Friday, March 20, 2015

Sydney baby!!

I am in Sydney this weekend for the inaugural Historical Novel Society Australia conference, and I have to say I am excited to be here! I have long looked at the HNS conferences that have been held in the US and the UK and wished I could be there and finally it is our turn. Not to mention the fact that I have been doing lots of drives to the airport to drop other people off and pick them up but finally it is my chance to get on a plane and go somewhere!

My friend and I flew up on Friday morning and so we got to do some touristy stuff which was fun and then there was the opening reception tonight. I am not sure I am going to write a whole lot about the conference but I thought I would share a few photos over the next couple of days.

I will start with a bonus in relation to the weight loss I have been talking about recently. Today, I was able to get on the plane and not feel self conscious at all about being too fat for the person that I am sitting next to, or about something as simple as doing up the seatbelt. On previous journeys I have either had to really struggle hard to get the seatbelt done up or even just hide the seatbelt clip under my clothes and pretend that it was done up as the flight attendants walked through the plane. The other day I was talking to my beauty therapist about the fact that you are always thinking about your weight when you are overweight and this is a classic example. I was so excited by how easy it was to do it up that I even took a photo which just looks odd but what the heck, I am sharing it here anyway.

Once we checked in to our hotel, we spent the afternoon doing the tourist thing. I said to my friend that I am travelling with that I wanted to just hang out at Circular Quay, and she was initially not keen. In the end that is basically what we ended up doing but not before we spent some time walking through the gorgeous Queen Victoria Building here in Sydney.

Firstly, here's the view from the top of our hotel, which was built in the late 60s and you can quite honestly tell. Accommodation in Sydney is so expensive, so whilst it would be great to have a gorgeous hotel room, who can afford that!!

The QV building is now a shopping centre and it is gorgeous. We could quite easily have spent a lot of time looking at some of the more interesting shops, and maybe having some coffee and cake and just appreciating the interior, especially one of the clocks

We walked to the Opera House and then back around so that we were standing under the bridge looking back towards the Opera House. Of course, that means that there are plenty of the quintessential Sydney photos, although I am looking very windswept because it was windy.

And to give you some idea of exactly how windy it was....

Tonight was the first session for the conference and very dignified it was too. Champagne, some delicious finger foods, more champagne, a welcome address by Kate Forsyth and an opening address by Sophie Masson, a book launch for Felicity Pulman and then a discussion panel whose topic was ‘What can historical novelists and historians learn from each other?’.

And now, time to sleep before another big day tomorrow!! Before that though. Did you notice? I almost talked about bookish type stuff in this post!! Go me!

Monday, March 16, 2015

On recognising my own achievements

Today I have been doing the internal equivalent of a Kermit the frog arm flail from excitement because I reached a major goal on my weight loss journey. So, yes, I look a bit like this but just not as green or as skinny...yet!

It’s been really interesting to talk to people recently. Everyone is being really encouraging about the weight loss journey and I am grateful to everyone who takes the time to say something. But here’s the thing. Sometimes people say things that they mean in an encouraging way but they come out a bit differently. So, for example, someone I know keeps on telling me that I am so skinny. And I have lost a lot of weight but there is no way that I am skinny. There is still plenty of work to be done. Still at least another 20kgs. At least. Or there was the man in the coffee shop the other week who told me that not only did I look so much better but that I was a much nicer person now. What the heck does that even mean? I am the same person that I was, same personality. The fact that they didn’t rate me before potentially says something about them rather than me.

But I do find myself thinking about how I recognise my own achievements. Most of the time when someone says to me “oh my goodness you have lost so much weight”, my instant reaction is to almost dismiss the compliment with a comment along the lines of I have so much more to go. It’s not like I can’t see the weight loss now. It took me a long time but I can definitely see the changes in my face and certain parts of my body. For example, I love the fact that I can see and feel my collarbones now and I like to feel my shoulder bones just because I can!!

What I don’t want to do is get to the point where I think that I am done now. If I stayed at my current weight could I be happy? Probably. But the fact is that I want to get lower. My next goal is now another 5kgs away and then 5kgs after that etc. Right now I can walk into a normal clothes shop and find stuff that fits, not everything, but some at least. Another 10kgs and I should be able to walk in and buy almost anything.

I worry far more about things like what to wear when than I ever used to. It’s a bit odd really. I had a conversation with a friend a couple of days ago about how it is more about taking pride in your appearance. I’ve been buying new clothes, shoes, accessories and it has been fun but it’s also a bit strange. Does it really matter what you wear when and wear? Apparently in my new world it does. And it did in my old world as well but it was different. Part of the reason why it was different is that I couldn’t recognise myself properly. Not sure if that makes sense but let me try and show you an example and hopefully that will help. A couple of months ago now I cleaned out my wardrobe. I got rid of almost everything I had in there that was too big now and there was a huge pile of clothes. If you had of asked me about those clothes I would have said that I had some favourite clothes that I liked to wear but I wouldn’t have necessarily said that I had much in the way of nice clothes. A friend’s sister came to look through the clothes that I had and took the vast majority of them and she was rapt. She kept on saying oh my goodness, there are so many nice clothes here.

I guess what it comes down to at the moment is that I am trying to work out what my new normal feels like. And it does feel very different to my old normal. I feel much better emotionally and much better physically but there are some days when it just feels very strange.

And in the hopes of recognising my own achievements here are a couple of photos which show the transformation so far. The photos where I am wearing the purple shirt were taken in July last year. At that point I had already lost around 10kgs. The photos where I am wearing pink were taken two or three weeks ago. I would totally make the one where I am standing sideways my Facebook profile photo if I didn't think it would look a bit weird.

Probably should have done my hair properly before taking these photos and cleaned up the bedroom. Oh well, next time.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Weekend Cooking: Romantics Anonymous

A couple of years ago I started watching and posting about foreign films, most of which happened to have a foodie feel to them. One of the first films that I watched was Romantics Anonymous. I started writing the post about this film at least 18 months ago after I had watched it for the third time. Last weekend I watched it again because I wanted a feel good movie, so maybe, just maybe, this might be the time when I actually finish writing my post about it.

Romantics Anonymous is a delightful comedy about a chronically shy young woman with a talent for making chocolates who starts working for a man who is terrified of just about everything, but especially of women. In some ways, this has quite an old fashioned feel about it, maybe a bit like an Audrey Hepburn comedy perhaps. It is charmingly funny in a predictable kind of way but it doesn't matter that it is predictable because it is well done.

Our story starts with Angelique who goes to a family run company, The Chocolate Mill to apply for a new job. She thinks that she is going to be a chocolate maker, but rather finds herself working as the sales rep for the failing company. Angelique has long had an incredible talent for making chocolate but her shyness means that she has always chosen to sit in the background rather than take the credit for them, but talking to anyone is definitely way outside her comfort zone

The Chocolate Mill is a company that is being run, pretty much into the ground, by Jean-Rene. This isn't deliberate but rather his is a company that makes a good product but hasn't moved with the times. He also has his own issues with shyness and anxiety which he is going to counselling for. Challenged by his counsellor to a series of actions, Jean-Rene and Angelique begin to spend time together with interesting events occurring, falling in love along the way. But can two people with such emotional hangups tell each other how they feel, let alone work out how to be together, and at the same time save the company from going into liquidation.

The chocolates all look amazing and I would happily have had a few more minutes of that in the movie.

One of the things that I do find myself wondering about this movie is what the main male character would look like if it were made in Hollywood. The main male character here has appeal but he certainly doesn't look like a Hollywood rom com leading man. At the moment there is a French film festival on in Melbourne and one of the films I would like to see stars this same actor whose name is Benoît Poelvoorde. The leading lady, Isabelle Carré, is gorgeous (of course).  I am hoping to actually get to see it, but if not I will definitely be looking for it on the World Movies channel in the coming months.

This is a movie that is a bit like chocolate itself. You know that it doesn't have a lot of substance but it still tastes good when you take a bite! Worth watching. In fact, worth watching several times apparently.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Weekend Cooking: My mousse problem

We have a chocolate mousse problem in my house. This weekend, I am determined that I am going to come up with a solution that might not solve the problem, but at the very least means I get some mousse occasionally. Let me try to explain.

As I have mentioned numerous times, I am in the process of losing a lot of weight. Most of the time I am doing this just by eating sensibly but every now and again I need a treat so that I don't feel as though I am completely depriving myself. Sometimes that means a couple of squares of dark chocolate, sometimes a couple of biscuits but sometimes I want something desserty.

In the interests of trying to have some low fat but tasty treats on hand, I started buying twin packs of low fat chocolate mousse, and for a few weeks it was all good. I would have one tub of mousse, which conveniently comes in a size that is enough for the taste of a treat but also means that I don't overeat because it is a single portion serving. Then, a few days later, I would have the other tub and be content. That all changed after my son, the not so little chef, tried one of the mousses....and liked it a lot.

It started getting to the point where I would buy two twin packs and put them in the fridge and then come home thinking tonight I am going to have a mousse only to find that they were all gone. On occasion there might be one left for me but all the others would be gone because he was hungry. Yes, I have a typical STARVING teenage boy in the house. And that's fine. I don't mind that he wants to eat them because of the cost. Usually it is about $1 for a serving, but it's the fact that I am eagerly anticipating a treat and then they aren't there!

The other week I thought I would try to buy some non low fat mousses as well as the one that I like for me, but that didn't quite work out as I had hoped because he likes mine better than he liked the other ones so he ate all of his and all of mine too!

So, in the interests of trying to have the occasional serving of chocolate mousse I think I have no choice but to try and see if I can find a recipe for chocolate mousse that can fit into my eating, that I can portion out so that  I am not eating too much, and that the boy will still eat. These days, when I am looking for a recipe that will fit these criteria then it is the Symply Too Good To Be True cookbooks that I refer to, and once again I have not been disappointed. So, this long weekend seems like a good time to try making it myself.

This recipe is actually for Chocolate Mousse Pie but I am not sure that I will be making the pie part, not least of all because I am not familiar with the brand of biscuits that are mentioned.

We'll see if the boy likes this mousse shall we.

Chocolate Mousse Pie

12 low fat choc chip cookies (Paradise Lite®)
1 tablespoon (15g) Flora Light® margarine melted
¾ teaspoon skim milk
cooking spray

24 squares (100g) dark cooking chocolate
1 x 375ml can CHILLED evaporated light milk
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
2 tablespoons gelatine
¼ cup boiling water
2 x Jarrah Choc O Lait® sachets

Before starting make sure your evaporated milk is CHILLED. Place chilled canned milk into freezer for 1 hour before making filling.

To make base: In a food processor crumble biscuits. Add melted margarine and milk, process until combined. Coat a pie plate with cooking spray then spread biscuit mixture over base, pressing firmly. Refrigerate.

To make filling: In a small ceramic bowl melt chocolate in microwave on high temperature for one minute. Leave to sit in microwave while you prepare other ingredients. Make sure evaporated milk is very cold. In a large mixing bowl beat chilled milk and vanilla essence until really thick, using an electric beater. Add melted chocolate and blend well. Dissolve gelatine completely in boiling water then add Jarrah sachets, mix well. Pour mixture into milk, beat continuously until well combined. Pour mixture over biscuit base, refrigerate until set.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Farewell Summer! Hello Autumn!

It seems crazy but, officially at least, summer is over and today was the first day of autumn. This is always something that surprises my Northern Hemisphere friends who officially still have three weeks or so of winter but here in Australia the seasons changed on the first day of the month.

When I posted last month I mentioned that I had a great summer and that it really felt like a season of fun this year. February continued on in that manner too and so again I thought that I would share a few photos. The social life looks set to continue unabated through until some time in April and I have some really exciting things coming up over the next few weeks too!

Here are just a few highlights

Barefoot bowling, also known as lawn bowls with a sausage sizzle and cheap beers thrown in. Awesome fun, especially when you realise exactly how quickly your friends get competitive about everything!! Follow this was a barbecue with friends, and lots of drinks and laughs. What more can you ask for?

A day at the cricket. The Cricket World Cup is on at the moment in Australia and New Zealand and I had to take the opportunity to catch a game. And what better game is there than Australia versus England at the MCG on Valentine's Day. Me and more than 80,000 other people! The day was warm, the company was great, the weather was perfect, the beer was cold (albeit expensive) and the game was a cracker!!

I've already done a whole post on my White Night Melbourne experience so I am not going to recap again but I will say again that it was a really memorable night from the cocktails at the beginning of the night, to dinner at a nice restaurant and then wandering around seeing the sites.

And for the final day of summer, I could not have asked for a better day, despite the fact that it has been a very ordinary week work wise. I spent the day down at one of the coastal towns at Torquay attending a Sustainable Hook and Vine festival, basically seafood and wine. The grilled barramundi and salad I had for lunch was so good and I may also have tucked into some delicious ice cream. Diabetes? What diabetes? The person who I went there with is actually someone I met years ago through blogging. At the time we met online she lived in Scotland and then she moved to Melbourne a number of years ago and we try to catch up on a regular basis.

Whilst I haven't been posting very often or even visiting other people's blogs very often, I do see a little bit of what is going on in blogland and I have noticed that there have been a number of people whose blogs I have loved over the years who have decided that the time has come to say goodbye. I must confess that the thought has crossed my mind too and not just occasionally. Is it time to walk away from just under 10 years of sharing my life with other like minded people? Has my lack of posting meant that the people who have been part of this journey have lost interest? Has my lack of book related posts mean that I have confused the focus of my little place in the internet?

Here's the thing though. I still feel like I think like a blogger. Maybe that will always be the way that I think, after 9 years of habitually thinking about the posts I am going to write. Some of those never saw light of day, and some of those posts may have potentially been my best ever but there are also hundreds of posts that did get published.  I still think about the posts that I am going to write, and have at least two that are practically done. Maybe one day soon, one of those posts might even be about a book.

Speaking about books, I actually finished a book in February!! Hoorah! Does that make me a reader again? Maybe too early to declare that I think, especially seeing as book club is tomorrow night and I have only read about 50 pages of the book!


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