M is for Making a Change

Around October last year I caught this linking (somehow I don’t know where) to a segment on the ABC Show Catalyst about the real dietary villians.

Here’s the link: Catalyst: Heart of the Matter Part 1 – Dietary Villains – ABC TV Science.

After watching this and reading up on it I started looking into the story about sugar. I read through this book here after a friend on facebook recommended it when I posted about the Catalyst segment.

There’s A LOT of information in this book. It certainly bares reading multiple times. It’s easy to read but because of the the density of the detail you find yourself rereading several chapters and paragraphs. But what it does do is take what is potentially highly scientific terminology and jargon completely understandable. He steps things out and progresses logically through the explanations. I did feel like I was back in high school science class and that was okay because I really do regret not paying more attention in those classes. I will undoubtedly go back to re-read parts of it over the next year or so.

So that led me to the next book:

And I’ve been steadily reading through this since about the last couple of weeks of December. Again much to take in and this will form a reference guide probably for the next year or so.

The change we’re making is breaking the addiction to sugar. I’ll be honest and confess that my addiction to sugar is probably much stronger than Tim’s but since going through the food choices quite a lot of them already coincide with his likes and preferences. You think that it sounds not too bad – I mean you can have your bread still (obviously the lowest sugar kind) butter, all your meats, cheeses, potatoes, rice, of course all the veggies and the fruit. To be more specific – it’s an addiction to fructose that causes the issues. The constant stream of fructose that goes into our bodies actually messes with the body’s appetite regulation control and this is why portions have grown to ridiculous levels. And why we continue eating since we don’t feel full. So breaking the sugar fructose addiction actually kicks your appetite regulator into functionality again.

The drinks are limited – milk, water, Pepsi Max, tea (no sugar) and that’s it. Not a problem really since we don’t drink alcohol (except the odd cocktail or mixer on special occasions) and juice is usually not in the fridge.

There are sugar replacements you can use and I’m still looking into them because there are some out there that simply metabolise straight into fructose once it’s consumed and there seems to be plenty of recipes out there that replace them. I’ve even purchased a “chocolate” bar that’s sugar free. We’ll see. I’m not optimistic that way I might be pleasantly surprised.

I have gone through the pantry and boxed up all the items that don’t fit the 3% sugar content ie 3gms or less and ended up with quite a few items 😉

I will be doing a blood test tomorrow then the withdrawal process begins and we’ll go cold turkey. I don’t need to go through all the benefits of course but I am looking forward to seeing the effect of the changes once the withdrawal period is over (apparently you feel like crap when breaking the addiction which is understandable). I may even venture into homemade ice cream making at desperate moments.

The changes I want to make happen?

– Get rid of this plantar fasciitis which is strongly related to weight- I want to see less of me
– Feel less back pain
– A return to fitness and running faster in agility
– Less obsessing about food

David Gillespie the author, makes no bones about it – quitting sugar is hard. I’ll be following his 5 step plan to break addiction to the letter. I will probably get cranky. I’ll have headaches and will feel like crap. Hopefully those around me will understand and if not I’m sure they can just give me a wide berth anyway (I’ve never really done the whole PMS thing – maybe this can be my version of it).

 

 

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L is for Last Days

Today was our last day in New Zealand – for the time being. The second trip, whenever that is, is already looking like a full itinerary. Aoteraroa is the original name of this land and it’s where the phrase Land of the Long White Cloud comes from. I’ve liked how bilingual many things are in this country. The Maori culture and language certainly seems to be far more embedded into everyday use than the equivalent back home, I’m not sure why that is but I have some speculations.

We’ve driven the length of the North Island since arriving last Friday and of the three places we’ve stayed – Wellington was definitely my favourite. It also gets referred to as Welly Wood thanks to the massive influence of one Wellingtonian – Peter Jackson. It’s difficult to quantify exactly how many lives that one man has changed. He’s spent millions in Wellington and all over New Zealand. He’s restored many locations back to former glory even in a better state than they were prior to the Lord Of The Rings and Hobbit movies. Whole career paths have been forged and entire families have seen the benefits of his vision and passion. Doing the tours in Wellington and then in Matamata has certainly captured my imagination and had me thinking about that whole process of bringing such a classic story to life. I have always had and will continue to have a huge passion for good story telling and that’s why the movies and the tv shows will always have a huge place in my life. A well told, well written, well produced story always leaves me feeling like I’ve just been given a special gift. Like the person (or in the case of shows and movies – people) who brought me that story has kindly shared a piece of themselves with me in the form of a story. It’s like an enthusiastic tour guide, passionate about their guiding showing you their special places on the earth.

Our guide in Wellington for the full day tour was named Laura. She was in high school when the first LoTR movie hit the screens in 1999…and she has now been guiding people on location tours for the last seven years in a van she has fondly dubbed Aragorn with a level of fervor that is quite infectious. She really did know the answer to 99.9 percent of questions about LoTR. She could tell you where a single 30 second scene took place (for just about every scene in the films), broken down into five different locations, at what angles the cameras were, what the actors had eaten for breakfast on that day and how many takes it took. I find that kind of attention to detail nothing but inspiring and fascinating.


The great River Anduin

She took us out to several locations and gave detailed behind the scenes recounts of the kinds of challenges the cast and crew faced – who knew Boromir played by Sean Bean was so absolutely useless at rowing a boat up river? Or that the little people who portrayed the hobbits for the capturing of forced perspective had such an aversion to being in a boat on water? Or that Aragorn’s anguished scream of despair for the supposed death of two of the fellowship was actually the result of Viggo Mortensen’s pain when he quite literally broke two of his toes kicking a helmet of armour across a scene? I never would have known that whenever we see Gandalf on a horse it’s actually his stunt double as Ian McKellan had a close friend be killed whilst riding a horse and made a vow never to sit on one again. He was apparently an accomplished rider prior to this. Liv Tyler who played Aragorn’s love interest and Elf Arwen was apparently so nervous around the horses she was banned from going within 20 feet of any of them as she made them skittish. David Wenham discovered that the horses get very attuned to the verbal cues to the point where they could no longer yell Action! because the horses would just bolt as they had quickly come to associate that word with the riders being in a bit of a hurry. They had to replace the word Action! with something innocuous such as Christmas Trees! No one had apprised poor David of this slight alteration and when one of his horses was around someone talking rather excitedly with the word Action interspersed his horse bolted for hundreds of meters. Luckily Viggo Mortensen – a talented rider – was able to chase his horse down and save the day. Go Aragorn! We traipsed over the paths of the Elves of Rivendell, stood in Frodo’s bedroom and beheld the very tree that Gandalf and Saruman walked beneath during their conversation. I found out that Christopher Lee had actually been given permission by Tolkein himself to play the role of Gandalf should the movie ever be made. Peter Jackson decided against that and now I can’t imagine anyone other than Christopher Lee in the role of Saruman. In Rivendell it was meant to be Autumn so Peter Jackson had 250 thousand yellow and red leaves imported in from Thailand and each one of these leaves was individually wired to all the trees that were, or might possibly be, in the scenes shot there. The attention and extreme lengths that were gone to in order to make the story come alive and be as close as possible to the picture created in Tolkein’s books are quite astounding. Now I’d like to go back and rewatch these movies all over again with my new found knowledge and much better appreciation of the cinematography and the settings.


A rather unhelpful Uruk-Hai shop assistant


The woods on the path to Bree where the Nazgul chase the Hobbits

Panoramic shot of Wellington – last stop of the tour

The next day we drove off to Rotorua – the biggest natural thermal city in the world apparently. Well the fairly repugnant scent of sulphur that hit us as we drove in certainly attested to this claim to fame. We didn’t get to the Mineral spring baths sadly but perhaps that can be added to the list. However we did have some of the best Indian food I’ve ever tasted and you can probably see the pictures for that on Tim’s blog. Rotorua for the most part was our base for the night as a stepping stone to Matamata and the Hobbiton tour we had booked. More Lord of The Rings and now The Hobbit movies sets to explore. Once again the attention and efforts blew me away. It takes about 3 months to create one of these Hobbit holes and that usually just the front door and exterior! There were 12 acres of Hobbiton full of around 42 Hobbit holes, a lake, a massive tree and a party field. The Green Dragon pub also took up some of that room and that was a fully functioning beautifully laid out tavern complete with the round doors and archways and dark wood finish. The tours are incredibly popular. Leaving in big groups of 20 to 40 people EVERY 15 minutes from 9.30am to 3.30pm. The Alexanders who bought the farm in 1978 must think their dreams have come true!


“I’m going on an adventure!”


That same spot on our tour.

It was raining and pretty overcast as we went on our tour but that actually worked in our favour in terms of the fact that we didn’t have many people in our group (16) and also the lighting was great for photo taking. Tim took lots of lovely shots.


After the tour and a second breakfast at the cafe we headed off to Auckland. Auckland…Auckland is a lot like Perth. Which is to say when people come visit us in Western Australia – I would say the majority of time would be spent outside of Perth. However the food choices are fantastic and the walking very good for the legs given it’s mostly up and down hills. We had a fabulously delicious meal last night at Tony’s Lord Nelson restaurant, everything there was pretty much flawless. So now it’s home again. We’ve been there and now to do the back again part. I’m looking forward to getting home to the puppies, my own bed and bracing myself for the acclimatisation that is going to be needed when we hit the Perth heat. Goodbye New Zealand – you’ve reached my top 3 of favourite places in the world and we will definitely, without a doubt, be back!

 

 

K is for Kindness

Ellen always ends her shows with one last entreaty to her audience, both studio and worldwide. Be kind to one another. I’ve always liked Ellen…she comes across as an honest, savvy, forthright, sassy and intelligent human being. Not to mention she can be pretty funny. Lots of people who have the world’s ear, in some form or another, have appealed for us to do the same. And we don’t have to agree with every single person we meet, see, read or hear about in order to be kind to them. That is what makes this seemingly simple request so tough sometimes. The guy who just shot his two young children dead in a home in Dunedin, the person who donated 350 thousand dollars to shoot a black rhino, the guy who chooses to fight dogs for money, the teenage superstar who behaves like an entitled douchebag. Can I possibly be kind to them? In a way my kindness might just be to not jump on the bandwagon of condemnation.

It’s weird how humanity is wired so that wisdom and an appreciation of life doesn’t really hit till we are well into our relatively short life spans. I almost feel a vague sense of being cheated. Childhood is a wondrous thing of course (although over way too quick) but once we start becoming young adults (essentially once we hit adolescence) our sense of self becomes the complete be all and end all of our existence. Now I know there are teenagers out there who you would declare devoid of this self absorption, indeed I know of quite a few, I would argue that I was probably one of them. But not due to any worldly wise appreciation of life, or some sage understanding – simply because I was brought up to think that it was the right thing to do, the right way to behave. Use your manners, treat your parents and adults with respect and do the right thing. I did all those things – not because I understood the true value of kindness but because that was how I was raised. Many kids behave the way they do because their parents have taught them that way. It took me till my 30s to really start to see how special human life was, it’s not something any one person can impress on you, it doesn’t matter who talks to you about it. Took me till my 30s before I could step outside of my own very cosy and little self perspective on things and begin to ponder just how small and insignificant our lives are in the big scheme of the universe. Before I realised that our time is short and we should find joy every day if we can. Before I realised what it meant by the concept that everything is temporary. I began to see all around me more and more examples of depravity and abject poverty and the depths that humanity could sink to. But at the same time I saw more and more examples of the strength of the human condition, acts of unthinking selflessness, of our propensity for kindness and compassion. It filled me (and continues to fill me) with both absolute despair and absolute wonder.

And now I try to remember every day – to be kind to each other. It doesn’t eliminate or even discard my quick fire reactions to things. I’ll hear stuff or read stuff or see stuff and be just as incensed, outraged, horrified, angry or just plain despairing. And if it is involving people (funny, invariably humans are always involved) then I try to step out of my immediate reaction for a moment. I let myself feel the way I feel about the action, or the words and then I think wait a minute, this is a human being and they deserve kindness. What do I want to achieve here? Is it to change them? Is it to condemn them? Is it to denigrate them? Is it to antagonise them? Perhaps I show kindness by not voicing any of my concerns or feelings, especially if I cannot think of a single thing to say or do that will achieve any kind of productive change. I remove myself from the situation. Perhaps I think about my use of words more carefully and bring something to their attention they may not be aware of, in a way that is nothing but amicable and cordial. Maybe I should make an effort to find what is likeable about this person, get to know them more, figure out if we have common ground.

I’m not sure I’ve got this whole being kind to each other thing completely in hand as yet. I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t have to step outside your own viewpoint to “get it.” But I’m going to keep on working at it because at the end of the day if all they can write on my gravestone is “Here lies Simone, she was kind” then I’ve done okay as far as being a human being taking up air on this planet can do.

J is for Juxtaposition

Expansive farmlands, dark green, moss covered forests, vast mountain peaks, boulder strewn hills and far-reaching beaches. These are just some of the many varieties of terrains and environments that we’ve encountered in this country so far and we are already making a list of the things we want to do on our next trip!  At the moment we are in Kaikoura after spending the day on the ocean spending a good 15 minutes or so next to one of the world’s most impressive creatures – the Sperm Whale. These guys hold the world record for being the deepest divers and the longest breath holders (3.1km straight down and 2 hours and 40 minutes). Their physiology is quite awe-inspiring, their brain the biggest in the world, their echo location a phenomenal weapon and they are the largest toothed whale in the ocean. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been amongst the those who have seen these guys up close, reoxygenating on the surface before a flip of their tail fin and back down they dive to hunt for food in the large deep cavernous canyon that is formed by the edge of the contintental shelf here just off the coast of this country.

Here are some of my more recent phone panoramic shots:

PANO_20140115_211545Kaikoura Sunset from the road outside the motel

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Kaikoura Sunset

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The view from the Kaikoura Whale Watch Centre

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Whale View Point

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Whale View Point

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Hanmer Springs

PANO_20140114_111714On the way into Kaikoura

I is for Impressive

The last couple of days have seen us cover around a thousand kilometers and we’ve watched as the little Nissan Tiida we’ve rented has ticked over into the 100 thousand k mark on the odometer. We’ve travelled from Queenstown through to a Te Anau hotel as our base whilst we drove out to Milford and took a cruise on the Milford Monarch and explored the Milford Sound (which is a lie because it’s actually a Fjiord formed by glacier water and not a Sound which is formed by river water says the newly informed tourist that is me). The next day we left fairly early in the morning in order to make it into Dunedin for lunchtime as we had a 3.30 Peninsula Wildlife tour that took around 6 hours to do.  We spent some time looking around the town centre of Dunedin (not very big – the town’s population is around 120 thousand with about 25 thousand of those being University students and currently most of them are away on holidays right now) before being picked up by a small coaster bus with about 12 other passenger and taken on a tour to the Papanui beach and penguin conservation area which is on private land and only accessed by the Elm touring company. This tour was well worth the money and the physical effort to see some of the local wildlife up close and personal and witnessing their natural behaviour.

Today we are heading back to Christchurch after spending the morning doing the shortened Cadbury factory tour. The factory is closed on weekends so no chance of actually seeing production happening but we still got a fairly interesting and informative tour interspersed with chocolate tastings that certainly increased the interest factor somewhat.

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The most IMPRESSIVE element of the South Island to me has been just how much man has impacted on the land and yet it has still retained so much of it’s rugged wildness and spectacular scenery. New Zealand was at one point made up 80 percent forest. Now that amount is down to about 20 percent. The saddest consequence of all this clearance has to be the number of native species lost. Both Maori and Europeans have been responsible for the loss of animal and plant life however in light of this fairly depressing outcome the country still has an impressive array of plant, animal and bird species occupying it. Granted many of these have been introduced (not without it’s negative effects here either of course) but they have absolutely flourished and done very well over here in this climate.

Most New Zealanders we have come across so far are quite wryly grumpy about the weather currently as this is supposed to be their summer and whilst they don’t except the heat and endless sunshine Perth experiences they have certainly felt a bit hard done by in terms of the appearance of this year’s summer. It apparently turned up last Wednesday and lasted one day! It’s not uncommon to have a brief cold snap in the middle of their summer but this has apparently been one extra long wet, rainy, grey and cold summer.

As we’ve travelled through the South Island I’ve been wondering why more people have not chosen to move here and settle down. Also curious to me is what has brought New Zealanders over to Australia to live. I must ask our Kiwi neighbours when we get back, I bet it probably has to do with employment prospects. Really New Zealand is not that much further south from the rest of the world than Australia, it’s certainly greener, appears to be easier to support livestock farming, has a big tourism industry, costs about the same living wise, even when you take into account the higher fuel costs (around 2.20 per liter) but has a much greater variety of terrains, environments and outdoor activities to participate in. I’d love to be able to go skiing, snow boarding or sledding in winter, sled dog racing even.  It has all the mod cons of major urban centres, a more small world feel to the different cultures and nationalities, seems to have on the whole, a generally more sensible government than Australia (not hard at the current time I know but still….), seems much more chilled out than Australia (the road rage witnessed has been zero so far and even the most harassed New Zealander has seemed positively laconic), less rev head hooligans, rugby seems no more ridiculous than AFL to me (except possibly less fisticuffs) and their produce seems to be far more heavily supplied on a local basis. Now I don’t know what their education system is like (can’t be any worse than the Australian public system) or how their general wages and living conditions stand up to the Aussie way of life. Nor do I have a clue about real estate and property prices but I do know there is far better access to all the wild and spectacular areas compared to Australia whose sheer size alone makes getting away to those sorts of places logistically more difficult. Here on the South island pretty much everything is within a 4 hour drive, amazing forest walks, mountain hikes, canyon tours, breathtaking tramping tracks. You drive 4 hours from Perth in either direction and you have Albany (which is a pretty town don’t get me wrong but hardly a Queenstown) or you have Geraldton. A good beach town on the coast is about the extent of it. We also have a lot more fauna that is dangerous (no snakes in New Zealand or blue ringed octopus or poisonous spiders) and heat that forces people to retreat indoors during the height of summer. Plus the UV index over Australia is much higher – much higher rates of skin cancer. I know I’m probably being hypercritical of home right now, grass is always greener etc (except this time it is literally true) but is employment the only thing driving New Zealanders to emigrate to Australia? For those who like the outdoors (and many Aussies do) this country seems to have it all including an outdoors that seems to cover any type of environment you desire.

Of course we’ve yet to explore the North Island, but I have a feeling it’s not going to be any less impressive than the South Island has been. The next few days sees us driving through Arthur’s Pass to Greymouth then onto Hanmer Springs and following that up with a trip to Kaikoura for some whale watching. I’m looking forward to booking a little pampering in Hanmer Springs and seeing even more spectacular scenery on the way through.

Hope everyone back home is surviving the revolting heat wave right now – I heard it was supposed to be 43 degrees celcius in Perth today. That’s around 109 F for my Northern friends…here today was a sunny and cool 23 odd degrees Celcius today on the South Island, so nice to have the sun out for the day instead of intermittently through the day. I’m missing the puppies but my sister Nicole is doing a great job dogsitting for us and I hear they’re behaving themselves whilst being total lap hogs at the same time.

In other news I think I might take up birdwatching this year.

H is for Heart-Stopping

Today will be one of those days that will remain in my frontal lobe for the rest of my life, certainly a powerful emotional memory was formed when I jumped off a bridge 43 meters up at the original AJ Hackett Bungy at Kawarau Bridge. This place has been going over 25 years now and has a perfect safety record. That was reassuring. I decided to get in early and be the first one to jump on this Wednesday, Tim had already done this nearly 20 years earlier at this exact same place. This was definitely one of my bucket list items and I’m glad I did it. I was fine the whole time and when the guys asked me how I was feeling after I told them it was my first bungy I simply replied with “Cold” as really it was a bit chilly up there.

Then they keep asking you questions and whilst I knew damn well these were deliberate tactics totally manipulating my emotions my position was that I was perfectly fine with that. So I was all good right up until the guy told me to shuffle forward and put my toes over the edge. I felt this was unnecessary for I had watched previous jumpers and I knew you waved at cameras first, surely you don’t do this with your toes OVER THE EDGE? And so I naturally responded to his instruction to put my toes over the edge with “Are you quite sure?” And his response was “I’m pretty sure, I’ve done this a few times by now.” Quite a patronising little bastard really. LOL.  It was at this point I felt I had moved into terrified but they’re pretty sneaky up on the platform there. They don’t give you a moment to say “Uh…just a minute…I just…” it’s just wave at the cameras, 1…2…3….BUNGYYYYY!!!

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Here’s the video taken by Tim….complete with appropriately shocked noises from Japanese tourists:

 

G is for Guides

Guides who are proper Kiwi boys. Today was fairly busy. It was good night’s sleep (clearly still trying to redress the missing night of sleep) and up early to meet our guide outside the hotel for a pick up to take us on a half day hike. Our guide’s name was Carl and I would think he was in his early to mid 30s. Queenstown born and bred and very knowledgeable about the region and refreshingly candid.  We picked up one other traveller, a German girl (who we both would have sworn was American from her very American sounding accent) and then took the road to Glenorchy. This road is a very winding, narrow sealed road and we went along there for about an hour with a stop at Bennett’s Bluff overlooking at Glenorchy.


Samsung S3 photo of Bennett’s Bluff Look out.

We then drove a little further whilst Carl told us about working on the sets of the Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit – he was a driver and a general wrangler setting up crew equipment and tents. He was pretty familiar with the locations and what scenes were filmed and where. Our walk took place at the bottom of the mountain that was used as a location for Amon Hen which was where Boromir met his death, we walked along an old unused bridal trail only used by these guides. It was pretty steep getting down to the trail and also raining lightly so I admit I felt a little trepidation when I regarded my shoe choice:

Now Crocs are recommended for those suffering from Plantar Fasciitis, they let your toes splay out flat and unencumbered, they let your foot be in as close to natural position as possible, whilst still providing cushioning. I’ve found of late they are the most comfortable shoes to wear. So I wear them without socks and have done so pretty non stop since being on holidays. I brought my sneakers just in case. But my heel really starts to get painful after not very long in these unless I’ve gone through a raft of measures designed to lessen the pain. So Crocs are the go. But I can only imagine what the guide thought of them this morning. Everyone else in hiking boots or well treaded sneakers. The terrain was wet, slippery, uneven and constantly changing underfoot. My feet didn’t hurt at all the whole walk which lasted a couple of hours or more and what’s more I didn’t slip once. The Crocs gave me plenty of grip and because my feet worked hard at carefully stepping my plantar didn’t play up at all. I was pretty impressed with them and enjoyed the walk all the more for it.


Me, my trusty walking stick and some mountains – there’s lots of mountains over here.


Morning tea snack.


Just a guy in the woods.

Carl was pleased with our success given the weather, our views across the lake were pretty perfect and we even found and heard at least 4 of the top 10 iconic birds of New Zealand. The Bower bird, the fantail, the tui and the wood pigeon (affectionately referred to as flying kiwi chickens). Carl was also helpful at suggesting wet weather ideas for Queenstown.

After a brief dry off in our hotel room and a drink we rain geared up and headed out looking for some lunch. We decided to brave the lines at Ferg Burger and got our first taste of Queenstown’s most famous burger. It was delicious and well worth the wait.

1/2 pound of NZ beef, melted cheddar cheese, streaky bacon, tomato, lettuce, red onion bbq sauce and aioli. It was huge and I couldn’t get through it but it has covered me for three meals today so it was really quite the bargain!

After that we decided to do the trek up the steep hill to the gondolas which would take us another 450m nearly straight up to the Skyline. The Skyline is the access point to AJ Hackett Ledge Bungy, The Luge, the chairlift and the viewing deck. The views were fabulous.

We then made our way back down and back to the hotel. Tomorrow I have booked the Bungy jump plus a trip on the TSS Earnslaw, a paddlesteamer that will take us across the lake to Walter’s Peak Farm where we do a tour and see the sheepdogs at work. I hope the Bungy jump goes well…I’d really hate to miss that farm tour and paddleboat trip 😉