Stories from my Sketchbook . . .
I think I fed my spirit pretty well with this sketch—and not a calorie ingested . . .
As I am sure you all realise we are fast coming up to the end of another year. Yay! But also—Yikes! I’m not at all ready for it. Well—yes I am, but also, no, I’m not, if you know what I mean. I am really looking forward to the Christmas break when I know I can take a couple of weeks off and just lie around the house and veg out (no phones, no computers, no students!) and play with my girls, go to the movies, do some sketching and catch up on my reading (and sleep)—but I am also very aware there is still so much I have to do before then.
To tell you the truth my brain aches. I have never had any trouble relaxing my muscles—in fact you could say I am a bit of an expert at it (sloth is my favourite deadly sin)—but my brain is a whole other story. Although I can see Stirling Moss’s point about not relaxing your brain totally, it would be kind of nice to at least be able to switch it down a notch—or three. I like to think I am pretty good at dropping into relaxation mode when I need to and I can’t say I consciously feel overly stressed about anything—but every now and again my brain likes to kick in and and remind me that I am obviously not as good at switching off as I think I am.
This past week I have woken every morning around 2.00am (wide awake—bam!) to find my mind running through lists of things that really (really, really) have to be done this week. Because once they are done—there are all these other things that need to be done the week after that . . . and the week after that . . .
‘. . . the festive season is thundering towards me and I have barely given it a moment’s thought . . . the car has to go to the garage on Friday for its MOT . . . got to think about the new term timetable now ‘cos if it’s left until the New Year all hell will break loose . . . I have a house inspection this week, I’d better get go over it once more to keep the rental people happy . . . did I actually transfer those last course results on to that other database, or just think I did? . . . I’ve got to get the brochure away to the printers at the end of next week . . . Marg’s puppy is coming to stay with us for the weekend (shhhh, I haven’t told the girls yet) . . . what the hell am I going to write for this week’s blog . . . ‘
You know, that kind of thing. Sigh.
Of course I am no different to anyone else and, if I am perfectly honest, my life is undoubtedly much less complicated and a lot less busy than many others—but there you are. It’s not their brains keeping me up at night, it’s mine. It’s not as if I can do all that much about it either (short of getting really really good at meditation in a hurry and that seems unlikely) and I do know that all these ‘things-that-need-to-be-done-right-now’ will eventually resolve themselves in due course. They always do. (In other words, suck it up and ride it out Sal.)
But you know, in spite of knowing all that—sometimes . . . just sometimes . . . it does a body a world of good just to have a bloody good grumble about it anyway . . .
Stories from my Sketchbook . . .
Last week, just after I had put the usual crumbs out for my magpie friends, a single lonely little noisy miner turned up and skittered about the edges, helping himself to a few tiny crumbs. ‘That’s okay,’ I thought, ‘there’s plenty to go around.’ I was forgetting, of course, that noisy miners are not solitary creatures . . .
The next day he reappeared . . . accompanied by wifey and a couple of very vocal youngsters. Now, I happen to be very fond of noisy miners. There is a little family that lives in my front garden and I have spent many a happy time sitting watching them as they quarrel and bicker and bomb the water out of my bird bath—(plus they all seem to possess the same ‘grumpy bird’ expression which I find hilarious)—but OMG!!
Within a couple of days they started arriving in flocks—aunties, uncles, third cousins twice removed—all shouting and pushing and shoving and squabbling at the top of their tiny lungs. The noise was deafening. And right outside my office window! (I guess they are not called ‘noisy’ miners for nothing.) And worse—there was now no sign of my little magpie family (miners are incredibly territorial and will drive away any other birds—just by force of sheer numbers I imagine!) What to do??
Well, it seems I don’t have to do much at all. Turns out that the new visitors aren’t quite as smart as my maggies just yet. The magpies have obviously been watching the proceedings from a distance (so as not to cause further affray) and have come to realise that if they come tap-tap-tapping at my window as soon as I arrive in the morning they will be able to devour their little treats long before the hungry interlopers are even awake. The strategy seems to be working. The miners are still arriving periodically throughout the day, but with slimmer pickings their numbers are slowly reducing.
I wonder how long it will be before they catch on . . .
I admit I used to be very afraid of butter. I have always preferred butter to other ‘low fat’ alternatives but I am also a child of the ‘fat is bad’ generation (and have been varying-degrees-of-overweight most of my adult life) so butter has always felt taboo for me. Well, I am here to tell you my friends—I am a bone fide convert. Staunch advocates of low-fat eating had best look away now!!
Until recently I couldn’t even tell you the last time I had a packet of butter in my house. Seriously. No idea. However, a month ago I began a new eating plan (just as all the yummy treats are starting to appear for the festive season—way to go Sal!) and quite suddenly, and very unexpectedly, I found all my previous ingrained beliefs about food and dieting (and full fat versus low fat) started to crumble around me. Butter has become my new best friend.
I admit when I came across the dietdoctor.com website my first thought was—‘I wonder what they’re trying to sell?’ Imagine my surprise then to find that they didn’t appear to be trying to sell me anything at all, except perhaps a different way of looking at the food I eat. There were no advertisements, no product placements and they even stated that they accepted no industry money for their research either. So far so good. It turned out that the site was run by an international team of doctors, clinicians and research scientists whose whole concern seemed to be an attempt to address the staggering rise of obesity, diabetes and heart disease rates all around the world today.
The more I read, the more interested I became . . .
I had heard about low-carb-high-fat (LCHF) diets before (wasn’t that what Atkins was all about?) but I had never tried one. (I’d tried virtually everything else but not that.) I was highly skeptical. (How could high fat food possibly be good for me? It goes against everything I have ever been taught.) But I like to think I have an open mind (about most things at least) so I read everything on the site and I watched all the videos, and the more I read and the more I watched the harder it became to come up with excuses not to try it. It all seemed to make perfect sense to me. Could everything I thought I knew about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food be so completely wrong?
Anyway, long story short, I decided I needed to give it a go. I am not diabetic, nor on any medication and I didn’t have a lot of weight to lose but the possible health implications of continuing to eat the way I was eating were enough to give me pause. I decided to give myself over to the LCHF eating plan (full on, no cheating!) for one month to see what would happen. No sugar, no grains, no fruit. This was going to be interesting.
The first week was by far the hardest. Everything they said might happen, did. I had a searing headache for the first three days. I had heart palpitations. My muscles ached. I had waves of nauseating hunger (don’t look at the lolly jar—don’t look at the lolly jar!) and I almost had an anxiety attack the first time I fried my hamburger in a pan swimming in butter! But I persevered and then, towards the end of that first week, I started to realise I actually felt pretty good. I was no longer getting hungry between meals. I was sleeping better. I wasn’t missing the bread, or the fruit, or the sugar at all, and all the butter (and cheese . . . and cream . . . ) I was eating was actually really delicious . . .
Suffice to say, a month later I feel great. Not only am I actually enjoying my food more (my girls are beside themselves with all the lovely smells that come out of the kitchen these days—yes folks, Sally has actually been cooking!) I am eating plenty of it—and Bonus!—I have also dropped nearly 6 kilos by doing it. The proof is in the pudding (or lack of it). I am a believer.
But you shouldn’t take my word for it. If anyone out there is interested in losing weight, or is diabetic (or pre-diabetic) this is a great site for information if nothing else. All I urge is that you go onto the site with an open mind. And here’s a small tip—there is a huge amount of free information on the site, but there’s even more information on the member pages (videos, films, presentations, etc). Membership is only $9.00 a month, but you also get your first month free. So sign up, read and watch everything on the member pages and if you still believe the whole concept is bat-crap crazy you can pull out before your first membership fee is due and the experience will have cost you nothing.
Go on. I dare you. www.dietdoctor.com. What have you got to lose?
Stories from my Sketchbook . . .
I have been really slack in my sketching over the last couple of weeks (something else always seems to take precedence) but I did manage to have a bit of a play in my brand new ‘grey toned’ sketchbook. (The fact that I am not sketching nearly as much as I ought does seem to inhibit me in the slightest when it comes to purchasing any number of lovely new sketchbooks . . . )
This abandoned little boat looks like it has been ‘safe in harbour’ just a tad too long, don’t you think?
Australia has always been known as a relaxed, laid back sort of place. A country that praises character, individuality and celebrates the weird and the wonderful. People are known to be easy-going, generous and generally hard to ruffle and any slight indiscretions are more likely to be met with a ‘No worries, mate, she’ll be right’ attitude rather than a standup argument or a psychotic rant on social media. Well, that certainly used to be the case but lately I fear our live-and-let-live attitude is being sorely tested on a daily basis . . .
I absolutely understand the need for rules and regulations. People need to feel safe, comfortable and deserve not to have their individual rights stomped on by those of a less considerate nature and although I may not agree with them all I have never considered myself to be a rule-breaker. (A rule-bender, perhaps—it would be kind of un-Australian not to be—but not a rule breaker.) At least I thought that was the case but—wow—it seems I was mistaken. Looking around at the multitude of do-not-must-not-absolutely-definitely-prohibited signage I see these days it is quite possible that I (and probably everyone else I know) have been easily breaking at least one law every day without even realising it, just by quietly going about my humdrum life. And it is really beginning to bother me. Maybe it is my age (ahem) but I suddenly find myself becoming very, very tired of seeing ‘not allowed’ every time I turn around . . .
I can’t quite remember what prompted the conversation but earlier this week we spent a very funny morning-tea happily reminiscing and relating tales (and hilarious consequences) of some of the games we used to play as kids. Among them were British Bulldog, Red Rover, Dodgeball, Freeze Tag and Scrag. (That last one I hadn’t heard of but the college manager (who is a Kiwi) assured us that dropping a rag into a rain puddle (of which there were always plenty) until it was saturated and then hurling it at your friends, was an absolute hoot . . . )
None of the games we loved best would ever be allowed in today’s school yards of course (although how a person is ever expected to get through life without learning how to ‘duck’ is beyond me). Even seemingly simple pursuits like running, jumping or cartwheeling are now frowned upon at some schools, and in NSW and Victoria swings, see-saws, flying foxes and roundabouts have already been banned. The once staple of our playgrounds, the monkey bars, have also been removed from many schools. (I know I have never had children of my own and am therefore not allowed an opinion but—really?)
Of course, children now will grow up dealing with the laws that are in place today and they know no different, so I guess this does set them up well for when they eventually become adults and have to deal with the morass of (ever-increasing) rules they will have to learn to live by.
Still, it seems a shame to me that many children today will never grow up to knowing the pleasures of playing frisbee or sand volleyball on the beach (so dangerous!) or riding a bicycle without a helmet (how all those Europeans manage to stay alive is a miracle) or, when older, having a quiet beer or glass of wine sitting in the sun while watching their own kids play in the local park while celebrating Grandma Alice’s 95th birthday. (Good luck finding a park that will allow you to bring beer or wine and please also remember, if Grandma’s family revellers number over 20 people you’ll need a special permit to use the park for your picnic . . . and don’t you dare bring the dog!)
Oh—and by then of course, everyone in their family will probably, by law, have to be wear a hat, and protective eyewear and ankle-to wrist-coverings before being allowed to venture out into the lovely Australian sunshine because, naturally, your average Australian obviously cannot be trusted to decide for themselves whether they are likely to get sunburnt or not.
Do I sound like I am over-exaggerating? God—I hope so.
Now look what’s happened. Writing about this has made me all bad-tempered and cross. Still, hopefully, sooner or later, a lot of other people are going to become bad-tempered and cross about it too and decide enough is enough with the silly minutae (perhaps we should start teaching the concept of personal responsibility again—there’s a thought) and maybe we can persuade the government to spend their time and energy (and our money) on more pressing issues and leave some of us lesser mortals to work out some of the smaller details ourselves. I guess time will tell.
So anyway—that’s my rant for this week and now I find I have only one more thing to say on the subject of our burgeoning nanny-state. . .
(. . . but don’t get caught doing this either. The Crimes Amendment (Sexual Offences) Act of 2016 bans mooning (and streaking). First time offenders face up to 2 months in jail . . . )
Last weekend I started my usual annual spring clean and clear out. I had a plan. I would start with the easy rooms first, the bedrooms. They wouldn’t take long. Just move the furniture, get into the corners that haven’t been got into over the winter, wash the curtains, clean the windows, wipe down the walls, clean the carpets, go through the wardrobes . . .
Okay. Maybe this was going to take a little bit longer than I originally thought . . .
It doesn’t really help that I can be so easily distracted from the task at hand. There I was, beavering happily away, when I glanced at the bed (where all three girls were comfortably ensconsed ‘supervising’ the proceedings) when I noticed that as Maudie was watching me she was also happily chewing on one of my teddy’s ears. ‘No Maudie,’ taking it gently from her. ‘That’s not your bear, that’s my bear.’ (Maudie looked somewhat crestfallen—he was obviously a very tasty bear.) But as I moved that little (slightly dusty, slightly dog-chewed) teddy out of harm’s way it occurred to me that I really had no idea where this bear had come from—or even how long I had owned him (for he definitely was a he-bear—he was wearing a bow tie).
It turned out that I had eight (yes, eight) teddies living quietly in that first bedroom. Two of them were gifts I received many many years ago—my Paddington Bear (red wellies and all) which my mum gave me and my ‘Berliner Bear’ which someone gave me for my 21st birthday—but where the other six came from I have no clue. I can only assume I must have bought them for myself over the years. Why I still have them in my bedroom now (i.e. how they have all managed to survive my many decluttering rampages) I am not so sure.
I don’t remember having a beloved teddy as a child—dogs and cats were always my cuddle-buddies when I was a kid—but perhaps by subconsciously collecting them now I am mourning some sort of latent childhood loss? (I was deprived! I never had a teddy!) Er . . . maybe not . . .
I do admit though there is something innately precious about a teddy bear. Any teddy bear. There’s something about their little furry bodies and the wise little faces. I mean—what’s not to love?
My old dog Harry was only 10 weeks old when he adopted ‘Teddy’ and his devotion was soon absolute. For all his long life Harry would not settle to sleep without his beloved bear. He would carry Teddy carefully into his bed, tuck him gently up underneath him and drop off to sleep with his head resting gently on Teddy’s cheek. When Harry passed peacefully at the age of nineteen I buried Teddy with him. How could I not?
So perhaps that is the connection for me. Perhaps when I see any teddy now it reminds me of that patched, balding, chewed on (and exceedingly smelly) bear that brought so much joy and comfort to my lovely and still greatly missed boy.
Okay. Maybe I can see why those teddies are still in my bedroom after all. I reckon they can all stay a little bit longer . . .