The Midnight Train.

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Christmas Stollen by Wild Bakery, copper trivet from Kitchen Warehouse, tea towel by Country Road, small plate from Empire.

As time wears on, I find myself becoming more and more of a private person. I’ve been blogging for almost nine years now and have voluntarily shared so much of myself online, from break-ups and depression to moving out of home, to the day I married my husband, and the moment I left my day job after eight years to go out on my own. These days, the more I put myself out there – particularly in front of the camera (where you can’t hide from anyone) – the more I crave time behind the lens.

I’ve been getting into a lot more styling work lately and I’m finding being ‘behind the scenes’ my true happy place. It may sound trite, but this whole year – my 30th – has become so much more of a journey of self-discovery than I had imagined. The day after my birthday, I realised turning 30 isn’t actually as big of a deal as everyone (and I) made it out to be. But it wasn’t until it was suddenly November (!) that the light switch came on. Because it’s what came after 30 that struck the world for me:

Discovering ‘doing what you love’ in its truest, most disarming and earth-shattering sense of the phrase. Realising that the entire year was just this silly dance of trial and error. Being defeated by what I thought I was good at it; then stumbling across something buried deep inside me that has made everything fall neatly into place.

I want to set the world on fire. And although life for me will always be one big experiment, it’s the sound of the shutter, with my own eyes peering through the looking glass, that I’d say, really is, my happy place.

Styling + Photography by me.

Food Fashion Love.

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During the blur that was my early-mid twenties, I went through two or three summers wearing nothing but Fleur Wood maxi dresses (spurred on by my close girlfriends – you know who you are! And I still have photo evidence!). It was so easy, so clean, and so chic without really having to try. And back then, no one did floral maxis, ballet-inspired cocktail dresses, or Miu Miu-esque eyelets as beckoning as Fleur.

So needless to say, I was so happy to be graciously sent an advance copy of Fleur Wood’s beautiful and whimsical new book, Food Fashion Love whilst I was away.

With each page thoughtfully devoted to Fleur’s love of glitter and old lace, heritage and food with soul, love-heart lockets and picnics in the English countryside; the book is something I’m looking forward to dipping in and out of over the coming months for a much-needed inspiration boost. I love starting my weekends with a spark of creativity.

Every damn day.

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Eska Alikai classic singlet (the best tees ever – the kind where you ought to buy back-ups. They’re on sale, too, but please don’t get to them before I do), Witchery ponte leggings, Nike Free 5.0 trainers.

It’s been a while. I’m still training. I’ve stopped clean eating (I mean, I went and ate a whole pizza after these photos were taken) and it’s also been 18 months since I first stepped into a boxing gym. 18 months. My quads have officially doubled in size – or at least it feels like it. Oh, and I also I took up Bikram yoga eight weeks ago.

I know, I’m about five years late to the Bikram party but it has taken me that long to convince myself that it’s perfectly normal to contort myself in a 40C room for 90 minutes alongside clammy, half-naked individuals who have no qualms about dripping sweat on your towel. There was also a small part of me that felt Bikram wouldn’t challenge me like boxing does. Ha, how little I knew…

I was losing motivation to train at the start of the year. I went from working out four times a week to two, if I was lucky. I was recovering from a back injury with the help of my physio and my boxing training started to plateau. In 12 months, I had reached the point where there was nothing else for me to really improve on – or more to the point, nothing else I felt motivated enough to improve on. And with my work schedule getting busier and busier, it was just so hard to find the time.

When I quit my job, I knew I couldn’t keep up with the $240-a-week clinical pilates any longer, so upon the advice of my physio I decided to give Bikram a go. At the quarter of the cost, I figured I had less to lose. I’m a wimp once the mercury dips to below 10C; I find the heat much more tolerable. But being inside a torturous hot room sweating out of every single pore (I wish I was exaggerating) was an experience unlike any other.

Some poses claim to cure gout and insomnia…and I may be better convinced if I wasn’t married to a pharmacist, so whilst I don’t completely agree with some of the Bikram posture benefits, practising it has physically been the best thing I’ve done for myself since I took up boxing. The best. I can’t even begin to describe how quickly I started to see results, how flexible – really flexible – I became just after a few classes, how much my skin felt amazingly smooth from just one class, and how much it has actually complemented (and made me appreciate!) my boxing training.

I’ve been balancing two Bikram classes with 2-3 boxing sessions a week, which helps to alleviate the sedentary working-from-home curse.

And after two months of Bikram, I still don’t know if I like it, let alone love it. It’s not for everyone and it’s bloody intense – give me a pair of boxing gloves any day. And for that, I will eat my hat. It’s one of the most challenging workouts I’ve ever done but I find it incredibly heart-opening, oxygenating, awakening. I didn’t know what sweat was until I sat inside a Bikram torture chamber, but I think I’ve always been drawn to testing my inner limits. To realise how far I can go from the point where I thought it was the end has given me a reason to keep going. And if I had a choice between being sore or sorry, I’d probably be sore every damn day.

Photographs by Jamie.

As simple as simple gets.

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One of the things I looked forward to most after giving up the day job was the prospect of sleeping in. Tossing aside the bed covers in my own time. Drawing the curtains to see the first light. Making breakfast – a proper breakfast. And spending the rest of the day decidedly make-up free, and hair undone in an awkward abandonment.

The only thing I’ve yet to master is being home at the right time to catch the postman. Four weeks and I’m still doing this silly dance with UPS.

Breakfast, however, is starting to come together. The question of whether I can buy avocados or smoked salmon and still come under the weekly grocery budget remains unanswered, so this week it’s all about the oatmeal, bagel and waffle breakfasts. I started my Tuesday (because – let’s be real here – starting things on Mondays never happen) with an apple, almond and coconut oatmeal bowl. I didn’t immediately warm to the idea of combining apple with oats but this was surprisingly really good.

It feels silly to post a ‘recipe’ to be honest, because all I really did was warm up a bowl of oats with milk in the microwave, then drizzled over it with honey. For the topping: I sliced half a Fuji apple (word to the wise: slice it thinly if you’re going to be Instagramming this…), then grabbed a handful of almond and coconut flakes (the more, the merrier!).

I also took the chance to refresh my home with new bowls and serving plates from Country Road. The Dias oakwood oval plate (above) is a favourite as it’s served so many different purposes already. Over the next two weeks, I’ll be capturing my #countryroadstyle homewares (and accompanying breakfasts) on Instagram (because, $1000 gift card)! The best part is, you can take part in it too.

Simply breakfast.

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via Simply Breakfast

As I wrap up my first week of what I have discovered to be a rather destabilising but deeply emancipating freelance life, I’ve started to become more appreciative of rituals and routine; of the blank canvas I wake up to every day; of time and how to best use it; and of all the breakfasts I’ve never had time for because of the 9 to 5.

So I thought Sunday would be a good day as any to share this delicious blog I recently stumbled across. Jen Causey’s Simply Breakfast tells (an achingly photogenic) tale of her first meals of the day. I love the way she documents her ode to breakfast with a casual calmness – all runny eggs and ketchup; baked oatmeal and Southern peaches; apple scramble and honeyed almonds on toast.

It’s exactly the inspiration I’ve needed to finally christen the Le Creuset omelette pan that’s been sitting in its orange box in my cupboard for months now, waiting to be seasoned.

As a new week looms, Simply Breakfast has given me some food for thought. I’ll no doubt be spending it with this in mind; Jen’s philosophy as to how all days should start:

“Sitting down to a meal in the morning helps me to be present and allows me to think and to set intentions for the day ahead.”

Sticky situation.

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I have this notorious reputation amongst my family for producing disastrous desserts. Most of the time, I’m relegated to making a salad because I’m that untrustworthy with organising the most important meal of the day.

I’ll admit, a green tea cheesecake I once made turned out to be a little too cheesy on the palate (read: unedible) and that (probably too healthy) lime & macadamia raw cheesecake I made for my brother’s birthday last month went down like a lead balloon, even though I quite enjoyed it. How was I to know? No one told me what they really thought of it until a couple of days ago. I thought everyone loved avocados?

So given I evidently don’t have the most solid track record with cheesecakes, I offered to whip up a sticky date pudding for everyone last night, reassuring them that I had ‘practised’ earlier in the week. On, er, myself (and my husband), that is. My husb gave it his tick of approval even though he’s too nice to say what he really thinks, most likely out of fear that I’ll never cook for him again. He be a clever man.

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to make this pudding for years in my Thermomix but it always seemed so involved. And I’m lazy. But like most things, it was easier and quicker than I had thought, though it helped that I happened to have all the ingredients on hand last week. I decided to buy fresh dates for last night’s version, though, as a Thermomixin’ friend of mine (hi, Meif!) had suggested to.

As you can hopefully see above, the end result was incredibly light, fluffy and moist with edges crispy in all the right places. I also made an accompanying butterscotch sauce that was so heavenly that it made you forget chocolate existed altogether, and finally served the pudding with a scoop (or two) of vanilla ice cream.

Safe to say, it was a crowd-pleaser.

Photographs by me.

The Seventh Duchess.

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Five years ago, this guy I had only just met invited me over to his place for tea.

It was 1 o’clock in the morning and as we stood in his kitchen whilst the kettle whistled, the expanse of time seemed infinite – as it does when you have the excuse of youth. We were chatting idly about a general nothingness over chamomile tea, having just returned that night from a brief photography jaunt where we stood with our cameras and looked up at the night sky with wonder and longing. I told him I was leaving Perth for good, because nothing was keeping me here anymore. Because change seemed like a good and terrifying thing to do. Because it was time to spread my wings and fly. ‘Cause for too long my heart had been swinging back and forth between the need for routine and the urge to run.

I didn’t know it then, but where we captured the full moon that evening would be the same place he would propose to me a year later.

And I didn’t know it then, but I will have decided to stay for him. Lost in the fire, he taught me the simple fact that happiness derives from not wanting to be anywhere else, anyone else, or doing something else. That I can be someone’s – his – and still my own.

When I was recently introduced to these organic loose leaf teas by The Seventh Duchess, I jumped at the chance to try them out, particularly as they’re the brilliant folk behind the bespoke tea menu at Rochelle Adonis. As tea has played such a sentimental part of our lives, our pantry’s full of the stuff – orange pekoe tea, jasmine tea, green rice tea, vanilla & chai, lemon & ginger. We even have a particular green tea that we brought back from Hangzhou, when we explored tea plantations in the Zhejiang Province a couple of years ago.  Fun fact: we always brew this one at 70 degrees celsius, and we eat the (extraordinarily bitter!) leaves too, because according to my mother in-law, it’s good for you.

I like to switch up my teas fairly often (though I have particular teas I only drink at work, and those I take at home, just so I can totally switch off) so with the arrival of winter comes new tea to indulge in. I’ve been brewing The Seventh Duchess’ Imperial China green tea day after day – I’m mad about jasmine at the moment. And with packaging as pretty as this, it seems to make tea-drinking something to look forward to at the end of a long day.

And five years on, the ritual of taking tea still happens night after night for my husband and I. We still stand around in the kitchen – except now it’s one we’ve built together – brewing a pot of tea after dinner, catching up on the day, getting drunk  on love, and plotting how we can both spread our wings and fly. Together.

Photographs by me.

Macadamia & Lime Cheesecake.

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After a week living in offline exile, our wifi at home was switched back on just before the weekend. Life without internet was annoying, but also strangely cathartic. I spent my nights mostly with my nose in a book, re-reading all the magazines on my iPad, cleansing my closet, planning the next chapter of my wardrobe cull (more on this later) and spending lots of time in the kitchen preparing dinners I never had time to, before. Emails were left answered until the next morning and online shopping was non-existent. The past week has taught me a lot about how being online all the time has a lot to do with habit, and that there is a certain beauty and benefit to being offline. Even just for a little while.

So onto this cake! My brother’s birthday falls a week after mine. I love any opportunity to make & bake and after the decadent birthday week I had, this week had been about overcoming the birthday hangover with healthy eats and more sleep.

So I got stuck into this recipe from Quirky Cooking for a Raw Macadamia & Lime Cheesecake. It’s non-dairy (so it doesn’t actually contain any ‘cheese’) and it’s perfect for Vegans and non-Vegans alike. It’s not the most conventional birthday cake but, hey, rules were made for bending.

I used my Thermomix (as per the recipe) to make this cake but a food processor would work perfectly  in this case, too. I didn’t follow the ingredient list exactly as I wanted to use up some of my pantry items, so here’s what went into my cake:

Raw Macadamia & Lime Cheesecake (here’s the method)

For the base:

130g raw macadamias and hazelnuts

70g desiccated coconut for the base (instead of flaked/shredded)

10 pitted dates (I wanted to use Medjool but instead opted for conveniently pitted ones)

Pinch of Himalayan salt

 

For the filling:

2 vanilla beans (I used the McCormick brand from my local IGA which gives two in a sachet)

Zest from 2 limes

Flesh from 1 of the above limes

150g raw cashews (I used unsalted)

320g fresh avocados (this equates to about 3 medium – large avocados)

80g honey (instead of 100g maple syrup – I was scared of making it too sweet)

55g coconut oil

Pinch of Himalayan salt

 

For the topping:

150g macadamias (I soaked them beforehand)

A 400ml can of coconut cream

1 tsp of vanilla extract

Juice of 1 lime

30g honey (as I don’t have maple syrup)

 

Recipe notes

I decorated my cake with flaked coconut (about a cup) and lime wedges (you can decorate it any way you wish, though!).

As the cake is best eaten semi-freddo style, it needs to be kept in the freezer at all times. I found storing it in the fridge makes the topping & filling too soft.

I made the cake late Friday night, then set it in the freezer overnight. It was served at Saturday lunch.

I know not everyone owns a Thermomix, but the method is easily adaptable to a food processor/blender. You just need to weigh out the ingredients beforehand obviously (I don’t, as the TM convienently weighs everything for me & then calibrates the scales – hooray). Otherwise, there are plenty of non-TM recipes floating around on Pinterest or Taste.com.au you can refer to.

If you don’t like avocados in desserts, you might not like this cake. Just sayin’.

If you have any questions at all, feel free to leave a comment under this post.

Enjoy! I’m off to have a slice for breakfast, ha!

Photographs by me.

Healthy Snacking.

Now that we’re on the tail end of the Easter weekend, it’s time to think about weaning off those jumbo chocolate bunnies and toasted hot cross buns. Yes, I know. But you’ll thank me later.

Since returning from my Europe holiday six months ago, I’ve ashamedly fallen from grace. I checked myself out of clean eating (I blame Rome and Paris for my new-found addiction to pasta and cheese), I became a slave to sugar (another post for another day) and my motivation to workout took a dive over summer (it was too hot!).

I’m only just finding my feet again (in a brand new pair of Frees, no less) and thought I’d share a couple of recipes for some healthy snack ideas that will have you (hopefully) reaching for carob in favour of chocolate. I don’t just save these for post-workout though; I’ll pop them in a small container and take them with me to work for morning/afternoon snacks. I also brought them along on the weekend road trip and they proved handy when I felt peckish in the car!

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Goji Berry Energy Bars

So easy to make and so very addictive. I used/adapted this recipe from www.movenourishbelieve.com (one of my favourite websites for recipe ideas) and replaced linseeds (didn’t have any on hand) with goji berries during step 4. It actually tastes exactly like those deliciously addictive sesame bars you can buy in pharmacies (the one in the red/clear wrapper)!

What you’ll need:

1 1/2 cups of cashews

1/2 cup dates

1/4 cup goji berries

1/4 cup shredded/desiccated coconut

2 tbsp each of pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds

A pinch of salt

A few drops of vanilla essence

A tbsp of coconut oil.

What to do:

1. Cover dates with water in a bowl and soak for half an hour.

2. Blend cashews in a food processor until crumbly (I used my Thermomix, which worked perfectly well).

3. Drain the dates and pop them all into the processor. Blend well.

4. Add all of the remaining ingredients. Blend until they’re all mixed well together.

5. Press mixture into a rectangular tin (lined with baking paper) and pop in freezer for half an hour until set.

6. Once set, portion into bite-sized pieces with a sharp knife, and enjoy! They’ll keep for up to two weeks in the fridge.

My tips: Make sure you store these in the fridge at all times, and don’t use more coconut oil than needed (no more than one tablespoon) otherwise you’ll be draining oil out of these bars from here until eternity.

Date Cacao Bites

Cacao & Date Bites

These cacao bites are a healthier alternative for those with a deep affinity for chocolate. If you’d like to read up on cacao (the raw vs cocoa debate is quite contentious!) this makes for good, informative reading.

As for the recipe I used to create these Cacao & Date bites, I stuck to this one and just added a tablespoon of chia seeds during step 3. Just reserve around half an hour to do the ‘rolling’ – I found this took the most time!

What you’ll need:

1 cup dates

1 cup cashews

1/2 cup almonds

1/2 cup oats

1/2 cup desiccated coconut

1/2 cup cacao powder

1 tbsp coconut oil

Extra chia seeds and dessiccated coconut for rolling

What to do:

1. Cover dates with water in a bowl and soak for half an hour.

2. In a food processor (or Thermomix, if you have one) blend the nuts and oats until they resemble a rough crumb.

3. Drain the dates and add them to the processor. Then add the coconut, coconut oil, and cacao and whiz them all up until well mixed.

4. Divide the mixture into bite-sized balls and roll in the chia seed & coconut mix. If the mixture is too dry and falls apart, add a tiny bit more coconut oil.

5. Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated. They’ll keep for up to 2 weeks.

In my wildest dreams.

I’ve been feeling a little bleh at work this week, trying to serve out the rest of my notice period with a smile on my face (wish Get Out of Jail cards applied for times like these) so this freshly baked bread delivery – complete with its own Scanpan knife and French butter – couldn’t come at a more perfect time.

This sourdough cob loaf from South Fremantle-based Wild Bakery even has its own name – I kid you not – and is named after the owners’ daughter, Hannah. The hole-in-the-wall family bakery was conceived with a loaf of bread that was created for Hannah, who was showing signs of gluten intolerance. It’s the sort of story that nourishes the soul in more ways than one.

So much to the detriment of my currently non-existent clean eating plan, this loaf is taking pride of place on the dinner table tonight. The waft of baked bread (second to coffee on a Monday morning) gets me every single time.

Make it count.

I was chatting heatedly but excitedly to my physiotherapist just before I left on holiday as I lay face down whilst he was unsuccessfully smoothing out stubborn kinks in my back. The topic du jour was self-improvement; being the best possible version of yourself.

To put it crudely, Self-improvement is an oft-long and winding journey with the road paved by various things: diet, exercise, education, faith or vocation.

For me, exercise is a narcotic. The thrill of working up a sweat and having my heart seemingly jump out of my chest for an hour each day is strangely and almost alarmingly addictive. I’ll even go as far as saying I can’t go without two days of that quasi-comatose high. In all honesty, it’s the thing I miss most when travelling (aside from my mum and her home cooking of course) and it’s the thing I crave most when I return.

Many of my friends and family ask why, and – more pointedly – how. And even I sometimes come up for air and wonder how I ever became ‘this’ person. And by that, I mean a crazy fit, boxing junkie who now weighs more in muscle than all of my Louboutins and Celine purses combined.

It has probably come with age (for those who are sniggering, I am now only half a year from entering another decade of my life, therefore I am entitled to cite turning thirty as an legitimate excuse). And realising – after chatting to my physio – that it’s the bigger picture that motivates me the most. It’s not just about the coffee I reward myself after a morning workout. It’s never been about the toned triceps (ok, maybe a tiny bit) or being able to scale the cupola of St Peter’s Basilica without so much as generating a sweat bead (do I sound as smug as my husband thinks?).

It’s about the game-changers and the deal-breakers. And the simple fact that all roads lead to here:

Starting a family. Learning another language. Financial freedom. Travelling the world. Finding love. Finding peace.

So I eat properly, live simply and get that heart rate going. To have the energy to travel the world with the one I love most in this universe. To be in the best possible health to eventually start a family. And to ultimately be the kind of mother my mother is: hard-working, full of heart, living life in colour, and always with one keen eye on the bigger picture.

As for my physiotherapist, he’s quitting his job to not only study medicine but also pursue a wellness start-up with his like-minded friends, catering for those who are all for self-improvement in various aspects of their life but have no idea where to start. As someone who’s married to someone who sadly comes across dying people more often than most in anyone’s average work day, I think helping others so they can help themselves is the most selfless and inspiring thing in the world. He remarked that his patients come from all walks of life and often they come in with a bad back with a side of cancer. But (being a physiotherapist) he can only cure so much. Our conversation sang of reality and its ensuing sadness. But what transpired was a profound motivation to do something about it.

All of our ailments and shortcomings – how many of them could be prevented by simply taking more care of ourselves? It’s all about the 3 E’s: Eating right and light, Exercising, and Education. It goes without saying that for most of us, health and well being is much like superannuation – something we sweep under the carpet until we are forced to cross that bridge. Had we had nipped it in the bud back then, it wouldn’t hit us like a ton of bricks.

Isn’t this motivation enough?

Find Your Greatness.

With the last weekend of winter looming, I thought we were just about due for another fitness/food ‘diary’.

On this occasion, instead of listing the kilometres I’ve run or the food I’ve eaten, I thought I’d talk a little bit about the lessons I’ve learnt in the eight months since I’ve endeavoured to adopt a happier and healthier (active) lifestyle. Most of it though is a mild version of the internal conversations I have with myself on days when I really, really need them.

On morning workouts

Do this every day for a week and you might be surprised at how un-impossible it becomes, even during winter. What do I find impossible? Getting up a mere once or twice a week for a 6am workout – trust me, it never happens. The idea here is to put your brain and your body into ‘training’ even before you get to the gym. So go every day – you will get used to it and you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner.

My trainer has switched to afternoon classes now so I’ve followed suit but I much prefer early morning workouts, to be honest. It’s always nice to start my day right.

On finding a trainer you can’t live without

If you’re lucky enough to find someone who wants you to be the best version you can be, hang onto him/her and do not let go. Kind of like finding your dream hairdresser.

I have a couple of trainers whom take my classes and one of them is the biggest foul-mouthed, sexist and politically incorrect person I have ever met. But I wouldn’t be any where near as physically or mentally fit as I am today, without him.

He knows when I’m slacking off. And he’ll call me out for it (in front of the whole class, in fact). He knows when I can dig deeper, even though I have zero faith in myself. He knows when I’m trying hard enough and he’ll tell me so, too. And most importantly, he remembered my name from the very first time I met him.

I hate the torture chamber that he’s built for our class, but you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

On getting to know people

The thing about getting to know people at the gym or in your class is that you come to realise that they are such a happy, positive bunch of people. Whether it’s the endorphins or the fact that they obviously are driven enough to lead a healthier lifestyle; I know that the time I spent at the gym (and it’s a lot) would be pretty dull without a few of these friendly faces.

I’ve met so many wonderfully, varied people in my class whom I only see during class but yet have developed a genuine rapport with. It can take me a little while to coerce me out of my shell but it’s so great how that sense of camaraderie and friendship can boost your morale, motivation levels and self-esteem. 

On putting the effort in and feeling like you’re going to die

If I wanted to slack off, I would much prefer to lie on the couch, eat Cronuts and watch back to back episodes of Breaking Bad. If I wanted to slack off, I would most certainly not turn up to the gym and attempt some pitiful, half-arsed burpees. It’s disrespectful to your trainer and, most of all, it’s disrespectful to yourself.

I don’t turn up to class unless I’m prepared to work my arse off. 

And by that, I mean, making sure I’m running with my knees above the hips, doing star jumps properly, not cheating with my burpees, lifting weights as heavy as the boys do. And just generally feeling like I’ve just taken a hot shower in my own sweat.

Sure it’s uncomfortable but I’m not doing it right if I was feeling ‘comfortable’.

On not being the fittest person in your class

No one wants to the smartest person in their class. Who’s going to be there to challenge you? Make you work harder? Push you to your extremes? Inspire you to do better?

If you can help it, try to find a gym filled with people who are genuinely there to fight flab forever, and not fighting flab fast (because it’s those kinds of people who you won’t be seeing after 3 months).

Surrounding yourself with half-motivated, half-fit people will only make you want to work half as hard.

On making time, not having time

If you’re a working mum with three kids hanging off of you, this probably won’t apply. For the rest of us: as with many other things in life; exercise is about making the time. Not having time is no excuse.

It’s about organising yourself, prioritising your to do list and keeping yourself accountable. It’s about appreciating every minute of your every day and eliminating procrastination from your life. You’ll not only be amazed at how much time you really do have but also with the mental rewards you’ll reap from this, from the minimal effort you’re putting in.

I have my ‘off’ days for sure (I’m sure you wouldn’t believe me even if I told you every day was this productive) but when the stars do align and I find myself making careful and considered use of time, I wonder why I don’t do it more often.

On making excuses

It’s raining. It’s cold. There’s storms outside. You’ve sprained your wrist. It’s a pain to find parking at the gym. You’re feeling blue.

Cut the crap.

You’re making excuses because it’s not important to you. It’s not a priority in your life.

Which is completely okay (especially if you’re sick or sore), but please don’t expect sympathy when you’ve emerged from hibernation at the end of winter feeling flabby and sorry for yourself. Personally, I don’t understand those who think it’s impossible to exercise simply because it’s cold outside or raining. I get that it’s not exactly motivating weather but… really? Unless you’re exercising outside, you have no excuse. I learnt pretty quickly that working out when it’s cold is the perfect way to stay warm that doesn’t leave you with a mounting energy bill at the end of the month.

One of the regulars in my boxing class was on her way to the gym for our 6am class one day when her car broke down. She turned up to class – on time – wheeling her pushbike in. It was pitch black outside and almost zero degrees celsius and she has a hugely demanding job, yet she still put in the effort to turn up.

I’m almost certain the word ‘excuses’ doesn’t exist in her vocabulary.

Having gritted my teeth and worked out through a bad case of shin splints and a sprained wrist (thankfully not at the same time) I’ve realised that making excuses makes me feel much worse than actually going to the gym itself.

On laziness

I have a small trick that I do that ensures laziness doesn’t get the better of me after a long day at work.

I come home from work just before 4pm which means I have an hour and a half before my boxing class.

There are various productive and non-productive things I can do in this time: prepare dinner (so I don’t have to after the gym), go shopping, or head straight to the couch, pull a snuggly throw over me, and have a ‘little’ nap.

I choose to do anything but literally sit down – seriously. I don’t give myself a chance to relax between finishing up at the office and going to the gym. I do anything – cook, clean, go to the post office, take out the rubbish, whatever – so long as it doesn’t involve a couch and a cup of tea.

Works every single time.

Strawberry Bruschetta.

After a little sleep-in this morning, I woke up and took my usual Sunday morning stroll to buy groceries, flowers and coffee.

The abundance of strawberries at the moment inspired me to make Strawberry Basil Bruschetta. I picked up a loaf of sourdough from Mary Street Bakery and came home to fix myself up with this delicious and simple breakfast.

Strawberry Basil Bruschetta

Punnet of strawberries, sliced (use half a punnet for 1-2 serves)

Fresh basil, chopped

Balsamic glaze (I made my own on the stove)

Ricotta cheese

Sourdough, sliced and lightly grilled/toasted

Spread slices of your toasted sourdough with ricotta, then top with strawberries and chopped basil. Drizzle over the top with lashings of balsamic glaze, and serve!

Pantry Organisation.

How gorgeous are these kraft paper round stickers? I originally purchased them to seal my wedding invitations but given we had a small guest list, I had quite a lot left over. I’ve taken to using them for all sorts of things around the house – they proved to be particularly handy when I re-organised my pantry over the weekend! Together with a fine-tipped Sharpie and a few empty Moccona jars, and I was in business.

Coconut & Chia seed pudding.

I’ve been pottering around the house today, decluttering, doing a bit of sewing, and finding a sun-drenched corner of my courtyard to unwind for the rest of the afternoon.

I also found some time to make a delicious coconut & chia seed pudding using a few things from the pantry and a fresh punnet of strawberries I picked up from the grocer yesterday.

It’s so simple to make – all you need is a few hours to wait for it to set in the fridge. The recipe is slightly adapted from one of my favourite food blogs, Petite Kitchen.

coconut & chia seed pudding

1 can of coconut milk or cream
1/2 cup desiccated or shredded coconut
4 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract or essence
A handful of strawberries or fruit of your choice (bananas are great!)
In a glass bowl or large jar, add all of the ingredients. Mix well, place in the fridge then leave to soak overnight or for at least 2 hours (I popped mine in the fridge for about 3 hours). Serve with fruit and a sprinkle of cinnamon and/or desiccated coconut.
This pudding’s dairy-free and gluten-free and is perfect for breakfast or as a dessert! The recipe above will make about 3 generous sized serves. Enjoy!

Land of the dead.

I often wonder why I do it to myself.

Why I set my alarm for 5:28am, why I sleep in my gym clothes, right down to my asics socks. Why I stumble out of bed in complete darkness, trying earnestly not to wake my husband. Why I reluctantly walk out the front door and to my car and then drive with the headlights on and the heater cranking to my gym where an hour of brutal exercise awaits me.

Today was all of this, and more. And going back to bed is never, ever, an option.

Sometimes I wonder why I choose this lifestyle because, the truth is, I truly hate it as much as I love it. I’ll stand in front of the mirror in the workout room at 6:01am hating myself and wondering why I’m even here. The timer starts, the whistle blows and before I know it, I’m running laps of the workout room; one minute on; one minute off. We mix it up a bit by throwing five burpees or three push-ups in there.

And this goes on for an entire hour – no rest. It truly is the Land of the Dead.

And I think to myself: why didn’t I just stay warm underneath the covers, sleep in for a little bit longer, make myself a coffee. Breakfast, even. Like ‘normal’ people.

But as the day wears on, and by the time the afternoon rolls around, I start to get it. I feel so indescribably free. The hardest part of my day is done. And the penny drops. I have so much to be grateful for in this life and so much to look forward to when I come home. Getting up early and getting my workouts out of the day means my evenings are spent with the (simple) things I love most in this world. My cosy Hope sweater, burning my favourite candle I picked up in Boston, catching up on some reading in bed, and the feeling that I am doing the best I can, with all that I have, to be better, healthier, stronger, fitter and free.

Workout & Food Diary.

I’ve been meaning to put this post together for months now, but haven’t found the time nor the inclination until, I guess, now.

I’m going to lay it all out on the table and confess that my diet has gone halfway to shit this winter and so has my workouts. I say ‘halfway’ because I’m still attending my boxing classes at least 3 times a week (4 times and I’m forcing myself to go) and my diet is, at the moment, about 60-70% clean, as opposed to 90% before.

Basically, I’m not where I want to be right now, particularly with my healthy eating (or lack of).

Training

My sprained wrist is also proving to be a bit of a hinderance so it’s crazy that I’m craving working out when I know I shouldn’t – or can’t. I’m taking a rest from it tonight though because it’s only starting to come back to life after a week since spraining it and I don’t want to screw it up, just in case. I have been boxing with my right wrist double strapped and only started getting back on the bags yesterday – punching with my left arm only. I excused myself from burpees and push-ups and only skipped intermittently so as to not put unnecessary stress on my wrist. I did attend a couple of classes before the weekend and naughtily did a whole hour of HIIT workouts involving push-ups and burpees. Probably wasn’t the best idea.

6am workouts have become a thing of the past because my body just refuses to wake up at half past five in the morning. Getting up for an 8am class on Saturday mornings is proving not too much of an issue, though, so that’s my saving grace.

All that aside, I am seeing continued improvement in my endurance, strength and agility/flexibility:

  • I can run for 7-8km continuously without resting.
  • I’m lifting more weight now, on par with some of the boys in my class.
  • My boxing technique has dramatically improved thanks to my Polish instructor; punching using all of my body, pivoting on my toes, elbows tucked in and arms straight.

And here are my workout goals that I’ll be working towards in preparation for spring:

  • Proper star jumps – arms and legs at 45 degree angles
  • Burpees with my back straight
  • Jumping with both knees as high as they can be
  • Push-ups on my toes!

They’re not lofty goals but they’re enough to keep me challenged during my workouts.

Diet

I have become so much more ‘relaxed’ about what I’m putting into my body. For the first time in a few months, I’m incorporating a little of bit of bottled sauces, full-fat cheese, starchy bread, white rice, and even alcohol (just a glass) into my diet. It’s all attributed to lack of willpower, to put it bluntly.

I’m only eating three meals a day these days (as opposed to six) due to work being so overwhelmingly busy and lack of organisation on my part.

I have been conscious of eating a big breakfast (a huge bowl of oatmeal with sliced banana, cinnamon and honey) so that I’m less likely to succumb to the temptation of pies and cakes for morning tea. It also keeps me fuller for longer which means I’m not starving by the time lunch time rolls around.

Here are my favourite things I’ve been cooking/eating lately that are a bit more suited to cold winter nights:

  • Thai Salmon Patties (I bake these instead of frying).
  • Baked Eggs with Chickpea & Spinach (I use fresh tomatoes and instead of bread, serve with quinoa).
  • Vegie Stir-Fry (I make this in my Thermomix and add chicken. I also use honey and low-sodium soy sauce as my only condiments. I add lots of chilli though)!
  • Stuffed Capsicums (which I pair with either quinoa or sweet potato mash. I also disregard the tomato sauce – the less salt and pre-packaged stuff, the better – and add in more fresh tomatoes instead).
  • Spicy Sweet Potato & Quinoa Salad (I’m addicted to cayenne pepper – to make up for the fact that I don’t add salt or pepper to my food anymore)!
  • Stuffed Zucchini (with quinoa)
  • And a bit of a cheat meal – Buckwheat Soba Noodles (you can buy these from any Asian or Japanese grocery store) with Momofuku’s Scallion Sauce and homemade dumplings (which my mother in-law made for me recently).

I try to keep my first and last meal for the day as clean and healthy as possible. I’m just finding it hard to resist all the add-ons: a piece of (dark) chocolate here, a bowl of ice cream there. It’s not going to kill me but I’m going to work on getting that willpower back that I managed to exercise so well at the start of the year.

Body observations:

I’ve noticed a few things changing here and there since my last post. To be perfectly honest, it’s probably attributed more to stress than my diet or even my training. In summary:

  • More toned through the arms and shoulders. Lots of scary tricep definition after increasing my weights over the past few weeks.
  • Quadriceps looking more and more fierce. Not a good thing.
  • Calves have increased in size, especially when I flex them. Also not the result I was after.
  • Thighs haven’t seen much movement though I’m taking measurements and roughly 2cm has come off since March/April.
  • I’ve dropped a whole bra/boob size. I used to be a C (measuring 34/35 inches) but have dramatically dropped to a B (down to 32 inches). I’ve had to start shopping for new bras as a result
  • My wrists have shrunk and my finger size has decreased all over. You might have noticed that I’m no longer (or I can’t!) wear my engagement ring on my left hand anymore. It’s also started to swivel on my right hand. I’ve decided not to resize my rings until after I have kidlets.
  • I’ve lost some weight off my hips and have dropped a jean/pant and underwear size.
  • Despite all this, I’m feeling fitter and healthier than ever. I came down with a niggling cold last month but it somehow surpassed when it ordinarily would have turned into a fully-fledged cold. I do owe my regular exercise to my much-improved immune system.
  • On the whole, I’m finding that regular and consistent exercise is breathing quality of life into my day to day activities. I can paint a house for a whole day without getting sore; I can participate in a 12km fun run and wake up right as rain the next day; there are so many things I can do now without working up a sweat. And it’s doing wonders for me, mentally.

On boxing.

This is the first thing I read in the morning whenever I wake up at ridiculous o’clock for boxing. I’ve labelled my 5:30am phone alarm with this ‘reminder’ and purposely keep my phone on the other side of the bedroom. And yet, it still takes an inordinate amount of willpower to get out of bed and pull on my workout gear in the dark. Some days are easier than others, but it’s never, ever easy. I work out until I’m really hurting inside (because anything less is not worth getting up for) and to know that an hour of it awaits me at half past five in the morning takes some serious inner pep talk. And almost always, half-asleep.

It’s exactly three months today that I’ve been boxing for fitness, and it’s got me thinking about what motivates me to do it and to keep doing it. And to get the most out of my class, every single second of every single minute of that hour.

For the most part, boxing has become as routine as brushing my teeth. I don’t get up and excitedly punch my fists in the air before a class; I go because it’s what I do. I get up, go to work, have breakfast, come home, go to boxing, shower, make dinner, wash the dishes and go to sleep. I almost don’t have to think about it. I just do it.

On the more difficult days, I try to remind myself of all the progress I’ve made. I also think about where I want to get to. I’ve come further than I ever thought I could but there are so many more places I want to go to. And sitting on the couch, stuffing my face with green tea Kit Kat and watching the Logies isn’t going to get me there. So I go.

Most of the time, I don’t have the time to go. But I make sure I make the time. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.

And when I go, I work hard. And I hurt. A lot. I feel as if I have been so close to death on so many occasions. So I talk to myself a lot. I remind myself that if it were easy, I wouldn’t be here. If it weren’t challenging, I’d get bored. Fast. That nothing good ever came out of easy. That I went to all that effort of turning up so it would be a complete waste not to give this workout 200%. I go hard or I stay home.

Yes, it fucking hurts like hell. I look around the room and every body is hurting. I sweat more doing my cool-down stretches and sometimes I actually can’t breath because my lungs just can’t take it anymore and I’m constantly feel like I’m going to throw up water, and, God, wouldn’t it be easier to stop running, slow down and give up? But it’s only an hour of my day and my life and you know what? I know I’d feel infinitely worse sitting on that couch, watching the Logies and eating green tea Kit Kat.

Checking in.

Workout Diary

4 x boxing classes (Mon, Tues, Wed, Fri) and a 8km run today (Sun). My next goal will be to push my boxing workouts to 5 classes a week once I feel physically prepared for it. I’m almost there, I think.

This week I saw my endurance improving (I can run for longer now), and a bit more ab definition despite all the crap I ate on the weekend. I calculated my Body Fat % for the first time – currently I’m sitting at 18.5-19% depending on what method I use.

Food Diary

’ll be sharing a few recipes I had used during the week.  This is what my shopping list looked like at the start of the week, taking into account what I already had in my fridge:

Sweet potatoes

Brussel sprouts
Basil
Spring onions
Onion
Mushrooms
Tomatoes
Avocados
Grapefruit
Baby Spinach
Greek Yoghurt
Salmon
Minced chicken
Eggs

Breakfast

I’m currently alternating between:

  • Greek yoghurt with chia seeds, honey, toasted oats and blueberries
  • Oats with skim milk (warmed up in the microwave for 2 minutes on high) topped with a dash of honey and sprinkled with cinnamon

Lunch

  • Roast veggie frittata – I usually come up with my own recipe depending on what’s in the fridge but I find this sort of thing provides a good starting point. I’m going to add a cup of quinoa the next time I make this.
  • Avocado, tomato and Ryvita stack (with cracked black pepper)
  • Tuna, avocado, baby spinach and tomato in a whole wheat wrap

Snacks/Pre-workout

  • Low-fat ricotta & honey on Ryvita crispbread
  • Blueberries or seedless grapes
  • Clean Egg Muffins (I use the yolks though as I don’t like wasting them). I made these in advance on the weekend and popped a few into my lunchbox every day to snack on at work.

Snacks are essential as part of my day. My snack times are usually 11am and 2:30pm, timing it in between my main meals. I’m going to try and incorporate protein into my pre/post-workout snacks, like a hard boiled egg with a little bit of cracked black pepper. My body can’t handle a big snack before a workout – I almost threw up my Ryvita crackers the other day during an intense workout. Eeep. The day before it was a banana. A banana! 

Dinner

  • Chicken Shepherds Pie (so yummy! will definitely make this again this week)
  • Scrambled Egg Pizza (again, I use the yolks). Traditionally a breakfast dish, I find it also works really well for dinner. Thanks again to Jess for posting this, it’s become a meal staple in our household!
  • Grilled skinless salmon with quinoa, roasted sweet potato and baby spinach (a no-brainer, so no recipe was used)
  • Baby spinach, minted pea and fetta salad (another staple dish in our house – we have this with everything)

We eat really plain and Sandra-simple in our household. It’s hard to come up with inventive dishes when the both of us work long hours in a demanding and stressful job, so we like meals that don’t take too long to prepare.

This week, my aim will be to incorporate more meat protein into my lunches, to eat out less (we ate out 2-3 times last week) and to pull back on the sweets and cakes I caved into over the weekend. On that note, I will leave you with my mum’s homemade egg tarts that will become the death of me. I had to stop at two yesterday, argh:

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Cheat night.

I’ve decided that tonight is Cheat Night, and I’ve timed it perfectly with a hearty dinner at an Italian restaurant with my girlfriends after work. Given winter has seemingly come early in Perth today, I can’t wait to indulge in some comfort food.

This week has been particularly challenging with managing my junk food cravings. Burgers, fried crumbed chicken, chorizo, hot chips, green tea Pocky (!). The list goes horribly on and on, but I’m feeling a little triumphant that three sticks of Pocky were the extent of fulfilling those sugar cravings. Up until now, I’ve been able to easily resist the junk but it’s funny how cravings can hit you like a ton of bricks when you least expect it.

Grocery Day.

Sunday is grocery day for me.

I’ve half a weeks’ worth of food in here; mostly fruit, vegies and eggs. I tend to buy most of my protein fresh (like salmon) so that it doesn’t sit in the fridge for days on end. The minced free-range chicken – which you can see in my basket – is for a clean eating shepherds pie I’m making tonight (with sweet potato). Sweet potatoes feature a lot in my cooking, whether it be roasted (with cumin), mashed or made into chips. They’re such good value too; only $3.29/kg at my local IGA today. The grapefruit is mostly for my husband but I like to eat them too whenever he’s kind enough to peel and cut them up for me (I find cutting up fruit such a tedious process). Red Grapefruit are packed with lots of good stuff so we make a point of eating it every day.

As for the eggs; I always always always buy free-range, even if it means paying that little bit extra. And I opt for those farmed locally, in favour of the bigger conglomerates.

Food diary.

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It has been about four weeks now since I drastically changed my diet.

My eating habits used to be really, really, terrible. Sometimes I wonder how I functioned. I don’t smoke or drink (often, if at all) but I’d skip breakfast every day and wouldn’t eat my first meal of the day until lunchtime. Sometimes I’d have lunch as late as half past 2 in the afternoon. Else, some days I’d cave into half a pie at work for breakfast (if you didn’t already know, I work at a pie company and the staff kitchen looks like this every single day – lots and lots of free pies!):

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On the odd occasion, when I was either too stressed or too busy at work, I wouldn’t eat all day. Dinner would be my first meal of the day. It never made me feel good (and I’ll say right now that I definitely wasn’t trying to lose weight) so I attribute my poor eating habits to laziness, disorganisation, being time-poor and no comprehension or concern as to what I was doing to myself.

Then I woke up one day last month and decided I wasn’t going to do this to myself anymore.

The lifestyle change that boxing classes have instigated during the past two months has inspired me to really care about what I’m putting into my body; to see food as fuel (and not as a reward) and to have respect for the many hours of exercise I’m chalking up every week. I began to see that there was no point in spending x amount of dollars on boxing classes or even turning up if I wasn’t going to improve my diet. I’m not overweight but, let’s be honest here, I’m not totally immune from diabetes, high cholesterol, cancer or other preventable diseases.

So out with the pies, alcohol, soft drinks, chocolate, chips, fast food, cakes, fried chicken and erratic meal times; and in with whole foods, leafy, colourful vegetables and fruit, complex carbs, lean protein, wholegrains, and eating six times a day – including brekky. I’m noticing now that my body craves breakfast and that I’m actually getting hungry more often. It’s such a good feeling.

I saw the effects almost immediately. For weeks now, I have felt significantly less bloated, gross, fat, thirsty, sick and ashamed. For the first time in my life, I’m feeling great about what I’m eating and I’m finding more and more ways to be creative about turning whole, raw food into tasty meals.

I have also started to shop differently; reading labels and ingredient listings and, most importantly, spending most of my grocery time in the fruit and veg section. I couldn’t believe how much easier and less stressful it is by not venturing down aisle after aisle looking for pre-packaged sauces or chocolate biscuits. I have to shop more though – because I’m buying mostly fresh – and although I’m still time-poor, it has taught me to be organised and resourceful. This is how my trolley looked after a recent trip to the supermarket:

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This is what my lunch (which I pack at home and bring to work) typically looks like each day (a veggie frittata with sweet potato, quinoa, and a baby spinach, cherry tomato and fetta salad):

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I’m so chuffed about my new lunch bag! My sister’s boyfriend gave it to me:)

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Last week I discovered a great little store in my neighbourhood. I stocked up on oats (for breakfast) and quinoa:

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Towards the end of last month, I decided to write down every single thing I was eating each day for a whole week, if only to keep me inspired and accountable. It became really motivating for me to eat healthily and served as a reminder as to how far I’ve come.

To refresh, this is what a typical day used to be like for me:

Breakfast: none. 

Snack: half a meat pie

Lunch: a steak & cheese burger and chips

Snack: chocolate

Dinner: a creamy fettuccine boscaiola with chorizo and a soft drink

…You can imagine how revolting I felt having to work this all off at my boxing class later that evening.

But out with the old and in with the new. This is now a typical week for me:

Wednesday 20th

Breakfast: cup of tea (white, no sugar) and whole banana in a whole wheat wrap

Mid-morning snack: handful of grapes and meat pie pastry tops (taste-tasting)

Lunch: turkey, tomato and avocado whole wheat wrap, with handful of grapes.

Mid-afternoon snack: sliced raw mushrooms with homemade hommus

Dinner: scrambled egg pizza (thanks, J for the recipe!) with cherry tomato, avocado and spinach salad.

After-dinner: celery, carrot, apple and ginger juice

Thursday 21st

Breakfast: cup of tea and an apple

Mid-morning snack: bowl of gluten-free granola with skim milk

Lunch: a banana and cup of tea

Afternoon snack: 6 pieces sushi

Dinner: Hainanese Chicken Rice and lots of salad.

After dinner: Nectarines and a small corn chocolate bar.

Friday 22nd

Breakfast: coffee

Mid-morning snack: bowl of gluten-free granola with skim milk and a piece of kiwi fruit.

Lunch: Turkey and tomato wrap with salt and pepper

Snack: handful of grapes and one whole wheat wrap with homemade hommus dip.

Dinner: Husband was out with his friends, so I had leftovers from Thursday night.

Saturday 23rd

Breakfast: coffee

Lunch: Bun Bo Hue noodle soup, dumplings

Dinner (went out): Duck liver parfait, sauce Cumberland & brioche (shared); Ricotta gnocchi, cavolo nero, green tomato chutney, king oyster mushrooms. Ginger beer.

After dinner (dessert): Berry-misu, lady finger biscuit, marscapone foam, fior di latte ice cream.

Sunday 24th

Breakfast: coffee

Lunch: grilled chicken and Caesar salad

Afternoon: freshly pressed grapefruit juice

Dinner: mum’s ‘Broken Rice’ (Cơm tấm)

Monday 25th

Breakfast: granola with skim milk and a kiwi fruit

Snack: an apple

Lunch: Tomato & avocado whole wheat wrap

Snack: homemade whole wheat tortillas with hommus dip

Dinner: Grilled (skinless) chicken with a baby spinach, minted pea and fetta salad

After dinner: one whole red grapefruit

Tuesday 26th

Breakfast: coffee and a banana

Snack: handful of grapes and half an Egg, Bacon & Cheese Breakfast Roll (taste testing at work).

Lunch: mum’s leftover Cơm tấm

Snack: small slice of homemade veggie frittata (sweet potato, zucchini, capsicum, mushroom, Spanish onion)

Dinner: quinoa with grilled chicken and a baby spinach, pea & fetta salad

After dinner: small serve of homemade strawberry frozen yoghurt and half a large red grapefruit.

Wednesday 27th

Breakfast: cup of tea and a banana

Snack: mini-sized Cherry Ripe

Lunch: chicken and quinoa salad with avocado, baby spinach, pea & fetta.

Snack: handful of grapes

Dinner: Homemade veggie frittata with a baby spinach, roasted sweet potato (seasoned with cumin and black pepper), grape tomato and fetta salad.

Notes to self:

– I haven’t eaten junk food in a month, I’ve reduced chocolate (a small piece!) to once a week, and I haven’t drank a single drop of alcohol for four weeks now. My water intake is currently 1-1.25L. I’ve always found it so difficult to get into the habit of guzzling enough water each day so I’m tackling this as the next thing to improve about my diet!

– Clearly, though, my “coffee only breakfast” needed some remedying. I’ve since added a bowl of oats, skim milk and cinnamon and honey to my everyday breakfast repertoire, so that I’m not just subsisting on caffeine in the morning.

– Because of my job (I taste test pies at least once or twice a week), it’s impossible for me to ‘clean eat’ or cut out processed foods completely out of my diet. I have accepted this and used it as further motivation to eat well every other day. It does make me feel ill when I’ve worked out in the morning and then come to work and have to eat a pie. Not the most fantastic feeling in the world, but something I have learnt to live with (save quitting my job).

– Eating out generally kills the idea of eating well – or whole. My husband and I have started to eat out much less than before. Great for the bank account as well as our health.

– I do have cheat meals (not days!). This usually pertains to when I’m catching up with friends for a meal or going over to mum and dad’s where there’s always an abundance of white rice, fried food or richly flavoured meals. I let myself off the hook during meals like these especially if someone else is kindly inviting me over for dinner!

– I’m finding weekends more difficult to stick to my routine. Because I work full-time (and have a really stressful job) I’ve always seen weekends as an opportunity to indulge. Need to work on eating better – and regularly – throughout the day.

– Because I’ve been eating much ‘plainer’, I have become really sodium and sugar-sensitive. Not entirely a bad thing, though.

– Doing one or two big cook-ups on the weekend sets my husband up for the rest of the week. The freezer is my friend 🙂 Having readily prepared meals (or meals that are easy to whip up) means there is less temptation to eat out or order takeaway.

– Substituting fruit as snacks for homemade dips with raw veggies like cucumber, carrots, celery and mushrooms, keeps things interesting and yummy too.

– Eating often (but less) has been one of the best things I’ve done for myself. I haven’t craved chocolate or sugary snacks at all during the past month and I attribute most of that to the fact that I’m keep the hungries at bay by eating six times a day. Best!

– I don’t fry anymore; instead I grill, microwave or boil my ingredients. It means I’m reaping more nutritional benefits from the food I’m eating and less washing up (yay!).

P.S. Sorry for the essay.

Boxing update.

Boxing Update: six weeks and counting

I think I’ve found my fate. Death by star jumps.

But it’s okay, because at least I have mastered burpees (just) and planks (for a mere minute – none of these crazy CrossFit stuff) before I collapse at the helm of a heavy bag.

In all seriousness, since my first class six weeks ago, I’ve been hooked. I’m actually really, really, really loving my boxing classes. And by that, I mean I happily box after work on Fridays or I rather get up at the crack of dawn on Saturday mornings and take a shower in my own sweat, than sleep-in like normal, sane, people.

Boxing has been the mental and physical kick up the arse challenge  I’ve needed. The past six weeks have taught me so much about self-discipline, self-motivation, bettering myself for myself, commitment, persistence, and the simple fact that you will be rewarded if you work hard enough.

I box four times a week. On the fifth day, I skip at home or go for a short, 4km run (one of those pictures above is of a pram – I ran 4km pushing that pram with my two year old niece in it). My sixth and seventh days are my rest days – and probably deservedly so after my brother roped me into pushing his daughter in her stroller around a lake for 45 minutes on more than one occasion. You don’t know how many times I promised the girl there’d be a playground around every bend.

After about 4 weeks, I started to see results. Real results. Stuff that I haven’t seen in all of the 8 years I’ve been attending group fitness classes at the local gym.

I have real muscles! And real, girly abs! I sweat shit loads, five minutes into the warm-up. I also have permanently calloused and scarred knuckles (as my trainer says, what’s the point in turning up if your workout is half-arsed?). I’ve noticed that I’ve lost a few centimetres from my waist, hips and thighs. I’ve also lost some boob; almost a whole cup size I think. That was a shock as it’s always the last place to lose/gain weight, but whatever. I think most girls have a love/hate relationship with their boobs and bodies and I’m no different. I think I’ve just learnt to stop sweating the small stuff, quite literally.

To that end, boxing for me has become a lifestyle. It has become part of my every day routine and I treat it like I’m (happily) turning up to work each day. Of course there are days when I’d rather be on the couch mindlessly twittering after a long day at work but then I remind myself of this:

Don’t be upset by the results you didn’t get with the work you didn’t do.

Boxing has made my day to day life so much more purposeful. There is always something to achieve; something to strive for; something to be secretly proud of; whether it be holding that plank for another 30 seconds, running for that little bit longer, skipping in double the time, or lifting heavier weights because you’re coming to the realisation that there is nothing to be afraid of anymore. 

Eton Mess.

Et voila! My ‘Eton Mess’.

I will freely admit I am a complete meringue novice and utter disaster in the kitchen so it was a small miracle that I had no complaints about my dessert at lunch today. I had contemplated making something a bit more ‘relevant’ to the occasion (like Ang Ku Kueh) but when you have a mother in-law who makes the best Ang Ku Kueh in the business, why not err on the side of caution and just make something very English, like meringue?

To that end, I’ve been eating nothing but salad and tuna for lunch all week in preparation for the onslaught of food that Chinese New Year will bring this weekend.

I’ve already had my quota of Yee Sang today (but jeepers – it’s not until you start eating ‘clean’ that you realise how fatty this is for you!) and I’m eagerly awaiting what my mum has in store for us when we have dinner with my family tomorrow night.

To all my readers who are celebrating, wishing you all a happy and prosperous Chinese New Year!

Boxing: a beginner’s verdict.

I don’t mean for this to be my version of War and Peace, so if exercise posts aren’t your cup of tea, I’d suggest you scroll down to the next post as this is going to be a long one!

I was telling a couple of friends of mine at a party on NYE that one of the first things I plan to do in 2013 was sign myself up for boxing classes. I then proceeded to smugly announce that I’ve been going to Body Combat for the past 8 years, which would more than adequately prepare me for a date (or two) with a punching bag, right? Right?

Well, having attended a boxing class before (and vowing to never return), they literally laughed in my face. And it wasn’t until Monday night when I discovered exactly why.

My first class felt like all my exercise nightmares had come at once. A fierce-looking ex-boxer was barking instructions at us through a thick Polish accent and with timer in hand: Six minutes of continuously jumping rope. You see, when I was eight, skipping was so fun. So easy. I could have skipped all day. Suddenly, being in an un-airconditioned torture chamber 20 years later made jumping rope almost impossible. And that was just the warm-up.

Our 55-minute class was interspersed with time with the punching bag and sit-ups, push-ups (with gloves on), bridges/planks (worst!), skipping and a quick run up and down the street. The way my instructor teaches is quite flippant; when he tells us to ‘punch’, we kind of have to decide ourselves if we cross, jab, hook or upper-cut. And when he tells us to stretch, he doesn’t really tell us what to stretch. So it’s good (because you can do whatever you want) and bad (because you can do whatever you want and that generally means you’ll do whatever’s the most lazy or easy).

Throughout the class, I felt pangs of throwing up/passing out/as if I had literally taken a shower in my own revolting sweat. As someone who barely sweats, I was dripping. I could barely eat dinner when I got home on Monday and I pretty much went to bed soon after because I felt like I had just run a marathon. I used to carry with me a 600ml bottle of water to every workout but to give you an idea of how intense boxing is, I’ve upgraded to a 1.5L bottle!

I really underestimated how physically demanding a boxing class could be. But I’ll be going again (tomorrow will be my third class this week) because I find it to be so incredibly empowering. No other form of exercise gives me as much of a confidence boost as boxing; and it’s as though a magical spell is cast over me as soon as I pull on these gloves. The self-defence elements also come in handy, and I also think boxing will provide me with a tremendous amount of stress-relief as my new job is starting to become really demanding.

Unlike wolfing down a Double Whopper or a giant piece of cheesecake, boxing makes you feel so completely shit at the time, but so light-on-your-feet and indescribably rewarding afterwards. Working out, for me, is all about pushing myself to my absolute limit – and then some – and constantly finding new ways to challenge myself. Much like everything else in life, really.

Bruschetta pasta.

My morning is obviously going at a snails’ pace today because I’m already thinking about what I’m having for lunch.

I made this ‘bruschetta’ pasta for dinner last night and made enough for lunch leftovers today. The recipe is embarrassingly Sandra-simple and I made do with what I had in my fridge/pantry: Linguine dressed in Olio Bello olive oil, topped with cherry tomatoes, Spanish onion, and tossed through with balsamic and freshly torn basil.

Ever since I started boxing classes, I’ve been eating nothing but light and refreshing meals that don’t undo those 55 minutes of hell that my Polish ex-boxer/instructor unleashes.