A bit of this and that...with added frangipani.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Getting Back Into the Pool

Getting Back Into the Pool

Mr9 has taken swim lessons since he was a baby. Eventually he grew to hate it. He couldn't stand the shouty swim instructors always telling him he should go faster. When he got to Year 2, I'd had enough of the whingeing every time swimming lessons were on, so I said that he could take a year off, but that he'd have to go back after a year. That was two years ago.

Earlier this year, while he was swimming in a friend's pool, I noticed that his first instinct, if he wanted to get anywhere, was to just go underwater and push off from the side. He could get by, but he'd need a refresher course if he was going to have freestyle as his go-to swimming stroke.

When I was his age, I could barely lift my feet off the bottom of the pool, but then again, I lived in Canada and apart from a few short weeks of summer, there wasn't great opportunity for swimming. That changed when I moved to Sri Lanka and we were in the rec centre pool daily. We had a six-week course of swim lessons in PE class and before long, I was a fish. We even learned synchronised swimming - can you picture me in a flowery swimming cap? Nah, we didn't have to wear one of those, but it would have been funny, though I wouldn't have thought so at the time. 

It's amazing to me that I could learn to swim in such a short period of time, but my son who has been taking swimming lessons for years, is still learning. I suppose it's a timing issue. I've heard that kids can't master all the actions, required for swimming proper strokes, until they are at least six. Seeing as I let him stop shortly after that age, it explains a lot.

Anyway, I'm pleased to report that his freestyle is coming along nicely, and he just needs to work on his breastroke. I kind of lied to him in that I said he'd only have to swim for the first term, but as I sign him up for another term, he's not complaining. I think he likes his instructor, because she says he's very strong and she doesn't nag him to go fast.

When did you learn how to swim? How long did it take to learn? Ever tried sychronised swimming?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sometimes, I AM the expert.

Recently something went wrong with the shopping cart set-up for one of my clients. I support my clients with their email broadcasts and newsletters and have done for years, but I am not experienced in setting up a shopping cart from scratch. It's something I've always left to the 'experts'. Anyway, we realised that something was wrong when an order was placed, but no money came in to pay for the order.

I looked at the settings and nothing looked awry. I did research on the support website to see if somehow I had accidentally altered some settings. The support website was offering little support. I tried to log a support ticket, but received error messages. I tried to contact the company via their email address and received bounce-back messages. Every direction I turned, there seemed to be a roadblock. It was getting to be source of stress for me as I wracked my brain trying to solve this problem, all the while wondering if I had done something wrong to cause the problem in the first place.

I was contemplating reaching out to the VA community to see if I could find someone with more experience than me to help. There was still one thing I hadn't tried on my own - to call the shopping cart company. There is a time difference and the timing was never right, but on the Tuesday after the long weekend, I got on the phone and talked to a techie.

He suggested obscure workarounds (ie never in a million years would the average person think to try that) and changed some settings on his end in order to get things working. It was a success, and I was relieved to know that there was nothing I had done to cause the headache. I think some settings were lost with all the changes they've been making to their system recently.

It occurred to me later, that often I will refrain from trying new things or I will avoid touching things that I don't understand - because I'm no expert, you see. Sometimes, I am the only expert available, and there is no one to whom I can defer. Sometimes I just have to step up to the mark and try that new thing or fix that problem. Now, I know for some of you, you may be thinking, "What's the big deal?" A phone call might have been your first port-o-call.

I think that when you have been away from the mainstream workforce for a very long time, that your confidence in your abilities takes a hammering. As I try new things and find more and more things that I am good at, trust in myself is slowly building up. I love that feeling when I master a new skill or jump a hurdle that's in my way. I really don't know how I went on for so many years without experiencing that buzz. I suppose my challenges were about toilet training (the kids' not my own) and finishing the seemingly never-ending degree, but now my focus is shifting and I'm getting a great deal of satisfaction from meeting these challenges head-on. Slowly I am learning that in some things, I am the expert, and if I'm not, then I am resourceful enough to find one to help me.

Have you ever shied away from a problem thinking that you were ill-equipped to find the solution?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Flatfoot Blues

It's Sunday morning, and Will's had all of last week off as annual leave. He had plans to do all those things on his to-do list that are just too hard to get done during a normal work week.

Don't know how he's going with that, but I do think he's managed to tick off a few things, but equally as important is the fact that he's had a day where he didn't even get out of his PJs. The boys and I try to have a pyjama day at least once every school holidays. It's good for our mental health, and I don't see why Will shouldn't have a mental health day every once in a while too.

We've had Will's brother, Tom, staying with us since January, and he loves to cook. And we love to let him. I probably haven't cooked more than one or two meals since he arrived. So, since Will and the boys have been on holidays, we've scrummy lunches as well as dinners. I don't think I'm going to be able to fit any of my clothes anymore.

Will has to return to work tomorrow, and today, I had thought we might go to a new place we've never been to before - the Tarzali Lakes. Unfortunately, Will had an attack of hayfever last night and didn't get a wink of sleep. He's finally sleeping now, and I definitely won't wake him. 

If he's feeling up to it later, we might go somewhere more local for the afternoon. We just need to get out of the house and to do something in nature. I miss taking photos and feel like we haven't gone bushwalking in years.

It might be a while longer though as moving around is getting to be difficult. Apparently I have something called a calcaneal spur on my right foot - my flat-footedness is having some negative side affects. I can walk, but afterwards I end up hobbling around, because it hurts to put downward pressure on my heel. Weirdly, it's the worst when I first get up, after a night of resting it, or when I've been sitting for a while, not using it at all. Unfortunately, the remedy is pretty lame: use it less, take anti-inflammatory drugs and put extra cushioning in my shoes. 

This last one will be difficult as I tend to wear thongs the majority of time (stupid, I know), but I do notice it is less painful when I wear my runners, so I'm going to be reliving my youth and wearing my New Balance running shoes with everything. You remember that scene in Working Girl where Melanie Griffith wears running shoes with her business suit as she walks the streets of Manhattan to get to her office job? I remember doing that in Sydney. I cringe now at the thought of it - do people still do that? Anyway, I will surely be the height of fashion, at least now that I work from home, it doesn't matter what I wear. I can wear workout gear to match my workout shoes and no one will know the difference, except for the fact that my arse will be getting bigger instead of smaller, with all the non-exercise and eating of the brother-in-law's cooking.

Ah well, I can always take up swimming again and politely decline the brownies that Tom's planning on making later this week. What do you think the chances of that are?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

FYLP - George Ezra

I've been crazy busy these past few weeks. This is usually my quietest time of year in my business, but this year, I'm in fear of spontaneously combusting for all the work that's coming my way, with more coming down the pipeline. When I started my business, I never really thought about what I would do when the work got too much. I'm going to have to start thinking about it now - that's for sure.

It is invigorating though. I love that I'm learning new things everyday and I'm given free reign to have play. I only wish there was a way to clone myself so that I can do all the things I want to. I've become interested in producing visual content for my clients' blog posts and social media, and my 'spare' time is spent fiddling in PicMonkey or Canva. Finally, I get to do something creative in my work and it makes me silly happy when I create something new - even if it IS only an image to accompany a blog post about taxation or retirement planning!

The days are long, with the computer only being shut off at 11 pm at night, and insomnia forcing my eyes open at 3 or 4 am, but at least I have something to keep me occupied in those quiet pre-dawn moments.

What I do get to do while I'm working on my computer is listen to music, and one of my favourite songs to play is this one by George Ezra. Have no idea what he's saying, and I'm too lazy to look up the lyrics, but it's got a cool sound and I could listen to it on repeat.

Have a listen to Budapest and tell me what you think of it:

Sunday, February 15, 2015

FYLP - Paloma Faith

Recently our good friends returned from a holiday in the UK, and as they usually do when they visit their home country, they bought a variety of new music to listen to. I think it's something to do with the fact that many songs become popular in the UK way before they ever hit Australia - they like to have the finger on the pulse of the music scene. Now that we all have kids, any little reminder that we once had a life that didn't involve kid-friendly venues and 8 o'clock curfew, is a welcome one. Anyway, they mentioned that they had bought the Paloma Faith album.

I'd heard her music before. I remembered that I liked the few songs I'd heard of hers, and didn't think much more about it, until Friday when I was driving into town. I had the radio on, and a song came on that I hadn't heard before. It gave me chills. The soulful sound, to my ears, was like the taste of rich dark chocolate on the tongue. It compelled me to pull over to the side of the road, dig out my phone, and Shazam that tune. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was a song by Paloma Faith.

This is my favourite song now, and I may just follow in my friends' footsteps and download her album. Santa gave me an iTunes card that I haven't yet redeemed, and this seems the perfect reason to do so. Here's Paloma Faith with Only Love Can Hurt Like This.

So do you like this song? Is it your kind of music?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sunday Afternoon

During the whole time we spent in Fiji, we didn't turn the air conditioner on once. It sat collecting dust on the ledge overlooking the lounge room of our villa. The fans were enough. At night, I would even feel the need to pull the bedspread up over me, and I often woke to find that Will had crawled under as well.

Then when we returned home, the wall of humidity hit us. The first thing we did, after giving the house an airing out, was to shut everything up again and to switch on the little air conditioner - the one installed over my desk. It is our main source of cool as the large antiquity we call our living room aircon, doesn't blow cold air and simply wastes electricity if we resort to using it.

Yesterday, it was so hot and humid. I could feel perspiration trickle down my back as I prepared our breakfast. Even standing under the working air conditioner did nothing to alleviate the discomfort of the wet summer heat.

I longed to dive in the deep end of the pool at the villa in Pacific Harbour once again. Instead, we put our towels in a bag, hopped in the car and headed for a local swimming hole at Stoney Creek. We found a parking spot and trudged through the rainforest for a short distance until we came to our favourite spot - a deep pool surrounded by large boulders, fed by a small cascade of water.

Didn't take my camera, but here's a photo I prepared earlier.

There was no ooh-ah-ing our way into the cool water this time, we just picked our way across the rocks and dived straight into the deepest part of the swimming hole. Ah! What a relief! We spent some time letting the small waterfall splash over our heads, and I floated on my back and looked up through the canopy at the sky.

A little later, as I sat on a large rock watching the fish gather as a boy and his father threw scraps to them, I felt a big plop of rain on my arm, and then another, and then another. I hurried to stow our towels and car keys under an overhanging rock and returned to my perch to watch my kids try to drown their dad, while the rain pattered on their already-wet heads.

Then the thunder rolled in, and my peaceful feeling turned to feelings of anxiety as I thought of the possible lightning that could be accompanying the thunder. Then I thought about the possibility of flash flooding and our usual (and now broken) rule of not swimming in the creeks during the wet season. I asked Will if perhaps it was time to call it a day, and he asked for five minutes more. 

I was starting to get a chill, sitting there on my boulder, so I figured what the hell, and jumped back into the water, with the hope that in the water it would be slightly warmer than sitting in the rain. It was pleasant, but I never really lost the goosebumps on my arm, so I climbed back out and rounded up my family.

We headed back through the forest to our car. We laid our towels on our seats and headed home in our wet swimmers. As we were driving along, I saw steam rising from the bonnet and wondered if our old car was having issues. Then I realised the steam wasn't coming from our car, but from the road. The weather had been so hot before we had our swim, that when the rain hit it, it turned to steam, like throwing water on a hot frying pan.

When we got home, we all had refreshing showers, turned on the aircon in our bedroom, and hibernated for the rest of the afternoon watching DVDs - a perfect way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Cooking with Gas

After a full day of productive work, I was proud of my day's efforts and had a little energy left, so I decided to make a nice risotto with chorizo, sundried tomatoes and asparagus.

As the second cup of chicken stock sizzled in the pan of arborio rice, the lights flickered. Then they went out. A quick inspection of our fuse box told us that it was not just a circuit blown, and we'd have some time to wait before power was restored.

If you know risotto, you know that in order for the rice to be cooked without sticking, it needs to be heated and stirred constantly, while adding in the stock one cup at a time, until it is all absorbed by the rice. Unfortunately as we have an electric stove, it meant that the heat under my pan was fleeing quickly.

No problem! Will just whipped out our little gas stove from the bottom of the cyclone kit, and before you knew it, I was 'cooking with gas'. In my rush to get the pan on heat once again, I didn't have the forethought to set up my emergency cooking station in a place where most of the daylight remained, so I stood there in the darkest part of the house, with my face over a hot stove, stirring risotto. My youngest has a headlamp that we bought him for playing around in the dark, so I borrowed it to shed some light on the situation.

The risotto came out beautifully, and we ate our meal in the sweltering heat of the dining room. It would have been cooler outside on the patio, but you know, mosquitoes. We didn't have enough time to get the mosquito coils going, and venturing outside at dusk is just offering yourself up as a tasty meal for the insects.

About 3/4 of the way through our dinner, the fan started to whir, and all the electronics made their beeping start-up sounds. We let out a sigh of relief and counted how many of the tealight candles we lit would be blown out by the oscillating fan. Oh and eventually we turned off the stove that had been left in the 'on' position when the power went out. Oops!

Do you ever have power outages in your area? Are you prepared or do you just wing it?
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