Taking Control

Recently I celebrated my 38th birthday.  The countdown is now on until I turn 40.  Getting older hasn’t really ever bothered me.  Getting older while being overweight does.

I’ve been overweight for most of my life.  Except in my late teens/early twenties when I only ate one meal a day (assisted by an evening shift job after uni and sleeping lots – I couldn’t sustain treating my body that way now); and before we had Squidge when I lost quite a bit of weight via Weight Watchers  by correspondence (it seems sooo long ago!).

I’ve set goals and seen them sail past.  I’ve tried motivating myself by not setting long term goals but rather short term ones like, I’ll eat very well today.  Day by day.

Makes me sound like an addict doesn’t it?  Taking one day at a time. In a way perhaps I am.  Instead of dealing with anxiety and stress by drinking or drugs I reach for food.  On days when I feel anxious I can eat and eat and never fill a void that I truly feel in the pit of my stomach.  And over time it’s become a habit and one that I need to break.

One thing I remember about the period when I didn’t eat or when I was achieving success via Weight Watchers was how good it felt to be in control.  I controlled what I ate and when, rather than blindly giving in to the urge to eat.

Why now?  There’s more and more evidence linking being overweight to disease such as breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes and the list goes on.  I carry a lot of my weight above my belly button – close to my heart.  And the simple fact is I don’t feel good.  I don’t feel attractive, or sexy, or confident.  I feel lumpy and awkward.

I know what I should do – eat fewer calories and expend more via exercise.  Sounds simple yet I don’t seem to achieve it.  But I’ve decided to take back control.  It is as simple as saying No.  To others when they offer me sweets or biscuits.  But most importantly to myself when I reach for food I don’t need.

What tools will I use to help me in gaining control?  Well outing myself on the interweb is one – I hope it makes me accountable.

What I really enjoyed about Weight Watchers was the thinking was done for me – I had meal plans which told me what to eat each and every day for 3 months.  It’s harder now that I have kids and have to take into account their likes and dislikes come meal times because I just cannot make multiple meals for the family.  The other thing it did was encourage me to keep track of the food I was eating.

I can achieve the same thing for free via Calorie King.  You set how much weight you want to lose and it sets a target calorie intake for a day.  You record your meals against for that day and see how you are progressing.  There are recipes, articles and forums.  The database of food is pretty good.

There’s also Weigh It Up – the group that was behind Channel 10’s Million Kilo Challenge earlier this year.  I’m sure they are connected to a health brand (Swisse from memory) but it sets out meal plans and exercise for 8 weeks of weight loss.  I’ve taken ideas from here but found it hard trying to juggle the various dietary requirements in the house.  And just recently I subscribed to Healthy Eating Planner on Facebook – they have weekly menu plans and regular motivational posts.

So how did I go today?  My calorie budget was 1460.  I snacked on a banana and mixed nuts but had lunch at a local cafe of a chicken burger with a few chips.  I came in at 1419 calories.  So far, so good.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Easy Peasy Party Food Cooking

This month my baby turned 6.  6!  It was his turn for a party this year.  It’s fair to say that by mid July I was pretty much over party foods that involved cereal and puff pastry.

But you know, while I made most of the food myself, it wasn’t hard because I had two basic criteria – I had to be able to make most of it ahead of time; and it had to be simple to make.

Bruce’s party was on Saturday at 10:30 – I had a plan of attack.

Wednesday:

Made the Mars Bar Slice.  Nothing easier than this microwave version.  I doubled the quantities as we were expecting 20 kids (plus parents).  We came home with 6 or so squares left over.  It kept in the fridge really really well.

Thursday:

I work a half day on a Thursday.

I made the Honey Joys/Honey Crackles before I went to work – they are that simple. The recipe came from the side of the Cornflakes packet and Kelloggs have it on their website too.

After work I made the sausage rolls based on this recipe I found on Taste.com.au  – I did make a change to this one.  I don’t like sausage mince much so instead of the meat they suggested I used 500g pork mince and 500g veal mince.  It made around 36 which seemed to be more than enough.

After dinner on Thursday I made the pizza scrolls.  Again – too simple.  5 sheets of puff pastry, defrosted.  Spread a tablespoon of pizza tomato paste on each.  Scatter with chopped up ham, grated cheese and crushed (drained) pineapple.  Roll up tightly, cut each roll into 8 slices, arrange on a tray lined with baking paper and cook in a hot oven for about 15 – 20 minutes.

Friday:

After work I did the cake.  IGA make big slabs of vanilla sponge cake.  I bought one of these and chopped it in to a monkey shape and then decorated it.  A few problems – I should have left the coco-pop “fur” until the morning (they were all soggy) and I ran out of icing to properly cover all of him and ensure they stuck.  He looked a bit like a moth eaten toy monkey but Bruce didn’t mind.

For the parents to snack on while the kids were playing (we went to Jungle Gym in Willetton) I had tea & coffee supplies, a packet of Tim Tams and a yummy, but basic, lemon loaf that I had made as part of a big batch of loaves a few weeks before and frozen.  The night before I pulled it out of the freezer, iced it and chopped it into squares.  It was still delicious and moist.

Saturday morning only involved chopping up watermelon and strawberries for some fruit platters, packing the car and we were off.  He had a great party, celebrating his birthday with some wonderful friends.  Not a lot of food came home.  Perfect.

The birthday boy moving so fast, the camera could barely catch him

The complete Disney experience – Hollywood Hotel

Around this time last year, DB headed to the US with some mates to celebrate one of the group’s 40th birthday.  In one day they conquered Disneyland and California Adventure.

DB wanted to share this experience with his boys.  Late last year one of the newspaper travel supplements reviewed the new Toy Story Land at Disneyland Hong Kong.  In an act of spontaneity rarely seen in our house, we decided we would go as early as possible this year.  And started saving.

We wanted to go to Disneyland Park for 2 days.  Where should we stay?

Someone suggested Breakfast with the Stars where Disney characters visit while you’re eating at one of the Disney hotels.  The airport is on Lantau Island – the same island as Disneyland.  The hotels were in close proximity to Disneyland.  It was decided.  We’d stay for at least 3 nights at Disneyland.

In the end we decided to stay the whole 6 nights there.  In part because it was cheaper than elsewhere.  In part because I could think of nothing worse than packing everything up after 3 nights to move to another island for 3 nights to then turn around and get back to Lantau Island for our departure.

We stayed at the Hollywood Hotel.  It’s the cheaper, more family friendly option of the two Disney hotels.  From the moment we walked in to the hotel we were immersed in Disney.  As DB describes in his blog post “..it was a magical place of unreality”.

Hollywood Hotel, Hong Kong

Staying there really did make the experience feel special.  The iconic (as Squidge became very fond of saying) image of Disney – Mickey’s head – was everywhere.

The Room

We stayed in one room that had double beds.  They were clean, comfortable and spacious enough given we were always out and about and only really in the room when it was time to sleep (you can see good photos via TripAdvisor).  We got complimentary Disney slippers that we’ve brought home, Mickey themed shampoo & shower gel, and Disney cartoon cups for our toiletries with, you guessed it, Mickey tops.  Oddly we had to request sheets.  Who in their right mind would sleep in Hong Kong under a doona?

The main criticism we have of the room is that the tv, while playing kids (Disney) shows around the clock didn’t have a dedicated movie channel for the adults (not THAT kind of adult movie).  Given that our kids were in bed and asleep by 8:00pm there wasn’t a whole lot for us to watch, nor did the tv include a DVD player – so take your own.

The Facilities

Free wireless internet access was available in the lobby and restaurants.  It was great – we used it to Skype phone home (we went with credit of $9.00 and came home having only spent around $2.00 for 10 minutes of calls to Australia).

The grounds are beautiful.  Lots of room for the kids to run, adults to stroll.  There’s a playground – our 8-year-old was probably getting too big for it (but that didn’t stop him!).  The pool was lovely.  People on TripAdvisor had complained about the lifeguards, I didn’t find them rude – just cautious.  The kids made really good use of the slide.

Pool at the Hollywood Hotel, Hong Kong

There was, no surprise, a toy shop.  I think normally there are two, the larger one used for kids activities.  At the time we were there it had been closed for refurbishment.

There is a free shuttle bus that runs at very very regular intervals throughout the day.  It does a circuit route between the two hotels and the theme park.  I don’t think we ever waited more than a couple of minutes for a bus.  It was an extremely good service.

Shuttle Bus, Hollywood Hotel, Hong Kong

Food

At the time we were there one of the restaurants, The Sunset Terrace, was closed.  However there remained 3 options for food in the Hollywood Hotel.  Chef Mickey was the buffet style restaurant (open all day); Studio Lounge was a bar – come informal cafe and The Hollywood Diner was available in lieu of room service.

We ate at Chef Mickey twice – once for breakfast and once for dinner.  The food was great (highly recommend the Bircher muesli, while the kids no doubt would recommend the Mickey shaped waffles).  For breakfast it was around $80 for the 4 of us, dinner set us back $130.

The Studio Lounge was great for a casual dinner and apart from the one meal at Chef Mickey we ate here every night.  At 6:30pm a screen would descend behind the bar and a Disney movie would play for the kids to watch.  There is a dedicated kids menu – good value for around $11 for a 3 course meal but the choices are limited after one or two visits. Our kids had that one night, pizza another, and then moved on to the adult options.  Depending on our choices (and if they included a glass of wine or not!) dinner there set us back around $70 – $80 for the 4 of us.

Most mornings we had breakfast at The Hollywood Diner.  We could choose from a cooked Western or Asian breakfast but didn’t bother.  Each morning it was the same.  A bowl of fruit to share, yoghurt, corn flakes, milk and a couple of croissants.  $32 for breakfast for the 4 of us was pretty good value.  Had we bought supplies at Tung Chung which was a short train ride away, breakfast could have been a bit cheaper.

There was nothing however, stopping us as guests of the Hollywood Hotel, from eating at the Disneyland Hotel.  Our second morning we walked to the other hotel for Breakfast with the Stars in The Enchanted Garden.  It was great fun.  The food was similar to that of  Chef Mickey but it was a bit more expensive – $120 – but we did get to have photos with Mickey, Pluto, Goofy & Daisy – woot!  It did feel enchanted – even for the adults.

Breakfast with Mickey

In terms of accessing other attractions in Hong Kong from Lantau Island, it was a bit protracted – requiring at least 1 bus and 2 or 3 trains.  Having said that, the transport system is amazing and we made very good use of the Octopus Cards to tag on and off the MTR (thanks to my friend Anne who had been recently and gave them to us).

The Disneyland Train Station is at the entrance to the theme park and once again, the brand Disney is constantly, but rather delightfully, reinforced.

Interior of the Disneyland Train

We didn’t end up getting to see some Hong Kong attractions such as Victoria Peak and the famous Ladies’ Market – there was a limit to how much walking and sightseeing we could fit in given our distance from some of it.  But in the end that wasn’t why we went to Hong Kong.  It was to do Disney – and that we did.

What does God eat?

This was the question Bruce the 5 year old asked at breakfast.  Just as he was tucking in to his own concoction of rice bubbles with blueberries.

Often he doesn’t wait for an answer.  He didn’t this time either.

“Maybe he eats dogs that die and….”  <look of absolute horror> “You don’t think he ate OUR dog do you?”.

Me:  “No, I don’t think God eats all the creatures that die.  I don’t know what he eats”.

Bruce is fairly happy with that answer.  He moves on.  That conversation ends.  It could go on but I let it go.  I don’t say “But Puddy’s ashes are under our frangipani tree…” because I’ve learnt from having my older boy Squidge and having had such conversations, that I’d just be opening up a world of pain in the form of never ending questions.  Never ending questions are okay, in the car, when we’re driving to my parents which is 40+ minutes away.  Not on a weekday when you’re trying to get ready to go to school and work.

Sometimes it pays to just let it go….

Puddy (RIP lovely dog) resting in the shade with the boys

Parenting Tip # 7

Mr Literal wanted a 5 cake for his 5th birthday - go figure

I know, I haven’t actually published tips 1 – 6 but well, who needs to see them in order?  In fact, I’m not sure if I have more than 1 tip in me.  So here goes.

5 year old boys take things very literally.  Perhaps 5 year old girls do too.  I don’t have one of those so I can’t say for sure (the dog doesn’t count).

Earlier this week, after having read Picklebums, I remembered that I used to make porcupines – all the time.  But I haven’t made them for ages, so long now that Bruce, the 5 year old had forgotten all about them.

Being a Tuesday and therefore karate night for Squidge, I try and cook something that can simmer/bake away while dropping him off.  Porcupines –  the perfect solution.

Don’t know about porcupines?  Taste has a very good recipe – and it helps to read the comments for some tips.  They are basically minced meat with grated onion, garlic, other seasoning and dry rice.  Roll in to balls.  Pop in a pot of boiling tomato soup and simmer away until cooked.  As they cook the rice cooks and puffs out – making them look like procupines.  We, not surprisingly, call them hodgehegs.

Me:  “Dinner’s ready, c’mon Bruce”

Bruce:  “What are we having?”

Me: “Hodgehegs, look, this one is perfect, looks just like a hodgeheg, all it needs is legs and a little face”

Bruce: <bursts into tears>

Me: “What’s wrong?  Come on – you’ve got to at least try one – they’re yummy!”

Bruce: “I don’t want to eat A hodgeheg!”

Me: <penny drops>  “Oh, they’re not real hodgehegs!  I didn’t go out into the bush and trap hodgehegs and chop their legs off and cook them in soup.”

Bruce:  “Oh”  <blows nose and wipes eyes, still highly suspicious>

In the end he ate two and thought they were yummy.  Sometimes I forget how literal he can be.  Other times I depend on it.  Like when I cook ‘cheesy rice’.  “It’s rice with cheese” I say, neglecting to mention the chicken, bacon, onion and asparagus which has cooked for so long it looks like oozy green cheese.  We lurve cheesy rice.  And now he loves hodgehegs.  Again.  Phew.