Losing Weight: Who Knew Salmon Was Such A Traitor?

I was listening to a podcast with Clare Bowditch on Conversations this morning (about her book Your Own Kind Of Girl) and it made me question exactly why I’ve started another diet. Like her, I came to the conclusion a while ago that weight is unimportant (as long as it is within a healthy range and not affecting your health); that it’s what’s on the inside that counts; and that society needs to bloody well grow up and accept that most healthy women do not fit the skinny model stereotype promoted by magazines – hence the popularity of Celeste Barber.

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash.com

In general, I manage to maintain my Reubenesque figure by compensating for my food and alcohol over-indulgences by working my butt off on walks and runs. However, the toll from Christmas this year has been grim and I’ve been sucked into a diet by the vanity of the old man who says he feels uncomfortable being overweight.

Imagine that?

Neither of us wants to get down to the sort of unrealistic weight that means that you start rocking in a corner when you think about a Magnum, but we’d like to lose the weight we’ve gained over the last two years – to avoid the slippery slope of unfair weight distribution that happens to so many people in middle age.

I blame our Christmas visitors for the last few kilos I’ve gained – skinny visitors who ate as much as us, exercised less, and still manage to remain thin. Also, any host knows how impossible it is to eat mindfully when you have guests in the house and you have to show off the enviable lifestyle of Australia (bushfires excluded). And in Sydney the food is as spectacular as the beaches. The day only starts after one of THE BEST BREAKFASTS in the world, followed by – as a result of our wonderfully diverse population – a veritable smorgasbord of international feasting to choose from over the rest of the day.

Worse, when you have guests (particularly at Christmas), any rules around drinking fly out the window. – so even though we weren’t officially on holiday, we were happy to use the rellies as an excuse for extra bevvies.

Hence, I find myself fitting a little too snugly into my size 14 clothes, and albeit that left to my own devices I would probably have continued to ignore the extra tire around my middle and hoped for the best once I get back into some sort of routine – When? – I am sadly married to a man obsessed with his weight.

So we’ve hooked up to an app called Easy diet diary which is basically a calorie counting tool that works like this: You put in your weight, height etc and tell it how much weight you want to lose and in how much time, and then it suggests a daily calorie intake to achieve your goal. Each day, you add in every morsel you eat, every drop of liquid you drink, and every kilometre you sweat – although I’m not counting calories burnt during exercise as that me permission to drink more.

It is unhealthily competitive and we are learning to be cunningly strategic – which is the only fun aspect of a diet – but it has given us something to talk about over the past few days i.e. like how f…ing hungry we are. And on a more serious note, we have started to think about what we put in my mouths, particularly when it comes to portion sizes. You can imagine my pain one morning when I had to put a large slice of watermelon back in the fridge because it meant I would have to forego a glass of wine that night.

And talking of wine, basically what feels like a mouthful of wine (100mls) equates to around 80cals, so on drinking days you really have to be careful about how many food calories you consume or switch to spirits which are generally kinder.

It’s amazing what you discover. I won’t bore you with the calorific content of every food faux-ami – i.e. foods we thought were healthy but turn out to be wickedly calorific – That’s right SALMON, I’m talking about you – but who knew that trail mix, coffee, and chocolate were so bloody fattening? Or that a shot of Cointreau is a whopping 91 calories?

Where the fun really comes in is seeing how much yoghurt or muesli you can squeeze into a quarter of a cup; or how many units of alcohol you can fit in without starving; and what you can eat with those precious six calories left at the end of the day – suffice it to say, I’m still trying to work out the value of a single M&M.

The experience has certainly been an education – one I won’t be repeating as soon as I get down to a svelte size 12 over the next week or so.

It was the small, magical moments during our holiday to Hawaii that mattered most

Forgive me for my recent radio silence, but I’m struggling to get back into real time since our return from Hawaii.

No doubt, some of you will be interested to know how we fared, having spent so much time reading about my angst in relation to where the fuck to take an anxious, middle-aged man who didn’t want to leave his suburb. But, alas, I am no travel writer, so I’ve decided to style this post in the same way as Jamila Rizvi did here last week in The Age, and focus on the small things that made it feel so special.

Woman sitting on beach in front of view.
I call this photo “Come to Mama!”

I won’t lie, the holiday (in the company of my husband and our twenty-something daughter) wasn’t always the plain sailing experience I had prayed for prior to our departure from Sydney. However, I won’t bore you with the stories of when our two hire cars broke down – leading to the old man’s worldwide ban from AVIS – the loss of his bank card, or the time he turned the wrong way down a street. As I’m sure you can tell from this photo, he had a great time.

Man looking miserable at shopping center.
Have you ever seen such a vision of natural joy? He just LOVES shopping and Halloween.

And by normal standards, I imagine that the sort of holiday woes we experienced are the kind of par-for-the-course shit that everyone goes through, laughs about and puts down to travelling.

Admittedly, the bus tour between Honolulu and Haleiwa on the North Shore was not the anticipated 45 minute journey I had forecast in my itinerary – probably because I read the ‘by car’ calculation of time instead of ‘by stagecoach’ – but at least it included an educational tour of Honolulu’s military bases and a nostalgic trip back to the prison set where Hawaii 5-0 must have been shot. The return journey was even longer, and while none of us expected a three-hour circumnavigation of Oahu that took us into the night, we were all grateful for the scenic experience.

Many lessons were learned: we now know never to declare war on a feisty Hawaiian customer service lady who deals with entitled tourists on a daily basis; we learned that the portion sizes really are as terrifying in the US as we had been led to believe, and that you only need order a few plates to share; and finally, we now appreciate that the mountain temperature on our weather App is no guide to the temperature on the beach.

Mouthwatering plate of Tuna Tataki.
The TUNA!

There were the usual minor medical issues like blocked ears, dehydration, and some ongoing issues with obesity augmented by the portion size of the Rocky Road ice cream they sold at our local bar.

But let me get back to the small things that justified our thousands of dollars spent choice of destination, that still make my heart sing to the tune of Moana each time I think back to them:

  1. The landscape: What’s not to love about a destination that offers world-class beaches, the spirituality of a mountain landscape (that look like it belongs in Peru), and cheap, designer shopping that even the most ardent window shopper will find impossible to resist?
  2. The beaches: I can honestly say that Waikiki, the beaches on the North Shore of Honolulu, and those in Maui lived up to the paradise we had been promised. Living in Australia, it’s hard to impress us when it comes to beaches, but we weren’t disappointed – particularly by the ocean temperature, which made it dead easy to plunge into it several times a day.
  3. The turtles: I’ll be honest, we didn’t see flocks of them like I imagined – a bit like when we visited Kangaroo Valley and never saw any kangaroos – but we spotted several from the shoreline and a couple swam up close to us. Fact: they can be SERIOUSLY BIG MOTHERFUCKERS!
  4. The snorkelling: This time it was the relaxing experience I imagined it could be when I was growing up and wanted to be Jacques Cousteau. Pretty, unthreatening tropical fish were a welcome change from The Great Barrier Reef’s terrifyingly black Gropers and slimy cucumbers, and although NC swore she saw a sea snake, she only told me about it once we were on the plane home.
  5. The music: Hawaiian music comes from the soul and shoots straight through the heart. I will always remember the night the old man asked a Hawaiian singer to sing a song from Moana for NC, who ugly-cried (very publicly), and another when a heavily pregnant dancer performed the Hula.
  6. American coffee: It gets a bad rap around the world, but the choice of flavours is awesome. I mean, how can a Vanilla/Macadamia nut coffee be bad?
  7. The food: OMG! Sex is good but have you ever tried melt-in-your-mouth Ahi (tuna), sealed in hot butter, with sides of coleslaw and coconut rice?
  8. The sunsets: I’m usually half way down a bottle by sunset and never fully appreciate their beauty, but Maui’s sunsets light up the sky like fireworks and are impossible to ignore.
Restaurant view of stunning mountain landscape in Maui.
Not a bad view for lunch.

And then there were the cheap COCKTAILS, an overdue discovery of Fireball whisky. and the old man’s dishcloth dance – after aforementioned whisky. All in all, a myriad of magical moments thrown into twelve days and an experience I’d love to replicate, had the old man not thrown away his passport.

Food Packaging: Has The World Gone Completely Mad?

I am slowly educating myself about my personal impact on the environment. It helps when you have a daughter who works in climate science, and who helpfully reminds you each time you forget your recycled bags at the supermarket about how many turtles you’ve just killed.

Photo by Vivianne Lemay on Unsplash

I admit that, (for my sins), I am still using wipes. Responsibility is a permanent battle between turning your back on the wonders of modern invention for the sake of something that still doesn’t feel quite real – at least for some. And what a bloody fantastic invention cleansing wipes are!

Needless to say, my education about how to respect the environment has been an embarrassing slow burn for my daughter The reef dying and the ice-caps melting doesn’t mean a lot until you are directly affected by it, and if I’m honest, (being somewhat set in my ways), I am only just coming to grips with my phone’s secret updates.

However, when you read articles like The Wasteland by Stephanie Wood in last weekend’s SMH, there’s no ignoring what’s happening.

While NC has done a great job of educating me about recycling, conserving energy, and sustainability, the issue of food wastage hasn’t come up yet – probably because it’s never been an issue in our house. Which is why the work of organisations such as Ozharvest (that Stephanie mentions) – a company that collects the food waste from supermarkets and hospitality to recycle it for the homeless and others in need – was such an eye-opener.

Interestingly, a friend and I had a similar idea (on a much smaller scale) a few months back, when we considered extending the idea of Kurt’s care packages, (ie. the several meals a week I deliver him to help him survive the days between one pay day to the next), to a batch for the homeless each month. Sadly, however, our idea was met by such a horrified response from our friends – who worried about the legal ramifications if we killed someone – we were forced to rethink.

What a very sad world we live in?

So while I may not be able to check which of the homeless are gluten-free, what I can do in my mission to become a middle-aged eco-warrior, is reduce the amount of plastic I use and increase awareness about the damage done by excess packaging. I was pondering over this very thing when I was in Woolworths the other day and I spotted these bags of fruit.

Yes, look again – your eyes do not deceive you. For these are indeed individually packaged bags of sliced apple for kids lunch boxes, helpfully contained in another package.

Now, my husband will verify that I can be a wasteful person and I am also fully aware that more and more parents work full time and don’t have the time to carve flowers out of carrots – hence, I will try not to cast stones – BUT WTF IS GOING ON? Our kids are marching in the streets, telling us how scared they are about climate change, and we can’t even slice an apple now?

Why do we need to package our fruit in plastic trays and then wrap it again in a second layer of plastic? Doesn’t it seem a little crazy that that we march happily around the supermarket feeling all smug about our recyclable canvas bags, when we’re carrying enough plastic inside them to cancel any benefit? In the old days – as in the Medieval times when I was a child – our parents took one bag to the market for their fruit and veg, which was poured directly into it from the scale. It was probably how I learned my basic maths skills. And in countries where diet is based on a farm-to-table principle, people continue to manage to cope with that system.

Aside from the addition of unnecessary landfill, the threat to wildlife and the environment, and the fact that the planet may self-combust in a few years, what does such a blatant lack of responsibility say to our kids about our privilege and our priorities?

I suspect that it’s that the world has gone fucking mad.

Mothers: Admit It, We Never Stop Worrying About Our Kids

Mothers, be careful with those little comments you drop into the conversation each time you see your adult kids (who have left home) and look like they haven’t eaten a square meal that month.

You know the type – How much fruit are you eating? ARE YOU EATING? You’re looking a bit pale, or How firm are your stools? The type that all of us mums just can’t help ourselves from asking.

Well, take my advice and shut the f..ck up, because those comments could come back to haunt you. Such is my fate since I foolishly peered into my son’s fridge and made an innocent comment about his beer diet.

‘Well, I was thinking…’ he replied the other night when he came around to ours for what looked like his first feed this month, (having obviously decided that this was the perfect window of opportunity for some long overdue Mum -manipulation), “that maybe you could deliver me a care package, once a week, for those difficult days leading up to pay day?’

‘What does a care package entail?’ I asked naively.

‘You know…a batch of Shepherd’s Pie, Bubble and Squeak – I’ll even eat your Lasagne if I have to. Something I can knock up easily myself…’ Ie. In his frying pan, which happens to be the only pan in his unit.

‘Perhaps you need to learn some money management,’ I replied wryly, fully aware of how he prioritises the half of his earnings that don’t go on rent.

‘Perhaps you need to remember that you were young once too,’ he reminded me with that twinkle in his eye that he knows makes me melt at the knees.

And he has got a point. I spent a considerable part of my twenties on the Marlboro and hot chip diet, and it’s not like I’ve got anything better to do in between my three jobs and nagging my husband (!). Of course I can sacrifice a few hours a week slaving away in the kitchen to make sure that my twenty-one year old little boy doesn’t waste away.

But just putting this out there – no one bought me care packages.

So, anyway, call me a “Sad-Fuck-Of-A-Helicopter-Parent, but three Shepherds Pies were dutifully delivered to the next suburb on Saturday afternoon, along with step-by-step instructions for how to heat them up. Of course, the old man refused to have any part of what he calls my “pathetic enabling”, although he did mention that if there were any leftovers, he’d have one instead of salmon on our next fish night.

‘Where are my care packages,’ NC grumbled in a text when she sniffed signs of sibling favouritism from the city.

And so, it appears that the old man was right about one thing and wrong about another. He was wrong when he told me that no one really likes my home cooking – as was the dead fox outside our bins all those years ago that I have been reminded about after every one of my cooking fails. But he has been right all of those millions of times when he has said that I will never stop worrying about our kids.

Whereas, he appears to be coping quite admirably.

It Must Suck To Be A Vegetarian At Christmas

I never thought I’d say this, but for once I find myself in total agreement with my father’s view that political correctness has gone mad.

According to The Independent newspaper in the UK, a researcher has proposed that idioms such as “bringing home the bacon” and “flogging a dead horse” should be removed from the English language because the imagery they create is offensive and upsetting to vegans and vegetarians.

Veganism is on the increase, and at a time when some celebrate Veganuary and it’s just as easy to buy veggie burgers and sausages in supermarkets as the genuine dead animal, while I agree that an awareness of the sensitivities of others is important, where does it end?

The next step will be to stop insulting plant life as well, because surely, “as thin as a twig” has to be body shaming to the twig in the same way that the accusation of being “as red as a beetroot” is typically used as a derogatory observation.

It’s never easy to make a stand for your beliefs – particularly when it comes to food choices and intolerances – in the face of, (shall we say), old-fashioned principles. However, sometimes Karma has a funny way of evening the score. And one of those times took place during my recent holiday as my father reached into the fridge for a swig of orange juice one morning and grabbed at my carton of almond milk instead.

A smile may have crossed my lips as I watched him spit the offensive liquid over the kitchen floor after the barrage of insults inflicted on both NC and myself in relation to our dietary choices – hers vegetarian, and mine dairy-free.

For this is a man who prides himself on being a “war baby,” and hence, eats everything – a fact that was rammed down my throat as a child every time I refused to clear my plate of food – which was often because there is NOTHING (shudder) the man will not eat.

“Sell-by” and “best before” dates are ridiculed in his house. Indeed, the more moldy and unappealing a piece of food appears, the more gusto the man demonstrates in its consumption.

That was why I was careful to remind him about NC’s vegetarianism prior to our arrival – she only eats fish when she feels like it is pushed – a warning that was met by the usual muffled grumblings of disgust. And when I went on to inform him that I was currently dairy-free – for health reasons – I’m certain that his derogatory whoop of disgust traveled from the northern to the southern hemisphere with the speed of light.

If I’m honest, I knew that I was pushing my luck when I requested vegan cheese and almond milk – although anyone would think my request was that he smuggle a stash of heroin through Bali rather than be seen buying vegan cheese from Waitrose.

For, as I suspected, it is still not deemed fully socially acceptable in some circles of the UK to be vegetarian or lactose intolerant, which makes it tricky to eat out. Added to which, the British diet is influenced by the climate and is heavily laden with meat. But while the word tofu may still be met with some confusion, I did manage to find a decent coffee with rice-coconut milk as a substitute and we were also introduced to a fabulous veggo restaurant near Oxford Circus called Ethos. And trust me, there’s no danger of getting fat there either because they charge you by the weight of your plate.

I pity vegans, particularly at this time of the year.

A roast without meat, (or in Australia, shellfish and salads, but without the shellfish), is nothing to get excited about at Christmas lunch, and neither is Mum’s nut roast substitute that everyone knows is little more than reconstituted stuffing.

But, each to their own.

Poor NC remained admirably stoic as her Grandad ranted off a list of sustainable fish to her every mealtime while we stayed with him – a list he had learned by heart in an attempt to either understand or ridicule her beliefs – I’m not sure which. And as I watched him force-feed her prawns and mussels, he made me swear to consume every last morsel of vegan cheese from the fridge prior to my departure, just in case it contaminated the dead animals.

3 Reasons Not To Criticize Your Husband’s Cooking

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In my experience, men do not take criticism easily – whether it’s constructive or just plain mean – the latter being particularly relevant to the long marriage.

Which is why I have had to tread very carefully this week, while the old man had taken up the mantle of domestic slavery in our house, as I pull a six-day week of work. The deal in our house is that if I work outside of the home, he cooks – a domestic chore he despises. He is not Jamie Oliver, he has no confidence or intuition in the kitchen and when he gets in a panic, he has to be reminded constantly about what to do. I can tell that he is already buckling under the strain.

In hindsight, to criticize a man’s cooking is either a brave or incredibly stupid thing to do, for it ensures that:

1. It is unlikely to happen again.

2. The chances of finding a pubic hair in your food increase tenfold.

3. The next time he is in the kitchen, he won’t just use two-thirds of the saucepans, he will use EVERY frigging saucepan, every casserole dish, and utensil you own – even that fugly vintage Pyrex dish at the back of the cupboard that you inherited from his mother. 

However – disclaimer here – I should point out, that in spite of these risks, poking your nose in where it’s not wanted, may improve your chances of survival.

Last night, I came downstairs from my shower, starving, and in search of my dinner. As you can imagine, it was on the tip of my tongue to ask “what’s for dinner?” in that caveman grunt that most men have perfected, and yet I managed to control myself. Indeed, when I peered into the kitchen, I was heartened to see two beautiful salad accompaniments laid out on two plates on the bench top and my optimism grew. However, there was no sign of the salmon. 

So, with the diplomacy of Alan Jones, I pointed out to the old man the benefits to time management of cooking the protein whilst preparing the salads. My comment was met by an iciness more penetrative than any wind to blow through Westeros in all eight seasons of GOT, and the dog and I scuttled away from the kitchen pronto, to the sound of crashing pans in our ears.

I decided not to mention that lentils should be drained and rinsed before they go onto the salad, and ate what looked like frogspawn on my lettuce with gusto.

A Guest’s Place Is Not In The Kitchen

Entertaining is all well and good as long as your guests know their place…which is not in the kitchen.

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I’m not certain if the protocol (in terms of entertaining) has changed in the UK since we left thirteen years ago – a time in our life when our social life was constrained by the needs of young children, hence fulfilled by a monthly rotation of dinner parties with roughly the same people – but I quite liked the unwritten rules of ownership when it came to the distinction between guest and host. 

In those days, the onus on guests was to bring flowers, booze, and interesting conversation, and the responsibility of the host was to provide everything else. Admittedly, if you weren’t Donna Hay, that premise did add some pressure, but what kept you going as you marinated the Coq Au Vin in your tears, devilled your eggs, and began your relationship with Valium, was the knowledge that all your hard work would be recompensed by four of five reciprocal dinner invitations, where you could be the one stuck to your seat, getting lairy, and talking about stuff that only comes out of your mouth after a bottle of fortified wine.

Indeed, the only time you relaxed the rules was towards the end of the evening, when Mrs. Perfect came into the kitchen and offered to clear up, releasing you from your servitude to pop out to the back garden for a furtive joint.

Social etiquette is a little different in Australia. For a start, people offer to bring food with them. And when I say “food”,  I don’t mean that moldy piece of Cheddar that’s sat in the fridge since Christmas with a few Aldi olives. They bring plates of the type of gourmet food that wouldn’t look out of place on a Heston Blumenthal menu.

And while that generosity lifts the burden of the host to provide all three courses and canapes, it also adds more pressure to the quality of the food that you are serving.

The other differences are – and this may have something to do with the open-plan style of the homes here – there is more of a hands-on vibe, where guests mill around the kitchen offering assistance and trying to get involved, which makes it much harder to conceal what I like to call my natural cooking disasters.

And then there’s that new breed of men that like to cook and make your mother’s tried and tested home cooking recipes appear amateurish. Personally-speaking, there’s nothing more intimidating to me than a man who knows his way around a sous-vide and who brings his latest cooking appliance with him to knock up the appetizers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that men are starting to take on their share of domesticity, but I’d prefer to see more of them voluntarily clean the toilets beforehand than show off their version of the “Snow Egg.”

And all this camaraderie in the kitchen means that you have to clean it properly, ahead of the event, because people will be in your kitchen. That caked potato on the roof of the microwave (since the time it exploded) and all those tiny scraps of food that inhabit the cutlery drawer (because your dishwasher is still going after twenty years), have to go. You even have to wipe down the door fronts – not exactly what you bargained for when you had that crazy idea of a relaxing lunch.

The Hidden Link Between Muscle Tone And Weight Gain In Middle Age

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I know I drone on about the unfairness of weight gain in middle age a lot. I don’t want to sound like some narcissistic bitch bemoaning the first-world problem of the loss of my youth, beauty, and self-esteem, (which I am…obviously), but we women of a certain age have a lot to come to terms with.

Almost a year ago, as I began to watch the weight creep on, I decided to try something new. I took up exercise again. I suppose I got caught up in the hype of wanting to look young again – thank you Revitalift – and so I’ve been secretly beavering away at some fitness stuff in an attempt to shed the kilos and keep the old ticker working as it should.

I suppose I thought I’d surprise you. If women’s magazines are anything to go by, many of us struggle with our weight at this age and I thought that one day I would put up my before and after photos and my secret to losing weight on this site and you’d all hate me. I’d sell my story about how I did it, and how simple it really was, because all it really involves is loving yourself, drinking lots of red wine (not white) and walking to the pub instead of catching an Uber. I thought I’d be one of those unrealistic representations of health that you see in photos of beautiful, young people in the gym. Only I’m no longer young and beautiful.

But then, in a moment of sheer madness, I decided to get on the scales – something I haven’t done since the last time I couldn’t do up my jeans – and to my horror, I discovered that I’d gained six kilos. This, after almost killing myself for a year.

And the problem with that is that I’m not the sort that sees the unfairness of life as a challenge. I see the world in black and white – as in I’m the type that receives that kind of devastating news and heads straight to the pantry for a six-pack of Kettle Chips and a bottle of Baileys, in spite of everything I write about accepting myself for who I am.

To be honest, I’m feeling kind of cheated right now about all that time I spent gritting my teeth through the pain in my lungs and the swelling in my knees, and my disappointment isn’t entirely linked to vanity. It’s linked to the unfairness of working so damned hard for fuck-all results. It is linked to the sacrifice and unfairness of losing not only my looks, my hair, and my memory, but of also having to come to terms with how my clothes sit on my new size 14 frame.

We’ve all heard overweight friends say things like, ‘I don’t know why I can’t lose the weight,’ and then we watch them eat and become smugly judgmental. And I will admit to enjoying my food as well. On occasion, I have been known to give in to my body’s natural bent for eating MOST of the pies, and yet, in general, I eat healthily at least five days a week.

And yes, (before The Alcohol Police remind me), I am fully aware of those naughty wine calories, which I had hoped would be compensated by my hour of exercise each day. Two glasses of wine equate to 160 calories, which by my calculations, equates to an hour’s walk. Added to which, I must lose the equivalent amount of liquid in sweat during my jogs around the park.

Cortisol can be another cause of weight gain at this age, and I admit that I have been content in the past to latch onto the excuse of stress as a result of Kurt’s antics and living with the old man. And yet I can’t even blame the boy at the moment, who has been suspiciously tame for a while now.

Which leaves only a couple of possible excuses reasons for this weight gain. 1. The first is that biologically-speaking, many middle-aged women gain weight during menopause – something to do with an extra padding of fat to protect our crumbling bones, which is vital if we want to continue to outlive men and lead the human race. Because seriously…who wants to leave this world on something boring like a fall, unless it’s in a bar, of course? But as I’m not officially in menopause yet, it has to be the second reason.

2. Muscle tone.

Cooking For A Family Of Dietary Heathens

Anyone who is responsible for cooking the evening meal knows what a mindfuck it is. It takes a lot of preparation – you have to remember to defrost, to check you have all the ingredients and that there will be enough food to go around, and if you have kids like mine, one of the fuckers will tell you at the last minute that they are going out.

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Worse, if you’re a pushover like me you end up cooking an assortment of customized variations of the same meal to keep everyone happy. Add to that the issue of staying abreast of current dietary recommendations – which seem to change as quickly as Facebook privacy regulations – and it can make the responsibility an exhausting process.

I like to think I cook healthily and creatively but there are some food trends that not even I can contemplate. Take the green smoothie. As Generation Xer, hence brought up on bacon and eggs for breakfast, I am afraid that green sludge is that step too far for me. I maintain the cynicism of my toddler years when it comes to anything green, which is that it is not to be trusted.

Last weekend, I went on a girls weekend to celebrate my sister’s fortieth birthday, for which we hired a lovely apartment for two nights. As we planned to eat out in the evenings and self-cater for breakfast and lunch, our first stop on the weekend’s agenda was to the local supermarket for a communal shop for necessities.

In hindsight, four mums on a food shop had the potential to end the weekend prematurely. As each of us manages our own homes and have, understandably, our own ideas when it comes to food, our interpretation of what constitutes ‘healthy’ was surprisingly different. My sister and the other two mums are still in the young children zone of parenting and as such are used to checking the ingredients and small print on all packaging with a fine toothcomb, hence we spent half an hour in the green juice section. While each of them Googled which was the grossest healthiest juice, I waited patiently and prayed that the one with the odd kiwi or apple thrown in for good measure would be enough to  pass their rigorous checks. Eventually, as it was my sister’s birthday, we let her choose the pond green juice, which contained something called Spirulina and smelled of poo.

If you believe everything you read, Spirulina is a blue-green alga and a super-food with loads of inspiring for health benefits, particularly for more senior folks like me because it can help lower our cholesterol,  prevent cancer, increase weight loss and reduce blood pressure without even trying. Which means, I suppose, that if my health anxiety gets a say, I will end up eating something that tastes like shit for the rest of my life.

Because, when it comes to the taste of this superfood – look online, where there are more articles about how to make it taste good than articles about its value to our body’s microbiome – it really does taste of shit. I imagine that it might be edible in a Vindaloo or Jungle Curry, but the general recommendation is that the best way to take it is in powder form – I suggest, up your nose.

Anyway, the following morning, I put on a brave face as I peered into our communal fridge in spite of the hangover from hell, silently cursing whoever ate the last piece of cheese and secretly praying that KFC had dropped a food parcel or something vaguely unhealthy to quell nausea and an unsettled stomach from the foot long Kransky sausage with all the trimmings that we devoured like animals the evening before, when our dietary concerns were compromised by alcohol.

Surprisingly, Spirulina did not meet my need-for-immediate-comfort brief, nor had it quenched the thirsts of my housemates if the line of green around the sink was anything to go by.

Healthy eating is not as straightforward as it looks when you cohabit with other people and I know this because I live with a couple of die-hard, meat-and-two-veg men. I am continually having to compromise my idealism when it comes to nutrition, and although I had thought that I had changed the three-year-old mentality of the old man when it comes to food, the other day he asked me when I was going to cook something nice after I had presented him with a plate of fresh, pan-fried Barramundi and roasted sweet potatoes in a Balsamic glaze.

I realize that the fight about how much red meat we have in our diets, or indeed what we eat, is an embarrassing first world problem to have, yet I fear it is a battle I am losing at home. Although dieticians have proved again and again that red meat is the devil’s food, I know that my son and husband would die happily (and quickly) if I rotated spag bol, Chilli Con Carne, and Shepherd’s pie through the week, and as a natural carnivore, my own willpower disappears as soon as those red juices begin to call to me from the pan. It appears that I can only keep my cavewoman/canine impulses that see me drooling in the face of a rare steak in check, as long as I don’t have to cook it or watch someone eat it in front of me.

 

So, do I?

Give in, and continue to clog their arteries slowly for a quiet life?

Endure the looks of disappointment and criticism leveled at me that forced me to add secret ingredients of Spirulina and dog food to the Chilli last Thursday?

Or, tell them to fuck off?

There’s A Sandwich Shortage In Australia

Far be it for me to take the spotlight away from Barnaby Joyce’s affair, however, Australia has a far bigger problem than a defunct political role model.

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It has a sandwich shortage.

 

When you drive through the state of NSW – that bit around Sydney and up to the Gold Coast – you will notice that the country is nothing like the way it is depicted in movies such as Mad Max ie. barren, soul-less, with kilometers of dirt, dust and cattle farms and serial killers that wait to hijack your combi the minute you step out of it for a pee. No, NSW is lush and green with beautiful beaches that must compete with some of the best in the world,

 

But long journeys are as boring AF, and what most of us tend to do when we’re bored is think about food.

 

In the UK, motorway cafes and petrol stations have remarketed themselves as fully stocked supermarkets that offer a variety of lunch options and snacks – they even sell wine. Whole aisles are dedicated to the sandwich, from the traditional egg and cress or chicken and mayo – my personal favorites – to the more exotic gourmet flavors handed down by their immigrant population. Even quinoa must have infiltrated the sandwich market at some level by now.

 

I bet that even Dean Moriarty, Jack Kerouac’s character in On The Road, found somewhere that made a decent sandwich, but in regional Australian, similar quests always seem to end in a hot pie with sauce (or “poie” as we pronounce it here) or a Maccas heart-attack fest. Mention a sandwich and the eyes of the locals glaze over – as though you just landed in one of North Korea’s practice missiles – which is kind of depressing when you think about the progress that has been made in diet and nutrition.

 

Far be it for me to knock the staple comfort food of my adopted country – I imagine that the steak pie has far more goodness in it than a super-sized Big Mac meal with a side of a chicken and cheeseburger and an Oreo sundae, which is Kurt’s lunch of choice after years of enforced healthy eating, but even with the dietary tweaks one makes on holiday, it is difficult to find anything healthy and tasty on the road.

 

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Admit it, you thought I was joking.

 

Sure, there are plenty of lollies, the sugar-fix of choice (if you can agree on whether to go sweet or sour) with six hours of barren landscape ahead of you, fights over playlists, bitching about the speed limit and which toilets to stop at. And there are plenty of (frankly) weird places to stop at in this vast country – Big Bananas, and cafes shaped like rocks where you sense that no one has ever heard of Netflix, (let alone dedicated their life to the sport of watching it), waxing or customer service, and where coffee is served via machines that all function slightly differently making you wish that IT was on the curriculum when you were at school – which all take on a heightened significance when you need to lift the tedium and pretense that there is any conversation left after twenty-five years of marriage.

 

We settled for a burger in the end. I couldn’t repeat the experience of last year when (finally) we found a café that was open and had a friendly staffer who had actually heard of the word “sandwich”, hadn’t run out of bread or only took cash. And it was only when I said the word “mayo” three times without a single glimmer of recognition of the abbreviated condiment, that all hope crumbled. When they (obviously) fertilized the egg, reared the bird and cooked it as we waited, my anxiety went into “abort mission” mode and the sandwich ended up in a bin down the street.

 

So we ended up at Maccas, again, and shared a portion of chips, one of those boring concessions to the aging process, where you allow yourself to stand on the edge of the pool of holiday-brazen-ness, but you only go in up to your waist. It’s a bitch getting old and realizing that you can’t ingest or imbibe whatever the fuck you want and that mental point system of calories in your head booms at you through a megaphone with “what the fuck are you thinking, you fat bitch?” every time you contemplate anything naughty but nice.

 

A full portion of chips is three glasses of wine to the muffin-top-challenged, so it’s a no-brainer, really.

Eating And Drinking Healthily In Middle Age To Maintain Your Body Weight

I’ve written a lot of posts about this topic in the past because let’s face it, girls, on a scale of stuff that still turns us on in middle age, (where sex with our husbands/partners is at one), food has to be at least a ten. The struggle is real. And to my horror, I recently discovered that there is sugar in fruit and wine – which is a bit rude, frankly – and a fact that has made rather a mockery of just about everything I have aspired to achieve over the past few years in my war on the muffin top.

 

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Sugar in fruit? Like, WTF!

 

The good news (this week) is that two glasses of red wine before bedtime is now good for us, according to the fat-busting scientists, which must mean that for those that are partial to a few more than two (due to mental health issues, say), that makes them virtually Roger Federer.

 

I gave up on traditional diets a long time ago, mainly because they don’t work, I can’t stick to them and they make me very dull and bad-tempered with a hunger only seen in Labradors and an irrational fixation on the breadbasket.

 

Fortunately, I am a moderation kind of girl, (Kettle Chips and cheese excluded – OBVS) and although I don’t deny myself any food groups really – except octopus because WTF and legs – I like to think that I choose wisely and healthily. I also try to balance my out my diet using a cutting-edge, self-developed point system that I stole from Weightwatchers designed for myself, that seems to work for me… sometimes – as in I don’t get the kind of hunger where all I can think about is eating other people’s leftovers in cafes and I can maintain focus on a sensible health target at this stage of my life – to maintain my drinking goals and weight at the same time.

 

Here are some of my tips:

 

If I have yogurt for brekkie, I won’t touch dairy for the rest of the day until my Snickers smoothie at bedtime.

 

If I blow out seriously on carbs, I limit myself to less than a bottle of wine that evening.

 

If I’ve starved myself with a steak and blue cheese salad for lunch, denied myself my morning tea toast and my afternoon snack of crackers and hummus, I allow myself an all-you-can-eat/all-you-can-drink week.

 

I only eat carbs when I’m hormonal, pre-menstrual, peri-menopausal, feeling fat, feeling unloved, feeling hungry, the kids hate me, or with wine.

 

You see – all pretty straightforward really. But let’s be honest, we all have those really shitty years when there’s been nothing on telly but sport for months, you’re fifty-two and still getting acne or your local restaurants decide to allow babies, and it’s hard to be virtuous all the time. Those days when all you want to do is crawl into bed with Pods on toast and an Amaretto on ice. And on those occasions – because remember, I said it’s about balance – I increase my exercise by searching out the furthest pub on Google maps and walking there AND BACK.

Fuck Holidays and Resolutions And Bring Back Routine

Michael Buble took us into Christmas again this year, so I’m going to allow him to take us back out gently and buoy you with optimism for the year ahead with his classic rendition of  ‘Feeling Good.’

There was something very anally fulfilling about creating my new January 2018 folder for this month’s blog posts this morning. Admit it – how bloody wonderful is it to get back into some sort of routine – work not included, for obvious reasons – after the free-fall of Christmas and its many delicacies and indulgences?

While I do realize that some of you poor sods are still on family holidays, have kids at home, or are fighting to stay warm in the US – as I sit here trying to feel full on my healthy afternoon snack of hummus-on-nothing – our lives are almost back to normal. And I like it that way.

We are back to eating healthily again, back to pretending to exercise and work, back to trying to ingest more water than wine in a day – we’re even back to arguing about how often we can afford to turn on the air con in this heatwave. Yesterday, the old man mowed the lawn without moaning.

The Princess got her first proper walk of the New Year this morning, (and December, if I’m honest), and we even remembered her breakfast this morning. Even better – all signs of turkey and ham have gone from the fridge and we gave up on dry January jointly, with only the tiniest iota of guilt, blame, and self-flagellation.

I set my alarm for the first time in weeks this morning and wasn’t disappointed when it yanked me rudely from my perennial dream about not completing the final paper of my degree. Dare I admit that I might actually have bounced out of bed this morning, the lyrics to that Buble song pounding in my head – ‘it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life…and I’m feeling like wine.’

I’ve been on a walk, had a swim, put in a wash load, done a food shop –  an uncharacteristically healthy one by our standards as a reluctant nod to January, the New Year and those goddamn resolutions, but one that I’m certain will be topped up shortly with illegal goodies.

Can anyone seriously resist all that Christmas cheese on special?

I’ve even finalized the organization of our social life for January, which was followed by an argument with the old man about our aforementioned social life for January, after which I thought about wine A LOT, and stuffed my face with the last of the mince pies and brandy custard.

Fuck resolutions. Fuck starving yourself and scales. Fuck sacrifice. It’s a new year and guess what, there’s still time to reinvent yourselves, take risks and do something crazy. The diet can wait, the liver can cope, the kids will be okay. Seize the day, peeps!

Hell, I may even open my first bottle before 5.

I Like To Think An Old Dog Can Learn New Tricks…

However… every trip out of the home these days seems to involve some shaming new public lesson in technology that highlights my mom-ness and has zero human interaction or support. I pity the really old people who used to see a trip to the shops as the one chance in their day for conversation.

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I think I’ve coped quite well with the abundance of new technology thrown at us in recent years – coin-operated trollies and food that comes out of machines comes to mind – but when I went to the movies with a friend the other day and we had to buy our tickets from a machine ie. no student who doesn’t give a shit and is just trying to stay awake behind a desk,  I seriously had to question how good this is for our social skills.

 

For the most part, middle-aged pride forces me to argue with the adage that an old dog can’t learn new tricks, although admittedly, the limitations of the more mature body can make things a little slower.

 

But if the brain is willing…

 

For example, I have mastered how to open the modern wine bottle with its fancy screw top lid very quickly; I have stopped trying to force my keys into the button ignition of my car, and five times out of ten, I remember my recyclable shopping bags, hence avoiding the label of planet-destroyer, apart from the five times I don’t.

 

But, there are certain tasks that have proved trickier to absorb, which for the main part are linked to technology.

 

Why the fuck couldn’t they leave things alone?

 

For while the mobile phone is an improvement, it has caused me major abandonment/anxiety issues due to my dependency, like when it stops working for no reason or I have lost it and realized that there is not one single telephone number stored in my head and I am alone in a car park with no idea where my car is parked.

 

We also have parking meters now that require you to enter your car registration number. What woman has ever been able to remember their registration number?  Did they seriously think that through?

 

And, just me, or does everyone require additional assistance at the self-serve check-outs because their fruit, apparently, doesn’t exist, or their bag is not registering that there is anything in it, or their French stick has not been coded? Surely, that has to defeat their purpose?

 

I get the premise of packing your own food for the purposes of speed, efficiency and getting rid of minimum-wage staff, but find it hard to ignore the deep-seated challenge of the set up in Aldi, for example. I like to call it  “Beating the cashier”, and the aim of the game is to catch all your shopping thrown at you by the cashier and put it into the appropriate sections of your trolley – ie. Veg goes at one end, fridge stuff at the other and Who-The-Fuck-Knows-Where-That-Will-Go? somewhere in the middle – before they finish. By the end, my trolley might resemble a refuse mountain with my bags buried carefully beneath it, but it’s still a win, bitch!

 

Try it! It’s really fun.

 

And finally, does anyone know what an HTML cord is yet? Asking for an old dog. 

 

 

 

11 Things I’m Bloody Loving Right Now

I’m sorry, I really am for ignoring you over the past few weeks, but in all honesty, while everyone else in Sydney has been fighting the flu, I’ve had a bad case of Blogger’s Block. Hence the decision with this little piece to reconnect, even if it isn’t one of the typically self-absorbed, cerebral pieces of drivel I normally churn out.

I don’t want you to think I’ve died.

Anyway, a loyal friend of mine who reads these little outpourings of mine, always tells me how much she loves my recommendations, lists of which I usually put out when I have fuck all else to say or can’t find the latest controversial piece of feminism or neo-Fascism to stir up with my wooden spoon.

I could lie and blame my “block” on how quintessentially busy my life is right now, but you’d know I was lying, and that in fact, my life is very boring. We’ve battened down the hatches as it’s winter here, Kurt is being suspiciously well-behaved, NC is working hard to complete her thesis and as sit in the grey area between winter and Christmas, there is frankly nothing to get my creative juices flowing.

So, without further ado, here are some of the things I’m attempting to spice up my life with at the moment:

drink-19202_1920Sangria – A bit retro, I know, but the old man decided to knock up a vat of this for my recent birthday celebrations and it was a massive hit. Recently reminded of its ice-breaking powers on our trip to Queensland, although I was initially cautious – from memories of painting the toilet bowl red on the Costa Del Sol in the eighties  – with an element of discipline, the drink didn’t wreak the havoc on my head in the way cheap red wine does these days. The old man chose a brandy-based version for his concoction and you should have seen the bun fight between middle-aged men to get to the punch bowl.

White-Fucking-Everything – It’s no secret that if I had only birthed Spoodles, my whole house would be white, and I am now converting my wardrobe to a similar colour scheme. I’m absolutely loving the classicism and simplicity of white jumpers, shirts, and trousers, which I lift with accents of gold or ocean blue. When we move back to The Beaches later this year, all my vibrant city colors will be out again and in will come the calming blues and neutrals of the ocean as well as my new, very expensive Hamptons furniture, which the old man will agree to invest in because he loves me so much. 11324TWDE_1

Rose-Gold Jewellery – Talking of gold, I treated myself to some new jewellery for my birthday and even though I hated rose-gold with a passion when it first became stylish a few years ago – mainly because it gets lost in my Rosacea – I’ve done a complete turn-around on this one because it warms up my three staple colours of white, black and blue of my wardrobe.

Decjuba is a clothes shop I’ve been frequenting recently, mainly because they make it so easy for me with their core colors of black and white, but also because they love stripes, are generous in their proportions and reasonably priced. I got this classic white shirt from there ($79.95) and if you’re a member you get a 10% discount, which really means it’s virtually free.

diamond_cushion_cover_in_seamist_by_ecodownunder_4Eco Down Under is another shop whose wares that offer “better environmental options”, I salivate over at the moment. Frustrated by the Princess’s paw prints on my white bed linen, the old man had a domestic hissy fit and asked me to invest in some muted pastels recently, and Eco’s simple, calming collection of bed linen and towels is fabulous. I think the cotton is a superior quality to other sets in the same price range and their sales are great – I got this Queen cover set for $59.

Pinot Noir – Friends and family have been on a mission to convert me to the red grape for decades, but I can be an obstinate bitch at times, dug my heels in, and stuck loyally to Chardy. Then one morning, (after a raucous night on the white), just like that I was converted to red. Pinot Noir is at the milder end of the red grape spectrum, according to those in the know, and having trialed and tested several from the budget end of the range at Dan Murphys, I can highly recommend the Frontera Pinot Noir, a steal at $10 a bottle. 824024_0_9999_med_v1_m56577569855120487

Game Of Thrones – If you’re not watching GOT, you have to question if you are truly existing. I had no choice with two die-hard fantasists in the house who both asked me when the dragons come in when they read my manuscript. Admittedly, the plots can be tricky for those of us middle-aged folk on a fast-track to Dementia with armies of characters with easily forgettable names, but it is nevertheless compelling viewing if for no other reason than to increase your appreciation of a good heating system. There is also Kit Harington, Nikolai Coster-Waldau, Iain Glen and Jason Mamoa…

maxresdefaultTom Hardy – And on the topic of talented actors, Tom Hardy has been on my radar since his performance as the mad Alfie Solomons in Peaky Blinders. Tom is very good at playing psychopaths and what woman doesn’t like a fictional bad boy? He also stole the show in The Revenant from Leo de Caprio and is currently mesmerizing as James Delaney in Taboo on BBC First, so imagine my surprise when he turned up as a very stiff-upper-lip World War 2 hero fighter pilot (swoon) in Dunkirk.

Halloumi – Since NC has guilted us out of eating meat most of the time and the egg debate has restarted – according to a recent article published in the Journal of Atherosclerosis Research, eating eggs is the equivalent of smoking five ciggies a day – I’ve switched to halloumi for lunch, (although I’d prefer the ciggies). The only problem with working from home is having to think about another meal, but halloumi has paved the way for some wonderful creations in our house. My fave is halloumi on toast with wilted spinach and roasted tomatoes, while NC knocks up a mean veggie burger with avocado (of course!), caramelized onions and chili. According to the Greek shelf stacker at my local Harris Farm, the Greeks sprinkle lemon and black pepper on the top.

Superga Sneakers – My Sciatica has now committed my body to flat shoes and since I threw anything higher than a few millimeters out in our recent Council clear-up,  I am living in these Superga Sneakers. I secretly wish I’d gone for the rose-gold version now (see anal-ness about colour coordination), but as these sneakers are available in an array of wonderfully kitsch patterns and colors and around $80 a pair,  I could probably have a pair for each one of my black outfits. download

And finally…

566349_xlarge_6Nude Magique BB cream by L’Oreal – I recommended the Clinique Redness Solutions foundation a while back which is great, but this is a lighter cream for daytime and it is fabulous for covering blemishes as well as making your skin feel as soft and velvety as your Granny’s. It is also about half the price at around $25 in Australia.