Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Running Week 2 - who put the lead in my legs?

Well, I've finished the second week of my running programme.

The upside: I stuck to the schedule, ran three times and did exactly what the programme asked (just). And nothing hurts! I even ran in the freezing rain!

The downside: During each session I would be fine until the "free form run" bit at the end, where you have to run 1 kilometre.

Have you seen the film "Gallipoli"? Right at the beginning, it shows the protagonist, Archie training for a sprint. His coach asks him "What are these?" pointing to his legs. Archie replies "Springs! Steel springs!" Well I can relate to that except my legs seem to have suddenly been filled with lead. No springy feeling at all! It was such an effort to finish that kilometre at each session. Nothing hurt, but my legs just felt SO heavy. I managed to do it, but was I enjoying that bit? No.

So, in view of this, I've decided to stay on Week 2 of the programme, just to see if I can kick the "heavy" feeling.

Memo to self: Do not listen to funny podcasts eg. Roy and HG, whilst running. Having to stop and double over with laughter on the side of the road does nothing for one's rhythm, not to mention fitness.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Bit of Slapdash Gardening

Leeks, celery, cavolo nero and ginger jostle for position -sometimes I overplant

Yesterday was another perfect winter's day. I spent most of the afternoon in the vegie patch, the first time I've really given the garden some extended attention in about two months. First I ripped out the tomato plants that have finally turned up their toes, along with a capsicum. I weeded, then fetched two buckets of sheep manure and dug those in to the bare patches, along with a bit of blood and bone. I also sprayed the broccoli and cavolo nero with Dipel ( which contains bacillus thuringiensis) control the cabbage butterfly larvae. Then I fed just about everything with some worm casting tea.

It's looking pretty bare out there. The plan is to buy some lettuce and cabbage seedlings and bung those in next week. I also need a new thyme plant, because mine is just about dead. I think I'll give some parts of the garden a bit of a rest, and plant some green manure instead, just to give it a go.

As you might gather, I'm pretty laissez faire with the vegies. I don't follow any planting guide.I plant as I have space. As far as crop rotation is concerned, the most I do is just make sure I don't replace spent vegies with vegies from from the same family. I don't water much. I spray for the butterfly larvae, but only when I remember. Yet, our vegie patch provides us with loads - it's a rare dinner when we don't have at least one of the vegies on our plate from the backyard. As for how the patch looks - well, let's just say it won't be featured in any garden magazines any time soon.

What I think lets me get away with this amount of slapdashery is that I make sure that the patch is regularly topped up with organic matter - compost, manure- sheep and chicken, worm castings and blood and bone. Every time I plant I incorporate at least one of these. The other thing I do is mulch heavily with hay, which I buy from a local farmer for $5 a bale. This means that even though I don't water much, the soil stays moist underneath the mulch. These two things, good soil and mulch, I think are the key. Beyond that, I find the patch pretty forgiving.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Another reason I Love Winter - home made baked beans

In winter, this is the food I crave. I make a big batch and eat it for lunch over a few days. To appease the resident carnivores, I generally add a ham hock, but have also used speck or pancetta. I reckon it would be just as moreish with any meat at all.

Baked beans

500g dried cannelini beans

1 onion, chopped

olive oil

1 bay leaf

1 tin tomatoes

1 tablespoon brown sugar

4 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce

salt, pepper

ham hock (optional)

Cover the beans with water and soak for at least 6 hours. Drain beans and place in saucepan, cover again with fresh water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 1 hour (or 20 minutes on high pressure in a pressure cooker). Drain.

Heat oven to 180 degrees. Soften the chopped onion in some olive oil over medium heat in a flameproof casserole dish. Add the drained beans, sugar, maple syrup, worcestershire sauce, tomatoes and bay leaf. Add the ham hock too if using. Give it a good stir and season with salt and pepper. Cover and bake in the oven for 2 hours, taking off the lid in the last twenty minutes. If you have used a ham hock, remove the hock and take meat off the bone. Shred and return to the beans.

Note: These beans bear no relation to those in tins, so if tinned baked beans don't appeal, I urge you to try these! And if you are partial to tinned baked beans, I double urge you to try these.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Running - Week 1

My running track

As I only decided to blog about my running programme ten days after I started, I thought I would recap my progress in Week 1. But first, to give some context to the running, here is my running backstory.

Who: Me, see "About Me" top of page.
Age: 4-*cough*. Oh, all right. 44.
Height and Weight: 175cm, no idea about weight, as I go by how my clothes feel. I would say I was on the upper end of the BMI.
Fitness level: Fitter than some, not as fit as others. Mediocre to average, I guess.
Exercise pattern to date: Walking 3-4 times a week for 45 minutes-1 hour in the weeks prior to starting the programme. 45 minutes swimming once a week, while kids are doing their swimming training. Iyengar yoga class once a week, with some practice at home. Moderate effort gardening about 2 hours a week (I get Action Man to do all the heavy stuff).
Aim: 1) Lose 4 cms from hip and waist measurements, so I can continue to use my custom sewing patterns 2) Challenge self-concept that "I can't run" 3) Run 5kms straight, just so I can say "I can do that".
Running History: Given my self concept is that I can't run, it may surprise you to know I have one. In my dim dark past, back in the day when I was a corporate type, I ran at lunchtimes regularly. The office was full of athletes, including the boss, who ran as a pack, through Hyde Park and down to Mrs Macquarie's Chair on Sydney Harbour. Anyway, I joined them, as much for the camaraderie as anything. I was always the slowest, but I ran. That year I also did the Sydney City to Surf, a 14 km race from the city to Bondi Beach, and I guess I ran more than half the distance. I can certainly remember being sore for days.

I was pretty fit, but I can say that I never ran for the sake of running itself. I never loved to run. It was always a means to an end.

We had some changes in the office, with some of the athletes being replaced by non-runners, coinciding with my falling pregnant. And so endeth my running days.

Injury history:

Rotator cuff, whilst attempting Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand). 2002.
Tennis elbow, acquired while regularly cycling. 2009, only just now coming good.
Given how long it took to rehabilitate from both these injuries, my No 1 priority is to run without acquiring any injury. If I do develop anything, I shall be a very grumpy girl indeed.

The Plan:

Follow Julia Jones' 8 week running programme, three times a week.
If I have time, supplement this with swimming and cycling sessions.
Practice Iyengar yoga after each running session, concentrating on leg-stretching poses.


Having been walking regularly before starting the programme, for me this was a very gentle start.

The programme has you starting off with walking, then walking whilst swinging you arms. So far, so good.

Then, you need to stretch. I have to admit, this is pretty desultory. I am normally in front of a neighbour's house and I feel a bit - well, ridiculous I guess, stopping on the side of the road to stretch.

The programme then has you walk 30seconds/run 10seconds ten times. For someone who was running for the first time in 13 years, this was the perfect introduction. Totally doable, while I tried to find my rhythm.

Next step is to time yourself walking one kilometre. The main problem I had with this was trying to gauge the length of 1km. After the first session, I drove down the road with my eyes on the odometer trying to figure out distances. The problem though, is that after the previous activity, I didn't find myself in the same position, so my distances were off.

In the end, I just decided that eyeballing it would have to be good enough. I reckon I was walking 1km in about 11 minutes.

This was followed by walk/running the next one km, timed. Again, I had difficulties with judging distances, but again decided near enough would have to be good enough. I found this a lot more difficult as I tried to push myself to run for a longer period. I slowed to a walk a few times, and I reckon I was walk/running 1 km in about 9 minutes. Not fast, but that's okay by me!

Not much else to add really. The weather is perfect for running, and after each session I felt energised not whacked. Nothing hurts. Everything feels within my capabilities.

A good start. Roll on (or should that be run on) Week 2....

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thursday morning 5.58am

Australia beat Serbia, 2-1! But is sadly out of the World Cup Finals.
Oh well. At least I got some knitting done.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sewing Dilemmas, or Why I've taken up Running

One thing about sewing your own clothes* is that while the mind denies, the tape measure never lies. Sewing forces you to deal with the reality of the tape measure.

I'd started to suspect that I'd put on a few kilos but happily ignored the evidence until I decided to make myself a new skirt, using the fabric I'd picked up at Vinnies for two dollars. Out came the tape measure and there in black and white, the evidence. I'd added four centimetres to my waist and hip measurement.

You might think, so what's the problem? Just cut the skirt bigger! That's why you sew, right?Well, it's slightly more complicated. You see, over the last year or so, I'd painstakingly developed skirt, pant and bodice patterns that fit me exactly. The amount of effort and patience that went into this was far beyond anything I'd ever attempted before, and by golly, I really wanted to get my effort's worth out of them! I was not in the frame of mind to start again with the whole fitting malarkey.

So, my only option is to diet and exercise those centimetres away.

Normally, I'm pretty relaxed about diet and exercise. I do not fret too much about it. I eat til I'm not hungry, and try to get a reasonable amount of exercise. But clearly, since that approach had given me four extra centimetres, it was time to shake things up a bit.

So about a month ago I started walking, at least four days a week for an hour.

Coincidentally, I became the owner of an iPod (a birthday present), so I started to listen to podcasts on my walks.

One day, I was listening to a healthy living podcast, Two Fit Chicks and a Microphone, and the guest was a running coach Julia Jones from Italy, who has coached heaps of women from the couch to running greatness.

I don't know what happened, but while I was listening to this enthusiastic chat, my legs started to run there and then, of their own accord. I took this as a sign that my body was ready to run, so I went home and downloaded the programme from the Two Fit Chicks site. The programme promises eight weeks from non-runner to 5K. I am the world's least natural runner, so if this comes off - miracles happen.

So even though this is not a fitness blog, I beg your indulgence to post about it while I follow the programme. Knowing that I've made my plan "public" I hope will keep me accountable and on the straight and narrow. And if anyone out there is moved to join with me, that would be fantastic. It would be great to have an running buddy out there in blogland.

And hopefully by the end of it, I'll be sewing with my patterns again.

*BTW if you are thinking, "we've seen precious little of this so-called sewing hobby" on this blog let me say two things:

1. As a relative beginner, I sew a fair proportion of "wadders" - no one gets to see these.

2. I have a pathological aversion to photos of myself, so the thought of full length photos on the net, well, let's say I haven't come to terms with this yet. But it may change!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I Love Winter

Compared to summer, winter gets short shrift. I love it. Let me count the ways:

1. All my favourite hobbies - reading, sewing, knitting etc. - are best done in winter, preferably in front of a fire. In summer, these activities have me battling guilt. I always feel I should be outside "doing something" instead.

2. I love to cook but during summer I try to think of strategies to avoid putting on the stove and the oven, so I can keep the house cool. Winter, on the other hand, is made for cooking.

3. The foods I like to eat - soups, stews, baked pastas, curries - all taste better in winter.

4. Winter heralds a truce in the ongoing war against the dreaded fruit fly.

5. Spiders and snakes hibernate.

6. Ditto flies and mosquitoes.

7. I like dressing for winter better.

8. I sleep better.

9. The kids sleep better, going to bed at a reasonable times, instead of staying up far too late on school nights.

10. Weeds are not an issue in winter.Yay!

11. I hate exercising in the steam bath of summer. Exercise - whatever type - is far more enjoyable in winter.

12. I get to look at the lovely gordonia from my kitchen window.

So are you a winter or summer person?

NOTE: I am talking my local brand of winter here, which is relatively mild - 10 degree C is considered a cold day. I lived for a while in the UK and would not be waxing quite as lyrical about winter if I was still there...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mandarin jam

Lots of citrus fruit around here, and we'd run out of jam. Time to try out the Mandarin Jam recipe I'd found in Sally Wise's A Year in a Bottle.
The method was a little vague, and I had quite a few questions. In the end, I devised my own method, and it worked out okay. Here it is:

Mandarin Jam

6-7 large mandarins
Juice of 2 lemons
White sugar

1. Cover the mandarins with water, bring to boil and simmer until very tender (this took me 20 minutes in the pressure cooker. Possibly 1 hour "normal" method?)
2. When tender, let the mandarins cool in the water. Reserve water. Once cool cut the mandarin flesh open and remove the seeds.
3. Puree mandarin flesh. Put into a measuring jug with lemon juice, and enough of the cooking
water to bring it to 4 cups/1 litre in the jug. Transfer to a saucepan.
4. Measure exactly the same amount of sugar and add to the mandarins.
5. Bring to boil, then simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the jam has set (ie. when a teaspoon drawn through a tablespoon of mixture on a cooled plate causes the jam to "wrinkle").

I probably cooked this at too high a heat, the jam caught on the bottom of the pan. Hence the brown flecks in the jam. Never mind, adds flavour!

Can't wait to try this on home-made bread toast for breakfast tomorrow. Luxury.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Late adopter

Ever done or tried something new and wondered "why haven't I done this before?" Well, that's been my experience with my new bread maker.
How long have breadmakers been around? Twenty, maybe twenty five years? Well, call me a late adopter. My breadmaker came into my life three weeks ago, courtesy of Action Man. After reading many blogs mention their breadmakers, I'd been muttering about getting one myself, but never got around to it. Typically, Action Man made it happen, and brought me home a brand new bread maker.
What a revelation! So easy! So little time required of me! (I can get the ingredients together for a loaf of wholemeal bread in 31/2 minutes) Most importantly, such nice bread! And no preservatives.
My breadmaker has been in daily use ever since, sometimes even twice a day.
Once this baby's cost is amortised, and this shouldn't be long, I reckon I'll be saving at least $10 a week on the food bill.
A great addition to the household routine.
By the way, if you are thinking, "I thought Paola had an intolerance to wheat." Well, on that score, my stomach irritations have improved a lot over the last month or two. I try to limit wheat intake, but I haven't eradicated it. Also, one of my commenters, (I can't remember who, I'm sorry), mentioned nuts as another culprit. Well, seeing that I was eating handfuls of nuts a the time, I thought I'd cut back there too, for my stomach and my waistline's sake. And I'm much better. So I can eat some of this lovely bread. Yay!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday morning 5.30am

Well, Australia got absolutely hammered in the World Cup by Germany, 4-0.

At least I got some ironing done.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Here in spirit

This is the third year of keeping this blog, and every year my blogging rate slows considerably between May and November. This is because as a casual teacher this is my busy time. At the moment I am working more often 4-5 days a week, as opposed to 1-3 days a week. So spare time gets tighter, as I try to keep up the things that I blog about. Unfortunately, blogging is the first thing that gets cut from the schedule. I still enjoy reading blogs though!
I've also been busy getting ready for the family bash for Action Man's 50th here on Sunday. I had visions of setting up tables outside - but it's been raining for two weeks now, with more to come. Even if it stops, it will be too muddy to be outside...so everyone, all 35 of 'em. will be inside. Cosy! I love my house, but it's one drawback is that there is no decent outside covered area. The verandahs are too narrow.
It should be a blast. I am very fortunate to have a close extended family, and we always have a good time when we get together.