Archive | July 2013

Dry July: bring on the wet!

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34 days alcohol free!

Dry July’s last day today.

And I am quite looking forward to a drink.

I was fine for the first week. No cravings, no twitching, no physiological reaction.

I was fine when I went on holidays. No succumbing to peer pressure. No, “Oh, what the hell! It’s holidays!”

I was fine back at work. No need to have a drink. No constant gnawing at me that something was missing.

I was fine at several social events. Witty, lively, life of the party. All without alcohol.

Then I had two bad days at work. Stressful, more work needing doing than there are hours in the day, sustained emotional interaction with highly agitated, sometimes aggressive, sometimes just plain loopy people. And all the time I have to maintain an emotional equilibrium in the face this onslaught.

I really needed a drink. To unwind. To stop my mind from racing. To wash away the unholy dreck of mad people.

Luckily I had a colleague strengthen my resolve. “Tell yourself it’s the last Friday. And tomorrow tell yourself it’s the last weekend. And then you only have a few days. If you give in now you will have failed. And you will have to do it again next year. Succeed, and you have done it. And you don’t have to do it again.”

So I had a little mantra. “It’s my last Friday.”

Now I know I am not going to go crazy. I am not much of a binge drinker anyway. But I do enjoy the ritual of a glass before dinner, and then one while dinner is cooking. It is relaxing. Oh, I do so love the numbing effect of a glass of red.

Many have asked me whether I feel better. Honestly?

No. Nothing. Not fresher. Not more awake. Not more clear headed.

But I am slightly lighter! Woo hoo! I lost over 1 kilo this month.

But seriously, the weight loss isn’t worth it!

My 30 minute-ish Jamie Oliverish Chicken Pie

Thought I’d share my adaptation of Jamie Oliver’s 30 minute chicken pie.

First I’d normally start with a fortifying glass of something, but as I’m doing Dry July, no alcohol for me. Secondly, I’d normally do this on a weeknight – it being a quick cook meal and all. But the gods have decided I won’t do a roast today; it is the pie that must be cooked. OK, because I bought the mushies and leek last weekend, and they have to be used up.

Does anyone else do this? Buy the veggies and then not cook them in time?

Anyway, back to the cooking.

Jamie says to get all your stuff out and ready. What do we need?

His cookbook for starters.

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I have two books- the 30 minute one and the Ministry of Food. I am making his carrots in a bag from the latter. I won’t post about them as it is the first time I have cooked them and I want to see what they are like.

I use whatever chicken fillets is the cheapest. Today it is tenderloin. About 750g. All other ingredients: butter, olive oil, leek (Jamie says to use spring onions, I prefer leek – milder and easier to prepare), mushrooms, mild English mustard (I don’t use hot English mustard as I don’t like the taste of horseradish), creme fraiche (you can use sour cream if you have it, creme fraiche is more expensive but has a nicer flavour), chicken stock (Jamie calls for organic, I just like the real stock, makes the world of difference), thyme, nutmeg, plain flour and frozen puff pastry (in Australia it comes in squares. I use one and a half pieces). I don’t use a food processor. I mean, slicing a handful of mushrooms and a leek in a food processor! Might save time before eating but it definitely adds time to the washing up.

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Put your pan on heat. I use my Aldi copy of a Le Chasseur/Creuset. Love it. Add butter and lug of olive oil to pan. And heat.

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Chop a leek.

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Fry a little while you chop the chicken. Don’t let the leek burn.

Put chicken in fry pan. Fry until sealed. Stir around constantly (between chopping).

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While cooking, slice mushrooms. Add to pan. Should be about 12 minutes in now. Stir around. Add heaped tablespoon of flour.

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And stir. Add 2 teaspoons of mild English mustard (experiment with how much you like), some creme fraiche (I use about a third of the container.) and pour in some chicken stock. I guess about 300 to 400 ml. Stir and bring to simmer.

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Add some thyme. (Jamie calls for fresh. It’s dark and cold out, so I couldn’t be bothered seeing what state my thyme is in. And it’s winter, so I haven’t been weeding. The thyme is probably covered in weeds.) So I sprinkled on some dried thyme and sprinkled on a little ground nutmeg, and some salt and pepper.

Cover with puff pastry. As Jamie says, rustic is in. Now, Jamie says to brush with an egg. I couldn’t be stuffed doing that. Waste of a good egg. The pastry looks fine without it.

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Bake in oven for 15 minutes or so, until golden. While it is baking, wash lettuce leaves. Cut cherry toms in half, peel and slice a Lebanese cucumber. Toss salad with favourite dressing.

All ready to serve.

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I served it with the salad and the carrots that had been baking in the oven. Can’t lie. The carrots were delish. Cooked with orange zest and juice, marmalade, bacon, garlic and rosemary. Sometimes I serve the chicken pie with Jamie’s French peas, a salad and mash.

A real winner.

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Curb Clothing Clutter

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It’s all getting rather boring, this success at being on a wardrobe diet.

No dramas, no slip ups, no backsliding. No “But I haven’t anything to wear.”

Sorry for those who think they can’t do it, but 7 months on and I haven’t bought any clothes. (OK, four pairs of undies, a bra, a pair of flat shoes for work and two bracelets. The first three items were on my exempt list. The bracelets were so cheering and reduced in price at a garage sale I couldn’t resist.) I don’t feel deprived, I don’t feel I’m missing out on anything.

Maybe I just started with more clothes than lots of people? I still have clothes I have hardly worn. I woke up the other morning and remembered I had a suit I hadn’t seen for a while. Mmmm? Wonder where it is? Oh, there in the wardrobe in the bag where it had been hung after being dry cleaned. Opps! Perhaps there are too many clothes still?

Then again, maybe saying no has become a habit? After all I have spent July saying no to alcohol too.

What I am really happy about is that the decluttering and no shopping combined has resulted in me fitting all my clothes in my wardrobes and cupboards. I no longer have clothes stashed away in storage containers under my bed or in other rooms. Pretty chuffed about that.

Amity and Sorrow by Peggy Riley

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Read this in two nights! Work nights! Couldn’t go to bed until I finished it. (And suffered the next day, especially the second day with the accumulation of two late nights.)

Shows how compelling this novel is.

But I would never say it is enjoyable. Chilling, compelling, uncomfortable, scary, yes.

I am intrigued by what people are willing to tolerate to sustain a sense of belonging, and a sense of certainty. I am also endlessly interested in why people want simple answers and want to give up free will and intelligence and logic for a belief, for “faith”.

Briefly, without needing to give a spoiler alert, Amity and Sorrow are sisters who escape with their mother from a polygamous cult. I read an online review which stated Sorrow is evil. Too simplistic. The three are damaged and hurting. And the damage continues.

My only whinge: I need certainty (lol, don’t we all) that was not forthcoming in the ending. Did she contact the police?

Round 2 Exercise Physiologist

So, apparently my bum muscles are still not cooperating. And, together with a weak core, my back is not being supported. The aim is to strengthen both my butt and my core so my back doesn’t have another flare up.

I am continuing with these exercises from my last visit to the exercise physiologist. Two lots of thirty.

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And now I have to add heel taps. Three lots of thirty, on each leg. Start in table top (for non Pilates people, that is on your back, with both legs in the air but with your knees bent, so your calves are parallel to the floor, hence the table top analogy.). Engage your core. Keeping your knees at right angles, lower one leg down so your heel taps the floor while keeping the other leg at table top. Don’t let your pelvis move! Three lots of thirty. On each leg!!!

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And I am adding bridging with a knee lift. Again on your back with knees at about right angle, feet flat on the floor. Roll your spine up until until your knees, hips and shoulders are in a straight line. It looks like this:

20130722-195402.jpg While in the bridge position lift one knee and then the other. Lifting both sides counts as one. I have to do three lots of ten.

I am meant to do these three exercises every day. They are quite boring and, while I am trying to think of them as medicine or treatment for my back, I have to admit I have not been as conscientious with this round of exercises. Mainly because I am back at work.

Still I hope some of these exercises help someone else.

I’m off to do today’s lot.

Dry July

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I am now over half way through Dry July and into the home stretch. With 2 weekends left to go, I can’t say I am enjoying the booze-free lifestyle. But I am not pining for a drink either.

I wouldn’t mind one. Several glasses of bubbles over inane chat with friends. A nice glass of red before dinner. These sound nice!

It’s kinda like if I went without my cup of tea. I could do it. But I don’t necessarily like to.

Or chocolate. I have that little desire for some. Not a huge craving, where I am pacing around and crabby and short-tempered, biting everyone’s head off. But a little hole in my tummy, saying, “You know, a square of chocolate might fix this. Might be nice!”

I can’t say I feel a whole lot healthier either. Actually, I don’t feel different at all. And I haven’t lost weight. I have filled the evening gap where I had a glass or two with grazing on stuff from the pantry.

Still, at least I know I can do it. My will power is strong. Or perhaps, I am just not addicted to alcohol. I know I will make it through the next few weeks with no worries.

And there have been times that others might have wavered: drinks with friends, a dinner party, holidays. Events that don’t faze my resolve. Then again, I am not one to succumb to peer pressure, or the pressure of others. I am my own person.

So at the very least I have proven to myself that alcohol doesn’t figure as something that rules my life. I like it. I like the effect a moderate amount has. And I would be sad if I could never have it again. But I could do it.

Guilt and your wardrobe

I have gone through my wardrobe several times and decluttered many items – clothes that don’t fit, clothes that I won’t mend, clothes I really don’t wear. In the meantime, I have not been buying clothes. I want to see what I have, to organise what I have and to be sure what I have is really what I want.

But there are still many items hanging around.

Why have I hung onto them?

Probably guilt. Guilt that I spent money on them. Guilt that I haven’t worn them. Guilt that resources have been used in the production of the clothes. And that guilt, again, that I haven’t made use of the clothes and thus contributed unnecessarily to energy use and pollution.

Then there’s the desire to save money and be frugal. Clothes are still good for work, even if I don’t love them. Clothes still have “a bit of life in them” so can be used for “around the house”. So again, it’s that guilt thang! Guilt at wasting money which means wasting my time – time at work!

What if I compare clothes to other items? I don’t feel guilty spending money on a night out. I had fun! It lasted only momentarily. And what about comparing clothes to gifts I receive? If I don’t like them and know I won’t use them, I don’t feel guilty regifting items or donating to a charity shop.

I don’t have to feel guilty. I have forgiven myself for much greater sins than the rash purchase of a dress in a sale.

I am letting the guilt go.

And along with the guilt, these items:

A jumper, merino wool, made in Australia! Don’t see that much anymore. But it is too bulky and doesn’t look good in me.

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Two skivvies. I mean, who keeps skivvies? And I have kept two!!! Well, I thought I might need them for skiing, and thus save money by not buying more ski gear.

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All these will go to the charity shop.

A little bit of this, a little bit of that

One thing I realised when spending a week in a holiday unit, with few knick knacks and doodads and only a few changes of clothes, is that we really need fewer things.

Not only were we able to cook, relax, have fun without all the vast number of different things, and lots of very similar things, but it was very liberating. It was easier to keep the unit tidy. Less time had to be spent on cleaning. It was easy to decide what to wear and what to do. There was less mess, less clutter, less visual distraction. Surfaces, darling, surfaces. They were clear.

So I have raced through the house, looked at a couple of shelves in my cupboard and quickly picked a few things to declutter.

A “crystal” ball. To someone else.

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A load of rubbishy bits (old loyalty cards, lip gloss, packaging) from a tray in my cupboard. To the bin.

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A cake slice. To work.

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A pair of old sand shoes that are uncomfortable as they won’t do up properly and are worn in the sole funnily. To the bin.

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A pair of sandals that have worn out. And were never comfortable anyway. To the bin.

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A jumper. I have too many. To the charity shop.

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Bunnykins bowl and cup. To a friend.

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Packaging. Used to wrap the bunnykins crockery to transport them.

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A broken lunchbox and a “disposable” plastic container that held some food that was given to me as a gift. I don’t need more plastic, so unfortunately both go into the bin.

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How’s that for a quick haul?

Makes me question why I have so much rubbish, so much stuff that shouldn’t have made it into the house, let alone be kept. I am a long way from having a “zen” house. I’m on a roll. Lets get rid of more!

On the road to ….

We’re home!

Who likes a road trip?

I used to sleep soundly, and without a care, as a passenger. Now that I have an understanding of the dangers of fatigue, I fight falling asleep so that I can keep the driver awake. Oh, the responsibility! So road trips are less relaxing.

Still I like watching the scenery and day dreaming about living in the country. I know it wouldn’t be for me, but day dreams are like that. You can create your own reality and not have any negatives.

I really like Gundagai. Maybe it’s because it is imbedded in my central memory. “On the road to Gundagai.” Can’t help but sing that line, even if I can’t remember any more of the lyrics. “And the dog sat on the tucker box, five miles from …” That’s such a sad tale of devotion. I even really like the name of the river, the Murrumbidgee River.

It is a cute town. I like the wide main street. I love how the town is cradled between rolling, tumbling hills.

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I love the broad verandahs that cover the whole footpath.

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The court house is majestic and the attached gaol interesting.

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And the amazing bridge! Sorry, no photo this time.

We routinely stop here for a break on our road trip to and from the snow. Nothing beats a pub counter lunch but it was not to be. Dining rooms were closed on Sunday even though the web-sites said otherwise. So we scooted back onto the highway after a quick stretch of the legs for lunch farther along the Hume Highway.

And I found another town to be the setting for “living in the country” dreams. Bowning. Don’t know how to pronounce it and have no photos. But trust me, it’s worth a stop for lunch and a little look-see. This time the Internet was accurate. Open for lunch. And a lovely one at that. With an antique shop for a browse.

And just pass Yass, these monumental windmills, marching across the ranges. They remind me of The Tripods. A science fiction novel by John Christopher, adapted asa TV series. Very creepy.

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What is your favourite road trip stop?

Missing…

Missing the blue sky and glistening white snow?

Me too. Already. And I am still in the mountains.

Here’s this morning’s view:

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The wind is blowing. And that’s rain you see. Rain! On the snow! Yes, deadly for snow.

Let me remind you:

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Snow on the roofs! Ah, so much more peaceful.

And blue skies? Yes, here:

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But the rain can fall. We’re on a journey. Not to gorgeousness, health and organised living. No, we’re on our journey home.

It’s been a pretty gorgeous, healthy and organised 9 days. Skiing, no alcohol, walking, relaxing, fresh air, no excess of clothes, family time, reading books.

Back to the chalk face to fund the next trip.