Wednesday, April 27, 2016

People who don' their sentences

I've always been an impatient git and these days find myself increasingly irked when people don't finish the sentence they are speaking.

You know what I mean. Someone's talking and then they um and err and suddenly the sentence is left dangling, waving its nouns, verbs and participles in thin air.

I have an image of unfinished sentences floating aimlessly around our house just under the ceiling in a cloud of words and letters, as my husband G is a chronic non-finisher of sentences.

I wonder sometimes whether he's getting early onset Alzheimers or whether there's just too much going around in his head, as he's under a lot of pressure with his job. I'm sure he completed his sentences most of the time when I first met him.

I do have the odd problem myself. I lose nouns. I can't think of the exact noun I want to say or write; usually the name of a flower or something. Then I'll um or err. But I'm nothing like G.

He'll be lounging against the kitchen cupboards while I'm making dinner - and why he has to lounge against the exact bloody cupboards I'm always opening to get pots, pans and plates out I don't know - and chatting away to me, then a sentence will drift, incomplete, into the ether.

I wait for it to resume, but it doesn't. I wait and wait. I feel like snapping, "Oh, finish the bloody sentence!" I try not to show my impatience; I keep the same expression on my face, but inside I'm gritting my teeth.

It's easy for sentences to drift into nothing in English. In German, you have to think about your sentence before you utter it, as the verb at the end of the sentence you will put.

G's a great one for umming and erring too. That's not quite as irritating as not finishing a sentence, or listening to someone pepper their speech with 'like' every few words, however.

Am I the only one annoyed when people don't finish what they are saying?  Or do you also find it um... ?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Oh, sugar!

The Australian government is seriously concerned about the collective weight of its citizens. Tackling obesity is now a priority, with a suggested Sugar Tax to be applied to soft drinks. I think this is a good thing. We all eat far too much sugar, and sugar is an addictive substance.

I'm not one for soft drinks anyway - never have been. Sydney tap water was good enough for me when I was a kid (and Mum didn't want to spend money on soft drinks; we didn't have that sort of budget) and it's good enough for me now. Except when I drink wine ;-)

I live in Sydney's north, in an area where people tend to eat well and spend their grocery budget on fresh food rather than packaged meals and sugary snacks. The majority of the population here is a healthy weight for their height. I, at 5kg above the ideal weight for my height, feel like a right fatty beside many of them. I've largely cut out sugar, except for wine with dinner and the odd birthday cake etc when someone is celebrating. I have a handful of nuts if I'm peckish rather than a biscuit. I don't even crave chocolate any more.

In short, you don't see that many truly obese people around here. Maybe 2% of the population.

Last weekend I worked at a three day show on the outskirts of Sydney's west. And the obesity problem hit me in the face.

I have several friends who can be classed as 'big girls', but they paled into insignificance besides the people I saw at the show.

Huge women. Huge men. Legs like tree trunks. Bellies spilling over belts and fat spilling over the tops of shoes. Arms like hams. Bigger than any of my friends by far. And these people made up around 30-40% of the people wandering through the pavilion I had a stall in.

What made me sad was the children. I saw so many little kids under 12 already overweight or obese, with double chins and shapeless legs. The majority of them were feeding their faces with junk food or sugar-laden treats mindlessly as they waddled behind their obese parents. A lot of them had a bottle of soft drink in the other hand. Seriously, that's child abuse. Fine, parents, feed yourself whatever you want but that poor little kid is going to grow up with serious health issues including Type 2 Diabetes and have a shortened life span.

My boss, who owns the products I was selling, told me that she's seen babies in prams sucking Coke out of bottles. And plenty of children and teens with missing teeth due to the sugar they've eaten in their short lives.

I was sad too to see the teenaged girls. So many of them grossly obese, with their pretty, expertly made up faces hidden in fat that bypassed any semblance of neck and simply joined the body. Several of them were wearing short shorts and it wasn't a nice sight.

G and I used to go to this show every year when we lived in western Sydney but we hadn't been for about four years. I was stunned to notice such a large percentage of the people there were so big; a real change from when we'd last visited.

I know you're not supposed to 'fat shame' people, but really! Most of these people aren't fat because of genetics or medication. They're fat because they eat the wrong food and don't move enough, and it's killing them. And they apparently don't give a flying fuck because they're hooked on sugar and crap food.

Oh, you might say, they are from the low end of the socio-economic scale and can't afford to buy expensive cuts of meat etc. No excuse. When we lived in a lower socio-economic area we saw what went into the shopping trolleys of the obese people at the local supermarket. They were loaded to the top with snack foods and soft drinks, packaged foods and chocolate, and plenty of ice cream. Barely a vegetable in sight. More than $120 worth of junk. Swap that crap for fresh veggies - which are relatively cheap - and start drinking tap water as it's cheaper than soft drinks. Cut out the trips to McDonald's and KFC, and buy bulk chicken legs and roast them in the oven, or make a big spag bol with plenty of carrots, celery and other veg as well as mince, to make the mince last longer; you'll get a couple of days out of that as a family and save money.

I know what it's like having a limited food budget; when my husband's away I tend to live on veggie meals as it's cheaper than meat. When we were both on low money living in western Sydney we ate a lot of veggies and I made stews and soups out of cheap cuts of meat.

But I digress... back to that show. I was working there for three days and brought in tins of tuna and corn thins to munch on. However. However. By day two the lure of the wonderful hot chips the Rotary crowd makes was too much for me. I bought. I ate. And the next day too. And the place selling nougat - well, they got my money and the nougat passed the time when things got a bit slow. The Rotary gang were also doing bacon and egg rolls so that was Sunday lunch sorted. My husband bought me an ice cream with a chocolate coating as they looked so good.

Reader, in those three days I gained 2kg. 2kg, just from heading west of my usual diet and snacking on crap. I've lost one of those and will get the rest off by Friday. But that tells you what crap, sugary food does.

At the show I wasn't sitting down - this was a standing up job, with me moving constantly to relieve the pain in my feet and knees, and on the day when G came in to help me I was able to go for a decent walk around the show. But still. 2kg.

Bring on that Sugar Tax. Save those poor bloody kids from a life of illness. Let Coca-Coca Amatil cop it, because they are purveyors of addictive substances and they are making a fortune out of making people sick.

The image of the lean bronzed Aussie is fading fast. We are turning into a nation of fat white slugs.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

...Not just for Christmas

I'm sitting here in a lounge chair in the living room, and lying at my feet, her head on her front paws and her eyes (but not ears) closed, is our dog, Rosie. Known as Dog Rose, Rosalinda, Rosalita, Rosalie and other variants of her name.

She's a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and unlike most of 'em has managed to get to ten and a bit years without a bad heart murmur. The vet was astonished to listen to Rosie's heart and admit there was a murmur there but barely discernible.

Her arthritis is getting her down, though. She has it in her offside shoulder, and now she's on daily anti-inflammatories for it. The vet recommended fish oil and glucosamine as well, so Rosie's nightly dinner now includes a cocktail of goodies to stop her stiffening up and being in pain.

That aside, she has aged. When I walk her she no longer pulls on the leash but lags behind. From the dog she was two years ago who could keep up a pace of more than six kilometres an hour for up to an hour, I now have to take her for her own slow walk and then guiltily leave her at home while I do my power walk.

There's a golden period in a dog's life for going for walks, I think. It's not when they're very young as they pull like mad and don't always want to come back to you when they're off the leash.

But somewhere around four or five years old they are the best walking companions you'll ever have. They don't pull insanely; they keep up with you and trot at your heels, looking up with a happy grin. At eight they are still happy to chase a ball again and again and again.

That's the experience I've had with the three dogs I've been lucky to share my life with.  But at nine, they start to slow. Rosie's interest in chasing balls dwindled. She'd do it once or twice, then give me the 'can't be arsed' look. These days I don't throw balls for her because I don't want her overworking her arthritic shoulder by galloping flat out and twisting and turning. She can do it - but she'll pay for it later and be in pain.

I'm aware that my lovely companion is, in human terms, in her seventies. She may live to a hundred. When I look at her, sleeping a little noisily, there's more white around her eyes than there was last year.

My previous dogs have made it to 13 and a half. I'm hoping Rose does too, or, health permitting, makes it to 14 or more.

Everyone loves puppies; some people forget that puppies grow to be dogs. Even then, they forget that - with luck - one day that puppy will be an old dog.

Dogs are for life, not just for Christmas, as the saying goes. I treasure my old dog. I love her to bits. I hate it that one day she won't be there any more. She's as dear to me now as she was when she was a puppy straight out of a Disney movie.

She'll need care with her arthritis. She's rather deaf (a Cavalier mystery as a lot of them go deaf for no discernible reason). She's precious beyond belief.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The things I do for Psoriasis. Now it's Dandelion Tea

I've suffered from Psoriasis for about 15 years. It started off as a little spot on my right leg when I was camping with friends by the sea. I thought something in the sea had bitten me and my doctor gave me cortisone cream, which seemed to fix it.

It came back after a few months, with a friend. Cortisone cream sorta kinda kept it in check. Fast forward to 2015 and my lower legs are spattered with plaque Psoriasis. I am on a steroid ointment for four weeks, then I switch to a non-steroid cream. The ointment keeps it in check and my legs (and now, elbows and one wrist) look pretty normal for the weeks I'm on it. Once I'm back on the cream for a couple of days it flares up like you wouldn't believe and spreads. So I'm fighting a losing battle. Roll on 1 August so I can have my four weeks of ointment.

It's not painful, it's not itchy. It's just ugly. While I can cover up in winter (and it's usually worse in winter as there is less humidity and you don't get much opportunity for Dr Sunshine to do his stuff) summer is buggery for me. I still have to wear long trousers or tights with skirts.

So every so often I head to the interwebs and research more about this pesky auto-immune disease, which is incurable. It can be brought on by stress and is often inherited.

I'm deliberately trying to minimise the stress in my life by cutting back my work hours and spending time outdoors - working in the garden, going for a walk. As for the inherited bit, well, I'm adopted so I have no idea what my genetic cocktail is.

These are some of the ideas I've tried in the past couple of years:

  • Using olive oil, coconut oil or sesame oil on my plaques. All that did was make my jeans oily unless I then wrapped the offending area in cling wrap.
  • Using Vaseline on the plaques to keep them moist. See that bit about oily jeans above.
  • Drinking Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. I didn't notice any improvement. And let it be said that the smell of any vinegar makes me gag.
  • Taking Vitamin D capsules. I'm doing this at the moment as I don't get to strip off in the sun much in winter. Sunshine in small doses is the best way to let Psoriasis have its necessary dose of Vitamin D.
  • Smearing Aloe Vera on the plaques. I have an Aloe Vera bush so this is one is a nice free of charge idea. I've been doing that for about a week. No difference.
  • Cutting down on just about every food I love. This has been a real bummer. Spicy foods are a no-no apparently (and nobody enjoys a seriously good curry like I do). Gluten? Out! (Nooooo... I love my sourdough!) Dairy? Out aside from yoghurt. Tomatoes and potatoes and other members of the Solanaceae family shouldn't be eaten. Nor should my winter joy Ruby Red Grapefruit (but apparently lemons are OK). Mangoes -! Mangoes -! Why, why, why? My favourite fruit ever. Oats are out - and porridge is one of our breakfast staples. Wahhhhh!!! Seafood - I don't want to live if I can't have the occasional seafood treat. And I shouldn't drink alcohol. Humph. >:-((((( I do love my glass of wine with dinner and have no intention of becoming teetotaller.  Fags are out too. So I have failed on the Food To Cut Out front. Totally. If I have to give up all the food I love I won't get much enjoyment out of life. I might not have plaques but I'll be utterly miserable. I'll be suffering from depression!

These last few days I have been reading up on both the Mediterranean diet and the findings of Dr Irene Prantalos, who is based in Melbourne. She has been a lifelong and very serious sufferer of Psoriasis and through diet is now plaque free.

In general it seems a Mediterranean diet is a pretty good match for Psoriasis. Dr Prantalos has taken it one step further and created a Mediterranean Diet for Psoriasis, and today I bought the e-book of this on Amazon, together with her book Feel Great in Your Skin, 7 Simple Ways to Heal Psoriasis. (Note the word Heal... it can't be healed truly but it can be controlled so it goes into hiding. But most people will respond to the word Heal).

Both these books sound the knell of doom as far as my favourite foods go. Whether I can stick strictly to these recipes for any length of time I don't know. There will come a day when I will scream, "I hate bloody cabbage - and dammit, I want garlic on my chicken tonight! Or chilli! I need curry - now!"

I think if I can incorporate a few of them into my daily diet and be mindful of all the naughties and cut down on them I may see a difference. Some of the recipes just don't appeal to me, especially anything with cabbage. And while Dr Prantalos stresses it's important to use organic when you can, I don't have the budget. I can grow some leafy greens organically but our local organic grocer charges an arm and a leg. Oh, and eat lots of fish. I love fish but it's bloody expensive. Having a chronic illness is not a cheap business.

I'm sure G won't like some of the recipes much either, and he'll have to eat them as I'm not cooking two different meals at any time of the day.

One of the things Dr Prantalos suggests is Dandelion Tea. It's apparently a real goody for Psoriasis. So I bought a box of Dandelion and Chicory Tea at the supermarket today, in the absence of a simple Dandelion Tea. I can't say I'm hooked on the taste. It didn't exactly make me gag but it's not something I'd choose if I didn't think it would do my skin some good.

G is away for two nights from tomorrow so I'll have the opportunity to test drive some of the recipes in the book and read more about the 7 Simple Ways.  And drink a lot of Dandelion Tea.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The land of the long goodbye

We all have them. Friends and family who have trouble hanging up the phone or walking out the door. They like saying the long goodbye.

Most of the time I have no trouble with this but then there are situations such as when I'm on the phone to long-winded friend Val on a work day.

Val: "Is that call waiting beeping for you or me?"
Me: "Me."
Val: "Do you want to get it?"
Me: "I should. I'm expecting a call from XYZ. Call you back in a minute."
Val: "OK, then, lovely to talk to you and I'll be waiting for your call. Love to G, and say hi to all the animals for me and..."
Me: "Ok." Nervously. "I'd better get that."
Val: "Okeydokey, I'll let you go, love you lots, talk to you later. Bye."
Me: "Love you too. Bye."
Val: "Bye."
Call waiting: not there any more

Seriously, that is a woman who can take five minutes to get her goodbyes done with on the telephone. It's fifteen minutes in person.

I have another friend called Phil who understands what it's like taking a personal call at work. If either of us say, "Gotta go!" we understand. It's a quick, "Bye!" and we both hang up. No offence taken on either side. Some people understand that when you've gotta go, you've gotta go.

Another friend The Wildlife Photographer was most upset when I had to ring off quickly one day several years ago. A shelf on my desk had given way, with heavy reference books tumbling down onto my computer. Yikes!  I explained what had happened, and said I really should go and check the computer. I attempted a quick goodbye,  but TWP believes in long goodbyes, and considered my rather urgent, "Very sorry, but really, I should go and check that nothing's broken. Can I call you back? Bye." the height of rudeness. When I did call back he was nearly in tears. I learned: there could be no short goodbye with TWP.  Your goodbyes have to be long and polite.

G is the same on the phone. Long goodbyes. Love to the animals, love to me, and he HAS to be the last person to say goodbye. I've tried teasing and tricking him by saying one last goodbye at the last second but he manages to get one more in, every time. He travels quite a bit for work and insists on ringing every night he's away, often staying on the phone for nearly an hour driving from one place to the other before a long goodbye (at which time I'm usually busting to go to the loo and hopping from foot to foot); I think he gets a bit lonely on his drives.

I hated saying goodbye to Mum on the phone when she was getting older. I worried about her a lot, and had the awful knowledge that one day she wouldn't answer the phone. With Mum, I loved a long goodbye.

I suspect I am more a short goodbye person than a long goodbye one overall, however. Short goodbyes don't have to be brusque; nor do they have to be impolite. With close friends, a "Love you, bye!" is to my mind perfectly acceptable on the phone and a hug and kiss in person; just the one, not multiple over several minutes.

What about you? Are you a short goodbye or long goodbye person?

Or are you the type who hangs up the phone without saying goodbye? I can't bring myself to do this; it seems horribly rude. I have only done it once, to a boyfriend who was soon to become ex, and I was furious at the time.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Just when I was nice and calm...

Google stuffs me round. It made me change my password last week. I then couldn't log in with the new password. So I made another new password. All seemed fine and dandy until I went to log in today to write a new blog post - and guess what, the bastard bloody password didn't work so I had to reset it AGAIN. Then it blocked me at the 'make sure your account is secure' page and refused my shiny new password.

My blood pressure is up right this minute and I'm getting a headache. Why does technology have to be such a bitch?

I finally got into f*cking Google with the latest incarnation of my password - obviously, or I wouldn't be writing this. Unfortunately this post has started off with a very negative vibe, when it's supposed to be a positive one.

Positive because I've had two positive experiences with two very nice women over the last week.

The first was last Thursday, when I went for a free makeup lesson I'd won at a women's networking event. Now, I've never let ANYONE do my makeup. I'm not into being made over as I know what I like and what suits me. I've seen horror stories performed on the faces of friends, particularly for weddings. Both brides looked like freaks when the makeup artists had finished with them. Foundation applied apparently with a trowel and so thick that the wrinkles stayed in place after they'd finished smiling. I was NOT looking forward to this lesson, when a woman I shall call The Imager was going to give me a makeover and show me how to do it myself at home.

I could have given the prize to a friend but I'd been talking to The Imager at the networking event about my new venture as a Jeunesse Global anti-ageing skincare consultant, and she was interested in getting into that and selling the products in her shop. So I had to go. I had to consent to letting myself be made look ten years older.

Reader, The Imager was lovely. And I didn't look a freak when she'd finished. She very much approved of how I usually do my makeup and more or less did the same on me, only with a bit too much primer and spakfilla as the foundation on my nose afterwards looked a bit odd. We got on very well; she's into natural healing and gave me the name of someone who may be able to help my psoriasis - as it's terrible right now in the middle of winter - and pointers for books to read. She's into asking the universe; very much someone I can relate to and talk with. She's also interested in my business but having sold her house the day before she's going to be busy for a few weeks!

The second woman, who I met on Saturday, I shall call The Witch as that's what she is, the leader of an international coven. She's lovely; such a friendly warmth about her. I saw her for a tarot card reading as she has a reputation of being one of the best in Australia. She pulls no punches and tells it like it is. I adored her.

I like to have readings from two or three people at a fairly close time; if they all come up with the same thing, it's likely to happen. I saw a tarot reader in February and have compared my transcription of his reading with the Witch's and I see some consistencies with both, such as:

  • I will be doing business with a man. Could be a business partner, or a supporting role such as accountant.
  • I'm not going to get rich with any of the things I'm doing but I won't starve either. Consistent flow of $.
  • I had or was going to have a new business. The Witch shook her head and said, "You've got three jobs!" and gave an astonished laugh. 
  • There will be travel for me this year (and yes, we are planning a holiday towards the end of November).
  • Both said I "got the shits" with people. The Witch said I had a strong animal dreaming and only feel really calm in the company of other species ;-). 
  • I will be taking a course in something creative. The Witch said University, but I can't afford Uni.
  • G isn't that happy in his job and said that he would be doing something in the teaching line in the future.
  • Mum is hanging around. The Witch said that was perfectly normal and while our bodies die, *we* don't.
  • I would be purging people from my life who upset me; new beginnings, breaking away from people who disrupt my life. The Witch told me to stand up to Whingy, who showed up in the cards. "The choices you make regarding the people that shit you will liberate you. Choose how to respond to people. Whingy will bring conversations back to herself. Walk away from people like her who “use you as a fuckin’ wall”."

The Witch said I'd be going riding. I told her I used to ride but hadn't ridden in 20 years as I'd lost my nerve. "Get on a horse," she said. "You need to ride. Get on a slow horse." She told me I would be working with horses at some stage.

Both saw nothing bad in the next two or three years; the Witch told me any threat would come from the government, possibly the tax man, and told me to make sure I dotted every i and crossed every t with that. There's nothing hugely exciting there, no lottery wins, but on the other hand, 'interesting times' aren't what I want.

So until this morning I was calm and happy, delighted to have met these two lovely women. Just writing about them has calmed me down. I have to remember what the Witch told me when I asked her why I got the shits so easily and became so angry, particularly with technology: love is the key. My life is full of love and is basically happy. Just go the joy.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The haunted dinner party

It was my husband G's birthday last weekend, so I organised a dinner party with one of his friends, the Whingies and friends The Kayak Kouple (they are very much into marathon kayaking).

I was going to cook Boeuf Bourguignon, one of my absolute favourite dishes and G's too. I do a mean Bourguignon if I say so myself. A couple of weeks ago I bought beef cheeks from our local butcher and cooked a big pot up. It melted in our mouths. Divine! That was what G wanted for his birthday.

So my butcher cheerfully sold me about 2kg of beef cheeks, and I took them home and cut them up and marinated them in wine, juniper berries, bay leaves and brandy for nearly 24 hours.

Two hours before our dinner party they were coming to the simmer and the smell was divine. All going to plan.

As it's the middle of winter here I thought I'd get the log fire going as well as the electric heaters.  I'm a bit of a pyromaniac when it comes to log fires and can usually have them up and flaming very quickly and efficiently.

The bloody thing wouldn't light. I did what I usually do: scrunched up newspaper on the bottom with a tepee of kindling on top. The kindling was dry; it had been inside for a fortnight.

I struggled with it for twenty minutes then G took over while I got changed. Our guests arrived to find us both on our knees trying to fan the pathetic little flames into some kind of life. They helped. Between us all we spent about an hour and a half trying to get the bastard going before giving up as - joy! - the Boeuf Bourguignon, with new potatoes and a medley of fresh winter greens - was ready.

Proudly I put it on the table in a fresh casserole dish.

The bloody meat was tough as an old boot! Horrible! It had been cooking for around two hours and had determinedly retained every bit of muscle it had ever possessed.

Of course this WOULD happen when Whingy was over to dinner. She complained loudly that she couldn't cut her meat at least three times. I apologised at least five, feeling angry and embarrassed and worried that my reputation as a good winter cook with casseroles and roasts was compromised.

No fire. Crap meat.

I reckon Mum was on the go somewhere. She didn't like Whingy and probably, from wherever she is, still disapproves of Whingy visiting. I reckon she managed the fire if not the meat.

The Kayak Kouple and G's other mate took it all in good humour and everyone enjoyed the chocolate birthday cake I'd made for dessert. So THAT was alright. By the time I served the cake I had a horrible vision of cutting into it and finding it raw in the middle after everything else that had gone wrong.

It's perishing cold today, particularly in my office which doesn't get any sun. The sun's gone behind clouds and even the front of the house - where you can sit in the sun wearing a t shirt in winter - is chilly.

I'm going to try and light the fire. If it lights... well, I'll know SOMETHING was behind the goings on at our dinner party!