Silence

Today I picked up a copy of the free magazine published by Penguin Books, underline, which had a feature on a book called Silence: In the Age of Noise by the Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge. I had never heard of Mr Kagge before today, but according to the magazine, he is the first person to walk to the South Pole alone and has also climbed Mt Everest and travelled to the North Pole.

20171126 SilenceI was most fascinated to read that he had explored the underground sewers of New York and he had walked from one end of Los Angeles to the other in four days – slowly, staying in hotels along the way – attracting the attention of the police as he went. In another article I read, he said that the police thought it was really suspicious for someone to be walking around because the only people they saw walking were “crackheads, prostitutes, and crazy people”.

That really blew me away. I cannot imagine a place where walking around was so unusual that the cops would think you were up to something. I love walking and exploring on foot. It’s what I do. It’s part of my identity. A journey like that would have been fascinating. To have taken four days to explore 35 kilometres.

The magazine had an extract from Mr Kagge’s book, which had me captivated from the first word. I need to read this book. I will be going to the bookshop on Monday to see if they have it. The whole extract spoke to me, but two passages really stood out.

“The secret to walking to the South Pole is to put one foot in front of the other, and to do this enough times. On a purely technical scale this is quite simple. Even a mouse can eat an elephant if it takes small enough bites. The challenge lies in the desire.”

As I was reading, I thought that this summed up exactly the struggle I have every day to try and ingrain the good habits I want to have in my life. Technically, it’s simple. Do the thing enough times, day after day, consistently and you build a habit that sticks. But until you’ve done it enough times to make it stick (and the 21-days theory is complete bullshit in my experience) you have to have the desire. And when the desire for another whisky outweighs the desire for a 10pm bedtime, you’re (I’m) in trouble, and the bad habit, rather than the good one, is reinforced.

“On the 27th day I wrote: ‘Antarctica is still distance and unknown for most people. As I walk along I hope it will remain so. Not because I begrudge many people experiencing it, but because Antartica has a mission as an unknown land.’ I believe that we need places that have not been fully explored and normalised. There is still a continent that is mysterious and practically untouched, ‘that can be a state within one’s fantasy’. This may be the greatest value of Antarctica for my three daughters and generations to come.”

This made me think of the desire within Tasmania to “unlock” more of this precious state to commercial ventures that would allow more people to experience our wild places but at the cost of the pristineness of those places. It’s a practical example of the observer principle. Observing something changes its nature. To open up these places to more people changes the fundamental thing that makes them worth seeing in the first place.

(You know I gave in to the desire for another whisky, right?)

I can’t wait to read the book. Silence is something that I crave, and learning to find it as Mr Kagge did “beneath the cacophony of traffic noise and thoughts, music and machinery, iPhones and snowploughs” (maybe not snowploughs) is something I would love to explore more.

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Accountability – Week 7

Here are last week’s results.

8 glasses of water 4/7
12,000 steps 7/7
10 min morning walk 7/7
Meditate 7/7
Breathing (3x a day) 2/7
No sugar 6/7
No alcohol (M-T) 3/4
Screens off 9.30 (M-T) 3/4
Bed by 10.00 (M-T) 3/4
Bed by 11.00 (F-S) 1/3
Daily gratitude 7/7

This is okay. It’s looking a lot better than this week’s table is going to look. I don’t think I’ll say any more!

Accountability

Since my last post seven weeks ago – I can’t believe it’s been that long – I’ve been quietly plugging away at maintaining some habits that are slightly healthy.

The no sugar plan is going well. Apart from a dash of maple syrup on my Sunday morning pancakes, which I had to make to use up the excess sourdough starter from my bread-making experiments, I’ve been added-sugar-free for over two months now. (*applause*)

I’ve also been doing well on the “I don’t drink alcohol on a school night” and “I go to bed by 10 pm on a school night” habits too. I’ve built these habits by using Gretchen Rubin’s “Strategy of Identity”, which I talked about in this post.

(If you don’t want to go back and read it, the TL:DR version is, “Your habits reflect your identity, so if you struggle to change a particular habit, rethink your identity”. Thus: I am a person who doesn’t drink alcohol on a school night and goes to bed by 10 pm. Hooray!)

I finally got back into walking in the mornings. About two months ago I got a cold, followed by a sinus infection and I was out of action for almost two weeks. It was horrible. I can’t remember the last time I was that unwell. I spent most of those two weeks in bed, so going out for my morning walks was out of the question. By the time I felt better, the idea of getting out of bed at 5 am to go for a walk didn’t appeal one little bit. It was cold, my bed was warm and I needed to make sure I was completely recovered, so I’d better not start getting up for a walk until summer right?

Yeah, nah.

By the end of July, I was starting to feel like I needed to wrench myself out of the comfortable rut I was in before I got so comfortable I undid everything I’d achieved before I got sick. I drew a line under the previous six weeks and gave myself permission to start again.

My first port of call was (not surprisingly) Gretchen Rubin again and, specifically, her “strategy of monitoring“. She says, “Monitoring . . . doesn’t require change, but it often leads to change, because people who keep close track of just about anything tend to do a better job of managing it.” The theory goes that if you measure what you’re doing, you’ll become more aware of what you’re doing and, if you’re more aware of what you’re doing, you’ll be more likely to control yourself.

So I sat down and thought about the habits I wanted to re-establish: morning walks, regular bedtime, alcohol-free school nights, taking breathing breaks during the day and hitting my 12,000 daily step target (which was easy enough on workdays, but some on some weekends I’d not even been reaching 5,000 steps), as well as some non-fitness related habits. I set up a nifty spreadsheet to track my progress over the month of August and started tracking.

After four weeks, it looked like this:

Habit 24 July 31 July 7 Aug 14 Aug
8 glasses of water 7/7 7/7 7/7 7/7
12,000 steps 4/7 5/7 6/7 7/7
10 min morning walk 6/7 7/7 7/7 7/7
Meditate 7/7 7/7 7/7 7/7
Breathing (3x a day) 7/7 5/7 7/7
No sugar 7/7 6/7 6/7 7/7
No alcohol (M-T) 4/4 4/4 4/4 4/4
Screens off 9.30 (M-T) 0/4 4/4 4/4 4/4
Bed by 10.00 (M-T) 3/4 4/4 4/4 4/4
Daily gratitude 7/7 7/7 7/7 7/7

So this is working well.

I’ve decided that to keep myself accountable I’ll post each week’s chart on here. Then, if you feel so inclined, you can call me out when I miss a day. Or, perhaps more to the point, I’ll feel less inclined to skip a day if I know I have to admit I didn’t stick to a habit.

The second part of the monitoring I’ve been doing is keeping a food log. Ms Rubin observes that we tend to underestimate how much we eat, and I’ve found this to be true in the four weeks I’ve been doing this. I’ve also found that, despite my no sugar regimen, my diet isn’t as healthy as I thought it was.  Sigh.

Because I feel a whole lot more awkward about sharing a food log than I do about sharing my habit tracker, I think I should do it, just because knowing I’m making myself publicly accountable might be enough to reduce the likelihood of me making an unhealthy choice.  Also, it’s a bit of a comfort zone challenge. Remember them? Actually, it’s been just over a year since I did a 30-day comfort day challenge. Maybe that’s something I can dig out and do again too.

Some planning is in order! Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

No sugar update – day 29

Today is Day 29 of my 30-day reset of not eating sugary snacks and treats. It’s gone surprisingly well.

When I started my mission get back into my no sugar lifestyle, I imagined that I’d slowly cut out one day’s treat over a period of several weeks and that by the end of it I’d be back on track. My first steps were to make sure I had something else to eat in place of my Monday afternoon snack, to remove any cash from my wallet that might make it easy to buy something I didn’t want, should I accidentally wander into a bakery or coffee shop.

After a couple of weeks of this I found that, even on the days I was allowed to have an unhealthy snack, I didn’t want to, so the 30-day reset began. In contrast to previous attempts at this, I’ve found the last 29 days to be quite easy and I haven’t really missed the cakes and chocolate.

I wondered why this was, because in the past it’s been really hard and I’ve struggled.

I think that because I’ve had several long periods where I haven’t eaten sugar, my body knows that this is my “normal”, so once I made the decision to go back to this and started to not eat cakes and chocolate, my body accepted it quite easily. I guess it knows that I am someone who doesn’t eat refined sugar, which is exactly the person I want to be.

I know some people think that cutting out something is a bit extreme and that most things in moderation are okay. The theory goes that if you completely deny yourself something, you’ll feel like you’re missing out and you’ll end up binging on the [forbidden thing], which would be worse for you than allowing yourself to have it occasionally.

Gretchen Rubin discusses this in Better Than Before. She says that some people do better by completely abstaining, because they find this easier than having the [forbidden thing] in moderation – for “abstainers”, having just a bit is almost impossible. Once they have opened the biscuit packet they’ll eat the whole lot. They won’t have one, and put the packet away until tomorrow.

As an abstainer herself, Ms Rubin notes that when abstainers deprive themselves of the [forbidden thing], they “conserve energy and will-power because there are no decisions to make and no self-control to muster”. They don’t have to decide whether to have (or do) the thing, then decide how much of the thing they will have (or do) and finally make themselves stop consuming (or doing) the thing. The decision is already made, and they can go on with their day.

She notes that someone can be an abstainer in relation to some things, but can be a “moderator” – someone for whom “everything in moderation” works well – for others. I might be an abstainer in relation to sugar, but a moderator in relation to alcohol, for example. So I’ll eat the whole block of chocolate, but I can have one glass of wine at lunch time and not spend the rest of the afternoon drinking. Unless I make a conscious choice to.

Ms Rubin notes that successful habit changes involve coordinating multiple strategies, and she gives an example of how she combined abstaining with other strategies to change her eating habits. For me, I can see how I have combined the strategy of abstaining (from sugar) with the strategy of identity (I am a person who doesn’t eat sugar) to change this particular habit. (I mentioned this strategy in this post.)

So this was an easy 30-day challenge for me – but it was only easy because of earlier work I’d done. I imagine that I’ll have more slip-ups in the future, but I hope that this experience of quite easily falling back into a healthy pattern will mean that the slip-ups aren’t frequent and aren’t as long-lived as this one was.

And here’s an unrelated picture of one of my chickens, as I contemplate what my next 30-day challenge will be.

20170701 Chook

Tassievore eat local feast – challenge wrapup

Last weekend I held my Tassievore Eat Local Challenge feast for my family. I invited my mum, Lil Sis and Mr Tall to join us.

It’s the second time I’ve done one of these feasts, and I really enjoyed doing it. As a rule I don’t like to cook, but when it’s on a weekend and it’s something I can devote several hours to doing, rather than a rushed mid-week dinner, I do enjoy it because it becomes a bit of an event that I can totally immerse myself in.

As organisers of the challenge, Sustainable Living Tasmania (SLT) suggested that during the feast we have conversation about eating locally, and they had some specific questions for hosts and guests to answer. Here are my answers:

What did you enjoy most about hosting a feast?
I enjoyed it all, from planning the menu, cooking the dishes and sharing them with my family. I was a bit worried that local produce might be harder to source in early winter than it had been in autumn, last time I did the challenge, but I was able to find everything I needed in the end.

Would you do it again?
Yes I would. I didn’t go a huge way outside my comfort zone, and stuck with dishes I knew I could cook, rather than try something new on unsuspecting guests and have it turn out badly. So I might become more adventurous over the next 12 months and turn out some new dishes next time.

Were there any negatives of the experience?
No. My biggest worry was not being able to find locally grown vegetables that I needed.

Is there anything that could be better or that the Tassievore Eat Local Challenge could do to support your local food journey?
As a meticulous, routinised meal planner (because most of the time I hate making meal plans and grocery lists) I would like to see more resources available around seasonal meal plans using produce that is available each month/season, as well as suggestions for substitutes if you can’t find particular vegetables in season when you need them. For example if you have a recipe that needs three or four types of vegetable and there’s one that you can’t get the local version of, what could you substitute for it?

Overall, how would you rate your experience of hosting your Living Local Feast?
5/5 – fantastic. Good food, good company, good wine.

SLT also suggested some conversation starters, which we didn’t cover in a lot of detail at the feast, but I did follow up with my guests later, and here’s a few of the points we came up with.

Did you learn anything new about what local food is available in Tasmania?
I learned that there is such a thing as Tasmanian goats milk feta. I wasn’t aware that there was an Tasmanian-made feta, so I’m glad to know this.

Do you think you will try to eat more Tasmanian food as a result of this feast?
The people that answered “no” said that they already try to eat as much Tasmanian food as they can.

Do you think about the origin of food when you are shopping and eating?
Most of us said that we did, and one person said that they will ask about whether produce is locally grown before they buy it.

How easy do you think it would be to eat mostly Tasmanian for a day/week/month/year/forever?
One person said that, other than a few exceptions, it’s quite easy to eat mostly Tasmanian most of the time. Others said they already try to do this. I think that if I was well-organised and had a good feel for what was available at what times, and had a good repertoire of dishes that didn’t rely on produce that wasn’t able to be grown locally, it would be fairly easy to have a mostly Tasmanian-grown diet, especially if I grew some things that I use regularly myself.

One area where I’d definitely fall down would be days I want to cook things like curries where I need spices that we can’t grow here (and coconut products, which I use a lot of), and things that I use year-round that don’t store well (or that can be stored but that I run out of before they come back into season – or that I don’t have room to store).

What are the problems with eating locally or supporting local business?
People noted that this can be more expensive and that some things can be difficult to source, either because they have a short season or because they aren’t grown in Tasmania.

One example that comes to mind is olive oil, which I use a lot of. Tasmanian olive oil is fantastic, but it’s very expensive, as I think most of the producers are relatively small scale, boutique producers who focus on quality over quantity.

According to a fact sheet produced by the Department of Primary Industries

“Tasmania’s cooler climate allows for a longer growing season than the mainland, and while this provides better quality fruit, it also typically generates lower yields . . . The majority of the production volume from Tasmania is sourced from smaller scale operations developed around key niche markets. Many of these products carry branding extensions which command premium prices in the market.”

So, if you’re not in a position to pay a premium price for this, it’s unlikely you could commit to eating only Tasmanian olive oil. While I do buy small quantities of it for specific purposes, I don’t buy only Tasmanian olive oil.

What would make it easier for you to shop/eat locally?
I think the key is both in being more organised but also being flexible. If I can base my meal plans around what locally-grown produce is in season and, therefore, most likely to be available, it shouldn’t be too difficult. But then I also need alternatives – which I might not always know I’ll need until I’m at the shop – in case something isn’t available. And this has the potential to upset my plans!

I like the way some stores label their fruit and veg bins so you know whether the product is locally grown, from the mainland or imported. Eumarrah gets a big gold star from me for this, because they go further and often provide the locality the produce is from.

I think the Farm Gate Market in Hobart also provides this information in their weekly newsletter on what’s available at the market each week.

These are my initial thoughts, and it’s an area I certainly want to explore further.

So over to you – what do you think? If you have any thoughts, feel free to leave me a comment or if you have any ideas for the broader Tassievore community I’m sure they’d love to hear from you. You can contact Sustainable Living Tasmania here.

If you’re looking for ideas on how to eat more local produce, the Tassievore website has some great resources for sourcing local food, including the Local Food Store and Market Directory.

Tassievore eat local challenge – feast day!

Yesterday was feast day!

I learned last time I held a Tassievore feast not to be too ambitious. I’d thought about including a dessert on the menu like I did last time, but decided in the end it would make things too busy for me. I could have made a cold dessert ahead of time, if I’d really wanted to, but I’m trying to cut back on sugar, so I ditched that idea too.

Last week I learned that proving my bread dough for too long and in too warm a room leads to bread that is edible, but visually unappealing. It basically spread out like a pancake. So this time I left it for a shorter time and kept it in a cooler room, and baked it at about 10.00 am.

20170528 Flatbread combo

Last week’s Loaf of Disaster

If you read my earlier post on the sourdough class I went to in March with Kate from Garden Shed & Pantry, you might remember the drama I had with the 12+ year old oven. We have fixed the problem with a shiny new oven, which is making cooking so much easier, and I’m glad we got it in time for this weekend.

The result was much improved. At least it looked OK.

20170603 Tassievore 14 Sourdough IG

At the class, Kate explained how the climate affects the properties of the flour, and the end result can be dramatically different in terms of texture if you use flour from a colder climate (like Tasmania) rather than the flour she recommends that’s from a much hotter part of the country. However, the challenge was to use Tasmanian produce, so I stocked up on some Callington stoneground flour that was designed for bread making, and looked at the whole thing as a an experiment.

I let the beef bones simmer away in the slow cooker for a few more hours, before straining it into a pot and letting it reduce. I have no idea how concentrated I’ve made it or what size portions I should freeze it in, but at least I now have beef stock.

20170603 Tassievore 16 Final beef stock

My plan was to serve:

  • Dips, carrot sticks and vegetables when the guests arrived
  • Pumpkin soup and bread as an entree
  • Roast beef with side dishes of pumpkin and beetroot salad, and honey-glazed carrots
  • Cheese, pinot paste and crackers for afters

I was originally only going to do one dip, the smoked salmon one, but as I had more beetroot than I needed for the salad I decided to do a beetroot dip as well. That involved roasting the beetroot, stick blending it and combining it with yogurt and garlic.

A lot of the afternoon was spent cutting up the pumpkin and the other beetroot for the soup and the salad. Cutting up a whole pumpkin isn’t something I do very often, and every time I do it, I remember why I don’t do it. I didn’t lose any fingers so that’s a bonus.

20170603 Tassievore 15 Pumpkin IG

I let the soup cook all afternoon, while I got the other dishes ready. For the chicken stock, I used what I had in the freezer. Whenever we have roast chicken I save the bones and, when I have a bag full in the freezer, I throw them in the slow cooker for 12 hours or so to make a basic stock.

My aim was to serve the beef at about 7.30. It needed about two hours to cook (I like mine well done), so it needed to come out of the fridge at about 5pm. A minor disaster hit when I couldn’t find the mustard I’d bought the day before for the topping.

Catastrophe averted when I found a jar of Tasmanian Rainforest mustard in the cupboard. This is from Hill Farm in Sisters Creek, and no one can remember where or when we bought it, but I’m very glad we did!

20170603 Tassievore 19 Beef Combo

Once the beef was in, it was simply a matter of remembering to put the vegetables in with enough time for them to be ready at the same time as the beef. I always forget that the beetroot takes a lot less time than the pumpkin when I make this salad, so I always end up with overdone pumpkin. One day I’ll learn.

The honey-glazed carrots included honey we got from one of Slabs’ workmates, who has his own hives. That’s definitely the Tassievore spirit!

The night was fun. I saw somewhere that it was World Cider Day, so Slabs had picked us up some from Wille Smiths.  I don’t know who decides these things but I’m not going to complain.

20170603 Tassievore 20 Cider IG

World Cider Day! Yay!

The bread was fine. It was a lot denser in texture than bread made from the flour Kate recommends, but still very good.  And the beef (with the dodgy red wine sauce – the reason I made the beef stock) was great.

20170603 Tassievore 22 Soup & bread IG

We had to serve the soup in mugs because we don’t have enough soup bowls

20170603 Tassievore 23 Beef IG

Mustard roast beef

20170603 Tassievore 24 Main IG

Main course

We concluded the night with a selection of cheeses from Pyengana and Udderly Tasmanian, a pinot paste from Grandvewe and the crackers I made on Friday, which went soggy overnight, so I had to refresh them by re-baking them.

20170603 Tassievore 25 Cheese IG

Demolished cheese platter

In the end I was too focused on getting all the food together rather than having a discussion about some of the questions that the Tassievore people suggested as conversation starters in relation to eating locally. Although we did learn that you can buy Tasmanian feta – as used in the pumpkin and beetroot salad. Westhaven does a goats milk feta, which worked really well in this dish (along with the Tasmanian walnuts, which I substituted for the pine nuts in the recipe).

I’m going to reflect on the questions that Tassievore has posed and put some thoughts together in another post, as I think this is already long enough.

Thanks to Sustainable Living Tasmania and the Tassievore Eat Local Challenge for putting this opportunity out there. It’s definitely something I’m keen to continue being involved with in the future.

The recipes
Salmon dip
Beetroot dip
Pumpkin soup: I have been using the recipe for years. I originally found it in the instruction book for a stick blender that broke years ago.
Roast beef: Adapted from Cape Grim Beef’s recipe
Roast pumpkin and beetroot salad
Honey-glazed roast carrots

Tassievore eat local challenge – feast day 1

A few weeks ago Sustainable Living Tasmania launched the Living Local Feast challenge. Having been a keen participant in Tassievore Eat Local Challenge in 2014, which culminated in an actual dinner party, I toyed with signing up again this year. Lil Sis strongly encouraged me asked me if I was going to do it and, motivated by the chance to win a Tassievore gift pack if I was one of the first 20 to register, I decided to give it another go.

As in 2014, my challenge is to “invite your nearest and dearest around to your house for a meal cooked with mostly Tasmanian produce”. It struck me that it might be more difficult to do this than it had been in March 2014 because we are moving into winter and there might not be as much locally grown vegetables around.

I was very excited when Lissa from Sustainable Living Tasmania emailed to tell me I was one of the lucky 20 to win a Tassievore gift pack.

20170512 Tassievore Feast Pack IG

Now I had no excuses!

I contacted my family and arranged a date when everyone was free, and started menu planning. Being somewhat conservative, despite my motto of colouring outside the lines, I ended up with a menu not too far departed from my 2014 menu. But there’s enough new stuff to keep me on my toes.

Today was devoted to sourcing my local produce so that I don’t have to rely on our weekly grocery shop tomorrow for Tassie-grown vegetables.

I started my day at Huon Valley Meats in Goulburn Street, where I picked up my main course and some condiments.

20170602 Tassievore 02 Huon Valley Meats

My next stop was Eumarrah in Barrack Street, which I had sussed out earlier in the week and knew they would have most of the vegetables and some of the dairy I needed. I only had a minor panic when I couldn’t see the Tasmanian pumpkins, which are a key ingredient in two of my dishes. But I found them eventually, once I turned around and looked in the corner. *huge sigh of relief*

I had a great time carrying seven kilos of meat and vegetables into work. (I actually didn’t enjoy this. Who would have thought.)

At lunchtime, I went to Salamanca Fresh to pick up most of the rest of the ingredients I needed. All I have left now are a couple of minor things that, if I don’t get them, I can work around.

I ended up with an impressive haul for the day.

20170602 Tassievore 07 Today's haul IG

Today’s tasks were:

1. To start off some sourdough bread – the challenge here being to use Tasmanian flour rather than the (not Tasmanian) flour that was recommended on the course I recently attended.

20170602 Tassievore 01 Sourdough Starter IG

The dough is now proving so that I can bake it some time tomorrow morning.

2. Make crackers using the recipe from Tassievore. It wasn’t until I re-read the recipe I realised butter wasn’t part of it.

20170602 Tassievore 08 Crackers

Also I am not 100% sure that South Cape is Tasmanian, but the address on the label said Burnie, and I couldn’t find any Ashgrove or Elgaar parmesan, so it’s the best I can do. I think 2 teaspoons of cheese is OK.

Here’s how the crackers turned out.

20170602 Tassievore 09 Crackers

3. Make beef stock.

Here we have beef bones from my lovely friends at Two Metre Tall roasted in the oven for a couple of hours and transferred to the slow cooker, where they will simmer overnight and give me a beautiful rich beef stock tomorrow.

So my dough is proving, my stock is cooking, and I have a lot of things to do tomorrow before my guests arrive.

I’ll be Instagramming my preparation until things get crazy busy, and using the hashtag #tassivorefeast there (@straightlinesgirl) and on Twitter (@straitlinesgirl) if you want to follow the fun.