Sunday, October 9, 2011

Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies: Week Two

The second week of twelve weeks of Christmas cookies is here already.  This should have been posted on Thursday but Thursdays aren't a great day for me as I put in a 12 hour shift at work so I shall be posting my contributions on Fridays or Saturdays.

I have no idea where I got the idea for this weeks cookie; I think I glanced at something chocolate and ginger and thought....hey! that would make a good combination.  Only good if you like chocolate and ginger of course. I happen to like ginger.  The flavour of it isn't too strong at all really, it just gives the cookie a spicy kind of warmth to it without being overpowering.  You will also notice that I used almond flour rather than wheat flour like I did with the last recipe.
I'm on an almond flour kick at the moment, I don't know why.  I'm using the hell out of my food processor these days and it's so easy to make.  I've decided I'm going to try and make a lot of my contributions out of almond flour.

If you're on a low carb diet, these cookies are acceptable as a treat with a fraction of the carbs in a normal cookie.  If you're on a low fat diet, however, you had better stay clear.  With the butter, fat from the almonds and coconut, they're pretty much half their weight in fat per cookie. If you don't give a stuff, go right ahead and make them! Haha!

Chocolate Ginger Cookies

125g butter
2 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup fine coconut
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup fine sugar
70g crystallised ginger
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 180 degrees Celcius.  Melt butter in a saucepan and add cocoa.  Mix with a spoon till it is gently bubbling.  Add vanilla extract.  Set aside.
In a bowl, add almond flour, coconut, baking powder, ground ginger and sugar.  Mix well with a spoon.  Pour melted chocolate butter over mixture and mix well.  Finally, fold in crystallised ginger.
Line a baking sheet with baking paper.  Form tablespoon-sized balls with your hands and flatten slightly on the baking sheet.  Place in the oven for about 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Makes about 20.

Check out the other goodies:

Friday, October 7, 2011

Productive Friday Evenings

It seems my Friday nights are becoming very productive. Last Friday night I was very busy in the kitchen.  Tonight I was busy inside and outside of the house

On top of making dinner, this evening I:
  • Cleared all the old/dried out plants from my pots, mixed in some compost and added new seedlings.  I planted green onions, cos lettuce, dwarf beans and mizuna.
  • Cleaned the bathroom floor
  • Did three loads of washing
  • Made pizza dough
  • Made yogurt

I've been working since 7pm and I just sat down now and it's 12am!

I was going to get started on my cookies for the second week of 12 weeks of Christmas cookies, but I will have to do that tomorrow if I want to get a good rest tonight for work tomorrow.  I am actually pretty tired anyway and will head off to bed soon.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Productive Evening

I got busy in the kitchen a few nights ago and made a few staples.

First up was almond flour.  Ground almonds are so expensive to purchase at the supermarket compared to making it yourself.  All you need to do is roast the almonds for about 5 to 10 minutes in the oven and then once slightly cooled, put them in the food processor and chop up to a flour consistency.  Voila!  I store mine in a ziploc bag in the pantry.

I then made two types of nut butter: almond and peanut butter.  The method is exactly the same as making nut flour, except you keep it in the food processor for longer.  It takes around 10 minutes in the food processor before you get the butter consistency.  I love making my own because not only is it much more economical, but you know that all that's in the jar is ground up nuts.  A lot of nut butters these days contain extra oil, stabilizers and sugar (ugh).

The last thing I made was natural yogurt.  It was my first time making this and it was a success!  I'm not going to outline how to do this but I will point you to a blog which does.

How to make your own yogurt

The result:

Monday, October 3, 2011

Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies: Week One

Yes, it's about twelve weeks till Christmas time.  I decided to start this up again since I had so much fun with it last year.  This recipe is originally from The Vegan Table, but I have adapted it a little since I am not vegan.  I really love these cookies and it will be a recipe that I'll make time and time again.  I took a couple to work and a workmate commented that they looked and tasted so Christmassy without me even telling her they were baked with Christmas in mind. The almond extract really gives it a distinct almond flavour and I love the spices.  They're also incredibly easy to make. Enjoy!

Chai-Spiced Almond Cookies

113g butter, softened
30g icing/powdered sugar + more for dusting
1 cup coconut flour
1 cup almond flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinammon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

Cream butter and sugar.  Add extracts and spices and beat in well.  Sift in coconut flour and beat again.  Add in almond flour and mix in with a metal spoon.  Roll dough into tablespoon-ful balls on a baking sheet.  Bake for about 20 minutes at 180 degrees celcius.  Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before rolling in icing sugar.

Week One, 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies bakers:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New-ish Blog

Hi All and welcome to my new-ish blog.  I've decided to separate my training from my other posts so The Iron Maiden can be my training blog exclusively.  I'm kind of a organised and tidy person when it comes to my work area so it irks me that that blog is a mish mash of stuff when the title suggests its about training than anything.  So, I hope to post more recipe stuff here and other things I am interested in.  Hope to hear from you!

Thursday, July 7, 2011


I love this dress,  I saw it today walking past Max.  The only problem is, is that Max has most of their clothes (if not all) made in China and I try and avoid purchasing clothes that are made in China.  I'm going to have to have a think about this one.....

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Peppermint Slice

The good thing about this slice is that it is pretty rich so you can't have too much of it at a time. It tastes like something you would purchase at a fancy cafe and it is so easy to make! The original recipe calls for real cream, but I didn't have any so I used coconut cream.

lightly adapted from Foodtown Magazine

150g butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1½ cups flour
¼ cup cocoa
½ teaspoon baking powder


100g butter
1½ cups icing sugar
1½ tablespoons coconut cream
1 teaspoon peppermint essence
200g dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line an 18cm x 28cm pan with baking paper. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sift in the flour, cocoa and baking powder. Mix together until combined; I used my hands to mix in the last bits. Press the mixture into the base of the prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes until firm. Set aside to cool.To make the filling, cream the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the coconut cream and peppermint essence. Spread the mixture evenly over the cooled base.  Put in freezer for 60 minutes.  You can refrigerate it but I found that when I did, the melted chocolate melted the peppermint filling a little and it didn't finish as well.  Melt chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water and spread over the peppermint filling evenly.

Linked to:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

First Harvest: Cavolo Nero & Celery

This morning I went out to the garden and gathered some greens for my breakfast smoothie.  I like to add some greens in there so I make sure I am getting enough vegetables for the day.  I picked about 8 stems of the Cavolo Nero and a celery stick for good measure.  The leaves of the Cavolo Nero were quite a bit larger than the normal ones I got from the store and even better, I know for sure that they have no pesticides sprayed on them because I grew it.  Best of all, all those nutritional benefits from picking the vegetables and using them immediately. 

Two of the stems of Cavolo Nero went to Daisy for part of her breakfast and the rest went into my blender

Green Breakfast Smoothie
6-10 leaves of Cavolo Nero or Kale
1 stick of celery, including leaves
1 banana
300ml cold water
1 capful vanilla extract
1 tablespoon natural peanut butter
2 scoops protein powder

Add water to blender and then banana in small pieces.  Blend.  Add Cavolo Nero, Celery, Peanut Butter and Vanilla extract.  Blend well.  Lastly, add protein powder and blend just enough so it is mixed in well.  Serve immediately.

Serve yours in a beer glass for maximum enjoyment

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Winter Vegetable Garden

I took a few shots the other day of what I am growing in my garden.  I am getting quite involved with learning about gardening; I have taken out many books from the library and have been learning some interesting things. Some might say I've become too involved.  I had a dream the other night that I went outside to check on my garden and someone had harvested (stolen!) all my vegetables. It was such a vivid dream that I thought it was real and I was so upset!!  I was happy to discover my vegetables sitting happily in their planters the next morning.

Since it is winter things are growing a little slowly.  Luckily we have had a very warm winter this year so they are doing better than that could have been doing.

My Cavolo Nero has grown tremendously and is ready for picking.  The Bok Choy is ready for harvest and the celery is on it's way too.  I like the idea of using the Celery as a come-and-cut-again vegetable like some of the books suggest as you never really need the whole plant or even the half that they sell in the stores.  Every time I purchase a half or whole it ends up going to waste.  I did read a tip recently which has helped me stop the wastage: dice the celery and freeze it in a re-sealable plastic bag.  It's such a simple suggestion that I can't believe I didn't think of it myself earlier!  I guess one can't think of everything.

I am getting a little frustrated at how slowly my seedlings are growing.  I bring them inside every night so they avoid the cold weather and take them outside in the morning so they can get as much light as they need.  Still they grow like snails!  I even call them my babies and that still doesn't help! Gah!

Anyway, here are the pictures I took of some of the plants.  This is only a fraction of what I have planted in containers! We rent a place so we can't really dig up the front yard to make a vegetable garden.  We don't have a backyard either.  I just make do with the space I have as tidily as I can.

Sage and Silverbeet/Swiss Chard
Little Lettuce
Row of lettuce.  The plastic bottles act as cloches
Cavolo Nero and a Dill plant tucked in there
Kale (Squire), Perpetual Spinach, Bok Choy, Celery
Close up of Bok Choy
You see that painted corrugated iron there in some of the pictures?  Well what the snails do is they slither up there and actually reach out and eat my Cavolo Nero!  Half their body is on the wall and half is suspended in mid air and their mouth is on my vegetables, eating.  The cheeky buggers!  I usually pick them up and send them sailing into the distance.  I feel a little mean crushing them, plus I don't want to get my shoes dirty.

Hope you enjoyed my pictures!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ginger Kiss Cupcakes

My house smelled like Christmas tonight!  I've been baking on Fridays for the past couple of weeks and made something I thought I would share since it smells and tastes divine.....

The texture and taste is very much like the Ginger Kisses you can buy in the supermarket here, so that is what I have named them after.

For those of you that don't know what Ginger Kisses are, it is a baked goody sold in New Zealand and Australia, kinda like a whoopie pie.  The filling is more like a vanilla cream rather than the spiced frosting I made.

Ginger Kiss Cupcakes

125g butter
1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup molasses
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp ginger

Cream butter and sugar, mix in eggs and beat until light and fluffy. Add flour, baking powder and milk and mix well with a spoon. Add molasses and spices and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Spoon into cupcake cases and bake in an oven set at 160 degrees Celsius for 15-20 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool before frosting.

Spiced Buttercream Frosting
adapted from Oh She Glows

1/2 cup butter
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
1 tsp vanilla extract
milk/water as needed

With an electric mixer, cream butter and add sifted icing sugar 1/4 cup at a time.  Use milk/water to get desired consistency (approximately 1Tbsp needed).  Add spices & vanilla and beat with mixer until the frosting is light and fluffy.

linked to:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Gym Recovery: The Cocktail

I have invented a new cocktail.  I ironically called it "Gym Recovery" because I made it after the gym to go with my dinner of chicken.

Here is the recipe:

1.5 oz Malibu
0.5 oz Archers Peach Schnapps
Juice of one large lime 
Soda water

Pour Malibu, Archers Peach Schnapps, juice of one lime and ice into a cocktail shaker.  Shake well for at least 10 seconds. Pour into a lowball glass and top with soda water.  Enjoy after the gym.

I'm not sure if someone else has made it before and if it has an official name, but until I know otherwise I will call this cocktail Gym Recovery.  Please let me know if you know otherwise :-P

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sewing Projects & The Friday Night Sew In

So last Friday Night Sew in was a flop for me.  We had someone over unexpectedly and then I clumsily dropped a knife on my foot while making dinner so sewing wasn't exactly on my mind. Luckily all my toes are still attached to my foot and it has now healed nicely!  Sharp knives are great for cooking but not foot vs. knife situations. Yikes.  I still cringe thinking about it.

My sister-in-law has birthday coming up at the end of March so I'm planning on making her a pretty apron to present to her for her birthday.  She's the only one in my family (out of the ladies) that I haven't sewn something  for so I think she will appreciate the gift. I got some great material from Spotlight, as they had a sale on early this week. This is the material I am planning to use for the apron:

The cherry print will be the main part of the apron, the light pink material the backing and the spotted fabric I will use for the ties, flounce and pocket.  I can't wait to see the finished product as I absolutely love this cherry fabric.  Perhaps I should go back and get some more so I can make myself one!  Not that I don't have enough aprons already (I have four so far!).

I also got this lovely Aubergine/Eggplant coloured material in Cavalier Gabardine which I plan to make a skirt out of.  The colour does not show up well in the picture but it is a beautiful deep purple colour. I thought it would be nice to have a dressy skirt that was different from the standard black so I can wear it to work.

The pattern I want to use is Vogue V8363 and I'm thinking I'll either make the top right skirt (without the embellishment on the front) or bottom left.  

For the Friday night sew in this week, I really don't want to start on these projects because I have one that has been waiting so long for me to do, that I should work on that!  If I do start on one of the above, it would definitely be the apron because that has to be finished by the 27th/28th March.  I really want to start on my dress that I have had cut out for ages.  I guess I will see what happens.  My least favourite part of sewing is definitely cutting out the pattern and the fabric.  I love the sewing part but the cutting seems to take ages!  Perhaps I will do a bit of both this Friday.  I hope to report back by Sunday what I have done!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Crustless Apple Pie

Gosh I love apples and they're starting to come into season again.  I made a bit of apple sauce last winter and stored it away in my pantry.  I'm just finishing off the last jars now just in time for the next season!

Last night, this is what I had for a treat after work: Spiced Apple Sauce with Whipped Cream on top aka Crustless Apple Pie.

Spiced Apple Sauce
10 medium apples, peeled and chopped
juice of one lemon
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3 cinnamon quills
1 star anise
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cloves (whole)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Put all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook for 12 hours.  Remove cinnamon quills and star anise. Process apple sauce with a hand blender until smooth. Spoon into sterilized jars and seal. 

Serve in a little bowl or ramekin and top with whipped cream and a sprinkling of cinnamon.  Voila!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Do You Eat Mindlessly?

Purchase Book

Over the past couple of weeks I've been reading the book Mindless Eating written by Brian Wansink.  I'd always heard about the little things you could do to help you eat less or feel more satiated when you sat down for a meal but it wasn't until I read this book that it became quite clear in my mind how it worked.

I found the book very easy to read and the information was presented simply with plenty of examples  of experiments.  The information was also very interesting and at times amusing.  Our world these days really is set up so that we buy more food and overeat and people seem to get tricked by the stupidest things!

Being "Mindful" of these strategies will give you a repertoire of tools to help you fight the automatic internal scripts that make us overeat and put on unneeded fat. I definitely recommend you read the book, as it gave me a clearer picture of how these little tools and tricks worked. Here is just a selection of interesting facts and some of the ways in which our modern life leads us to Mindlessly Eat.

Mindless Fact #1 The size of the container we eat out of matters. 

In one experiment, unsuspecting movie goers were given one of two containers of popcorn: medium or large size.  There was a catch though; the popcorn was not fresh, but stale (5 days old).  Despite the popcorn being stale, the people that were given the large bucket still ate more than the people that were given the medium bucket.  They even told the people that were given the large bucket that some people had been given the medium bucket and that they {the researchers} have found on average that a person given a large size container eats more than if they are given a medium size container.  Most disagreed saying that wouldn't happen to them.  However, the large container group ate 173 more calories of popcorn.

This rule applies to the size of packages of food we purchase; we consume more from bigger packages.  Say for example you purchase a 300g box of cereal and a 1kg box of cereal.  You will always pour more from the 1kg box than the 300g box unless you are actually measuring the amount of cereal (say 1/2 cup) or aiming to fill the bowl to the brim in both cases. It applies to other items too such as shampoo.

Mindless Fact #2 Visual Cues are important

If there is evidence of how much we have eaten, we eat less. In one experiment people were given chicken wings to eat.  On one table the chicken bones were left on the table therefore giving the diners a visual representation of how much they had eaten.  On the other table, the bones were cleared away at regular intervals.  The diners on the table that had their bones cleared away ate 28 per cent more than the diners that did not have their bones cleared away. Further to the visual cues, another experiment showed that feeling full or not hungry is not as strong a signal to stop eating as visually seeing how much we have eaten.  When a group of students were asked when they would stop eating a bowl of soup, the majority of them answered that they would stop when the bowl was empty or if it was half full.  Only a fifth of them said they would stop when they were not hungry anymore.  The experimenters rigged a bottomless soup bowl which kept refilling itself no matter how much the students ate. Half the students ate from the rigged bowls and half ate from normal bowls.  The  people eating from the rigged bowls ate around 15 ounces vs the normal bowls at 9 ounces.

Mindless Fact #3 The bigger the meal, the worse we are at estimating calories

People are quite good at estimating the weight of small objects compared to large objects. If you ask someone to estimate the weight of a book versus a whole shelf of books they were be fairly accurate at estimating the weight of the book.  The same goes for small versus large meals.  The more people eat the less accurate they are at estimating what they have eaten. 

Mindless Fact #4 More variety = more calories eaten

People given a bag of M&Ms with ten colours eat much more than those given a bag with seven colours.  People ate almost twice as many jelly beans if all the different colours are mixed up rather than neatly arranged in separate bowls according to colour.

Mindless Fact #5 Being intelligent and informed doesn't mean you won't be "tricked" into eating more. 

A group of students at a top university were given a 90 minute education session with demonstrations on how larger serving bowls make you eat more. Six weeks after the lecture, they were invited to a Super Bowl party.  Half the students were lead into room that had snacks served in two large gallon bowls and were given plates and asked to serve as much as they wanted.  The other half were led into a room where the snacks were served in four half gallon bowls.  Their plates that they served themselves were secretly weighed and the students that served themselves from the gallon bowls took 53 per cent more and also ate 59 per cent more!  Even though they had sat through an extensive lecture on the very topic several weeks ago, they still fell for the mindless eating tricks!

Mindless Fact #6 Convenient Foods make you eat more

Both proximity and how ready-to-eat the food is makes a difference here.  If a person is presented with two bowls of nuts, one where the nuts are still in their shell and one where they are shelled and ready to eat, that person will eat more nuts from the shelled bowl.  If a candy bowl is within reach versus across the room a person will end up eating more.  The trip across the room gives the person a chance to  think about what they're doing and if they're really hungry for the snack.

Individual packaging indicates serving sizes to people and a "stopping point".  People are more likely to adhere to a serving size if it is clearly marked or there is a "barrier" such as an individually wrapped packet. If you have two open packets of cookies and one has each cookie individually wrapped, whereas the other doesn't the average person would eat more from the unwrapped packet than the individually wrapped ones. Individually wrapped food might cost more but we do eat less of it.

Mindless Fact #7 The description of the food makes a difference

An experiment was carried out in a cafe where a selection of dishes were served one week with plain, factual names and the next week with embellished fancy names. The food with the embellished names sold  more and not only that the customers rated the fancy named dish better than the same dish with a plain, factual name.  This little trick can also work positively for you; the next time you invite guests around for dinner, try giving the dishes fancy names and suddenly the food will taste much better.

Mindless Fact #8 Low Fat labels give us an excuse to eat more

A group of people were either given normal granola or low fat granola to eat during  movie.  The granola was clearly labeled as ""low fat or "regular".  The group given the low fat granola ate 49 per cent more which translated to about 84 calories!

The book is right.  I found myself nodding and smiling throughout just thinking how much I had been tricked myself into over eating because of certain cues.  An important part of the book is like the title suggests, we "mindlessly eat".  We often don't listen to our own bodies: am I hungry?  Am I still hungry now that I have eaten half my plate? Am I really craving that?

As an example of how the book affected me, for the first time today, I actually stopped eating my salad when I was full and absolutely didn't want any more.  I actually probably could have stopped half way when I wasn't hungry, but in the past I normally just finish it off, regardless.  The reason for this is partly because of the bodybuilding mindset that I have from my past.  A typical bodybuilder is always making sure they get in enough calories.  I used to weigh my food and if I didn't eat all my food it meant I wasn't getting in all my protein or calories for the day so I would force myself to eat it.  I barely did any of the body"building" part of bodybuilding because I never found it hard to build muscle, but that meant that if I was dieting and wasn't able to finish off my meal, I was afraid I wasn't getting in enough protein.  Now because I am neither concerned with getting to bodybuilding condition or maintaining/building muscle it should not be a concern to me if I cannot finish my meal.

In the past couple of weeks I have noticeably trimmed down.  I do not attribute this to the book at all as I have overhauled my diet in a big way.  I will attribute the knowledge from this book for maintaining a lower body fat percentage in the future.

Read the book.  You will love it!

Tips to take away to help fight Mindless Eating
  • Use small plates and bowls when serving meals
  • Fill your plate but make the majority of your plate low calorie foods like vegetables
  • Don't eat out of packets; serve yourself what you are going to eat and put the packet away. Even better, serve snacks in pre-portioned baggies rather than on a plate.  A packaged snack indicates one serving size and you are less likely to search for more food.
  • When you go to a party plant yourself far away from the snack table
  • If you're a serial snacker, out of sight is out of mind.  Also, try and put the snack in an inconvenient place like a very high cupboard so it is difficult to get to.
  • If you purchase low fat food for whatever reason, follow the steps above to make sure you don't fall into the trap of eating more because it's low fat.  Calories matter most.

Further Information and Links

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Adorable Animals

I spent my morning just following links for cute animal videos on youtube. A bit of a timewaster as I should be doing other stuff, but it just makes my heart swell and brings me a bit of joy.

First one is you guessed it, a bunny! I need to get Daisy a rug so she will do this. Her main living area is lined with lino, so she slips if she tries to do her bunny jumps (binkies). I wonder what type of music she would like. I have some Deep Forest or Buena Vista Social Club that she might enjoy :-P

Okay I want a pig now. I've always thought they were cute but this is adorable! The way she shakes her head in play reminds me of a bunny rabbit as they do this a lot when they're happy.  In my opinion, people need to start looking outside of the box  ie. cats and dogs when looking for a new pet.  There are so many animals out there that make awesome pets and people don't even know it!

I'm glad to know it's not only me that snores. I hope I only look and sound this cute!

This one just made me laugh...

And finally a little Chinchilla. I love these creatures; their fur is so soft and dense. They are native to the Andes in South America. They take dust baths to clean their fur so you should never let them get wet. They are just adorable! I used to keep mice when I was a kid so they remind me of a giant mouse with those cute ears!

Hope you enjoyed them!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fruits of Labour

I picked a couple of capsicum/bell pepper from my garden the other day.  I was quite thrilled!  The first one I used straight away in my salad for my lunch that day.  The second was used for a stir fry for dinner the next evening. 

From this.... this
A purple variety of capsicum
They have been very easy to grow.  I used a 30L pot, placed some potting mix in there and a little seedling.  I water the plants every day in the evening and try to fertilize them every 1-2 weeks once they are fruiting.  They have quite a long growth cycle and take about 18 weeks to produce fruit. Each plant has produced at least 4-5 fruits so far and typically most plants will produce about 6-10 plants. The plants grow fairly tall for a plant in a pot so you will need to stake them when they start to produce fruit as the fruit weighs down the plant.  Put the pot in a sunny spot and enjoy the fruits of your labour!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Got the good drugs

I had my visit with the Rheumatologist today.  It's the first time I've seen one in perhaps 7 years?  It was a long time coming.  She took a thorough history and did a basic examination on me, looking at my joints and various tests.

My main concern over the past year has been the fatigue, body aches at night which cause me to have trouble going to sleep and my concentration.  The concentration problem as been a huge concern for me.  It takes me weeks to finish a book because most days I can only read about 5-10 pages at a time.  On a good day I can get almost 50 pages read and that is awesome.  I am constantly second guessing myself at work because I feel so foggy a lot of the time that I convince myself I have done the wrong thing.  It's mainly things with entering things into the computer; not really the main part of my job. My memory used to be so sharp and now I have to make sure I write things down when I remember.  The other thing I have noticed if I want to say something and I have trouble remembering a word, I actually have to picture the word in my head before I will be able to say it.  It is incredibly frustrating.  I don't think it is noticeable to the person I am talking to but it can be a huge effort for me to have a conversation, especially if I am asked something. There are rare occasions that I will have a good day and feel awesome.  They are few and far between but when I do have them I remember the day very clearly.  On those days I actually feel invincible.  I feel bright, free of tiredness, excited, very clear headed.  I feel like I could fly almost!  The last time I had one of those days was last year in September.  I actually still remember the one day about 17 years ago I woke up and felt amazing! I had a long sleep and woke up feeling full of beans, ready to just jump out of bed and tackle the day.  I wish I could have those days more often than once every few years.

One thing I did remember to ask her was about diet and autoimmune diseases. I have read in a few places that nightshade vegetables (such as tomatoes, eggplant, potato) are bad for people that have inflammation based health problems such as arthritis and lupus.  My rheumatologist said there is no truth to this claim so I am able to eat these vegetables freely which is wonderful news.  Eggplant happens to be one of my favourite vegetables!  

The outcome of the visit was that she thinks I'm in the group of people that have Lupus but do not have the full blown disease of organ involvement etc. but do have chronic low grade inflammation that causes the symptoms I am having.  I certainly am thankful that I don't have the disease that bad and am able to work, go to the gym and function day to day.  I have been prescribed hydroxychloroquine 400mg per day and ibuprofen as needed.  I currently take ibuprofen most days to get to sleep.  The bonus was I got them on prescription so I got a huge packet (180 x 200mg pills) for $3!  The hydroxychloroquine is slow acting so will take about 3 months to kick in but I am hoping it will improve how I am feeling day to day.  I am especially hopeful that my mind will clear up and I won't feel so much like a fumbling idiot.

Finally, I do think that lately these symptoms I am having are having a big effect on my motivation and training.  As I am so fatigued most days I do have to force myself to go to the gym.  The interesting thing is, unless I have having a particularly bad day, I am still able to perform in the gym.  Like I said to my rheumatologist today, although I am less active than I used to be, I can actually do the activity but it takes a lot of willpower to get up and do it.  Finding that willpower every time I need to go to the gym is exhausting in itself.  Imagine having to fight yourself every time you needed to go to the gym. Ugh.  I want the days back where I wanted to go.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


My abs are sore, my butt is sore and my shoulders and chest are sore.  It was the 200 crunches, 250 lunges and 100 push ups from yesterday!  I hope I develop those long, lean muscles*

*just kidding

I actually did enjoy that workout though.  I initially was trying for five sets, and because I didn't feel so tired by the time I reached five sets, I decided I'd go for ten!

I've been getting up early this week; between 6:30-7am.  I know that's not early for most people, but it's early for me as I'm not in the habit of getting up early.  I'm trying to train myself to be more awake in the morning because eventually I'd like to start training in the morning again.  I really would like to try the high frequency training method, up to 5-6 times a week.  I'm not sure how I will cope with it, but like everyone else that is into weight training, I have weight trained 5x a week in the past following a typical body part split and I am still alive to tell the tale.  My lower body workouts in particular were harsh; back in the day I remember doing about 7 different exercises for my legs/lower body, as heavy as I could go for about 3-4 sets of 20 reps.  I could barely walk up the gym stairs afterward (I used to semi-pull myself up the stairs using the railing) and still had to stumble home.  The walk home was about 30 minutes from the gym. Luckily the walk was pretty much all uphill, because unless you're an idiot you can't really fall uphill.  I'm sure that with some determination and will, 3-4 exercises with less reps five times a week is doable for me.

I'm feeling better today than I did this time last week so I am optimistic about getting to the gym tomorrow after work and having an excellent workout.  I'm a bit apprehensive about my deadlifts though; have not attempted those in 2 weeks now and the last workout with them wasn't feeling too promising.  I shall see tomorrow!

And because this is a random post, here's a random picture of Daisy from the other day.  She's eating a snack here

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Friday Night Sew In: 18th February

Yay! Another one.  I love this blog event as it makes me sew.  I'm either going to work on my dress that I've had cut out for ages, or work on some table runners in a left over Christmas fabric I have.  The dress would be an ongoing thing of course because I don't expect to be able to sew it all in one night.  The table runners would definitely be able to be completed in one night.

Visit Crafty Vegas Mom or the link on the button below for more information.

Documentary: A Farm for the Future

I found this on Youtube about a week ago, and thought I would share it with you.  It gives me a lot of food for thought. One thing in particular that interested me was the use of fossil fuels to maintain and harvest certain types of farming.

Vegetarians/Vegans have long argued that a plant diet is not only nutritionally sound but environmentally sound.  This documentary highlights that this is not necessarily so.  Although currently the majority of animal farms currently use a lot of fossil fuels to maintain the animals and fields, small time animal farmers can, with time and research maintain their livestock during winter without the use of heavy machinery and therefore fossil fuels.  Rebecca Hosking says "our hay harvest by far is our biggest single use of machinery and fuel on this farm".  She finds a small time farm who have researched and maintain their cattle throughout the winter months without resorting to hay to feed them.  Their only piece of machinery is a quad bike. Vegetarian and vegan diets are heavily reliant on grain and energy to harvest these foods are heavy on the use of fossil fuels.

Watch and learn.  It is in five parts and can be followed via links in youtube

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Skin Care: What I use

I thought it would be fun to post about my skin regime and what products I use.  I few years ago I started on Dermalogica products after I had a facial at a beauty salon.

Since I have lupus, my skin is super sensitive and I am wary of trying new products.  I wanted to try and switch to more natural products a few years ago but that experiment ended up in disaster.  One of the products I tried, Rose hip Oil, (which is supposedly excellent for skin as it contains retinol and Vitamin C) gave me a rash that lasted almost 3 weeks and was horrid.  I really wanted it to work but had to give up and went back to my trusted Dermalogica products. I'm done experimenting with new stuff unless I get samples as it's expensive and doesn't always yield desirable results for me.

Exfoliating: Daily Microfoliant
As the name suggests, you can use this every day and I have done so in the past, but these days I usually use it every 2-3 days.  It's a very gentle exfoliant; it's almost like a dust when it comes out of the container but you mix it with water and it forms a thick paste.  When you rub it on your face, it doesn't really feel grainy at all, but I do find it equally if not more effective than the more granulated exfoliants.

Cleansing: Dermal Clay Cleanser
Next step is cleansing.  I use the Dermal Clay Cleanser which is good for slightly oily or combination skin. I find now in my 30's my skin is leaning more toward "normal" and less combination.  The product has a fresh minty fragrance and cleanses without drying the skin at all.

Moisturising: Sheer Tint Moisturiser with SPF 15
Final step is my moisturiser.  I love this moisturiser! I purchase the tinted stuff in the medium tint and I don't have to use foundation at all.  The untinted stuff is lovely as well.  I think it has something in the cream that makes your skin sparkle so it gives it a glowy look.

To remove my make up at night, especially around the eyes, I use Dr. Hauschka cream cleanser.  I find it better than a make up remover because you don't have to use tissue or cotton pads to remove.  I just rub it on, massage the skin and rinse with water.  No pulling of the eye area therefore less chance of wrinkles!

When I remember, I try and use an eye cream, Dermalogica's Intensive Eye Cream.  My container is nearly finished so I'm going to try something new next time.

I'm currently on the look out for a new night cream. I tried Olay's Regenerist product but it gave me a mild rash and made my skin feel sensitive.  Luckily the product wasn't too expensive.

Once a week, on Sunday I give myself a mini facial.  I exfoliate, cleanse and the apply a face mask. Once I'm done my skin feels like a babies bottom and it just looks so fresh and bright.

Well, that's pretty much it! I find a huge difference in my skin if I'm lax with my skin care regime so I try and stay on top of it.

One big tip I do have, that doesn't cost anything is facial massage.  If you're starting to get the angry line in between the brows and the forehead lines, regular self massage does wonders.  Think about it: people get botox to temporarily paralyze muscles so that the lines relax and almost disappear.  The muscle in this case is the cause of the wrinkles. If you massage the muscle, it releases the tension and the lines become less prominent.  I'm not sure if it would work on people that already have deep wrinkles, but it certainly works for wrinkles that are just starting to come in.  The trick is to start when you are young so that they don't become established and create permanent lines.  Try it!

Anyone have any tips or suggestions for skin care products?  Especially stuff that stops you from getting old? :-P

Monday, February 7, 2011

Middle of the Night Post

Just a post for me to have a moan.  I just finished half watching a movie, it's late, I go to bed and toss and turn for half an hour; I can't sleep cos my joints are aching.  I should have taken damn ibuprofen even though I wasn't feeling too bad previously. Now I'm up, I've swallowed 600mg of ibuprofen and I'm waiting for it to kick in before I go back to bed.

While I'm up I may as well post further.

As you may have gathered from the lack of training posts this week, I haven't actually trained this week.  There are a combination of reasons: laziness, busyness, tiredness and no motivation.  I'm hoping to get back into it next week, kicking off with a run around the block tomorrow. I haven't been running in a while actually, but I should do alright.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Home Grown

I've been a busy girl around the garden lately.  A few months ago I planted quite a few seeds such as kale and capsicum and cherry tomatoes. 

Some of the things I planted are in containers in my yard and some I planted at my mother's house in her bigger veggie patch.  Here's the loot I picked up from Mum's place a few days ago:

Red Cabbage, Red Russian Kale, Curly Kale, Cherry Tomatoes, Big Beef Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes

Mixed Mesculin Salad
Growing your own vegetables is unreal.  They taste so much better than store bought produce and you can control how you grow them.  I try and grow mine as "organic" as possible. All I do is water them and on some plants use organic fertilizers; I don't spray them with pesticide or anything else untoward.  Most vegetables are so easy to grow and the only care they require is regular watering!  The only thing you really have to bear in mind is whether you are growing them in the right environment.  For example, there is no way basil will grow outside in winter.  It likes warm, sunny environments.  I particularly have enjoyed growing cherry tomatoes this season.  I'm telling you, they taste AMAZING compared to what you purchase in stores.  The flavour is so intense and sweet.  I grew all my cherry tomatoes from seed so for about 1-2 punnets product per week all it cost me was the time watering the plant and about $2 for the seeds!  What a bargain!  Mesculin is easy as pie to grow.  I scatter the seeds on soil and cover with a fine layer of soil; water regularly and then harvest several weeks later.  The plants last quite a long time if you cut the outer leaves.  They're known as a "cut and come again" vegetable.

My favourite herbs to grow are Thyme and Basil. Both are super simple to grow.  The Thyme plant I had I picked up from the garden centre as a seedling.  It has thrived and given me plenty of stems to harvest for recipes.  The basil I grew from seed.  It takes a little bit more care but still is very easy to grow and I use it a lot in salads and recipes.

Here are a few pictures of the other things I grow in containers:



Purple Capsicum





Yellow Capsicum (to be)


Silverbeet/Swiss Chard

Mesculin Salad Mix
Hope you enjoyed the little tour of my garden!