Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Years 2012

Woohoo! Happy New Year!! I'm already over 12 hours into 2012 and what have I done so far?

- Totally missed the start of it cause I was asleep. Boy do I know how to party!! I had half a glass of apple and pear cider, watched a lame movie with Iven (I liked it but he thought it was lame), ate Christmas chocolate till I felt a bit ill then went to bed with a good book. I did get a party invite but Iven's not much into partying and I didn't want him to see the new year in by himself ... and then I go and fall asleep and he saw it in by himself anyway. But he was kind enough to give me a re-enactment this morning which involved him making rowdy crowd noises, counting down and then exploding!

- I changed every calendar in my house. Best to start the year on the right note and that involves having some idea of what year and date it is. I like to do this just in case I'm involved in an accident and I'm taken to hospital and they ask me where I am and what date it is. My sense of direction is pretty poor so I'll probably get that one wrong (unless they're satisfied with a generic 'in the hospital' answer). At least if I get the date right I'll have a good chance of not having a hole drilled into my brain.

- I've cleaned up my lounge room. Dusted and vacuumed away all traces of that huge party Iven and I had last night so the boys don't get the wrong idea. (All right - the real reason is because I don't have my cleaning lady for a couple of weeks and the dog hair was building up at such a prodigious rate that I was being mistaken for Bonobo every time I did my stretches or yoga. And I'm pretty sure I may have a fur ball)

- I had my first coffee of 2012. Unfortunately we could only find McDonalds open at our local shopping centre but beggars can't be choosers.

- I made some flowers for all the birthday cakes that the new year will bring. This is so much fun. It reminds me of being back in kindy and cutting out shapes with Play-Doh. But these flowers taste way better than the Play-Doh ones used to.

And the finished product on a a cupcake - Pretty!!

- I've done my strength session. I can do two sets of 25 pushups now - FROM MY TOES. You might not be impressed but considering I could hardly do 10 in a row. I have very long arms and long levers don't make for strong levers. (it's a physics thing) Some boys may have compared my arms to a chimp's when I was a teenager and thus I feel a strong affinity to Bonobos. My planks have doubled in length and my power step ups are a thing of beauty (at least I'm not losing balance or wetting myself when I do them any more)

Did I make any New Year's Resolutions? Not really. I'll be just doing more of the same. Tweaking things here and there to make things work better for me. Have I planned much for the running year ahead? Again, not really. A lot will depend on how I'm feeling physically. In a general sense I want to run four times a week, strength train twice and throw in some yoga at least three times a week. With my running I'd like to get my mileage back up around the 50-55k per week but as far as events are concerned, I'm just going to see what takes my fancy as the year rolls on.

Has anyone made any major resolutions for 2012? And did anyone party harder than Ive and myself?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Seeing Double

I don't know if it's traditional around where you live, but in Australia (except in South Australia because of antiquated trading laws) there's a little thing that happens the day after Christmas - the Boxing Day sales. It's for all of those who thought they hadn't shopped quite enough before Christmas or wanted to pick up a few extra things for themselves or even wanted to start on next year's Christmas list.

I am not a regular attendee at this ritual of materialistic gluttony. The crowds freak me out and there's usually nothing that I can think of to buy. But I do have to make at least one trip during the post-Christmas week to exchange gifts. This is a chore that I despise. It makes me feel like a nasty, ungrateful bi*@h but there's something I hate even worse than exchanging gifts - waste.

This year I had three things that I had to take back - two singlets and a book. The singlets had to go back because they didn't fit and the book went back because it wasn't something that I'd read. I'd hinted a few times to Iven about a book that I had really wanted. I'd refrained from buying it in the weeks leading up to Christmas because I was sure he'd gotten the hint. But Christmas came and went without the book so I knew what I'd be swapping the other book for.

So after the first day of the sales was over I braved the shopping centre. It was actually really quiet - no queues. I went to the book shop and exchanged books (and bought an extra because this is the one area in my life, apart from running, that I don't deny myself).

That evening I was telling Iven about my day and what I'd exchanged the book for and he looked very quizzical.

'Which book did you get' he demanded to know.

'The new Evanovich book. You know, the one I pointed out to you in the shops'

'But I gave you that for Christmas' He was really confused now. And he wasn't the only one.

'No you didn't. I got one book and that's the one I returned.'

He rushed out of the room and went into his wardrobe, fossicked around for a while and returned with ...

... the same Janet Evanovich book that he'd bought and wrapped and FORGOTTEN TO GIVE ME.

Doh!! Now I have to go back to the book store. I think the ladies there are going to enjoy this story.

And on a running note - I've had another good running week despite it being Christmas week. 10k on Christmas Day, 13k yesterday and a monster hour and a half speed session on Tuesday. I'll wrap it up with a 12k tomorrow. We're still not doing anything really long yet.

Tuesday's speed session was one of the toughest I've done. It was a public holiday so Coach Chris took the opportunity to have a longer set. We did a ladder - 400m, 800m, 1200m, 1600, 2k, then working down again. And on top of longer reps we had one of our hottest mornings - 26C apparent temperature, with a humidity of 92%. It was not a morning for super-fast running - just surviving. And I did. Just!!

I've also done my two sessions of strength work and I swear my drop jumps are getting better. These exercises involve dropping off a height and immediately doing a standing long jump. I drop from the coffee table (thank goodness it's sturdy) and I'm now getting a third of the way along the piano instead of just the beginning. I'm jumping at least an octave further! Chopin would have been so proud of me.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Boxing Day Conversation

Just wanted to share a little of last night's round-the-table dinner conversation.

I'll pre-empt it by telling you a little about my Mother first. My Mother is a lady. She's a devout Christian lady who has never sworn and frowns upon smut. She tried incredibly hard to bring up her daughters to be ladies but we just didn't quite make the grade. I blame my years doing veterinary science. When you're surrounded by blood and faeces and pus, and you have your arm up a horse's ar#@ - ooops, I mean posterior - it's hard to be ladylike.

We were at Mum's last night having Christmas left-overs when the conversation turned to the lovely bagels that I'd baked. I happily took the accolades before telling all assembled that Sam did some of the bagel kneading whilst wearing his birthday suit.

Sam took offence to this. His mother (me) was wrong again (as I frequently am apparently. He thinks it's early onset dementia. I know I'm perfectly normal but God is paying me back for all the times I laughed at my forgetful Aunt).

Anyway I realised that I was wrong (but don't book that room in the nursing home yet, Sam. The fact that I remembered eventually is encouraging) He wasn't naked during the kneading phase - he was naked when we were rolling out the snakes.

Poor Mum couldn't help herself. She tried to suppress a smile but her ladylike smutty mind got the better of her. But when my sister said she was relieved to find out that he wasn't naked during the hole-making phase, Mum just had to laugh.

So once again I have to apologise to you Mum for corrupting you. First it was Words With Friends (remember the wanker and porn incident?) and now it's smutty dinner-time conversation. I'll try harder - I promise!

PS Photos have been removed from this post for the sake of common decency. But I have included a video of Sam juggling his balls. (Too crass? It's hard to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011 is over. It always surprises me that it can be weeks and weeks of preparation. Hunting out just the right gifts. Fighting the crowds in the grocery store. Decorating the house (oops - sort of let the side down on that one but the upside is there's very little cleaning up to do). Baking and cleaning. And then it's all over in 24 hours.

My boys are so old now that it's the parents that wake up first and have to wait and wait for them to emerge. BUT that did allow me to get an early morning run in. It was a gorgeous morning, not too hot and so quiet. I left the house at 6:30 and saw one other runner, a few walkers and quite a few cyclists. It was really nice having that peaceful time to myself to get me centred before the day began in earnest.

10k later I was back home. My run had given me the inspiration to write on the last couple of gift cards and I'd decided to bake a batch of bagels for our lunch. I'd just gotten started with the bagels when my sons started to emerge from their rooms. It's such a far cry from the days when they'd wake us at ridiculous hours full of excitement.

Each boy was greeted with an enormous, sweaty hug and kiss from their Mum. They LOVED it! I told them about my bagel plan and told them that they all had to be involved. My bagels need 10 minutes of kneading - way too long for my puny, weak stick arms. I figured a bit of testosterone was required and luckily they all came to the party. And believe me, it was a party. There was a bit of brotherly love, juggling and some nudity - my house can be a circus at times.

Sam does have some pretty decent bagel-dough juggling skills. He was also the perpetrator of the public (luckily only to our family) nudity but I didn't pander to his exhibitionist tendencies and take footage of that. The nude episode was mercifully brief - which was co-incidentally was what covered the offending bits. He was a little disappointed that we seemed too comfortable with it.

Presents were exchanged between required dough resting. I scored an awesome rumble roller, lots of chocolate, a cake-decorating book and a tiny bit of alcohol (okay, it was a lot of alcohol for someone who rarely drinks but if I was an alcoholic it'd probably not seem that much).

My parents and sister were turning up for lunch at midday so there was a little bit of table dressing and food prep to do but it was all ready on time and at midday they arrived with two loaves of hot bread (my sister, Julie is a great cook), ham and salad. I provided the fresh prawns, another salad and the bagels and all of a sudden the table was overflowing.

It's compulsory to eat too much at Christmas isn't it? Problem was that this was just our light lunch. The main meal was in the evening. Some serious napping and digesting was in order to even face what lay ahead.

By five I had to head over to Mum's to get my contributions (pumpkin and sweet potato) into her oven to bake on time. The turkey was smelling divine and her table put mine to shame (probably because she spent days planning hers and assembling it and I just threw mine together an hour before they arrived.)

By about six everyone had arrived, a prayer of thanks was said and it was time to eat. I deliberately kept my plate fairly spartan because I wanted to keep enough room for dessert. It all tasted amazing but the piece de resistance every Christmas is Julie's ice cream. I must shamefully admit that I ate one and a half helpings. And even more shamefully I'll admit that I felt sick for the rest of the evening. We're just about to head over there now for Boxing Day left overs and the thing I'm looking forward to most? The ice cream of course. It's like frozen crack. Once you've had just a little bit, you're powerless to deny yourself. Damn you Julie!!

So my favourite parts of the day - definitely the run, the bagel making and the time spent with the family.

What were your favourite bits of the big day? And what food are you powerless to resist at Christmas?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Kitchen Disaster.

One day till Christmas!!

Okay, I'll admit it. I've had a pretty good week. I finished work for the year - yay! I finished Christmas shopping - yay!! I survived the grocery shopping ... twice - yay and yay!! And I got to do a heap of baking, which put me in my happy place.

Tuesday was the last speed session before Christmas so I thought I'd bring along some goodies to share. And I put a teaser out on Facebook so people would be prepared. I made Chocolate cupcakes, fig, pecan and cinnamon cupcakes and some of Marlene's Kris Kringle cookies.

They all turned out pretty well. Luke and Becky, his girlfriend gave Marlene's cookies four thumbs up.

There was a sense of anticipation in the group as I drove up to running on Tuesday morning. Even before I left home I knew some people were looking forward to it.

I'll admit I felt a little like a wounded antelope in amongst a pack of hyenas - but in a good way. We did our session and then I was given an escort back to the car that HRH Queen Elizabeth would have been envious of. Seriously, there's nothing better than feeding hungry runners. You will NEVER get a better review of your cooking or more appreciation.

I managed to get rid of almost all of my baking and was facing the prospect of heading into Christmas Day with empty cake containers so yesterday I decided to break out the cupcake tins again. I had a new icing tip and I'd watched a tutorial on YouTube and now was my chance to try something different. I baked my chocolate no-fail cupcakes. After 30 minutes in the oven they were perfect so I went to take them out. And that's when disaster struck.

I swear I used my usual pot holder but this time I could feel the heat of the pan burning my fingers. So I did what any wuss with great self-preservation skills would do. I dropped the tin on the floor. Face down! And my tin has a teflon coating so all of the cakes fell out.

Hot chocolate cupcakes a very malleable apparently. They'll take on the shape of any surface that they're dropped or flung on. I managed to salvage a few at least so I could try the new icing technique. They had to fully cool so I went off to have a nap (damn, I love holidays and daily, guilt-free naps). When I got back to the kitchen a little while later (okay, it was 3 hours later but it was a really good nap) I found the cakes covered in ants.

Even that didn't stop me. I mixed up the butter cream, filled the piping bag, watched the tutorial, had a go, scraped it off, watched the tutorial again, had another go, scraped it off, watched the tutorial again then finally got it pretty close.

Despite all the disasters I got a couple looking really pretty. Pity I can't let anyone eat them. Except Coach Chris. Sorry, Chris but I did say I'd get back at you for that 'special' session. You thought it was going to be laxatives in the brownies - well you were wrong!

Happy Christmas to everyone. I hope you manage to have a Christmas free of kitchen disasters. But if you do have one - photograph it and put it on your blog!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Where's My Medal?

I want a medal for today's efforts. It's now three days till Christmas and every single person who's left their shopping till the last minute has decided to shop at my local shopping centre. You know, the one that I go to every week day. Where I can sit and have a peaceful early morning coffee and do the Sudoku and crossword in the paper without distraction. The place where I can blissfully stroll unimpeded ... Well, that place has become a hellhole of Dante-esque proportions.

The parking wasn't bad. And that is the only positive I'll say about today's experience. My first task was to do my weekly shopping. I grabbed a trolley pushed it into the store and almost ran over a lovely, grey-haired nana who'd pushed her trolley in and decided to stop in the entrance. Good one Nana! Keep that up and you won't make it to Christmas.

But Nana was only the start. My path was blocked in every direction - wayward toddlers, wayward husbands and wayward dementia patients who had absolutely no idea why they were there (or at least that's how they acted). I started to go one direction only to make a quick dodge and slide to avoid fatal contact. By my fourth aisle I was ready to throw down my gloves and challenge the next impediment to my forward progress. "Cleaning Aisle in five minutes. Bare fists. No weapons. Yes, that walking stick does count as a weapon." I thought the cleaning aisle would be best if there was any blood - I'm thoughtful that way.

I finally made it to the end of my list and got to a checkout. I lied at the beginning when I said that there was only one positive in this shopping adventure. There were plenty of checkouts open so I didn't have to wait long. I could finally escape into the rest of throbbing, seething centre. I made my way up to have my coffee with my parents. We got around to discussing Christmas Day plans and apparently I'm hosting Christmas Day lunch. Might have been nice to know this before I did my shopping. It looks as though I'm going to have to face it all again tomorrow!!

PS I deliberately ran this morning to fill me chock-full of lovely, peace-giving endorphins. I chose to do a route that I hadn't done for a while and thought was about 12k. Turns out it was 15k, hilly (how did I forget the hills??!!) and it was pretty warm and humid (95%). If I did have any post-run endorphins, they were not strong enough. But my post-nap calm is upon me now and the kids are safe to approach without fear.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Conjuring Up That Christmas Feeling


I have never felt less Christmassy in the week leading up to the big day. Don't get me wrong. I've decorated the house.

Nativity Scene To Remind Us All of The True Meaning Of Christmas

Festive Door Mat (Hmm, maybe a little red nail polish for those toes might be in order)

Underwhelmed? Yes, that is the extent of the Christmas decorations this year. I was going for a minimalist look. Less is more. Understated elegance (okay, I'll agree that the door mat is hardly elegant) And I was also going for a look that could be taken down in about 5 minutes once Christmas is over - or even on Christmas night. I think I've achieved what I was aiming for.

I've also completed my Christmas gift shopping. I did hit an all-time low this year. In years past I would start shopping in about August. I'd scour catalogues looking for things that the kids would like and hide them away where they couldn't be found (or where I thought they couldn't be found - apparently the floor of my wardrobe wasn't that hard to work out, especially cause I used it year after year.)

This year I left it till there was about 14 days to go. I asked the kids what they wanted - no surprises. And (this is my most shameful admission) I sent Luke off to find his own present and when he found it I just transferred money into his account. BUT in my own defence we spent a good few hours looking through the shops one day trying to find him a jacket that would actually fit his long, skinny frame. He's also going to have to go back to the shop on Wednesday to pick it up. I will, however, wrap it for him but I'm starting to think that would be almost farcical.

I think the reason for my lack of Christmas spirit is because I'm STILL working. In years past I would finish when school finished or even a week before. This would give me time to bake and there's nothing better to put you in the Christmas mood than to have the kitchen smelling of cinnamon and nutmeg and chocolate. But I stupidly agreed to do a few rhythmic costumes - which turned out to be 12, not the few I was anticipating.

I spent a few hours Saturday working and then almost all day Sunday but I've now only got one leotard to finish. Woohoo!! Or should I say a more festive - HO HO HO.

This is what I got done this week - a massive effort.

But leotards are going on the back burner today and I'm going to conjure up the spirit of Christmas in my kitchen and then I'll get to get into the spirit of giving tomorrow at speed session.

What's your best way of getting into the spirit? And your favourite Christmas recipe?

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Pair of Short Shorts.

No, I don't mean these sort of short shorts.

And I really don't mean these beauties.

I'm talking more about short stories.

My first comes from my Mum. She's given me one of the secrets to a long marriage this week. She and Dad have been married for 50 years now and they're marriage has endured some fairly cyclonic weather. BUT they're still together and she's shared one of her secrets with me and I'm, in turn, sharing it with you all.

Getting old and the deteriorations that come with old age can really save your marriage. Eyesight going? Your partner may appear to never age. Getting forgetful? You will always have a new story to share with your partner and their stories will always be fresh to you (although on the downside they will NEVER tell you their plans any more). Going deaf? (this had the most relevance to Mum and Dad because Dad has industrial deafness). You can get all your frustrations off your chest in front of him as long as you don't yell and he can't lip-read.

Dad's just gotten himself some new hearing aids and he's actually wearing these ones. All of a sudden he's not saying 'Huh?' all the time and poor Mum's having to watch her tongue. No more muttering behind his back!

I saw a rat yesterday. No, it wasn't the dessicated corpse of the one I was smelling a few weeks ago in my work room. It was a living, breathing, dirty, smelly rat and it was in the garden outside my workroom. Of course I yelled for Bubbles, our rat-hunting foxie who doesn't know she's a rat-hunting foxie. I put her in the garden and got her all excited (although I'm pretty sure she didn't know why she was supposed to be excited but last time I'd put her somewhere it had ended with a feast of cake and icing). She seemed to pick up a scent but the scent just led her round and round in circles without finding her quarry.

Later on I was mulling over the rat incident. And I was secretly blaming Iven for the presence of vermin in our house. At this point I must say that everything ends up being Iven's fault. Tissue in the wash - Iven's fault. Dog pooed in the kitchen - Iven's fault. Car having engine problems - Iven's fault. Poor Iven. He has no idea how many times he's been mentally blamed for the problems of the world.

My logic for it being Iven's fault was simple. We have chickens because Iven really wanted chickens. Chickens have chicken feed and compost scraps which bring in the rats. Soon we will have snakes that are looking for the rats and that too will be Iven's fault.

While I was mulling over this, I was picking through the cherries that were sitting on the bench - eating the good ones and throwing the bad ones out ... the window ... the window that is directly above the garden that I saw the rat in. The window that I throw lots of scraps out of. And at that moment I had an epiphany! It wasn't a filthy dirty vermin after all. It was MY pet rat and I'm calling him Peaches (cause I've probably thrown one of them into the garden too).

Who gets the blame for all of the bad stuff that happens at your house?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Looking On The Bright Side.

Yesterday I had a shocker. So soon after having such a great speed session, I had the worst that I've had in a long time. Yep, it was warmer than it had been last week but not that warm. And I'd done a pretty good run the day before - 11k at 5:30 pace. There was really no reason I could think of as to why I was running so badly.

The set was longer reps than we've been doing. It was 1000m, 500m recovery, 1500m, 500m recovery, 2000m, 500m recovery, 1000m. The first k felt okay - 4:42. The 1500m felt okay too but my pace was off - 7:35 when I was trying for around 6:50-7:00. The 2000m felt awful and my legs didn't want to go - 10:45. What the?!! And the last 1k rep was 5:15. Running back to the car park was so hard and I was starting to feel nauseated but that was from the effort and heat wasn't it?

Nope - lucky me I'd caught a tummy bug. I went up and had breakfast with Jenny like we always do after the Tuesday session and those eggs and coffee just did not sit well. But I managed to make it home before the volcano erupted. By lunchtime I was feeling a little better so I tried some dry toast and tea. It ended up in the same place as my breakfast.

But as awful as I felt I was relieved that there was a good reason for me running so badly. After all, that's what everything relates back to, doesn't it. And on a positive note, that extra weight that I'd mentioned in the last post has disappeared plus more so I'm heading into Christmas with a weight deficit.

I've found that blog-writing has done something strange to me. I'm actually looking for the positive sides of not so positive situations which is making me a happier person. Case in point - on Monday I went to have coffee with one of my oldest (in duration not in actual age) friends. I brought her Christmas present with me and decided to take a couple of the cupcakes that I'd made on Sunday for her and her receptionist.

I carry the cupcakes in takeaway containers and never put a lid on - I don't want to mess the icing up and, because my seat covers are a bit furry, I never have much trouble with the containers moving around much. But this time I had Chris's present as well and put my cupcakes on the nice shiny wrapping. So you can guess what happened when I turned a sharp corner.

Years ago I would have gotten upset that my beautiful cupcakes had been mashed but because I'm looking more on the bright side, I just couldn't help but laugh. And I laughed all the way to Chris's. I must have looked like a half-crazed loonie - driving along, bursting into random fits of giggles.

And when I got to the coffee shop (a bit late, sorry Chris) I took photos of the mashed cakes and the icing that was everywhere. I took the cakes up and presented them to Chris and showed her the 'before' shot so she and receptionist, Jane could have a laugh too.


Maybe I should have slowed more before I took the corner - but at least the dog enjoyed it.

So here's a little challenge - the next couple of weeks can sometimes be the most stressful in the year. There will be things that happen which threaten your equilibrium. I'd like to hear from anyone who manages to put a positive spin on an awkward situation or who's been able to laugh when they could have done the opposite. You'll be surprised at how good you'll feel.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Finding My Way Out of The Maze

What a week! It's hard to know where to start but this week has felt like the tide has turned. It's like I've been walking through a maze for years and I've finally found the exit. I have had such a dramatic turn around in my health - not that I was sick per se, I just felt tired all the time. I felt tired when I woke up. Tired after I exercised. Tried after I had lunch (and sometimes I had a little lie down in my workroom). By late afternoon I had picked up but after dinner I was tired again and when it came to bed time I found it hard to sleep and woke up a few times during the night.

It didn't seem to matter if I exercised or not. I had a week off after the Melbourne half and felt just as bad the following week. So I didn't give up exercising. But adding the strength training to my schedule plus (and I think this has helped the most) changing my diet to increase my protein intake seems to have made me a new woman. I am sleeping better. I'm running better. I'm not dragging through the day. I haven't felt the need to nap in my workroom for a few weeks. And I'm feeling so positive about next year. The only thing I'm not totally thrilled with is that I've put on a little weight but I have to remind myself that the whole purpose of what I'm doing is to increase muscle and you can't do that without gaining weight.

After Melbourne I'd almost decided to take a year off racing. Not that I really count any of the events I ran in this year as races. I felt like a participant not a competitor. I ran two 5ks, one ten k and 3 half marathons. I wanted to do more but my body just kept holding me back and I can't tell you how frustrating that was. Most frustrating, though, was after races with the group when everyone was sharing their triumphs and I just didn't want to tell them my time. And knowing I'm training as hard and as much as I can without making any improvements was doing my head in if I thought about it too much.

So it's nice to know that I'm still going to get a lot of enjoyment out of my running and if this improvement continues, who knows what's ahead in 2012?!

Feeling so good wasn't the only thing that's made me feel so happy this week. It's been a series of surprises. I received flowers from the girl I'd made cakes for. I NEVER get flowers so that made me feel so important.

Then I got a phone call from my phone provider telling me that I'd been a really good customer (ie paid my bills?) and would I like the new iPhone 4S for free? Hell, yeah!

I found out that I won a blogger give-away. And I got all bar one on my Christmas to-buy-for list ticked off. In JUST ONE WEEK.

I finished three leotards and got a fourth well under way.

And today I filled my pantry with these yummy little morsels.

Triple Choc Chip Cookies

Hearts Of Gold Cupcakes (Caramel mud cake with a centre of gooey caramel)

I must say the new iPhone's camera is way superior to the last one's. (Note how well I stacked the dish drainer in the background. It takes superior talent and years of practice to fit that much stuff in the drainer without having a disaster.)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Tale Of Twin Sisters

Stranger than anything that a soap-opera writer could come up with - because it's true.

There were once twin sisters. They loved each other deeply and did everything together. Unfortunately, they fell in love with the same man. He was exotic, handsome foreigner with no place to stay so they invited him to share their home. He moved in and was soon making moves on both of the girls and both were incapable of resisting his charms.

One night, one of the sisters admitted tearfully that she loved the handsome stranger. This made the other sister break down and regretfully admit that she felt the same. It was a quandary as he loved both of the girls equally and none could bare to be the one to walk away. The twins decided that their love for each other was strong enough to stop any jealousy and that the only thing they could do would be to share him.

And sharing worked fine for a while. They were all living happily until one of the girls became unwell. She realised that she wasn't able to procreate and this made the most fierce jealousy rise in her breast. All of a sudden she couldn't bear the sight of her twin and did anything to make her look bad in the sight of the man. And in an ultimate act of desperation, she faked a pregnancy then stole her sister's offspring.


Actually it's not really a story about people. This melodrama has been played out in my backyard in the chook pen. I've mentioned before about the tall, handsome (to some eyes) stranger.

Personally I don't see the attraction - but I'm not a chook. He has become a permanent fixture in the chicken run and the girls seem very happy to share their food with him.

One of the chickens started laying weird eggs. I suspected that she had a calcium deficiency.

But not long afterwards she began to kick the other hen's good eggs out of the nest so we were getting one weak egg that was sometimes broken and the other egg was being smashed on the ground. A bit of layer's feed has fixed the calcium problem but now our jealous, calcium deficient hen has become clucky.

She won't leave her nest unless I force her out. And she won't let the other hen roost. The other day I decided that the best way to fix her would be to block her out of the hen house. She was not happy - and neither was her fine-feathered friend who had nowhere to lay her egg. But I guess laying an egg is a little like going to the toilet - when you've got to go, you've got to go! She found an alternative - an old cement laundry tub that is now a planter. She layed her egg only to have her nest immediately overtaken by the clucky hen. She claimed the egg as her own and set about trying to incubate it. Talk about delusional! I'm thinking we might have to add anti-psychotic drugs to her water.

Does anyone else have weird pets?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Feeling Strong

Today I had the best speed session that I've had since September last year. And that's without exaggeration. I document all my speed sessions - keep a record of the session, my lap times, my heart rate and even the weather. (Okay , so it might make me look a little obsessive-compulsive but I'm now at an age where I don't really care what other people think)

We've done this session at least once a month over the last couple of months. It's 1k reps with a 100m walk recovery. I personally think 100m isn't quite long enough so I compensate by walking really slow. At the beginning of October I did the session with my first rep starting at 4:37 and my 5th rep being 5:10. So much for keeping it consistent.

Two weeks after that we did it again and I started out slower (having learnt from the nasty experience before). I started with a 4:56 then it was 4:44, 4:54, 4:58. And the final rep I only made it to the 500m mark before having to walk. My other runs were going pretty badly too BUT I had a plan of action (which I mentioned a few weeks back) to work on my strength and to increase my protein intake.

So fast-forward five weeks. I felt like I was taking it easy on the first rep - but I always feel like I'm taking it easy. I thought about my running form. About having a faster cadence and to try to keep my bodyweight over my landing leg. I lapped my watch at 4:37. Not too bad, but probably a little fast and I would be paying for it later. For the second rep I concentrated on the same things as the first while playing the last song I'd heard on my car radio over and over in an endless loop (Don't know the name of the song but the only words I know from it are 'you'd better run, better run, outrun my gun') Time for the second rep was 4:38.

Now I knew that I was definitely going to pay for my foolhardy ways. The next rep was going to really hurt! But I kept my legs ticking over and pushing and lap 3 finished in 4:41. I did two more reps - 4:49 and 4:48 - and they felt hard but I did not feel at any time that I was going to die! (Which may or may not have happened the last few time I did this session)

And this is coming just a day after a 10k run where my average pace was 5:21/k. Lately I've been running around the 5:40-5:50 mark and, admittedly it was a little cooler, but I know I'm feeling stronger and way less tired just generally. So am I happy - hell, yes!

But on a less happy note - we had a little visit from our neighbour the other day. I think most neighbourhoods has one of these people - an older lady who rarely leaves the street, knows exactly what's going on and is happy to let you know when your noises are bothering her (I still think she hasn't forgiven Sam for all those morning trumpet practices of The Last Post when he was 12). She stopped Iven and I as we were trying to make a quick get-away in the car to let us know that she wasn't happy with our recent installation of a garage door because she couldn't tell if we were home or not.

She leant into the window and it was then that I noticed that the most strategic of her buttons had come undone AND she wasn't wearing a bra under her dress. Poor Iven! He had the best view. He swears he didn't look but I'm sure he got a quick peak before he realised he had to look away. I don't think he'll ever be able to look her in the face again.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

52 Cupcakes and a Leotard.

My last two days have had a small degree of insanity thrown in. A few months ago a running friend asked me to do the cakes for her 30th birthday party. She was flattering about my cake-making ability and my ego ended up getting in the way of common sense and I agreed. Fifty cupcakes and a big cake. All caramel mud. Yep, no worries.

It's no worries when you agree to it six weeks out. But as time gets closer the worries start to happen. What if the cakes flop. What if the weather's really bad and the icing flops? And what the hell am I going to do with the big cake? Decorating cupcakes are a breeze now but big cakes are another story.

Anna was having a disco party theme and really wanted peace signs on the cakes. At times like this I wished I live in the States. I could get some sent over but no one outlet had enough and then their was the time issue - would they get through Customs in time? Anna was on the hunt too and she found some Edible Images that were appropriate. They're little discs of printed rice paper and she picked some with disco balls on them and others with silhouetted disco dancers. A few days ago I decided to have a trial run with them and it was a disaster! The rice paper had been affected by our humidity and they had turned to mush. We needed a plan B.

Plan B was just to colour the icing really bright. But before any decorating could happen I needed to bake some cakes. It took 6 batches of caramel mud cake and my oven blazing for 3 hours to get them all done but I managed it without any disasters. Then the cakes had to survive night-time kitchen raids from hungry boys before I set about decorating them. I was relieved to still count 52 cakes the next morning.

I started early on Friday. Made caramel buttercream and dirty-iced the big cake. Then I rolled out the plastic icing and prayed I would get it over the cake in one piece. Success! I just had to smooth down the sides and trim off the edges and it looked good.

Next was making a double batch of fluffy frosting. I've had some problems with this over the last couple of weeks but again it all went beautifully. But the colouring was actually more challenging than I thought it would be. The violet paste I had was not the pretty purple that I had imagined in my head and I had to use so much yellow colouring that it softened the fluffy frosting so when I piped it I was afraid it would just go limp over the cakes. But I told myself that it would be good enough (I'm such a perfectionist that I worry over every perceived flaw) and it was a good time to go get a coffee.

And that's when the real fun began. Someone (and I'm mentioning no names, Luke) had left my car cabin light on all night and the battery was totally flat. I stomped back upstairs in a coffee rage and hit Luke over the back of his head then realised that Josh's car was there. He let me borrow it (he was half asleep when I asked and probably didn't know what he was agreeing to). I jumped into the car and got half way up the street before his really loud music almost shot me through the roof. If I wasn't already strung out, I was now. I almost got to the shopping centre when I noticed that his empty fuel gauge light was on. Great! How long had it been on? Had he been driving around with it on for a while? Was I going to get home? My personal stress level gauge was flashing red. I finally got my coffee and sat down with a sigh and then the girl in the seat next to me picked up her piano accordion and started playing - badly. Who does this in the food court of a shopping centre?!! And why did she wait until I was in desperate need of some peace?

Happily I made it home without any problems and my piano accordion-playing friend also survived despite my better judgement. The rest of the cake icing went smoothly and my day finished with a visit from my friend Karen, who was picking up the cakes, a chat with Coach Chris and a 2 hour coffee with another friend Natalie. I also got my car battery changed. But I got no sewing work done at all so my leotard count for this week is a measly one.

I'm relieved to have my second big cupcake order done and it's reinforced that I'd never really want to do it as a career. I'm just too much of a stress-head.