The perfect song for a journey of self-discovery

Today is the dawn of something new and exciting, and I’m not just talking about the newly-wedded Wills and Kate!  Yeah ok, I’m not actually a huge fan of the Monarchy (hardly know them) but weddings are supposed to be romantic, happy occasions and this one just happened to be broadcast to several billion people so why not watch it!  And Kate’s dress was quite nice, very tasteful and elegant.  The reason why today is exciting is because I have a tingling scalp!  No, I’m not insane, it’s a side-effect of my new medication – Midodrine, which is supposed to be the best thing to help fix my low blood pressure issues.  Apparently the tingling scalp is the most common side-effect, lasts for about 1-2 weeks and is a pretty good indication that the dose is correct and it is working!   The downside is, these pills cost about as much as a latte per day.  But hey, they could give me my life back which would be completely worth the expense.

I finally got travel insurance yesterday through HBA, they give their health insurance members a 15% discount on travel insurance so that’s handy.  I finally acknowledged that no travel insurance company in their right mind would insure me for my various pre-existing conditions and gave up filling in medical assessment forms.  At least I have it if anything else goes wrong! And I got myself a pair of skinz 3/4 tights (compression active-wear) on my doctors recommendation to help my circulation while I’m walking.  It’s so exciting, in exactly 1 month and 2.5 hours I will be on a plane on my way to Paris!  Everything is falling into place and it is such a relief.  Soon I will be partaking in a millennia-old pilgrimage that has seen countless numbers of the devout (and not so devout) don their scallop shells and arrive footsore at Santiago de Compostela after walking for days on end.  Like many others, I am not quite sure what I am looking to find on the way but I know it is something profound and meaningful – if only to me.  Just the thought makes my scalp prickle with excitement – that or the pills, who knows!

All I know is – it just feels right.  I haven’t quite found a whole scallop shell to take with me but I still have time.  I have had ‘I’m on my way’ by the Proclaimers in my head since Thursday evening after seeing my Cardiologist.  Partly thanks to random playlists on my Mp3 player and partly thanks to Nat (mentioned in a previous post as the bringer of natural disasters) who was singing it last week.  Now the words feel like they were written just for me, for my journey.  I know it’s silly to think that but I’m sure everyone has had the same thought about a particular song and its relevance to their lives at a particular time.  Appropriate music tends to fall into my life on cue and I love it!  For anyone not familiar with the song here’s a youtube clip of it.  The clip is a bit odd – the band seems to have just discovered the effects of green/blue screen and got a little over excited, the clip was made in the 80’s where ginormous glasses were the norm and you also have to remember that they are Scottish so no, the lyrics are not actually ‘I’m on my wee’ even though it sounds like they are…

I think the verse – ‘I’ll do my best, I’ll do my best to do the best I can’ is particularly relevant to my journey.  But then again I find relevance in pretty much all the lyrics when I can understand what they’re singing!  The music of the Proclaimers takes me back a few years – my brother had an audio tape of their album ‘Sunshine on leith’ which included ‘I’m on my way’ and ‘I’m gonna be (500 miles)’ (that I’m sure everyone knows!) amongst other songs.  It was his favourite tape and we listened to it frequently particularly when we were ‘on our way’ to places by car.

I’m not going to say I have everything I need for my trip this time because when I do I inevitably find or hear about something else I need but I have to be getting close this time!  Nat, who seems to be in my posts a bit lately, found me another Camino-ists diary to read; one that was also written by an Australian and is proving to be rather amusing.  This book is called ‘Unholy Pilgrims’ and is written by a man named Tom Trumble.  It is a different style to ‘The year we seized the day‘ (the book that originally inspired my journey) but has been a great read so far.

These pants were made for walking

I love City Chic – I cannot adequately express how much I have loved this store over the years and with the find of my perfect new hiking pants my love has been given new vigour.  For those of us girls who are a little curvier (particularly after easter) and have trouble finding clothes above a size 14 that are fashionable and do not look like shapeless, flowery circus tents or make us look like someones great aunt Mildred – City Chic is the answer.  For years there was a drought in the Australian plus size fashion market and then it came along – it is now the mecca of women’s fashion from size 14+ in Australia.  I have found so many beautiful dresses and perfect jeans it is hard not to go a bit crazy and blow a fortnights salary in one shop.  In addition to keeping up with current fashion trends with fun, funky and sexy styles they also have accessories, shapewear, bathers and shoes – what’s not to love?  And the best thing? As a size 14-16 I am a small-extra small – I never thought that would happen!

But I digress (got a little distracted).  I have been looking out for a pair of hiking pants for a few weeks now.  I had pinched my mums zip-off, quick-dry fancy pants to take with me but they are rather uncomfortable and (after easter) a little tight – oops!  I think anyone who has been hiking will agree that comfort is number one and looking good while you do it is a rare bonus.  So on Sunday night I had a look online to see what was out there and discovered that not only did City Chic have a pair of cargo’s out at the moment but they also had buttons to turn them into 3/4 pants, were in a colour that didn’t clash horribly with my bright, burnt orange pack AND were having an online sale that ended that night.  I am not in the habit of buying something as important as pants online because you can’t try them on but after reading the returns policy and finding I could return them to any store or back online I decided the opportunity was too good to miss.  I decided to have a look at Kathmandu and Anaconda at DFO yesterday just incase and after spending a horrible morning trying on zip-off pants (that turn into shorts) for hiking I came to the conclusion that nobody can look good in them and that I looked particularly ridiculous. Then this morning my City Chic cargo’s arrived in the mail (cue parting clouds, beams of sunshine, seraphim’s and the hallelujah chorus) – they are perfect!  They are so comfy, have pockets – oh so many useful pockets and in good places not down by your knees where you can’t reach and make your knees look like the knee version of cankles (thees? knighs? whatever).  They are lightweight, stretchy (making them perfect for the flight over), quick-drying, come with a belt and have the aforementioned fold and button system to make them shorter.  I believe I can safely say they are the most perfect hiking and travel pants I have ever had.  I think I can also say I might be the best dressed Pilgrim on the trail!  Not that that matters on a pilgrimage of course but hey, it can’t hurt!

Ok, I think you all get the message now – awesome pants, love City Chic.  Now we can move on!  On Saturday it will be exactly one month till I go – I don’t know how I will bear the excitement and Ding is getting rather antsy and eager to leave!

After a month of waiting I am seeing my cardiologist tonight.  She will be putting me on Midodrine which is apparently more effective than Fludrocortisone in raising low blood pressure so yay!  It just might be the wonder drug that makes all the difference, helps me last the distance on this long walk and enables me to work again when I get home and after my surgery in July.  She will also be able to help me decide what to put on my medical alert bracelet which I will be able to finalise and send off, hopefully tomorrow!

I still haven’t received the results from my blood test so have no idea if I can have the Gammaglobulin infusions to help my dodgy immune system but I am still hopeful.  Another thing that happens in May is GAMSAT results and Medical school applications – fingers crossed!  That reminds me, I have to order my academic transcripts and decide which universities to apply to…

And in further news – it’s nearly bout time!  Yep, South Sea Roller Derby’s second bout of the year (Tour of Booty) will take place on May 14th here’s a handy link if you want to check it out!  And this time, instead of officialling I will (hopefully – application pending) be running a market stall with the lovely Lucy from ‘Made in the Shade’ accessories.  We haven’t decided what to call our stall yet but have been hard at work making all sorts of cute accessories ranging from pretty hair clips to gorgeous beaded and fimo jewellery (Lucy is a wiz with fimo!) – here’s an example of some of our hair accessories, hope you like them and be sure to come round and say ‘Hi!’

The best hot cross buns in Melbourne – and other important issues

Easter and my lack of self-control when I’m not feeling 100% have a lot to answer for.  But it’s all in the name of research – no really!  This year my brother and I decided to test the claims made in ‘The Age’ about who’s hot cross bun’s were the best in Melbourne.  Fortunately he had a tennis tournament over the weekend so was able to work off a few of the buns and while I did a bit of walking it wasn’t nearly enough.  I’m hoping that walking 100-200km will help with that but it would be good to lose a couple of cm’s before I go.  But hey, it’s easter and I was pretty well behaved all things considered – it’s not like I reduced myself to a hot cross bun coma or anything!  So, what makes a good hot cross bun? you ask.  Well hot cross bun tasting is kind of like wine tasting – there are a lot of factors to consider.  But before we go into those details let me clarify the most important point; I am talking about REAL hot cross buns – not buns with no fruit (seriously, you might as well not bother) and certainly not chocolate chip buns with crosses on them.  Now, what makes a good hot cross bun;

  • Spicy dough – cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg etc – all the yummy spices that smell wonderful and make your mouth water
  • Fruit – plump, juicy and plenty of it!  Apart from citrus peel – I am against peel in buns it is unpleasant
  • Texture – nice and soft and springy and fresh – not hard and chewy

Putting all that into consideration, the 4 buns we tried were ranked thus:

  1. South Melbourne Market buns – By far the best toasted – full of plump, juicy fruit and yummy spice
  2. Safeway/Woollworths buns – spicy and delicious but not quite enough fruit.  Yummy before being toasted but the fruit is a problem – would have made a clear number one if it wasn’t for the lack of fruit (actually were number one for quite a while until we discovered the south melbourne market ones)
  3. Coles buns – harder texture, too thick and not springy enough – disappointing fruit (maybe lower grade raisins)
  4. Brumby’s buns – they were big and pretty and spicy but the fruit was also disappointing.
So there you go – next year try the buns from the South Melbourne Market, they’re completely worth the calorie hit!

The other thing I did over the weekend was finalise my travel plans for June.  So now my itinerary for walking the Camino de Santiago (and having a bit of a holiday!) is complete I can finally share it!

  • Tuesday 31st May – arrive in Paris and invade the rellies house!
  • Saturday 4th June – plane from Paris to Leon then spend a couple of days exploring Leon and surrounds (including a medieval fair complete with historical jousting re-enactment to commemorate the tale that supposedly inspired Don Quixote – woohoo!) and make my way to the point where I start walking
  • Thursday 9th June – Start walking from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela.  The distance is just over 100km and I have 13 days to walk it if I have to.  Otherwise I might have time to walk the extra 80km or so to Finisterre (the end of the world) and explore a bit before I return to Paris
  • Wednesday 22nd June – plane back to Paris
  • Monday 27th June – Asterix park with my cousin!  I love Asterix park, we went there a few years ago and they have one of the best roller coasters I have ever been on – 7 corkscrew loops in a row!  I’m a bit of a roller coaster junkie 🙂
  • Tuesday 28th June – catch Eurostar from Paris to London
  • Thursday 30th June – My baby brother arrives in London and we see Arcade Fire and Mumford and Sons in Hyde Park
  • Sunday 3rd July – I head home 😦
Now I just need to organise travel insurance.  I have a few candidates but it’s looking like I will have trouble getting cover for my pre-existing medical issues; the sinusitis would have been covered if I hadn’t had my hospital visit in January.  Actually, it might not be once I start having the ivig infusions because I’d need to go in to hospital for that too.  No cardiac conditions are completely covered and even though they specifically state high blood pressure etc as conditions they wont cover and low blood pressure doesn’t get a mention I’m pretty sure it would be included in the list…
I still have a month to sort it all out and see how I go on the new medication – Midodrine – which I will be starting later in the week.  It is supposed to help increase blood pressure by constricting veins so there’s less area for the blood to go through meaning more of an effort to get it through the circulatory system.
I am also still waiting for the results of last fortnight’s blood test but as it’s been an incredibly long weekend I’m not holding my breath!  At least  have time to have an infusion before I go if the results show I need it (and figure out if I react to it or not).  I think I might take Ding in with me, maybe he’ll bring me luck as my travel mascot – to help me actually get to the travel bit 🙂

Happy anniversary to me!

This Easter marks 7 years since the mystery illness came into my life.  I was going to commemorate this day by writing about all the things I am thankful for and have been able to achieve in my life but I’ve been writing about those a bit lately already.  Instead I thought I would share my favourite recipe for Lemon Tart – because Lemon Tart is so awesome it is something we all should be thankful for!  Do me a favour though, while you make it (if you make it) reflect on all the awesome things you’ve done in your life and the things you are thankful for.  Eat it and be proud.  Bon appetite!

Ingredients:

Pastry:
1 ½ cups plain flour
3 tsp icing sugar
140g Butter
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 tbsp water approx

Filling:
½ cup cornflour
1 cup castor sugar
½ cup lemon juice
1 ¼ cups water
2 tsp grated lemon rind
3 egg yolks
60g unsalted butter

Method:

Pastry:
Lightly grease 24cm flan tin (be careful if using a tin with removable bottom)
Sift flour and icing sugar into bowl, rub in butter.  Add yolk and enough water to make ingredients cling together.  Press dough into ball, knead gently on lightly floured surface until smooth; cover; refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roll dough on lightly floured surface large enough to line prepared tin; trim edges.  Place tin on oven tray, line pastry with paper, fill with dried baking beans or rice.  Bake in 180º oven for 10 minutes, remove paper and beans and bake for further 10 minutes or until pastry is lightly browned.  Remove and cool to room temperature.

Filling:
Combine cornflour and caster sugar in pan, gradually stir in juice and water; stir until smooth.  Stir over moderate-high heat until mixture boils and thickens (to very thick).  Reduce heat and simmer for 30 seconds stirring constantly.  Remove from heat; quickly stir in egg yolk, rind and butter.  Stir until butter is melted; cover and cool to room temperature.

Pie:
Spread filling into pastry case, top with meringue.  Bake in approx 180º oven for 5 minutes or until meringue is lightly browned.  Stand for 5 minutes.

I read the news today, oh boy…

2011 is officially the year of the natural disaster.  Fire, floods, earthquakes, plagues of locusts, cyclones, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, nuclear plant incidents, disease outbreaks – did I miss anything?  Hopefully Europe and the UK will be disaster free while I’m there and home will stay safe while I’m away.  It really makes you think doesn’t it; why now, why this year?  It has been a shocking year for so many people and it’s only April, what else is possibly left to be thrown at the human race? Aliens?  I guess that’s an avenue that hasn’t really been explored yet…

I have a friend who seems to cause disasters just by picking up a lonely planet guide – no joke.  Here’s an example; she was looking at having her honeymoon in Fiji in 2009 – they had a coup (ok not so unusual for Fiji they seem to be on a 5-8 year cycle for coups).  She ended up booking Samoa a few weeks later – shortly after that the place she had booked (and pretty much everything else) was wiped out by the tsunami.  This year she was thinking about going camping at Wilson’s Promontory (my favourite place in the world) – they had unprecedented rainfall which cause flooding, landslides and washed away parts of the road and a section of the main bridge.  She works for DPI and was volunteering for the locust cleanup – we had the worst plague of locusts on record this season, or something like that.  I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if she was thinking about going to Japan.  Ok I’m sure she hasn’t been the cause of every disaster since she was born but she does have a bit of a track record!  So Nat, if you’re reading this; please don’t buy a lonely planet guide or do any research into any of the areas I will be travelling to in June 😉

Actually, the floods and landslides etc at Wilson’s Prom have made me quite sad.  It’s only been 2 years since it was devastated by the bush fires and the flora, fauna and infrastructure had not had a chance to recover properly.  The holidays we have spent down there, the southernmost point of mainland Australia, and the memories we created are the kind that last forever – the kind you want your children to have.  Memories of lodges full of loud, sandy children, of beach cricket, beach olympics, hiking, sore feet, falling into creeks, sand castle competitions, surfing, wombat hunts, hand feeding kangaroos, kids getting lice from letting the rosella’s sit on their heads, going fishing and catching seaweed, damming creeks that feed into the vast, clean, sandy beaches, incomplete board games, canoeing up the river, pranks played, frisbees and tennis balls lost, beach volleyball, nature walks, the year dad won the beach race on crutches with a rubber dishwashing glove over the toe hole in his cast to stop the sand getting in, the time we drove past Grandma and Grandpa struggling up the long hill in the old Subaru towing the canoes with a long line of cars stuck behind them, the year Annette did the big hike in her sandals and was the only one without sore feet, the time I convinced myself there was a Dragon living in a cave halfway down the hill on my favourite hike, the day we said goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa and scattered their ashes at their favourite beach.  All the memories, the memories that make a childhood.

This is my favourite beach at WP – those rocks are awesome to climb on

And speaking of sore feet and hiking – I got something very special yesterday! Actually it was two very special things.  I got myself a pair of fancy-pants, super-dooper, extra-specially-awesome, highest-of-high-tech hiking socks!  I am not going to divulge how much they set me back because it was far more than any pair of socks deserves to cost but I have it on very good authority (well, on my mother’s authority) that they are the best hiking socks to ever grace the face of the earth and I could not possibly get even one blister whilst wearing these socks.  The reason I ended up buying some is because mum said I could borrow hers and has subsequently misplaced them – I have faith that they will turn up the week I get back in true mum’s-lost-stuff fashion.  And if they don’t work as promised, if I do get a blister or a snake bite (yeah, from the exhausting number of snake species that terrorise Spain!) or a sprain or need to perform CPR I will be fine because I passed my level 2 first aid course yesterday.  Actually, to be more precise; I OWNED that course – I got 100% on the test at the end, woohoo!  Ok, so maybe the test wasn’t all that difficult, and maybe I do also have a nursing degree up my sleeve but 100% is 100%!

Yesterday was a very long day – the normal 2 day course is compressed into a one day fast-track course option for those who don’t have the time to take 2 days off or have done it before.  It is a long and draining enough day for someone who is well and I had some difficulty getting through but I made it in the end – then came home and collapsed!  The Irritating blood pressure drop returned this morning; my body’s way of telling me I have overdone it and need to slow down a bit.  So it looks like I’ll be spending the day doing as little as possible.  Ah well, at least I got it done and wont have to do it again for another 3 years, and I can now do my observer shift and become a fully endorsed St John’s Volunteer!  I just need the energy to do it…

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