Holiday To Do List

I’ve just had ten days off … Heaven, right?  Sure, the first week was pretty awesome.  I headed to Perth, hung out with a stack of my besties, drank too much red wine, ate too much dessert, slept a lot … and fed my soul with all the things that make me happy. 

The weather was a bit crap in Perth.  I had been bragging about flying over to get some sunshine so imagine my disappointment when the average temperature was 17 degrees.  Plus rain.  Lots of rain.   Oh well, I’m on holidays I thought.  It doesn’t matter about the weather.

Off I went, having the time of my life.  I probably poisoned my body with too many carbs and a stack of sugar – but you’d think the antioxidants of that much red wine would counteract most poor food decisions.

Apparently not.  On my last day, I woke up with a sore throat, stuffy nose and achey body.  Oh God, here we go.

Thanks to my buddies at Qantas I was sitting at the front of the plane and could curl up in my big comfy seat, drink a stack of Ginger Ale and black tea, and work my way through a pile of throat lozenges.   Off to bed I went on arrival back home. 

Four more days of holiday joy up my sleeve and I had plans.  Big plans.  Stuff to do.  A list of shit to get done.  The final hoorah of getting my life on track before I headed back to work on Monday.

The Universe had other plans.  I’ve been sick for four days.  Housebound, except for a visit to salt therapy and a chemist.  My long list of grown up chores thrown out the window.   Here’s what it looked like … and how it went:

Exercise:  Every day.  Lace up those runners and walk for at least an hour and maybe start to get back into running.  Throw in some stretches and maybe a bit of yoga.  Oh and don’t forget PT with Anthony on Saturday = then a 6km run / walk on Sunday at Run Melbourne.

Reality:  I walked for 20 minutes and my head pounded so badly I went home and slumped on the couch. 

Cook great food:  Head to the markets and stock up on lots of fresh vegetables, fish and superfoods that you can turn into healthy salads, curries and meals.   Freeze stuff so that you have delicious nutritious food to take to work each day.  Impress your new flatmate with your cooking skills.

Reality:  I’ve been living on soup (out of a bag with the occasional home made bowl) twice a day for four days.  Tonight I burnt my Mediterranean Cauliflower soup in my Soup Maker, something I’ve never done before.  My new flatmate tried hard not to laugh.

Massage:  Indulge in a relaxing massage and take time out for yourself.  Maybe add a facial too, so when you go back to work you look relaxed.  Fresh even.

Reality:  My body aches from coughing and blowing my nose.  I couldn’t lay on a massage table for more than five minutes without my body kicking into coughing spasms … or worse still, a non stop runny nose.  I’m two boxes of tissues down. 

Declutter:  Finish reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying.  Unfortunately I forgot to take it to Perth with me.  Never mind, I can just get started and donate items to the Salvos, take photos of the books I want to sell and check out the second hand clothing place around the corner. Decluttering makes me feel in control.  I will transform my space and my mind.

Reality:  My house resembles a Bric a Brac store.  

Writing:  I will write blogs.  Every day.  I will finish The Painter chapter of my book (it’s only taken seven months).  I will find my writing mojo and spend hours writing, happily tapping away on my Mac.

Reality:  I retweeted a Happy Friendship Day video of Elmo dancing.  And wrote this blog.

But it’s a really really cute video.  


Sex doesn't always sell


It takes a bit to shock me, but a recent event left me insulted and thinking WTF.

Marina and Jane, (work friends) and I were looking forward to spending time together at a hotel launch.  The invitation offered nice wine, a relaxed dinner and the opportunity to enjoy their five star facilities.   A good chance to catch up.

We were greeted in the foyer by staff who offered us wine and canapés.  A delicious spread of arancini balls, smoked salmon and meat things that are of no interest to me lay in abundance.  We chatted about our day before being guided into another room by a woman dressed (cheaply) as Marilyn Monroe.  She whispered and pouted and seemed uncomfortable in her role. 

After a brief presentation with no substance we were corralled to another area – another lobby – with more hors d’oeuvres and champagne on offer.   As we stood awkwardly wondering why we needed to check out a long hallway, ‘Marilyn’ invited us to head down to the bar for “a very special treat”. 

In the bar, a vivacious bar tended mused with enthusiasm that we were about to try the hottest thing around right now.  An espresso martini.  Ah, I’ve been drinking those for about ten years thanks to the Hot Barista.  You’re a little late.   Glancing at the bar lined with cocktails, I noticed their insipid colouring … and guaranteed to my friends that they would be bad versions of my beloved espresso martini.  I needed to try one.  Just to check.  Sipping nervously, my fears were real.  They were made with a coffee essence.  One taste and I was done.

I noticed the same canapés from two previous rooms on display.  Recycled hors d’ouvres ?  How very eco-friendly.  WTF?

One of the hotel staff suggested we head upstairs to check out the penthouse so we wandered back into the main foyer.  She went back into the bar, presumably to find more guests, and after waiting for 20 minutes in front of the cold open door, we noticed her drinking cocktails with her workmates.  WTF?

Finally another staffer lead us to the penthouse for a tour.  These can be fun, as I like to see how the other half live.  There’s no penthouse version in the cheap hotels I stay in.  You’re lucky if they have a hair dryer.

We snaked our way through the room and I noticed Marilyn draping herself over a king-sized bed while a photographer took shots of her.  WTF?  Does she come with the room?  Is she the one who delivers room service?  I was a little confused.

Marina, Jane and I climbed the polished spiral staircase with our hosts and found ourselves in a giant tiled room with a large spa bath, front and centre.   My OH&S brain kicked in as I worried about how to get out of the bath on such a slippery floor without castrating yourself.  Not a bathmat in sight. 

As we waited for the others to join us (still sculling their cocktails) we chatted to two boys who ran an entertainment company.  They were funny and cute and also slightly confused as to what was going on.   We agreed we wanted things to hurry up so we could get to dinner as the second hand canapés weren’t cutting it.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, sorry to keep you waiting but we have something very special for you”, sing songs a male staffer. 

By this time the room is packed and we are all jammed into one end of the giant bathroom.  My back is pressed against the bubbled tile wall and I can only just see over the shoulders of the crowd in front of me. 

Suddenly there’s a muffled cheer and Marilyn enters the room clutching a bottle of champagne.  She sashays around pouting and blowing kisses at everyone as they take photos.  Sure.  Whatever. 

Marilyn stops in front of the spa and does a little shimmy before turning her back on us all and kicking off her heels.   She then drags the long zipper of her sequined dress down and steps out of it, letting it drop to the floor.   What’s going on, I whisper to Marina who gives me a puzzled look.  Marilyn turns to face us and we find she’s wearing tiny nipple covers and a flesh coloured G-string.  WTF?

A girl next to me has her phone held high in the air so I can see the charade clearly on her screen.  We both gasp at each other as Marilyn climbs into the bathtub and kneels in the water.   She then splashes around briefly while a few take photos and video.  I press myself further into the wall, praying it swallows me up.  Jane and Marina look dumbfounded.  I feel the same.

Marilyn then stands up in the bath, grabs a bottle of champagne and clutches it with her thighs as she pops the cork dramatically.   She lets the liquid flow down her breasts as she wriggles provocatively making little moaning noises.  I feel dirty.  Am I at a buck’s party? Surely someone is going to yell “Surprise, you’ve been punked!”

Finally, a female Manager suggested everyone head to dinner.   A few guests followed her down the staircase while others posed in front of Marilyn.  Still in shock I see her lick the champagne bottle like someone on heat.  WTF?   As the boys pose for a photo I sneak one (from the back) to prove to myself – and others – that this really happened.  

I wondered how much this actress / model / promo girl got paid for that gig.  I wanted to give her $100 and tell her to put her clothes on and get an Uber home. 

We declined the offer of dinner and left.  I was in shock and disgusted at the stunt, fearing that perhaps Marilyn would be covered in food like a human buffet at our next stop.   Excuse me, can you please move your right breast and pass me some of that smoked salmon?  Thanks.  No thanks.

That night I was still wondering how a Marketing team could think that was a good idea for an upmarket hotel.   Any hotel.  It was tacky, salacious and pointless I noted to the hotel manager in my complaint (finding lots of big words to use to describe my disgust).  I talked of my horror at the objectification of women and wondered what sort of image they were trying to portray.  To her credit, she followed me up and we had a good conversation.  She invited us back to the hotel another time for a better experience.  Do you think Marilyn will be there? Let's hope she got a new gig somewhere.  


Lazy weekends 

I’ve adopted a new habit and I’m not sure if it’s good or bad.  I’m spending weekends doing nothing – but feeling guilty about it.

Every Saturday morning I wake up and consider all the things I should do.  Clean the house.  Go shopping.  Finish my photo frame project.  Clean out the spare room.  Empty my wardrobe and take unwanted clothes to the Salvos.  A long list of things that would be deemed as ‘getting my shit together.’  A long list of things I never get done during the week. 

Here’s the thing.  I work hard Monday to Friday – and beyond.  I love my job but it can be a little overwhelming sometimes, especially if I have functions and events to attend after work or on weekends.  By the time Friday rolls around, I barely have the energy to scroll through all the ‘must watch’ shows on Netflix.  I’m done.

In the midst of a meeting or crazily busy day, I fantasise about all the things I’m going to achieve when the weekend arrives.  (Refer to above list).  I will nail this weekend, I tell myself, hopeful in the fact that I have two whole days to get everything done.  By Sunday night I’ll be loving myself sick for my efficiencies and awesomeness.

I fall into bed on Friday night with aspirations of greatness.

Saturday morning – boom – I’m up and on my way to training in my local park with APT (the world’s funniest, slackest and most patient personal trainer).  I squat and lunge and punch and plank and work up a sweat, heading home with an exercise afterglow.  I’m a warrior.  Ready to take on the world.  That list is going to have the shit kicked out of it.

Back home and it’s time for a snack, a quick tidy up of the house and …. Hmmm, I’m feeling a little tired after personal training.  I might just sit on the couch for 20 minutes and rest a bit.  

What’s happening on Instagram?  Scroll, scroll, like.  What’s happening in world news on Twitter?  Scroll, scroll, retweet.  What’s the buzz on Facebook?   Scroll, scroll, like, scroll, be bored.  Put the phone down.

Surprise, it’s an hour later than it was when I sat down.

I might plan my food for next week.   Good idea.   That’s what organized grown ups do. 

I check out my calendar to see how many times I’m out for lunch or dinner this week, surf my laptop for my favourite recipes and create a shopping list of ingredients.   It’s going to be a week of good eating.  No bad food.  Totally on track with my health. 

The weather looks a little dodgy. Like it might rain. I have bits of food left in the fridge so maybe I’ll cook those up into something semi decent tonight, then go to the supermarket tomorrow.  It will be a much nicer day then.  Yes, let’s just do it tomorrow. Not sure I can be bothered today. 

Think I’ll watch an episode of Schitts Creek, my current Netflix show.  Loving it’s quirkiness and the fact that it only runs for 25 minutes.

One more episode.  One more episode.  Just another one.

The sun has gone down and it’s time to cook dinner.  I really should put on a load of washing while I cook.  Nah, I’ll do that in the morning when I wake up.

Rather than cook, I might just reheat one of the meals I’ve cooked before.  It looks like there’s a leftover curry in the freezer.  Or some fake spaghetti?  Yes, that’ll be great.  Fake non meat spaghetti.  Perfect.

I really should write a blog.   But relaxing is something I never get to do.  Most people sit on the couch and binge watch Netflix.  I never do that.  Why can’t I just do that?  I’ve worked hard this week.  I went to PT today.  I just want to wrap myself in a blanket and watch TV.

Three hours later and I drag myself off to bed, feeling guilty that I’ve not done anything on my list.

Sunday morning, wake up and repeat.  Walk to the shops (it doubles as exercise), cook up meals for lunch and dinner, then sit on the couch for four hours.

Go to bed feeling guilty that I’ve done nothing on my list.

One week later, wake up on Saturday morning and repeat. 

But really, how brilliant is Netflix?  


Lessons from living on $2 a day

This was my seventh year doing Live Below the Line – a fundraising and awareness initiative run by Oaktree Foundation to help end extreme poverty.  You live on (food and drink) $2 a day for a week … the equivalent of the poverty line in developing countries.  Though that includes transport, accommodation … everything ... for those people. 

The challenge never gets easier, but each time I am reminded of important lessons, which is one of the key parts of doing it.  

The first and most obvious is that we have so much more than some people, and you really don’t need as much food as you think you do.  I come from a family who would pile dinner plates high with delicious food and we’d happily devour every last piece of whatever was served  … then maybe a little bit of dessert afterwards.  When you’re faced with a half filled bowl of bad bland pasta, it’s amazing how you can still fill up – and not be wanting more.  Note to self; stop over indulging.  (Have I done this since?  Sort of. I’ve certainly tried.)  

The week of LBL was also a reminder about how much free food we get at work.  Cake for birthdays.  Cheese Platters on Fridays.   With wine.  Catering from clients.  Home made treats from the people who like baking.  There’s always something tasty and free up for offer.  A few people suggested I could just eat the food because I didn’t have to pay for it, but I reminded them that there’s no free food in Cambodia or PNG, so unfortunately I’d need to wait a week to enjoy their to-die-for brownies.

My job is quite social, so I probably took it for granted that so many clients want to meet over a coffee.  In the five days of Live Below the Line I was invited to four coffee meetings.  And a breakfast.  In previous years I’ve met people in cafés and just drank water but sometimes it makes them feel awkward so this year I moved the meetings to another week – or told them what I was doing and we made it an office catch up.  Now I’m back and my barista is loving me again. 

Catching up with friends over dinner is a huge part of my life too.  We love going to our favourite restaurants, enjoying a wine or seven, and swapping stories on what’s happening in our lives.  My gorgeous friend Dani was a trooper, hanging out with me one night when we went to a movie preview, turning down the complimentary wine, popcorn and choc tops to drink water with me.  My stomach grumbled a little, and I went home straight after the movie to ‘enjoy’ a bowl of bland pasta, but she never once complained.  Our catch ups usually involve cool new restaurants or piles of funky gourmet pizza.  I’m sure we’ll get back there soon. 

The one thing that wasn’t a surprise – but continues to humble me – was the generosity of my friends, family and workmates.  So many of them donated to my fundraising page – some quite large donations, along with a whole lot of people who are suffering tough times but still dug deep to help me with my fundraising goals.  I was hoping to raise $1,200 but, with the generosity of so many people, hit $2,542.08.  My first year of Live Below the Line saw me raise $400.  A stack of amazing people in my life donated to the cause – and also sent me beautiful words of love and support.  I have some fantastic people in my life.  But I already knew that. 

The thing I didn’t know was that you can lose 3kgs by stuffing your face with white home brand wheat filled pasta and bread three times a day.  So carbs are actually good for you?  I knew it. 


Patience is a virtue (until your internet dies)


I haven't had any internet at home for weeks.  Long boring weeks where I pretty much put my life on hold. 

It died overnight. Sort of.  A slow and painful death which started when my modem reset itself so I had no internet at all.  After an interactive and encouraging conversation where I was guided by a great chick at Optus, we reconnected it and I was high fiving myself for being so tech savvy.  Good on me.

Four weeks later and my self confidence took a dive as my internet went flacid.  My phone and laptop were telling me it was okay, but the connection was soft.  Nothing was happening.  I tried everything I could within my limited IT capacity (turn it off and on at the wall) with no luck.

In the middle of a crazy two weeks at work – a time when a night of Netflix on the couch would have done me wonders – I finally found some time to call my buddies on the Optus Tan Helpline.

The first girl talked to me for 25 minutes, putting me on hold on and off, while she tested my line.  I ran up and down my staircase disconnecting and moving phone lines to see where the fault was.   After 3,560 steps she told me that my line didn’t have enough power to be able to run the internet properly and I’d have to get it checked out by a technician.  I could order my own or pay one of theirs for $150.  I opted to hit up my own tech and thanked her for her advice.

A quick chat to our head of computers and important stuff in our office, and we decided that this woman was a little confused and I should save my $150.

I hit up my buddies again on the Helpline.  This time a chatty guy talked me through several tests.  It was all the ones I’d done weeks earlier but he was thorough and at the end of the session (hello 28 minutes) he suggested I borrow a modem from a friend or neighbour to double check that mine was in fact, not working.

I don’t really talk to my neighbours except on our way back from the recycling bin …. and surprisingly none of my friends had a spare modem lying around.

Three days later and I was climbing the walls without internet.   I had used up all the data on my phone by sending work emails.  I couldn’t exercise as Booya is web based.  Netflix sat idle. There was little Facebook time and hours spent scrolling through social media had to be limited.  It was like living in prison.  

One night after a super long day in the office I sat down to unwind, forgetting how bad free to air TV can be – and that I had no Netflix.  Frustration filled me and I dialed the all too familiar number of my so called buddies at the Help Desk.  It was time to finally get this shit sorted.

My final partner in crime was a sweet guy called Pratik.  He joked that most people called him Patrick as they weren’t sure how to pronounce his name. I scribbled it down so I wouldn’t make the same mistake.

Back and forth we went, testing various parts of my laptop and phone connections, along with the modem.  “Pretty sure I need a new one” I told him.  The testing continued.

I learned about Pinging – not the dance party drug type – along with other processes to check why nothing was working.  We chatted in between all the testing. He was polite and funny and apologized every time he had to put me on hold.  Finally after 42 minutes, he conceded defeat and we agreed that I’d order a new modem.  Told you that 45 minutes ago Pratik. Hallelujah. 

My shiny new modem arrived today.  It’s much bigger than the last one and flashes at me like a blackbox flight recorder.  To my surprise (and thanks to Optus’ super basic instructions) I was able to connect the internet within 20 minutes with little fuss.   Good on me. 

Now I’m back in the real world.   You might not hear from me for a while.  I have a lot of catch up TV to watch.