Thursday, March 31, 2011

Jack of All Trades, Master of None
Is there something you are really good at? Better than anyone you know? At school I was always seen as one of the smart kids, but I was never amazing at one particular thing. Most of these skills have followed me through to adulthood and I’m still waiting to find my ‘calling’.

I’ve been thinking about it all more and more since this post, when I started to consider what to do post-Europe. I’m a good trainer, and I’m good when I’m training hands-on. I’m best when I’m coaching one-on-one but my biggest strengths are creating training documents and simplifying tricky subjects for easier understanding. I’m not perfect, but the team I work with is amazing and I learn from them everyday. I could really carve out a career for myself in training, but of course every job has its draw backs.

If ever there was a chance for a fresh start, this is it. I find myself looking at my strengths and trying to figure out what to do with them. Of course I am already a Nail Technician in my spare time, and I have a loyal client base. I only have enough lovely ladies to fill my part time hours though, and a lot of them will find other Nail Technicians while I’m away unfortunately. It’s really hard work to build a client base in the beauty industry, but it’s an option.

I’m a good singer and I’ve sung in bands and for events, but I just don’t have the experience. I don’t know the first thing about sound equipment or stage etiquette and this year I haven’t had the chance to pursue any ground in that area. Singing certainly wouldn’t pay the bills but as a fill-in, it’s another option.

I’m artistic, and I can paint and draw reasonably well. Again I’m not amazing, but I enjoy it. I’m a perfectionist though, and that doesn’t mesh well with the idea of finishing an artwork. My too-hard basket is overflowing. Again, I’m never going to be a full time artist, but I could possibly sell one or two pieces.

Of course, I write. I’ve submitted a few pieces to various magazines but to be honest I don’t know the first thing about submission etiquette. Am I supposed to have an agent? Do I approach the publications directly? Do I give them pre-written articles or do they tell me what they want? I’ve had minor successes (more on that in future weeks hopefully) but as with everything I’m good at, it’s an extremely difficult industry to earn money in. I don’t think I’m terrible at it (thank you, readers) but I know I’m indecisive and that can come across in my writing. Yet another thing I can pursue but which will likely never be a career.
I’d love to be a tour guide or educate kids at a museum like MOTAT. I’d love to work with the SPCA or the Guide Dog Association. I’d love to work at a market stall and chat to real people, face to face. I’d love to work with a Foster Care organisation, considering I’m not in a position to be a caregiver myself just yet. We all know I’m nuts for planning, I suppose I could plan holidays for people. Maybe I should go back to studying and get my BA in Classical Studies. I may never use it, but I love it.

So much potential but nothing I’m amazing at. Slash was born to play guitar. Meryl Streep was born to act. John Grisham was born to write and Neil Armstrong was born to walk on the moon. Some of my teachers at school were born to teach and some were definitely not. Some people were born to run businesses; others just don’t have what it takes. So many people seem to float through the world doing what ‘needs’ to be done and not living.

A blogger I follow, unfortunately I can’t remember which one (if you recognise this please tell me so I can link it) said she asks herself everyday, “If this were your last day on earth, would you be happy with the life you lived?”… It’s not as morbid as it sounds. Think about it. It’s scares the jeepers out of me when I do because although I love my job, I don’t want to die knowing I sat in an office for 11,520 hours (I just worked it out) dreaming about could-be’s.

A lot of the perpetual travellers whose blogs I follow had successful careers with incomes to match, picket fences and ladders to climb before they decided to throw it all in. Courts isn’t a big fan of the idea of perpetual travel. He is an amazing singer and although he’s not in a band at the moment, he does guest spots that he couldn’t do without the many years worth of connections he has here. He could be swayed to live overseas, but I think he’d need a home base rather than to just explore for years on end. I’d be quite happy being a nomad, working for accommodation and getting money from odd jobs around the world. I’d be miserable without Courts though, we’re a team that can’t be broken, so we will need to find a middle ground. In the meantime, I need to find a balance between a job and career I really enjoy and an insatiable curiosity for new adventures and experiences.

Do you know what your ‘calling’ is? Is there one thing you do that you enjoy more than anything and that few people can compete with you in? How did you find it?

Is this what they call a Quarter Life Crisis?!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Hello loyal readers!

Yep, things look a little different around here now - hopefully better. I didn't love the old look, which was put up in a rush when I first started writing for you. This feels more 'us' and cleaner too. What do you think? Personally I feel more inspired by this new layout, but it's not all about me!

There are also a couple new features down the side. It should be much easier to join in with me on Twitter or to swing by our Facebook fan page. You can also subscribe to receive new posts in your inbox by clicking the envelope that says 'Email'.

The most popular posts and the archive are still there, but I've also added a tag cloud. Basically what that means is that every time I post something new, I add a few keywords to describe the content of that post. Until now, those keywords weren't much use to you, but now you can see the most common ones and click on them to see all of the posts that relate to it. As an example, if you're more interested in the sugar-free posts, click the tag 'sugar' and if you're more interested in the travel posts you can click on city names to see everything about that city.

There's a countdown to our trip and a new little gadget that shows where I am on Google Maps. Not so interesting just yet but in 72 days time you'll be able to see where in the world I'm sitting.

You can still follow via Networked Blogs and Google Friend Connect and you can still see the communities I'm a part of. Down by Lady Bloggers Society there's a link to Stumble Upon and I'd be really grateful if you clicked on it. If you haven't heard of Stumble Upon before it's a really cool site that basically shuffles the Internet and shows you new sites based on your interests. The more people that click that link for me, the more random strangers will be shown the site.

Down the bottom is a Tip Jar. Now I know that we are all struggling as much as each other and no one out there is carrying around bags of cash. At the end of the day though, Courts and I are backpackers, and it's not cheap, so even if I inspire you to donate a dollar towards our trip, it all counts in the long run. I'm completely willing to work for your money and I have experience writing everything from opinion pieces to lyrics. If there's somewhere you would like us to visit and review, I can do that too as long as it's in or near one of the cities we're visiting (check out the Accommodation page for that info). If you're in the Auckland area I'm still available to do Nails or Body Painting until 9 June or after 27 September.

So yeah! Lot's of little updates and I would absolutely love your feedback and ideas on how to improve the site and make it more useful for you.

Thanks for being so loyal and lovely!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Maintaining Willpower - or Lack Thereof

We spoke a few weeks ago of my success with sugar-free while travelling. It has become apparent to me that this success does not translate to staying with family or friends!

On the way down to Napier this weekend, our first stop was at McDonalds. I haven’t had McDonalds once this year but Courts wanted it and he was only an hour into a 5 hour ride, so that is where we went. It turned out that the burger I chose (Chicken Bacon Deluxe) was only 2.9% sugar, so I had a minor success to start off the weekend. I still felt like rubbish afterwards though. Damn you McDonalds.

We stopped again in Cambridge and then in Taupo but at each stop I didn’t have anything to eat or drink. We got to Napier chilled to the bone and I warmed up with hot milk. So far, success.

It all went down hill on Saturday. First things first, breakfast. Last time we were in Napier, Courtney’s mum fed us up on muesli, fruit and yoghurt for breakfast, and I had been thinking about it all week in the lead up to our trip. At a restaurant or cafĂ©, I’ll choose the cooked breakfast every time, but that’s because it’s the one I’m least likely to have at home. Put a bowl of muesli with yoghurt and fruit next to it though and I’ll find it hard to resist the latter, which is one of my favourite breakfasts ever. So Saturday morning I had Light n Tasty Plum and Almond muesli (19.7%) with Natural Sweetened Yoghurt (I think it was Meadowfresh, 10.7%) and fresh nectarines, apple, banana and blueberries. It was so good, the best possible start to any day, ever. But it was sugar.

For lunch we had multigrain bread with mashed egg, pastrami and beetroot relish. The relish of course, had sugar. It was homemade by Courtney’s Aunty, so I don’t know the percentage, but it was delicious. We ended up bring home a couple of jars of it. But again, sugar.

Dinner time and we are served up a feast. Beef Schnitzel, Chicken Kebabs, roast potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, garlic bread and cheese sauce. I had none of the hickory or tomato sauce that was on the table, and we checked that the seasoning on the kebabs was within the 3% threshold too. Not the best impression to make on your family-in-law – “Hi, I’m Penny, Remember me? The girl that’s super fussy and makes your life difficult” – Erm. Despite all this the dinner was again, amazing. I felt so spoilt by all of this delicious food. Plus it was sugar-free! Other than the very small glass of Moscato I had before the meal.

Then came dessert. Court’s mum had made his favourite – German Apple Tart. I promised I would try it and I did. I had a pie slice that was only about 2cm at the thickest end and I was proud of myself that I indulged without going over the top. It was only half an hour though before I could no longer resist the chocolate brownies that were also on the table. Again, I had a very small serving; my slice of brownie would have only been 1.5cm by 4cm or so. While I felt good that I had kept my portions down, the number of servings was adding up and I didn’t feel good about it.

The next day we went out for breakfast and I had the big cooked breakfast – hash brown, tomato, mushrooms, toast, poached eggs, sausages and hollandaise sauce. The sausages would have had sugar in them, but nothing else and I stuck to drinking water as I had done most of the night before. We returned to Courtney’s Uncles house for coffees after breakfast and I introduced them to the concept of my hot milk and water drinks. That is to say, I asked for one instead of tea or coffee and accepted their bewilderment. It’s not that weird!

We started our drive home to Auckland around 2pm and Natalie and I (driving home her first ever car!) stopped at a fruit stall for plums and apples. I also got a sugar-free V energy drink which I shouldn’t have, because the ‘sugar-free’ status is achieved mostly by chemical definition rather than the actual absence of any sugar products. Heading into dusk we stopped for food in Cambridge – at KFC. Again, I hadn’t been there all year. I got chips and a chicken burger; hold the sugar-laden mayo. I made the effort to reduce the sugar content, but I’d bet a dollar sugar is one of the 11 herbs and spices.

To top it off, when we got home at 9.30pm, I had a normal-sized serving of left over German Apple Tart.

So, I know I ate a lot less sugar than I would have ‘Before’. I had a very small wine rather than a bottle, and a small dessert rather than… three. I had no coke with my burgers and no pancakes at brunch. But I could have done better.

I started out telling myself “Well you don’t want to be a pain and cause your hosts to go to more effort” but that’s a load of crap. I was offered cheese toasties instead of muesli, and some people had them so it wouldn’t have been harder to make one for me. I chose to add the relish. I chose to eat the dessert. I chose to have the sausage, and the V, and the KFC. I had options and I chose not to use them. I’m back on track now, having absolutely no sugar since the great German Apple Tart Fail of Sunday night, and I even managed to drink 2 litres of water yesterday for the first time I can remember! I just have to keep myself in check.

Any tips for doing so? Do you take a diet-holiday when you go away, or are you able to maintain your willpower?

Monday, March 28, 2011

One of the Family

As you know, we were in Napier for the weekend with Courtney's family. His Dad and Stepmum are up here in Auckland so we see them frequently, and while I've met his Mum on many occasions, I've only met her side of the family once, the last time we went down to visit. Let me just say, these people are some of the nicest people you could ever meet.

We got completely and utterly spoiled with amazing food and company. This makes complete sense for Courts and Nats as family, but you would never have known I had only met these people once prior. From the moment we arrived until the moment we left, I felt like I was part of the family, and it meant the world to me.

One of my favourite things was something very simple. Court's Gramps calls me Tuppence and I love it. For those that don't get the reference, Tuppence is slang for two pence, or pennies. When I was at school I hated people making jokes about my name, but this makes me feel so included and welcome. Gramps is everything a good Grandpa should be - strong and protective and loving and kind, basically a big teddy bear. He's also an ex-All Black which is pretty much the coolest thing a Gramps can be.

On Saturday night the family gathered at one of Courtney's Uncles houses for dinner. They made sure there was chicken for me for dinner, because they know I don't eat red meat. Now I'm completely used to just eating more of everything else, I don't mind at all when a meal includes something I don't eat, I'll just make do. So I felt a little bit bad that they had gone to so much effort but at the same time it was so nice of them to think of me. I wish I could mention how awesome and kind each and every person in Courtney's family has been to me but you would get sick of me gushing, so I won't!

I feel like I'm extremely lucky to have such a great family-in-law. I've been out with boys whose parents didn't care enough to talk to them let alone me, and others whose parents were so over protective the son could do no wrong - and so all blame was on me. I have friends with amazing families-in-law and others with not so great. I find it really interesting how degrees in separation can mean two people loved equally by a common person, can be so incredibly different and either mesh or clash.

With all the anonymity that this lovely bloggy world affords you, which category do you fall into? Who has been the best? Maybe you've seen the worst!

Sunday, March 27, 2011


I have made a marginal improvement on last weeks Bliss Fail. I don't know what's going on, but I totally need to step up my game.

Oh how I love thee. In order to drown out some of the voices around me on Monday, I set all my rock music on shuffle. I came to the conclusion that Janes Addiction, Motley Crue and Skid Row, although not all technically Glam Rock, would make the perfect love child. Such a band would no doubt have super powers, do only good (except when causing trouble, which I also love) and take over the world. I often wonder why I'm drawn to this music more than any other genre, or Courts is drawn to Power Metal or Soul Buddy loves Pop. I think I need my music to have an edge - with the exception of Bubblegum Pop with cheesy lyrics and zero edges, but that's just for fun. But as a sometime-singer I also need it to have melody and a really good hook. Anyway, who doesn't love a man in platform heels and eyeliner? Erm.
Tuesday: Nail Art Inner Circle

 I was going to do my nails up all fancy but then we ended up going to see the photos we had taken the other week. Again, Mum, my sister and her boyfriend, Courtney and I all piled into the room with the poor lady from You Photography and eliminated the last of the photos. They're damn expensive but they did turn out amazing. The lady said she wishes she had families like us in for photos all the time but I think that was just a way to keep us on her side. We're pretty much the Osbournes without the dogs and drugs - unfiltered, honest, quick-witted and insync.
All dolled up

Wednesday: Cold Beer

So I thought since I haven't really had a drink since I've been sugar free, that to cross 'Cold Beer' off the list I'd take my Long Haired Boy on a dinner date to the pub. Instead, I did three sets of nails that booked in that day. At least I love my nail girls! The pub will wait.

Thursday: Band Paraphernalia

So as much as I continually profess to hate clutter, I also love knick knacks. More than anything I love being surrounded by things I love. If I can't have the bands, I shall have pretty things with their faces on them. My favourite piece of band paraphernalia is the custom portrait of Slash I had painted. His set list is on my wall. I have t-shirts, handbags (OK, one, a Nirvana one, but I'm just not a handbag girl), skirts, books, posters... bliss. Except that I was going to spend some time surfing Etsy for new cute things and instead we worked from 8.30am right through until 10pm. This will all be worth it when I buy European band paraphernalia.

Friday: Singing in the Car

So we were on the bike but I still sang. It's not quite the same as being on my own and singing at the top of my voice because I'm conscious that Courtney can hear me! It's not like he hasn't heard me sing before, but you kind of feel like you're in your own little world inside your helmet and it's weird when people interrupt.
Saturday: Moscato

The big ride on Friday was a trip down to Napier for the weekend to visit Courts family. As I said, I haven't really had anything alcoholic to drink this year, ever since going sugar free, but I love Moscato. It's the best wine ever made and if you haven't had it, start with the Brown Brothers or Jacobs Creek versions first. So in Napier, I bought a bottle and had a glass of it's sugary goodness. This glass constituted my one cheat for the week and it was so worth it.

On a side note, everyone got given personalised coffee cups on Friday at work and although I don't drink coffee, they had fancy hot chocolate mix if you wanted it. I made one up using only half the recommended amount of powder, intending to treat myself since I miss out on so many donut-shaped treats at work. 2 or 3 sips later I tipped it out, because I just didn't want it anymore. So weird for me but so successful for sugar-free! Later in the day there was a giant mudcake in the lunch room and I didn't touch it. I don't even know myself anymore.

Sunday: Long Drives

Today we head back to Auckland and this time I'm driving up with Natalie in her brand new car. She has her Learners License so we are going to take turns, I'm so excited for her! There's nothing better than that first taste of freedom.

So, what's the best thing you did this week?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Grass is Always Greener

As I mentioned the other day, there has recently been a movement in the blogging world called #Blog4NZ. In the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake, interest in visiting NZ took a nosedive. You can't blame anyone really, I have to admit to thinking 'thank goodness we're leaving soon' in the shock that followed the disaster.
The thing is though, that us Kiwi's, we're survivors. As much as I struggle to know what to believe about the powers that be, only someone that has been here can explain the energy that comes from the earth beneath us in this damn fine country. I suppose if you've lived here all your life, you may not know there's a difference, but there is, and I have to say I think us Kiwi's learnt a thing or two from this land we call home.

New Zealand has a reputation for being clean and green. Most of the time, we live up to this reputation, but it's not so much the lack of smog and litter - the air, earth and water feel more pure the second you leave the cities and enter 'real' New Zealand.

This is the point that I admit I am not the best advocate for New Zealand. Why? Because I've seen so little of it. Growing up we explored much of Northland and the Coromandel, but if you look on a map, that's not much of the country at all. I can wax lyrical about Cape Reinga, our most northern tip, or about Pauanui, my favourite holiday spot. I can speak of long wild beaches and lazy beach towns. But until last year, I'd never set foot on the South Island.

I feel incredibly lucky that I saw Christchurch before the quake, and even luckier that I wasn't there several months later when the shaking started (by all accounts it hasn't really stopped since). I've seen Wellington twice, and Rotorua once but that's about the extent of my exploration.

On the flip side, I've explored Gold Coast, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth in Australia, and New York, Washington DC, Memphis, Nashville, Las Vegas and LA in the States. I've been to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands and as you all know I'll see 9 new countries this year when we tour Europe. So I'm a little ashamed that I know so little of my home.

Many of the #blog4NZ posts I've seen have been from Americans and Canadians, among many others from around the world. They speak so highly of our country and share so many amazing stories and pictures. So, after we get through Europe and settle in, probably after the Long Haired Boy finishes his degree, I have a feeling we'll be off to pick fruit in orchards, walk through national parks, taste our wines and see our southern most tip.

How much have you seen of your own country compared to the rest of the world? What is one thing in your own country you haven't done but really want to?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Out with the Old and in with the New

Another Friday, another weekend! And of course, another Europe update.

First things first, I have sold my car! A little earlier than anticipated, but it's gone now so it's too late to change my mind. The bike has had a few issues lately and those issues have been costly, so we really needed a bit of extra income. My car isn't anything flash so I put a sign on it and figured that since I only really use it for groceries once a week and we live in a dead-end street, it would take while to sell.

Not so! Within a couple of days we had two offers, both from people that live on our street. This is where we learn a lesson in how to get what you want - try being a nice person. Simple right? Offer One came from three gentlemen who were poking at the car as it sat outside my house. I was on my way out and only happened to cross paths with them but I let them have a look. I popped the bonnet for them and they promptly started twisting and turning things before letting themselves into the car as I stood talking to Courtney and driving it back and forwards. Not a huge deal, but wouldn't you ask first?

The offered $800 and despite us saying several times, more and more sternly with each breath, that we couldn't go below $900, they ended up walking away saying they would take the car and bring us $800 on Monday. They blatantly ignored us, speaking in their own language to each other, and tried to bully us into the lower price.

Offer Two came the next day from a really lovely family whose own car had just died on them the day before. They were polite, built rapport by joking with us and chatting, asked permission before doing anything to the car, and went out of their way to get the money for us as quickly as possible. Despite telling the first group we wouldn't go below $900, I happily sold it to these people for $850, because they were nice to me. It's not that difficult people!

In the end, I'm very happy. I had budgeted a minimum of $800 from the car to take to Europe, and with precision timing, Natalie's new car is coming home with us from a weekend away in Napier this weekend so we won't be stranded with the groceries!

The other big news is that all the accommodation for Europe is sorted! This is a huge milestone for me as the last few places had proven to be quite the headache to arrange. In the end, everything fell into place. Not all places take bookings in advance, but we have emails from each stating as such, and I will print them out to take along just in case.

I really don't want to plan out every day or anything like that - the element of adventure and exploring is the best bit! But travelling in high-season means many places will book out, so we have tried to book our accommodation in areas central to multiple towns, and for a minimum of a week unless we're en route. Hopefully this means we can still explore and enjoy the attraction of the unplanned unknown, but from the safety and security of a home base.

The only other exciting news I have is that I have upgraded from an old Nokia brick phone that couldn't do anything but call and text to an HTC Desire smartphone. It's like jumping and ending up on the moon, it's so different! Despite our tight budget, we realised that a smartphone would be far handier in Europe than what we had and by selling my old phone, iPod Touch and Navman on Trade Me, it hasn't really cost us anything to upgrade. Not only does the HTC do everything those three things did, but it does more. It's ultimately a much better choice.

For now, we are off to Napier to visit Courtney and Natalie's family. I've only been once before but I loved it! Beautiful weather, open spaces, quiet roads. I came back feeling so relaxed and refreshed. If you ever come to New Zealand, don't go past it. Check out the #blog4NZ posts that have cropped up all over the web this week. Bloggers the world over have written about their experiences with our beautiful country in an effort to mend our reputation after the devastating Christchurch earthquake. I was a little late out of the gate and I feel bad for that, but I can still encourage you all to read up - some of the posts have even inspired me, a born and bred kiwi, to see more of this country I call home. Search Blog4NZ on the web or #blog4nz on Twitter.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Rose by any Other Name...

I wonder how many parents still like the names they gave their children?

When I was a teenager, I was absolutely 100% sure that I would name my future child Aisha Isabella. Aisha means 'life' and I thought it was unique but not too weird. Now? I seriously can't imagine referring to a child of my own by that name. There's nothing wrong with the name, it just doesn't 'fit' anymore.

I remember my high school boyfriend's mother blatantly stating that she hated his name now but still liked his sisters! My own Mum still maintains that she likes the names she chose for us, but she has to say that, doesn't she?!

I have to say my own name has grown on me over the years. I used to hate it! I went through about 10 years of life insisting that people called me Penelope instead of the shortened version my family had always called me by. Now I feel like Penelope as a name is so snobby, and Penny far more relaxed.

I ask these questions because I saw someone ask another blogger what their favourite name was and it made me think. So right now, my favourite names are Emma, Lucy, Isabella and Georgia. Yep, they're all girls names, and I've liked them for years. There just aren't any boys names that stick out for me. I wonder, now that they're out in here in cyberspace, how much they will change before I have any kids of my own to give them to?

Do you like your own name? Have you changed your mind over the years? And if you're a parent, I'm curious - do you still like the names you chose?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Grocery Shopping Monster
So maybe I'm weird, or maybe we're all closet Grocery-Shopping-Lovers. Is it just me? I love grocery shopping.

The first reason? I am awesome at it. Yep, that sounds completely conceited, but it's about groceries, so hopefully it doesn't really offend anyone. In my 5-plus years of flatting, we've always shared food and operated a system of write-it-on-the-list-and-it-shall-appear. As the head tenant and rent collector I learnt quickly that if you sent just anyone out to do the groceries, there were all sorts of possible outcomes, including $200 being spent and nothing from the list making it into the trolley.

A few of us that had lived together the longest often took turns shopping but at some point or another (I think it was after Squish left me for a loved up life of Lobster) I became the only one with a car and it seemed to stick as my job. I became a master at getting more for less, to get everything on the list with the limited budget we had. Now, Courts and his sister would happily do them too, and Courts sometimes does when I'm tied to my nail desk. He's actually better at them than me because he sticks exactly to the list. Nats doesn't drive so it's a bit harder for her.

Secondly, it tends to be my only me-time. I turn my iPod up as loud as it can go, set it to shuffle and sink into a warm blanket of bass. Living in a flat means there's always someone around. Sometimes this is awesome, and sometimes you wish you had 5 minutes alone. So I go grocery shopping.

Poor old Nats has accompanied me once or twice and never will again I don't think! I guess because I'm now used to doing it by myself, I have my little routine and I like to get through it quickly, while Nats likes to browse, and fair enough too! In the end though, I get frustrated at waiting, Nats gets frustrated at rushing - sorry Nats! It has become apparent that I've turned into a grocery shopping monster.

It's like a challenge to see how cheaply I can do it or what bargains I can find. I'm really quick at it too, because as lame as it is, I know the local store like the back of my hand. And so that is my now non-secret guilty pleasure. What's yours? Do you love or loath the grocery store? Do you have any odd guilty pleasures?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Diary of a Sugar Relapse

On Sunday night, my Long Haired Boy and I went out for a belated birthday dinner at Portofino's Takapuna. After a weekend binging on the honey we bought at the farmers market on Saturday, I resolved not to have any sugar. Courtney drank the glass of wine I was entitled to with the meal as well as his own, and I drank water.
Aside from the fact that there was a blade of grass in my rocket garnish, the meals were delicious. Seriously, grass? Anyway. I decided as we ate that since it was my birthday dinner, and I hadn't cheated all week, I would treat myself to dessert. 'Not cheating' was a technicality, I must admit. I am allowed honey since it is a whole sugar and can be processed easily by my body (it's also gone from something I hated to one of my favourite foods of all time, ever since I discovered raw unprocessed real honey, which is really good for you too). The thing is though, I'm allowed it in moderation and moderation and I did not get along from the moment that beautiful raw amber liquid and I set eyes on each other.

Back to Portofino's, where I ordered Tiramisu. Heaven sent Tiramisu although the cream on top tasted old. Not bad, but you could taste the refrigerator it had been sitting in. This was a shame because everyone knows the best part is scraping the piped cream garnish off the top ever so carefully and savouring it before you dive in. You didn't know that? Now you do.

Approximately 2 heaped tablespoons into the dessert, which we will call 1/5 of it, I sat back and said to the Long Haired Boy 'If I hadn't paid so much for this, I'd happily be done right now'. I can guarantee those words have never left my lips in relation to dessert before, at any point in my life, but they did on Sunday night. I just felt like I had indulged and I didn't need any more to achieve that sense of satisfaction. This is an entirely new concept to me.

Despite all of this, I had paid good money for this dessert, and damn it, I was going to eat it. For the next few spoons, I would (very un-romantically) feed Courtney a huge spoonful and then feed myself a much smaller one. I had a bite of the Brandy Snaps Courtney had ordered, but for the most part I was somewhat deceivingly ensuring he had the Lion's share of our desserts.
When I hit the half way mark on Mount Tiramisu, Courts excused himself to go to the bathroom and I sat back and stared at the dessert. Even now, thinking back, my mouth waters and the beautiful little dish of happiness calls to me. At that point in time however, I was quite annoyed with it, and we weren't on speaking terms. I couldn't bare to abandon my life long friend though, and so I had a couple more spoonfuls. Courtney returned and recommenced his assistance, but even then we left a good spoonful or two in the dish. I can't believe I didn't scrape the sides of that bowl with my finger. This is a once in a lifetime occurrence people. What a waste of dessert.

All in all, I'd say I ate half of the entire Tiramisu serving. As I sat back in my seat and stared at the leftovers in the centre of the table - no mans land, the furthest point from each of us that had pushed it away - I felt seriously ill. How could dessert, life long friend - soulmate - be doing this to me? I know I got annoyed at it, but it was really just a lover's tiff. Courts and I settled the bill and walked out to the bike.

In the time it took to cross the road, approximately 10 minutes after I finished eating, the Sugar High hit. Honestly, it felt like I was on a really bad herbal, the kind where you get really annoyed at the fact that you parted with money in order to feel a little bit hyper and talk really fast. Not that I would know anything about that. But honestly, I got the racing heart and the bright eyes, and everything became extremely important to say. Dearest readers, I had reverted to the children's-birthday-party instincts that had lay dormant in me for 20-odd years.

I wish I could say we rode off into the sunset, purely for romantic effect, but we didn't. We rode off into the biting wet air, narrowly avoiding getting drenched on the way home. 25 minutes into the 30 minute journey, I started slumping. My eyes were heavy and my brain function was slowing. When we got home however - hello, second wind.

Anyone following me on Twitter (if you're not, you should be - shame on you) can attest to the fact that when I got home, I was a little talkative. The random thought I had earlier in the day - that the only thing I want in life is to witness a flash mob - went up first. Seconds later, the world learnt of my grassy salad. Mere seconds after that, Tweet #3 went up. I recalled Courtney saying days earlier that he had never heard of Lionel Richie (after I was in the optometrists standing next to one of the Commodores - how cool is that) and everyone needed to know - because seriously, who hasn't heard of Lionel Richie?! Of course after 3 tweets in the space of 30 seconds, I needed a fourth one to explain my hyperactivity. Let's be honest, I'm just not good enough at Twitter for this sudden influx of activity to make sense without an explanation.

At 10pm at night (my usual bedtime) I started messing with widgets and code on the blog and at 11.30pm I finally went to sleep, both awake and exhausted at the same time. I slept well, but waking up was very difficult. I expected to wake up with a headache as I've done before after treats, but the headache was nowhere to be seen. I did however spend the day feeling very sluggish and unmotivated. Having forgotten snacks for the day, I drank milk to get me through to lunch and then milk again to get me through to dinner. I thought I would have my old cravings back overnight, but it was surprisingly easy to get through the day with only one point where I really wanted chocolate. This revelation is awesome because I had previously thought that after I cracked once, it would be all over.

So after all of this was said and done, am I still glad I'm sugar free? Hell yes. If half a dessert serving can give me the same reaction as a (legal) party pill and cause such physical reactions, what on earth was it doing to me when my body was so full of sugar it didn't register a change in state?

My friend Haakuturi from Is It Paleo found this for me today, it's worth a look.

You don't have to eliminate happiness and joy from your life when you eliminate sugar, like I've said, it's about substitution. And if sugar isn't your vice, you know what is. It's just so worth it to free your body from things it wasn't designed to cope with, even if you do it one tiny step at a time.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Head Over Heels, Again and Again

Are you of the school of thought that the dreams you have at night, mean something more? As a kid I had hideous nightmares every single night. Horribly realistic nightmares with content that should not have been anywhere near the subconscious of a child. Most I forgot straight away but many that I do remember, involved men chasing me. They were murderers, all of them, although I don't know how I knew that, since they never caught me. Always men and always chasing. Sometimes they would be recurring. Not duplicates but more so chapters of the same story. A conscious thought wanting them to stop would put an end to recurrences.

I still do get nightmares occasionally, not often, and I'm so thankful to have a warm blooded adult in bed next to me rather than the teddy bear I would wake up next to when I was younger! More often than not I'd end up going to my Mum. I don't think I ever admitted it but if I didn't, I'd be so wracked with fear I'd feel physically sick and occasionally end up in tears.

Lately, the bad dreams have been of a different kind - I've had 4 dreams in the last 4 weeks or so that related to the demise of Courtney and my relationship. Two of them were over the course of one night in Melbourne. The first, a case of him cheating on me. The second, him leaving me because I wouldn't let him play Call of Duty!

They sound silly now, but in each of the dreams I've been absolutely gutted, heartbroken. They seem so realistic at the time - after the first I was actually (very happily) shocked to realise he was next to me in bed. I've never dreamt about a boy leaving me before, that I can remember, and I certainly haven't been affected by the dream if I have. So I started to ponder the meaning of the dreams.

The only thing I can come up with is this. Feeling that gut wrenching pain and wanting, and then realising I still have him, has made me think about how much he means to me. In the depths of night, still wrapped in the subsiding pain of those dreams, I think of ways to make him love me more, ways to keep him happy.

The thing is, I don't think I've ever actually cared enough about a boy before to let thoughts of this nature worry me. Previously I felt like if they cheated on me or left me, it wasn't meant to be and I'd move on. I'm an impatient person and that impatience means I get over failed flings very quickly, knowing they're not worth the time and effort of being upset. I'm sure that, god forbid, if Courtney and I were to part ways, that impatience would see me through. For the first time however, I don't want it to. I want to work through any issues that arise, learn from him and grow with him. It's less about me and more about us. We're a team and as independent as I am, I want it to stay that way.

As two strong personalities, we argue fairly often. Sometimes about trivial things, often about important things. I've argued with boys before, of course I have, but never in the same way. These arguments upset me more, because he means more. They also mean more in themselves, because through them we grow and learn and become more solid as a couple. Slowly but surely, the arguments grow less and the understanding grows more. Instead of getting annoyed and giving up on each other because of the arguing, we soldier on, hand in hand.

I'd be lying however, if I said we haven't at some point or another, questioned whether it was all worth it. Usually at the height of a bad week or a few days of unsettled sleep or long hours. So, are these dreams supposed to make me realise that no matter how I feel in the heat of an argument, it's not as bad as I would feel without him? I feel myself falling for him more in the aftermath of these twilight experiences, appreciating him more, smiling when I think of him more. Refocusing, re-loving.

Do you know of a different meaning for dreams of this nature? Whether they have a meaning or not, I'm thankful for them. They can go away now.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Bliss That Wasn't

So last weekend was my birthday, which you all know about, and you also all know that I was quite sick at the time as well. So being under the weather put me in what can only be described as a Bliss rut.


Remember how I pencilled in the things on my Bliss List to try and make it easier? On Monday I wrote 'Elvis' and planned on watching my favourite Elvis movie. Courts and I were both homesick however, and it just didn't happen - in no small part because Courts hates Elvis!

We veged on the couch all day and watched Slumdog Millionaire for the first time. It wasn't as epic as I expected, after all the hype that surrounded it when it was new. I also had no idea it was a movie about 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire' and for some reason I thought it was based on a true story, which it's not. Still a cool movie though. I spent some of the day blogging and tweeting (still getting the hang of that one) but over all it wasn't a good day. I hate wasted days where you could get so much done but your body won't let you!


Tuesday we went back to work. I had written 'Barefeet', intending to take Toby around the park, but we worked until 7pm and then, still feeling the affects of my illness, I returned my behind to it's dent in the couch cushion and veged.

Strawberries Soul Buddies and Inner Circle

Wednesday I had written 'Strawberries', having hoped to get some late season berries at the Farmer's Market the previous Sunday. Being sick that day though meant we hadn't gone, and I ended up doing nails for Courtney's sister as well as Squish and Soul Buddy. Not an entirely lost day since I got to see my nearest and dearest, but again not to plan.


Thursday I had written 'Musicals' intending on watching Sound of Music. I love Sound of Music! I remember watching it for the first time when I was all of about six or seven. Mum had video taped it off TV and we fast-forwarded through the ads. Guess what didn't happen though? You guessed it. We worked until 7pm again that night I think and the rest of the evening got sucked into the black hole of Rut.

Moschino Perfume

Friday I had written 'Moschino Perfume' but alas, I forgot to put any on, which is really unlike me. I also ended up doing nails that night so I couldn't fill in the night with other things on the challenge list.

Tattoos and Piercings Markets and the Long Haired Boy

And so this brings us to the weekend. Saturday I had written 'tattoos and piercings' and despite our lack of funds I had thought to get something small with the money I make from nails. Just because I love tattoos and I haven't had one in what feels like forever! They make me feel good. If you have one, you understand the addiction I'm sure. Earlier in the week however we found out that Courtney's bike needed $600 worth of repairs and out the window went the tattoo.

Saturday was still to be saved! Courts and I went out to the Farmer's Markets in Parnell for our weekly breakfast date. Parnell markets were bigger but I have to say I like Britomart better. On the bright side we sat at the next table over from Anika Moa and her wife so I had a little star struck moment while I tried to figure out if it was really her. The dimples gave it away, I love Anika Moa.

After the Markets, Courts had to head to work, but I had a really productive day, posting off some Trade Me items, doing the groceries and cleaning the house. The powers that be are trying to tell me something though, because for the third time I went to VTNZ to sit my theory test for my Motorcycle Learners License and for the third time for some reason I couldn't do it. This time it was because I bought the wrong papers with me and didn't have proof of my address.

Trees Good Food and the Long Haired Boy

Lastly, today. I had written down 'Trees' and I thought it would be nice to walk through Hunua or the Waitakere Ranges with Courts. We ended up shopping for Europe bits and pieces though, which was still nice. Tonight, he's taking me to dinner at Portofino's, for my late birthday celebration. I can't wait - that's Good Food ticked off the list at least! The rest shall happen another day.

Tomorrow is a fresh start. I am determined to start the week rut-less. What do you do to pick yourself up after a set back? What the last thing you did that would have made your Bliss List?

PS. Trying out this new fandangled commenting software type jobby below. Try it out for me would you? :) xx

Friday, March 18, 2011

Europe-y Bits and Pieces
Friday! This means Europe update time! And that tomorrow is the weekend, which to be honest is probably more important. Who am I kidding, it's definitely more important.

I'm starting to feel a bit more relaxed about our trip now. Not that I was uptight or anything before, but the to-do list is getting shorter, almost everything that has to have a deposit has one, and the savings for actually eating and fuelling the bike can start to rack up. With 84 sleeps to go it's not a minute too soon.

Courtney has booked his full car license and sits it on the 24th (wish him luck!). He won't be driving a car while we're over there, but he's getting it anyway to avoid any confusion in the translated International Drivers Permit. It would be a nightmare trying to explain to a cop that yes that does say Restricted but he does have a full bike license, really!

I finally, fiiiiinally, booked our flight to Christchurch to begin our trip too. We are flying with AirAsia, and they only fly out of Christchurch, which is an 80 minute flight from Auckland. Even with the additional flights, we save hundreds of dollars. We've timed the trip so that we get to Christchurch 24 hours before we leave and can spend the day with a dear friend of mine, Gin. Gin lived with me many years ago and is like a very far away little sister that I don't get to see nearly enough. After the horrible Christchurch quake, during which she was at University and had pieces of building falling around her, I am even more anxious than usual to see her. I can't think of a better way to start the trip!
I also booked a walking tour through Athens for the two of us. Every other city we plan on visiting, we are looking forward to exploring at our own pace, learning as we explore. Athens is a bit different for me though. Classical Studies was my favourite subject at school and I have a couple of papers towards a degree in it, that I did out of interest only. I want to hear as much information as possible about the ruins we see. It's one thing to see them in books and online but I'd hate to completely miss something super exciting (to me, at least) just because I didn't recognise it out of that context. The company I booked through only employs University graduates who have studied to be tour guides. Who would have thought you could do that. Poor old Courtney won't suffer for too long though, the tour is 3 hours long and includes only 45 minutes of walking. After that, we have days to explore on our own.

We've finally booked accommodation for Rome, at Plus Camping Roma, but I still can't find anything in Barcelona. Actually, that's not true. I found three campsites, via Barcelona Tourist Guide. Camping Masnou was too small - as in, they have no website and you can't book online. Camping Barcelona was too big - as in, we could have stayed at a hotel for what they quoted. Camping Tres Estrellas was juuuuust right - but they didn't reply to any of our emails. So we're back to square one. Hostels don't have parking for bikes, Hotels are too expensive, and if we stay out of town the prices don't seem to differ from the most expensive we found near town, so there's little point. What a defeatist attitude! I feel a little defeated.

So close to having all of our accommodation booked, but the last few are proving the most difficult. It will be such a good feeling when it's all ready to go though!

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Spreading the Love
This here blogging world is something I never knew I was missing out on. I wanted to write because I wanted to share our travel stories and I thought our experiences might prove a valuable resource for some. My sugar-free life stories came out by accident as did anything semi inspirational I've ever written. I would never have thought I could think of something to write every day but here we are.

I never expected that this little community exists. Who am I kidding, it's not little, it's huge, and it's welcoming and supportive and I'm a part of it. Here I was thinking the web was a big old pool of Tall Poppy Syndrome, having only seen gossip comments and forums. Now, I'm inspired every day to strive to entertain and inspire more of you. I'm inspired to improve and grow. I love every comment I get and I love seeing more of them pop up each day. I'm slowly learning about blogging networks, widgets, and now memes and awards.

Huge thanks to VegemiteVix for giving me a confidence boost by tagging me on her blog with the Versatile Blogger award! She writes about life as an expat Kiwi living in Britain with her family. Her stories are both relatable and inspiring, and you need to check her out if you haven't already.

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So, the deal is that I know need to tell you 7 things you don't know about me, and then recommend a few new blogs for you to try out. Here goes!

1. I have a Certificate in Interior Design and got an A+ overall. I always wanted to be an Interior Designer, ever since I went to work with my then-Kitchen Designer Mum. Once I finished my quals though, I wasn't so interested in immersing myself in that side of the industry.

2. I have a strawberry birthmark on my back. When I was a kid I hated getting asked if I had a rash or having my peers point and stay away incase they 'caught' it. Now, I forget it's there.

3. I name almost all of my pets after people I admire. I've had turtles Vinnie (Vincent van Gogh), Presley (Elvis) and Scarlet (O'Hara, from Gone with the Wind), cats Oscar (the Grouch, named so when I was 4) and Izzy (Stradlin, from GnR) and dogs Holly (Golightly, Audrey Hepburns character in Breakfast at Tiffanys) and Toby. Toby is the only one without a namesake, I just always wanted a dog called Toby.

4. I'm allergic to pink food colouring. My body is so well trained to expect migraines and nausea that the very smell of candy floss makes me feel sick. A lot of people think my allergy to pink things means I can't eat strawberries and raspberries. It's just artificial colouring guys. Not fruit.

5. If I could only visit one country for the rest of my life, it would be Italy, even though I haven't been there yet. If I could only have one more holiday, ever, it would be to New York City, even though I have been there - but this time it would be for a white Christmas/New Years skating at the Rockefeller Centre, looking in the windows at Macy's and watching the ball drop in Times Square.

6. I will be a foster Mum one day. I've wanted to do it since I was a child and saw Irene on Home and Away. As I've grown up I've spent hours researching the pros and cons and I feel like I need to do it. Not everyone has the patience, love or want to do it, so since I do, I kind of feel like it would be selfish not to.

7. Now that I have 9 tattoos, each of which I love dearly and none of which I regret, I have new admiration for naked skin and think girls with no tattoos look so beautiful. In saying that, I'll definitely get more of my own.

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Ok! So time to put you on to some new blogs...

This bit was quite hard for me because I'm so new to the community and I'm just getting to know everyone. You already know I love RRSAHM and Mumra but you should also try...

Girls Guide
My first ever introduction to the world of blogging, Jane blogs about life in general, going from single 20-something to a domestic goddess with her own home and loving boyfriend. So easy to relate to, super funny and understated.

Live in the Harvey Household 
I've only recently found this blog but it's super cute and feels like a cup of tea with a friend. See what you think. Whitney only recently got a similar award but I want to know more, so I'm tagging her anyway!

I'm tagging these guys because not only do they have an awesome site but they have the best tweets I've found in my so-far-short Twitter career. So much high quality info and none of the rubbish that floats around cyberspace. A family of three, travelling the world and learning about it their way.

So there you go, check em out and see what you think and, if you've been tagged my lovely fellow bloggers, take the badge and share the love and don't forget to share the 7 things we don't know about you.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Getting in Trouble
One of the worst feelings I can encounter is that of being 'in trouble'. At 25 years old, this is probably not something I should admit, but I'm wondering how many of you out there feel the same.

The fact that this has followed me into adulthood is probably a damn good sign why I was such a goody two shoes as a child. I was extremely careful and any rule-breaking I did was rare and always well thought out - well, almost always. So well thought out, that no one would have known if I wasn't a goody two shoes - including the other kids at school.

There's an exception to this dislike for trouble. If I was blatantly doing something I knew I shouldn't, in front of the person that would take exception to my behaviour, I didn't care in the slightest if I got in trouble. This only ever amounted to talking too much with Soul Buddy in the back of Economics or talking back to my Mum though.
And so it follows me to this day. Now days, being 'in trouble' usually means having upset someone by saying or doing the wrong thing. Never intentionally, and always without thinking. Using my mouth before my brain! It doesn't happen often, but when it does, I'm filled with a feeling I don't get at any other time. Its closest to dread I think, just knowing I let someone down, didn't meet their expectations or hurt their feelings. I can't let it go easily and I get genuinely upset by the very idea of it. I feel like I've failed.

I remember feeling the exact same way when I was 7 and got caught using plastic play money in the Coke machine, which I honestly didn't realise was a bad thing because I knew someone else had done it first. I know grief and happiness and anger all follow you throughout your life but it just seems so odd to me that this feeling does too. Do you know what feeling I'm talking about? What other little hang ups do you carry around from your childhood?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dreams are Free

There's an awesome little vegetarian cafe in Auckland (actually, there are 2 of them, one on Fort St and one on Lorne St I think it is) called Revive. Although I don't get to eat there as often as I'd like to (Europe savings and all that!), I do get the weekly email cafe owner Jeremy sends out each week. The emails have that weeks cafe menu as well as recipes and inspiration.
One of the best he ever sent was around January 2010, talking about Dream Lists.

The idea is, either with pictures or words, on a board or in a book, you list everything you could ever possibly want to do in your life. Kind of like a bucket list, but no limits whatsoever. It could be as small as one day wanting to have a picnic with all your friends, own a really nice dining suite, do a bungy jump... or as big as one day joining a flight to space. The list can be as long or as short as you want, as long as everything goes on it. It doesn't matter if you think it's unreachable, put it on the list.

So, I made my list and every so often I add more to it. The point of the list, is that you choose a few things off the list, and every day you do one thing to make them happen. I believe Jeremy goes so far as to have 3 on the go at any one time, write them out every morning so they are fresh in his mind, and do one thing towards them every single day. It's your list though, so it's up to you what you do with it. Personally I don't rewrite them or anything but any time I pull it out (every month or two, whenever I think to) I refocus on the ones I've decided to work on and if I've completed any, I pick a new one to replace them.

It's just nice to have everything you could ever want, all in one place. When I go back to the list, I remember things I've 'always' wanted to do but don't think of on a day to day basis. It gives me accountability for the life I lead and motivation to correct the path I'm on if I realise I've gone astray.
Long before Revive was ever invented, when I was 11 or 12, I made a list of what I wanted in life. Yeah, yeah, we already know I'm a list person, have a laugh and move on. Anyway, it wasn't so much a Dream List, but I wrote that I wanted to buy a house, get married, do an African safari and visit Europe. I still have it and every couple of years it surfaces and even now makes me reinvest in getting those things. Almost like I don't want to let my 11 year old self down.

Give it a go and see what happens. If it works for you, awesome. If it doesn't, you only wasted an ad break of TV to do it.

This is mine -

Be TV free 
Have a blackboard wall 
Start Pilates again 
Start singing lessons again 
Go on a cruise 
Get Debt free 
Get a Blanket box 
Buy a house  
Get a friend for Toby 
Renovate a house and sell it for profit 
Own a bach/holiday house 
Own an investment property 
Own a boat 
Get a motorbike 
Get a 1969 Ford Mustang convertible 
Foster as many kids as possible 
Get married 
Go to Europe 
Do a safari in Africa 
Go to Phuket 
Go to South America 
See New York at Christmas 
Go to Glastonbury festival 
Go to Coachella festival 
Go to Lollapalooza 
See Egypt 
Tour the South Island in a bus 
See Abel Tasman National Park 
Do the Tongariro crossing 
Visit Queenstown  
Do aid work somewhere 
Get fit - Pilates. Walking Toby. Walking at lunch.  Bootcamp. 
Give up processed foods 
Be 100% vegetarian 
Give up chocolate 
Stay cancer free 
Give up drinking 
Play guitar on stage  
Finish my degree 
Be in a working band  
Get a job that doesn't feel like job 
Be someones boss 
Stop swearing 
Learn to knit 
Learn to cook - properly 
Do Cake making classes 
Volunteer nail-paints in Retirement Homes 
Be a Guide Dog Puppy Walker 
Be a Zoo Volunteer 
Be an SPCA volunteer