Category Archives: London

Things we did during our time in London.

Has it been a week already?

When you’re young, a day feels like eternity but it seems the older you get, 1 week goes by in a blink of an eye.

Highlights of the week:

Ada’s Visit
A friend from Australia that I hadn’t seen for over a decade visited.  She was in London for less than 24 hours but still managed to squeeze me in for a catch up.

I chose a restaurant near where she was staying.  It was the German Gymnasium at Kings Cross.  They serve… German food.  Ha!

Anyway, it’s in a Grade II listed building and named German Gymnasium because the building was the first, purpose built Gymnasium in England with funding coming solely from London’s German community.

The building was built in 1865 so we ate dinner (I had a German afternoon tea) inside a 150 year old building.

Yin with Sharky
Yoga which has been my life for so long, was pretty non-existent because – January.

You have to book ALL your classes in otherwise they’re all full due to all those well-intentioned New Years Resolutions people who disappear by Feb.

I managed to book classes from mid Jan through to Feb and thought by February for sure, the classes would start being freer but it wasn’t to be.

So I have spent many days not going to yoga because the classes have been booked out and I hadn’t booked myself in, in time.

Can you imagine?  Attempting to book yourself in 2 days in advance is still not long enough.  FARK!

I did manage to get to one of Sharky’s first Yin classes and I loved it.  She did a different method to the other teachers and allowed time for “rebound” between each posture.

Rebound is a savasana in between every posture to allow whatever released in each posture, to move through and exit or integrate into, the body.

The result?  I ended up getting really teary and emotional.  I actually felt emotions releasing from my body and I was so grateful to be able to feel them so I could let them go.

It only lasted a few seconds though because as soon as Tony saw me looking teary, “WHY ARE YOU CRYING?” came out of his mouth and it was so abrupt and harsh, I immediately cut off all emotions and went back to thinking mode.

I got skillz like that.

Actually, he managed to say it just like my mother used to.  I know he said it out of concern but I heard it the way my mum said it which meant “Stop being a pussy, you have no reason to cry and if you don’t stop I’ll fucking give you a reason to cry.”  That’s the mild version. 😉

So I stopped.  IMMEDIATELY.  I’ll just have to find a way to cry at times he’s not around so I can release emotions in peace.

Paris & Rome
Another week in peace.  Both boys are really happy and binky every day.

Paris does the cutest binkies ’cause he’s so chunky like a bulldog and bottom heavy.  So he looks more like a jumping goat or ram when he binkies.

Rome has started to jump on my arm and shoulder.  Last night he sat on my shoulder and every so often would turn to lick my face – cheek, eyelid, eyebrows, temple, forehead.  Then he’d jump down and jump up onto my other shoulder and tug at my hair.

I know he’s just looking for a way over the fence and using me as a viewing platform but I like to think we’ve developed a good bond plus I’m loving all my bunny kisses!  He loves kissing my nose.

He’s still incredibly mischievous, spends a lot of his time in meerkat position, listening out for what Paris might be doing and he’s completely chewed up the skirting board instead of the chew mat we gave him because he thinks breaking the skirting board will help him escape the fence.

We keep him fenced because although the more loving of the two, he’s also the trouble maker.

He is so curious he gets himself into all sorts of trouble – biting things he shouldn’t, falling off things he shouldn’t have jumped on in the first place and starting fights by annoying the crap out of Paris by not letting him have space.

The other day he fell down the stairs 3 times in one day (that I saw)all because he kept standing on 2 feet on the edge of the step and then leaning backwards.  Don’t ask.

He’s been contained in the hallway with plenty of run space including the stairs and the bathroom but it doesn’t stop him from attempting to  break the fence and looking for FREEDOM!!!

I’m also having a battle of the bathroom with him.

After a week of watching Tony and I go toilet (he’s in the hallway so we have to pass him every single time and sometimes he follows us into the bathroom), he stopped pissing and pooing anywhere but the bathroom!

He just chose to go in the shower because he can’t reach the toilet.

Unfortunately, we have to keep clearing his poo and pee before we have a shower and he gets very frustrated with us because every time we clean it, we’re effectively saying he’s not allowed to pee and poo there, and therefore he has nowhere to go toilet.

So then of course he’ll poo and pee outside of the shower as well as in the shower, using the entire bathroom floor as his toilet which makes it difficult for us to go in there and use the toilet ourselves.

I put a litter in the bathroom for him and it’s taken a couple of days but I think he’s coming around to the idea that this is his new place to go toilet because there is much less poo anywhere but the litter.

Although the chew mat I bought is completely intact for Rome, Paris’ is almost completely torn apart and non-existent.

Paris actually only chews the things we give him to chew and he knows EXACTLY which is for him and which is not.

A perfect example is that he has a cardboard box he chews on, we give them cardboard boxes a lot.  Yet, I’ve left cardboard boxes full of my eBay stock out right next to his play area without any fences.

He can walk right up to them and start chewing on them, pissing on them, whatever he likes really and he leaves them untouched!

He has identified what is ok for him and what will get him into trouble and he really has behaved himself so we’ve removed the fence and he’s running “free range”.

He actually just stays in his area!!  He’s recently started to explore under the couch but he has steered clear of the hallway and gone nowhere near the only fence that keeps him apart from Rome.

So far so good.  Unsure how long this will last but we’ll see.

Paris has also started to approach us more and nudges us for treats which is much better than running away!

Still hates getting patted but he tolerates it a bit more before running away.  He also has no problems standing on our feet when he’s begging and asking us for treats.  We didn’t teach him, he just does it.

Overall we have 2 very happy bunnies and we’re finally starting to understand their personalities.

Because only their scent is on their stuff, they’re not marking territory as much as they used to.

That means there’s barely any poo outside of their litter and hutch and they’re not pissing outside of their designated litters at all.  I knew they were supposed to be easy to toilet train!!

All they needed was to be separated and feel safe about what is THEIR space.

Our house no longer smells as bad (either that or I’m used to it) and I’m back to normal amounts of laundry.

That makes 2 good weeks in a row with them out of 5.5 weeks together.  It was a hectic start but we’re getting there!! YES!!

Last thing… last night I attempted to feed them rocket (again, I think it was my 3rd attempt at feeding them rocket, probably the 15th time to attempt to feed them some sort of fresh veg) and THEY ATE IT!!!!  That was their first ever fresh vegetable they’ve eaten.

And to test trust, I held the rocket with my mouth and had them eat it from me.  BOTH of them did it which means they’re both cool with sharing food with me.

YES!  After many weeks of rejection, I finally got acceptance.

I can’t have asked for more.  Patience, persistence, trust and love. That’s what these boys are teaching me.

And restraint… I’m learning restraint.  Sometimes I wish I could just SQUEEZE them and smother them with kisses because they’re so damned CUTE but that’s probably why they don’t let me hold them!

Here is a picture of them when they used to get along:

Paris & Rome

 

 

This is them in rapport even when separated.

sleepy-paris
Sleepy baby Paris
Sleepy Rome
Sleepy baby Rome. Notice the completely intact chew mat next to him (on the right) and our chewed up door frame (on the left). That’s just paint on the door snake.

 

Seriously, Tony skyped me one pic while he was with Paris in the lounge and Rome was doing the exact same thing while with me in the hallway!  In rapport, even when apart – there is hope for them yet!

Great to be back home!

As I write this, it’s barely a week since I got back to London but the feeling is that it’s great to be back home.

Yes, home.

For so long I’ve called Sydney, Australia my home but the last few trips have confirmed my recognition and feeling that London is my home now.

And how could I not feel this way when the following happened upon my return:

Day 1
Tony and I had decided to sneak in one last movie on the plane (The Nice Guys) and it was never going to finish before we landed but we watched it anyway.  For some reason the plane got asked to circle and wait in queue for landing.  OK it wasn’t some reason, the clouds and the rain made it so.  So we landed later than planned and guess what happened?  WE FINISHED THE MOVIE. Exactly as soon as the credits were about to roll, is when the pilot turned off the online entertainment facility.  Couldn’t have asked for better timing and it just got better from there!

Our luggage got Premium Economy treatment, so was waiting for us and we didn’t even have to wait and pull it off the baggage carousel (if only we knew… ’cause we sat about looking for it on the carousel wondering where the hell it was, such plebs LOL).

I mentioned the rain right?  Well, when we were travelling home, the rain stopped and the sun came out.  We asked for an Uber to come pick us up from the train station and thought it was going to cost us £7-£10 to get home but it ended up only costing £5.  YUP.  £5 for us and 3 heavy suitcases, to ensure we weren’t lugging them all from the train station to the house.  Nice one.

We then decided we wanted to eat Vietnamese food, went to our local and God it tasted good and REALLY good prices too.  Tony and I ate starters, had a meal and soup each and a drink and it cost £25 incl tip for the both of us.

Day 2
We chilled out and went to the grocery store to get some food and I found out that the cost of cucumbers had gone DOWN.  I thought they were rocking cheap at 40p per cucumber but it’s now 37p.  Yes folks this is important to me because 2 years ago I paid $4 for the same friggin’ sized cucumber at a fruit shop my dad used to shop at when I was 7 years old in Sydney Australia.  That’s the equivalent of £3.00 for something I pay £0.40 for normally.  How dare they!!  I never went back to that shop but I reckon they’d be charging $5 these days.  The cheek!

The problem is I know that this isn’t the only shop that charges like that in Oz.  It’s a shame.  A real shame.   I bought a hand of bananas plus a bag of lemons for over $8 in Oz in a cheap and grotty fruit shop. It only costs me £2.00 for the equivalent here in London from a much cleaner supermarket.

So we bought a whole lot of groceries I know would have cost a minimum $30-$40 in Australia and we paid £8 for it.   It included a goats cheese, tomato and basil mini pizza, maple pecan plait and vanilla custard pastry.

Brought a giant umbrella with us, only to not need it because again the rain stopped.  We did manage however, to see our 3rd Double Rainbow across the sky…. in a week (2 in Vegas, this 1 in London)!!

We love you too Universe / God 🙂
We’ve been so spoiled, I don’t even know if I can look up at a cloudy sky anymore without expecting a rainbow!!

Thank You Thank You Thank You for affordable food and colourful skies.

Day 3
My first yoga class in AGES and it was Vinyasa.  YES!!  Do you know how much I’ve been wanting different types of yoga at my studio?  AND GUESS WHAT?  It’s all in the timetable now!  It was all Bikram before I left and now…. there’s Vinyasa, Bikram, Yin and all sorts.  SO HAPPY.  SO SO SO HAPPY and GRATEFUL.

And… I know I haven’t mentioned Rome but… we went to Rome and found THE BEST sandwich in the world.  PORCHETTA.  We’d never seen it in our 40 years of life.  Never tasted it either but we got to have some in Rome and OMG it was delicious.

You wouldn’t believe what new stall just opened up in the weekend markets at the bottom of our street….
No joke…. a PORCHETTA stall…. with an Italian guy in there serving up the sandwiches and the only people at the stall eating and chatting to them were Italian.  C’mon… If Italians are going there to get their Porchetta fix, then it’s gotta be good and IT WAS!!

Pretty much close to the real thing except they put about half as much pork in the sandwich and use a different bread.  We did think it was a bit pricey at £5 for a sandwich BUT it’s cheaper than the cost of flying to Rome, getting accommodation and buying a sandwich for EUR3.00!!

Day 4
I get an invitation from a friend to be part of Live at the Apollo filming for the BBC.  We get to be part of the audience for stand up comedy and yes, it’s free.

OH YEAH!!!

Tony gave me some colouring stencils and I took 3 days to colour in and complete an elephant.

Within an hour of me finishing it, he took one of the pictures in a frame, off the wall and replaced it with my elephant!!!!!!!!!  Yes, he didn’t know but it was a big deal to me having never had anything I’ve made or done framed or hung up on a wall.  It’s still up there now and I’m loving it!

Day 5
Tony gets an invitation to be a mystery diner at one of our favourite restaurants and gets to bring a date.  OH YEAH OH YEAH!!!

We can’t mention which… because we’re going to by mystery diners there but OH YEAH OH YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What’s a Mystery Diner you ask?  It’s when you go pretend to be a regular customer but then you have to review the restaurant and for doing so, you get reimbursed for your meal… and they’ve given us a nice budget for 2 people… YEAH BABY!!

Day 6
We go to the Apollo, Tony is late however they only hand out seats to people who are present, on a first come, first served basis.  So we can’t get a ticket for him.  Our tickets are in the Circle (upstairs).

We go to eat, my friend treats us to dinner…. he’s never done this before… SO SWEET!!!

Tony arrives… we don’t know if there’ll be any tickets left.  He psyches himself to wait for us while he goes to eat dinner by himself.  We attempt to get more tickets…. we have to swap our 3 tickets to get 4, expecting that we won’t get any and if we get tickets at all, they’ll be really crap ones.

We get upgraded to Stalls.  I don’t even know if the seats were better or not but the guy handing us the seats said “That’s never happened before where you get upgraded for being late!” and he was properly enthusiastic, which never happens with English people… I was waiting for sarcasm to come through but nope… he was actually congratulating us… so we were happy! LOL

Comedy night was as expected – lots of laughing and lots of fun and that brings us to today.

Life has been LEGENDARY since coming home.

First week back has been SUPER AWESOME.  It really is great to be home.  Thank you for a beautiful life London 🙂

PS – for all the pessimists and realists out there who think I might just have rose tinted glasses on, yes… there has been some crap too like I’ve had a runny nose for the last week, it’s been freezing cold and I’ve had not so great customers to deal with on eBay and a tonne of laundry, cleaning and jetlag.  You know… just keepin’ it real.  Still… it’s worth it and the positive experiences have far outweighed the negative.  The best part is… no stress, much more fun.  I am very grateful to be home.
PPS – in amongst all of that, we’ve started on the tiny repairs around the house too.  I don’t know what happened this year but as soon as it started, things started breaking in the house, each week.  I’ve now fixed the wire for my laptop charger and Tones has redone the sealant between kitchen benchtop and cupboards.  I’m now going to fix the broken bathroom heating panel.  These are things that have broken throughout the year that we just “haven’t gotten around to fixing” but it’s all getting done now, easily and effortlessly.  Gotta be grateful for that!

EU Referendum – I Voted

Today was the first time I’ve ever voted in the UK ever!  Even though Aussies are allowed to vote after being here for 3 months and I’ve been here for 10 years, voting has not been compulsory and as a result, I have been exercising my right not to vote.  It’s quite nice.  I like it.  For someone who doesn’t follow politics, it’s nice not to be forced into making a choice on something I don’t know anything nor have an opinion about.

To me, compulsory voting has been just like forcing a non-vegan or non-health oriented person to choose between raw nuts (with various choices of nut), nut butter (with various choices of nut) or non-dairy nut milk or non-dairy-non-nut milk  (various choices of nut, hemp, soy, rice, coconut) along with choosing either hemp, pea, whey or rice protein and picking which algae (various choices) or grass (various choices) to incorporate to make a smoothie, without of course any guidance on choice other than a whole bunch of ads (if you managed to see any) on TV.

To be honest, even that is easier than politics, all those choices are static and don’t lie or change their minds or composition.  None of it has been flooding you with propaganda telling you why the other choices suck and why it’s so damned scary if you choose the others.  However, with this example no matter what you choose, the end result is going to be good for you (unless you’ve got a nut allergy and you chose a nut)!  Can’t really say the same for choice of politicians!  You choose a nut and you still might get crackers! 😉

In Australia you HAVE TO vote, whether you know or are interested in what’s going on or not.  As per above example, why the hell should you be forced to choose, when you don’t even know where to start?!  But, that’s the way it is in Oz.  There are a lot of things I think are better in Oz, this isn’t one of them.  To be fair, the population is so small and the culture, so laid back that chances are, if it wasn’t compulsory, everybody would be at the beach and only 2 people would turn up to vote.  It’d be a draw and they’d have to flip a coin before having a stubbie at a mate’s backyard barbie.

Coincidentally, they’ve got an election happening this July in NSW and I need to cast my vote for that too and send it over.  But unlike my choice to vote today, if I don’t do this one, I get fined!  You should see the size of this form though!  It’s approx. 5 x A4 size, 41 boxes across and up to 12 boxes deep and to add to that, you have to number the boxes in order of preference!!!  OK, not ALL the boxes, just up to 12.

Still, it’s enough to confuse a simple minded person like me who only wants a choice of 3… max.  Think I’ll just go for the top line where I just choose 6 out of 41 which is like saying “I’ll just go for the chicken.” at the restaurant.  Now I just have to choose between chicken dishes.

This ballot sheet is like looking at a restaurant menu hungry and not craving for anything, with 1000 mains to choose from. You get so confused and when you go back to find the thing you thought you might like, you can’t find it in the sea of choices, so you read through it all again and find something else.  Next thing you know, you’ve found 4 or 5 amongst the sea and now you have to remember the choice, the page, the position on the page of the items you like and then you sit there playing a game of memory and elimination while you decide which of ALL those choices, is the one you’re going to go for.  I bet the polling booths are too small for the size of the damned sheet of paper!  And at a restaurant, you don’t have to put your dish choice in order of preference!  Half an hour of deliberation and reading through that novel of a menu, you finally just pick something, anything.  ‘Cause all you want is to get your food and get out of there.

I quite prefer having the choice of not having to go through that rigmarole unless I want to.  This way, I CAN make my vote count when something is actually important to me.  If I care enough about something, I’ll know about it and have an opinion on it, I’ll make the effort to turn up and then the menu won’t look so overwhelming.  It’s easy to pick what you want from a menu when you already know what you want!

Today, the UK voted on the EU Referendum and that was important enough for me to trudge through the rain to my nearest polling station to have my say!  I lost my polling card (which you don’t need), OK I threw it away but it was easy peasy finding where my nearest polling station was.  I found the address and walked there looking for the crowds of people to identify where it was only to find nobody around.  It was completely empty.  EMPTY!!!  There was seriously only me and one other person there to vote but then I understood why.  It took about 2 seconds for them to tell me which desk to go to, 3 seconds for them to find my name on the list and 1 second to give me the form, maybe 2 more seconds to explain what I had to do (fill in the form, fold in half and pop in this box) and THEN… get this… the form was the size of an A5 sheet of paper, with no more than 15 words in size 40 font and 2 boxes.

The first time I ever had to vote in the UK and they made it so simple a 1 year old could do it.  Do you want this?  Yes or no?
It was the best voting experience I’ve ever had!  My dream come true!  It seriously took no longer than 2 mins to go in there, vote and come back out.  AMAZING!!!!  I wish all voting was that simple!

So what did I vote?  RemaIN.
I did so because my quality of life in the UK and my understanding of life has been something to be very grateful for and enhanced and I know it’s that way because of our inclusion in the EU.  I don’t know what it was like before the EU, my whole experience of the UK has been while it has been part of the EU and I don’t have much to complain about (other than the NHS).  I cannot speak for what it was like before, nobody knows what it will be like in the future but if you don’t consider something that broken, why would you want to fix or change it?

I then thought about the youth of today who are too young to vote but want to stay in the EU (over 70% of them have voiced their want to remain) and felt a responsibility for my choice to include them.  There’s nothing worse than 1 generation creating a mess requiring the next 5 generations to fix.  Ahem.. global warming and cancer!!  I’m not saying that leaving the EU would have such devastating consequences but rather, why not consider the lives and opinions of those who come after you, when making decisions that will impact them?

And, what about those who have no say because they aren’t allowed to vote and yet whose lives will be impacted by this decision?  All the EU citizens living in the UK also rely on us to consider their opinions, and their futures and their choice is to remain (I’ve seen so many Vote to Remain posters on all the Italian, Portuguese and French restaurants in our area!).

There were other things I considered like the EU’s restrictions on GMO food which I think is awesome (although some might still have been imported to the EU, our exposure to GMO food is much less than it is in the USA and other places because of EU regulations).  I considered their rules on factory farming and regulations for animal welfare (although at the moment I still think regulation size animal housing for “free range” is still small, at least it allows the animals fresh air, sunlight and greater room to spread their wings unlike other countries).  I love the rules on transparent food labelling and although it seemed a bit “lazy” to me the workaholic, their rules on human wellbeing through a work-life balance (not being legally required to work more than 48 hours incl overtime a week) has grown on me a lot!

Their attitude towards equal rights for all minority groups, their proactive attitude towards environmental issues and their willingness to maintain peace are all plusses and of course it’s easier to trade with them if you’re one of them.  I like laws and regulations that look after the wellbeing and health of the people, animals and environment so why would I want to separate from that?  Yes, as with many things, there is always room for improvement but it’s easier to do it cooperatively than separately.

Lastly, their open boarders policy doesn’t just allow citizens of the EU to move around freely without the need for a tonne of visa applications.  It encourages diversity, understanding and acceptance of differences.  Diversity here in Europe is different to how I’ve experienced it elsewhere.  There is no assimilation required.  You are (wherever country you are from, whatever nationality you identify with), you are allowed to be that which you are, you can continue to be while living elsewhere, you speak your own language (and 5 others so you can communicate with everyone you meet) and you are all European.  Europeans share their individual country’s culture, food, fashion and uniqueness without ever giving it up while sharing a greater identity of being European.  Each country is so different and yet they have worked out a way to be friends.  I like it and I like being able to be a part of that whole and I want to have had my say that I want that to continue  happening, including Great Britain!

I know I looked at it more from a wellbeing for all point of view but hubby looked at it through his commercial point of view for some balance and he also came to the same conclusion – to remain.  He’s not in the country to vote (nor is he registered for postal voting due to last minute trip away).  Therefore, my vote was only one to represent many.  I really hope it counts today.

Chinese New Year 2016

Happy CNY everyone!  That’d be the first thing to update you with this week.

It’s been a while since my last update because we spent some time in NYC and on coming back had a lot of things to catch up on.  It was a last minute and unexpected trip.  If you asked me a week before, there’s no way I would have been able to tell you that I was going to be in New York but hey, I’ll take it.  Life is good – about bloody time if you ask me!

As for Chinese New Year, we did our traditional thing again this year.  Tony and I are starting our own traditions and this is the 3rd year in a row that we have cooked the same meal for CNY.

It wasn’t exactly the same, we tweak it every year and this year we were very nonchalant about the whole thing to the point where we didn’t start shopping for it until CNY eve.

Yup.  Chinatown was full, Tony was really annoyed and flustered, you couldn’t get through the aisles of any of the Chinese supermarkets and the stress of being bumped every 100th of a second by a person or their basket, pretty much had me feeling like I was about to develop some kind of agoraphobia.  There were a few moments I just wanted to scream but I concentrated on my breathing and managed to keep my cool.

Tony was just grumpy all the way.  He hates it when things are last minute or unplanned, I mean REALLY hates it, add his huffing and puffing to the aggravation of dealing with crowds in tiny confined spaces and having a hard time finding what you want because they’ve sold out of it and I know I was doing pretty well coping with it all!

We were running around looking for all our ingredients and finding that certain shops were just plain sold out of them, one shop had something but didn’t have another.  That meant multiple queues, lost of pushing and shoving but finally we managed to get everything we needed and when we got home with everything, Tony was back to normal again and I could relax.  Thank God for that!

Amazingly, once we had everything, the cooking was smooth, simple and fast.  I was in charge of cooking the chicken – broth, rice, sauce, noodle soup.  Tones was in charge of the fish and 2 different vegetarian dishes.  His stuff was harder – more things to prep and cut whereas all I had to do was boil a chicken but it left me time to go back out to the shops to get some final top up ingredients for his dishes plus a few bags of chips for us to eat while we cooked.

He found better recipes for the vegetarian dishes than the ones we’d been using in the past and so we tried them this year.

Overall, everything actually tasted nice and the best part was that they were distinctly different to each other.

The only disappointment was the chicken.  The chicken we found this year was frozen because all the fresh whole chickens were sold out.  It didn’t come out so good because it was disintegrating after only 40 mins of simmering in water so by the time we went to plate it, it was looking pretty manky.  At least the taste was still there – it was yummy!

New this year was the use of mung bean noodles (who knew they even existed!) and fermented bean curd.  I think I’m also finally getting used to the taste of dried oysters.  I tell you, 8 years with Tony and he’s still introducing me to new Chinese foods.  I don’t think I’ll be able to try them all in my lifetime!

Here’s the meal…Joy and Tony's CNY Dinner 2016

And individually, plus the bowls of long soup and chicken rice which are not pictured:

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Why these dishes?  Because each dish is a symbol of something that you would like in your life for the upcoming year.  The ingredients’ names, shape or colour represent various things such as health, wealth and happiness.

Here’s an example.  “Prosperity” in Cantonese is  pronounced “fat choy”.  Black hair moss is called “fat choy”.  So if you want prosperity, you eat black hair moss.

It all seems very superstitious but I have to say, each year we’ve done this, life has actually started to become better.  It could be coincidence but if it works, I’m going to keep doing it.

Believe me, it’s worked well enough that if there were a dish to represent lots of fun and holidays, I would’ve made sure that was part of our meal too!

Anyway, whatever you wish for this year, may it come to you just as easily and effortlessly as it was to cook this meal and should you come across obstacles similar to the crowded supermarkets that don’t have everything you want in stock, may you have the calmness and perseverance to get it ALL.  And, even if things don’t look quite right (like the chicken), may you find that it’s actually still just as delicious.  And lastly, may you continue to explore life, enjoying the familiar and always be discovering something new.

Happy Year of the Monkey 🙂

Happy New Year 2016!

Happy New Year everyone 🙂  How has your first week of the year been?

I feel like I’ve been on the back foot since it started.  I had a to do list that was overflowing and even more things to add to it that by the time we were supposed to go out to celebrate and bring in the New Year, I actually had fallen asleep by 6pm out of exhaustion in trying to get it all done beforehand!

I failed and I’ve spent my first week of the year catching up!!

So, this post is late… Happy New Year! YAY!!  Better late than never I suppose?

And to catch up on things I was supposed to do and didn’t get around to doing until now…. here is our Christmas meal which we ended up cooking over the duration of a week instead of on Christmas day.

Really grateful that we didn’t actually cook it all on the same day!!  It was much better enjoyed and eaten fresh and there was no way we could have eaten it all on the same day, Christmas or not!!

Here it all is…

Crayfish Thermidor on salad
Crayfish Thermidor on salad

 

Confit Duck Leg with Honey Glazed Carrots and Chestnut Brussel Sprouts
Confit Duck Leg with Honey Glazed Carrots and Chestnut Brussel Sprouts

 

Vegan Eggnog
Vegan Eggnog

 

Lobster Thermidor with vegetable stuffing on salad
Lobster Thermidor with vegetable stuffing on salad

 

We also of course had all the leftovers of the Vegducken and chocolate strawberry tart to  enjoy as well.

So the intention actually was to go pescatarian this year instead of going all out with goose and trimmings as we have done in many previous years.

We had all this squid, fish, prawns and scallops ready to be salt and peppered and enjoyed at Christmas but as you can see above, we didn’t end up having them at all!  And we opted to leave those for the new year and eat the duck leg that was in the freezer instead.

That was, after all, the last of all the meat we had in the freezer and this was so we actually welcomed the New Year with no more dead land or air animals left in the fridge or freezer – the first time in years that this has happened!!

You see, when we were at the Dharma workshop in early Dec, Dharma actually said that people’s fridges and freezers were graveyards and so were our stomachs if we chose to eat meat.  That kind of grossed both me and Tony out and we actually didn’t feel good eating meat after that which is why we changed the Christmas menu this year.  Ahhh so easily influenced!! hahaha

Seriously though, we felt better for it.  There was none of that food coma, haziness, dullness (except after the cake…. sugar high and sugar low) and our consciences felt good too 🙂  So it turned out to be a pretty good Christmas!  We enjoyed our meals, we were full and we felt good after it!

Not much to say about New Year’s… I fell asleep at 6pm remember?  I did wake up at 10pm so was up to see the fireworks that the neighbours set off in the common which was nice.  Saw it through the window, all nice and warm inside.  That was it really.

Now just working through that to-do list and making it more manageable.

Merry Christmas 2015

And it’s here.  Can’t believe it.  Christmas 2015 is here.  This is the first Christmas where it hasn’t actually felt like Christmas.

We’re used to it being really hot like you get to go to the beach or…. really cold like it’s so cold you’re happy that the oven is on all day cooking the goose or turkey and roast potatoes full of fat.

Not this year.  Christmas is here and it feels like autumn or spring.  It’s too warm to be cold, it’s too cold to be hot.  Going to the Christmas markets felt like visiting Germany at the Epcot Centre.  It kinda looks like Germany but not really and it doesn’t feel like it AT ALL.

Regardless of how it feels this year, the date is 25th December 2015 which is, officially Christmas 2015 so, MERRY CHRISTMAS to one and all!!!

Merry Christmas Card 2015 TJ

This year we decided to change it up.  Rather than going for our regular goose, ham and 3 veg cooked in fat Christmas meal, which we usually eat on Christmas Eve, we opted instead for a Vegducken.

Check it.

Our First Attempt at Vegducken Christmas 2015
Our First Attempt at Vegducken Christmas 2015

Basically it’s vegetable stuffed inside a vegetable stuffed inside a vegetable 🙂  courtesy of the turducken (chicken inside a duck inside a turkey) idea, we got the recipe from epicurious.

YUP we went vegetarian!  It’s shallots stuffed in a courgette stuffed in an aubergine stuffed in a butternut squash, layered with vegetable stuffing in between.  Not quite vegan because of the use of parmesan cheese, egg and butter but very filling.  Tony and I only ate one slice each!!

It was quite the effort but well worth it.  It took us over an hour to prepare and 2 hours to cook in the oven.

We also made roast potatoes on the side and this took us an hour to prepare and 2 hours in the oven as well (over cooked at 2 hours oops).  This was supposed to be vegetarian except that all my research said that doing potatoes like this really needed bacon.  So I added a sprinkling of bacon lardons on there… and well, we realised on eating it that the bacon was totally unnecessary.  We definitely will make this again but will do it without the bacon next time.

Our Christmas Roasted Potatoes
Our Christmas Roasted Potatoes

Just these two dishes alone took enough time for us not to bother with everything else we were going to cook.  We decided to leave the rest to make for Christmas Day.

We did however make a vegan eggnog which seriously is better than regular eggnog.  It’s so creamy and fatty without the dairy or the egg!  Unfortunately, we guzzled it all down before taking a decent picture so I will post a picture of it up with the Christmas Day meal pictures instead.  Tony liked it so much that I think he may just make it regularly throughout the year, just ’cause.  If you ever notice us getting fat, it’s because we’re drinking too much vegan eggnog.

We indulged a little by making a strawberry chocolate tart.  Don’t worry, no baking was involved.  I tried to add extra cream on the top to reduce the sweetness (which is why the colour is the way it is rather than the chocolatey brown which is the layer underneath that cream on the top) but it was still way too sweet for my liking and of course, ended up a little runny because the chocolate to cream ratio was off.  Nevermind.  It still tasted good.  Chocolate and strawberries always taste good and strawberries and cream also taste good.

Christmas Dessert - Strawberry Chocolate Tart
Christmas Dessert – Strawberry Chocolate Tart

It seems like we’re onto some winners for a truly vegetarian and perhaps even vegan Christmas meal next year!

Whatever it is you’re eating and drinking, we hope you are enjoying your Christmas and that you’re getting to spend some time with your loved ones ❤

Charles Darwin is my new Motivational Coach

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to “school” and had to do “homework” or so I thought.  On the Saturday that just passed, Mary Jarvis redefined for us what it was to be at a yoga studio.  She said that it was not a studio but a Yoga School.   We attend classes, there are teachers and we learn every day.  Our teachers are our teachers for life.  We’re constantly learning.  And like it or not, we have homework!

I’ve already mentioned previously that we had homework (6 camels a day) given to us by Mary over a year ago and I started doing it for maybe 2 weeks but then I stopped.  Why?  Because I hate back bends and as with anything I don’t like, I just procrastinate and find so many other things to occupy my time with instead and I basically tell myself that I don’t have the time to do it.

Self motivation isn’t the problem.  I get stuff done all the time.  It was simply pain avoidance.  Not being able to understand that the pain I felt doing a back bend was good for me, is what stopped me.

So, here I am over a year later, no more pain free (when it comes to back bends) than I was back then but something triggered my motivation over the weekend.  We went to Down House, home of Charles Darwin.

Down House, the home of Charles Darwin.
Down House, the home of Charles Darwin.

We learned a lot by visiting his home.  We learned about his study of nature, what he did during his life, how he spent his days, his relationship with his wife and children, what interested him and sparked his curiosity, all the experiments he conducted.  We even walked the path he walked (he would walk on his “thinking path” 3 times a day every day for his exercise)!!

The view as you stroll along Darwin's Thinking Path.
The view as you stroll along Darwin’s Thinking Path.

As a child I was ALWAYS fascinated with biology.  It was my favourite subject.  I loved learning about how plants reproduced and dissecting plants (and rats, although smelly) was interesting to me.  I loved seeing how pregnant rats had a little pocket for each baby like peas in a pod (there was a dissected pregnant rat preserved in a jar in the lab) or how you could bust a hole in its trachea, stick a straw in and blow air into its lungs and watch the lungs expand and contract.

I even managed to germinate my own seeds in the fridge (I was trying to grow Bonsai), catch tadpoles and feed them, watch their tail reduce and their legs grow longer and witness them transform into frogs.  None of this was actually school related, I just did it at home by myself.

I always thought that slugs were just snails without shells so I would try to crack the snails’ shells with a twig and see if I could watch them stretch out into slugs (they didn’t, instead they moved a LOT faster when you started cracking their shells and they never contracted back into their shells which one would expect them to do, they’d just try to make a mad dash, as mad a dash a snail could do).  I used to also collect empty snail shells that I’d find in the garden and offer them to slugs.  I’d give them different sizes to see how they picked which shell they’d use and then I’d wonder why they would never take any.  I resorted to trying to balance the snail shell on the slug which resulted in a similar mad dash reaction by the slug.  All of this of course, was before I grew up and learned that they were 2 completely different animals!  Yes, all sorts of silly things like pushing soil or pouring water into the hole of an ant hill and watching as they all rushed around fixing the entrance, this is how I spent my days.

When I was maybe 3 years old, I’d watch my grandma peel a mandarin.  I’d see all the “white bits” that connected it to the skin, see how the mandarin had sections.  She’d take one section and give it to me to eat but instead I would look at the section and watch how those “white bits” formed patterns on the segment.  I’d peel off all the white bits until the segment was pristine and then notice that the segment was surrounded by it’s own “skin”.  I’d peel the skin and look inside to see a million little segments that looked like encased droplets of juice and how they too had their own membranes holding them together.  I’d pick at each tiny little droplet inside the segment and try to open them unsuccessfully, wondering if there were segments inside them and how many and how small those segments would get.

So you get a visual of what I'm talking about. Here is a peeled mandarin segment.
So you get a visual of what I’m talking about. Here is a peeled mandarin segment.

I’d pick one tiny droplet and eat it and I would do this one at a time reveling in the tiny burst of flavour that came out of each.  My grandma used to laugh at me.  “Look!” She’d say, “In the time it took you to eat that dot, I’ve already eaten the whole mandarin!  You’ve taken so long, I don’t have any more to share with you!”  I didn’t mind, she only had 8 segments, I had a million of them!  Every time she had a mandarin, she’d only ever give me one segment because I would be inspecting it, dissecting it and eating it for hours!

Going to Darwin’s home was inspiring and got me to remember those strange fascinations and the wonder I had about everything as a child.  I realised that for someone who lived such a simple life, even putting himself down as a “farmer” in one census, Darwin was absolutely extraordinary.

He was focused, dedicated, patient (all the things we learn in yoga) and most importantly, did things that he didn’t like (eg. boiling pigeons so he could inspect their skeletal structures) in order to continue his research to formulate and solidify his theories.  He classified and collected barnacles for 8 years.  Some of his experiments went on for 30 years!

In this day and age, how many of us do anything for more than 30 seconds let alone 30 years?  And, with immediate gratification always at our doorsteps, it is rare that we’d go through any kind of pain to get a result.

He was also very sick, suffering from boils on his skin, headaches, nausea, trembling etc and yet he managed to accomplish so much.  He worked from home and got to spend a lot of quality time with his family.  All of his work was done in his home study or in his garden.

The most important thing is, he never stopped being curious.  In his last days, he was studying earthworms!  He played music to them to see if they could hear and he cut leaves into different shapes to see if they could discern between them!  Sounds like the sorts of things I would do!!

This made me think.  If he had 10 happy children (unfortunately 3 of them died of illness before adulthood), a happy wife all of whom he spent a lot of time with, an experimental garden, a worm experiment, barnacles,  pigeons, bees, climbing plants that he was recording the movements of every half an hour, illness and still be able to formulate and solidify a theory of evolution that would pretty much rock the belief systems of everyone he knew including his own wife’s and change how biology is studied for the rest of time, how could I possibly moan about not having time to do 6 camels?

Where was my patience?  Dedication?  Focus?  Commitment?
Where was my curiosity?

Mary Jarvis says that “Back bends are the healer of the spine.”  I have scoliosis so… if it disappears after doing years of back bends then, I will have proof for myself of whether or not it’s true.   Except there’s only one way for me to find out, it takes years and it takes me doing back bends for all those years!  Don’t I want to know?  Am I not a biological specimen that I can study?  Isn’t this just another experiment?

This year, it isn’t just 6 camels for homework anymore.  There is ballet bar work, handstands, lunges and so much more that it makes me wonder why I even thought 6 camels was worth complaining about!

 

I reckon if Darwin was around these days, we’d be mates.  I’d be telling him all my funny animal stories and studying plants with him too.  Just like him I was completely fascinated with insectivorous plants and used to have a Venus Fly Trap which I’d catch flies for and put in there to see if it would eat it.  I’d get all different sized insects and see what it liked.  I’d notice that it didn’t like dead things so I’d use my hair to “tickle” them to close.  It was quite funny to hear the extent that Darwin went to, to find out how light the trigger had to be for them to close (using his wife’s hair).  Oh we’d have so much fun!  Darwin and David Attenborough would be a tonne of fun, they’d definitely hang out with me staring at (observing) snails and plants!

Insectivorous Plants in Darwin's Greenhouse.
Insectivorous Plants in Darwin’s Greenhouse.
Insectivorous plants in Darwin's Greenhouse
Insectivorous plants in Darwin’s Greenhouse

 

And then I’d get them to do yoga with Mary!  They would love it, especially since yoga is a technology to help the human body function at its best and a life long experiment.

I love this tree
I love this tree
Eating organic apples that grew in Darwin's garden.
Eating organic apples that grew in Darwin’s garden.
Contemplating life, looking out into Charles & Emma's garden.
Contemplating life, looking out into Charles & Emma’s garden.

On the Monday I actually thought about Darwin and had no more excuses not to accomplish everything on my list of things to do while adding on my yoga homework.  Afterall, I’m not an invalid and I don’t have 10 children!

So, I did one handstand (all against a wall), came down and swept the floor.  Got into another handstand, got down and vacuumed.  Got into one more handstand, got down and scrubbed stains off the floor, then got into another handstand, came down and loaded the washing machine.  I kept going up and down until I had finished my chores and finished all the required sets of handstands that I needed to do.  No more excuses , no more complaining and I even managed the 6 camels 🙂

I think he would have laughed at and commended my approach as much as he’d be proud of my kefir experiment I’ve got going at the moment.  I’ve made kefir and recorded it all on a spreadsheet ie what sugar I used and how much it yielded so I can figure out the best sugar combination for optimum yield.  I’ve been recording it every day since March so I’ve got 6 months of data so far.  I did this of my own accord, my own little biological experiment already going for 6 months!!  I didn’t realise just how much I had in common with Darwin, nor that I had continued what I was doing from childhood into adulthood through my kefir experiment, until I went to his house!

I certainly didn’t expect Charles Darwin to be my motivational coach but relating so much to him, thinking of what he accomplished in what looks like such a simple home life, was extremely inspirational.

Afterall, I’m talking about just doing back bends and a few handstands.  From his humble home and garden, he changed the world and the thinking of all future generations to come!

Thank you Charles Darwin.  You’ve contributed more to my life than you or I will ever know.

“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” ~ Charles Darwin