Ending the year with more than one NEW

Week 52: A new trail, a dance class and white water rafting

I was worried that I would have nothing for my last week of the year but instead I ended up walking a new trail, attending a Sh’bam dance class and bouncing my way through treacherous waters on my first white water expedition (ok, it wasn’t really treacherous nor was it an expedition but it’s the last day of the year so I can exaggerate a tad).

The first trail was a lovely walk from Rose Bay to Watson’s Bay in Sydney’s East. The day had started off quite dreary and overcast with even a light shower as we drove to Rose Bay. We questioned whether we should turn back home but decided to continue on. Lucky we did because the weather cleared up and even became somewhat warmer than we anticipated.

For the most part, the Rose Bay to Watson’s Bay walk hugs the coastline meaning we were treated not only to a gorgeous view of Sydney Harbour but also sneaky peeks at the mansions that share the view. We finished the walk in just over an hour and a half and then treated ourselves to a nice lunch at a little cafe overlooking Watson’s Bay (also a NEW).

The day after our walk, I decided on attending a new dance class at my local gym called Sh’bam. Sh’bam is a 45 minute dance workout incorporating dance moves from a number of genres including Latin American, hip-hop and even some good old-fashioned cowboy dance moves. For the most part, I managed to get myself coordinated enough to do the steps correctly and I didn’t feel out of place as all the women (bar one) were as uncoordinated or worse than me. I didn’t love the class nor did I hate it. I might add it to my exercise repettoire every now and then when I’m feeling bored.

The last and most exciting NEW for this week was experienced on the last day of the year and that was white water rafting at Penrith Whitewater stadium.

I was quite excited that we were finally going as it was one of the things on my list that I wanted to do earlier in the year but never go around to. I wasn’t nervous at all until we were given the safety talk. That’s when I started to feel shaky. The talk focused predominantly on what to do if you find yourself in the water. This included such possibilities as falling in, being swept down the river,  the raft flipping over and the one that had me freaked out the most was what to do if you find yourself submerged under the raft. These possibilities had me questioning why I had thought this was a good idea.

However, once we were on the raft and had gone through the first lap of rapids, my nerves dissipated and I began to enjoy the experience in earnest. Even after my brother-in-law fell in, I still felt confident in my ability to hold on tightly and not fall into the water.

I did however skip out on one of the experiences which was white water surfing which, we were told, had a high possibility of the raft tipping over. I stood on the edge of the river and watched my brother-in-law be tossed out of the raft and then rescued by rope. Dragan quickly followed and was sucked under the raft. I was very relieved to see his head pop up a few seconds later on the other side. Thankfully, Stefan and my nephew Nicky didn’t fall into the water which meant that I didn’t need to resist any maternal instinct to jump in to save them.

Back on the raft for another two rounds saw my brother-in-law take his third tumble into the water. He definitely copped the best dunking of the day!

I am happy to report that I managed to stay in the raft on all of the six laps of the circuit. A great way to finish the year.

52 NEW done and dusted.

Now to decide on next year’s adventure!

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Peruvian delights

Week 51: Testing our tastebuds at Peruvian restaurant, Lo Cocina Peruana

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We have been discussing the possibility of travelling to Peru next year to walk the Inca trail. During one of these discussions, I wondered what Peruvians eat so the obvious NEW this week was to go to a Peruvian restaurant.

We started our meal with two entrees to share: Papa Huancaina which was basically potatoes served with a yellow spiced feta cheese sauce. I quite enjoyed the spiciness of this sauce which had me reaching for my glass of water as beads of sweat started to form on my forehead.  The second entree was Tamales Peruanos: corn maize stuffed with pork. This had an interesting texture and a taste similar to beans.

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Corn maze stuffed with pork

potato entree dish

Papa Huancaina

 

I should have stopped eating after the entrees because I was already quite full but we had ordered mains as well as a quinoa salad so I pushed on. My main was Lomo saltado: a  Peruvian’s classic beef stir-fry with tomatoes , onions, chips and rice while Dragan had Arroz con pollo:  Chicken breast cooked in coriander, spinach, beer and pumpkin sauce served with risotto, salad and yuccas which the menu described as the ‘Tourist number one dish’.

While my main was quite tasty, I found that I couldn’t really enjoy it or even eat half of it as the entrees were more than enough.

Now I know what to expect when I arrive in Peru.

 

Ridding myself of an addiction

Week 50: No more Facebook

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I was an addict but am no longer. I am now officially a Facebook junkie in rehab.

The decision to delete my Facebook account did not come easy to me but it was a necessity.

Every morning, while eating my breakfast, I would plonk down my ipad  and scroll through my Facebook wall. If I could have left it at that, it would be have been ok.

But no!

I would check my Facebook page, not once, not twice but constantly throughout the day. Whenever I paused during work to think about what I was going to do next, my mouse would inevitably click on the Facebook tab which permanently sat open on my desktop.

Oh look! So and so’s friend’s daughter’s uncle’s next-door-neighbour’s dog died. Oh and little Johnny just received an award for smiling nicely. Wow! This person got a new haircut/new dress/new shoes and  now needs the world to acknowledge their great purchase. And what about those great motivational quotes and those funny cat and dog videos?

I was killing my brain cells, slowly, one post-at-a-time.

So I decided to reclaim my brain cells. This did not come without a LOT of resistance. How would I keep in touch with my friends (all 160 or so odd)? And that’s when it hit me! These people weren’t my friends! In the olden days, I would have lost contact with them and it wouldn’t have bothered me one tiny bit and yet, here I was pretending that somehow we had this special bond, this Facebook friendship that meant so very much to me… to us!

But it doesn’t.

They don’t really care about me and my posts just as much as I don’t really care that their little Johnny just got an award. I don’t mean to sound mean. It’s great that he got an award. I’m happy for him and his parents but in the scheme of things it’s not important to me so I’m letting little Johnny go.

Instead I’m going to spend time reviving my real friendships: those people who I really care about. The ones whose numbers I have stored in my phone and who I genuinely want to catch up with. We can talk and find out what is happening in our lives without a computer screen to divide us.

I’m not going to pretend it’s easy. But to get FB out of my system, I need to go cold turkey. I need to go through the withdrawals and feel the ache in my fingers as I resist the urge to type F..A..C..E..B..O..O..K into google. I’m determined to get through this rehab phase and come out victorious.

I will be a Facebook junkie no more!

 

Probiotic fest

Week 49: Kefir making workshop

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This is my 3rd cooking workshop this year. In fact, prior to this year, I had never been to a cooking workshop. This is not because I am a wonderful cook producing culinary masterpieces in the kitchen but rather because cooking has always been somewhat of a chore for me.

However, nutritional health has always interested me so all the cooking workshops I have been to this year have had “improving health” as their main focus. The kefir workshop was no different.

A prelude to the kefir workshop: After attending a fermentation workshop earlier in the year, I continued to make my own kombucha for a period of about 6 months. However I never drank more than one 250ml  bottle of the litre concoction I made each time. Realising I was wasting my time I decided to end my foray into the world of kombucha making and reluctantly threw my SCOBY into the bin. I say reluctantly because I was concerned about how I would get my hands on another SCOBY should the inclination to make kombucha return.

I thought I would have better luck with drinking Kefir (an even better probiotic) hence the reason I signed up for yet another workshop.

The workshop explored a variety of ways that Kefir can be incorporated into one’s diet including smoothies, ice-creams, salad dressings and even cheese.

I was excited to start my journey into becoming a maker of kefir but two days later I inadvertently threw out my kefir grains!

Looks like I’m back to buying store-bought Kefir.

Conquering my fear of heights

Week 48: Treetop adventures

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A few years ago, a treetops adventure park was set up about a 5 minute walk from our house. I didn’t express an interest in this activity because at the time I was lucid and clearly remembered that I have a fear of heights.

With the passing of years my memory has obviously become slightly foggy because when Dragan and I went walking one day and saw people zipping down from the trees on flying foxes, screaming in delight (or in some cases in horror), I exclaimed that I too would like to try this.

“Ooh, it looks like so much fun, let’s do it!”

Knowing me better than I know myself, Dragan questioned whether I’d be ok to be so high off the ground. I looked at him as though he was talking about someone else. Of course I’d be fine. These things are safe. I’ll be harnessed in. It looks like fun. I can’t wait!

To prove how keen I was, I purchased Dragan a gift voucher for the three of us for his birthday. I’m still wondering how I was able to justify buying him a gift for something that I wanted to do!

We arrived at our destination, like the booking said, 30 minutes before our 11 o’clock session. The day was heading to be a scorcher with a maximum temperature of 40C and it was already in the mid 30s by the time we were ready to begin.

We went through the obligatory training session which focused specifically on the clipping and unclipping of our harnesses. The safety mechanism built into the clips means there really is no way of falling to the ground as the participants are always harnessed to the wire cable by at least one clip.

Did this knowledge stop me when, at the third obstacle of the first course I came across a single cable which I needed to traverse to get to the opposite tree? Rationally, I knew I was safe, but did I care? As my legs and arms turned to jelly, I did what every scared shitless woman does in the same situation: cry.

DCIM100GOPROGetting ready to climb our first tree

“I can’t do this. You were right,” I blubbered to Dragan.

I didn’t realise at the time that I could be rescued by staff who work at Treetops so thought I had no option but to continue. With sweaty palms (and an equally sweaty body) I got onto the cable and, gripping onto the top cable for dear life, I inched my way across the three metre crossing for what seemed like an eternity.

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Scared out of my brain going across this obstacle!

 

I decided there and then that as soon as I got through this course and was safely back on the ground, I would be finished. I was 100% certain that I was not going to continue onto the other courses.

But once on the ground  I started to think that if I didn’t get back up there I hadn’t really achieved anything: I had not conquered my fears. If I didn’t climb the ladder and get myself onto the next course then I was letting my fears define me, as they had successfully defined me my whole life.

So I went back up. It was scary but I managed to get through the second course without reverting back to my previous blubbering mess.

I didn’t do the advanced red and black levels (which Dragan and Stef managed to finish) but I was happy that I did two out of the four courses. I wasn’t euphoric as I expected to be when I finished but I was happy: happy to be on the ground, alive. Happy that I persisted and did the second course when I felt like it was as insurmountable as climbing Mt Everest during a blizzard. But mainly I was happy that I pushed past my own beliefs about who I am and what I can do and in a small way, redefined the limits of my fear.

 

 

A massage like no other

Week 47: Ka Huna massage (Hawaiian style massage)

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I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I am not impartial to a good massage. In fact, it is the one of the only real luxuries that I enjoy.

However, I don’t usually treat myself to massages rather preferring to wait for a voucher from my husband who doesn’t understand why I like (in his words) “to have a stranger touch my body”! Waiting for a voucher however means that I receive a massage once, or maybe twice, a year.

I had read up on Hawaiian massage, specifically Ka Huna massage, and had put it on my list of NEW things to try. I had never heard of anyone offering this massage in my local area before so I was quite surprised to discover a massage therapist who specialises in this type of massage at the new yoga studio I started attending a few months ago.

I was hoping for a relaxing massage but what I received exceeded every expectation I had. This was unlike ANY massage I had ever had.

Ka Huna massage differs from other massages in that the practitioner doesn’t start on one body part  and then move methodically to the next part after an allocated period of time. Rather  Ka Huna massage is like a dance, a flowing rhythmic movement of touch from the head to the feet and back again sweeping over and over the body with no discernible  structure.

It was in these  flowing movements that I came to sense that this is how one is meant to be touched. This was meditation in its physical form. This was nothing short of bliss.

A sublime NEW which I am determined to repeat.

River crossings, amazing vistas and an escape from a forest full of zombies

Week 46: a drive to Lake Macquarie

Our son, Stefan, was away with friends and we were on our way to pick him up from Rafferty’s Resort, Lake Macquarie. Having never been there before we thought it was the perfect opportunity to take a scenic drive through unchartered terrain.

When my husband suggested we cross the Hawkesbury River via Wisemans Ferry, I was a bit concerned. I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t realise that the “ferry” at Wiseman’s Ferry wasn’t a real ferry at all.

I imagined a ferry like the ones at Circular Quay so was quite surprised and, I must admit, even excited that the “ferry” in question was a concrete platform that you drive onto and which is then “ferried” across using a cable-pulley mechanism. I can’t believe that after 44 years of living, I had no idea that such a thing existed! Sometimes I seriously feel like I’ve been living under a rock.

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We stopped for lunch in Wiseman’s Ferry where we were afforded a picturesque view from our table.

The view at Busby's restaurant

The view at Busby’s restaurant

Following lunch came a long, long drive through Dharug National Forest where we discovered the existence of real zombies. Ok, we didn’t really. We only imagined them. As we drove through the forest we continuously saw old decrepit houses which were clearly still lived in. They were so dilapidated that we started imagining the inhabitants who lived there. We decided that if we stopped they would chase us with pitchforks and, if caught, would eat us alive.

We entertained ourselves with made-up stories of past visitors to the region who had met their unfortunate end due to such encounters. While the stories were all in jest, the state of these homes did make me wonder who would live in such squalor. In any case, we managed to get out of there alive.

We arrived at Lake Macquarie a bit earlier than anticipated so went to Murray’s Beach at the Lake where we sat in the sunshine and did nothing. It is rare for us to just “be” so the hour we spent there was a welcome break in the busyness of our lives.

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