Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Icing on the Cake

Rainbow Cake

I should probably warn you in advance: I suspect this post is going to be a bit boring.  My aim has always been to create a blog that makes you feel like you’re sitting at my kitchen table having a chat.  Well, today I think it might be me droning on a bit and you might need to alternate between nodding politely and staring wistfully out my virtual kitchen window.

The thing is, I’ve given up sugar.

I’m not usually a candidate for the latest fad diet.  I like to eat food and most of the time, I’m happy enough with how Iook, bingo wings and all.  But I’m sick of feeling sick, and I think this might be the solution.

For at least a year now, it seems I couldn’t eat anything without blowing up like a balloon (stop casting knowing looks at my belly: I’m NOT PREGNANT) and yearning to snuggle down for a nice, long nanna-nap.  I thought I might have Coeliac disease, like my mum, but the test came up negative.  I gave up gluten anyway and it seemed to help, but the problem didn’t completely go away.

I’ve always had a bit of a mania for sweet things (remember this and this?) and sugary foods seemed to give me a reaction as well (though I was very reluctant to admit it).

It was my mum who worked it out.  “I was thinking,” she said to me one Monday afternoon, “you might have”, she lowered her voice, “thrush.”

The temperature of my face rose by several degrees. “Uh, nope, Mum, all fine in that department, thanks!”

“No, I mean, in your intestines.”

“Is that a thing?” I whispered.  I’m not sure why we were whispering in my kitchen, but it seemed right at the time.

It turns out it is a thing.  In the garden of my small intestine, the yeast plant used to live in harmony with all the other germ flowers.  But now it’s all overgrown and causing all manner of troubles.  Symptoms include bloating, tiredness, sugar mania, brain fog and … sorry … um … what were we saying?

One of the ways to control this monster is by cutting off its food supply.  This means no sugar (or grains or lactose).  A second is to dose up on natural yoghurt and probiotics.  And finally, I needed to attack the yeast with some anti-fungal pills from the chemist and natural remedies like garlic.

I got really keen on the whole diet idea.  I wrote a long shopping list and filled my trolley with nuts and salad and hommus and plain corn chips and salmon and steak.  Every time I cooked a meal for myself I felt compelled to photograph it.  Look:

Omelette

Mmmmm….

Pumpkin Soup and Salad

Ohhhhh…

healthy snack

Aahhhh…

Steak and salad

Yummm…

So you can see I had plenty of good food to eat and no need to go hungry.  Things were going pretty well on Day 1 of the diet.  I spent the whole morning feeling all virtuous and smug.  I am now Healthy Woman.  I will battle this gut thrush with everything I’ve got!  Natural yoghurt?  Yes please!

But then it was 3:30pm.  I wanted something sweet.  It was feeding time for the Yeast Beast and the Yeast Beast wasn’t happy.  I had the sugar shakes.  I started pacing around, fantasising about drinking maple syrup and eating sugar by the spoonful.  This wasn’t just a change in diet.  This was going cold turkey on a strong chemical addiction.  I went to bed early that night to escape the withdrawal symptoms.

The second day was not much better.  On the third day I thought I’d try a home remedy.  Garlic was supposed to be good at attacking yeast and raw garlic even better.  So I chopped up two whole cloves, stirred them in some natural yoghurt and tipped it on my salad for lunch.  It burned my mouth when I ate it, but I continued with grim determination: take that, gut thrush!

Garlic was my constant companion for the rest of that day.  I could taste it in my mouth, I could smell it, I could feel it coming out my pores.  It was so intense.  I was a walking garlic cloud.  All I could think about was garlic.  It was a nice change from fixating on sugar all the time.

I’m a week into it now and while I’m feeling a lot healthier and more energetic (and thirsty when I need to drink, and sleepy when I’m tired), it’s still a struggle.  I realise now just how much sugar I used to eat, from the hidden sugars in sauces and processed foods, to all the little bits of sweet food I would eat throughout the day, like an alcoholic taking nips from her hip flask.

Today is Halloween, and more than any other year I am cursing the American holiday that is growing in popularity over here.  Everywhere I go I see decorations of sweets and lollypops.  I’m scared I’m going to relapse and go demand lollies from my neighbours dressed as a half-crazed sugar junkie.  “Trick or treat, damn you! TRICKORTREEEEEAT!!”

I think I need to go munch some garlic…

Art in August – A Wrap Up

So, here’s something you should know about me.  I’m excellent at starting up new and exciting projects.  That’s definitely a strength of mine.  Finishing off all the projects I start?  Not so much.  I’m not the best at tying off ends.  So when we see that the final post for Art in August is coming at the end of October, we all just need to hold hands and take a deep breath and be glad that Kate is actually finishing something.

Rather than produce a new art work for the final post, I thought it might be nice to create a mosaic to represent the different contributors and their widely different styles.  I only chose one piece from each participant, which was difficult as there were many great works to choose from.

I also tried to set it up so that, by clicking on the picture, you would be taken to the participant’s blog, but it turns out I can’t do that when I have the pictures in a mosaic like this, so I’ve put the links underneath instead.

Top row: The Plucky Parent, The Hippy Geek, Mathair Fiona

Middle row: 可愛い国, Laptop on the Ironing Board, Red Lipstick Mama,

Bottom Row: the mmmmm family, Allison Road, Sourdough Lifestyle

Isn’t it amazing to see all this hidden talent?  This is what happens when we stop critiquing ourselves and just play.

I’d like to say a massive THANK YOU for everyone who joined in and everyone who encouraged me and the other artists.  It has been such an affirming exercise and I’ve loved making friends in Blogland.  I will definitely be doing this again next year.

In the meantime I have a germ of a new idea to work on: Finishing Things in February.  What do you think?

Jan’s Blog

emily and me

Around this time last year, I started toying with the idea of starting a blog.  I was enjoying writing to my family about all my ‘fail’ stories in our group email conversations that keep us close even when thousands of kilometres apart.  Every time I shared one of these anecdotes, my sister Jan would pester me:  “you should start a blog.  A blog.  Start a blog, Kate.  A blog.  Do it.”

When I did set up my blog, and published a few tentative posts, Jan was one of my loudest cheerleaders.  She would regularly comment, put links to choice posts on her facebook page and often say to people “have you read Kate’s blog?”.  If it wasn’t for this constant affirmation from Jan (and others, including my mum), I might have given up on blogging in the first month.

Now we come to the exciting part: after much nagging from me, Jan has started her own blog!  It’s called Emily of Old Moon, (she insists on calling herself ‘Emily’, the name her parents gave her when she was born, and not the fictional Brady Bunch name I assigned her in this blog.  I know: weird.)  and while it purports to be a travel blog (she’s in England at the moment), in reality it is much more.  Humour, philosophy, quirkiness, tenderness, photography, music, misadventure and fun combine in this warm and fresh bread roll – er – I mean, blog.

So please take a look and leave a comment.  I miss her and can’t give her a hug, but if I introduce her to some of my favourite people in blog land, then that is kind of the same, perhaps.

Soul Diet

So I’ve been thinking.

I’ve been having a lot of conversations with people lately about food.  It seems everyone is on a special diet to help them feel better.  So we go gluten free, low FODMAP, cut out milk, limit caffeine, cut out processed food, go organic free range, eat brown-not-white, and avoid flavour enhancer 621 (it makes me hyper).

I suppose it’s all about looking at what we put into our bodies and how it affects our wellbeing.  As far as conversations go, it can be a deathly boring subject, but it got me thinking – what kind of diet is my soul on?  What do I watch and read and do that is healthy for my soul?  What do I watch and read and do that is toxic?

pizza

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a Catholic.  One of the – I don’t know – “membership requirements”? – that we have is that we go to Mass once a week on a Sunday unless we’re really sick or something.  Please wait a minute whilst I shudder inwardly at the abysmal grammatical mess I just created.  I don’t even know where to begin fixing that sentence.  Please forgive me.

Maybe a new paragraph will help.  A lot of people I know take issue with this obligation and think my church is a cranky parent who likes to make rules and boss people around, as if the church itself is somehow separate from the people that form it.  These people say things like “it doesn’t really matter if you go to church or not, so long as you are a good person” (because it’s one or the other – take your pick) and “you don’t have to go every week – it’s too hard.  Just go when you can – God will understand” (because parties, sport and wandering around Bunnings should always take priority over your spiritual health).

The thing is, Sunday Mass is supposed to be the minimum I do to look after myself and my community spiritually, and if I commit to it regularly, it becomes a part of who I am.  It makes me think of something my friend did the other week.

I had some friends over at my house to watch the Grand Final / gossip and eat food whilst the Grand Final was playing.  My friend, whom I will call Lydia, turned up with bags and bags of fruit (and a cask of delicious vodka cranberry, which counts as a fruit), which she then proceeded to transform into healthy fruit platters.  As we munched strawberry and pineapple and felt very virtuous (and drank vodka cranberry and felt rather tipsy), we praised Lydia and her healthy generosity.   It was at this point that Lydia made a sheepish confession: she had eaten KFC for lunch and the fruit was part of a rueful attempt to get back on track.

I feed my soul a lot of junk food.  Every day I feel like I battle an onslaught of Buy-Now-Pay-Later, Post-Baby-Bikini-Body, Give-Your-Little-Precious-a-Head-Start-in-Advanced-Calculus, Kim Kardashian, First-World-Problem-Facebook-Rant, What-Does-Your-Loo-Say-About-You, Miley Cyrus, She-Bought-a-Jeep, Seven-Signs-of-Ageing, What’s-Hot-and-What’s-Not, Who-Wore-it-Best, Adultery-Dot-Com.

One hour a week feeding my soul fruit in the form of Sunday Mass doesn’t seem like a big ask.  I need to be challenged on the way I treat those around me.  I need to be reminded that what I buy really isn’t that important, it’s who I am that counts.  I need to love the Lord my God with all my heart and all my soul and all my strength and love my neighbour as I love myself and all that.  And it’s the minimum, it really is.  And sometimes I only do the minimum.  Far too often I turn up at Mass only to realise that the last time I spent in prayer was a week ago in Mass, whilst holding a wriggling baby and saying “Shush”.  I need more wholefoods in my spiritual diet.  And I need to cut down on the junk.

fruit

So what does this mean?  Here are some things I need to work on:

  • I’m cutting out the sort of radio where the announcers make a career out of being cruel and then cut to a song extolling the virtues of anonymous sex before half-an-hour of blaring ads.  Light FM might be a little daggy, but it’s got my vote.
  • I’m not ready to cut out TV completely, but I want to cut right back – especially the sort where I’m just staring at the screen for the sake of it, to ‘relax’.
  • If I were to spend as much time catching up with those friends who give me joy as I do fiddling about on social media, I would be a much happier person.
  • I need to stop reading the sort of magazines that teach me to hate my body and feel depressed and wrinkled and fat.
  • I need to spend more time with God in prayer.

I had a plan for that last point this morning.  I set the alarm for six o’clock and snuck downstairs for some quiet prayer time and maybe a sneaky bit of blog time as well before the rest of the family got up.  I started digging around in search of the nifty devotional I’d recently purchased when I heard the distinct clomp-clomp-clomp of a small person making his way down the stairs.  There stood Harry, tousle-haired and bleary-eyed, wearing only his night-nappy (he’d thrown a tantrum the night before and refused all pyjamas that didn’t have Batman on them.  His Batman pyjamas were in the washing machine.).

“I want a cuddle, Mum.”

I tried to patiently explain to Harry that it was “still night time” and that he could “go back to bed had have a bit more sleep”.  Harry shook his head.

“I just want a cuddle, Mum.” and settled himself on the couch.  I sighed and continued my search for the devotional.  Harry giggled, “I’m right here, Mummy!”. He thought I was looking for him.

And so I made my prayer whilst holding my three-year-old third child, feeling his small heart beat in his narrow chest and smelling his golden hair.  I gave thanks for him and his healthy, sturdy little body.  In a few short years, he won’t want to be held like this.  Last night I was short-tempered with him.  He kept climbing on me in a bid to win my attention.  I’d had enough of being a Mummy for the day and I just wanted five minutes with NOBODY TOUCHING ME.   So I prayed that God’s grace might enter my life, that His light might shine through all the cracks of my shortcomings and imperfections.  Most of all I prayed that I might remember to pray when I needed to most.  It was beautiful and profound, it really was.

Then Harry dirtied his nappy and woke his baby sister and poured cornflakes all over the floor.

But I picked up the broom with a serene smile (after changing two nappies and fixing two breakfasts).  I felt peaceful and recharged.

It’s amazing what a healthy diet can do for you.

PS: After I was halfway through writing this, I discovered The Simple Italians at Simple Living ABC’s had written an excellent post on this very topic.  You might think I copied their idea, but I didn’t, I promise.   And it’s definitely worth a read.

My New Best Favourite Place

Apple Blossom

Come and have afternoon tea with me at my new favourite place.

Orchard

A few weekends ago, Mr Knightley and I discovered Petty’s Orchard, a delightful piece of picturesque countryside in the middle of the suburbs (it’s tucked away in Templestowe).

Children playing on the grass

Harry and Matilda are having a game of footy.

tractor

And Christopher Robin is driving on the tractor (it was very hard for him to look away from the camera.  That boy loves to pose)

Coffee and Cake

But here’s the real reason I love this place so much!  This GF chocolate and walnut cake is amazing.  It was warm, too!

playground

And the children keep playing, blissfully unaware of what their parents are getting up to.

children drawing

After a little while, Annie and Christopher Robin come back to the table to draw a picture, but by that stage Mr Knightley and I have destroyed all evidence.

artwork

Here is their collaborative effort.  I promised Christopher Robin I’d include it.  As a matter of fact, we’ve got to the point that Christopher Robin is constantly making creations for me to photograph and put on my blog.  If he asks you, just tell him you’ve seen them all…

blossom trees

There’s a lovely organic shop here as well.  After a long time relaxing, Mr Knightley and I somehow managed to get out of our seats and took the kids on a walk in an attempt to somehow compensate for all that cake.  I’m not sure how many calories we worked off, but we did see a bunch of kangaroos, some rainbow lorikeets and rosellas (pretty birds with bright feathers), a few rabbits and some adorable ducklings.  Ah.  Fun for the whole family.

more blossom

After my last post, dear reader, there were so many of you that I wanted to have a virtual cup of tea with, that I thought we might as well have it somewhere really nice!  Thanks for your patience during this unusually silent time.  I hope now the kids are back at school I will get back into to routine of proper blogging.  Hope to chat soon!

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