Study, much?

Study, much? Or not at all? The latter, I’m afraid. In the week hubby has been away I’ve managed to work a trillion hours in my full-time teaching job, and I’ve finished all those pressing little jobs such as editing a book, finishing some overdue publishing etc, but study? No.

My supervisor asked whether I would have 15 hours a week to devote to study NOT on the weekends. I fibbed and said yes. Because on weekdays I do have a bit of time – about 6 hours – to study. But it’s the weekends that I need for my study and, frankly, after the week’s work, I’m not really capable of coherent thought, let alone targeted, deep thought.

I had a cunning plan to just do one thing per day on my methods chapter, whether that be writing the ethics approval section or the replicability section, because in truth I think each small bit will only take an hour, but after finishing teaching at 9.00pm, then eating after that, I have no heart for it.

So here is my report: I have not done my methods chapter. I have not done my discussion chapter. I am tired, and I just want to buy my money for my trip, do the washing, and watch some TV. I will attempt some study today but in truth the afternoon yawns ahead depressingly full of last minute things to complete before I head to overseas.

Study, much? Not at all. Bring on the writing retreat. Bring it.



When the cat’s away the mice….study.

This week DH heads off to Europe for business and I follow him a couple of weeks later. I’ve been thinking about what I might potentially do while we’re apart, and it occurred to me that I don’t have to worry about spending time with my man because we can’t. This bodes well for my study timetable, I hope, even as I know I will miss him terribly.

So it will be interesting to see if I can finish my methods chapter in the next week,  or whether I’m kidding myself and his absence makes absolutely no difference to my study timetable. I’m thinking of this as a test scenario for when I’m in Yorkshire on our study retreat.

Certainly this weekend yawns enticingly ahead, mostly free of work commitments (1 glossary to complete today). I’ve no money to buy stuff with and no overriding need to do anything other than clean the floors, do my washing, go to yoga and walk the dog. No friends to see or people to meet. Nothing but drive my man to the airport in an hour. Mind you, I’ve already wasted half the morning playing Plants vs Zombies and reading the paper.

I will report on my findings next week, after I’ve been teaching for 37 hours as per usual.

*In the meantime, for all those interested in my weight loss regime, I’ve not lost much weight these last few weeks because I’ve been slack (or busy at work, whichever way you look at it), and haven’t been to the gym more than twice a week. I’ve been rather careless with my diet, too, and yesterday was VERY naughty, because it was my birthday celebration dinner. So this next 12 days or so will see me up the regime, attend more gym and eat better, in preparation for a fortnight of walking over windy hill and dale, eating heart warming stews and probably drinking rather too much ale/red wine/ whatever’s available at the ye olde British pub.

Keeping up appearances

It’s been a while since I wrote in my blog so I thought I should do some catch up reporting of events.

Firstly: I’ve been busy. Very busy. I’m teaching 37 hours a week at the moment. For those peeps who think that that just sounds like an ordinary week of work, sure, go right ahead. Think that. But teaching and knowledge transmission is a really specialised thing to do. Most classroom teachers teach up to 24 hours a week. Full time uni staff teaching one-to-one teaching have a maximum of 24 contact hours per week. I’ve chosen 37 hours. Why? Hmm. Need the money. But I also love my jobs. Singing teaching, like any music teaching, requires deep engagement with the learner. It requires great diagnostic skills of the human voice and body, both from a visual and aural sense. It requires one to think clearly about text, character and musically expressive communication, and it requires a whole lot of piano playing. It also requires one to be incredibly empathetic and understanding of the foibles that students bring into the lesson, and all that takes energy. Skills transmission? Meh. I’m also training students in the art of learning, being, and becoming singers.

So, I’m REALLY tired. All the time. But I’ve slowly got into match fitness mode, so to speak.

Secondly, 37 hours doesn’t seem like an overly onerous week. Sure! I can fit in 16 hours of PhD study on top of that. Said no PhD student EVER. Because from Monday to Wednesdays I teach from 8.30am – 8.30pm. The biggest break I have is 90 minutes. It’s also called lunch and staff meetings. So, what about Thursday? Sure. Thursday I finish at 4.30pm. Enough time to get home, walk the puppy, go to gym, then enjoy date night with DH. What about Friday? I finish before 1pm. Yay. Ok, so I have 4 hours there in which I can legitimately study. Have I? No. I’m buggered. I need to do the groceries, pay bills, do the business accounts, pr and try to clean the house a little bit before the weekend.

So, what about mornings and weekends? Well, here’s the thing. I’m not a morning person, and I force myself to go to the gym on Tuesdays at 6.30. Maybe as the year progresses I’ll be jamming 2 hours study into my mornings.

Ok, so what about the weekend? Yep, I have blocked 5 hours per day for study. Did I do any yesterday? No. I went to the gym, then I rested, cleaned the house a bit and shopped for groceries. Spent some time with the family. I did about 1 hour of work while watching tv. Sunday? Yep, you guessed it. The week’s study rolled into one frantic day.

Thirdly, exercise has become 2 days per week plus dog walking. Food has become something to eat to fuel my day, don’t care about the flavour, but I’m maintaining a reasonably low calorie count. Easy when one cuts out sweet food, pasta and potatoes. Still slim and trim, but I am aware that my work output is diminishing and that 2 days dedicated exercise is not quite enough to maintain a weight loss regime. Must…get…to…the…gym…

Fourthly, keeping the house clean is a diabolical task at the moment. So we’ve some plans to try and make it better. All cost a lot of money. The first is to spray paint the unbearable bathroom floor tiles, bath and shower recess. Cost: about $2500. The second is to hire a weekly cleaner. Cost: about $75 per week. Worth it? With a small, grotty puppy, yes it is. It means that at least the house will be dusted and the floors and bathroom cleaned to a high standard. The third is to hire a regular gardener. Cost? Unknown. But kind of on the “not this month” pile.

Keeping up appearances of being capable of doing everything is killing me. But in a good way. I like being this busy, and I hope that my study will become more targeted over the next few weeks. If not, I can say goodbye to my PhD. Because it will never get done without a supreme effort. Bring on my Yorkshire study retreat!

On the plus side, we’re just about ready to send through the final draft of our book. Then I can REALLY focus on the PhD. Promise.


I bought new clothes!

I did it. A month earlier than planned, but I did it. I bought new clothes. One of the reasons for this is that I currently have 1 pair of jeans that fit me, 2 Bettina Liano jackets, jocks, socks and shoes. And that’s it. None of my other clothes fit. Not a jot.

I need new clothes. I really really do. When I moved to the bright, hot and sunny climes of Queensland 5 years ago, I bought lots of medium sized cotton shorts and t-shirts, all size 11 or 12. I was  about 6 kgs or 12 lbs heavier than I am now, and on my frame that makes a big difference to my waist size. I didn’t feel particularly large, but I wasn’t the slim me anymore.

Over the last 5 years I added another 5 kgs or 10lbs to my 5’5″ frame, and my dress size slowly crept up from an easy size 10 to an uncomfortable size 12. So when I went shopping for a summer dress at Christmas, I was thrilled to find I was back in a size 10. And none of the clothes I have bought since moving to Qld fit me. They are all cinched in at the waist, saggy round the bum, and frankly they just look too big.

Buying a few new clothes today made me feel really really good. I went in the department store, and I picked out size 10 and 8 clothes (size 8 and 6 in the US) and when I checked myself out in the mirrors, I looked hot. I really did. Normally those appalling lights in the dressing rooms pick out all the sags, folds, creases, lumps and bumps, but today I realised I don’t have too many of those any more! I have a waist, I have boobs, I have a round bum and curvy legs, and I have an hourglass figure again!

I’m looking forward to getting rid of even more fat but I’m so thrilled with where I’m at right now. I’m not super skinny but I’m no longer bulgy. I don’t have much of a muffin top, or back fat anymore. It’s a great feeling to feel so fit and strong, and know that I did this without taking diet pills or medication or starving myself on a really dumb diet.

Today, prior to shopping, I went to a yoga class, and I went swimming, and then I wandered round the mall for 3.5 hours with no makeup, wet hair and in my sad old gym clothes, AND I STILL LOOKED AND FELT GOOD. Funny how making my body a better house for my soul has made me feel happier, huh?!

Stormy weather

Today we see the end of a serious cyclonic weather cell that’s been causing havoc over the last few days. It gave us a rather interrupted night’s sleep last night as the wind howled about our house, the louvres rattling and shaking, bangs and crashes heard near and far. The cat was trapped under the house (luckily the house is high set, so when I say that, it’s not as bad as it seems – it’s head height under there!), the puppy was subdued all day and we spent a very quiet day at home, not really doing very much. I made scones and tea. We had delicious steak and salad for dinner.

Well, it’s not really true that we didn’t do much. Yesterday, in the pouring rain, we put in a temporary (albeit expensive) pathway for my singing students, who are due to commence lessons today. I seem to remember this weather difficulty in years past, when my first week of teaching was invariably upset by wild weather. And when I say wild weather, I mean Brisbane floods of 2011, cyclonic tropical wet season storms and crazy rain. Our house is completely flooded in the concreted breezeway under the house – this is normal, and we discovered the leak in the west wing which was supposed to be fixed by the new guttering, has not been fixed by the new guttering. Oh well. The worst has passed, at least, and now our large garden, which is now thoroughly soggy, can be sown with grass seed and we should have a solid carpet of lawn in a few weeks. The summer sun has scorched the lawn in parts and the garden, which was a dust bowl, is now a healthy mud bath.

I suppose putting in a pathway in the pouring rain has its advantages. For instance, one can easily see the uneven sections, and rain has a habit of smoothing out these bits and tamping down the sand, so that the path is now quite smooth. The charcoal 40×40 pavers look good and we’ve put iceberg pebbles around them, which makes the entryway look reasonably professional. Given that this is temporary, I’m happy with the result, even if it is just a tad uneven. Not enough to trip people up, though!  The fence has not been finished – it’s a soggy mess of unpainted wood, and the gate was torn off its new hinges. Time to get us some better hinges, I think.

Poppy is learning how to fetch and chase things. She has not yet learned to pee or poo outside, but given the weather, I’m not surprised. We’re struggling to get her house trained, although other aspects of her training are going very well. She will be a very energetic dog. I spent 30 minutes teaching her to chase and return a toy, and she still had more energy in her! She’s a dear little thing and I am crazy about her. She’s growing fast and has rather large paws.

As for me and my diet, well. My diet has been bonkers lately, but I’m getting back on the straight and narrow this week. The house maintenance work has kept me fit and healthy, and I’m managing a circuit class per week plus PT. I think I’ve continued to lose weight slightly, despite my crappy diet and I’m resigned to checking my weight next week. I hope I’m at or under 65 kgs. If clothes are any indication, 5 years ago I bought size 11 boot cut Levis which I have rarely worn, because they were too small – even at time of purchase. Now not only do they fit, but the waist is really comfortable – loose, even. This is massive. Of course, NONE of my other, newer clothes fit any more. They swim on me. But I can’t afford to go buying new clothes when I have bills to pay, so I’ll have to wait until April, as I promised myself. Well, all right, I did buy ONE little skirt which I love! And shoes. What this DOES mean, however, is all the old size 10 clothes I’d kept because they were too lovely to discard, can now be worn again. Old linen jackets, shirts and even the occasional dress now fit again. It’s just the casual uniform of navy pants and stripy tops I prefer to wear during the summer swelter here are now a little large. But I’m getting there! And feeling great.

Back to the grind, in every sense!

DH and I arrived home from our Christmas holiday and we’ve returned to the usual grind of New Year activities. Today, I’m talking about grind. The grindstone, hard work, honing and polishing and refining of New Year’s resolutions and other travails.

I’ve identified four main areas of grind for me. The first is, of course, my health and fitness. Like so many during this holiday season, I’ve eaten and drunk way too much, and I’ve done no more exercise than an elegant stroll down the beach. Well, ok, the stroll was 8 kms long. I’ve probably put on half a kilo, but I’ve stuck pretty well to a pared down diet, with dessert being the main culprit. DH and I were married 5 years ago December 28, right in the heart of the festive season, so all our revelries occur in one week. Cunning, huh. And, of course, far too much drinking. Less than I would have this time last year, but still! So it’s back on the diet wagon (and aren’t I relieved about that!) and I have my first personal training session tomorrow afternoon. Ugh. That’s gonna hurt.

The second grind is to complete the works on the house we’ve organised. For me, that means sanding and painting during VERY hot weather. It’s going to be vicious. But it’s important to get a start on it before our carpenter comes back to build the remaining fence.

The third grind, and probably the hardest, will be to start up my reading and writing for my doctoral thesis, which is due to begin again in February. I had a lovely break from it and I feel much better now, but it’s time to get cracking again. I tried some of it today and boy, all I wanted to do was get up off the computer and clean the house or literally do anything other than study. That was hard. But it’s a resolution I’ve made to myself to complete it this year, as expected. So I’m starting with my methods chapter, because I need to do the reading for Narrative Inquiry methods again, and start to shape the chapter from its rather bloated state at present.

The fourth grind, and one much easier to sustain, will be to begin my singing teaching again. I love my teaching and while I’m enjoying the holidays, I’m looking forward to developing my practice for the year ahead. My times are quickly filling up and then when uni starts: whew! It’s gonna be a challenge to maintain the study and the teaching, as I’ll be teaching about 30 hours per week. In fact, I have to do as much study as possible before teaching begins because it’s so hard for my brain to switch from one activity to the other. I’m dying to do some professional development n singing teaching but until I finish the PhD I won’t have the time – or the money! So I’ll have to content myself with some reading instead this year.

4 grinds. A big year ahead.


Working on the money pit

Now, this COULD mean my butt, which is proving very expensive to shift, but actually for this post it’s my house. We spent the weekend working on the house and garden! Huzzah! As I may have mentioned a few posts ago, we’re replacing the fences, which is a VERY expensive proposition (all for one wretched dog) and in the meantime we have to remove several pest trees in our garden, including several Chinese Elms, and lots of old stumps. So we’ve been in the garden preparing for this week long fest of nature’s destruction.

We cut the monstera leaves off the plant which seems to be overtaking our back fence line, which should hopefully kill the sucker – it would be good to keep but it’s a really annoying plant to contain. Underneath we found a fair bit of building detritus from someone else’s build ON OUR PROPERTY. Don’t you just love that! We really need to get a back hoe in to rip up the entire garden so we can start again.


We pulled up the funny old paving that Harry had laid near the house – all higgledy-piggledy and dangerous. It was difficult to get up the back stairs. Weirdly, he had prepared the site well, with sand and all, but he then laid all the pavers on a SLOPE. Go figure. Well, they’ve been pulled up and stacked neatly. DH spent a fair time tearing up the concrete sleepers surrounding the paved section – nearly did himself an injury there, and now we have rather fewer tripping points up the back stairs.


DH also whippersnipped the yard (killed my Rosemary plant – NOT happy about that) and mowed the lawn. It’s amazing how mowing one’s yard can take it from crazy-cat-lady-hoarder-low-life-old-person state to: Hello! Someone-truly-cares yard. We still have heaps of vegetation  and old fencing lying about but that will go shortly with the purchase of expensive skip hire.

I spent a riotous day scraping paint off our old valance on the front of the house, and sanding back the cleaned palings with my trusty sander. I love that tool. I had bought a heat gun, too, which has been a very wise purchase, as it only took me 5 hours to clean the valance instead of 2 days. Way to go.


I’m about to head outside again once the rain stops to do the next section, as we intend to paint the breezeway, valance and garage door at the front of the house this summer, and I need to get started on the remaining palings. All 50 of them. Yay. We’re painting this section in bright white to see the effect – I like to use Dulux’s 3-in-1 oil primer, which is white, so we’ll get a much better idea of how white looks on our old Queenslander. I quite like painting, but hate the preparation. Actually, the prep work, while it’s a stinker of a job, is really quite good exercise. I hold a kilo weight in my hand for several hours, I scrape hard with my right hand, and I spend an awful amount of time in the squat position, and I can definitely feel my abs working too. Woohoo. I added up the 5 hours of outside work we did on Sunday (didn’t even mention Saturday’s effort) and apparently gardening uses 274 calories per hour. Keep this up and I’ll be able to lift a house.

Actually, I love manual labour – keeps me fit, I usually sleep like the dead and there’s an obvious benefit to the work. I get physical results, and the house benefits too.

Anyway, it’s stopped raining and it’s time for me to get cracking on those palings… An hour later: it rained again. I’ve finished the palings, though. I actually had to stop, because underneath the old peeling paint some of the palings have been coated in what appears to be TAR. It’s too stinky and dangerous a job for me to continue heat-stripping back the palings because I’m not sure what it is, but it smells like tar, so unless we replace ALL the breezeway battens (NOT going to happen – there’s hundreds of the blighters); I’m just going to do a quick scrape and paint over. Not my preference, but I’d rather be safe that sorry. I’m already breathing in lead fumes from the old paint – don’t need inexplicable disease from strange substance too.

IMG_1491IMG_1492These are weird looking hardwood posts. Underneath all the dodgy-brothers paint is this weird, smelly, sticky black stuff. I think it’s tar. I can’t be sure. I looked it up on the interweb and I found a website that writes about tar on fences in the 19th century in the US. Wikipedia says that tar paint is created by combining linseed oil and tar. Now why anyone would paint tar all over a house is beyond me, but perhaps it has something to do with the prevention of termites? Apparently they hate linseed oil. Perhaps they hate tar as well. I certainly do, but it’s provided me with the perfect excuse not to do any more preparation short of scraping and minor sanding.

Now I can’t do anything more outside at all as the rain has finally set in – this could mean disaster for us with our fence plans. December to March is the storm season here in QLD and it can REALLY rain. On the plus side, one of the butcher birds is sitting on the back deck, singing for all it’s worth. Now I know where they got the R2D2 sounds from.

Argh! Naughty diet weekend alert!

I’ve been a very bad girl these last few days. I’ve taken to the grog again. And not in a good way; rather, in a “I’m so tired I can’t think straight – hand me the bottle” kind of way. So, with Bailey-the-trainer in my thoughts (he’s the angel on my right shoulder), I’m back on the wagon in every sense, and planning a good few weeks of respite before the next big event.

Now, when I say I fell off the wagon, I have to confess, I’ve not binge drunk. The most drink I had was yesterday, when after my company’s Showcase Concert I had the equivalent of 2 glasses of Australian Sparkling Yarra Burn, from which I ended up getting an enormous headache. But the problem is, see, I quite like my booze, coming as I do from a famously boozy family (not alcoholics, but we LOVE our wine). So I’ve had a drink nearly every day for the last four days!!!! Thursday was the Opera, Friday was because it was Friday, and yesterday was a celebration. Any excuse will do.

My calorie count has crept up over the maximum amount for the last 2 days, too. It wasn’t deliberate, but I’m a bit tired and hungry and I’ve been doing really busy things, like running a concert event and so on. When I looked at yesterday’s food, it was the Twisties that pushed me over the edge! I swear, I only had the equivalent of one serve, but it all adds up. And we did have some takeaway curry, too. But I’ve been a very good girl and religiously counted every blasted calorie I could think of, including the naughty bit of naan bread I just had to have. And I had Dahl and a seafood curry and no rice, so I think it was vaguely healthy. Hard to tell, with takeaway – I just didn’t stuff myself like I normally do. And the previous day SH and I wandered around window-shopping, getting so tired and hungry in the process that I ended up having 2 dinners, which also pushed me over the edge. Snacking is fun but it’s hard to stop eating lovely lovely salami and lovely lovely Jarlsberg (weighed and calculated, of course)!

So I’m about to get physical this afternoon – I’ll pop along to the gym, do my requisite running and cycling and crunches and seated rowing, and tomorrow morning hope and pray that I’ve still managed to lose a bit of weight this last week. I feel good, but I don’t think I’ve lost very much at all. I don’t own a set of scales, which is probably a good thing, as I can get all OCD and weigh myself every day, but my clothes feel looser and certainly I’ll have to investigate bra sizes again – I’ve slipped down a size or two this last week. My back fat is diminishing and I actually felt solid, slim leg muscle under all the fat this morning! Woohoo! I guess the best evidence I’ll have will be the physical evidence this week: my weigh-in tomorrow.

I can’t wait to go swimming again – we’ve had a few overcast days here this last week, so Thursday was the last time I swam. Saturday I’d normally go after the gym, but it was a bit rainy and ordinary, and today is the same. I’m feeling like swimming is becoming my sanity exercise. Learning to really love it! Now that summer is fast approaching, it’s going to be great for my exercise as I’ll want to go every day, I think! It might also be time to invest in a swimming costume better designed for proper swimming. The one I have is lovely but really made more for pretending I’m Marilyn Monroe, with boy legs, a low back and tight halter neck.


Losing weight but battling fatigue

I don’t think I’m eating quite enough. Or at least, eating the right foods. That’s my verdict after several days fighting fatigue and lack of energy. I WAS feeling pretty energetic last week but I hit a tiredness wall on Friday I’ve had trouble shifting. My diet is continuing apace, but without enough carbs I think my energy levels are fighting to stay up. I’m exercising regularly 4 times per week, including boxing, swimming, treadmill running and bike, circuit training and weight training and I have great intentions about Sunday’s yoga classes but I’m not quite getting there at the moment.

Here’s a snapshot of food I ate on Thursday:

Dinner had a tiny bit more to it, but you see what I’m eating here. It’s all totally healthy, but without potatoes or wheat or rice. As a result, I think my carb intake is too low. I’ve taken to some minor cheating in a bid to up my energy levels: last night I had some pizza. Pizza Hut now provide kj counts of all pizzas and slices (with the Perfecto base), so I know how much I can eat. We usually have thin crust, which is about half the calorific content of the Perfecto pizza bases, so I took off 100kj (25 cal) from each slice and had 3 slices of garlic prawn pizza. Delicious, and about 670kj (160 cal) per slice, which was 2009 kj or 480 calories for dinner.

I’m thinking of ways to increase my lunchtime eating so I don’t go overboard at night. I think I have it: beans! Beans and pulses. Lentils, chickpeas and cannelloni/ kidney/ borlotti beans. Half a cup flung through my salad should provide me with the dietary fibre, protein and carbs I need to get through my day with more energy. And at night I’m trying to remember to cook quinoa, which is a surprisingly tasty seed-type grain. Lucky I love salad. Lucky I live in a warm climate where eating salad feels right.

So, did some measurements today (not official ones) and I’ve lost several cms off my bust and hips but surprisingly NONE off my waist. Either that or I measured myself wrongly a few months ago. The scales aren’t lying – I AM losing weight, even off my legs, and my clothes are fitting just that bit better than they did before, but this measurement surprised me. At any rate, I’ve got to lose 10 cms off my waist if I am to remain in the healthy weight per waist ratio for my age. So I do the weigh in on Tuesday. I hope I’ve lost another kg but I feel like the weight loss is slowing now. I’m still well on target to lose that 8kgs (17lbs) by Xmas! Only 4 kgs (9lbs) to go.

I AM feeling stronger, though, and I have more stamina for swimming, running and cycling. The fat surrounding my new and improved muscles is getting flabbier, which means that it is actually beginning to diminish. I can now do 10 push ups with ease, plus a bunch of new exercises I’ve never even heard of, including burpies and mountain climbing, and renegade row. I’m still tired, though. Last week I started to sleep well for the first time in a few weeks, and now I’m having trouble waking up! Something’s going on, so I can only imagine it’s the diet needing tweaking.