Monday, January 31, 2011

Finding Motivation

Just a quick one today because I've spent all day working on putting all of our research on the site for you. I have managed to publish the first of three directory pages, listing all of the accomodation we will be booking. As we travel, I will do my best to keep up to date with reviewing each of the places as well.

Soon to come will be a directory of all the places we have an interest in visiting, and a directory of all of the transport options we will use. Hopefully this becomes a usable resource for future travellers so please refer your friends to my page if you know it might be useful!

An update on the Bliss List challenge... I'm still doing my best, but time is of course a hindrance. Last night we went to a BBQ with Courtney's Stepmum's family. I hadn't met them before and it was really lovely to be made to feel as welcome as I was. Just goes to show it doesn't have to be close family and friends for it to be a great time when people are open and welcoming.

Today I have literally done nothing. It is a public holiday in Auckland and it was lunch time before I knew it and started working on these pages. I'm stoked that I've finally posted one of the three pages I've been intending on since I started posting, but I wish I had forced myself to take the dog to the park or to bake something or to put music on for an hour or so. At 8pm I feel sluggish and lazy, maybe I will find a recipe to keep me occupied until Courts gets home just after 10pm.

Hopefully your weekend was awesome! I'm finding it so hard to get motivated to leave the house at the moment, the weather has been up and down and I've been distracted by 'things to do'. When I do leave the house I feel so much better, I just need to get better at actually doing it!

How do you motivate yourself to change your priorities?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The First Sign of Getting Old...

Last night I drank alcohol for the first time this year (since going sugar-free).

It didn't come easy either! It took a bit of convincing from Courts and our friends before I believed it wouldn't affect my sugar-free year. The first drink on offer was a shot of Canadian Club and we googled the sugar content. Although it is made with sugar, it would appear that the finished product is sugar-free. The only thing is, we also found information that said when alcohol is consumed it's immediately metabolised into sugar, so I was very sceptical of having any. After awhile we re-searched the topic and found conflicting information that said it doesn't turn into sugar at all, its just that your liver is so busy processing the alcohol (rightly thinking of it as a poison and therefore making it first priority) that sugar is left to the wayside and your blood-sugar increases as a result.

The research seemed to lean further towards the latter idea and so I was convinced. Courts went down the road for a six-pack for himself and came back with pre-mixed Jim Beam and sugar-free cola. I love that he went out of his way to help me in my choice to be sugar-free. The only thing is, it took an hour or so for me to get through that first can, and even then I didn't quite finish it. Even sugar free I just wasn't interested.

The fact that I wasn't interested - It doesn't really make sense to me. I've done my time as the girl curled up in the corner, eyes closing in semi-consciousness, half the night covered in a veil of haze. It doesn't sum me up as a person, but I really enjoyed the period of time during which I was 'that girl'. The thing is, that when I was that girl, I would remember the awesome fun I had leading up to the point at which I switched to a state of haze, but the haze itself was rarely remembered, so the overall experience was fun, at least until the next morning.

I slowed down how much I was drinking when I started going out with Courts. A couple of times my drunken behaviour fueled upset between us (as has his, but that's another story entirely!) and I decided it was easier not to get drunk than to risk a fallout in some situations. I also started spending more quality time with friends that don't drink so much, and I started sober driving when we hung out with Courtney's friends so he could have a few drinks with the boys. And of course further down the track I cut out sugar.

Last night, we went to a metal gig, and while I thoroughly enjoyed the music, I just couldn't be bothered jumping round in the moshpit. A smaller gig is a bit different to a huge concert where you're so crammed in you can hardly move. You get knocked around more, at least in my experience. The venue didn't smell the best with all those sweaty bodies, and I couldn't be bothered having drinks spilt on me.

The whole experience was strange for me, because while I sat in a booth, yawning towards 3am and enjoying the music from a distance, I felt like I was watching a lot of 'me's jumping round and being the 'fun ones'. I used to be one of the 'fun one's, always ready for a beer and a party. I still enjoy gigs, I still enjoy going out, but I guess I'm a little insecure in who I actually am at a gig now that I'm experiencing it a lot more sober than I ever have before. I guess I'm not really sure of my place.

I'm certainly not saying I will never have another drunken night, because I guarantee I will, but I can't see myself planning on one anytime in the near future. I'm generally quite happy not drinking and still chatting away with everyone. The old me would never have said that! I don't want to be the boring girl in the back, but with no alcohol to mask the pain of heels I think I need a new plan of attack. Sugar-free energy drinks and flats here I come!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Festivals and Ferries

Last night my bliss was achieved by curling up in bed with my long haired boy, wearing winter pyjamas, listening to the rain and watching If it's Tuesday, This Must be Belgium, a movie made in 1969. I love old movies! The sound, the colour, the way the actors speak. But today is another day, and this means another couple of bookings for Europe! 

First up, we bought our tickets to Party San, the last of the three music festivals we are going to. Its another metal festival for Courts - I like metal music as well but as I've said before. Wacken would have been enough for me! If Courts is going to follow me through ancient Greek and Roman ruins I'm pretty sure I can handle an extra 3 days of metal. 

The entire reason Courtney has always wanted to go to Europe was for the metal scene in Germany. Germany has a huge metal following and therefore produces more metal bands and more metal festivals than many other countries, and is a point of pilgrimage for metal fans around the world. The upside of Party San is that it is much cheaper than the other festivals we have booked - tickets are just under 50 Euros each as opposed to over 100 for Wacken and FiberFIB. The downside, for me at least, is that the bands are a little more obscure. Courts thinks this is great (they're not so obscure to him) as the move towards more mainstream bands for Wacken has garnered criticism from some metalheads.

Our other recent booking, is for the return ferry between Italy and Greece. We head to Venice straight after Germany but then we jump on a ferry at Ancona and take a 22 hour ride to Patras in Greece, where we will spend time in Athens, Delphi and Santorini. We could take a shorter ferry, but boarding at Ancona means a much shorter ride from Venice to the ferry. Since we will be on it overnight, we save money on accommodation. 

Also, this ferry, Superfast VI, is like nothing I had imagined. It has a swimming pool with an on-deck bar, a casino, games arcade, and even a disco. There is a myriad of options for sleeping, but we chose to stick with airline-type reclining seats to save money. Speaking of saving money, we qualified for a 20% Youth Discount (under 26 years old) and a 45% discount for booking early (prior to the end of Feb for travel prior to October), which is awesome. 

After Greece, we head back to Italy for a few weeks, this time sailing Patras to Bari. The ferry, Superfast II, isn't as flash, nor is the trip as long, but we still travel overnight, thus saving more on accommodation. I'm actually really excited about the ferries, particularly Superfast VI, having never travelled on anything like it. And with nothing to visit and nowhere to ride, it will be like a mini-holiday within a holiday.

Lastly, I just want to tell you about a really cool website I found a few weeks ago, Songkick. I can’t believe I didn’t know this existed before! You register for the site and then ‘track’ all of the locations you could possibly visit as well as all of the bands you could possibly want to see. It then produces a calendar of all tour dates that have been announced so far by the bands you have chosen in the areas you selected, and updates you as new ones are announced.

We are still a few months out from arriving in Europe so more dates will be announced I’m sure, but so far there are concerts by Whitesnake, Bon Jovi and Iron Maiden that match up with our plans – right place, right time. I’m sorry budget, really, I am… kind of.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Sugar-Free Challenges!

A very busy few days! Work has been very full on and Courts and I have been working as much as possible to save for Europe. I even went and did a Market Research interview in my lunch break on Thursday for a quick $60. Yesterday was also my sister’s 22nd birthday and boy was that an exercise in sugar related self-control!

We went to a Mexican restaurant in Mission Bay, Dos Amigos, which is walking distance from my Mum’s house and therefore a regular dining spot. Of course Mexican was a well received choice by me as Mexican food is on my Bliss List, it’s my absolute favourite! The challenge was remaining sugar free. I had a Chicken Tostada, in which the only ingredients that could possibly have had sugar in them were the tortilla and the salsa, and we confirmed with the chef (who knows my Mum) that the salsa at least, was sugar free. While Chili Beer was passed around the table and Margaritas were shared from jugs, I stuck with water. I could have gone for a Coke Zero, but I don’t want to rely too heavily on artificial sweeteners, and sticking with water certainly didn’t hurt my budget.

The real kicker was the cake. Mum surprised my sister with a Chocolate Mud Cake from Eve’s Pantry. All of my senses were in heaven! Except, of course, taste. I tell you what, that was hard to restrain from! I wouldn’t even let Courts kiss me because he tasted like chocolate and it was just too difficult to have a taste and not have a plate. I guess anyone out there without a sweet tooth will be wondering how it could possibly be that hard, but it was, and I was proud to overcome it.

In other sugar-related news, I mentioned a few days ago that I’ve been drinking milk to stave off cravings for refined sugar. A few people had told me that this could be a bad idea as Lactose-intolerance is a natural state for humans and Lactose-tolerance is not, especially in adults. Well, when I went off sugar the first time (March 2010) I did so with the help of a wonderful nutritionist (awaiting her permission before I add a link for you). I lasted until June when I went through a hard time personally, and chocolate screamed out to me. However, my Nutritionist was great, and is very happy for me to keep emailing her with questions, so I asked her about milk.

The response was that milk isn’t necessarily bad for you, but of course doesn’t suit everyone. If I were lactose intolerant I would know by digestion issues or eczema type rashes, so I must be fine. She recommended that 1 cup a day is enough for most people if they are also having some yoghurt and maybe some cheese, but that of course everyone’s food requirements are different. Generally speaking, as long as it's getting me away from refined sugar (we're talking about plain, trim milk, not flavoured), it's certainly an improvement. 

Of course lactose is a form of sugar (as is maltose, fructose and glucose) so the Nutritionist advised that it is best eaten with something else, or alternatively I could have something like yoghurt and fruit together. She recommended a new yoghurt from Meadow Fresh called Live Lite which has low sugar and no artificial sweeteners, and is instead sweetened with Stevia and Apple Juice.

I'm not a huge yoghurt fan but it's definitely worth a try! I use milk more as a drink (hot chocolate/Milo/coke zero) replacement than a food substitute and it makes the air con at work a little more cosy, so for now I have started diluting it with water. At first I hated the idea, but I figured I make my Milos with both water and milk, and to be honest its not bad. We'll see how it goes!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Europe Ball is Rolling!

136 days until we head off on our adventure!

Everything is becoming real as we start to book more and more things. In the last few days we have made our very first campground booking! One down, 22 to go. The booking we made is for La Tuilerie de Chazelle, a tiny 6-tent campsite in Cormatin, France, run by an English/Dutch couple on the same site as two Gites. It will be our base for 5 nights as we explore Burgundy and also make a day trip to the Swiss/French Border to tour CERN, the largest Nuclear Physics Laboratory in the world (Anyone heard of the Large Hadron Collider?). Courts studies Physics so will be in his element, and I'm excited to share it with him.

The couple that run La Tuilerie de Chazelle have been so good to us. As a small family-run campsite, the price per night is a very small 7 Euros per person per night (most places we are looking at 15 Euros per person per night) and so the total to pay in order to book was only 70 Euros. As they are so small, they don't accept credit card so we were left with the option of a bank transfer - with $NZ20 fees here, and a similar cost at the other end. Sue and Cees went out of their way to help us find a cheaper alternative and we are much better off because of their efforts. I can't wait for our week with them, the size of the site will mean it is much like a holiday within a holiday for us.

When we get to Europe, I want to see a lot, but I don’t want to spend 3 and a half months putting up a tent. So, wherever possible, I've tried to simplify our plans so that we can stay in one place and day trip to the surrounding areas, such as with La Tuilerie de Chazelle, or with Castellina in Chianti, from which we can visit most of Tuscany, including Florence and Siena. 

Don't you love the feeling when you go to the beach for a summer holiday and you start to get to know the town, you know the best place to get dinner and the best route to the beach, and you recognise the neighbours walking their dogs? Hopefully by having home bases whenever possible, we will get to know Europe at least a little bit, instead of just seeing it. We do have some stretches where we move between towns quickly but usually it’s because we are stopping overnight on our way to somewhere else. In those cases, we’ve made sure to stop somewhere interesting, and I'm sure we will be back to do those towns justice.

It has taken a LOT of hours to research the trip and make it happen. Courtney is far more go-with-the-flow than I am. He has barely an organisational bone in his body, where as I thrive on it. If it were up to him, he would have visited Joanie, flown to Wacken, meandered on down to Party San and then flown home. Not because he doesn’t want to see more, but purely because he would turn up and work out the rest later!  

The idea of doing that does appeal to me – spending as long as you want in each place, getting to know the people and moving on as your thirst for new things rekindles. We chose to make life difficult for ourselves for a couple of reasons. To fit in the festivals we want to attend, we will travel in the peak of the High Season, when queues are at their longest and camp grounds fill months in advance. We could have done Italy and Greece before the festivals, but we would have had to wait until 2012 because we need every spare day before we leave to save money for the trip. Travelling in High Season means we have to book campgrounds, connecting ferries and buses quite far in advance. There are a few bonuses here – we have to carry less money with us because a lot will be prepaid, and websites often offer early bird and online-booking discounts so we save a bit here too. 

I will be sure to let you know what works and what doesn't! In the meantime, anyone have any tips for us?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Positive Vibes All Round! ...Well, Mostly

I'm so happy with the awesome energy and inspiration this blog is responsible for. I love that it holds me responsible for my choices and actions, and I love that it is helping some of you too. Just this morning, my boss came to work with dairy-free lemon and almond muffins (she is lactose intolerant) in which she had replaced the sugar with honey so that I could have one. So so nice of her and SO GOOD! I'll try and get the recipe for you all. And not only was it awesome that I got to have one, but everyone else that enjoys those muffins will enjoy the benefits of less refined sugar that day.

Aside from the muffins, I know of a bread maker purchased to avoid unnecessary added sugars and preservatives. And aside from food altogether I know of a few people using their only-for-special-occasions items after the Moschino blog. I know that all of these ideas were probably seeds for awhile before this blog came anywhere near the picture, but it certainly had a helping hand in each of these cases and I'm so proud to be part of this.

In keeping honest, I do want to share the negative side effects of sugar detox. One of the worst has been mood swings. It doesn’t help that my sugar detox happened near the same time as the new hormone implant in my arm, but the couple of weeks before last I was two sides of a coin. Of course its usually Courts that bears the brunt of it, and I hate that it affects him. We both know in the long run it will be worth it, and thankfully it would appear the worst is over! 

I hadn't really experienced mood swings like that before. 90% of the time, I am SO much happier than I was before. I used to be easily annoyed, much more impatient, and constantly tired. I was quick to be grumpy either from tiredness, sugar comedowns, or hunger (aka rapidly dropping blood sugar in my case). Most of this is gone and Courtney and I are both reaping the benefits of a much more positive me. Every now and then though, one tiny thing will happen and an almighty snap rings out across town as insta-bitch comes out. The worst part is, I will say something snappily and instantly know that I was irrational and I didn’t mean it. But its already out there. Insta-bitch is definitely appearing less and less so it would appear to be just another short lived phase of sugar detox.

On the upside, I have a really positive success story to share with you as well. Courts Dad has been sugar free since about a month before me. He heard about the idea from a friend who had lost a dramatic amount of weight from simply cutting out sugar. The friend explained that your liver was never designed to process refined sugar, because it never existed before we created it. When you eat a lot of sugar, your liver is so busy trying to process this horrible unnatural substance that every time it sees fat it basically think 'oh hell, I'll deal with YOU later' and stores it in all the places you hate to see it most! When you stop eating sugar, your liver finally has a chance to catch up, and because its been working so hard, it doesn't take long. I had never heard it explained like this and it makes so much sense explained so simply!

Although this time I am sugar free purely for health and not weight loss, the first time I went sugar free I lost 6kg in 6 weeks, and I am happy and proud to report that Courtney's Dad has now lost 10kg since he went sugar free. The withdrawal and detox is worth it!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Snowball Effect

I know this blog is supposed to be inspirational, but I also want it to be honest. I am doing my best this year to be positive, happy, and to make the most of every day. I think some days just have to be off-days, and today is one of them.

It started off okay, I caught up on the TV shows I had recorded throughout the week, and when Courts got up we had scrambled eggs and I had some watermelon too. Since then, my food intake has gone downhill. I haven't cheated, let's get that out there! I remain sugar free. But the food I've eaten hasn't been great.

This morning after Courts went to work I did the mountain of dishes, I checked the blog, and I prepped myself for the day. I finally took all the decorations down off the Christmas tree (don't judge me). I jumped in the car to go and do the theory test for my Motorcycle Learners License but I was half an hour too late. I did the grocery shopping and some washing. I intended today to bake something to give away as a Random Act of Kindness this week, since RAOK's are on the Bliss List. I attempted to make sugar free Brownies but I think the recipe had incorrect quantities listed and it did not work out. I attempted to make Mushroom Soup and again it didn't quite work as planned.

Its silly though because I had a great morning with good food, and I had an hour or so home alone where I got to turn the stereo up and sing at the top of my voice, one of my favourite things to do. I'm going to put some of my slump down to my sluggish morning in front of the TV. I'm going to put some of it down to the rain and fog that is blanketing my house. I'm going to put a lot of it down to my own attitude letting one thing snowball into another.

I guess this blog is good for me in that without you all listening to me, I would have a responsibility to no one, and I could stay miserable. But because I have chosen to make my blog about positivity and new adventures, I feel a responsibility to you all to follow through on what I preach.  So I will pick myself up, I will wash all of the horrible sugar free brownie mix down with some clean cold water, and I will enjoy my night with good friends and my Long Haired Boy, who just got home from work soaking wet and cold but is still happy enough to be singing in the shower.

I will publish this so that you all know what I'm thinking and so that I can be held to my resolution not to let a bad day turn into a bad night! Thanks for being my inspiration, friends and strangers alike.

Friday, January 21, 2011


The Crème Brulee was amazing. With it came another wee milestone in my sugar-free life though – I couldn’t finish it. To put this in perspective, I never leave dessert behind, and I have no issues being the only one at the table to order it.

My inability to finish the Crème Brulee had no reflection whatsoever on its taste or texture – everyone else finished in record time and looked for seconds. When I say it was amazing, I mean holy rock n roll AMAZING, and yet about a third of the way through, I was stuck. I pushed through, but at half way, I just couldn”t do it. I spent the next half hour feeling like I had over eaten tremendously (I hadn’t) and feeling a little bit under the weather. I have no regrets - that first half of the dessert was everything I have craved for the last 3 weeks (YES! 3 week milestone today!) but afterwards I thought to myself, you know what? I don’t think I need to make an exception for sugar next time. I just don’t want it anymore.

This new found revelation is not to be overestimated. I still woke up this morning studying the Vogels Hazelnut and Cocoa cereal to figure out if there was anyway I could get away with it (I couldn’t) and the vending machine calls to me from the lunch room at work. But I am getting there, and 3 weeks is a quarter of the way to the 3 months my nutritionist said it would take to be rid of the cravings for good.

I do have to admit to one downside. Working late on Friday night I got the feeling when your blood sugar is low and you start to feel a bit light headed. I’ve felt this plenty of times, but never as suddenly. As soon as I ate I was much much better. I guess I need to watch the timing of my meals more now that my body has lower levels of sugar to rely on. Poor Courts bore the brunt of it as as soon as I felt unwell I was miserable and over-sensitive, another side effect I have experienced when I have tried to kick sugar previously.

Interestingly enough, this came out on Stuff today - - thanks to everyone that forwarded it to me!

Moving on, because I want to update you on our Europe plans. The deposit on our bike is paid and our booking confirmed – we 100% HAVE A BIKE! We pick it up on 25 June (after having travelled Ireland and been to London already) and its all ours until 23 September. The husband and wife that run Bournemouth Motorcycle Hire have been really great, answering all our questions and going out of their way to give us the best deal possible. If you ever have a chance to use them, I highly recommend that you do.

Because we have a bike set in stone, we can start finalising our itinerary and booking accommodation and ferry transfers. Courts is very much a go with the flow kind of person, but the idea of knowing where we will be and when (at least roughly) makes me more excited, it feels more real. Today we booked tickets to see two shows at the West EndWicked and The Lion King. I have seen Lion King previously on Broadway, but it was awesome and I can’t wait to share it with Courtney.

Everything is coming together! In 140 days (yes, I am counting) we will be on our way!

For tonight, I'm off to see Burlesque with my bestest buddies, and that’s more than enough Bliss for one day <3

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Creme Brulee: The Story of the Great Anticipation

Thanks so much for all the feedback you guys sent me yesterday on various media; that was awesome! I had a few oh-my-gosh-I-need-chocolate moments today but I’ve survived with watermelon, nuts and hot milk as my substitutes.

Tonight I plan on straying from my sugar-free life for just a few minutes as two very dear friends tempt me with Crème Brulee! I have known this night was coming for a few weeks and it has helped me keep on track because I knew that in order to indulge tonight I needed to be on my best behaviour leading up to it.

The dinner tonight is part of a monthly tradition amongst our close friends. It started as a resurrection of a weekly movie night two of us shared many moons ago, where we would sit around and watch old black and white movies together. The new and improved movie night has a life of its own. It’s a chance for our Inner Circle of friends to get together no matter how busy we have been, and to share a common love of good movies and great food.
Our hosts use us as guinea pigs as they expand their now massive culinary repertoire – to be fair we may have forced them into it by challenging them to come up with new recipes, but we aren’t complaining about testing them out! Tonight is the first time they have made Crème Brulee and I don’t care how it turns out, I’ve been looking forward to it for what feels like a lifetime and I will enjoy it as such! Going by recent movie night meals, it will be amazing.

These guys came up in an image search for 'friends' - how could I say no?!
It’s really an honour to be part of this tradition with such an awesome group of people. We have come together over many years and many ups and downs and I hope our adventures will continue together for a really long time. A monthly movie night seems so simple, but now that it is a regular part of our lives its something I look forward to the entire week prior. Our hosts may disagree, since they are the ones cooking! One day I am sure we will be in different places or different jobs and movie night may cease to exist. But for now its not just dinner and a movie, it’s also something fun and relaxed and enjoyable - and reliable too. It’s nice to have to look forward to every month. We’ll have to improvise in Europe!

So, my bliss for the day is sharing this night with amazing people and striving to put as much positivity into their lives as they do into mine.

Do you have traditions within your Inner Circle that mean more than meets the eye?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Lesson in Temptation

Any time I mention being sugar-free, I get lots and lots of questions about it, so I thought I would do a weekly update on how I’m doing. It will also hopefully keep me in check if I know I have to tell you all about my ups and downs!

This year, I have eaten 1 homemade welsh cake, 2 Hershey’s Kisses, and 4 Ferrero Rochers. Everything else has been as close to sugar free as possible. Welsh cakes are biscuit sized and shaped but texture and taste-wise they’re like the love child of scones and shortbread. I had never had one before until a friend bought them to a picnic and to be honest I didn’t even realise what I was doing until Courts pointed out the sugar factor, but I tell you what, that little biscuit was SO GOOD.

The Hershey’s Kisses and Ferrero Rochers were all eaten on the same day while recovering from local anaesthetic and suffering a migraine. However, I had an entire box of each in front of me and ate 2 at a time over about 4 hours. The ‘old me’ would have had both boxes gone within an hour, so I’m not cut up over it.

Of the other foods I’ve eaten, some have had sugar content. It is ridiculous the number of things that include unsuspected sugar, and equally ridiculous the number of names sugar can be known by on an ingredients label. The highest number of sugar based additives I’ve counted in one item so far is seven. Seven! In a supposedly healthy muesli bar, for a total of almost 30% sugar. The sugar-added items I have eaten are things like canned peas (2.5%), corn thins (0.8%) and cottage cheese (2%) and I am definitely not fussed about percentages like that.

One thing that has really made sugar free life difficult is that little procedure I mentioned above. A little off topic, but as you can imagine, part of planning our trip to Europe is planning contraception. We will have no regular routine whatsoever and I know I won’t remember to take a pill. For various reasons the best option for us was one that is popular overseas but quite new here – an implant that goes in your arm and lasts 5 years (unless you take it out earlier). The procedure is simple, although a little stomach turning (perhaps not a tale for a blog about food!) and ultimately I now have hormones automatically releasing into my blood stream. Ladies, we know what that means – mood swings and chocolate cravings. In this case, chocolate cravings like never before!

Happily, I have not strayed. I have had hot milk instead of Milo, honey-muffins instead of cookies and fruit instead of heading to the vending machine. It has not been easy! But it has been worth it. When you are sugar free, life is immeasurably better. I wake up earlier, am happier, more patient, less moody, more tolerant, I feel lighter and I am more alert.

19 days in, it is still a huge struggle to avoid temptation but I would like to report a minor break through. In a week of wanting burgers, cookies, hot chocolate and anything with cocoa, a colleague was reheating pizza in the microwave at work. I looked over and, on autopilot, started to think how good it would taste. I stopped myself though, and realised that as the sugar reserves slowly leave my body, I don’t want it. The pizza didn’t appeal to me at all.

And that was my little bliss for the day, because it leads me to Good Food, more experimentation with Cooking and much more happiness with my Long Haired Boy.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

That Which Makes the World Skip a Beat

Do you have songs that go right through you? Maybe they send shivers down your spine, maybe they make you stop everything you’re doing. Maybe it’s the whole song; maybe it’s those 5 seconds when the song reaches the peak of everything it’s been working towards for the last 3 minutes and all of the instruments and vocals work together to make the world skip a beat.

The reason 'music' is in capital letters on the Bliss List is the profound effect it has on me, every day of my life. If you’re not a music lover, maybe your heart-stopper is the smell steaming from your cooking as the right mix of herbs and spices finally realise they’re supposed to hold hands and not let go. Maybe it’s the long awaited kiss in a romantic comedy, or the moment the characters in a novel realise the reason they were created. Maybe it’s the feeling of being low on a motorbike as its dances around the corners of a gorge (yes, motorbikes dance round corners, it’s an awesome feeling!).

For me, its most definitely music. I have long said that music runs through the blood in my veins and I don’t know a better way to put the feeling into words. A good song honestly feels like it is taking over and it is the primary accelerant for all that makes me breathe. A really good song feels as though if it were to stop during the aforementioned peak, your heart would literally stop, as it needs to be let down gently by the last verse.

I can’t do justice using only words. Don’t get me started on seeing one of these songs live!

Even if you’re not a music lover, I'll happily bet that you have at least one heart-stopping song in your collection. I have a few of them, but today I’m listening to Wonderful Life by Alterbridge - the peak will stop my train of thought every time! Another long standing favourite is Wicked Game - the Three Days Grace version is the best - and I would highly recommend Hello by Evanescence, even if you’re not a fan. Actually, none of these songs are stereotypical of the artists that recorded them... but any bad day is automatically turned on its head by any of them.

Go and put yours on, niiiiiiice and loud. Then tell us what you chose? Sometimes if you know someone else loves a song, you get a whole new perspective on it; I’m keen to try some new ones.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Lesson in Simple Happinesses

Good morning Dancers! 

Ok, its not morning anymore, but this morning was sunny and this afternoon is drizzly and humid, so Im going to stick with a cheery Good Morning. Im home sick today, so I thought my Bliss potential would be limited. However, I underestimated myself. 

Once I made it out of bed, Moschino perfume ('Funny' today, for anyone interested) was my first stop. I am yet to find a Moschino perfume I don't like, they all inspire happiness with summery, fruity flavours. Growing up I strongly recall Mum saving perfumes for special occasions and it never made sense to me, even as a child. She had plenty! For Christmas, Courts was gifted Lacoste Challenge and similarly spouted objections to my spritzing him generously, for fear I waste it. 

Today, whether you are a saver or a spritzer, or even if you are guilty of overdosing your friends and colleagues with too much of your favourite scent, throw caution to the wind and enjoy the finer things in life. Go and re-spritz :)

I mentioned yesterday that we were off to the Auckland Museum for the Outrageous Fortune exhibit, which was awesome - I highly recommend it if you were a fan of the show. After the OF exhibit, we ventured around the rest of the museum. Do you remember the Elephant that used to be near the entrance? He was put into storage, but he's back, which was very cool, as was touching the fur of a black bear and staring into the eyes of a snarling tiger - all real and all stuffed along with hundreds of other specimens in the interactive Weird and Wonderful hall. I am off track. Courts came up to me and said he had something to show me. I was confused for a split second until he said "It's so you can do your blog thing", and the aquarium of chirping crickets made all the sense in the world, and I sat next to them and absorbed the sound for a second. Not all bliss has to be self made! 

I am very lucky.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Housewives, Drive-in Movies and Newborn Rock n Roll...

Last night we went to a BBQ for Courtney's mum's birthday. I absolutely love sitting around a table of cheese and wine making conversation with interesting people, I think it probably deserves a place on the bliss list. Last night, the wine was for everyone else, as I continue trying to shake off sugar. I remember a lot of good nights out that involved alcohol, and I'm sure I will have many more (Vodka and Coke Zero anyone?) but I am at a point where I really don't miss alcohol when I don't have it - its almost a feeling of freedom. Love it! 

Today we are off to the Auckland Museum to see the Outrageous Fortune exhibit with Courtney's family. I haven't been in 10 years or so, maybe its a good warm up for Europe! I have a nail appointment first, for a regular client and long time friend of mine. We always have a laugh together, it doesn't feel like work at all, which I think is how it should be! 

As I write this, I'm watching Elvis On Tour. I cant explain why I love Elvis, but I love his music, his movies... you know, I think the biggest thing I love about him is what he inspired in people. So many years on, he makes me think of an idealised 1950's world of well dressed housewives, drive in movies and newborn rock n roll. I know full well that the world in my imagination is highly romanticised and unrealistic, but if this image inspires me to live a better life, I'm OK with it! Bliss achieved :) 

What makes it onto your Bliss List? 

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A quick update on travel plans if you're interested - did I mention that in addition to the challenge of being on a bike – we’re camping most of the way?! We are on a budget, and camping is by far the cheapest sleeping option in the vast majority of areas. Being on the bike means we will be taking the bare essentials – a few changes of clothes, toiletries, tent and sleeping bags. Travelling with so few belongings is both daunting and exhilarating! 

Our itinerary changes almost daily at this stage as we find more sights to see, more out of reach towns we want to pass through and better campgrounds.Originally we planned on buying a bike and selling it at the end, but the red tape was taking the fun out of the adventure itself. At one point I had 20 web pages open in different tabs just to investigate the third party insurance that is compulsory across the EU, and it stopped being worth it. We knew hire was way out of our budget (Try 400 pounds a week for 15 weeks) but thought a hire company might know of a place that would offer a 4 month lease. Of 25 companies I contacted, half replied, and all said no - except one. 

Bournemouth Motorcycle Hire has come to our rescue with a ridiculously awesome deal on weekly hire for the duration of our trip. It is so exciting to know that we will see 9 countries on a 2010 Suzuki V-Strom DL650X. The only downfall is that this means that we now have to get the bike back to the start line and so the entire itinerary has been flipped upside down, when I thought it was almost there. The very idea that after hours of research and stress the bike is SORTED! I would begin planning all over again and not complain at all just to enjoy the relief of this moment.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Lets get this party started!

I was staring at my Bliss List just before thinking 'I don't have time to do any of this'. I guess that's the problem for a lot of us really, and definitely for me. I make myself so busy that I don't have time for myself. I work full time and also do acrylic nails part time in the evenings. Saving for Europe means that when I don't have a nail client booked, I work extra hours in Customer Service at my day job. Thankfully I get to see a few of my friends on a regular basis through my nail work, but its not quite the same. Don't get me wrong, I definitely make time for my friends and family, but I fit that in around everything else.

It doesn't leave much time for dancing in bare feet.

I don't know if 'dancing in bare feet' means much to you, but for me, its afternoons at 4 years old, jumping around the lounge on tattered brown carpet to Achy Breaky Heart on vinyl. Its weekends at 9 years old putting on shows for my Mum with my sister, Jess, with cold concrete farmhouse floors beneath us. Its High School days giggling and spinning down the grass bank with girlfriends just to enjoy the sun and breeze on our faces. And its early morning taxi's home, hours after stilettos were unbuckled and piled in the middle of the dancing circle. Its moments of pure happiness, when life is as simple as being barefoot and just dancing and that's as complicated as it needs to be.

The idea of having that moment at least once everyday is enough motivation to find time. And so, with the help of Courts sister, Natalie, who lives with us, I made three batches of muffins this morning.

A quick background - I have had an addiction to sugar since I was very young, when Dad would fill his cupboard with treats for our weekend visits. Anyone who doesn't have a sweet tooth may scoff at the idea of an addiction to sugar, but the facts - and negative health affects - of it are well documented. I've kicked the habit twice, and never felt better, but have always slipped back. So now, on my third go, I have been (refined) sugar free since 1 January 2011. Nats and I made muffins replacing all refined sugar with honey, so I can fulfill my sweet tooth without jeopardising my health resolution.

So, cooking - it's on the bliss list, so it should have ticked off my challenge for the day, but we are still experimenting with sugar replacement and not all of the batches were stunners. I realised its not the cooking I love, its treating my family and friends. I'm going to add that to the Bliss List, and today I hit the challenge with another indulgence. As I sat down to write this, I put on Slash's solo album and turned it up - instant happiness!

Day one - Success!

Fruit Salad Muffins

  • Sift together 2c flour, 4tsp baking powder, 1/2tsp salt. 
  • Drain the juice from a 425g can of fruit salad in natural juices, keeping 1/4c of the juice. 
  • Add to the juice 75g melted butter, 1/2c honey, 1/2c milk and 1 egg and whisk to combine. 
  • Add the fruit and wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. 
  • Spoon equal amounts into 12 greased muffin pans and bake for 10-12 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius or until the centre springs back when pressed.

The Adventure Begins... Love, Bikes, History, Music... and Bliss.

Courtney and I have a friend named Joanie. A beautiful, charismatic, red headed Irish woman. Joanie is my boss's sister, and we all worked together at one point, my boss AnnMarie, her sister Joanie, Courts and I. One afternoon Joanie, AnnMarie and I were sitting near each other and the topic of travel came up. 
I have been dreaming of my Great European Adventure since I was fourteen, and when I mentioned it Joanie was instantly excited, telling tales of her travels throughout Eastern Europe with her partner at the time, and the great adventures they had. Staying with and being fed by random strangers, meeting crazy people and seeing amazing new sights. And, she mentioned, all for the equivalent of $8000 New Zealand dollars.  

And there the dream began. 

You will find, quite quickly, that I take organisation to a whole new, obsessive level. And so it is that I very quickly worked out that yes, Courtney and I could afford $8000 plus flights, and that we could do it before the summer of 2011. Oh how I wish dreams were free. Especially since, in the three months since that day in October 2010, the budget has expanded to over $NZ25,000 plus flights. But this isn’t a story of budgeting woes and organisation (OK, a little about organisation). This is grabbing a dream by the horns, and making it happen – any which way we can. 

Courts has been riding a motorbike for as long as I have been dreaming of it and he started teaching me to ride as well. It was only natural that we do Europe the hard way – on a bike.  
It has been said many a time that Europe and Bike tours go together hand in hand. I’m sure they do, but as we have learned, it takes a lot of planning and a lot of money to do it. Weigh that against the freedom to go anywhere at anytime, to stop anytime on any journey, and to feel the rush that only a motorcyclist knows as we fly down Germany’s autobahn, Tuscany’s hills or the coast of the south of France, and I know it will be worth it.  

Heading to Europe in the summer means a lot of things to a lot of people – sunsets, warm air, heat, sand, water parks, cycling trips, and walking tours. To me it also means heat waves bouncing from ancient ruins and thirsty queues for galleries and museums. I studied Classical Studies and Art History throughout school and have read volumes on the topics purely because I love learning about them. One day I plan on continuing my studies and gaining a degree, but for now I want to soak it in first hand. 

To Courtney and me as a couple, summer in Europe also means the season of music festivals, celebrating our passions for music with like minded individuals from around the world. I love rock, especially old school 80’s rock like Guns n Roses and Motley Crue. But I also love pop and R&B right through to heavy metal. I just love music. Courtney is just as passionate, but far from eclectic with his taste. He loves metal, especially power metal, and almost exclusively only metal. Courts is also a very talented singer and guitarist and doesn’t do enough with his talent. For both of us, music is life blood, and the opportunity to experience the European music scene will not go wasted. We have tickets to three festivals - FiberFIB in Benicassim, Spain, which is dance, rock and alternative music; Wacken Open Air in Germany which is one of the most well known metal festivals in the world; and Party San, another metal festival in Germany.  

It was only 10 days after my fateful conversation with Joanie that we had our tickets to FiberFIB and to Wacken. I guess you could say that when I get an idea, I’m one to make it happen.  
Until this point, Courtney hadnt been excited about the trip at all. He said he wanted to go, but he wasn’t invested in the trip, and my excitement was being dragged down by his boyish lack of jumps and squeals. This all changed when we purchased our tickets to Wacken. I was at work and he was at home and I called him. “I’m about to hit submit on our Wacken tickets so this is your last chance to change your mind!”. He hardly thought I was serious, in fact I’m pretty sure that until I actually hit submit he thought Europe was a cool idea, but one I'd forget about sooner or later. Oh how much he had to learn about me and my ideas. As soon as the tickets were purchased, he was excited about the trip. He had a reason to go, this was actually happening – he was fulfilling a long time dream of going to Wacken.  

For anyone who doesn’t like metal, the idea of Wacken might not resonate much. I guess the equivalent might be Glastonbury to other music lovers. Essentially, Wacken is a pilgrimage. Every year, thousands of people from all over the world descend on this tiny village. It’s a right of passage for metal heads everywhere, and one Courts was finally getting to partake in.

And so it is that we find ourselves preparing for the trip of a lifetime – a trip of love, bikes, history, music... and Bliss.