May 31, 2018

Lovin' Life 31/5/2018: Running Better, Not Harder,

You know how I've gotten serious about running this year?  I began by spending my summer break doing my own Bays Run (on the other side of the city to the Real Bay Run and featuring two bays instead of one) and teaching myself to survive the ascent up Heartbreak Hill.  Then I started increasing the distances of my regular runs.  And then I managed to become the only person in history to add a good minute to my pace. After what I thought was four months of dedication and focus.

I am nothing if not predictable. 

As they say, you can't expect change if you keep on doing the same thing.  And to me, change often means shopping for new stuff.

I shopped my wardrobe for this pair of pink ASICS I bought in Hawaii many years ago and I browsed a little to long on 'We Made Too Much' at  New kicks and new tights (the Wunder Under Hi-Rise are Lulu's best in my humble opinion) - would all this translate to tens of seconds shaved off my average pace (because that's the order of improvement I need)?

Sadly not.  Turns out that rethinking my actual running regime rather than reworking my running wardrobe was where the answer lay.  Who would have thought?

The Map My Run app has a My Plan tab which allows you to select a goal and plan to suit your stage of running.  I have the paid version of the app so I'm not sure if this is also available in the free version.  My goal is to improve my speed over 10K.  The app suggested that I was an intermediate level runner and has now provided me with a 17 week plan.

I'm heading into week 3 of the plan and have been pleasantly surprised at how it differs from how I was attempting to train on my own.  The Map My Run plan for me features:
  • runs scheduled five days of the week rather than daily
  • an average week features 2 easy runs, 1 interval run, 1 long distance run and a speed test / progress run
  • most sessions run for 45 minutes or less
  • prompts when I open the app telling me when my next run is scheduled
  • the ability to pair runs you've done with a particular day of the program.
I've found it easy to stay on track with the program because of the flexibility of those days off and also the mix of durations of each run.  My previous approach of aiming for the same distance daily did leave me a bit over it all over the last few weeks.  I use a treadmill a day or two each week and can pair these runs to planned ones in my program.  I usually use my treadmill time for the easy run days.

Auditory cues as you run prepare you for the next interval with a 30 second warning of what's up ahead.  At the end, you get a hearty congratulations for completing the day's run.  What you ran is then compared to the planned run in a table I've shared above.

It's still early days but having my week's running set out for me in realistic sessions like this has helped pull me out of my slump.   I'm feeling more excited and less obligated to run each day and if this translates to better speeds then BONUS.  It's all about running better and not necessarily harder as I've begun to learn from my new running 'coach'.

Do you use an app to help you with your chosen form of exercise?

May 28, 2018

Life This Week 28/5/2018: How Did Your Blog Start?

It all began way back in January 2010. 

Facebook was in its infancy and I was one of its most consistent contributors.  While everyone else playing Farmville on FB, I was faithfully pumping out the status updates.  On everything and nothing. 

I discovered that while I quite liked writing little quips about my life on the regular, my friends may not really want to know all the details about a dish I'd whipped up from Donna Hay's magazine (those were the days when I'd spend weeknights making dinners from scratch) or that they'd want to appreciate every possible angle of the airport and my plane seat as I flew off to somewhere exciting (for me).

Little did I know that after Facebook and Blogger would come Instagram and this would be the perfect platform for all of the above...

But I digress.

My original idea for my blog was that I'd use it to as an outlet for my thoughts.  That I'd kind of analyse myself through my writing.  The better out than in philosophy.  The stuff that's not made for the 'look at me living the life' vibe that Facebook seemed to be working in those early years.

I've just looked back at my early posts and I cringe but I also realise that I had to write how I did to help me find my blogging voice.  Ironically for a blog entitled Sydney Shop Girl (where I live, what I like doing and a reference to my gender that kind of went with 'Sydney' and 'Shop' but in no way reflects my chronological age) many posts navel gazed such issues as not being understood, trying to conceive and a few issues that were existential at the time but aren't really now that I look at them again.

As I look back on my posts, I realise that its content as unconsciously evolved.  How positively Gwyneth 'Conscious Uncoupling' Paltrow of me of describe it as such.  Those awkward first posts gave way to obsessive recounts of my daily life. Then sponsored posts and bloggers as 'influencers' became a thing and I awkwardly gave both a go. 

I found writing for sponsors and about free stuff quite difficult. To find an angle that was congruent with that of my blog in general, to be positive about a product under pressure (is a week of testing skincare really enough to give a verdict for someone who is going out to buy it and use it for at least a few months?) and all the while not sounding like an infomercial.  It was fun and I was able to participate in my previous life pre motherhood but it's not a direction that's a natural fit for me right now.

The routine and mental focus of blogging has been a lifeline for getting me through some tough times.  There were times (during my miscarriages and the whole infertility / IVF experience) where it felt appropriate for me to use Sydney Shop Girl as a platform to talk about what I was feeling, what was happening and how I was distracting myself through the excruciating process of waiting out the uncertainties.

At other times, Sydney Shop Girl proved to be a happy place.  Where I could focus on the humour, goodness and beauty of life and not pollute this space with interpersonal dramas.  I find that this kind of thing tends to escalate and spiral into out of control venom when you write about it in a public space whereas somehow it felt cathartic for me to write about my personal health issues.

This is my ninth year of blogging as Sydney Shop Girl and blogging is still a large and meaningful part of my life.  I've settled into a possibly boring and predictable voice that represents who I think I am.  There's lots of chat about my daily life, my (limited) interests, being a mum and the joys of forcing Sydney to adopt me as one of her own. 

I also regularly participate in several blog link ups - this one (Denyse Whelan's Life This Week), Leanne's Lovin' Life and Continental Drift which is a new venture Anna and Bo are cohosting with me.  The set themes of each have gently forced me to write outside of my comfort zone and I've also found myself a wider circle of amazing and inspiring bloggers to catch up with each week.

If you blog, how did yours begin?  How has it changed?

May 24, 2018

Lovin' Life 24/5/2018: Kmart’s Stationery. My Gratitude Journal.

Kmart is having a moment right now in the world of journals and planners.  My blogging buddy, Leanne at Deep Fried Fruit is a keen fan of Kmart's work and reading her posts about her latest purchases inspired me to 'have a look' the other day.

No one reading here today will be surprised that I ended up leaving with a $4 journal with a marble effect cover, a pad of 'To Do' lists for $3.50 and a clipboard to hold the lists ($2.50).

A close of up of a sheet from the 'To Do List' pad.
In the weeks that have passed since making my purchases, I've put all three to good use.  The 'To Do List' system is working really well for tackling life admin at home. I add tasks as I remember them and spend a few minutes on the mornings of my non work days figuring out what I can tackle from the list that day.  The 'tick off' column at the end is the most satisfying section for me.  I still can't resist running a line through completed tasks after ticking them off, though.

As for my journal, there's a bit of a story to tell.  I've begun a Gratitude Journal on its pages.

Each day's entry in my journal begins with 'Today I am grateful for:'....  and I aim to write down three things or moments per day.

It's not been as hard as I thought it would be.  Ironically, I've had more to be grateful for on the days I thought would never end.  Somehow the very things that made those days painful ended up on my list as situations or experiences that precipitated a positive change in some aspect of my life.

The need to write about the good things of each day has indirectly helped me become more mindful.  It's hard to be frustrated, angry or cynical for too long if you're hell bent on filling your daily quota of three items to be grateful for.

Settling down at the end of the day with a pen and my journal is something I look forward to as much as my evening mug of peppermint tea.  In this world of e-everything (or should that be i-everything) and clouds of data, having something positive to hold and write in helps give my gratitude a physical presence and a kind of certainty.

I've found myself including quotes and excerpts from inspirational posts I've seen on social media as well as the events of my own daily life.  There's always been something inspiring or motivating to look back on when I flick through the pages I've already completed and literally highlighted this year.

Do you have a gratitude journal?

Are you a fan of the 'To Do' list?

Kmart.  Say no more.

May 23, 2018

Dr Ruth Galloway. Life Lately, Before and After This Cold.

These are glamorous and exciting times at SSG Manor 2.0.

I've caught myself a cold and have had to feed myself one lemonade icy pole six hourly to soothe the scratchy situation that is my throat.  Unfortunately it's all pain and no gain this time around.  My voice just sounds distorted rather than whisky and cigarette raspy.  Is whisky even the alcohol that adds timbre to your voice?  Anyway.

I've abandoned perfume and instead waft Vicks wherever I wander.  Don't get me started on the baggy mum jeans and tatty old jumper I've been wearing for the judgement of the general public.

What I've been lacking in style this week, I've more than made up for with exciting reads.  Master SSG and I have just discovered the multi level semi gross out humour that is Aaron Blabey's The Bad Guys series.  They're great books to read together because though they're 'chapter books' there's not too much writing per page and the narrative is conveyed in a variety of ways including prose, various 'documents' and cartoons.  Children's literature was nothing like this back in my day....

via pinterest

I also have a new crime series passion.

'The Crossing Places' is the first in British crime author Elly Griffiths' (the pseudonym that Domenica de Rosa writes under) series featuring Dr Ruth Galloway.  Dr Galloway is a just turned 40 archaeologist and university lecturer who just happens to be both single (she ended it with a man recently and he married someone else six months later before becoming a dad, they still keep in touch) and a lover of cats.  

Ruth lives in a remote marshland near Norfolk. It's a part of the world that holds many of the secrets of past civilisations in its boggy depths.  But it's not just the deaths, rituals and murders of the past that Ruth encounters in 'The Crossing Places', she also gets involved in the murder investigations involving two young girls who have been abducted and presumed dead within the last decade in the Saltmarsh area.

Ruth Galloway is not the kind of woman who immediately springs to mind when you think pivotal character around whom to create a mystery series.  For me, this is a huge part of her appeal.  Ruth is quite content living on her own with her cats.  She has some great male friends and she has some great female friends.  They're all mostly in relationships and Ruth often finds herself analysing the various dynamics from afar.  She has some notion that it might be a bit late to start a family (of human babies) at forty but she's not that upset about it.  She leaves that to her mother.

Dr Galloway, quite simply, loves her career, her life and the home she's made for her cats and herself in a pretty inhospitable corner of the world.  She just happens to have found herself in the middle of a murder investigation and a web of secrets weaved by her friends.  It's early days yet but it also looks like she might have inadvertently found herself a few suitors in the process as well.

What's not to love when Elly Griffiths brings into Ruth's world a bit of finely plotted suspense?

I was getting a little sad at the realisation that my Louise Penny library was rapidly coming to an end but this new Elly Griffiths door has just opened for me and it looks like I'll have a full reading list for the next school holidays.

I'm thinking positive and hoping that my eyes won't still be burning from this cold for my next day back at work.  I've got some L'Oreal Infallible wind up eyeliners to debut because I've finally accepted that while my Sephora ones performed brilliantly, they also irritated my eyes like you wouldn't believe if any stray bits ended up in my eyes.  I've never had problems like this with other brands so I hope it was just this one time with the one particular brand of eyeliner and not a permanent problem because heaven knows, I need a bit of tightlining to look presentable for work.

Unfortunately, I don't think these Infallible eyeliners are available in Australia. I got mine at Target it LA earlier this year.  If all goes well with them, I'll definitely be making plans to stock up on my next trip the US.

In anticipation of that next trip, I revised the procedure for ordering UberEats over the weekend.

How good is it being able to have Chargrill Charlies for Sunday lunch but not having to battle the crowd in store?  Capital 'G' good to be honest.

I'm on a roll with the exciting content today so why stop with my final photo?  Isn't it a satisfying moment when you empty the dishwasher and find that you have new Bonne Marie jam jars freshly upcycled (my dishwasher even removes the label and leaves it for you in one piece to remove from the top rack) and ready to store a batch of salad dressing or similar?

May 21, 2018

Life This Week 21/5/2018: My Biggest Fear.

My biggest fear is change.

I'm one of those people who tends to take the negative view on change. To me, change is losing what I have and know.  A new car means losing a car whose quirks I know and whose size is so familiar I can park it without my blood pressure rising.  Getting older means having to take those niggles a little more seriously and looking a little less closely at myself in the mirror. It also means that those you love are getting older too.  Don't get me started on that tine all the bus routes changed or when everything at work went paperless....

I've reached an incredibly blessed stage of life where I have so much.  Love, security, self identity, purpose, good health, self awareness and self confidence.  On the self confidence, perhaps it's more 'who cares what everyone else thinks?  They're all preoccupied with their own lives.

It's an irrational fear and also a fear I need to release because life is change.  Whether I like it or not, change is a constant I can do nothing to stop.

When I look back at the changes I hated most, much of the pain surrounded the uncertainty of what to expect once the change had taken place.  Then whatever had to change did so and I somehow survived. 

The 'somehow' involved acceptance and then the desire to just get on with it.  Both powerful motivators when faced with change.

Looking forward, what I plan to do when faced with change is to be brave and embrace it.  To be open to all the possibilities that change can hold.  A life without change can be a boring one and a life trying to fight change on all fronts can be draining. 

Do you fear change? 

May 20, 2018

The Wedding. The Dresses. The Big Issues.

Of course today's post is all about  The Wedding.  The ceremony began at 9pm local time in Sydney which explains why many of us with children were at home in their pyjamas and ugg boots watching live on YouTube (Today, you did an ace job).  Reality bites ..... as they said back in the day.

via ET Canada
I'm still gutted that I did't catch Tish and Cord's (aka Molly Shannon and Will Ferrell)  live coverage of proceedings but you can get the highlights here.  For a local and hilariously insightful run down of the ceremony, you have to read James Weir's commentary here.

Jokes aside, there were so many things that set this Royal Wedding apart from those that have preceded it.  Powerful statements were made about race, gender, inclusiveness, the established 'ideal' of the nuclear family and the role of its members in a wedding ceremony and elements of America's slave history that we should never forget or seek to minimise. You can read Bishop Curry's scene stealing sermon in full here.  But above all, the wedding was about love, happiness and family.

I like to think that Diana is up there looking down on her boys with a deep sense of love and pride for the men that they have become.

There's so much for social commentators and journalists to discuss but for the likes of myself, the wedding was all about the guests and the fashion.
The Queen and Prince Philip are goals.  To be 92 and 97 respectively and in such good shape is inspiring.

via Google images
The gown.  Meghan's gown.  It looked so beautiful with Queen Mary's tiara on the drive to Windsor Castle.  I loved how simple the Clare Wight Keller for Givenchy gown was, it was a perfect 'back drop' for the tiara and that veil.

via Google images

But gee I would have loved to have seen a bit of lace or crystal in the gown somewhere.  From some angles, the boat neck and bodice looked a bit ordinary but then when I look at Meghan in other photos, everything sits perfectly.

via Google images

No sitting on the fence about gown #2 by Stella McCartney.  11/10 from me.

One of my favourite royal wedding photos ever.

Did you love the celebrity spotting as much as I did?  Oprah, James Corden ....

And Amal.  With George at her side.  In mustard Stella McCartney.  My favourite guest outfit of the day.

Followed closely by Victoria Beckham in a dress of her own design.

Royal Wedding preparation at SSG Manor 2.0 was decidedly low key and priority focused.  Hence the champagne in the fridge and the unboxing of one of my Jamie Oliver plates. From the days at Woolies where you had to collect all those stickers to stick on sheets to then redeem for individual pieces of Jamie china.

All my wedding prep was done at ungodly hours of the night or early morning.  Hence the horribly yellow toned photos.

Here's the plate in all its glory.

It was just the thing for a cheese plate for one.

The palace grounds front courtyard was swept and relieved of about a fortnight's worth of autumn leaves.  I was even wearing my 'By Appointment to Her Majesty' Hunter wellies as I went about the raking.

True to the spirit of a mum who has way less time to spend planning her Royal Wedding viewing than she did when big brother William got married, may I present the ingredients for my Harry and Meghan Bellinis.  The peach schnapps is wonderfully fragrant with just the right amount of sweetness (not to mention a lot less labour intensive than making a sugar syrup).  And well, the peach puree?  That was 3 tubs of kids snack packs of diced peach and pear in natural juice.  It worked out better than you might suppose.

Here's my cheese plate - organic dried figs and fresh pear slices!  Very fancy.

Dinner made in my trusty Le Creuset stoneware roasting tray.  So worth the money,  It always washes to perfect, as new cleanness. 

And this was dinner.  A kind of bangers and mash but only using one pan and the oven, it's Recipe Tin Eats' 'Sausage Bake With Potatoes and Gravy'.  Thank you Nagi for another brilliant recipe.

This sausage tray bake is genius on so many levels.  You even make the gravy in the pan as the sausages and vegetables cook.

Did you watch The Wedding?  Did you do so with champagne and cheese while wearing flannel pajamas and ugg boots?  Did you feel underdressed or did you have no shame?

Did you 'celebrate' in the manner of a parent with young children or did you go all out?


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