Monday, 4 May 2015

Catching up with myself.

It's been quite a while since my last entry on this blog.

Since then, many things have happened.

Starting with the physical stuff, I'm an inch taller. This is a result of some pretty intense physiotherapy and rehabilitation work. My thoratic spine was frozen in place; that's been addressed, finally, and I'm slowly improving. I've even been able to start addressing my lower and upper spine issues. I have to maintain a pretty extensive stretch and exercise regimen, but even with the DOMS I have less back pain than I have had in decades.

Speaking of, I'm weightlifting twice a week. It's a simple split; generally on Mondays I do squats and assisted chin ups; on Thursdays I do deadlifts and some form of upper-body-push exercise, like a pushup or shoulder press. I got up to a working weight of 55kgs when doing squats (generally in four sets of eight reps). That's a pretty good start. I still have a very long way to go before I'm as strong as I'd like to be, especially in my upper body.

As far as flexibility goes, I can touch my toes most of the time, without extensive warm-up, for the first time in my life. Which is awesome. The downside is that combined with other things, there's a distinct possibility I may also have a hyperflexibility disorder. Apparently, when I'm not frozen up, or have muscular tension blocking things, I bend really really well. Too well. One of the implications is that it takes me a lot more effort to do pretty much anything, because I have to use muscles for support and control rather than ligaments and tendons. Which would also explain why and how I strain muscles so easily and often, and some of the fatigue I deal with. Also why I bruise so easily. The long term implications mean that I'm going to be doing an awful lot of strength training and flexibility/mobility work for as long as it's physically possible, just to maintain the level of functionality most people get from sitting in a chair all day. On the upside, knowing what the situation is makes it a whole lot easier to manage, instead of fumbling around and hoping that something will work.

Pain-wise, well, I'm not in pain 24/7 anymore. There are some weeks where I don't even take any painkillers. Day to day I probably experience more pain than most people, but it's rather less than I was accustomed to at most points, which I am very grateful for.

Mentally speaking - well, I'm on antidepressants again. The grey dog struck with a vengeance last year. Food was tasteless, I couldn't care about anything, especially not my own wellbeing, and things got not so great. I made the decision to address this, and I'm doing rather better, which is nice.

My memory has improved significantly. While I'm not back to my previous level of function, I no longer get lost on the way to places I've been several times before, and my memory for people is also much better. There's an entry of its own in there, but I'll leave that for after this one.

Socially speaking, I actually have a social life again! Which is amazing and wonderful. I miss all my Australian friends, but the isolation over here seems to have ended. I certainly hope it has; I'm pretty good with being solitary, but after 3 years of it, I'd like to be a social butterfly for a while. It hasn't all been sunshine and unicorn farts. Readjusting to being around people has been a little tricky - balancing the sensory overload with actually getting lonely when I can't go out is a current challenge. Still, the awesome new people in my life are more than worth it!

I have yet to take up any form of study. That's annoying, but in all honesty, something that has to wait until I'm sure I have the intellectual, emotional, and physical reserves to not run myself into the ground again. Or to recover when I do so the first few times before I manage to calibrate myself accurately enough.

That's pretty much it for now. I'm hoping that this is the start of me actually writing about my mindstate a little more often, but well, we'll have to see.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Memory, and the lack thereof.

Something that's been bothering me for .. well, two years or so now is memory loss. As in, my loss of recall.

I used to be able to recall events that happened with incredible clarity, as if they were happening right now.

Today? I can't remember what year I graduated my engineering degree, or what year my uncle died. I can work it out - but I don't remember the events. I can barely remember the first time I met my husband, our first kiss, or our wedding. What I do remember are like photographs - single frames - instead of being able to remember the sounds, the touch, the tastes, the smells, the feelings and what I saw as a seamless whole.

And it's more than just not being able to remember long-term memories, things that happened years ago. It's being unable to remember what happened last week, last month, needing to visit a place a few times before remembering where it is and what it looks like.

What I do remember is having near-perfect recall of places, and how to get there; or being able to remember what I did last week; or being able to remember people's names and faces; or being able to remember what year important things happened, and in what sequence.

I remember being able to do this things as recently as ... well, after visiting linkedin, I know it was in 2009. I couldn't remember the year, but I could remember where I lived and worked.  Kind of. So I could work out when it was. That's fairly typical for me, these days.

I have improved a little over the past year; I no longer have quite so many issues with recent events. According to some friends, early in 2011 it was truly frightening to see how quickly I forgot things; how much I just didn't remember day-to-day. Now, if I've met someone, I'll at least remember I *have* met them, even if I don't have a clue of their name or anything else about them, although I do sometimes recall names. I usually remember if I've made appointments, and often I'll get the day and time right, although I still occasionally double-book myself. This is nowhere near my previous levels, but ... it's better than it was, when I had to set myself alarms three times a day to remember to take my pills, and write notes to myself so I'd know I'd eaten.

Even at my current level of improvement, it is still incredibly distressing to have lost so much of my life. So much of the things I know I used to know, I no longer do. So many skills. It reduces me to tears if I think about it too much.

I have no idea why this has happened to me, or how to fix it. I have had more pressing and immediate problems to deal with. Those are, however, mostly either under control or uncontrollable, so I can start dealing with this particular issue.

I'm going to start by sending this entry to my GP, and beginning a document that chronicles my major life events, so I can at least put things in the right order in my mind. I can only hope that some of my memories are recoverable, and not gone forever.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Random Photography

 Just a few photographs, taken over the last month or therabouts. Enjoy.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Tea Review: teapigs organic Matcha Green Tea

Prompted in part by the prospect of a year of free matcha, I'm trying the matcha sample sent to me by teapigs a while back.

As a hot brew:
Green matcha tea in cup
Brewed at 85C, 1/2 tsp, whisked in while pouring the water, with a metal whisk I had on hand.

Smells like seaweed, but the aroma isn't strong. Tastes faintly bitter and astringent, but not overly so. Slight fishy taste also. Definitely tastes like a green tea. It gets stronger tasting towards the bottom of the cup, where most of the powder has settled. Ideally, you're supposed to consume all the powder, but I had quite a bit left in the cup after the last mouthful of tea, and that last mouthful wasn't all that nice - gritty and lumpy.

It doesn't taste all that awesome, to be honest. As far as personal taste goes, I prefer the teapigs yerba mate or  jasmine pearls for a morning cup, I think. Especially with either having to whisk between mouthfuls or get a mouthful of dregs at the end.

As a shot:
Room temperature, 1/4 tsp, whisked in a cup first then put in a shot glass.

Difficult to keep from going lumpy - I see why the kit comes with an electric whisk. Much more bitter than the hot brew, and again rather a lot of residue in the glass (which I added more water to, swished, and drank down). On the other hand, it was a shot - so it wasn't bitter for long. A lot less fuss than whisking every other mouthful.

Effects of drinking so much matcha in the morning, after my morning cuppa: Well, I've definitely woken up (no mean feat for me). As far as the other touted benefits go (weight loss, happy skin, etc) - well, they're more long term, and I'm doing other things with my life right now that supply confounding variables. We'll have to see.

Verdict: It's effective (at least in the short term), and although it doesn't taste all that nice, it doesn't taste all that bad, either. I've ordered a pot of it and try the Matcha challenge (one dose every day for two weeks) and then report back. I'm going to try drinking it with coconut water, I think, to see if the sweetness offsets the bitterness any.

About teapigs:
They produce really awesome whole-leaf fine teas, of which I drink many. You should go sign up for their newsletter (there's a box in the footer of all pages) if you're interested in discounts and news about forthcoming products and competitions.

Speaking of discounts, use discount code at the checkout "BLOGGERS12" to get 15% off. It applies to full price products, not cheeky deals and gifts, as they have an inbuilt discount already.

teapigs ships internationally, so no-one gets left out.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Kew Steam Museum photography trip

Yesterday I went with the London Photography Meetup Group to Kew Gardens Steam Museum.

They have lots of old engines there, several of which they fired up and had running. I took about 200 photos.  I've linked below my top 20 or so. Click here for the full album.

It was a fun day, and I really want to go back there to take better photographs. Especially if I can get my hands on a macro lens, a telephoto IS lens, and a tripod.

... on a side note, I spent a couple hours today being angsty at blogger's inability to present photographs nicely. It's really starting to annoy me. To be honest, it's almost enough to make me stop doing photography altogether. On the other hand, I don't know what's involved in a move to, for instance, wordpress.

Monday, 31 December 2012

London Photowalks - need suggestions!

So, as part of my Things To Do In 2013, I want to do a photowalk around something/somewhere in/near London.

I need suggestions for where to go, and possibly thematic ideas.

This could be something like iconic pubs, a museum (that allows photography, obviously), a location, a theme (possibly developed over several walks, like Famous SF Locations or something), or ... anything really.

Things to keep in mind:
  • I am a wuss when it comes to weather. My camera is not rainproof, and it rains a lot here. Also, it's cold out there this time of year.
  • My back hurts a lot, camera gear is not light. At least in the early part of the year, keeping things to locations where I can sit down and put my bags down a lot is a great idea.
... that's about it, really.

So, non-Londoners, is there something you'd like to see photographs of?  Londoners, what's interesting to see around here?

There will be prizes for the 12 I pick - namely, I will print out and send you a photo of your choice from the nominated photowalk. In case of duplicate successful suggestions across different social media, I will duplicate prizes up to the limit of my laziness.

See my smugmug galleries for what I've already taken pictures of.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Christmas noms

This is a post about what I cooked for Christmas.

It started with a great deal of planning menuwise. First thing to get cooked was beef stock, as a base for the soup. It sat in the fridge for a couple days.

Then, the turkey. Oh, the turkey. It was removed from the fridge, had the remaining feather shafts plucked out (a good half hour or so of icky ewww), and then was put into a brine. A simple brine, of french sel de mer, about half a cup, to about 4L of water, a full head of peeled garlic cloves, and a few peppercorns.

Awesome. So far. Then there was the cutting up of many onions, and the placing of onions into the slow cooker to caramelize. It was about half a kilogram of onions all up. The caramelising went slowly. Oh so very slowly. Perhaps 2 hours all up, if I recall correctly.

Once the onions were nicely browned up, the stock, bay leaves, thyme, peppercorns, and salt were added to the mix, and stirred a bit before being left to their own devices overnight.

Om nom nom. Waking to the smell of that cooking was FABULOUS. Dare I say, even, GLORIOUS. And horribly tempting to have that for breakfast instead of well, breakfast.

I popped the first bottle of bubbles (Verve yellow label) about 11am or so, when I also pulled the turkey out of the brine and rinsed it off. That started off the day's cooking; I plucked most of the remaining feathers off while waiting for it to get to room temperature. Note for next year: gloves and needlenose pliers.

I put the neck in some water with an onion, bay leaf, peppercorns, and carrot to make the stock for the gravy. The veges got peeled and chopped, and doused with goose fat. The turkey got an onion put in it, some more garlic, and rubbed with more goose fat.

There was a bit of a rush as I got a few timings wrong, but eventually the turkey got cooked to perfection, as did the brussels sprouts with chestnuts and bacon, along with the roast potato, and turkey gravy. It made a wonderful looking plate, I have to say.

Delicious, wot? Of course, the last thing to happen was the Christmas pudding, and the cleanup. I hate cleaning up.

Sorry about the funky picture spacing, I don't have the patience to tidy it up right now. Why blogger can't just do a nice grid I don't know. Oh well. That's a whole other rant, I guess.

Still, Christmas dinner was lovely and awesome, and well received. And we're still eating the leftover turkey. It was also 100% dairy free, and gluten free except for the Christmas pudding (because I couldn't find a nice gluten free one before Christmas, and I couldn't be bothered with DIY).

I have much more confidence in doing a turkey next year (possibly for things other than just Christmas) - I will probably use a saltier brine, and maybe a more complicated one. Maybe. Or maybe not!

I hope your Christmas foodage was as awesome as mine was.