcote. Incidentally, the beads are made of silicon and are good for babies to grab a hold of. My friend was at pains to tell me this. I am not expecting a baby so I don't know why (? Auntie Aspirations)  but you will agree they are nice beads

I had always been a proponent of big neclace/not big earrings and vice versa, but for such a blank canvas I went both. The Earrings deserve a closeup

Earrings: Klei, from a little shop in East Brunswick called Five Boroughs. These were gotten ages ago but they have similar still there. The grey works in well with the Grey in the beads.

Regarding leggings, I will wear them but they have to be thick and sturdy enough not to show every little bump and nook and cranny. Also, I am slavish about butt coverings when I wear leggings. Just a thing I have. I am considering colourful pant purchases for the winter - perhaps some skinny jeans in a block dark colour, or peg leg pants with a fine pattern or block colour. Peg legs look the business with ankle boots.

I am loving ankle boots at the moment, probably even more than knee boots (but seeing Nina Proudman in long boots soon will modify this). I am looking forward to the weather where I can wear my knee high boots - I have a couple of pairs that are stalwarts and always draw compliments. I am currently lusting after the blue leather ones she wears on the ad for Offspring - if the shoe shops had any sense whatsoever they would be making cheap knockoff copies quick smart.


Or Salsa verde.
You say tomato etc.

People often talk about what we can subtract from our diet to make it healther, lose weight et cetera.
Yet I think it is much more rewarding to talk about what we can add to make it more nutritious and tastier.
Rather than deprivation, reward.
It is a much nicer way to live, I say.

I am very, very partial to a sauce. I do love a bearnaise, or hollondaise, or any other naise on my grilled or poached protein or fried carbohydrate. Yet if we eat it daily we might find muffin tops appearing over our AG jeans, or, worse, a cholesterol problem, heart attack.

I always go berserk at a restaurant when I see a green sauce, I end up nomming it down. It makes everything flavourful and gives me a nice warm fuzzy feeling.

What we must not forget is that the constituents, usually parsley, basil or coriander, are leafy green herbs. Highly nutritious. Similar greeny nutrition in a spoonful of chimichurri to half a plate of spinach.

I know which one I would rather (Yes, I really don't like unadorned spinach that much. So sue me.).

Add to it garlic, shallot, lemon, chilli, white wine vinegar and olive oil, and you have something quite amazing, in both a taste and nutritional capacity.

So, with steak on the menu,  I decided that a chimichurri was in order. This is a bit of a bastardised version. It still tastes good/

I used.
-1 shallot (Not the spring onion, the little oniony thing, just to be clear)
-1/2 bunch of parsley, stalks and leaves
-1/2 bunch of coriander, stalks and leaves
-1/2 tbs fresh lemon juice
-1 tbs extra virgin olive oil, cold pressed.
-1/2 tbs white wine vinegar
-1 clove of garlic, crushed
-tiny bit of crushed chilli (you don't want the heat to overpower all the other flavours, but a few flecks of red among the green is lovely)

whizz up in a food processor, I have one of those stick blender with a bowl and blade attachment and I love it sick.

This is how mine looked

The photo does not quite do the splendid greenness of the sauce justice. You will just have to make it yourself.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

OOTD - The internationalist.

I have been lucky enough to do quite a bit of travelling, on both business and pleasure (mostly pleasure). And I love to go and look in the shops, marvel at the couture, and marvel at how comparatively cheap the couture is. It is really little surprise that Aussie Fashionistas (and Fashionistoes - the male equivalent) are heading online - the choice and price is superior.

However, I love a bit of skin-on-skin, real life clothes-buying action. And there are clothes shops like Anthropologie that just are not available here.  I could easily spend a whole day in that shop. I have - in London and SF.

Last night, I went out with my dear friend Y, for dinner in Northcote. As I clothed for dinner, I realised that everything I was wearing, barring bra and undies, were from trips overseas. It is a sort of uncomfortable-in-betweeny- weather in Melbourne (I believe the lingo is transeasonal) and I had to pick a weather appropriate outfit, which is hard.


Lacy Top - Shop in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco (on my first trip there)
Camisole - New Look, Dubai, 2011
Jeans - Adriano Goldschmeid (AG), Anthropologie, San Francisco (my second trip there)
Shoes - Pilcro, Anthropologie, San Francisco
Beads - From Airport in Bilbao, Spain. They look a bit Spanish, no?

Here is a gratuitous close-up of the shoes. The photo above does not capture their true fabulousness. See:

I really recommend AG jeans. Normally jeans buying makes me fly into a rage; I have short legs, big thighs and a big bum with a smaller waist, and a lot of jeans manufacturers don't make stuff that flatters me. I now own 3 pairs of these jeans (the first two bought on sale) and they are flattering, comfy and stylish - the holy trinity. And also, no exposure of butt crack. Hallelujah.

What is the best couture you have bought overseas?

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Shakshuka (like a polaroid picture!)

So the fella is off to a punk-rock gig, starring Johnnie Rotten. I passed on that one.

I have a night at home, alone! There was a time where I would not have been able to cope with that, but alas I look forward to it now. Plus I have fetch TV, I can watch movies!!! Telly!

The eternal question is "what do I cook".
There is, of course, the temptation to have takeaway. Living in a trendy inner suburb, I have lots of cheap, cheerful and tasty places around me. But the cost adds up, as do the calories (in the form of muffin toppage).

Cooking for one is a fraught thing. Biscuits and dip would not do. Baked beans at a pinch. Yet I always feel better, feel a bit more pampered and cared for, if I have something a bit, well, luscious. Yummy. A bit luxurious.

Hence I like to keep some interesting herbs and spices and bits and bobs in the cupboard, sumac, ras el hanout, cumin, chive, lemon, tinned tomatoes et cetera. And eggs in the fridge. Always eggs. Eggs are awesome.

I was tossing up between a Nasi Lemak from Malaymas (being an honorary Malaysian I am a purveyor of fine sambal) and a shakshuka.

Shakshuka is an Israeli baked egg type dish. It makes good use of the things I had in my cupboard. And it is delish. Just what I need on a coolish night - to warm the cockles of my heart.

So here 'tis (Serves Uno):

1 tin diced tomatoes (purists use fresh and dice them and cook them but that really defeats the purpose)
2 eggs
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 onion, finely diced
crushed clove of garlic
1 tsp sugar, if desired. Salt and pepper to season
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp each of paprika and cumin
Chilli powder, to taste
1/4 capsicum, finely diced
Flatbread and yoghurt/tzatziki to serve.

pop the capsicum, onion and garlic into a small frying pan, fry in olive oil till soft. Add the spices and fry to make aromatic (NB watch for chilli fume cough) and then add the tomatoes and paste. Cook till simmering. Make some little wells for the eggs and carefully crack them in. The eggs will cook on the bottom; a trick to hurry the top along a little is to put a cover over the pan, like a plate. Warm your bread, dollop some yoghurt on the top and sprinkle some parsley (I used sumac) on top.
Use a spoon and your bread to consume the lovely gloop. Eat it direct from the pan!

Some fancy cafes put Merguez sausage in. Some use chorizo. All good here.

Here 'tis.

There is a place in Jaffa, Israel, called Dr. Shakshuka. I could imagine that the food there would cure what ails you (haw haw haw).

I saw it on Yotam Ottolenghi's cooking show. Loved that show.

Have always been a bit fascinated by Israel, the history, the current issues. I'd love to go. It's on my list.

But I digress.
Do you have a fail-safe go-to recipe for one?

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

New Blog. It's Red. Red goes faster.

My life has changed and so must my blog.
Welcome and hello!
Please make yourself comforty.