Friday, January 28, 2011

Weight for me

I'm not one for New Year's Resolutions. I gave all that stuff a bash twenty odd years ago but these days I'm much too cynical to even contemplate such nonsense. But this year, as I look ahead at what will be an incredibly busy, exciting, wonderful and stressful twelve months, I feel like I have to re-assess myself a little to get through it all with sanity, sense of humour and all currently functioning relationships in place.

Weight is a reasonably important issue for me right now. I'm one of those people who isn't vastly obese but on the plump side, always have been, always will be. In the last few years I have come to accept that there is an approximately 5 kg weight range where I feel great at the bottom end and not so great at the top end. Six months ago I was at the bottom end, right now I'm at the top end.

Just feeling bloated and generally unhappy with myself is one thing, certainly an important thing, certainly enough for me to get motivated to do something about it. But there is an extra factor this year which means I have exactly 4 months from today to get to the bottom end of my weight range. That equals 1.25 kg per month I will need to shed. Doh!

On the 28th of May we'll be boarding a plane, a United Airlines plane (RHCP help us), to New York. A couple of weeks ago I purchased an Alannah Hill dress to wear to the special event we'll be attending (a dress which may, or may not, have cost the gross national product of a small African nation - including the Sale discount). It is a gorgeous dress and looks good on my, shall we say curvaceous? figure. But there isn't enough Spanx or baby oil in the world to squeeze me into that thing if I keep piling on the kgs. Not to mention that we'll have a full week of eating our way around NYC/Brooklyn before the big day (with a must-do stop at Carlo's Bakery in Hoboken, NJ where I'm sure numerous calories will be consumed - I'm starting with the Crumb Cake and working my way down).

Any old how, I have four months to get rid of 5 or slightly more kgs. Sounds easy but really isn't. The Green Coffee Big Jay and I loved last year has now been banned for containing some unlisted substance which increases your risk of heart attack and/or stroke (doesn't everything these days?). I know that with our busy schedule eating well is going to be a very major issue and one which I must stay on top of this year. I have been trying to decide whether I should join a weight loss "program" to help me. I did Weight Watchers about 12-15 years ago and found it predictable but a good support and motivation for me to lose weight. However, I simply don't think I can squeeze in even a single weekly meeting this year (and the on-line version just won't work for me because I really need that face to face accountability of a real life weigh in with a real life person giving me the hairy eyeball about my 200g weight gain).

Apart from trying to stick to a sensible diet (which is simply so difficult because I love to cook and bake) I am hoping to find a miracle pill/drink/toxin which will just put us off eating - just like the Green Coffee did. Any sensible suggestions will be gratefully accepted. I know - exercise would help - but apart from an early morning walk a few times each week I can't see what else I can squeeze in (and stick to).

The other thing I will need to be this year is get and stay organised. I am generally an organised person, more or less. I'm not super lazy or super disorganised but there is big room for improvement. I have never done the "pack the school bags the night before routine" but this year I will need to.

I will also need to find a fool proof way of getting little Miss M out of bed at a sensible time each morning (i.e. before 8:30 am). I have already had a stern conversation with her about being co-operative in the mornings and about giving me her breakfast order post haste each morning and sticking with it (as opposed to the usual morning routine which goes something like this: Miss M gets out of bed grumpy after numerous requests and threats, she may or may not get dressed, she may or may not tell me what she wants for breakfast, she may or may not eat what she asked for, she may or may not demand some other form of breakfast as we're about to walk out the door already late). The problem is she is just too heavy to carry out to the car if she's in the middle of a temper tantrum so sometimes I have to cave in to her ridiculous requests just to get us all into the car and heading to school and work. I hate doing it but what's the solution? Like diet advice any useful suggestions on raising a strong willed, too smart child would be gratefully, nay desperately, accepted.

Or failing that, if you know where to buy tranquiliser darts suitable for small children, please pass on the info. Thank you very much.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Another year rolls on

Monday marks the start of another school year, more than January 1, it's the official start of the year if you are a parent. For me January sort of floats by, doing enough work to keep things rolling on that front, but equally hanging out with the kids. I'm not a "let's get out the craft box and make a rocket out of this old box and some crepe paper" sort of mother. I'm a "let's go to [insert name of child friendly activity/venue here]" sort of mother. To be honest these holidays they have been taken out for lots of fun days by my mum, my sister and my dad. I've actually seen it as my job to ensure they have some "boring" days around the house so that they don't come to expect everyday to be an outing day during the holidays. But even boring days usually involve time down at the pool and/or the park and/or Wii and/or friends over for a play. So not quite the boring days I had as a kid when I would just hit the tennis ball against the back wall at home for hours on end or read on my bed for hours on end. Good times.

Today I have started thinking about the year ahead now that the official start of the year is only a few days ahead. After always saying I didn't want my kids to be over-scheduled I have ended up with over-scheduled kids and thus and therefore over-scheduled parents.

At this point our weeks are going to look like this:

Monday: Will has Learning Links school age program (for children with learning difficulties) from 4 to 6 pm... at Peakhurst which is somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes drive away (depending on traffic) from his school and my office. This will involve me picking him up from school at least 10 minutes early to ensure we get there on time and my dad picking up Marianna from school and her waiting at the office until Big Jay can collect her at 5-ish to take her home.

Tuesday: Marianna's piano lesson (if we can reschedule - it was Wednesday last year).

Wednesday: Marianna's ballet lesson.

Thursday: Marianna's jazz and tap lessons. Will has Scouts.

Friday: The Holy and Blessed Day of St Nothing. The day I don't work and the kids don't have any activities. Which means I run around all day getting all those chores done which don't get done the rest of the week and then we come home and collapse with a take away dinner and a movie.

Saturday: Will is starting soccer, at the ripe old age of almost 12, which means Big Jay (or occassionally yours truly) will be driving him all over the countryside for games.

Sunday: [no rest for the wicked] Miss M has also decided to do soccer so I will be driving her all over the countryside for games.

Somewhere amongst that they will both have after school soccer practice.

Let's not mention the eleven Sydney Swans home games between March and August, the assorted Sharks games Big Jay tries to get to plus assorted birthday parties, school functions, concerts* and various other events which pop up on a very regular basis. Oi vey!

*March seems to be concert month this year. We're going to see Billy Connolly and Tim Minchin, I'm taking the kids to see Weird Al (I take full responsibility for converting them), I'm going to see Neil Diamond with my friend C on the same night Big Jay is going to see Santana and I'm taking my mum and sister to see Missing The Bus To David Jones which by all accounts is a musical about old people in nursing homes... and doesn't that sound hilarious. Apart from all that Big Jay is going away for his annual golfing pilgrimage to Coffs Harbour in the middle of March and we have to squeeze in some type of familial celebratory function for my birthday.

Sorry for boring you, dear reader/s, with the trivialities of my life but this cyber document is also my journal and must include, apart from my deep and insightful musings on the greater life questions, the details of my life which I hope to look back upon one day, as I kick back at Shady Pines, and laugh and laugh....

Sunday, January 16, 2011

At The Movies with DKG

Feast or famine with me... and lately it's been a feast of films. So bear with me while I go all Margaret and David on you with a few quick reviews from the last few weeks.

District 9

I've been wanting to see this since it came out at the movies two years ago. I thought it was just a sci-fi alien thing but it proved to be so much more than that. If you haven't heard of it, the basic premise is that aliens have landed on Earth, above Johannesburg, South Africa to be precise. They are stranded and "the prawns" as they are soon referred to are forced to live in a refugee camp known as "District 9".

The film is presented in documentary style showing what happens when the MNU, the corporation charged with moving the aliens to a new camp further from the city, arrives to commence the forced evictions. Wikus van der Merwe is in charge but he soon ends up on the wrong side of MNU's wrath when he accidentally becomes exposed to the alien DNA.

On the surface this is almost garden variety sci-fi stuff, with aliens, guns, lots of things blowing up and being shot. The effects are good (Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame has producer credits, so you would expect quality on this front). The SA accents almost do my head in (you know how some accents just make your eye twitch?). The script is great and the performances (well mainly Sharlto Copley's as Wikus) are strong. But it's the underlaying premise which does it for me.

I've read about it being a commentary on apartheid but I think it's more a commentary on the treatment of refugees (change "alien" to "insert name of war torn country here" and you would have a very similar film). I think it's a very clever way of presenting these ideas; what us 80s kids would call thinking outside the square.

I found it entertaining, disturbing and much more palatable than, say tree hugging emotional manipulation like Avatar.

Date Night

A silly, fun movie, pure entertainment. Phil (Steve Carrell) and Claire (Tina Fey) are on a date night in the city when they take someone else's dinner reservation at a wanky restaurant. Mistaken identity soon turns into hilarious shenanigans.

Easy on the brain film, perfect for a cuddle in front of the teev. Includes extra bonus for the ladies: Mark Whahlberg spends all his screen time sans shirt (which is not as good as it may have been during the height of his Kevin Klein modelling career but certainly nothing to sneer at).

Never Let Me Go

I was lucky enough to see a preview screening of this last week. I have been anxiously waiting to see it for some months now, since I first found out a movie version of one of my favourite books was being made. The book absolutely shook me up and a movie version was an exciting and terrifying idea.

Perhaps because the author Kazuo Ishiguro also executive produced the end result was a very good visual interpretation of the book. Because the book reveals the story slowly, in stories from the past, I couldn't see how that could be achieved on the screen without lots of awkward flashbacks. Obviously they couldn't follow the book to the letter but for me the end result was wonderfully satisfying.

It is visually beautiful, a timeless England exquisite in its detail. All the performances, Carey Mulligan as Kathy H, Keira Knightley as Ruth, Andrew Garfield (the new Spiderman???) as Tommy, are perfectly restrained and just right in every respect.

It's funny to call it futuristic sci fi wrapped in a love story, which is technically just what it is, but there are no aliens, no guns, no explosions. For what it's worth I wanted to see it again the minute the credits rolled and I would recommend it to anyone, whether you are fan of the book like me (just those four words Never Let Me Go are enough to make my heart ache) or you are just a fan of beautiful, moving cinema.

The Dilemma

Last Friday was our "date night" and there was no question that we would see The Dilemma (though we had a few prods in the direction of the The King's Speech, which is undoubtedly a fine movie). We both like Vince Vaughn (Clay Pigeons, Swingers, Made) and Kevin James (OK, we like King of Queens, sue us), Jennifer Connelly is a fine actress and Ron Howard, apart from being Richie Cunningham, also has a directorial history no-one can pooh-pooh.

It is sold as a hilarious comedy and that's what we were expecting. Well, it's not. It's a genre I have now decided to call "comma" - a comic drama. In fact it deals with some pretty heavy relationship issues: a marriage under stress due to work, stress, growing apart; infidelity in the aforementioned marriage; business stress; gambling addiction.

While certainly these serious issues can be presented in a comic manner in The Dilemma they really aren't. It's actually a pretty heavy movie with some mildly amusing moments. Even the scenes which possibly could have been a lot funnier aren't. Vince Vaughn's innate craziness is not as hilarious as it could be; for me it was more tension inducing than funny.

Even the overtly funny scenes, like those featuring Queen Latifah for example, aren't really funny because they seem out of place amongst the drama. The best darkly funny scene is VV's speech at the anniversary dinner and is almost worth the price of admission on it's own strength.
I tried to figure out why a movie like The Dilemma just doesn't hit the mark when a movie like PS I Love You does. Both comedies dealing with serious storylines; commas if you will. I can only suggest that the timing, the direction, the editing works in one and not the other. Certainly Vince Vaughn and Kevin James have the comedy chops but something just doesn't work. It's like you can put all the top ingredients into your cake but if you bake it in the wrong cake tin or at the wrong temparture or add salt instead of sugar you end up with something which just isn't right.

I didn't hate it, in fact I would say watch it on DVD or Foxtel or whatever in six months' time. I just couldn't recommend anyone running out and seeing it for full price.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Nothing Much

Just felt like blogging today but haven't got anything much to write about. Some random thoughts:

* It was Patti Smith's birthday the other day. I don't know much about her - just that I love her song Pissing In The River from the Times Square soundtrack. They played a song of hers which was kind of ska beat and kind of early punk and it was great. When they back announced it it was called Redondo Beach. Whoa. That's where we stayed on our first visit to the US when we had just picked up Will from Guatemala. Redondo Beach - just the name chimes something in my heart. Don't know why. It was a nice place, not touristy but nice. I think it was a suburb in the process of being gentrified; it had that foot in both camps air about it. A marina and a boardwalk filled with closed amusements (that always make me melancholy). Our first encounter with Joe's Crab Shack. Memories. I've downloaded that song from iTunes and I keep playing it. Patti's voice makes me happy and sad. It's a sad song with a happy beat. Here it is on YouTube.

* I've decided to make February Fawlty Feb. I caught half an episode of Fawlty Towers - The Psychiatrist - yesterday and it made me laugh so much. That show has all the answers to all of life's questions. So everyday in February you will get a quote from arguably the best situation comedy every made. It might not answer all your life questions but it will hopefully give you a giggle.

* I've decided to do a cake decorating course early this year. I'm under no illusion that this will become a huge passion but I want to give it a go. Generally with crafty hobbies I get inspired, spend a small fortune on supplies, make one half hearted project and promptly forget all about it. Attention span of a two year old. I think in my fantasy world I'll do one eight week course, become the most brilliant cake decorator the world has ever seen and Duff from Charm City Cakes will hear all about me and instantly recruit me to work alongside him and all those cool folk making fabulous cakes for fabulous people... Then I'll wake up and realise homework hasn't been finished and one of the kids has to be at school early for an excursion.

Monday, January 03, 2011

End of 2010: In Pictures

My baby girl with a GREAT BIG EFFING SNAKE around her neck. She's 100% braver than her chicken livered mother. (Week before Christmas.)

Christmas morning. Happy faces.

Big Jay and his new Weber Q baby bbq.

Miss M and her new Barbie bike (which even has a little clip on bike for Barbie herself).

Windswept on NYE.

The brothers, NYE.


Tidying up 2010

The last week of 2010 ended in the usual way.

The birthday of Baby Cheeses was celebrated with too much eating on our deck with family and friends. The weather was gorgeous, leading me to go through a little bit of guilt as half of our country is flooded and the other half was scortching (a land "of droughts and flooding rains" indeed), not to mention Europe and parts of the US which were frozen.

Nothing to be done about it but open gifts, eat many more prawns and oysters than is strictly necessary and gaze in wonder at the 10kg ethically raised ham.

Speaking of gifts I can now proudly confirm I am the owner of a WeeSing Robbie Williams for Wii game. After a couple of glasses of Bella and a couple more lychee martinis I may have tortured entertained our guests with a spirited rendition of Something Beautiful and Rock DJ before their pained expressions forced me to accept that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

There was also some gorgeous Pandora earrings and a new charm under the tree from my very generous family. A fantastic new glass mixing bowl for my KitchenAid from my sister's main man M (who is now forever more known as the Gift Whisperer). A fabulous new Sheridan quilt cover set and pillows from mum.

The Entire Beast cookbook by Chris Badenoch (from the first series of Australian Masterchef) which is a book I've been coveting since I first watched Chris cook on the show (who can forget his Roasted Half Pig's Head?). I have to say that this book is worth the price of admission if only for the fabulous, darkly quirky styling and the great Introduction by Chris which really resonates with me. The recipes themselves are simply an extra bonus. Thank you JB for this special gift.

Lots of other bits which have escaped me right at this moment. As always I was very spoilt as was everyone in the family. We're a generous bunch, if I do say so myself.

Boxing Day entailed more entertaining, more eating, more gift giving and receiving... as well as a game of Sticky Wicky (a cricket game invented by one of the families at our school, so I'm giving them a plug). Despite the heat and my general abhorrence of anything cricket related it was really fun and even mum had a go. We cooled off in the pool to finish off a really great day.

The Monday public holiday was spent relaxing (a little), cleaning up from the two prior days and getting ready for more entertaining. That evening Big Jay's birthmum, uncle and friend came for dinner (as well as his brother, SIL and their little son who were here for the whole holiday period). So yet more cooking, cleaning and overeating. Let the good times roll.

Tuesday we hit the city for some sale shopping (I'm nothing if not a glutton for punishment) with my gorgeous, super stylish SIL and my best ladies C and M. Finishing with a big family dinner (all the dads and kids joining us) at Wagamama at King Street Wharf. The big surprise for the evening was bumping into a friend from the dim dark past fondly remembered as the Fitzroy Street Squat days. Mark (aka Woody) has certainly made something of himself - not that you would have predicted that back in 1982 - and now has a gorgeous wife, four kids and an important job with the Bank of America. Go figure!

So where are we? Yes, Tuesday the 28th of December. I worked the next two days (oh, the bliss of a quiet office, a nice cup of tea and no meals to cook for the hoardes).

Friday Big Jay was working and I wasn't so I took the kids and our visitors to Paddington and Woollahra to visit Victor Churchill (it's like porn for carnevores) and some more fashion for the SIL. We finished with a late lunch at the Seafood Markets (note to self: avoid Doyle's at all costs... they should be embaressed by the crap they dish out, have been coasting on the name for too long now).

Which brings us to NYE. When Big Jay came home from work we settled in for some eating, drinking and fireworks gazing on the deck of the apartment his brother and SIL had rented in the building next door to ours. Their apartment was on the top floor and while the apartment itself was quite ordinary the deck was magnificent. It was not only huge but afforded 320 degree views of the Sydney skyline, including the city (or at least some of it, the main part of the Harbour Bridge was obscured by some buildings). Anyway, we were able to see not only the big city fireworks but also the many and assorted smaller ones going on all around the greater Sydney area. Cool!

New Year's Day we sat around the pool all morning which was not only gorgeous and relaxing but meant I finally finished Val McDermid's The Mermaids Singing (the first of the Tony Hill novels which became the Wire in the Blood series). While I like her writing the book didn't really blow me away because I am so familiar with the show and particularly with Robson Green as Tony Hill and I guess there really wasn't any suspense factor because I knew what happens in the end. I'm just glad I finally got through it because it feels like I've been reading it for years. So then I started straight onto Thousand Splendid Suns (love my Kindle, finish one book, download another) which is the book for January for the local book group I'm thinking of joining.

Oops, just realised I'm technically into 2011. Better stop now. Some photos to post and then let's roll in the new year. Twenty Eleven will be a big one.