Things I definitely would not spend money on: Part 1

I think it’s clear to everyone now that I am no Hedvig Opshaugh. I like what I like when it comes to fashion. And I am confused by what I am confused by. The new Alexander Wang x H&M collection being a case in point.

Firstly, this philistine had no idea who Alexander Wang was, and had to google whether he was related to Vera (he’s not), whose name I learned when she dressed a thousand celebrity weddings. Now that’s a quick turnaround business. Secondly the word Wang makes me giggle.

Thirdly…what? This collection melted the H&M website today and is almost all sold out. I literally can’t even….

Let’s have a look. And please, by all means interrupt me if you can explain.

Sorry, I can't hear you from under my hat.

Sorry, I can’t hear you from under my hat.

Ok, where is the girl on the left going? a) Boxing b) Scuba diving c) The opera? She’s dressed head to toe in wetsuit material and all I can say is I hope she doesn’t have to pee in a hurry.

And girl on the right. What’s she smuggling under that hat? Whatever it is, I’m sure she’s going to need it for her impending basketball game. She’s dressed for both snow and searing heat, which further confuses me. But then I have seen some things on a Saturday night in King’s Cross that make me pretty immune to incredulity.

Tennis, anyone?

Tennis, anyone?

The one on the left needs no explanation. This is clearly Pussy Galore, papped unawares while stepping out of a fighter jet wearing pilot goggles and a killer bra. I can see me wearing this to the office for a particularly important meeting.

And don’t even get me started on Miss Shoulderbones 2014. With her scorpion tail braid and her Wang gloves, she’s clearly just won the game. I don’t know. Is that even a sporting thing she has in her hands? Or is it something she stole from Jason?

I'm a little teapot

I’m a little teapot

After her audition to be a scarecrow went awry, she donned the warpaint, grabbed a football helmet and showed them all she had what it takes.

On the right…I literally don’t even know how a person would get that dress on. I think she was born in it. I’m frightened of what she’s doing with that stick though.

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When Pokahontis joined the hockey team, she hadn’t expected she would need to wear her tracking collar. But whatever, just look at her. She was born ready.

Now, I have seen some football in my life, but I have never seen a team come out in something like this: A chastity belt, Kanye glasses and quilted leather pants. Or have I missed some games? I’ve also never seen hair defy gravity this way, but that’s just me. She simply looks uncomfortable. But hey, it’s fashion!

Purchases that keep on giving #3: Gratitude for convenience

Photo Credit: Flavia_FF via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Flavia_FF via Compfight cc

Everyone takes you for granted, sweetheart, but I don’t.  You take all my dirty, sweaty, food-smeared clothes and make them smell like a fresh summer’s breeze while I swan around the apartment wasting my time as I please, or even leave you in order to go off drinking, sportsing or socialising.

Before I got you, things were a lot more difficult. I had to forage for 50 cent pieces and hold onto them for grim death. I was that annoying person the supermarket line who just needs to pay 50 cents more. “There!” the cashier would say, “You’ve got one there!” “No!” I would holler, clenching my fist around it and counting out pennies. “I need that! That’s mine!”

I wasted countless beautiful Saturday hours dragging a stuffed suitcase to the nearest laundromat (either a 25 minute walk, or a train and then a bus!). Then I had to sit – usually between a fat, smelly man and a dying pot plant – reading terrible German gossip magazines from 1997 while all my friends were at the beergarden.

In winter, I had to pull that suitcase through snow and wind. And that same fat man and those same bad magazines were there. I couldn’t do more than a carry-on’s worth of washing per weekend, which meant I really had to think about what I would be wearing a week or two in future. There was none of this “Oh, I’ll stick it in the machine and it will dry overnight.” No, not like the heady days I am experiencing now.

Sometimes I would sacrifice a weeknight to washing, and that would be worse. Colleagues would see me pulling my battered little trolley and assume I was off some place. So many times I had to reply “No, nowhere special, just the laundromat.” Do you know how they looked at me?

Or there were pitched battles in the bowels of the apartment complex. Names on rosters booking out the two common machines for days on end. People forgetting their clothes in there and me having to haul them out of the machine’s mouth like so many dead mice.

But no more! I say a silent thank you every single time you yield up my towels, clothes and sheets to me fresh, clean and sweet-smelling. You never complain, you never give up and you need so little in return. It was a happy day, Mr Washing Machine, when I was finally able to afford you after moving here. And I will never, ever take you for granted.

Seriously though. How fucking good is having your own washing machine?

Building Rome – Steady as she goes

Photo Credit: Paolo Margari via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Paolo Margari via Compfight cc

Can’t talk! Got a novel to write. I’m participating in this year’s National Novel Writing Month and you can cheer my progress in the widget on the right hand side.

In other news, here are my goals from last week in the Green Embers Building Rome weekly goal setting event:

  1. Go to crossfit three times. DONE! Read more about it here.
  2. Bring my lunch each day. DONE! Cooking up a storm over here. Thank god for the interwebs providing me with a constant source of paleo recipes! 
  3. Eat fermented food three times a week. DONE!
  4. Eat NO grains. (I’ve actually already been doing this for three weeks. I feel like a NEW person.) DONE! Getting easier and easier. And I feel like a million dollars. 
  5. Get my outline ready for Nanowrimo. I am going to attempt to write a novel in 30 days. Anyone else out there doing this?! I need some buddies! DONE! And the games have begun! 
  6. Continue Sober October until the end of October. DONE….well. I went to a Halloween party on the night of the 31st of October. Debauchery ensued. And it occurred before midnight. However! I kept myself only to blood vodka jelly shots that went from fake plastic syringes into my mouth. Well that and marshmallow vodka. So partial credit.

And my goals for the next week are basically the same. They will be for a while. So this might be the last time I check in on them during November. It’s hard. I’m busy! Still got around nine-tenths of my book to write. But I might share some good passages on here if I feel like my muse has done a good job 🙂

Good luck with your goals!

Building Rome: Wait…what week is it?

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It has come to my attention that I have no freaking clue what day I check in with my goals on. So from now on, it’s Mondays. Ahh Mondays. That shitty, shitty day where you remember you haven’t won the lottery and you have to get up at 630am again. Or in my case, when the snooze button runs out. Which is approximately 15 minutes after first alarm, but a good while before second alarm. Second alarm is set for the last conceivable minute that I can get up, tie my hair in a knot, run a washcloth over myself, and leave the house decent enough not to cause alarm to the general populace.

It should only be used in extreme cases.

But I digress.

Here are my goals from last week, from the Building Rome event hosted by the lovely Green Embers,  and how I did on them:

  • I will not spend any money. After the Finland debacle, I’ve been very careful with this one. Mission accomplished. 
  • I will go to crossfit twice this week. Nailed it!  
  • I will bring my lunch each day this week. Also a gold star on this one. Have not missed a single day of packing my own lunch. Even though I eat in the company cafeteria with everyone else and the heavy, eastern-European cashier who looks like an extra on Orange is the New Black makes me hold open my containers for her. Yeah right. Like I would steal that food. Bitch, please. 
  • I will continue Sober October. This is going to be a BIG test. I am going to the Whiskey Festival with friends on Friday, and a very good friend is visiting this weekend. Not just any friend, an Irish friend. I have decided that for Friday and Saturday nights, “sobriety” will mean two standard drinks. Just for those two days, and only because these two events are pretty rare and special.  OKaaaay. So. This one. Huh. Well, I not only tumbled off the wagon, I hit every sleeper on the track during the night of the whiskey festival. The glorious, delicious whiskey festival. I literally don’t know how many I had, but it was enough to cause a bone-crushing headache the next day. And to not remember taking at least half the pictures I found on my mobile the next day. Which mainly involved hands holding whiskey glasses. Case in point at the top. I didn’t notice the middle finger. That’s what happens when you drink with boys. Aaaand, then I drank again the next day and the next. Not half as much. Just two drinks on Saturday and one on Sunday. But then I dusted myself off and got back on the wagon, and rode it clean through to Friday. When I tumbled off it again. This time I only had a single Moscow Mule. And now I am back on it again. 

I would like to give myself extra credit here, because I did not drink on Sunday. Not even when a bird flew into my apartment. An actual bird. Which then totally panicked and started smacking itself against the window. The closed one. Not the open one it had just flown in through. I am PETRIFIED of birds. And there was no-one here with me, and my distress calls went unanswered. Mostly because I am not sure any sound actually came out of my mouth. For the next ten minutes, this bird and I moved around each other with flaps and screams and ducking, while I tried to get the window open wider for it, and it shat on the sofa, floor, and coffee table and did laps of the kitchen. Eventually when the door was wide open, I cautiously retreated and then curled into a ball on the floor. As soon as the thing FINALLY flew out, I got up and slapped the window shut and so it shall remain forevermore. Most terrifying moments of  my life to date. And I had a whiskey bottle in my hand thirty seconds afterward. But I talked myself down. The strength this required cannot be underestimated.

  • I will add fermented food to my diet 3 times a week. Done! I’ve been eating sauerkraut and drinking kombucha at least 3 times a week. 
  • I will do at least one page on any of my creative writing projects. Done! I have been outlining in preparation for National Novel Writing month. Which is a new goal below. 
  • Complete my German homework, and watch a half hour episode of a familiar show in German. Nope. Didn’t even go near this. Apologies to my darling German teacher. I will do better this week, Carmen, I promise.

And on to this week’s goals! We’ve got some big ones here.

  1. Go to crossfit three times.
  2. Bring my lunch each day.
  3. Eat fermented food three times a week.
  4. Eat NO grains. (I’ve actually already been doing this for three weeks. I feel like a NEW person.)
  5. Get my outline ready for Nanowrimo. I am going to attempt to write a novel in 30 days. Anyone else out there doing this?! I need some buddies!
  6. Continue Sober October until the end of October.

I think that’s enough for now, don’t you? 🙂 Good luck on your goals!

Small victories

http://www.amazon.de/gp/product/B000VOI7HI/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Looks like any ordinary food processor, doesn’t it? But it’s not! It’s actually a step towards a better me.

This little baby is my Christmas present from my family in Australia. Except I paid for it. Now, that sounds like I broke the rules. But here’s the story in bullets because we’re all busy:

  • Our family is large, so we do a Kris Kringle for Christmas. Meaning everyone pulls one name from a hat and only buys for that person.
  • We send around lists of the things that we want. Because frankly, my 60 year old engineer stepdad has no idea what my 35 year old fashionista female cousin would want. And my fisherman/prison warden cousin has no idea what my Ma would want. And basically noone knows what my brother-in-law wants, not even him (Love you, Chris!).
  • I said I wanted a food processor.
  • This on was on sale on amazon.de, last one!
  • Instead of immediatenly buying it, I called my family and asked if I could buy it and they pay me the money for it into my Australian bank account.
  • This saves shipping fees and currency conversion credit card charges. It also means I can transfer less money home from this side back to my account at home. Altogether meaning I get more for my Christmas money.
  • They said yes.
  • I bought it.
  • It arrived in the post.

Now here is the part where I realised I’m changing. The deal was that I could buy it only if I agreed not to use it until Christmas. In the past, I would have nodded and then torn the box open and started using it right away. After all, I’m half a world away, noone would be any the wiser! And there are recipes to make, damn it.

But this time I stopped and thought about how I would feel on Christmas day when I had nothing to open. By then, the food processor would have been regularly used and wouldn’t have that special “new” feeling anymore. And I would be empty-handed. Christmas wouldn’t really be special, and it’s already hard when you’ve no family around.

I’m not good enough to keep it in my apartment and not use it, but what I have done is give it to a friend. I’ll be seeing him and his family around Christmas time and he says he’ll wrap it and give it to me then. So that will be lovely.

I’m slowly learning to wait for the second marshmallow. 🙂

I think I stopped eating the marshmallow

Photo Credit: Bibi via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Bibi via Compfight cc

Ever heard of the famous Stanford University Marshmallow experiment? Just in case you haven’t, it took place in the 60s and involved Professor Walter Mischel leaving small children – around four years old – alone in a room with a single marshmallow.

“I’m going to go away for 15 minutes,” he would say. “If the marshmallow is still here when I get back, you get a second one.” The kids were secretly filmed.

Two out of three kids ate the marshmallow within the 15 minutes. Some held out almost the whole time, others had it in their sticky fists before the door was closed.

Doesn’t sound like a big deal. What if they were hungry? What if they only wanted one marshmallow? What if they didn’t trust they’d get a second?

Well, turns out, it’s not about the marshmallow.

The team went back and caught up with all those kids 15 years later. They discovered that that one kid in three who held out for the second marshmallow had ended up with “better life outcomes” – higher education levels, better grades, better BMIs, better relationships – than the other two of three.

In his TED talk, motivational speaker and author Joachim de Posada says the ability to say no to the first marshmallow is the “single most important principle for success: the ability to delay gratification. Self-discipline.”

I am pretty confident I would have eaten the marshmallow, probably within seconds. Because I’ve never had much self-discipline. I’ve always gotten good grades and had a healthy BMI and good relationships in my life…except with money. And sometimes cigarettes. And sometimes other things.

My mindset has always been: “But what if I died tomorrow?” Then I would never have been able to enjoy that new piece of clothing, that cigarette, those fries. And it’s good to have a vice, isn’t it? Everyone has one. And it’s not like I’m honking away on a crack pipe each evening.

But once you eat the marshmallow, you want another one. You want the second one. Except it’s too late. The money from next month, well, you already spent that last month. You’re tired this morning? That’s because you chose to stay up really late last night. You wanna watch Breaking Bad? Well there’s none left because you watched 247 episodes in one weekend. Your bonus? You already spent it three times.

And really, the chances are good that I won’t die tomorrow. We can never know for sure, but the chances are good.

So recently I’ve found myself thinking: “What if I live tomorrow?” Then it makes more sense to wait out for the second treat. To delay gratification. To learn to save. To learn not to indulge. To spread the enjoyment out. But how?

Then I read this New Yorker article from 2009, where journalist Jonah Lehrer went back and spoke to Mischel about his famous marshmallow experiments. Mischel said some interesting things.

He noted similar behaviours in all the kids who could wait. They would cover their eyes, turn their backs on the marshmallow, sing songs to divert their attention, even hide under the table itself. They were all doing the same thing. Moving the marshmallow OUT of the centre of their focus. They were able to distract themselves, and stop thinking about the “hot stimulus” of the marshmallow.

It also turns out that he could pretty reliably predict which kids would eat the marshmallow from the age of around 18 months. He would temporarily separate kids from their mothers. Some would completely lose their shit – the ones who would eat the marshmallow. Others would sing to themselves, play with toys whatever – they would distract themselves so they would not think about their missing mothers. When he tested the same kids several years later, the mother separation test was basically foolproof in picking the quick marshmallow eaters.

So does that mean the desire for instant gratification is born into us? Into me?

Apparently, thankfully, not.

When Mischel taught the kids simple shortcuts – such as pretending the marshmallow was only a picture of one and not real – this dramatically increased their ability to resist. The article also mentions another experimenter, John Jonides, who was working on conducting the equivalent tests in adults – sans marshmallows. He was on the brink of proving through MRIs that the same part of the brain responsible for self-control is the part used for directed attention.

So, self-control is just about directed attention. Focus.

At the time of the article, they were trying to figure out the best ways to introduce this concept – to really teach kids the skills they need to control themselves and to delay gratification – at certain schools. I’ve got more research to do. But according to both experimenters, metacognition – or thinking about thinking – is one of the best ways to outsmart yourself when you are sinking in to your desires.

And I think that is what I have somehow started doing. About 36 years late, but hey, I’m hopefully going to live another 36! I seem to have learned to just keep my thoughts away from the stimulus, instead of staring, poking and scratching at it like I might have done before. It’s what I was doing when I unsubscribed from all those newsletters, emptied my online wish lists and changed my internet preferences on ads.

I’ve noticed other small changes since I closed my purse. Like those above, but also more recently around other areas of my life. Like, each day I bring my lunch to work along with enough snacks to last the day. Previously, I ate all the snacks about an hour after arriving, and ended up starved by mid-afternoon. I don’t think my diet was premium either, so my blood sugar was crashing a lot and I couldn’t hold out once I thought about eating.

Now, I am not even bringing snacks. It’s so weird but in the space of just a week or two, I have discovered that if I only eat real food, and eliminate grains and most sugar, I can actually get by on my (admittedly huge) breakfast, a big lunch, and maybe a cup of tea, piece of fruit and some nuts mid-afternoon. I’m still working out, so it’s not like my body needs less energy. And I still eat a LOT. I’m just not grazing the whole damn day. And my blood sugar isn’t crashing. It’s a miracle.

When I think about it, it’s also about focus and directed attention. I am suuuper busy at work and don’t have as much time to think about food. A combination of changing my behaviour a bit and keeping my mind off food seems to be working. Now I need to harness it for the other areas of my life. I’m just going to keep this in mind, and take it one day at a time. But I thought I would share this discovery.

And in very good news for me, there are a group of kids who failed the marshmallow test, but turned themselves into “high-delaying adults”. These are the ones Mischel said he would study next. “These”, he says, “are the most interesting.”

Building Rome – Back on the rails

Photo Credit: Paolo Margari via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Paolo Margari via Compfight cc

Soooo, last week I posted my first ever goal list and then skipped off to Finland to ruin goal #1, before coming down with the black death and neglecting to lift a finger on goals #2 – 5.

Here’s what they were for last week, along with my progress updates.

  1. Financial: I will not spend any money (obeying these rules). Uh, so I didn’t really stick to this.
  2. Fitness: I will go to crossfit three times next week. Nope, not this either. I was way too sick to even go to work, let alone work out.
  3. Creative: I will get started (one page min) on the outline for the TV series idea I have. Also a big zero on this front. I was more concerned with keeping drool off my pillow and wondering how many tissues a human can use in one day.
  4. Health: I will take my own lunch to work each day next week. Here I get partial credit. I did bring lunch to work the only day and a half I was in, and the rest of the time, I only ate food I had cooked. When I was hungry at all, that is.
  5. Creative 2: I will write 2 pages for my chapter of the book I am cowriting with one of my BFFs. I think you can already guess where this one went.

However! I have still made some headway on some things. And the goals have changed slightly, perhaps expanded.

Here they are for this week, which is Week 42 of Green Ember’s Building Rome challenge:

  1. I will not spend any money So far – Finland excepted – so good.
  2. I will go to crossfit twice this week It’s not the usual 3 because I am building back up after the ‘flu. One already down one to go.
  3. I will bring my lunch each day this week. 3 from 3 so far!
  4. I will continue Sober October. This is going to be a BIG test. I am going to the Whiskey Festival with friends on Friday, and a very good friend is visiting this weekend. Not just any friend, an Irish friend. I have decided that for Friday and Saturday nights, “sobriety” will mean two standard drinks. Just for those two days, and only because these two events are pretty rare and special.
  5. I will add fermented food to my diet 3 times a week. This is to aid with gut healing – more on that below.
  6. I will do at least one page on any of my creative writing projects.
  7. Complete my German homework, and watch a half hour episode of a familiar show in German.

It’s a lot, but I am feeling 99% healthy again, and cooked up a huge batch of food on the first day of my sickness, before collapsing into bed for marathon 12-hour stretches.

I have been inspired to add fermented food to my diet (goal #5) after reading a series of really interesting posts on the Eat.Drink.WoD. Blog. The author decided to cut out a bunch of foods and increase others, to see what would happen and how she would feel. The results were pretty spectacular. If you want to read more:

Here are the rules she followed, and her motivation for starting.

Here is a revelation she had part-way through.

And here’s what she discovered at the end.

Happy reading, and good luck with your goals!

Something bad happened in Finland

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So I had an amazing time in Finland, as you can see here. The forest was lit up with the colours of autumn the day we went mushroom hunting.  Yeah. That’s a thing in Finland. I was given a quick lesson by my friends, as to which mushrooms not to touch. That giant red one in the second picture is really poisonous.  One of the few poisonous mushrooms in Finland. I was delighted to find a giant patch of the exact mushroom kind we were looking for, and we put them into our little basket and made a risotto with them later that night.

Then the bad thing happened. My friends, who are expecting any day now, stopped by Ikea on the way home to grab some baby things. And I got separated from the herd. When I connected with them again, it was too late. My basket was full and my purse was wide open.

Here’s what I bought:

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Now, stay with me as I justify every purchase.

1. Limited edition sheet sets. They match not only my rug but my whole apartment. And I accidentally boiled the only set I had on a 90°c washing setting with an orange blazer. I think you can guess the rest.

2. Lunch boxes that go directly from the freezer to the microwave.  I’m enjoying cooking in bulk and freezing at the moment. And actually, bringing my lunch to work each day is a goal of mine. And I didn’t have enough things to store my cooking in.

3. A meat thermometre. Basically so I don’t poison myself in the kitchen.

4.  These bottles handily labelled themselves.  System 4 is a famous Finnish shampoo that improves scalp circulation and stimulates hair growth. I ain’t bald, but tell me someone who doesn’t want thicker hair and I will show you a big fat liar. Oops! There are two 4s. The second is a scented candle. That’s essential, right? It smells like heaven if that makes a difference.

5. Variously-sized zip-lock freezer bags. Again, for cooking. Less space than lunch boxes. And more labellable.  Which is now a word.

6. Thermos for taking soup to work. My old one stopped closing properly. 

7. A funnel to get the soup into said thermos. Previously my counter top ate more soup than the average German.

8. Those handy clippy things that seal open bags.

So you see, it’s nothing frivolous.  But still, I feel like I’ve failed. Like I’ve fallen off the wagon.

I need a little encouragement here!

Building Rome – my first goal list

Photo Credit: Paolo Margari via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Paolo Margari via Compfight cc

There are several things I know about myself.

  1. I would get my pinky toes surgically straightened if that was a thing
  2. I need whiskey in the apartment
  3. If I am stressed or upset about something, even without realising it, I: smoke, lose sleep/sleep poorly, obsessively think about what has upset me, drink (more than usual), cry easily over ridiculous things like a shoelace snapping, get short-tempered with people I love, laugh very little, get a break out, get a cold sore and avoid time alone.

I was going to make my very first Building Rome goals list more about getting over my breakup. But I have done an internal checklist and realised that actually…I’m not going through any of these things. I have no idea why, but I am happy, I am spending lots of time alone, I’m not really drinking, I’m not thinking about things, and I only really genuinely wish him well. He was a fun addition to my life while we were together. I seem to have nothing to get past and work on. Hooray for me!

However, the rest of my life is something of a shit show. Well, in some areas anyway. So now that I am joining in on the game, my goals are more about my life ambitions. And my body and general health. Here they are (inspired by* the Mental Mama category system):

  1. Financial: I will not spend any money (obeying these rules)
  2. Fitness: I will go to crossfit three times next week
  3. Creative: I will get started (one page min) on the outline for the TV series idea I have
  4. Health: I will take my own lunch to work each day next week
  5. Creative 2: I will write 2 pages for my chapter of the book I am cowriting with one of my BFFs.

There. Getting those done for a week will make me feel pretty awesome!

It’s a short week too, since I’m in Finland until Monday night. On something of an extreme holiday. Not in the usual sense of adventure sports, but because the girlfriend I am going to visit is severely pregnant and a small human could pop out of her at any moment. The very idea that I could be called upon to be of service in a birthing situation gives me cold sweats. Come on little girl, hang in there until I am on the plane home! 🙂

 

*totally copied.

Torture

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I just wanted to post these pics to show how good I was when one of my besties took me shopping for something she needed. (That’s the culprit there. Top photo, left, gorgeous hair, arm in sling).

I mean, would you look at this stuff?  I want it all!

But my purse remained closed and I am quite proud of myself for that.

That is all. As you were.