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.

Obligatory Year Changeover post

So, 2012 is drawing to a close, and 2013 is about to start. It's fairly traditional at this point to look back over the year that's gone, and look forward to the new one.

What happened in 2012?
  • I was depressed for most of it, but I seem to be out from under the worst of it
  • I went to Bendigo, Ballarat, Florence and Seattle for the first time ever
  • I saw the Olympics
  • I cooked a turkey for the first time ever, and in fact, made roasts a regular thing
  • I bought a slow cooker and have been using it with wild abandon
  • I have successfully not killed plants
  • I have tried (and failed several times) to exercise regularly
  • I changed medications from dexamphetamine to modafinil
  • I got out more - although I also did spend a couple of stretches housebound for a month
  • I lost 10kgs
  • Moved to vibrams as my main shoe choice (good for my footsies and spine)

What do I want out of 2013?
  • I want to establish regular exercise, with a view to doing parkour classes regularly
  • I want to go to Florence again, and also Paris, maybe Wales, Cornwall, or Scotland
  • Continue to not kill plants, and establish a working kitchen herb garden on my windowsill
  • Do a photography walk in/around London at least once a fortnight - suggestions for locations solicited
  • More firmly establish the practice of home cooked meals for both of us
  • Establish and grow closer friendships with local people
  • Not lose contact with my friends in Brisbane or around Australia
  • Write more consistently
  • In general, live a more consistently active life, the does not have quite so many bust cycles where I am housebound/bedbound for days/weeks/months at a time
  • Work out what my immediate (2-3 years) goals are, and pursue them
  • Lose the remaining excess weight of about 15kgs
  • Have a more even emotional keel than the previous 3ish years

Well, those are quite some lists. I feel in 2012 I was in a bit of a holding pattern - I didn't accomplish much, not obviously - but getting the better of the diagnosis-related depression is actually kind of huge. I've also mostly got over the culture shock from moving, with a related decrease in my general stress/anxiety levels, which is also noteworthy. 

I'm moderately ambitious for 2013. I'm hoping to establish a new baseline for life that I'm happy with - nothing too major, but enough so that I don't feel like I'm rotting away, or doing the non-tv-watcher's version of sitting at home all day watching daytime TV.

Questions, comments, and suggestions welcome.

Tuesday 18 December 2012


Triggered largely by shopping for jeans yesterday, I am once again undertaking to seriously pursue losing weight.

I have been losing steadily, if somewhat irregularly, this last year. I'm down about 10kgs or thereabouts from my starting weight.

As Steve of frequently states, 90% of the battle is food. This is, in fact, what's tripping me up the most.

It's an energy problem. It is profoundly hard for me to cook and eat food. The cooking more than the eating, but there are many days where most foods are too hard to eat. For example, doing fried eggs and bacon in the morning is usually beyond my capabilities. That's a pretty easy 5 minutes at a stove.

Something that's been suggested in the past is to prepare a great quantity of food on a high-energy day, to be eaten on low energy days. In theory, that sounds great. In practice, I've just never been able to make it work. Usually I have too many important/urgent things to do on high energy days to spend them cooking. Sometimes I have prior commitments. Frequently, I just don't have all the ingredients on hand to make a week's worth of food straight up. Even without all the other factors - that kind of effort seems to trigger a low energy period lasting longer than the prepared food. I have fairly specific dietary requirements, based on intolerances and also what I've found suits my body best.

There's also a problem of storage. I have limited storage for both ingredients and prepared food. More than most Londoners, this is true. Less than what I'm used to in Australia, despite having the largest kitchen I've ever had (in terms of floor area).

And last, but far from least, I'm picky. Especially when I'm tired and hungry. A lot of foods I would normally enjoy start making me feel ill. And the ones that don't make me feel ill are frequently not amenable to being prepared and stored. Or are outside my dietary restrictions.

Leftovers are an option I utilise with gusto and enthusiasm ... when I have leftovers. Which is unfortunately currently not quite that often. This is due to both not cooking leftover-producing recipes and not cooking dinner sufficiently frequently (2-3 nights a week). I have acquired a slowcooker, and this is helping somewhat. I now at least make most of my own stock.

I realise that I've painted myself into a corner a bit. "Just suck it up and deal" is not a helpful response to this dilemma. I have tried, failed miserably, and have decided not to beat myself up about it anymore.

Summary of Requirements:
  • No diary, no gluten, mostly paleo.
  • Will not eat even if starving: most fruit, salads, most cold foods.
  • More often than not, only enough energy to press buttons on microwave.
  • Sensitive teeth, raw veg (such as carrot/celery) is too painful to eat most of the time. As are a lot of spicy foods. And cold food.

Current non-dinner meals:
  • Sliced ham
  • Premade egg fried rice (this is not paleo, especially not when eaten with soy sauce)
  • Leftovers
  • Premade fish balls with mayonnaise
  • Oven-baked chips with gravy
  • Mashed potato (made with duck fat and stock)
  • Eggs (poached or fried or scrambled) with hash browns (oven cooked), optional bacon and mushrooms

Standard dinners:
  • Tuna bake
  • Roast dinner
  • Colcannon
  • Chicken and pasta
  • Beef and Beer stew with dumplings
  • Sausage bake
  • Sausage and mash
  • Bolognaise

Some of these meals don't produce leftovers, which is not useful for my ongoing nutrition. Most of what I eat is at least okay, if a little light on leafy green vegetables. Unfortunately, most of the leftover-producing meals are also high-effort, and the effort increases with quantity.

So ... I dunno. More husband help with making leftover-producing meals, and larger ones of those? Maybe that's a way forward. Suggestions welcome, because frankly, I'm out of ideas.

Saturday 15 December 2012

First flower!

I've managed not to kill all my plants, and this morning I awoke to see that one of my sunflowers has decided to bloom, hurrah! The other two have buds developing on top, but they haven't been quite as lively.

The nasturtium is doing pretty well, too, and is energetically climbing up the window. It is a dwarf compared to some of the ones I grew in the backyard, but still very enthusiastic. I'm tempted to plant another couple of seeds in the sunflower box, where whatever it was I seeded (I don't quite recall) didn't sprout.

   The other plants ... hm. I've managed to kill off most of my poppies - they don't like being repotted. The gerbras seem to be doing well enough after being transplanted. The thyme died, and so did its replacement after becoming infested with something picked up from the mint, which got binned. I now have a new thyme plant, and hopes that it will stick around for awhile.

The orchid isn't dead yet, either.

I think project Greenthumbs is, while not an unqualified success, going reasonably well. Not only that, I was inspired enough today to take a few photographs, which hasn't happened in a while.

.... on the other hand, blogger as a display medium for photographs is driving me slightly insane. I am unsure about how the positioning of photographs and text is interpreted exactly, and I'm spending more time dicking with the html than I am with taking the photos or doing the writing.

Monday 10 December 2012

"I just wish I was normal."

I'd bet that most people reading this have said this at least once in their lives, usually without any understanding of what normal actually might be.

I've thought about what being normal is quite a bit over the years, because it seems quite normal to question whether or not oneself is normal.

Because I've had quite a lot in the way of education, I've come to understand normal (with respect to any given aspect of life) in a more mathematical sense than most people, I think. I generally sum it up as 'within two standard deviations of the mean'. Okay, so pull out your rusty statistics knowledge, while I explain that a bit. Or you could go look it up on wikipedia, because that would be faster and probably clearer.

The mean is what is generally known as average. That is, you take all the responses, add them up, and divide by the number of responses - that number you end up with is the mean. If you plot all the responses on an axis, you often end up with a Bell Curve. It's been noted for quite some time that a number of things - including human responses - tend to fall within certain ranges, and with some mathematical tricks, these are easy to quantify. About 50% will fall within one standard deviation, 90% within two standard deviations, and 99% within three standard deviations.

So when I say 'normal' I usually mean 'about 90% of the population'. Of course, the fact that I use numbers and mathematics quite consciously to define that puts me outside that 90%, I suspect.

I suppose it's all part of how I am very rarely normal.

I know that there's a lot of promotion of the idea that being other than normal is good, and you should try and stand out from the crowd, blah blah whatever. This kind of thing ignores the other side of outside normal - the negative side.

I've been known to describe my life as an inverse bell curve - that is, that I have amazingly awesome and shockingly awful things in my life, and not a hell of a lot inbetween.

On the amazingly awesome side, I have the dearly beloved, with whom I have just celebrated 11 years of happy marriage - and at age 31, that's definitely not normal. He loves me just the way I am - however that happens to be at the time. I'm unusually bright. I have had an enviable career. I have an unusually broad range of hobbies and interests. When I can exercise, I tend to be very, very good at anything involving patterned movement - which is what a lot of people find difficult to master, and have really fast muscle development. I've successfully lost weight. I read really fast. I've been elected to a community organisation without running a campaign. I've been relatively wealthy.

On the shockingly awful side, I have autism. I have Idiopathic hypersomnia. I had an astonishingly bad case of PTSD, the resolution of which allowed the idiopathic hypersomnia its day (turns out the anxiety was the only thing keeping me awake). I have a fullblown dairy intolerance. I'm allergic to paracetamol. I have spinal bone density distortions of the type that ends up as crush fractures before age 60. I have crazybad myopia for someone under the age of 90.

In the normal range, I'm female-bodied. I have blue eyes. I am 161.5cm tall. I am probably about an average weight - which is to say, overweight. I wear jeans and tshirts. I play computer games. I'm an Australian (this is probably no longer normal, as I live in London). I have one sibling. My parents are still together. I like cats. I don't have enough savings to buy a house, and I spend a fair amount of worry on money. I dislike housecleaning. I like tea, and wine, although not together. I've spent most of my adult life with a caffeine addiction. I have one piercing in each ear, in my earlobes. I've struggled with depression.

In the neither positive or negative but simply outside the normal range - I have an unusual configuration of bust and ribcage. I have unusually pale skin. I have amazingly narrow feet. I have tiny hands. I can hear up to 23 kHz. I have one and a half bachelor's degrees, in two utterly different fields, both technical. I'm a female with an engineering/IT degree. Before moving, I had an unusually wide social circle, and had an unusually high number of people I considered close friends. My hair is hip length and red - naturally.

I'd love to have a normal level of health, for instance. No unusual medical conditions, allergies, or intolerances. Hell, I'd settle for the idiopathic hypersomnia being under control to the point where I can work full time, maybe workout a couple times a week, and not burn out.

Most of the other normal stuff - troubled relationships, limited interests, lack of passion, children, dead end jobs - that I can live happily without. I am curious as to what it's like to live that way, but not enough to try and experience it myself.

Looking over what I've written, the only normals I really yearn for are physical. Which is probably pretty normal for someone with a chronic medical condition that impacts their physical day to day life.

In that sense, I guess, I've gotten what I wished for - I'm normal.

Monday 19 November 2012


It occurs to me that my life is boring. I am very definitely discontent.

Part of it is that I am having a not-quite-optimal day; the secondary router dying (leaving my desktop without internet), the dishwasher needed to be re-run, those have contributed to a less-than-chirpy mood. It's bigger than that, though.

I have no big goals at the moment. There's my bucket list, of course, but the vast majority of things on there are a very long way away.

Day-to-day my life involves domestic stuff. Keeping house. This isn't emotionally fufilling, nor is it interesting to talk about. Parts of it have specific interest - the various ways in which I try to cut our ongoing costs, for instance, or sometimes try out new recipes, but by and large it just holds no interest for me. Keeping the house kind of clean certainly isn't something I'm passionate about. While I'm fairly interested in reducing my environmental impact, and eating from local producers, and eating organic, once I've done what I can do, there's just not that much more to talk about.

Keeping my plants alive, whilst in a way kind of interesting, isn't really all that fascinating. I mean, I water them every so often. Other than that, I look at them. What else, really, is there to do? Glaring at them does not make them go faster (much as sometimes I wish it would).

Speaking of, something else has sprouted! It's the little one on the left. I think it's a nasturtium or sweet pea. I can't quite recall which I planted there. The one on the right is probably a cornflower. This is justifying my decision to only plant 2 seeds per variety, in case I had good germination success.

There's health and fitness stuff. The problem there is mostly that I find it hard to do things. And hard to recover. I find it difficult to willingly sign up for extra pain, when most days, I'm in pain anyway. Not to mention my tedious and irritating tendency to crash and burn after a few weeks, and end up worse than when I started. I'm currently addressing that, somewhat, by doing my daily records, and trying to correlate that to my daily activities. This should help me find my limits without breaking through them and suffering the consequences. In the meantime, though, it means that any significant level of fitness activity is right out.

There's knitting. When I have the energy/lack of back pain for it anyway. And when I do, I knit. Also, the nice postman gave me a present the other day. 800m/100g, hand dyed silk. Mmmmm. I'm going to enjoy turning that into something pretty, that's for sure. But I don't do enough of this kind of thing to really make much interest of.

Photography has a daunting backlog of photographs for me to go through at present. The more there is to do, the harder it seems, the less likely I am to do anything. Sound familiar? It's stupid, I know, but there it is.

Music is waiting on speakers for the listening of, and me getting my backside across London to get an adjustable thumbrest installed on my clarinet for the making of. Speakers arrive tomorrow, and well, I'll get the thumbrest done ... sometime. Probably.

Fashion, clothing, style, what-have-you, is waiting on a lot more energy. I am getting to grips with how I feel about myself, and really trying to find clothing that is accessible (in terms both of cost and of effort involved in wear and care). I had a colour stylist appointment the other day, and discovered that I am horribly difficult for a professional to pinpoint, in terms of an optimal colour palette. In the stylist's words, my personal style is dramatic and functional. A lot of this is news at 11, so to speak, but it's nice to hear my self vision confirmed by an outside observer. I would like to have a few fashion shoots done with various outfits and looks, but of course, that requires money, time, and energy. And I'd like to be somewhat slenderer before making a permanent record of what I look like. See above about energy, etc.

Still, on the weight loss front, I'm at least not failing too badly. My diet is (fairly) clean. I've gone up a little, but not much. I'm still hoping to see 72kgsish in January, and below 70kgs for my birthday. This occupies a fair amount of brain time, for me, but is one of those things which I can't help but feel probably isn't interesting to a wider audience.

It does occur to me that one of the reasons I am discontent and bored is that while some of the things I do are all very nice and well and good, they aren't productive. I don't produce, I don't get paid. A fairly core part of my self-value system, in this case, the part dealing with how I conduct my life, is how much and what I contribute to my family unit, and society at large. I don't even pay taxes. Of course, I am crazy lucky to be in this position and not worrying about where my next meal is coming from, and this is all very first world problems. Knowing I ought to be grateful for what I have does not, however, make me feel cheerful, so much as guilty for not being cheerful.

There is a possibility that if I was healthy, and if I didn't need to work in order to create and maintain a suitable level of buffer money, I would feel the same kind of discontent, were I not engaged in some form of volunteer work, or freelance research, or similar.

It is probably shallow of me that a fairly major way in which I judge myself is on my financial input. It also appears to be a fairly immutable aspect of my character. I'll note I don't judge anyone else this way; like many things, I have one rule for me, and another rule for everyone else. Having a disabling condition isn't good enough excuse for me, emotionally, although intellectually I realise this is kind of crazy. "Look at Stephen Hawking" says the emotions, while my brain retaliates with "... different problems, different person, and a whole hell of a lot smarter than me." No bets on which usually wins.

I guess the way to fix this is to get a damn job.

So I just applied for a work-from-home, freelance editing job. I'll be applying for a few more, I think. I can write, I can do the spelling and grammar thing, and whilst it probably won't be *much* money (and, oh god, I have to figure out taxes, VAT and all that), it's a lot better than sitting on my backside bewailing my fate. Positive action, etc. This kind of work seems to be something I can reasonably do; I have the experience (from both writing my own documentation and working as a writer at Red Hat), and writing is something I can do with reasonable competence on minimal energy. Full time, not so much, and in person, not so much; but as a from-home, flexible delivery schedule thing - that, definitely. So long as the other router doesn't break.

Wednesday 14 November 2012


I moan and wail all the time about sitting at home doing nothing.

Now, there's a lot of truth to that: I certainly don't spend 40hrs of week getting paid, nor do I actually really produce anything obviously tangible at the end of any given day, usually.

On the other hand, I've been using Workflowy to write a series of task lists. This list is the list that combines what I do, what needs to be done, and what I want to be doing. Without having a job, it comes to somewhere between 4 and 10 hours a day of stuff in the do daily section. Okay, some of what's on the list is pretty optional, and I certainly don't get all that done every day.

I do need to make a list which differentiates between what I am doing and what I want to be doing. Which is actually a task on that list.

The time estimates in there derive from how long it takes for me to do those tasks, by the way. I do time myself doing things fairly frequently. It's a bit weird, but I've been doing it since I was a child, and it's fairly firmly ingrained.

One of the things that Steve of Nerd Fitness talks about with managing to establish habits is reducing the willpower needed to perform the habit. My internalisation of this concept has a lot to do with my experience doing automated testing and with having my nose rubbed in the barriers to doing anything at all on any given day.

My daily tasks are a lot of overhead to try and automate. To be honest, I'm not sure how to automate most of it, short of having a minder. I outsource the majority of the house cleaning by getting a house cleaner to come in once a week for two hours. Several of the daily tasks are there because doing something small once a day is easier than doing something huge once a week. Partially because I'll remember to do it if it's habitual, and partially because small things require small amounts of energy.

Little things help with this. I leave tabs in firefox open so that I don't have to remember to finalise my grocery orders, check my inbox, write a new blog post, check facebook, or where the clarinet repair place is. This does result in a lot of tabs open at any given time, but on the other hand, if I close all those tabs, it takes me a lot of energy to find and reopen them. The usual result of that is me not writing here, not reading my email, not doing my groceries until the last minute (which screws things up because then I usually don't get a good delivery slot), not interacting with people on facebook, and just losing the long running tasks.

Somehow, I also do the other things, the things that need to be done weekly or monthly or at longer intervals. Well, some of them.

And I have a growing backlog of one-off things to do.

There was a time in my life where I did most of the listed activities, had a full time job, and an active social life. That was around 5 years ago. A lot of what I do, or think about, is trying to get me back into a state where that kind of thing is possible for me again.

A lot of the rest is the mundane maintain the status quo activities. Personally, I don't find them inspiring, which is probably easy to see from the word choices I make when talking or writing about them. Being a housewife has never struck me as an emotionally fulfilling or satisfactory lifestyle for me. Being a systems administrator falls into the same emotional band. Nothing against sysadmins or house spouses, but I'm a progress bar kind of girl.

On the other hand, without routine, I very quickly come apart at the seams. A set daily, weekly, monthly routine frees up a lot of effort that would otherwise be spent on decision making. Or at least transfers to to times where it's manageable to set up, review, and debug.

The problem with routine is that when things change, they don't. Not by themselves. They're brittle under change. For me, it usually takes some weeks at least to settle after a change, or after an event which causes routine to be broken for more than a few days. Enough flexibility to cope with this kind of thing and it's usually not firm enough for in to be useful on a day to day basis. Or I just don't have the skills to design resilient routines that suit me and my life. Of course, when the proverbial hits the fan, what usually happens to me is out-of-control sleep - so I'm either unconscious or a zombie, barely capable of basic self care, much less anything else. Especially not if I'm emotionally exhausted, and I don't have the spare willpower to force myself to do things.

Part of my coping strategy is the quite large number of tasks on my list; doing these tasks helps minimise the collateral impact that occurs when my routine stops happening, and gives me slack time in which to recover. This helps in minimising anxiety during recovery, but does impose a burden of anxiety at other times.

Another aspect is what I like to call 'proactive laziness'. That essentially means doing a tiny extra thing now so I have less to do later. Things like having all the recipes I use regularly printed out and kept in a display folder in the kitchen, so I don't spend half an hour or so wandering around the internet going 'I know I had the link somewhere...', which is a waste of my time and effort. I'll note I've been pretty slack with this lately, which is my first thing to tackle in this challenge cycle.

I really wish I had a program I could fill out with my various tasklists, put in a few parameters, which would serve me up a nice page where I could tick things off, postpone things, etc etc. Remember the Milk is the least worst of this kind of thing that I've found. Its reminders, however, were simultaneously too irritating and too easy to ignore. I might give it another go again. Setup is a bit of a pain in the ass. I'll give it another go again anyway.

With such aids to memory, the difficult thing I find is figuring out what to put in, and what to leave out. Do I really need a reminder to empty, restack, and run the dishwasher? Probably not. Do I need a reminder with an irritating noise to tell me to shower? Probably, yes. Do I need an absolutely-impossible-to-ignore reminder to tell me to take my pills, but only when I'm awake? Definitely.

It's the conditional nature of things that's almost impossible to automate. I don't know, in advance, what kind of day I'm going to have tomorrow; whether it'll be one of those days where I'll take my meds, feel reasonably positive, get out of the house, and do things, or whether it'll be one of those days where I'll drag myself out of bed, to the couch, and desperately try to maintain some sort of grip on consciousness. Or if I'll be awake, but spend the day in one long frustrated scream inside my skull, because this isn't how I wanted my life to be.

At this point, I don't know what causes the ultra low energy days (except when it's obvious, like Monday when I was really ill). I'm working on finding patterns by filling out my daily symptoms, and keeping my activity logs so I have at least some correlation to what's happening in my life, and where my energy limits actually are. Once I have this information, I hope to be able to work exercise into my life again, and smooth out my energy level swings a bit. That, and manage my other energy sinks better.

This has turned into a bit of a ramble, but eh. It's my blog. So there.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Feats IV - taking it easy

So yesterday was a washout, so to speak. And a mess, so to speak. That is the first time in my adult life I've had a 24hr stomach flu, and hopefully the last. My todo list definitely went undone.

My plants are growing! Overnight one sprung. Now if only I could remember which one it was. I'll give the others a little while to see if they also spring, and plant more seeds if they don't. Also I really have to do something about the gerbras and poppies .... soon. Maybe tomorrow.

Today I did stuff like tidy the house, read my email, water my plants, and not eat very much. For some reason, I just don't feel like it today. I gave some thought to cooking the meatloaf I'd planned for yesterday, but with the dearly beloved at some work thing, and not feeling like eating anyhow, I decided to not bother.

I watered my orchid, which involved filling the container it sits in with water, a few drops of orchid fertilizer, letting the orchid sit in it for about 15min, then taking the orchid out and dumping the water. Apparently this is how to water orchids, or so the internet tells me.

I thinned the poppies somewhat - I'll do the rests of it tomorrow, when I have decent light, and possibly also plant them out into my as yet unoccupied pot. Along with some thyme.

What else? I read The Last Continent, and started on Carpe Jugulum. I did a set of pushups, using the kitchen table because I can't do proper ones. I did some stretches to help my spine.

So, things happened. Other things didn't happen. Tomorrow, there may be cooking. And possibly repotting of seedlings.

Time for an early night.

Proactive Laziness: War is Peace - week 1.

My first goal for this six week cycle is this:

WAR IS PEACE: Challenge my war on myself - Find and change one negative thought cycle or behaviour a week.

I've noticed, of late, I've let my proactive laziness slip. Little habits that make my life so much easier over the next 24hrs that I've stopped doing. These are a few of the little habits I'd like to re-establish:

  • Running the dishwasher before I go to bed, instead of first thing in the morning
  • Unstacking the dishwasher first thing in the morning
  • Taking a small, out of place object with me when moving between rooms
  • Filling my water bottle straight away when it is empty
  • Think about tomorrow's dinner and take meat out of the freezer the night before, instead of being stressed out at 3pm
  • Printing out and filing new recipes so that when I want to use them again, they're right there, instead of being lost in my browser history
  • Writing a meal plan on the weekend when I finalise my groceries so I have some idea what to do for the previous goal

That's a lot of things to suddenly start doing. So I'll try to do at least one of these, every day.

Edited for extended explanation:

I realise upon rereading that this appears to be entirely developing new habits rather than challenging bad ones. It was clearer in my head. Anyway, I'm challenging my habit of 'I'll just do it later', also known as laziness, by changing my laziness to a positive version.

Or possibly challenging the degradation of good habits.

This is a learning experience. I'm sure I'll have a good format etc sorted out by week 6. 

The whys and wherefores of the development of the degradation of said habits ... that's something I have to think about. And possibly write about.  Stay tuned.

Monday 12 November 2012

Feats III - weekend edition.

Saturday, November 10th:
Bad sleep last night. Drippy nose, shoulder and neck pain. Woke up with eyes and face more swollen than yesterday.
Had morning dose, and an antihistamine.
Organised to have dinner with my father in law.
Had breakfast at Love Walk Cafe with the dearly beloved, at about 1pm.
Emptied drip cup under sink.
Put away clothing that had migrated to the living room.
Cuddled on the couch with the dearly beloved for half an hour.
Had afternoon dose.
Looked up a few recipes for the coming week, to make sure I had everything I need in my groceries, cupboard, and fridge.
Made a note to myself to actually print out the recipes that I use, so that I can use them again without scratching my head going 'I wonder where I got that from'. This is one of those proactive laziness things I need to start doing more of.
Stacked and ran dishwasher.
Finished Pyramids, started Reaper Man.
Caught up to 7th October on twitter. Yes, I have a backlog.
Had a nice dinner at a posh place with my dearly beloved and father in law. Omnomnom.

Sunday, November 11th:
Cooked a rocking lamb roast dinner.
Tidied up afterwards.
Started being violently ill around 1am.

Monday, November 12th.
Continued being violently ill.

Friday 9 November 2012

Inversions: Challenge cycle Nov to Dec

New cycle, new challenge points. 4 goals, six weeks, but this time, some inspiration from George Orwell. 
Six Week Challenge The Fourth: Nov 12th to Dec 
Goal 1: WAR IS PEACE: Challenge my war on myself - Find and change one negative thought cycle or behaviour a week
I've developed some negative patterns. Not caring for myself, eating things that I know will bite me back, avoiding new experiences, that kind of thing. I don't necessarily expect any changes to stick; but awareness of habitual thoughts and actions is the first step.   
Goal 2: IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH: Challenge my ignorance - Complete monitoring every day
I've started using Patients Like Me to gather information about what's actually going on inside my head and body. This involves at-least-daily quick updates of overall mood, and recording what each of my major symptoms is doing. I may talk more indepth about this at another time. I will also attempt to keep a daily log of what I do, and publish it here on my blog. I may or may not publish my recorded charts of symptoms at the end of the period.
Goal 3: FREEDOM IS SLAVERY: Challenge Immobility, Inflexibility, and Atrophy - do my physio exercises daily
Well, that one's obvious. Although, if I manage to do other physical things, I get bonus points here.
Goal 4: DOUBLETHINK: Challenge my mind - Research and write at least one article on my blog a week about something I've learnt
Again, this is pretty obvious. I'm going to say it has to be at least 400 words, although I will allow new recipes, tea reviews, book reviews, introspection, and similar. 

Goals are subject to review and update if I find they are not working, or similar. 

This goalset is somewhat less physical than the previous ones I've set, rather more meta and very introspective. I will still attempt to maintain and increase my physical activity, but my focus is very sharply on what's causing me to not be doing said physical activity.  As always, my greatest enemy is myself.

Feats II.

November 9th:
  • Didn't sleep because of owwie neck and shoulder. Sigh.
  • Had AM dose.
  • Was told I was appreciated for all the stuff I make happen around here. That made me happy. I sometimes feel the magic house fairy is invisible.
  • Started thinking about and writing down my life/fitness goals for the next six week cycle.
  • Worked on my ToDo list
  • Started my bucket list
  • Wrote more about tasks and management or lack thereof of same.
  • Tried to call mum and dad on skype.
  • Spent time on Facebook.
  • Cleaned up my inbox a bit.
  • Did my veg box order for next week.
  • Had painkillers.
  • Reported a website error to my veg box company.
  • Filled in a survey for Ocado, in hopes of winning 100 quid grocery money.
  • Found inspiration for my six week goal cycle. 
  • Wrote more, nearly fell asleep sitting up.
  • Ate food, had a cup of tea, and read Animal Farm.
  • Told Ocado that their automail was spamming me about a non existent delivery. Got an autoresponder email back. Nice.
  • Browsed Ikea's website for lighting to put near my plants.
  • Got sidetracked into looking up lightbulbs on This would be more useful if I knew what kind of lightbulbs were in the sockets in my house.
  • Tried to reach a lightbulb.
  • Started my Ocado shop for next week.
  • Wrote meal plan for up to next Tuesday. Well, some of it.
  • Re-investigated slowcookers, and definitely decided on the Cusinart PSC650U. 
  • Bought the slowcooker, it should arrive Monday. Before midday.
  • Looked at about a billion slowcooker recipes.
  • Took my laundry in.
  • Emptied out the drip catch cup for the third time today.
  • Randomly found a recipe for Vegan butter for baking.
  • And then I found a recipe for Gluten Free Brioche. No prizes for guessing what I want to experiment with at some point. 
  • Wrote up my goals properly. Ish, anyway.
  • Had some dinner.
  • Had a hot bath.
Today was one of those days where I feel like I did bugger all and just moped at my desk and was generally a bit of a washout. It's a pretty active kind of bugger all now that I'm looking at it, though.

Feats I.

The achievement posts I was doing earlier this year worked for propping up my self esteem and making me a) feel like I was doing something and b) giving me the wherewithal to do more things.

Numbering restart, change of title, etc.

The photo is a vintage car I saw on my walk to the nursery. 

8th Nov:
  • Woke up around 8am.
  • Filled in my status update on Patients Like Me.
  • Had AM dose.
  • Showered, including using my new Biotherm skincare stuff.
  • Did laundry.
  • Talked to Mum on Skype for a while. 
  • Hung out laundry.
  • Wrote a generic update on how I've been going over the last few months.
  • Signed up to become a "Friend of Normand Park". It's a park nearby, with allotments. I'm thinking about getting an allotment next year.
  • Checked and emptied undersink dripcatching cup. Cleaned up mess, replaced with larger cup, since apparently 350ml is too small for 24hrs worth of drip.
  • Had PM dose. 
  • Had food.
  • Went to World's End Nurseries, got 20L bag of compost, carried it home. Ow. 
  • Had a bottle of coke on the walk there, because I was feeling tired.
  • Got started on my overall tasklist, using Workflowy. I'll write a post about my tasklist at some point.
  • Changed next week's physio appointment time because something came up for my physio. Bonus: it now no longer conflicts with my style/colour assessment appointment. 
  • Drank about 2L of water or so. And 2 very large mugs of yerba mate tea. I'm testing to see if inadequate hydration has been a contributing factor to my ongoing fatigue and uncertain sleep. 
  • Packed up a bunch of stuff to give away at a clothes swap - mostly shoes, socks, and some businesswear that needs a new home.
  • Started writing post about my tasklist. Meta, wot.
  • At said clothes swap, accidentally came home with a full length coat, 2 skirts, and a handbag.
  • SAW PEOPLE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN A MONTH. Hi, goths. Howzit goin'?
  • Got home at 2am. Did not leave stuff in cab.  
  • Emptied the not-quite-full leak-catching cup underneath the sink. That's about 500mL of drip in about 8hrs. Worrying. It has definitely got worse in the last week or two.
  • Made oven chips for a early-morning-before-bed snack. 
Misc thoughts:

I really enjoyed seeing people tonight. I wish I could see people more often, form deeper relationships, etc. I miss that kind of thing. Immensely. But no one lives out this way, and no one knows me well enough to want to make the effort of coming out this way (fair enough, really).  I miss being part of an ongoing social conversation. I miss being noteworthy. Honestly, I doubt anyone around here missed me in my six week absence. I'm simply not embedded enough on anyone's radar for that to be noticeable. Not surprising, really, given that I'm simply not around most of the time. I'm pretty sure such a thing would be ... well, challenging, to say the least.

At any rate, it's about the time of day (4am) where I should do the sleeping thing. 'night all.

Thursday 8 November 2012

Generic Update Post

I've been disappeared for about the last ... oh, two or three months.

The Olympics happened. I went to the Women's Epee, and I have photographs, which I will publish ... at some point. Once I get a better grip on the whole RAW thing.

I missed going to the Paralympics dressage because I was unable to wake up on the day. I was angry as hell about that.

I've been cooking roasts a lot lately. And tuna bake. And also making stock, which the at-home version is soooo much better than the storebought. And cheaper, even when I buy bones.

I haven't been doing much, or really any, photography. I just ... haven't had the will for it. I'm hoping to change that, starting with photographing my plants ... well, probably not daily, in all honesty, but at least sometimes. Maybe if I get really tricksy, I'll do a stop motion. Once I figure out how. And setup. And that kind of thing.

I've been trying to figure out how to continue my wine studies. I can't really swing the 2000 GBP and 18 days twice a year - which is what I'd need to attend the required residency schools. I can't swing the 8000 GBP (and I'm not sure about the hour or so travel every day) to complete the degree here, either. The Master of Wine requires I already have the degree and industry experience, so that's right out.

.... actually, my woes there will end up being a post in themselves. I'll do that later. Suffice to say, I am frustrated and angry and depressed over the whole thing.

Said frustration has transferred itself to doing any study at all. So I haven't been doing that, either. 

Fitness? I laugh at it. I was doing okay in September, but that came crashing to a halt. I need to re-establish a regular routine, but as always, logistics get in the way.

General health? Well, I haven't had a cold or gotten sick. I have had severe issues with sleeping - the anxiety over study, general existential angst, etc, has been giving me a bit of insomnia. And I was off my medication for a week because I was too exhausted and tired and sleepy to go down the road to get more.

So what have I actually been doing? Playing world of warcraft, reading a lot. Also, researching the wine thing takes a lot of time. Doing chores. There's another post in here about how I'm not doing anything coherent because I don't have anything to aim at, but again, I'll leave that set of angst for later.

What am I planning on doing? Making plants stay alive, figuring out if it is at all possible for me to continue study, getting less unfit, reducing my ongoing overheads task list. Which I need to write and braindump.

So, how have you been?

Wednesday 7 November 2012

The survival of the ... tallest?

Today, I was hit with the realisation that I need to kill about 90% of the current plants I have (mostly poppies, because there are many many successfully germinated seeds).

It's a process known as 'thinning'. The pouches are waaaay too small to support more than one mature plant, so I have to pick one seedling to live, and take out the rest.

Of course, I could just plant the rest out ... if I had somewhere to plant them out to. I do have a shiny new pot, but even though it's super duper with four subpots for separate plants, I have managed to successfully germinate many many more. And besides, I want herbs in that pot so they're all together. Oh, and I have no potting mix for the pot. Yet.

Blah. If I'd known, I'd have planted many fewer seeds. I am going to write to the company that makes these cute little pouches and suggest some changes to the instructions.

It has occurred to me that for someone who spent significant portions of their childhood in the garden, I'm abysmally ignorant about plants. Although, to be fair, indoor pots in London are a rather different matter from a backyard in Brisbane. The yearly cultivation of nasturtiums, for instance, involved collecting the seeds, pulling up the old plants, forking the soil over a lot, sprinkling seeds hither and yon, covering with dirt, and watering. Instead of about 2 square metres of as far down as Dad cared to dig, I have about 2 metres of 14cm wide windowsill, the middle third of which is directly over a radiator. That's ignoring differences in humidity, temperature, and light levels, which I never really was told about in so many words anyhow, mostly I think because Mum and Dad knew what worked without learning from a book or by scientific experiment.

So; I know a lot about how to grow potatoes,  pumpkins, beetroot, bananas, tomatoes, strawberries, nasturtium, alyssum, watermelons, and bottlebrush trees. In a backyard in Queensland during non drought times. Oh, and a maidenhair fern in my bedroom.

Growing herbs in a pot on a balcony is something I've failed at a few times, generally due to not watering them for a couple months. That kills most plants when there's no rain, I think. And extra heat from reflected sunlight. I've also never grown from seed in a pot before; I've always repotted already established plants. As part of my wine degree, I've studied botany as far as vines are concerned, but when dealing with living things, book learning and the real world are often quite divergent. Knowing a bit about viticulture hasn't really helped me with my current learning experience.

The effort will be worth it, I think. Having green and flowers around cheers me up a lot. Leafy things help with air quality too, which in London is a bit of an issue. Sometimes, if I've spent a day out of the house, I get black when I blow my nose. Without going near industrial areas, or fires, or any such thing. It's disturbing, to say the least. And my skin tends to flake off because it's really dry up this end of the house (we have a mould problem up the other end).

Currently, the things I need to know are:

Which plants like what kind of dirt?
Where do I get that dirt of the non-stinky-suitable-for-indoors type?
Where do I get advice for doing this kind of thing? In person, that is.


Some hours later, I've replanted the Sunflowers - one in the original pouch, one in the failed basil pouch, and one in a new box I got today. The two shortest seedlings got tossed. I'm going to be slightly surprised if all the replants survive even though I was as gentle as I could be. I'd left it too long so the roots were entangled, and I had to handle them pretty extensively to separate the seedlings. On the bright side, this probably means I can save some more of the gerbras (there's 11). The new box has also been planted with seeds of nasturtium, cornflower, and sweat pea - two of each. There are spare seeds, which in my mind, is a much better situation than spare seedlings. I also spent some quality time with my thyme, picking out the dead bits, and discovered (or perhaps just noticed?) that it, too, is in fact a collection of seedlings, of which there are now somewhat fewer, as I pulled out the dead and really struggling ones.

I got down to the Fulham Palace Garden Centre, and purchased plant food, both of the make herbs happy and the make orchids happy variety. The orchid stuff I'll start using soon, the general herb stuff not until things have settled in a bit more - don't want to burn the seedlings by giving them more than they can handle. Unfortunately none of the staff on could tell me much about indoor growing, but they gave me some generic advice. I did get a nice 3hr wander around my neighbourhood, and saw some interesting things, so it definitely wasn't a wasted trip.

Oh, and ego boosting - apparently germinating from seed is difficult and chancy and requires skill, and ending up with far too many seedlings is not the usual case.

It is possible that I'll get out again tomorrow if I find another garden centre, and maybe I'll even come home with a bag of potting mix. If I do, I'll replant the thyme into the new pot - some of it, anyway. Or I might come home with more plants. It all depends. Mostly on my whims. But it's my windowsill and I'll turn it into a garden if I want to.

... Incidentally, I've worked out that I can probably grow about 36 plants total in the space I have. I don't think I'm going to go quite that far, though. Not this week, anyway.

At any rate, it's off to bed with me, to dream of green things.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

In which I try to develop a green thumb

It's been a while. Stuff happened, and didn't.

Winter's coming on here, quite quickly. Amongst other things, this means that there are giant drifts of leaves everywhere to jump in, and dead looking trees.

Last winter, one of the things that contributed to me feeling quite lowly was the lack of greenery in my life. London is excessively urban in that way - I have to walk about 10min to get to some grass, for instance. So, to combat this issue, I'm growing my own green.

My window sill has lots of stuff on it. Currently, Thyme (which usually lives in the kitchen but needs a bit of sun once in a while), Sunflowers (no flowers yet), Poppies, and Gerbras.  It's fun watching them grow, and also fun trying to figure out when and if to water them. I also tried to grow basil, but ... well, I'm trying again soon. Possibly with more success. And in the meantime, I have spare soil to grow other seeds in!

sunflowers growing in pouch but not flowering yet poppies germinating in pouch gerbras germinating in pouch

The flowers came with instructions, in those handy dandy pouch thingies that are their current homes. It's so exciting watching the successful seeds germinate, and actually seeing the plants change day to day. It's less exciting cleaning up dropped petals. I'm currently agonising over thinning out the sprouting gerbras, poppies, and baby sunflowers - I want all the flowers! But they do look a bit crowded in there.

The pouches look a little silly, and I strongly suspect they're going to be unstable when the plants get bigger. The pouches don't drain, and poking around germinating root systems is generally a bad idea, so I'm doing a lot of guessing with the watering. I strongly suspect that overwatering is why my basil seeds didn't germinate. That's a new one for me - generally I've killed plants by not watering them. I was trying to follow the "DO NOT OVER WATER" warning on the label, obviously without success.

The thyme came in a pot, and it's also currently living in a measuring jug, that being the handiest container nearby when I wanted a drip tray and crude self watering system. It timeshares (see what I did there?) with another plant in the kitchen that is stubbornly refusing to reflower. Time for pots and potting mix, definitely. And drip trays.

 Also, the dearly beloved brought home something beautiful for me:

Gorgeous, innit? It very helpfully came with no instructions or identification at all. However, some time on the internet has told me it is probably a Phalaenopsis aka Moth orchid. Some more time on the internet has told me I should water and fertilize it once a week or thereabouts, keep it on my desk (with jaunts behind my PC to get a breeze now and again), and mostly ignore it except to admire it and take photographs. I might need to get a better pot than a repurposed plastic box, though.

It's good to have fresh herbs always there - and at 1p extra to buy a pot instead of some cut herbs, pretty economical after about a week. In Brisbane I had to keep something alive rather longer to break even, if I recall correctly - especially since given climatic conditions, I had to repot the thing straight away. And water daily because of said climate so keeping them alive was a real struggle. Which was fun when there were water restrictions.

I'm hoping to grow some rosemary, mint, coriander and sage (as well as the basil, again). I have a powerade bottle that makes a pretty good indoor watering tin, currently resident on my desk with filtered water in it (so it's at the same temperature as the plants, the water from the tap is icy and filled with chlorine and dissolved solids). I may have to acquire some fertilizer for both the herbs and the orchid. And another powerade bottle for distribution of fertilizer. I'm hoping to get out of the house tomorrow and go for a brisk walk to the nearest nursery to acquire the required substances.

I sincerely hope they all survive when I next go on a long trip, but maybe my landlady will be okay with plantsitting them. I'll have to ask the next time I see her.

So, here's to my new hobby of keeping plants alive.

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Life is pain, princess.

Well, it's been a rough few weeks.

I didn't have a lot of energy after returning from Florence, and then there was the Olympics, and then I got some kind of gut bug and was in pain for ages.

Another irritating mishap was having a molar disintegrate on me. Turns out I'm going to need a crown. Meh.

Due to a coincidence of timing, I also was exercising my reproductive freedom and got a copper intrauterine device (IUD) inserted on Monday.  If you're squeamish about girl cooties, don't follow the jump (men being disturbed by such things is more than a little silly, but hey, that's a rant for another day. Women being disturbed by such things is only excusable on the same level as a guy wincing when another guy gets kicked in the crotch).

Saturday 23 June 2012

Food for thought (and body).

I'm going to continue moving towards healthier/more paleo options. This requires planning and forethought, since this stuff, while it does grow on trees amongst other things, isn't typically found in packages on the supermarket shelves. Of course, I also have the dearly beloved to cater for - he does get breakfast and lunch at work however, so that makes it easier. I need to provide myself with breakfast and lunch each day, plus dinner for two 5 nights a week.

The next few dinners involve steak, lamb shanks, and lamb chops. And vegetables, of course. I have a turnip, some carrots, some potatoes, and a head of broccoli to use up. Fortunately, I get a new vege box on Tuesday, so I should just about have enough to go until then. With the healthier eating I've been doing, hopefully I'll be wasting less, and throwing less away in future weeks (damn vegetables and their short shelf life). Looking at the incoming box, I've got Charlotte new potatoes, Pak Choi, and red pepper coming, along with three mystery vegetables. There's almost always carrots in the box, so I can count on those. I think I might swap out the potatoes for something else, though - I still have quite a few new potatoes still on my bench, I much prefer ones of a size I can bake or mash.

I'll note here that whilst I am highly aware that eating this way - fresh, organic ingredients, nothing from a packet - is infinitely better for me in the long term, it is incredibly difficult for me to actually do. Especially on days like today, where making a cup of tea is a major expenditure of available energy. Still, I will persevere, and attempt to set up some kind of production-line cooking where I can do a bunch of prep on a good day, and assemble meals later in the week with a minimum of fuss. The tricky bit is getting up the energy to work out what to prep for which purposes, so I need two good days. I'll get there. Eventually.

This ramble, while informative, doesn't actually fit very well with the characteristics of a good plan: that is, measurable, timely deliverables. Most of the list are things I'm already doing haphazardly.

  • Gluten no more frequently than twice in any four days.
  • Grains other than gluten no more frequently than once any two days, averaged over a week.
  • Refined sugar products (such as softdrink or biscuits) no more than twice every seven days.
  • Honey in tea is allowable during illness, or very occasionally otherwise.
  • Calories to be kept to around 1200 a day, plus an allowance for exercise on days of greater activity. Going over is preferable to going under, especially on low-activity days. I will track this every day.
  • Aim for a daily macronutrient breakdown of approximately 100g of protein, 50-100g of carbohydrate, the remainder being healthy fats.
  • Aim to drink at least 2L of water a day, plus more during periods of activity or high liver load.
  • Potatoes are allowed for now.

Going with the 'If it isn't there, I won't eat it' theory, I had a look in my pantry and fridge to see what needed to get lost. There's not much to purge, honestly. There's some chocolate chip gluten and dairy free cookies which I'm going to feed to the dearly beloved. Some dairy free icecream in the freezer which has water, pecans, maple syrup, cashews, and coconut in it (arguably paleo). Some of my gravy mix isn't grain-free (or at least, I'm pretty sure some of it is from grains originally, just not wheat). The peanut oil isn't paleo, but is probably better than the random vegetable oil until I get some macadamia oil. Some frozen fingers with a glutenised crust. Kosher cocktail viennas which contain numbers. Soy sauce. Fresh gnocchi. Some pork sausages in the freezer. HP BBQ sauce. My self raising gluten free flour. A bunch of rice. Some gluten free pasta. Rolled oats. Oat cream. I ran out of mayo and have a paleo recipe for DIY.

That covers it, I think. It helps having lived a dairy free and low-gluten diet for a long time, although some of the substitutes are non-paleo.

Things I need to find paleo alternatives for:
  • Kosher cocktail viennas and frozen fish fingers: these are my protein-heavy, only heating required lunches.
  • Soy sauce: where the heck do I find coconut aminos in London?
  • Gnocchi: needs to be fridge-stable for a couple of weeks, ideally. And fairly easy to make. It forms the substrate for our designated lazy meal - meat ragu or chicken with pesto.
  • Oat cream: savoury replacement for cream. Coconut cream is too sweet for applications such as scrambled eggs.

On to the actual Plan(TM).

I need the following meals for myself alone: 5x breakfast, 5x lunch, 1x dinner.
For both my husband and myself: 2x breakfast, 2x lunch, 5x dinner.

  • I need as many zero-effort breakfasts and lunches as possible; I often run low on energy.
  • I need at least two dinners my husband feels confident in preparing, in case I have bad days.
  •  We are travelling on Saturday 30th to Florence for a week, so any food remaining has to be shelf stable until we return, or freezable.
  • Between my husband and I, we are picky eaters. No salad, no fruit, very little seafood, very little chilli or black pepper (and besides, thai tastes funny without coconut rice, and indian just isn't right without naan, raita and saffron rice).
  • Energy is a prime consideration. This bears repeating. Frequently. In any given week, I may or may not be able to do an hour of prep.
  • Dinners need to vary somewhat.
  • Breakfasts the same every day is fine, although on bad days, if it isn't heat'n'eat, it won't happen. 
  • Lunches are okay to switch between two or three different things, but may not get eaten so need to be freezable, have a long life in the fridge, or be a suitable breakfast substitute.

Breakfast for two or one: Fried eggs, unsmoked organic grass fed bacon or lean ham, rosti.
Weekday lunch: Savoury mince or stew.
Weekend lunch: ?
Saturday dinner: Leftover Roast Beef cottage pie.
Sunday dinner: Rump steak and mashed potatoes.
Monday dinner: Lamb shanks with carrots and turnips. Freeze bones for stock.
Tuesday dinner: Lamb chops with mashed potatoes. Freeze bones for stock.
Wednesday dinner: Meat ragu with gnocchi.
Thursday dinner: ?
Friday dinner: Roast chicken dinner with roasted vegetables.
Saturday dinner: Roast chicken leftovers - probably warmed through in pan with garlic and onion, served with vegan pesto over gnocchi. Bones frozen for stock.

After some thought, I will attempt to make myself a big batch of bolognase/savoury mince to have for lunches, and a second batch of stew. These both freeze well; however, I still need a carbohydrate substrate. Cauliflower mash keeps reasonably well, although the carbohydrate content isn't high. I might add a Nakd fruit and nut bar on days when I'm going to be working out to make sure I have sufficient carbohydrate stores to not fall over. Things may also change slightly when the vege box arrives on Tuesday.

So, I have a plan. Will it work? Well, maybe. I guess time will tell.

The theory and practice of energy reserves

Today I am coping with what inevitably happens when I exert myself the previous day.

I am exhausted.

Admittedly, I didn't get to sleep until about 3am. And I didn't sleep in past 9, so I only got 6 hours of sleep. I did spend quite a lot of time dancing, and also walking, last night. I also spent more than the usual effort to make dinner yesterday. I had two glasses of wine and a bottle of Coke; this unusually high dose of sugar and caffeine may be a contributing factor to how I feel.

As a result, my usual dose of wakeypills is just enough to keep me from going to sleep sitting at my desk. Barely. If I ate something and took away the vaguely irritating feel of hunger, I'm not sure I'd be awake long. If I went to lie down on the bed, I'd be asleep in moments. I've utterly exhausted my energy reserves - at the moment, I'm trying to work up the energy to go get myself a cup of tea. Probably peppermint; caffeine has funny interactions with other stimulants, and I'm not in a mood to risk feeling even less awake.

For context, a normal person, on 100mg every eight hours, can easily stay awake, with elevated alertness, for 40 hours without side effects. In that same 40 hours, I will typically have had 8 hours of sleep, and 600mg to give me approximately two 12-hour periods of wakefulness, the quality of which is highly variable. There are another 18 hours in which my wakefulness will probably be fairly low grade, and my alertness will almost certainly be low. I will be able to perform simple, repetitive tasks, such as reading, reading internet articles (but probably not remembering them well the next day), or staring at the wall. Tasks like stacking the dishwasher, making a simple, familiar meal, or playing a familiar video game that requires any form of fast reflex action or thought will probably be too high energy. There's quite a big difference between myself and the frontline soldiers (or the students and truck drivers who consume the bulk of modafinil sold).

I note in passing that this current state is a vast improvement over a few months ago.

There's a long way between me and normal. I use 'normal' in the sense that it is medically normal for an adult to not require sleep during the day; to be able to function at a reasonable level of alertness and wakefulness during the day; to have a standard response to heavy-duty stimulating drugs where sleep is prohibited for the time the drug is in the system. Of course, circumstances of disrupted sleep, depression, some forms of anxiety, high levels of stress, bacterial or viral infection, or similar are exceptions to this normal. Even so, I'm aware of very few adults even under those circumstances who would go to sleep sitting upright if they stopped concentrating on not sleeping for a couple of minutes.

Moving on to why I feel so rotten today. I've noticed in the past that I can build up energy reserves over time, so that a particularly active day, week, or month doesn't knock me flat. Everyone has these - everyone can occasionally push themselves further and harder (sometimes hugely so) before they have to go back to a normal level of activity to recuperate. Things like swot vac and exam week, NaNoWriMo, a software release, a two-day hiking trip, a marathon. Those are circumstances where you extend your reach for some sustained period; afterwards, the best word I've come up for the feeling is drained. It's not so much exhaustion, but the sense that even after you rest, you have nothing left to give. Your batteries are flat.

Over the last few weeks, I've had a lot of things inhibiting my ability to build up a reserve - a bad head cold (still not quite over) and the week in Kirkland which drained my reserves to the point I was quite literally in bed for a week. So I've zeroed my reserves, and haven't built them back up much.

Yesterday's exertion (maybe an hour all up of mixed low and high intensity cardio; making dinner using new recipes) was enough to drain me again. Not as bad as the Kirkland trip; I'll probably be back to my normal low level of function tomorrow. I have my generally increased physical and mental activity to thank for this increased resilience. The more you do, the more you can do, as the saying goes.

Obviously, I'm walking a pretty fine line between doing more and doing too much. To a certain extent, I can borrow from my reserves a bit to extend my reach slightly - but only when my reserves are full enough such that I don't drain them by doing so. To recharge my reserves, I need to rest, and not just physically. It's the mental aspect, the energy involved in decision making that's important. During normal times (that is, when I've recovered enough not to be utterly flat, but I still don't have full reserves) this needs to be active rest - a term familiar to anyone who's delved deeply enough into the world of fitness. Mentally, this means learning new (but not overly challenging) things, routine planning activities (like a weekly grocery shopping list and meal plan), or easy creative things, like writing a blog entry.

Clearly I need to plan my time better, and further in advance, so I don't hit bottlenecks like this - at least, not until I have the reserves to deal with it without derailing the following day entirely. Of course, planning activities with that kind of scope are fairly decision-intensive and mentally draining, which is a wee bit on the challenging side when I'm running low.

Sometimes I feel like I'm in a bit of a Catch-22 situation.

Oh well. Small changes will eventually add up to big ones, I hope. One day at a time.

Friday 22 June 2012

22, amongst other things, a new corset.

Taking self portraits is hard. Anyway, my new corset arrived today. With the help of the internet, I made a decent stab at lacing myself into it, and then I took several photographs, only one of which (after some pretty severe cropping) was halfway okay. You can see my bosom in all its pale glory to the right. I'll note that due to the limitations of self-lacing, especially my very amateur attempt, I've probably got at least another inch or two of compression left in the bust - which is why I have no cleavage in that shot.

This is my first corset from, and overall, I'm pleased thus far with the quality. The corset is firm without being overly tight, sits evenly, and the little finishing touches (modesty flap under the busk, matched colour flat lace in the back) are really rather nice. I forsee more corsets from this source in future. Especially at their prices! They have an australian site as well. Unusually for what's basically high-quality factory made gear, the fit is reasonable. On their website it does state that C cups and under should go for the fashion corsets (or underbust corsets), and bigger breasted ladies should go for the steel boned corsets. It's nice to be acknowledged. They have a pretty decent range of steampunk corsets (like my new one) as well as full on waist training corsets and a fairly wide selection of various colours and designs. Until I can afford a custom-designed corset, I think I'm fairly happy to keep shopping here. And I have a very long wishlist.

Related: I have really good posture today. Except I can still slouch sideways.

Now all I have to do is assemble a full outfit. I am ... not very good at this kind of thing. Actually, I kind of suck. So aside from a long black skirt that packs up small and doesn't crease much, some kind of small lacy scarf to prevent goosebumps on my chest, maybe a bolero for those London indoor temperatures, and a coat of some description for the outdoor London temperatures ... I'm completely stuck. Well, obviously I mean for specifics for any of these items. And also for where to start looking to shop for these things. In Brisbane, it would be easy: the Internet Or Bust. In London, I'm told I can probably find stuff fairly inexpensively in person. But where? That is, of course, a question I often ask myself. I can probably knit myself my wanted neckthing, but that requires a pattern, which requires more adept use of google than I currently possess. Oh well, a problem for another day, I guess. Unless any of you lovelies has a suggestion for a neck covering knitting pattern hat's lacy and kind of pointy?

In other news, I've assigned myself some daily goals for the next few weeks:
  • Eat breakfast before midday, or within two hours of waking if getting up around or after midday.
  • Stretch every day, at least one stretch.
  • Read nonfiction for 15minutes every day. 
These shouldn't take up a lot of my time, should be easy enough to do wherever I happen to be, and if I can establish them as habits, will go a long way towards improving my day-to-day life.  Which is, you know, really important for my long term health and happiness.

In any case, I've just put a beef topside roast into the oven. It's covered in bacon, and will have sides of roasted turnips, roasted carrots, roasted broccoli, and boiled new potatoes. And gravy. I am really looking forward to this. I will attempt to remember to take a photograph or two once it's finished cooking. Mmm, delicious food.

After dinner, there will be clubbing! In the new corset! An excellent day all around.