Monday, February 28, 2011

Nanny 911 is Terrifying
Am I the only one that thinks this way? Nanny 911 is like Super Nanny, but not as good (IMHO) and it plays around lunch time on daytime TV, which means I see it quite often in the lunchroom at work. It is actually terrifying.

The kids on the show are monsters. They kick, hit, spit... the list is endless. The thing is, it's really easy to see that it's not their fault. At. All. It's the parents! They don't listen to their children. They're inconsistent. They're lazy. They're impatient. They're rude. They're obviously the cause of all of the issues in their own household. And, (before all of you that are parents start freaking out) - this is exactly what scares me.

The parents on these shows are not bad people. Some of them aren't great, but generally they're not mean spirited, they don't do these things intentionally. They are good people trying to do good things and bring up good children. They're just doing it wrong.

Can they see that though? Nope. That's why they apply for these horrible TV shows - if they could see their flaws as easily as we can, there's no way they would put them out for the world to judge in that way. Most of these people genuinely want to do a better job for their kids and be better people, if they could see their flaws as easily as we can, they would fix them. Or at least try.

So this is where I turn off the show and freak out. I know where these people are in terms of being blind to their own mistakes. I've had several times in my life where people have offered home truths to me, and it hits me hard, because I just don't see it until it's pointed out and it becomes all too obvious.
I try to be aware of my flaws now and work on them but nobody is perfect and I have several personality traits I wish I didn't. I like my things my way. I try to consciously remember it can't always be that way but it's hard. I interrupt people. I don't mean to, I just get so excited about what I'm waiting to say that it comes out. I have to consciously remember to wait for people to finish and it's not because I'm not interested in what they're saying, I just forget. I argue with Courtney and half the time it's because I've been impatient. I have to remember to slow down. I'm trying, but you can't change overnight.

So - what if when I have children, they are monsters, and it's all my fault. Will I figure it out before it's too late? Will I be able to see my own mistakes and fix them, or will I be blind to them and blame it all on the completely wrong things?

I'm a long way from kids of my own, but for a very long time Ive been aware of just how blind we are to our own selves. I think it makes me more tolerant of people I don't know well, wondering about their side of the story. Of course my impatience counter-balances that intuition with people I do know well... sorry! I'm working on that.

As a parent, can you see these things? Is it as hard as it looks?
If you're not a parent, do you see your own mistakes? Do you ever stop and think that the person you can't stand might just not know?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Week in Bliss

The first week of the Bliss challenge is over. The very first thing I learnt is that scheduling Bliss might be a good start, but it very rarely works out! Failed iPods, postponed appointments and cancelled dates make for quick thinking when you have a challenge at hand haha. After all that, this is what Blissed me out this week -

Britney Spears 'Hold it Against Me'.
Call me obsessed, as many of you already do, but I love her, and I love this song. Britbrit is on my bliss list, and I can't blame my love of her on nostalgia. I have a distinct memory of sitting in the back seat of a hot car in 1999 while my 10 year old sister played '...Baby One More Time' on repeat and Mum didn't see the need to stop this monstrosity. I'm pretty sure it wasn't until 'Toxic' that I got on the Britney Wagon, and I haven't stopped since. I may always revert to rock, but singing along to Britney makes me happy. I had planned on a day of her catalog on shuffle, but the aforementioned iPod decided to sync all crazy and instead I listened to Hold it Against Me about seven times in a row. I am not ashamed.

Challenges and Inspiration

On the same day as Britney, the General Manager of our company came and sat with the frontline staff and took calls from customers for 4 hours until 10pm at night. As a trainer and someone that frequently does the same, I got to sit with him and assist. He wanted to see and hear what the frontline deal with, struggle with the same struggles and hear the good and bad from our customers. Why? So he can fix it. So he can make the working environment better for customers and staff alike. So the little people have it easier. He doesn't only care about a bottom line or the next change in statistics. He is taking on challenges that aren't easy but he's getting on with it. When I grow up I want to be just like him.
Being Alive

The next day I woke up in a seriously good mood. Finishing at 10pm meant I went to bed not long after getting home and I woke up in the same great mood I went to sleep in. I had planned to get my haircut that night, which I love, but the world had other plans. At 12.50pm a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck 3km below the surface, 10km outside of Christchurch. We live in Auckland, so we didn't feel the quake, but I have kept up with the news every waking hour since. 146 are confirmed dead, 200 are still missing, and I am ALIVE. I spent the night watching the news, and instead of being pampered, I coloured Squish's hair for her, in front of the TV. I spent time with my Long Haired Boy and with Squish, I pampered someone else, and the only thing I would have liked more is to actually help out in our Garden City.

Green Grass and Good Friends
Wednesday saw us join Monty and Nurse B at Glover Park in St Heliers for Movies by Moonlight. It was our second foray into outdoor movies this summer, watching 500 Days of Summer, and it was not to be our last, because we joined Mum and Squish the very next night for Julie and Julia. We had picnic dinners, say cocooned under duvets with pillows. We watched moths lit up like fireflies by the projector as we stared up at the stars in a sky as deep as it was dark. Although we enjoyed both movies, it didn't matter what was on the screen. We had fresh air, grass under our feet, and loved ones at our side. Perfect summer nights.

Being Pampered

Thursday I got that haircut I had been waiting for. My hair was quite long but it was badly damaged by bleaching-gone-by and the huge Cheap-Haircut Mistake of 2010. Courtney's Step-mum's niece (got that?) did it for me and she did an amazing job. She laughed when I said I was looking forward to having my hair brush fall off the end of my hair in the morning, but isn't it a great feeling? Refreshed and renewed. I stopped a lot of my pampering efforts over the last 6 months as Europe savings too priority, but I don't think I can prioritise the awesome feeling I get.

The pampering didn't stop there! On Friday I got a massage, express facial, eyebrow wax and tint and eyelash tint. It was a 1 hour treatment package that I got myself and my sister off a last-minute deals site. I desperately needed my eyebrows tinted (blonde eyebrows kind of disappear when you have black hair) and the girl did a great job. Unfortunately I can't recommend the salon because the customer service when both of us tried to book was seriously atrocious, to the point we considered not going at all for fear of the treatment we would get. Not wanting to waste money, I went, and I'm glad I did.
There was a very good reason for all my primping and preening this week - on Saturday Mum had booked photoshoots for my sister, herself and me. We each had our hair and make up done, individual shots and group shots. I got made up with 50's pin up make up and hair, which i LOVE. I will share photos when we have them.

Random Acts of Kindness

This one was unintentional but after the photoshoot

Singing in the Car

There is little I enjoy more! I feel like I'm annoying people when I sing around the house. I should get over it, because I love singing, and I'm not tone deaf. In the car, I have ultimate freedom. I don't care that other drivers see me, I love seeing people singing in their cars!

My Long Haired Boy

We had our third Saturday Breakfast Date this weekend, and I can happily say this new tradition was a brilliant idea! There is no better way to start the weekend than sitting with my LHB eating amazing food I would never have cooked myself, in the sun, with trees and sea air. Thanks Mecca Stonehouse.

Mexican Food
Blondie's birthday dinner went down a treat! I hear mixed reviews about Mexican Cafe but I am yet to have a bad experience. Soul Buddy was there with her hubby and everyone had a great night. Their cocktails are to die for and last night I didn't have a single one. Viva La Sugar-Free!


So it's not pampering, its not glamorous photo shoots and its not fine dining, but damn it feels good. Inorganic Rubbish Collection week is AWESOME. We also have a house inspection tomorrow so when I finish writing, I start cleaning. Britbrit, I'm going to need you on form for this one. It's gotta be LOUD!

So, the end of the first week, and it was a success. My week wasn't perfect, I had a big argument with Courts over stupid little things (it's all A-OK now) and a drunken (on their part) argument last night after dinner. Neither needed to happen. With Courts I needed to just chill out and relax, which I think was in part because I haven't had much time to myself. We're working on that though. The other I'm still not a hundred percent sure on, but it will be resolved. I'm not an angry or mean spirited person and both incidents really got to me. I'm real though, and that's why I'm mentioning them to you. As long as I focus on being more patient and chilled out, and bringing the bliss in, things can only get better.

What did you Bliss out on this week?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

I Got A Feeling...

Mumra PlaylistGetting ready for Blondie's birthday bash tonight! Make up done, hair done (More on that tomorrow), now its time to get in the mood! (Because being sugar-free, I can no longer rely on margaritas to do it for me)

I'm joining the bandwagon (haha band, get it? No. Read on) on Mumra's page and giving y'all a playlist. This one is my Super Awesome Party Mood Inducing, Sing-along Starting, Booty Shaking Playlist. SAPMISASBSP for short.

First, I am addicted to Britbrits new one. Two reasons - the break down in the middle makes me want to shake it, and I love the way she says 'hazy'. Auto-tune FTW in this case.

Next up, I'm going with Glambert, because he is HOT and those screams go right through me... one thing is for sure, this boy can SING.

Hmmmm what next... OK well obviously there has to be some Slash. This time, I'm going with Ghost, because that is what they were starting their set with when I saw him last year and I love the feeling of excitement and anticipation it gives me because of the memories. Baby Can't Drive feat. Alice Cooper and Nicole Scherzinger (I take no responsibility for spell check) is also awesome.

Mixing it up... need some Beyonce! Love Freakum Dress but it needs to be more of a sing-a-long so I'm going with Radio, it was a hard choice! This song is purely for jumping around and getting the energy up.

Sticking along the same lines, I want Rihanna next. Breakin Dishes is where its at!

After two girly songs I'm craving Rock. Actually, no. Two girly songs in a row requires detox. I'll be nice and ease you into it. I LOVE Marilyn Manson but I'll give you Christina Aguilera's take on Beautiful People as well. You choose!

Now you're warmed up, I'm checking in on the new Sixx AM track 'Lies of the Beautiful People' (see what I did there?) because I LOVE everything they do. Check this video man! Its stunning. STUNNING.

Lastly, NOTHING is better for getting ready for a good time than George freakn Thorogood. Nuff said.

Loving it. Absolutely LOVING it. Time to gooooo!

PS I totally didn't watch all these videos, I was iTunes-ing. Fingers crossed they're all good quality, let me know if they're not!

Fake it Till You Make it

I wasn't going to publish this post, because it feels a bit like preaching something I don't fully understand myself. But it was requested by someone who felt like they needed it, and if it helps only them, then I consider it worth it. Just remember it's only my ideas and experiences - maybe some of you can comment and help out too? 

With that out of the way, this post is dedicated to a genuinely beautiful person, who doesn't realise just how confident she seems, or how many traits she has that are admired by everyone she meets...

Generally speaking, I know who I am as a person, and I am confident in portraying myself as I am, nothing hidden. I am flawed though, and sometimes I get caught up in what certain people or groups might think of me. It's natural, I think, but it's not something I let slide. That is to say, that when I catch myself caring too much, I try to reason and change my way of thinking.

It's not easy though is it? To be honest I think the only reason I am good at not caring what other people think, is sheer laziness. It takes energy to worry, and I can't be bothered. It's not a very inspiring or deeply thought out process, but it sure works.

Generally speaking, I only care what people think of me if it affects someone I care about. For example, I was slightly nervous meeting Courtney's extended group of friends, because if they didn't like me, it would affect the way he interacted with them, even if no one intended it to. Thankfully, one by one, they opened up to me, and those that I have gotten to know are really lovely, genuine people. I think any worry I had, revolved around the fact that they are all friends with each other because they share a dedication to metal music and the scene that surrounds it. While I do like metal, its not to the same extent, and I was aware that we may have little common ground. At the end of the day, it all worked out though, and that's what I try and take with me to every new experience. The last one worked out, so what's the point in worrying?

Even in situations where people haven't all gelled quickly, I think back to an idea that was put to me in high school - Will it matter in one week, one month, or one year? Such a simple idea but one that really changed the way I thought about things that worried me. It has followed me through the 10 years that have followed so far.

I'm by no means so carefree that I don't have a worry at all, but when I get caught up in an idea I stop myself and evaluate it - will the fact i left my mobile at home today matter next week? Nope, not a bit. Will the fact I burnt dinner matter next month? Not a chance. And if this person, be it someone walking past me on the street or someone I'm going to see again and again, doesn't like my outfit, or my favourite band, or the way I dance, will it matter in a year? I highly doubt it. My Running Man might give them fuel for a laugh with their own friends as they watch, but I doubt they'll care enough to tell anyone about it after that.

I take it all as a learning curve. I've flatted with many people over the last five years and a fair few have not thought everything I said and did was the epitome of cool! But time goes on, and now I'm sitting on my bed, in my warm home, with my sister-in-law baking muffins, my dog checking in to make sure nothings changed, my amazing boyfriend on his way home and the best friends I could ask for, dotted around Auckland, living their own lives but there when I need them, mutual trust and love built and earnt over the years.

Butting Heads!
Those flatting experiences were and still are, invaluable in teaching me how different people live, work and play, and how my own personality gels with others, or doesn't, as the case may be. They teach me tolerance, patience, and understanding, and I continue to learn these things as I grow with Courtney. The same experiences also teach me that if something doesn't work, life goes on, flatmates change, and everyone is always ok in the end.

I know I'm not perfect. I try to be aware of my flaws and conscious of any new ones. You can't expect to be perfect or to change your personality, but if you're self-aware, acknowledge both your good and bad points, observe and take in everything around you, then any experience can only help you grow and learn. As someone who writes a lot, I frequently write down any problems I've had, anything negative, and a way to fix it for next time. It's not everyones cup of tea, but personally it helps me to get my thoughts in order and better understand myself and the reactions to my actions.

Confidence is not arrogance, its not wrong, and it's not difficult. Fake it till you make it baby. I'm far too stubborn to give anyone the privilege of telling me who to be or how to act.

Its a work in progress, but isn't everything?

What makes you who you are? What do you want people to remember about you? And how do you deal with judgement and opinion?

Friday, February 25, 2011

When You Realise How Great Your Friends REALLY Are

Happy Friday! Another week down, another week closer to Europe! 105 sleeps to go, and Friday means it's time to update you on our plans. If you're not interested in house-sitting, ferries, poor customer service or cougars, feel free to skip this post, I won't mind!

First things first, our animals now have loving homes to (temporarily) go to while we are away, hence the title of this blog. The wonders of Facebook. Oh how I love and loathe thee all at the same time. We had quite a few people say that if their circumstances were right at the time, they could help. Thank you, to each and everyone of you, for reassuring me that I had options, if I didn't find anything more suitable. Although it was a great relief to know we had people willing to help, the greatest relief came in a resolution.

Our dear Movie Night hosts, Monty and NurseB, have offered to take Toby in, while Izzy (the cat) will head to Soul Buddy's house for awhile. In a perfect world I wouldn't want them separated, but I think they will be OK. Monty and NurseB already have a dog, and he is only just getting used to their cats (blended family bliss!) so it's not really a great idea to throw Izzy in the mix. Toby has been around Monty since he was a pup so there is a lot of trust there, and having another dog to distract him won't hurt either. It also works really well because Monty and NurseB are off on Safari for the month before we leave, so we are going to house sit for them. The fact that we will be with Toby in his new house for the first month he is there is awesome, we can help him transition so it isn't so hard on him. The whole thing couldn't have worked out better, and we are eternally grateful to our friends for helping us out.

Meanwhile, Izzy is going to stay with his Aunty SB. SB has three cats of her own so while it will become a bit of a full house, at least he will get a lot of attention! My only worry is that SB and her husband are off to England for 2 weeks at the same time that we leave (we're all off adventuring this year! Even Squish and her Lobster are off to the US of A) and Izzy wont understand all the changes. He's going to head to her place when we move to Monty's so he has a month to get settled before they go away so I am sure it will all be OK. Either way, I couldn't ask for a more trustworthy and loving person to look after him when I cant.

OK, so with that out of the way - the fun stuff! We're really just trying to focus on getting accommodation sorted at the moment, so we've recently booked Paris, Athens, and Avallon, a stop between Nice and Cherbourg which has replaced Clermont-Ferrand on our itinerary. It's really close to an awesome experimental building site that we plan on visiting - a castle is being built, using only medieval resources. No cranes or jackhammers, just chisels and pulleys.

We've also booked our ferries between Poole, England and Cherbourg, France, and our ferries between Athens and the island of Santorini in Greece. Even though it is still months away, its really exciting to see the pieces come together. This is actually going to happen! After 10 years of dreaming and googling and dreaming and brochures and dreaming and ideas, I'm actually going to make it happen. It still doesn't seem real.

Silly things are exciting. I had a few dollars left over last pay day so I bought fresh stocks of hair ties, clips, toothpaste, soap, 2-in-1 shampoo and even Marmite and stowed it all away in our rapidly filling Things-for-Europe drawer (we're on our second one, luckily they're small bedside table drawers or I don't think we would get it all on the plane!). I told you I'm super organised! I just like doing these things because each one takes me a step closer to being there.

Our only disappointment has been the International Youth Travel Card. The IYTC is a card that costs $25 and acts as proof of age (you have to be under 26 to get one). It then qualifies you for discounts all over the world. The STA website has a database of all the places you can get the discount, and although there were very few that appeared useful to us, it showed we could get a discount off our Disneyland tickets that would be almost equal to the cost of the card. We reasoned that this essentially made the card free, and so if we did find a place to use it, it was a bonus.

Only thing was, the database was wrong and we couldn't use the card for the Disneyland discount. It only applied to Student cards, which wasn't noted, and the database was so out of date the ticket prices weren't even correct. After an argument with a very rude travel agent over her demands that I email the complaint and that there was no-one I could talk to (I wanted it reversed before the charge came off my credit card so didn't want to leave it up to email), she passed the phone to the very person I'd been told to email. The lovely Rhiannon realised that the website wasn't clear, and arranged a refund for us. While I wasn't too happy with STA originally, they can thank Rhiannon for taking ownership and proving that their Customer Service isn't all bad.

Lastly, I am very excited for tomorrow night. Its the 40th birthday dinner of my Mum's best friend Blondie and not only do we get to celebrate with her but we get to do it at Mexican Cafe, my favourite restaurant on earth. Happy Birthday other-Mum, thanks so much for welcoming my sister and I into your life as family members before you barely knew us. Thanks for putting up with us, loving us unconditionally, and for being my Mum's Soul Buddy. You make us all very happy and I am proud to call you my other-Mum. And to point you out to everyone I know and tell them your real age after they comment on how hot you are. No more dirty thirties! Love you xx

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dance Like Nobody is Watching, Sing Like Nobody Can Hear

You know one of the times I am happiest? When I am in my own home, surrounded my things, in my nest - completely, 100% alone. Am I the only one?

In a couple of weeks, Squish, her boyfriend, her sister and myself with be off to Melbourne for a few days for Soundwave (Slash is playing!). I know Courts is going to miss me, and I will miss him immensely, especially when I have to sleep by myself. But I'm also really looking forward to it. My own space, no one to run decisions by, just me and my mates. It will most likely give me a chance to really properly miss Courts as well, because we work, ride, sleep and play together, so its not often we're apart long enough to truly miss each other.

Courts' Dad and brother have also jetsetted off to work in Noumea for a couple of months this weekend just gone, leaving their partners at home. While two months is a far greater deal than three days, I honestly still think I would enjoy the first few weeks, after which time both partners are planning on visiting the boys. I know Courts wouldn't feel the same way, as the girls probably don't, and as you probably wouldn't. I think the reason I could enjoy that time is because I would be secure in knowing there was nothing wrong between us and he would be back. It would be a different story had he left for any other reason - I'm not made of stone! I just think, that with the knowledge he was coming home to me, I could miss him while enjoying my space. 'Fiercely independent' is probably an understatement.

Courts and I flat with his sister and another guy. Even when they're out, Courts is usually home, so I am rarely home alone. The funny thing is, it's not that I do anything particularly odd or out of character when I'm alone. You know what I love most? One of my ultimate moments of bliss... all I want right now is to turn the stereo up top volume - it will either be 80's glam metal or by contrast, bubblegum pop. The former projecting screaming guitar licks through my veins, the latter making me want to sing and jump around. And then I would clean my house, singing at the top of my voice. Pottering around in my own space, tidying up my things, and missing whatever notes I cared to try for, without worrying about another soul judging them. Dancing in whatever fashion I felt like, without a care in the world. All the while in my safe-place, my nest, doing what I love most - singing, dancing, and pottering.

I bet I'm not the only one.

I know my independent streak can be an extreme sometimes. It could be misconstrued as uncaring or cold by anyone who didn't know me well. I adore Courts - if I didn't I couldn't spend near-24/7 with him and still want to plan 4 months in Europe with him! Anyone who ever cares to question my dedication to him (not that I know of anyone who has) is blind to my reality. Soul Buddy and her husband are away from each other for weeks at a time due to his job, and they have both said that distance has made them stronger.

On Saturday night, Courts was out without me. I missed him, our bed felt empty without him (Toby the dog relished having 'his' side of the bed back) but realising he would be home in the morning and we would still be 'us' was refreshing. Remembering that I don't actually need him to survive, that I choose him and he chooses me. That we are together because we don't want to be apart, but that when we are we are still whole people. That was important for me. It's been awhile since I had that time to myself and I think it renewed a certain strength in me.

On this particular occasion, Courts sister was home with me and we stayed up till the wee hours watching TV shows Courts doesn't like and chatting about things Courts doesn't like to hear about. I didn't get my 'me' time, although I had a good night all the same. Singing, dancing and cleaning will wait for another day. For now, I feel like I've got my groove back, when I didn't know it was missing in the first place.

What weird things make you feel happiest? Do you dance while you clean as well? I bet at least some of you have!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Just a quick note to throw all my love and support out to everyone in Christchurch, and to everyone with family and friends there.

For those who read internationally, the city of Christchurch in New Zealand suffered a massive earthquake at lunchtime today. Currently, there are 65 confirmed dead, and countless more trapped in collapsed buildings. Christchurch is far enough away from us here in Auckland that we didn't physically feel it, but we are definitely feeling it emotionally.

I am heartbroken, the images on TV are devastating, and I am truly grateful that my darling friends in the area are all OK.

All the more reason to add Bliss to every day. If you can't help with donations of supplies, money or even blood, then at least honour those that have passed by making your life the best one it can be. If only they had one more day.

PS If you are yet to hear from someone in the Christchurch area click here, and please don't congest the phonelines, no matter where you are calling from.

You Are What You Eat...

The last week I have been pretty good with sugar, I've done my best to keep up my food diary and stay on top of what I'm actually eating. We went out for dinner one night and although there was wine in the sauce that was on my meal (and therefore sugar), I drank water and skipped dessert. I had a small scoop of ice cream at the lantern festival (It was less than half the size of the tub I had at Movies by Moonlight so I'm guessing 50ml) but it came with half a rock melon. During the week, I even had a day where I didn't need a glass of milk to tide me over between meals.

I have to say though, this last week has been hard. I just finished week 7 sugar-free, and it has most definitely been the worst for cravings since the start. I've been snacking on a couple of prunes or a teaspoon of honey when it really gets hard and all I can think about it sugar. At least those items have whole sugars, nothing refined. I honestly think I would have had a chocolate bar this week if I hadn't felt accountable to you guys, so thank you! I guess this goes to show that you can't relax when you think you're over the worst. If I had, I would have undone all those weeks of trying. My Nutritionist said it takes around 3 months to get over the cravings. I don't think I'm doing myself any favours with the prunes and honey, but we'll see.

One thing I'm definitely cutting down on is artificial sweetener. Over the last 7 weeks I have tried several brands of sugar-free chocolate. Some were great, some were awful, all were expensive. The best thing I found was Guylian no-added-sugar chocolate. It has a small amount of artificial sweetener, but it tastes like real chocolate, and it didn't give me the jitters like some other brands did.

Looking at all the chemical-sounding names in some of the ingredients lists, I decided to do some googling. Now, I'm not a professional researcher nor a nutritional expert. Hell, I'm not an expert in anything. But I did what I suppose most of us do and I browsed a few websites until I figured out the general consensus of what each sweetener really was.

You know what I found out? Most 'artificial sweeteners' are derived from sugar but because they have different chemical make-ups, they can't be labelled as such. Many of them retain all their original calories but lose some of the sweetness of sugar. This means the companies have to add more to achieve the same sweetness, in turn adding extra calories and earning the right to label their product with 'no added sugar'.

One product, which looked awesome at the start, was 21% sweetener, comprised of Sorbitol, Polydextrose, and Maltitol. I searched each sweetener and was put off the product for life.

Sorbitol is just made from fruit and corn and seaweed, which doesn't sound so bad, but apparently it can cause Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other stomach issues and is used to thicken moisturisers, soaps, and to make cigarettes.

Polydextrose I had to dig for, I found out that it is made from Dextrose, Sorbitol (more Sorbitol) and Citric Acid. I looked up Dextrose and found out that that is basically just glucose.

Maltitol looked fine on the first website I saw but when I searched again I found out that Maltitol is sugar, essentially. Its manufactured by hydrogenating Maltose, the glucose-glucose disaccharide (two sugars) derived from cornstarch. Because it's no longer sugar, manufacturers can label their products 'no added sugar'.  This site was quite interesting.

So, I am a firm believer that we should pick our battles. Mine was sugar, and artificially sweetened products helped me avoid it. Now that I'm half way through the first 3 months, I'm going to start cutting down these products too. I've probably eaten them all my life, and I'm generally healthy. Like I said, I'm no expert, and for that reason I'm not naming any of the products I found, but I don't think anyone can disagree that natural or 'whole' foods are easier for our bodies to digest and better for us in general, so I'm going to try and focus on those a bit too.

It's crazy how much we don't realise we put into our bodies until we start reading labels. Do you know what you're eating?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Finding the Time to be Happy

When I started this blog I had decided to take my happiness into my own hands and run with it, in the form of the Bliss List. For those who haven't been reading from the start, the Bliss List started as the 'Interests' list on my Bebo (yeah... Bebo...) and evolved as it followed me to MySpace and then Facebook and then here. Every time I come across it, it makes me think 'This is how I want to remember my life, and this is how I want others to think of me'.

Toby at his happiest!
The only problem with the Bliss List is that I don't have time to do all of the things that sum up my ideal 'me', between working and working and cleaning and watching TV. So I decided I was going to do one a thing a day from the Bliss List. I managed it for a few days and then once every few days after that, but I fell straight back into The Rut. I suppose, now I think about it, its a lot like dieting or being sugar-free - it takes a few tries to get it right.

I am a person that thrives on challenges, and so I suppose the best way to kick start this experiment of Bliss is with one. I have 50 things on my Bliss List, and so I have written one on each of the next 50 days of my appointment diary, and I'm going to keep you all updated with how well I can stick to it, which ones live up to my expectations and which I actually didn't enjoy anymore. Hopefully I can inspire you, and I will most definitely welcome ideas and suggestions on how I can make the time or fulfill my list!

Those who know me personally will already be laughing at the fact I essentially scheduled in happiness, because I am an organisation fiend. Without doing it though, I get caught up in things I should be doing, and it's apparent I need a little reminder to do something for myself each day. I have already started making room for Bliss.

Courts and I had a chat the other day about the whole thing and I realised that although I claim to not watch much TV, I actually do. It's not because I sit down and channel surf, which in my head is what 'watching TV' seems to be. It's because we have MySky and can record anything that looks interesting - so I do. Once its recorded I feel like I have to watch it because it's there - so I do. I've now deleted all of my recordings except American Idol (because we all watch it together). I've even deleted Shortland Street. Love it or hate it, this was a big deal for me! So now I will watch TV if I sit down and find something I want to watch but I won't watch it because I have to.

I also realised I spend a lot of time doing very little on my computer. Swapping between Hotmail and Facebook and news sites and gossip sites and the blog and achieving very little. Why am I not picking up the book that's been on my bedside table, unopened, for 4 months now? Why am I not running (OK, walking quickly) through the park with my dog Toby, enjoying the dopey look on his face and the way his tongue falls out one side of his mouth when he's so happy that he forgets to hold it in? In 109 sleeps I will be without him for almost 4 months, I have to make the most of him. And why aren't I lying around watching movies and talking with Courts instead of staring at screens, metres apart?

I don't have an answer really. I forget, and that's the honest truth. It doesn't cross my mind to do these things and then in hindsight I wish I had. Enough excuses, now I will do all of these things and more.

I started Friday, when me and Courts went with Squish and her boyfriend to the Chinese Lantern Festival in Albert Park, Auckland. We braved massive crowds to eat Sri Lankan Appam with spicy chicken filling, and we braved them again to each have half a rock melon with the seeds scooped out and a small scoop of vanilla ice cream in the centre (this was the first sugar I had since my 100ml ice cream at Movies in Moonlight so I let it slide - no more treats until I've gone another week 'clean'). The lanterns were awesome, the food was delicious, the company was second to none, but the crowds definitely put me off. The food stalls were separate from the lanterns, down either side of a closed off street, and it took us an hour to walk a few hundred metres. We weren't the only ones to comment that it was like a mosh pit! But that is 'Festivals' crossed off the list.

Something Courts and I decided to try when we talked about making the most of our time together was a Saturday morning breakfast date every week, spending real time together and starting the weekend relaxed and happy. So Saturday Morning we made our way to the Farmers Market at Britomart. Neither of us had been before and we loved it. Free samples at most of the stalls, amazing fresh produce and baked goods. Courts had a coffee and I had a fresh orange, carrot, lemon and ginger juice that was made in front of me. We then each had a Ciabatta filled with roast ham, bacon, egg, cheese, lettuce and tomato, with the veges coming from other stalls in the market place. The Ciabattas were amazing as was the jar of Rewarewa Honey I treated myself to, unprocessed and fresh from the hive. It's too good to waste on toast, I have to admit to dipping in a spoon.

So far, so bliss! I'll let you know how the rest of the week goes.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Right Mindset for Change

Often when I talk about being Sugar-free, people react with a 'too hard' attitude. I hear everything from 'I like sugar too much' to 'I would have to change too much', but it all boils down to the whole thing being too much like hard work. You know what? You're right, it is too hard - unless you're in the right frame of mind.

I gave up on being sugar-free last time because I hit a really difficult time in my personal life, and I was no longer in the right frame of mind to do the work. I attempted to go sugar-free before Christmas, but after 3 days I realised the holiday season was asking for failure. The first few weeks of being sugar-free are the hardest, and I didn't need the temptation of Christmas treats as well. I binged over the holidays and ate everything I wanted, and at midnight on New Years Eve, I stopped.

Soul Buddy is similar, we were talking the other day about her wanting to change her exercise routine because her current one is hard to stick to. We decided that until she decides she wants to do it rather than she should do it, it's just not going to happen. For now, shes aware of changes she could make, and one day she will wake up with the want that will make them happen. It has happened to her before with different things, just like it has happened to me and just like it has happened to you.

Think about the last time you woke up and cleaned the house top to bottom. It might have been a while ago, but I'm willing to bet you thought about it for a long time before one day you just had the motivation.

The example I really wanted to share with you, was that of my other-best-friend, Squish. I know people generally feel different to how they portray themselves, especially when it comes to confidence, but as far as I'm concerned (unless she tells me otherwise), Squish is confident in who she is and that confidence is inspiring and beautiful. I can only speak for the outward impression she gives, and I wont speak for anything she has ever told me, but unless someone means a lot to her and has earned her trust, she doesn't give a hoot what they think of her.

I cant compare Squish and Soul Buddy with each other, they each have their own beautiful place in my life, and Soul Buddy is as much of a sister to me as my own flesh and blood. Squish and I have things we do together just as Soul Buddy and I have things we do together. Of course there is some overlap, but one of the things Squish and I do well is party. We are a very good party team. We have very similar music taste and very different taste in boys. Its a winning combination, and it wouldn't be the same without the infectious confidence she portrays.

A couple of months ago, Squish decided it was time to get healthy. She started following the 3/10 rule (eating foods that are less than 3% fat and 10% sugar) and attending boot camp sessions in the local park while also playing summer hockey, which she does every year. By making a conscious, motivated decision that it was time for a change, Squish has completely turned around her life, fitness, eating habits and attitude. She keeps me motivated to keep on track with sugar. We share tips and new foods we've found, and her self-motivation is inspiring. There are no short cuts, there are no tricks or fads. She found the motivation and she is changing her entire life. All she needed was for the right pieces to fall into place at the right time, and then to harness the motivation she found.

Squish is inspiring and she is living proof that if you think about it long enough, and make small steps towards whatever it is that you want, one day you will be gifted the tools to succeed. Motivation, Attitude, Energy. Squish works really hard at making sure this change for the better is permanent, and I couldn't be more proud of her.

If you could change one thing about your life this year, what would it be? Forget what you should change, what do you want?

Friday, February 18, 2011

I Have Tickets to DISNEYLAND!

The childhood dream to end all childhood dreams, we have tickets to Disneyland! Disneyland Paris that is. When I travelled through the states a few years ago I had big plans of going to Disneyland in LA but LA was my last stop and not only was I running out of cash but I had some money stolen from my Hostel in Vegas as well. In the end I couldn't afford to go so I made it a priority to book tickets in advance this time. No excuses!

Is it just me or should Disney characters have American accents? Imagining Snow White saying Bonjour doesn't quite work for me. Never mind, bring it on!

We have also booked in to a few more campgrounds. Our first stop in Spain is San Sebastian, where we will be staying at Camping Igueldo. San Sebastian is an hour or so away from Pamplona, which is the town that the Running of the Bulls is held in. We were planning on staying closer to Pamplona for the festival, and then heading across country to Javea, a beach town between Valencia and Alicante. As much as I would love to see those places, I also wanted to simplify the trip and limit the number of stops we had, so instead we are staying in San Sebastian for a whole week. San Sebastian is not only close to Pamplona but it has beaches, mountains and city all in one and looks amazing.

We also have accommodation in Bordeaux at Le Village du Lac and in Athens at Kokkino Limanaki. We're not even half way in terms of getting all of our accommodation sorted, but more and more is getting ticked off, it's very exciting.

Its important that we book everything we need to as far in advance as possible, to get the best deals we can. But spending all our money as it comes in, does make me nervous. It means our petrol, food and spending money will be reliant on savings and on selling our car and bike and on our holiday payouts. None of those things are guaranteed, so we are going to have to work hard to make sure they come through.

Also, my dog Toby and my cat Izzy, who I am going to miss more than words can even explain, were going to be staying with my older sister while we were away, and if that fell through, Courtney's sister was going to stay with them in our house (which we wouldn't keep otherwise). Both of those options fell through this week, with my sisters partner getting transferred to Queenstown for work, and Courtney's sister deciding to move home and save while we're away. I'm sure we have other options but for the moment I'm a little stressed. If by 'a little' you mean 'out of my mind'.

I'm really happy for the decisions our sisters have made so now I need to focus on both the exciting parts of planning our trip, and a solution for my fur-children. Giving them to new owners is not an option, and I wouldn't have planned the trip if I thought that would happen. We will find an alternative, even if I need a loan to pay for them to stay at Pets in the City, because those animals mean more to me than anything.

Disneyland, focus on Disneyland.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How I 'Do' Sugar-Free - PART TWO

Part Two of my food diary! This is where I realised I needed to refocus. I highly recommend food diaries if you think you're eating healthy but you don't feel it, or you're tyring to lose weight and its not working! My Nutritionist always recommended them and I should have done one a long time ago...

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Breakfast - 2 slices of Pams wholegrain toast, 2.5% sugar. 1/4 small avocado, pepper, 300ml water.

Morning Tea - 3 Real Foods Corn Thins, 0.7% sugar. 2 tsp Philadelphia Cream Cheese, 2.7% sugar. 3/4 cup diced Watermelon. 200ml Light Blue Anchor Milk, 5% sugar (natural lactose only, nothing added), mixed with 200ml Hot Water.

Lunch - Another serving of yesterdays Frittata, made with potatoes, broccoli, courgette, red pepper, carrot, egg, basil, salt, pepper and garlic. Also had 200ml hot milk (undiluted) as I have had chocolate cravings all day and I need to keep them at bay!

Afternoon Tea - 3/4 cup diced watermelon. 1 Nice & Natural Nut Bar (Original Flavour) 22.9% sugar (see yesterdays post for the reasons I eat these).

Dinner - Courts Chicken Burgers again because we've been doing overtime at work and these are quick and easy when we get home - 2 slices of Pams wholegrain toast, 2.5% sugar. 75g chicken fried in Soy Sauce, which is 3% sugar. Sliced beetroot from a can, drained. 1 egg, fried (no oil). 1 tsp Philadelphia Cream Cheese, 2.7% sugar. 1/4 Onion, fried (no oil).

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Breakfast - Same as always, Avocado and Tomato on Toast.

Morning Tea - 1 Plum. 1/2 cup Easiyo Apricot Yoghurt, 14.6% sugar.

Easiyo makers are awesome! So much cheaper than 'normal' yoghurt and you can stock up on packets and not worry about them going bad within a few days. Yes, the yoghurt I ate today was well above my 3% threshold - you will notice I have not been eating the yoghurt often! I promise I have a good explanation - this is the last of the packets we had stock piled from before we went sugar-free.

With a big overseas trip looming, I'm not in the business of wasting food. But I promise you when I do the shop this week I'll be buying an unsweetened yoghurt. I'll be looking for either the Natural flavour (It's 5.5% sugar, but unsweetened, so it is all naturally occurring lactose, and I can flavour it with fruit) or one from the Low Fat range, because they are all unsweetened. They still contain around 7% sugar (give or take) but it is naturally occurring lactose.

Easiyo also do unsweetened Bio-Yoghurts, and, as I just found out, Ice Cream sachets which are less than 10% sugar. Above my 3% threshold, but within the generally recommended 10%. (Side note - half an hour after eating the sweetened yoghurt, I feel jittery and... weird. I guess its because my body is no longer used to sugar. Imagine what my body was coping with before when I was 'used' to it!)

Lunch - The last of the Frittata, made with potatoes, broccoli, courgette, red pepper, carrot, egg, basil, salt, pepper and garlic.

Afternoon Tea - 1.5 cup diced watermelon. 1 Nice & Natural Nut Bar

Dinner - OK, so we are extremely unoriginal but we had the same dinner again! Does it make a difference that its because we were using the last of the can of beetroot? Honestly, we don't normally eat the same thing for dinner every day!

Thursday 10 February 2011

Breakfast - Avocado and Tomato on Toast.

Morning Tea - 1/2 cup Easiyo Apricot Yoghurt, 14.6% sugar. My 'normal' morning tea is corn thins with a protein topping - either tuna, cream cheese, cottage cheese, or a small amount of Edam. Courts has been helping me get lunches ready this week so he chose yoghurt.

Lunch - Last night I used the crock pot to make a mash up of whatever we had lying around. I used the last couple of tablespoons of Brown Rice, some Quinoa, Lentils, Potatoes, Kumara, Capsicums, Carrots and Beef Schnitzel. I added a can of 4-Bean Mix (3.6% sugar), a can of Peas (3.5% sugar) and a can of chopped Tomatoes (3.5% sugar but all naturally occurring, nothing added). I seasoned it with some Beef Stock powder, Garam Masala, Soy Sauce (3% sugar), salt, and pepper. Left it over night and divided it up this morning into enough for 5 lunches for the two of us. Easy!

Afternoon Tea - Its shopping night tonight so stocks are low. I've run out of Nice & Natural Nut Bars and Nuts, so I'm having a few plums instead. 3, to be precise.

Dinner - We had a picnic at Mercury Energy Movies by Moonlight with Wholegrain Buns (less than 1% sugar) Smoked Chicken, Tomato and Beetroot (drained).

Dessert - Erm, yes - dessert. We won VIP seats at Movies in Moonlight and the beanbags we got to sit on came with free caramel popcorn, iced tea and ice cream. I didn't eat the popcorn or the iced tea! I wanted to, but I didn't. I did however, eat the Tip Top Vanilla Ice cream, 100ml, 19.6% sugar. Sugar-free fail! But, if I'm honest, that was the best Ice cream I have ever eaten. And I felt very weird and jittery afterwards.

Friday 11 February 2011

Breakfast - This isn't going to change. Occasionally I have Weetbix with yoghurt

Morning Tea - To be honest, I didn't eat. Courts and I work together and so we take breaks together most of the time. He had a meeting around morning tea time (to receive a PROMOTION! Yay!!) and I waited for him before I ate but by the time he had free time it was lunch time.

Lunch - Yesterday's crock pot meal again. Smaller serving, but with a slice of Wholemeal Toast. It kind of looks like mince on toast, so I thought Id try it, and it worked.

Dinner - We had dinner with friends, roast chicken, parsnips, potatoes, carrots, garlic, salad, bacon and a very small falafel (4% sugar). I had a glass of Coke Zero with it. SO good!

OK, so some of the things I eat are above 3%, and the yoghurt and ice cream were above 10%. Generally this can be put down to using up our pantry stocks but I don't always have this excuse. I need to refocus and make sure I only buy sugar-free products. Give me a couple of weeks and I'll update you on my progress!

PS. As with all my sugar-free posts, please note I am not a nutritionist or any kind of diet or medical professional. This is my experience, doing the best I can with the information I have. If you want professional advice, I highly recommend RealNutrition.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How I 'Do' Sugar-Free

I've had a few people ask - if I'm sugar-free, and yet everything has sugar in it - what do I eat?! So, I recorded everything I ate for one week. I intended to tell you how I 'do' sugar-free, but instead I learnt that I am still very much a work in progress.

I am doing a thousand times better. Previously, I would possibly have toast or Weetbix for breakfast, but the toast would be with Marmite or peanut butter or the Weetbix would be with sugar. Sometimes I'd skip it altogether and fill up on Milo at work, or spend money on a bacon and egg panini with mayo (full of sugar in the panini and the mayo).

Morning Tea would be reasonably healthy - if I ate it at all, but I'd have another Milo to go with it, or a hot chocolate from the cafe downstairs. Often our work supplies free donuts when we've had an achievement in the Contact Centre and Id happily take a second one if it was offered.

I was usually good enough to take my own lunch, but it was most likely quick and easy like cheese on toast. I make an effort now to make meals in advance. If I didn't take any, Id either have a kebab on rice, or Id just have chocolate from the vending machine - and probably another Milo.

I've always had Nut Bars for afternoon tea, usually with a piece of fruit, but it wasn't unusual for me to chase it with something from the vending machine if I hadn't already at lunchtime. Dinner was usually either cheese on toast or Burger King, because I was too busy to make a real effort. Now I make time and I'm much better for it. Oh and don't forget dessert! If it was up for grabs, I'd have as much as I could without looking greedy.

Pretty gross, right? Think of all that sugar, backing up my liver and poisoning my body. The worst part is, most people are doing the same thing. Maybe not in the same way, with the same foods, but definitely with the same poison. We just don't realise what sugar is in.

OK, so here is the first day of my food diary for a working week, Monday to Friday. I'll post the rest tomorrow and you'll see what I mean about being a work in progress!

Monday 7 February 2011

Breakfast - 2 slices of Pams wholegrain toast, 2.5% sugar, 1/4 small avocado, 1/4 large tomato, pepper, 300ml water.

I couldn't see an obvious sugar in the ingredients list of the bread, but thought Wheat Gluten might be it. I googled Wheat Gluten... Don't click this link if you want to look at bread the same way again!

Morning Tea - 2 Real Foods Corn Thins, 0.7% sugar. Normally I have 3, but Courtney dropped one of them! 2 tsp Philadelphia Cream Cheese, 2.7% sugar. 200ml Light Blue Anchor Milk, 5% sugar (natural lactose only, nothing added), mixed with 200ml Hot Water. Its like drinking weak tea.

Lunch - Frittata made with potatoes, broccoli, courgette, red pepper, carrot, basil, salt, pepper and garlic. Each serving has 1 egg in it (6 servings per frittata). When I mix the eggs, I use water instead of milk. The cooking time is longer but the fat and sugar content is lower.

Afternoon Tea - 1.5c diced watermelon. 1 Nice & Natural Nut Bar (Original Flavour), 22.9% sugar.

The Nut Bars are full of sugar but much of the sugar comes from sultanas and raisins. The rest is from Glucose Syrup and Brown Sugar. They were recommended by the Nutritionist that helped me kick sugar last year (the second time I have done it, and the most successful thus far) so I have been eating them ever since. I am seriously considering switching them for mixed nuts, but nuts are so expensive.

Dinner - Chicken Burgers made from 2 slices of Pams wholegrain toast, 2.5% sugar. 75g chicken fried in Soy Sauce, which is 3% sugar. Sliced beetroot from a can, drained, 1% sugar. 1 egg, fried (on a non stick pan, no oil). 1 tsp Philadelphia Cream Cheese, 2.7% sugar. 1/4 Onion, fried (no oil).

Healthy Food Guide says even though there is added sugar in canned beetroot, it's OK. When you drain the can you are left with only 1% refined sugar - the rest is naturally in the beetroot.

Courts invented these 'burgers' the other day when he saw the beetroot can and had a craving. We didn't have burger buns so he used toast, and we just put the chicken, egg, beetroot and onion in between two slices, with cream cheese on one side (since sauce is high in sugar). Its actually really good!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Making the Most of it!

A fair few people say Valentine's Day gets more and more commercial every year. That its not about love, its about the big guys making money off hearts and chocolates and roses. Maybe you're different? I'm different. Commercialisation, Schmommercialisation!

Personally, I almost never go to shopping malls. I know that I love new things, and I know just as well that I have a very decent personal loan that needs my money more than a chain store does, so I avoid them. I also know that I can't trust myself ! I'm an impulse shopper, not by nature but by necessity! I hate going through rack after rack, store after store. I don't like sales assistants, I don't like getting changed a thousand times, and I don't like crowds (not so much the crowd but the people in my way).

I am a failure as a woman, because despite my love of new things (shoes, oh how I love shoes!) I hate shopping malls. Online shopping, can do! Grocery shopping, love it! But the act of 'shopping' usually occurs about once a year, and almost always cause I planned it with Soul Buddy. Since I don't go shopping, I don't see Valentines specials, I don't get pestered, and I don't succumb to commercialisation. I don't even see ads on TV because we have MySky and I fast forward through them!

OK, so I think you get the point! A holiday or event can only be commercialised if you respond to the advertising and gimmicks. Nothing is to stop you baking your loved one a treat, cleaning the house while they're out, cooking them dinner or writing them a note. And this is why I love Valentines Day. I don't celebrate it every year, but I love the idea of it. I love romance and I love that aside from your anniversary, there is a day set aside purely for your loved one to love you more. A day for you to tell not only your partner, but your entire inner circle that they make your world go round.

Back in school we used to have Rose Day, did you? Where a team of students spent hours collecting orders and on Valentines Day those same students went class to class delivering a long stemmed red rose to students who were the recipients of those orders. You never knew if you were getting a rose. In fifth form I did and I don't care how embarrassing it was to have to get up in front of everyone to receive it, I felt special, because someone made the effort, for me.

That's all it is really, isn't it? That someone chose you, over everyone else in the world, to make a fuss of. Does it have to be done with overpriced, heart shaped trinkets? I'm 99% sure that Courts will do nothing for me for Valentines this year. I will probably reciprocate the gesture! But we will slow down and spend some real time together, and remind each other that we have each chosen one other person in the world to share our entire selves with. I for one, am rather happy with the choice I made.

Do you get involved in the hype? Or do you hate the day with a passion?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Love and Commitment

Today's post is dedicated to my Soul Buddy - my best friend in the world - and her lovely husband. Their second wedding anniversary is on Valentines Day and I am so so happy for them and so proud of them. While these days, two years of marriage is no small feat, they've actually been together 8 years, and they are everything I hope Courts and I will be after that long together.

I was 7 when my parents separated, and that separation was the absolute best decision for our family. As the parent we spent the most time with, my Mum did an amazing job of raising us and my sister and I appreciate not only the way she raised us but the choice she made to leave an unhappy marriage and go it alone, because we are all better for her brave decision.

Of course this all means that I didn't really have a model for what a happy marriage really was growing up. The many happy marriages and relationships enjoyed by my family and my friends parents were only observed in passing - many family members lived a fair distance away, and of course you spend all your time avoiding parents at friends houses.

Soul Buddy and I spent much time together avoiding parents - we have been friends with each other since we were 13, with a few years in the middle where we lost touch. By the time we found each other again she was engaged to her now-husband and so I missed being witness to a lot of their initial getting-to-know-each-other and learning how to be the best possible partner to each other in life - which might have been helpful in these early-ish stages of my relationship with Courtney. Courts and I are definitely doing just fine but as two strong personalities, we are most definitely still learning how to be the best possible support for each other.

As individuals and couples, SB, myself and our boys are all very different from each other, but the respect, trust, commitment and genuine adoration SB and her husband have for each other is something I aspire to everyday, as I learn and grow with my Long Haired Boy.

I know that no relationship is easy. I know that SB and her hubby work damn hard at their marriage and their relationship. They have had 8 years of compromising and learning and living together. The ups and downs could have driven them apart but instead they are more in love than ever before and watching them together you can't miss that they are perfect for each other. I couldn't ask for a better brother in law, or a better person to look after and love and celebrate my SB. And SB is equally as good for him.

Personally, I have my fair share of broken relationships behind me - which is how I know just how hard they can be. I'm extremely independent and strong willed but I am also very self aware. I know where I made mistakes and which relationships could have been better had I known what I know now. I also know in which relationships my only mistake was staying for as long as I did.

Of those exes I'm still friends with, I can see how most of us have learnt and grown from our experiences, and how we are each better off for not only the experience of our relationship but the end of it too. I see changes in the way I interact with Courts compared to previous boyfriends and the benefits he and I now have thanks to those learning curves. I see the increased effort I make, to make this relationship work and be the best either of us have ever had.

I still make mistakes. But my constant inspiration is my closest friend. I can only hope to take the tiniest amount of what I learn constantly from her and take it into my own relationship. I know that each of our relationships will have ups and downs to come, but it is the grace and respect and overall love that is so apparent between the two of them, no matter what happens, that tells me I will always be OK too.

Here is a toast to two people that are just as much family to me as any blood link. I'm so proud of you and so happy for you and SB, you look very cute today. xx

Friday, February 11, 2011

So I'll be Coming Home to a New Start...

Time for another Europe update! The days until we leave just keep ticking down, I can't wait!

First things first, I had a meeting regarding my application for unpaid leave. I knew it was a long shot, but it was worth a try to come home to an income, especially with animals to house and a personal loan to pay off. My request to keep my job open has been declined, but I'm not sad about it.

There are always extra shifts to be done at work, answering emails and letters and that sort of thing, so it is very very likely that with an email to my boss and a quick catch up I can pick up a few shifts when I get back, so that I at least have an income. If they have any Team Leader or Training roles open at the time, I will apply, and otherwise I need to view this as an opportunity for a new adventure. An even better job might be around the corner, you never know. So that's that, I now know that I will be leaving my place of work on 9 June, after almost 4 years by then, and that I will be coming home to a whole new experience. Scary, but exciting!

Next, we have booked a few other bits and pieces. The top of Courtney's list is a tour of the Guiness Brewery in Dublin. You can book an open ticket valid for use any day within the next 12 months, the benefits being that you can skip the queue on the day and also get a discount off the ticket price (from 15 Euros per adult to 13.50). The tour is self guided and takes approximately an hour and a half, ending with a free pint. The website promises that it's Dublin's number one tourist attrcation although to be honest the castle and cathedral both look average from what I've seen online so that probably helps.

Of course, to see Guiness in Dublin, we need somewhere to stay and we have booked our hostel for Dublin as well, Mount Eccles Court Hostel. We originally planned on staying at Shining Hostel but HostelBookers promise of 8.45 Euros a night turned out to be for the first night only, and 20-something a night after that. Mount Eccles Court has everything we need - easy location, free breakfast, free wifi and good reviews.

Our next stop after Dublin is London, and we have just booked our flights between the two and our London Hostel as well. We will be flying with RyanAir, leaving Dublin at 10pm and arriving in London an hour and five minutes later. Sure, we won't get to the hostel till midnight, but we will get an extra full day in Dublin, for a total of... two full days in Dublin. It will be worth it!

We booked our flight through SkyScanner, which I cannot recommend more highly. It searches all airlines and then displays every flight available, meaning you can get the cheapest deal possible. Unlike a travel agent website, it displays every single flight going into an airport, rather than just the airlines it has deals with.

When we do eventually get to our hostel we will be staying at Journey's King's Cross Hostel, in, whaddayaknow, King's Cross. Again, this isn't the hostel we originally planned for, hoping to book St Christopher's Inn in Camden, because the area looks awesome. However, HostelBookers didn't have any availability for the cheapest room and thankfully I think we've struck a better deal with Journey's. Not only do we get free wifi, free breakfast and an awesome location, but the beds each have full privacy curtains, individual reading lights and individual power jacks for charging our laptop, phones and camera batteries (hello, technology dependency!).

Everything is coming together, this is awesome! 18 weeks to go!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Can't You See the Sparks Flying?!

I have mentioned before one of my nail clients, with whom I always have a laugh. It never feels like work to have her around. This post is for her! Last time she was around, we were talking about the blog and she was full of praise. I don't blush easily and she made me blush! It's so lovely to be getting feedback on something I put a lot of work into because I really enjoy it and I love that other people are enjoying it and learning from it.

Anyway, we were talking about the blog and I mentioned that I am absolute rubbish at thinking of blog titles. From then on, every random sentence became a blog title, including the title of this blog 'Can't you see the sparks flying?!' which she requested I use. All of this was amongst a fit of giggles and made me wonder why we don't hang out outside nail appointments.

Miss Nails and I have known each other since high school, united by a need to avoid weird art teachers at all costs. After school, when I moved to Australia for a couple of years, we lost touch. As always, Facebook reunited us, and we fell straight back into our old friendship. We never really hung out outside school, despite being quite close, I suppose because we have very different groups of friends and different interests. That doesn't change the fact that we have a blast together and have always got on like a house on fire.

Everyone has a friend they lose touch with or see rarely, but every time they catch up it's like no time has passed. I'm lucky to have Miss Nails in my life. She has an infectious laugh and a contagious positive attitude. I've never heard her complain, because everything that happens to her has a positive or funny twist. That's not because her life is a box of roses, more so that her outlook on it is.

You know who your Miss Nails is, the person (or people) that you fall into place with no matter how long its been. And I'm sure you have someone in your life whose infectious positivity is priceless to have around. Go and find them! I don't know about where you are, but its a beautiful day here*, and a really good excuse for a wine and a giggle!

Miss Nails, we need to get on with organising the same ;)

*Blog written and saved on a sunny day. Today is more like movies and popcorn!