Monday, 29 September 2008

1.5 days to go!

Septsober is nearly over! Just over a day to go and I can pour an ice cold glass of crisp dry sauvignon blanc, inhale it's grassy goodness and then sip the gooseberry capsicum nectar and feel it tingle all the way down my throat.

This weekend was the roughest craving I've had in weeks. Partly because I was tired and cranky (note to self, do not donate blood when having your period - bad combo), and I think partly because the end is in sight! I only survived because Milord kept me on the straight and narrow.


We went cycling this weekend - I borrowed a friend's bicycle and Milord and I explored a cycle track which follows a river not far from home. Apparently the total distance is 25km, but we just went went for half an hour then turned around and came home. It was lovely with lots of parkland, sports fields and a golf course along the way. We will take a picnic next time, and I must take photos.

I haven't been on a bike in years, and I haven't really cycled since I left school. It does come back quickly, although I had a lot of trouble with tight corners! I also had trouble with my bum - after an hour in the saddle I was in agony, and a couple of days later I am still aware of my butt bones... we may need to ease into this cycling lark!

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Septsober almost done, what about Ocsober?

No no not me! I'm not doing another month off the grog until maybe next year... I hear February is a nice short one!

However, I know that a lot of Aussies will be attempting "Ocsober" to raise money for Life Education, a non-government organisation who educate kids about the dangers of drink and drugs. I would have signed up myself but the timing was a bit off for me.

Instead I am prepared to sponsor someone else. None of my friends here in Sydney are interested - bloody alkies.

Therefore: If you intend to participate in Ocsober and you stumble across this post before October 2008, leave me a comment and I'll sponsor you $100! If you're very lucky I might be able to talk my 3 readers into sponsoring you too! I'll give you a guest pass to my blog and you will be required to blog once a week about the experience. If you are in Sydney then I'll take you out for a drink when you are done.

I hope you find the experience easier than I did.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Odd Things

I've seen lately...

On the way to work I saw 3 women on the edge of a park, dancing a slow bollywood-style routine in near-perfect unison.

I saw a wedding party having their photos taken in a bustling pedestrianised mall, surrounded by hundreds of hurrying people. The bridal couple was posing in the Armani store doorway, right in front of a huge poster of a half-naked man.

The optomotrist store in my high street has a poster in the window advertising a Stevie Wonder gig.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Across time

Inspired by Claire's letter to her 17 year self, but considering that I recently wrote about being 17...

If you could talk to the you of 10 or 20 years time, what would you say? What questions do you have? Here we go...

Dear Saffa in 10 years time,

So, mid 40's eh? How's that going? Milord is jumpy right now about turning 50 in a couple of years, are you cool with it? I'll tell you what I'm telling him: no one over 30 thinks 50 is that old! Folk over 60 think you're wet behind the ears. Relax and enjoy, you have decades still to come!

Are you a good mother? They'll be well under 10 years old if I do my job right so in theory at the nicest stage! Do you enjoy being a mom? If you are struggling then remember why you did it: because it is the biggest adventure challenge there is and you didn't want to turn into one of those rather strange stunted women who never had a family and who channel all their love into dogs and cats. You know who I mean.

Are you still a good wife? Your 10 year anniversary has just passed. Remember your priorities - your husband must come first if your marriage is going to be happy. Husband, then children, then self, then job. Do you have the balance right?

Are you taking care of yourself? You better be, because I'm knocking myself out here in your 30's to give you a good body to carry on with! Moderation, darling. You know the truth, now believe in it. And get that husband of yours to cut back too.

I'd love to know what job you are doing. There are very few programmers around in their late 40s (ok ok, mid 40s) right now... does that become the norm or do you head into management? Did you stop for a few years to bring up the kids? Did you discover a whole new direction? Whatever you choose I'm sure you're fine. If you're not fine then stop! Go do something else - it's never too late to be a success in a new direction - just think of your mom and what she achieved after 55.

Speaking of which, how is your mom? She'll be just over 70. Did you manage to get her to emigrate to be with you? Is she living in a granny flat in your garden helping with the kiddies or forging yet another career somewhere? Did she find someone to love? God I hope so, she has so much to give to the right bloke. Is she with a good bloke? If not then do something about it this time!

And how's Dad and Stepmom? Still semi-retired on the sunset coast spoiling the grandkids when they get the chance? I bet Dad's turned into one of those marvellous sinewy old blokes who can still windsurf at 75. Awesome.

I assume you're still in Sydney, but if you're in a whole new continent I won't be surprised - you always had itchy feet.

Don't you dare get boring on me! Remember: "Life is short, so why not?!"

Yours sincerely
30's Saffa

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

What wasn't for dinner Wednesday

Day 24 off the grog. We have added fairly strict dieting to our regime and now we're losing weight... funny that. Oh well, one week left and I get my life back!

Cravings: Gone.
Skin: Great, except I now have PMS (pre menstrual spots) coming up.
Weight: Down a bit, but that's because of diet not drink.
Money saved: We were doing pretty well then got a parking fine and speeding fine so would have spent the same on wine and a taxi!


I'm going to stop the weekly meal post - I'm very busy at work lately so it seems every other post is about food and that's just not interesting! If we cook up something stunning I may post it in future.

For the record though last night we had a butternut, brussel sprout and asparagus risotto that's a keeper! If anyone asks I'll post the recipe.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Haircut again

About a month ago I cut my hair from shoulder-length to quite short. It was a nice enough cut, and an enormous relief after several years of long hair, but it just wasn't quite what I wanted. I'd had to argue with the hairdresser to get her to make the sides short and I found the whole look was a bit shapeless and hard to style. What I wanted is what is probably best known as a "pixie" cut, but try explaining that to a Vietnamese lady with bad English!

So the other day I was passing a proper hairdresser and on impulse I popped in and asked if they had a free slot. They did, and I described the cut I wanted to the ladyboy assigned to me.

"Very short back and sides, and longer on top."
"How short?"
"Very short."
"Like a boy's cut?"
"Uh... what?"

So (s)he brought me a brochure of men's cuts and I chose one. I presume they don't call it a pixie cut when it's on a bloke, but that's exactly what it is!

Cute, sexy, much easier to style, and Milord likes it too. (The fringe is supposed to fall forward, but I have a wild cowlick to contend with)


In my 20's I had quite a similar cut, so this makes me feel a decade younger. The only difference is that I used to have my hair a whole lot lighter - "platinum blonde" I think we called it. Milord has seen the photos, and yesterday he commented that my hair is so much darker than back then, and he'd like it lighter. Well, why not? I picked up some pre-lightener at the chemist (because the usual stuff doesn't take me light enough) and disappeared into the bathroom, emerging with super-blonde hair a bit later. Milord was a bit shocked, silly thing! (If your natural colour is not blonde then don't do this at home)


I now look exactly like my mother did in her 30s (she's always had very short platinum hair)... which is not a bad thing but it is a little disturbing!

Thursday, 18 September 2008

What (was) for dinner Wednesday - update

So we made our seafood salad last night. I chopped up garlic, crushed a dried chilli, and mixed those up with the seafood, salt, pepper and olive oil.

Then I looked at my seafood mix... and it was looking back at me.


Kind of freaky.


I'm not the most squeamish of people but this just wasn't cool! Milord pulled out the octopi and cut them in half before we stir-fried the seafood in a hot wok, then served it on salad.


Next time we're going to have to cut them up much smaller though, as I had a definite hesitation a couple of times during dinner!

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

What (was) for dinner Wednesday

I haven't cooked anything photo worthy lately, except maybe a roast leg of lamb with heaps of roast veg on Sunday at a friend's house, and I didn't take a shot of that! We had strawberries and cream for dessert... mmm.

On Monday I took all the leftover roast veg (parsnips, carrots, butternut pumpkin, courgettes), boiled them up with a couple of stock cubes and blended them to a thick rich soup. Delicious, but an icky orange/brown colour so you won't be seeing it!

Yesterday Milord swung by the fish market and brought home enough seafood for the next week, and we had baked barramundi with baked courgette strips (put fish fillet and courgette pieces on a baking tray in a very hot oven for 20 min, then serve). The fish fell apart while dishing up, so it looked terrible although it was yummy!

Tonight we're going to cook up a seafood mix which includes baby octopus and scallops and have that on green salad... if it looks nice I'll take a picture!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Septsober halfway

Day 16 off the grog. Halfway, and downhill from here I hope!

Weight Lost: none (wah)
Energy Levels: normal
Concentration: normal
Skin: normal
TV watching: reduced by 80%
Book reading: up by 80%
Money saved: lots
Sleep quantity: increased
Snoring: stopped (yay)

Conclusion:
We're sleeping more, eating more, reading more (we've lost all tolerance for rubbish TV and would rather sleep or read than sit through it) and going out less. We are finding the experience as a whole rather unrewarding, but we are halfway now so may as well complete the month!


I am working flat out at the moment, so I'm not posting or even reading blogs much... at least the days fly by! Then I go home, cook dinner, check email, watch a little TV then go to bed and read my book. Every. Single. Day. Life is pretty dull.

On the weekend we worked around the house because we intended hosting a bbq on the Sunday. Saturday was a glorious day - it turned into a scorcher - the first day of summer perhaps. It was so hot that Milord ran out to buy a huge sun umbrella for the back yard to shelter our guests. Then of course on Sunday we awoke to pounding rain! We contacted out friends who offered their kitchen, so we went over to their place and cooked Sunday lunch and watched everyone else get drunk. How annoying are drunk people when you're sober, eh?

Sunday was a major test for us as our friends not only did not respect our desire to stay off the grog ("Oh go on, just a small one!"), but they also wanted us to taste the wines they are selecting for their wedding in a few weeks time! We've discovered that we are stronger as a team - if I didn't know that succumbing would take Milord with me I'd be far more likely to have "just one", and the same is true for him.

Oh well. 15 days without a hangover is not to be sneezed at I suppose!

Here's a sculpture I passed on the way to work the other day, of a group of sheep leaping through a curtain. It's called "Curtain Call". Surreal, and the sheep are sculpted amazingly well.


Thursday, 11 September 2008

First Love

I was reading a newsletter from my old high school yesterday when I realised that next year will be my 20 year reunion.

20 years! Wow that happened fast.

The year I left school I was 17. I look at 17 year olds today and want to dismiss them as "babies", but I wasn't a baby at 17. I wasn't even a child any more. I'd already made some hard choices regarding my future, and I'd fallen in love and had my heart broken by another 17 year old.

Gosh we were young and beautiful. I saw a picture of my first love on Facebook the other day and he's now completely bald and hairy and pale. Ugh. It can't be the same guy - he was an absolute Adonis at 17 with floppy blonde hair and a firm tanned hairless physique!

We met at the birthday party of a mutual friend, who was a girl in my class. Attending a girl's school boys were in short supply, so anyone with brothers/friends-of-brothers/friend-boys was expected to bring them along to any party. I can't remember the girl now, but I sure do remember the friend-boy she'd invited! I probably introduced myself and I'm fairly sure he asked something totally cheesey like "What's your sign?". We were instantly smitten.

He lived in the neighbouring city and attended a boy's boarding school so we only saw each other on the occasional weekend. Because it was so far to travel we'd take turns staying over at each other's houses - I was supposed to be sleeping in his sister's room but I'd sneak to his room most nights for a snogging session. Heavens he could kiss! We'd work ourselves into a frenzy but my panties stayed firmly in place while he called me a tease and tried every trick in the book to sway me.

It was the end of the year before he finally talked me into "going all the way", which was a total disappointment. I remember wondering what all the fuss was about, and it didn't improve the handful of times that we tried it. Final Exams passed, school finished for good, he and his family went away on holiday for Christmas and New Year, and when he came back he broke up with me by telling me he'd cheated on me.

I was devastated. This stunning, highly intelligent, awesomely hot young man didn't find me good enough to hold his attention. He'd taken something precious and smashed it for the sake of a one night stand... that probably wasn't that good anyway! Oh the pain, the humiliation, the loss. The sense of worthlessness stuck with me for a good few years, exacerbated by some very thoughtless young men along the way. I can't blame it all on my first love of course, but it did take me a long time to get over his betrayal.

I hope that when a child of mine has their heart broken I don't say something silly like "You're young, it doesn't count.", because I've found the opposite to be true - nothing has hurt as much as the first time my heart broke.

(I found out years later that all he'd done was snog some girl, but he felt guilty about it so told me he'd cheated, and I'd assumed the worst. He probably didn't mean to break up with me! Guys, a kiss is sometimes just a kiss.)

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

What (was) for dinner Wednesday

Day 10 off the grog. The cravings have passed, Milord is losing a kilo a week and we're sleeping amazingly well. I'm not losing weight but my belly is flattening nicely and my fitness is coming along so I can't complain!

Dinners hmmmm. I haven't taken any photos, but over the last couple of days we had:

- Garlic and rosemary crusted lamb rack cooked over charcoal, with salad.
- Chicken thighs roasted with vegetables, potato wedges and pumpkin.
- T-bone steaks, grilled, with steamed asparagus tossed in butter.

Tonight Milord intends to get home early, fire up the kettle bbq and cook us a whole chicken over coals. We're missing the gas bbq for the convenience, but coals give a far better flavour!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

A little piece of England

Although I'm a lost South African I spent seven years in England during my late 20s and early 30s and that became home to me too. In fact, when I'm totally blue and "just want to go home", it's my cosy little house in a small village at the edge of London that I long for, far more than the soaring majesty of Table Mountain in Cape Town. I loved England. I loved the history, the humour, the infrastructure, the free healthcare, the sleepy villages and the crazy bustle of the cities. I'm happy here in Australia, but sometimes I really miss my last homeland.

I'm generalising based on my experience, but Australians seem fiercely patriotic and surprisingly xenophobic. They practically deny their colonial heritage, while at the same time hanging onto the British monarchy. The Union Jack dominates their flag and Queen Elizabeth is on their banknotes, but they villify the "Poms". As a South African I am more welcome here than as a Brit. The fact that the UK took home more medals than Australia from the Olympics completely freaks these guys out - and I'd be prepared to bet that no non-Aussie even noticed (Kat?).

So I was startled this morning to find a little piece of England on my way to work. I caught the wrong bus and was halfway to the airport when I realised and jumped off! Luckily I was next to a railway station so I bought a ticket to the city and walked down to the platform... of a picture-perfect Victorian English train station! Small red brick buildings with roofs edged in iron filligree - all that was missing was a few hanging baskets of flowers and I would have been on the train station of my old village!

The train was all wrong - a big silver double decker electric train - but each station we passed through on the way to town was "English". Once into the city we dove underground... and the underground stations were absolutely transplanted from the older parts of London's Tube! The station name on a horizontal strip surrounded by a circle - all in glossy green tiles on a cream tiled wall. All the walls were covered in small cream tiles in fact, with a border of green tiles and the occasional big advertising poster. I got off at St James station (!), and walked though a tiled tunnel to the surface where I emerged in a wintery green park on a crisp morning...

Wow. Talk about dislocation!

Monday, 8 September 2008

Morning Walk

Day 8 off the grog. At what point do I start to feel marvelous?

I have found myself a very nice walk to work from our new house. I catch the bus half the way (I walked the whole way once and it took nearly 2 hours, which is a bit much) then jump off and walk the rest of the way to work. The stop I alight at is on the edge of Sydney University and Sydney TAFE (Technical college), and I walk through bits of campus and bits of residential area for a while. Away from the busy main roads there are very few people around, and the campus has that desolate tumbleweed quality of all educational institutions when the students are not there.

Here and there I will chance apon the odd tai-chi devotee in a park (I always want to stop and watch - what's the etiquette when someone is doing wierd exercises in public?). After about 20 min I leave the quiet back streets and take a walkway and bridge across monorail and tram lines which gently deposits me in Darling Harbour, right next to the Chinese Gardens (well worth a visit by the way). This area generally heaves and bustles with tourists and folk out on the town, but in the early morning it is quiet and tranquil. Groundskeepers wade thigh-deep in the fountains, cleaning them, and ducks snooze with their heads under their wings in quiet corners of the ponds.

From here I walk next to the water around to the right, under the pedestrian bridge, past the aquarium and then turn and head into the city, arriving at work after a total of 45mins.


A very nice start to the day!

Friday, 5 September 2008

Fridayitis

Friday at last. Man, that was a long week...

Day 5 off the grog. I broke out in pimples a couple of days ago on my chin, upper arms and in my hair. Luckily the face ones never really showed - I know better than to touch them apart from a good cleanse morning and night - and after a couple of days they dried up and disappeared. The others have nearly cleared up too. Damn detoxing! It's a bit like when you give up smoking and develop a horrible cough for a few months as your lungs clear.

Speaking of which, Milord and I were discussing last night how the urge for a glass of wine is exactly like the urge for a cigarette (we're both reformed smokers). We were out for our 5th montheversary dinner and a movie (Tropic Thunder totally rocks!) and as we sat down in the restaurant I automatically picked up the winelist. And put it back down.

A little voice in my head was shouting
"Want!"
"No."
"Oh ok... ...Want!"
"No."
"Oh ok... ...Want!"
"NO!"

Milord said he had the same internal dialog! Then we ordered a coffee and our meals and the need just went away and didn't come back. I had a guilt-free pizza (think of all the points I saved by not drinking) and we came home sober at a reasonable hour feeling frisky... bonus!

So that's a montheversary done sober. Now I need to get through a Friday night sober, and a weekend sober. I sound like an alcoholic... I suppose I am an alcoholic (everyone who knows me just nodded and said "Duh, yathink?").

I made it to the gym 3 times this week so far, and have my kit with me to go today as well. I ran 5km yesterday in 32 min - need to work on getting back to 5km in 30min - but usually I just do 30min on the cross-trainer. We're eating healthy and I've generally been right on my weightwatchers points (what a pleasure to eat 20 points a day instead of trying to save 10 for the booze!) so I reckon the weight will start creeping off soon.

I also expect the detox symptoms to finish soon. I am less achey and I've started sleeping better - Milord has just about stopped snoring which is brilliant!

Remind me why we drink again? Because it's fun, because everyone else does, and because most social events are structured around booze...? Mmm

Remember all those smoking ads not that long ago showing cigarettes as fun and sexy? I saw an ad last night before the movie selling wine as fun and sexy and it reminded me so strongly of the old cigarette adverts! Beer companies now sponsor the events that cigarette companies used to sponsor. In my parent's youth it was normal to take cigarettes to a party to share - now we take booze to share. I'm seeing a powerful parallel.

Just a decade ago I couldn't envision smoking being outlawed and now it's definitely on the way out. Smokers are thrust out of social gatherings to nurse their habit alone, and are regarded with contempt by the rest of us. I reckon in a generation's time alcohol will be regarded in the same light as smoking is today. Health-wrecking and dangerous... and it is.

I predict that my grandchildren will not be able to fathom what drove us to drink alcohol, in the same way that I goggle at a 60s movie where they all chain smoke like it's normal!

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

What (was) for dinner Wednesday

Things are a bit busy at work, so I'm not posting very often... looks like this is turning into a recipe blog! Oh well. (Day 3 off the grog and feeling slightly toxic. Milord has lost 4kg [wtf?] since the weekend and I've lost 400g.)

The other day I was browsing through the supermarket looking for inspiration and I saw these adorable baby red capsicums. I just had to buy them.


Then I had no idea what to do with them... I didn't want to chop them up because then I might as well have bought big ones - that would be silly. Ok, so no chopping... maybe stuffed? I googled for recipes and nothing took my fancy, so I threw together stuff I had in the kitchen instead... it was a hit and I've made it twice now to Milord's delight!

Tuna and Smoked Mussel Stuffed Baby Capsicum with wild rice and sugar snap peas

6 baby capsicums (or 2 big ones)
1 200g tin basil and sundried tomato tuna in oil
(If you don't have the fancy tinned tuna just add some sundried tomatoes and basil to a large tin of tuna)
1 100g tin smoked mussels in oil
4 spring onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
Wild rice (or normal if you prefer)
Sugar snap peas (or any other green veg)


If you are cooking wild rice it takes ages so set it going. Preheat your oven to roasting temp (180C).

Mix together the tuna, mussels, onion and garlic. Do not drain the tins first, the fishy oil totally makes this meal!

Very carefully cut the tops out of the capsicums and remove the seeds. Stuff tightly with tuna mix then press the tops back on.


Place the capsicums in a lightly oiled roasting tray and bake in the oven for 30 min or until they go slightly squishy. Steam your green veg with 5 min to go.

Serve the capsicums on a bed of rice and veggies. When you cut into the capsicums the juices will ooze out into your rice... mmmmmm.


If you don't eat shellfish you could skip the mussels, but Milord reckons they are the secret ingredient here. Funnily enough I only threw them in because the tin had been in the cupboard for ages and needed eating!

Monday, 1 September 2008

Septsober

39 days to my sailing holiday! Squeee!

Time to get serious about losing a little weight and toning up. I have challenged Milord to join me for a month off the grog and he's keen, so here we go! It's not going to be easy but at least we have no major engagements lined up this month. A detox should be good for our fertility too... the poor little drunken swimmers don't seem to be doing their job very well!

There is a charity drive in Aus for people to do a sponsored dry month in October - called Ocsober. It's not going to work for me though, as October is my holiday time and we also have 2 weddings happening then. Septsober it is instead!

Here's my monthly weight graph (just the to date one as I haven't changed much):


I've been awfully lazy lately and haven't made it to the gym for weeks. My weight has somehow stayed steady, but my middle's gone a bit flabby. No more excuses! No more lunches reading blogs instead of getting to the gym!