Menus and Playlists

Only a few more sleeps until the Big Day.  Time to set the mood. Truth be told I have been setting the mood with my Christmas playlist for the last month or so.

My playlist varies a little year to year but my absolute favourite that always takes centre stage is any Christmas song by Bing Crosby (he reminds me of my Grandad a lot).  Then there is Harry Connick Jr’s What a Night! A Christmas Album and, of course, Michael Bublé’s Christmas – you cannot go wrong!

HCJ

This year’s find is definitely Christmas at Downton Abbey – old school and fabulous!  A highlight being Carson reciting ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Christmas-at-Downton-Abbey

 

Now the music is sorted, you can’t go past a good advent calendar. Jacqui Lawson creates the most spectacular electronic advent calendar each year…. a must have for me.  I love how interactive it is – making snowflakes, decorating the tree, arranging flowers, wrapping gifts for under the tree – all to wonderful Christmas music.  A fabulous replacement gift instead of sending Christmas cards.

And then, of course, there is the menu.  Us girls tend to start talking menus around the time we decorate at the beginning of December. These days our plan is our side of the family at Mom and Dad’s on Christmas Eve and then my sister and her hubbie and the nephews join my brother in law’s family Christmas Day.  So we aim to keep things simple and only do one cook up so the leftovers take us through the next few days.

Kitchen day is therefore Christmas Eve.  Our menu is all about the meat, we are South African after all.  That definitely means one cut of meat needs to be barbecued – that will be the lamb this year.  Mom will have a secret recipe herb rub I could never divulge.  I will have a go at brining turkey breast before adding a herb butter wrapping it in bacon and maple syrup and cooking.  This is our take on a Donna Hay recipe.  And finally we will glaze a gammon with plum and chilli.  The accompaniments will be salads and baby potatoes using all the beautiful fresh produce we are so blessed to have access to here in NZ.  Dessert is my take on an I Quit Sugar For Life recipe – sugar free individual lemon meringue pies in jars.

The lemon meringue pie recipe is in this book
The lemon meringue pie recipe is in this book

We will try and fit in our homemade Christmas Pud and Vanilla Custard for a quiet Christmas Day dinner or perhaps wait till Boxing Day.

I haven’t covered the Christmas mince pies, gingerbread men or the summer fruits sangria we will also indulge in – three days of complete excess really.  Having experienced Christmas times the complete opposite of this – alone and with no means for a feast – I am so incredibly grateful for all we have been given to enjoy.

I wish you happy planning and anticipation – it is half the fun!

Holiday Rituals Part 2

Part 2 of my holiday rituals is all about decorating and surrounding us with all things Christmas.  This process for me starts in about September and settling on a theme for the year.  This could be based around a colour, a set of colours, a piece of art, or really anything that inspires me.

This year’s theme actually occurred to me last Christmas and the idea of using rustic elements – twigs, twine, wood, glass and metal.  It morphed over time into more of a birds/owls and woodland theme based on a pack of paper napkins I found.

My vision board for this year
My vision board for this year

So November is prep month – checking what I already have in the Christmas boxes, a list of what I might need to buy and, of course, how I can get my craft on.

I bought a number of birds of different kinds from all sorts of different stores.  Some to hang on the tree, some to place about the place with a bird house and a lovely candle holder to use as a centre piece.

For the crafty bits, I bought some unbleached calico and hessian as well as iron on sheets for fabric.  I made a couple of cushions, place mats and some wall art using these bits and pieces.

Decorating day is always the first weekend in December.  Although this year the 1st of December was a Monday so I went with Sunday, 30 November.  This seems a good time to start our Advent.

And this is a taste of what I came up with this year.

A little snapshot of Christmas 2014
A little snapshot of Christmas 2014

It’s all about trees, owls, other woodland creatures, reds, greens, gold, silver and white…. paying homage to European winters and woodlands, berries and snow.

Happy Holidays!

Holiday Rituals Part 1

Wow! A crazy three or so weeks has flown by wrapping up all things work related for 2014.  And now a lady of leisure, I can concentrate on why this is my favourite time of the year.  I do have some silly rituals, but they are dear to me.

The first is all about the wacky genius of Tim Burton.  This is the time of the year when I get out all my favourite Tim Burton classics and rewatch.  It all starts at Halloween with The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Jack Skellington’s need to infect Halloween Town with the Christmas spirit is just a wonderful tale.

The_nightmare_before_christmas_poster

Now I have to mention here that when it comes to trick or treating and kids wandering the neighbourhood door knocking and begging for candy, I morph into the Halloween Grinch.  So some parts of Halloween I can certainly do without.  But Tim Burton’s imagery captures my imagination at this mystical time of year.

So The Nightmare Before Christmas is quickly chased by Corpse Bride, Beetlejuice and Dark Shadows.  I also love Coraline which has a Tim Burtonish flavour but is actually a movie from the director of Nightmare.

CoralineDVDcorpse-bride-desktop-wallpaper

All this revisiting movies I love puts me in the mood for the holiday season to come.

At tree decorating time, I celebrate a day of hard out Christmas-ifying of the house by watching Holiday Inn.  You know, Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire and that famous little song White Christmas?

HolidayInn_GBmusicwhitechristmas

Then Christmas Eve means it must be time for White Christmas the movie – Bing Crosby and Rosemarie Clooney and a whole lot of Irving Berlin classics…. Magical!  And finally, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol – the Disney version with Jim Carey.  Some say scary, I say classic Dickens (one of my most favourite authors).

christmas-carol-poszter

And that about rounds up Holiday Rituals Part 1 – watching old movies.  This about sums it up for me:

tim-burton-tim-burton-10332376-1280-800

Remembering Granny Sybil

It is my favourite time of year.  Spring time in the Southern Hemisphere.  It is the time when I miss Africa most.  For me nothing quite compares to the sights, smells and sounds of spring on the Highveld of South Africa or in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.  Beautiful lilac Jacaranda blossom, the call of the Woodland Kingfishers returning south for the season and the sweet, wobbly newborn antelope, zebra and wildebeest….. pure magic!

Still my favourite time of here too as we take time for preparations for the coming festivities.  It is a time of remembrance for me and keeping time honoured family traditions and rituals.

So Labour weekend this year once again saw the kitchen abuzz at Mom and Dad’s place.  Out come all Granny Sybil’s recipes and the mixing, mincing and endless stirring begins.  On the to do list the lemon curd, the Christmas fruit mince and, of course, the brandy laced Christmas pudding.  All exceptionally delicious!  And need I say that the no sugar way of life has no place at this time…. hmmm.

Granny Sybil was my paternal grandmother.  A single mother bringing up her two sons on the outskirts of central Johannesburg in the 50s, 60s and 70s.  My earliest memories of her all revolve around the kitchen – baking, preserving and the best Sunday roasts ever.  Christmas was always a veritable feast at Granny Sybil’s house.   But also the garage.  There always seemed to be some car or bike engine in various pieces strewn around the house and in the garage thanks to my dad and his brother.

She was a strong woman who had given up much of her life to earn a living and look after ailing parents.  She married late and finally found a few years wedded bliss before her husband became ill and passed away leaving her with her two boys to bring up.  I have always felt  a sense of awe about Granny Sybil – her sense of family, her duty and obligation to her husband’s family, her love for her boys and then us later on.  It was a practical love and always involved making or preparing something for us.  Her knitting was also legendary in our family.  I remember she also always took the time to wear a pretty house dress, apply her lippy and get her hair set in curls.

And so, Granny, it is that time of year again where we hope to honour your memory and all that you were and still are to us.

The fruits of our Labour weekend - Granny Sybil's Lemon Curd, Christmas Mince and Christmas Pudding
The fruits of our Labour weekend – Granny Sybil’s Lemon Curd, Christmas Mince and Christmas Pudding

Week 8: Refining and Moving Forward

Here we are at the end of IQS Week 8 and the end of our little experiment.  In an effort to think about moving forward this week I decided on a further cleanse – internal spring clean if you will.  This took the form of a homeopathic based liver elixir and drops of a habit relief formula.

The first 2 days of this process was just awful – headaches, nausea and very low energy (in bed by 8pm those nights).  I also cut back on coffee to coincide with the cleanse so I am not sure if the two days of awful was actually just caffeine withdrawal?  However, by the third day I was feeling fine again.

I did experience a few odd cravings this week so I am not convinced those habit relief drops were actually that useful?  Spicy fruit toast and deep fried chicken were the cravings, although not simultaneously.  I am most certainly not pregnant!

With cutting back on the coffee I am trying to instigate new rituals around drinking tea morning and evening.  In the morning a cup of organic rooibos or green tea in a pretty cup is most rejuvenating.  And a chai infused milk in the evening makes a great dessert replacement.

Luxurious and fragrant  chai ritual
Luxurious and fragrant chai ritual

So in conclusion:

  • Was sugar controlling my mind and messing with my body?  YES
  • Has this 8 week IQS process recalibrated my system? YES
  • Do I feel more in control of my cravings? Definitely
  • Has the past 8 weeks been worth it? Absolutely
  • Do I feel substantially better in my health? I do
  • More than anything else I have tried previously? Yes, again
  • And the question everyone is asking – did I lose weight?  Well, I have not gone anywhere near a scale or tape measure but I venture a yes here too based on my clothes fitting more comfortably, especially round the middle.

So moving forward once more:

Yes, I do think I will be incorporating the IQS principles “for life” and minimising sugar intake as much as possible without becoming an anti-sugar bore.  Mostly I will strive to be gentle with myself always.

I have a more balanced relationship with food and I want to keep it that way.  Food is fuel for every day.  I need to pay attention to the cues of my body (a different sensation from cravings).  I have the idea of no sugar more the 3 – 6g/100g at the back of my mind most of the time and certainly minimising processed foods as much as possible.

But I will also enjoy every moment of times of celebration with friends and family that invariably involve food and indulgence.

No more “cold” comfort on my own after a hard day at work.  I will look to new forms of comfort such as making tea, lighting a candle and meditating, walking on the beach, sitting in the garden, fresh linen on the bed, splashing out on a manicure, buying and arranging fresh cut flowers, etc.

So I congratulate myself for all the times during the past 8 weeks I did not give in to the cravings or temptations.  But also for all the times I bounced back from a small lapse.  I will not berate myself for the fried chicken or that bag of potato chips.

Ultimately I now think our relationship with food and getting a balance between mind and body is not ever a one-off process or stumbling luckily across one cure-it-all.  Rather it is a journey (like life is).  A journey of reflection, growth, refinement and finding your flow.

I am also looking forward to checking out Dr Libby’s new book – Sweet Food Story.

Good luck with your wellness journey!

Week 7: Recovering from Lapses

After the lapse in IQS week 6 it has been amazingly simple to bounce back now in week 7.  As Sarah puts in the Week 7 chapter of her IQS book, you revert back to your blank slate by eating fat and crowding out with lots of fresh greens.

Like I mentioned in my previous post, there is a much better mind body balance at play here.  I feel  more balanced, the cravings no longer control me.

Having previously (for years) struggled with headaches and a fairly constant foggy brain state, I am feeling so much clearer and focused and energised.  I have had practically no headaches in the last seven weeks.

My energy levels are so different to what they were before this little experiment. I wouldn’t say I leap out of bed in the mornings but I am not waking up with a heavy head feeling more tired than when I fell into bed the night before.

This is such an incredible sense of freedom.  I never would have believed it possible.  I must admit to having been quite sceptical before starting this process that I would feel this level of result after seven short weeks.

I’m feeling happily full after meals.  I only eat when I’m hungry and this week have had almost no cravings between meals.  My portion sizes are much smaller too.  It is all becoming a lot easier to manage.  What felt like quite a chore to think and plan through the meals for the week and shopping, etc. is now coming quite naturally.

Even my supermarket choices are improving, more controlled.  I stick to my list and listen to the cues of my body as I’m wandering the aisles.  My body is not signalling a need for the bad stuff.

Another thing I have noticed is I seem to be processing water more effectively.   What I mean by that is, I have gone for a number of years now feeling almost constantly thirsty.  As a result I would drink about two to three litres of water a day and still feel thirsty.  I struggled a lot with water retention at the same time.  My weight could fluctuate 2 – 3 kgs in a single day!  In the past weeks I am definitely not as thirsty.  I am still drinking about one to two litres of water a day but it makes me feel full and seems to be doing what it is supposed to instead of sitting around where it is not supposed to and making me feel huge and unhappy.

All rather miraculous really.  Long may this last.

I Quit Sugar book cover
Thank you, Sarah Wilson, for sharing your IQS journey

Check out the IQS Store online for lots of other info and ideas from Sarah.

Week 6: Add some sweetness back in

Cathedral Cove, Hahei, Coromandel, NZ
Cathedral Cove, Hahei, Coromandel, NZ

This week we went on holiday.  Beautiful New Zealand in the spring time.  I know people complain about spring weather in this part of the world – the wind, the rain, its changeable nature.  But at this same time we see the gorgeous shades of green of paddock and forest, washed bright and fresh by the spring showers.  The aquamarine blue of the water washing up along the white sands on the Pacific coast.  The blues and greens of spring are rejuvenating, whispering hope and growth.

We put aside IQS restrictions and took advantage of being on holiday in every sense we could.

I didn’t feel guilty but rather relished indulging in a few of the delectable delights on offer – a 2 hour wine tasting plus accompaniments at a local vineyard with my mom; a delicious tapas meal with smoked beer in a converted church and tiny tastes of yummy baked goods at the local cafe chased with a fabulous macchiato (difficult to find a good one of those in this country in my experience).  The perfect break from our normal.

And so we head into Week 7: Recovering from Lapses.  This seems pretty appropriate considering the the week 6 we just had.  Reading what Sarah says about IQS week 7, it seems we are ahead of the game.  This week’s conscience lapse has reminded us of why we quit the white stuff in the first place.  So we focus back on being mindful in a gentle and kind way of how our bodies responded to a little sweetness.  In my case, I can definitely say that I have broken a bad habit and feel better for it.  I can hear my body’s voice asking for whole, fresh, vital and nutritious food.  I feel more in balance and not fighting against the cravings.  That makes staying without sugar a much easier choice.  I am motivated to continue…. maybe IQS for life?

Week 5: Get Creative, Experiment and Detox

So I am a little late with this week’s installment.  I got side tracked this weekend with spring cleaning the kitchen and organising cupboards (which I get some kind of weird kick out of).

IQS week 5 started well and I definitely felt quite energised by Thursday from my liver cleanse regime that I decided to tackle as the detox part of this week.  However, it all came to a crashing halt on Friday with my first real lapse to my old ways.  My justification –  the end of a really long, busy term combined with my usual “that time of the month” cravings.  So I indulged in a decidedly delightful lamington at the end of term morning tea, chased that with an equally delicious carrot cake cupcake at lunch and a bag of Maltezers after dinner.  Well, I guess a blow out is a blow out.

Woke up on Saturday with what can only be described as a sugar hangover.  The heavy -headed, thick, lethargic feeling is one I have not experienced for weeks.  Very interesting.  In some ways I don’t regret this lapse as I have learnt a lot about my body’s reactions to sugar.  I am so much more mindful of the incredible strides I have made towards health over these past 5 weeks.  And I have learnt that I can cope with a lapse like this, not feel too guilty and just move forward making more positive decisions food wise than unhelpful ones.  Massive progress really.

Even the hangover feeling I woke up with passed quickly after a whole lot of water with lemon and focusing on getting started on the spring cleaning.  The fact that I felt I had the energy to tackle the task at hand is amazing to me.  The change in my energy levels for the better is rather overwhelming to me.

Another tool in my health and wellness journey I have this week rediscovered – The Gabriel Method.  I read Jon Gabriel’s book a few years ago and got a lot out of it at the time.  I found his visualisation techniques very helpful (although the results for me were not long-lasting and my body definitely defaulted back to its old ways after about a year).  I found the book again and have reread it.  I have now decided to try the guided meditations Cellular Wisdom listed on his website.  I have thought for a long time now that setting aside that quiet time each day such as meditation or yoga must be highly beneficial.  I like the idea of this being guided – need all the help I can get.  It seems to me that a better mind-body connection can only improve health and wellness outcomes rather than just focusing on food and drink.

Right, time to soldier on into week 6 – adding back a little sweetness. I have already tried the Raspberry Ripple.  This is decadent and delicious – with the freshness of the berries (oh, how I missed the berries!) and the richness of the cacao.  And just a the tiniest taste is enough to sate the need for sweetness.

Week 4: Face the Demons

So this is the half way point of our little experiment.  Sarah says we need to face the demons, that doubt will creep in and you will start to question what you are doing.  Well, she was right.  This week we faced some demons.  For me this was in the form of craving huge slices of chocolate cake, a tonne of Russian fudge would have been great too!  Actually, I think I would have been happy with a handful of berries or a breakfast smoothie with banana and kiwi. But no fruit allowed either.

When planning for this week’s meals we had intended to try a whole bunch of new recipes but when it came down to it, it seemed to make more sense for us to face a tough week by keeping things simple.  So it was tried and true favourites with as much veg and leafy greens as possible.  This seemed to help – too full to crave anything.  Looks like this ties in with week 5’s IQS mantra.

Best breakfast this week was the pumpkin pie and quinoa porridge.  Best lunch – haloumi salad with walnuts.  Best dinner – a vege lasagne (my sister’s secret recipe)….. so good and the leftovers even yummier the next day for lunch.

Going back to the doubts creeping in.  I ended the week reading Dr Libby Weaver’s new book The Calorie Fallacy.  What a fabulous second opinion.  So much of her message matches Sarah’s experience.  I have read most of Dr Libby’s books and have found them most enlightening.  The Calorie Fallacy was a good reminder of some things I already know as well as a trigger to pursue other avenues to health and well-being.  In particular, the link between sugar and your liver.

Dr Libby's new book, The Calorie Fallacy
Dr Libby’s new book, The Calorie Fallacy

Week 5 of IQS is all about being creative, experimenting and detoxing.  The last week of feeling deprived before we can add a little sweetness back.  I am going to focus my week 5 on a liver detox.  I think I can live without fudge or chugging down a tin of condensed milk for 7 little days out of my life ♥