Monday, March 28, 2016

A couple of realisations and another two week experiment

Thing one: Gluten free is bollocks for me. I stuck it out for four days and then the annoyance of having to check every tiny ingredient got to me. Also, hot cross buns. Maybe I'll go back and seriously have a whack at it some time, but for now I have higher priorities. Like...

Thing two: Blood pressure. I ran out of my blood pressure medication a week ago and haven't been back to the doctor yet to get another prescription. And I decided before I do I'm going to give it two weeks and see if I can do any reducing sans drugs, using the information in the books I've been reading. I really hate taking blood pressure meds - the ones I have are a diuretic, and they are quite mild, but I suspect they must drain out potassium as my last couple of blood tests have shown potassium is a bit low, and I find I have been having a lot more muscle twitches, muscle pains and heart palpitations lately - classic signs of low potassium and/or magnesium for me. And I know what I need to do to improve my blood pressure - what I need to eat (and not eat), etc. It's just a matter of doing it.

One thing I've discovered is that although I'm pretty good during the week I fall down a rabbit hole of body mismanagement on weekends. Hence my weight fluctuating up and down the same 4 or 5 pounds for months, and the fact that my blood pressure readings are always worse on Monday morning than any other time (I don't take them on weekends, though I am going to start this week). For example, this morning:

  • 6:40 am - 170/107
  • 6:45 am - 143/103
  • 6:50 am - 162/107
During the week I eat plenty of vegetables and walk a lot. I drink tons of water and various herbal teas, have my smoothies, don't drink much alcohol (I'd say I don't drink any during the week, but lately there's been some bracket creep in that area, another thing I'm going to be trying to put a lid on in this two weeks). Come Friday, it's all out the window. I'll have run out of my home made breakfasts and lunches (or be too lazy by then to make them), I'll be cracking open the wine as soon as I get home for work, then later out come the crunchy salty snacks, and then after the market on Saturday it's bacon and eggs, etc. etc. 

This was my dinner a week ago - home made dal with a spoon of plain yoghurt and some naan. 

This was dinner Friday night. (I didn't eat all of that, just saying.)

This was my lunch on Monday, 

This was my lunch on Saturday. 

So you see where I'm going. 

My two week plan

  • Check blood pressure daily, morning and evening, including weekends. 
  • No alcohol.
  • No junk food or salty snacks. 
  • Hibiscus tea at least twice a day, preferably 3 or 4 times (I struggle to drink a lot of tea, I don't really enjoy hot drinks and my beverage of choice through the day is water). 
  • Blood pressure smoothie daily (beetroot, banana, dates, almond, linseed). Maybe add spinach for extra potassium. 
  • Keep track of salt and potassium intake. 
  • Take findings to doctor after two weeks and see what she's got to say. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Gluten free is a drag

Day two of the gluten free experiment was yesterday, and frankly I don't know if I'll get any further. I find it a massive pain in the arse trying to figure out what has gluten, and since I discovered that both Milo and Vegemite contain it, I'm thinking that even if it did have some benefit to me I would not be giving it up entirely. Nuh uh, no way. That's just unAustralian.

So, I don't know - I'll give it a couple more days and see how I go. If I really can't be arsed maybe I'll just stop eating the main gluten things for a while - bread, cakes, etc. and not worry so much about the hidden stuff. I don't eat a lot of processed sauces and spreads so I can't be getting that much if I'm not stuffing toasted sandwiches down my throat.

Anyway, I'm not going to do this every day but here's what I ate yesterday (after the egg/mushroom/asparagus breakfast). I was starving because it's my laydee timez but I tried really hard to not cave to the lure of nachos and chocolate.

Gluten free toasted bread with Mayver's Original Super Spread. I've been eating salt and sugar free nut and seed butters for a couple of years, and now I cannot stand the taste of regular supermarket peanut butter. It just tastes so fake and weird.

Chicken salad - just grilled chicken seasoned with Mrs Dash chicken seasoning, lettuce, capsicum, cucumber and hard boiled egg. I use a smidge of olive oil and a tiny bit of either balsamic or apple cider vinegar to dress; I'm not a big fan of packaged dressings and I'm too lazy to get fancy with my own very often.

Right. So. This is called a 'blood pressure smoothie' and it's from a book about reversing heart disease and high blood pressure. It has beetroot, banana, dates, freshly ground linseed and freshly ground almonds, along with water. The dates were a bit hard to blend but it tasted a lot nicer than I expected. I don't think I could do one every day, but I'm going to try to do one at least every second day.

This was an interesting experiment. It's a recipe from Paleo Pete's Spiraliser book - zucchini noodles and chicken and pine nuts, with a sauce made from avocado, garlic, lemon and some other bits and pieces. I thought it was okay, but Noodles hated it. My main issue was that it had a heavy raw garlic taste, but I don't know if that was because the garlic in the sauce literally was raw or whether I just had particularly strong garlic. I also made my own gluten free garlic bread. See - day two of gluten free and I've had bread three times! Normally I would eat maybe 6 slices of bread a week. Regardless, I wasn't blown away by it and considering the fiddliness of putting together all the different components, I wouldn't bother with it again.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Healthifying and not dying and whatever

A few weeks ago my father died. We weren't close, and we hadn't spoken in years, so I wasn't grief stricken - I was concerned about Noodles, who was close to him and was very upset, and my brothers, who had to organise everything as I don't live in the same state. But other than that, it was just that general 'Oh, that's a shame' feeling you get when someone you don't know very well dies.

It turns out he had heart disease and died from a heart attack in his sleep. No one knew he had heart disease. One of my brothers knew he 'took pills' but didn't know what for. We all knew he had high blood pressure - he had been taking blood pressure tablets for 20 years or so and he was a total stresshead. He didn't really take great care of himself - he was very sedentary - the only time he walked was around the supermarket. He wasn't super overweight but he was chubby, and his diet was stuff like white bread, margarine, the same two or three kinds of vegetables over and over, pasta sauce out of a jar, fish and chips once a week, etc.

So anyway, this has freaked me out big time. I have highish blood pressure. Mine is probably weight related as when I lose weight it goes down, but regardless, it's there and it's doing damage. I have the advantage over my dad as I walk everywhere and eat a lot more variety of whole food than he would have, but it still freaked me out to think I could be heading toward heart disease. So recently I've been doing some internal regrouping, with the help of a little light reading...

I haven't read all of those, by the way - I'm working my way through them. I don't have heart disease, so my goal is to not get it. I'm 47 and I'm in the zone where I'm close to menopause, when getting healthy becomes a hell of a lot harder. I've got maybe a two year window of opportunity to get to optimum health now, before I lose the disease protection of estrogen and periods.

The consensus among the non-kook health writers (and believe me, you have to sift through a hell of a lot of kooks) is that the Mediterranean diet is one of the best for a healthy heart, and there is promising research that a combination of this and the DASH diet (for people with high blood pressure) may also prevent dementia. Dementia is another terror of mine, because I have been getting more and more forgetful as I get older. Unfortunately, this research has not been fully documented yet so no one has as yet tied it all up in a nice, easy to read book for me. So at the moment, I'm putting this all together myself.

Anyway, I'm making a start with some baby steps. My first step was to start eating more oily, small mouth fish. I'm not a huge fan of salmon or trout - I don't hate it but I don't love it. And fish is so crazy expensive in Adelaide, which is bullshit because we are on the coast. But needs must, so at least twice a week (and I'm going to try to slot one more in next week), we've been having fish for dinner. It's not so bad now that I'm used to it, and Noodles found a really nice salmon recipe with asparagus and saffron and a creamy sauce so that takes the bleh out of it quite a lot.

The other thing I started yesterday was a two week gluten free experiment. I don't know that I buy into the whole 'gluten is the devil and giving it up cures everything' cult, but I figured it can't hurt to try and see if it does anything to help my a) joint pains and b) wheeziness and pollen allergies. If I don't feel some demonstrable change after two weeks, I'll go back to including it - no biggie. Besides, it can't hurt me to give up toast and massive bowls of pasta for a fortnight.

I've also been trying to remember to photograph my food so I can get a visual picture of what I am eating, how much, and whether there are enough colours in it  (i.e. am I eating enough fruit and veg). I set up a private instagram for the purpose but I keep forgetting to take pics, especially at work, so I'm thinking I will just delete and start again with that from today. Maybe set reminders on my phone - I don't know. Anyway, examples of what I've been eating -

Portobello mushrooms stuffed with ricotta, spring onion and a ton of wilted silverbeet. Yesterday's lunch.

Rainbow trout fillets (dipped in coconut flour and cooked in a little olive oil and organic butter) with baby potatoes smothered in Greek yoghurt and chopped basil, broccolini and asparagus. Last night's dinner.

Egg fried in a smidge of olive oil, mushrooms, asparagus and a slice of gluten free bread toasted. This morning's breakfast.

I decided to start writing about this for my own purpose, to keep track of what I'm doing and how it's going. I don't need a full lifestyle overhaul - I eat reasonably well (if too much), I don't drink soft drinks or juices really ever, I walk at least 10,000 steps most days just in my general getting about. I guess I'm just fine tuning. So this week it's testing the gluten free and bringing in more fish, in the coming weeks it will be strength exercises and learning to meditate properly. Whatever will help me live a long healthy life like my grandmother, my great grandmother and all my great aunts. I want to take after my mum's side of the family, where all the women lived to their 90s and a couple kicked over 100, and all had no sinister diseases and all their marbles intact. I don't want to take after my dad's side, where he died of a heart attack at 71 and his father the same in his late 40s/early 50s.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Zoeva Brushes

Lately Noodles has been getting into makeup and watching YouTube beauty vloggers, which is how I came to be sitting watching Tanya Burr, even though I am definitely way outside her demographic. In a tutorial she used and raved about the Zoeva Luxe Face Paint brush, and since I have nothing like that, and was also looking to splurge on something smallish before my massive pay cut kicked in and I became a povo, I decided to buy one and check it out. I'd heard about Zoeva because Siobhan of Letzmakeup uses them all the time and loves them, but I'd never paid much attention because I have more than enough brushes.

The downside is that shipping is kind of high, which was not enough to turn me off buying, but instead made me think I should buy several brushes (any excuse, really) to justify the cost. When the package arrived I realised why the shipping was expensive. To be honest, I think this is a bit of overkill.

The six brushes were packed in this ginormous box, each one in its own little plastic pencil case sleeve, and then surrounded by those plastic floaties things full of air. Although it's nice that they are well protected and arrive without damage, I do think it would be possible to safely ship brushes with a lot less palaver and therefore less cost. However, minor quibble - on to the brushes themselves!

109 Face Paint (12.80 Euro/$18.30AUD)
This is the one that got me to the site in the first place after seeing it on Tanya Burr's video. She used it for highlighter, but I use it mostly for contouring. It's a flat square brush that is sturdy but very soft. One thing I discovered is that it picks up a lot of product - hello brown stripe down the face - so you need a light hand if you're working with highly pigmented products. The price has gone up - I paid 10.50 Euro - but for less than $20 this brush is amazing.

322 Brow Line (6.80 Euro/$9.71AUD)
This one is my favourite - the bristles are very short and quite stiff so you can get really precise and sharp with your brows. It has replaced my previous holy grail brush, the Illamasqua Eye Brow brush, which is good because I have still not forgiven them for their bullshit non-apology over their racism debacle and I hate using the few things left of theirs that I own. The Brow Line brush works beautifully with both cream products and powder.  I LOVES IT.

226 Smudger (7.80 Euro/$11.15AUD)
When I decided to buy more brushes to make the postage sting a little less, I tried to go for the ones I didn't already have a version of. For some reason I did not previously have a smudge brush. I think I had a cheap Coastal Scents one years ago that fell apart, but since then nowt. This is the one I use the least, but that's not because it's not good, more because I just don't smudge a hell of a lot. I rarely use eyeshadow or liner under my eyes but when I do, this one does a lovely job of - well - smudging. It has short, sturdy but very soft bristles.  

318 Soft Paint Liner (6.80 Euro/$9.71AUD)
I've used this brush for a few different things - it works well with gel liner, and it's also good for smudging shadow, softening powder on brows and I've even used it for applying highlighter to my cupid's bow and inner corners of my eyes. The bristles are a little longer than the Brow Line and not quite as stiff.

221 Soft Crease (7.80 Euro/$11.15AUD) and 227 Soft Definer (7.80 Euro/$11.15AUD)
One can always use more blending/crease brushes, right? I couldn't decide which of these I wanted so I just got both. The Soft Crease is more narrow than the Soft Definer, with slightly longer bristles. The bristles are softer on the Soft Crease than the Soft Definer also, so the Soft Crease is better for diffusing colour, while the Soft Definer is good for small area blending.

So. As I said, shipping is a bit high - I paid 15.00 Euro ($21.50AUD), so if you're buying from Zoeva it's worth stocking up on a few things at once rather than just one or two items, because shipping is a flat rate. The site currently lists shipping for Australia as $16US, so you might end up paying a bit less than I did.

The brush quality is fantastic. I have used and washed each of these quite a few times and I've not experienced any shedding at all. They are still soft and pliable, and the handles and ferrules feel firm and sturdy. What I really love is that the handles are also a little shorter than many other brands, so you can get up close to the mirror!

I found the prices really reasonable, especially considering the quality. They are a little cheaper in most cases than Sigma, for example, and they absolutely shit all over them. It's no secret that I am not a fan of Sigma - I've had several of their brushes fall apart on me, and I have several more that I never use because they shed like mofos. The Zoeva brushes are streets ahead of Sigma, in my opinion.

Zoeva is based in Germany but ships worldwide. They have makeup as well as brushes, but I've not tried any of that. There are also some Zoeva products available on the Luxola site (which I've never used so I don't know if it's any good), but they don't have the full range and they seem to be sold out of most of it.

All in all, I give Zoeva two massive thumbs up, and if it were not for the fact that I am now officially povo and also have pretty much every makeup brush I could possibly need, I'd be back buying one of everything.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

50 Book Challenge - June & July

16. The Book of Joe - Jonathan Tropper
Highly readable but ultimately forgettable story of a guy who left his small town, wrote a snarky book about it, then has to return there when his father dies. If you've read any Jonathan Tropper before you're familiar with where this goes - dysfunctional family, thirtysomething unsettled Jewish guy learns things about himself, blah blah blah.

17. And When She Was Good - Laura Lippman
Suburban mom lives a double life as a high class hooker, then it all starts to come apart when people from her past begin to get killed off. Enjoyable enough crime novel.

18. Say You're Sorry - Michael Robotham
Every year I say I'm going to read 'quality' books for my 50 Book Challenge and every year I fall back on page-turning mysteries and crime stories. A present day murder ties in to the disappearance of two teenage girls several years earlier. It's a pretty gripping story but the reveal of the villain is kind of eh.

19. Mohawk - Richard Russo
I was mildly obsessed with Richard Russo in the 1990s and I remember reading this and loving it. Second time around - ehhhh, not so much. It's about several different people in a small town and it is mildly interesting, but very much a clunky first novel.

20. The Last Policeman - Ben H. Winters
Now this I liked. Set in a world where an asteroid is about to hit the earth in 6 months and destroy everything, most people have given up bothering about much. However, one policeman still does his job and sets out to prove that an apparent suicide was in fact murder. The crime and resolution is a bit hokey, but the premise is awesome and I really enjoyed it. Apparently it's the first of a trilogy so I'll be hunting down the next two.

21. Snowblind - Christopher Golden
Oogedy boogedy horror novel about creepy creatures who come out in two extreme blizzards years apart in a small town. It started off well but got really bogged down with all the different characters. Christopher Golden seems to have been going for a Stephen King everyone-has-a-POV kind of thing, but it doesn't really work.

22. All Fall Down - Jennifer Weiner
Incredibly tedious novel about a suburban mommy blogger with a secret (she thinks) pill addiction. It drags on and on forever with so much repetitive detail that I almost chucked it. Somehow I ploughed through to the end and then immediately wished I hadn't bothered. Avoid.

23. Cop Town - Karin Slaughter
Set in the 1970s in Atlanta, this is a novel about the attitudes of white male cops to their changing environment - a lot about women on the force, homosexuality, a half-arsed nod to racism, and a mildly interesting crime story of a serial cop killer. I found this book riveting while I was reading it, but after I felt a bit uncomfortable and I'm still not sure why.

Well over halfway through the year and I'm not even halfway through my 50 books yet. Must get cracking!

Saturday, August 9, 2014


Aloha! I am still alive, and though I have quite a few blog posts I've been working up to doing, I am just going to do a quick update for now of some random crap.

1. I had been acting in a higher position for nearly 4 years and it's one of those ones you have to reapply for every year. I decided not to reapply this year because I hate the job, I hate almost everyone I was working with, and it was just causing me too much stress. Instead I've taken a massive pay cut to go and answer phones all day. I am going to be pretty povo from now on, but it's so much better than dealing with all the shit I had to deal with before. Although nothing ever changes in call centres - there are always a large number of weirdo loner types, and pretty much everyone is on some stupid diet and can never stop banging on about it. Whatevs, I just want to do my work and go home.

2. Noodles and I have been watching Game of Thrones together - her for the first time - and I am enjoying it a lot more now that I understand the connections between everyone and what's happening. For example, I was bored shitless the first time with Daenerys wandering around in the desert for four seasons but it's far more interesting to me now I know why she is doing it. I still have no clue why the wildlings and Jon Snow are going over the wall though. I also noticed that Jon Snow has exactly one facial expression - confused stoner. They really needed a much more charismatic actor for that role, considering how central the character appears to be. Noodles has somehow managed to avoid spoilers almost entirely - except for that one big one in Season 4 that book readers could not resist shooting their gobs off about. So when there was that death in Season 1 and then that other death in Season 2 she was shocked and devastated. Tonight we are watching S03E09. Oh, Noodles. If only you knew.

3. I am currently obsessed with steel cut oats - yes, I've become one of those people. I had tried them before in the slow cooker and it was a complete disaster, but I read somewhere online that you could just soak them overnight, so I decided to try that. I have been mixing the oats with skim milk, frozen blueberries and a tablespoon each of slivered almonds, chia seeds and sunflower seeds in a mason jar (yes, I've become one of those people too) and leaving overnight. I take it to work with me and it's awesome. Chewy and filling and I feel super healthified.

4. My current favourite podcast is Picturehouse Podcast, a London-based film cast that's hosted by two guys who work for a cinema company. (Maybe only one of them does - I don't really know.) Anyway, while their news section is more relevant to locals, their general chat and reviews of films are really fun and interesting, and they have a lot of interviews with cast and creators of various movies. I liked it so much that I downloaded most of their back catalogue and spent a few months listening to them for a couple of hours a day. I'm up to date now and only get a half hour or so fix a week. Boourns. If you like films, check it out. And of course I still highly recommend previously mentioned favourites like Answer Me This, How Did This Get Made, Personal Arrogants and pretty much any of the Bald Move TV and movie podcasts.

5. Noodles has a new BFF at school who is a full on feminist and it's really rubbing off on her. Yesssssss!

6. I've stopped reading the news sites. It's so depressing what this shithead government is doing to pretty much every vulnerable group they can hunt down and stomp on. They are a pack of nasty cunts and I really, really hope that they don't last longer than one term because if they hang around much longer we are all completely screwed.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bargain Shopping

I've lived in the same house now for seven years and it still looks like a bunch of random uni students live here. I've complained about this before and then done nothing about it. I hate most of the furniture - which I just cobbled together when I came to Adelaide, having no idea of the good places to go and settling for a large warehouse type place where I could just get pretty much everything (albeit boring versions of) under one roof. There are barely any pictures on the walls as it's double brick and I'd need an electric drill to create holes for hooks, and the hooks that are there are in stupid, weird places. There is pretty much no storage outside the kitchen cupboards, save for one cupboard filled to the brim with all the random shit you have to keep in a house (ironing board, sleeping bag, extra pillows and blankets, etc.) but don't want seen.

So, finally I have wandered out of my house funk and decided that it's time to do some decorating and make it more of a home we actually want to hang out in. However, that has coincided with me changing to a job where I will have a drop in pay of well over $200 a fortnight, so we are staring down the barrel of a very tight budget. Enter the secondhand shops.

Lily came home a couple of weeks ago and told me she had been to a store with her vintage/op shop loving friend and she thought I would really like it. "They have EVERYTHING, Mum - furniture, DVDs, books, old lady crockery." Since I'd been thinking about finally getting some wardrobes and ditching the clothes racks we'd been using for years, I figured it couldn't hurt to go and have a look, although to be honest, I wasn't expecting a lot. I've been to a handful of op shops and secondhand places in Adelaide before and they were all shit and ridiculously over-priced. But I thought that we could have a look, and then go to (my original plan) Ikea and just buy two wardrobes there and be done with it.

The first thing you notice about Hindmarsh Disposals is that it's huge - it goes back forever and there are so many things to look at that it's overwhelming. We were there for ages and didn't get much past the bedroom furniture. The second thing is that there's a cat who just follows you around to see what you're doing. And the third thing is that it's crazy cheap. I mean, we're not talking about geniune Hepplewhites here, but we're not talking garbage either. I had budgeted a maximum of $600 for two secondhand wardrobes and delivery. I got two wardrobes, two dressers, one of those dining room cabinet things everyone's grandma has, a small table nest and delivery for $490.

This is my wardrobe - my only stipulation was that it had some drawers in it for my jumpers and cardies, so I didn't have to have a separate chest of drawers taking up space.

Lily's wardrobe. She's not as fussed as I am by 'old furniture smell' so she just left hers overnight with some containers of vinegar and then was happy to put her stuff in it the next day (I'm still messing about deodorising mine). Note her beloved Cosby cardigan - purchased during a Savers expedition a couple of weeks ago. I had a boyfriend in 1985 who used to wear those kinds of cardigans.

There were so many dressers it was really hard to pin down which one I wanted. In the end I went with this one because I liked the curved drawers. It doesn't have handles but I can pick some up at Bunnings or probably even on eBay. Again, I haven't put anything in it yet as I'm still cleaning it out - those drawers are currently sprinkled with bicarb.

Lily's dresser. I kind of wish I'd chosen this one as it's huge, but I do still love mine. She's super happy with it as she finally has a more or less full length mirror in the house.

And the dining room cabinet thing. I don't even know what I'm going to do with this, but it was $65 so I just had to have it. I have a desk/shelf thing in the kitchen that I really hate so I'm thinking I might just clean this up and then use it to store pots and pans and whatever.

The customer service at Hindmarsh Disposals was fantastic - the lady was really helpful and knocked 10% off everything because we paid cash (and not even with me asking - I never, ever, ever haggle). We also lay-byed a small lounge suite while we were there and when I go back next week to pay the rest of it I'm going to finally get around to looking at everything else they have. Seriously, you could spend days in there. And finally my house is starting to look like something I can enjoy.