Sunday, January 22, 2012

breaking the barriers

Well it hasn't exactly been a New Year resolution, but it has mostly been since the New Year that I've been putting it into action, but on the grounds that I don't generally make a list and even when I do I have a lousy track record of sticking to them, I'll call it a goal and leave it there!

So, what was it? Basically to increase the amount of exercise I get on days when I'm not working - ie when I don't get a brisk walk up the hill (as I'm usually cutting it fine timing-wise), several hours on my feet and then usually a somewhat more sedate walk home. I realised it was all too easy, especially on wet days, not to venture any further than the compost heap at the bottom of the garden. Not that that matters too much occasionally, but I realised with the long holiday it could end up happening more often than not.

Having a PO Box rather than mail delivered to the house does help at least get me out on a fairly regular basis - but as I don't get that much mail and it is only a 15min walk round trip along the flat in anycase it wasn't really going to cut the mustard, even assuming I actually went each day and didn't just leave it until tomorrow...

So I'd been getting into the habit of taking a rather circuitous up and down hill route to the mail boxes which was an improvement of sorts. But I realised I needed to come up with a few more circular routes of various lengths to get me out of the 'there and back again' walk to the Plaza (and the healthfood shop) which was usually the limit of my exercise.

When I was in Auckland after Summer Gathering I'd stayed with Jennie for a couple of nights and ended up walking to the nearest shopping mall - firstly to buy some groceries and the next day do some 'city shopping'. I realised that I was walking further than I had for a while, not without feeling pretty knackered afterwards admittedly, especially given the heat and humidity, but considerably further than I had expected to manage. But because it was unknown territory I didn't have the psychological blocks of beyond a certain point being 'too far', especially to be carrying a bag of groceries, I also didn't have much choice which is a great motivator!

So today I put it to the test, deliberately not walking along the main route through town that I normally take I decided to break beyond the psychological barrier of Griggs Corner - walking the length of Matthews Ave to the Intermediate School. Having got that far it was then a short distance over the bridge and there I was at Bells (greengrocer and deli) and not that far short of the new PaknSave. Not wanting to over-do it I stuck to Bells, had a good look around (having never been there before) treated myself to some cherries and headed for home. The round trip took all of 50mins! Hardly the huge walk it had always been in my head.

To be fair though 6 months ago it really would have been too far as even the Plaza and back took some serious psyching up for. It was certainly a mark of how much fitter I am again which was a relief.

So, with debt free days in my sights for later this year (mutter mutter, international students fees, etc etc). I'm beginning to think about getting a bike at some point - but a sit up and beg type shopping one, with a basket, not exactly high speed or anything, but a means of getting a few cartons of rice/soy milk etc home from PaknSave or veggies from Bells without straining the muscles in my shoulders that carrying a laden backpack did on the one I used to use. Unless I choose there are no hills in the way to put a strain on my knees either, so who knows, it might happen yet.

But in the meantime I'm going to try to get into the habit of doing that round trip regularly if I can, which will be much easier to manage whilst the cherries are still in season!

Friday, January 20, 2012

where there's a will...

Yesterday I went to sort out a will, for the first time. Despite having grown up knowing what a hassle it was to die intestate (ie without one) I'd put it off for years, about um, well 20 of them. Partly through uncertainty of cost, partly through uncertainty of life and partly because I'd never got my act together. But one of the wonders of facebook are those random prompts in life - Cathy (in the UK) mentioned it was her new year resolution to write hers and how her union did them for free, I commented wondering if that was the case here too and Marion (yes the same one!) pointed out that whilst my union probably didn't, Public Trust did.

So a few days, a few clicks of the mouse and a couple of phonecalls later there I was 2 mins around the corner from home completing the forms!

It was a rather strange process to go through - what of my stuff was actually worth itemising and gifting to particular individuals? Not a lot really, if I was to get run over by a bus tomorrow then I'm sure I can think of a few folk who would appreciate my laptop, sewing machine and camera - but are they really worth listing now for the hopefully longer term? Okay so I was advised to update my will every 2-3yrs but even so...

Then there was the other side of things - who might want a memento or a particular item that had sentimental meaning, and who was I to decide that? So with the one exception of gifting to my godson the quilt I was making when he was born I left that for those who are left behind to worry about for me. Sorry and all that, I copped out.

It is an odd process, especially when you don't have a partner or children, to try to think about who might be around when you have no concept as to whether you are preparing for next week, year, decade or in 50yrs time (I'm reasonably sure I won't see the next centuary, living in two is enough methinks!). When I think about who was important in my life of my generation or younger say 10-15yrs ago and who is now, there are some pretty major shifts - including having shifted physically half way around the world! I guess that is why they suggest you keep it updated.

It is also odd dwelling on the thought of your own mortality, for a couple of my friends this is currently a very real issue for them, despite them both being almost a decade younger than me. One lifelong condition and one more recent, both have to deal with a large degree of uncertainty and the hope that they can live long enough for medical science to come up with a solution. It is one thing knowing that about someone, it is another to put yourself in their shoes, no matter how temporarily, and have to think through the implications of your death and what you want to happen to you and your stuff decades before your allotted three score year and ten. It isn't a comfortable feeling at all and it certainly shone new light for me on what everyday life can be like for others.

Cheery thoughts eh?

Thursday, January 19, 2012


...a word that I've used as a substitute expletive for many years, and apparently a fairly appropriate one really (Margaret uses 'fudge', there's a theme emerging here!) given some of the thinking around it and it's effect on us. (see this link here if you haven't watched it already).

Yep, we're back to Marion's talk at Summer Gathering again. She was saying how she made a conscious effort to 'give up sugar' over a year ago after doing all the research. Now I'm not entirely sure whether she meant entirely (like Ruth who can't eat it for medical reasons) or 'as much as is feasable' ie not to the extent of quizzing the waiting staff in restaurants etc.

I've always thought myself to be a fairly low consumer of sugar, but over the last few days I've been making a conscious effort to notice how much is in things that I eat. This is probably easier for me than many people as I cook so much of my food from scratch due to other dietary restrictions - there isn't that much processed food in my diet.

Having made a batch of Marion's sugar free fruit and chocolate slice to deal with my daily 'fix' of cocoa I thought I'd see if I could manage even a day of being sugar-free.

Well breakfast started off ok, porridge with sultanas, LSA (ground linseed, sunflower & almond) and rice milk (due to being out of soy, however all good as the soy is sugar sweetened!). But the toast... well my one small dessertspoon of blackstrap molasses per loaf that lasts me about a week is a far cry from the 1/2tsp per slice of cheap shop bought fluffy stuff, so whilst it is there it's fairly minimal. Margarine ok, Marmite - none! Due to the fact that I only eat the real British stuff and none of the nasty sugar laden Kiwi imitation. We just won't go into the food miles ok? A mug of green tea plus 4 lots of medication - hmm, two of which are based on sugar pills! Overall though not too bad.

Lunch - salad, from our garden I might add, avocado (grown locally), ewes milk chese (not quite so local...) and ryvita (definitely not even remotely local - but I was finishing off the pack ok?). I skipped the mayo and shop salad dressing (around 25% sugar!!!!!) and went for some local olive oil instead. Followed by a couple of squares of chocolate slice, mmmm. Pretty good!

Tea - baked potato and cauliflower cheese - seemed pretty safe with sesame seeds, tomatoes from the garden and a brush of olive oil on top to round it off nicely. But as we've no mustard powder (crucial ingredient in a cheese sauce!) in the house I used the shop bought mixed up stuff - and there it lurked, sugar. (there is way more cheese in my diet than usual at the moment due to having bought some in Auckland, and a type doesn't keep very well). Ho hum, round it off with a handful of fruit and nut mix whilst I wait for the kettle to boil and wait a minute, the cranberries in the mix have added sugar...

Verdict - this could be trickier than I thought! Whilst it was tiny amounts here and there I can see how it could easily add up pretty fast - and that was with me being extra conscious of what I consumed. And whilst chocolate slice is a pretty good substitute for Whittakers occassionally I'm not convinced it is a long term solution. Mind you 72% Dark Ghana isn't bad for sugar consumption really in the greater scheme of chocolate options. I'll see how many days I can go before I give in to either the chocolate of GF licorice in my drawer...

But do I really need to cut out/down my sugar consumption? Well possibly, I'll be keeping an eye out over the coming weeks to see just how much it adds up to, just how high is my 'low' sugar intake after all when I'm not actively trying to avoid it?

It is going to mean a lot more careful reading of labels again - something I haven't really done in a while, not since I got to learn the Anna-friendly brands of things in this country. I guess it is yet another step in being more food conscious, along with where does it come from (food miles, boycotts etc), who made it (boycotts again, especially Nestle... after about 25 years I'm not slipping up now!), how was it grown. How was it made and what with (beyond being vegetarian, wheat and dairy free!) is just another part of the chain. I guess the trick is still to weigh your options and accept the fact that short of being self sufficient it is going to be impossible to tick all the boxes all the time. Eat it as long as thou canst perhaps?

There is a book on my shelf that I've had for years (literally, I was still living in the UK!) and never quite got round to reading - 'Foodwise' by Wendy E. Cook (was married to Peter Cook as in 'and Dudley Moore'). I think this could be the year to actually read it and see what she adds to the melting pot of ideas.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


(blogging 3 days in a row, I hope you are impressed!)

One of the sessions I went to at the recent Quaker Summer Gathering was Marion giving a talk on the latest thinking on nutrition, cardio-vascular disease and several other things. I didn't go the first time she gave it but heard so much about it over mealtimes that when she offered to run it again I went (she also did a 3rd rendition for the JYF and YF crowd which went well into the wee small hours apparently!).

Her talk covered many things most of which I won't insult by trying to regurgitate here having taken absolutely no notes at the time and am now finding that I'm totally unable to do justice at explaining. However one issue covered was lunches, and the value of making your own packed lunch rather than buying something at the canteen/shop - not on grounds of economy (which are equally valid!) but that then you know what has gone into it - how much sugar (sorry that is the bit I won't try to explain, however google Robert Lustig 'sugar the bitter truth' or watch this for more information!) and how much fibre.

Being a vegetarian who is wheat and dairy intollerant means buying a takeaway lunch limits me pretty much to sushi or a bag of chips. In anycase we have a healthy eating policy at work and as we eat with the children we are expected to model good practice so nipping down to the chippie isn't really an option! Also bought sushi has quite a lot of sugar in it and white rice doesn't have much, if any, fibre...

As anyone who has tried making sandwiches with wheatfree bread will testify it isn't a very satisfactory option so instead I take crackers. What kind has depended on whether at the time I'm feeling skint (rice crackers - the Japanese sort, not the 'ceiling tiles'), worried about food miles (corn thins - from Australia, slightly nearer to home) or over packaging (Ryvita - come in recyclable paperbased packaging but imported from the UK...). So basically whichever I choose I compromise on one principle or another.

Marion spoke of how when doing a locum stint in Australia where she 'had nothing better to do' she decided to count her calories to see how well her reasonably healthy diet compared to the recommended intake. She was pretty horrified to discover how quickly the calories clocked up! Her solution was lunches of brown rice and dahl which she made up in bulk and froze in portions. Someone commented wasn't that a bit tedious - not if you add things to the dahl each time you take one out, either leftover veggies in the fridge, additional spices etc. Having lived on a diet of pizza, beans and a kitkat for well over a year at school and a baked potato, coleslaw and hot chocolate at 6th form college I know that I can handle the same lunch on repeat so I'm not too worried! So with brown rice and dahl I'd get fibre, protein and other goodies mostly made up of 'good calories' ie ones the body can usefully use rather than empty calories like those in alcohol which the body ends up laying down as fatty deposits as it doesn't know what else to do with them.

So... rice. Well it sure isn't going to be grown here, although with current weather patterns some farmers may be seriously considering it! However I can get organic Australian brown rice so that is a start, not too far away. Packaging is ok if I get it from the bins at the health food shop who use biodegradable bags. So pretty good on that front. Apparently most white rice is neither good nor bad for you, it just passes through and doesn't even have much fibre left to help with that process - basmati has some goodness to it but brown rice on the whole is heaps better.

I figured I'd start off with brown rice (I have my first batch cooked and in portion sized tubs in the deep freeze ready and waiting) and leftovers and/or salads (it being summer) and see how I go. As the weather gets cooler I'll make batches of dahl too. It certainly seems a better option than imported crackers anyway. I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


I've spent a hefty chunk of the last couple of days making curtains. Between going back and forth to Empire Mart (something of an Aladdin's Cave) to get a sample length to pin up and see if it looked ok, enough to do my bedroom (2 windows) and then again today to get enough to do Phyllis' before they sell out plus measuring up, cutting out, stitching and sewing it soon adds up! I've still got Phyllis' room to do but we're getting a new curtain rail in there so I daren't cut anything until I'm sure exactly what we'll need!

It is amazing what a difference new curtains makes, especially when the previous ones were almost as old as me and looked older! It continues the transformation of this room from a rarely used spare room to 'my room' too. Gradually through some judicial reorganising and a little clearing out I've gained a couple more of the bookshelves for my stuff lately - I'm still a looooong way off having all my books here though. It has been interesting looking at the books on the shelves here a bit more closely as I move them around, it's amazing what gems turn up when you actually get to read the blurb on the back rather than just a faded spine. I've quite a few earmarked for this years reading list now.

The only down side to putting up new curtains is it makes everything else start to look shabbier... ah well, one step at a time. Curtains I can do, wallpapering I'd definitely need help with! Time to recruit some help methinks....

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Okay, okay, it's been a while - I'm sorry! Will try to do better this year, honest.

Anyways... in 2011 I set myself a challenge having fallen into the habit of mostly re-reading what I call 'comfort reads', those familiar well loved tales that still manage to move you after umpteen times yet have that reassuringness that comes with knowing the ultimate outcome. Sometimes we just need to know there is a happy ending.

So, my challenge to myself was to read at least 52 books in 2011. These were to be predominantly books that were new to me, to include several non-fiction books, genres that I don't normally read, literature classics - both modern and not so. So using the BBC Big Read books list as a springboard for what to look for in the library and on various friends shelves, I set forth into the year keeping track of what I read on a facebook 'note' which gave me the added incentive to stick to my goals as progress was public (not that anyone read it after the initial posting I'm sure!).

What is more, I succeded! Which probably has to be the first time I've ever seen a New Years' Resolution through to the end of the year! 58 books - admittedly including several childrens' books & the Asterix books I found on my new bedroom shelves but also including some rather weighty tomes. Historical fiction featured rather heavily I realise looking back which is hardly a new genre for me but the setting of many of them was - I've learned a lot of American history in the last 12 months! There are some really random entries on the list - usually what came to hand when I realised it was bedtime and I'd finished the previous book without lining up a successor...

So, 2012 is here and with it the same challenge - Sebastian Faulkes 'Birdsong' is on the 100 books list I was using to start with and is usually there in the library when I go but so far I've been avoiding it as I always seem to find it when I've just read another war book and really fancy something more lighthearted. However it is the first book on the list that I haven't read already (coming in at #13). The next at #20 is War and Peace, but that might just have to stay unread a bit longer I think! There are 36 books in the first 100 that I haven't read so plenty to keep me busy that is for sure. However with the latest Clan of the Cave Bear book to read and Sally Nicholl's new book All Fall Down due to arrive in March I'm not limiting myself to 2003 and before titles that is for sure.

So, for the record - here is what I read in 2011. * means I still haven't finished it, italics means it was a re-read.

Jan - March 2011

1. Always Coming Home - Ursula K Le Guin

2. *The New Natural Alternatives to HRT - Marilyn Glenville

3. A Demanding and Uncertain Adventure - Rosemary Morrow (Backhouse Lecture 2011)

4. Guards! Guards! - Terry Pratchett

5. Men at Arms - Terry Pratchett

6. Feet of Clay - Terry Pratchett

7. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency - Douglas Adams

8. Vox - Nicholson Baker

9. Lud-in-the-Mist - Hope Mirrlees

April - June 2011

10. Ivanhoe - Walter Scott

11. Dreams of My Father - Barak Obama

12. Quaker Origins, Worship & Identity: Reflections from Kenya - Donald B. Thomas

13. A Breath of Snow and Ashes - Diana Gabaldon

14. Far From the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

15. Odd One Out - Monica McInerney

16. Best House in the School - Dorita Fairlie

17. The Lake of Tears - Emily Rodda

18. Anybody Out There? - Marian Keyes

19. Asterix in Britain - Goscinny & Uderzo

20. Asterix the Legionary - Goscinny & Uderzo

21. Asterix in Spain - Goscinny & Uderzo

22. The Mansions of the Gods - Goscinny & Uderzo

23. Kiwi Dragon - Bill Willmott (Quaker lecture 2009)

24. Atonement - Ian MacEwan (decided I had read this before after all!)

25. Changing the Prison System - Tony Taylor (Quaker lecture 2011)

26. The City of Rats - Emily Rodda

27. Dragongirl - Todd McCaffery

28. Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade - Diana Gabaldon

29. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas - John Boyne

30. Unseen Academicals - Terry Pratchett

31. Whitehorn Woods - Maeve Binchy

July - September 2011

32. Ancestors of Avalon - Marion Zimmer Bradley & Diana L Paxson

33. Anansi Boys - Neil Gaiman

34. The Sacrifice Stone - Elizabeth Harris

35. * A Testament of Devotion - Thomas R. Kelly

36. Tilly Trotter - Catherine Cookson

37. The Village Cricket Match - A.G. MacDonell

38. Magic by the Lake - Edward Eager

39. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

40. Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell

October - December 2011

41. For One More Day - Mitch Albom

42. The Quilter's Kitchen - Jennifer Chaverini

43. Thanks For the Memories - Cecelia Ahern

44. Full Circle - Jill Sumner

45. Dragonheart - Todd McCaffrey

46. Lord John and the Hand of Devils - Diana Gabaldon

47. Cats in May - Doreen Tovey

48. The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám - translated by Edward Fitzgerald

49. Kiwi Moon - Gavin Bishop

50. Spells - Emily Gravett

51. The Travelling Restaurant - Barbara Else

52. Me and Gus - F. Anthony & F. Jackson

53. Dragon's Kin - Anne McCaffery & Todd McCaffery

54. Dragon's Fire - Anne McCaffery & Todd McCaffery

55. Madame Bouvary - Gustave Flaubert

56. The Day of the Storm - Rosamunde Pilcher

57. Another View - Rosamunde Pilcher

58. Sleeping Tiger - Rosamunde Pilcher