Category Archives: beer

21 for 2021: week 9

Week 09/2021: week of 1 March

21 for 2021 update

Last year, one of my 20 for 2020 things was to have a month without alcohol. I started that on 2 March 20202 and I haven’t had a drink since then. So this week marked the one-year anniversary of my last drink. We went to Dunalley for lunch at the pub and stopped at Barilla Bay to get oysters on the way. I bought a can of their Oyster Stout, which I was going to drink at home that evening. I didn’t and it‘s still in the fridge where I left it on 1 March 2020. 

I still haven’t decided whether the alcohol-free thing is a permanent change. I quite like saying “I don’t drink” but I still have some rather delicious beverages in my beer cellar that I would very much like to try. So I need to work out a way to drink them but not make drinking a mindless habit like it used to be for me.

I had some interesting work to do this week, which made the week go faster. That was nice and I actually enjoyed being at work. Well you know, apart from the noise. On the recommendation of my audiologist, I got some noise-cancelling earbuds, which are a lot more portable than the headphones I’ve been using and they’ve been making a big difference in my capacity to function and not get overwhelmed in noisy situations both inside and outside. 

I’ve also been working through a couple of non-work courses in my spare time, which are on two topics that are totally unrelated and I’m finding great joy in discovering the connections between two topics that I would have thought were completely different areas. It has been an interesting week of discovery for me. 

I’m still working through the habits chapter of the Change Journal (thing 7) with my yoga stretches, the pre-work ritual (thing 20) and now the post-work ritual. Now that I have my exercise program from the exercise physiologist (thing 1), I need to build that into my routine as well. I’ve decided there are a couple of the exercises that I will try and do every day and track them in the Change Journal, and then the rest of the program I’m going to do four days a week instead of my afternoon walk.

I had to get out of the house on Saturday afternoon, so I decided to take my SLR camera for a walk (thing 16). I picked up this camera, a Pentax Z70 with a 28-80mm lens, from a second-hand camera shop in Canberra many years ago. I went to a class to learn how to use it but found everything too overwhelming, and ended up staying in green mode most of the time. Around that time I moved to the country and, having been inspired by the work of a local landscape photographer, spent some time photographing rural scenes with it. I didn’t use it much after I got my first digital camera. I remember going through a roll or two of film when Kramstable was a baby but, apart from that, it’s been sitting in a drawer for the past 13 years or more. I still had a battery for it and there was a roll of film in it with about seven exposures left on it. I have absolutely no idea what is on the rest of the film, so I figured what better way to find out than to finish it off. The film is very expired so this could be very interesting when I take it into the camera shop to get processed.

After having gotten used to a digital SLR, I found the controls on this camera to be very minimal, and the instruction book that came with it even more so. I eventually worked out how to put it into manual mode and how to adjust the exposure and shutter speed. Before now, I’d only used it in manual mode for the class, when all of this was very new to me. At least now, having had the experience of using a digital SLR in manual, I had some idea what I was doing, even if I wasn’t sure exactly how to do it.

For my first photo, the camera wouldn’t focus. This was not going well. Then I remembered that the lens gets stuck at the extreme end of its focus range and needs a little jiggle to get “unstuck”. Right. It was so weird to hear the buzz of the film advancing as I pressed the shutter instead of the digital click, and even more odd that I couldn’t look down at the non-existent LCD screen to see what the photo looked like. That’s a habit that’s very hard to get out of.

I used up the film, it rewound itself and I’m going to take it into the shop next week to see what’s on it. I’m not calling this thing done yet. I want to go out somewhere and make photos with it for a few hours and use at least one roll of film.

Vegetable of the week

Thing 2 is to choose a different vegetable every week from the book In Praise of Veg and make a recipe from the book using that vegetable. 

This week I chose bok choy and I cooked Alice’s Grilled Bok Choy with Peanut Sauce (page 434) on Tuesday. I have to say the amount of peanut butter I’m going through to cook the recipes in this book is pretty phenomenal, but peanut butter, yum! I’m not complaining. 

Grilled bok choy

I probably could have served this with another veggie dish but I poached some chicken breasts, shred them and serve with rice noodles. It was a simple dish overall, excellent for mid-week. 

On Saturday it was time for a fully vegetarian dish, Seven-Spice Butternut Tagine (page 160). This had a lovely combination of coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and pepper. As well as butternut pumpkin (squash), it had tomatoes, chickpeas and red capsicum. It was really nice with lots of leftovers. I’d definitely make this again.

Butternut squash tagine

Regular projects

There are several things on my list that I have made a regular commitment to doing in the hope that this will be more likely to make me do them. I worked on these ones this week.

  • Thing 5: Spend an hour a week working through my annoying undone things list. One hour on Saturday morning. I didn’t do this. In lieu of this, Kramstable and I spent at least an hour trying to catch one small chicken and lock her away with the others after we’d seen a hawk in the yard. Four of the others were appropriately terrified and huddled in the chook house. One so much so that she let me pick her up and hold her for basically as long as I wanted. I had managed to lure one of the other two, who are now candidates for the most stupid birds in the flock, into the cage with food, and had almost got the last one in when the first one got back out again and refused to be caught. It was a very traumatic time as we imagined what her fate might be if the hawk returned and she was still running around the yard, but catching her seemed like an impossible task. In frustration, I decided to get some water to fill up the bowls and while I was out of the yard, Kramstable, by some miracle, had finally managed to grab the elusive chicken and we got her into the cage with the others.
The elusive chicken refusing to be caught
  • Thing 9: Write my mother’s life story. I went to see my mum on Thursday as usual. She showed me a photo of her grandfather’s house in Scotland that he had built in 1918. I managed to locate it on Google streetview, so it was cool to see where it was. I doubt the oil rigs would have been the bay in 1918 but it was cool to see the town where his family had lived for a time. 
  • Thing 11: Complete the Compelling Frame course. I worked some more on lesson 5. I need to do the practical exercise. It’s been hard to photograph something in full sun when the days have been overcast and rainy though! I watched the video for lesson 6 as well.
  • Thing 17: Brainsparker gym*. I worked on lesson 3 of the third module, which explained the “empathy map”. I missed this month’s live workout on Thursday because my alarm didn’t go off, which I’m very annoyed about because I really enjoyed the last one.

21 for 2021 summary

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed to date: 1 (1)
  • Things I progressed: 7 (2, 4, 9, 11, 16, 17, 20)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 5 (5, 6, 8, 13, 18)
  • Things not started: 8 (3, 7, 10, 12, 14, 15, 19, 21)

Blast from the past

Following on from my 10-year review of my blog, here’s another one of my favourite 2011 posts. This one is from 9 May 2011: Happiness what.

I think the point I wrote then is still true today:

. . . while I’m waiting for my life to be perfect, my life goes on. I’m wishing some things were different but I’m not doing anything about them, and at the same time I’m not really appreciating the things I do have

9 May 2011

What I’m reading this week

  • Personality Hacker by Joel Mark Witt & Antonia Dodge
  • Me by Elton John
  • The Summer Island Festival by Rachel Burton
I totally enjoyed this. It made me laugh, it made me cry. Recommended.

Habit tracker

  • Days I did my morning planning routine at work (Goal = 4): 4
  • Days I did my post-work pack up routine (Goal = 4): 4
  • Days I worked on my art (Goal = 2): 3
  • Days I read a book (Goal = 7): 7 
  • Days I did yoga stretches (Goal = 7): 7
  • Days I had a lunch break away from my desk (Goal = 5 work days): 5
  • Days I went for a walk or did other physical activity in the afternoon (Goal = 7): 7
  • Days I shut my computer down before 10.15 (Goal = 7): 6

20 for 2020: week 14

Week of 30 March

My 20 for 2020 list.

Things continue to change in the world at a rapid rate as the covid pandemic wreaks havoc across the world. More and more people from my work are working at home as we are told to stay at home unless we absolutely have to go out for work, to get food or medical supplies or to exercise (alone or with no more than one other person). People are joking that the world of social distancing and staying home is something introverts have been doing for years, and I can relate to that.

20200401 Bus Mall 1001am

Deserted bus mall being cleaned. The construction work is still going on.

Adding a couple more days to my working from home routine is a welcome relief from the noisy open-plan office (which is remarkably not noisy now, because most people aren’t coming in any more). And the weird thing about that is, I have endured the noise for over two years and now it’s so quiet, it’s unnerving because it’s not supposed to be so quiet. And that makes it hard to concentrate. As opposed to weekends when I’ve gone in to study with no one there and been super-productive because on a weekend it’s meant to be like that. It gives me a real sense of unease to be in there at the moment and I’ll be relieved when I don’t need to go in there any more.

20200330 Macquarie & Harrington St 904am 2

Macquarie Street, Monday 30 March 2020, 9.04 am

However, working from home while there are other people there doing the same thing has its own challenges. It seems to make a big difference, just having other people in the house, to how it feels to be there.

20200330 Stay at home

Front page of the Mercury, Monday 30 March 2020

All very small problems compared to the scale of this issue and the chaos, fear and tragedy it’s causing across the world and I’m sure I will find ways to deal with it. I’m grateful that I still have my job and that my workplace is still a safe place to be.

While the schools were still open this week, they asked us to not send our kids if we were able to supervise their learning at home. With at least one parent at home every day, we were in a position to do that. Kramstable has been working on the material set up by his teachers this week, and I’ve been impressed by his ability to make himself a schedule, that includes breaks, and stick to it each day. School holidays will start a week early to give the schools more time to put learning resources online for next term. The school has been great with its communication and I am really impressed with the work everyone is doing to make this as minimally disruptive to the kids as possible. We’re in for an interesting time over the next few months adapting to new ways of learning.

20200331 Frilly pants edit

I can’t ride to work in these pants but they are brilliant house pants

I am trying to hold myself to as much of a routine as I can in this strange world, which means going on my non-negotiable walk every morning at 5.30 (or thereabouts), doing my 15 minutes of creative work, getting dressed, eating breakfast and having movement breaks during the day whether I’m working at home or in the office. I’ve started to add a morning mindfulness activity into the mix to try and keep myself more grounded but I think I might need to work this in a couple of other times during the day.

I’m rolling with my 20 things as best as I can. One of the big ones was completing 30 days alcohol free on Tuesday (thing 5). I did this in March last year for 19 for 2019 and went straight back to drinking almost as soon as I’d finished. I struggled with maintaining drinking in moderate amounts, in not drinking on weeknights, in not drinking late at night . . . and the result was I was feeling really down on myself for not being able to control myself better. I couldn’t understand why I could easily go without a drink for a month but then rarely go one night after that.

This time I did my 30 days in conjunction with the book The Alcohol Experiment by Annie Grace, which offers you new ways to think about alcohol, why you drink and whether alcohol is really giving you what you want.

20200402 The Alcohol Experiment

The Alcohol Experiment

I was reluctant to try this experiment because I was worried that the result might be I would never want to drink again and (at least I thought) I rather enjoyed drinking. I won’t say too much other than it has completely changed the way I think about alcohol and made me realise that I don’t really want to drink at all right now. Never is a long time, and Annie cautions against committing to never drink again for the rest of your life, so I won’t say I never want to drink again. But right now, especially right now when the temptation might be to drown out the fear and anxiety about what’s happening in the world with alcohol, I don’t want to drink.

The good thing about this book is it asks you to consider what you want to do after the 30 days, not just run you through the 30 days and leave you on your own, which I was when I did my alcohol-free month last year. Being more mindful and informed this year, I think I have a much better chance of not getting back onto that slippery slope that I fell onto last year. For now, I have made the decision not to drink.

20200402 St Davids Park 2

Autumn hasn’t been cancelled

I have been working on my photo project (thing 1) and I’m now into the tidying up stage of it. I’ve been reading before I go to sleep (thing 14), which is not my favourite time to read, but it’s the only time that’s working for me at the moment.

20200401 Walking

Reading about walking

I did a bit more work on my monthly review (thing 22) to try and work out my goals for April. I got a bit lost last week when I did it and am still not sure what I’m tying to do. I feel very unsettled and ungrounded at the moment but I think that’s probably a very common reaction to what’s going on in the world around me, and the fact that the world as I know it is very different to the world I was in this time last month.

20200405 Sunrise Taroona Beach

Walking alone is still allowed

Summary for the week

  • Things completed this week: #5
  • Things completed to date: 7 (4, 5, 6, 10, 15, 16, 18)
  • Things I progressed: 3 (1, 14, 22)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 5 (3, 7, 8, 11, 13)
  • Things not started: 7 (2, 9, 12, 17, 19, 20, 21)
  • Days I stuck to my 15 minutes creative habit this week: 7
  • Days I read a book for at least 15 minutes:  7

20 for 2020: week 10

Week of 2 March

My 20 for 2020 list.

20200308 Fallen

Fallen

On Monday, I started my alcohol-free month (thing 5). I did it in March last year as part of 19 for 2019 and decided to repeat it this year. A few weeks ago I came across The Alcohol Experiment by Annie Grace, which is subtitled “30 days to take control, cut down or give up for good”. I thought “30 day alcohol experiment” sounded better than “no alcohol for a month” so I decided to follow the program in the book for the coming month. Last year I did my month. It was easy, but I gradually slipped back into my old ways, which is not something I wanted to do, and was always a risk after reaching a goal without a clear plan on what I wanted to do afterwards. It means that I still stay up too late, I don’t get enough sleep and I am tired a lot.

The program outlined in this book shows you a new way of thinking about alcohol and “asks you to look a little close about why we drink, what we get out of it and whether it’s really the alcohol that’s giving us what we want”.

There have been some interesting things to think about and challenges to some of my beliefs, so it’s a lot to take in. I think the most important thing that I have learned is that it isn’t a lack of willpower that makes me reach for another wine when I really should have started packing up and getting ready for bed, and that treating myself with compassion for my past “failures” is going to be very important. I’m not very good at that.

The “lack of willpower is not the problem” theory also features in the book Indistractable (thing 13) and Nir Eyal suggests a similar compassionate approach towards yourself when you make a mistake.

I reviewed what I’ve done so far in the book and where I’m up to. I started to feel a bit overwhelmed about some the ideas because I know that they aren’t going to work for me. Scheduling time to reply to emails (chapter 15), for example, might not work in an organisation that relies on email for a lot of its “immediate” interactions. I do this a lot precisely because I don’t want to disturb people by going to talk to the face to face, but actually talking to them would probably save a lot of time when I get into those back and forth email conversations. So, okay, let’s not say never. I will give this a try.

I’m not sure about the stuff on work interruptions (chapter 14). I always thought that putting on headphones meant that you didn’t want to be disturbed but in my workplace, noise canceling headphones are essential to get any work done, not just the work you need to concentrate on because the noise is unrelenting, so people feel quite at liberty to come and talk to me. I think the only way to be truly uninterruptible is to go and work someplace else when you really need to focus. For me, it’s not just the noise, it’s the constant movement in my peripheral vision that keeps me constantly on edge and unable to concentrate, so I don’t even think putting a “do not disturb” sign on my computer would help that. I read somewhere that it’s like your lizard brain constantly scanning the environment for signs that something out there is about to attack you, so you’re always in this semi-alert state, ready to fight or flee if you have to.

I’ve picked a few things out to try rather than go full-on and implement everything at once. I think one important thing to be sure to have is a clear work space around me (chapter 19), which means no phone within reach and only the things I am working on in front of me. I’m very good at clearing the spaces off but not so good at keeping them clear. I let stuff pile up and then I spend ages clearing it off again instead of putting things where they belong in the first place.

20200305 Wet chooks 05 edit

Wet chickens are wet

Earlier in the year I made a STOP-START-KEEP list, which I hope is pretty self-explanatory. As I discover things I’m doing that aren’t serving me, they go into the STOP section, things I’m doing now that are working well are in the KEEP section and things I want to start doing, well you get the idea. I’m going to add a TRY column to this list for things I might want to start but are more of an experiment than a thing I definitely want to do.

I stuck some more photos from my 2019 photojournal into the book (thing 4) and trimmed all of the ones I printed last week ready to go in the book. I worked on my photo project (thing 1) and completed the last three modules of my uni course (thing 8). I watched a webinar from the wellbeing course (thing 3), which relates the journalling that I need to complete from last year to call this thing done for the year.

Summary for the week

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed to date: 5 (6, 10, 15, 16, 18)
  • Things I progressed: 7 (1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 14)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress:  3 (7, 11, 22)
  • Things not started: 7 (2, 9, 12, 17, 19, 20, 21)
  • Days I stuck to my 15 minutes creative habit this week: 7.
  • Days I scheduled (and did) 50 or 25 minute blocks of time to work on my projects: None.
  • Days I read on the bus on the way to work (or another time for at least 15 minutes): 6.

 

19 for 19: week 6 update

Week of 4 February 2019

20190210 Sunrise Taroona Beach 1 edit

Happy Sunday

This was a big week. Not only was it back to school week but it was Kramstable’s first week of high school. Yes, I am the parent of a high school student! Where has that time gone? It doesn’t seem like eight years ago I was fretting over him starting Kinder and preparing him (and me) for his first day in the education system.

And now, here we were starting a whole new chapter. Only in this chapter, he will be on his own. Where at primary school I had heaps of opportunities to be involved with Kramstable’s class, from parent help in his classroom in the early years, talking to his teachers in the mornings when I dropped him off (before he put a stop to me taking him in to school) and going on excursions to places I would never have otherwise had the chance to go to, high school is different. I don’t imagine there’s anything like that, no chance to be directly involved and to see what he’s doing at school. (Though I do believe there is an online classroom that his teacher is setting up so that we will be able to see what his class is doing so I’m looking forward to that.)

He didn’t want me to walk with him to school at all. That time has long gone. I convinced him to let me come with him on the first day so I could take a photo of him outside the school, and then I’d leave him alone for the rest of the year. The rest of his high school life. That was the deal.

I ended up getting better than that because his friends’ mother wanted to take a picture of the three of them on their first day at school because we’d missed getting a photo of them on their last day of primary school. He agreed, we got our photos on the school grounds, and then, with very little in the way of goodbye, they wandered off into the throng of students to find the teacher who was pointing the grade 7s in the right direction, with not even a glance behind them.

That was my first, and last, high school drop off. I actually felt okay about it. I think I got all the emotions I was feeling out when he finished primary school and once that was out of the way, starting high school was just the next step in a process I had already come to terms with.

I think Kramstable treating it as nothing more than another school day helped too. If he’d been nervous or worried I’m sure that would have rubbed off on me. But he was very cool about it all. I left the school, confident that he’d be fine.

As I was waiting for the bus to go to work, I scanned my facebook feed. It brought up this photo from 2011. Eight years ago.

20190206 Snail IG

Eight years ago

Eight years ago, the owner of this hand started kindergarten. Today, he started high school.

So it was a big week, which ended with me coming down with a very unpleasant head cold that put me out of action most of Saturday. As a result, I didn’t get a lot done to progress my 19 for 2019 list. But that’s okay. I have a year to do it and I know some weeks will be good and others won’t be. Life happens.

This week’s baby step in taking better care of me (thing 6) so that I can do the things I want to do this year is to continue to focus on staying hydrated and doing my deep breathing. I picked up one of these klean kanteen water bottles this week, which I really like because it has the sippy top rather than a lid. I’m finding I’m reaching for it more often to take a drink, whereas with the screw top, just having to unscrew the lid was an extra step that sometimes I couldn’t be bothered to take.

20190210 New water bottle edit

Bright orange makes me smile

In Atomic Habits, James Clear describes this as the Law of Least Effort, and he says that we naturally gravitate to the option that requires the least amount of work. He says to create a habit you need to make doing the right thing as easy as possible and reduce the friction associated with good behaviours. Taking off a bottle top is a tiny thing, but it’s still something else I have to do before I can drink my water. (Yes, I could probably just leave the lid off, or use a glass, but that’s not so practical for carrying the water around with me.)

I’ve also been reviewing my breakfast options to see what works best for me. A couple of the things I’ve tried this week have been the Chocolate Coco-nutty Granola from the I Quit Sugar for Life cookbook and avocado on toast. The avocado is definitely the winner out of those two; though the granola is yummy, it’s not overly filling.

I haven’t done anything on the photo course this week (thing 1) and haven’t put any more photos into my folio (thing 2). I ordered an ND filter (thing 7).

I finished reading the book The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyce, which Kramstable got for Christmas. He wanted to watch the movie on Friday so I read the book in advance so I’d know what I was getting into. I’ve now completed six out of the 12 books I wanted to read this year (thing 5).20190207 The Boy in the Striped Pajamas cover

I printed three photo collages for my 2018 photo journal and made two more weekly collages (thing 11). I entered another 33 beers in my beer book spreadsheet (thing 12) and I’m continuing to get more familiar with Lightroom as I use it (thing 19).

Status for week 6:

  • Things completed: 3 (8, 19, 15)
  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things I progressed this week: 6 (5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 19)
  • Things I’ve started but didn’t progress this week: 3 (1, 2, 16)
  • Things not started: 7 (3, 4, 10, 13, 14, 17, 18)

 

Baby steps

So I’ve now publicly confessed that I’ve become somewhat more relaxed about sticking to some of the healthy life choices I’d been succeeding with, and have had a good hard look at why it might be a good idea to make some changes to get things back on track (she writes with a glass of wine in one hand).

Good. Recognising that there’s something not right and, very importantly, identifying why I need to fix it is a good first step. But now I actually have to do the hard work, decide what I’m going to do and (shudder) do it!

But where to start?

There are loads of areas I would like to have better habits in, but I know if I try to change everything at once, I’m not going to succeed. It will be too much in too short a time. There’s some reason out there in brain research world about why this is. It’s something to do with our caveman brain getting very agitated if things change too fast, and sabotaging our efforts because Change = Danger. So, the theories go, we have to trick caveman brain into thinking it’s safe by making only very tiny changes that don’t register with it.

If this is right, the baby steps approach is in order. And absolutely no stepping on the cracks, because caveman brain would notice that kind of dangerous behaviour and step in to try and keep me away from danger.

A concept I’ve read about in several places when you’re contemplating trying to make a change is, rather than looking at what you want to do, to ask yourself who you want to be, and then ask yourself what that person would do.

Gretchen Rubin refers to this in her book Better Than Before as “the Strategy of Identity”. The basic idea is that: “Your habits reflect your identity, so if you struggle to change a particular habit, re-think your identity”.

Ms Rubin gives an example of a way she changed her own thinking:

For years I thought of myself as someone who “hates exercise”, but at some point I realised that I hate sports . . .  I don’t mind exercise .  . .  Thinking of myself as someone who “enjoys exercise” allowed me to change the way I viewed my nature, and that helped me to become a regular exerciser.

Neat hey.

I looked at the main habits that are causing me concern – the afternoon snacking, the extra glass or two of wine every night, and the late nights – and I considered who I wanted to be in relation to those habits. This is what I came up with:

  • I am someone who doesn’t regularly eat food with refined sugar.
  • I am someone who doesn’t drink alcohol at home during the week.
  • I am someone who gets 6-7 hours of sleep a night.

Oooh! Dotpoints! This is serious.

I think that if I tried to become that person in one big swoop, caveman brain would notice and would strongly resist, and I’d fail. Again. So I’ve decided to be that person on Mondays. The rest of the week, caveman brain can stay safe with the familiar.

(Maybe I need a name for caveman brain, which is looking out for my best interests and keeping me safe by making change so damn hard, so that we can become friends. I know it’s just doing what it was programmed to do and thinks it’s acting in my best interests. I mean if I was suddenly jumpscared by a tiger, caveman brain would be right there trying to save me.)

So now, what would dotpoint person do on a Monday?

She would make sure she has a nice healthy snack on hand so that when she gets the after lunch craving, she has something else available. (*Puts almonds on shopping list.*)

She might also think about taking all the cash out of her wallet when she goes out, so it’s slightly more difficult to buy the item in question. (She has a reluctance to EFTPOS small amounts, which might turn out to be a useful thing for this situation.) She also might decide not to walk past any tempting shops when she goes out at lunch time (including a certain clothes store).

James Clear refers to the practice of setting up your environment in a way that will support your desired (healthier) habits as “choice architecture“.

Having succeeded at not indulging in the afternoon, our hero would feel pretty good when she got home. (OK, hero might be overstating things a bit. She resisted eating cake. She didn’t save someone’s life.)

Yep, today she’s someone who doesn’t eat refined sugar. The same someone also doesn’t drink on a school night, but by the time Monday evening comes around, she’s tired and would quite like to relax with an alcoholic beverage. However, she knows that one leads to two leads to three leads to staying up late and being exhausted in the morning.

Knowing the flow-on effect of one drink on her ability to be someone who gets 6-7 hours of sleep, she also has to be someone who doesn’t drink. She has learned about choice architecture, and so she thoughtfully set up her teapot, tea and cup near the kettle, which she filled up before she went to work in the morning. They’re all there, making it easier for her to make the choice to drink tea rather than beer.


She sits with her tea and writes in her journal.

And when her 9.30 pack up alarm* goes off, she doesn’t have half a glass of wine left that inevitably seems to get refilled, or the decreased will power that alcohol appears to inflict on her, and she actually packs up and gets to bed by 10pm.

A successful mission.

These are the smallest of baby steps. In isolation, this is no big achievement. It will only benefit me if I keep being this person every Monday. I’ve already noticed how much better I feel on a Tuesday when I’ve had more sleep than I get on other nights. Wednesday morning me wants to be like Tuesday me, so Tuesday me will have to have almonds instead of cake and herbal tea instead of beer, and will have to go to bed on time. And within a few weeks, I’ll be that person I want to be without caveman brain Betty having noticed.

It sounds easy. I’m sure it won’t be. So, in the spirit of trying new things out, this is an experiment to find out if thinking about who I want to be rather than what I want to do is an effective way to change a habit.

If you think this might be a helpful strategy for a habit you want to change, tell me about it in the comments, and we can cheer each other on.

Who do you want to be?

* The packup alarm is supposed to remind you that you need to be getting up in 6/7/8 hours, and that it’s time to pack up, turn your screens off and go to bed. I have several of them. I ignore every single one and carry on. (Bedtime alarms really is a thing. Google “bedtime alarm”.)

Cold weather blues

Cold weather blues
Adelaide, Australia

Adelaide, Australia


Us, when planning the holiday: “Let’s go in winter. Then there won’t be too many people around.” Enter the worst storms in the region for 30 years. An excellent plan indeed.

We could hear the wind whistling down the corridor of the hotel last night, and the wild weather continued this morning. We hadn’t planned on driving anywhere after we arrived yesterday until it was time to go to the airport, but the weather was so bad we couldn’t face walking around all day. We drove out to Glenelg to have a look at the beach, and I wasn’t even prepared to get out of the car for a photo. If you know me, you will know this was hardcore weather.

Having very little idea of what might keep a nine year old amused (museums and art galleries were out), we took a trip to one of the visitor centres (after having recaffeinated), where the staff gave us a few ideas.

We had a wander through the Rundle Mall and I was quite taken with the four pigs. Apparently they’ve been there since 1999, and were the winning entry in a national sculpture competition when the mall was being upgraded. They are the work of South African-born and Sydney-based sculptor Marguerite Derricourt. The title of the work is “A Day Out”.

The weather had improved, so we took the car back to the hotel and grabbed beanies and rain coats before heading back out. The receptionist asked us if we were sure we wanted to go out. “Pfft,” we said, “We’re from Tasmania. This is nothing!” She was probably crossing Tasmania off her travel wish list as we bravely went outside, Kramstable in shorts as usual.

The Adelaide Central Market is in between Grote and Gouger Streets (I just wanted to write “Grote Street” somewhere. That is the best street name ever.) It was our first stop. I love the story of its first day: “On 23 January 1869 at 3.15am, a small but noisy procession of market gardeners found their way from the East End Market to the site between Gouger and Grote Streets. In only a few hours about 500 purchasers quickly bought out the entire stock of goods for sale, so that for those hurrying to the scene of activity after 6.00am, there was nothing left to buy. . . . Today the Adelaide Central Market is home to 80 stalls and is visited by more than 8 million people a year.”

We wandered round there for a while taking in the sights and smells, before heading back out onto the street. Gouger Street is home to Chinatown, but in a block full of Asian restaurants, who else but Kramstable would choose to have pizza for lunch in an Italian restaurant.

After lunch we made our way back to the Victoria Square/Tarntanyannga tram stop to catch the free tram a couple of stops closer to town. This is Adelaide’s only tram service and it runs out to Glenelg, with the main zone in the city being free to travel in. We’d seen some information about the Alpine Winter Village that was set up on the Torrens Parade Ground. The man at the visitor centre hadn’t known a lot about it, other than there was ice skating, so we thought we’d have a look. Really all that was missing was snow. And, you know, Alps. But it looked like it would be a fun little precinct to hang around in and imbibe winter beverages and eat winter food. A bit like Winterfeast. We wandered through the little market, which featured local craftspeople, and stopped for a drink in the Après Ski Lounge.

There were piles of woodchips being shovelled in all the time to try and keep the ground as dry as possible. None of us was game to try ice skating! On the way back to the city we stopped to have a look at the Boer War memorial.

Dinner tonight was at Nola, which is (among other things) “a New Orleans inspired dining bar with a focus on Creole and Cajun soul food, a curated selection of Independent and Craft Beer on our 16 taps”. We’d googled craft beer bars and this came up. It’s in a slightly hidden section of laneways off Rundle Street, so it was a bit of a walk from our hotel and ended up being a bit harder to find than we’d thought (but on the plus side, this made it one of only two days on the whole holiday I met my step target). But it was totally worth it!

Who would have thought Brussels Sprouts could be (a) a main dish and (b) edible? Everything about this place was fantastic and now I want to come back and spend a week in these laneways.

I’m looking forward to going home tomorrow. If we get there. Winds permitting. And I think I’m done with driving holidays for a while. I’d like to take some time to explore a place or two instead of rushing from town to town. I’ve loved everything we’ve seen – and I’ve really enjoyed it all – but I think next time I want a slow ride.

Don’t go chasing waterfalls

Don’t go chasing waterfalls
Apollo Bay, Australia

Apollo Bay, Australia


Today the road trip began. We said goodbye to the in-laws after breakfast and hit the road for the start of the Great Ocean Road: Torquay, surfer town. We stopped at Soul Fuel Cafe for coffee and, after a quick stop at the tourist centre, drove to Bells Beach, which we felt we had to go to because it’s, like, famous.

Did I mention it was raining? Sideways? Well it was, so it was perfect beach weather.

It rained all day as we made our way along the road. We went through Anglesea and stopped in Aireys Inlet to have a look at the Split Point Lighthouse. We decided not to do the tour and didn’t get out of the car in the end. What we saw of it looked nice. The plan is to have a look at Cape Otway Lighthouse tomorrow.

We went to the Aireys Pub, home of Rogue Wave Brewery, to sample some of their products. Decided not to stay there for lunch and drove through to Lorne, where we had lunch at the Lorne Hotel.

The brochures said that Lorne had heaps of waterfalls, so we went looking for Erskine Falls after lunch. On the way we stopped at Teddy’s Lookout, which has amazing views. Zoe and I were the only ones to get out of the car, and we braved the 100 metre walk to the lower platform in gusty winds and serious rain just to get a photo.

The rain got heavier the further up the hill we got, and we all decided that no one was going to get out of the car to find a waterfall in that, so we abandoned the waterfall chase and headed back to the highway to find our accommodation, just out of Apollo Bay.

The road was very windy and it was a slow trip in the rain, but the scenery was spectacular. We went through areas where the bushfires had obviously been earlier in the year, and several roadworks.

Our accommodation is beautiful. The views out to the coast are stunning and we had the best meal tonight. I have to admit defeat in the hummous world. Mine is good, but this one was sensational, and I need to know what they put in it! If I had more time (and a lot more money) I’d love to stay here for a week. This is our extravagant night for the trip and it’s glorious!

Jousting with fire

Jousting with fire
Ballarat, Australia

Ballarat, Australia


Our plan for today was to spend the day at Sovereign Hill in Ballarat. I can remember going there on my Grade 4 school trip and really enjoying it, so I imagined that Kramstable would love it. Despite him saying how much he liked History as a subject, he didn’t seem especially keen to go and find out what life was like in the actual olden days (as opposed to what he sees as the olden days – when I was a small kid, because we had black and white TV).

Aunty T had said that Sovereign Hill turned into a bit of a mud bath when it was wet, and the morning forecast was for rain, so we decided that Kryal Castle might be a better option. We told Kramstable that we’d be going to “the castle” instead of the goldfields, and he was so excited that we knew it was the right choice.

I’d been there too on my Grade 4 trip and I can remember thinking it was great. I don’t remember much about it, other than the torture chamber, so it was pretty much like going there for the first time. I think there have been a few new things added since I was there – it was built in the early 1970s and underwent a major upgrade in 2013.

First up was a walk through the Dragon’s Labrynth, which tells the story of the castle, the missing children and the dragon Ushnagh. We then wandered up to the archery range where we all attempted (with varying degrees of success) to fire some arrows. I’m not expecting a call up to the Olympic archery squad any time soon.

One of the highlights was the horse trials, which involved two knights on horseback going through their paces, including jumping over some pretty serious flames. It was pretty impressive stuff.

We also made our way through the maze, and watched one of the Wizard’s gorgeous apprentices concoct some fascinating potions from ingredients such as dragon ash, goblin eyes and pixie wings (the dragon ash comes from dragons who have died naturally and turned to ash and it’s taken with the permission of the dragons, and the pixie wings are shed like snake skins – not removed from living pixies).

It didn’t rain but it was cold. I think the max for the day was 8 degrees, so after a couple of hours we’d had enough ( we decided to give the torture dungeon a miss this time) and we headed into Ballarat for lunch. It’s a pretty town with some beautiful old buildings and apparently quite an interesting arty side, so I’d like to come back and spend some more time there wandering around, because that’s my favourite thing to do in new places. Lunch was ok, apart from having to send my meal back because it was cold in the middle. They fixed it, replaced it and were very apologetic, so I was happy with that.

After lunch and a flying visit to the tourist centre (my other favourite thing to do in new places), we took as side trip to Red Duck Brewery, a Mecca for craft beer lovers. It was very hard to limit ourselves because many of their beers are limited releases and so only available for a short time. We were very excited to see that the “Amon Ra”, one of their series of Egyptian bread ales, was there. We bought a nice little mixed stash that will see us through the first few days of the road trip.

And then we headed back to Bacchus Marsh to spend some time with the family. They treated us to a nice dinner and some board games, which was a lovely way to end the day.

30 days alcohol-free: day 30

I think I’m relatively safe in saying that I made it through the 30 days alcohol-free challenge! It’s Wednesday, and it’s yoga night, and I never follow yoga class with a glass of wine. So I can report 100% success! Woo hoo! Challenge 1 is over.

It really wasn’t that difficult to do, with very little in the way of temptation thrown at me over the past 30 days. (She says smugly, after getting through the 30 days.) 30 days of abstinence from one of my favourite things.

If you know Gretchen Rubin’s work, you might be aware of the abstainer/moderator tendencies that she identifies.

For the moderators, the “everything in moderation” theory works very well. Moderators can have one piece of chocolate cake and then stop. Abstainers find it difficult to stop at one, so if they open the bar of chocolate they won’t be able to stop until they’ve eaten all of it. So for abstaners, it’s easier to have none at all. I get the feeling that sometimes moderator types don’t understand this, and can’t figure out why someone would “deprive” themselves, when they could just have one piece. “Everything in moderation.” What people who can moderate might not get is that, while they can stop at one piece, for an abstainer one piece leads to another and another and, fuck it, the whole lot.

I relate to the abstainer tendency for most things. Especially chocolate, which I don’t eat even though I really love it. Especially the 90% cocoa chocolate – and there’s no “it’s so rich I can only have one piece” nonsense for me. I can eat a lot of it. Oh yes.

I find it easier to abstain from sweet things than to have small amounts. When I was kicking the sugar habit I fell off the wagon by having unexpected sweet things dropped into my lap and, as soon as I’d said yes once, the next opportunity (or walk past into the bakery) was easier to say yes to, and the next time was even easier, and I very quickly fell back into eating sugary treats on pretty much a daily basis again.

Now if I say yes to something chocolate or sweet, it’s usually because I’ve thought about it and I’ve made a conscious decision to eat it, enjoy it at the time, and for that to be the end of it. Not to think, “well I had chocolate yesterday, so I might as well have some today as well because I’ve already busted the no-sugar rule”. It’s become easier to regulate this the longer I’ve stayed on the no-sugar wagon.

Gretchen Rubin puts it like this:

If I never do something, it requires no self-control for me; if I do something sometimes, it requires enormous self-control. If I try to be moderate, I exhaust myself debating, “Today, tomorrow?” “Does this time ‘count’?” etc.

This is me. If I’ve made the decision that something is off-limits, that decision is made, there’s no temptation and I don’t feel deprived. (Although I can and do make a rare decision to have a dessert, which I decide deliberately and knowing that this is a one-time special.)

In the same vein, I’ve found it easier to give up alcohol entirely for a month than I think it would have been to have limited myself to one drink a day (for example). The decision was made. No booze. I didn’t have to think about it again. And that’s why I say it wasn’t really hard to do.

So where to from here?

Well I’m not quitting drinking, even though I’ve noticed benefits of giving it up. I never get a hangover, or even that seedy feeling from just one too many. I think I have more energy. I feel less weighty.

What I want to do from now on is stick with my previous intention not to drink on a school night – or at the very least not to drink after I get home on a school night, because, you know, occasional lunches and dinners out might call for a beverage or two. This might be pushing my abstainer personality to the extreme, but I’m going to see how setting limits works.

As I said in a previous post, drinking on a school night was contributing to me staying up too late, so to help me in moderating my intake on the nights I do decide to have a drink, Challenge #3 is starting on 1 July. It’s a work in progress, and I have a bit more work on what that’s going to involve before I can post about it.

But for now (well tomorrow actually, which I think will end up being Friday because no beer on a school night), I’m looking forward to a beverage that’s been sitting in the fridge waiting for me for over three weeks!

Here endeth the challenge.