Friday, 21 December 2007

Old News - Newsletter December 2007

Another year draws to a close, and slowly I am starting to feel "home" here, after nearly two years in Australia.

Last January I sent off my application for a skilled independant permanent visa, which is based on points calculated from your age, qualifications and work experience. Luckily what I do is in high demand here at the moment, so I had points to spare! Even so, the paperwork took several nail-biting months to process, but I finally picked up my visa in August and I can work where I like and come and go as I please for the next few years, after which time they expect you to become a citizen. Passport 3 here I come!

Milord and I go from strength to strength. This has been a very good year for us after the initial learning curve of 2006! In the coming year we plan to buy a house together, and that will draw us closer and maybe make me put down roots here at last. Living in rented accommodation is just not the same!

I have been in the same job since March 2006, and I can't see me staying with it much longer. It has not been at all challenging this past year, and I was only staying because of visa sponsorship... I am now free to seek my fortune elsewhere! Hopefully for more money too ;-). It's a contract position so I can walk away at any time.

We've had a few memorable holidays this year. In March Milord and I went to South Africa for a couple of weeks and Milord fell in love with the place. We spent a week in Cape Town, and then a week in the Kruger Park. It was my first time in the Kruger and I was blown away! We are definitely talking about coming back sometime. He got to meet most of my family and friends, and is still with me so you all can't have been that bad!

In August we went to New Zealand to fetch my visa, and threw in a few days skiing in Queenstown. While it's a superb town and has stunning scenery, I wasn't that impressed with the ski slopes and I'm not sure we'll bother again - we'll probably try the local ski fields this coming winter. It was great to see H and C in Auckland though in their newly bought house.

In October K and P came over from the UK for a few weeks and we were able to join them for a few days of their trip. We went to Port Douglas, north of Cairns, for most of a week, and I'll definitely go back! Milord and I managed to sneak in a couple of dives, and it rates as some of the best diving I have done in Australia. Although that's not saying much... we are both very spoiled after the Red Sea!

Apart from that we haven't had much holiday this year. Milord's mum was extremely ill with cancer this year and we spent most of our free time and cash visiting her. She died in September, which is an enormous shame as I rather liked her. Milord is now "orphaned" and we will be spending Christmas with other folk who also can't be with their families.

On the weekends we sometimes get away for a break, or go flying in a light aircraft. We don't dive much around Sydney as it's cold and murkey, but sometimes we go for a snorkel to play with the underwater camera. Milord's been getting back into golf lately, and I'm still promising to get out my sketching gear but haven't made it off the couch yet! The summer has been extremely disappointing so far, very wet and mild. Hopefully it will cheer up before next winter - I'd love a scorching month or two ;-).

We have no holidays lined up for next year yet, as the house buying could put a stop to that sort of thing for a while... We are tossing around some diving/sailing plans though, so who knows?!

Stay well and have a wonderful festive season. Hug family for me, because I really miss you guys...

Xmas Time!



This is my last day at work until the new year. I may post from home, but our plans are pretty hectic so I might not get a chance... So I'll take this opportunity to wish you all a wonderful holiday and festive season.

Spend it with your family if you can - I really really miss mine right now. But I have wonderful friends and a loving man looking after me so that's ok ;-).

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Summer Salad

Milord and I are being good in the final run up to Christmas, so I made us a cracked wheat salad with feta, mint and apricots to take to work.

It's from my WeightWatchers cookbook, and I see the recipe is on their site too.



175 g dried bulgar wheat
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 medium orange(s), use the zest and juice
2 heaped teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil, or walnut oil
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
2 heaped tablespoon raisins, or sultanas
75 g moist packed ready to eat Apricots, chopped
2 stick celery, thinly sliced
75 g grapes, seedless and halved
100 g feta cheese, cut into small cubes
4 sprig fresh mint, to garnish

Put the bulgar wheat into a large bowl and add a generous pinch of salt. Pour over enough boiling water to cover, then leave to soak for about 20-30 minutes, until swollen and tender.

Mix together the orange zest and juice, honey, walnut oil or olive oil and chopped mint. Drain any excess water from the soaked bulgar wheat then add the orange juice dressing, stirring well. Add the raisins or sultanas, apricots, celery, grapes and cheese, tossing well to mix. Divide between four serving plates or bowls, garnish with mint sprigs then serve.

They say 6.5 points, but I used reduced fat feta and substituted apple for the grapes and raisins so I'm guessing 5 points. I gave us both a double portion, so let's say 10 points for lunch. I also threw in some rocket, sugar snap peas and cherry tomatoes I had in the fridge. Ever so yummy and very very easy to make. Filling too!

I have nothing to do at work at the moment, and with only 3 days to go before I take two weeks off over the festive break no one is giving me anything new... Man, it's boring. I've been sneaking out to do a lot of present shopping, but that's done now. I need to stock up on food, but I don't have the car today. So I'm reading a lot of blogs lately. I found this over on A Dumbbell in a Home Gym:

"I've been lifting weights much more regularly, and I think my body is in one of those periodic rearrangement phases where things start shuffling around like tectonic plates. I feel smaller again."

I know exactly what she means! I know I said I wouldn't post about my weight again this year, and to be honest there is nothing much to write home about this week, but I do feel good lately after all the gym work I've been doing. On the weekend I went through my wardrobe trying on clothes I haven't been near since my weight crept into the 70s, and things are looking better than they have in a very long time. My waist is definitely smaller, and so are my boobs (I like them small, so this is a good thing!).

Yay me ;-).

Monday, 17 December 2007

Lizzie

On the weekend I was changing the sheets on my bed when a tiny baby lizard appeared on the mattress. Where he came from I have no idea, as we have bug screens on the bedroom window and he can't have got in that way. I managed to catch him easily and took him outside...



Hopefully he'll have good long life catching our zillions of mosquitoes!

I can't see a lizard without thinking of Ms Grumpy Chair and her lizard phobia. I guess I'm lucky that in general bugs and reptiles don't worry me (unless they're huge or lethal anyway). I've made a number of friends here who are English and Irish ex-pats, and they just can't deal with critters. That's in central Sydney too - heaven knows what they'd be like in the bush!

Friday, 14 December 2007

Searches

Search terms which brought people to my blog:

possum box plans: It's great that you plan to have a possum box. It's just like a big bird box really, and make sure it's out of the reach of cats and so on. We have a possum living in the box in the tree outside our back door next to the barbeque, and at twilight the little critter wakes up and pokes his head out and watches us for a while before clambering out to do whatever it is possums do all night.

Manly Harbour/Waterfront: Yes Manly has a harbour and a waterfront... and a really long beach and promenade. Most of the bars and restaurants are not on the water though. My favourite restaurant in Manly is perched on top of the changing rooms right on the sand... You can watch the surfers and beautiful people go by while sipping chilled white wine and eating fresh oysters... I should go back there sometime soon.

how many weight watcher points for a apple/carrot juice drink: Well, each apple costs 0.5 points. Carrots are free. If it's not a freshly squeezed juice then check the sugar content and so on... and the purists will tell you to only use organic fruit but I'm not that fussy.

should my eyebrows match my black hair: I thought so - once. My brows are a sort of dark brown so they looked all right against my black hair in the end, although the hair itself looked a bit wierd. If you have very blonde eyebrows you should probably take them darker, but maybe not all the way to black!

juice fast detox poo: Um. Mine was fine but I've heard stories... Probably depends on what you were eating before the detox.

weightwatchers pumpkin soup zero: Sure is! Gotta love no-point soup ;-). And roast pumpkin wedges are great as a snack or in a salad in hot weather too.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Diet Post 14

So, today I'm 71kg? This is silly - the last time I lost weight so fast I was juice fasting!

I'm not fasting, honest, but I am being sort of good. Fruit for breakfast and snacks and a light lunch and dinner. Yesterday I had leftover chicken, tomato and barley soup for lunch, and I did a veggie stir-fry for dinner with a tiny bit of lamb in it (was supposed to be a lamb stir-fry but I overestimated the amount of lamb in the freezer!). Milord and I shared just one (1) bottle of wine...

I have been hitting the gym quite hard, but that doen't usually have much effect. I had to get up twice in the night to pee so I'm not dehydrated (tmi?). I can't explain it, but I'll update my ticker anyway! Ok, now I just have to maintain this weight through Christmas...

Hopefully that's the last weight post this year. I'm sure you're all really bored ;-)

Sunbathing...

Half an hour to go until my department goes out for Christmas lunch... I've run out of work and it's kinda boring here.

Let's go back in time...

It's 1989 in South Africa, the year I finished school, and I'm 17. The end of the year is fast approaching and it's a summer weekend - I am trying to top up my tan in the back garden. I have spread a towel or two on the grass, and have a book and soft drink within reach. I'm tanning naked today, as the garden is private, only my mother is home and I want to get rid of all tan lines. I'm stunned by the sun, hot and heavy and sweaty and I drift off to sleep, shielded behind my sunglasses.

In a corner of my awareness I hear my mum start the lawnmower. She used to run a gardening service and had this huge diesel mower that was complete overkill on our yard. It takes her a few goes to get it going, and then she begins to mow the lawn in the front of the house. A while later I wake again and I hear she is mowing the lawn near me now, beginning with the edges.

I stir, stretch and sit up, about to ask her if she wants me to move. But... it's not my mum... it's the black odd-job bloke my dad has been employing to help out around the house! He has an enormous grin on his face. I leap to my feet frantically trying to cover myself, and streak into the house juggling towels and book and drink.

From that day he always greeted me with the biggest smile...

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Diet Post 13

Mwahaha 71.4kg today. Go figure... Perhaps I was still recovering from my weekend? That means I "only" gained half a kilo, which is normal for me. Phew.

I managed to beat off the champagne last night, although a couple of diet gin and tonics did waylay me in a dark alley. Only 1 point each if you make them weak though, so not tooooo bad! (Yes I know I have an alcohol problem, hush)

Milord is home tonight and wants to decorate our cute little Christmas tree... with a glass or five of champers. Methinks I'm not going to be able to say no. If you're very lucky I might post a picture of my first ever Christmas tree ;-). First I was in a too-small flat in Cape Town, then a too-small flat in London, then I couldn't be bothered for a while, and last year milord and I were away at his mum's so I had no urge to do anything.

This year we are home for Christmas and we have a brand spanking new living 5-foot high tree. His ex must have taken all their old ornaments (suits me) so I've been having fun buying miniature baubles for our gorgeous little tree. Milord won't have a chopped down tree because it's killed, and I don't mind either way because I grew up with artificial ones, so we found a lovely little live one that we can use for a couple of years before retiring it onto a friend's property ;-). Nice.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Diet Post 12

Weekly weighing day... 72kg.

Argh.

I've gained a kilo since last week sniff. Well, no excuses, I know exactly where that came from! I was good yesterday and I promised myself I'd be good today, and then got ambushed by the chocolates while waiting in the checkout queue at lunchtime - I've discovered Chomps here in Oz - and they're exactly like the ones I grew up eating in South Africa! I didn't like the UK ones... sadly I like these a lot ;-)

Apart from 2 apples, a peach, a nectarine, a glass of juice and a few cups of tea that's all I've eaten today though. Talk about a blood sugar roller coaster hee hee... Tonight the plan is a nice light chicken soup. Milord is away in Melbourne though, and I find myself more easily swayed without him at home watching me be a piggy (that's when he's not leading me astray of course!). The bottle of champagne in the fridge may just wrestle me into submission halfway through the evening... must... resist...

Monday, 10 December 2007

I don't like Mondays

*yawn*

I'm shattered today. I really hate it when I start the week tired, because then I never seem able to catch up on sleep and the week drags slower and slower.

It was a fairly excessive weekend. Friday was our 23rd montheversary (nearly 2 years woohoo!), and milord took me out to an excellent restaurant. They were a bit overwhelmed with huge tables indoors, but we were able to sit out on the terrace away from the noise and bustle. Service was patchy, but we were in no hurry and when the food finally did arrive it was worth the wait. I had the best braised duck ever, and milord's steak was superb... We shared a bottle of very good sauvignon blanc with our starters (marinaded anchovies for me, and tuna carpaccio for him), and a lovely cabernet sauvignon with the mains. We got home around midnight and sat up watching a bit a dvd with a nightcap until very late... that may have been a mistake!

On Saturday milord was off on a stag weekend, so I dropped him at our friend's house then wandered back home for a late breakfast. I cleaned and tidied the house and then Lucy and her kids arrived. Lucy and Peter and the kids were staying over that night as they were going to a party nearby. We shared a bottle of champagne, and then I headed into town to meet up with the other halves of the stag party for a girl's night out. I got home around 1am, a bit worse for wear, and shared my bed with a 5 year old girl... she was very quiet luckily!

Sunday was an early start, as kids don't respect hangovers! We blobbed around with coffee for a while, and then they all took me out to brunch before heading home. I had the house to myself from about midday, and this is how I spent the afternoon:



On the couch.

It was a hot muggy day, and a storm passed through at about 3pm. I read the newspapers and my book, I painted my nails, I did several loads of laundry, and I made a pot of vegetable soup to feed milord if and when he came home... It seems the stag party was doing a bit of a pub crawl nearby. Every so often I'd get a phone call and the quality thereof steadily deteriorated through the afternoon! Milord finally stumbled in after dark, as trollied as I've ever seen him, inhaled a bowl of soup and crashed off to bed. I watched a dvd, finished another bottle of wine, and put myself to bed in the spare room at about 10pm.

Sleeping in that room gives me wierd dreams - I don't know why. Perhaps it is because the windows face the road and all the noises are different. I woke up tired and blah. I definitely feel better than milord though! I took him coffee in bed and had a chat, and he was just about out of bed when I left for work - I hear several others from the stag party have called in sick!

I think an early night is called for tonight ;-)

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Christmas Bus

When I caught the bus to work this morning, I was startled to find it swathed in decorations! Candy canes hung from the ceiling and streamers and tinsel wound around every available handrail. It was extremely festive. I wonder if there is a competition between the busses for the most garish bus?

So, Christmas... I'm sure we all have Christmas stories. I know I do!

Many years ago, when I was about 21, I was going out with a lovely bloke called Willy. We met when working together in a restaurant - I was studying computers and waitressing at night while he worked his way up through the restaurant hierarchy. He started as barman, then became waiter, then chef, then manager... He was wildly romantic, and I would come home from class to find a trail of flowers through the house, or soppy cards and soft toys. Our chemistry was awesome and he spoiled me rotten. I've never known anything like it before or since ;-).

Of course, if he was entirely perfect I'd still be with him today! Willy had, let's say, um, issues. He was utterly useless at managing money and insanely possessive, but what really freaked me out was his ability to passively resist things he didn't want to do. When things were going wrong at the restaurant he would simply fail to wake up for work. His housemates told me a story of breaking into his bedroom to silence a blaring clock-radio alarm that had been going off for 30 minutes, only to find Willy asleep next to it. Truely wierd!

So, this one Christmas was a bit stressful for Willy. I can't quite remember why, but it had something to do with him forgetting to buy presents, or perhaps because an old boyfriend of mine would be dropping by. I really don't remember now, but he was upset... He'd stayed the night of Christmas Eve, and in the morning I got up and showered and got ready to join my mum downstairs to open presents with a glass of champagne. I nudged Willy to wake him so that he could shower. Then I shook him. I called his name. I may have bounced on him... I do remember rolling him out of bed so that he hit the floor with a crash! At that point I gave up and left him in a heap on the floor next to the bed and went downstairs. He appeared hours later, rumpled and confused.

We were together for several years, but after I finished my computer course and entered the workforce it all went rather pear shaped. He was intimidated by my profession (he ruined the day of my graduation by picking a fight), and jealous because I was no longer working nights where he could keep his eye on me. His possessiveness started rubbing off on me and if he was late getting home I would freak out and drive the route at 2am looking for him. We broke up and got back together many times, each time more stressful than the last, and finally we limped away and got on with our lives. It helped that he'd got some other girl pregnant too...

Willy was my first real love I reckon. I still miss him a little bit from time to time, and my mum still talks about him - she adored him. Willy died a year or so after I'd moved to London - a head-on collision late at night after work. He most likely fell asleep at the wheel... I was devastated when I found out. The people you've loved never really leave your heart do they?

Phrase of the Week

Every so often I come across a word or phrase that tickles me...

Helicopter Parent

A helicopter parent is a person who pays extremely close attention to his or her child or children, particularly at educational institutions. They rush to prevent any harm or failure from befalling them or letting them learn from their own mistakes, sometimes even contrary to the children's wishes. They are so named because, like a helicopter, they hover closely overhead, rarely out of reach whether their children need them or not.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Diet Post 11

Hmm, up again. Not too much, at least I'm still under the dreaded 71kg - but just barely! 70.9kg.

After my post on Saturday things went a bit wrong diet-wise. Milord and I went on a mission to find biltong and boerewors, because we are having folk around on Christmas Eve and fancy offering them something Saffa and unusual to snack on. Plus we are both utterly addicted to the stuff and have been in withdrawal since our trip to South Africa in March! We had heard of a butchers in Ryde (North-West Sydney) who did decent stuff, so headed off there shortly after lunch. We found them easily (Quality Meats in the West Ryde shopping centre if you're interested) and they had a reasonable range of beef biltong, including spicy and sticks. I've not heard of any other kind of biltong over here, but I reckon kangaroo would be excellent as it's a lean, gamey red meat. The only problem is that milord won't eat Skippy! Luckily for him the biltong we bought on the weekend was excellent, so I won't be attempting my own roo-tong just yet! The only boerewors sausage on offer was a pork and beef mix, and it looks really fatty. We didn't get very much, as I'm not wild about it anyway... I'll let you know what it's like after Christmas!

We munched biltong in the car on the way home, and with beer while reading the newspapers in the afternoon, and with red wine while waiting for the roast lamb to cook, and as a late night snack after dinner... I woke up feeling positively awful in the night! I must have eaten the equivalent of 4 or more steaks - and that's between meals! Urgh.

I haven't had any since, but Sunday involved a lot of champagne and nibbles and fresh bread with butter. Mmm. I reckon I'm lucky to not have gained more weight than I did! Milord and I are going to try to be as good as possible this week. No booze at home until Friday, and light meals. I've made us a batch of bean salad to bring to work and mix with fresh salad leaves and tomato, and I've stocked up on apples, peaches and nectarines for snacks. Milord will be cycling to and from work in spite of the rain (yes, rain forecast all week again), and I'll be gymming as much as possible.

Dinner tonight will be red bell peppers (capsicum) stuffed with leftover roast lamb, sweet potato and butternut pumpkin. Yum - I made something similar a month or two back, and reckon it's the nicest way to eat leftover roast lamb! Chop everything up small, add some fresh mint and coriander, stuff into the peppers then pop them into a very hot oven until the peppers blacken a little and blister. Serve whole.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Christmas Baking

When I was little, one of the thrills of Christmas time was the baking of mince pies for the festive season. For as long as I can remember my sister and I would "help mommy" to bake, licking bowls and pressing out shapes and brushing egg white. The smell of the fruit mince filling and of the cookies baking is an integral part of Christmas for me. I haven't baked a cookie since I was child!

This past weekend I was invited to join a girlfriend, her two kids, and two other women, baking Christmas cookies. It was a leap back in time, watching the 5 year old girl and 3 year old boy standing on blocks to reach the table and "help" us bake. We made gingerbread shapes and lemon shortbread shapes and tiny mince pies. Flour got everywhere, especially all over the kids, and tray after tray of cookies went into and out of the oven, filling the house with baking smells. We had several bottles of champagne and a lot of laughs.


It was so lovely of them to invite me to join their annual bake-athon. I'd mentioned the other day that I was feeling a bit lonely over here at the other end of the planet from my friends and family, so she decided to include me. She's not a close friend - she's an old friend of milord and the best mate of milord's ex-wife, which gets a bit wierd - but she's very fond of milord and is being ever so sweet to me. Her kids are great, and we get along really well.

It is actually starting to feel like Christmas now. I bought us a living potted Christmas tree last week, and now just need to get some decorations for it. I've also bought a string of icicle lights to put up outside. I can't decide whether to put them out the front or out the back... probably out the back for our Christmas Eve party. It's getting dark so late now that we'd never see them lit up out the front.

Searches

Search terms which brought people to my blog:

saffa family tree: You may need a bit more detail for this one, like, surname? Unless of course your surname is "Saffa". That's funny - I wonder if the surname "Pommy" is out there! Or "Yank".

exam results: Again, more detail maybe. Institution, course, year?

does hair color remover work on demi permanent dye: Probably not. I take it you don't like your new colour? What did you go with? I tried a temporary red once over the summer school holidays and it wouldn't wash out for ages!

what clipper number does tom cruise use for his hair: Dude. Who cares?

trek pert to uluru: I'm loving the typo... Make sure you have a decent bra if you're trekking all that way and want to stay pert, ok?

juice fast: I'm getting a lot of hits on juice fasting stuff. To be honest you may be better off doing the pert trek instead ;-)

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Diet Post 10

Wahey! 70.2kg today... down from 71.6 yesterday - I definitely was retaining water!

And that's after steak last night. And a corn cob, some very oily stir-fried veggies (milord gets a bit generous with the olive oil, but I can't complain when someone else cooks!), and way too much champagne... I drank 2 pints of water in the night and I'm not dehydrated, so that's a true reading ;-). Yay.

What a great way to start the weekend! I am sitting in bed with the Saturday newspapers and my second cup of coffee, waiting for the hair bleach to lighten my roots. Milord is off playing golf but should be home for lunch which is lovely - usually I don't see him 'til late on a golf day.

I don't normally blog on the weekend but I had to share that! I wonder if I can get below 70 before Christmas? That would be the best present ever!