18 April 2010

Back to those diet issues...

So I mentioned some time last year that my family has a history of bowel cancer, and that I want to reduce my meat consumption (particularly red meat) for environmental reasons, as well as for health.

Vegetarian meals are a challenge, because my little boy is a fussy eater and prefers the meat and 3 veg style of meal. I think fussiness can be common with little kids with food allergies and intolerances, and sometimes they don't like complex flavours. And then there's the fact that he can't eat egg or sesame, and I don't tolerate spicy food or too much tomato. So for the past year or two make do with vegetable soups as our vegetarian meal most weeks (using beans, chick peas or lentils) - blended so E-chan can't complain about the individual ingredients in it, and occasionally we do something like risotto (when we can be bothered bribing our son into eating it). I might try to make some lentil patties soon, see if he likes them.

The other thing we've been doing gradually over time is reducing the size of the meat portions we do eat. We found when we visited our parents recently that we normally eat much less meat than they were serving to us. We craved vegetables and salad.

Next thing for me to tackle was breakfast. I've been eating either yoghurt and wholemeal toast, porridge, baked beans on (wholemeal toast), or a commercial wheat biscuit with milk with banana. I used to eat muesli, but dropped it when I had to avoid nuts during prenancy and breastfeeding - it's too hard to find pre-made mueslis without nuts. Last week I became aware of research that shows a link between high fibre diets and reduced inflammatory and auto-immune conditions - arthritis, asthma, type 1 diabetes etc. Eczema is also an autoimmune condition, and there is arthritis on both sides of my family (but not me so far - fingers crossed).

This was a trigger for me to look at how much fibre I'm eating. While my diet is low in processed food, there are days when my fibre intake is probably on the low side. Breakfast is somewhere I can make a huge difference. So we started making our own muesli - oats, coconut, linseeds, sunflower seeds, psyllium, bran, and assorted dried fruit. First day of eating this was today. I hope to think up more legumey meals (I usually add them to casseroles anyway), and start using brown rice also. I'm hoping I'll notice a difference in a couple of months. Now all I need to do is find some sulphur-free dried fruit - very hard to do!!

However the instant effect has been FEELING GREAT! Gone is that horrible feeling in the back of my mind that I should be doing something about my diet. This is combined with the fact that I've been exercising more - both pushing the kiddies in the double pram, and going to the gym again. Going swimming is temporarily just a bit too hard. I opted for a gym that is 2 minutes away by foot, and bought 10 sessions that I have 3 months to use - should be easy to do even if the whole household gets a bug. Start with something achievable, I says! I'm sure I can bear the bizarre dancey remixes of Guru Josh vs (some new artist I just can't remember), and film clips of attractive young ladies in their underwear for no apparent reason on ten occasions, and by then I may have finally made my own gym playlist for my MP3 player, and can ignore the music more...

So who knows - maybe soon I'll be eczema-free and fitting into all my normal clothes again??? Can't wait to get into my favourite jeans again...

11 April 2010

Me kids done me proud, and other adventures...

Easter took us off on another trip to our home town, Adelaide. Except it was Astro-girl's first plane trip ever. And she was a little trooper! She travels really well, sometimes just needing a cuddle when she's tired. She fell asleep on my lap on both flights. There were mishaps on the way home: well and truly in her "grabbing phase", she grabbed a breakfast bowl half filled with milk and tipped it over - it landed on the seat between C-chan and me, so we both had our pants covered with milk. We laughed it off.  E-chan was good also, playing with toys in his seat, and only getting a bit restless from time to time. This is a stark contrast to our last trip, the xmas before last, when I had morning sickness, and a 2 1/2 year old E-chan screamed for half an hour straight (on a 6am flight) out of fear we would crash. Parenting does get easier, people!

Our kids adjusted to a lot of things apart from the journey: strange beds, strange houses, strange prams, with no bedwettings, and not too many tantrums. E-chan even spontaneously said "this is the nicest lunch I ever had!" when we went to my parent's house! I had been coaching him to say "thanks for the dinner/lunch" and "thanks for having us", but not what he said!! Manners are slowly sinking in! We went to Henley beach on Good Friday, to the city and the SA Museum on Saturday, the Zoo on Sunday (saw the new pandas, but they were sleepy that afternoon), and to the hills on Monday. A lovely, but brief trip - no time to do much but see family, which was kind of the point.


We look at Adelaide with different eyes these days - gone is the sentimentality with which we used to look at our flat, blue-skied city. In the years immediately after moving to Sydney, we used to wax lyrical about the ease of getting around Adelaide, the Central Markets, the affordability, the quiet.

Now things are different:
- the endless sky is slightly overwhelming, now that we are used to Sydney's many hills.
- the city looks like a little toy town
- in the quiet, I can hear my ears ringing (was that something to do with the aeroplane trip, or do I need to go to an Ear specialist again??)
- we stay on sofa beds at our parents places
- the vegetation looks dry - many lawns (public and private) have just been left to fend for themselves, as long term water restrictions and below average rain takes its toll. My Dad has installed not one but 3 rain water tanks for his 1/4 acre garden
- our activities are driven by the needs and desires of our children
- public transport really isn't as frequent
- Crows, Crows, Port Power, Crows...
- unfavourable family traits are these days overlooked as family becomes more important - more on this below.

Many of these things are not bad things - Adelaide is a very good place to live. It's just we don't have so many friends there any more. And career prospects will never be as good there. But what is becoming more important is family. Kids can tell the difference between those who love them unconditionally (such as grandparents, uncles) and those who are just fond of them or good friends with us.

But as well has the support we would get from having our kids' grandparents in the same city, there is another issue looming - the ageing of our parents... While my parents are in excellent health at present, and in their early sixties, things can go downhill fast in the 70's. My father commented that travel will probably get hard from him from then on. That is less than a decade away! I watched my own parents rather helplessly liase with their sibilings as their own parents descended into alzheimers or old age, frequently having to prepare for sudden trips interstate as their parents' health teetered. I was the only one home the night my Grandma's nursing home called to say Dad's mother had died, and had to call my Dad on a work trip to tell him the news.

So I understand the difficulties involved with ageing parents living interstate. At least my own grandparents had other children and grandchildren nearby to check up on them. My parents have no relatives but each other in Adelaide, and my in-laws have one son, who has a recurring illness himself - the rest of their relatives are ageing themselves or not very close. This is something for us to ponder over the next few years.

Quest for most compatible hairdresser may be at a close...

Over the years, I have suffered from dreadful incompatibility with my hairdressers. While everyone likes to look nice, I do find my hair cut can be one of the things that gets shoved down the "to do" list when busy - I just grow my hair longer for a while. This is partly because I dread the hairdresser experience...

Don't get me wrong, I love having my hair played with, washed, the smells, the coffee/wine and a tim tam. Many times, I have nearly fallen asleep, semi-reclined at the back of the salon as the warm water washes out my shampoo.

But I do find that hairdresser conversation can be a tad on the mind-numbing side. From the high pitched "So what are you up to tonight?!?" conversation from past young hip, female hairdressers, who struggle to continue conversations I start due to vastly different interests, through to Very Serious male hairdressers who take their business Very Seriously, and give you a 5 minute run-down at the end of the styling process about how they cut down that line to give me more body etc etc blah blah blah, I do find I wish I didn't have to nod and put on a smile all the time.

So a year or so ago I found a salon that was an improvement somewhat. I never managed to have the same hairdresser, but their music was plucked from my own collection, and the conversation wasn't too bad.
Then someone gave me Carmelo's number....

Carmelo operates out of his own house around the block from me. I expected a gay guy in his 40's or 50's, daggy decor, and I don't know what else - shirts tucked into tight ish jeans, fluffy white pooches... Apart from being gay, I got most of this wrong. Carmelo is youngish, of Italian extraction with stunning blue eyes and glasses. He has a dog, but medium sized and black. His house was done in 40's-50's retro style, but humbly so. Immaculate, but then you have to keep things tidy if people use your living room as waiting room.
Sure, I was handed the standard hairdresser array of style magazines, which left me annoyed at myself for forgetting a book.

But then I noticed his book collection. "Succulent Plant Dictionary", and a book about the stereotyping of men, then finally as my hair got washed, cut and styled, I found the time flew, as we had many interests in common. Or perhaps he's just a really good people person. Or it's something to do with the fact that people are coming into his home to have their hair cut, and you can't really pretent to be something you're not. Whatever: I had pleasant, interesting and rambling chats, spanning many of my common conversational topics. My friend says she often comes home with mascara streams down her cheeks from laughter... I may actually find myself going to get a hair cut a bit more often for a while!