10 December 2011

Announcing the birth of ...

... my latest book!

This is the first book ever written for adults with hip dysplasia. I started it in November 2009, just after my total hip replacement, and was joined by my co-author Dr Sophie West, soon thereafter. Like me, Sophie has bilateral hip dysplasia, and is in the unique position of being both an orthopaedic surgeon who does hip surgery, and a patient who has had two periacetabular osteotomies!

It's taken two years of writing, months of editing, reviews by three dedicated editors, and about two months of very hard slog for me in doing all the layout, design, illustrations, editing changes, and proofreading, not to mention registering my business Sutherland Studios as a publisher, obtaining the ISBNs (paperback and hardcover), and getting the CIP Data entry from the National Library.

A Guide for Adults with Hip Dysplasia is 456 pages long, has over 50 illustrations and x-rays, and over 400 quotations from 50 real live adults and teens with hip dyplasia.

We are self-publishing via the print-on-demand giant, Lulu.com. We did approach medical publishers, but they deemed the book "too niche market" ... what, something that has roughly the same incidence as multiple sclerosis? How many patient guides are there for MS? And none for adults with dysplasia?!


07 December 2011

Super Griff!

Griff, our new long-haired chihuahua puppy, has landed! Also known as Mr Griffles, Fuzzy McFuzzpants, and other silly names ...

He likes to stretch (or fly) ...

He doesn't mind baths too much

He is rather shy with new people, but very cuddly and floofy and cuddly with his family. He bounces around the backyard like a bunny! He also has an advanced case of Hyperwiggleitis. Which muscle should I move? ALL OF THEM AT ONCE!

Petal was seriously unimpressed at first (the photo shows them at their first meeting!). But she's getting used to having a boisterous little brother now, after a couple of weeks, and there are more play times now rather than fights and growls.

06 November 2011

Wordy Nails

My friend Cindy introduced me to wordy nails — which are the perfect 'accessory' for me!

Gather your equipment:
  • Light coloured nail polish (I used white)
  • Clear nail polish / top coat
  • Alcohol (rubbing alcohol, vodka, mouthwash etc)
  • A small cup
  • Newspaper
  • Nail file etc to shape your nails

1. First of all, shape and paint your nails as usual. Allow the polish to dry. 

2. Tear up the newsprint into small strips. Think about which direction you want the text to run  on your nail (along, across, random?).
Then pour a little of your alcohol source into the little cup. 
Dip your fingertip in, getting the nail completely wet.

3. Press a piece of newspaper onto the nail, and press down firmly for a few seconds.

4. Lift off the paper, and — voila!

5. Coat your nails with the clear varnish, to protect the lettering. Once the top coat is dry, wash your fingers (you'll probably have newsprint on your skin around your nails, too).

 Isn't it cool?!

Because this is a printing method, the lettering will be reversed. 
Don't limit yourself to words, you could use stock reports to get reversed numbers, or comic strips, or ads ... I'm going to try the puzzle pages, of course!

I experimented with laser print outs, and they don't work. The printing isn't  dissolvable ink ...

23 October 2011

Chicken Stock — Without Chicken!

I enjoy making stuff from scratch, that we'd normally buy ... and it occurred to me — chicken stock powder! Surely you could make it yourself?

Well yes, yes you can! This is the recipe (from Bryanna Clark Grogan)

Makes about 1 1/2 cups of stock powder
1 1/3 cups nutritional yeast flakes
3 Tbspn onion powder
2 1/2 Tbspns salt
2 1/2 tspn garlic granules or powder
1 Tbspn soymilk powder or protein powder
1 Tbspn white sugar
1 tspn dried thyme
1 tspn finely crumbled dried sage (NOT powdered)
1 tspn paprika
1/2 tspn tumeric

Whiz them all up in your blender or food processor :

Store in a dry jar. That's it! Very satisfying!
Use 2 tspns : 1 cup of water.

The nutritional yeast flakes were the only really tricky ingredient to find (try your local health food shop). It was rather expensive (around $20 for that big bag), but that is enough to make about 6 batches of this powder! I used dried thyme from my garden, could only find powdered sage so that would have to do, used dried onion flakes instead of powder, and used a plain protein powder (also a huge bag which will last forever). 
I've used up one batch already, this is my second one. It makes a nice broth, and is good in recipes, of course. Plus you can adjust the amount of salt if you're wanting to cut back on that.
Good fun and quick to make!

17 October 2011

It's gotta be done

As you know, I've been on Prednisolone for nearly a year — I came off it last month, thank goodness. But it's left quite a harsh legacy (apart from the restoration of most of my vision, which I acknowledge is a Very Good Thing™). The steroids have given me (possibly permanent) glaucoma, NASH (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, ie fatty liver disease), high blood pressure, and an extra 15 kg of weight. And I was "extra curvy" to start with  :/

Yellow Iris in my mum's garden, Cobargo NSW

I absolutely have to lose the extra weight — apart from truly hating the way I look, it is essential for the health of my liver and blood pressure. I could be looking at a liver transplant down the track if I don't do something. I've struggled with my weight since I was a kid, so this is a huge bugbear for me, physically and psychologically. I have also developed osteoarthritis in my feet and ankles (legacy of years of hip problems / short leg etc), which makes my feet very painful all the time, and makes walking horrible.

So — aaargh! What to do?! My liverologist (hepatologist, I know, I know; liverologist sounds so much better, and is less likely to be confused with a reptile specialist) said to 'Be much stricter about your diet'. My diet isn't really that bad to start with — I don't eat practically any take-away food, cook most meals from scratch, don't have deep fried foods, don't keep lollies or cakes in the house and so on, but clearly there was room for improvement (portion control, for one thing!). Exercise is also a problem, what with the restrictions from my artificial hip (no running, jumping, high impact anything) and arthritic feet.

The basic ingredients for weight loss are, of course, less energy intake + more energy expenditure. For the exercise I'm following the plan in the Body for Life for Women plan (which my doctors have endorsed) - alternating days of aerobic exercise (exercise bike, swimming, short walks, bellydancing, gardening etc, starting slowly with 5 minutes  per time, working up to 30 minute sessions eventually) and weights (I started slowly with 1 kg weights, am nearly up to 2.5 kg weight now). My knees aren't thrilled about the aerobic stuff, but I do quite enjoy the weights, I must say. Hopefully increased weight loss and fitness will help decrease the knee and foot pain (and increase the life of my hip prosthesis too).

For the food, I'm actually counting calories (OMFG!), but this chore is made so much easier with a nifty free app for my iPod called MyFitnessPal. It's accessible online too, and runs on all sorts of mobile devices. It has a massive database over 1 million foods (including Australian brands), and you can add your own recipes and foods etc. It remembers your frequently used foods and meals, and makes the whole record-keeping process very quick and easy. Research keeps proving that people who write down what they eat each day tend to lose a lot more weight (accountability and embarrassment, I guess!). It's also rather eye-opening learning the calories of various foods (it doesn't show Kj, although you can do your weight in metric). Ricotta cheese? OMG ...

So. I'm just doing it.  And it's got to be something I do forever. I figured if I can't devote 30-60 minutes a day to looking after my own health and own body, how sad is that? No-one else can do it for me, after all.

As for the neuro-sarcoidosis, it's being well controlled with CellCept (mycophenolate), thank goodness, and I'm on much less medication than before. I've not had a hospital appointment for a couple of months (and I was averaging one a week for the last year). I do struggle with fatigue still, but my vision is OK and stable. I've got about 5% permanent vision loss (central vision unfortunately so it's very noticeable still). I use a few vision aids (bright lights, increased text sizes etc) and am a client of Vision Australia (who are wonderful, by the way). The side-effects from the Prednisolone are more of a problem, really!

There's a ticker at the bottom of my blog now. I'm nearly 3 kg (6.6 lb) down, after 2 months, and about 20 kg (44 lb) or so to go (to be an even healthier weight than when I started on Prednisolone a year ago). My GP is very happy with how I'm going so far. It has to be slow loss, too, as rapid weight (apart from being bloody impossible to do, bad for you, and hard to maintain) stresses your liver too much. 

That's me being accountable and telling you about it (despite my tendency to keep it private). That's something else that's supposed to help, enlisting the support and encouragement from your friends and family, and 'going public'.  :)

15 October 2011


I've started a new blog, called Puzzling! Puzzling as in the adjective and the verb, LOL.

As you can probably figure out, it's all about puzzles, fun with English, how to solve puzzles, tips and tricks, where to find puzzles, how I write puzzles, and anything else I can think of that's related! Plus puppeh piccies, of course  ;)

I'd love for you to visit and Follow me, and comment, and join in! If you post questions about puzzles or English, I'll do my best to answer them too.

14 October 2011

Cheekychi Walter Griffin

Yes, our family is growing! I'm very excited to introduce you to Cheekychi Walter Griffin, to be known as Griff (Red vs Blue reference, for those who know). Walter Griffin is also a reference to Walter Burley Griffin, who designed Canberra  :)

He's 5 weeks now, and is a long-haired pure-bred chihuahua from the Cheekychi stables up in the Central Coast, NSW. He comes to live with us in about a month, in mid-November.

We're hoping Petal will eventually be happy about her new brother! Apart from the incredible squee factor of having TWO chihuahuas, we're also doing it for her, as it's good for pups to have another pup to live and play with. This became really obvious to us when we puppysat my mum's Lhasa apso Bonnie for 5 weeks earlier this year, and we saw how much fun Petal and Bonnie had together.

Isn't he totes adorbs?!!

28 September 2011

Cruise! Part 3

And for the final part ...

On Thursday 25 August we arrived at Yorkeys Knob, and after much waiting around, finally were ferried to shore, and got onto the Kuranda Scenic Rail tour. Unfortunately we were pretty much last on the train, and didn't get good seats. Hubby opened doors and stood up for much of the way to get these pics. I was a bit surprised at how the rain forest wasn't at all lush, but rather dry, but after all, it was the dry season!

We got to the Kuranda railway station, and were then taken by bus up to the Village, where we had one hour to buy souvenirs, get lunch and do the tourist thing. We found crocodile jerky for Dotter, and Scottish alcoholic fudge for Son. I really don't like the tourist thing.

And then the bus ride back down the mountain, and the wait for the tender ... this actually was a bit too hot, but the wait wasn't long thankfully.

On Friday the Pacific Pearl docked near Airlie Beach. We had intended to go ashore and just hang out by ourselves, but the past two days had been far too exhausting, so we decided to stay on board instead. It was nice to avoid the endless waits for the tenders, too! Hubby got some nice pics on board ... we tried the pool on the top deck, and lasted - ohhh - 1 minute. It was bloody freezing!! (We did actually leave a suggestion with P&O about heating their pools!!)

Me reading instead of freezing.

A pirate ship!

On Saturday the Pearl headed back towards Sydney, and the shore days were over. We went to the cooking demonstration, which was run by Willie (the British cruise entertainment director, a very funny lovely guy, far left), the Portuguese Maitre'd of the Waterfront restaurant (centre) and Canadian head chef (right). The whole 'show' was very funny, especially the bit where the chef added a ton of chilli to the prawn dish, and poor Willie had to eat it! We spoke with Willie afterwards, and he told us he hated chilli, and was in agony, poor man!

After the show there was a tour of the ship's kitchens, which wasn't to be missed! (We'd have loved to have seen the engine rooms, but they no longer run such tours for 'security reasons', sadly.)
We walked through the Waterfront restaurant (this is the fancier option for dining each day, rather than the cafeteria style Plantation). We had several meals here, very nice food!

The kitchens were on the deck below the restaurant, accessed via escalators. MASSIVE, as you'd expect. No windows that we could see. A pretty full on working environment ...

They'd made some nice displays for the passengers to see, this one was impressive!

It was time to get ready to leave, sadly. Here's Hubby with our cabin steward, Eldose. He's from the south of India, and he's about to sign on for his 6th tour (which is about 8 months long) with P&O. Hard work! He's a lovely young man, always helpful and cheerful.

Most of the staff who were the 'workers' (cooks, waiters, stewards, cleaners, child carers etc) were Asian or Indian. The rates of pay for this level of staff is only about $5 Australian/hour. While that seems horrifically low to us, hopefully it translates in to a much better income in their lands of origin. P&O does provide all training for them, so you can go in with absolutely no qualifications.

Most of the 'command staff' (ship's captain and so on, entertainers, directors of sections etc) were British or Australian. We found this dichotomy a bit uncomfortable ...

Coming in to Sydney with the sun rise, early on Monday 29 August.

This is the map of exactly where we went (I've drawn over the route in red).

And down the gangway back to solid earth ...until next time!  We were actually quite ready to go home after 10 days. It was funny, we had to go through Customs and Quarantine, and fill in the whole  'returning citizen' form and everything. The form asks "Which country did you spend most time in while abroad?" - uuuh, Australia.  >.<

So, summing up ...

Overall, we did enjoy the cruise. It was great to get away from everything, and be largely out of phone / web contact with the world for a while! Our quarters were lovely, the food and service were good. You really could just do nothing, and relax properly. If you wanted to be social and do stuff, there were lots of options too.

I think next time we wouldn't go on any organised shore trips ... we found these uncomfortably like being back at school, waiting in a group for ages, with a label stuck on our shirts, and the whole tedious tendering process to get on shore, and then being shunted around in a group on buses etc. Next time, we'd just go to shore, and do our own thing. Being a tourist on a tour bus,  nup, that whole scene just isn't us.

We didn't really find any other 'people like us' until the night before we left, when we were seated next to a couple from Melbourne at the Waterfront restaurant — he was a pharmacist and she was a GP, and I wish we'd met them a week earlier!

At least half of the passengers were much older than us, and most people we met were more 'working class' (for want of a better word) - perfectly nice people (on the whole, apart from the old biddies who loved to complain about everything on the cruise! Argh!), but no-one who we could have a really in-depth conversation with. While we weren't out to party and socialise, I did feel a bit isolated at times. I suspect that if we could afford it, on the Princess cruises (run by the same company, but more expensive)  we'd be more likely to find people we had interests in common with. But because my income is practically non-existent, we have to go for the 'one income' or 'two crap incomes' option.

But we liked it enough to pay a deposit for our next cruise (it was a cheaper deposit if purchased on board, plus free on-board credit, and full refund if you don't use it within 4 years). So I'm sure we'll be sailing away again, one of these days, maybe off to a Pacific island or two!

08 September 2011

Cruise! Part 2

Time for the next instalment!

So — this is The Plantation, which is the buffet / cafeteria style eating area on the Pacific Pearl. They serve the usual main meals, and are only closed for a few hours in the afternoon. Hygiene is a big thing on the ship (easy for germs to spread!) so every time we entered a food area, there was someone dispensing 'water-free antiseptic gel' which we had to rub on our hands. You don't need a reservation to eat here, just line up, get a tray, and choose what you like! The food was good, pretty standard fare - lunch and dinners had salad fixings, bread rolls, soup, roast meat and veg, a curry and rice, and other options. Not a lot of Asian or spicy food, though.

There was only one laundrette on board for the use of 1,800 passengers! There used to be two (still inadequate!), but the one which was on our floor has recently been 'decommissioned'. You can pay to have your laundry done, but at a "per item" cost, we decided it was better just to wash one or two things a day in our tiny bathroom sink. The shower has a clothes line installed in it, too, so that was easy.

One of the highlights of the trip for me was our dinner at the Salt Grill on Monday 22 August — this is Luke Mangan™ restaurant on board (and everything was stamped with Luke's name — glasses, plates, bottles of olive oil etc etc, all a bit much, the man is a brand). We had to make reservations to eat here, and there was an additional charge of $40/head — which is incredibly reasonable for a 5 star restaurant! We paid extra for some mineral water and wine to go with the meal.

The food was utterly superb. First time I've had truffle anything too ... 

I had :
Sea scallops with blue cheese polenta and truffle oil-infused mushrooms
Grilled barramundi with chipotle aioli

Ralph had :
Anchovies in the tin with garlic bread (pictured in the link above, so check it out) - the  most melt in your mouth anchovies, and not too salty!
A whole flounder with butter/tomato/caper sauce

Sides we shared were : 
Truffle and parmesan french fries (OMFG), zucchini with bacon and basil, carrots with dukkah.  

We had the same dessert, which was sublime:
Coconut Rice Pudding with Mango. Served with a scoop of mango sorbet, a ginger snap filled with whipped cream, and leaf of coriander (cilantro) which tasted amazing sweet in combination with the rice pudding!

Because it was a special occasion (our 26th wedding anniversary, well not that day, but close enough) ... they also gave us a little cake! We had to take it away with us, as we were stuffed as googs (eggs)!

If you're really keen, you can see the whole menu here  :)

The cabin stewards present you with these funny towel animals, who decorate your room while you're there ... Eldose brought us this little fellow, WiFi Elephant, so called as we stuck our WiFi modem thingy on top of him when we were close to shore (onboard internet via satellite was horrendously expensive so we mostly did without).

I managed to do a few little painting sketches while on board, which I hope to work up into full paintings before too long.

We sailed past Willis Island on Tuesday 23rd. This was mainly so the ship entered international waters, and the Duty Free Shop could actually offer Duty Free prices! It hosts a weather monitoring station. That night we went to the Pirates show in the theatre, which was really well done, fine singing and dancing, and ended up being pirates vs ninjas, which was hilarious (and most of the audience didn't get, of course!).

Wednesday 24th was our first shore trip! We had reached Port Douglas at last, and it was time for our Low Isles trip. The whole 'tendering process' (getting passengers off the huge ship and onto land via smaller boats) is a right pain the ass. Very slow. They had commissioned the use of this catamaran to act as an additional 'ferry', which was good, as the Pearl only has two tenders, which seat about 60 people (you can do the maths — getting the majority of 1,800 passengers off the ship, with a 20 minute ride each way, 60 people at a time...). This photo shows the catamaran docked at the Pearl, and the little walkway connecting the two!

This is the catamaran (white) and one of the Pearl's tenders (orange and white). And below is the catamaran we went on for our snorkelling trip, at the Port Douglas marina.

A nice view of the Pearl from the Port Douglas harbour ...

The trip out to the Low Isles took close on an hour. The weather was really windy and rather chilly still, and the ride was very rough. Quite a few people suffered from sea sickness  :p

Finally we could see our destination! It has a lighthouse and research station on it, and is a Marine National Park.

More 'tendering' of us from the catamaran to the island, along with snorkelling gear (supplied by the tour operators). There were some 'grass huts' - more huge umbrellas with palm fronds tied on top. It was very windy. 

Hubby walking along the shore ... he suffers very badly from the sun (CFS complication), so wore this all-over body sun gear / rash suit, which worked a treat!

A sea cucumber!

We both went snorkelling, which was good fun ... we weren't supposed to touch the corals at all, and I found that difficult as it was low tide, and not much water covered the corals, so you couldn't really swim over them safely. And the water was very murky from the wind, so visibility was limited. And cold. But nevertheless it was enjoyable (mostly), although the weather conditions really did impact on the experience a lot for me. Hubby stayed in longer than me, and went out further. 

We had a little underwater bag for our digital camera to go in ... (the cheapskate's underwater camera option) — limited success, it was impossible to see the viewing screen underwater (the murky water conditions didn't help here) and the black rim of the bag section over the lens kept impinging on the field of view! But by shooting 'blindly' he still managed to get some good shots. The turtle having a rest was an exciting discovery!

We went back on board the catamaran for some lunch — a fairly basic buffet lunch, but the huge pile of prawns made up for the rest of the meal!

Afterwards, most of the other people went back to the island, but Hubby and I were pretty exhausted, so we stayed on board. I did a watercolour / ink sketch of the island, which I'm quite pleased with.

Finally it was time to go ... and en route back to Port Douglas a whale was sighted! Hubby was incredibly lucky in having his camera out — the ship was bounding all over the place (very rough ride again) so getting this shot, when the whale was only visible for a matter of 2 or 3 seconds, was amazing! Maybe a humpback whale?

The Pearl from afar ... it is bloody big, isn't it!?

Aaaaaaaaaw ....

The end of a long and tiring day at sea ...